Cloudy Future for ERP Based Procurement

Traditional ERP systems just don’t do the job for procurement. However, an integrated, Cloud-based approach could be the answer the profession is looking for.

Cloud & ERP

This article was written by Daniel Ball, director at eProcurement specialist, Wax Digital.

The benefits offered by best-of-breed eProcurement technology are well documented. Procurement professionals don’t need much convincing of the advantages of using them.

However, for some organisations, stepping away from using their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system’s in-built purchasing tools isn’t always an easy option.

Modern ERP systems offer organisations a way to manage, collect and interpret data from a variety of business activities across seemingly all business functions, from purchasing and finance to HR and customer service. They also integrate all internal data-collection systems so that all business functions rely on one single database.

This one source of real-time data can help businesses to make decisions based on facts rather than assumptions. To coin a well-used phrase, they could be considered something of a panacea capable of eradicating all business process ills.

There is another way…                                                                                                             

However, for all of the many benefits ERP offers to the organisation as a whole, it’s not uncommon for procurement teams, amongst others, to be frustrated by its rigidity and functional limitations. While core functions such as Finance, Manufacturing and HR are well supported by ERP systems, Procurement, it would seem, is often less so.

Procurement teams will therefore inevitably face the choice between continuing to use ERP, or move to an alternative best-of-bread solution. Today this almost invariably means a cloud-based system that needs to integrate seamlessly with ERP.

The Integration Challenge

But how can procurement convince the rest of the business, and especially the IT department, that the existing functionality on offer to them is no longer adequate for their needs and that moving to a cloud-based system that can be integrated with ERP can be done easily and securely?

We’ve seen many of our customers seek to replace the procurement modules offered to them by their ERP systems but who have been stopped by the integration challenge. They have faced concern from IT managers that integrating with a remotely-hosted, third-party system may pose a risk to the organisation, especially when business-critical master data and finance systems are concerned.

However, the tide is now turning. Some cloud-based eProcurement solutions can securely integrate with ERP and their finance systems. This offers users freedom of choice and the ability to automate, improve, and better manage many of their day-to-day procurement processes.

Feasibility of Integrated Systems

A platform which comes with its own ready configured Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is certainly a major step forward in convincing the finance and IT departments and using a separate but integrated system is not just possible, but advantageous.

We’ve worked with many procurement teams in leading organisations who’ve decided to reject the functionality on offer to them from ERP, and integrate cloud-based eProcurement.

One of our customers uses JD Edwards’ (JDE) ERP system for finance, and had used its procurement module for over ten years to raise purchase orders and approve invoices.

The system wasn’t very efficient or easy-to-use so certain departments chose to bypass it all together, preferring instead to manually process their orders.

However, the complexity and limited functionality of the existing system was preventing the organisation from making wide-scale purchasing efficiencies and not giving a clear view on organisational-wide spend.

Deciding to integrate a new eProcurement system with the JDE finance system that would enable a number of efficiencies including better spend control, more efficient order processing and payments, the organisation decided on a hybrid cloud approach allowing us to host our cloud-based service from within its data centres.

Wide Reaching Benefits

At another of our customers the procurement team was keen to make efficiencies to the management of its indirect spend across Europe.

Multiple systems were being used across the region for indirect purchasing, and these were largely manual, paper-based processes that did not provide full visibility and control over expenditure.

As a result, collaboration between the purchasing teams and finance, as well as with suppliers, was not integrated and could have lead to duplication on spend, or even the business purchasing goods or services it didn’t need.

In order to improve indirect purchasing across Europe, the organisation chose to move its entire European operations to a single, cloud-based eProcurement system to integrate with SAP.

Best-of-breed cloud-based, eProcurement solutions offer a host of benefits across the business, that are far reaching and extend beyond the walls of the procurement department.