The five functions of an effective buyer portal

Portals have become ubiquitous in our lives. We access search engines, shop online, and use any number of government websites and other portals in our personal and professional lives on a daily basis.

From a procurement perspective, the idea of a ‘buyer portal’ has become increasingly popular in recent years. The buyer portal is the consolidation of all of an organisation’s procurement information into one area. The focus in the past has been on the functionality of tools in procurement such as e-requisition, e-auctions, e-RFx and e-catalogues. While these are valuable tools, they cannot provide any meaningful benefit if the internal customer of procurement does not engage with the system. We see three benefits in an intuitive, easy-to-use buyer portal.

  1. Integration

By bringing all the different buying channels together into one place and providing seamless links to all, the user is more easily drawn into using the portal and into following the established procurement processes and policies. The buyer portal becomes a one-stop procurement shop for the user.

  1. Building a Relationship

A recent survey of Accenture clients showed a key desired outcome from a buyer portal is increased user satisfaction and greater engagement among procurement’s end customers within the organisation. An effective and well-designed buyer portal can provide the basis for ongoing dialogue between procurement and its customers.

  1. Simplicity

Our experience with clients indicates users tend to neither need nor require many pieces of information. A key focus of the buyer portal should be on enabling users to make their request in compliance with policy as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

The exact make-up of any organisation’s buyer portal will vary. We have identified five key functions of an effective one:

  • Search - a single search function directing users to the appropriate information.
  • Help - available when and where the user needs it.
  • Procurement - integration with relevant e-procurement tools.
  • Category cards - pages which give all information needed for buying.
  • Site links - re-directing users if they need to use another process.

Procurement organisations should consider an portal as one of the key tools to achieve control over third-party spend and make the user’s buying experience easy and satisfying. A well-designed and properly deployed buyer portal can play a significant role in fostering compliance, reducing the organisation’s overall spend and reinforcing the appreciation of the procurement function.

Frank Bögels is a senior manager within Accenture’s BPO organization and has over 20 years of experience in sourcing and procurement.

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