The Procurement Financials Category

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Italy and the Real-Time VAT Control Big Bang

Electronic invoicing is on the decline — and rapidly so. No, I don’t mean companies have started exchanging fewer invoices in electronic format. I mean that the domain that we have in the past 15 years called “e-invoicing” is converging with the broader VAT compliance domain. Together, the two are morphing into what might be called “VAT compliance v2.0.”

An Opportune Time for Collaboration: Procurement and Accounts Payable (Part 1) [Plus+]

Historically, procurement and accounts payable have been slightly awkward bedfellows in many companies. They’ve been loosely coupled through the front-end (e.g., vendor on-boarding, registration process) and the back-end (e.g., approvals, dispute management, discounting, payment, invoice auditing) in both online and offline worlds for various aspects of supplier engagement and management.

Yet in the past decade, procurement as a role and business focus (not always as function, mind you) has garnered greater respect as a means of driving bottom line savings — often identified, not always implemented. It has still been one part of an odd couple, unfortunately, but the lesser odd partner. But that’s the subject for another post, let alone a volume of books. More important, for our purposes, accounts payable has not garnered the same level of interest, and has truly remained an odd cost-center and stepchild under the broader finance umbrella.

In fact, as many procurement organizations have been able to make the business case for more strategic resources based on quantifiable value (e.g., cost reduction, risk analysis/reduction) in the past decade, accounts payable has faced a near constant pressure to cut costs through reduced resources based on various automation schemes — internal shared services, business process outsourcing (BPO), technology or a combination thereof.

Procurement has not been overly keen on taking ownership of accounts payable, either. This goes back a long way. One of my favorites comes from Spend Matters UK/Europe Managing Director Peter Smith. Below, we feature his story and view into accounts payable from a CPO perspective.

Unlocking Deeper Value in the Procurement and Finance Relationship (Part 2): Spend Planning and Analysis [Plus+]

e-invoicing

In the first installment of this series, we discussed ways to align procurement with the finance function, starting with financial accounting and then moving into cost accounting. Although cost accounting has one foot in the financial accounting world in terms of tracking costs and having them flow to the general ledger (GL), the more important side of cost accounting is its part in managerial accounting and total cost management.

Managerial accounting is about analyzing financials to make good business decisions. It includes analyzing historical costs and spending, but only in the context of improving future spending and reduce total economic costs. One aspect of economic costs is opportunity costs, and procurement must work hard with finance to understand the procurement ROI that comes from strong management of external spending led by the procurement organization. This ROI is measured in triple digits but must be demonstrated with hard numbers.

More importantly, however, procurement’s ability to partner with finance to better influence future spending is the most practical way to influence financial and business results. This comes from procurement aligning well with finance within the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) processes that occur in finance. Hopefully, FP&A is more than just basic budgeting at your organization. Done well, it provides the critical linkage to not only financial planning but also strategic and operational planning that drive success for budget owners, broader stakeholders and shareholders.

Given the importance of FP&A, we’re going to focus on this collaboration area and how to apply it to spend management, which you can think of as “spend planning and analysis” before the spend actually occurs, as opposed to traditional “spent analysis” of spend that already happened. This focus upstream is fundamentally about transformation and changing procurement’s role in the planning and budgeting process. Luckily, this area creates much higher quality of spend influence, which drives proven levels of spend savings.

Unlocking Deeper Value in the Procurement and Finance Relationship (Part 1) [Plus+]

finance

Much has been written about the need for procurement and finance organizations to better align with each other, in particular how the two functions can best integrate purchasing and payables into an end-to-end purchase-to-pay (P2P) process. The opportunity for aligning these two functions, however, is much greater than simply improving transaction efficiency. Unfortunately, the various sources of misalignment that plague procurement and finance prevent many businesses from identifying these opportunities in the first place.

