In a post last week I shared some information from the Aberdeen Group suggesting that the finance and procurement functions are becoming more closely related and more highly prioritized within organizations. Basware, a provider of purchase-to-pay solutions, has recently predicted a similar trend to occur over the course of the next decade. According to Steve Muddiman of Basware, “In stepping up to the challenges the new decade brings, these ‘buying and paying’ departments will find that they achieve a much more strategic role in the success of their organization, breaking away from their old perception of an internal service team.”

In a recent release to their site, Basware outlines some of the factors that they believe are driving this trend and are critical to business development in the near future. The major areas addressed in the post include process and department integration/fragmentation, buyer and supplier relationships, risk management, and sustainability. Recent economic conditions have caused companies to alter the way they run their businesses. While this sort of integration and reengineering is necessary to evolve and grow over the next decade, it has some potential side effects that create a lack of coordination and planning between “in-line” business functions and so called “service functions”. In the coming years it will be strategies, initiatives, and workflow designs related to the finance and procurement functions that allow companies to reconcile the “way we’ve always done it” with newer, more effective business models.

After reading a few different articles suggesting this sort of transition from fat and happy to lean and mean business processes, I was reminded of a seminar I attended in which the speakers detailed the advancements of “Web 2.0” and the potential applications of “Web 3.0” when it arrives. Once it was explained that Web 2.0 refers to the trends and advancements that have made the internet more interactive and user controlled, an audience member raised her hand and asked, “So what is the difference between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0”. The speaker smiled slightly and said, “Web 2.0 was the creation of all these wonderful advancements and applications. Web 3.0 will be when we clean up the mess and figure out what to do with it.”

Pardon the tangent, but the point I was making is that business process optimization is not a formula or linear plan that can be followed to a stagnate end. Many companies have started taking the steps to integrate departments cross-functionally and reengineer dysfunctional processes. Now, to get to the “Web 3.0” sort of state, they need to look at what they have done so far, evaluate their successes (and failures), and focus their strategies even tighter to hone early successes into sustainable competitive advantages.
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