process optimization

Agile process optimization for procurement and purchasing processes

Optimization projects for processes and digitization in the form of a tanker are history, today speedboats are needed that quickly generate initial solutions and then carry the basic idea into an organization.

„Our purchasing process optimization took 1.5 years and we are proud to now be able to conduct the first training sessions for users after 3 months of testing. This is the first time users have had the opportunity to discover the benefits of the new system for themselves!“ This message in an employee magazine from 2018 shows the classic approach to process optimization and software implementation projects, but also at the same time the mistakes that were and are made very often.

When a project goes public in a company after 1.5 years and users have their first touch points with the new processes and a new software after the test phase, either expectations or mistrust are already far too high. „I’ve heard a lot on the grapevine, can’t be anything good.“ is then still a harmless formulation.

Since the 90’s of the last century the object orientation becomes ever more generally accepted in programming. In the book „The western programming art at the crossroad“ of Edward Yourdon from 1992 the object-oriented programming is still a capital as outlook, today the standard. Programmers no longer work on software in parallel or in phases. Nowadays, it’s all about getting a basic version up and running quickly, then adding the missing objects in small blocks. Agile programming, SCRUM and other project management tools help to keep the overview and the goal in sight.

Building blocks of process optimization

When optimizing processes, one is often still trapped in the model of as-is analysis – concept – target processes. And from the target processes, a specification sheet is then created and a software is identified. Often, the software solutions available on the market cannot meet all requirements, which then means additional programming work or the adaptation of the target processes in the company. This process alone can and will take more than 6 months without having something really usable in hand.

A consideration of the whole, the superordinate IT landscape and a common definition of rules for the future processes and applications is always necessary at the beginning. After that, however, things should continue in an agile and object-oriented manner. Especially regarding resource availability and integration in the sense of change management. One also likes to speak of „slice the elephant“ – dividing a big challenge into clearly arranged individual topics.

Every company has special features in its procurement and purchasing processes. Be it for reasons of organization, business model or infrastructure. Which departments are involved in the process and when, what is purchased at all (materials and services), and how are those involved spatially located? If one proceeds from a standard process procurement – requirement – order – goods receipt – calculation – the enterprise-specific basic conditions are to be considered. From it a standard process v0 can be defined. For many companies exactly this variant 0 fits for a large part of the procurement processes.

COUPA offers a solution

This standard process v0 can now be implemented in a corresponding software solution with little effort. Optimal is a solution that can be scaled accordingly in the further course without much effort. However, ADCONIA, among others, is very happy to work in this model with COUPA’s solution, which we have identified as being very scalable and user-friendly for our customers. In the first phase, the customer-specific standard process v0 is defined and implemented as a basis in COUPA. Within three to four months, a usable tool is created in which employees can already work and gain experience.

In the second phase, we deal with the variants of the standard process v0 in the projects, starting with simple enhancements of release strategies (e.g. integration of a specialist department) up to complex workflows for internal processes, which can, for example, be placed upstream of a purchase order. But also, workflows without reference to purchase orders (e.g. a purely internal request for a budget) can be mapped on the same platform without any problems.

COUPA offers a very well-thought-out configuration management, i.e. no programming is necessary for workflows, additional release steps or an additional check process depending on a material group. Via a train-the-trainer program, the competence for configuration can be built up internally very quickly and effectively. Additional programming services are then no longer necessary.

Oliver Kreienbrink

Managing Director, ADCONIA GmbH