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Influencer Interview: The Current State of AP Automation and ePayables

As part of a series of FinTech Influencer Interviews, Daniel Saraste gives his opinion on and insight into the current trends and future predictions for the accounts payable automation marketplace.

This month, Ardent Partners interviewed Daniel Saraste, the Senior Vice President of Product Marketing at Medius. Drawing on his extensive background of over 20 years across spaces such as Spend Analytics, Sourcing, Contract Lifecycle Management and Invoice Automation, Daniel answered Ardent Partner’s questions about the current ePayables market and what he thinks the future holds for it in the years to come. Here are a few of the key takeaways from that interview. 

1. Defining the ePayables Market Isn’t Easy, Despite Decades of Development

Despite, or perhaps in light of the rapid growth over the past 20 years in the ePayables technology sector, the market remains disjointed and a lot of confusion persists among organizations of what it truly covers. There are differing definitions of what automation in ePayables really means, but Saraste defines it as allowing those who are “highly automated” to be able to “effectively control your DPO, cash flow, and working capital, aka the lifeblood of your organization, as well as how and when you pay your suppliers.” He also mentions the difference between “table stakes” automation, such as touchless processing, audit trails, efficient collaboration and analytics, which serves as a notable benchmark for the various solutions out there of the bare minimum organizations should seek from their AP automation vendors.

2. Leaders in ePayables are Leveraging Cutting Edge Technology for Bottom-line Value

Of all of the buzzwords and technology trends floating among conversations in the ePayables space, there are a top few that leaders need to pay attention to and consider for automation initiatives at their organizations. “Blockchain, Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence on top of Big Data are all worthy of our attention,” Saraste notes, adding that Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and RPA are all somewhat common features of solutions available today, but that Blockchain is largely dependent on free-trade and cross-border collaboration being a driver of growth in the future. 

3. The Future of ePayables Relies on a Network of Best-of-Breed Solutions

Saraste uses the idea of a cloud-based solution as an analogy for the future of the ePayables market. Several years back, cloud solutions were considered an “innovative alternative” and certainly weren’t mainstream. Now that it’s become clear that cloud-based solutions provide the most flexibility and benefits, they’ve become the majority of offerings. Much like how the market’s view of cloud solutions changed, so will follow with best-of-breed solutions, where the best possible solutions become the standard. Saraste believes this will lead to a consolidation in the marketplace. He predicts, “Within five years, the industry will definitely experience… the emergence of a network ecosystem where best-of-breed solutions are pre-connected so that customers are able to use multiple solutions simultaneously”. He believes this solves the problem of pricey and complicated integration projects and allows for free-flowing data sharing across the eco-system, seamlessly.

To read more of Daniel’s predictions and insight into the ePayables market, be sure to read the full interview on Ardent Partners’ website, Payables Place.

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