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Buyer's Guide

by Daniel Harris,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 18, 2017


Procurement software solutions vary in terms of functionality, pricing and core technology. The ideal solution enables organizations to control budgets, cut costs and enhance transparency in the approvals and spending process.

The primary objective of procurement solutions is to manage and ease all interactions between the stakeholders, such as originator, buyer, category manager, approver, vendor and receiver, at every transactional step. The solution also executes critical tasks such as request initiation, purchase order placement, bid analysis, invoice approval and final payment.

This guide will assist potential buyers in determining which procurement software best fits their needs.

Here's what we'll cover:

What Is Procurement Software?
Common Features of Procurement Software
Evaluating Procurement Systems
Market Trends to Understand

What Is Procurement Software?

Procurement software (labeled as RFQ software or purchasing management software by some vendors) manages the purchasing processes within a supply chain. After using sourcing software to analyze current spending and potential vendor performance, these applications take over to finalize deals and initiate monetary transactions. As an important element of supply chain management systems, these systems help organizations efficiently manage their purchasing cycle times and maximize profit on every purchase order (PO).

Common Features of Procurement Software

Procurement management software solutions can convert a well-researched sourcing process into successful purchase orders through user-friendly processes. This helps control non-payroll expenditures and thus support positive asset management over the long run. After reverse auctions, which can take place through public bids or multi-round private offers, the requisitioning phase begins. At this point, the supplies are bought via the system’s electronic purchasing capabilities. Once the order has been completed, the application analyzes receipts for invoice approval and reconciliation.

Screenshot of Fishbowl user dashboard

Screenshot of Fishbowl user dashboard

One of the obvious benefits of these applications and supplier relationship management systems in general is its ability to effectively manage the mass amounts of data that accumulate after an organization’s many purchases. Once purchasing terms have been agreed, e-procurement software submits the information to all necessary parties for immediate approval, ensuring that the procured products can be delivered as soon as possible. For future reference, the program also stores these approval documents as well as the expense figures for each purchase, which will be used in the next sourcing cycle when the organization once again looks to cut costs.

Specific features of an electronic procurement system include:

Selection & ordering Purchasing solutions organize product information in a format that makes it easy to compare products to make the best selection. Although this makes all purchasing decisions easier, where it really adds value is in the selection of commodities, where there are no variations in product features or quality.
Purchase order approval & delivery Organizing the data in one place makes it easy to identify product and purchase order approvals, ensuring that nothing is ordered without the right people knowing about it. They then deliver the POs to the vendors through their preferred delivery method.
Billing As part of the billing functionality in these systems, it should match invoices to orders, and handle electronic bill paying as desired.
Spend data analysis The business intelligence side of these applications analyzes purchasing trends and evaluates vendors to identify potential areas to improve on economies of scale and otherwise improve negotiating position.

Evaluating Procurement Systems

When evaluating purchasing software, it’s a good idea not to get caught up in the individual features of each product. Rather, look for something that matches your current and past use, that will simply expedite decisions you’ve already made.

One of the main decisions you’ll make in purchasing this program is to go with a traditional installation-based system or a software-as-a-service “e-Procurement” system. Procurement applications must handle compliance issues, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 which placed harsher regulations on accounting practices. That means you also need to ensure your application is SOX compliant—maintaining full and reliable disclosure in financial reporting.

Ask the following questions when evaluating solutions for purchasing:

  • Does your department primarily manage direct procurement or indirect procurement? Does this system match those use cases?
  • Is the application SOX compliant?
  • How will this program support you in your commodity purchasing?
  • What’s the PO approval and delivery process?

Market Trends to Understand

As you evaluate a new procurement software solution, it’s important to keep the following industry trends in mind. How your selected vendor fits within these trends could have a significant impact on their viability.

The rise of the cloud. Procurement teams across the world are investing in technology in one way or the other; however, they are yet to maximize the use of the cloud across their organizations. The procurement process can leverage cloud technology in various ways, such as supplier collaboration. The cloud has a lot to offer procurement departments, such as streamlining orders, enhanced visibility across supply chains and smoother execution of various changes, even during the transportation of goods.

For example, Del Monte integrated its supply chain data with the cloud, which enables it to collaborate with its business partners, place supplier contracts, create orders and access global data in real time.

Enhancements in e-procurement. Organizations will have to be more careful while selecting their e-procurement systems and expense management parameters. The ideal e-procurement technology will help them speed up their buying activities, decrease policy breaches and remove existing roadblocks in procurement.

The new generation has unique requirements. These days people have high expectations about how procurement should be done and the technology that must be employed. Hence, organizations must be aware and up to date regarding the latest technology in order to retain the current generation and manage the millennials involved in the overall supply chain.

Growing emphasis on data security. Due to the increasing number of data breaches, organizations must store their data securely at various steps of their supply chain. They should also make people within the supply relationships accountable for any data breaches. Growth in analytics. The complex tasks of data representation, insights and analysis are challenging but critical these days. This trend is growing significantly among procurement teams. Analyzing the spending allows procurement departments to have complete visibility of all indirect and direct spending. It also helps them reduce costs wherever possible and identify all the consolidation opportunities.

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