Features you need in e-procurement softwareA brief history of e-procurement sees the solution created to satisfy IBM's need to simplify their complex procurement process way back in 2000. Fast forward to today, and e-procurement software solutions abound with a myriad of solutions for companies big and small. But what makes for good e-procurement software, and what features should you be on the lookout for when selecting your solution?
The most fundamental features to look for in an excellent procurement platform are 100% visibility, the elimination of rogue spending and a solution that helps you increase your bottom line. Your chosen spend management solution should satisfy these critical needs. Furthermore, make sure you invest in a solution with features that account for variables like the size of your business, your industry type, and even your location.
Here are the key features to look for in a superior e-procurement platform:
The importance of an easy-to-use interface cannot be overstated. The time (and money) spent in training or acclimating your team to an overly-complicated platform can never be recovered. Your e-procurement system must align with the principle of less is more. A simplified software stack means faster induction at all levels of staff and a more fluid transition that doesn't hinder the daily running of your organization.
As a rule of thumb, aim for end-user training that requires, at best, a couple of hours of your staff's time. Operating your procurement software should be easy; anything complicated will cost you time and resources. Consider a fundamental solution or a modular system. It's not about dumbing down your technology, but rather opting for a platform that offers seamless integration with your current operation.
A flexible, fluid solution is integral to curtail the inevitable hiccups during the transition period when adding additional software to your current stack. Sophisticated e-procurement software seamlessly integrates with your existing software systems in real-time and speeds up your processes. Choose procurement software that speaks directly to your current business systems such as your accounting software.
Make sure to choose a solution that boasts comprehensive, albeit easy-to-create, reporting and churns out critical data such as current budgets.
Fast, flexible deployment
The implementation of some procurement platforms can take months or even years to deploy successfully. But there are enough robust solutions available that are not as cumbersome and can be rapidly deployed. Make sure your e-procurement software has remote access functionality and is mobile responsive, so you (and your team) can work remotely and access the data anywhere at any time.
Flexibility should extend to levels of security in your business where various team members, with limited permissions, can access only the applicable data. Again, this is a no-brainer if you have staff members working remotely.
Reporting and permissions
Choose an e-procurement solution flexible enough to meet the exact needs of your organization - not the other way around. Security functionality must include the creation of permissions and access for specific team members of various pods or levels. The option to segregate your data into categories or even silos, with specified accessibility, means your data won't land in the wrong hands. This feature ensures your data is safe and secure.
Good e-procurement software allows users access to specific dashboards from which they can pull reports. This gives your teams a snapshot of precisely the real-time data they need to see and analyze. Permissions help you to set up and assign approval workflows for team members within your organization.
Approval workflows is an area where so many e-procurement platforms don’t measure up to expectations. Creating custom workflows shouldn't require any additional time or money. Routing requests should be a cinch, based off of any field relevant to your organization, and without the need to hire an external professional to navigate your system.
Workflows should be easily automated and flow from one user to the next. There is no need for manual involvement from the end-user. Your procurement workflows must supply approvers with email notifications every step of the way.
With an efficient approval workflow system, your time to approve purchase orders drastically reduces, saving you time, money and resources as the process is fully automated.
Visibility of budget is critical as it allows everyone involved to make informed purchasing decisions, like where to source purchases or who signs off on them.
Budget features are crucial as they display the amount of money left in the budget even before a request is submitted. This gives immediate insight as to whether an item is likely to be approved or not. In the case of a purchase falling outside of budget, these tools should allow you to route requests for additional approval easily. In this way, you can make informed decisions on whether a purchase is essential.
Communication is essential for all stakeholders to know exactly what's happening in the procurement process. Your choice of software solution must offer excellent communication tools to boost your procurement approvals through mobile functionality, automated notifications and real-time alerts.
Choose software that offers transparency to investors and alerts your finance team of transactional activities. With built-in tools like price lists, asking vendors to meet your target pricing provides better insights to these purchasing or sourcing negotiations.
Effective e-procurement solutions offer a single system where all stakeholders - purchase teams, users and managers - have complete visibility of respective dashboards and can communicate and work together on their tasks.
The entire process should be simple, centralized, traceable and fully auditable with competent customer support at the front end.
In this digital age, customer service and communication is vital if you want to instill trust, create rapport, and establish relationships with your clients. The same should apply when choosing an e-procurement software provider.
A proactive e-procurement software sends out alerts for immediate human intervention when the system has hit a wall. To prevent organizational downtime, your software provider must be available to resolve your problem or offer support throughout your procurement processes.
These elements are fundamental to any e-procurement software solution worth its salt. If your current software system is failing you, it may be time to consider options that tick all the boxes and provide an efficient solution to your business-specific procurement needs.
Future-proofing your business includes running procurement processes that last you well beyond the trappings of tech upgrades. A sustainable spend management solution facilitates continuing digital transformation, equips you to handle overwhelming data volumes and contend with the rapid changes in emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI).