Tag Archives: purchase to pay

How to Make Sure You’re Not Being Sold Smoke And Mirrors

Can you spot the difference between theoretical and real ROI? Basware’s Eric Wilson gives the run-down on preventing value leakage in Purchase-to Pay. 

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Buying enterprise software is no easy undertaking – there’s a lot of factors to consider, multiple stakeholders to please and a lot of due diligence that must happen to ensure you can get the ROI that is being promised. Unfortunately, in the world of Purchase to Pay (P2P), most systems available today cannot truly deliver the ROI that is being touted across marketing channels and promised by sales reps because of inherent limitations in the solution.

So, how can you be sure that you are looking at real numbers when comparing P2P solutions and not some fabricated figure that is only attainable on paper?

Ask these two questions

There are two primary questions you should ask when reviewing solutions and providers:

  1. Is the ROI real, or is it fabricated?

Often what happens in the solution seeking process is that a business case is written, either by an internal person, or a consultant, or a solution provider.  The business case includes all kinds of detail about the cost savings and efficiencies the company will achieve by implementing the solution. In the case of P2P, these cost savings are in things like reducing off-contract spend, negotiating better pricing, taking advantage of terms discounts, eliminating paper from the process, reducing or redeploying accounts payable (AP) processing headcount, and similar cost efficiencies. But there are real obstacles to achieving the level of savings being promised, and organisations need to choose a provider that can meet those challenges with real answers (more on overcoming these obstacles later).

2. Will the solution continue providing value in the future, or will it be a short-term win that sends you searching for a replacement system in a few short years?

Too often we are only looking five inches in front of our face when making a technology investment decision. The organisation is only looking at the current problem, not the long-term value. Little functional enhancements in P2P may offer some incremental value, but are not what the future of P2P is about. The future of P2P is all about deriving more value from centrally capturing and leveraging all that transactional data, all those POs and invoices, across millions of organisations. The future of P2P (and even today to a large extent) is about using applications sitting on top of that transactional data to create a competitive advantage. Apps like these will empower you to answer questions like: How am I doing against industry benchmarks? Are there opportunities for better leveraging spend in buying groups to get better pricing? Can I fund company growth initiatives through working capital optimization solutions?

Find out if the solution can process 100% of your transactions

Back to the obstacles we mention above – where do those come from and how can you overcome these challenges? Obstacles arise because of one simple factor: all the cost efficiencies in the business plan are assuming you get 100% of your purchasing and accounts payable (AP) transactions running through the system, and most P2P systems cannot accomplish that level of automation.

You must choose a provider that can help you achieve:

  • 100% Supplier On-Boarding

First, you have to get all of your suppliers connected to your P2P system.  If you don’t, you can’t access all available terms discounts; you can’t truly eliminate paper; you can’t achieve all of the supply chain efficiencies from the business case. Most P2P systems are only designed to connect to the sophisticated suppliers, who can send XML or EDI transactions. What about that long tail of mid-size and small suppliers, who aren’t that technologically advanced? What about those suppliers that still send paper invoices? You must have a solution for connecting them to your P2P system, and it has to be easy for them to do so.

  • 100% User Adoption

Secondly, all your procurement must be processed through the P2P solution, which means the end users have to use it – not just some of the end users, or most of the end users, but truly all of your end users have to be putting 100% of their purchasing through the system. You can’t achieve that status by mandating it, and you can’t even achieve it by having a procurement system that is “user friendly.” The P2P system has to actually be designed to fit seamlessly into the way that end user is already doing their job. In other words, employees use the procurement system because it is truly the easiest way to get the stuff they need, not because it’s been mandated by the procurement department.

  • 100% Spend Visibility

Lastly, all your invoices – for both direct and indirect spend – must be running through the P2P system. This is very rare in the reality of most P2P systems. Most P2P systems are only good at automating the invoices that originated from the indirect procurement solution. What about all your direct invoices? What about all your non-PO invoices, facilities invoices, invoices generated from manufacturing? If the P2P system can’t effectively handle 100% of your invoicing transactions, your ROI just got reduced tremendously, or perhaps even eliminated. The AP side of the P2P system must be a true AP transaction hub for all your invoices, regardless of type of invoice.

So, what does all of this culminate to in the end? One word: data. If the system you choose can deliver real ROI, you begin building a critical asset – a data set of all your financial data in one single location. Then, you can begin using innovative add-ons, like predictive/prescriptive analytics, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc. and see that ROI multiply.

Interested in getting started with Basware? Register for our weekly demo to see how Basware can help you build the business case for real ROI.

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Is P2P Keeping Us Stuck In The Mud?

Still debating maverick spend in your organisation, griping about tail spend or struggling to implement the right systems? Perhaps P2P is holding you back!

This article was written by Eva Milko. 

Is it me or has not much changed in the world of Purchase-to-Pay (P2P)? Twenty-five years have come and gone and yet we continue to discuss maverick spend, we gripe about tail spend and struggle with the right systems and the right processes to enable the simplest of transactions a company has in its portfolio: buying stuff.

