enterprise-level procurement systems

Many factors can go into assessing the "best solution" from the technical architecture, maturity of offerings, complexity of procurement processes, organizational structures, stakeholders and the acquisition environment – global, national, regional, local, centralized or distributed – the list can be exhausting. Five critical areas to consider are as follows:

Complexity and standardization of procurement processes -The most suitable situations for automated procurement solutions are those where there are structured and well defined procurement processes – defined data structures, numbering schemes, consistent use of procurement types, somewhat static or at least manageable regulatory content. Wide variations with individual user defined procurement practices lead to significant challenges to fielding systems that were purposely designed to bring structure, control, oversight and simplicity to procurement processing.

Ongoing maintenance and update requirements – An activity's regulatory content and the degree to which it changes can be a significant factor in assessing which solution is best suited for a particular procurement environment. An activity needs to clearly understand the impact of changes to procurement regulations and a system's adaptability and flexibility to accommodate these changes. This is especially critical for activities that may have to rely on external support to manage and update the regulatory content that populates the procurement instruments.

The organization's culture and adaptability to change – The very best procurement system seems to be the one an organization is now trying to replace – often a common impression from frustrated end-users having new solutions forced on them. The early involvement of end-users to define requirements, assess and understand system functions, and actively participate in the evaluation of options is essential for a successful implementation. Some organizations have found including the end users in the early evaluation stages coupled with incorporating performance goals associated with the successful roll-out of new software systems as an effective means for enhancing the success of new implementations.

Tradeoff of "best of breed' versus benefits of an integrated environment – The major ERP providers have recently introduced automated procurement solutions now focused to the Public Sector market. These offerings can provide functionality supporting a wide span of complex pricing and data structures, regulatory content management and document generation capability never before supported by ERP systems. The ERP offerings can include delivered integration across multiple disciplines - Finance, Funds Management, Human Resources, Inventory Management, Property Management, Materials Management, Vendor Management, Business Intelligence - to which "best of breeds" must separately interface. The ERP systems also offer common features such as Document Management, File Management, work flow, reporting and other business process that are not unique to the automated procurement software but instead common to all users of the ERP offering. This benefit of integration and commonality of business processing may come at a cost of procurement functionality when compared to the maturity of the best of breed offerings.

What other factors have you seen or experienced that need to be considered in determining the appropriate automated procurement solution?

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