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Schweitzer Fachinformationen: “We provide one point of access in an increasingly complex world.”

At the Proactis ReThink ’19 event in Brussels earlier this year, we sat down with Alexander Graff, Head of Corporate Business at Schweitzer Fachinformationen, to talk about how the company has been working with Proactis for over 12 years to manage Schweitzer’s catalogue content – that contains over 35 million items – as well as the exchange of business documents.

Proactis: Can you tell us a little about the company?

Alexander: Schweitzer Fachinformationen is a provider of professional information products through a network of legally independent specialist and university bookstores. We operate in 24 cities across Germany. We‘ve been working with procurement systems for a number of years now. In fact, we started our eProcurement program in 2001, so we are quite experienced!

Proactis: What has changed over the years?

Alexander: In one word, consumerisation. The way we buy and sell goods and services has changed dramatically. Up until a couple of years ago, we actually needed to convince users to use electronic systems and electronic platforms to buy what they need. Now, with Amazon, Google, Apple, eBay, you are behind the times if you don’t offer it. We wanted to provide that same cool user experience, aligned with our professional demands of transparency, control and approval workflows…none of which B2C platforms have to worry about.

Proactis: And what challenges have you encountered?

Alexander: Our main challenge has been bringing the two worlds together. Making the buying process easy for the consumer while also maintaining our business processes and policies. We have to be compliant with each of the companies in our network, with the customers, and with standard procurement processes. We also need to be constantly available on their internal eProcurement marketplace, be able to receive orders the way they are sent, and be able to send invoices the way that they can be received.

Proactis: How has Proactis helped?

Alexander: Proactis is the platform that we use to provide our catalogue content to the customers. Our catalogues contain 35 million items, so this is a substantial requirement. For every item that a company pays money for, with the help of Proactis, we provide a platform for people to easily purchase. The Proactis solution also helps us manage the assets and make information available across the company.

We use punch-outs to our web catalogues, so users can look for the items that they want to buy from our available external catalogues, put them in the shopping cart and then process it through one platform.  We don’t need to build one by one connection for each customer, we just have one connection in place, tell them where to put their orders, and we receive them.

Proactis: What specific value has been delivered?

Alexander: It is one platform we are connected to, and with this we can reach out to all users, customers, employees of customers, legal organisations and entities, and affiliated companies. We provide one point of access in an increasingly complex world.

We are also able to offer the platform, the one connection, to exchange electronic orders and invoices, instead of having to build multiple interfaces or even multiple processes, with different legal entities. We are now exchanging documents such as purchase orders and invoices through an automated workflow via Proactis’ transaction management platform The Business Network.

Proactis: Why did you chose to implement an eProcurement platform such as Proactis?

Alexander: I would say that, in general, it is impossible to seriously work within a large organisation, with large corporate customers, without using eProcurement processes. With Proactis we now have one solution that provides catalogue management, a desktop ordering tool, a self-service tool that users are able to use, and obviously the platform that you need to have in place to make your items available to users. The great thing about Proactis is that we are now also able to seamlessly manage electronic orders, and electronic invoices.

Customers want rid of the massive order and invoice comparison processes, and electronic ordering is something that you want to have in place as a supplier because you don’t create any value by retyping orders into your system. It should all be automated. You need to minimise standard business administration costs, processes and efforts, and this is why I would recommend working with an eProcurement platform.