As much as we would like to realize the dream of one platform for Supply Management, it’s not going to happen — at least not within our professional lifetime. The internet, and software development, might be moving in cat years, but let’s face it, it’s been 90 cat years since true first generation strategic sourcing, e-Procurement, and other fledgling Supply Management products hit the scene and we still don’t have a single end-to-end strategic source to pay platform! (Yes, there are source-to-pay platforms, and some are rather good, but there is not one that is not missing some key piece of functionality for strategic sourcing, such as optimization or advanced analytics, or for e-Procurement, such as e-Invoicing and automated m-way match.)
But what can we expect, with the exception of a handful of organizations (that can be counted on your fingers, minus your thumbs), we haven’t even reached the era of one ERP. Larry had a dream, but outside of Oracle, I believe the number of global organizations that successfully migrated their international operations to one global (Oracle) ERP instance is 5 (and that’s why the vision of one platform went away and Oracle acquired so many other leading ERP platforms, leaving only its rival SAP standing at the end of the day once the acquisitions on both side are tallied up.)
We have the situation that no one vendor, and this includes SAP, Oracle, and IBM even after their string of acquisitions over the last 90 cat years, has a platform that fully addresses basic Sourcing, Procurement, and Logistics, and once you start factoring in CLM, SRM, Sustainability, Talent Management, and Innovation Management needs, nothing comes close, or will come close, for at least another 60 cat years at the current development pace. In addition, with the constant pace of innovation in terms of process, and the constant shift both towards globalization and specialization, nothing may ever come close.
Sauron may have forged the one ring, but not even the almighty Google will forge the one platform. So you have to stop focussing on finding the right vendor and shift to finding the right platforms to serve your Supply Management needs. To do this, you have to first ask, what is the workflow?
Even though the organization may have different processes and procedures for T&E, P-Card, indirect, and direct purchases, depending on category, department, amount, and budget owner, there is still one (mega) process that is followed.
There will be a needs identification followed by an identification of whether or not an inventory, contract or preferred vendor exists to fill that needed followed by a determination of whether an event is needed or not, followed by the determination if a requisition is needed, followed by an order (which may or may not require a purchase order) followed by goods delivery and an invoice, followed by acknowledgement and inventory, followed by determination of an approval process, followed by an approval process for the invoice, followed by a payment, followed by data capture and archival in the right systems. There is a mega-flowchart that defines the mega-workflow that is defined by everything the organization needs to directly and indirectly support the process that defines system needs and integration needs.
The answer is to identify one or more minimal set of overlapping platforms that fulfill the workflow needs, integrate with the underlying ERP and / or (Master) Data Management (MDM) systems, and, directly or indirectly (through the underlying systems) integrate with each other. Once these system sets are identified, one works with the vendors that best meet the organization’s overall needs and implement the systems that accomplish the workflow. That’s how progress is made. Nothing is gained by seeking out the one platform. It is a myth, and a myth that destroys organizational progress and productivity.