AP Automation

The great thing about uncontrolled environments is they’re not controlled. Change becomes easy and innovation abounds. Business improvements are only limited by your ability to imagine. The sky’s the limit. Of course a business environment with no controls is a dangerous place. Mistakes go undetected and fraud can thrive unless there are pragmatic business controls in place. But working within a tightly controlled environment requires a different way of thinking in order to ensure that change isn’t stifled completely.

Yes, there have been innovations in e-invoicing in the last two years but compared to almost all other areas of technology, it has been standing still for about a decade. The reason for this is simple, most players’ business models have not been driving a need for innovation. In all other spaces, intense competition has driven innovation in software, the technology behind it and how they use it. Which is all fantastic for users. But it’s just not the case here.

OB10’s new Express Payments model is going to change fundamentally the way some businesses operate. It’s not just because it offers a means of extracting greater value from business transactions – Express Payments is not actually unique in that respect. It’s because it is amongst the first enterprise applications that can truly claim cloud credentials.

It’s funny when you read some vendors’ marketing material claiming to be at the bleeding edge of technology when the audience knows full well that what they’re talking about is well established, "business as usual" stuff. Take this example explaining how business is just beginning to discover the internet:  “It wasn’t so long ago that the Internet was viewed as just a playground for consumers with little-to-no-value for businesses. But it’s a completely different story today. The Internet has come a long way, baby” Guess when that was written? 1998? 2003? No. Actually, it was written a few weeks ago by Ariba’s Rob Mihalko aka Rip Van Winkle. The internet isn’t new. E-Procurement isn’t new. Supplier networks aren’t new. Neither is e-invoicing or supply chain finance. They’re all old, well established business tools. So what happened to innovation in P2P?

The European Commission has declared some ambitious targets for e-procurement. They reckon that €2 trillion can be saved and they intend to get government organisations using purchase to pay best practice to deliver these savings by 2016. These targets are of course way too ambitious. What’s more, the Commission is going about it in completely the wrong way. They may be ambitious and their methods may not be perfect but I’m impressed and delighted at what they're doing.

The first golden rule of business: "Thou shalt not committee". Decisions made by committee are compromises - almost by definition and in an attempt to satisfy everyone, no one is satisfied. Democracy is overrated. This is how the EU Commission does things, or at least it appears how to do things. We see it all the time. Discussions about e-invoicing standards and interoperability - recommendations to industry made by a mixture of biased vendors and the independent, self-appointed Messiahs of e-business. It's no wonder the rest of us look on in dismay at some of the misguided nonsense that emerges. And the timing? Decisions made by committee take an age. By the time decisions are made the world has changed and it’s back to square one. But it's not always like that

This week, Berlin hosted the 8th EXPP conference - the largest e-invoicing conference of this kind in the world. An eclectic mix of solution vendors, thought leaders and experts from no less than 36 countries, it's a melting pot where friendships are forged, partnerships positioned and, for a couple of days, commercial rivalries put to one side to advance the cause of common sense in business. EXPP isn't like most conferences. There are very few potential buyers and as a lead generation opportunity for solution providers it would not be considered a great success but the fact that exhibitors come back year after year speaks volumes for the value of the event.