Summary: Accounts payable and procurement work hand in hand, although many departments remain uninformed about the goals, metrics, decisions, and communications of the other. Businesses can breach data silos among the two departments by implementing Intelligent Spend Management solutions, utilizing technology and automation to its fullest, generating shared goals among the two departments, and generating a culture of effective sharing and communication. Creating flow between AP and procurement reduces risk, opens usable capital, increases business agility, and supports better supplier relationship management.
Why Is Alignment Between AP And Procurement Important?
Accounts payable and procurement can be seen like the left and right hands of an organization. Unfortunately, in many businesses, neither hand knows what the other is doing—even if they both report to the same person—which results in unnecessary fumbling, inefficiency, and lost profits. In an ideal scenario, finance, procurement, and supply chain all need to work closely together, sharing data and common goals for the greater good.
Procurement and accounts payable are an obvious place to begin when breaking down information silos because procurement is tasked with buying goods and services while accounts payable is responsible for paying for those same goods and services. Procurement and payment need to be combined under one reasonable, cohesive procure-to-pay (P2P) strategy in order for both “hands” to bring the best value to an organization.
A cohesive P2P strategy offers the following benefits to businesses:
- Positive working capital and achievable early payment discounts generated through realistic timelines between both departments
- Sourcing that involves more depth and insight than procurement can achieve on its own
- Better spend analytics based on data for more accurate cash flow predictions
- Better supplier relationship management via sharing and communicating goals, updates, and information about interactions
- Contract negotiation with suppliers that offers greater flexibility
Intelligent Spend Management: A Strong Plus
Intelligent Spend Management enables businesses to manage every source of spending across every category while aggregating spend data under a single, unified view.
SAP Ariba, the basis for our Premikati Marketplace, is a strong proponent and deliverer of Intelligent Spend Management solutions. Focus and agility are byproducts of “[understanding and using] data, transforming it from information into intelligence, and intelligence into value.” Intelligent Spend Management allows businesses to mitigate risks, collaborate effectively, automate their source-to-pay processes, and engage in rapid acceleration—toward fast-changing customer desires and new business models and revenue streams alike.
As it applies to AP and procurement, Intelligent Spend Management helps teams communicate and prioritize better, uncover hidden spend, and collaborate more effectively with suppliers and business partners.
Actionable Ways to Open the Silo Between Accounts Payable and Procurement
In order for a business to begin the process of integrating accounts payable and procurement in such a way to mitigate risks and unneeded spending, it must begin with a plan. The following are starting points for businesses to create a path toward open, effective procedures between AP and procurement:
Agree on Common Goals
It doesn’t how hard either side is working if they are each working toward conflicting goals. Both departments should agree on common metrics and goals that both work toward throughout the month and subsequently report to relevant executives. Cash flow goals should be shared and purchasing decisions made in accordance with these goals. One shared goal which can be acted upon immediately is to create and utilize a combined, up-to-date vendor master list that is devoid of duplicates and is clear about who maintains what responsibilities in regards to the list.
Use Technology To Its Fullest
Technology is the cornerstone of adaptable, agile businesses in the modern day. Not only can technology help mitigate risk through automated processes which reduce errors and fraud, it can also be a key factor in breaking down communication barriers between departments which previously maintained their own separate records and metrics. If both AP and procurement maintain data through technological means, then that data can be more effectively combined and utilized to make better business decisions and predictions.
One immediate way to opt in to technology to support effective processes between procurement and accounts payable is via adopting and Intelligent Spend Management system. Because data will be able to be viewed from a centralized dashboard, insights and intelligence quickly follow. Having this form of system in place can also guide other processes between departments such as which key metrics to prioritize.
Other disruptive technologies may also be of use during AP / procurement crossovers. SAP Ariba, basis of the Premikati Marketplace, utilizes the high-tech trifecta of AI, machine learning, and blockchain. These sorts of technologies can assist with safe record-keeping, automation, and predictive analytics.
Create A Culture of Sharing
Information hoarding is an ineffective approach in today’s business culture. Instead, opt for a sharing culture that understands boundaries—sharing at length, but efficiently. In conjunction with creating shared goals, each department should also share information related to their key metrics and goals, their progress, and offer solutions surrounding how the two departments can work together for overall success.
AP and procurement should share relevant information regarding invoices—such as unpaid, late invoices—and recent interactions with suppliers. Similarly, any vendor info which has changed should be made promptly available to employees in both departments, perhaps through the combined vendor list. In terms of efficiency, an action businesses can take right away is to set aside a time for sharing and questions between the two departments. If questions can be saved for the end of the workday, then constant interruptions are less likely to throw off the flow of each side’s work, yet needed questions can be answered to better inform decision-making and priorities, offering fast adaptability on a day-to-day scale.
An Intelligent Spend Management system is one way to combine effective, efficient sharing culture with technology for easily-accessible data for all.
Feel free to share your best practices or pain points below…we love to hear comments from those in the field!