In the meantime, those who realised that their value sits in higher areas of supply chain opportunity are doing wonders to automate, digitiSe, codify and outsource P2P work to those who have become transactional experts. Entrusting a part of your procurement house to others is not an easy task, many failing in the process, but I argue that it is somewhat necessary when the world is getting more complex, challenges more broad and opportunities often surpass the risks.

The CPO seat belongs to the one who carefully coordinates all aspects of the source to pay process with a keen eye on what can be standardised, outsourced, digitised, robotised and automated, balancing that with strategic decision making on where to place their precious human resources.

P2P buying systems remain a mystery. They are the most disliked, worked-around and challenged factor by employees in almost any company.  Our research found that only 36 per cent of stakeholders find procurement systems favourable and comfortable enough to engage with.  Our internal stakeholders are screaming “make it easy for us” and yet we continue to throw them into the bowels of twenty process steps, multiple buying channels and layers of authorisations. That’s not to mention lost time and corporate energy.

Procurement Prime

Molson Coors Procurement Office recently hosted an Executive Roundtable on this very subject and we challenged ourselves to envision a world of guided buying where the stakeholder is not exposed to procurement rigmarole but interacts with an intuitive and interactive set of buying steps. We called it Procurement Prime, taking our inspiration from the most admired ordering system in the world; Amazon Prime.

Many procurement executives and their friends in finance will say to me “but wait, we need to mitigate and monitor supplier risk” …..True, and it  is possible with a set of algorithms and predictive tools embedded into your P2P ordering process, alerting the requisitioner at the time of purchase of the supplier’s health status, including fulfillment capabilities, shipping disruptions, banking and payment alerts, further yet, providing alternative solutions.

If you can imagine it, you can plan it. If you can plan it, you can get it done.   Paying attention to how your corporate buyers embrace the P2P steps (or not), diving into their buying methods, listening and empathising will go a long way. Interestingly enough, we found that Procurement functions aligned to the Chief Supply Chain officer have much greater alignment in their organisations than those who report to the CFO. Is is time to change alliances?  Not so fast! Here are a few enablers to make such transformations possible.

Changing your functional and corporate mindset

Let’s start by recognising that your procurement value does not reside in chasing requisitions around the office and beating internal stakeholders into procurement policy submission.  Successful companies are taking a much more customer-centric approach, focusing on relieving the organisation of procurement jargon and building sophisticated systemised methods, especially for more repetitive buying.  Think Guided Buying and think Procurement Prime! This is your future and #tomorrowstartsnow

Changing your skill set

This is pivotal to opening up these conversations and imagining the possibilities.  In procurement, we do not hire enough creative people who are empowered to challenge the status quo and bring forth cool solutions.  We need more inventors, technology savvy, stakeholder centric entrepreneurs who are bold, persuasive and get things done! Yes – these transformations take money, take energy and take skilled resources to get it done, but thinking long term possibilities versus short term barriers will unshackle the organisation from procurement processes horrors and free up resources to address much more interesting issues.

Changing your focus

In our recent study, we found that 84 per cent of procurement organisations remain firmly rooted in functional effectiveness and cross functional collaboration buckets. What goes with that are correlating trends of declining year on year cost savings, the most admired and used procurement metric on the planet.  Enhanced value, total shareholder return, enhanced recognition, awesome jobs and great pay will not come from these areas.

Getting rid of the important but non-essential procurement work and entrusting it to someone much more capable is part of the transformational focus that all CPOs need to consider embracing.  Successful partnerships are built on a shared long term vision, shared values and a solid long term plan.

In our research, we found that that introducing robust supplier collaboration, supplier enabled innovation and total value chain coordination is where procurement can truly make a difference for the organisation.  Some organisations have made the leap but many struggle to make ends meet.

My prediction for these organisations is bold:  transform or die – become de-prioritised, outsourced or automated. #tomorrowstartsnow

This article, by Eva Milko, was originally published on LinkedIn. Eva is Managing Director at Procurement Leaders. 

European Business Abandoning Manual P2P Processing

New research has revealed a move by European business towards a completely digital P2P environment.

automatic p2p european business

Canon, world leader in imaging solutions, recently announced that just 3 per cent of Western European businesses believe that manual P2P processing will continue into the future.

The finding originates from The Future of Purchase to Pay (P2P) 2016, a Canon trends report compiled by ICM Unlimited. The report asked finance and procurement leaders how they believe the world of P2P would to evolve over the next few years.

The study, conducted by ICM Unlimited, and developed in conjunction with Purchasing Insight, is the result of 706 online interviews with business influencers and decision makers spanning 12 European markets.

The respondents were sourced from board level directors within corporate finance and procurement functions, and from businesses of varying sizes.

Spend Under Management?

Most businesses report that they have yet to fully control spend using Purchase Orders (PO), while half say they have less than 50 per cent of their spend under control. Despite this, however, there is almost universal agreement that the P2P process will be automated in the future. Over half of the European companies have already begun that journey.

