The Foundation—Core Capabilities Required
To realize a holistic approach to supply chain finance, as described in Part 1 of this paper, requires certain capabilities to be available to buyers, sellers, and other participating parties. These capabilities include:
• Shared network platform—many-to-many connectivity with a shared database, and visibility, integrated into the P2P lifecycle.
• Executional framework—workflow engine, document and payment automation, and supplier compliance tools.
• Shared legal framework—binding legal agreements, automated guaranteed payments, connected financial institutions, competition for providing financial services.
Shared Network Platform
Participants need to be connected to each other electronically on a shared network platform. The old paper-based systems will not cut it. To realize the full value of holistic SCF, the network platform must have certain characteristics:
- Many-to-many connectivity—A point-to-point approach quickly becomes overwhelming and economically infeasible with more than a small handful of trading partners. A single network that connects all parties is required.
- Granular, robust security—With everyone on the same network, including competitors, security is paramount. The network must allow private networks to coexist on it, connecting each business to its specific trading partners and service providers (carriers, banks, etc.), with fine-grained control over who is allowed to see what. All messages and stored data should be strongly encrypted and sensitive transactions should require 2-factor authentication.
- Full P2P lifecycle integrated with SCF—The platform should support the full purchase-to-pay lifecycle, from capturing the purchase order all the way through to settling the payment. Supply chain finance required to obtain financing.
- Single-Version-of-the-Truth (SVoT)—Once data is entered into the system, it should never have to be re-keyed. The data from the P.O. should automatically flow into creating shipping documents, which are in turn automatically used in creating the invoice. At any point in time, all participants see exactly the same data about what was requested, planned, and actually executed, dramatically reducing disputes about what actually happened.
- Near real-time milestone and event visibility—Mechanisms are in place to record events and milestones in near real-time. These milestones can include raw materials ordered, production milestones, shipments made, goods received, and so forth. Authorized users (with appropriate security rights) can subscribe to see whichever events are relevant to them. When events occur, including exceptions like damage to goods, or items failing inspection, the same data is visible to all who have the authority to view it.