Author: Pete Loughlin

There’s a distinct change in tone in the latest press release from Tradeshift. It’s happy. I’m not saying that press releases in the past were miserable, it’s just that I would have used other words to describe their character - frenetic or excited perhaps. And the Tradeshift team has good reason to be happy. The headline announces the $75 million investment that they’ve just secured but what is really good news for the Tradeshifters, their customers and investors is the foothold they just gained in the third largest economy in the world.

There’s a guy that wants to know how to learn how to negotiate. His friend, a professional buyer, explains to him that all he needs to do is to offer half of what he’s asked for when buying anything. Armed with this new skill, he goes off to buy himself a suit. “That will be $200 sir” says the tailor. Our negotiator responds with an offer of $100. “You drive a hard bargain” the tailor replies “but as I like you, you can take the suit for $100” Our negotiator fixes the tailor with a stare. “$50” he snaps. Realizing what's going on and keen to serve other customers, the exasperated tailor gives the suit away. “Take it. It’s free. Just get out of here” Negotiator: “I’ll have two”

On Monday morning I had what I thought was a slight cold. Sniffing, I headed to London. By late morning, it was a proper cold and by the time I arrived in Westminster for the second sitting of Stephen McPartland’s parliamentary inquiry into e-invoicing, I’d developed full blown man-flu. This was a session characterised by contrasts. Forthright opinions together with cautiously expressed views. Good news mixed with disappointing revelations. But overall a great second session.

MEAT or the Most Economically Advantageous Tender has always been one of the assessment criteria upon which contracts could be awarded under EU procurement law. But no longer – soon it will be the only option. A slightly refined version of old MEAT, new MEAT will encourage evaluation of the bids offering the best price-quality ratio. This change is described by Jennifer Robinson as just one of many changes to EU procurement law that collectively represent a complete overhaul, the biggest change in public procurement law in 10 years.

When you read the news this week that the European Union has agreed a mandate for e-invoicing you could be forgiven for thinking that the policy makers in Europe have come to their senses. They estimate that a saving of €2.3 billion a year could be delivered by streamlining the back office processes in public sector by using a common electronic standard for transmitting invoice data. This all sounds very worthy - very 21st century, but as someone with a professional interest in this (as well as a personal stake in it as a European taxpayer), I’m less than impressed. Here’s why.

We all know the expression “There’s always someone worse off”. It’s a form of words aimed at reassuring someone who is perhaps feeling a little sorry for them self. It’s similar to “count your blessings”– it puts your troubles in perspective. But it’s a bit pot half empty isn’t it? Where's the ambition in “It could be worse”? Of course things could always be worse but whether things are going OK or not, shouldn’t we be saying “It could be better. It can be better. I will make it better”. Personally, I’m a big fan of the expression “there’s always someone better off”.

Ask anyone who knows what they’re talking about - go to any conference on Purchase to Pay and you’ll hear the same thing: The biggest challenge to making P2P work is the disconnect between finance and procurement. I’ve commented on it many times. There are fundamental differences between the way finance and procurement see purchase to pay and getting alignment is not straight forward but there’s another reason why, for some organizations it is a challenge and that is their organizational structure.

Managing P2P in a matrix

To someone in an functionally structured organization, it doesn’t seem unusual. Indeed, if you are used to working within a functional silo, to operate in a matrix environment would seem daunting. How can you serve two masters? How can competing priorities be managed? In contrast, those that operate in matrix organizations view siloed businesses with some disdain. The term “silo mentality” is never used as a compliment. But sometimes, silos are sensible or at least non-negotiable and when that’s the case, the task of implementing P2P is especially challenging.

P2P in a matrix environment