I have quite a bit in common with John Webster, VP Global Product Marketing at Basware. We both grew up in the North West of England, we're both P2P professionals and, curiously, we both have exactly the same book on our coffee tables at home.
I've been working with e-procurement in a wide variety of guises and in many different organizations for nearly 20 years. Before the widespread use of the internet there were some proprietary on-line purchasing systems that were, by and large, the same as a modern incarnation of a web based e-procurement system. And they all have one thing in common - they don't work.
To be fair, they're getting better but still, most implementations are an expensive set of broken promises. It's not always the technology that's at fault - sometimes it's the promises that are wrong - expectations are set unrealistically. Or its the functional design that's wrong - business requirements ignored or misunderstood. And it's such a shame because e-procurement was such a good idea.
So what's gone wrong?
Industry experts are increasingly calling for an e-invoicing mandate. In the USA as well as Europe, disappointing adoption rates over the last decade look rather embarrassing when compared to the dramatic success in Latin America where the use of electronic invoices for many businesses is not optional. But while a mandate could be seen as enforcing common sense, could there be some unintended consequences that will actually mean that mandating e-invoicing will be counter productive?
When anyone tells you something is a win-win, they’re usually lying. Where there’s a winner there’s always a loser. But sometimes it does look very compelling. Supply Chain Finance (SCF) offers the possibility of a supplier getting paid early, lowering their cost of working capital and at the same time, the buyer gets to extend their DPO. When something looks too good to be true it usually is. There must be a catch. And actually, there is.
Free to suppliers is no longer a big deal in the world of electronic invoicing. It was the headline feature that brought Tradeshift to everyone's attention 3 years ago and it's stood them in good stead. I never considered free to suppliers to be especially disruptive as Tradeshift claimed. It was a unique proposition but now that USP has run out of steam and there's a new new kid on the block threatening to eat Tradeshift's lunch. But Tradeshift have something else up their sleeve and this time, I think it really is disruptive.
[caption id="attachment_7544" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Copenhagen - spiritual home of Tradeshift[/caption]
Isn't it interesting how opposites attract. When the circumstances are just right, people, businesses, natural elements and chemical compounds bind together in synergistic relationships of mutual self interest. Successful supply chain partnerships are just like that and collaborations between very different businesses can create profitable partnerships in which the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.
And isn't it disappointing when different parts of the same organization repel each other like the poles of a magnet. You would think that procurement and finance divisions of the same business would have a similar agenda but when it comes to some matters of finance, buyers have more in common with their suppliers than they have with their own finance people.