Some organisations get it. They fully recognise the potential e-invoicing has to transform their business. Others, quite simply, don’t. Those in the second camp see e-invoicing only as a potentially faster way of paying suppliers, but with added implementation and process change costs, and anyway they're quite happy the way things are – so push it to one side.
But they’re missing a trick – and it’s a much broader one than they imagine. E-invoicing implementation isn’t just a question of being able pay all suppliers to terms, done properly it can be a means to an altogether more efficient machine.
Stripping paper out of the system and introducing reporting capabilities into processes means that organisations can not only reduce their exposure to error, risk and fraud, but are able to gain deep real-time insight into the business at the same time.
And whether by design or by default, this greater visibility has the ability to shine a light on the wider P2P process – end to end. In the past, a procurement contract might have had little to do with accounts payable, and any financial arrangement around payment terms held as part of their relationship with the supplier. But with the growth of einvoicing, and the ability to use financing methods on the back of it, such as dynamic discounting – buyer and supplier can work together to address any working capital crunch. To do that effectively, the different areas of P2P need to be able to work together.
In some organisations, this is already happening. What were once entirely separate functions, are now connected – both physically in terms of where the practitioners sit in the office, and via the technology they use. Some of the major players like Ariba and Basware for example have invested heavily on developing end to end solutions which open up the whole area to greater visibility, including along the supply chain.
Of course, you still need an area of the business which analyses the reporting. So-called “big data” is only as useful to an organisation as the power it gives them. At a recent PPN roundtable event, an analyst from a top London audit house said that although their performance was routinely measured against several KPIs, the insight they gave was not used as a means to drive the business forward.
One of the ways organisations can safeguard against that happening is to sit someone at the head of the table – someone who has the power to look at the processes and analytics and implement change where it’s needed. In some organisations that’s the Head of P2P, or the Global Process Owner. But whoever it is, for change to work, and for them to be taken seriously, they need to have the buy-in from the executive team.
And if you have buy-in from the executive team, it means that they have faith in what you can deliver to the business. And if that’s the case, then those sitting across the P2P process have the capacity to raise their game. The roles available in P2P are no longer static, the technology means that they have the potential to evolve into something wider, more valuable to an organisation’s profitability, and even to the overall brand than ever before. So if your organisation still doesn’t get einvoicing – it’s probably about time they did.