Does the Procurement Team Care About Payments?

My answer to the above question is, “They should.” Yet, more than one person has recently told me that the procurement team limits their focus to supplier selection and negotiating low prices. They view payments as something accounts payable handles. Such thinking is narrow minded since payments begin with the terms and conditions in supplier contracts and purchase orders. Perhaps an interest in payments only surfaces when the procurement department manages the card program. However, whether they like it or not, “purchase” and “pay” go together. Following are things both management and procurement should do to contribute to organization success.

What Management Should Do

Regardless of which department administers the card program, management should demonstrate leadership by doing the following.

  • Clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of procurement and AP related to internal purchase-to-pay (P2P) processes.

  • Communicate their expectations for how the two departments should work together to effectively execute the organization’s P2P preferences.

  • Hold employees accountable.

  • Establish quantifiable goals for reducing check payments through increased card usage.

  • Support continuing education in the P2P space, directing employees to pursue topics that could help the organization more quickly achieve its goals.

What Procurement Should Do

Speaking from my experience as a former procurement person, the following actions help raise the profile of the department in a positive way.

  • Actively work toward exceeding management’s expectations. This could include proactively expanding the team’s knowledge about electronic payments, particularly Commercial Cards. Invite the card program manager to deliver related training to procurement staff.

  • Make it a standard operating procedure to address card acceptance in competitive bids and contracts.

  • Meet with each internal “buying department” on a regular basis to: discuss that department’s suppliers and the applicable P2P process, inquire about competitive bids that need to be done, and educate them about the organization’s card program.

  • Monitor adherence to contract terms concerning payments. If there is a problem, respectfully work with the buying department, AP, and/or the supplier to get things back on track.

Final Thoughts

Even if management does not take the initiative to unite procurement and AP, these two departments should take it upon themselves to work together on P2P processes. Driving organization success means department and employee success.

Related Content

Does procurement care about payments? The answer should be a firm “Yes.” If not, take the appropriate steps to get them on board.

Does procurement care about payments? The answer should be a firm “Yes.” If not, take the appropriate steps to get them on board.



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About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

AP Holds a Winning Card Hand

Will 2019 finally be the year in which the key stakeholders within your organization happily, or at least willingly, support Commercial Cards? For some, accounts payable (AP) is the biggest holdout, but, as we all know, their stance on card solutions can make or break a program. This is especially true for organizations wanting to implement or expand an electronic accounts payable (EAP) option like Virtual Cards, which AP typically manages. A common tactic by a stubborn AP manager is to say the ERP system cannot accommodate such payments. Then no one questions them because AP is viewed as the expert in this arena. To reopen the discussion and start making progress, following are insights from an AP veteran and a four-step approach to try in an effort to get through to AP.

AP’s Attitude Affects Everyone

Sometimes even senior management backs down from AP, but this can be the worst outcome for everyone. Accounts payable expert Mary Schaeffer, AP Now, shares, “When I hear someone say that they are going to wait until so-and-so retires before moving forward with a new project it saddens me. Usually it is because the person in question is either difficult to deal with or completely resistant to change. This is not a good situation either for them or for their organization. The reasons it’s not good for the organization are obvious. It gets left behind, less competitive, and doesn’t progress as much as its competitors.”

Mary continues, “The employee in question is also putting themselves in jeopardy. The business world, including the accounting and accounts payable space, is evolving rapidly. The contrary employee is serving as a roadblock to progress, usually coasting for a few years until they can retire. Plain and simple, they may not get those few years. Management may decide their position is no longer needed and they will definitely be at the top of the list for any headcount reduction initiatives. Personally, they’ve missed a great opportunity to try something new and enjoy their last few years of working.”

Organizations may also be experiencing a conflict between AP and the procurement department regarding card payments. In response to an AP Now industry survey, Internal Controls in AP, one AP manager for a large company commented, “P-cards pose problems with duplicate payments. Coming from an AP standpoint, they are disliked, however our Supply Chain seems to love them…” As disheartened as I was to read this (I’m the lead researcher for the survey project in progress), it represents an opportunity.

