Daily Archives: October 1, 2013

b-pack: Taking Root in Their Brave New World, Part II

In Part I, we discussed how b-pack, who packed it in for a brave new world (Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV) back in 2010, crossed the Atlantic in their quest to spread some of their French Procurement bohemian revolution to the rest of the world, bringing with them a suite of Procurement 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. Three years ago their Procurement suite, which also included document management, expense and travel management, asset management, inventory management (which is integrated with asset management), fleet management, dispute resolution, a supplier portal and procurement business intelligence reporting in a solution that was extensively internationalized, was one of the most in-depth solutions available, and it has been developed considerably since then.

In the past three years b-pack has added (or significantly improved) (collaborative) contract authoring and advanced contract management (coming out in the next release this quarter), advanced requisitioning and services procurement, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) integration, project management and project support across requisitions and budgets, an enhanced collaboration portal, a GPO (Group Purchasing Organization) module, and enhancements across the board to all core and supporting modules while at the same time extending their out-of-the-box integrations with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and AP (Accounts Payable) systems, increasing usability, and taking (RAD) rapid application development to a whole new level with respect to the degree to which the platform can be customized for a new client.

Today we are going to discuss the enhancements to requisitions, budgets, and project-management.

As discussed in yesterday’s post, one of the things b-pack has learned while servicing over 100+ global clients in 20+ industries in the public and private sector is that every company has their own unique Procurement process, which starts with the requisition. For example, some companies start with a requisition, which must be approved before a PO can be generated, some companies start with a PO, and some companies, where most of the spend is for small amounts, start with the invoice. In addition, and this is true in the public and health-care sectors, some processes start with check requisitions for employee (travel) expenses and study participant payments. Each of these requisitions requires a different (approval) process. In addition, while some requisitions are for one time product or services buys, some are for repeating, regularly scheduled buys, and some are for products or services that are to be delivered over multiple phases of a project, and multiple POs, invoices, and receipts need to be managed against the same requisition over the course of the project.

In response to this need, b-pack has extended their platform to support a slew of requisition types and processes, and each customer can select just the types, and processes, that they require. In addition, each step can be customized as needed and the approval process, which is rules-driven, can be as simple or complex as required. This is what allows them to meet the needs of Sony Music UK, for example. In the music industry, requisitions are for projects which can include CD recording and CD promotion. A CD recording will require studio costs, producer advances and fees, artist advances, flat fees and payments, post-production costs, etc. A CD Promotion will include promotions for multiple singles, which will have associated production costs, advertising costs, and special event costs (for artists appearances). And while the CD recording requisition might be a single-phase project, the promotion will generally be multi-phase, with each phase centred around the release of a single. The b-pack platform not only supports the requisitions required for these types of projects, but also supports templates for each project (or recurring order) that is required. So, all a talent, or project, manager, needs to do to set up a project is select the type of requisition, select the template, input the expected costs (against the pre-populated expense groups and project codes), and send it off for approval.

It’s budget creation and tracking capability is also quite advanced. It allows you to set up a budget that is as detailed as necessary and track it monthly or against project phases. The budget can be compared against the appropriate project(s), requisitions, invoices, and receipts and the user can see how they are doing at any particular time. This real-time visibility into the budget allows them to track the success of the project.

After requisitions, the next biggest enhancement to the platform is probably in respect to its project definition and management. In the b-pack platform, projects can be as simple or complex as required. They can be single phase or multi-phase; associated with a budget; linked to zero or more documents and contracts; associated with the relevant requisitions, invoices, and receipts; associated with one or more users including the project manager; and updated automatically when any associated requisition, invoice, receipt, etc. is updated.

And, as with previous versions of the b-pack platform, all of the data fields are driven off of master-data and the suppliers, approvers, account codes, project codes, etc. can all be selected from drop-down lists after a few characters have been entered. In addition, all of the master data tables (that are not pulled from associated ERP, AP, etc. systems) can be updated using Excel spreadsheets – making it easy to administer.

b-pack has put a lot of thought into usability and worked hard to make sure the platform meets the needs of its international users. Tomorrow, we’ll dive deeper into its new, relatively unique, RAD architecture.