Tag Archives: spend management

6 Top Tips for Collecting Legal Spend Data from Law Firms

Do you have the data you need to understand your spend on legal services? It’s not about the volume of data, it’s about the quality of the reporting.

legal spend

Very few organisations have the granularity of legal spend data they need – they often think they are capturing this information or can get it from their internal systems.

However, when it comes to trying to use this data for a panel review or any kind of spend management project, most organisations very quickly realise their data in inconsistent, limited and simply does not offer the level of detail they require.

Organisations, therefore, often turn to their law firms to provide management information to allow a better understanding of spend levels, cost averages and, to a degree, law firm performance.

Here are our top tips for efficiently collecting this data.

1. Clarity on your reporting requirements

Start at the end. What reports do you want to see created from the raw data? Be ruthless in listing the real drivers for your project. From this, make a list of the key data fields you will need to create these reports.

2. Stick to the above!

It is very tempting to add more and more data fields to your list as your project continues. Very few organisations can actually handle the amount of data they capture, and by handle we mean put to a practical use within your organisation.

3. Be honest and practical

Few organisations have unlimited resources. You need to stick to a core list of reporting requirements. Too often this kind of project is started and balloons into something all-encompassing, becoming impossible to complete.

4. Complete the project

This, again, seems simple but often this kind of project is abandoned or the vast amount of data captured is out of date by the time the analysis is undertaken.

5. Ensure law firm consistency

Ensure you have empowered someone to manage the law firms and insist the law firms comply with this new format. Law firms are known to tweak data fields to suit their internal system.

If the firms provide different data sets it means you can’t accurately compare performance.

6. Some analysis is better than nothing

This really underpins all the above. Have a core list of reports and collect the least amount of data to ensure you can create these reports.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you will fix all problems in one data capture. Data is quickly out of date and you do not want to waste everyone’s time.

What to Report On

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some reports you can create using your spend data.

  • Spend by firm – an obvious metric as you need to know the overall spend by firm.
  • Spend or hours by timekeeper – this metric allows you to accurately perform ‘make versus buy’ decisions. For example, whether hiring more lawyers internally would be more cost effective than using external firms. You would also need to consider liability risks associated with this approach.
  • Spend by matter type – you need to understand this to understand the types of legal work being performed (is it M&A work, employment work, etc.).
  • Spend type (fees or expenses) – it is important to understand how much of the spend is on lawyers versus other expenses, and what those expenses are.
  • Number of matters – this allows you to look at overall volume relative to spend. Is spend increasing because matters have increased XX per cent or has the matter mix changed? For example, M&A matters are more expensive, raising overall cost.
  • Spend by matter – this metric allows you to review the big spending matters to see if there is anything you can do to reduce costs.
  • Timekeeper level – this metric allows you to look at the level of lawyer performing the work so you can analyse the efficiency of the lawyer.

Caroline O’Grady is a legal services procurement expert and a parner at Coote O’Grady, a specialist Legal Procurement Consultancy.

Top 10 Trends for Spend Control & Procurement Automation

With the final months of 2016 fast approaching, it can only mean one thing – planning for 2017 is fiercely underway. In this article, we look into next year and share insights into how Spend Control and eProcurement Automation will evolve.

trends in spend control

These are not the macroeconomic trends you’ll hear from the large consulting companies. Nor are they the ‘who’s going to buy who’ predictions from the technology analysts. These are the trends that PROACTIS is seeing and hearing in our customer base, and in the companies we’re talking with every day.

We are participating in some of these trends, and we are even leading the charge on a couple. Some are not really even trends yet – some are just growing topics of discussion.

But these are all things real procurement professionals and real finance managers are thinking about, and doing today, as they move forward in their quest for world class Spend Control. Below is a summary of the top 10 trends for 2017.

