Tag Archives: eProcurement

eCatalogues are Just Spreadsheets, What’s the Big Deal?!

How many times have you heard someone compare eCatalogues to spreadsheets? It’s time to clear up the differences!

eCatalogues on Tablet

This article was originally published on Suppliers Matter.

That’s what the owner of a small office supply company asked me back in 1999. I was an independent supplier enablement consultant, and it was taking me longer than he wanted to create his first electronic catalogue in Ariba for his largest customer.

Here are the ten things I wish I had said as to why electronic catalogues aren’t “just spreadsheets”. I’ve also added a handful of insights that some newer eProcurement solutions now have to offer when it comes to eCatalogues.

The end result may “simply be a spreadsheet”, but it’s ensuring what’s in this spreadsheet that requires due diligence.

1) Appropriate Selection

eCatalogues need to contain all things that the customer buys from you, and none of the things you’re not supposed to sell.

If you have the contract to sell office supplies, and you’ve been given explicit instructions to only include office supplies, then you can’t include the kitchen sink.

When it’s time to export item information from the back end system, it should be just for your customer’s desired items.

Some larger suppliers have been known to insist their eCatalogues can’t be filtered, in an effort to sell more stuff. You don’t want to play those games.

2) Accurate Pricing

Obviously the prices for these items has to be accurate. Sometimes the calculation of the sell price can get complicated. For example, if it’s X per cent off list for one type of item, but Y per cent off for another. Or if there’s a list of most commonly ordered items that are more highly discounted than the rest.

If your customer finds one item that is priced higher than it should be, they’ll lose trust and question all other item prices.

Newer eProcurement platforms now support tiered pricing, bundles, configurable/custom options, etc., which can help when if you sell more complicated products or services.

3) Consistent Names

The item names are the first thing that a customer sees in their search results, so it’s important that they are strong and also follow a consistent naming convention, for example: Widgets, Small, Pack of 20.

Looking at a long list of items that are consistently named makes it easier for the customer to select the right item.

4) Rich Descriptions

This is one area where the initial effort up front can really make a big difference, but it takes investment. If you want to have your items found in search results, and also help your customer make the right choice the first time, you need rich item descriptions that thoroughly describe your items. You should take advantage of as much space as the customer can support. If they allow 255 characters, use them!

Some suppliers simply export the bare minimum item information from their inventory, which is often hard to understand. And what’s frustrating for buyers is that the supplier’s B2C site has often got great rich content. However, suppliers frequently have two separate item databases – one for B2C/marketing and one for B2B/eProcurement.

If you happen to sell items from popular categories, there are now rich content providers that you can use to enrich your information.

5) Granular UNSPSC codes

There are so many reasons to make sure that the UNSPSC codes assigned to your items are granular and accurate.

Granular meaning that you can’t just assign the ‘Office Stationery’ code to all your items, even the office furniture and computer accessories.

And accurate, meaning that if you’re selling a standard office scissor then you need to use the correct code, and not just the first reference to scissors you see when searching the UNSPSC database.

The customer may have purchase requisition approval rules reliant on the codes to determine who should approve the request. IT may need to approve the computer accessory, and facilities may need to approve the furniture. Plus, your customer’s reports will be much more accurate in terms of spend reporting.

A new consideration is eProcurement systems now have browsable category trees that rely on the UNSPSC to assign the item to the most appropriate category. You want your items to fall under the right bucket and not all get clumped into one.

6) Images for Every Product

This is a no-brainer. You have to make sure as many of your items (if not all) have at least one, nice looking image. They should be professional looking, high resolution, hosted on a publicly available webserver, and assigned to the right item.

And if your customer’s eProcurement system supports multiple images, then give them more. Many suppliers don’t take advantage of this, however, and just do the minimum (if that). Make your items shine!

7) Valid Units of Measure

You don’t want to do all this work and have the catalogue not load because your internal unit of measure is “Each” and the customer’s system needs it to be “EA”. You need to ensure that all your items are using the UOMs that your customer supports.

8) Internal Part Numbers for Automation

If you want to automate the fulfilment of the corresponding electronic purchase order and have it flow seamlessly into your system, the part numbers have to be perfect.

You can’t manually create an item in the catalogue file called WIDGET and expect it to work. You need to export the part numbers out of your system, and only use those part numbers in the eCatalogues.

9) Properly Formatted File

All this has to be exported into a properly formatted file that matches the customer’s file format requirements.

  • XLS vs. XLSX vs. CSV vs. XML vs. CIF vs. ETC.
  • Field titles with correct names.
  • Not exceeding each field’s maximum length.
  • Ensure all their required fields are populated properly.

