The EU Commission and the golden rules of purchase to pay – part 1

The EU Commission and the golden rules of purchase to pay – part 1

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 and when we see the Commission taking a proactive and commercial approach we should all, those of us in Europe at least, be enthusiastic to support it. And this is what I’m seeing with the latest initiatives on e-procurement. The business case has been put forward and commitments made and a vision is crystallizing that we can actually take seriously.

Purchasing Insight logoI’m not going to be effusive in my support of the Commission’s initiative. It’s far from perfect but for a large bureaucratic organization to develop commercially credible approaches to business is refreshing and I think it stands a chance of making a real difference.

In this, the first of 3 short pieces, I want to present my wish list of things that the Commission could do better to turn their vision into reality starting with communication.


If you’ve ever read any EU directive, you’ll know they’re not what you’d call page turners. Dan Brown may not be Shakespeare but he at least knows how to keep a readers’ attention. EU style documents struggle to get an audience in a world where people want to consume information in bite sized pieces of 140 characters or less.

And then there’s the lingo. The Commission isn’t, as it appears to me, speaking the same language as everyone else. I risk of drifting into semantics here but it is important to be on the same page as the audience you want to engage with and that means using common nomenclature. “e-procurement” for example – it’s a misnomer because it refers specifically to internet based systems associated with the purchasing process. It could, in a wider sense refer to e-sourcing too – the business of managing tenders on-line – but that’s not really what most purchasing and purchase to pay people would use the term for. And “e-procurement” certainly doesn’t embrace e-invoicing. So when the commission uses the term “e-procurement” to cover sourcing and procurement, purchasing process as well as payment – what I would call “purchase to pay”, “procure to pay” or “P2P” – I get confused.

Finally, not on my wish list – because the Commission is already doing this right – they’re listening. Listening is an important communication skill and the Commission is listening. They’re compiling the Golden Book – a documented set of best practices in Purchase to Pay (or e-procurement as the Commission as calling it). Compiled by practitioners it will be an invaluable guide.

The guide is being compiled now from end users’ experience and I would encourage anyone with a view to contribute. The survey of end users’ experience can be found here.

Next I want to tackle the prioritization of the Commissions plans and in a third piece, explain what I think is a major opportunity to support economic growth in Europe.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

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