Financial Supply Chain Management

Despite their apparent compelling appeal, some great ideas just never take off the way you might have expected: 3D cinema; internet refrigerators; the umbrella hat. It’s not just the frivolous inventions that don’t make it and in the business to business technology space there are as many examples. EDI is one. In some industries, such as retail, it’s well embedded as a core tool but is never really took off and the overlapping emergence of the internet in the 1990s saw growth in VAN based EDI plateau permanently. Purchasing cards is another technology that promised more than it delivered. The benefits are compelling. To consolidate all of you supplier invoices into a single electronic statement that can be uploaded into your accounting system should be the default way we do business – but it never worked, apart from in a few niche areas. And there’s a third – supply chain finance. The concept is far from new but despite years of marketing and product development, there are few examples of commercial organisations that have been able to prove its full potential. But that might just be about to change.

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?

A unique supply chain finance solution from OB10 improves companies’ working capital and cash flow

OB10, the e-Invoicing network that handles £90bn of payments each year, has launched OB10 Express Payments, a unique supply chain finance service that allows organisations to receive payment on approved invoices within three days. The service supports the agreement announced this week between Prime Minister David Cameron and large UK organisations to consider or continue helping their suppliers’ cash flow through supply chain finance.

Ask a CFO why he shouldn't pay suppliers early in return for lower prices and he or she is quite likely to say "It's fine occasionally but generally it just gives a one-off hit". I had this exact conversation with a a CFO of a large international organization recently and, not being an accountant, I chose to hold back, go away and lick my wounds and contemplate why his position was both expert and intuitively wrong.

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.