By Jari Tavi
The best-designed systems are only as good as the end-user experience they provide. This is particularly true for enterprise purchase-to-pay systems that require user adoption in order to accomplish what they were designed to do: give companies the visibility and financial control they need.
Companies have been struggling to find ways to get control over indirect purchases for quite some time by implementing policies, processes and technology. Employees, however, frustrated with inefficient and rigid purchasing processes and cumbersome internal catalogs, have often found it simpler to go around existing systems and make purchases on their own. This "maverick" buying is problematic; it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for companies to keep track of their liabilities, which in turn, can have a negative impact on cash flow, supplier relationships and spend management.
When purchases aren't being tracked throughout the system, companies can suffer from further unintended consequences. Consider the case of a company that processes 25,000-30,000 invoices per month and hundreds of thousands of invoices per year. With this volume of activity, there could be a huge number of invoices from maverick purchases that haven't been accounted for. In the extreme case, a company could be forced to restate earnings, which could affect its credibility and credit rating.
In today's competitive business environment where concerns about a recession are growing and visibility and internal control are mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act, these problems are unacceptable. While finding a solution has been difficult, companies realize that the answer lies in increasing user adoption. Without broad user participation, companies have little visibility into, or control over, employee purchasing.
Many companies have turned to technology to help them solve these problems. Unfortunately, while providing some efficiencies, the first generation of e-procurement tools was not built to address user requirements. Designed instead to meet the needs of procurement professionals, these tools were inflexible and difficult to use. The second-generation e-procurement solutions that followed were also limited. While they leveraged Web-based technology and aimed to reach end-users as well as procurement professionals, they still lacked the flexibility and ease-of-use needed to attract broad usage.
Gen 3 e-Procurement
Now new third-generation e-procurement technology offers the ease-of-use and flexibility needed to encourage broad usage in desktops throughout an organization. Combined with robust invoice automation solutions, today's organizations have tools to enable them to have the visibility and control that they need. What has made these technologies so effective in generating broad adoption? What policies and practices do companies need to implement to support effective purchase-to-pay processes? When planning the deployment of an e-procurement system — or any enterprise system, for that matter, keep in mind the following best practices to encourage user buy-in, a successful product rollout and, ultimately, more effective processes: