b-Pack: Packing It In for A Brave New World, Part II

Last week, in Part I, we told you how b-pack, hot on the heels of Ivalua, had decided to cross the Atlantic and join in the conquest to bring the bohemian revolution to the world of Procurement and P2P with their extensive solutions that actually close the loop.

As noted in Part I, 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. Plus 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).

Since Part I described the core procurement cycle support in detail — requisition, purchase order, receipt, invoice, payment, and budget update — this part will detail the integrated applications that build on the core capabilities to provide the organization with expense and travel management, asset management, dispute resolution, and procurement business intelligence reporting.

The expense management solution allows you to create a requisition for a trip before you take it, and before you incur the first expense, and have it, and associated expenses within budget, pre-approved. Then, as expenses are incurred, they can be added to the report. When the expense report is complete, it can be submitted for reimbursement. In addition, not only can it be exported to excel for printing or manual submission for a third party, but it can be imported from a predefined template that can be exported from the approved requisition. The expense management solution supports dates, cost centres, invoicing companies, multiple currencies, and notes at a line item level.

The integrated dispute resolution solution can be launched on the receipt of goods, on the receipt of an invoice, or later when an issue is encountered and the dispute can be related to a purchase order, goods receipt, invoice, asset, and/or contract. The dispute can be assigned a type and a level. The supplier is notified by e-mail and alert next time they log into the system. In addition, it appears in the appropriate supplier representative’s todo list until it is addressed. (If they choose to respond by e-mail, the response can be recorded by an individual with the appropriate authority to certify the response came from the supplier.) Once the supplier has responded, the appropriate buyer representative(s) is (are) notified, who can choose to either respond to the supplier, and continue the dispute, or close the dispute.

The asset management system, which is deeply integrated into the system, is also one of the most extensive non-standard modules in the platform. As a result, it’s a considerable value add for organizations that make a considerable number of expensive purchases for internal use that need to be tracked and managed. Asset management starts with the requisition when the user selects a commodity from the integrated catalog where it is assigned a pre-defined asset type. Each asset type is associated with specific properties. Then, when the commodity is received, the receiver can define the asset specific properties — such as serial number, internal tracking number, and assigned user — in addition to overriding the automatically defined fields — such as description, manufacturer part number, and assigned corporate unit. In addition, assets can be linked together. This is especially relevant when assets need to be used together, such as hardware and software. The module also supports specific approval rules, and chains, based on the type of asset … so that IT can review computer purchases, marketing can approve local printer selection, and engineering can approve widgets. In addition, the software maintains a complete assignment history, which is useful in tracking the lifespan of a product — such as a demo unit that gets reassigned to multiple teams over its lifespan. Finally, the asset database is searchable on every attribute, which makes it easy to find assets by type, assignee, department, etc.

This brings us to the procurement business intelligence reporting capability. The reporting module is tightly integrated with the base system and allows you to build your own reports across any data elements in the system using their own visual query builder. Using their application, you can define your own queries that will generate any list or cross-tab report of your choice, with sub-groups and rollups. The visual query builder, which also includes filter support against any pre-defined data grouping built into the system, allows you to select the rows of interest, calculations to be applied against the rows, and functions to be defined. The filters are and-or boolean clauses of arbitrary complexity and any where clause that can be defined in SQL can be defined as a filter. This gives the report builder a significant degree of power. The results can be presented as a table, or, where calculations or formulas are defined, as a chart or graph. The business intelligence is provided by way of built-in trend analysis that allows the user to track trends and define comparisons against baselines, predefined expectations, floors, and ceilings. This allows the user to determine when budgets and spend under management aren’t tracking against expectations and then create custom reports to determine why. Finally, every user can build custom dashboards using any built-in or custom defined report. If the dashboards are designed to identify unexpected trends, this can also be a useful feature.

In summary, b-pack provides a comprehensive P2P e-Procurement solution that also includes some very useful capabilities above and beyond the basic procurement cycle requirements that can provide significant additional value to many buying organizations.

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