Daily Archives: January 24, 2024

Does Your Procurement Process Take Too Long, Maybe You Need to Zip Through It!

Zip is an interesting player. Started in 2020 to innovate the (lack of) intake in the Procurement world, they managed, through sheer ease of use and organizational friendliness, to embed themselves in a number of large organizations, get major investor attention, and, in less than four years, catapult themselves to a unicorn valuation.

However, as a result of those investments, they’ve been hiring good engineers as fast as they can find them, beefing up the orchestration, extending the product footprint (with baseline source-to-contract as well as some procure-to-pay capability), and launching a new integration platform, which is essential for source-to-pay-plus orchestration. They are making quite rapid progress in a space where many (but not all) larger companies have considerably slowed in their introduction of new innovation.

Marketing itself as procurement orchestration, Zip was founded to address the facts that:

  • purchasing is now distributed across numerous departments, and individuals, in today’s organizations,
  • (significantly) more cross functional approvals are required to control cost and risk, and
  • the ERP is not enough, and the plethora of apps and systems a modern organization needs are disconnected.

Now that they have powerful workflow creation capability, integration capability, and overall orchestration capability that can enable whatever you have (including Workday, Ariba, and Coupa), they now address the core problems they were formed to solve.

With the Zip platform, you can:

  • connect all individuals who need to purchase with all departments that need to be involved and vice-versa,
  • integrate all of the departments that need to review and approve purchasing (related) decisions, and
  • get visibility into each stage of the process across ALL of the organization’s systems (and even complete some tasks in the Zip platform where it has the corresponding Source-to-Pay capability).

On top of this you can:

  • integrate third party data feeds as well as applications to get insights and power analytics you need at any step of the process,
  • run cross-platform reports across performance and timelines as well as all spend, risk, and related data in the system,
  • manage your vendors and their data (which could be spread across a dozen systems) from one central viewpoint, and
  • manage your organizations (and subsidiaries) by department, category, etc.

The two-fold reason that you can do all this is because the Zip platform is really good at:

  • workflow management and
  • platform, and most importantly, data integration.

We’ll start with workflow management.

In the Zip platform, workflows are incredibly customizable. Workflows can:

  • have as many steps as required
  • which can be defined as sequential or parallel … and the workflow will not advance until all parallel steps are completed
  • have as many states as is needed (though most will only need a few states: locked, ready, in progress, approved, rejected (and sent back), rejected [and process terminated], etc.)
  • have as many sub-tasks and/or associated approvers as needed (so if the Legal Review needs two sign offs due to different policies that have to be met or the Finance Review needs two sign offs to ensure transparency, no problem)
  • have as many conditions as necessary for workflow selection / triggering (so you can have different procurement workflows by sub-category by geography if need be)
  • have as many triggers and dynamic data pulls defined as needed to instantiate a step once unlocked (e.g. bring up all vendors associated with a product, all approvers associated with a role, etc.)
  • link to as many external systems as required, with each (sub)task associated with the app/system in which the integrated party may perform his or her task
  • have as many details and associated documents as necessary
  • for Procurement, link to associated products, vendors, and / or contracts
  • etc.

And this is why the Zip Platform is so easy to use by, and attractive to, the average purchaser / requisitioner in an organization.

When an average user wants to buy, all they have to do is

  1. log into Zip via SSO (which can be configured to orchestrate organizational workflows beyond Procurement),
  2. indicate they want to purchase something
  3. select what they want to purchase
  4. make a few category/specification sub-selections to help the platform narrow in to the appropriate workflow (e.g. Facility Services, Janitorial; Computing and Electronics, Laptop;)
  5. if there are pre-approved vendors and/or products, the vendors/products; if not, they can select their own vendors/products
  6. answer a few [sub]-category dependent associated questions on the contract type, corporate or personal data that will be shared, etc.
  7. indicate the budget (amount) they wish to use (if appropriate)
  8. and submit the request …

The process is kicked off, the requisite data / document / survey collection is begun, those involved in the process are notified (and have visibility into the tasks they (potentially) have (coming), and the requester has full visibility into where the process is at all times (as the system will synch with external systems on predefined intervals between 15 minutes and 24 hours, usually depending on how often the external systems are used and what restrictions there are on access [e.g. some systems don’t have an API and do daily exports, and for systems with real-time APIs, the user can force synch anytime they want). But, most importantly, events that used to take hours to create and weeks to coordinate, can be created in minutes and the coordination effort is non-existent — the system handles everything for you.

When a user logs in, they can go to their (task) dashboard and see all the projects they are involved in, all the tasks they are assigned in those projects, and drill into all of the open tasks they need to work on now. They can also see how long the task has been open, when it is/was due, the average time taken on a task of that type, and the average time the user takes to do the task (if they drill into the appropriate report).

Moreover, if vendors are involved, vendors are invited and taken to their own portal where they see the event and only see what additional information is required (as anything requested upon onboarding is already available.

It’s also very easy to setup and administer, which is also critical for a modern platform. At any time, a user with appropriate authority can:

  • define, modify, and even inactivate workflows, as appropriate using a very easy to use no-code workflow builder where the users visually define the steps; select the actions; define the rules, actions, and triggers, etc.
  • define or modify (approval) statuses
  • define or modify the organization’s category hierarchy
  • define or modify new or existing survey templates which allow the user to add sections, questions, selection lists, etc.
  • create new system fields and documents and associate them with the appropriate system objects
  • create or modify the lookup types
  • add or modify user access rights, down to geographies, departments, workflows, function access rights
  • define or modify the organizational hierarchy (subsidiaries, departments, queues, locations, GL entities)
  • define roles, users, and permissions
  • define bank accounts and vendor (virtual) cards
  • add (out-of-the-box) or modify integrations, or launch the new low-code Zip Integration Platform that allows customers to build their own connector to any system with an Open (REST) API
  • define the default reports (vendor, spend, performance, etc.)

While we’re not covering them in this post, we should note that Zip has a P2P module (that 42% of its customers use) and a new Sourcing Module, and that Zip is actively working on new capabilities and module(s).

The new capabilities we can discuss now, on the Q1/Q2 roadmap, are:

  • NLP-based intake for even easier usability and up-front integration of Slack, Teams, and other collaboration platforms to allow workflows to be kicked off in those platforms
  • predictive analytics — the analytics module is being upgraded and it will include recommendations for spend management and process improvement using trend analysis, machine learning, and other techniques that can be used to provide the user with additional insight

In other words, Zip, which has well over 300 enterprise customers, is zipping along and intends to keep doing so. The great thing is that you don’t need to replace any of your enterprise systems, including any best of breed systems you have for sourcing or procurement, but instead connect them together to maximize the value you get out of them. Zip is an(other) I20 — intake to orchestrate — system that is certainly worth being aware of and checking out if system, process, or stakeholder orchestration and collaboration is a challenge in your enterprise.