Procurement Ops Digest Issue 5: The Intake Issue

April 25, 2024
April 24, 2024
min read
Procurement Ops Digest Issue 5: The Intake Issue

This is a preview of Procurement Ops Digest, our monthly newsletter for procurement professionals. Subscribe and receive these newsletters in your inbox every month!

Over the last 10 years or so, as digital transformation efforts have ramped up, procurement professionals have witnessed the emergence of many different kinds of procurement tech. Among them is an entirely new procurement technology category: intake management and intake-to-procure platforms. 

The problem these tools and their providers sought to address was a real one. There was a real need for simpler and more structured means of facilitating intake experiences.

But most of the solutions these providers offered amounted to lipstick on a pig. They solved intake by—drumroll please—enabling procurement teams to build forms for employees to fill out. The forms were often pretty! But they were not productive. Employees tended not to fill them out, sometimes seeking side doors rather than following the intended process. Even now, adoption of intake processes in procurement remains endemically low. 

Why is this? One reason: typical intake management tools and procurement intake processes involve procurement in intake processes far too late for procurement to add real unique value. For example, after requisition. 

What are procurement professionals uniquely great at? Negotiation, strategic sourcing, facilitating innovation from within the context of compliance requirements and budgetary constraints—etc. But guess what? If procurement is only involved in buying experiences after the requisition stage, you lose the opportunity to leverage that skill or perspective. Intake doesn’t start with requisition. It starts with intent

There’s another issue. Typically, when procurement is looped into intake experiences, procurement teams don’t have the means to collaborate seamlessly with stakeholders to produce accurate, high-quality work. Often, the “collaboration” they’re able to facilitate doesn’t look like collaboration at all. 

Traditional intake management tools generally don’t give procurement teams and their partner functions the technological means to provide input, assistance, or context for stakeholders when and where those stakeholders need it—the way editors can provide real-time feedback to writers via Google Docs. This fundamentally limits the value that procurement is able to provide, in part because it guarantees a fundamentally reactive process experience. 

Procurement needs something better suited to help them meet the demands of this aspect of their work. But what is that something? 

Answer: intake tools that ensure procurement teams can engage with requesters early, proactively, and transparently, and that provide workspaces for collaboration that are seamless, simple, smart, and ultimately fruitful. 

More on that below. But first, the latest in procurement.

Latest in Procurement

  • Last week, Tonkean released Collaborative Intake for Procurement, a new set of intake orchestration capabilities for procurement teams. See the announcement here
  • Why traditional intake management is dead. Pure Procurement
  • Sarah Scudder and Elouise Epstein are teaming up for a new podcast called Dual Source Discourse, all about the biggest supply chain debates of the day. First episode drops in early May. Read more here
  • CPO Strategy recently dropped the 2024 Sustainability in Procurement Playbook. Download it here.
  • Tonkean will be presenting at ISM 2024 about the importance of simplicity in procurement process design. See the event here.
  • 4 smart technologies modernizing sourcing strategy (IBM)
  • New AI-assistant revealed at Coupa Inspire (Procurement Magazine)
  • Did you miss our webinar w/ Tonkean co-founder and CEO Sagi Eliyahu, Art of Procurement & The Hackett Group Inc. about augmenting P2P/ERP with intake orchestration & AI? 😔Watch the recording here
  • The Tonkean team was at Coupa Inspire in Las Vegas this week! Sagi led a breakout session with The Hackett Group and Andrew Gluck, Senior Procurement Specialist at Cockroach Labs. The session was about how AI-powered intake orchestration will unlock the full potential of procurement. The session went great, and we had a ton of great conversations with procurement professionals from all across the world. The party last night was also 🤟

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

Procurement in the Field: The Future of Intake

What do procurement teams need to finally, seriously improve intake that procurement technology vendors are not presently providing? 

