Implementing an agile spend management system that works for you

By Robin Schinning, Business Development Executive, Proactis

Being able to react quickly gives companies a major advantage.

Recently, companies and their Finance and Procurement departments all over the world have been forced to change and adapt. Some companies have been better placed to do so.

Some companies have been able to change their processes, and supply chains, to make ventilators, protective masks and gowns. For example, Proactis customer Honeywell expanded its production at the aerospace facility to manufacture N95 masks for Covid-19 protection. And other institutions, such as the University of Sussex, have been able to embrace technology to ensure they can keep functioning and, in this example, delivering higher education.

If recent events have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. This mindset brings the need to develop agile strategies that can change, adapt, and minimise risk should your environment shift overnight. Experts even state that an agile P2P system is the linchpin for your spend management and wider strategy.

Agile spend management systems enable your company to adapt to changes in order to supply availability, pricing, invoicing and payments, to name a few. Here are five ways that an agile spend management system can support your needs:

Enable quick, controlled purchasing
Your employees should be able to find and buy the goods and services they need to do their jobs. Agile spend management systems give employees easy access to content in various forms (catalogues, contracts and/or supplier websites) to purchase specific goods and services that are available from authorised suppliers.

This capability is essential to achieving a high percentage of spend under management and prevent purchases from unapproved suppliers. Employees are far more likely to buy the right item from the right supplier when it’s easier to do so than it is to buy from another source. Providing employees with the ability to search for and select the item or service that best fits their needs streamlines the purchase process for the employee and dramatically drives higher on-contract spend.

Manage your supplier base
Building a strong supplier base may not be the main priority at the moment, but maintaining your base should be as well as being able to expand this if needed. This can be achieved by structuring and streamlining the entire supplier lifecycle – from initial identification to adoption, approval, transaction and analysis.

Effectively defining a buying need and selecting the right supplier is critical for any organisation that wants to minimise risk and ensure a smooth continuation of supply. It’s more important than ever to proactively monitor which suppliers are a risk. There are SRM tools available to provide early warning of suppliers who might be in trouble.

Streamline PO and Invoice processing
To keep your purchasing agile, you need a system that won’t get bogged down while processing invoices. In a manual system, a purchase order could get lost, misfiled, or delayed going from one person to another for approval before even arriving at the supplier. An automated system takes care of these problems.

Suppliers, who may find themselves under severe stress, need a payment process that is quick, easy and uninterrupted to provide ongoing services. Forward-thinking organisations know this.

Anyone relying on paper-based, manual Accounts Payable processes are now challenged - how they are able to receive invoices, how they will get orders validated, how they will receive the necessary approvals, and how they will pay suppliers, are just a few of the key considerations. At best, this is cumbersome, at worst it will result in suppliers not being paid, and the whole supply chain being disrupted.

Companies such as Proactis can provide the software and expertise to implement, continue, and adapt invoice automation.

Get full visibility of Spend
An agile spend management system should provide full spend visibility of spend, from transaction through to completion, to support executive and department-level decision-making at all times.

Such capabilities may include:

  • Full ‘cost pipeline’ visibility for better management decision-making.
  • Full encumbrance/commitment information for better fund management.
  • Contract and volume information for better price and service negotiation.
  • Workflow information for business process improvement and visibility.
  • User-focused dashboards with the correct level of information.
  • Drill-down capabilities for easy investigation of the detail transactions behind any summary or Key Performance Indicator.
  • Immediate access to contracts from within the buying process.
  • Analysis of spend by contract and summary views of spend under management.

Integrate seamlessly
A spend management system must integrate with an organisation’s ERP, financial and other supply chain systems in order to provide true spend control. It must also be able to integrate with procurement processes that may be outside its scope or already in place. This is true agility.

Companies such as Proactis recognise this, and the platform has been designed to be “agnostic” to other systems. As such, it is built with clear integration points that utilise industry standards and tools to make integration into your system environment easy to implement and manage. Whatever your IT landscape, the Proactis architecture helps make virtually any type of ‘inward-looking’ application an accessible supply-chain facing platform - from financial software and ERP, to HR and logistics packages.

People and businesses change, so this should be a constant focus. Any spend management solution provider you work with should at the very least support this. The providers that stand out, do so much more.