Supplier Enablement and P2P Roadblocks — Search and Usage

This is a post of within a broader series looking at supplier enablement and P2P roadblocks. The material is based in part on our recent research paper: A Foundational Look at P2P Technologies. The paper can be downloaded for free via the above link.

One of the great ironies of P2P enablement is that far too many organizations prioritize controls and compliance as priorities for system features and implementation than actual use cases for how typical requisitioners will use this system. As a result of this, we've nearly all done a great job with eProcurement and P2P systems when it comes to workflows, approvals and controls -- not to mention reducing maverick spend in general because employees know they're being watched. But we've done a horrible job making the shopping experience easier, which can actually be an even greater stealth means of driving compliance (after all, if someone uses a P2P system and they can't find what they're looking for, you can be sure they'll find a way of thwarting the system to find an item or service and gain approval for it).

This is why strong search capability is such a critical enabler of P2P systems, even though it's something that historically none of the major players (including SAP, Oracle and Ariba) have necessarily built a core competency around. Implemented properly, search enables the ability for requisitioners to easily search across supplier catalogs, punch-out sites, and published web pages in a federated manner, pulling information back into the structured buying environment of an evaluation page and/or shopping cart. Advanced search was virtually non-existent in early P2P implementations (and is still a challenge for some).

Depending on the industry, search tools must factor in the need for indexing, querying and managing catalog/content with highly domain-specific attributes. This is especially the case within areas like life sciences and healthcare, where it's essential to give users detailed information to make the most informed comparative and buying decisions (it's also one of the elements for overcoming physician preference obstacles in a tactical buying clinical setting, but that's another story).

Regardless, our research suggests that organizations are ready to invest in these capabilities and this area when they receive feedback from users that it is important to incorporate consumer (i.e., Google) search capabilities with an integrated compliance footprint. After all, why should employees have such a better experience searching and shopping at home for everything from books to groceries to travel compared with what they have in the office?

Jason Busch

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