3 Key Digital Transformation Considerations for Procurement Professionals

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by Margaret Cunha, Director of Regional Supply Chain Solutions, Digi-Key Electronics

The past few months have accelerated a digital revolution in the procurement industry. The transformation has been so profound that Digi-Key recently hosted a webinar on digital solutions for procurement professionals, and also released an eBook on digital transformation in the procurement space.

I was honored to be on the webinar panel, along with Michael Rankins, a fellow regional supply chain director for Digi-Key. The goal of the webinar was to educate participants on the different digital solutions out there such as API (Application Programming Interface), EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), and Punchout, and how they can be used to maximize efficiency and improve operations. We also included a Digi-Key customer, Prime EMS quote analyst, Cara Knott, so she could share her firsthand experience with digital transformation in her organization.

For procurement professionals who weren’t able to attend the webinar, here are my top three takeaways to help jumpstart your organization’s digital transformation:

1. There are three major digital solutions, and it’s important to select the one that will be best for your organization. Because there are multiple digital solutions out there, there is flexibility when it comes to selecting the best one for your needs. Among your options are:

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) – This provides more of a standardized format for sending purchase orders, acknowledgments, what’s on hand, etc. This technology has really advanced over the past 10 years and organizations can now use EDI to effectively manage their procurement, pricing, and ordering processes all at once. EDI is most widely adopted by larger organizations, universities and NPI (new product introduction) engineering companies since it requires an organization to have proper EDI infrastructure prior to use.

Punchouts – A punchout solution streamlines the purchasing process by making it easier for users to create accurate and detailed purchase orders through an automated process. Punchouts use an organization’s existing technology to procure goods and services. These are most popular among medium to large B2B organizations and are even becoming a requirement for many RFPs.

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) – APIs are a newer digital solution, but they’re quickly gaining popularity because of how customizable they are. Digi-Key’s APIs are free to use, and digitally connect customers’ systems with the distributor’s system to provide automated, real-time product search, price and availability, quoting and ordering, barcode, product change notifications and more. Digi-Key’s solution is the first real-time API on the market. Customers who use it have a competitive advantage because they can receive all the critical information on products they need at lightning speed due to the automated, machine-to-machine connection.

2. A digital transformation changes the role of a procurement buyer for the better.

One of the biggest misconceptions about digital solutions is that it eliminates the role of a procurement buyer, but this is simply not the case. When you embrace digital solutions for your procurement processes, it actually elevates your role by making it more strategic. In the end, your job is more fun because you have to devote less time to tedious tasks, and spend more time in negotiations. Cara Knott from Prime EMS told webinar participants, “Utilizing digital solutions helped ensure we were using our resources properly, and in a timely manner. The system we were using was just bogging us down and being able to use a system like API where everything could all be done together really streamlined things for us and moved everything along quicker. It took something that could take weeks and brought it down to days.” A digital transformation simply helps you “work smarter, not harder,” as the old adage goes.

3. The easiest way to get started with digital solutions is by getting set up with a quoting process.

Getting set up with a quoting process is a great way to kickstart your organization’s digital transformation. A quoting process alone represents a major timesaver for whoever handles your organization’s quotes. Panelists from the webinar all agreed: establishing a quoting process will show you the power and speed of digital solutions and will compel you to search out further ways to automate your processes. In addition to efficiency, procurement professionals will be motivated by the ROI that accompanies digital solutions. Cara admitted that Prime EMS probably saw a return within 30-60 days of implementing digital solutions because she hit a huge quote order that Prime would likely not have been able to fulfill otherwise.

Undergoing a digital transformation may seem like a daunting task to procurement professionals who still rely heavily on manual processes. Yet everyday your organization goes without digital solutions is another one that you’re at a competitive disadvantage to those who do.

Now is the time to take the first step toward streamlining your processes for efficiency. Start by reading Digi-Key’s Digital Transformation eBook and get ready to experience the success and speed that accompany automation.

Margaret Cunha is director of regional supply chain solutions at Digi-Key Electronics, where she is in charge of the western region. Digi-Key is one of the world’s largest, full-service distributors of electronics components, offering more than 11 million products with over 2.6 million in stock and available for immediate shipment, from more than 1,300 quality, name-brand manufacturers.

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