The laws of business physics suggest that for every “Source to Settle” process in a buying company, there is an equal and opposite “Quote to Cash” process at a supplier. (To verify that, I used Google Trends to compare the search frequency of the terms “Procure to Pay” and “Order to Cash”.).

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Most of us in B2B commerce, even if we work on networks or platforms, tend to understand one “side” better than the other. (It’s a bit like being left or right-handed.) Often the side we understand best depends on the business model of the platform we work with and which “side” is being subsidized to participate!

Those who work primarily for procurement-related software companies (like me) tend to be biased towards the “Source to Settle” Process.  (I try to force myself to keep the mirrored processes in mind at all times, but it is not easy!)  Recently, I have been working with more clients on the supplier half of the equation and or with networks that are fairly neutral platforms.  It has been a fascinating vantage point from which to work.

Practitioners know the source to settle process can be “sliced and diced” in a variety of ways:

  • The entire process can be outsourced (hence the interest in India of this search term) or
  • The entire process can be outsourced for just some spend categories (e.g., indirect) or
  • Every step in the process can be automated with a point solution or
  • “Chunks” of steps in the process can be automated as part of a suite, and suites can automate the whole process.  Again, this automation can be attempted across categories or with category specialists.

Those of you who follow Source to Settle can think of point, suite, outsource, and even managed service provider solutions at every step along the way in the top three rows below:

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Not surprisingly, (though it was a surprise to my biased mind), the exact same options are true for the Quote to Cash process of suppliers.  Following the bottom two rows of the above diagram:

  • Companies can, and do, outsource the entire process, including the sales force in some industries (e.g., Pharma contract sales organizations).
  • Lead qualification can be outsourced or automated by a myriad of providers.
  • There are many software companies selling sell-side proposal software, contract management, and sell side e-commerce sites.
  • Behind the website, companies can automate, or outsource, the entire order to cash cycle or any portion thereof, ranging from just credit and collection, to just e-billing, etc.

In fact, it is incumbent on every B2B company to consider both sets of processes (since all companies have both sides) and determine which are the right pieces of the process to leave untouched, automate, or outsource– and for which categories. Many companies may not realize how many permutations there are and how the right answers may differ by spend category.

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