Managing spend is a frequent challenge for growing businesses. As the number of people and departments making purchases grows, so do the vendors, statements of work, purchase orders and invoices—and the results can be both overwhelming and inefficient.
Cloud-based procurement software promises to solve that by enabling businesses to regain visibility and control over their spend. Whether by automating and centralizing key procurement functions, speeding up the order process or scanning for opportunities to better manage cash flow, these programs provide the sort of services that once required a small army of accountants.
Organizations are taking notice. More than one-third of accounts payable and finance leaders say their companies use an end-to-end procure-to-pay software solution, and an additional 12% indicate they plan to add such a system over the next 24 months, according to a 2019 report by Ardent Partners.
Not every solution is alike. Some are tailored toward enterprise-level clients with rafts of stakeholders and complex implementations, while others are built for smaller businesses with simpler needs. Here’s a look at several software solutions with the potential to bring your company’s spending into focus.
For businesses aiming for simplicity in accounting: Procurify
Its intuitive interface is especially valuable for a growing business that lacks a dedicated procurement team. There’s also plenty of power under the hood, with a complete procure-to-pay solution that includes features such as the ability to consult a real-time view of the expense-to-budget ratio for a given line item before approving a purchase. Procurify also provides a window into vendor performance, allowing you to compare different vendors based on speed, accuracy and price. In its most affordable pricing tier, the software offers QuickBooks integration and a mobile app.
For growing businesses that want to use the same tools as the big guys: SAP Ariba Snap and Coupa
In some software categories, the leading enterprise-level solutions aren’t practical for small- and medium-sized businesses. Not so in procurement, where industry leaders SAP Ariba and Coupa offer on-ramps for growing companies. SAP Ariba Snap is a scaled-back, easier-to-implement version of Ariba that grants access to its huge supplier network and end-to-end procure-to-pay functionality. Likewise, Coupa boasts a similar supplier network and robust feature set with a platform that accommodates businesses of all sizes. Among Coupa’s calling cards is a tool that analyzes your organization’s spending, looking for inefficiencies and areas for potential savings.
For the company that likes to live on the leading edge: Tradeshift
Among Tradeshift’s innovative core features is an in-app chat window that allows the procurement team to quickly connect with department managers and employees, as well as a Google-like shopping experience within Tradeshift’s supplier marketplace. The software also offers a virtual credit card that combines administrative control over spending with flexibility for employees. And if you’re looking for a vendor that’s experimenting with cryptocurrency payments and small-business loans based on accounts receivable balances, this is it.
For small businesses looking for a low-risk, e-procurement baby step: Bellwether
Free trials are nothing new for software companies, but Bellwether stands out because its trial period covers a full year. It grants three users access to a suite of purchasing tools that includes requisitions, approvals, budgets and inventory management. Once the year is finished, customers can stick with Bellwether’s small-business solution or move up to its enterprise product, which adds features such as asset management and contract management.
For businesses with complex inventory and supply-chain needs: Unleashed
Advanced inventory management is the core offering from Unleashed, but its platform also includes procurement tools such as purchase orders and vendor management. Then there are manufacturing-specific features such as supplier returns and a reporting function that breaks down the true cost of your purchased stock. Unleashed doesn’t directly handle payouts but offers integrations with accounting solutions such as QuickBooks and Xero.
For small businesses looking for a back-office bundle: Certify
As with Unleashed, Certify’s core product isn’t procurement—in this case, it’s expense reimbursement. But Certify also offers a full procure-to-pay suite that includes ACH payments, making it an attractive bundle for companies also in the market for a travel-and-expense tool.
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