All posts by Pierre Laprée

5 Ways Slack Can Help Build a Better Procurement Function

Charting the stratospheric rise of Slack, and investigating how it can be used to increase collaboration and conversation in procurement.

slack icon macro

For those who don’t know, Slack is an online communication tool, built around both group and a one-to-one chat. But it’s much more than that. Unlike any other system, Slack can talk to pretty much any other tool through the magic of APIs and webhooks.

These integrations make it a mind-numbingly powerful tool, because it becomes a platform for pretty much anything you need, and can be the focal point of many aspects of your business.

It drastically reduces the number of systems you need to consult to get the information you need to do your job. If something is noteworthy, it should be pushed to Slack.

This incredible value has allowed Slack to grow very fast. We don’t have any startup in our surroundings who doesn’t use it. But it is also increasingly used in larger organisations, for example, NASA, Dow Jones and Salesforce. Plus, all the major news outlets talk about it or even use it.

Their progress is staggering. After less than 2 years there are more than 2 millions active users of Slack globally. And it’s only the beginning.

Slack usage

Does Procurement really need it?

Does Procurement need to collaborate or be more nimble? Can it use Slack as part of its digital transformation?

Yes, of course! And here’s why:

1. Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate

With your team, your stakeholders and your suppliers. It’s easy to create topical channels and invite people to join them. Even if they are outside of the company.

Imagine: you no longer have to ask IT to create a dedicated section on the intranet, or setup a “secure room” to exchange documents. Slack can host everything from documents to discussions, and it’s available for anyone with access to the channel. It’s the end of information trapped in someone’s mailbox.

That’s how you’ll get smooth collaboration with your stakeholders or your suppliers.

2. Make Life Easier by Knowing What Happens Everywhere

Slack has this incredible ability to integrate easily with pretty much anything.

Twitter, Dropbox, Google Docs, or anything that can respond to a URL, can be integrated with Slack. This means that when something noteworthy happens, you get a notification in Slack and not cluttering your inbox. One more step towards inbox zero!

And a new range of Procurement tools can also be integrated and send notifications to inform you about new purchase orders or new negotiation projects.

Soon, the days of email notifications and logging into 5 different systems to know if something has happened, will be gone.

3. Kill (internal) emails

This is probably the last step towards inbox zero. We have set a rule in our company that basically says, “if there is no recipient outside of the company, then don’t send an email. Use Slack instead”.

You have no idea how much this reduces the number of emails we receive on a daily basis. If the information is meant to be shared with one person only, you can use the direct messages, otherwise, it can be posted in a relevant channel. Easy!

The Per Angusta Team's Slack
The Per Angusta Team’s Slack Channel

4. Towards “Conversational Procurement”?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the concept of conversational procurement. In essence, people in your company would no longer visit your e-Procurement tool to buy things, but would instead talk to an automated system that would understand their needs, gather relevant information and run the process of validating and ordering.

Think of it as Procurement meets Siri, or Google Now if you’re an Android person (or Cortana if you’re…oh wait no-one is a Windows Phone person…).

And that’s exactly what bots are in Slack. An interface for the user to interact with a system in a loosely structured way. Of course, this would mean that a system in the background would have to understand your request, but at least the user-facing part is taken care of.

5. Have Some Fun

Besides all the serious things you can do in Slack, there is also the #random channel, which acts as a sort of virtual water cooler,  a place to just relax and post some funny stuff.

Again, the fact that Slack is so easily integrated with a number of services will let you post nice animated gifs everywhere.

So what are you going to do next?

We suggest you register with Slack and create a room (or possibly talk to IT first…). Don’t worry, it’s free, and you will only start paying if you have more than 10 integrations. And if you reach that point, then it probably means that you will be happy to pay for the service.

Just be aware that Procurement and Digital Procurement are already taken!