AP Automation

The BBC reports today the the Prompt Payment Code - a UK government backed initiative to encourage big business to pay on time - isn't working. In other news, the sun came up this morning and it is expected to get dark sometime tonight. The Prompt Payment Code provides little more than gentle encouragement to business to demonstrate - in words at least - that they will pay according to terms. I wouldn't criticize for one moment those businesses that have signed up to it. I know that they are sincere in their intentions. But the code doesn't have teeth. It doesn't name and shame transgressors. It doesn't hold business to account if they pay little attention to actually delivering against the promise. And it's hardly surprising therefore that it's not working.

In October 2008, some colleagues and I were in Brussels for a European Commission/PEPPOL session. Halfway through the morning we called our office travel agents and asked if they could book us onto earlier flights home and left. During the morning session I wrote in my diary “trying to decide between slitting my wrists or hurling myself from the window. One of the most dispiriting experiences of my life is sitting here listening to policy officers and IT staff talking rubbish and reinventing the wheel. Do our taxes pay for this nonsense? Yes they do”. Two things reminded me of this recently: the first was reading a PEPPOL Business Interoperability Specification (BIS 28A  – Ordering) which was out for review; the second was the reaction when the Draft Directive on eInvoicing managed to omit any mention of PEPPOL.

The nature of business process outsourcing has evolved and changed. In the past, it was simply about reducing cost - shipping jobs abroad where skills were cheaper. And while that rather unsophisticated body shopping model is not yet entirely a thing of the past, it is unlikely to feature significantly in the future because alternative, better business models have emerged and matured that do much more than reduce the operational cost for business. They allow business to make a quantum leap to best practice.

On the back of the extraordinary announcements over recent weeks , MasterCard and Basware have just declared another supply chain finance deal. It's a big deal and it's another sign if we needed it that products and services providing working capital support to business is one of the faster growing areas in B2B. I chatted to Esa Tihilä, CEO of Basware and Hany Fam, President, Global Strategic Alliances at MasterCard last week about this new partnership. It's good news for Basware - they now have an important new string to their bow, but I think it's even better news for MasterCard who couldn't have chosen a better partner.

I love the way Nipendo describes itself– “the leading provider of P2P extreme platforms” – it’s like purchase to pay is a sport and Nipendo’s products are like cliff diving. I saw this description in their press release today about the Nipendo guarantee – a guarantee of 90% straight through processing. That is a big guarantee, one that some, especially Nipendo’s more traditional competition might say is too good to be true. But I’ve had a closer look and I would say to anyone examining the market place for P2P solutions - you can’t ignore this. So what does Nipendo actually say?

Please forgive the contrived alliteration but it had to be done. Today, Basware and Bravo solutions announced a partnership that appears to create a powerful synergy from their individual strengths. Both best-in-class P2P solution providers. BravoSolutions' key strengths are in spend analysis and eSourcing while Basware are best recognized for their supplier network and the application suite aimed at automating procurement and AP. By combining both technologies the pair believe that they can "extend the value delivered to customers and plug the 'savings gap.” The press release issued today explains the detail:

Q4 2013 may well be remembered as the inflexion point for AP automation and supply chain finance. The synergy between e-invoicing and supply chain finance (SCF) has been recognized for some time but the reality of business is that despite the benefits staring us in the face, it takes time to put the pieces together and for it to become a reality. Software needs to be developed or adapted, marketing campaigns crafted and pilot programmes need to run their course. This all takes years. So when we see solutions emerging and new offerings launched, it’s not because everyone has suddenly seen the light – the early adopters saw the light a long time ago and what we’re seeing now is the culmination of years of effort. The OB10 deal announced last week follows two years of behind the scenes discussion. Tradeshift’s $3bn fund to support small business is the realization of a vision that Christian Lanng shared with me about 3 years ago and just this week a new player on the scene, Crossflow Payments, emerged into the fading light of late summer after 3 years of research and development.  I met Tony Duggan, the CEO, this week in The City of London to understand what they have to offer.