A Guide for the Perplexed (Part 2): Supporting A/P Automation, E-Invoicing and E-Procurement in One Solution – Is This Even Possible?

With apologies to the great scholar, philosopher and commentator Maimonides, our P2P, e-invoicing, A/P automation and trade financing guide to the perplexed continues with additional observations. Our first 4 observations were published last week. For each of the 12 observations in this series, we will provide additional commentary in individual posts throughout the month of May. Here are observations Nos. 5-8.

  1. The notion of true “purchase-to-pay” inclusive of trade financing is largely a misnomer. Further, there are few vendors that can support strong A/P automation, e-invoicing and e-procurement capabilities all together. Add trade financing into the mix and at scale, the number drops to zero. We commend Ariba/SAP for having the general deepest mix here among the providers (Coupa is a fast follower in bringing more and more robust A/P automation capabilities to e-procurement, but still lacks some of the network-centric capabilities of Ariba; Basware has tried but never succeeded in penetrating the e-procurement market with a complete, competitive solution). But overall, there is not one provider that truly captures the spirit of P2P while also bringing both a proven network and trade financing capability.
  2. To call the providers in this market as straight-up cloud or SaaS software providers would be to understate what they are really doing for customers. Many are very much managed services providers offering more than just technology. Indeed, they also bring implementation capability and expertise in such areas as supplier onboarding, input on how to define trade and implement trade financing programs and broader systems integration expertise. And many are, in fact, offering these capabilities largely on a managed services basis.
  3. There is a strong misunderstanding in the market when it comes to what global capabilities and global compliance for supplier enablement, document exchange and trade financing are. Generally speaking, the amount of vendor rhetoric around “global networks” is misleading. No one is close to truly providing global enablement to date across different types of PO, invoicing and trade-related documents. You would need to mash together the capabilities of such providers as Tungsten, Invoiceware, GT Nexus, Nipendo, Bolero and GXS to even create a partial global solution today spanning the connectivity, trade and document spectrum. Trust us, no one is global outside of the way they individually define global for themselves.
  4. To put it mildly, the level of understanding of direct materials trading, sourcing, financing and document interchange is generally lacking within A/P automation, e-invoicing and supplier network providers. The same can be said for vendors that focus on direct materials procurement and global trade lacking an appreciation for A/P-centric workflow, supplier enablement and traditional forms of trade financing outside of LCs (e.g., reverse factoring/SCF, invoice discounting, p-card programs, etc.)

In the final installment in this series, we will consider last 4 observations on the topics of A/P automation, e-invoicing and trade financing, centered primarily on the overall ecosystem.

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