eProcurement and P2P Usability: Catalog Management and Organizational Changes

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).

When we think of “usability” or the “user experience” in eProcurement, we all too often only imagine the buying interface itself. But so much of the buying experience for front-line users is tied to the underlying usability of the catalog management and search capabilities of the application. In this regard, Peter suggests, “Another aspect of usability comes into play around catalog management. Users are likely to be buying through such tools, so the ability to manage and easily configure catalogs to enable users to buy from the appropriate suppliers (generally chosen by the procurement team) is vital. Procurement and finance may also wish to control which goods and services are available to users within each catalog, which again makes flexible configuration a key element of usability for procurement.”

Usability also extends to being able to adjust to changes to organizational structure. As Peter observes, “Most large organizations go through major structural changes around every three years. What does that do to the schedule of budgets, named budget-holders, divisional structures, approval routing, and so on? Will making the necessary adjustments to the spend governance regime (routing of approvals and management of sign-off limits, for instance) be an expensive nightmare every time the CEO decides to shuffle the pack?”

From a usability perspective, “What procurement (or finance) needs is the ability to reflect these changes quickly and easily – and without extensive IT involvement. Typically when an IT request is required, it takes a long time for change to happen because IT resources are scarce, and they are juggling many projects with seemingly more important priorities. Sometimes users are quoted five or even six-figure sums by software providers to make relatively small configuration changes to systems.” So usability in this sense is all about the internal “system administrators” being able to set up the system easily and make changes to profiles, approvals and content without expensive provider intervention.

Said another way, this is not just making enterprise software eProcurement concrete at least somewhat flexible – it’s blowing up the construct of needing to pour such a permanent, customization-centric non-malleable foundation in the first place!

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

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