Purchasing: 4 steps to Digitalize and Automate Workflows

Business
Marjory
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Through the ongoing process of digital transformation, purchasing workflows have seen huge change. Moving from Excel spreadsheets to tools which combine machine learning, cross-referencing and big data, data professionals are already in the midst of a digital revolution. The effort to digitalize and automate workflows in purchasing is therefore key to increasing productivity, reducing costs and refocusing on higher value tasks. But how do you effectively manage this change in workflow management and where should you start? Here we provide four step to help you effectively digitalize and automate workflows for purchasing.

1. Digitalize and Automate workflows in purchasing: benefits for employees

Throughout the pandemic, the purchasing function has been confronted with blockages in the supply chain. Choosing digital solutions therefore became an urgent necessity: the more an organization digitalizes, the better it is able to quickly respond to disruptions and irregularities. 

However, the digitalization and automation of purchasing workflows, procurement and supplier accounting still faces resistance: The desire for digitalization may be there, but was – until recently – not considered urgent. 

Consequently, in order to deploy digital solutions for purchasing, the first step is to explain the benefits of automating workflows to internal employees in order to win their support before a project begins. These include: 

  • Improved fluidity of transactions 
  • Reduction/optimization of costs and processing times 
  • Reduction in banking errors
  • Consolidate and secure all data
  • Better control of expenses with improved cost optimization

Suppliers are also an integral part of the procurement ecosystem – from sourcing to invoicing – and must therefore be involved in this change. To do this, it is important to discuss the subject before the digitalization process begins in order to gather opinions and respond to any issues. The aim should be to adapt the digital solution to the reality on the ground.

four-steps-to-digitalize-and-automate-workflows

2. Audit existing processes: the impact of digitalizing and automating workflows

Before embarking on this transition, it is important to know exactly where your organization is at in terms of the digitalization and automation of purchasing workflows. This audit could include: 

  • Define the target and objectives to be achieved through the digitalization and automation of purchasing workflows.
  • Identify the points of change, blockages and optimizations to be achieved and set objectives.
  • Know exactly which teams are impacted by digitalization and automation solution.
  • List the steps in the process of implementing the solution in order to adapt teams in parallel.

The audit stage is crucial to know which levers to use, especially when you consider that Gartner believes more than 80% of B2B buyer and seller interactions will be automated by 2025.

The audit will also identify the impact of digitalization on management and the evolution of roles and skills. By identifying the points of improvement and blockages, it is easier to make changes which allow your teams to change their habits to adapt faster.

3. Employee buy-in to Digitalize and Automate workflows

After the analysis of objectives and the audit, the third step to Digitalize and automate workflows for purchasing is the participation of employees. Because they are both users and beneficiaries of the digital solution, this will allow for better co-construction of processes and implementation. This can include:

  • Workshops or participative meetings bring together different groups of employees, to re-explain the objectives and benefits of digitalization for the organization;
  • Open up debate to encourage the sharing of ideas, hear potential issues and propose solutions;
  • Present concrete cases of successful digitalization, highlighting advantages: productivity gains, elimination of low-value-added tasks, etc;
  • Share specific resources for each business unit or operational unit via e-learning tools or a DAP (Digital Adoption Platform) like uQualio;
  • Involve digital solution providers who can explain their usefulness in a concrete way.
Read also:
E-procurement: How the marketplace is revolutionizing B2B purchasing processes

4. Support during the process to Digitalize and Automate workflows

Once the process has been launched, it is essential to support your employees in this transition through three fundamental pillars:

Training:

Implementing new tools is not a trivial matter, and not everyone is necessarily comfortable with digital solutions. This is especially true when these solutions disrupt habits. Training your employees with a structured training plan is therefore a prerequisite for 100% successful digitalization.

Communication:

The transition can worry employees who feel their position is threatened or their skills are becoming obsolete. By communicating regularly on the evolution of positions, management and the new organization, it is possible to limit apprehensions.

Reassurance: 

Although the process to digitalize and automate workflows in purchasing may be obvious to those who are interested, not all employees will immediately understand the benefits. This is why it is important to point out the benefits of such a change in terms of productivity. 

It is essential to set up Key Users to support all employees on these three points. Also referred to as ‘reference users’ or simply ‘ambassadors’, Key Users are competent profiles on the subject of digitalization who can answer employees questions, guide and reassure them if necessary. Key User profiles can be divided into the following categories:

  • by product segment 
  • by purchasing group 
  • by business unit or operational unit 
  • by location (regions, countries, production sites and others)

The purchasing function is at the heart of digital transformation, therefore in order to remain competitive, responsive, and boost productivity, the adoption of appropriate solutions is necessary sooner than later. From an internal point of view, it creates a more flexible organization: all work habits with no added value are eliminated and collaboration is at the heart of the project. The result? More dynamic collaborations.

The B2B marketplace to Digitalize and Automate workflows

The B2B marketplace is an excellent way for companies to optimize their procurement processes. Creating an in-house e-procurement marketplace, for example, can be interesting for a large company. By centralizing all suppliers in a single platform, it will have access to a centralized product catalog from which it can compare prices and select those that best meet its needs. For those who cannot create their own internal e-procurement marketplace, it is quite possible to turn to more generalist marketplaces such as Amazon Business or players dedicated to certain categories of purchases such as Alstom’s StationOne for the railway sector. 

The marketplace model offers many advantages for purchasing departments: product information, automated order management, transparency and security of payments, time savings, etc.

Creating a B2B marketplace might be part of your effort to digitalize and automate workflows for purchasing in your company. To find out more about how we can help, contact us

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Pour se distinguer des places de marché, les enseignes adoptent différentes stratégies pour attirer les consommateurs : une expertise logistique, une sélection qualitative des produits, une prolifération des offres de produits à prix bas… Chacune y trouve son compte !

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