|By Dana Gardner||
|May 14, 2014 01:00 PM EDT||
The next BriefingsDirect case study interview explores how American Electric Power improves their financial processes and buying operations using Ariba Dynamic Discounting.
It turns out that a real-time business-process approach to billing, ordering and settlement terms between buyers and sellers benefits both American Electric Power, one of the largest investor-owned electric utilities in the U.S., and its many vendors.
BriefingsDirect had an opportunity to uncover more about about such new, agile business services at the recent 2014 Ariba LIVE Conference in Las Vegas when we spoke to Rick Gray, Senior Treasury Specialist at American Electric Power in Columbus, Ohio, and Drew Hofler, Manage Cash Solution Marketing Director at Ariba, an SAP company. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Tell us about your organization and how you came to be using Dynamic Discounting.
Gray: American Electric Power is an electric utility, one of the largest investor-owned electric utilities in the country. We’re in 11 states, and we have five million customers. We have gross revenues that were over $15 billion last year. So, we’re pretty well-sized.
We started to look at our expenditure cycle, the whole purchase-to-pay (P2P) process, and had an independent consultant in to look at that and to give us some strategy on how we can improve. Part of it was to do the e-invoicing, the e-purchase order.
So we were looking at different tools and companies to provide that, and Ariba was the one that came out, and we selected them. Part of the justification for that whole project was the increase in early-payment discounts. That’s what got the ball rolling.
Gardner: And to what degree are you using it?
A lot of use
Gray: Quite a bit. When we started looking into it with Managed Services help, we saw that we had over 150 different payment terms. We looked at our days payable outstanding (DPO), which is the number of days it takes to pay our suppliers.
It was shorter than the industry average, which means we were paying sooner than our peers in the industry, which caused us a little concern in that we obviously weren’t being overly prudent with our cash or gave that appearance.
So part of the effort was to look at our payment terms and standardize them, and we decided to extend them a little bit to get along with the industry average.
Gardner: What’s changed that makes Dynamic Discounting more relevant now across many markets and industries?
Hofler: The fundamentals around Dynamic Discounting that drive it are the buyers, their not having a lot of cash on hand. Not getting return on cash hasn't changed a whole lot in the last few years. Companies still have a lot of cash, but the Fed funds rate is still very low.
On the supplier side, one thing that has changed for them a little bit is that the actual credit crisis has thawed a little bit, but not completely. The thing that's really changed for suppliers, and it was more of a gradual change, is that they all see longer payment terms now from their buyers. In the old days, before 2008, net 30 was your base term. Now, net 45, net 60 is standard, and many suppliers are facing longer terms than that.
Dynamic Discounting offers the great relief valve for that. It allows buyers to use their cash and earn some great return on that cash, and it allows suppliers to access early payment and lower their days sales outstanding (DSO) when they want to.
The other thing that has really fundamentally changed, and I’d say it's more of an evolutionary growth that makes Dynamic Discounting more relevant than ever, is that what makes Dynamic Discounting possible is e-invoicing and the ability to get invoices approved very rapidly, so there's an opportunity for that early payment.
E-invoicing has really grown in the accounts-payable world, both in the US as well as abroad. E-invoicing has become more standard, More and more people are coming into it. It's not a leading practice anymore. It’s a best practice, but there is a long way to go.
But as those invoices get approved very quickly and suppliers have visibility into them, it becomes very natural for a supplier to raise their hand and say they would really like to get paid early, maybe to reduce DSO, maybe to increase cash flow, whatever their reasons, but the confluence of e-invoicing and that network visibility is really driving Dynamic Discounting.
Gardner: Define for us what Dynamic Discounting is, and then also tell us what the benefits are and to whom.
Hofler: Dynamic Discounting, at its very root, is an early payment on an invoice that is funded by buyer cash. What makes it dynamic is that it allows suppliers, on an automatic or an ad-hoc invoice-by-invoice basis, to essentially raise their hand on a Dynamic Discounting platform by clicking a button and say they would like to get paid early, and in their control, accelerate their payment.
Dynamic Discounting simply puts the tools in the hands of the paying customer, to use their cash and earn something, and it puts the tools in the supplier hands to accelerate payment.
