Procurement success - drive adoption through user experience

By Robin Schinning, Business Development Executive, Proactis

One of the most important keys to the success of a procurement system is the ability to gain organisation-wide adoption by making it easier for employees to order what they need, managers to review and approve those requests, and department heads to see the impact of spending on their respective budgets.

This is where best-in-class procurement outshines old-school ERP purchasing modules. ERP systems cover a broad function scope and are designed for finance experts, not the casual user. The systems force rigid corporate purchasing guidelines, highly complex requisition processes and approval processes that can take weeks to complete; via a system that is hard to understand and navigate. Buy-in, as you might suspect, is often lacking.

The good news is that newer cloud-based procurement applications, such as tools from Proactis, focus on driving adoption through a user experience. For procurement this means creating a shopping experience and an interface that prompts the user, "What do you need?" and enabling orders to be completed in just a few clicks. Employees no longer need to search through offline catalogs for what they need, walk around with the requisition and chase down approvals. All relevant corporate buying policies, catalog items from preferred suppliers, other relevant punch-out suppliers and access to expert buying support is available online.

For a procurement system to be successful, it should create a true shopping experience that allows employees to focus on their day jobs without sacrificing the visibility and management needs to effectively manage spending. It should have an easy-to-use design that enables a cultural shift, allowing employees to execute daily purchases on a self-service basis within established organisational controls. Best-in-class procurement applications are highly productive and easy to learn for department managers, purchasing professionals and even suppliers.

For Employees:
  • A highly intuitive user interface with uncluttered screens and minimal input requirements make using the system easy, even for infrequent users.
  • Inductive buying quickly guides employees to potential suppliers, catalogs and websites, making it easy to find exactly what they need from an authorised source.
  • Visibility of requests throughout the process gives employees a true sense of ownership.
For Department Managers:
  • Automated account coding and budget checking eliminate the need for time-consuming lookups or verifications.
  • Flexible workflow and approval hierarchies allow for approval groups, temporary assignments, vacations, etc.
  • Email notifications for purchase requests requiring approval, with personal preferences for grouping and timing, make it easy to manage time whilst avoiding delays.
  • One-click approvals or return to requester with comments make the authorisation process fast and easy.
  • Full cost-pipeline visibility provides managers with the information they need to effectively manage departmental expenditures and cash flow.
For Purchasing Professionals:
  • Self-service employee buying for routine goods and services frees up time for more value-added activities such as strategic sourcing and supplier management.
  • Free-form and template requisitions combined with electronic catalogs speed communication of needs from requester to buyer.
  • Email alerts for required actions such as contract reviews and sourcing steps allow purchasing personnel to operate on an exception-driven basis without letting anything 'fall through the cracks'.
  • Supplier on-boarding support, automated sourcing events, electronic RFx questionnaires, and centralised contract management provide structure and reduce administrative effort for many activities required to obtain 'best value' suppliers and agreements.
For Finance Professionals:
  • Buying by purchase order reduces the burden of unexpected invoices on Accounts Payable.
  • Pre-coded order lines remove the "who bought this and what for?" cycle that slows down the cost allocation and payment process.
  • Pre-order budget checks ensure that funds are available before purchases are authorised.
  • Automated invoice matching and mismatch troubleshooting via electronic workflow simplifies invoice acceptance.
  • Cost pipeline visibility ensures that there are no nasty surprises from unexpected commitments.