In Part 2 of this series, Understanding Your Procurement Cycle, we explain how knowing the different phases of the procurement cycle is an important step toward finding the best possible eProcurement solution to meet your company’s needs.
Now that you know more about your organization’s particular purchasing habits, you’re better prepared to find the right solution. So now what? If you’re ready to start evaluating eProcurement vendors, here are 5 questions to ask yourself before taking that next step:
1. What Do You Need an eProcurement System to Do for Your Business?
What problems are you hoping to solve by implementing an eProcurement system? For example, is your organization struggling with contract compliance? If this is the case, you’ll need a solution that has an online catalog capability. If reporting and forecasting are your top priorities, you’ll need a system that provides complete visibility to every transaction associated with a purchase order. Once you decide the primary reason for making a change to ePro, it will be easier to focus your search on the right solution.
2. Will the System Integrate Well with Your Existing ERP?
Whether your company is large or small, you are likely using some kind of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) database. If so, that vendor probably offers an eProcurement component you can add to your existing setup. If this is the case, it’s a logical place to start your search, as it probably won’t cost as much to implement, and it will probably work seamlessly with the many other activities your ERP was designed to integrate. If you are not using an ERP, or if your needs for eProcurement extend beyond your current vendor’s capabilities, you will need to consider other options. The most important question then is whether integration with current systems is possible.
3. What Kind of Spend Are You Trying to Manage?
Different systems are better for different kinds of spending. If most of your organization’s spending is done on a project basis, then a project management tool will be an important asset to your new epro system. If, however, most of your spending is on products and supplies, ecatalog capability is important. If one of your main objectives is to control maverick spending and encourage contract compliance, you’ll probably want a system that allows you to set spending limits and other parameters to help you meet those goals.
4. Will the System Fit Your Employee Culture?
Consider how people do their jobs today, and think about the potential impact of a new system. Be sure to involve people who actually do purchasing on a regular basis in the decision process as well. These will be your power users so they will have valuable institutional knowledge and can offer great insights. It’s also a good practice to include key stakeholders from the beginning. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and offer opinions, and will likely be more motivated to adopt the new process. When it comes time for training, implementation, and ongoing support you’ll be able to count on them to evangelize the new system across the organization. Also think of the people who don’t typically have responsibility for purchasing. From time to time they will also need to use the system, so it should be easy to use.
5. Does it Work Seamlessly with Mobile?
Today purchasing happens anywhere, anytime. People want immediate access in real time 24/7. There really is no such thing as regular business hours when it comes to purchasing, so for that reason, mobile accessibility is essential.
Making the move to an electronic procurement system is a smart way to streamline purchasing processes across your organization and to gain control over spending. There are many systems to choose from, each with different tools and benefits. Knowing exactly how the system can solve current purchasing issues, thinking about how this system can take your company into the future is a great way to begin your search.
Sean Foran is a Sr. eCommerce Adoption Manager and has worked over 10 years in various roles at Grainger within the digital space including eBusiness Consultant, eBusiness Manager and Sr. eCommerce Programs Manager. Currently Sean leads the Grainger.com Advanced Customer Care Team. This group facilitates the setup and adoption of large customer installs that require mass user registration, workflow, custom check-out, custom catalog creation and end user training.