This is where it can get a little technical, but it’s a one time effort.

10) Automating the Update Process

Fortunately, we didn’t have to update static eCatalogues very often, so doing this once or twice a year was acceptable.

New eProcurement systems now support simple CSV files, and allow suppliers to upload securely. This means suppliers are now in a better position to automate the export, any mapping, and upload using relatively simple scripts or product information management (PIM) tools.

Suppliers, what else would you have told him? (Apart from go do it yourself!)

Brexit Presents Export Opportunities for UK Business

Could an increase in export opportunities be a silver lining among the Brexit clouds for UK businesses?

UK Export Market

Much of the reporting in the business world on the Brexit has focused on the potential negative impacts. However, there could be benefits for British businesses, including SMEs, in an increase in exports opportunities.

The weakening of the pound is believed to be a contributing factor to this growth. This has made British products and services cheaper overseas. As a result it’s provided British manufacturing with an opportunity to compete in foreign markets.

UK “Needs to Improve” in Export Market

The Flash UK Purchase Managers Index (PMI) has revealed export business rose for the second straight month, and to the greatest extent in two years.

Additionally, a recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses suggested that the number of small businesses exporting could double, due to the drop in sterling value. This could potentially help to cushion the economy from the uncertainty of leaving the EU.

However, it’s not all positive. Despite the potential boost for exports from the drop in the value of sterling, Britain is still significantly behind the government target of £1 trillion of exports by 2020.

The recently appointed Trade and Investment Minister, Lord Price CVO, stressed: “The UK punches well below its weight in the export market and badly needs to improve.”

Increasing Overseas Tenders

Procurious caught up with Stuart Brocklehurst, CEO of Applegate, to ask him what the key factors are in export decisions. Since the result of the EU referendum, Applegate PRO, has experienced a 20 percent increase in overseas tender requests.

Brocklehurst commented, “With concerns over domestic demand, exports offer a great diversification of revenue for UK businesses. The decline in sterling means our goods and services are around a tenth cheaper for overseas buyers. This presents a significant opportunity for UK businesses.”

It’s worth looking at the situation from 2 sides when it comes to procurement – UK and non-UK based. For non-UK based procurement, the UK has become a lower-cost manufacturing option. There is a significant opportunity to make savings, as the goods and services in the UK are now 10 per cent cheaper.

Inside the UK, however, it’s a different story for procurement. As the prices fall in the UK, many procurement organisations will be faced with a tricky decision. Should they re-shore their supply chain or not. For example, manufacturing businesses currently planning to make capital investment priced in US dollars have seen the real-cost price increase by 10 per cent.

There’s also a question of currency stability. The pound may drop further in the coming months, so what can procurement do? Brocklehurst stated, “Companies can either mitigate this risk by purchasing derivatives, or purchase locally in order to avoid the volatility altogether.”

SMEs Uncertain on Exports

One interesting point that Stuart Brocklehurst makes comes in contrast to the positive note sounded by the Federation of Small Businesses. Brocklehurst argues that, although there has been a strong increase in overseas orders and export opportunities, many SMEs still don’t want to get involved in exports.

“When it comes to SMEs and exports, nothing is guaranteed. Some SMEs don’t want to get involved in exports, particularly where there are concerns about red tape. They’re hesitant to proceed where there are administration overheads, as they’re worried about getting it wrong,” says Brocklehurst.

Brocklehurst also believes that if there is a UK slowdown, this will be a benefit for businesses exploring export opportunities. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be taken as a certainty that exports will completely offset the effect of falling currencies on purchases, and a potential economic slowdown.

In 2008, at the height of the Global Financial Crisis, many believed that the export market would help the UK economy. However, due to recessions in many other countries, demand for UK exports actually weakened, and the recovery took longer than expected.

Realising the Opportunities

Whatever the UK economy looks like in the coming months, it’s clear that the Brexit isn’t all bad. It’s also undeniable that it has presented clear export opportunities for UK businesses.

However, many companies remain uninterested in exporting, even with the potential revenue and business growth opportunities. It’s down to business leaders to help drive this strategy through.

Equally, for procurement, it’s time to decide how sourcing will look in the coming months, and ultimately when the UK leaves the EU.

Applegate PRO is the UK’s foremost sourcing database, helping to link buyers and suppliers, and streamline the eProcurement process.

The platform is being utilised by a wide range of companies across the world, including Airbus, SpaceX, General Dynamics, NATO headquarters and The White House.