Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Mark Schaffner, Vice President of Marketing at Verian.
Traditionally, most Purchasing and AP departments have not worked in harmony. AP is busy processing invoices and bristles when they get vendor calls, only to learn they are missing a PO, invoice and packing slip. Purchasing can get frustrated with AP when a clean vendor master file or accurate spending records are difficult to come by.
It is ironic I thought of synchronized purchasing and AP while I watched the Olympic synchronized diving competition. During this event, two divers perform fairly simple but completely synchronized dives from a high diving platform. From the time they walk on the platform until they both hit the water far below, including all the flips, twists, pikes and turns in between, they move in total harmony. It was impressive to watch the competitors' flawless execution.
If you think about it, there are a lot of parallels with synchronized diving. Purchasing and AP are completing exactly the same dive from different platforms. Each department is trying to ensure that proper controls and cost coding are being followed and occur for all expenditures.
They struggle with the same issues. Too much paper and too little cooperation lengthen purchasing and payment approval cycles, which often leads them to spend too much time on the phone answering inquires and hounding people. They are both sometimes unfairly viewed as an impediment to progress by some in the organization, simply because they are on the front lines of educating employees on the company's preferred way of doing business. Perhaps the key to getting them in sync is a unified "diving" platform.
Automated approval routing with fast and easy GL coding as well as a supplier "self-service" portal to automate payment inquiries and PO delivery would free up time in both departments. Operating from a common workflow would mean that AP and purchasing are enforcing common business rules. The time they save can be devoted to higher value activities, like vendor master file maintenance and bringing more spend under management.
Next thing you know AP and purchasing will be working together to not only negotiate for more early pay discount opportunities, but will be capturing those discounts as well. Vendor counts will narrow and maverick spending will be identified earlier. Like the divers, the platform is what brings them together. And like the Olympics, coordinated flawless execution delivers the gold.