b-pack: Packing It In for A Brave New World, Part I

Who says the French aren’t revolutionary anymore? Last year, Ivalua decided to cross the Atlantic to try and conquer the North American procurement market. Now, short on their heels, b-pack, a company that’s also been around for 10 years, and which also has a large number of clients (across 20 industries they have over 80 clients), has also made the crossing in their effort to conquer what they call the “purchase-to-pay and process optimization” marketplace. But, most importantly, like Ivalua, b-pack also has one of the broadest e-Procurement suites on the market.

Just when you thought the e-Procurment market was getting stale (and with the exception of Coupa — who seem to have their head in the clouds lately, it has been pretty unexciting for the past year or two), along come the French who are determined to bring another bohemian revolution to the world of Procurement and P2P with extensive solutions that actually close the loop!

Realizing that it’s more than just requisitions, catalogs, and invoices, and that standalone systems that do not take you from procurement through purchase through receipt, payment and supplier management to begin the cycle anew, offer little in the way of value, b-pack brings with it a suite of solutions that take you from the start of a traditional sourcing cycle (RFx), through a contract, to a requisition (which may be from a catalog), against a budget, to receipt (which can include asset tracking information), and an invoice, to payment, reporting, and supplier management. And it has a number of supporting modules that are unique compared to most of the competition (but that will be the subject of the next post).

The solution can be delivered as a traditional behind-the-firewall solution, as a traditional hosted ASP solution, or as a cloud-based service (new version only) and can be deployed out-of-the-box or it can be custom configured (and extended) by b-pack, who have designed the solution on top of a configurable workflow management engine and who have a decade of experience customizing solutions for their clients, which include La Poste and Danone (Bl├ędina).

We’ll start with the foundational modules — catalogs, requisitions, budgeting, receiving, invoicing, and reporting — since that’s the functionality that you need day in and day out, and since everything else depends upon the raw data collected in the basic P2P process. All of the functional modules are tightly integrated and accessed through the user’s home page, which maintains the user’s to-do list.

Requisitions are straight forward. You create a new document, give it a priority, define a needed-by date, select the company, cost centre, and ship to location, and then select your items. Items can be selected from commodity catalogs, custom catalogs, or user defined entries, and can be bought against a contract in the system or off-contract. If the requisition is within the buyer’s spending limit, a purchase order is automatically generated, if not, it goes to the designated approver. Once approved, a PDF purchase order is created which can be automatically sent to the supplier if e-orders are permitted, and, if not, printed and faxed. If the supplier is e-enabled, the system will automatically record the supplier’s confirmation of receipt. When the goods arrive, receipt can be recorded against the purchase order, and when all the goods have been received, the purchase order can be marked as closed.

When the invoice is received, it is recorded in the system. It can be received electronically if the supplier supports the right protocol, or manually entered by the recipient. The invoice is then automatically matched against the PO, and if discrepancies are detected, the user is immediately notified (who can initiate a dispute to correct the invoice). If not, the invoice can be marked for payment, and once paid, closed.

Once a payment is made, the user’s budget totals are updated, which tracks the total amount the user has spent, invoiced, ordered, and requested against her budget for the period. All of this information is immediately available to the user and her supervisor(s) through the budget reports.

Reporting allows the user to query purchase orders, invoices, budgets, and contracts (which are indexed by metadata and record relevant product and service information) at any time (and for any time period, or set of) at user, department, and company level. And in addition to tracking all of the users, departments, and company units (NA, Europe, Asia, etc.), the system also maintains all of the relationships which allows it to automatically generate workflows (for approvals and routings) and rollups for financial reporting purposes.

In other words, the foundations are precisely what you’d expect from a modern P2P solution that attempts to close the loop. In the next post we’ll dive into b-pack‘s supplementary models that offer some more powerful, and unique, features that bring value above and beyond that which is normally offered through a basic P2P platform.

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