#Slackification of Procurement Tech

 Procurement technology as discussed in a previous article, often comes with a clunky interface and user experience. But also, as with many other tools we use at work, there are many different tools in use and we keep clicking back and forth, copy-pasting information, saving and reopening, struggle to arrange everything on screen and lose focus in all the digital flurry.

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On a typical Procurement workday, I will be using e-mail, instant messaging, a contract management system, P2P, Excel, Google, Word, then maybe check status of an invoice in eInvoicing, draft an eRFx, book business travel online, analyse some data in Tableau and so forth. Some of these systems may “speak” to each other and yield combined data and have single sign on. Still, an awful lot of clicking around and duplication of data.

To reduce the number of interfaces, traditionally, companies have sought to consolidate to fewer tech solutions and vendors. Rely on SAP/Ariba only for example. However, each of the solutions on the market has its strengths and weaknesses, new tech offerings by niche vendors are worth looking at and high reliance on a single solution provider has its own disadvantages. So where could the future lie in combining great solutions from different vendors and still have a more intuitive, less distracting user experience?

We like to call it the “Slackification” of Procurement tech. Slack has built its product around the idea of a single user interface to access a plethora of different tools and do away with clunky, time consuming communication tools like e-mail. Not perfect still, but Slack allows the user to flexibly plug in the tools they need on a single screen and communicate with team members across different platforms in one go, schedule and assign tasks, and manage functionalities from social media to e-mail marketing, scheduling, accounting and expense managements in one place.

Having an interface which combines P2P, data, eProcurement, contract management, vendor intelligence and performance management, risk and compliance management, communication tools and more in one screen, aided by AI and chat bots would make the work experience so much more intuitive. Rejecting a PO request? Just click on the chat link to quickly tell your stakeholder what they need to edit. Issuing an eRFx? Schedule all the meetings and events around it in the same interface and assign related tasks to team members and vendors.

It takes some getting used to when moving from a traditional desktop tool environment, but having collaborated on Slack with clients as well as managed internal tasks on it, I am convinced this is a much more effective approach to doing digital work and if the adoption was greater, it would remove the constant mental distraction of clicking around all these tools. Microsoft has built a competing tool by the way (and that’s the trouble – it’s a iOs vs Android environment and you can’t have both set of tools integrated right now).

Again, it does take a while to get used to the Slack way of working, it seems almost like a slightly different mental flow. So user training and adoption is a challenge. But so will all the other technology of the future be and starting out slowly, regularly using tools like these and focussing on the most useful tools at first helps to become more at ease. Digitally transforming the (Procurement) organization will take great tech, but also great understanding how the human mind works, natural behavioural flows and how to change them slowly.

 

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