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Five Conferences in Five Weeks: What Was I Thinking and What We Learned Along the Way

by Melissa Hendrick on 12.4.2018

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Recently, Yooz participated in five industry conferences in five weeks as an exhibitor, session presenter, sponsor, or all of the above. They included: Sage Intacct Advantage 2018 for Intacct ERP users, the LeadingAge Healthcare Conference for administrators in the healthcare for the aging industry, the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) 2018 for finance and treasury professionals, the Restaurant Finance and Development Conference for owners/operators of restaurants and restaurant groups, and the Fall 2018 APP2P conference for procurement and payment professionals.

 

We sat down with Melissa Hendrick, VP of Marketing for Yooz North America, to learn more about why these particular events were chosen and what she learned along the way.

 

Q: So, when we ask, “What were you thinking?” during those five weeks you were probably asking yourself the same thing! But we are asking in a literal sense. In general, what were you thinking when you chose these industry events to participate in?

A: Yes, “What was I thinking?” went through my mind sitting in many airplanes, checking into many hotels, and walking through many convention centers! That’s not important though. We believe it is important for the finance and accounting industry as a whole to support organizations that provide thought-leadership and transfer of knowledge to those that have a strong commitment to educating professionals in finance, fintech, accounting.

 

At Yooz, we want to support those organizations and professionals as well by doing our part to help to educate and inform, not only on the accounts payable topic specific to our industry, but also on broader topics of finance and technology.

 

And equally as important, each of these conferences gave us the opportunity to interact with our customers in those verticals.

 

All in all, we were supporting the industries, organizations, partners, and customers in our industry.

 

Q: General finance professionals who use the Intacct ERP, finance professionals specific to the restaurant industry, finance professionals and administrators specific to healthcare for the aging, procurement professionals. Pretty diverse groups of attendees. What were some of the common themes you discovered across all five events as they relate to AP automation?

A: What is interesting is that the same pain points experienced with manual finance workflows exist and are agnostic across industries, industry type, and size of company. (In fact, we recently published a blog series called “On Common Ground ” that features three of our Yooz clients from three completely different types of company, their common pain points, and their similar successes from implementing the Yooz solution.)

Hesitation, bordering on fear, for automating workflows that have been mostly manual has shifted from as recently as a year ago when we attended several of the same conferences to now. The hesitation is diminishing as finance professionals are seeing the benefits of automating.

 

What we’re seeing across industries are three groups: Innovators—those that are leading the way in incorporating emerging technologies and new processes; Early adopters—not the first to try new technologies or methods, but among the first to adopt; and laggards—those that are still on the sidelines watching and learning but taking a while in deciding to make a change. More and more companies are coming off the sidelines and are leading the charge in their industries to serve as innovators. One example that comes to mind is the City of Cleburne, Texas. Government agencies are notorious for being slow to adopt new technologies and update their processes, thus always operating in a cumbersome and inefficient manner. The City of Cleburne, Texas transitioned to AP automation with the Yooz solution and has since served as one of our advocates for how municipalities and other types of government agencies can successfully take the leap.

 

Q:  Members of the Yooz staff, including account executives, yourself, and COO Laurent Charpentier participated in or led panel discussions at the Sage Intacct Advantage and Fall APP2P conferences. At Advantage, the panel participants were Yooz clients and at APP2P the panel was made up of industry professionals. What was the difference in how the audience responded to the clients—actual users of the Yooz platform—versus a panel of industry professionals?

A: Both types of panels serve an important purpose. Finance and accounting professionals need to hear from industry experts as unbiased voices from the industry. The questions there are more general with the answers being more educational or research-based. The difference with a customer panel is the “You’ve walked in my shoes” factor. The questions to a customer panel are more “me-centric” and referring to specific examples or circumstances.

 

 

Q:  In general, what were attendees most excited about the Yooz solution?

 

A:  At Sage Intacct Advantage in particular there was a lot of excitement around the local, real-time nature of the Yooz platform; specifically, the real-time uploads (as opposed to only uploading or updating once per day overnight) and the seamless push to and from the Intacct ERP.

 

And, you know how it is, everybody wants to do business with the talk of the town. There was a lot of anticipation about visiting Yooz this year because of all the buzz generated from the thought-leadership content we’ve produced—we’ve had several bylines published to the Sage Intacct blog and other industry media outlets—the awards and recognitions we’ve received, and all of the vendors, salespeople, and industry experts that have recommended or referred us.

 

I also think the industry professionals have started to really understand what a truly smart, powerful AP automation solution Yooz is with features that no other solution can offer. Just like our tag line says: Cloud P2P Automation. Easy. Powerful. Smart.

