Financial Supply Chain Management

You think purchase to pay is a back office function? e-invoicing is a technical innovation? AP automation an incremental improvement to financial supply chain management? And you wonder why nothing ever gets achieved. P2P is as boring as you make it. The reality is though, that purchase to pay, positioned properly, can deliver commercial benefits on a scale that would astound most executives.

There are few that would disagree that Ariba sits firmly amongst the best in class procurement vendors. Its heritage goes back to the pioneering days of e-procurement and it has continued to innovate successfully ever since, diversifying its portfolio of solutions across the P2P spectrum. But while its procurement credentials are impeccable - the first P - how credible is Ariba at addressing the second P at the payment end of the spectrum?

I knew somebody a few years ago who ran a small, very successful business. When it came to negotiation he had a unique closing technique. Right at the end, when contacts were to be signed and hands shaken he'd go along to the final meeting with a briefcase and before he signed the contract he'd ask for one final reduction in the price. The reaction was predictable. After weeks, perhaps months of selling, discussing and fine tuning the deal, to be asked for a further discount on top of what was already agreed, the seller would invariably be perplexed and disappointed. Then the briefcase would be opened. Cash. The full amount in cash, now, if they'd take the revised offer. Did they accept the offer?

It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to understand the business case for some purchase to pay initiatives. Dynamic discounting - exchanging a discount in return for early payment - can give a return on capital of over 30%. Reverse factoring and other supply chain finance methods can substantially increase DPO and AP automation can reduce costs by 50%. But despite the compelling business case, most organisations remain firmly in the 20th century when it comes to purchase to pay optimisation. If the benefits are so great, why are more businesses not grasping the opportunity?

The purchasing card is a great business tool. It empowers people to make purchases without the need for a complex and often expensive purchasing process. When a low value item costs less than the cost of the purchasing process itself, it makes sense to cut through the purchase to pay red tape. But the purchasing card is beginning to show it age.  It hasn't really kept up with technological change surrounding it. The merchant fees are excessive, in a low interest rate economy the business case makes no sense and as far as reporting goes, purchasing cards have been trumped by electronic invoicing. Is it the end of the road for the purchasing card?

Supply chain finance generally and dynamic discounting in particular has been has been featured quite heavily in Purchasing Insight. It's not an entirely new concept but in the last year or so it has gained a great deal of traction as a means of getting a real and significant commercial return by being clever with the way invoices are settled and this week, Purchasing Insight is delighted to welcome Taulia, the leading dynamic discounting solution provider, as its first sponsor.

Purchasing Insight logoWe all know that manual processes are inefficient. We all know that the use of paper based business processes is increasingly becoming an anachronism in the 21st century and we all know that AP automation is a good idea. But have you ever stopped to consider how much money is being wasted by not taking action?