Procurement Technology: Exploring the Supplier Perspective on Usability

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This post is based on the following paper authored by Spend Matters’ Peter Smith: What Does Usability Really Mean? Making Software Selection Decisions and Getting Behind the Rhetoric (free download with registration).

I wish that this story (courtesy of Peter Smith) were simply illustrative, but it’s not. Chances are your suppliers have gone through similar headaches dealing with your A/P organizations in the past. We’ve had similar experiences at Spend Matters on many, many occasions with our clients. And we’re sure your suppliers – large and small alike – have as well:

People rarely talk about usability - in its widest sense - in terms of suppliers rather than procurement or the internal stakeholder. Yet the cost of doing business for the supplier is a huge hidden cost within the whole spend management picture.

Spend Matters spoke with a supplier who recently started working for an organization that uses a shared services center for their invoice processing and management. Their first invoice was for £50 and total annual spend was likely to be a few hundred pounds at best.

The supplier received three e-mails from the center, including a PowerPoint presentation with 15 slides, all to explain how the supplier onboarding process worked (it probably goes without saying that this was traditional, full-on ERP technology powering the service).

Now the effort that the staff in the center put in to try and help suppliers with the onboarding process was admirable, as evidenced by the PowerPoint. But after spending around three hours registering, including not just the e-mails but a phone call to sort out one particular issue (again, handled very well by staff in the center), the supplier was just left thinking "there must be a better way!"

Indeed, there must be a better way. But all too often situations like this are magnified many times over because suppliers must connect to most (if not all) of their customers with significant manual effort required – even if so called “many-to-many” supplier networks are used. There are, of course, numerous reasons for this, ranging from custom field requirements to specific compliance needs to geographic considerations and regulations. But the net outcome is the same: suppliers are left with a bitter taste in their mouths from the on-boarding process.

Read the rest of Peter’s analysis here: What Does Usability Really Mean? Making Software Selection Decisions and Getting Behind the Rhetoric (free, but registration required).

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