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January 2011
Intelligent Solutions
By Zenda Douglas

     The feelings of success are palpable in the offices of Verian Technologies. That’s no surprise, given their 175 clients, 56 employees, enviable growth and plans to move into a new building of their own.

     One of the Charlotte Business Journal’s Fast 50 award recipients, Verian Technologies, a leading provider of purchase-to-pay automation solutions, was founded in 1997 and has posted growth in each of the 13 years since, showing profit in 11 of those 13 years.

     “In slow years we’ve grown 10 percent; in strong years: as much as 30 percent,” says Tehseen Ali Dahya, president and chief executive of Verian, now a multi-million dollar company. The economic downturn of the past three years seems to have passed by them without pause.

     This is largely due to the fact that Verian Technologies saves money for its customers, whether a corporation, non-profit or government organization. According to Dahya, “Our goal is to help clients maximize the value of their organizations’ spending and minimize the amount of working capital they need to operate.”

     Verian Technologies provides a suite of applications that helps customers manage all of their purchasing, invoice processing, employee expense reports, and tracking and performing maintenance on company assets, in one database. This allows organizations to review their entire organizational spend easily and helps them take steps to consolidate spend, negotiate contracts, gain contract compliance.

     By doing this, organizations are typically able to save between two and 10 percent, according to Dahya. Verian Technologies’ systems also guard against too much money being tied up in working capital by automating the invoice receipt, approval and payment process.

     This allows Verian’s clients to ensure that invoices are not paid too early or too late, allowing them to take early pay discounts if they choose. Plus, customers get faster visibility and insight into their monthly accrued expenses without a lot of effort.

     “There is a definable link between companies trying to save money in this economic downturn and their interest in our ProcureIt solutions,” says Dahya.

     Verian Technologies deals primarily with what is known as indirect or maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) spend. These are purchases such as office supplies, computers, maintenance supplies, professional and other services or supplies needed to keep an organization running. After labor costs, these combined expenses typically amount to the second-largest expense item on most companies’ P&L. Increased savings and control in this area can have a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line.

     Verian Technologies’ client list has also experienced consistent growth. Its first client in 1997 was the prestigious Nalle Clinic in Charlotte, now part of Presbyterian Hospital. Today their clients range from the smaller $50 million organizations to multi-billion dollar international companies.

     “We help a large delivery company purchase and track $3.5 billion in products and services annually,” says Dahya, proudly. “That’s about 9,000 invoices per day.”

     Clients represent a cross section of industries—services, health care, retailers, financial services, oil and gas, and construction, to name a few—and include Universal Studios, Allstate Canada, Macy’s, REI, Boeing, PETCO, Price Chopper, Caterpillar dealerships and GNC.

     Interestingly, some smaller companies can have more purchase volume than larger ones. Verian systems are particularly appealing to companies that have many locations and struggle to control spending, track inventory or assets, and have a lot of paper-based invoices coming into the organization.

 

Core Values

     Staying true to their mission to make life easier and work more valuable, the Verian operation focuses on three core values: customer success; a cohesive team; and stable, profitable growth.

     “We are very focused on customer success; that is one of the keys to our success,” says Dahya. “We work very hard to help our customers achieve their definition of success. This may include saving money, reducing paper in the process or getting better data for compliance purposes.”

     Customers frequently comment on the Verian approach, saying “Wow, you guys really listen,” according to Dahya. “It’s more than just a tagline; it’s the culture of the company. We pride ourselves on customer intimacy and knowing our customers very well.”

     Privately held Verian Technologies was started by Dahya and two other University of South Carolina master’s program graduates, Bilal Soylu, now chief technology officer, and Bhavin Shah, now director of product strategy.

     Prior to Verian, they jointly owned a medical distribution company selling medical supplies to physicians and hospitals. “We saw a real challenge in the way hospitals and physician practices managed their inventory,” says Dahya. “Two affiliated medical practices across the street from one another—one may have an abundance of an item and the other has none, leading to costly rush orders to meet demand.”

     Dahya and Soylu were in the MBA program together when they met engineering graduate student, Shah.

     The partners realized that there was a need to have systems to manage purchasing in order to achieve visibility and better manager spend, according to Dahya. At that time, he continues, Internet technologies were just coming onto the scene. Most systems were either client server or mainframe-based, difficult to use, and did not provide easy visibility of inventory or purchasing data for the organization.

     As a result, most companies would track and place orders by individual location without regard to the larger enterprise. “We built a system from the ground up, based on Internet technologies, to provide easy visibility into organizations’ entire purchasing, inventory, asset management and invoice processing,” explains Dahya.

