Visibility into purchase-order, invoice, and spend data allows us to compute our accruals more accurately

What is our primary use case?

We primarily use it for two things: as a purchase-order invoicing system and for reporting and spend management.

How has it helped my organization?

We're doing two-way matching for our invoices and purchase orders, and those invoices do not have to be reviewed by our AP function. That takes that workload off them. It saves them time, although it's hard to say how much at this point.

There is also a lot more visibility into purchase-order, invoice, and spend data. That allows us to compute things which are adding to our accruals process on our month-end, so we can be a lot more accurate on what is owed, what's been paid, etc. The spend function has helped our procurement organization identify likely areas in procurement where we can drive value.

The fact that GEP is a single, unified software platform for our whole organization certainly unifies the information in one place. Since it's cloud, we can fairly easily grant access to whomever we need to grant access, to be able to leverage that data. Similarly, we have a very wide and dispersed user forum for procure-to-pay and it's something that we can quickly give them access to, including our purchasing catalog, with very minimal training. It's very intuitive for them if they've ever ordered from the web.

In addition, the solution is one of the keystones for our digital transformation. We have a larger project where we're also moving our ERP to the cloud, and this has been cited as one of the key functions to enable that. SMART is very well integrated so any design that we have for procure-to-pay has to keep that in mind, as we integrate with our financial system. That's blueprinted as part of our program.

In terms of the efficiency of our procurement process, the key is the invoicing piece. Also, the ability to interface directly with our suppliers and have them invoice us directly gives them more access to what they need to submit their invoices, returns, and credit memos. And any changes in pricing are immediate, so they can send things directly to us or interface directly in SMART and make pricing changes when necessary. We can distribute those to our customers or our users very quickly.

What is most valuable?

Among the most valuable features are the ability to send out purchase orders, create catalogs, and accept invoices through procurement. And the reporting function is robust.

In terms of ease of use, for the most part, it is what I would call "standard" for procure-to-pay software. Of course, with any system, there are quirks and we are working through those, but it's largely "as expected."

What needs improvement?

A lot of the things in the system are not client-facing. So we weren't able to edit certain types of master data, and we're relying on them to edit it for us. I assume it's partly how it's designed and that it's also a safety net that we're not able to essentially ruin our installation. So it's understandable. But there are some components that we would like to have a little more control over.

And there are things regarding how the process for procure-to-pay works that differ slightly from how we do things, but that's expected with an out-of-box-solution.

As an organization, GEP is very technically capable. Very recently, they implemented a customer success team to manage our expectations and communicate them to their technical team. That function is relatively new and some work needs to be done to build that connection so that it's a little more seamless. They need to be managing our requests for enhancements and our requests for fixes with their engineering team and getting anything that needs to be fixed, fixed. 

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been officially deployed with GEP for about 18 months. There was a long leading-in period of implementation, due to the fact that there were some integrations and changes to our organization and source systems for several years before that.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is fine. As expected, it gets complex. It's going to be dependent on local internet speeds and it's hard to peel away actual server issues. But things that we've identified as actual server issues have been few and far between.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is definitely scalable and we're illustrating that by the number of users we're putting it to. It scales well.

We have plans to increase usage. We focused, during our initial deployment, on what our core materials would be, which, in our industry, would be janitorial supplies. With that, we have adoption rates depending, on the industry of 60 to 80 percent, and that's good. As we start moving out into other stuff, such as services and corporate functions, we'll monitor that as well. Those teams will tend to be more technically able, so we don't expect as much pushback on those.

How are customer service and technical support?

They help us manage the technical support. Customer service and technical support are relatively closely linked. 

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Due to mergers and acquisitions, one of the companies we merged with had Coupa. So we're actually currently maintaining two procure-to-pay systems for our legacy organizations. That will go away once we move to our cloud-based financial system, which is coming in the next few months. But we have experience with Coupa as well.

Coupa seems to have a lot more resources to work with, and that that comes with the price — and that's the balancing act. Also, they are a lot less willing to compromise or design outside a system or do workarounds with customers. With them, what you get out-of-the-box is what you get out-of-the-box, with some configuration. One of their strengths, because of their resources, is that have time to do things that other procure-to-pay organization can't. For example, they have level-two or level-three punchouts from Amazon. They seem to be able to push that around or even potentially make it exclusive, which other companies might not be able to do. But that's paired with the fact that they're a little more difficult to work with and design out a system which fits a specific business.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was complex because we made it complex. When we kicked off, we were dealing more directly with an engineering team. That engineering team was very lax in not helping us improve our process before we put it into a system like SMART. Because of that, it introduced complexity which we didn't need to have in the system. As we work more closely with them, and better understand our requirements — and they understand our requirements through their customer success team — we're able to make it more an out-of-the-box experience and less about workarounds. That would have been more helpful to do on the front-end. They're better suited right now to be able to help customers do that.

Our implementation strategy was to focus on a pilot group. We selected a medium-level branch of ours in Florida and really ran through the system to make tweaks to it before we rolled it out. We then rolled it out through our industry groups and geographically, in stages throughout 2018.

Altogether the deployment took about nine-plus months. Our core implementation team included about eight to ten people, but there was a strong SMU support team, particularly with IT and procurement, which might have been another ten to 15 people. We have a large organization with the number of potential users in the tens of thousands, with a lot of connections to our business. So we needed to manage all that.

The way the implementation is going, we're focusing on users who were identified as prepositioners and that's in the single-digit thousands. But as we push out, we're likely to be adding more.

In terms of maintenance, right now we lean on about five to ten folks who are dedicated to the process. The fact that there is a lot of transactional data, when there are reconciliations and things like that to do, means it requires a larger team.

What was our ROI?

We're working on the model for ROI. It's difficult because the ROI on this will involve FTEs and time-based savings. To truly do it would mean headcount reduction, which is something that we haven't done yet. But I have the feeling that it's saving time. We haven't done a robust calculation of the time saved by it, but the savings are currently on the AP function and some others.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Pricing is module-based.

What other advice do I have?

The biggest lesson we've learned is that, for customers who are looking to go down a procure-to-pay path, they really need to be sharp on their blueprinting and make sure that all the requirements are clearly defined and carved in stone. If any sort of consolidation or process improvements need to be done, they should be done before engagement with GEP, because GEP's goal, at least during our integration, is to get through it, not necessarily get it right.

It is a very transactional system, and you have to be set up for it. That's especially true regarding keeping track of all the orders and invoices. Be honest with yourself on what that that staffing needs to be.

In terms of the adoption of the solution within our organization, as with anything new, you get pockets of people who are resistant. But those are definitely balanced by pockets of folks who found it to be second nature; they didn't have any issues. We're definitely siding on folks who find it relatively easy. One thing about our user group is that they can be, depending on who we're talking about, relatively nontechnical and unskilled. That presents a barrier for this. But the fact that they are, in general, able to get it, speaks to the fact that procure-to-pay, in general, is meant to be relatively easy.

SMART's AI and machine-learning features haven't yet affected our procurement processes, but I expect they will very soon, knowing that things like OCR are coming down the pipeline over the next couple of months. They also have what I believe are called "buyer desks" and those things are very dependent on AI. We're very eager to see how those will interface with how we do business. OCR is kicking off over the next couple of weeks, and implementation is through the end of the year, leading into 2020. I'm not sure when the other stuff is due to come online.

Overall, I would rate the solution at eight out of ten. They're very strong technically. They are now set up with a very strong customer support function. There were growing pains on both our side and their side. But it's definitely workable and they've been a very good partner as we have moved into this space.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Microsoft Azure
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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