Last week we sat down with Emersion founder and CEO Paul Dundas to talk about 2022. We discussed some of the exciting new developments and features that are coming for the Emersion business and billing automation platform. Paul also explained the key areas of focus for Emersion this year, and the ways that it will be different from the wild year we’ve just gone through.
Listen to our full chat with Paul on the Emersion On Air podcast.
Customers and market segments
Emersion has gone through a massive change in the way we’re developing and approaching the market. We’ve gone from being very client reactive, to taking the lead on what the clients are looking for and turning that into product evolution. This makes sense for two major segments of our market.
First is the larger SaaS-based community who are looking for a more standardised product that can handle more volume, a simpler and easier to use interface, better graphic capabilities and more reporting tools. Second are our more corporatized ‘direction-making’ clients, the ones who are contributing to the development and direction of the product. These clients help us develop new modules and new features around their business needs, and we’re continuing to support and work with these clients to build a platform that gives them what they need.
System and UI
We have an entire new user interface layout coming this year for the Emersion platform, called Nimbus.
Nimbus will support newer technologies and will be natively API-integrated. This means the speed of our development at Emersion will increase and we’ll be able to offer better usability, easier navigation, greater searching capabilities and of course it will be faster.
We’ve always supported an enormous amount of data for our clients, and we sometimes get the feedback that it would be great to speed up certain areas. The new Nimbus framework will support this increase in speed, and we’ll also be working with some newer Oracle technology to speed up the database too.
One of the key reasons for us to move our framework from Cumulus to Nimbus, is that Nimbus is a natively API-supported framework. This means that everything we build, we’ll be able to expose API to, as opposed to it being an afterthought. We wouldn’t say we’re an API-first company yet, but we will consider the API implications of everything we do in 2022 and make sure there’s programming interfaces to support the required functionality for at least 80% of what we build going forward.
We worked on a lot more educational material in 2021, and we’ll continue to do that in 2022. There will be an entire new set of documentation and material provided around the new Nimbus framework, which will give us an opportunity to refresh things that we’re moving from Cumulus into Nimbus.
Along with the new Nimbus interface, we’re doing a review of our permissions framework, within which we currently have very extensive functionality. We can turn on and off features and modules, turn on and off menu items right down to create, read, update and delete functionality on certain fields. Many of our competitors don’t have that level of control over what you can do within the permissions system.
Unfortunately, with lots of control, comes a lot of complexity. We will continue to work on balancing control and complexity. Getting tis balance right will mean the speed and setup time for new customers is faster, the cost of supporting and maintaining the platform is lower, and that when you bring on new staff it’s easier to assign them to correct roles. This sounds like a little thing, but when you’ve got a growing community of new staff, it becomes important.
We’ll be looking at the ordering process end-to-end throughout the whole system. Emersion has a strong setup for supporting bundles, packages and single package solutions that may support one or multiple services. Some of our clients are selling more complex things now like VPNs or multi-site electricity solutions, and they want to be able to put in many services at the same time. We’re going to increase the speed of doing that by giving you a different workflow for ordering.
Financial Systems Features and Integrations
Delegated Financial Authority
One of the financial systems modules that will be coming out in the first quarter is the delegated authority module.
We’ve developed a delegated financial authority application on top of our authority module, empowering you to have up to 10 levels of authority, and define how many people need to be in each level to authorise a refund. This is on top of the previous credit management functionality that we already had, which will be aligned very much with the financial authority module.
We had an example of one client who had a call-centre-based environment in the APAC market, and they had in one month, wondered where all their profit had gone. They realised that because of helpful customer service people trying to prevent bad reputation and trying to prevent telecommunications complaints, they’d given away nearly $100,000 in one month of credits. But they were all made up of $20, $50, $450 credits, etc. So we’ve worked with them, as one of our leading direction-making customers, to design a solution which gave them up to 10 levels of authority. The cost of implementing that solution was much less than one month at $100,000, and that’s now a standard feature of the platform that we can provide to anybody.
This is how Emersion has been evolving our product over the last 15 years. Great ideas come in from the customers, through a co-contribution between Emersion and our customer-base, then we standardise it as an inclusion for the platform or an optional module that can be added as required by the customer base.
We’re also rolling out refunding functionality for automated refunds. This is partly related to Emersion taking a direction to become more integrated to banking facilities, as part of our relationship with our parent company the Novatti Group, who is a FinTech.
Payment technology is becoming more and more a part of what clients are asking for and is a good way for our clients to differentiate themselves in the market space. The more payment technologies you support, the easier it is for your customers to pay and the better your cashflow’s going to be. If we can automate those payment technologies, it means the power is moved from the customer to the merchant or to the vendor to receive that money on time and in full when it’s due. Payment technologies are important to our clients, and we’ll continue to invest in payment technology solutions.
