eProcurement & Procure-to-Pay Resources

The 'Field of Dreams' for eProcurement

Published February 3, 2016 at 1:59 PM
Jack Mulloy

If they find it, they will buy it. But will they find it?

In the movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella hears a voice whispering, “If you build it, they will come.”

If you are new to the movie or simply need a refresher; Ray builds a baseball diamond that every young (and old) ballplayer dreams about. To Ray’s delight, famous baseball players from the past come to the field and play games on this beautiful field.

You may be asking yourself ...

How does a baseball field relate to enterprise procurement applications?

Does the ‘If we build it, they will come” approach work in enterprise eProcurement?

How can we ‘prep the infield’ and ‘chalk the lines’ so that users will eagerly adopt the eProcurement application?

Grab some Big League Chew (bubble gum, of course) and let’s kick this around….

Since the inception of eProcurement in the late ’90s, eProcurement solution providers have tried the ‘build it and they will come’ approach. Unfortunately, these software solutions have not provided a ‘baseball diamond’ that encouraged use. As a result, end-users didn't adopt the solutions, spend was not captured in the eProcurement solutions, and promised ROI was not achieved.

What is Limiting eProcurement ROI?

In the past, enterprise business applications were deployed to a sub-set of highly trained users within an organization. If we needed to train those users to buy widgets from XYZ supplier, MRO items from ABC supplier, Office Supplies from ACME supplier, etc…. we could manage that training requirement because the eProcurement users were a limited group.

For eProcurement to be successful today, we cannot limit user participation to a limited number of trained users. We need to deploy the solution to all users across the enterprise.... Training? No way!

For BuyerQuest customers, the number of users within our customer base ranges from 2,000 to 500,000. With this many users at any single customer, we must ensure that the eCommerce experience in BuyerQuest is intuitive and the application is attractive. We must strive for the “field of dreams-like” experience for our customers.

I spoke recently with a procurement executive from a Fortune 100 Financial institution that was an early (circa 2002) adopter of eProcurement technology. This executive was frustrated that, after 14 years of use, approximately 100,000 non-catalog requisitions were placed in the eProcurement application each year. Of these non-catalog requests, 85,000 were for cataloged items enabled via Punchout catalogs in the eProcurement application!

The financial service executive had the following thoughts to share:

    • “The eProcurement system has become a glorified ‘non-catalog request form.’”
    • “Why is my organization generating such a high % of non-catalog requests? Are my users so lazy that they won’t search and find what they want?”
    • “Our company continues to pay a BPO provider a fee (per transaction) to simply find things in the eProcurement application and process the non-catalog requisitions.

We laughed and talked about the need for a Ouija Board (“weejee board”) to find anything in the typical eProcurement solutions.

Findability’ is a Pillar of a Positive website experience in B2C eCommerce. 

Since the birth of enterprise eProcurement, ‘browse’ functionality has been the sole focus of eProcurement product managers. The lack of ‘feature focus’ on search is by design and for very good reason.


Because search is impossible if the catalog content you are attempting to search is not searchable.

On average, 90% of all catalog content in every eProcurement solution, except BuyerQuest, is enabled via a PunchOut Catalog or 3rd party connection. With the predominance of PunchOut enabled catalog content, meaningful search logic is non-existent within early eProcurement solutions.

While wearing my Santa Claus hat, I shopped on a leading eCommerce site for my little girl’s bicycle.

I searched for ‘Toddler’s bicycle.' From there, I filtered the following:

      • Gender = Girl
      • Age = 3 Years old
      • Color = Pink

Next, I selected the perfect bike for my little princess and completed the shopping experience. The entire buying experience took place in a single user interface. As part of the buying experience, I (unknowingly) searched across content from thousands of different suppliers.  The buying experience was simple, streamlined and extremely intuitive.  I searched for ‘what I wanted to buy’ not ‘what supplier I wanted to buy from.’

How does this B2C eCommerce example compare to shopping in most eProcurement applications today, where 90% of the products are unsearchable? Very different, right?  

As a result, the two most popular features in typical eProcurement applications are:

      1. The generic non-catalog request form
      2. Shop 'by supplier' function where users punchout to 3rd party websites

BuyerQuest Is Designed Like a B2C eCommerce Solution

At BuyerQuest, we approached eProcurement from a fundamentally different viewpoint. We studied how users behave in the B2C eCommerce world. We fully recognized that ‘findability’ is one of the pillars of a usable website experience. As a result, we built BuyerQuest with eCommerce principles at the core, ensuring that both search and browse functionality lived harmoniously. We focused on building the "Field of Dreams" for enterprise eProcurement.

Have you struck out with earlier eProcurement initiatives? If so, get back in that batter’s box.  Reach out to my colleagues at BuyerQuest and we will show you procurement’s Field of Dreams. Batter up!

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