Tag Archives: procurement solutions

Does Insurance Against Failure Really Keep You Covered?

Is it really worth taking out insurance against system failure? Is the true value in a system that works first time, all the time?

space launch insurance

Download ‘Parting the Clouds‘, Smart by GEP’s latest whitepaper, to understand the difference between Cloud Solutions and SaaS Software.

There was a debate in the office that ran for a while when we were putting together the white paper that’s associated with this post.

“Yes,” said one camp, “we understand that there are technical, operational and architectural differences between Cloud and SaaS, but so what?”

In other words, why should Procurement care how their software “solution” is delivered to them, as long as it works?

“Fair point” said the others, “but if we believe the cloud model is inherently more secure, robust and future-proofed than the other, should we not call out that distinction?”

“Again,” came the response “if a SaaS implementation is backed by the necessary service level agreements from the supplier, what’s the difference?”

And that is when the subject of insuring space launches came up.

Bear with me.

Can Insurance Really Cover Everything?

Insurance is what we’re talking about, of course. Ensuring your Procurement operation can carry out the business at hand without interruption or disruption is a primary goal of selecting the right software system. The SLAs in the contract with the vendor are what comprise that insurance policy.

As is the case with everything in the insurance world, the greater the degree of protection you want, the higher the premiums.  But there is also a matter of the risk.

Seven per cent of satellites and spacecraft fail at launch. Recently some fairly dramatic launch failures have made the news. The ones that really make the headlines are those that involve the destruction of a payload that teams of scientists have been working on for years.

You can almost feel the despair and horror of watching a decade’s hard work destroyed in mere seconds.

Usually, but not always, these payloads are insured against multiple possible eventualities. Launch failure, failure on deployment, failure on landing – as in the case of the recent ESA Mars mission. Naturally the premiums are immense to insure an interplanetary mission. Often the insurance by no means covers the ultimate cost of the failure.

The many millions paid out after a launch failure may cover some of the financial stake invested by the agencies funding the project. However, there is essentially nothing that can recover the loss of the science that was to be delivered. The physical and material can be replaced, but the loss of the results is absolute.

Don’t Insure Against Failure – Do It Right First Time!

A far better form of insurance for space launches is a system that doesn’t go wrong. This is in fact the calculated risk taken in many projects. Catastrophic failure cannot be mitigated with cash, so better to spend the insurance premiums on building something that won’t explode.

And this is why it seemed an appropriate metaphor for the kind of SLA insurance under discussion. It’s all very well having the on-paper insurance for failure coverage, but that’s of little consequence if the financial value of the pay-out can do nothing to mitigate the real cost.

This is why, then, we feel there is a clear distinction between different interpretations of what “cloud” actually means. The fundamental underlying scalability, security, robustness and other forms of risk really should be considered when making a genuinely informed decision.

Comparing vendor contracts like for like you may see the same SLAs – system availability, uptime and access. But without a doubt the benefit of an SLA is in never having to rely on it.

If your procurement technology fails, are you really covered against all the potential losses? What risks should you be considering when adopting new Cloud technology?

Download Smart by GEP‘s latest whitepaper, ‘Parting the Clouds to find out all you need to know.

The Efficiency Value of a Marketplace Approach

Procurement talks a good game when it comes to efficiency. However, few are walking the walking when it comes to taking real action.

marketplace-efficiency

This is the second in a three-part series of posts. If you missed my first, ‘Instant Access to Supplier Information a Step Change for Procurement Productivity’, click here to read it.

In that post, I presented a challenge to anyone who assumes that having technology guarantees progress. Make sure your technology is earning its keep and not just putting your inefficient, manual methods online.

In this post, I’m going to take the same approach to efficiency.

What is Real Efficiency?

We talk a lot about efficiency in procurement, but we take very few steps to actually improve it. Real efficiency is more than doing more with less. It is also about timing. Sometimes, doing the same task at a different time increases the impact potential of the effort behind that task.

Take risk management or risk mitigation as an example. Addressing risk should be an active part of the sourcing process, not something to be managed afterwards. While risk information is readily available, sometimes what procurement really needs to know what their peers think of a supplier.

That is why tealbook combined internal supplier knowledge, data from Dun & Bradstreet, and aggregate intelligence from your industry peers into each supplier profile. Adding a peer view to the supplier discovery process not only makes it more robust, it significantly increases the trust factor for everything procurement learns.

