Procurement Ops Digest #4: Practical Applications of Process Orchestration in Procurement

Tonkean
Tonkean
February 15, 2024
February 14, 2024
15
min read
Procurement Ops Digest #4: Practical Applications of Process Orchestration in Procurement

The word of 2024 in procurement so far is “process orchestration.” 

Everybody—from procurement experts to executives at Goldman Sachs—is talking about it. 

But… why? What are they so excited about? 

As Daniel Barnes, author of World of Procurement, wrote recently, it’s about “the removal of complexity from procurement for everyone who interacts with procurement.”

Which is certainly part of it. But the promise of process orchestration, which we’ve been writing about for some time now, goes far beyond removing complexity. 

Ultimately, it has to do with creating and curating for employees (requesters and approvers alike!) guided, end-to-end procurement experiences that are not only seamless, but are integrated and personalized. (Any process orchestration platform worth its salt will wrap around and accommodate all your organization’s existing databases, policies, people, and systems.) 

With process orchestration technology, procurement can connect and pass data back and forth between your organization’s mix of people and tools, including ERP and P2P platforms, seamlessly and automatically. This seamless integration allows you to automate the process both of triaging requests and of “orchestrating” all the moving parts required to reach resolution. This, in turn, allows you to resolve requests in a fraction of the time… and with minimal headache for everyone involved. 

It’s all about tailoring automated experiences to your specific mix of process, systems, and, more importantly, your people.

This setup  is rapidly turning into a new norm. As Barnes also writes, process orchestration represents “a new model of procurement technology.” It is something of a paradigm shift for procurement teams who understand the power of organic process adoption.

There’s a tendency when talking about process orchestration and its potential, however, to remain too high-level. (We’re probably doing it right now!) So, if you’re still a bit unsure of what this looks like in practice, below, we provide the concrete use case of intake orchestration—pulled from a recently published essay by our CEO, Sagi Eliyahu, in Future of Sourcing

But first, here’s some news from around the industry.

Latest in Procurement

  • Procurement Magazine put together a list of the top 10 procurement events to check out in 2024. Read the list here.
  • Last month, Coupa certified Tonkean Intake Orchestration for use within the Coupa Business Spend Management (BSM) platform. Tonkean is now available in the Coupa App Marketplace
  • In other Tonkean news, Former CEO & President of SAP America Joins Tonkean Advisory Board. Read more.
  • In the market for chocolate for Valentine’s Day? Sky-high cocoa prices, up nearly 65% from a year ago, might have you thinking twice. CoBank Reports.
  • On February 8th, Art of Procurement hosted a webinar with the Head of Procurement at Bayer, executives from Goldman Sachs, and Lance Younger, CEO of ProcureTech, about process orchestration and how to get started with it in your procurement org. Watch the recording
  • Why Procurement Process Orchestration is Going to be Big in 2024—an explainer from Daniel Barnes at World of Procurement.
  • If you’re in the market for more webinars, we’re hosting a webinar in early March with Art of Procurement and Hackett. Will be all about how to augment your P2P/ERP platforms with orchestration. Sign up here.
  • Last month, Dawn Tiura, President of SIG, hosted a LinkedIn Live with Tonkean CEO Sagi Eliyahu about the importance and practical ramifications of Tonkean’s new partnership with Coupa. Watch the recording

If you have some insightful news or knowledge about the world of ops to share, let us know! 

Procurement in the Field

Okay, intake orchestration software. What exactly is it, what does it look like in practice, and what makes it so exciting?(This is pulled from a new essay by Tonkean CEO and co-founder Sagi Eliyahu in Future of Sourcing. Read the full piece here.)

First, let’s define intake orchestration. One way is by separating the root words. Intake, of course, refers to the challenge faced by every internal department—as well as just about every working professional—of effectively fielding, reviewing, responding to, and ultimately resolving requests that are made of them and their time.

This is much more complicated than it might seem, especially in procurement. Intake requests often come to procurement from a wide array of sources—employees, vendors, renewals—and from across an even wider array of channels. (This is especially true if people don’t follow your procurement processes as they’re supposed to, which they often don’t).

Then comes the hard part: coordinating the various requests and action items across stakeholders and systems to resolution. This entails—for each request—triaging the request to determine its relative risk, expense, and urgency; sourcing the item or service (potentially tricky if it’s a new vendor or something off the wall); handling the contract, PO, invoice; and actually getting things paid for and finalized—it’s a lot to manage.

In most organizations, procurement teams have to do all this work manually—manually combing through channels to find all the submitted intake materials, manually pestering stakeholders for approvals, going back and pestering requesters for more information, manually updating systems along the way, etc.

But that’s where our second word—orchestration—comes in. 

Orchestration technology wraps around and accommodates all your organization’s existing databases, policies, people, and systems. Meaning, you can connect and pass data back and forth between your organization’s mix of people and tools, including ERP and P2P platforms, seamlessly and automatically. This allows you to automate the process both of triaging requests and of “orchestrating” all the moving parts required to reach resolution.

