Author: Pete Loughlin

I'm really looking forward to speaking on the dos and don'ts of e-invoicing at the 5th annual P2P conference in Amsterdam next week. It's a relatively small conference but some of Europe's leading P2P practitioners will be there either speaking or as delegates.

You think purchase to pay is a back office function? e-invoicing is a technical innovation? AP automation an incremental improvement to financial supply chain management? And you wonder why nothing ever gets achieved. P2P is as boring as you make it. The reality is though, that purchase to pay, positioned properly, can deliver commercial benefits on a scale that would astound most executives.

It was at the beginning of 2011 that we wrote about Tradeshift catching the wave just right. And it was just a few months before that I asked a couple of their competitors what they thought about Tradeshift. Ariba people and OB10 people were all singing from the same hymn sheet. "Trade who?". Well, a few weeks ago I asked them again and they both conceded, Tradeshift are becoming difficult to ignore.

I'm not sure that IAAAS will catch on as a 21st century business acronym - but what it stands for is impressive. Basware will deliver Invoice Automation as a Service, together with Basware Connectivity services including Scan & Capture, Supplier Portal and e-invoicing to a worldwide leading supplier of pipe systems.  The value of the deal over the contract period of 3 years is approximately EUR 650.000.

I have sometimes described purchase to pay as sitting at the least glamorous end of the business spectrum. At one end is the sex, drug and rock 'n' roll world of PR, marketing and sales - life at the coal face where business really happens - and then at the other end there's the back office functions like purchasing, finance, internal audit. And if we take a closer look at the back office, sitting quietly right at the wrong end of the glamour spectrum is accounts payable. A colleague once described accounts payable as "the spinsters department". Jason Busch doesn't spare his vitriol in his criticism of AP suggesting that "most companies would likely be better off blowing up their AP function". To be fair he does suggest a more constructive fate for AP by describing how they might transform into a high value add supply chain finance operation - something I would strongly endorse. But for the time being, I want to defend AP. Why? Because much of the criticism is unfair and especially when it comes from purchasing.

Business travelers face a huge variance in the price they can expect to pay for a hotel room as prices increase by as much as 37% according to a new survey from Hogg Robinson and travel buyers need to make sure that policies are in line with reality. There's nothing worse for a business traveler than to have to comply with an out-of-date travel policy and it does nothing good for the reputation of purchasing when things go wrong. Travelers won't hesitate to complain if they have a rough time and they'll be very vocal if the travel policy is unrealistic.

There was an astrophysicist, a physicist and a mathematician on a train traveling from England to Scotland. They see a black sheep in a field as they cross the border. The astrophysicist says "all the sheep in Scotland are black". The physicist says "some of the sheep in Scotland are black". The mathematician says "At least one sheep in Scotland is black - on at least one side". Interpreting what we see on limited evidence is always a risky business so let's not get too concerned at Augusts PMI numbers.