Maintaining Procurement Control Remotely
Over the past few weeks, many companies have transitioned from having to suddenly shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic to now settling into this new dynamic as the new normal...or at least as normal as things can be right now. While the outbreak hopefully gets under control sooner than later, many companies that have had to operate with a more remote workforce won’t necessarily jump back to the way things were in the past.
As Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, predicted in a recent analysis, the pandemic will cause employees to work remotely more frequently even after offices can re-open. This will occur for a variety of reasons, she explains, such as with employees gaining more experience on how to work-from-home successfully, appreciating the flexibility of remote work and companies realizing the cost-savings that can come from using smaller offices or reducing travel.
Even if employees come into an office part-time while working from home the rest of the time, that means that companies that put processes in place now to better facilitate remote work could be at an advantage once this crisis ends.
Procurement is one area that might get temporarily overlooked during the transition to remote work, but it’s important to not lose sight of the importance of this function. Companies need to maintain control of costs, risk and compliance as employees make more purchases remotely. Otherwise, companies could exacerbate cash flow issues and run into even more severe challenges down the road.
Remote Buying as the New Normal
While procurement might not look quite the same in this environment, as there might be less need to procure office items, purchasing could shift more toward software and services that are more conducive to remote work. And procurement teams still need visibility into these purchases.
If employees have too much flexibility and can simply make purchases on their own, directly from vendors and using their own payment methods, then procurement teams could quickly lose control over costs and not be able to verify if a supplier meets their procurement needs.
Instead, employees can ideally make purchases remotely through a cloud-based purchasing system, such as an e-procurement platform, so that procurement teams can still maintain approval workflows and track spend data remotely.
Yet as purchasing needs shift in this remote environment, companies also need to be able to quickly facilitate purchases from new vendors. If a supplier catalog or website does not connect to an e-procurement platform, an employee might make that purchase outside the platform, thereby causing procurement teams to lose visibility.
One way that GoProcure solves for this issue is by enabling users to simply copy and paste an external URL into the e-procurement platform so that the purchase can still be made following the parameters of the system. Doing so makes it easier for employees to adhere to using the e-procurement platform rather than making maverick purchases.
At the very least, companies that do not have a cloud-based e-procurement system should put clear purchasing policies in place, such as asking employees to report purchases the same day they’re made, so as to reduce the lag-time between when purchases go through and when procurement teams can account for those expenses.
Leveraging Remote Support
As companies try to get a handle on rapidly changing economic conditions, some may not have enough resources to dedicate to procurement. This can be especially true if companies need to quickly source new vendors to meet changing business needs, to account for a lack of supply or to meet new cost constraints due to lost revenue.
In these cases, third-party procurement resources such as our buyer’s desk can provide the remote support procurement teams need. While procurement staff and other employees focus on their most pressing tasks, our buyer’s desk can help with requesting bids, onboarding suppliers and generally serving as an extension of a procurement team.
With operations becoming more remote for the foreseeable future and hiring potentially becoming more challenging, we see these types of third-party, remote partnerships becoming even more practical.
Doing so can help procurement teams meet stricter cost controls and make sure that dedicated, experienced professionals are focusing on meeting their purchasing needs according to risk and compliance controls, rather than leaving everything up to overstretched in-house staff.
Have questions about how to maintain procurement control in this new remote environment or want to learn more about how leveraging a buyer’s desk can help unlock significant savings? Request a free consultation with our product experts today.