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12th Annual NAPCP Conference: The Takeaways

May 13, 2011 Finance

Last month I attended the 12th Annual NAPCP Commercial Card and Payment Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada from April 11 – 14th with over 650 attendees, including end-users, providers and exhibitors.

The NAPCP (National Association of Purchasing Card Professionals) is a membership-based association committed to advancing Commercial Card and payment industry practices worldwide. They serve members across the corporate, education, and government sectors by offering continued education and peer networking through regional forums, webinars, online resources, newsletters and, of course, their annual conference.

After listening to and participating in 20 hours of lecture-based presentations, round table discussions, technology demonstrations and networking opportunities – there’s a lot of exciting and innovative developments in the world of purchasing card programs.

Here are some of the hot topics and highlights:

e-Payables: (Electronic Payables) – An emerging trend over the last few years, e-Payables was definitely the buzz at this year’s NAPCP conference. The technology allows companies to potentially put their card program and strategy portfolios into overdrive, often yielding a significant increase in program benefits and return on investment.

Typically managed within the organization’s accounts payable department, e-Payables utilizes card infrastructure to settle invoices without cutting checks.  Companies are attracted to a number of benefits including increased float, improved working capital, reduced check processing, better compliance, and potential rebate opportunities.

And because e-Payables integrates with a company’s existing authorization and approval flow, implementation is relatively quick.

So, how does a company strategically decide to pursue and target e-Payables as a complimentary solution?

e-Payables technology lends itself well to higher spend invoices and supplier relationships where a traditional invoice process is still needed.  Supplier segmentation is also a key factor in helping to effectively align overall payment strategies.  You’ll also want to consider doing a spend analysis to determine who may already take the card.

Smartphone App Demonstration: For the first time, a leading provider demonstrated a Smartphone application that allows program administrators and/or cardholders to directly access the providers website.  This app hit the market about ten weeks ago, and has already sparked keen interest in the card community.

As an administrator, you can handle card declines and process limit changes immediately, without having to be in the office.

As a cardholder, the app allows you to log cash out of pocket expenses as you incur them and have access to expense reports immediately. The app then syncs updates directly to your desktop.

This app marks the next level of convenience for on-the-go users and my sense is that it will receive heavy development focus on the provider front.

Keynote: Program Optimization (Going from Good to Great): Two of the keynote speakers at this year’s NAPCP conference were Dr. Richard Palmer and Dr. Mahendra Gupta from RPMG Research Corporation.

In short, they asked the question many business leaders may be asking themselves right now: “If you already have an OK purchasing card program, how do you rise to the best in class?”

Palmer and Gupta identified common elements among high performing companies who utilize purchasing card programs in their financial strategies.  These companies harness cultures of leadership and communication; keep up with and adopt new technologies to expand and improve their “card toolkit;” provide comprehensive policies and performance incentives; invest in people (training) as well as enablers (technology/integration); and continually assess program potential.

It was refreshing to hear that the industry research defining key elements of PCP success aligns with Fahrenheit Finance’s approach to PCP implementation for our own clients.

In Part I: Benefits of a Purchasing Card Program, I talked about the first steps companies should take in making the decision to implement a PCP into their B2B daily activities. With our client, we did an assessment of their business needs, culture and decided on the initial strategy and direction.

Part II of our client’s PCP implementation focused on Pilot Groups and Testing. We decided which training and technology the company would need to invest in and made sure the provider we selected had a clear vision of new developments in the PCP field.

In a few weeks, we’ll post Part III in the Purchasing Card Program blog series which will examine the development of an electronic interface, which requires plenty of IT support and resources for mapping logic and system communication.

JoAnn Vernacchia, CPA, CPCP

JoAnn is a senior consultant at Fahrenheit Finance.  JoAnn, a procurement expert and accounting professional, has extensive experience in designing, implementing and managing corporate card solutions.

To find out how Fahrenheit Finance can work with you and your company on implementing a purchasing card program, contact Rich Reinecke (rreinecke@fahrenheitfinance.com) or Keith Middleton (kmiddleton@fahrenheitfinance.com) at (804) 955-4440.

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