Abstract: The increased initial investment incurred in the deployment of a software platform as opposed to a standalone application is more than made up for by the numerous benefits it brings to the organization.
As more and more businesses are coming to rely on IT for their business process management, business process software vendors are using the flexibility of SaaS and cloud computing to come up with novel and innovative products that allow organizations to make this process of IT integration easier and help them manage their processes easily. One such innovation is the integrated software platform, which allows organizations to control and manage different business processes from a single location, eliminating compatibility issues, data duplication hassles, and processing delays.
A software platform provides the base for different software applications to be executed. Such platforms are available for different business processes – spend management, human resource management, customer relationship management, and so on. While the spend platform deals with different aspects of spend and related processes, the HR platform allows users to manage all the diverse HRM needs of the organization, and the CRM platform enables them to establish and maintain excellent relationships with customers. This post focuses on the spend management platform, and compares the traditional stand-alone software applications that are used to manage individual processes with the integrated software platform with regards to various organizational indicators.
Compatibility, data duplication, and accuracy
In an organization, the implementation of IT in business processes is typically done in a step-by-step manner due to lack of funds or managerial will. Oftentimes, one business unit or function is unaware of the other’s implementation schedules or software capabilities. Also, since different processes have different needs in terms of access and security, even their choice of deployment in terms of on premise or SaaS software varies. Because of the above, a lot of compatibility issues arise when the software used by one function has to work with the software used by another, which are more pronounced if their deployment types are also different.
Say the travel expense reporting function needs users to access the software from multiple locations and therefore chooses a SaaS application while the payment function needs more security chooses an on premise deployment – in such a case, it takes a lot to make the two functions which need to work together closely compatible with each other so that processing can be done automatically and seamlessly.
Closely related to compatibility are data duplication and accuracy, which are common issues that creep up when data has to be manually copied from one solution to another. Not only are you expending valuable resources on tasks that do not generate any value but you also run the risk of entering data incorrectly, skewing the numbers and causing multiple failures along the system.
These issues of compatibility, data duplication, and accuracy cease to be issues with the integrated software spend platform, where all the different applications work together seamlessly, and processing is done quickly and accurately.
Comprehensive in Ability
The execution of a task is rarely the end of it. After execution comes analysis and possible improvement of the process. Furthermore, one needs to be assured of the status of execution which means communication. Not all standalone solutions come equipped with a powerful analytics engine – they make do with rudimentary analysis using commonly-available metrics and do not often allow users to program in their own metrics. This is where the analytics engine that comes as part of a platform comes in handy. Not only does it allow users to develop custom metrics that are pertinent to their processes but it also covers the process end to end, ensuring that users can analyze and improve their processes across the board.
Flexibility in Modules
While the spend platform comes with a host of applications deemed to manage the entire process comprehensively, there might be situations where the special needs of your process call for some more applications to be part of the package. While integrating new applications is a major pain point with standalone applications, especially legacy systems, it is easy with a software platform – after all, that is its major function. It acts as a kind of an operating system that allows other applications to be run on it. Many software platform providers today allow for their products to be compatible with third-party solutions; therefore, you are not bound to search for the particular application from the same provider or change your legacy system because it is incompatible with the new one. Also, now that you have complete visibility over the process, you will be able to innovate in your business process management.
Also, if you are looking for a single solution to be used across the organization, it is a simple matter of connecting all the platforms and using single sign-on to access the integrated solution. The same is the case if any application ceases to be useful – you can disintegrate it with the platform and save money.
User Experience & Corporate Culture
An understated benefit of the implementation of a software platform is the improvement in user experience and its positive impact on employee engagement and corporate culture. Gone are the days when employees had to toggle among multiple applications and remember a number of user names and passwords. The platform uses a single sign-on and allows the completion of multiple tasks from a single solution. This improves user experience and allows them to save a lot of time. One way to increase employee engagement and bring in positive changes in corporate culture is technology, or more particularly, the implementation of new technology at the workplace. When you undertake a huge project such as the implementation of a software platform, it helps engage employees and improves the way they think and act at the workplace.
Collaboration & Internal Customer Service
This is perhaps the biggest benefit the spend software platform enjoys over a standalone application. As much efficient and effective as a standalone application can be, and as comprehensive, it still caters only to a narrow set of needs, and is useful only in managing one or two business processes. When one process needs to communicate with another, as in the case of travel booking and expense management, this cannot happen. As a result, there is little to no collaboration even among dependent processes, and each function has to send extensive reports to the other to ensure that the process keeps running along. Also, when different parts of the process are performed using different applications, overall visibility is hurt.
Also, since one business process is the customer of another, when you use standalone applications, it is impossible to deliver excellent internal customer service unless additional effort is put into it. However, with a software platform, all of the above issues no longer exist. The platform allows for complete collaboration among all the stakeholders involved, improved visibility, and excellent customer service among the employees.
To conclude, the increased initial investment in a spend software platform is more than made up for when one considers the multiple benefits it brings to the organization. For seamless and comprehensive management of business processes, a platform offers unmatched convenience for users.