P2P and Working Capital Content

CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE: Procure-to-pay (P2P) keeps the cash flowing during the crisis [PRO]

In this installment of our “Coronavirus Response” series, Spend Matters will focus on procure-to-pay solutions and how they can help manage cash flow during a crisis.

The mission of this PRO series is to examine categories of relevant solutions (and example providers) that professionals in procurement, finance and supply chain organizations should investigate to reduce, and even mitigate, coronavirus supply risk. And even if the solutions are only addressing a subset of the issues, the ability to respond intelligently in the short term can also help set organizations up for the future when sanity returns to the world.

This article addresses the fourth category of the seven we currently have outlined:

1. Supply risk management solutions that include supply chain risk, CSR risk, supplier financial risk, etc.
2. Sourcing and commodity management, including advanced sourcing, direct sourcing, automated supplier discovery, and commodity management to help dynamically plan and source.
3. Advanced procurement analytics to enable direct procurement and/or to perform “spend planning” when demand drops out or spikes. (Its profile for this series is here.)
4. P2P that emphasizes working capital, dynamic discounting, payment control and related finance priorities to help inject cash into the P2P process — especially for many cash-starved suppliers.
5. Fraud, P2P and vendor management safeguards when new suppliers need to be set up quickly, and also when lowlife fraudsters try to use the pandemic as a way to steal money and IP.
6. Providers with deep contract analytics that can analyze a contract portfolio for affected contracts from suppliers (and customers) for not just force majeure clauses, but other related clauses that tie to the multiple risks popping up at once in the pandemic.
7. Contingent workforce and services solutions that are able to, at a minimum, help rapidly ramp up on-demand workers to deal with massive resource shortfalls. We are looking at four categories of solutions for sourcing remote/online work; solutions for sourcing and managing contract workers at geo-specific capabilities; solutions to “direct source” and manage contract workers; solutions for data management and analytics.

Owing to the magnitude of the crisis, Spend Matters recently made the series introduction available for free to all readers. PRO subscribers can see our follow-up pieces that profile the other categories and their solutions in that market. We will include a lot of information on each category PRO brief that readers can see without hitting a paywall, but since we also draw heavily from our existing deep-dive analysis of the providers from our SolutionMap database, some information will be available only to our PRO subscribers.

Today, we begin our coverage of procure-to-pay (P2P) solutions from three of the P2P suite players with particular strengths in emphasizing working capital, dynamic discounting, payment control and related finance priorities to help inject cash into the supply base (especially harder hit suppliers in need of cash) via the P2P process.

They are Basware, Tradeshift and Coupa.

These initial three vendors, while each unique in the P2P/financing space, all have deep capabilities in payment automation and financing programs — like intermediate trade financing and not just basic non-intermediated early pay discount execution. If other practitioners, providers or consultants would like to contribute to coverage in this category, please let us know or fill out this survey.

If your organization doesn't have a P2P platform with payment and financing capabilities, one of these three platforms could be the most fit-for-purpose, off-the-shelf solution to help you preserve, deploy or have access to cash through the COVID-19 crisis, but obviously longer-term too.

Each category-specific PRO piece in this series will have three sections:

1. Problems and Use Cases. We’ll highlight the problems in force (which will vary through different phases of the crisis) and the various scenarios where solutions can provide deeper insights, intelligence and scalable workflows.
2. Solution Rationale and Value. We’ll outline how various solutions can help solve the problems and the specific questions that they’ll help answer.
3. Example Providers. We’ll highlight the solution providers that can support the problems and deliver some value.

Some providers are offering COVID-specific programs and “freemium” commercial offers, and we’ll note those whenever we update this piece. We’ll also start the series with providers that we already have deep knowledge on, but we’ve been seeking information from other vendors too.

OK, let's dive into the power of P2P solutions.

Through April 2020, a special PRO Expert Survival Pack is available to procurement practitioners only* at up to 50% off — Learn more

Updated — CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE: Consider These Procurement Technology Solutions To Get You Through the COVID-19 Pandemic (Introduction) [PRO]

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UPDATED Sunday, March 22: Spend Matters analysts have updated this PRO Coronavirus Response piece to include two additional categories and related providers, in addition to our five original categories. All of our recommended vendors are now listed in each category. Last week, this post was unlocked from behind the paywall so all Spend Matters readers could see the types of procurement technology solutions that can be helpful for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. These solutions can only do so much, but we’re seeing some creative uses for their tools. And the providers are also responding with specialized programs and free/freemium offers to help out.

If you are a practitioner, consulting firm or a provider that has found novel ways to help cope with the disruption from the coronavirus pandemic, we’d very much like to hear from you and share your lessons and capabilities. We’ll also update our coronavirus resource page, which lists all of our COVID-19 coverage.