The sad part of this story is that the two functions share many common traits. Both seek to:

  • Elevate their value propositions as enabling business partners by providing compelling service offerings — and overcome their perception as bureaucratic corporate overlords
  • Maximize enterprise value and profitable growth through disciplined spend management
  • Spend not just less but better in terms of process efficiency and process effectiveness
  • Use new techniques and technologies to help the business make better decisions that support the above goals
Additionally, these functions should in theory strive to serve each other as internal customers while also enabling the other to deliver higher value to their own internal (and external) customers. Unfortunately, theory has rarely translated into reality, and the result is that each function is leaving money (and risk) on the table.

Procurement can certainly help finance get more value from its suppliers, but it can also help finance improve service delivery in areas such as FP&A, treasury, tax, financial accounting, risk and compliance, commodity management and even accounts payable.

On the flipside, finance can help procurement in multiple ways, namely to help procurement on value-adding activities — including helping finance. This is a classic “help me, help you” moment. If procurement can help finance help procurement (and help finance help itself), then procurement’s value potential can be truly unlocked.

How to Use Planning and Budgeting to Transform Procurement — and the Enterprise [Plus+]

As summer turns to fall, that time of the year that so many enterprises enjoy and look forward to is here: the annual planning and budgeting process for next year. Yes, I’m kidding. This process ranks only a few notches above root canal for most budget owners. Yet if you had to look at the single most powerful best practice within procurement, especially for indirect procurement, it would be procurement’s involvement in the planning and budgeting process to improve the effectiveness of this process for stakeholders and for procurement.

To restate this: The best way to increase spend influence and to translate it into economic benefits is to increase the quality of spend influence. Getting a seat at the table can be challenging, but this table is a perfect entry point, and it also allows procurement to set its own table and bring stakeholders to it. The beauty of planning and budgeting is that it requires some incremental capabilities that are critical for procurement and, more important, for the business. This includes analytics, benchmarking, policy setting and continuous improvement (most of it enabled by strong technology, of course) even beyond this annual process.

Such early engagement also creates a moment of truth where procurement and finance either come together to unlock this value or where they are left to their own devices. In this analysis, I will highlight the hard dollars surrounding this broader practice and how progressive organizations are creating this critical joint capability, as well as give some pragmatic advice regarding how to implement this benevolent and transformational multiheaded beast.

Everything Procurement Should Know About Payments (Part 4): Setting Up Suppliers for Payment — The Intersection of P2P and Supplier Management (Part 4) [PRO]

Historically, most procure-to-pay solutions have put advanced supplier management capability on the back burner from a strategic development perspective. At best, they have paid lip service when attempting to tie a powerful supplier information management (SIM) capability into P2P and supplier network offerings (i.e., one-to-many or many-to-many connectivity approaches). While this is beginning to change, in general the worlds of collecting, validating, managing and keeping supplier record information up to date to enable timely payment and accounts payable vendor outreach are rarely bridged fully.

This Spend Matters PRO brief, the fourth in our series providing a comprehensive primer on everything “payments” from a procurement perspective, provides a background briefing on why collecting supplier information is critical to enable payments and a checklist for setting suppliers up for payment, starting with initial on-boarding steps. (See Part 1: Procurement’s Role and P2P Case Examples; Part 2: Best-in-Class P2P Technology Capabilities and the Reconciliation Process; and Part 3: Payment Operations — Challenges and Opportunities.) It also provides a vendor data collection template for basic and advanced fields that companies should compare against their own for an accounts payable-centric on-boarding process spanning company, ownership, insurance and remit/banking details. Finally, Part 4 concludes with examples of technology enablement capability that advanced supplier information systems can bring for supplier on-boarding and data maintenance.

Why Partial Automation Will Be a Smart Tool — Not a Replacement — For the AP Clerk

e-invoicing

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Laurent Charpentier, chief innovation officer at Yooz North America.