Addressing risk early is critical. Two of the first opportunities procurement gets to mitigate risk arise during the supplier discovery process:

1. Inviting more qualified suppliers to participate in the sourcing process improves the final award decision.

You’re always going to lose some suppliers to disqualification or elimination. Investing in the discovery process up front decreases the fall-off rate, and ideally presents the team with a larger number of more qualified suppliers to negotiate with and consider for contracts.

2. Looking at supplier-related risk factors before the sourcing process begins makes it possible for procurement to push back on requirements if they are too confining.

Procurement tries to be good about collecting risk information in RFx’s, but many times it is too late to change the direction of a project based on what the team learns from suppliers.

By doing an early assessment of the available pool of suppliers and their relative risk before going to market, procurement creates an opportunity to widen the pool of prospective suppliers.

Making Efficiency Proactive

In addition to thinking about the timing of tasks and what impact that has on efficiency, procurement needs to look for opportunities to combine activities.

If you are going to conduct a supplier discovery exercise anyway, why not search a platform that incorporates third party risk data in addition to supplier information and buyer knowledge? tealbook incorporates D&B information into supplier profiles so procurement see which suppliers offer the product or service they are looking for in one place.

Taking efficiency to a more proactive level, why not pre-vet hundreds (or thousands!) of suppliers across a wide range of categories? With the right technology and information, procurement could, in essence, create a custom virtual marketplace of suppliers that are ready to bid at any given time.

A broad approach drives efficiency because the suppliers are already vetted and risk is moved up in the process without adding a step or a delay. This is an ideal application of technology because it enables something procurement can’t do on their own on the same scale.

Value creation goals notwithstanding, good procurement teams want competition as well. Without the supplier discovery pre-work being done, procurement is stuck with the same old suppliers time and time again.

And there is nothing efficient or strategic about that. Marketplaces are certainly not a new idea, but they are a path to efficiency that we should look for ways to improve.

Now that I’ve shared my point of view on scalable technology and marketplace efficiency, I’m going to wrap this series of posts with an optimistic view of procurement’s forward looking potential.

Gregg Brandyberry is a recognised pioneer in procurement and sourcing technology. He has over 40 years experience in industries such as automotive, textile, manufactured goods, electronics and healthcare.
He is the former Vice President of Procurement – Global Systems and Operations for GlaxoSmithKline, and a Senior Advisor for A.T. Kearney’s Procurement and Analytic Solutions organisation.

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.

Taking the Global Pulse of Procurement

How do you take the global  pulse of procurement and understand key current trends? Here’s a survey that helps do just that.

Global Pulse of Procurement

Zycus recently published their 2016 Pulse of Procurement report, an annual survey and report that highlights key procurement trends around the world.

The report draws on the thoughts and inputs of 650 procurement leaders worldwide, helping to draw valid, statistical conclusions across a number of topics.

The key areas of discussion in the 2016 report include:

  • The present state of procurement
  • The role of procurement technology
  • Hot current trends of procurement
  • The future of procurement

With participation in the survey increasing year on year, and the consumption of the report also increasing, it’s becoming one of the key information sources for procurement leaders. Procurious caught up with Richard Waugh, VP Corporate Development at Zycus, to talk through some of the key messages in 2016.

Procurement Technology 
Adoption vs. Satisfaction

One of the key findings Richard highlighted in this year’s report was the disparity between the high adoption of, but low satisfaction with, procurement technology.

In European countries all of the components of procurement technology have more than 50 per cent adoption. Core technologies such as P2P, eSourcing, Contract Management and Spend Analysis above 70 per cent.

However, only 1 in 5 survey respondents believed their technology solution was best in class or state of the art. One of the key reasons behind this, is that procurement are often left with a version of a legacy system, leading to low satisfaction.

Richard stated that, “These ‘best of breed’ procurement systems do exist, but it’s really only in the e-Sourcing area that state of the art tools are more prevalent.

“There is still a pent up demand for these best in class tools. These would help organisations make a step-change in performance, but many organisations are forced to make do with what they have.”

Supplier Performance Management

Richard believes that having the tools and technology available to enable closer collaboration with suppliers, will in turn drive innovation. These tools can help to measure the value of contributions that suppliers can bring to the table.

Richard stated that the more advanced procurement teams are already using technology to get closer to their supply base, and bring forward the best ideas for profit enhancement.

In addition to this, automation and procurement technology can help to significantly reduce manual, transactional activities, helping procurement get more from their resources, and at the same time enable the profession to be more strategic.

Spend, Perception & Risk
Spend Under Management

The Pulse of Procurement report also highlighted encouraging signs in the management of enterprise spend by procurement. In 2016, 26 per cent of the respondents have achieved an average of 80 per cent of spend under management.

These best in class performers have gone down the path of better stakeholder management and involvement. This allows them to access traditional ‘sacred cows’ of marketing, legal and IT spend.

However, according to Richard, there is still room for improvement. “The weighted average is only 57 per cent spend under management. If you’re average, you’re barely getting over 50 per cent of your spend managed.”

Perception

The report supports the idea that procurement is more of a strategic partner for the business now in many regions. This positive perception, and better visibility with stakeholders is more important, particularly in light of budget pressures.

In Europe, 9 out 10 leaders highlighted a positive perception of procurement by the C-suite. However, this region also has the greatest budget pressure. The majority of European respondents said that procurement budgets for 2016 were either flat or declining. This has led to teams being asked to do more with the same, or more with less.

In Asia-Pacific, the strategic role of procurement is still developing. Richard said, “There is an opportunity for Asia-Pacific to catch up this lag. As you start to manage the spend, the possibilities for savings are better. In fact, the savings goals for procurement are actually highest in this region as they address these categories for the first time.”

Risk

For the first time, supplier risk management fell out of the top 5 priorities for procurement in North America, although it remained in the top 5 in Europe. While this is probably reflective of the current macro-economic conditions in Europe (Brexit; political instability), it does show a potentially short-sighted approach in North America.

In better economic conditions, it’s easy to let risk fall down the ladder. And with less volatility in America, even with a Presidential election coming up, organisations may have changed their focus. However, as Richard states, now is not the time to take your eye off the ball on risk.

“The more mature procurement organisations are doing a better job of managing supply risk. They realise the cyclical nature of risk and the potential for a downturn, and understand the need to be more prepared. However, there is still a significant component who are tactically focused, and dealing with the current reality, rather than looking ahead.”

Pulse of Procurement

Finally, we asked Richard why procurement professionals should download the Pulse of Procurement report. For Richard, it was as simple as saving yourself time with data analysis, and getting a better view of the world outside your organisation.

“For most organisations, everyone is stretched, doing more with less. People tend to have a myopic view of what’s going on in their organisation, without seeing the bigger picture. They can’t readily benchmark themselves against the wider function.

“The Pulse of Procurement report gives you the chance to have data synthesised for you, and to gain some context as to how you compare to the function overall. This then allows you to see where you are leading and lagging in comparison.”

You can download the Pulse of Procurement report on the Zycus website. For more information on how to be involved with the next Pulse of Procurement survey, contact Zycus.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #5 – Eliminating Supplier Enablement

Gabe Perez believes that procurement needs to move towards real-time services, and eliminate traditional supplier enablement processes.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Gabe Perez, Vice President, Strategy & Market Development at Coupa Software, believes now is the time for procurement eliminate supplier enablement, and move towards the real-time services we have in our personal lives.

Gabe also believes that it’s now time for procurement, and the wider corporate world, to refocus their objectives to place value at the centre of all activities, as well as create and participate in open networks where collaboration can thrive.

Catch up with all the thought leadership and ours delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

If you want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016, and what we have planned for 2017, you can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today, and connect with over 15,500 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

The Surprising Truth – Apps Are Not Enough for Enterprise Mobility

Apps are all the rage, and businesses realise the benefits of having one. But many don’t realise that they need to go beyond an app for true enterprise mobility.

Apps for That

This article was first published on the Coupa Blog.

Apps have been closely associated with mobility since they exploded onto the scene with the launch of the Apple iPhone in 2007, followed by its app store in 2008.

Soon “there’s an app for that” became a running joke, denoting that just about anything that you wanted to do could be done on your phone using an app. We hit peak “app for that” when the American Dialect Society voted app the word of the year in 2010.

There are now millions of apps, and while it’s still true that you can do an amazing number of things with them, it’s also become clear that they have their limitations, especially for business.

Enterprise mobility requires more than just apps. So, when I hear companies announcing a new app with great fanfare, and sweeping claims that this innovation makes their product or solution mobile, I want to sit them down for a chat.

Mobility is a work style, not an app

Here’s what I’d tell them. An app is a must have, but enterprise mobility is a work style, not an app. More than sixty percent of workers are now working outside of the office at least part of the time. Apps are just one way of enabling them. True mobility is about letting people do business in the fastest, most efficient way possible, wherever they are, and that’s not always by using an app.

