Purchasing Insight

Purchase to Pay, Purchasing & Procurement Process, Electronic Invoicing

Browsing Posts tagged Purchase to Pay Process

This is the second part of a two piece article on the touch points between purchasing and finance. You can read part 1 here

Purchase to pay plumbing manual – part 2

Purchasing InsightKnowing your end of the purchase to pay process is all well and good but, if you are at the purchasing end for example, which part of the payment end do you need to be joined up to? Here’s a few more of the purchase to pay touch points that should help get the P2P plumbing in place. continue reading…

Purchase to Pay, P2P and Dynamic DiscountingGetting the P2P message right through an effective business case can be difficult. Despite it being proved, CFOs remain cautious. Use competitors success to pursuade, recognize the challenges in turning change into cash and stress that P2P isn’t the destination – it’s the bus.

The successful implementation of a Purchase to Pay Process in a global environment has many challenges. In a short series of items, Purchasing Insight discusses some of the pitfalls. In the first, we discuss the 1st implementation stage, the business case.

Purchase to Pay Pitfalls – The Business Case

The Approach

The Purchase to Pay process covers a wide range of business activities and spans a number of business functions from sourcing to procurement, accounts payable, finance and treasury management.  Working from first principles, examining and mapping existing state processes and identifying the benefits of a new ways of working in a global business environment can be a Six Sigma consultant’s wet dream. A detailed analysis of the processes involved can be extremely complex and time consuming. And by the time the exercise is complete, the world may have changed – a new business acquired or a fundamental change in the business environment or economic conditions can in validate the business case, particularly if it has taken a long time to develop.

Saving Fingers and Toes Instead of Heads

Simplistic business cases based on identified saving such as a reduction in the cost of processing an invoice through 5 minutes saved here and 2 minutes saved there are unconvincing. The main problem is that they identify actual benefits that are difficult to turn into cash. Unless labor cost savings can be transalted into headcount reduction they are meaningless. Happier staff leaving on time instead of having to stay late at month end, while desirable, is not a business benefit. It can’t be quantified in cash and will not excite a CFO.

Unimpressive ROI

The return on investment of a P2P business case is actually quite low. It will give a break even timescale within 18 months and a decent return on capital over a 3 year period but even in the most dysfunctional environment implementing a best in class solution it is easy for the CFO to find an alternative investment with a bigger and quicker impact.

Overcoming the Challenges


Don’t build the business case from the ground up. Instead, borrow from others’ experience using benchmark data (Aberdeen is a good source). Purchase to Pay is proved and there are mature examples in most industries showing where it works. Build a high level business case based on peer organizations. Apart from delivering the business case more quickly, it is more convincing. Instead of describing an aspiration, it describes a competitors achievements.

Losing Fingers and Toes

To overcome this issue, take a commercially savvy approach and recognize that some of the money will be left on the table. Factor a benefits realization or crystalization factor to allow for the fact that some of the process benefits of purchase to pay will not be measurable in cash. Anticipatethe objection and present up front that the benefits are actually far greater but in terms of investmet request, only the benefit that are delivered in cash are used in the business case.

Small ROI

This is never an easy one to win. However, you should not be presenting the P2P business case in isolation. In reality, Purchase to Pay is not the goal – it is the foundation. The fact that it pays for itself (as illustrated in your business case) is a big plus, but the real win is what P2P allows you to do.

A good example is Dynamic Discounting. Dynamic Discounting can deliver a return on capital of over 30%. Dynamic Discounting isn’t possible without a P2P foundation.


Getting the P2P message right through an effective business case can be difficult. Despite it being proved, CFOs remain cautious. Use competitors success to pursuade, recognize the challenges in turning change into cash and stress that P2P isn’t the destination – it’s the bus.

P2P Europe

On 16th March 2010, the Council of the European Union agreed on a general approach on a draft directive aimed at simplifying VAT invoicing requirements, in particular as regards electronic invoicing.

As reported in this press release, the draft directive sets out to ensure the acceptance by tax authorities of e-invoices under the same conditions as for paper invoices, and to remove legal obstacles to the transmission and storage of e-invoices.

Adoption of Purchase to Pay (P2P) Will Increase

As reported here previously, the final legislation may fall short of what had been earlier proposed however it should go a significant way to ease the way forward and help organizations and businesses across Europe to enjoy the efficiencies and lower costs of comprehensive and holistic Purchase to Pay (P2P) processes. (See: What is Purchase to Pay?)