Author: Pete Loughlin

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?

Quite some time ago now I came across a P2P provider, Nipendo. I have to say, the case studies that they presented on their website were quite astonishing. I’ve seen companies brag – quite rightly – of getting very high levels of PO compliance or impressively high e-invoicing stats but when a company boasts of well over 90% straight through processing – that is over 90% PO compliance with electronic POs matching e-invoices with receipt confirmations – it’s more than astonishing. In fact, I didn’t believe it. Some of the largest and most sophisticated businesses in the world have spent years and hundreds of thousands, even millions  of dollars on supply chain process and they’ve not been able to achieve this. So what is it about the Nipendo approach that allows them to achieve such impressive results and let’s be frank about this, are their claims actually true?

In response to a witty remark by the artist James Whistler, Oscar Wilde declared “I wish I'd said that”. Quick as a flash, Whistler replied "You will Oscar, you will". I often think to myself "I wish I'd said that" especially whenever I read anything by Seth Godin. He distils wisdom into the most straight forward and frighteningly obvious observations. That's why he's a genius. The title of his book Purple Cow is one such example. The purple cow is the one that stands out from the crowd, the one that differentiates itself. This, Seth preaches, is what businesses need to do to promote themselves. Mostly, they don’t. I’m not a marketer but I’m a seasoned marketee and from this side of the fence I can tell you, there is something wrong with the way B2B solution providers try to get their message out.

It’s accepted wisdom that to pay suppliers promptly, that is on time according to agreed terms, is fair. It astonishes me when businesses – and it seems that big businesses are the worse culprits – deliberately fail to pay on time and seem to think that this is a legitimate business practice. But it is equally astonishing to see small businesses failing to help themselves when their customers pay late. Some businesses are their own worse enemy when it comes to being paid on time and there is a few simple steps that they could be taking to minimize the pain of late payment.

As technology matures, industries are transformed. It is very rare that a single technology inspires or effects the change. It is more usual that a gradual evolution of a mix of technologies lowers the barriers and opens up the opportunity for business models that would previously not have been worth serious consideration. There was a time when the natural gas trapped in rocks under the ground, while known about, was simply not worth the effort to extract. But develop technologies like fracking that can tap this resource profitably and the future of a nation and its power needs is transformed. If you understand the signs, it’s possible to see these fundamental changes coming and there is one such change in the financial services industry that is visible quite clearly on the horizon. A mix of technology has matured and a new business model, barely feasible until very recently, has become compelling. It’s good news for business. It’s not so good news for the banks.