Complete Guide to Catalog Management: 3 Key Ingredients for a Great Catalog Solution

As Senior Director of Product Evangelism at Vroozi, Mike Jud brings more than 15 years industry experience in sourcing and procure-to-pay solutions to our Complete Guide to Catalog Management:

In recent years, the need for companies to provide a more customized user experience and the need for a more flexible way to run processes has led to some excellent advancements in catalogs. Tools today allow you to get product content, supplier information and schemas in a more efficient way than ever before. Once set up, a great catalog management solution can often flow through a workflow as an exception process – if they are set up correctly.

Here are three things you should keep in mind when looking to equip your Procurement organization with a catalog management solution:

Usability Equals Adoption

Compliance doesn’t happen if users aren’t using the systems, or using them appropriately. Usability is not only a familiar and intuitive experience that looks good, it also puts the process in the user’s critical path. If the user has to stop what they are doing and start a new process, gets stuck or has to process something at a later time, then the inefficiency will devalue the experience. The process may get delayed, or even worse, may not get done at all. I have seen companies ready to throw out an entire system because a C-level person couldn’t perform an approval. When satisfaction increases, more people will use the system, which leads to an increase in compliance and better visibility on spend.

What is the benchmark? What is familiar? Employees are already using things like online shopping, email and internet searches in their daily lives. Have you heard, “can’t this be more like Amazon”? Accordingly, a good user experience will draw on the familiar and intuitive, which in turn, will reduce the need for training. Most people who look at online catalogs will likely figure out what to do because the catalog is a familiar tool for product search and online buying.

Mobility Drives Productivity

Mobile applications are also very familiar to users and have the added value of being portable. For Procurement, that means employees can buy products and services when the need arises. Business takes place away from the desk. Procurement should too. Nevertheless, many mobile Procurement user interfaces focus on fitting the interface to the screen rather than enabling the mobile use case. Mobile devices provide context, such as location. Catalogs allow users to match that context to products and services, including the parts that are frequently bought for that location or asset. The catalog then gives the mobile workforce access to a true marketplace to make product and service decisions to meet their requirements on the spot. Furthermore, employees who use the catalog don’t necessarily need to know all the information required to make a requisition (eg: accounting). They can use the catalog to identify the need, and then the empowered users in requisitioning systems can add the missing information.

Enterprise Underneath, Simple On The Face

Usability isn’t just about enabling simple processes. It’s about making the hard processes seem simple. Catalogs can guide users through a process or Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Online forms, rate cards and configurable products in the catalog can guide users through questions or present a series of choices to the user that will determine the right price for a product or service. Many companies also have requirements for information that needs to be on the purchasing documents for a particular category. The catalog forms can prompt the user to enter the required information.

These same forms can also be customized to ask the user the question in a language they understand. We often found that users didn’t know what to enter for “expected value” and “total value” for a limit item. With catalogs, the user can just enter the information as they know it based on familiar prompts. The catalog will then map the responses to the appropriate system fields. Users work in their familiar process and terminology, but the catalog does the work to make the data work for the system.

As we come full circle, we see now how the catalog sits at the center between strategic sourcing and operational procurement to drive compliance to what Procurement has predetermined as the means to cost savings and the best use of funds. Procurement’s reach to generate value covers more than just contracted products and services. Accordingly, the mechanisms at Procurement’s disposal to enforce compliance should also extend beyond contracts and should be managed centrally. Procurement’s job is easier when the organization uses the tools and uses them correctly. The familiarity and the ease-of-use of catalogs is driving that adoption and enabling companies to realize best-in-class.

I hope you find this post helpful and come away with some good insights. Feel free to contact me (michael.jud@vroozi.com) if you have any questions or comments!