Following is the remainder of the interview between Lynn Larson, Recharged Education, and Dr. Richard Palmer, RPMG Research Corporation, in which they discuss The 2014 Purchasing Card Benchmark Survey Results. See also the beginning of the interview and more about the survey results.
Q: Based on the latest results, what would you say are three key opportunities for the majority of organizations? In what three areas do most organizations fall short?
A: At present, I would identify the three key opportunities as:
- expanding the card toolkit to include electronic accounts payable (EAP) to reach higher dollar transactions
- expanding card acceptance across the supplier base, and
- focused targeting of P-Card payments for commodities and vendors
It is also good to remind card-using organizations to “make first things first” by paying attention to program fundamentals.
Q: Conversely, in what areas do most organizations seem to do well?
A: I think most organizations are better informed about the potential impact and benefits of the card program.
Area of Frustration
Q: Is there an area for which the results are continuously disappointing?
A: My frustration has always been with the knee-jerk orientation toward boundless control. As a former auditor, I think organizations reflexively move toward a “belt and suspenders” concept of control that is both unnecessary and inefficient. Program managers need to be thought leaders who work with and enlist the support of other thoughtful associates in the finance function to construct the right blend of controls for card-based procurement. In an era of constrained resources, one should be able to make a compelling case for the technology-enabled controlled growth of P-Card spending.
Electronic Accounts Payable (EAP)
Q: EAP solutions have been around well over a decade. Why do you think EAP adoption/usage was reported by only 18% of survey respondents?
A: First, innovations of this nature take time to migrate through the marketplace. Keep in mind that Purchasing Cards took over 10 years to become “common practice” among business and government. It will, in all likelihood, take the same amount of time for EAP. We are trying to better understand the adoption of EAP use and “best practice” in our upcoming 2015 Electronic Accounts Payable Benchmark Survey, which will open in December of 2014 and run through the end of February 2015. If you are interested in participating, email me at Richard.Palmer@rpmgresearch.net.
Supplier Acceptance Challenges
Q: Results show continued challenges with supplier acceptance of card payments. Even though 59% of respondents indicate that they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the level of supplier enablement, this leaves 41%. Can you shed some light on acceptance?
A: It is very important, particularly in the “business-to-business” segment of the market, that card issuers and card-using organizations quantify and educate suppliers on the beneficial aspects of acceptance. Absent a clear demonstration of value and education, suppliers will focus on the costs of card acceptance and remain unaware of, or ignore, the benefits. Articulating and measuring the benefits will insure an open and honest discussion. In all likelihood, suppliers will buy in.
With respect to the level of supplier enablement, we did find that “best practice” organizations were more likely to have requested and obtained the support of their card issuer in expanding card acceptance.
Drivers for Conducting the Studies
Q: What keeps you motivated to do these studies? What most excites you about the P-Card industry?
A: We have been able to stay motivated because the Commercial Card value proposition and the organizations that use those cards are in constant motion. Every survey we do has required us to re-evaluate our approach because the landscape has changed in meaningful ways (typically to the better). That has helped to keep it fresh and exciting.
Check out the resources offered by Recharged Education, which pertain to P-Card benefits, controls, program management, card acceptance by suppliers, and more.