Neil Robertson Apr 21, 2020 3:15:08 PM 16 min read

What should you look for in an automated purchasing system?

You need to make sure your automated purchasing system is a strategic business tool. Not just for Finance or Procurement - for the business.

Once you see purchasing and accounts payable as part of the finance function, you’ll have a better idea of how they affect other parts of your business and how they can be used strategically.

Purchases do not start with the finance department. It is business managers and budget holders who make purchasing decisions, yet any purchase problems are viewed as a finance issue.

Plus, of course, the goal of effective procurement is to achieve Best Value, balancing price, quality, supplier experience, sustainability and ethical supply – issues that clearly affect both finance and the wider business. 

In this blogwe take at the look at the importance of corporate strategic thinking in the pursuit of the best possible purchasing and accounts payable system. 


Understanding Purchasing Automation 

Improving the purchase process – from getting the best suppliers on board through to the speed of purchase approval – affects every aspect of the business.  As such, when considering an automated purchasing system, it is essential to understand the specific objectives of different stakeholders. 

The impact of unmanaged expenditure on finance teams is tangible: inaccurate figures on committed spend, unexpected invoices that can undermine cash flow, and even excessive tie-up of capital. 

But inadequate procurement processes can also be tough for the rest of the business. Are business managers frustrated by delays in the approval process? Is it leading to maverick spend because individuals can’t get approval in time to hit operational deadlines? And what about buying online? When there are so many great deals available on online channels – including marketplaces such as Amazon Business – how can any company justify placing a lock on B2B eCommerce? 

The right automated purchasing system can address every one of these issues. By transforming the experience for business managers – providing access to the right suppliers plus easy approvals – there will be no need for maverick spend, and finance teams will have complete control and visibility overcommitted spend. No more cash flow curveballs. 


Find out how AP automation can deliver benefits for both AP and business managers, saving money, improving cash management and transforming procurement.


Buy to Pay 

Using an automated purchasing system to create an effective purchase approval process will save time for both procurement and the business. Real-time purchase automation will provide business managers with an up-to-date budget position – as well as provide the finance team with accurate committed expenditure figures. 

Business managers can make purchases from the right suppliers at the right time to maximize business opportunities – such as early bird discounts – and meet deadlines; while access to online marketplaces, such as Amazon Business, enables companies to gain the convenience and cost savings offered online. 


Best Value 

Purchasing compliance will also improve when procurement managers can secure the right deals with the right suppliers – suppliers who meet not only cost objectives but also the quality and sustainability goals of business managers. With accurate and up-to-date purchase data and the procurement tools to maximize its value, including supplier invoice data (header and line level for every invoice processed), contracts, order history, and supplier quotes, procurement teams have the depth of information required to make valid supplier comparisons.  

By providing the spend data and the tools to make full use of it, procurement professionals can increase their productivity by more than 80% in identifying business savings. Critically, it also enables the finance team to ensure everyone continues to buy from preferred suppliers, at the right price, ensuring those cost savings are realized throughout the company. 


Supplier Relationships 

This real-time view combined with effective purchase-to-pay processes can also enhance supplier relationships. Problems due to human error – such as payment delays  are eradicated; while the ability to flag exceptions allows finance teams to rapidly address problems that could otherwise cause business issues – such as delays in delivering an essential product or service. 

The right purchase automation solution will improve the experience for everyone involved in the finance and purchase process. 


Engaging Purchasing Automation Suppliers 

Having considered the strategic goals of purchasing automation software and ensuring the needs of every stakeholder are considered, how do you find the right supplier? It is important to consider the specific needs of your business. For example, do you need the ability to approve purchases on any device? Do you need to integrate into an existing accounting system? Access online business marketplaces such as Amazon Business? Are there specific requirements, such as the ability to split coding on invoices at the line and header level? 

A good debate between the finance team, business, and vendors is essential to find the best purchase automation solution for your business.


Neil Robertson

Neil has a 39-year track record of building successful direct and channel global software businesses predominately in the financial software market place. Neil Robertson is Executive Chairman of Compleat Software. A 39-year veteran of the financial software marketplace, Neil has a long track record of building disruptive start-ups into successful businesses, including his time as CEO EMEA of Great Plains where he built the business outside of the USA from 1995 - 2001. Compleat is no exception and perhaps the most disruptive of them all.
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