Apps present opportunities and challenges for the enterprise. A really good app, one that transforms a business process and makes it dead simple, can be highly addictive.

For example, I am on the go constantly. I couldn’t live without the Amazon app, because I place an order almost every day. I don’t even have time to even go to a local store for books and scissors for my kids, so I use the app to order wherever I am when I realise I need something.

My friend Lynn is also an Amazon fan, but she works from home or Starbucks, and uses one-click ordering on her laptop. She has never even downloaded the app.

Real challenge of enterprise mobility

It’s the same in the business world. This is the challenge of enabling true enterprise mobility: it’s multi-faceted.

Yes, you have to have a mobile app, and you have to invest in making it awesome, but an app can never match the desktop experience for managing a complex business process end to end.

And, if people still need to log in to the desktop application for all or part of a process, there has to be a really compelling reason for them to also download and use an app. If they can do something in some other way that is easier and faster than installing an app, they will.

On the other hand, for people who have to perform a particular process every day, or multiple times a day, downloading the app will seem like a small price to pay for a big increase in efficiency. They will naturally want to use it, and they’ll be raving fans.

Outside of these power users, the app will be irrelevant and they’ll never even download it. That’s why you have to give them other mobility options, such as mobile responsive design for tablets, smartphones and wearables, and my favourite, actionable email notifications. Yes, email.

Killer apps

What’s so great about email? You’d be hard pressed to find a business person who doesn’t have it on their smartphone and use it every day. So, if you can serve up something in an email and the user can take action without logging into a software system, and without having to set up a new account or go to an app, that’s a great mobility experience for most users.

We see this reflected in platform usage data at Coupa. Approving purchase orders is a common mobile use case. Not requiring approvers to be in the office to approve purchase orders has a huge impact for most companies, cutting PO turnaround time from an average of two or three weeks to 17 hours, the average across all our customers. But our data shows that most approvals are done via email, not by app, even though we offer both choices.

The same holds true for suppliers. The vast majority of suppliers only get a few POs from a customer, and invoice once per month. For these suppliers, downloading an app to turn a PO into an invoice is an exercise that adds to enablement effort without yielding benefit. If you give your supplier an option to get all the data they need, at their fingertips via email, without requiring an app, the vast majority of suppliers will choose this option.

Does that mean the app is no good? No. But why go to another app to do what you could do in the app you’re already in? Most people won’t do it.

Quest for Innovation

But for people who do have dozens of purchase orders to approve every day, or business traveler who have multiple expense items to upload, it’s a different story. They use the app because it’s more convenient, and less error-prone, to have everything in one place and process everything at once.

That’s why for the enterprise, equating an app with mobility is wildly optimistic and naive. Innovation in 2016 is not about having an app. Simply having an app for this or that will never be enough.

In this age of personalisation and consumerisation, innovation means continually thinking about end-user experiences and using the latest technology to make business processes easier through any number of channels. It’s giving people options to work how they want, when they want and with as little friction as possible.

That is true enterprise mobility, and so far there’s no app for that.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #3 – Harnessing Cognitive Technology

Barry Ward says that the procurement technology landscape is fundamentally changing and moving towards the use of cognitive technology, impacting the skills required in procurement in the future.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Barry Ward, Procurement Brand Manager, Global Business Services at IBM, believes that, in order for procurement to successfully demonstrate the value it adds to organisations, it will have to bring in the right people, with the right skills, to allow it to harness the power of cognitive technology.

Catch up with all the thought leadership and ours delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

If you want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016, and what we have planned for 2017, you can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today, and connect with over 15,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

The Three Laws of Robotics Aren’t. So What Now?

The Three Laws of Robotics, as created by Asimov, don’t exist. But, as we move to a more automated world, should robots and AI fall under greater oversight?

Automation Robotics

Download the latest GEP white paper on the drive to an automated world here

In my previous post on the subject of the coming era of robotic process automation, I mentioned Asimov’s seminal sci-fi work The Caves of Steel. In it Asimov wrote of The City as the dominant force in human lives of the future:

“The City was the acme of efficiency, but it made demands of its inhabitants. It asked them to live in a tight routine and order their lives under a strict and scientific control.”

Asimov’s suggestion that there is a cost to progress might be seen as prophetic, but I think he was just one of a long line of writers who have warned that the future might be a bit ropey if we just pursue change in the name of progress, for its own sake.

