Within the past six weeks, I have attendedtwo major conferences, each of which featured “best practices” casestudies of financial supply chain management. All the hot topicswere showcased, including straight through processing for “procureto pay”, ERP integration, electronic payments, card-enablede-payables, supplier recruitment and more.
I am not alone in being impressed by what some firms haveaccomplished. Nor am I alone in recognizing that all of thisautomation and integration is more complicated than it looks. It isa bit depressing, then, to wonder why the firms talking at theconferences seem to be able to pull it off and all the rest of usare struggling. Peter Loughlin of Purchasing Insight caught my moodperfectly with his recent commentary entitled, “Why isEverything Always a Mess?”
“When it comes to technology, they [purchasingorganizations] are not normally what you would describe as modelimplementations. Supplier data all over the place, catalogues outof date, Heinz 57 varieties of purchasing system. Purchase to Payprocesses are very rarely joined up and if purchase to pay reallyis the plumbing of your organization, you’d bedrowning.”
Thank you, Peter, for answering your own question with any numberof good reasons for letting ourselves off the hook. A few usefulones:
- Companies run different systems for direct and indirectpurchases.
- Some corporate divisions run on incompatible ERP systemsbecause they were acquired in recent mergers.
- Some suppliers have special contract terms that require specialhandling, and since they are bigger than us, we do it theirway.
Peter offers more and you are sure to find several that suit yourcompany circumstances. I appreciate his view that most firms willnever totally and permanently cure “the mess,” since therelationships and technologies and needs of buyers and supplierswill continue to evolve. Managing and modernizing a complex processis meant to be messy; sometimes we forget that without the newchallenges, we’d all be bored!