I like to call it the bringing together of opportunity, visibility, and capability, where you have the opportunity created by e-invoicing and where now you have an early approved invoice.
Visibility is through a network that allows the buyer to see where they have an opportunity to pay early and a supplier to see where they have the opportunity to be paid early. Then, there’s the capability on that network to click a button and make it happen, so that they have money in their account a couple of days later.
The business network
As I said, it’s the opportunity, visibility, and capability, and it’s that visibility element, where now more suppliers are used to seeing their invoices on the network. They’re used to seeing them approved very early, and then they can take advantage of it.
But one of the surprises that I see is in who offers a discount and who takes the discount on the supplier side. Logically, you would think it would be your smaller suppliers, with not much access to cash or not much access to credit, and in general, they do very much take it up.
But you will also often see very large suppliers with very large invoice discounts -- I mean in the six digits sometimes -- that will do it on occasion, because they have the opportunity and the control to do it when they want to. They will do it for other reasons, such as end of quarter to reduce their DSO or as accounting window dressing to get receivables off their books.
And the beauty of Dynamic Discounting is that you don't have to know what your supplier is going to do or why they’re going to do it. You offer them the opportunity, give them visibility and the capability to do it, let them make the choice, and you will often encounter some surprises like that.
Gardner: Rick, what about this notion of a business network, transparency, and having more data at your fingertips in order to benefit other processes, other financial issues in your company? Do you see this as an accelerant to the use of network information and transparency and perhaps building less risk into your overall financial situation?
Gray: Absolutely. And because we were looking at our working capital and our liquidity and extending the payment terms and consolidating them, we wanted to provide our suppliers with a tool for them to be able to then give them that relief valve that Drew was talking about. So if they did need the payment sooner, that’s fine. We could give them that opportunity without losing the benefit to ourselves in the process.
It became really important to get the buy-in throughout the company. We realize that some suppliers need the money sooner and that’s fine, and here’s the process to do that. The tool then allows the suppliers an easy way of accessing that and getting their money sooner if they need to, without reaching out to our accounts payable department or our procurement department and calling around. This was a more streamlined process for that.
Gardner: One of the things that’s really interesting to me and why I think this takes off so well is that it benefits both sides. There are more information and terms available. Negotiation positions all work to their mutual benefit. Do you have any metrics of how this has benefited your organization? Do we have some opportunity to look at where the rubber hits the road? What do you get for it?
Gray: There are a couple of things. This past year, we extended our days payable outstanding by two days, which doesn't sound great. On the other hand, with $1.2 billion in average daily accounts payable, that’s two days we didn’t have to borrow $1.2 billion. We even had a holiday where we didn’t have to borrow one day, but gradually that turned out. So we reduced our borrowing for that much.
On the other hand, we also saw increased early payment discounts that matched that business case that we talked about later. So in that regard, we’ve done pretty well.
Gardner: What should we look for in terms of next steps in making Dynamic Discounting even more powerful?
Hofler: What comes next is a continued buildup of the transparency and visibility in a network that allows suppliers to see what's going on and allows buyers to tie that in together.
We’re seeing that companies are looking at these things, not as disparate processes anymore, not just the invoicing, not just Dynamic Discounting, not just procurement, but are looking at the realization that each of those is a link in a value chain and they need to be linked together
We’re seeing people going from where they’ve started and expanding onto a platform that allows them to grow and link these things together. You’ve got suppliers, for example, that may have just been PO or may have just been a contract.
Now, they move them into the invoice on that. Or, it may have been invoice and just contract. More and more suppliers are finding more and more reasons to come to the same network. That increases the pool of who is there to discount.
The other thing that’s tied to it, and not discount specific, is the idea that it’s early payment when they raise their hand. We’re now seeing this area of what we announced at LIVE in AribaPay -- not only to allow the supplier to raise their hand to receive their payment early, but to be able to be paid in such a manner when they do that, they have full visibility into everything that went into the final dollar that comes into their account, with every invoice, every line item, every PO, so that they can reconcile it easily and quickly identify discrepancies.
So we really see the tying together, not only of the desire to be paid early, but then the actual mechanics around the settling of that payment
Gardner: And for global companies that are concerned about currencies, jurisdictions, and tax issues, this can be a big deal.
