A Guide for the Perplexed: When A/P Automation, E-Invoicing and Trade Financing Intersect

Coming out of Tungsten’s customer event last week, a number of thoughts rushed through my head around the market(s) in which the provider competes, and honestly, (even from my perspective) how confusing the company -- and its peers competing in the e-invoicing, AP automation, P2P, trade financing, B2Bi, EDI, procurement/AP/payment analytics and related markets -- must be to an outsider, let alone insiders such as experienced customers, consultants and analysts. The thought occurred to me that it would be useful both for my own formal research plans and for our readers to informally capture some of these thoughts on paper, which is precisely what I’ll do in a series of posts exploring the contradictions and challenges inherent in the intersection markets of A/P automation, e-invoicing and trade financing.

Today, I’ll start first with 4 of my first high-level observations, and subsequently, I will flesh these out in in remaining posts in the series.

  1. A/P automation and e-invoicing are still often treated as separate markets and areas for investment, but they need to come together.
  2. Too many people “don’t know what they don’t know” about the market. Perhaps owing to the complexity of different areas of it and different philosophies espoused by providers, the lack of general clarity is both surprising and a bit scary, making it difficult for prospects and customers to create fully informed shortlists of options.
  3. There is little understanding of how different solutions can and should fit together (e.g., can you leverage a third-party/supplier management solution to do some aspects of onboarding for e-invoicing, invoice discounting or reverse factoring/SCF programs?)
  4. There remains significant confusion around the role of supplier/business networks compared to what EDI, B2BI and other types of point-to-point as well as hub/spoke model integration services can provide. Customers need to get smarter on these areas to make more informed decisions and also to create more holistic strategies for transactional enablement not just across basic e-invoicing for indirect and services categories, but broader direct materials enablement, potentially inclusive of a range of other transactional documents.

As my observations continue, I’ll come to points 5-8, which promise to be a bit more incendiary. And after the introduction to the series is complete, I’ll begin to flesh out each of the points in more detail in individual posts.

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First Voice

  1. Catherine:

    I agree, there is a lot of confusion, accounting automation is going through a transformation stage and it is messy out there. What I find even worsens the situation for the buyer is that a lot of companies purport to be things they real aren’t – the devil is very much in the details in this industry right now.

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