  1. The Rise of Procurement 2.0

Procurement is rapidly moving away from what was once a personality-centric function where senior procurement professionals did a lot of the work themselves, did a lot of the work manually, and did a lot of the work using mainly the knowledge they had amassed from years in the profession.

  1. End-to-End eProcurement – Plugging the Gaps

Driven by the changing expectations of Procurement, there is now a growing vision of what ‘end-to-end’ procurement looks like and a conscious effort to move toward that vision. More organisations are moving to ‘source-to-settle’ solution suites to achieve maximum Spend Under Management.

  1. A Growing Focus on Supplier Collaboration

Few organisations really have the breadth, depth and quality of supplier information needed to do all the things they need to do.

As procurement organisations move through the Spend Control journey, they are recognising that one of the fundamental requirements for success is to have a solid, sustained handle on their supplier base. They are realising that supplier information is the lifeblood of Procurement.

  1. A Stronger Requirement for Buyers to be ‘Easy to do Business With’

Organisations that have put in place a solid Supplier Management cloud framework (which typically includes a supplier portal) are seeing that they can leverage this new capability to improve supplier interaction and commerce. This makes it easier for buyers and suppliers to do business.

  1. Cloud-Based Procurement will Remain – and for Good Reason

After looking at the options, the more organisations are opting for cloud-based options to solution licensing, deployment and management. Traditional software licensing, on-premise installation, and in-house technical management just don’t make sense anymore.

  1. Blurring the Line Between Software and Services

We have started to see more organisations combine software-as-a-service and associated people services into a broader solution to meet particular needs. For example, cleaning supplier records, sourcing specific categories of spend, and turning paper invoices into eInvoices.

  1. A CPO Mantra: Think Strategically, Act Tactically

Even procurement leaders with a clear end-to-end Spend Control vision are recognising that the war against excess cost and risk is generally won one battle at a time. Nothing big is ever accomplished in ‘one fell swoop’ and world-class Spend Control is a big thing.

  1. A Growing Recognition of the True Cost of ‘Shelfware’

Many larger organisations have made the move to one of the mega Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Financial Management systems. However, often the procurement modules aren’t fit for purpose and become ‘shelfware’ – software that’s just sitting on the shelf unused to any meaningful extent.

Organisations are recognising that if they are going to be successful, they must insist upon getting the right tools. And if they have to branch out from the ERP mother ship to do so, they will.

As a result, more companies are taking action and adopting integrated best-in-class applications.

  1. A Better Understanding of the Limitations of “Simple Self-Service Shopping”

Everyone agrees that employee adoption is a key factor in the success of a purchase-to-pay roll-out. The faster and more intuitive the experience, the more spend that’s likely to go through the system.

The problem is that it doesn’t do a lot of good to put spend through a P2P system if that system does not lead employees to purchase from approved suppliers using negotiated pricing and service agreements.

More organisations are now looking closely at how their solutions are going to help with all aspects of increasing Spend Under Management.

  1. The Importance and Value of Integration

No eProcurement system should exist in a vacuum. And no existing information systems environment is a blank sheet of paper.

More organisations are integrating their eProcurement solutions with a wider range of systems in order to create a single Spend Control umbrella over all aspects of enterprise-wide spend.

To find out more, download the full paper ‘Procurement Automation 2017: Key Trends & Hot Topics’.

Unifying Procure to Pay: A Leadership Challenge for the CPO

It might seem obvious, but removing silos in the procure to pay process can ensure spend optimisation. But it’s people, not technology, that hold the key.

Silos Procure to Pay

Imagine you were just elected mayor of your city, with a mandate from the voters based on an ambitious agenda that includes cutting costs. You’ve promised to streamline programs, increase transparency and work to a set of measurable success criteria which you laid out in your campaign.

You know there will be challenges. But, when you roll up your sleeves and get to work, you start to have some rude awakenings.

You realise there’s a section in the city that has its own budget and runs its own services, because it’s in a special tax jurisdiction. And there’s a powerful labour union that dictates wages, job duties and hiring across the city.

