The Key to Cost Reduction? Capture the Flag! Part III

In this series we have been discussing how Procurement is in vogue but that the only reason it is in vogue is because organizations need cost reductions and/or greater profit, and Procurement is currently seen as the ultimate path to profit. As a result, Procurement technology providers, GPOs, and consultancies — particularly those consultancies with a track record — are getting a lot of interest, and in the cases of some technology players in particular, a lot of money.

But not all companies are getting the returns they expect from their S2P platform, and it’s not always the fault of the provider — it’s often the fault of the data. Bad data. Dirty data. Data that causes you to miss over billings and duplicate billings, opportunities for volume consolidation, opportunities to spot new trends, and so on.

But how do you get that data under control? Especially when most systems allow any user to enter any data they want in description fields, not populate key SKU or cost center fields, and so on.

The traditional answer has been process, but process has continually failed, especially when organization’s have tried to scale it.

So what is the right answer? It’s hard to say, but it becomes less important if the opportunity for creating bad data is minimized. So how do you do that? You minimize the need for the end user to enter data in the first place.

This means you need a P2P system that not only minimizes the need for end users to enter data, but makes it easy for the admins to correct any oversights that would result in the end user entering data.

So what are the requirements for such a P2P system?

It depends on not only what you are buying but how you are buying it — for whatever procurement functions you support, they must be designed to minimize, if not eliminate, data entry. For example, if the organization has a lot of MRO and back-office purchases, the catalog must be complete, easy to maintain, and guide the buyer to the needed product, not an e-Form or RFX. If the organization needs a lot of services, then there should be well defined e-Forms for requesting standardized services which have all the requisite details, codes, and descriptions. If the organization needs specially configured products (like cars, computers, etc.), there should be standardized requests to preferred suppliers or standardized RFXs. And so on. The less user entered data, the better.

Moreover, it’s not just buyer users who create user error, its supplier users as well. So such a system must minimize the data required by the supplier. Once the supplier receives a PO, they should be able to simply and easily flip acknowledgements, shipping receipts by checking the boxes (and only overriding quantities if needed), invoices (from POs or shipping receipts), payment receipts, etc. with button clicks. The less, the better.

Anything that can be standardized and entered once should be standardized and entered once. And anything that isn’t standardized should go through a review queue to see if additional standard products, services, forms, etc. can be added to minimize future data entry requirements. The goal is single entry, and the use of correct single entries, as much as possible.

Only when data is under control can savings be identified, and realized. And only then will you have captured the flag.

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