In general, employees now recognise the merits of e-procurement projects and are much more willing to embrace them. Everyone in the company understands the benefits of having better data, reducing costs, innovating the supplier relationship or avoiding errors and disputes.
The implementation of an e-procurement project requires a well-thought-out approach, because it takes time, involves a great deal of people both inside and outside the organisation and calls for a significant change in practices.
There are five factors in particular that will certainly influence the success of purchasing chain digitalisation processes:
- Specific shared objectives
- A panel of forward-looking and committed suppliers
- The ability to win over the supplier base
- Being open to integrating different channels
- Active communication throughout the process
You will never achieve your goals if you never had any to begin with. This rule for effective project management is no different when it comes to e-procurement processes.
A good objective for this type of project must be:
- Realistic about the resources that the organisation is willing to allocate to the e-procurement project.
- Measurable, so that progress can be monitored over time. For example, reducing the number of products, the number of disputes or even delivery times.
- Shared by everyone involved in making the e-procurement project a success, whether inside or outside of the organisation.
In an e-procurement project, it is wise to start with a few select partners. The role of this panel of pioneers will be to:
- Collaborate on determining ways of digitalising processes.
- Carry out a full-scale test on the processes defined across the e-procurement project, but without involving the entire purchasing information system.
The selected partners will need to be large and complex enough to demonstrate the value of the first results in a credible manner. As the before/after gap becomes more obvious, the evidence in favour of the e-procurement process will be even clearer and the effort required will be even more justifiable.
Mixing partners with recurring difficulties with others with a large volume of transactions seems to be a good approach.
The more strategic suppliers get involved, the more impact an e-procurement project will have. The roll-out of an e-procurement process among the company's partners is clearly a factor in successfully digitalising the purchasing chain.
To maintain their position within the ecosystem, suppliers need to draw attention to their products using an electronic catalogue.
It may be that not all partners get involved, perhaps for availability reasons or due to fear of change. A good way to convince them is by introducing a "win/win" strategy. For example, reducing the time for issuing orders and processing invoices if the suppliers start using an e-catalogue.
All suppliers and countries are subject to specific constraints. Your e-procurement project is more likely to run smoothly and be more flexible if different channels for exchanging information are integrated when the digitalisation process is being designed.
Depending on the digital maturity of each stakeholder, the most appropriate channel might be:
- A supplier portal
- An electronic catalogue
- EDI flows
- PDF email attachments
It is up to you to work out the most effective and the most appropriate tools in advance.
Each person involved with the roll-out of an e-procurement project needs to spend a lot of time and effort on making changes. Members of the procurement team, their partners within company departments and of course suppliers must all work together to implement these new procedures. They must also take the time beforehand to set up tools that are often new to them.
This is no small task and everyone must feel personally motivated for the project to succeed. Constant communication about the project, explaining its aim and highlighting its benefits at all stages, will be essential for its success under the conditions and within the deadlines set out at the start.
In conclusion, choosing the right technology platform is clearly strategic for giving an e-procurement project the best chance of success, while also improving the management of the process. The most important thing to bear in mind is to prioritise solid foundations by choosing an industry standard.
Initially recommended in order to increase ownership of the tool and to be able to draw on feedback from other comparable customers, this choice is also better for sustaining e-procurement efficiency in the long term.
One last tip: Before launching your e-procurement project in your organisation, take a look at "The P2P roadmap" article by Xavier Laurent, Manutan's Director of Value-Added Services.