Last week, Tonkean introduced our answer to that question. It’s called Collaborative Intake, a new suite of capabilities in ProcurementWorks, our intake orchestration solution for procurement teams.

Collaborative Intake enables cross-functional, in-workflow collaboration and engagement across every step of the procurement lifecycle, from intent through resolution. It ensures that all purchasing interactions are relevant, targeted, and actionable. It enables stakeholders and procurement teams alike to tag and assign tasks to each other on the intake form, much like you can in something like Google Docs. 

Because all this is built on top of Tonkean’s existing intake orchestration technology, which connects any and all back-end tools and systems your organization might use, employees can respond either inside the intake form or from whatever other applications they might already be in—Slack, Teams, etc. —and then find all of the relevant discussion centralized in the request workflow.

Here’s how it works. Using Tonkean, procurement teams can configure intake processes to start not with requisition, but with an AI Front Door. 

Let’s say an employee has an inkling they want to make a purchase. Say, they want to buy some software. First, they open the Tonkean AI Front Door, and ask it how to purchase software. 

What employees are led down next is a personalized, step-by-step guided buying experience. For example, the Front Door might first ask employees, “Do you have budget approved for this purchase?”

Let’s imagine the employee doesn’t know. They’re trying to move fast. Before, they would have had to leave the intake workflow to go find that information. Now, they can simply make a comment— “How do I know if I have budget for this?”—and tag procurement. Procurement responds right there, and either party can loop in other stakeholders, managers, or folks from finance, IT or, legal, as needed.

All this is designed to break the cycle of reactive procurement. Now, procurement teams can make sure they’re present and involved in buying experiences from the first moment of intent until the matter is resolved. And that their presence and involvement are productive—that they’re able to bring to the process all of the unique skills, knowledge, and context they possess.

This serves to transform procurement from a transactional silo into a strategic nexus. It does so by involving procurement earlier in intake processes and by elevating the value of their contributions once they’re looped in. 

Why does this matter?

Engaging stakeholders from the very start of the intake process improves compliance, increases cost savings, and mitigates risk. Providing in-process context and timely support also guarantees more accurate data capture and more rapid resolution. There’s less need to make corrections or track down missing information. And real-time in-workflow collaboration enables faster decision-making, reduces the need for follow-ups, and ensures that procurement is able to provide real business value.

Procurement should not continue abiding by outdated schools of thought about what intake can and should be. The technology wave that’s swept over procurement in recent years isn’t stopping any time soon—especially when you factor in coming innovations in AI-powered orchestration. 

But not all new technology is created equal. Procurement teams should seek out from technology partners tools that empower them to do things they’re not presently able to do, and that are holding them back from providing the kind of stand-alone strategic value that enterprise organizations very much need from procurement teams now. 

When it comes to intake management and orchestration, that means tools that foster much earlier engagement and much easier, more effective collaboration and resolution. The promise of such tools is not only to help procurement teams reduce cycle times, increase spend under management, or improve adoption. It’s to help you transform the procurement function from a transactional silo into a strategic, collaborative nexus. 

Want to learn more? Read about our new Collaborative Intake capabilities here

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 and Tonkean co-founder Sagi Eliyahu is joined by Joël Collin-Demers, Consulting Principal of Pure Procurement.

Joël discusses strategies for embracing digital transformation in procurement operations. He emphasizes extracting institutional knowledge from experienced employees before they retire, automating processes through technology and fostering a culture of continuous learning within teams.

Key Takeaways:

  • (03:23) Businesses are demanding more from procurement, including risk mitigation, innovation, diversity and sustainability objectives.
  • (07:30) Implementing continuous improvement and learning mindsets takes 5-10 years for enterprises.
  • (10:40) Break transformation into manageable pieces by listing objectives, required capabilities and assigning ownership to team members for capability development.
  • (13:00) Democratize improvement by enabling employees to optimize processes, brainstorm solutions and incorporate technology recommendations.
  • (17:47) Demographic shifts and shrinking workforces make technology imperative for automating routine tasks and elevating employees to strategic roles.
  • (21:34) Preserving integrity by staying true to values and principles should be the top priority, even if it risks losing contracts.
  • (21:58) Continual learning through reading, meeting new people and exploring new experiences is vital to avoid career stagnation.

