The other week I talked about using eBIS-XML as as way for SaaS/on-demand applications to exchange data between them. The idea is that an invoice raised by (say) Kashflow could be consumed by (say) Xero without the user having to worry about file conversions.
Ed Molyneux, CEO FreeAgent got in touch and suggested I had: ‘Not got the Simple UBL memo.’ Duh? Simple UBL offers an alternative way of data exchange that can be layered to a SaaS solution and achieve much the same effect. This is a new one on me so yesterday I took the opportunity of getting Ed to explain to me what this is about and what it means.
The atached video provides an outline. In speaking with Ed, it seems Xero quietly kicked off this idea, roping in FreeAgent and KashFlow as ‘founding members’ of this initiative. The thinking is that if a handful of well known SaaS providers declare and provide SUBL support then the remainder of the industry might be tempted to follow.
I’m not convinced. The way Ed explains it, SUBL will be used to support the email transport. In other words, invoices generated will be sent via email with the SUBL code attached along with standard PDF files. The user then gets the option to import to their chosen system or enter manually from the PDF. When I pulled a face at the idea, Ed countered by (correctly) pointing out that email is still and is likely to remain one of the principle business to business methods of communication. Looking out 5 years I am not so sure.
Implementing SUBL is not as clunky as it sounds but it still requires manual steps. I argued that eBIS-XML supported direct machine to machine import and is therefore far more reliable. Ed didn’t have a good answer but it seems that at least three players are having a go at SUBL integration.
Let’s be generous and assume they can 1. agree, 2 carry enough market mindshare to make it stick and 3. make it work. None or any of those issues are assured but even so…They are still inventing a new wheel where one already exists and which is superior albeit more irksome for the vendors to implement. But then that’s what they’re paid for – solving tricky problems the easy way.
While I welcome the idea, I think they’re low balling where in other areas the SaaS players are aiming much higher. Does it make sense to you? Will it stick?