As this series continues, individual vendor profiles will be included in category-specific briefs for PRO subscribers — but, as always, the excerpts on the PRO briefs will be updated with helpful information that is free for all readers.

The genesis of this series is that the Spend Matters analyst team got together virtually in an emergency brainstorming session about the coronavirus outbreak. The purpose was to review our existing research and identify the most critical groups of procurement solution types and example providers that could be potentially useful to procurement organizations managing through the COVID-19 pandemic. We decided during this session to publish a comprehensive series to inform our subscribers.

As such, this PRO series will initially explore seven types of providers. And it will detail multiple providers in each category*, including how each specifically can address COVID-19 procurement challenges. We will add to this list as more practitioners, consulting firms and solution providers come forward to share their learnings and their relevant capabilities. If you are a member of one of these groups, and you are addressing the pandemic in a way that others can learn from that you can share, please contact us here and let us know more!

These are the seven categories of providers that we will profile in this series:

1. Supply risk management (e.g., riskmethods, resilinc, EcoVadis, Resilience360, RapidRatings, etc.) See the riskmethods profile for this series here.)

2. Sourcing and commodity management, including advanced sourcing, direct sourcing and commodity management to help dynamically plan and source (e.g., Allocation Network, Jaggaer, Synertrade, Tealbook, etc.)

3. Advanced procurement analytics to enable direct procurement and/or to perform “spend planning” when demand drops out or spikes (e.g., Sievo, LevaData, Suplari, and others.)

4. P2P that emphasizes working capital, dynamic discounting, payment control and related finance priorities (e.g., Basware, Coupa, Tradeshift, Taulia, etc.) to help inject cash into the P2P process — especially for harder-hit suppliers who are more than happy to trade discounts for mission-critical cash.

5. Fraud, P2P and vendor management safeguards (e.g., APEX Analytix, AppZen, ConnXus and others) when new suppliers need to be set up quickly, and also when lowlife fraudsters try to use the pandemic as a way to steal money and IP.

6. Providers with deep Contract Analytics that can analyze a contract portfolio for affected contracts from affected suppliers (and customers) for not just force majeure clauses, but other related clauses that tie to the multiple risks popping up at once in the pandemic. Sample providers include specialists such as Seal Software (now DocuSign), Conga (which acquired Counselytics), LegalSifter, and Kira Systems — as well as AI-capable CLM providers such as Icertis, Agiloft, SirionLabs, Exari (now part of Coupa), and a few others.

7. Contingent Workforce and Services solutions that are able to, at a minimum, help rapidly ramp up on-demand workers to deal with massive resource shortfalls caused by the pandemic — especially within healthcare (e.g., see this Reuters article calling out staffing agencies that are paying $3,000-4,000 per week for fill-in travel nurses). We are looking at four categories of solutions for sourcing remote/online work; solutions for sourcing and managing contract workers at geo-specific capabilities; solutions to “direct source” and manage contract workers; solutions for data management and analytics. Some existing providers that we cover include Upwork, Shiftgig, Field Nation, Fiverr, Shortlist and others. But we expect many more use cases and providers to emerge given that the pandemic inherently affects people way more than it impacts widgets (other than critical medical supplies/equipment).

We can’t profile every provider in this quick-hit series, especially those that have not gone through a formal briefing, demonstration and fact-check process. And we’ll almost certainly be adding more providers and use cases as the situation unfolds. For example, supply chain planning and execution systems are getting tested right now as dynamic re-planning needs to occur (e.g., how to reschedule truck loads when drivers call in sick or have nowhere to rest/eat when the truck stops are closed).

Please note, this series will not duplicate past coverage. It is meant to build on existing research and share, specifically, how solutions can address the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (and those challenges that will emerge during it). Our approach is one of not just about throwing tech at the problem, but more of “the art of the possible” and tapping supply markets for innovation and capabilities (which is what procurement is increasingly tapped for itself). And we also want to state emphatically that this isn’t an opportunistic effort to capitalize on mass death. It’s a critical time for empathy, leadership and goodwill to try to help each other however we can.

Finally, our guidance does not focus on technologies to support “the basics,” such as listening to your major customers who are sending you guidance on risk mitigation (for example, a major retailer is advising suppliers to turn up the heat in warehouses, if possible, to reduce the likelihood of transmission). Nor other foundational work streams such as doubling down on janitorial support to disinfect surfaces, checking in with critical suppliers and getting feedback, evaluating the most critical contracts to get out of (and/or amend), understanding if you can get additional allocation if needed (with your hard-earned “customer of choice” status, right?), adjusting savings targets, reducing budgets (generally), etc. Some of this can seem like “supply risk motherhood and apple pie.” But, to borrow another cliche, you still need to “Just do it”!

