Book Review – Financing The End-To-End Supply Chain

It’s a risky business, reviewing books (or anything else) produced by or involving friends. If you make a big thing about being independent, then you have to stick by that or jeopardize your credibility and your own feeling of ethics and proper behaviour. On the other hand, if you criticise your friends then they can rapidly become ex-friends.

So a few months ago, when Charles Findlay asked me to look at a chapter of the new book he and his co-authors were writing called Financing the End-to-End Supply Chain, I was worried. I have known Charles for some 20 years, almost went to work for him once when he was a senior partner at Accenture, and both respect and like him enormously.

But I read it, made a few small suggestions, and contributed a comment for the launch promotional material. But to be honest, I still wasn’t sure. What I read was fine (although needed better editing, I felt), but a whole book about Supply Chain Finance (SCF)? Was there really enough to write about? Or would it end up being tagged on Twitter as #mostboringbooks?

But now the complete volume has been published by Kogan Page, all 368 pages of it, and I’m pleased and relieved to say it is a triumph. Findlay and his collaborators Simon Templar and Erik Hoffman manage to be rigourous enough to ensure it will feature in MBA and finance professional syllabi (which I’m sure it deserves) yet also practical enough to appeal and add real value to any practitioner, in procurement, finance, or on the provider side of SCF. It is expensive mind you,  priced as a textbook rather than a business book really, but I guess the assumption s that many buyers will claim it back on expenses.

Templar is a business practitioner and accountant turned academic whilst Hoffman is a pure academic by the look of it; combined with Findlay’s broad consulting and general senior management experience it makes a strong combination to cover all the bases. So it comes fully equipped with hundreds of references and footnotes, and a thoroughness that comes from having the academic viewpoint. But there are also very down to earth chapters around current practice and how to actually implement an SCF programme, and the clearest descriptions I have see to help non-experts understand the different options available within the broad church of SCF.

The section on the future is very interesting too – I learnt a lot very quickly from skimming the sections Chinese and Islamic financing, for instance.  However, it is not a perfect book. Given Spend Matters focus on solution providers, I looked at where those firms we cover were mentioned and a few errors have crept in. I don’t know who OB10-Talia might be (OB10 became part of Tungsten and Taulia is a separate business) and Tungston is not how you spell Tungsten. The index is not complete either – a very common frustration for me in most books I review. Some of the same solution providers just don’t feature in it*.

I can’t comment on some of the more technical details and analysis in the book, due to my own ignorance, but it seems to me that the positives far outweigh my somewhat picky complaints. It is a complex subject, and you will need to read this slowly and give it some concentration and focus to get the most out of the book. But it will I’m sure become the standard work on this topic, essential reading for everyone in the industry, and I suspect the authors have set themselves up for a lifetime of producing a new edition every three years or so for the rest of their lives.

We may well come back and look at some of the book in more detail later – there really is a wealth of material contained within it. But congratulations to the authors for a very impressive and worthwhile achievement.

*  I was reviewing a pdf copy - it is possible that these things got ironed out before gong to print of course.

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