For companies wanting to go through the withdrawal process of using Excel as a core operating platform for sourcing, the good news is that the tools to facilitate successful rehab, not to mention staying clean, are becoming more common and accepted. Granted, you might not be able to get your "insurer" to pick up the tab without a fight, but with a good business case in hand, it's possible to rally executive support to kick the Excel addiction once and for all. Herein we present a simple five-course rehab model for shedding your reliance on Excel for sourcing:
- Invest in core sourcing systems that put Excel into a box from a data analysis standpoint. These include optimization-ready capabilities from vendors such as CombineNet, Trade Extensions, BravoSolution, Emptoris and Iasta that can handle very large data sets (the first two vendors listed are the only two pure-play optimization vendors in the market that focus the essence of their development on this one area). It's fine to let your suppliers use Excel as a tool for filling in information, but they should then upload this information into a sourcing toolset that allows users to conduct their own analysis in the platform, using Excel only as a last ditch means, instead relegating it to the role of building charts and reports as necessary.
- Invest as much time necessary to train your entire sourcing organization on the use of sourcing approaches that enable optimization and the collection and analysis of larger datasets. Note, this is not just "software training." Such a move requires opening the minds of team members to sourcing approaches that encourage greater supplier creativity and expressiveness in bidding.
- Consider eProcurement tools like those included with the most recent SAP SRM 7.0 Enhancement Pack (see previous coverage here and here) that enable the collection of bid information for simple sourcing events in a form other than Excel (e.g., a PDF-like document) that then suck this information into the system for quick, down and dirty analysis and viewing without having to export to Excel.
- Leverage a spend analysis toolset that provides the OLAP and analytical horsepower for running analysis and creating multiple cubes within the application itself without requiring the dumping of information into Excel.
- Create a marketing plan (internal) to show the afterlife of putting Excel into a more focused role. For example, show the benefits of having a single environment to enable team members to collaborate and have a shared version of the sourcing analytics and scenario truth. Preach the gospels of not having to worry about who on the team has "Master." And talk about the equal importance of showing the decision process and analysis in an auditable trail that captures all the steps of the process to show to executives and other stakeholders how you arrived at a particular solution vs. just providing the answer.
Good luck kicking the Excel sourcing addiction!