Procurement Instructables: Building Your Own Guided Buying Engine

guided buying sima/Adobe Stock

Procurement works hard to establish preferred supply agreements, but the moment of truth comes when somebody in the firm needs to buy something. This process of searching for supply is not always a delightful experience. So, to keep internal customers on the ranch and guide them to the preferred supply source that hopefully meets their needs — and have a feedback process if it doesn’t — you need a guided buying process. (You can read the basics on the concept here or a deeper dive here.)

Why build it? Lower maverick spending is one reason. Another is ensuring that your preferred suppliers, items and services are continuing to meet stakeholder needs, which again reduces maverick spending and increases savings compliance. Finally, stakeholder satisfaction goes up, and they get what they need to accomplish their objectives.

Great, but how should you build a guided buying process? I’ll take a page out of DIY site and show you how to build your own. It’s often sort of a software version of this scene in the movie “Apollo 13.”

It’s a mashup of smart forms, catalogs, search, workflow and other components. There are also two versions: one using internal data sources surrounding preferred supply and the other that interrogates external data sources as well. I’ll describe how to build the first.

The first thing you need to do is to take stock of the software that you have available to use, just like in war room in the “Apollo 13” clip. You may have some packaged e-procurement and e-sourcing applications, some ERP, some homegrown stuff and some duct tape.

So, where to start?

I go through a laundry list of the components you need in a corresponding Spend Matters Plus article, but a pragmatic option is to use your catalog functionality as a core set of components to this capability. Remember, you should always think about process capabilities that are digitally enabled rather than features and functions of technology. So, a robust catalog solution really provides the master data, analytics, workflow and engagement/interaction needed to help users find the right catalog entries that support their needs.

If you want to see this in action, there is no better scenario than complex MRO where the solution must meet many critical requirements and constraints. (You should definitely check out this webinar we did with jCatalog on these complex guided buying scenarios.) Even if you’re not interested in MRO, you’ll see how you can apply the concepts to any complex environment.

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