Taulia, Inc., the leading cloud-based dynamic discounting solution provider for SAP®, today announced that it has acquired billFLO. billFLO helps small businesses monitor cash flow and identify liquidity gaps by automating the accounts payable, accounts receivable and expense reporting processes. The combined company turns the conflicting cash flow needs of large buying organizations and their smaller suppliers into a win-win with its cloud-based financial supply chain solution.
The idea was simple. Take billFLO’s SME machine readable billing billing system, add it into Taulia’s systems to offer large companies a way to bring smaller businesses into the financial supply chain. This was always going to be a hard trick to pull off because stand alone billing systems are difficult to retrofit into large systems. In order for billFLO to succeed there were some genuine challenges. Back in 2009 I said:
billFLO wants to take the drudge out of processing invoices between systems by making invoices machine readable. This is an issue that surfaces every now and again but has so far proven elusive to crack. billFLO makes the claim that:
Vendors simply email computer-readable billFLO invoices to customers who, in turn, usebillFLO to instantly import the electronic invoice into their accounting systems.
You have to be very careful reading that claim because it is not ALL accounting systems but the ones with which the company has partnered namely Freshbooks, Harvest, LessAccounting, Blinksale and Quickbooks.
At the time I said I felt it was a good objective but pointed out other problems:
…getting the bills between systems is barely half the battle. Invoices still need checking for correctness. Without a corresponding automated purchase order system, that’s nigh on impossible. So while billFLO is tilting at the problem from the time savings perspective, I wonder just how much total processing time is really saved.
I don’t know what led to the shuttering decision and the company is not providing any details. Taulia said it expects to implement billFLO functionality but does not have a definitive schedule. My guess is that once Taulia saw what it was facing, it realized that integrating the two services was not a viable option and that the only way around this means extensive re-engineering. Even then, it is far from clear whether Taulia is as committed to what billFLO was offering as an acquisition would suggest. There does not seem to be any plan to provide customers with an alternative. Basically, they’re taking a dump on the solution and its customers.
Make no mistake, billing systems are among the most difficult to get right and very few come close. I’m something of a Blinksale fan but there is a huge amount of room for improvement. The last year or so I’ve seen little more than small incremental changes. I could see what billFLO wanted to achieve and understood some of the potential synergies with Taulia but it seems the task of bringing it all together in a coherent fashion simply wasn’t going to work as they thought. Nevertheless, it is sad to see the doors closing on a brave attempt to fix an old problem.
In the meantime, billFLO is assuring customers that they can get to their data although that will only be in PDF format.