Procurement Technology Usability: Key Conclusions

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).

In the above-linked analysis, my colleague Peter Smith makes a number of conclusions. He notes, for example, that procurement technology “usability goes beyond the user interface, and it’s important, not just for the end user of any software, but also for all the stakeholders. In the case of spend management software, that includes requisitioners, approvers, procurement, finance, or IT staff who manage and configure the system - and even suppliers.”

Having worked with a broad range of procurement technologies since the late 1990s, I’ve come to believe that usability is a topic that’s hard to summarize overall, and it depends greatly on the specific functional area. But I’ll add a few quick thoughts to some of Peter’s concluding statements on the subject:

  • When it comes to eProcurement and e-invoicing specifically, usability should be looked at as early as possible in the evaluation and roll-out process (e.g., usability focused on enabling as many suppliers as possible; this includes on-boarding tools, supplier portal, catalog management, etc.)
  • Usability in other areas of procurement technology outside of P2P goes both ways. Usability for the “power user” can be as important as for the casual user. Don't necessarily get swept away on your easy-to-use heels by a tool that is simple and elegant (but not necessarily deep) when power users are also potential customers.
  • Consider mobile usability as well! Mobile will become incrementally more important in the coming years. Your vendors better have a strong mobile strategy (where usability and capability should always be linked).

In his analysis, Peter does a great job calling attention to a subject that deserves far more than a cursory look. If you’re curious about the topic, I encourage you to explore additional elements of the procurement technology usability equation in Peter’s paper, What Does Usability Really Mean? Making Software Selection Decisions and Getting Behind the Rhetoric (free, but registration required).

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