Utilizing manual sourcing methods - such as gathering item prices in spreadsheets, corresponding with prospective bidders individually via email, leveraging paper-based RFPs, and collecting numerous data separately from pontential suppliers - can cause you to face a time-consuming challenge in sourcing quality and cost saving goods or services. Without the proper tools, sourcing professionals within your procurement team could fail to determine formal bids, RFPs, budget allowances, stock levels, current contracts, and contingencies in purchase order releases. Fortunately, you can utilize the following seven essential eSourcing software tools for seamless source-to-contract management success.
eSourcing is the way in which sourcing and procurement professionals gather bids for goods or services from potential suppliers within an online eSourcing platform that centralizes vendor rating, collaboration, and selection; which leads to eProcurement and contract lifecycle management processes.
eSourcing Software supports integrated electronic sourcing and contract management, easy solicitation and bid management, seamless bid creation, line-item bids, vendor management tools with COI tracking, vendor rating and scoring, supplier diversity tracking, easy contract awards, eSignatures, searching and reporting, PO management, and more.
eSourcing tools are the mission-critical instruments within eSourcing software - such as electronic RFPs, bidding portals, and vendor collaboration gateways - leveraged by sourcing and procurement professionals within procurement teams to source goods or services for organizations in a timely, compliant, and cost-effective manner.
#1) Electronic RFP & RFx Management
Sourcing professionals can waste valuable time corresponding with prospective vendors via email for requesting purchases, especially when prospective vendors' information is in a different location. Luckily, user-friendly and configurable electronic solicitation and sourcing management platforms enable intelligent workflow for request for information (RFI) and request for proposal (RFP) management with virtually real-time visibility. A leading e-sourcing platform includes the following essential features.
- Purchase Requisitions
- Order Management
- Budget Approvals
- RFx Templates
- Clause Libraries
- Bid Advertisements
- Online Vendor Q&A
- Electronic Bid Submissions
- Bid Evaluation Tools
- Line-Item Bidding
- Vendor Response Ratings & Scorecards
- Vendor Awards
- Document Version Controls
- Electronic Signatures
- Searching & Reporting
- Notifications & Alerts
- Dutch Auction & Reverse Auction Functionality
#2) Electronic Bid Document Creation and Advertisement
Manually drafting bid documents, then advertising them on a different platform can create a time-consuming and disorganized process that makes it difficult for sourcing professionals to marry the appropriate bid documents to their advertisements. Moreover, this process can create a chaotic archive and disrupt proper record history. Conversely, you can leverage a centralized electronic bid management system that can help generate accurate, detailed, and timely bid documents.
You can manage various document templates and versions with the ability to merge pre-approved data fields and clauses. Additionally, an electronic bid management system supports the easy exporting of documents to standard file formats.
After generating a document, your organization can promote bids publicly or by invite-only. Web-based bid authorship and advertisement features can simplify bidding processes (also known as the tendering processes). Moreover, you can pre-release bid opportunities before their official opening date to allow greater bid exposure and vendor participation.
#3) Online Q&A Portal
Receiving and answering potential suppliers' bidding questions can be challenging to keep track of through email, phone, or other manual correspondence. With multiple competing vendors asking a range of questions, sourcing professionals can find it difficult to answer their bidders promptly while avoiding answering repetitive questions. Bidders can also bombard sourcing professionals with unsolicited questions after a closed deadline.
Thankfully, a centralized sourcing platform allows potential vendors to ask questions through a user-friendly portal that streamlines and simplifies the communication process between vendors and buying organizations.
Rather than sending email reminders about due dates to respondents, you can establish a timeline for questions and answers for suppliers' bidding of goods or services. Per your organization's deadline for question and answer correspondence, your source-to-contract management system can restrict question submissions - allowing you to configure the sourcing processes and procurement processes to your needs.
#4) Electronic Line Item Bids
Awarding vendors different aspects of a bid can be challenging. However, a centralized e-sourcing platform with line-item response functionality can help organizations enlist specific electronic bids for individual items. You can identify specific bid items and respondents can enter expected unit prices for selected items - allowing you to easily compare responses. Line-item functionality can streamline bid processes that require awards to various vendors for differing aspects of a single bid.
