If you’re reading this, your team is likely taking the plunge and investing in procurement software. You might also be the primary advocate, and you’re looking to build a business case for a new procurement management system.  Either way, you’re in the right place.

As millennials fill the industry, the demand for improved sourcing technology is higher than ever. But beginning the search can be daunting.

This post will explain how to find a procurement software solution that will solve your organization’s key challenges. Keep reading for tips on a faster, easier, evaluation process.

Step 1. Determine What Kind of Procurement Software You Need

The most important question to ask as you begin your search is, what problems are you trying to solve? The answer should guide your entire evaluation process. For instance, the following are common areas that can be improved with procurement automation.

Time-intensive processes

Ask your team where the most time is wasted. Is it sourcing? Supplier selection? Invoicing? Find out which tasks are the most tedious and consume the most hours. Determine what specifically isn't working about current software and systems.

Procurement software solution: this will vary according to the task. Could be anything from an RFP tool, invoicing system, or a project management platform.

Lack of data, KPI tracking or insight

Are you unable to track all your key metrics? Do you need better spend transparency? Do you have to depend on suppliers to provide spend information?

Procurement software solution: if so, the answer is a spend analytics software. Look for one that showcases total procurement expenditures across each location and category

Poor cost-saving visibility

Ask your team how difficult it is to find savings opportunities.  Do they know which categories can be improved, and by how much?

Procurement software solution: spend management tools can automatically highlight these opportunities for you.

Then, dig deeper by asking the following questions. Remember to include all the relevant parties in the conversation. Especially finance and legal if their purchase sign off is needed.

Procurement software questions for key stakeholders

  • What “workarounds” do we have to create because we don’t have the right tools?
  • How “clean” is our data?
  • What is our security requirements?
  • Do we prefer cloud-based or traditional on-premises?
  • What devices does the software need to work on? Mobile and tablet? Apple and PC?
  • What’s the total budget for this project? (Remember, many providers will make you sign multi-year contracts up front)

This conversation should give you a decent idea of what to look for in your procurement software. But bear in mind, there are several kinds of procurement solutions on the market. So you may need more than one tool, or a hybrid system, to get everything you need.

As you discuss all this, prioritize which concerns are of the highest importance. Identify your “deal breakers,” aka what you must have for the new tool to be considered a success.

Step 2. Find the Best Procurement Software for Your Organization

Once you have a clear sense of priorities, your next step is to research. Before you schedule a single demo or issue an RFI/RFQ, research the market. Who are the key players, what are their reviews, how do the feature offerings compare?

Doing the prep work will make your selection process as fast and efficient as possible. You'll also be able to ask much more informed and intelligent questions.

Use this research to create your supplier shortlist. (The keyword being short). Then send your shortlist an RFI or RFQ with your “dealbreaker” questions. Keep it brief and sweet, think seven questions or less. Your team will thank you for keeping it simple and saving them an evaluation headache.

As you schedule software walkthroughs, make sure all your critical stakeholders will be available to attend. Or at least, that you can get a demo recording. Again, these simple measures will massively speed up the search process.

Below are a few suggested questions to ask as you consider your options.

Questions to ask as you demo and shop

  • Will this integrate with our current systems?
  • What is the total cost (include training, maintenance, feature upgrades, etc.)
  • Is this a scalable solution as our organization grows?
  • How much customization is available?
  • Is there a satisfaction guarantee?
  • How long does implementation typically take?
  • Does it meet our basic business requirements (security, legal, etc.)?
  • Is the solution simple enough to use? Will it be pulling teeth to get buy-in?
  • Is customer support in-house or outsourced?
  • When is customer support available? (Consider varying time zones, and needs outside of business hours)
  • How many system “outages” have they had? For how long?
  • How many bugs have they had? How long does it usually take to get them fixed?

Most importantly, don’t get stuck on price. Instead, consider the overall value. If a tool can save you hundreds of hours, or provide strategic insights, how much is that worth?

Pro tips

  • Don’t try a find a one-stop-shop procurement management system. While they claim they can do everything, the functions are usually mediocre
  • Don’t buy legacy software based on the brand. Just because they’re the biggest doesn’t mean they’re the best, or most innovative
  • Always request a free trial
  • Read case studies, do any of their success stories sound like your organization?
  • Pay attention to how helpful their customer support is; it can make or break the experience
  • Make sure the supplier is someone you can see your organization working with long-term

Finally, circle back to the big questions. Ask, will this software solve our critical problems? Will it help us reduce risks and increase savings? What kind of crucial insights will it provide?

Step 3. Get the Highest Procurement Software ROI

You would be shocked to learn how many procurement teams spend massive sums of money on software only to never use it. Take it from this writer, who worked in the procurement SaaS industry for years, it happens all the time.

It may sound obvious, but it doesn’t matter how great your new tool is if no one leverages it. Below are practical tips for getting the buy-in and ROI you deserve.

  • Dedicate time every week to learning the new tool, even an hour here and there adds up. Become an expert that can teach others
  • As you complete training sessions, record them – typically the vendor will be happy to supply a file
  • Use these recordings to create quick reference guides for your company. Store them in a central repository like Google Drive or Sharepoint
  • Incorporate learning new procurement software features into your on-boarding process

While it may sound like overkill, you won’t see any return from your investment, until your stakeholders learn how to leverage it properly.

Procurement digital transformation talk is cheap. But using technology to increase the value of your function, proves you're a true procurement leader and earns your seat at the table.