Orchestration also allows you to create intake and approval processes that are differentiated and personalized for each team and employee’s needs and context. And that funnel all the captured data back to the procurement team. 

In other words, intake orchestration is not just about automatically generating requisitions and POs. It’s about tailoring automated experiences to your specific mix of process, systems, and, more importantly, your people.

What makes this so exciting? Well, think about how most procurement teams facilitate intake today. Most use P2P/ERP platforms. These are powerful tools, but even so, they’re not perfect. For example, some don’t easily integrate with other tools (some intentionally so). Intake and approval processes that rely solely on them remain complex and arduous, with long cycle times. 

Much of this stems from the fact that, for all they’re great at, big P2P and ERP platforms are typically designed for the procurement team, not for the requester or approver.

There’s some logic in that, of course, but at the end of the day, what matters most—in terms of how effectively procurement is able to do its job and create business value—is the experience that procurement provides. When your processes require that employees use platforms that aren’t designed with their aptitudes and preferences in mind, you risk making your processes too hard to follow, which often results in low process adoption, rogue spend, even longer cycle times, and more manual work for the procurement team.

Intake orchestration offers a way to solve this problem, and without forcing employees to learn how to navigate yet another tool, or requiring that you rip out and replace any of the tools you already have…

Read the full essay.

Tell us about clever solutions and success stories you want your procurement peers to know about for future newsletters!

Modern Business Operations

On this episode of Modern Business Operations, host Seth Colaner is joined by Philip Lakin, Co-Founder and CEO of NoCodeOps. In this discussion, Philip asks, “Why don't we treat internal processes the same way we treat customer-facing processes?”

Their discussion yielded these takeaways:

  • How to think about improving internal processes (start with the problem you want to solve, and seek to ensure the experience of following the new process is seamless).
  • The importance of improving process adoption among internal service teams and how to use technology, like process orchestration to do it.
  • How to sell new technology initiatives internally.
  • Why no-code interfaces are a MUST for all automation and orchestration technologies in fields like procurement
  • And more!

Subscribe to the Modern Business Operations podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Maestro's Minutes

Here’s everything we did in the most recent Tonkean release notes:

Module Builder

  • We've added a brand new condition: Like. This condition has automatically replaced all existing usages of the condition Equal to, and works identically to this previously existing condition. This new condition is a refinement of our logic conditions, providing an option that functions generally the same as a strict equals condition, except with a small amount of flexibility that accounts for a case difference, the presence of a single piece of punctuation like a hyphen or period, and other similar minor differences.

Custom Item Interfaces and Workspace Apps

  • Intake sequence progress tracker: We've added a new progress tracker, designed for request intake workflows. This tracker shows requesters each step of the intake process and the step they're currently on. This feature takes the guesswork out of the intake flow for requesters, showing them exactly where in the process they are—helping them to prepare for upcoming steps (such as gathering required documents) and be more confident in the process as a whole.
  • Line Items widget: The Line Items widget has been enhanced with in-line actions—most notably the option to delete an item directly on the interface. This update provides users with more control over their file uploads, allowing you to delete files that were uploaded in error.

Board Settings Theme

  • We've added a new Global Colors feature to the Board Theme, enabling users to add preset colors that are exclusively available for use in the module builder, custom item interfaces, and workspace apps. This feature ensures your process contributor experiences align with your organization's brand identity and remain consistent across the entire business process.

Enterprise Components

You can now integrate the following new data sources with your Tonkean solutions:

  • Adobe PDF - The PDF creation and management tool. Use this data source to generate, export, auto-tag, and generally manipulate PDFs as part of your module workflow.
  • Conga CLM - The end-to-end contract lifecycle management solution. Use this data source to create, negotiate, and execute contracts as part of your module workflow.

Additionally, a Create Text/PDF File action was added to the SharePoint Online data source.

Bug Fixes

  • When installing a module template from the Component Library, the dropdown to select relevant data sources displayed deleted data sources.
  • Workday Strategic Sourcing data sources were failing to collect Projects, due in part to a pagination error.
  • On some interfaces that included a Status Progress Bar widget oriented vertically, scrolling was disabled.
  • Deleting a form caused a client error for some users.
  • Attempting to open an interface from a Line Items widget resulted in the interface getting stuck loading.
  • The example item designed to aid in module customization and configuration was not displaying correctly, causing unexpected behavior for some users.

Upcoming events

  • We’re hosting a webinar with Art of Procurement and Hackett about getting started with process orchestration in procurement. It’s on Tuesday, March 12, at 8am PT. Register here!
  • We’re also hosting a webinar with Legal Operators and Workday. Come learn how the Legal Ops team at Workday uses Tonkean to automate, personalize, and orchestrate intake experiences across existing platforms and systems. Tuesday, February 27, at 10am PT. Register here.

That’s it! Thanks for checking out Ops Digest! If you’d like to learn more about who Tonkean is or what we do, we have a few different kinds of trials that you can sign up for. They walk users through our most powerful solutions, including Legal intake, Customer onboarding, Employee onboarding, and Email inbox automation. Sign up for one here!

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