Smart procurement requires a process and an effective means of capturing and understanding demand for procured goods and services. It also requires an easy and efficient way for end users to get what they need. A well-designed procurement Service Desk can help to accomplish both of these objectives, and should incorporate people, process and technology. Here are some components:
Communication Skills. The Service Desk is your front line, in many instances your first and primary point of contact with end users. Many end users will have a natural preconception that working with procurement is of questionable value, and is something to be avoided wherever possible. The Service Desk can be an effective tool to diffuse this impression, and staffing the desk with individuals that have a strong customer orientation and excellent communication skills will go a long way toward changing this perception. The Service Desk staff should be efficient, knowledgeable and easy to understand. Furthermore, they should be able to effectively convey the value that is being provided by procurement – ease of use, budget friendliness and assured quality and delivery.
Judgment/Problem Solving. Furthermore, Help Desk personnel should be good problem solvers, able to accurately ascertain and confirm the end user’s need and to resolve that need efficiently and effectively. This requires an ability to resolve the majority of questions at a first pass, and to accurately forward the requester to the tool or team member that will most effectively meet his or her needs.
Intake. The Service Desk intake process should comprise several channels – Web-based eForms, e-mail and voice – that will capture key information as painlessly as possible. The process should ensure documentation and time-tagging of each request in a case management or workflow tool that will capture relevant information and enable the request status to be tracked through completion and confirmation.
Triage. Because procurement requests will range broadly from simple orders or questions to complex spend requirements requiring analysis, quoting, requirements definition, negotiation and contracting, the process should also include an efficient “triage” capability that will route requests to the appropriate resource or workflow to fulfill the requirement.
Follow-Up/Confirmation. One cannot understate the benefits of an effective follow-up/confirmation process. If requesters are promptly informed of the initial status and timeline to complete their requests, and provided with regular updates and visibility into the process, they will generally feel that they are receiving a high level of service and will perceive the procurement organization as responsive.
Resolution. Finally, the process should include documentation, categorization and tracking of how each request was resolved. This step will provide valuable data to enable the procurement organization to address service issues through adjustments to process, staffing, tools or offering, and will enable continuous service improvement over time.
Web portal. The procurement Service Desk should be supported by a comprehensive Web portal that provides information on how to buy, where to find catalogs, descriptions of procurement offerings and services, current information on procurement service level performance, and benefits achieved to the company. The portal should also include case examples and internal testimonials from satisfied users, underscoring key procurement value messages that go beyond cost savings and address quality, efficiency, reliability and risk mitigation.
eForms. To make procurement a process as painless as possible, a link to an eForm should be provided. The eForm should be designed with simplicity in mind, requiring user input of only necessary information and capturing other information from available systems such as PeopleSoft where possible.
Case management or workflow tools. As discussed earlier, a case management or workflow tool will be effective in tracking process times, identifying bottlenecks in the process and ensuring that relevant information is retained through completion of each request. These tools are highly effective in driving the effectiveness and responsiveness of a procurement process and ensuring user satisfaction with the experience.
A well-defined procurement Service Desk is a key enabler of effective procurement. By enabling efficiency, accuracy and retention of key information, an effective Service Desk strategy will drive procurement utilization, compliance and real-time spend visibility and improve procurement’s ability to forecast demand, adjust staffing and processes, improve sourcing and savings realization, and implement more effective strategic planning. While the Service Desk is only one part of an effective procurement organization, it is a great place to begin to build a successful procurement capability for your organization.
Does your procurement organization possess these capabilities? What other elements should a Service Desk include? What internal or third party strategies has your organization undertaken to implement similar capabilities?