A shoppable web presence is often lauded as a 'saving grace' for companies that are just beginning to stretch their proverbial legs into the digital future from the analog past. E-Procurement, a key facet of that transition, is not only the driving force behind such a move, but it can end up feeling like the biggest obstacle to it as well.
As both business systems and the minds behind them chafe at the growing pains that effect everything from consumer interaction to packaging fulfillment, it can bring frustrations that sidetracks progress towards the ultimate goal: a stronger business more adept at scaling future challenges.
If you're eyeing up incorporating e-procurement capabilities in your business, but find yourself hesitant over the looming specter of these challenges, here are three expert tips that can help you overcome any obstacles.
1. Don't Forget to Think Ahead During Your Initial Set-Up.
The e-procurement efforts you put in place today are not just for the business you're running in the moment. They should either address or nearly-effortlessly adapt to the sort of changing markets your particular industry faces.
Adjustments that you may find yourself needing in the future, such as yanking a particular product or product line in the event of a recall, should not be a rubik's cube of calculations. Conversely, if a mistake is made, whatever format the "undo" button takes in your system should be one that every individual with access to the system should know.
Don't hoard e-procurement knowledge in a single individual or small group. Ask yourself if the administrator unexpectedly quit without warning tomorrow, could someone take their place in managing the system? If the answer is no, reevaluate your chain of command as far.
Branch wide, not high.
2. Avoid Supplier Content Activation Failure.
Lack of consistency from product to product can be just as devastating to e-procurement as a technical glitch, disrupting the flow from initial ordering to packaging fulfillment. While it can be tempting to push forward with implementation and plan to later supplement standard information provided by your vendors, be realistic about the time it will take.
Know what information you need and what details you have before moving forward:
- How in-depth do you need— not want, but need– your product information to be? Use this as a guideline and build on as needed.
- Will your product information goals align properly with your intended end-user design?
- Do all of your suppliers have interface-friendly product lists, such as comma separated value sheets, that can be uploaded into the system? If not, remember that your employees will have to fill in those gaps.
Speak to your suppliers about interface options on product catalogs and finalize product information requirements before setting up an e-procurement system. Otherwise, you'll end up scrambling to compensate manually once it's already in place.
3. Decline Implementation of Overly Ambitious Processes.
A "kitchen sink" of rich text tools, multiple upload buttons, mobile interfaces— these all sound great when you're setting up your e-procurement system, but you might be complicating future workflow. Advanced designs with multiple bells and whistles stand a higher chance of conflict with future updates and may bog down the system from both a digital standpoint and a human one.
Without a clean, simple user interface, your second generation of users— new users who enter the workplace when older employees retire, move away, or are promoted— will struggle to pick up the system and use it efficiently. Try to keep things as intuitive and user-friendly as possible.
With a little bit of effort in the beginning and thoughtful management throughout as time goes on, your e-procurement system can be a true success, from initial product creation through warehousing and packaging fulfillment.