10 Things to Consider When Selecting a Purchasing Platform
So, you have decided you need software to improve your purchasing. But there’s a host of things to consider to ensure you select the right product for your organisation. This handy checklist should help you to identify the right tools for your business.
1. Document your business requirements
Its critical to capture and document the desired process and assess each step of the workflow. Take a look at a standard best practice purchase to pay workflow and consider how much or how little of the workflow you actually need. Don’t forget that automating only part of the process can create bottlenecks further upstream or downstream.
2. Validate with key people involved in the process
Speak to each function effected by every step of the process. It’s not just management or the accounts team that need to contribute to your defined requirements. Speaking to them early can elicit great insights into how they operate, where inefficiencies exist and how potential benefits can be achieved. It also helps buy-in later in the process.
3. Assess potential solutions
It’s worthwhile understanding the full capabilities and any limitations of any software that you have in place. For example, whilst you accounting software may have some purchase order capabilities it may not be suitable for employees to be able to access the software to raise requisitions.
4. Consider your options
There’s a host of potential solutions on the market, ranging from full Procure-to-Pay platforms, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) as well as specialist applications for purchase orders and approvals. Do you need a low cost, easy to use solution for simple, ad hoc purchases or a sophisticated high end ERP to manage complex procurement cycles? Are you looking for a solution for a single site, or a business with employees spread across multiple locations? There are many potential solutions.
5. Narrow the field
Once you have refined your preferred solution type down, its time to find potential vendors. Of course, asking your peers, contacting industry bodies or trade groups or engaging suitably qualified independent consultants are all viable ways to get to a shortlist. Websites like Capterra, GetApp, SoftwareAdvice and G2Crowd provide lists for every category of software. Its a great way to find potential vendors, but be aware that they earn money through advertising so the right solution might not appear at the top of the list.
6. Engage shortlisted suppliers
Software companies should have clear, concise and easy to navigate websites. Take a look at product features, check out client success stories, support and service options, management and ownership, implementations, set up and ongoing pricing to ensure they match your needs. More and more software vendors provide video content, webinars, product sheets and other materials to help make it easy to evaluate their offering.
7. Take a demo
There’s no better way of checking if the software will work for you than a product demo. An effective demonstration should involve the vendor getting a high level understanding of your requirements, taking you through a tailored presentation of their product including functionality, system administration and reporting. Make sure you consider how it would fit your requirements, is it easy to use, does it have the reporting you need, will it integrate into your existing systems. If there’s a good fit, keep them on the list for the next step. Our recommendation is to keep the initial high level demo to just one or two of your team - not the entire workforce. This will give you the chance to assess it the vendor should make the cut.
8. Check a little deeper
Once you have a high level understanding that the vendor’s software will address your requirements in full, or at least sufficient to solve the majority of your needs, its critical to go deeper into the potential supplier. How long have they been in business? How many customers do they have? Have they delivered the desired outcomes to companies in your sector? Are they financially secure? Where are they based? How do they have problems? Does their product integrate? Contract terms? Service Level Agreements? There are a whole host of considerations to make sure you end up with the right solution for the lifetime of your requirements.
9. Business Case Approval
Once you have decided the best fit supplier and solution for your needs, most companies will require an updated business case to be submitted for approval. Consider the initial cost of set-up, training and any customisations, ongoing subscriptions (monthly or annual) and ensure you understand if there are any additional costs. For example on-premise vendors will usually require additional hardware, licensing and maintenance, where-as some cloud (software-as-a-service) vendors may have a transaction charge based on more users or usage. Take a look at the potential benefits to assess how achievable they are and over what timescales. There are plenty of business case builders that will help to calculate the potential return on investment.
10. Contract with Your Chosen Supplier
Place your order. See if the vendor will offer an incentive, such as a free month or some remote training at no cost, just to sweeten the deal. Check through the contract terms to ensure you are very clear on your obligations and payment commitments. Don’t forget the software will only deliver the benefits you need, if it is professionally deployed, adopted by users and consistently user in line with the suppliers training and educational materials. Track service levels, read through release notes, take all the available training and look out for updates and upgrades in order to stay on top of the capabilities and how it can benefit your organisation.
read the full guide to selecting the right Purchasing Software here.
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Zahara is a cloud-based Accounts Payables automation platform.