Novatti Group runs its own payment gateway in the APAC market space, and we’ll be looking to expand that into the United States this year. Globally, we’ll continue to work around integrating to third party payment gateways, to ensure those payment technologies you need in your local region are supported and that you have a solution for taking payment electronically. We also support manual payments, bulk uploads and API-integration, where you drive the integration to Emersion to tokenise a credit card, push a payment into the platform, and make sure it’s reconciled against the invoices. We can then push that into your accounting system.
Accounting System Integrations
We’ll be spending a lot of time working on more accounting systems integrations in 2022.
Emersion has many existing bank integrations in the APAC region, and we’ll be looking to expand those globally. On the inbound side of payment for bank integration, Emersion has developed integration into many different banks so that you can initiate payment from someone else’s bank account, to be received into your bank account. This can be done through several third-party gateways, but we’ll also build some native integrations into certain banks, and we’ll continue to expand that functionality.
We’ll also work on the reverse of that, which is being able to refund money into people’s bank accounts. There’s a couple of applications for this, one of which is of course if you’re working on a commission and agent program, and you want to be able to refund people the commissions that they’ve earnt. Then you want to be able to get the money into people’s bank accounts. If you’ve got 500 agents, you don’t really want to be sitting there typing in everyone’s bank details and initiating payments out to 500 people on a monthly or quarterly basis. Automating this process will ensure fewer data entry errors, faster processing time and 100% reportability and accountability from end-to-end. Teamed up with the delegated financial authority module, means that only those that need to get paid, get paid, and only authorised by the correct people.
In 2022, Emersion will be expanding our multi-currency functionality, from single instance per currency, to single instance supporting multi-currency. This will help our customers who are selling into multiple locations, dealing with the complexity of the way they must set up their accounts now, and it will make it easier for everyone.
North American Tax Module
Last year Emersion integrated into the United States tax system, we’ll be extending that support into more usage-based solutions for the electricity market, telco market and other markets that we support.
Software Licensing Integrations
We have a lot of things coming around more software licensing integrations. Many of our MSP customers are working with 20 or 30 different vendors, so we have lots of integrations coming around how you can manage software licensing for upgrading quantities automatically from inbound data feeds. As their margins on these products become smaller and smaller, it’s important that we can automate more and more of this, to ensure that you can maintain your profitability, and that you can take on a larger client base.
2022 will see Emersion support many additional integrations from a usage-based processing perspective. We’re looking to rebuild our core usage processing engines, so they’re faster and they’re more easily adaptable to new interfaces. From our API perspective we’ll make sure we can empower you, particularly our non-SaaS based customers who have their own internal development teams, to build more on top of what Emersion’s base platform does.
Emersion’s Payment System, or EPS, is the engine that controls the workflow around payment technology within the platform. It controls which payment types use which payment gateways, whether you can support manual or automated payment on each of those payment types and how that’s routed. One of the restrictions however was that we supported one gateway per payment type. Some customers have asked us to expand that to support multiple gateways per payment type, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. The first might be that the payment gateway might be down, and that means they can’t take payment. The other might be that they’ve bought another company and want to keep the payment for account profile A separate from account profile B, and have the money go into 2 different bank accounts.
We’ve found that there’s a need to expand the EPS functionality to support multiple payment gateways per type. That work will be completed and rolled out as an option in the Q1 22 period as well. Great news for those who have been looking for this feature.
Product Purchasing System
Along with the ordering workflow changes, we have the product purchasing system.
The Emersion product purchasing system enables you to sell products separately or with a service subscription during the ordering workflow. This means that you can sell a mobile phone handset at the same time as ordering a mobile phone subscription, or you can sell a piece of hardware at the same time as you’re selling a broadband service, for example.
The workflow is going to go through quite an evolution in the first quarter. We’ll be looking at speeding up the way that you can process orders when you’re selling multiple hardware items. We’ll be looking at how you can create instalment plans for multiple items instead of just single items, to make things easier for our customers that are selling packages of solutions to their customers and want to have those on an internal funding or external funding model.
So, expect some change around the user interface on product purchasing. This will make it much easier for you to generate more revenue faster and run the services through the system, have less customer service time or less accounting time generating those invoices, and therefore those people that have been using external accounting systems because of the speed of data entry, can bring that all back into a single solution, have a single pane of glass view of all their customer revenue, and understand the profitability of the customer end to end within one system.
Additional Accounting System Integrations
Emersion, in the first quarter of 2022, is looking to release our NetSuite integration and develop a QuickBooks integration to support our clients.
We want to make sure your data is flowing quickly and efficiently without any double data re-entry required in your accounting system, so that you can manage your business more effectively. Many people tell us that they don’t take a lot of information from Emersion, and that’s mainly because Emersion’s reporting, audit and margin analysis functionality is so much more powerful than any of the accounting systems. So, many clients are taking summarised data into their accounting system and using Emersion as the primary point of interface for running their business.
“Last year was all about people. This year should be all about systems. Emersion’s promise to you is that we will make it easier and more efficient to work in the Emersion system in 2022. I challenge you all to standardize your business practises and work with an evolutionary platform like Emersion that can help you do it.”
– Paul Dundas, Emersion Founder and CEO