 

We’re not just trying to sell Yooz. We’re helping industry professionals to be educated about how to find the best solution for their business, and that may or may not be Yooz. I’m not sure if attendees are necessarily excited about that, but they certainly recognize it, appreciate it, and engage with us.

 

Q:  In general, what were some key learnings for Yooz based on your conversations with attendees?

A:

  1. Never do five conferences in five weeks! It will wear you out! ;)
  2. AP automation is inevitable. It will not replace your job. It will help you do your job better and more efficiently. (Our COO published an article on that topic: Why Partial Automation Will Be a Smart Tool—Not a Replacement—for the AP Clerk.) It was apparent that attendees are now accepting that AP automation is a good thing, not something to be afraid of. That is certainly a big shift from a year ago.
  3. Last year, when we presented at one of the industry conferences, we couldn’t get the session attendees to ask questions. This year, we had to cut the questions off, there were so many. And to my previous point, the questions were well thought out and educated. We like to hope that we contributed a little bit towards helping educating finance and accounting professionals about AP automation because we’re so committed to that. But regardless, it made for a much more lively, interactive, and interesting session!

 

Q: Did you have any surprises at any of these events, good or bad?

A:

  1. I had no idea how big McCormick Place Convention Center is! I actually logged 12,000 steps one day!
  2. I was a little surprised at the LeadingAge event that that particular sector is lagging behind in adopting AP automation where other industries are leaping ahead. There are still many misconceptions about AP automation. Quite a dichotomy from other industry sectors.
  3. At the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference I realized what very tight-knit group of professionals it is. We kind of felt like the new kid on the block—it was our first time addressing this group. Everyone was very welcoming, but we realize how much more critical it is with this industry sector than with others to showcase our clients in this space.

 

Q: What trends did you discover about AP automation? Is Yooz keeping up with these trends?

A: The answer to this question is two-fold: In recent years, there were some early adopters of AP automation that thought the solution they found was the perfect tool. With advances in AP automation, and platforms like Yooz that are leveraging emerging technologies such as A.I. and OCR (optical character recognition), these early adopters are now discovering better tools that more fully and seamlessly integrate with their financial systems/ERPs, and that offer complete, end-to-end invoice payment processing.

 

Second, there has been a trend towards automation in mid-market firms, indicated by the sheer exponential growth and demand for solutions that were previously only accessible by enterprise firms.  This has resulted in an increased level of interest and ultimately adoption. We witnessed this trend first-hand during our panel session at the Sage Intacct Advantage conference where the questions from the session attendees were thoughtful, educated, and more advanced than even just since last year. Finance and accounting professionals are better prepared when searching for AP automation providers and better able to articulate their needs, business goals, and expected results.

 

With regards to Yooz keeping up with the industry trends: We are not only keeping up, we are setting the tone and pace that establish trends in the widespread adoption of AP automation. And we continue to work diligently on educating and guiding finance and accounting professionals through the buyer’s journey.

 

Finally, while this may not be a trend per se, we continue to see that the pain points related to manual finance workflows are agnostic across industries, industry size, and type of company. One of the many reasons why the Yooz solution is so desirable is that it too is agnostic across industries, industry size, and type of company. Readers may learn more about this in one of our recent blog series, On Common Ground.

 

Q: How much of the conversation in each of the conferences was centered around technology in finance and accounting?A: At the Fall APP2P conference and at Sage Intacct Advantage most of the topics were centered around technology. At the AFP Treasury and Finance Conference there was some discussion, but the primary topics were related to treasury. And, surprisingly, at the LeadingAge and RFDC events, there was minimal reference to technology.

 

 Q: Why do think that was?

A: There seemed to be misconception about emerging technologies such as AP automation as being included in existing management systems; consequently, they are not exploring and learning about other software solutions with specific functions. I will say, however, that restaurant franchisors and franchisees are starting to become more aware of the importance of automating their AP workflows and what options are available to them.

 

 Q: What will you do differently next year…besides spreading out your conference schedule?

A: As we plan for 2019 we have the benefit of 18 months of bringing Yooz to the North America market behind us, learning which industries have moved through the education and discovery phases of the buyer’s journey and are now ready to adopt AP automation. We will focus on those industries.

 

 We plan on increasing our footprint in those targeted verticals by continuing to:

  1. Produce relevant thought-leadership content
  2. Enhance our brand’s digital footprint
  3. Collaborate with industry experts and education- and research-based organizations
  4. Have a pragmatic focus on customer engagement and a delightful customer experience

 

Oh…and spreading out the conference schedule!