Source-to-Pay+ is Extensive (P35) … Do I Intake, Manage, or Orchestrate?

In our last installment, Part 34, we noted that, after working through our series, many of you would likely have selected a number of best-of-breed solutions to meet your various need as opposed to a suite (due to unique capabilities that were attractive to you, attractive price points, quick setup times, etc.). And after selecting a few of these, you got to wondering “what’s the best way to integrate these and make sure that, once I have a full set, they support my source-to-pay processes end-to-end in a seamless fashion“. The point of these solutions is to control costs in an efficient, and effective fashion, and this requires effective management of requests, communication, projects, and/or processes.

Plus, even if you selected a suite, even when you finish implementing the last of the six core modules we’ve covered to date in our series, that’s just the beginning … since you will eventually have to enrich your data, deal with ESG/CSR, integrate with services management, asset management, logistics and supply chain management and support other features these core modules won’t have in order to get to the next level of enterprise buying.

In other words, you need to intake requests, manage projects, and/or orchestrate your technology-enabled processes, depending on what the modules/suite you have does and doesn’t do and what your particular situation warrants. Let’s discuss what each of these capabilities are and what a few core features are (especially since you won’t yet find a platform that does it all and does it all well, at least not yet, as intake and orchestration are rather new solutions).

Intake Management

Often known as intake-to-procure or intake-to-pay, this type of solution focusses on allowing anyone in the organization who has a procurement need to make a request which goes to Procurement, get visibility into that request, and know it will get done because the solution allows a buyer to turn a request into a procurement project. Key capabilities:

Configurable Enterprise Procurement Request Portal ANY Employee can Access
In order to make a procurement request for whatever they need, be it resupply of the local office supply closet, special materials and promotional items for an event, short-term services, a restock of materials needed for MRO, or new products for resale to meet (new) client needs. And the interface must be capable of being configured in a way that ensures that whatever information the buyer needs to fulfill the request will be collected before the requester can complete the request (such as high level categories, any budgets [codes] they have, whether or not any of the needs can be met with current contracts / catalog items, etc.).
Request to Project
Once the buyer analyzes the request, they must be able to flip that request into a Sourcing Project, a re-negotiation/Contract Addendum with a current supplier, a catalog buy, or a PO-against a current contract (or whatever else is needed) in order to begin the process of filling that request (or, if the request is not valid, deny it and flip it back with a rejection or a request for modification into a request that would be acceptable).
Process Visibility and Messaging
At all times, the buyer must be able to see where the request is: in queue, approved, being sourced/procured, order placed, goods arrived, invoice paid, process done; etc.

Project Management

The capability to manage a project from beginning to end, no matter how many steps it has, how many modules are required, how many approvals are needed, how many obligations need to be tracked, and how many milestones need to be completed.

Standard Project Management Functionality
The ability to create phases, milestones, tasks, owners, obligations, and track progress throughout the project timeline is a core must. Basically, what you would expect any other project management tool to do.
Links into the appropriate modules from each step of the project.
If all you can do is define and track project steps, you might as well use an open source project management tool. It’s only useful if it allows you to jump into the right screen of the right tool for where you currently are in the process.
Configurable approval flows
The platform should enforce verifications that obligations are met, milestones are completed, and quality is acceptable before projects are allowed to advance.

Orchestration of Processes

The capability to easily integrate as many modules as you need into a configurable workflow that suits your specific organizational processes.

Easy Self-Serve Module Integration
A buyer should be able to select the supported applications that they own, enter their license codes, and it should automatically integrate with the orchestration tool. In addition, they should be able to integrate additional modules easily with
Low-Code Integration
Where a buyer can define the API link, the core data tables/objects, the entry screen links, and that is sufficient for pushing data into the application / extracting processed data out, launching the application, and integrating the new module into process workflows at a high level.
Workflow Automation
The entire idea of process orchestration is to support the right workflows to support the various sourcing, contracting, onboarding, procuring, developing, payment, and other source-to-pay projects the procurement organization needs to undertake.

Of course, these platforms should do more and have more, but these are the core foundational requirements to be classified as an intake, project management, or orchestration solution.

In our next installment [Part 36], we’ll provide you with a list of the solutions available today.