Think about the employee experience when they need to buy a new piece of technology. In their private lives, they log on to the internet, search for the features they need, compare prices, and then hit the “buy” button. In most cases, their new tech will arrive within a day or two. When a small-to-medium business (SMB) has multiple offices and teams around the country, managing procurement can be a challenge—especially when it comes to meeting today’s employee expectations. The good news is that the days of filling out forms in triplicate and waiting weeks for procurement approvals are over. Here’s how fast-growing businesses are using self-service procurement features to control spend, speed up business, and delight employees.
Ecommerce has changed the way that we shop, and major retail brands have worked hard to create digital experiences that take the friction out of shopping online. Those experiences have shaped the way people expect to buy, even in the workplace. Cloud-based self-service procurement solutions like Oracle’s Self-Service Procurement Cloud make it easy to offer and scale an easy, consumer-like buying experience. Users don’t have to sit through extensive training. Instead, they can use an intuitive search interface, create shopping lists, and buy the items they need from pre-approved purchase lists. Employees are more satisfied, and your procurement team can reduce support costs and speed up the buying experience.
While the ease of online shopping sounds great, the reality is that business procurement can be more complex. Cloud-based self-service procurement solutions let you customize the back end to control costs and keep buying activities compliant. It’s easy to drive compliance simply by populating the procurement site with approved suppliers. Let’s say an employee is looking for a laptop, and your organization has three approved vendors. An employee shopping for a new computer will be directed to those vendors and automatically see what options are available.
It’s also possible to create workflows that support unusual circumstances. What if a purchase needs to be split between two project accounts, for example? Maybe you need to arrange for one-time delivery to a specific location. It’s possible to configure the system to support these needs, while making sure to request the necessary approvals for exceptions.
One of the best ways to control costs is to negotiate better pricing from preferred vendors. However, it can be a challenge to communicate that information to employees and their managers, or to direct employees to the right place when they need to buy an item. Sometimes it can just seem easier to go to the nearest office supply store. Cloud-based procurement solutions help solve that problem by giving small-to-medium businesses access to the best catalog-management tools.
It’s easy to set up. Decide what categories and items you want to feature. Import that information into your catalog superstore, and then give users the ability to filter on brand, price, and features. Most importantly, by having control at a deep catalog-management level, it’s possible to always take advantage of your best negotiated pricing.
One of the most effective tools fast-growing companies have to control costs is using purchase approvals. For example, depending on an employee’s role, they may have the discretion to make certain kinds of purchases or buy items up to a preset dollar amount with approval. In other cases, every buy may need a manager’s sign-off. Rules-based management makes it easy to set up these rules and then enforce them across your organization, without taking management or procurement teams’ time.
When you set up a multi-level user approval process, each purchase gets routed to the right person for sign-offs. Whether you’re dealing with a standardized process or need to customized sign-offs for a unique purchase, it’s easy to do. Approvers can log in and approve a purchase, reject it, or send it back for revision. It’s possible to share notes throughout the process; for example, perhaps you need to explain that the graphic designer needs a more powerful—and therefore more expensive—computer to run specific software. By including that context, each approver has the context needed to sign off. Finally, if you need to attach requisitions, sign-offs, or other supporting documentation, that can be done within the portal.
Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are working hard to find ways to offer a fantastic employee experience, while staying in compliance with their most important policies. Every delay—whether it’s a delay in finding the right product for their needs or securing manager approval—can hurt productivity and the company’s bottom line. Investing in a self-service procurement solution offers fast-growing companies a world-class experience, while keeping oversight and compliance at the heart of the process.