Partnering with the specialists for fully automated services spend management
The procurement of services is a growing and important sector and is now one of the largest “master spend categories” for an organisation. But procurement processes, having traditionally focused on products, have not always kept up with or adapted to this trend. Buying professional services is a different beast from that of buying goods and materials.
The successful purchase of physical goods relies on tangible outcomes, like on-time-delivery, quality, quantity, best cost, and so on, and often the supplier/buyer relationship finishes once the contract is met. Buying services, by contrast, is not tangible; KPIs and requirements can vary widely, cultural fit must come into play, as must the relationship, which is really only the start of the contract in this case. So buying services is already a complex task, before we even think about the procurement process from quote to approval to PO.
The quotation process for suppliers is traditionally taken care of outside of the P2P or ERP system, often manually creating web forms and submitting them, a process relying heavily on buyer knowledge and requiring a lot of time and effort. For the buyer it can be equally labour-intensive, obtaining quotes, reviewing and approving them, generating POs and eventually entering them into the P2P system. In fact it is once a Master Service Agreement has been put in place with selected suppliers and the purchasing of services begins, that we start to see the greatest inefficiencies.
This is the part of the P2P process that even the big suites are struggling to automate without the provision of a specialist provider. Having an automated mechanism for suppliers to build quotes and link them directly with any P2P system, going far beyond the capabilities of web forms, can significantly enhance a supplier’s route to market, speed up the PO process, and deliver time and efficiency benefits to the buyer.
So what if your eProcurement system could offer that in a seamless way?
Where’s the gap?
The industry can’t always give suppliers and buyers this flexibility and ease of use in its P2P platforms. While many organisations might think that once they have selected their P2P technology, they have everything they need, this is not necessarily the case. Even in some of the larger, well established and trusted platforms, there is a gap – and that is fully automated, services spend management.
P2P system providers simply cannot develop and build every part of the suite themselves to the same specification that a specialist in the field can, such as the automation of the quote-to-requisition process. Specialist providers can do that better, and suite providers are recognising that, bringing that capability into their landscape to offer their users a more complete, integrated and streamlined service.
The process of compiling quotes, making sure they are sent to the right place, receiving and reviewing them, accepting them, and continuing the process through to PO, all being done outside of the P2P system, means all information they contain must be manually married back up once you go back into your P2P platform – there is too much room for error. Ideally, the buying organisation, the supplier, and the suite provider want this to be encapsulated into one system, in one workflow, saving time and reducing risk.
It is quite a unique offering for the majority of P2P platforms, as while they have an RFQ process in place, most don’t go deep enough, and don’t have the level of expertise that can really make a difference to both buyers and suppliers of complex services. For enterprises that are increasingly looking for ways to extend the capabilities of their eProcurement investment, and for suite providers that are increasingly looking to fulfil that capability, engaging with a specialist partner is the way forward.
Some have already taken that step
Business spend management giant Coupa is very aware of the value of specialist provider partnerships to offer deep knowledge and an end-to-end experience to users. Integrating a specialist quotation tool into its system, which allows suppliers to quote in an effortless and automated way, means the buyer experience is harmonised through an automated receive, review, approve and order workflow, without disruption to the process.
A rather unique product in this market comes from specialist provider ProProcure, with whom Coupa partnered for its G-Quotes solution and has now made a certified partner. The tool bridges that gap between the needs of the supplier and the purchaser, bringing automation, control and visibility.
Sally Stephens, Coupa Vice President, Alliances Programs, said of their partnership with ProProcure:
“The ProProcure team have been great to work with and embody the spirit of Coupa! Their solution offers an interesting twist by empowering our customers’ suppliers to provide quotes themselves. These feed directly into Coupa eliminating the need for our buyers to have to construct complex requisitions. Their solution is simple, effective and cuts out a lot of overhead for suppliers who provide complex quotes regularly.”
G-Quotes has the big advantage of bringing ease of use, combined with content-rich functionality and low cost of entry, and a supplier focus in a process which traditionally has leant heavily towards the buyer. Hugely beneficial to the Coupa user, it integrates a seamless layer of services provision between the G-Quotes environment and the Coupa journey, within many categories, including MRO, marketing agencies, IT services, and print & digital media.
For suppliers, using G-Quotes gives them a quick and easy method of building a complex services quote and linking it directly with any buyer’s P2P system as part of an automated workflow. Unlike the traditional methods or web form quote building, they build their quote by selecting line items from a (pre-negotiated) catalogue and by adding non-catalogued costs from their own list of items and services, leaving the control firmly in the hands of the supplier. What the buyer receives is a digital, detail-rich quote where data such as individual line items and cost breakdowns are carried through to PO stage, which when uploaded into the procurement system provides a central source of visibility, in turn providing accuracy for spend analysis, audit and contract compliance.
Present and future needs
To date, procurement suites have not really become truly cross-process enabled, even the very big ones. And the ability to boast a fully automated quote-to-requisition process, as an integrated part of the wider suite, is still in its infancy. So opening up their platforms to partner with a specialist tools provider to give a high level of functionality, get more spend under management, and do it seamlessly, is becoming more interesting for suite providers as they pursue an ecosystem approach.
The email and paper trails that have traditionally been the universal mechanism for quotes, requisitions and invoices, are not efficient, trustworthy or scalable for today’s needs. An assimilated route that intuitively progresses the user, without the disconnect of swapping systems, through the process is the ideal answer, and can be available through partnering with specialist providers like ProProcure that can bring simplicity, ease of use and fast ROI to the offering.
What the P2P provider cares about is offering the user everything they need in one place, and what the user cares about is that it works. So the seamless experience is becoming more sought after. As solution providers see the benefits of these niche specialists grow, integrations will go deeper, and ML and AI will enhance outcomes further.
But it is not just the suite provider, supplier and buyer that benefit from this automation. The entire enterprise, including heads of procurement, CFOs, and other stakeholders, need deeper more accurate data on which to base their corporate decisions. Any enterprise that has made or is thinking about making their eProcurement investment, can enhance their ROI by automating the quote-to-requisition process to gain greater visibility, efficiency and control.
This Brand Studio article was written in conjunction with ProProcure.
(image courtesy Artur Szczybylo/Shutterstock.com)