How Do You Maintain Coherence Between Sourcing, Procurement, and Accounts Payable

This spring, Spend Matters UK published a great paper on The Five Principles of Sourcing by the public defender which outlined five key principles that must be followed for successful sourcing. They were alignment, openness, rigour, commerciality, and coherence. Coherence is key — if the entire sourcing process doesn’t work together, it doesn’t work at all.

But while a successful sourcing event is a necessary condition for a successful Supply Management, or Procurement, organization, it is not sufficient on its own. It doesn’t achieve any of the organizational goals, which always revolve around savings, profit, or brand recognition. Identifying 10% savings does not realize 10% savings. Identifying a free value-added service offered by a new supplier does not realize the value of the value-added service. And identifying a product or supplier that can provide a brand boost does not realize the brand boost.

Savings (which don’t really exist) only materialize when they are captured, and they are only captured when the plan is adhered to during the purchase process. Value from a value-added service is only realized when the service is utilized, and delivered, according to plan. And brand recognition is only achieved when the right products are maintained and the right messaging is put out.

But all of this only happens if there is not only coherence within the sourcing, procurement, and accounts payable process but between the processes as well. Procurement not only has to pick-up as soon as Sourcing leaves off, but has to continue in the intended way at the intended time. And when the invoice is delivered and goods are received, accounts payable needs to pick up and process the invoices at the right time in the intended manner against the right POs or payment plans.

So how do you insure coherence at the hand-off points? Make sure the needs are well documented and well-understood.

You can’t just throw a contract price list over the wall and expect success. The optimal award depends on ordering the right product from the right supplier location at the right time in the right quantity and making sure the right transportation company does the delivery using the right vehicles on the right routes. The optimal award, defined using intensive analysis and optimization, is only optimal when all of the required conditions are satisfied.

Typically it’s a matter of balancing unit costs against transportation costs against tariff costs against storage costs and taking into account transportation constraints against warehouse constraints against regulatory trade constraints, and if all of these costs and constraints are not respected during the Procurement process, then the optimal award — which is necessary to achieve the savings, value, or brand potential — will never be realized.

Coherence between Sourcing and Procurement isn’t a price-list or a contract, it’s a detailed step-by-step execution plan combined with a set of instructions on how to handle variances or minor disruptions and business continuity and/or disaster recovery plans that detail what to do when things go terribly wrong (after notifying Sourcing that an emergency sourcing event may need to be conducted) to allow for operations to continue in the short term.

Similarly, coherence between Procurement and Accounts Payable isn’t just giving AP access to the purchase order system and contracts with monthly invoices and expecting them to process invoices accurately. It’s working with them to set up the automated invoice matching and payment rules, making sure all payment plan contracts or agreements against which invoices will be received are properly defined along with rules for automatic acceptance, and defining how to handle missing information or exceptions. If the tolerance is low, maybe the invoice can be automatically approved, or flipped back with a suggested correction for automatic approval and payment. And it’s creating a process for AP to flip an invoice back to the right buyer when it cannot be matched, or approved, and a dispute needs to be started that should be handled by Procurement, not AP.

It does not matter how coherent the Source to Contract, Contract to Receipt, or Receipt to Pay processes are because success is realized only when all the processes sync up. So make sure there is coherence between as well as within.

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