It is a paradox. Every end user I have ever spoken to have found it somewhat hard to get a grip of the different e-business process optimation possibilities available – e-invoicing, e-procurement, purchase-to-pay, order-to-cash. They have continuously asked me what direction and solutions they should choose. I do not know how many people have told me they want to be able to compare solutions, find out what other customers thought of the solution, service and price, that they want to understand what it actually costs, how they should calculate ROI and why so many system and service providers keep saying it is easy – when they know it is not.
If you talk to someone in an organisation – they will not start talking about standards or systems (unless they are working within the IT departmenet) – they talk about getting their every day organisational life together in an effective way, who is doing what, when and why.
It is getting better – I must say – but still there is too much focus on technical rather than organisational aspects, we are still very much talking functions rather than process, automation rather than optimation. Who cares about standards in an end user organisation?! Does it matter if accounts payable does it all right if the procurement settlement with suppliers doesn’t contain information about how to send the invoice correctly?
Make it work, tell them how much it costs, who you have agreements with (true interoperability), who and to whom you have not. Someone always pays! Where is the discussion focusing on internal aspects such as an organisation wanting to automise processes and transactions – but have spread organisations, one shared service center in Poland, five different ERP-systems and a purchase organisation consisting of thousands. Thousands of people who do not see it as their mission to add the burden (oh yes it is) of adding shall “e”-demands towards their partners, the company suppliers.
How many organisations knows what their internal processes look like? Not to mention – even if you do it right – with the aim to control costs and improve end of the line results – suppliers have found ways to give ridiculous prices in the procurement settlement – only to try an lure purchasers to buy OTHER items at hideous costs. Large production companies have great control over their production cycle – but even them – not to mention public sector – buys services too, and not only periodic phone bills.
And let’s say you manage to implement a procurement system – should you have thousands of purchasers in the system? Or should you educate a minority with the right to sign off a purchase? And who should own the time consuming responsibility to go back to the supplier and correct them when sending invoices the wrong way, or with the wrong content?
And WHERE is the customer discussion in all of this? In my mind the focus on cutting costs on the supplier invoice has made the whole market and discussion move in the wrong direction – not starting with the customer perspective and how to simultaniously cut costs, add value through a closer co-operation and improve payment options.
I strongly believe that only a hand ful people care about the percentage of invoices being sent as e-invoices, maybe just to relax through the knowledge that even those who have doen it all still have a fairly low automation grade.
There is so much knowledge out there, great system and solution providers who can truly share experiences and not only sales numbers and market share, end users who have a holistiv view on process optimation and stakeholders who can help spread knowledge and put pressure on legislators to be more process oriented.
We live in an information society and there is no way back – I urge everyone within this market to spell it out right now.