Want an Exceptional Supply Management System? Do NOT Forget the Supplier!

Exceptional results come from the right intersection of exceptional talent, exceptional technology, and exceptional transformation. The three T’s.

And while each piece is important, and no piece can be ignored, the importance of good technology is often overlooked, and, more importantly, key factors that differentiate good technology from great (and exceptional) technology are almost always overlooked — and this is one reason why there are so few true best in class Procurement organizations (and why the Hackett top 8% is the top 8%).

So what makes a great Supply Management System?

Factors include, but are not limited to:

  • ease of use as even a junior buyer should find it natural
  • customizeable workflow as it should fit the transformed organizational processes
  • data import/export as data will need to be imported from ERPs and predecessor systems and exported to successor systems
  • templates and template customization so that RFXs/Auctions/Orders/etc. can easily be created, customized, copied and reused ad infinitum
  • multi-currency support as most Procurement organizations have to deal internationally

And each and every one of these factors should be considered, and included in the evaluation of the supply management system, and systems that do not score well against each and every one of these factors tossed aside, but is this enough to insure you get a great system? Of course not!

First of all, it has to contain all of the specific functions required of the system you are evaluating. For example, if the organization is looking for strategic sourcing, then the organization needs optimization-backed RFX and Auction capability as well as analytics and spend analysis. For Procurement, requisition management, approvals, budget integration, automatic (split) PO creation, good receipt management, invoice acceptance and m-way comparison, etc. And so on. If all functions are there, and all work well, it could be a great system — for the organization.

But will it be an exceptional one? Not necessarily. Exceptional systems need lots of data — and use — to produce exceptional results. Some needs to come from the organization. Some needs to come from third parties. And some needs to come from suppliers. And typically that data is needed in (near) real time. Which means you need suppliers to use the system — which is something they are only going to (want to) do if it’s easier for them to do it in the system, than do it outside the system (and bitterly complain if they are forced to use it to submit invoices to get paid).

This means that the system also needs to be designed for the supplier — something many first, and even second, generation systems were not, even if they had a supplier portal.

Not only should the system be as easy to use for the supplier as it is for the buyer, but it should enable their workflows, provide them with templates, make data import and export as easy for them as it is for the buyer, offer them full multi-currency support as well, and support the internationalization necessary for all of your suppliers in the countries you do business with to use it in their native language.

For example, if you want a supplier to respond to each and every RFX and auction, make it easy for them to manage their catalogs and quickly select the relevant products, update price lists, define volume discounts, and define what you get to see — and don’t get to see. If you want a supplier to use it for e-Invoicing, make it easy for them to upload, create, manage, and track invoice status not just of invoices sent to you, but of all their invoices (as chances are their AR system or sales system doesn’t do that). Make sure they have the same rights to create user accounts, set permissions, and delegate work (especially with respect to RFX responses) to the right people as you do. Let them toggle between languages. And, most importantly, before they submit, let them see what you see the way you see it.

And if the system is truly exceptional, you’ll easily be able to see what they see (with a toggle view) before you send it. Suppliers are your supply chain, so it’s as important to support them as it is to support you — and an exceptionally designed system will do that.

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