 

Streategic Team

     Dahya, who shapes the vision and strategy of Verian Technologies, is a recognized leader in the purchase-to-pay space and has presented at such industry events as ePurchasing Week, Supply Chain Expo, iSource, and others. A graduate of Queen’s University in Canada, he worked as a mining engineer for four years prior to returning to school to pursue his MBA degree.

     An active leader in industry-wide technology initiatives, Soylu has been recognized as a “Professional to Know” by Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine. Soylu completed his undergraduate studies at Georgia Southern University.

     Shah drives Verian’s product strategy for its intelligent suite of purchase-to-pay solutions. Shah earned a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from the University of Bombay, India.

     Most Verian employees fall into one of three groups: engineering, where programmers and quality assurance people build and deliver market-ready products; professional services, where project managers, business consultants, and support teams help a client achieve their objectives on an ongoing basis; or sales and marketing, where the team crafts solutions to solve customer problems and communicate their value to the marketplace.

     All of the coding and programming is done by Verian team members. “Once we have requirements and information for a future version, our folks develop the solutions with customer use in mind,” says Dahya. He points out an unusual mode of operation within the industry—their people that write the code frequently interact with customers: “This allows us to do things that are nearer to our customers’ needs and achieve faster delivery.”

     The Verian team is relatively young but many of its employees are seasoned, particularly senior programmers and professional services consultants. The company has an atmosphere of camaraderie and it’s a fun place to work with an informal dress code. But the casual culture belies the overarching mindset of the group: an incredible focus on customer success.

     “We’re all on the same page of making sure clients are successful,” says Dahya. “And we work together. No one is ever left feeling like they’re off an island drowning; there would be 10 people rushing in trying to help each other.”

     Entrepreneurial from the beginning, the company encourages good ideas from anyone in the group. “People here are bright,” says Dahya. “We’re not too big on titles but we respect each other. We seem to attract people who fit into our culture very well.” Turnover is very low.

     Another value that is demonstrated at Verian Technologies is the belief in reaching out to the community. The company supports Susan G. Komen for the Cure as well as the Toys for Tots program. As part of an educational partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Verian provides internships for students. In testament, “Several students have become employees,” says Dahya.

 

Accommodating Growth

     Verian Technologies’ current location at the UNCC-partnered Ben Craig Center has served them well but the company is now looking forward to moving into their own, newly-constructed building.

     “We’ve been looking to move for the last three to four years,” says Dahya. “We finally got the right opportunity to buy land and received great tax incentives.” The property is located just south of the North Carolina border in Lancaster County, South Carolina.

     “It’s still in the Charlotte region and we still consider ourselves a Charlotte business,” says Dahya. The Charlotte region has a very business-friendly environment, whether in the city proper or the periphery. Dahya explains it this way: “We’re in the suburbs of Charlotte. Right now we’re on the north side; soon we’ll be on the south side.”

     Verian systems are designed for the end-user and are easy to implement and easy to use. “Our systems are much simpler than many of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems designed for accounting departments,” says Dahya. “Our system employs many of the characteristics of online purchasing and feels very much like an Amazon.com experience.”

     As a result, most customers have many users on the system. “Employees simply access the system and they are ready to make purchases within a matter of minutes,” says Dahya. This offers a huge time savings for organizations that require several layers of approvals, even for small purchases.

     With the Verian system, approvals are processed and sent through e-mail, which reduces approval time from weeks to days. Users can also get real-time snapshots of inventory counts within the system. Most importantly, all spend can be tracked against departmental budgets—putting spent vs. actual metrics at managers’ fingertips.

     Constantly working on new projects, Verian Technologies focuses on three releases a year in their software-as-a-service (SaaS, also software-on-demand) delivery model for their suite of automation solutions. SaaS is a deployment option that allows customers to use software as needed without any capital outlay for hardware or IT resources. The cost is relatively small. This option works well for companies who are comfortable with their information being stored in the cloud, an increasingly popular scenario.

     Verian offers both SaaS and behind-the-firewall options. Which option a company chooses may depend upon an organization’s specific scenario. Also new is a spend intelligence module which helps customers get a full view of who is spending and what they are buying, and identifies ways to maximize their savings and reduce working capital needs. With this module, purchasing analysts can drill down to specific trends or seasonal impact.

     During this past year, the company has updated its expense management application and just released the newest version of its popular invoice automation solution.

     “We’re really in a milestone moment for Verian with the new building and many new clients coming onboard,” says Dahya. “We are very excited about the future and continue to focus on making our customers successful.”

Zenda Douglas is a Greater Charlotte Biz freelance writer.
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