P2P round table – where great ideas get shared

Posted by Pete Loughlin in Coupa, Purchase to Pay 20 Jul 2016

When talented people get round a table of food, great conversations happen.

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting a round table event in London and I shared the company of a group of senior procurement and finance professionals all with a common interest in purchase to pay. The agenda was great – there wasn’t one. We were just there to network, chat and share ideas. And share we did.

Flat Logo Light GreenI can’t report the full details of the session. Chatham House rules apply so I won’t name sources but I will hint at some because some people deserve credit for good stories and ideas. My favourite story was from Connor Mullaney from exceleratedS2P. He trumped all of my best tales of difficult categories to fit into a compliant P2P process. (Yes, I do collect difficult P2P scenarios. Train spotters would cringe.) My best story was about the bank that bought an elephant. Quite remarkable on the face of it but somewhat mundane when you know the back story. It was actually elephant rides at a marketing event that they procured. But Connor’s tale was much more impressive. How do you fulfil the need to replace a farmer’s cow that you’ve just killed? Even after the explanation the story is far from mundane.

It was a photo shoot apparently, involving a helicopter. The helicopter got into trouble or landed clumsily and unfortunately, killed a cow in a field. Naturally, the cow’s owner required a replacement. There was no catalogue for farm animals. There was no existing supplier for cattle. The requirement was immediate and no-one in the company had any relevant knowledge to know how to buy a cow and what was a reasonable price. Needless to say, we didn’t come up with any ideas about how to build a compliant P2P process around that.

It wasn’t all amusing anecdotes (I know killing a cow isn’t amusing but you know what I mean), there was some great and informative chit-chat. The guys from P&O set a great example – a finance person and a procurement person came along to network around P2P. Why is it a great example? Because collaboration between finance and procurement is fundamental to making P2P work and they were walking the walk. That doesn’t happen all the time.

Coupa generously supported the event and unsurprisingly, their potential IPO came up in conversation. I have great reservations about the idea of Coupa going public. It would put them beholden to their stock holders to a much greater extent than they are currently beholden to their investors. They are such a great example of a business whose success is all about being beholden to the customers’ success, I worry that the dynamic would change.

One more great idea that was shared – and there were many – was about accounting accurately for contingent labour.  One of the challenges in challenging environments is understanding who is where and when, especially when it comes to tracking contingent workers in places like ships and off shore oil rigs. There’s a really elegant solution to this problem. But I’m not going to share it. You’ll need to attend one of our round table sessions to hear that idea.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

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