Tag Archives: ERP

5 Barriers To Achieving End-To-End Supply Chain Visibility

Is it possible to get real-time, end-to-end visibility across your supply chain? Absolutely. But only if you have the right tools.


Since the term “supply chain” was first coined, we’ve all been searching for the holy grail: end-to-end supply chain visibility.

Now, as we recover from the initial shocks of the pandemic and manage through ongoing challenges, we need it more than ever.  But is total visibility actually possible? 

That was our question for Takshay Aggarwal, Global Lead Digital Supply Chain Partner at IBM Global Business Services.

Takshay and Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently talked about building resiliency in a disruptive environment.

A flawed strategy

Prior to the pandemic, a “just in time” inventory management strategy worked wonderfully well for most supply chains, but “just in time is only able to respond to certain fluctuations,” Takshay said. 

When the pandemic drove large-scale disruption, the strategy unravelled. Retailers, for example, were left with empty shelves, late deliveries, and no warning about shipping delays.

And it wasn’t just retail. Industries across the board lacked critical products because companies didn’t have visibility into their tier 2 to tier 10 suppliers – where 40% of supply chain disruptions occur.

Suddenly, companies were scrambling to change supply strategies. 

“The companies who have started on transformation journeys before COVID have fared much better,” Takshay said.

In fact, IBM’s visibility of its own internal supply chain meant it could predict the supply chain impact from the pandemic much sooner than most. 

Path to resilience

So how do you get that same level of visibility and resiliency across your supply chain?

It starts by asking the right question.

“[People should be asking] ‘what kind of supply chain do I need to have?’” Takshay said. 

That’s why the smart companies are re-balancing their risk appetite. 

A real control tower

A resilient supply chain is a transparent supply chain. And the only way to get that crucial visibility is having a smart control tower.

The concept of a control tower isn’t new. It’s a place to pool data from across your supply chain, and use it to make informed decisions.

The right tower helps you see problems a long way off, so you can minimise disruption and maximise profitability. 

But Takshay noted a worrying trend in procurement where any sort of dashboard is called a “control tower”. 

That’s a problem, since most inventory control towers are seriously limited. And you can’t make excellent decisions without knowing the full picture.

Takshay pointed to the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Control Tower as a huge development that finally gives companies the end-to-end visibility they crave.

Here’s how the sophisticated tower can help you overcome the five biggest barriers to visibility.

Problem 1) Most inventory control towers don’t work across silos.

A huge frustration is most control towers can’t handle all the siloed systems of today’s complex enterprises.

It’s a bit like depending on an air traffic controller who can only see part of the runway.

Takshay noted IBM’s control tower works seamlessly with ERP systems, warehouse management, demand planning, order management, e-commerce platforms, and logistics. 

You get one version of the truth across your entire inventory.

Problem 2) Most control towers only show you an inside-out view. 

It’s a big task to monitor operations across the supply chain. But you’re severely limited if your systems won’t sync up with your suppliers’.

That’s why the IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower makes it easy to work across business partner network.

The result? You can make decisions with confidence, knowing you have all the external information you need.

Problem 3) Most tower controls can’t get into the nitty-gritty detail.

A crucial flaw in most control towers is they lack granular detail. That’s a pretty big issue when your job hinges on knowing the right details.

So instead of depending on people to enter the right data in the right place at just the right time, there’s a smarter way.

IBM’s control tower gives you the microscopic detail you need to make confident decisions. 

Problem 4) Most tower controls are inflexible.

A major drawback for most inventory control towers is the rigid structure. 

There’s only one way to input data, and don’t even dream of changing the architecture. But the pandemic showed us how fast everything can change and how flexible and agile your supply chain needs to be to respond effectively.

You need a control tower that can keep up with the reality of supply chains today. That’s why the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Control Tower is ideal. It adapts to fit your business needs – no matter how quickly they change.

Problem 5) Most control towers predict the future based on past events. 

If you don’t have real-time visibility across your supply chain, you are making decisions based on past events, Takshay said.

At the very least, a control tower should give you current information. But IBM takes it a step further with predictive capabilities.

The control tower looks for patterns in your data – flagging possible issues before they happen. That way, you can quickly adapt and avoid disruption.

Don’t wait for perfection

Control towers go a long way toward visibility and resiliency, but they aren’t a silver bullet, Takshay said.

So instead of waiting for perfection, start bringing your systems together now. 

“The more visibility and the more integration, the more resilience,” Takshay said. “You’re able to bounce back much faster.”

If you want greater supply chain resiliency, you need greater visibility.

And you’ll get that level of visibility if you choose a control tower that actually gives you control. 