Getting Through to AP

  1. Recognize AP as an important part of the card program and initiate a respectful—versus confrontational—discussion. To prevent AP from feeling ganged up on, consider a one-on-one meeting to open the door to better communication.

  2. Recap the benefits of Commercial Cards and the organization’s related goals. Encourage questions to ensure AP has an understanding. Sometimes resistance to cards is rooted in a lack of knowledge.

  3. Find common ground; for example, supporting internal goals, making AP’s job easier, etc.

  4. Ask AP about their concerns and challenges. Step through the related processes together to identify the facts. Invite them to brainstorm with you on possible solutions. Everyone wants to feel valued and heard.

Examples

  • If they cite duplicate payments as a problem, determine the extent of the issue, the control gaps that allow it to happen, and how to resolve it.

  • If their challenge pertains to reconciliation, maybe they are making the process harder than it has to be. Inquire about the pain points and share ideas for process improvement that would still retain satisfactory controls.

  • If they view the ERP/accounting system as a roadblock to Virtual Cards, involve the system vendor. There might be functionality that AP is not aware of.

As with most problems, productively working together can lead to positive results. AP’s support of the card program can be a game changer—for them and the organization.

Related Resource

Will your organization win or lose? AP often controls the stakes in the high risk/reward world of B2B payment strategies.

Will your organization win or lose? AP often controls the stakes in the high risk/reward world of B2B payment strategies.



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About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

8 Questions to Help You Rate Your Card Provider

How would you describe your organization’s relationship with its Commercial Card provider? I have asked this question of end-users in the past and received diverse responses ranging from frustrated venting to glowing reports. Wherever you are at, a stellar relationship with the card provider is an important part of achieving and maintaining program success, while a poor relationship can drag it down. If you already have a service level agreement (SLA) with your provider, ensure you are using it regularly to evaluate their performance. Either way, following are questions to help you identify what is working well and what needs improvement.

Evaluation Questions 

Does your card provider:

  1. Express interest and a willingness to be an active part of your program? For example, are they willing to come onsite to meet with management, demonstrate technology, etc.?

  2. Return/acknowledge calls and emails in a timely manner (e.g., within a day or two)?

  3. Take appropriate action to resolve issues and get answers?

  4. Listen to what you say? For instance, listening attentively to learn more about your unique needs.

  5. Proactively communicate about upcoming changes that affect you, current issues, industry trends, etc.?

  6. Inform you about technology features and reports that could benefit your program?

  7. Suggest ways to make your program and payment strategy stronger?

  8. Offer program reviews and supplier on-boarding services?

What are your biggest frustrations? Schedule time with them to discuss your evaluation. They cannot fix something if they don’t know it is broken. Any such meetings should result in a clear action plan to which both parties agree.

To increase your chances of getting a high level of service from your card provider, begin by being a good customer.

To increase your chances of getting a high level of service from your card provider, begin by being a good customer.

Are You a Good Customer?

Even if your card provider has room for improvement in the customer service category, the other piece of the equation is your organization. Consider the following questions to determine how you rate as a customer.

Does your organization:

  • Have realistic expectations of the provider?

  • Clearly communicate any concerns?

  • Return calls and emails in a timely manner?

  • Take advantage of the offered technology, including self-service features?

  • Ask the provider how you can be a better customer?

A good provider/end-user relationship pays off. See a related blog post about a common card provider frustration. In the end, though, sometimes an organization just does not mesh well with a particular provider representative. You might need to try to a new/different relationship manager before you give up on the provider entirely. 

See also information about the request for proposal (RFP) process. If you plan to attend the NAPCP Commercial Card and Payment Conference next month, maximize your experience by meeting different providers.  


About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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