Hofler: Absolutely, it can, and particularly if they have multiple invoices around payment, keeping track of the differences. You get one lump sum and it accounts for 100 invoices that might have 20 line items each. That becomes a big issue to maintain, and the more global you go, the more complex.
Gardner: Of course, a recurring theme at Ariba LIVE was the networked economy -- and also the fact that you are, as part of SAP, using HANA and other analytics capabilities to bring more insight across the activities of the Ariba portfolio.
I was struck when Rick mentioned that he could compare the industry standard for payable terms and therefore adjust accordingly. Are there other metrics, analysis, or even predictive value that, as an aggregator of Dynamic Discounting terms, with all privacy, security, and anonymization brought to bear, more value add when it comes to being smart about how you do this?
Hofler: I couldn’t be more excited about potentially having all of the 15 years now or more of data on the Ariba Network of POs, invoices, and payment terms and early payments. All of this is brought together in such a way that we can do just that. We can take all that big data and turn it into information that’/s actionable.
There is so much there, not only from the aggregate standpoint. As you mentioned, we never, ever share which supplier we discount how much, but on an aggregate basis, what are some of the trends, what are some of the indicators that a supplier would be more willing to discount? Just on the data that I’ve tracked outside of HANA, not nearly as powerful as that, you’ll see certain patterns, end of quarters, end of certain seasonal cycles.
Having the ability to see that for a buyer or a treasurer to then make maybe more cash available for that particular time and plan for that, they can make more cash available to handle the spike in volume of discounting. There’s just tremendous potential there.
Gardner: Rick, any advice for other organizations that perhaps haven’t done Dynamic Discounting, but are evaluating it? Is there anything that you can offer with 20/20 hindsight that they would benefit from?
Gray: A couple of things. One, it’s not that bad of an integration. There’s not a whole lot of movement there. It’s not really that complicated. So that's not too bad.
The challenge is getting the suppliers on and getting them engaged. We actually purchased the software right when Ariba was rolling out Managed Services, so we were sort of grandfathered in prior to that and didn’t utilize the Managed Services when we implemented. We saw that our adoption rate was well below our target.
Six months or so afterward, we engaged the Managed Services, and within three or four months, we had reached the original target. So that was a big help and something I would strongly encourage. Listen to and use the partners. It’s not that we’re not smart enough or don’t want to work hard enough to do it. It’s just that we just didn’t really have the time and resources.
Gardner: Would you say, Rick, that this has paved the way for a different type of relationship between you and your suppliers? Has it increased collaboration and communication in any way, maybe a stepping stone towards more transparent and even more mutually beneficial business negotiations and relationships?
Gray: Yes, and we’re working on that, as far as a long-term contract is going into place. That's our next target right now with the smaller suppliers, with immediate need. Now, we’re looking to make sure that that’s the culture within the company. These are the payment terms and this is the tool to utilize going forward. We’re sticking to our guns, saying that there are no exceptions. Everyone goes through this, and that’s been beneficial.
Gardner: How does this integrate into other things? You’ve already mentioned AribaPay. We’ve talked a little bit about analytics and visibility. The whole greater than the sum of the parts is where a lot of business services and those that avail themselves of cloud models can go. Where does this integrate into next? Where is the bundle? How do we make this a value-add?
Hofler: It’s just a natural bundle for anything that has anything to do with P2P, Ariba Collaborative Commerce, and Ariba Collaborative Finance. If you look at it as a process, classic process, everything ends up with an invoice to be paid.
So we bundle it in when the invoice is a part of any type of business process re-engineering that a customer is doing. We point it out to them as a natural next progression when they are going there.
Rick made the point earlier that it really drives the business case too. It’s very helpful for folks who are looking to get some technology to help them drive business process re-engineering and to improve their business processes.
Sometimes, efficiency isn't enough in terms of savings to get that raised to the top of the project pile. Dynamic Discounting is a great way to add significant return on investment (ROI) to that business case, so that they can get their overall project approved. We’ve seen that happen time and time again. So it’s a great part of the bundle.