Watch the full webinar – Building Resiliency in a Disruptive Environment: How Control Towers Make a Difference – for free >

5 Telltale Signs Your Tech Is Failing

In times like these, all systems need to be firing on all cylinders, so how can you tell if your system is beginning to show it’s in need of optimization or replacement?  There are 5 telltale signs that suggest your tech is failing. 


The digital age marches on and it’s rare to find an organization that has not automated some or all of their procurement operation.  The business case for going digital in S2P is compelling, so it is critical that it works. 

Yet many organizations have tech solutions in place that no longer fit their intended purposes. Worse still, many have just given up and are settling for an inferior system that is not meeting their needs.

The signs are there, but they are either going unnoticed or they are being ignored. Both situations are perilous and without swift action, the cost to an organization in time and resources – and the immediate need for a new solution or an optimization – can really mount up.

What are the key signs that your tech solution is failing?

And how do you recognize them before it’s too late?

Here are some of the most common.

1.     User adoption is on the decline

Your tech may have been heralded as the solution to all your organization’s ills. And for a while it was exactly that. But now even the staunchest champions of the solution are withdrawing their support and end-users are finding ways to avoid using the system altogether.

End users are reverting back to picking up the phone to place orders or finding other ways to go around the system.  This will result in more spend going through P-Cards without prior approval and/or more invoices showing up that are not tied to a PO. 

Decreasing adoption is one of the key signs that your tech is failing, and that action needs to be taken. Once users are working around the system, any efficiencies the solution offered are being lost. And it’s probably costing you more to keep things running.

Close communication with end-users is a good way to track ongoing performance and opportunities for optimization. 

2.     High end-user support rate

Your end-users will also be able to tell you when the solution is failing when it comes to usability. A clear sign will be when the rate of users seeking system support begins to increase and where tasks become increasingly difficult to perform.  Especially with your more infrequent users of the platform. 

When this happens support tickets will increase and if they are not resolved quickly, end users will lose confidence.  When that happens, tickets may decline, but not for reasons that are good.  as end users will typically turn to work arounds. 

The most common work around is sending requests via Free Form requests to the buyers to complete for them.  If your buyers are spending more than half of their day chasing down requisitions, you have a problem that needs to be corrected. 

The second most common work around is the use of a “Power User.”  This is when departments or locations turn to one person to complete all of their requests on their behalf.  This was common in the days of ERP requisitioning systems, but not today.  Especially when P2P systems of today have user interfaces that resemble what they have at home. 

If any of these work arounds are happening, your tech may have seen better days and has become dated and too cumbersome to work with.

Communication with end-users is key again here. You want to be able to have a continuous feedback cycle to raise issues before they start impacting operations. It will help to identify any bugs to be fixed and create a forum for new feature requests.  What you learn may surprise you. 

Which brings us to the next telltale sign.

3.     Lack of New Innovation

You’d expect your tech solution provider to be leading the pack in new features and improving your overall user experience to create even more value for your organization. 

If you’re not seeing these, it is time to start asking questions of both your system administrator and your software provider.

Being a system administrator can be hard work, especially when there are 3 new releases per year to keep up with.  If you are not seeing new features/functionality it may be that your system administrator is overwhelmed. Since new features come to you in the off position, you may have new features that have never been turned on. 

If that is not the case, and your solution is not keeping up with other S2P providers, then it’s a clear sign that your provider’s focus is elsewhere or they built their platform on a system architecture that is difficult to develop new functionality.

Both situations should be a red flag to your organization. You should set the wheels in motion to optimize what you have or determine if it is time to test the market for a new tech solution.

4.     ROI less than expected

Before you started out on this journey with your chosen provider, you created a detailed business case of what you expected in terms of outcomes from your new tech solution. You probably broke out the soft costs from the hard costs and knew what processes the tech would help to improve and how it would increase efficiencies in your organization.

These expected benefits – hard dollar savings, employee time, resources and removal of unnecessary or duplicated processes – could be quantified with a monetary value. This, in turn, allowed you to calculate your ROI. 

However, as time has gone on, it’s become clear that the level of expected benefits isn’t being delivered. The ROI for the solution isn’t being met and it’s time to understand why. There could be a number of factors (including the items on this list). But all of this is a further sign that your tech solution is no longer fit for purpose.

5.     Wandering solution roadmap

Even The Beatles had a ‘long and winding road’, but they at least knew the destination that awaited at the end.

Your technology journey may not have an end point by its very nature, but it should at least have clear direction. This would have been identified at the outset of your selection process, complete with clear goals and initiatives, helping to determine which technology solution would be selected.

Years later you may find that what was once their focus is no longer.  Maybe you selected your tech provider due to their commitment to your industry or their commitment to a certain product road map.  It is not uncommon for plans to change and for tech companies to change their focus for a variety of reasons.  Is this enough reason to leave and start looking elsewhere?  If it were up to me, that would depend on how many other items are on this list that are currently plaguing your operation as these issues may be related.  If they have changed direction and are focusing on industries and organizations that don’t resemble you, it may be time to start looking elsewhere before things start getting worse. 