You also find you can’t get accurate reports because data resides in separate systems that don’t talk to each other – and neither do the people who run them. You realise that, more than anything, the bureaucracy and the politics that have grown up around it are what shape how business is done.

The success of your initiatives, and the city as a whole, are your responsibility, and you’ll be held accountable. But you don’t have full visibility into, or control over, what happens. Accomplishing your goals under these circumstances is going to be a real leadership challenge.

Mayor of Spend Management

That’s what it’s like being the head of a procurement organisation today. You lead the official buying organisation, but the employees in your organisation will buy based on the easiest process available to them. If there’s a contract in place and you make it easy, they’ll buy against the contracts you’ve negotiated. If not, they’ll buy what they need on their p-card or credit card, and expense it. Or they’ll go out and make deals on their own and an invoice will just show up.

But spending is spending, no matter how it happens. It all ends up in accounts payable (AP) and the bills get paid. When it comes in through the front door, you have the opportunity to manage and optimise for cost and compliance. But there are also side doors – multiple independent buying processes – for things to get bought and paid for without you knowing it in advance.

This is also a leadership challenge, and one that most procurement leaders face. There’s no one who is accountable for all of the company’s spending. Everything goes through AP, but by the time it gets to them, the money’s already been spent, so they’re just focused on effectively managing the payment process.

The whole spend management process – invoicing, expenses and procurement – should be united under one leader responsible for optimising all of the company’s spending. This head of procure to pay, or chief spend officer, would manage the spend management organisation to a shared set of KPIs.

The Missing P: People

This is not a new idea and it makes sense to most of us. We now have the tools – modern, easy to use spend management suites – to streamline the process from end to end and enable data sharing to make each part more efficient. For example, everybody’s expensing the new iPad? Procurement gets an alert: Hey, maybe you should source that.

What has made this such a tall mountain to climb isn’t the lack of technology to support a unified process. It’s that most organisations don’t have alignment of their people. Even the best technology won’t fix everything if procurement and AP aren’t working together and aligned to the same goals.

Bringing the people together is a perfect leadership challenge for procurement to take on.

Think about it. Over the past few decades, the profile of the procurement profession has been rising. The average level of education and certification has been rising. The amount of spending that they’re managing is increasing. Procurement departments took centre stage during the great recession—not just cutting costs, but leading new strategic initiatives for their companies.

There’s a feeling in procurement that the profession hasn’t yet achieved the status it deserves. There’s still a lot of talk about striving to be seen as strategic, and to have a seat at the table with top leadership. Striving to ascend, as Tim Cook did at Apple, from procurement to CEO.

Executive Level Challenge

Here is your chance. We know there’s huge business value that companies can achieve from uniting procurement and AP in the procure to pay process – value far greater than the sum of automating each separately.

The world is changing faster than ever, and becoming more connected. In the consumer world, we have visibility and data everywhere; in the business world, not so much. You can see your Uber approaching on your smartphone but you can’t see where your invoice is in the payment cycle.

Your watch or wristband can tell you how many steps you’ve taken today, but you can’t tell how many orders have been placed against a contract. Your dishwasher can order its own soap from Amazon, but employees in many companies can’t even figure out the best way to buy a stapler.

Businesses need to achieve the same levels of visibility, efficiency and control in every area of their business in order to meet rising expectations and to stay competitive. A unified, automated spend management operation does that for spending.

If procurement wants to ascend to the heights it aspires, it can show leadership by spearheading the effort to tear down the silos between buying and paying so that someone, a chief spend officer, a head of procure to pay, a head of business services – it really doesn’t matter what you call them – can finally be responsible and accountable for making sure all of spend is optimised. Someone can finally be mayor of spend city.

Coupa are one of the sponsors of the Big Ideas Summit, to be held in London on April 21st. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

The Smart Way to Buy Your First ERP System

You might not realise it, but you could be making a common mistake when buying your first ERP system.

