Finally, there is a problem – Tradeshift’s move into the enterprise strength P2P space

Finally, there is a problem – Tradeshift’s move into the enterprise strength P2P space

I was always excited about the idea of the one time only credit card. It’s a piece of technology that allows a secure payment to be made using a card that is issued purely for the purpose of a single transaction. It could be perfect for something. Trouble was, I could never think of a compelling application for it. It was a solution looking for a problem. Now, Tradeshift have found the problem.

Site LogoI’m not going to give Tradeshift the credit for being the first to find an application for the one time credit card – there are other use cases – but I am going to give credit to Tradeshift for coming up with what I think is their first credible extension of their supplier collaboration platform.

The thing is, Tradeshift were always a One Trick Pony – although it has to be said it was a pretty good trick. They made us sit up and think with their free-to-supplier e-invoicing model and on the back of that they’ve grown a very credible business. The test for them was to sustain the model and to deliver on the promise of the platform.

Sure, there have been the apps on the Tradeshift platform and there have been some important alliances struck over the years – Intuit for example and more recently C2FO. But it is the launch of Tradeshift Buy that is their most significant move for years because it takes them deeper into the enterprise strength P2P space.

There’s a lot in their new suite of products. It’s not a comprehensive set of tools yet but it’s the use of the one time card into their “buy anywhere” concept that made me sit up and listen because I think it gives them a genuine differentiator. And this is why.

One of the challenges of a P2P implementation is controlling maverick behavior. The traditional approach of procurement has been to attempt to herd the business into using preferred suppliers and catalogues. But the reality is that there’s no such thing as a preferred supplier list that will always suit all of the needs of the business all of the time. People will always go off-piste and often for very good reason. Tradeshift Buy gives users an avenue to go off-piste but by keeping them within the application, controls are maintained. And by using the one-time-credit card technology, immediate payment is made to a supplier with whom the business has perhaps no previous relationship. And there’s another less obvious but very important benefit:  there’s no need to maintain bank details for that supplier and the hundreds or even thousands of other suppliers like them – a key source of P2P fraud risk.

This isn’t entirely unique. It reminds me of Coupa’s approach to expenses management whereby they too encourage the use of credit cards to buy off policy but within the constraints of a set of procurement controls that allows spend to be captured and behaviour managed. But while it’s not unique, it is different from many solutions in what is a very crowded space and that gives Tradeshift a lever that will undoubtedly open many new doors.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

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