Sourcing and Procurement
Key benefits of automating the procurement process
Procurement automation has progressed tremendously because of the advances made in digital procurement technologies over the last decade. Low-value, repetitive and labour-intensive tasks can be automated, saving both time and resources of a business. Labour cost is reduced, procure-to-pay cycle becomes faster, and errors are eliminated. Cloud-based software has transformed numerous business functions, including procurement. It helps bring down overheads and upfront investments, and it becomes easy for businesses and suppliers to share real-time information.
The procurement function of a business, regardless of its size, involves a series of steps to procure goods or services needed to fulfil business objectives. Procurement teams focus on identifying and selecting the best suppliers at the best prices, while ensuring the quality of the goods and services are the best possible. The procurement process involves much more than the procurement of goods and services, it includes improvement of supplier performance and contract utilisation, reduction in the cycle time of sourcing, evaluation of vendor performance and management of risk and compliance.
Benefits of automating the procurement process
Automation of the procurement process helps to manage costs, boost efficiency, and improve productivity. Picking the right procurement software is key to managing the entire process, from sourcing to supplying, including supplier relationship management. Choosing a cloud-based solution is the best option for most businesses. The procurement processes that every business should automate are purchase order (PO) processing, purchase requisition (PR), invoice approvals and record keeping.
There are multi-fold benefits to automating the procurement process.
- Quicker approval process: The manual approval process often slows down projects because it involves many people asking for a lot of information and the process often involves many levels too. It is quite common for a purchase request to reach the approval stage in fits and starts, depending on the hierarchical setup of the organisation.
- Streamlined spend management: Since procurement software records accurate descriptions of contracts, purchases, supplier quotes and order history, the quality of data is good. New purchases are finalised based on better data, leaving no room for guesswork. Knowing costs involved helps in streamlining cost management and identifying gaps, all of which ultimately lead to cost reductions.
- Improve relationships with suppliers and promote trust: Automation leads to transparency, which is key to building a long-term relationship with suppliers. A clear line of disclosure is established and both parties can communicate clearly in real time. Every step is visible to all concerned. Buyers can place orders against the best quote without worrying and suppliers can respond to bids quickly. Cost savings, order tracking and supplier evaluation all become easy to understand and that fosters trust. Grievances, if any, can be resolved quickly.
- Contract management made easy: Procurement software makes it easy to ensure consistency and reduce errors across all documents. Contract templates, along with terms and conditions can be standardised and that ensures clear contracts with all suppliers. The centralised data access enabled by the software ensures uniformity. Onboarding new suppliers becomes easy and contract compliance is also ensured.
- Boost productivity: Automation of the procurement process allows procurement teams to focus on strategic tasks instead of routine processes. Errors are eliminated to a large degree; efficiency is improved and decision making becomes easier with all the information available easily and clearly.
With automation, purchase orders can be placed faster, and all redundant steps can be eliminated. Ordering cycle time is reduced and the procurement teams can focus on other tasks of value. Efficiency is naturally given a boost.
As most experts would agree, the three strong factors that affect procurement automation are technology, processes, and the people involved. Using cloud-based procurement software ensures seamless and agile* integration with all necessary systems. Further, procurement applications are accessible on the go. Automation allows important business data to be effortlessly exchanged between applications. The process benefits have already been elaborated upon. Automation also allows the right people to be mapped to the right tasks, leading to higher efficiency and productivity.
Risks of manual procurement process
Globalisation has heightened the scope and complexity of the procurement process. Depending on a manual system exposes the business to many risks, some of which include:
- Human bias and errors can lead to fraud and data inaccuracy. Such inaccuracies, if undetected, can only lead to business losses and bad business decisions. Market risks, operational risks and delivery risks are other areas of stress.
- Delays and bottlenecks can lengthen process cycles irreversibly, given that both are quite common in manual processes.
- Indirect purchases are more common during manual processes, and that increases the risk of overspending.
- Manual processes involve a lot of paperwork. Displacement and damage are high possibilities.
- Vendor management can become cumbersome leading to delays, which further leads to sour relationships with the vendor.
All progressive businesses are using procurement automation software to overcome the risks of manual procurement processes. While cloud-based services are already gaining popularity, using AI (artificial intelligence) and RPA (robotic process automation) can boost further automation. RPA can automate processes with greater speed and complete accuracy. Clearly the question now is not whether procurement should be automated or not, rather which is the best procurement automation software available.
*For organizations on the digital transformation journey, agility is key in responding to a rapidly changing technology and business landscape. Now more than ever, it is crucial to deliver and exceed on organizational expectations with a robust digital mindset backed by innovation. Enabling businesses to sense, learn, respond, and evolve like a living organism, will be imperative for business excellence going forward. A comprehensive, yet modular suite of services is doing exactly that. Equipping organizations with intuitive decision-making automatically at scale, actionable insights based on real-time solutions, anytime/anywhere experience, and in-depth data visibility across functions leading to hyper-productivity, Live Enterprise is building connected organizations that are innovating collaboratively for the future.