Yet, some opportunities are not as obvious. So, in this PRO series of research briefs, we will focus on sharing specific use cases and example vendors that can make the difference beyond the basics, and put you, ideally, in a better situation than your peers — rather than simply treading water (or worse).

In this first installment, we will begin by framing each area in terms of the specific business issues that targeted technologies solutions can address. We’ll also give a preview of some providers in each area (i.e., vendors we will explore in greater detail in our category-specific drill-downs that we’ll be publishing soon within these “early” weeks of the global COVID-19 pandemic). Let’s begin.

* We’ll start the series with providers that have briefed Spend Matters about their solution, including going through detailed product demonstrations and research fact-checks in the past (resulting in PRO coverage and, if applicable, SolutionMap ratings). We may opt to add additional providers beyond these depending on the length of the crisis. Please note, owing to the fluidity of the situation and “need for speed” we may not provide fact-checks to the vendors mentioned if time does not permit, as we are basing our write-ups on our working knowledge of the solutions already, as demonstrated and validated previously.

Through March 2020, a special PRO Expert Survival Pack is available to procurement practitioners only* at up to 50% off - Learn more

2020 Predicaments and Predictions in Procure-to-Pay: Issues with E-Procurement, Invoice-to-Pay and AP Automation [PRO]

(Editor’s note: Spend Matters’ analysts are taking on the new year by looking at their areas of procurement technology to see what’s broken and what can and should be fixed this year. Here, analyst Xavier Olivera lays out the predicaments faced in the procure-to-pay sector. And for our PRO subscribers, this post also offers his predictions for 2020.)

The market for procure-to-pay (P2P) solutions — including its submarkets for e-procurement, invoice-to-pay and AP automation solutions — came a long way in the 2010s.

For e-procurement providers, we saw a strong focus on improving the overall user experience of their tools; a push to help organizations increase their percentage of spend under management; new approaches to identifying and eliminating maverick spending; and increased availability of intelligent analytics that can recommend strategies and action items that lead to better purchasing decisions.

Invoice-to-pay providers, for their part, didn’t sit still either. In fact, many solutions in the I2P and AP automation sectors evolved to better digitize and automate processes around invoice capture, validation and approval — primarily through the application of AI and machine learning to their tools.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t still problems, of course. So as we start 2020, we wanted to take a step back and look at two persistent predicaments in the P2P space that procurement organizations and their technology providers are facing:

* In e-procurement, there’s one problem in particular that will continue to plague vendors over time, requiring new capabilities and creativity to solve it: the need for procurement organizations to generate new savings year after year, especially when savings tend be viewed as related to sourcing while P2P is viewed as more transactional and focused more on efficiency savings.
* In I2P/AP automation, the real challenge is to support the broader organization's goal of improving cash flow and optimizing working capital while balancing the needs of suppliers, who want to be paid as soon as possible. Balancing these goals requires improvements in the current P2P solutions capabilities, such as by incorporating functionality for payment processing, supply chain financing, and the ability to move money worldwide at a lower cost (especially in cross-border payments).

We consider these two challenges critical not just for procurement transformation but also for supporting value creation across the whole business. So now that we are entering 2020, this Spend Matters PRO also offers some predictions in regards to these challenges for what we believe P2P providers will do this year — or at least we wish they would. Issues include the need for total costs to be calculated in e-procurement, and for better P2P answers to working capital, financing and payments.

Why Payment Companies are Missing an Opportunity with Early Pay (Part 2)

Small Business Credit

David Gustin is the chief strategy officer for The Interface Financial Group responsible for digital supply chain finance and is a contributing author to Trade Financing Matters.

As we pointed out in our last post, payment companies are looking to convert paper checks to cards, and this is drawing interest from many firms, from private equity investing into payment companies to acquisitions (e.g., Fleetcor acquiring Nvoicepay, Visa buying Earthport). The key weapon of payment companies is to leverage interchange fees to entice their clients (buyers) through rebates and extended terms to provide an early pay option for suppliers, typically with a discount from the invoice of 2% to 3%. Yet there are several reasons why a “card only” strategy from payment companies is suboptimal.

Exploring ‘Total Cost’ as a Productivity KPI for the P2P Process [Plus+]

Total cost of ownership of the procure-to-pay process is not simply about measuring the costs associated with acquiring a P2P platform, it’s about tracking all P2P processes and managing them as a business key performance indicator. Managed well, the TCO P2P KPI can positively impact the bottom line of any business. Many organizations think that when acquiring a P2P platform, a firm business case needs to be constructed based on the total cost of the platform and high-level benefits that are reasonably achievable. But there’s actually a more effective way to think about the cost and returns of P2P technology. In this Spend Matters Plus brief, we explore this new way of measuring P2P returns and cost through a modified TCO approach.

