Every company is different. Every situation is different. And, as a result, for every 10 organizations, the greatest need in S2P will be different, and for the 10 in 100 organizations where it is the same base need, the specific requirements for the solution needed will be different. That cannot be argued.
But that still doesn’t mean you start with any solution other than e-Procurement first (unless, of course, you have “good enough” e-Procurement, in which case you already started with e-Procurement, and can now move on toward fulfilling the greatest organizational need).
the doctor has had some great conversations around this series (Part I) since it started early last week, and some great minds have brought up some great points, and in each case they have managed to convince the doctor of multiple situations where their solution should be the second to be implemented, but none have convinced the doctor that it shouldn’t be e-Procurement first — because in each case he’s been able to find the one assumption, or flaw, in their argument. (But, in fairness, a few great minds have convinced the doctor that the definition of what the “baseline e-Procurement” capability is for an organization can be even murkier than just industry, high-level spend breakdown, and organizational size … but we’re not going to go into that in this post, and possibly even this series, as it’s not an article, but a treatise, and the point here is to get you on your way and educated enough to figure that out with the right expert advisor, not to drown you in confusing hypotheticals that likely aren’t relevant for your business — although we will overview the typical baseline at some point.)
The three best arguments the doctor received were for
- Spend Analysis
- Supplier (Relationship) Management
- Contract (Lifecycle) Management
We’re going to focus in on these one by one, as they came from great experts who had great points (and who were right in that the “baseline” e-Procurement need could sometimes be weakened as it really is different for every organization, although usually just a small +/- to generally agreed upon core capabilities), and because you should not be lead away from pouring the foundation first (because you can’t build an apartment complex without a solid foundation, or at the very least you can’t build an apartment complex that would stand for very long without a solid foundation!).
The argument, summarized: If you don’t cleanse, classify, and homogenize the AP information, how do you know what you need the e-Procurement system for — catalogs, 3/m-way match, payment approval (chains), spot-buy quote capability, etc. — and where the opportunities are.
It’s a valid argument, but the counter point came from the admission that sometimes it takes 3-4 months to locate, access, synthesize, and verify all of the data you need to make this decision, and by the time you finish the analysis, design the implementation plan, and get going with e-Procurement, it’s six months. By that time, because you did not have an e-Procurement system in place, when the baseline is finally implemented three months later, you have to repeat the entire spend analysis process to collect, synthesize, verify, and load the next 9 months of data you didn’t process the first time.
the doctor is a very strong proponent of spend analysis, and you should kick off a project (even without getting a system into the hands of everyone) as soon as it is feasible (and it can be congruent with implementing the e-Procurement system if that is feasible), but any delay in getting a system in place that captures all of the spend just leads to repeated effort and incomplete analyses.
Supplier Relationship Management
The argument, summarized: For most big companies, especially in direct, the majority of the spend, and opportunity, is with (at most) the top 20% of suppliers, and management of the relationship is key to achieving the savings as the product/service has to be quality, on time (without expediting), supported, and invoiced at the agreed upon rates or the value never materializes. Furthermore, e-Procurement should be with those suppliers first, so it’s good to identity them.
This is undeniable. And if you don’t have the right relationships, collaboration, interaction, and management of the core supply base, especially in direct or service-driven industries, it’s true that e-Procurement won’t help you. But what’s overlooked is not having e-Procurement will hurt you. Why?
Here are a few reasons:
- Not a single individual in any large organization will be able to name even the top 10 suppliers by spend, volume, or criticality. In divisions / categories, the experts/leads might get the top 7 or 8 right, but until all the data is captured and properly analyzed, no one will know definitively.
- Collaboration and management is good, but you still need to send them the PO, get the ack, get the ASN, get the invoice, confirm the receipt, match and confirm the invoice, approve it, pay it, and, if at any point, something is late, detect it and act on it … that’s e-Procurement!
- Relationship Management should be based on data … SRM systems only track interactions, not spend data, and, at the end of the day, the CFO and CEO only want to know how the relationship improved the bottom line
Contract Lifecycle Management
the doctor actually received multiple arguments here, which, summarized, were: “It’s an inflationary time, and without contracts with price protection, your costs could be out of control.” “Good contracts are key to ensuring both sides understand their obligations and what is to be delivered when.” “Contracts define what is in the catalogs and/or who the preferred suppliers are.” “Risk is at an all time high, a good contract is the best protection you have.” (And the last one was more extensive, and probably the best, but still not enough. But let’s leave risk to a different series.)
All valid statements, but none override the importance of having an e-Procurement core or address the entire picture. For example:
- yes, costs are still going up, but they are not going up equally across all spend categories, and if there is sufficient supply available, a simple spot buy in response to a quick bid can keep costs under control, delivering significant value without an extensive (and sometimes expensive) contracting exercise
- obligations are critical, but you don’t need a CLM to hammer out a good agreement and, in fact, if a solid understanding is key, that education and discussion is going to take place outside of the CLM and the crafting of those responsibilities on (e-)paper done by project leads, not ML-assisted auto-assembly of standard clauses into a contract template
- you don’t need a contract to integrate a catalog, set preferred suppliers, or set restrictions on who can buy what in an eProcurement system … all of which can be changed as new contracts are negotiated later, and you don’t need a CLM to negotiate the contracts
- risk is key, but just because you take every contractual step to protect against risk doesn’t mean you won’t have a disruption, that an earthquake won’t destroy the supplier’s plant, that unforeseen embargos will prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities to you, etc. — you will still need mitigation plans, risk monitoring systems, etc. — and a simple absence of PO acknowledgements, late ASNs, etc. in the e-Procurement system will raise flags of issues that need to be investigated faster than a CLM will
For many companies, one of more of these applications are critical, and they will need to be implemented as soon as possible, but all require a baseline e-Procurement system in place to deliver the full extent of value you want to realize — spend analysis requires the data, SRM requires the data for ongoing monitoring and management, and the e-Pro is what captures the spend-related obligations and can be among the first of the internal systems to provide clues that there might be a problem.
So start with e-Procurement. But whatever you do, don’t stop there … don’t even slow down. As soon as you get a baseline and it’s useable, work on addressing your greatest need from a cost control/value generation perspective. e-Procurement is just the beginning … and the best way to think of it is the forge you use to craft better tools and processes that need the data e-Procurement captures and produces to deliver their full value.
On to Part V!