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The Six Biggest Issues we Discovered at the AP Association Event

Accounts Payable

Last week, we attended the first AP Association event. Alongside a deliberately limited number of vendors we had the opportunity to speak to a variety of people and learn a little more about their current issues. Understandably, they tended to be fairly similar. Here is a break down.

  1. Data is definitely an issue

The beauty of technology is that it can allow you to analyse supplier data fully and as such plan and understand what needs to be done next. It makes lives easier by allowing those forced to input the data to do the aforementioned analysis. Frustratingly for many, this is still something of a pipe dream with much of the work in AP still being done in a number of different systems and excel spreadsheets.

  1. Suppliers clogging up the phone lines is time consuming and frustrating

This one is a straightforward one. Constantly being dragged onto the phone is always going to be up there. It’s estimated that 30% of an AP teams time is taken up by supplier enquiries which equates to business losses of around £2b a year in the UK. That being said, at times, you will need to talk directly to your suppliers; but when the primary enquiry focuses on when they will get paid, there must be a more effective solution to this communication issue.

  1. Shared Services groups are becoming more and more common

We enjoyed a presentation from Donna Austin, whose company Interserve have been running a Shared Services team for a number of years now and to great effect. Shared Services teams aren’t overly unusual nowadays but it is still good to see them being adopted and refined; centralising back office functions from across multiple divisions.

  1. P2P systems are not integrating well with multiple ERPs

When companies try to integrate multiple ERPs and as such multiple, different, supplier records from their ERPs into a new P2P system. It just doesn’t work. In most cases you will find that P2P suites take the data from the ERP and you end up with garbage in / garbage out scenarios.

  1. Not all SIM is created equal. Far from it.

Supplier Information Management is essentially the evolution of Supplier Master Data Management into a series of processes bringing together multiple stake holders across the business efficiently. Now that may sound a little wishy washy, but each SIM system needs these fundamentals:

  • You need to have the right data model to provide a single view across multiple locations and addresses
  • You need to always maintain data in a single central place and then feed transactional systems – it’s the most efficient and cheapest form of data and system maintenance.
  • You need to have data governance – both central and local so when you are working a central environment it’s clear who can do what. This is the essence of Data Stewardship.
  • You need to stage the data, to not create confusion when a change is initiated and ensure the correct approvals are in place.

Without these, there are inevitably huge problems when it comes to integration and analysis, something we are happily, able to help with. Yet very few vendors will openly admit that they have issues with this, until you are too far down the line to back out.

  1. Paperless, it still makes sense

When you have worked for tech solution vendors for a while you start to assume that everyone has implemented supplier portal software to remove unneeded paper from the office. Yet, it is still a problem that exists throughout large companies. Be it in A/P, HR or Finance there is still an opportunity to refine processes and do so through technology and a paperless office

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