Accounts payable (AP) clerks at leading companies are already seeing machine-learning programs automate and streamline their daily work, flagging suspicious invoices, reducing cycle time and saving their organizations money. Artificial intelligence is boosting efficiency and making life easier for thousands of AP professionals today. But many of these professionals are undoubtedly wondering if sophisticated software might one day put them out of a job.

Extending Procurement Information Architecture to Provider Ecosystems (Part 1) [Plus+]

In our previous series on procurement services provision and information architectures (here, here, here, here, here, here and here) we discussed the importance of thoughtfully designing various architecture elements such as MDM, analytics, workflow, portal infrastructure, etc. to re-frame overall information capabilities beyond the traditional provider-led “module-menu” approach. Simply put, the idea is to loosely couple these capabilities so that they can be iteratively improved (and switched out as needed) while they squeeze more value out of the fragmented information topologies that litter the enterprise landscape. The coupling of these capabilities can – and should – create situations where the sum of a set of assets greatly exceeds their individual contribution elements.

The Allocation Game — Managing Cost Before Money is Spent

finance

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post form Steven Krueger, principal, and Matt Polvara, senior manager, at Ernst & Young LLP.

With more interest rate hikes a likelihood, banks are poised for growth. But that doesn’t mean they should stop their cost reduction programs. By strategically reducing or eliminating costs, and in particular by optimizing infrastructure costs (which account, on average, for about 40% of a bank’s cost base) banks can be leaner and more agile in a changing economic and regulatory environment. They will be better positioned to face off increasing threats from FinTech firms that are aiming to introduce disruptive technology-enabled business models. Ultimately, banks can reallocate funds they saved to invest in products and technologies to defend or grow market shares.

Overheard on the Quad: What We Learned When Supply Chain Finance Went to University

Michigan State University

Even with the increasing shift in focus to the importance of return on investment for a college education, many young men and women these days pursue a college education to answer foundational questions about themselves. It’s no surprise, accordingly, that so many university mottos include the word “veritas,” a nod to students and professors alike searching for “truth.” Likewise, as our sister site Trade Financing Matters explains, supply chain finance recently went back to school, under the tutelage of Professor David Wuttke of the EBS Business School. His team at EBS, in collaboration with Orbian, has been seeking the truth about trade finance, including a few foundational questions of their own.

Procurement Metrics: Understanding the Economic Language of Value (Part 2) — Expenditures, Expenses and Financial Reporting (CapEx, COGS and G&A) [Plus+]

finance

In the first installment of this series, we discussed the term “spend” (the noun, not verb), in the context of supplier spending, in a fair amount of detail. We discussed addressable spend, and what's included and excluded for the purposes of spend visibility/management, but also for the purposes of using spend within procurement performance measurement and benchmarking. In this installment, we dive a little deeper in terms of comparing and contrasting spend to other terms, as mentioned in the title.

Procurement Metrics: Understanding the Economic Language of Value (Part 1) — Spend [Plus+]

buzzwords

One of the challenges that procurement faces is "speaking the same language" as finance, as well as the language of its stakeholders. A marketing department, for example, may use the term “investment” for its spending. Similarly, many procurement organizations categorize some of their added value in a category called “cost avoidance,” even though the term is not taught or recognized formally by the finance function.

Even within procurement, many terms are used inconsistently. Consider the term “addressable spend.” Is all spend addressable, as represented by cash disbursements going to external parties? Or is it supplier spending that is reasonably under the influence of procurement? If you say the latter, what defines “reasonable”?

The friction and misalignment common between various functions often results from stakeholders not having a basic understanding of terms that seem similar but yet can be very different. This problem is exacerbated when the stakes are high and you start getting measured and benchmarked on these metrics. To prevent this, procurement needs to be “business multilingual” and understand the variations of terminology so that it can best speak these languages and help the organization make the best decisions to create value.

This is what we’ll address in this analysis, with a focus on procurement and finance within the enterprise. Clearly defined terminology is the foundation from which higher-level concepts, performance metrics and benchmarks can be consistently understood — and improved.