Probrand – a dynamic and innovative approach to IT procurement (part 2)

We featured yesterday the Probrand IT procurement platform, which tracks prices in real time across 150,000 items and runs daily auctions across thousands of manufacturers and distributors.

The latest development in the offering is an innovative link up with American Express for payment. This takes care of the invoicing end of the process, and for many organisations will take significant cost out of the whole process, while retaining the ability to have authorisation steps built into the system.

Purchase of IT items can often lead to many separate orders and invoices for a large organisation, so this initiative means that rather than multiple invoices with issues of allocation to cost centres, the client can pay through Amex. The approach is based on using a lodge card process  – so buyers don't need to constantly quote or enter card numbers every time they buy.

Probrand have also packaged up the IT Index technology into an offering called ITelligence, which provides users with access to supplier prices, stock levels, with email alerts against items, the ability to set up your own product database and so on. It’s available on a subscription basis, and it looks like a great tool for buyers and would pay for itself quickly for anyone spending even a few hundred £K a year on IT. There’s a helpful short demo here.

Probrand’s sister company, Mercato, have developed the software behind the IT Index and ITelligence, and they’ve used similar capability for other products. They’ve had a lot of success with IBM for instance - the technology is deployed globally for IBM as part of its ‘Pre-Sales Advisor Tool’ project across 37 countries in 22 languages.

This is used by IBM distributors and resellers to build, price and source IBM servers, and the solution has now been launched to the public at www.PreSalesAdvisor.net.  This means anyone can build a unique hardware solution and then click a button to invite their nearest IBM supplier to offer the best price and delivery date.

It’s certainly a feather in the cap of a mid-sized UK firm to be running a platform like this for IBM, and that’s one of the reasons why Probrand have won a number of awards, such as a Queen’s Award for Innovation.

We talked recently about the changing role of the CPO and how to best combine the capability of both external providers and internal staff. In our view, Probrand have interesting propositions here in terms of a specific supply chain expertise in the IT sector and the technology to back that up.

It doesn't of course mean you don't need internal IT category management – we'd suggest that strategic relationships and major tenders, particularly for IT services, should still be core business for the internal procurement team. But Probrand can handle a lot of the more transactional IT buying, and deliver serious benefits in their particular area. Well worth a look for any major buyer of IT kit.

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