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

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

Module Builder

  • Interface intake sequences - To give users more options for creating intake experiences and form flows, we have enhanced custom item interfaces to provide a top-notch, user-oriented form experience. Interfaces offer numerous advantages over create and update forms:
  • Dynamic display of widgets, fields, and other information to show users only what they need to see
  • Rich content, including images, file attachments, line items, embedded content, and more
  • Varied input options like rich text and file upload to gather the critical information for your process
  • Conditional field validation to ensure needed inputs are provided (and are accurate)
  • Intake progress tracker to help requesters through the entire intake flow

Many makers have already discovered the power of interface intake sequences, but previously, if you had an interface sequence in your module, you were still required to begin that sequence with a create form. This is no longer the case. Now, with the addition of the Interface Submitted trigger, you can begin form flows with an item interface.

The introduction of intake sequences means that interfaces are now the recommended way to create intake form flows in Tonkean. We recommend most users begin transitioning to interfaces, phasing out conventional create and update forms in their workflows, except in select cases. For more information, see Transition to Interface Forms.

Interface Submitted trigger - This new trigger activates when a selected Tonkean interface is submitted by a user. Now, you no longer have to begin sequences with a create form and can create intake sequences and form flows using interfaces exclusively, allowing the rich, dynamic experience that interfaces provide.

With this new trigger, you can set initial values for select fields, such as assigning values to the basic fields Viewer name or Viewer email, capturing the basic information for the user filling out the interface.

Intake sequence logic - Along with the new Interface Submitted trigger and the ability to start intake flows with an interface, we've added several new specialized actions: sequence actions.

Sequence actions are special actions that are only available within an interface sequence. In this context, a sequence is a trigger and its related series of actions that correspond with a guided experience for the end-user—the most common example being an intake sequence.

These actions take advantage of some unique qualities and requirements of sequences in Tonkean, such as needing to end a sequence with a "thank you" message or being able to reuse workflow logic by connecting a new Interface Submitted trigger to an existing sequence, enabling you to simplify your workflow and speed up process updates.

Decimal formatting - In formulas, we've enhanced formatting options for numerical fields (both manual and formula fields), enabling users to specify the number of decimal places to display for the field. This option is designed primarily for currency values, where you always want to display two decimal places, even if the money value is whole.

Custom Item Interfaces and Workspace Apps

Use custom interfaces for matched items - You can now display matched items and inner items using custom interfaces instead of the default interface. Plus, those interfaces now display in a modal view over the primary request interface instead of opening up in a new tab.

This enhancement is especially helpful for procurement workflows that feature several sub-processes—for example, if there's a general intake module and separate modules for team-specific reviews from Legal, IT, etc. Those teams can now more easily view dedicated interfaces for these matched items, with direct access back to the original request for full context.

Enterprise Components

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

  • LawVu - The in-house legal workspace system. Use this data source to augment your legal workflows.
  • Ironclad V2 - We've updated the Ironclad data source to "V2", including various improvements to actions and processing efficiency.

Bug Fixes

  • The intake progress tracker skipped a step in select modules.
  • The Equals operator was not working as expected when using True/False values in a formula field.
  • When redirecting from a "thank you" message in a form flow, users received an error instead of the targeted web page.
  • The custom item interface header configuration was not opening when selected.
  • The description for the new Interface Submitted trigger was not displaying for some users.
  • The Line Items widget preview was not displaying properly, and was showing no example items.
  • When selecting an action button that was conditionally displayed on an interface, some users received an error.
  • The Upload Files button displayed with an inconsistent color.

That’s it! Thanks for checking out Procurement 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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