But for all his attempts to conjure a dystopian image, Asimov was fundamentally a “technoptimist” with a repeating theme in his stories that progress would ultimately always be positive. In fact, his philosophy of robotics – and his “three laws” – have been so tightly woven into modern culture that it seems we hardly give a thought to the potential threats to our way of life, and perhaps to our lives from the advent of a totally automated future.

An Automated Future

Without labouring the point too much, the Three Laws of Robotics essentially mean that, in Asimov’s world, robots are inherently safe, trustworthy and beneficial. In fact, it is simply impossible to build a robot that does not comply with the three laws, the very architecture of the robotic AI being hard-wired around them.

It is purest fiction, of course, although to speak to some enthusiasts for the subject, Asimov’s Laws really do exist.  But they really don’t, and that could spell trouble.

Life imitating art is all very well, but there is nothing whatsoever to dictate that an automated future can be assured as a “good thing.”

On the same day as I’m writing this piece, there are two news stories on the BBC website. In one, it is announced that robots will be working in two Belgian hospitals as receptionists, guiding visitors to the correct locations.

In the other, we’re told, a researcher at a university in the USA has built a robot that autonomously decides whether to inflict pain and bodily harm on a live human subject.

That the microcode for the two systems could be somehow swapped, or cross-fertilised, is the stuff of real dystopian sci-fi and, whilst highly implausible, it does raise questions about whether some progress is happening without sufficient oversight.

Robotics & Automation in Procurement

There is disquiet in many circles about the use of drones in warfare, and the step from human-operated to robotic drone is really only a matter of systems integration.

There are no Three Laws to guarantee that AI, robots and automation will be to our benefit.  Yet they may very well be.

There are grounds to be hugely optimistic about what technology can do for us, from carbon capture and storage, to non-polluting safe transportation, to dramatically improved health and longevity in the poorest parts of the world.

Even in our little corner of the world we call Procurement, the sky’s the limit if we want to pursue automation. The potential to dramatically transform how we operate is very great indeed, and only a matter of investment and a few person-years of effort out of our reach.

But in all of this, it seems to me, it is we who should direct and dictate how that progress is delivered and what it actually does.   Instead of being passive consumers and falling in line with the next developments, which may substantially change our working lives, the procurement industry has an opportunity to map out what the future could and should look like, and how we want the machines to work. For us.

GEP Banner

Robotics are the future, and the sky’s the limit for automation in Procurement, say GEP. For more on this, download the latest white paper research.

For more information on high-performing procurement software, visit the Smart by GEP website.

The Fear of Technology in Hospitality

Legacy systems and poor past user experiences are creating a fear around technology in the hospitality industry.

Technology Fear Hospitality

“I think it’s difficult for technology to get to the top of the list of things to do next” said Jane Pendlebury, CEO of HOSPA, in our recent roundtable on the topic of technology in hospitality. And with that, she nailed what I had been dealing with ever since InstaSupply started.

There is always something more pressing that needs attention before looking at a tech solution. Even if that tech solution will save you, or make you the money to pay for that other pressing something.

There’s this fear of the unknown that’s keeping a lot of hospitality businesses stuck in the past and relying on tools and systems that for a lot of other industries became obsolete years ago.

Hospitality Lacking Information

Lack of information and education is a key factor here. Peter Hancock, CEO of Pride of Britain Hotels, rightly pointed out that most people involved in the running of a hospitality business aren’t necessarily the “tech-iest” of individuals.

Experience with older systems and their tendency to create rather than solve problems has left a bitter taste in a lot of mouths. Couple that with expensive upgrades that weren’t made clear at the start of the contract and we have an added layer of mistrust.

The result of all this is an industry that’s still heavily reliant on paper, lacking transparency on spending and full of overworked staff. Front of house staff not only have to ensure their guests enjoy a great experience but in many cases handle a lot of finance and procurement tasks that are absolutely outside their job description.

Lightening the Workload

Technology is created to help lighten the workload and improve productivity, not to take away jobs or swindle businesses out of money because they don’t understand what it does.

Just as a washing machine will handle a lot more clothes and get them done a lot better and a lot quicker than you would by hand, so too will the right technology remove manual data entry, managing 145,789 spreadsheets and let you know exactly what you are spending and on what in real time.

Watch our full discussion on the fear of tech here:

InstaSupply is all about working smarter and simplifying business through technology.

InstaTalks are about bringing great minds together and uncovering where the fear of tech comes from when it comes to business operations.

Finding out what the pain points are and then educating people in plain language. No jargon, no small print. It’s time to understand that technology is a revenue generator, not a budget sinkhole. 

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?

ERP Requisitioning

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.