Home Workforce Productivity SharePoint Line of Business Applications Bring Order to Purchasing Processes

35,000 employees across the globe… 4,000 annual requests for laptops and other IT equipment… and one procurement department using Excel spreadsheets to track and manage all of it. Read how one IT executive tapped into the power of SharePoint Line of Business applications to bring order and control to the purchasing process.

Our IT purchasing procedures were a mess… we’re talking about literally hundreds of documents and spreadsheets emailed back and forth, ad infinitum. And because all of these emails and documents lived on employees’ laptops, there was zero visibility into the process. Simple questions like “when do you expect my new laptop to arrive?” took Herculean amounts of manpower to answer. Additionally, there was no single standardized process across departments, and no accountability for key approval and funding tasks. If there was a hiccup in the system (and there often was), I had no idea whose desk the requisition was sitting on, or who to call for a status update. Information exchange across the enterprise was either lacking or very loosely controlled, making reporting and supplier contract management difficult. Order data was not centrally aggregated, and order delivery metrics were nonexistent.

The first step toward improving the situation was to re-engineer the business processes. We defined a standard equipment ordering process and developed defined tasks, workflows and authorization gates to automate information exchange across internal and external constituents. Once the process was defined, we leveraged SharePoint components to build a workflow management solution with automated tasks and email alerts. The new solution was designed to manage the process start to finish, from product selection through funding approval and invoice payment. Using SharePoint lists, we were able to collect and aggregate order data for consumption by legacy ERP procurement, financial, and customer management systems. And by building easy to read dashboards, we had real-time visibility into the status of individual orders, or aggregated by group – something that seemed impossible before. Management was able to customize homepage dashboards and use role-specific views and filtering, even on their mobile device. User adoption of the new system was quick and widespread, because we built an intuitive, catalog and shopping cart interface that had the look and feel of a consumer site. There was even a ‘quick order wizard’ to help power users expedite common ordering scenarios.

Once we implemented this new SharePoint solution, we immediately realized increased control and compliance, as well as a dramatic reduction in the average time required to select, order, approve, fund and deliver products to customers. The ease of use and enhanced efficiency led to a nearly 700% increase in the number of orders we were able to process in the first year after implementation. Specifically, the new solution gave us:

  • Status-at-a-glance visibility to orders
  • Role-based customization to focus visibility and actions
  • Enforcement of standard business processes
  • Increased accountability for key process tasks
  • Standard tools, checklists and templates to make the process easier: ‘one database – one process’
  • Standard look and feel throughout the tool
  • A centralized mechanism to manage and track key process documents and comments
  • A means to track and monitor overall process performance
  • A more collaborative team experience with open and clear communication among all constituents
  • Workflows to automate information exchange across Work Order stages
  • Operational reports and dashboards to provide a view into aggregate information across site locations and order types
  • The ability to track and monitor process performance

We think that the results speak for themselves, but perhaps our Chief Quality Officer said it best: “Leveraging SharePoint has provided significant cost savings over our previous purchasing process, and everyone believes this is a significant overall improvement in the ordering process itself.”

Author
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A Senior Manager in Tahoe’s Enterprise Collaboration practice, Jerry offers deep expertise in project execution and delivery, particularly around collaboration, data warehousing, and business intelligence solutions. He’s adept at getting projects, and himself, across the finish line – an avid runner, he finished the Chicago Marathon in 2013.

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