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In 2012, the supply chain finance debate became louder and more relevant to more businesses. It’s been described as the perfect storm – the combination of constrained liquidity and very low interest rates means that the gradient between the business “haves” and “have nots” has become steeper – and banks and investors love steep gradients. Supply chain finance is not new but new approaches are emerging based on new and innovative use of technology. In the past, the banks were the only players and they would only play with the big boys. For it to be profitable, the numbers had to be big and the cost of entry was high. But now, as collaborative supplier networks and the associated technology have matured more complex deals can be managed and the cost of entry has plummeted. Increasingly, businesses as well as individuals are turning not to the banks, but their peers for financial support.

One of the difficulties that analysts have is moderating their tendency, out of enthusiasm, to exaggerate the claims that vendors make. They want to report exciting things, things that people want to read. It’s all the more difficult because we all know that the vendors use marketing license in spades when they brief analysts. But the implications of the news announced today are difficult to exaggerate. Tradeshift have got a new investor. Intuit, the engine behind QuickBooks, the people that support 5 million small and mediums sized businesses in the USA, have partnered with Tradeshift. What does this mean? It means that Tradeshift’s network is now the biggest in the world.

Everyone agrees it seems. The case for implementing inbound e-invoicing is compelling. It is a simple matter of common sense. Replacing an inefficient paper process with an automated electronic process will generate savings and in the current economic environment, who would argue that it was not a good idea? It isn’t even that technically complex. What could possible go wrong?

The problem with public sector finance is they have it too easy. The challenges that face businesses in the real world don’t affect public sector. Apart from the annual scramble to spend money in order to secure next years budget, issues like cash flow management just don’t exist in the same sense that it exists in the private sector. And this is why it is so disappointing to see government bodies playing the late payment game. Why do they pay late? They don’t have a good reason to.

Back in the sunny long ago when I was a student and Tomorrow's World on the BBC offered us silicon chips with everything, I remember a discussion with friends about how “New Technology” would usher in a new leisure society. We were young and wide-eyed and didn't think it through, didn't consider the capability of  technology to damage while it transformed.

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