For a Good Lesson in e-Procurement System Selection, Ask Discount Tires.

This winter, Chief Executive ran an article on The Synergy Mirage: A Case Study that had a great lesson for every Supply Management team looking to select an e-Procurement system with the intent that anyone in the organization who wants to order something will use it. The lesson was simple:

Customers don’t want to buy new tires. They need to buy new tires. It’s expensive and it takes time out of their day. As a competitor, [Chairman] [Bruce] Halle benefited from making the process somewhat less expensive and taking less of the customer’s time. He also spent extra time cleaning up the shop, including the bathrooms, to make the customer visit a bit more comfortable. Customers appreciated the discount that came with the off-brand products Halle offered, but they also appreciated the opportunity to leave as soon as possible.

Similarly, in your organization:

Administrative assistants don’t want to place re-orders for toner cartridges. Engineers don’t want to have to order new workstations and business analysts don’t want to have to buy reams of papers. And office managers definitely don’t want to order pens. They need toner, computers, paper and pens to do their jobs (and make sure their coworkers can do theirs). Finding the best value for the organization is not their strength and it takes too much time out of their already too busy day. They want a process that is easy and quick. They want to find what they want as fast as possible, place the order, make it someone else’s problem, and get back to their job. And if they have to do it anyway, they would like an experience that is clean, comfortable, and relatively stress free. (And if they have to fill out 17 fracking forms to procure a single pencil they have two choices: pull out their hair and go postal in the classic sense, or just not do it.) They appreciate a tool that simplifies their life and lets them get back to their job as soon as possible.

So if you want to be the organization with 90%+ e-Procurement system penetration (as opposed to the one with 30% to 40% e-Procurement system penetration), you better make sure that whatever e-Procurement system you select is trivially easy to use and designed to make the location and ordering of a particular item quick and easy. Otherwise, you’ll just be buying more shelf-ware. There’s a reason that companies like b-pack, BravoSolution, Coupa, Iasta, and iValua are tearing up the middle market. They get that systems have to be easy to use. And there’s a single reason in particular that BravoSolution is making waves in the Fortune X where only Ariba and Emptoris used to play and that Coupa has reached the upper end of the Mid-Market (and started to sneak into a few Fortune X’s) in five-short years. Their systems are about ease of use. In all of these examples, their systems are about allowing a user to do what they need to do and get back to the more important aspects of their job. And, most importantly, their systems are about customer success.

And that’s also why you are going to see new waves forming in the Fortune X. Companies like hubwoo, IBX, and Wallmedian in particular are each going to make a [big] splash as their focus on helping Fortune X clients stuck on SAP get more value from their ERP system (from a Supply Management Perspective) with a lot less pain is going to start paying off as SAP gets stuck in the Fusion quagmire trying to integrate its latest acquisition. Watch for Wallmedian in particular, a name you’re probably unaware of on this side of Atlantic, to come over and pull a BravoSolution in the Fortune X SAP user base. (Remember when we didn’t know who BravoSolution was on this side of the Atlantic? It wasn’t that long ago and now with Ariba swallowed, they will soon be one of the biggest stand alone names out there in the Supply Management space.)