London: 1930hrs BST – Given that the construction industry is a sector dominated by the small- to medium-sized enterprise (SME), any application that can help the small business improve its efficiency has to be welcome. I am attending and live-blogging from the London launch of Tradeshift, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) invoicing platform, originally of Danish origin, that describes itself as:
… the world’s first open global business platform. It connects all suppliers and business partners electronically, delivering better, smarter and above all, safer business transactions.
It goes on:
Connecting your customers and suppliers in Tradeshift is just as simple and easy as connecting on social networks. You can send and receive invoices, using everything from text messages on your mobile phone, to advanced ERP platforms and everything in between.
Targeting businesses of different sizes
For small businesses, Tradeshift Basic is the free entry-level product, aimed at any company wanting to send and receive invoices electronically. A SaaS application, Tradeshift Basic is accessible from any browser, on any operating system, with no software to install. One of TradeShift’s customers described his use of the system, highlighting the ‘Green IT’ credentials of the system – no paper to post and easy access for his accountant.
The next option up, Tradeshift Connect is aimed at SMEs that already have an accounting system, allowing them to create and import invoices direct from their existing package.
The enterprise solution, Tradeshift Enterprise (obviously), integrates with existing ERP systems, including SAP and Oracle eBusiness Suite (no mention – yet – of construction industry systems such as COINS or Redsky IT, or Sage’s Timberline platform, popular in north America) and is offered as a subscription service without any transaction costs. A public sector edition is also available.
Personally, I already use Saasu.com for my own business invoicing needs (it, too, is free if you only need to process a few transactions per month), and I really appreciate it being web-based as I sometimes need to check transactions from different laptops. Intuit’s Quickbooks Online, Xero, MYOB, Zoho and Freshbooks all featured on my radar too.
2000hrs – TradeShift founder Christian Lanng talked about the opportunity: 15 billion invoices each year, from 200 million small businesses in Europe, with about €64 billion spent on typing and retyping information into IT systems. It still costs €100 for a small business to send 100 invoices to a large supplier using electronic invoicing, he says, with many small businesses locked into using systems essentially aimed at larger companies.
The Tradeshift application is simple to use – just three buttons: dashboard, documents and business network – and also enables small businesses to send invoices to non-company clients (excellent for the many householders who are the life-blood of many repair and maintenance businesses in the SME sector of the construction industry).
The application is also built on an open platform, completely open for third party developers, with more than 20 developers already building tools to share data with the Tradeshift system (ERPly also has a presence at the event).
Update (11 June) – Talking after the event with a couple of attendees, I wondered if Tradeshift’s open approach might be attractive to some of the construction-specific platform developers who might want to add transaction capabilities to existing systems focused, for instance, on drawing/document collaboration and related processes. Just as Tradeshift is looking to replace paper-based transaction processes with electronic management, online construction project management solutions are eliminating the need for distribution of hard copy drawings and documents (and reducing use of email attachments). One might add customer order processing, transactions with suppliers and sub-contractors, and settlement of the final account to the capabilities that SME contractors, designers or project managers might want in addition to streamlined information management.