The report found that while there are concerns around cost and productivity, businesses seem motivated to explore how P2P technology can help. Half of finance decision makers (50 per cent) feel their department productivity is below average, while 42 per cent of procurement leaders feel their department is operating below the desired level of productivity.

However, the trend towards automation in finance sees no sign of slowing down. 23 per cent of European decision makers are saying that their businesses will achieve full digital transformation for P2P in the next two years.

It seems businesses view manual processing of P2P as wholly or partly to blame for the situation. This is shown by 10 per cent of businesses in Europe saying they have already achieved full digital transformation of P2P.

Increasing European Collaboration

Rachel Griffiths, Business Process Consultant, Canon UK, comments: “In this challenging market, European businesses clearly feel that they need to get a better grip on P2P. They want to be able to access and pay for goods and services in the most cost effective and efficient way possible.

“Efficiency and productivity are key elements to any successful business. And technology is seen as the best platform through which to improve in these areas. In order to boost these factors through technology, businesses will need the support of trusted partners.

“At Canon, our expertise at providing cutting-edge technology not only solves business challenges, but supports the delivery of superior results in any business function, including P2P,” Griffiths said.

This view was echoed by Pete Loughlin, Managing Director at P2P consultancy firm, Purchasing Insight.

“The selection of a partner for P2P is very important and European businesses want to collaborate directly with solution vendors for this challenge.

There is a remarkably strong sentiment towards working with a single vendor across the entire P2P spectrum, rather than cherry picking point solutions. This ability to work with a single partner is what will provide end-to-end P2P solutions and services, under several delivery models. This will be crucial to the successful transformation into a P2P excellence organisation.”

Why Automation Can Help Procurement Achieve Its Goals

Automation is frequently talked about in manufacturing, but rarely in the field of procurement. Could it be the key to helping procurement achieve better outcomes?

Automation and Robotisation

Download GEP’s white paper on achieving P2P Excellence through Procurement and Finance alignment here.

Czech writer Karel Čapek was the first person to use the term “robot”.  In his 1920 play “Rossum’s Universal Robots”, he conjured the image of synthetic humans, carrying out the tasks that original humans no longer cared to do, yet remaining largely happy in their work. For a while.

Inevitably things went South, so to speak, and the robots learned to resent their drudgery.

Stories of automation leading to unforeseen misfortune are at least as old as Goethe’s 1797 poem, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. Yet automation remains a goal, if one that is not without challenges.

Automation in Procurement

Automation is often seen as a good thing, because it accelerates processes (sometimes) and frees up valuable human resources (sometimes). In the context of manufacturing, introducing automation has been hugely successful because of the requirement for a production line to continually repeat identical tasks within exact specifications. Automation is therefore understood to be just that, the effective ‘robotisation’ of a process.

In a sense this is also desirable in Procurement because a good percentage of the tasks and processes are repetitive and of the same type. However, that is not the same as being identical, and it is often less than desirable to force a range of different variants into a single model.

Thus, what we need is the acceleration of the process and the reduction in administrative overhead but still maintain the unique aspects of each event in the process. This is where automation gets tricky.

Importance of the ‘Right’ Process

From the perspective of software design, the practitioner must be able to automate those parts of the process which are identical time after time, and permit the customisation of those parts that are unique, whilst accelerating the whole.

This is where an understanding of Procurement (and associated processes) is key in the design and implementation of the software.  As one of our senior project managers put it, “It is not a good idea to use automation to accelerate a broken process.”

What he means by that is this: whereas in manufacturing, the process of machining a particular widget by hand is already the ‘right’ way to do it, and automation simply repeats the task; in Procurement it cannot be taken as read that the sourcing methodology, contracting process or requisition-to-invoice workflow, are in any way the ‘right’, most efficient, or best, way to go.

In reality, then, for procurement software to provide a solution it must involve not only automation, but transformation. Using the imposition of an automating technology to review where the challenges in the current manual processes lie is a vital part of any such program. That way the eventual automation of the task will be more accurate and, ultimately, more useful.

Accounting for Whole Process

Another key consideration is best made with a manufacturing analogy again. If the entire process from raw material to finished goods is automated, then the rate of arrival of the end-product at the packing and shipping station will be considerably greater than in the pre-automation set up. If account hasn’t been taken of the impact ‘downstream’, then one can foresee the conveyor belt of products backing up and overflowing.

In Procurement this can be a real issue. Accelerating the order-to-invoice process is all very well for purchaser and supplier, but if Accounts Payable are periodically swamped with invoices to be paid, there can be significant impacts on administration overheads and, indeed, cash flow.

Furthermore, an accelerated sourcing process only works if the suppliers are on board, and a super-efficient bid-to-contract process will only work if the company’s attorneys buy in to it.

Thus automation is far from being a matter of “install software, use software, improve efficiency, get ROI”. Get it wrong and it can be a matter of “install software, use software badly, make matters worse, stop using software, can project, start again”.

But get it right and the “automation” program can see dramatic impacts on time to reach savings goals, supplier engagement and performance, and cash flow management downstream.

GEP have produced a white paper on the challenges facing the marriage of convenience between Procurement and Finance which explores these ideas further. You can download it here.