What is our primary use case?
We use it for everything from source to contract. We're not using any P2P, but we use it for all of our spend analysis, all our RFXs, managing and tracking savings, and we use the supplier database strictly for contract and other sourcing events. We also use the contract repository and have automatic notifications set up for 30, 60, 90, and 120 days for every contract.
How has it helped my organization?
The spend module is helpful because, while the way we used to do it didn't take a lot of time, we were waiting on data. We'd only get it a couple of times a year and there would usually be a pretty big lag in the data. It would be last year's. We didn't have very fresh data. Now, we get our spend refreshed every single month.
Another big area where it has improved our organization is contracts. We get automatic alerts about them and we're able to see every contract that's coming up. When we get a notification, 120 days in advance, we'll send a note to the owner of that contract or the signatory or the team that's involved and say, "Hey, this contract's coming up in a couple of months. What do you want to do? Do you want to continue it? Do you want to renew it? Do you want to go out to a competitive bid?" It's a good way to kick off those conversations.
A lot of times our stakeholders have no idea when contracts are actually coming up. The worst thing that can ever happen is that you have a contract that you want to get out of but it just renewed 30 days ago. It's then so much more of a pain to try to get out of it.
It definitely helps our procurement process to be more efficient but it depends on how you define procurement process. It definitely helps streamline our internal processes for managing our projects, but we're not reusing the projects module and then actually putting in dates or timelines. But the way it works, on contracts and sourcing, we're able to see, during an RFP, who has participated or who is planning to participate, and the percentage of RFP completion.
When an RFP is due in a week and we're sitting at zero percent, we can make those calls and send those reminder emails. That's as opposed to sending out an RFP via Excel where all you can do is hope you get it back by the due date. In that scenario, if the due date comes up and you didn't receive anything, you send it to the vendor and they might say, "Oh, I never saw this," or whatever the excuse may be. We now have a little bit more transparency into what they have. We can see if they logged on to the system and if they spent some time in the RFP, which definitely helps keep things on track throughout the sourcing process.
The solution also helps us save time when setting up an RFP. We're able to templatize things. With templates, you have to be very careful to not miss something though, so that you're not bringing something in from an old RP where the language wasn't relevant and may confuse people. We typically try to build a lot of them mostly from scratch, but we can bring in questions or guidelines that are relevant.
What is most valuable?
The spend module is the most valuable. After that would be sourcing and contracts.
Spend gives us a way to put all of our spend in one area and use a category hierarchy to pull real-time spend data. We have it updated every single month. It used to take months for us, where we used really old data by getting giant, raw data fields pulled out of SAP from our controller. The spend module helps us with our analysis, and gives us the ability to be able to communicate with our shareholders on particular projects. We can identify spend and areas of opportunity for process improvement, saving, etc.
It's really simple to use. That's one of the reasons we chose GEP over some of the others. It's very Google-like. On the homepage, you just type whatever you need. And there are tabs that can come up if you're looking for a certain word or phrase in contracts, or if you want that word in sourcing, or related to a supplier. It's pretty simple to use. There are some things in the sourcing-auctions module that are a little bit more complicated, but the training wasn't very difficult.
Our spend team uses the AI and machine learning. We approve it each month. We look at any new suppliers to make sure they're categorized correctly but they do use the machine learning to make sure that the rules fall within our category tree mapping.
What needs improvement?
The loading of the contracts could be a little bit easier. I'd like to see a little bit more of AI brought in, to the point that it's actually reading the contract and automating some things, like expiration dates and renewal terms. That is an area for improvement.
There is also some stuff coming that we've been asking for that should be in the next release, in terms of some automated reminders in the sourcing process. And we've also asked to be able to do a little bit more visualization of responses in terms of pricing and completeness for RFPs. Those things are coming some time next quarter and we're looking forward to them.
For how long have I used the solution?
We've been using it for about two years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The stability has been fine. We've only had one time in the two years where we had any significant downtime with the product. That was an Azure-related issue. It wasn't GEP's fault.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
It's extremely scalable. We just haven't taken advantage of that yet.
We don't really have any plans to increase usage. It's a sourcing tool for our team. We're not P2P and we're not paying for P2P. Unless our team massively expands, which I don't see happening anytime soon... We're trying to focus on G&A costs as much as possible and not grow our employee base as much right now. So I don't see us rapidly growing.
There may be some more business users who might use it to view the RFP responses. But we just consolidate all the responses and create an executive summary that we're able to share with vendors. We don't have them go into the system to review anything. You don't want to give them another tool to have to try to learn or figure out, even though it is easy. We just want to make sure that we're doing that administrative work for our stakeholders.
How are customer service and technical support?
They're constantly updating, which is good. We also have a bi-weekly call and whenever there are release notes we walk through them with our account manager. A lot of the enhancements, again, have been on the P2P side, which we don't utilize. But they're constantly listening to us, the things we're asking for.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We did not have a previous solution.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup was pretty straightforward. Again, we're a very small team so we didn't have to train 50 people on how to use it.
We had a timeline and they had a project plan for it. We started with spend and then worked with some of the other modules as well. We didn't try to do it all at once, to make it a little more digestible.
What about the implementation team?
We only worked with GEP. They came onsite and spent one day going through all of our spend for vendors that their system couldn't automatically categorize. We were able to clean that up. We meet quarterly with each of our business divisions to go through spend, especially significant spend.
What was our ROI?
We have absolutely seen ROI. We track all of our savings, but it allows us to do a lot more.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We did a comprehensive RFP before we narrowed it down to SAP Ariba, which we mostly kept as a finalist due to our relationship with SAP as our ERP system. And we also had Zycus as a finalist. But throughout our due diligence, GEP represented the best value.
The ease of use of GEP SMART stood out. It wasn't the cheapest, Zycus was even cheaper, but it was the interface, the ease of use, and having everything in a single platform.
What other advice do I have?
My advice is that it's "garbage in, garbage out" in terms of the data. You want to make sure your data is as clean as possible going in. Take the time, at first, to categorize with it in the spend module to make sure that your reporting is going to be as accurate as possible. There is always going to be clean up, things can always get better, but take the time and energy to make sure that, if you don't know what certain vendors do, and if GEP can't figure it out based on the invoices, that you go through it and do the manual work upfront. It will save loads of time later.
The fact that it's a single, unified software platform hasn't really affected our procurement operations.
GEP SMART doesn't integrate directly with our ERP system. We get exports on a monthly basis from our SAP team. It's a file that transfers through an FTP site. They do all the work and usually, within a week or so, it's loaded within the system. We have three spend sources. We had four when we started, but we've since moved one over to SAP. So we just have one pull for that.
I give GEP SMART a nine out of 10. What comes to mind is its ease of use, having actionable data, having everything in one spot, being able to manage our contract renewal process, and being able to create visualizations of our spends which we are able to present the leadership.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?