People 'n' Issues

Blockchain secures procurement

June 29th, 2017
As a disruptive technology platform, blockchain is impactful, with the potential to redefine the operations and economics of many industries, writes KAMENDRAN GOVENDER, Procurement & Supply Chain Transformation Lead for Accenture Consulting.
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Blockchain as a technology and concept that continues to be hyped in all industries. As a disruptive technology platform, blockchain is impactful, with the potential to redefine the operations and economics of these industries.

The technology brings value to various firms with the way it offers transparency, efficiency and security for financial transactions. In our view, blockchain can also lend its security and efficiency benefits to other areas as well, including Procure-to-Pay (PTP) processes. It can allow authentication around stakeholders, budgeting, service provision, invoicing and payment settlement.

Procure-to-Pay (PTP) is the multi-step process connecting a client with one or more service/product providers. Among other activities, it allows for the identification and authentication of stakeholders, budgeting, service provision, invoicing and payment settlement.

Among the current challenges faced by PTP programmes are generating sustainable cost reductions through disintermediation, efficiency improvement, fraud control and transparency enhancement. Blockchain technology can disrupt PTP processes and more importantly provide huge operational benefits in terms of speed, greater security and decreased workload by facilitating the exchange of information. The following outlines how blockchain technology can bring value to key PTP processes.

  • Front-end system: A front-end interface is recommended to authorise vendors, define new catalogs, place purchase orders or sign contracts. This application can be an add-on to the blockchain or could be leveraged through existing procurement systems, if vendors decide to adopt this technology.
  • Strong audit trail: As all parties are registered in the ledger, transactions are stored and a tamper‑proof audit trail is maintained. This type of end-to-end visibility into procurement is a well-established practice in the tracking of physical goods.
  • Accelerated purchase order management: Purchase order and good receipt data would be exchanged on the blockchain at an accelerated pace when compared to current performance levels. As well, the blockchain could help identify the nearest and most cost-effective vendor within the network. This would help decrease lead time and workload associated with vendor searches, the processing of purchase orders and goods/services receipts.
  • Reshaped invoice processing: Invoice scanning would no longer be required – thanks to shared access to the database, with the exchange of invoices supported by the blockchain. This would also help render the reconciliation process far less cumbersome as all authorised parties could review the same transaction, eliminating the need for reconciliations. Blockchain hosted transactions would feed into the company’s general ledger for general accounting and financial reporting purposes.
  • Accelerated settlements: These would be accelerated as reconciliations and vendor/end user enquiries would not be required due to complete transparency and real-time access to a shared database. This could potentially disrupt in a positive sense business practices such as the standard D+30 days settlement deadline.
  • Streamlined enquiries management: Blockchain’s greater transparency would diminish the need for enquiries and process status follow-ups, thus streamlining current enquiry management and control processes.
  • Reduced money laundering risk: By permanently retaining historical payment information, suspicious transactions can be more easily identified.
  • Greater security of transactions: This can be attained through a cloud-based contract repository and an integrated e-sign feature that verifies signer identity and authorisation.

In conclusion, adopting blockchain can bring dramatic change and businesses considering blockchain for PTP should first build the full business case, considering the above outline. The assessment scope should include existing PTP assets, processes, and should balance cost considerations.

As blockchain solutions gain momentum, more real-world situations will emerge where information on blockchains simply needs to be modified or removed. Accenture’s redactable blockchain is an innovation for financial services companies that makes it possible to deal with situations in a predictable fashion when things go wrong. An editable form of blockchain will make the technology more practical and useful for enterprise systems as well as accelerate its adoption.

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