Now you’ve seen the list, do you have any signs of your own to add? Anything in your organization that might now seem like a warning sign? These signs may not be immediately obvious which is why it is so important to know your KPI’s and be measuring what matters. If you don’t have anything in place, your solutions provider should be helping with this with a strong roadmap and support.

So keep these signs of a failing tech system in mind. You should then be able to avoid being encumbered with an ailing solution and instead remain as close to the cutting edge as you can.

Intelligent Spend Management – Your Next Smart Move

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Bringing it all together by bringing Intelligent Spend Management to the business.

If you’re just buying office supplies, you’ve probably got a good idea what you’re spending on paper and pens. But odds are your budget goes beyond a few reams of ultra-white printer stock. And while you are specifically tasked with procurement, you actually help hold the reins and hold influence on multiple categories of spend — from direct and indirect goods, to services, contingent labour — even T&E.

True, this spending is spread out across your organisation and, yes, in many of these categories, spending is more decentralised than ever with employees all over the company buying what they need when they need it. And, it’s true that all of this spending and all of these categories aren’t even in your charge.

However, the business needs you to help bring all that spend under control across all those categories, so you can not only reduce costs, but also help your company:

  • Manage supplier performance holistically
  • Diminish delivery and reputation risks across the board
  • Improve compliance and enforce purchasing policies equally in all categories
  • Increase productivity across procurement and throughout the entire company

Changing Expectations

Organisations are expecting this and more from procurement.

  • They want you to collaborate with finance and supply-chain leaders and address spend management across the business.
  • They’re expecting you to bring more spend categories under control, to unify how you manage suppliers across all categories, and to help bring direct and indirect spending together with services and T&E to increase visibility into all your spend.

They want more, and there’s an easy way to deliver and manage every source and every category of spend in delivering one, unified view.

Unfortunately, the systems most businesses use to manage all of these different spend processes can create barriers between spend categories and keep people from working together. Intelligent Spend Management, on the other hand, is a strategy designed to bring those barriers down, so you can get visibility into and control over each and every area of spend. In one place.

Why Intelligent Spend Management Matters

Intelligent Spend Management means comprehensive policy and supplier management. This gives you oversight over indirect and direct suppliers while bringing that same level of discipline to services/external workforce suppliers as well as key travel suppliers.

And, integrated with your ERP system, an Intelligent Spend Management solution creates a common set of spend data — a hub where you can unify and clarify the information. You’ll also be able to:

  • Capture and centralise once-invisible spend like p-card transactions, non-PO invoices and direct travel bookings that used to slip through the cracks in your systems
  • Apply sourcing best practices consistently to all of your suppliers across all categories
  • Centrally manage supplier risk as well as tax and other regulatory requirements

It brings you best-in-class control of each spend category. This means you can manage the entire procure-to-pay process for direct and indirect expenses from a single solution. Imagine being able to:

  • Deliver a guided user experience that makes it easy to follow policy
  • Give users a simple way to make procurement requests, plus tactical purchases directly from suppliers
  • Ensure the suppliers you source, the prices you negotiate and the terms you establish are pulled through right to the point of purchase, so policy compliance becomes everyday practice
  • Capture data from across the process and use AI and machine learning to automate mundane tasks and serve up insight-driven recommendations at critical decision points
  • Strengthen supplier relationships and, ultimately, get more innovation from suppliers to improve how you work and what you deliver

And you can bring that same level of precision, efficiency and user experience for services, your external workforce – and the same level of control.

Presenting a Unified View

You get a unified view of spend. The Intelligent Spend Management solution connects procurement spend data with data from across spend categories, giving you a single, near-real-time view — without having to piece together reports from disparate systems.

This means you, your friends in finance and your supply-chain peers can see where every bit of your budget is going, and help the organisation:

  • Ensure that all spending is in line with corporate policy and priorities
  • Get up-to-date views into your KPIs, so you can adapt accordingly
  • Manage discretionary employee spend before it gets away from you
  • Feed this spend data back into supplier management and fuel stronger negotiations

Intelligent Spend Management breaks down the silos, so companies can control spend across the board.

This is about procurement, but it isn’t simply for procurement. Intelligent Spend Management enables you to work across categories and bring all the data together — so you can bring confidence to your company by bringing certainty to your spending.

This article was written for Procurious by Drew Hofler, VP of Portfolio Marketing for SAP Ariba & SAP Fieldglass.

Why Requisitioning Must Be Part of ERP Conversations

Requisitioning (or asking for what you need) is a key part of the procurement process. So why is it frequently sidelined in ERP discussions?

This article was first published on the Coupa Blog.

