Many procurement executives may have nodded their heads in agreement last week as a new study released by IFS North America revealed that enterprise software such as supply chain management applications are overly complex. “No kidding,” they might have said, as they returned to their computer screens to try to access data and make some sense of it. There are other studies that show that engineers use only a small fraction of the capabilities of their design and analysis software, partly because of the complexity, and I suspect the same is true of procurement.
Of course, some would say that the IFS study unfairly tars all supply chain software. It shouldn’t. Software companies in general, and developers of purchasing software in particular, take pains to make their products easy to use. Still, ask a roomful of procurement executives what they would like most from their software, as I have, and the first answer is usually, “make it easier.”
But what else would they like from their software suppliers? Here are some thoughts from two executives I have interviewed recently:
Vivek Karmath, vice president of supply chain operations at Raytheon Corp.: “I’d like to see software provide visibility into tier 2 onward. One of the largest risks procurement has to manage is sub-tier supplier performance on the value chain. Imagine software that can instantly explode bills of material to sub-tier levels and provide visibility into material availability, capacity and capabilities. Also, (I would like to see) software that mines and models data (both internal and external) and defines predictive indicators so procurement professionals can take a proactive approach to managing risk.”
Matt Mehalick, director of procurement for Celgene Corp.: “I would like to see voice recognition, so you can tell the software what you want in your RFxs and eliminate key strokes. (I want) speed.”
We’ll have to wait to see if and how software companies respond to these and other user requests.
Meanwhile, procurement executives will have to find ways around any complexities they find in their software. There are plenty of sources for help, from the companies that provide their software and from the sage advice of independent observers such as Jason Busch at Spend Matters, who regularly analyses purchasing strategies and supply chain software in posts like this, and this.
There is also a way to take a more active role in ensuring that software suppliers provide the features and ease of use you need: join the user groups for the software in your company. Developers encourage their customers to be part of those groups, and they really listen to what the users say.