The global pandemic and shift to remote work continues to make its impact around the world. According to the Institute for Supply Management®, 75 percent of companies report supply chain disruptions and more than 80 percent believe that their organization will experience impact because of COVID-19 disruptions.
However, there are ways procurement teams can mitigate the effects of a recession. With the right strategy, a business can even use this time to gain market share and increase profitability.
With insights from global strategic consultancy The Hackett Group, and group purchasing organization Una, Procurify shares four components that will help any procurement team successfully transition to remote work.
Shifting procurement online
Switching to e-procurement helps address these challenges:
- Lack of access to paper files and vendor contracts
- Unclear workflows between team members
- Absence of face-to-face communication with colleagues and suppliers
- Difficulties receiving goods and supplies in the same manner pre-pandemic
Steps to follow
Identify crucial procurement requirements. Develop new e-procurement systems to address processes immediately impacted. Then, map out revised steps in the authorization and creation of a purchase orde Search for appropriate suppliers through inquiries or a formal RFP.
- The receipt of physical goods may also require adjustment, as this requires the presence of an individual.
- Designate one person who can appropriately receive supplies at home.
- Work with your logistics and manufacturing team to create a strategic schedule for receiving goods at the manufacturing facility or warehouse.
- Designate different people to receive goods for sales or use on different days to decrease reliance on one person for the job.
The best tools for remote procurement teams
- Invest in the right equipment. Support people with the right supplies. Ensure people have all the necessary equipment and materials to execute basic duties at home.
- Use team collaboration platforms. If your team still uses email as the primary platform for communication, move to an instant communications system, such as Slack. Reliance on email is risky, especially when people work in separate locations.
- Switch to electronic agreements. Move your agreement process online to finalize vendor contracts. Digital platforms like Adobe Acrobat, DocuSign, and HelloSign help companies say goodbye to manual signatures.
- Move document review and revision to the cloud. Revise and incorporate contract markups on a shared collaboration platform such as Dropbox or Google Drive. These tools allow for quick changes and complete history of every revision.
- Scan documents. Use tools that recognize text in scanned documents and convert them to searchable formats: Adobe Acrobat, Abbyy FineReader, OmniPage, or another popular OCR tool.
- Invest in video conferencing systems. Regular communication with suppliers is crucial. Relationships can still be maintained virtually despite physical distancing requirements. Communications tools like Zoom, Skype, Whereby, Webex, BlueJeans, or Google Hangouts (which is free) facilitate virtual face-to-face conversations.
Improve communication flows
Prioritize regular communication with vendors. Maintaining regular contact, asking the right questions, talking to various suppliers, and building honest relationships are a few risk management strategies. Build trust, so suppliers feel comfortable keeping you updated with what's happening in their own production and manufacturing process. Vendors may increase prices above your budget, or worse, unexpectedly cancel the contract due to their own supply chain and manufacturing issues.
No matter how big or small your team is, stay aligned with your team members by clearly communicating status updates, requests, and blockers. Daily standups and regular online meetings can help with that.
Refine the communication process until it works for your specific culture and requirements.
Build the right mindsets
The most challenging part of managing any new process is the change management. What can help?
- Document new policies and clearly communicate them to everybody involved.
- Build trust. Offer a safe space for colleagues to voice opinions and concerns.
- Encourage creativity. Remote work can actually improve productivity, performance, engagement, and company profitability. Encourage your team to find hidden opportunities in remote work, test new solutions, and recommend improved ways of working.
Procurement teams will find the transition to working from home challenging at first. But with new digital tools, revamped processes, improved communication flows, and the right mindsets, procurement teams will soon recognize this is an opportunity to rethink the future of e-procurement.
Read the full guide on remote procurement here.