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Looking beyond the numbers – a blog by Philip King FCICM

7 June 2017

I was pleased to attend the Purchase to Pay Network Annual Summit in London on Monday. Ellen Leith, who organised the event superbly, had asked me to speak about current and future prompt payment initiatives by government and others, and I enjoyed presenting to an engaged audience.

The attendees were predominantly senior finance professionals and those looking after payables, so not my typical audience. There were several great presentations through the day, particularly the inspirational words from Ben Fogle, but I was particularly struck by Ellen’s opening remarks.

Ellen focused on 6 key trends and 3 key challenges facing the purchase to pay sector in the months and years ahead. The trends she identified were e-invoicing growth, cloud technology, collaboration across the wider business, mobile capture for accounts payable, strategic analysis of data, and the increase in robotic process automation. Her key challenges were keeping track of invoices, paying on time, and maintaining the master supplier file. Several of the subsequent speakers expanded on these themes and reinforced her view of the key current issues.

Purchase to Pay and Order to Cash, or payables and receivables, obviously focus on different areas of the business and have different priorities but there are also similarities and common ground. All of Ellen’s identified areas are either common to, or seriously impact, the receivables function but two resonated with me in particular.

Collaboration across the wider business is a common soapbox issue of mine. To add serious value to the business, credit professionals must understand, influence, and assist in driving the organisation strategically. Long gone are the days in which it was just about collecting cash.

Strategic analysis of data is vital across all functions. Getting beneath the surface of headline numbers in order to understand what is going on within the business, what the wider economic issues are and their impact, and the influencers and drivers affecting the customer base have all become imperatives. Credit professionals need to be well read, to keep abreast of the business, economic, and political world, and to ensure they continue to develop professionally.

We all know that true professionals are aware of all this and practice it but, with this week’s election, Brexit, the US landscape, and all else that is going on in a troubled world, it’s worth reminding ourselves.

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