Shopping for procurement software can be overwhelming. So before you get lost in a sea of requirements and endless stakeholder meetings, understand seven important (and less obvious) questions you should ask providers to help differentiate your options.
According to a recent SAP & Oxford Economics survey:
35 percent of procurement executives across the globe would like to see “implementing and training in new technology” be a primary focus for their organization today. (42 percent would like it to be a main focus within 2 years.)
Procurement shouldn’t ask should we automate as much as what should we automate, where are machines (whether software or hardware based) better positioned than people to create value and achieve success?
If we divide the end-to-end procurement process into its major components, there are subcomponents of each that are prime targets for automation.
In other words, it’s pretty much a given that software can improve procurement, but you have to be strategic about when and where to implement it. And since you have more options than ever, it’s crucial that you ask the right questions so you can find the best solutions to meet your organization’s needs.
Questions to ask internally
The first step is to figure out what you need most. As in any vendor selection, when you can identify key criteria, it’s much easier to shortlist.
Start your procurement software search with a thorough stakeholder discussion. Ask questions like:
- What are our crucial deal-breakers?
- Where do we spend/lose the most time?
- What can tactically go wrong?
- What workarounds have we created?
- Where can we add value to the process?
The answers will serve as a compass, helping you determine important criteria — like whether you need a full-suite solution or if a best-of-breed system would be a better fit.
Once you’ve established the yardstick, you’re ready to start interviewing providers.
Questions to ask procurement software providers
Regardless of what kind of procurement tool you’re after, these simple questions can help you quickly differentiate your options.
How long will the implementation process take? Are there any associated fees?
What is the cost? What are the payment terms?
What do your most successful customers look like? Do you serve enterprise organizations, small businesses, or both?
Who are your biggest competitors? When you lose to them, what is the reason? Where do you have a distinct advantage?
How do customers describe their ROI? (Ask for case studies and references.)
Where can I find third-party and/or customer reviews?
How often is support available? In which channels is it available? Do you offer live support, automated support, online content, or a mix?
It’s surprising how factors like the implementation timeframe can drastically differ. Some procurement software can require weeks or even months of training to get you up and running, plus extensive setup/consulting fees.
The pricing model can also be a crucial factor. For example, if you’re a consultant and your business fluctuates, you might need flexible pricing plans (such as volume-based options).
Whether the provider outsources their support help is another important consideration, as it could result in a language or expertise barrier.
It’s also very appropriate to ask providers who their competitors are, and even why they lose business to their competition. Depending on how honest the provider is, few questions can provide the same level of insight.
Lastly, as you should with any major purchase, always, always read customer reviews. Look at industry-specific review sites like Capterra which have whole sections dedicated to procurement software, so you can see all of your options, as well as what real customers say about them.