You may also be interested in:
- Ariba's roadmap points to instant, integrated and data-rich business cloud services
- Case study: How ACP simplifies and speeds its billing and payments using the new AribaPay cloud service
- Business success increasingly hinges on supply chain innovation and procurement advantages
- Workforce of the Future -- and Why Preparing Means Rethinking Human Resources Now
- Ariba announces business network analysis enhancements, first transactions conducted under AribaPay
- Spot buying automated by Ariba gives start-up KooZoo a means to shop more efficiently
- Combining big data and cloud capabilities for ecommerce matches buyers and sellers like never before
- Here's Why Healthcare Businesses Must Efficiently Manage Their Suppliers, Purchases, and Processes
- Ariba LIVE roadmap debrief: Cloud data analytics
Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
Nov. 20, 2014 09:15 PM EST Reads: 928
ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...
Nov. 20, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 834
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nov. 20, 2014 07:30 PM EST Reads: 1,092
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
Nov. 20, 2014 06:00 PM EST Reads: 920
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
Nov. 20, 2014 04:45 PM EST Reads: 627
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
Nov. 20, 2014 01:00 PM EST Reads: 1,297
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Nov. 20, 2014 12:30 PM EST Reads: 1,602
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
Nov. 18, 2014 09:00 PM EST Reads: 1,912
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
Nov. 18, 2014 08:15 PM EST Reads: 1,410
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
Nov. 18, 2014 08:15 PM EST Reads: 1,339
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Nov. 18, 2014 01:30 PM EST Reads: 1,927
Smart devices that use wireless technology to exchange information with each other and with their human owners: this is the Internet of Things (IoT). This incredible level of connectivity is already transforming how we exercise, treat diseases, park our cars and access business documents. Research firm IDC projects that the IoT world of connected devices will grow to 200 billion objects by 2020. As more businesses, entrepreneurs and government entities embrace the IoT, more data will be generated daily than the already mind-boggling 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. However, even curren...
Nov. 15, 2014 02:00 PM EST Reads: 1,598
The Industrial Revolution in the 18th to 19th centuries was a period during which predominantly rural societies in Europe and America became industrial and urban. Advances in steam technology, transportation, mass production and the telegraph collectively transformed industry and society. Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to once again transform industry and society just as the Industrial Revolution did. Analyst firm IDC forecasts that the IoT market will grow to $8.9 trillion by 2020 with anywhere between 30 to 50 billion connected autonomous things, making the potential g...
Nov. 15, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,656
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world. The next @ThingsExpo will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, in Santa Clara, California. Since its launch in 2008, Cloud Expo TV commercials have been aired and CNBC, Fox News Network, and Bloomberg TV. Please enjoy our 2014 commercial.
Nov. 13, 2014 05:00 AM EST Reads: 3,489
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
Nov. 10, 2014 12:30 PM EST Reads: 2,599
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Nov. 10, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 5,896
Located in booth #314, the Bsquare team will present DataV demos and discuss how DataV will help customers put their data to work to improve business outcomes. DataV is unlocking new initiatives across a wide landscape of customers in industries such as industrial manufacturing, transportation, retail and mobile. The solution is designed to complement a new project start or help to enrich an existing machine investment.
Nov. 6, 2014 03:15 PM EST Reads: 2,326
The Physical Web incorporates beacons that can be put in any small retail store, for example, so that every store now has "an app" for its customers. In this Birds-of-a-Feather session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Scott Jenson, Product Designer at Google, will discuss the Physical Web and how it is an open standard so any device can broadcast a URL wirelessly, so any phone/tablet/watch nearby can see, and rank those devices. When the user taps on one, they just go to that web page. It's really that simple. It's about thinking small, enabling micro-information (what is in my prescription bottle...
Nov. 3, 2014 05:00 PM EST Reads: 2,505
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
Nov. 3, 2014 03:00 PM EST Reads: 3,498
Whether you're a startup or a 100 year old enterprise, the Internet of Things offers a variety of new capabilities for your business. IoT style solutions can help you get closer your customers, launch new product lines and take over an industry. Some companies are dipping their toes in, but many have already taken the plunge, all while dramatic new capabilities continue to emerge. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Reid Carlberg, Senior Director, Developer Evangelism at salesforce.com, to discuss real-world use cases, patterns and opportunities you can harness today.
Nov. 3, 2014 02:30 PM EST Reads: 2,783