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Shifting to Digitization from Manual Sourcing Processes Isn’t Easy — Unless You Use Bonfire

For procurement project managers looking to overcome manual processes and engage stakeholders, digitizing your sourcing workflows can be a mammoth task.

It’s more than just using digital files like PDFs, Excel spreadsheets and email. Although they are a step in the right direction, those tools are not true digitization. Digitization is really about making a workflow that’s easier for people to use while saving time and money. It involves putting all the documents in a central, accessible source and making the whole process more collaborative with people across your company and with vendors.

Bonfire, a cloud-based provider of strategic sourcing and contract and performance management, knows your pain because it has already solved those problems.

Limited Sourcing Resources? Do More with Less

Bonfire’s solution puts all the contracts, compliance paperwork and approval tasks in one online solution that lets your evaluators, executives and vendors easily access the status and documents of RFx projects.

For evaluators in particular, the centralized and online access can save time whenever you choose to do your scoring, which is often not during business hours. When Bonfire analyzed the data from $4.4 billion in RFP decisions conducted through its strategic sourcing solution, it found that 27% of RFP scoring happens outside of work hours.

In a demo of the e-sourcing solution, Bonfire Product Manager Cam Davies showed how its solution easily displays the status of projects and can put contracts, COIs and other documents at users’ fingertips. People don’t have to hunt through emails, download PDFs or manage Excel spreadsheets to get RFx projects done. The project manager can even notify evaluators that their expertise is needed, and the evaluator can click into the system, see only their work and check a display that shows what percentage of the project is done.

“The way that Bonfire is built is such that you can run multi-phase, multi-people, multi-vendor projects — or you can run really simple bids and anything in between,” Davies said.

Bonfire, which is known for its award-winning customer service, has an extensive background in the public sector, and in fact, it’s even designed unique packages for each segment spanning municipalities, higher education, K-12 schools, transportation and utilities. Also, its strategic sourcing solution is great for completing the open bidding process that’s required by government regulation.

For the private sector, Bonfire has a robust capability to reach out to suppliers for bids and allow them access to submit proposals and supporting documentation. The system even has unlimited file storage.

“Our solution was built from the ground up to serve the sourcing needs of each sector, because they do differ. As we wrapped our solution in an easy-to-use interface, it became clear that these tools are also a proven mix for commercial procurement teams, especially those in highly regulated industries that require complex decision-making,” Davies said.

E-Sourcing with Automated Evaluation Tools

Let’s also take a quick look at some of the useful tools and capabilities provided within Bonfire:

1. Side-by-Side Scoring and Consensus Reporting

Bonfire offers many tools for evaluators to easily compare qualitative answers side by side, dive into vendor documentation and comprehensively compare their bids for scoring. Bonfire has templated questionnaires to collect structured response from vendors, allowing buyers to quickly evaluate and autoscore large question sets.

“As an evaluator in the old world, you would have to go through vendor responses in a long PDF proposal and then go to an Excel scorecard to input the score. With every RFx project having different requirements and multiple inputs of data, reviewing and scoring the information can be cumbersome and time-consuming, with the risk of missing information,” Davies said. “But Bonfire questionnaires place information side by side so the information can be compared in minutes, instead of hours or even days.”

Evaluator scores are automatically aggregated and tabulated, eliminating hours of copying and pasting on the part of the buyer. The Bonfire system automatically highlights areas of significant score discrepancy, allowing buyers to quickly focus in on areas of disagreement and lead productive evaluation meetings.

2. Dashboards for visibility and reporting

Dashboards in this system are easy to read and let evaluators analyze data at a glance. (See the color-coded dashboard example below.)

And since all the bid information is one place, users can drill down into a supplier’s proposed cost of installing a project, see what the build time is and tell how much the yearly maintenance costs would be. All of this information can support managers with resource planning for the future.

3. Intuitive design for improved user adoption

Ease of use not only helps drive adoption of the system, it also enables faster project cycle times because it allows stakeholders to access the system, review documents and complete their scoring wherever and whenever they need to. Furthermore, proposal information can be segmented so those evaluators only see proposal documents and information that is relevant to their expertise, which makes the click-through scoring process extremely fast and straightforward. Intuitive functionality like this can position the sourcing team as a strategic player in your company, rather than being perceived as a pain in the neck, as often happens.

RELATED: 5 Steps to Better User Adoption of your Procurement Software

Providing Value to Bonfire Customers

The user experience of Bonfire’s offering made it a standout in the strategic sourcing market, according to a Spend Matters “What Makes It Great” review.

Take for example one of Bonfire’s clients, Maine Pointe — which is a specialist in procurement, logistics and operations that runs sourcing events around the globe and manages hundreds of suppliers.

“With Bonfire’s online sourcing solution, our workflow is centralized in one location. Gone are the days of using a spreadsheet and separate file folders to maintain NDAs, executed contracts and vendor reviews,” said Nathanael Powrie, Maine Pointe’s executive vice president of data analytics.

Maine Pointe was especially interested in centralizing its  information because the company operates globally.

RELATED: Data Insight: Are your stakeholders ready for e-sourcing?

“It’s extremely easy to log in from anywhere to get information on the fly,” Powrie said. “Because of this, we can now gain visibility into client activities during offsite meetings and easily gather information for upper management. Furthermore, with clients based around the world, they can easily access the system to get visibility into projects. Using the dashboards, they gain an instant understanding of workflow progress such as who signed NDAs, how many vendors were invited to complete the RFP, and how many vendors submitted a completed proposal,” he said.

“We can now provide value for our clients at a faster pace. When we’re onsite with clients, we often need to understand their challenges, workflow and insights, and show our value quickly. Information is now at our fingertips, allowing us to iterate quickly.”

Communication also can improve when you’re not able to collaborate in the same job site or office.

“Bonfire hosts all messages between our vendors and clients in one spot, allowing key stakeholders to get up to speed on projects,” Powrie said. “Our communications have greatly improved among our team, the data analysts we work with, our clients and our vendors.”

Bonfire’s solution can transform your operations in other ways too. Take the RFP process, which can be a long, complicated ordeal with many documents, deadlines and stakeholders to manage. Bonfire’s collaborative system can speed up the time to complete RFPs because it’s easy to use and people aren’t put off by it — so they aren’t putting off their work.

The procurement process is difficult enough when you have to spend time on RFPs, evaluate bids, manage suppliers and get your stakeholders to stay involved, so it’s good to have an option like Bonfire, which has done the digitization for you. It’s already saving you time.

Register for Bonfire’s strategic sourcing product demo to see how your procurement team can become a strategic player in your organization.

This article was written for Bonfire, not as Spend Matters editorial or analyst content.