Purchase to Pay Process

Everyone thinks they’re at the centre of the universe. In a business it’s the sales guys who claim all the credit for growth and profit. After all, how would the business thrive without customers? The R&D people will argue that without great products the sales guys would have nothing to sell. The CEO claims credit for leadership without which the business would have no direction. The founders want to be recognised for the bright idea they had in the first place that started the company. They are all right of course in the sense that all parts of a business play a critically important role but it is also true to say that some functions struggle more than others to gain recognition. Perhaps it's because no-one really understands what they do or maybe they do understand - it's just that it's boring. Working within a a business function that, to the outside is not really that interesting makes it very hard when it comes to securing budget or priority over other competing departments. Purchase to pay is about the least glamorous and least understood back office function that I can think of and so it's a constant challenge to position P2P as a priority but there's one tip I'd like to share that I've used to get attention and secure budget. The problem with P2P is it's boring. But it's also critical especially to large businesses. Trying to explain why something that is a little arcane and dull is more likely to send people to sleep than to get them excited enough to support you. My recommendation is not to explain it at all - instead talk about something people do understand.

When implementing Purchase to Pay, the strength of the objections to change can be surprising. People prefer paper. They don't want to change. They want things immediately and they refuse to follow new processes. They think they can get a better deal themselves compared to the prices offered on a supplier catalog. It's been the same for years - decades even - and it's that last objection: "I can get a better deal myself" that can be the most difficult because it is - or more precisely appears to be - a valid objection. So how do you overcome it?

No PO No Pay is often thought of a means to "train" suppliers providing them with a somewhat negative incentive to comply with their customer's purchase to pay processes. "No PO No Pay No Exceptions" - I've said it myself - but in practice not only does it not work, it's directing effort in the wrong direction.

Accounts Payable the MovieImagine you're a casting director for a new Hollywood movie about Accounts Payable. I know what you're thinking - a movie about Accounts Payable isn't going to break any box office records - but you never know. Given the right characterization and a decent plot it could work. So who would you cast the AP protagonist? Who could embody accounts payable?  Are they young or old? Male or female? Are they attractive or plain? Sexy? Heroic? Timid? Tall? Short? What does a stereotypical AP person look like? 9 times out of 10 you'd say it would be a woman and 10 times out of 10 you'd say they were a little bit crazy. A little bit crazy to say the least. It's true, AP people are nearly always women and nearly always wired in a way that the rest of us don't understand. They memorize dozens, sometime hundreds of account numbers, cost centers and general ledger codes and they get pissed off when the rest of can't remember them all too. But contrast that with the stereotypical purchasing person. How would finance people cast a procurement person in the movie?