One of the greatest advantages of the procurement technology available to us today, as opposed to when strategic sourcing first became the mode du jour for ‘upgrading’ tactical enterprise purchasing, is that it can seamlessly cover everything from spend analysis through payment on one platform.
When a platform approach first became possible, it seemed as though switching from ‘best of breed’ point solutions might require procurement to make a sacrifice in terms of functionality or performance. Over time, however, the ability to keep all data, users, and suppliers together in one place has made Source-to-Pay (S2P) platforms a leading contender for strategic technology investment.
But that does not mean all S2P platforms are created equal. For one thing, some platforms have been built through acquisition and require ‘integration’ behind the scenes to function as though they are one. Ideally, a platform will have a single code base and a deliberate architecture that centralizes data to minimize data duplication and the risk of errors.
Here are some areas to focus on when evaluating procurement software:
Ease of Use
First and foremost, the platform needs to work – and work well – if one solution is to meet user expectations beyond procurement. This means that the provider has built strong functionality in all areas by leveraging the knowledge of their leadership and development teams, and by having a healthy respect for the input provided by customers and users. But ‘strong functionality’ is not one thing; it is a highly contextualized concept that requires the platform to be both customizable and flexible. Each company needs something a little different because of their unique combination of industry, business model, size, maturity, and business objectives. As a result, every procurement team and the users they support should be looking for broad functionality that doesn’t try to force them to accept a one size fits all platform in place of a custom-tailored solution.
The advantage definitely goes to a platform vs. a ‘bolt on’ system approach here, but the platform cannot have been designed and developed in a vacuum.
Build a “nice” S2P suite and the world will yawn. Build a platform that consistently delivers against business objectives such as increased spend visibility and an ability to control the companies spend, and they will beat a path to your door.
When information and interface don’t align, it is hard to be certain that procurement has a clear picture of what is being spent, by whom, with whom, and for what. Without that clarity, any attempt to strategically manage spend and supplier relationships will end in frustration and disappointing results.
Alignment with Enterprise Objectives
An end-to-end S2P platform may unify all of the people and processes under procurement’s umbrella, but eventually even that territory reaches an outer boundary. In those places, the platform must be able to integrate with other enterprise systems – from the smallest point solution to the largest ERP system. When procurement’s solution comes together seamlessly with other internal platforms, it not only reduces headaches, it also ensures that procurement’s perspective, efforts and priorities align with those of the enterprise as a whole. Just as e-procurement software can’t be designed without an appreciation for their functional objectives, S2P has to ‘understand’ the part it plays in a much larger landscape – and do everything possible to facilitate the intended results.
The value of working with one company, on one platform, for all procurement technology needs can be measured through ease of use, user adoption, and functionality. The advantage of taking a platform approach – with the right platform and partner – is that the results and intelligence derived from using the system are as expansive as the automation, user groups, and processes it encompasses.