Why 2019 is the Year for Companies to Address Working Capital Challenges to Avoid 2020 Crisis

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from PJ Bain, CEO of PrimeRevenue.

“Hello transformation. Meet reality.” Those four words sum up where the global business climate has taken us in 2018, and where it will lead in 2019. Whether in the context of industry or geopolitical transformation, the economic implications of transformative change have exposed vulnerability. How can companies fund transformation in an economic climate that’s equal parts encouraging and concerning?

Ad Hoc Working Capital and the Diversification of Liquidity

Toyota supply chain

When it comes to working capital and liquidity today, there are more options than just black. Almost all companies have some form of permanent capital to fund their business operations. Even the smallest companies typically have an overdraft facility or business line of credit with their bank. Larger companies are serviced by an array of conventional (banks, factors, ABL) and non-conventional (asset managers, insurers, specialty finance) financial firms. Until recently, however, the idea of ad hoc working capital to supplement more permanent forms was not a reality, since the combination of technologies such as e-invoicing, dynamic discounting, API integration and supplier portals were being developed along with third-party sources of capital. But through rapid B2B digitization and more widespread deployment of purchase-to-pay and supply chain collaboration platforms, companies now interact with their buyer-supplier ecosystems in new ways that enable and simplify ad hoc working capital.

Year-end ‘Dash for Cash’ — 7 Steps to Free Up Funds Without Resorting to Tricks

It’s the end of the year, time for New Year’s Resolutions, a little vacation time and Christmas Party hijinks. But the Hackett Group, a business consultant and digital transformation specialist, is cautioning against year-end fiscal shenanigans, where money is shuffled around to make it appear that the company has hit the finish line in full stride. A new paper from the group lamenting the yearly “dash for cash” argues that you can look for sustainable, healthy ways of freeing up cash at the end of the year without pulling any three-card-monty tricks. According to the paper on working capital, many companies think it’s too late at the end of a quarter or year to free up significant cash. But it suggests 7 steps you can still use.

How to Inspire a Cash Flow Revolution: Insights from Taulia’s Working Capital Summit

Investors, CEOs and suppliers are pushing procurement and finance organizations to improve working capital performance, and this renewed interest in the state of the balance sheet is poised to create a revolution in how businesses approach cash flow, according to Taulia, a provider of financial supply chain solutions. There is $14 trillion in annual spend volume trapped in global supply chains, and for every $1 billion in revenue, working capital programs can create improvements totaling as much as $70 million, Taulia said last week at its 2018 Working Capital Summit in Chicago.

Amazon Business Prime Updated: Analysis and Procurement Recommendations (October 2018 Update) [PRO]

AnyData Solutions

Earlier today, Amazon announced a host of enhancements to its Amazon Business Prime offering. To help procurement organizations understand the implications of these added capabilities, this Spend Matters PRO research brief provides an overview and analysis of the new solution components and offers recommendations to procurement organizations already using or considering Amazon Business.

The emphasis of this PRO analysis centers on the spend visibility/analytics, e-procurement (guided buying) and working capital/payment capabilities of the October 2018 Amazon Business release. While some of these areas are likely to be less interesting for organizations that already use a third-party e-procurement solution that integrates with Amazon Business (either via punch-out or API), Amazon’s enhanced invoicing, working capital and payment components can be applied to all potential users.

But perhaps most important, these enhancement offer some signals of how Amazon may continue to build out the capabilities of its Prime business solution. Let’s delve in.

Sponsored Article

Working Capital Optimization: 3 Things to Avoid

In my last blog I outlined why you needed to reconsider your approach to working capital and why current programs are limited in their capabilities. In this blog I wanted to outline the things you need to avoid, or at the very least be aware of when approaching a working capital program.

Will 2017 Be the Most Disruptive Year in P2P Ever? NEW Webinar Announcement

interest rates

Disruptive technology is a very real situation for procurement organizations everywhere. Spend Matters analysis suggests that procure-to-pay (P2P) technologies will evolve faster in 2017 than ever before. Join Jason Busch and Xavier Olivera of Spend Matters Mexico-Latin America on Wednesday, January 25 at 10:30 a.m. Central for 2017: The Most Disruptive Year in P2P Ever? They'll discuss P2P technology as it relates to:

  • AI/machine learning
  • Embedded analytics and decision guidance
  • Blockchain
  • Internet of Things
  • And more...