Fusion 2015, the premier conference and training event for financial operations professionals that is conducted annually by the Institute of Financial Operations, is now in the books, and the DataServ crew had a wonderful time at this year’s event at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Florida. We conducted three educational breakout sessions with our clients Brady Swindell, Director of Shared Services at Bunzl Distribution, and Joe Zulich, Manager of Accounting Operations at White-Rodgers, along with Brandon Loeschner from our accounting firm partner RubinBrown. In addition, we had lots of engagement at our exhibit hall booth with countless accounting professionals stopping by to talk about how Software as a Service (SaaS) accounts payable automation solutions deliver exceptional value.

Below are 10 things we learned at Fusion 2015:

Nothing beats learning from clients’ experience. Attendees really appreciated getting first-hand tips from Brady and Joe, as they shared their deep experience and even some mistakes they’ve made with past automation efforts, insights into how AP automation can reduce the risk of fraud, and tips on how to overcome roadblocks to AP automation. We have made it simple for you to hear their key points – you can download the slides of each session by clicking its title in this blog entry, and you can watch our 2-3-minute video recaps of each session below. 

Model of a DeLoreanPeople love “Back to the Future.” We had a model DeLorean at our booth because the highly-acclaimed time-travel trilogy, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, was the theme of this year’s Fusion event, as 2015 marked the year Marty McFly and Doc Brown jumped ahead to in "Back to the Future Part II." DataServ showed booth visitors how they could have a path to a better future in their AP department by eliminating paper and manual keying from their process. If you would like to see the future of AP automation, click here to see our infographic.

Successful AP automation projects require good change management. 
At our first educational breakout session, “5 Steps to Avoid Picking the Wrong AP Automation Solution,” we had a packed room of industry professionals interested in hearing Brady Swindell’s insights. One attendee asked Brady how long it takes to implement an AP automation solution, and he responded by saying that Bunzl rushed their first solution to get it done within 3 months, but that it's better to take 6-8 months to fully implement all aspects of a solution. Helping your people and vendors understand and embrace change is central to success. Make sure you factor this into your plan.

Don’t get spoofed. That was one key piece of Joe Zulich’s advice to attendees in our “How to Use AP Automation for Fraud Prevention and Risk Management” session on May 13. It has become popular for criminals to discern who your vendors are and what you might buy from them and send invoices to you electronically that look and feel a lot like legitimate invoices. One good preventative measure against this is to check the receipt for payment and make sure that it aligns to a corporate email account or an account you’re familiar with. Know the email domain your vendor uses – beware of paying anyone making a payment request from a Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or other Internet-based email account.

DataServ's Fusion 2015 Session

Does your purchase card (p-card) program have holes? Joe also discussed why it is important for all levels of management to know what is being spent in an organization. This allows for greater controls to be implemented with p-cards so that they can be restricted to purchasing only gas, utilities, and other necessities. The purchase of gift cards with p-cards is becoming a bigger problem in organizations, as employees buy gift cards with company funds and then use them later for personal use.

When paying invoices, use ACH instead of wire transfers whenever possible. Joe also stressed the importance avoiding wiring funds. Once you wire money, it’s gone and you can’t get it back, so if it was a fraudulent request, you have no recourse to recoup those funds. You need to know your vendors and verify their banking details before you wire any money. Joe noted that this is becoming increasingly difficult to do as more and more materials and goods are being sourced internationally. 

Solution provider tours are a smash hit. These tours are one of great features of Fusion each year, as they provide session attendees the opportunity to visit various vendor booths and hear a five-minute presentation on a variety of topics, such as “Document Imaging and Workflow” and “How to Create an Efficient AP Automation Operation.” The solution provider sessions we hosted were extremely well attended and attendees received an infographic that summarized key points. If you would like to receive our infographic on how SaaS and optical character recognition (OCR) can improve your AP process, click here.

DataServ booth at Fusion 2015

Apple sets the standard for the intersection of people and technology. Each year the vendors who descend upon Fusion give away everything from cash, to gift cards, to iPads. DataServ gave away an Apple Watch this year and the interest level in Apple’s newest gadget was enormous. We are impressed in how Apple continues to integrate technology into our everyday lives. We strive to do the same within our technology platform through an intuitive interface, easy-to-understand and use workflow, and proactive support that ensures you get the best value for your investment. 

Don’t assume you have to undertake an AP automation project yourself. As Joe and Brady discussed in our final session, “5 Reasons Why You Haven’t Automated AP and How to Overcome Them,” a perceived lack of time stops many AP automation projects before they even get started. But you don’t have to handle this massive project on your own. Look for a vendor with strong support to help shoulder the time burden.

Technology makes perpetuating fraud easier. Joe and Brandon discussed fraud prevention and risk management during their educational session, but we all learned why fraud is easier to execute in today’s technologically advanced world when Frank Abagnale Jr., the inspiration for the 2002 blockbuster movie “Catch Me if You Can,” delivered a riveting keynote speech to conclude the conference that detailed the various scams he perpetuated as a teenager that saw him impersonate an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer all while passing millions of dollars worth of fraudulent checks. Technology breeds criminal activity, and Abagnale underlined this fact by detailing how much easier it would be for him to execute his scams today than it was 50 years ago because today’s technology makes looking up and duplicating a company’s check format and security IDs easier than ever.  

We look forward to seeing everybody again at Fusion 2016 in Anaheim, California.  

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