Has the coronavirus pandemic boosted the digitisation of purchasing processes?

For over a year now, the corona pandemic has had the global economy firmly in its grip. In spring 2020, it quickly became apparent that purchasing was behind when it comes to digitisation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic also triggered positive developments as it helped to change our view of digitisation. Companies began to realise that technology and digitalisation tools are a stabilisation and success factor in times of existence-threatening crises. But what about the digital transformation in purchasing today? Has the coronavirus pandemic boosted the digitisation of purchasing processes? 

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The digitisation of purchasing processes has become a priority

Surveys show that during the coronavirus pandemic, cost reduction, supplier management and the digitisation of purchasing processes are of central importance. Most companies have reconsidered their priorities in response to the crisis. While process efficiency and efficient data management have long been decisive prerequisites for modern and resilient purchasing, these issues are even more important today. That is why it is now vital to digitise further and optimise operational purchasing processes. Buyers acknowledge the importance of digitised processes but do they use intelligent automation tools to achieve that goal?   

Too little operational automation in procurement

The automation rate in operational purchasing is still comparatively low in 2021. Yet, the automation of operational activities plays a vital role in the digitisation of purchasing processes. The automation of operational processes leads to reduced manual tasks, fewer errors, more efficiency and transparency, and process optimisation in procurement. Furthermore, in the fight against the consequences of the pandemic, purchasing plays a crucial role in the company. Disrupted supply chains put risk management as well as supply and process security at the centre of attention. The use of digital automation tools and software solutions enables and facilitates these tasks immensely. 

Cloud-based platform solutions have a high future potential

Survey results show that only a small proportion of cloud-based platform solutions are currently  used, but most companies consider them to have a high future potential for procurement. The Netfira Platform, for example, is offered as a SaaS solution (Software-as-a-Service) and operated in the cloud. Compared to on-premise solutions, the SaaS service model provides low costs, high flexibility and cost-effective scalability while guaranteeing high data protection. This is particularly important in times like these, as procurement must react to developments and requirements in an agile, flexible and cost-efficient way. 

Artificial Intelligence has high application potential in the future

Even though only a small proportion of the companies surveyed use Artificial Intelligence (AI) in purchasingmost are convinced that AI has high application potential in the future. The AI-based Netfira Platform already demonstrates this. Innovative Artificial Intelligence can show its full strengths particularly in operational procurement, which is predominantly characterised by manual tasks. When processing documents and data, AI imitates the human behaviour of those involved in the process. This means automated data exchange at the push of a button with high data accuracy. AI thus brings enormous added value to purchasing and facilitates and accelerates B2B communication. Time-consuming and error-prone work is noticeably reduced, and buyers have the opportunity to invest time and resources in other tasks such as risk management, supplier management andliquidity management.

Obstacles to digitising purchasing processes

The results of surveys indicate that although the companies surveyed recognise the application potential of new technologies, they encounter technical and organisational obstacles when implementing and using them. The most common barriers are lack of compatibility and interfaces between systems, insufficient investment budget, bad data quality, high data protection requirements, and lack of technical infrastructure. The Netfira Platform integrates seamlessly into any existing ERP and IT systems and guarantees a bidirectional digital exchange of data and documents with business partners regardless of their processes and ERP systems. The artificially intelligent cloud solution turns unstructured data into structured data and allows organisations to automate document processing tasks and free employees of manual, repetitive and error-prone activities. Read here how the Netfira Platform increases data quality in purchasing through process automation.  

How can the digitisation of purchasing processes be boosted?

The situation of purchasing has not changed that profoundly compared to 2020. The current pandemic makes it necessary to not only rely on short-term solutions for crisis management. Instead, digital automation tools combined with the advancement of new technologies like AI and SaaS are now decisive for competition. The impact of COVID-19 should be an impetus for structural change and an opportunity to identify and address existing deficits in digitalisation quickly. Particular attention should be paid to long-term and sustainable digitisation partnershipsUsing new digital technologies and state-of-the-art electronic solutions, procurement departments can become more resilient during and after the crisis. 

 Sources:  

https://stoehr-faktor.de/dokumente/download-studien/2020-08-studie-neue-bmoe-studie-management-summary.pdf 

https://www.bme.de/corona-ist-weckruf-fuer-digitale-transformation-im-einkauf-3698/ 

 

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