AP Automation

It’s quite easy to “get” the benefits of e-procurement – electronic catalogues linked to a purchase approval workflow. It’s a no brainer and it was one of the most successful B2B technology of the 1990s as the opportunity was seen to emulate the ease of buying that amazon, Dell and eBay offered. But it was never as straightforward as the B2C equivalent. You don’t need to account for everything you buy on eBay and apply GL codes and cost centres and we don’t need a 3 way match. That’s why Amazon is easy. (How many times have you heard someone in business complain about their ERP purchasing module asking why it can’t be like Amazon?) And what about e-invoicing? That seems like a compelling proposition until you try to automate Accounts Payable in an environment where the purchasing process is out of control.

I wasn’t expecting a drama but when Sarah Chilman rushed to Nigel Taylor’s rescue following what appeared to be an unprovoked attack with a coat stand, I immediately thought of Wendi Deng’s intervention at the phone hacking hearing when her now estranged husband, Rupert Murdoch, was the target of Johnnie Marbles. “Surely Parliamentary business isn’t always like this” I thought but quickly realised that the coat stand had simply fallen on Nigel’s head. It was a moment of distraction during an otherwise fascinating session, the first sitting of the UK Parliamentary Inquiry on e-invoicing. [caption id="attachment_8723" align="aligncenter" width="576"]Parliamentary Committee on e-invoicing From left to right, Caitlin the stenographer, Luke McKeever from OB10, Tim Coleman from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Nigel Taylor from Taulia and Chair of UKNeF, Nigel Clifford from Procserv and to the far right, the coat stand.[/caption] The coat hanger mishap wasn't the only surprise. The Inquiry that I was privileged to be a part of, sat on Tuesday of this week, the day after an intense, all-day debate hosted by the UK National e-Invoicing Forum (UKNeF) during which I sat with Ian Burdon and Peter Smith, both of whom brought fresh and expert views and insights to the public sector e-invoicing discussion. These two days, the UKNeF meeting and the Parliamentary Inquiry, led me to some conclusions about the direction of electronic invoicing in the UK and they were conclusions that I would absolutely not have predicted.

Only last week, Martha Lane Fox stepped down as UK "digital champion", a role in which she tried to encourage central and local government to get people online. While her efforts were applauded, there is some doubt as to how effective those efforts were. David Cameron's Conservative party came under criticism recently when it decided to delete all pre-2010 speeches including the speech that Prime Minister himself stated that the internet would help hold politicians to account. You could be forgiven for thinking that the UK government had gone soft on the digital agenda. But you'd be wrong. While the G2C (Government to Citizen) agenda may seem somewhat confused, the politicians appear to have no doubt about the importance of their role in encouraging the B2B digital agenda and today, Mathew Hancock MP, opening the UK National e-invoicing Forum (UKNeF) Roundtable event: Creating an Interoperable Ecosystem for Government & Business, claimed in no uncertain terms that he did not want to see the UK lag behind. The Minister of State for Innovation and Skills stated the Government's commitment saying that Britain would "move from the middle of the pack " to "lead the world" in e-invoicing.

A couple of articles ago I mentioned the EU’s draft Directive on eInvoicing. It is a sensible document. However it has some problems which raise important questions. The core problem is that the reasoning in the Explanatory Memorandum to the draft is flawed. This is not just grumpy pedantry but something fundamental.

 Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has revealed it is now managing its entire procurement and financial activities with its suppliers in a paperless and automated environment.

Over 3,000 suppliers exchange over 20,000 documents each month – from RFPs through purchase orders and invoices to payment confirmations – creating an efficient and environmentally-friendly process with saving of up to 50% in operational resources compared to the manual procure-to-pay process previously in place.

This transformation is enabled by the Nipendo Supplier Cloud platform, which allows organizations to electronically collaborate with all of their trading partners while enabling seamless integration with their ERP systems. With over 3,000 IAI suppliers using the platform and more than 90% of invoices electronic, paperless process enables dramatic error reduction, savings of up to 50%

A few weeks ago, somebody asked me why supply chain finance had suddenly burst into life - especially in the UK - with a new breed of SCF providers appearing at the same time?. Why is it that in the space of a few months the market place seemed to blossom? Tungsten bought OB10 to create a new SCF proposition. Crossflow Payments emerged in the summer and there were others. Why the sudden explosion? There was nothing sudden about it. These operations have years of planning and preparation behind them. It appears sudden – but it’s not. And we’re about to see something similar happen in Europe around e-invoicing.

The amount of sensitive data on the servers of mid-to-large enterprises can be quite shocking. Included in the data could be credit card numbers. Locally storing your customer’s credit card data can be a risky proposition as your company could fall victim to a costly data breach. Many large enterprises keep multiple copies of their customers’ payment data on old legacy systems whose underlying technologies remain solidly rooted in the 1960s.  Because these systems are transaction-based rather than customer-based, their interoperability with internal audit and accounting processes is severely limited.  To make matters worse, organizations often don’t know where sensitive data resides on those systems and have no control over it.