Last month we asked where’s the procurement management platform primarily because we now have a plethora of procurement-centric applications but very little integration between them. However, once you tackle that issue, you have the secondary issue of all these applications, but often no clear starting point and, even worse, no way for an average organizational employee outside of Procurement to interact with Procurement beyond an inbound email to “please get this for me” and the eventual, possibly many months later, outbound email to “we got it, it’s finally here … it will be on your desk tomorrow“.
This is a big problem, even in organizations that supposedly have market leading source-to-pay suites. While all the modules are connected, and the integrated workflow will guide a buyer from project selection to sourcing to supplier selection to award to contracting to supplier onboarding to order creation to receipt creation to invoice confirmation and payment approval and loop back to the order creation until pending contract expiration when the contract can be renewed, renegotiated, or
revoked and the sourcing process started all over. This is great, but for predefined sourcing projects on encoded categories only!
It’s not great for any category not already encoded and typically strategically sourced, and it’s atrocious as new product and service needs arise within the organization, as new hires need new assets for onboarding, as customer requirements change and the organization needs to adapt rapidly and source new products or services to meet new, or one-off, needs. There’s no intake, and no collaboration with the organizational stakeholders Procurement is there to serve.
And that’s a huge problem. That’s why you’re seeing a few companies talking about “intake”, “orchestration”, or “PPM” (which stands for either Procurement Performance Management or Procurement Process Management, depending on who is talking about it) because, without this capability, a Procurement platform will never be complete or support the organization.
Following the introductory post on the procurement management platform, we lamented and celebrated that Per Angusta was going away and being integrated into SpendHQ as the foundations of a new PPM. It’s a great start, but today the focus of SpendHQ is on managing the existing workflows and creating visibility into existing projects — and savings tracking is limited to integrated projects. However, when it comes to intake support and project tracking for arbitrary organizational needs, that’s not there yet.
However, there are other players which are strong here, and one of those players is Focal Point, which was built from the ground up as an intake-to-orchestrate solution that is capable of
- capturing all organizational requests for Procurement and Procurement-related activities,
- assigning those requests to customizable workflows using either built in automation rules or manual (re-)assignment,
- allowing an end-user to see exactly where any request is in the process at any time,
- allowing for in-platform communication between the stakeholder and Procurement,
- integrating with any external tool through jump-out/jump-in to support the process, and
- supporting whatever approval chains are required, among other intake and orchestration functions.
The tool was built to solve the most significant problem the founders repeatedly saw as CPOs and implementers of various leading sourcing solutions — little to no intake management or general purpose procurement process orchestration. And it does it incredibly well. The visual workflow construction is extremely usable, and the wizards that power both the process, form construction, and form completion automatically extend and compress the form as needed based upon user selections and actual needs, making for a very smooth flow.
All of the workflow elements and steps support deep conditional logic, allowing the organization to create as many branches as possible but ensuring that the end user making a request, and the end buyer assigned to deal with that request, only see the relevant paths and only need to enter the relevant information to be guided by the platform.
There can be as many intake types, with associated branching workflows, as the organization needs, each can have the appropriate level of automation, and, most importantly, each can have as many milestones as needed to walk the process through at a high level, allowing the requester to easily see at a high level where the process is, and then, if interested, dive into the detailed workflow within the current milestone to get a more accurate picture of where the process is.
The only thing the platform doesn’t do is actual sourcing, supplier management, contract management, analytics, procurement, or payment management. It expects the organization to have tools for this already and integrates into the appropriate modules in those tools as needed to accomplish the workflow in progress.
In terms of getting up and running, Focal Point typically has a fully fleshed out, functioning, and integrated instance that captures all of the organization’s workflows up and running within 90 days, even if the organization is a multi-(multi-)billion dollar organization, which is Focal Point’s target market size. This is because it’s typically the 1B+ organizations that have a lot of tools, and a lot of stakeholders, but no way to manage those tools effectively or to give stakeholders any visibility into where their requests are and how their spending is being managed.
The reason it typically takes 90 days is that, unlike many sourcing suite providers, who just flip a virtual switch and drop an empty SaaS suite on you and say “good luck“, Focal Point fully configures the platform as part of their statement of work. This includes:
- working with the organization to understand all of their requirements and current workflows
- encoding all of those intake workflows with milestones, task-breakdowns, and existing platform jump-outs
- integrating any existing procurement system you need to complete the workflow
- creating a UAT instance and allowing for at least one iteration and approval before it goes live
- training your team on how to use the system and maintain the workflows
So even though Focal Point has obviously achieved efficiency in terms of workflow creation and customization, external platform integration, and implementation project management, it takes time for an average organization to collect and document their existing processes and requirements and for FocalPoint (or a third party consulting organization if that is the customer’s preference) to fill in the gaps, so it’s not possible to get it much below 90 days. But when you think about the fact that they have fully implemented a 10B+ organization in that timeframe, when some major suite players will take 18 months working with a consulting partner to fully implement those solutions, that’s an incredible time to value, which is generated day one when every request flows into the tool; gets tracked, assigned, and executed; and stakeholders have full visibility into the process and can intervene if necessary.
Focal Point solves the problem it was built to solve, fills the hole the vast majority of sourcing and procurement solutions make, and does it incredibly well. If any part of this post resonates with you, the doctor encourages you to check them out.