Author: Pete Loughlin

Ask a CFO why he shouldn't pay suppliers early in return for lower prices and he or she is quite likely to say "It's fine occasionally but generally it just gives a one-off hit". I had this exact conversation with a a CFO of a large international organization recently and, not being an accountant, I chose to hold back, go away and lick my wounds and contemplate why his position was both expert and intuitively wrong.

The European Commission has declared some ambitious targets for e-procurement. They reckon that €2 trillion can be saved and they intend to get government organisations using purchase to pay best practice to deliver these savings by 2016. These targets are of course way too ambitious. What’s more, the Commission is going about it in completely the wrong way. They may be ambitious and their methods may not be perfect but I’m impressed and delighted at what they're doing.

In a research report by Purchasing Insight and Paystream Advisors to be published in a few weeks time, we indicate some real evidence that the e-invoicing market has reached or even passed the tipping point and today, the expected land grab associated with the rapid increase in interest in e-invoicing has just accelerated. Basware, already one of the largest and most important operators in this space, have just announced the acquisition of Certipost's network e-invoicing business.

A high profile public procurement exercises in the UK has become a very public embarrassment for the British government as the award of the franchise for one of the country’s busiest rail lines has been withdrawn following complaints from one of the unsuccessful bidders. This is going to lead to calls for public procurement processes to be examined and it will do nothing for the reputation of procurement professionals in the public sector who regularly come under fire from a press who will seek to conclude that the public procurement process needs to be overhauled. But that’s exactly the wrong conclusion to draw. Indeed, I think that the whole debacle shows the strength of the procurement process – not its weakness.

Last week at EXPP I had the great pleasure of meeting Dave Wallis, Director Eastern Hemisphere (great job title) for OFS Portal. You could be forgiven for not knowing of OFS portal. OFS Portal is highly niche specializing exclusively in the Oil and Gas industry. In their own words it is a “group of diverse suppliers working together with a non-profit objective to provide standardized electronic information to B2B trading partners to facilitate e-commerce in upstream oil and gas products and services.” That is pretty specific but don’t let that mislead you in any way – there’s many industries outside of upstream oil and gas that could take a leaf out of their book. They are in many ways exemplars for purchase to pay and they’re now adding to their credentials by partnering with Tradeshift.

The first golden rule of business: "Thou shalt not committee". Decisions made by committee are compromises - almost by definition and in an attempt to satisfy everyone, no one is satisfied. Democracy is overrated. This is how the EU Commission does things, or at least it appears how to do things. We see it all the time. Discussions about e-invoicing standards and interoperability - recommendations to industry made by a mixture of biased vendors and the independent, self-appointed Messiahs of e-business. It's no wonder the rest of us look on in dismay at some of the misguided nonsense that emerges. And the timing? Decisions made by committee take an age. By the time decisions are made the world has changed and it’s back to square one. But it's not always like that