ERP System

When should a growing company start thinking about a formal, automated spend management program? At the same time you get your first ERP system. The two go hand in hand, but most companies put an ERP system in place and then, when they get to about 800 or so employees, they start thinking about automating spend management, starting with e-procurement and e-invoicing.

A little further down the road, they start thinking about systems for budgeting, travel, employee stock administration and maybe analytics.

The problem with thinking about all these systems separately and sequentially is that instead of thinking about the optimal way to handle each function, you’re thinking about how to solve each problem within the constraints of the systems you already have.

It’s like building a house without a set of plans, one room at a time. It’s an inefficient way to build, and you’re going to end up with a pretty funky floor plan.

You can save time and money, and gain a competitive advantage, by thinking about your finance system as a whole, and drawing up a set of plans for building it from the foundation up, starting with ERP and spend management.

It all starts with invoicing

Your finance system really starts when you start paying invoices. What most growth companies do is buy QuickBooks or some other inexpensive entry-level software to do that, and then shift their focus back to sales and revenue.

As the company grows, it becomes evident that this entry-level system is no longer meeting the company’s needs so they start thinking about an ERP system. These days that doesn’t have to be a multi-million dollar undertaking. Cloud ERPs such as NetSuite can work for businesses as small as 40-50 people, and they can scale up to work for as many as 100,000 people.

So, the CFO or Controller spearheads an effort to get an entry-level ERP system to address core financials, and then, once again, they shift focus back to sales and revenue.

The ‘flip the switch’ myth

Spend management – most notably, e-procurement and e-invoicing – are what people typically tackle next, but most postpone thinking about them until they get there. Or they think, “the ERP system has some requisitioning and invoicing functionality. We’ve got the license and we’ll just flip the switch on those when we need them.”

If only it were that easy.

Yes, many ERP systems do some basic requisitioning and e-invoicing. But their functionality will not come close to satisfying requirements for effectively managing spend, and there’s too much they don’t do, such as sourcing and contracts.

Flipping the switch will only expose those decisions you didn’t make at the outset. Don’t fall into the “flip the switch” trap. Nobody intentionally uses the requisitioning in their ERP to manage spend – they settle for it.

Or, they figure out they need more functionality than the ERP provides and launch an entirely new initiative to vet spend management solutions. But it could have all been figured out at the point where you went from QuickBooks to NetSuite, without taking too much more time, money and resources.

ERP and those first pieces of spend management should be done all at once, so bring procurement and AP to the table for that discussion. Not only will you make a better buying decision, but you’ll have an opportunity to streamline the implementation process.

It will only take fractionally longer to implement both at once, but if you do your ERP implementation and then come back later to implement spend management, you’ll end up doing a lot of the same work over.

A Biggish Bang

There might be reasons to do it that way, but those have to be weighed against the fact that when it comes to your financial management system, it’s not “if” but “when.” It makes more sense to implement ERP and spend management solutions together in a biggish bang because like peanut butter and chocolate, they’re even better together.

Spend management is a low impact, high return insertion that will make your ERP implementation better. The procurement piece can create all the purchase orders that get pushed into the ERP, where you’ve already got the right categories and accounting codes.

Why wouldn’t you want to feed your ERP good, clean data to begin with, in an easy way that people can use and understand? With the cloud, it doesn’t matter if you only have twenty people buying things, or if you’re only doing a few hundred invoices a month.

You probably won’t automate your whole financial system right out of the gate, but you should still think it through and draw a set of plans with the end goal in mind. So, think thrice before you buy that ERP system. Think about the next imminent piece, which is spend management. Think about how you build out from there. You’ll be way ahead of the competition that’s doing it the way we’ve always done it.

You’re not going to have a lot of messes to clean up because you set it up right from the outset, and you’ll be paying a lot less for transactional processing than the competition.