SAN MATEO (07/17/2000) - Keeping track of order processing and inventory management -- a job called procurement -- can be an extremely tedious and costly process. Many IT managers have experienced major logistical headaches with their companies' procurement processes, especially those with traditional routing systems that require employees to manually route purchase orders and track product inventory. To decrease the cost and hasten the process, companies have begun subscribing to Web-based procurement systems.
The cost savings realized from using an e-procurement system are significant, according to the National Association of Purchasing Management (www.napm.org).
The average cost associated with the traditional method of generating a purchase order is US$150. This can be reduced to $30 by using an automated Web-based purchasing solution such as Verian Technologies Inc.'s ProcureIT 4.2.5.
ProcureIT helps improve inventory management and reduce overhead costs by automating purchasing -- all from a Web-based interface (Netscape and Microsoft Explorer 3.0 and later). With ProcureIT, you can speed up the supply-chain loop so your employees can better track the status of customers' orders.
Individual access to the procurement process allows employees to track items online, saving them valuable time. By logging on to ProcureIT to check the status of a shipment, employees avoid the hassles involved with physically contacting the shipping department via phone or e-mail, tasks that are often very time-consuming.
In addition, CIOs can better record their companies' performance by tracking the time they take to fulfill a customer request. This data can then be compiled and used during future customer negotiations and sales meetings.
Low cost beats competition
Sales meetings aside, Verian's e-procurement solution is one to be reckoned with. Although ProcureIT plays in the same market as large companies such as Ariba, Commerce One, and PeopleSoft, it targets the middle-tier market as opposed to the Fortune 500 market of the big companies. ProcureIT defines the middle-tier space as including companies whose annual revenue is between $100 million and $3 billion.
In this space ProcureIT's main competitor is PurchasingNet's PurchasingNet-SQL 4.0, which offers similar features including requisitioning, invoice reconciliation, and inventory control. But ProcureIT beats PurchasingNet to the punch with a $5,000 lower starting price. ProcureIT also boasts a fast implementation cycle.
In addition to its price advantage, this latest version of ProcureIT comes with many enhancements, such as multiple pick lists for frequent or seasonal order lists, an employee in-the-office/out-of-office schedule, and purchase order attachments such as drawings or documents. These options, coupled with its comprehensive feature set, earned it a score of Very Good.
Quick, custom install
During installation and implementation, Verian Technologies' consultants work with customers to define their requirements and customize the solution. On average, the installation for a midsize (more than 200 user licenses) corporation takes 12 to 14 weeks. Instead, I received a preconfigured system and began my evaluation of ProcureIT.
As an IT staff member, I set up my user base with the appropriate permissions and group assignments. Through the administration module, I added vendors and product catalog information. ProcureIT includes the capability of quickly loading data into a vendor catalog.
To test the automated process of procuring items, I began by following the requisition workflow set by the administrator. For example, Jane may have a different set of rules to follow, such as three approvals before an order can be placed. John, on the other hand, may only need one approval, all of which can be automatically routed through the system.
During testing, I found the browser-based interface not as graphics-intensive as PurchasingNet's, but still easy to use. Users are presented with their main menu functions, which are based on their permissions, and the Task Center area lists tasks that need immediate attention.
To place a product order or requisition, I filled out the online forms for the products I needed. For items that I ordered regularly, I could create a pick list similar to a favorites list or shopping list. I could also create multiple lists.
Once my order was placed, my manager was notified that there were requests to approve. Products can be approved or denied all at once or item by item.
Purchase orders can be delivered automatically to the supplying vendor via e-mail, fax, or EDI (electronic data interchange). These same mechanisms can be used to receive invoices and then be reconciled with the PO.
In addition, warehouse personnel can monitor product levels, generate reports for inventory counts, and track products' shelf lives using ProcureIT's inventory module. Therefore, warehouse personnel won't have to manually track and reorder items, saving them valuable time.
Overall, ProcureIT offers a foolproof e-procurement system. My major issue with the software is purely aesthetic -- it has a boring interface. Graphics and the use of color would not only enhance the screen but make the program more enjoyable to use.
Despite the lack of graphics, corporations should give Verian Technologies a good look. ProcureIT provides an easy system to track vendor performance and to maintain inventories. The software reduces administrative headaches and overhead costs that are associated with traditional purchasing methods.
ProcureIT not only saves a company valuable time and money but also adds efficiency to overall business operations.
Lori Mitchell has also reviewed other procurement solutions. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD
Business Case: This Web-based procurement system helps improve inventory management and reduce overhead costs by automating purchasing processes.
ProcureIT offers companies a timesaving tool for tracking the supply-chain loop for procuring products.
Technology Case: ProcureIT allows users from across an organization, from administrators to warehouse personnel to the end-user, to use the system. The program supports many inventory management concepts and multiple delivery methods.
+ Fast vendor-based implementation
+ Supports many inventory management methods+ Multiple delivery methods to supplier+ Automated routing for chain routing and parallel routingCons:
- XML and EDI available only by request
- Boring interface
Cost: Starts at $70,000, depending on size and complexity of the installationPlatform(s): Server: Windows NT 4.0; Database support: MS SQL 7.0, Oracle 7 and 8, MS Access, or any ODBC databaseVerian Technologies Inc., Charlotte, N.C.; (888) 791-6909; www.procureit.com.