An Interview With Dirk Fischbach - Source-to-Pay in 2019, a Review
Procurement Trends, Source-to-Pay, E-procurement
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with one of the busiest guys at OpusCapita, Dirk Fischbach. Dirk is the Head of Procurement & Invoice Automation at OpusCapita and as you might expect, has his time split between customer meetings, product development discussions and the typical pile of admin which is the reality of anyone in a leadership position. As 2019 draws to a close, we wanted to spend a few minutes with Dirk, look back on the last few months and hear his thoughts on what has been impactful to his thinking going forward.
We started easy by asking Dirk about his view on business networks and how they complement the procurement and accounts payable functions.
"Building a network is key. Customers have suppliers but unless those suppliers are online and networked, they become a potential drag to the customer’s process. The network is the ultimate compliment to e-procurement and accounts payable automation systems. The basics of digitalizing the message flow between buyers and suppliers is a huge step but we can take it further. It becomes about self-service and supplier enablement and in a real sense, collaboration. Get your suppliers able to manage their own vendor data - so you don’t have to - enable them to submit their own catalogs for auto-validation and approval. These all contribute to making them easier to buy from."
No argument from us, networks are part of modern business. We then tried to challenge Dirk by bringing in some of the more complex categories of procurement and asked Dirk his thoughts on how networks could benefit the procurement of services and MRO (full disclosure, we know Dirk loves his MRO).
"Services are a huge challenge for many companies and one of the reasons MRO procurement is so hard for many organizations to modernize. You could call it the network but at some point, cloud-based solutions like OpusCapita Source-to-Pay really blur the lines. The OpusCapita Business Network is separate from our source-to-pay solutions but only in the sense that we can sell it separately if it’s all a customer needs. For most of our customers, the two services are effectively one solution and when discussing services or MRO, we know that the key is a combination of supplier and system integration to the process. We integrate back end systems to centralize the process and information but we integrate suppliers directly into the process too. By connecting them directly to the requisitioning process, they can actively support the buyer in the service order creation phase. Additionally, we provide them service entry sheets which are dynamically linked to the service order and act as the ‘goods receipt’ supporting automatic 3-way matching. So, the network isn’t simply an external thing that’s between the two companies, it’s much more integrated into the full process of requisitioning, ordering, delivery, receiving and ultimately paying."
At this point in the interview, it was obvious that we had found Dirk’s hobby horse (services procurement) and so as one does, we changed the subject. Looking back, we asked Dirk to discuss his views on how we are able to solve the key customer challenges (in source-to-pay) and if he feels they will be the same in 2020.
"The interesting thing about the source-to-pay process is that we solve problems for one organization (the Buyer Organization) but in order to do that we have to solve problems for their suppliers first."
This sounded like we were going to get to something interesting so we pressed him for more details.
"No organization exists in a vacuum and the reality is, the more an organization digitalizes its source-to-pay process, the more they digitally connect to their suppliers and their processes. This raises the first big issue which is the diversity of the supplier base. If I want to send an order electronically he may be able to receive it but can he then send me an e-invoice when the time comes? There really are so many little complexities involved in a fully digital supply chain and it’s up to companies like OpusCapita to help companies manage this complexity."
We then asked Dirk to help us (and you) understand what the first step might be in managing supplier-related complexity.
"Obviously, supplier onboarding is the first step - but possibly, engagement is even before that. You need to be able to communicate first what it is you are asking them to do, why it’s important and valuable to them, and then you need the means of actually onboarding them to the digital services of e-order reception, e-invoicing, catalog submission, etc. All of these elements of the informational supply chain are hugely beneficial to the supplier in their relation to you but you do still need to do some educating."
We then wanted to shift the interview to something less process-related and asked Dirk about what he liked about his job. Not surprisingly he likes working with customers best and he brought up a recent event in Stockholm where the Swedish Customer Advisory Board met and Dirk was present.
"It was interesting to me to hear directly from customers what their needs were and how we could help them. In fact, I was a little surprised to hear confirmation of just how similar the needs are across regions."
Finally, we asked Dirk what one piece of advice he might offer customers who are on their own path of digital transformation.
"It’s been said before but still, I would say to them, think end-to-end but start small. Start with procurement rather than accounts payable because the upstream efforts will yield better down-stream results."
In conclusion, we just want to express our special thanks to Dirk for making his time available to us so that we might hear directly from him, his thoughts and feelings about 2019 and the source-to-pay process.
Rowan has more than 10 years of experience in the purchase-to-pay arena. During this time, he has managed the go-to-market for a diverse set of portfolios including Accounts Payable Automation, B2B Networks, Financing Services, eProcurement and Product Information Management.
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