Having either implemented or worked with some of the major ERP systems on the market, I think I’m on safe ground when I say, nobody chooses to do requisitioning through their ERP system. They settle for it.

ERP systems are largely built for finance and the controllership. End users are often not taken into account. Their requisitioning modules are notoriously difficult to use, which is too bad because requisitioning is how most non-finance users — aka. everyone else in the company — will interact with the ERP system.

In fact, people putting in requisitions to get what they need to do their jobs represent a large segment of non-finance users feeding data into the ERP. If you burden them with a system they won’t use, or that they’ll use in a sloppy way, your ERP will have data quality issues. To avoid having to settle for ERP requisitioning, it’s to everyone’s benefit for procurement to be part of the ERP discussion, as a strong advocate for the end user.

Advocating for Procurement

I’m not saying that will be easy. As I’ve written previously, organisations need to think more broadly about their whole finance system, which comprises multiple interconnected processes, from sourcing to the point where something is paid for and entered into the record.

The ERP system addresses the back end, and it’s designed for finance to be able to do what they need to do regardless of how the data gets in there.

So, the discussion doesn’t usually extend to the front end—sourcing, contracts, approvals, requisitioning—which is where a lot of that data comes from, because the thinking doesn’t extend that far. It’s not easy to break down these silos.

In situations where I’ve been the advocate for the needs of procurement, I’ve had to fight pretty hard to get that perspective considered and I’ve often been the lone dissenter in the room.

  • Get Real

You need to be a realist. There are always resource constraints, and there’s a hierarchy of needs within finance, and user-friendly requisitioning is never going to be at the top of the list. But when requisitioning is ranked seventh out of six fundable implementation projects, the potential for settling becomes very real. Hello, heavy ERP requisitioning module.

  • Map it out

One way to avoid that mistake is to map out the whole process, because it’s not completely linear. Data flows from one process into one, or several, others. A lot of times an ERP decision is made before these processes are mapped out. But, when you map it all out, it becomes obvious that quality and consistency of requisitioning is critical for getting finance all the data they need to make the ERP system a single source of truth. 

  • Learn the language

The main requirement for a better-than-ERP experience is that the requisitioning system be user friendly. You can’t push a heavy ERP requisitioning system on a marketing associate fresh out of college, or on a seasonal retail worker.

But usability is one of those subjective, soft terms that may not always resonate with the finance audience. To advocate effectively, understand the needs of finance and speak their language. For example, if you’re talking to a controller who is a worldwide tax authority, framing it in terms of compliance and data quality is a much better approach.

  • Not Amazon-like

You also need to break down what you mean by user friendly. Every ERP vendor is going to say their requisitioning module is user friendly. If no one is looking out for non-finance users, that box just gets checked.

How user friendly does it need to be? You’re probably expecting me to say, “It should be as easy to use as Amazon.” I would personally love it if it could be so, but there are different requirements for business buying that for consumer buying. But, it can be much easier than most ERP requisitioning modules make it.

A good system approaches requisitioning broadly. It’s not just asking people to fill out purchase orders. It should really be a way for an employee to get anything they need to do their job. In fact, I’d rather they didn’t have to even use the words ‘purchase order’ or ‘requisition.’  We’re simply helping them buy things.

Ideally, they should be able to click a bookmark, get to a portal and then get in through a single sign-in. They land on a homepage where they see relevant buying policies and have visibility into all of their transactions

There should be smart search capabilities, tailored towards a user who is probably somewhat resistant to using the system. They can’t get irrelevant results, or come up empty. They have to be able to quickly find what they want, or find out how to get it.

If it’s a catalogue item, the actual policy pops up, which will guide them how to buy it. If they need a new computer monitor, maybe it comes back and says, “OK, you have to log a ticket for IT because they do provisioning.” Or if nothing is there, it will guide them towards making a free form request. But they don’t even need to know these terms. All they need to know is what they want.

Heavy and Cluttered

In contrast, the requisitioning modules of the major ERP systems are often heavy. The home page may be cluttered with lots of finance information that’s not relevant. The email notifications can be complex and confusing.

There are a lot of fields to fill in so finance can get all the codes and data it needs – provided the would-be requisitioner doesn’t take one look at it, decide it would be faster just to run down to their local Staples store, and expense the darn thing. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you settle.

There are good reasons why requisitioning is not the top priority in the ERP discussion, but neither is it right for it to have no presence or priority. The real impact of user-friendly requisitioning is better data and better compliance.

To make sure your company doesn’t settle, somebody needs to advocate for all the people who aren’t in the room, but are going to have to use the system, and convince finance to give it the proper priority.

The ideal situation is that requisitioners don’t have to think about finance at all—or procurement for that matter. The irony is that to accomplish that, the folks in finance have to get together with procurement and think hard about requisitioning.