Atos Procurement Technology Survey (part 2): Causes of Dis-satisfaction

In part 1 we looked at the headlines from the Atos Procurement Technology Satisfaction Survey 2014. It wasn't a very happy picture, with 67% of respondents unhappy about their procurement technology estate, (although we suspect this was a relatively small sample size).

According to Atos, there were six underlying drivers behind these ratings - time in use, integration, internal constraints (people are constrained by internal policies and procedures in the way they can use the technology), training and support, partial functionality, and “meeting business requirements” .

Let’s just pick up on a couple of those (do download the whole report for more detail), starting with the last, “meeting business requirements”. 

This was “The biggest factor driving satisfaction in terms of matching the technology to strategy and user requirements. In this area standalone applications fare better than those that are ERP-based or part of a finance system”.

That seems a bit of a catch-all heading really, but in essence it means the technology is not doing what the user and their business really want it to do. Which might beg the question – whose fault is that? Are products “mis-sold” in effect – or do users not really understand what they want and need when they buy the product? Or do they hope their ERP system will do stuff it wasn’t really designed to do?

In terms of the “time in use” element, "applications that are more than five years old tend to be less well thought of than those that are between one year and five years old.”  That’s not surprising at all, but confirms what we might have intuitively expected. New software is better, has more functionality, is generally easier to use... we all might guess that.

When we get into the responses and scores for the four specific sub-sectors of the market that Atos considered, we get interesting and somewhat worrying numbers. For instance, only 30% of respondents think their Analytics software provides value for money; the figure is hardly better for P2P at 35% or Sourcing at 38%. However, Supplier Management scores better at 67%, although only 13% of the survey use this sort of product. But it does look like those who do, generally rate its benefits more highly than they do for other types of software. That may also be because this is a relatively new area, so the better performance of newer products (see above) may work in the favour of this market segment.

Similarly, Contract Management (although looked at in a segment with Sourcing) scores well, with as many as 77% saying it represents value for money. As Atos says, “For Contract Management the message is clear. There is much to be gained from using the emerging technology and it will perform well – if carefully selected”.

Looking at specific reasons for the low ratings, we can pick out a few points of note. In terms of Analytics, the report says;“Procurement people have to be fully trained in the use of Spend Analytics to deliver value and it has to be seen as a business-as-usual application, not a once a year event”.

We’d concur with this. There is no doubt that Analytics can be a very useful business tool – but it depends on getting the right product and knowing how to use it.

Policy and process is seen as a core constraint for Sourcing systems. Maybe that is a particular issue in the public sector – a large part of this sample – where regulatory constraints are prevalent. There are also a number of what we might charitably call “legacy” systems still in use in the public sector, which do not have the functionality of newer products or those from firms which continuously invest.

For P2P, Atos suggests that buyers should not compromise in their choice because of restrictions in ERP or finance systems – and should choose carefully based on really business requirements and ease of use. All excellent advice (and there is more in the report which you can download here).

We’ll be back in part 3 with some general thoughts to round off our analysis.

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