Author: Pete Loughlin

The growth of social networks is allowing a silent minority to become heard with a crystal clarity. People with the ambition and enthusiasm to make a name for themselves in their specialist field are building the infrastructure of a new type of community of special interests that is effectively competing with industry analysts. A community of experts who aren’t saying what they say because they’ve been paid to say it but instead are saying it because it’s a well-informed belief. Whether your field is literature or linguistics, opera or soap opera, politics or purchasing, you can make a name for yourself by creating content on-line.  Content is increasingly consumed on the internet, on the desktop in the office or via mobile devices anywhere. Blogs syndicated through social networks reach their audience far quicker and in a manner much more convenient than the traditional channels of printed media, TV and radio. But should the traditional media be that worried about bloggers?

Despite their apparent compelling appeal, some great ideas just never take off the way you might have expected: 3D cinema; internet refrigerators; the umbrella hat. It’s not just the frivolous inventions that don’t make it and in the business to business technology space there are as many examples. EDI is one. In some industries, such as retail, it’s well embedded as a core tool but is never really took off and the overlapping emergence of the internet in the 1990s saw growth in VAN based EDI plateau permanently. Purchasing cards is another technology that promised more than it delivered. The benefits are compelling. To consolidate all of you supplier invoices into a single electronic statement that can be uploaded into your accounting system should be the default way we do business – but it never worked, apart from in a few niche areas. And there’s a third – supply chain finance. The concept is far from new but despite years of marketing and product development, there are few examples of commercial organisations that have been able to prove its full potential. But that might just be about to change.

OB10’s new Express Payments model is going to change fundamentally the way some businesses operate. It’s not just because it offers a means of extracting greater value from business transactions – Express Payments is not actually unique in that respect. It’s because it is amongst the first enterprise applications that can truly claim cloud credentials.

It’s funny when you read some vendors’ marketing material claiming to be at the bleeding edge of technology when the audience knows full well that what they’re talking about is well established, "business as usual" stuff. Take this example explaining how business is just beginning to discover the internet:  “It wasn’t so long ago that the Internet was viewed as just a playground for consumers with little-to-no-value for businesses. But it’s a completely different story today. The Internet has come a long way, baby” Guess when that was written? 1998? 2003? No. Actually, it was written a few weeks ago by Ariba’s Rob Mihalko aka Rip Van Winkle. The internet isn’t new. E-Procurement isn’t new. Supplier networks aren’t new. Neither is e-invoicing or supply chain finance. They’re all old, well established business tools. So what happened to innovation in P2P?

I’m not really a linguist. I’ve tried to develop fluency in French and made an attempt at German but the only language in which I ever developed any competence, apart from English, was a form of double speak called Management Speak. I haven’t used it for a while but amongst a group of management consultants I can soon pick it up again. Native speakers claim that it is merely a specialist set of terms, jargon if you like, that distills complex business issues into straightforward language and imparts a more professional tone. Why talk about “cutting out the middle man” when you can simply disintermediate? It’s not always best to say what you really mean. It’s more professional to say “We value your suggestion but I’m afraid this is non-negotiable on this occasion” rather than simply “f*** off”? But there’s another language, a dialect of management speak, that is way more complex and it’s almost impenetrable to most of us: Banker Speak. Here’s an example from David Gustin, CFA from Global Business Intelligence, responding on linkedin to my article on the UK Government's announcement on supply chain finance. I’ve exchanged views with David a few times and he has a highly expert voice on this subject. He explains why suppliers get to pay 20%-30% for credit:

It's good news that the UK government has recognized the opportunity to utilize supply chain finance as a means of freeing up the availability of credit for small business. Allowing small businesses to borrow money to fund early payment of their outstanding invoices on credit terms that would normally only be offered to their big and relatively powerful customers isn't just common sense, it could provide a valuable boost to the UK economy. Other governments take note. But before anyone gets too excited, take a little time to consider what is really going on. It looks great on the surface but lurking beneath is a very ugly reality.

A unique supply chain finance solution from OB10 improves companies’ working capital and cash flow

OB10, the e-Invoicing network that handles £90bn of payments each year, has launched OB10 Express Payments, a unique supply chain finance service that allows organisations to receive payment on approved invoices within three days. The service supports the agreement announced this week between Prime Minister David Cameron and large UK organisations to consider or continue helping their suppliers’ cash flow through supply chain finance.