#5) Online Bid Reviews
Sourcing professionals within procurement teams assessing bid variables in a disparate system of emails, spreadsheets, and documents can spend more time searching for item variables than comparing them. Reviewing bids with information stored in ranging locations can create an inefficient and frustrating process.
Thankfully, you can leverage user-friendly bid reports to seamlessly compare scoring, pricing line items, and Q&A for a swift bid overview process. Integrated OFAC search can mitigate risk by enabling you to assess prospective vendors' compliance with the Office of Foreign Assets Control's national sanctions lists. Additionally, you can leverage bid tabulation reports for a centralized and data-driven way to compare bid responses.
#6) Electronic Vendor Awards & Contract Creation Integration
Manually awarding vendors and thanking participating vendors can cost sourcing professionals tremendous time and energy. Additionally, manually drafting a new contract and sending it to the awarded vendor for review and negotiations can prove difficult and laborious. Tracking changes in a disparate system can delay the signing process and, ultimately, the purchase order.
Luckily, you can save time with e-sourcing software functionalities that allow for seamless vendor selection and direct email to vendors from the sourcing record page. You can send either a templated bid award or a message that thanks participants for their interest while informing them that a different vendor has been chosen. After awarding a vendor, the standard contract process can commence.
Moreover, leading e-sourcing software can allow you to preconfigure vendor evaluation factors for robust supplier diversity and enhanced supply chain oversight. For instance, if you need to purchase new desks for your office from a vendor who holds a DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) certification and whose products are made in the USA, you could pre-calibrate 50% of your vendor rating to the DBE certification and 30% to a USA-made product on a 100% scale. This scoring can quickly populate your most suitable supplier candidates to the top of your list of prospective vendors.
A source-to-contract management solution can support AI-enabled automated contract drafting of a new contract or the use of a pre-approved contract directly from the sourcing record page. Once the new record is created, the contract lifecycle process can begin between your organization and the vendor, all within a single eSourcing platform. Buying organizations can leverage secure eSignatures and pre-approved contract templates to expedite the contract collaboration - such as a product and service agreement - and signing processes. Integrated contract drafting and e-signature tools promote visibility that tracks contract changes for increased accountability.
Once the contract is signed, an advanced source-to-contract management platform can help retain accountability in post-award contract obligations and compliance through renewals. For instance, should a DBE certification expire before a contract renewal date, a notification can be sent to all necessary stakeholders involved for timely renewal of the DBE certification for continued vendor contract management compliance. In contract renewal, notifications can be pre-set for promptly re-evaluating the active contract for further opportunity realization.
#7) A Centralized eSourcing Platform
As previously mentioned, when primarily utilizing disparate manual sourcing and procurement processes with incongruous tools, you can miss opportunities and waste resources. Without a centralized eSourcing platform, you can undermine sourcing workflow productivity.
However, with a centralized sourcing and procurement software platform, your organization can monitor suppliers and vendors to help foster a smooth eSourcing process. You can identify if a request requires a new or existing purchase order or contract. You can also determine if a purchase order can be released, if a company's budget is available, if a request requires an RFP or formal bid, which items remain in stock, and which contracts are active. A unified e-sourcing platform amalgamates these tasks, yielding seamless requests and optimized vendor management.
Unparalleled Sourcing with CobbleStone eSourcing Software
Award-winning and trusted CobbleStone eSourcing Software streamlines sourcing and solicitation processes with reduced friction, optimized governance, and heightened transparency from sourcing to post-award contract management. CobbleStone's flexible, scalable, and user-friendly source-to-contract management software solution can centralize and streamline vendor management, contract lifecycle management, supply chain contract management, purchasing, electronic bidding, and more.
Discover why thousands of sourcing professionals and contract managers trust CobbleStone Contract Insight with their sourcing needs. Book a free demo to learn more about CobbleStone eSourcing Software!
CobbleStone® has remained a visionary leader in CLM and eSourcing software for over twenty years. CobbleStone's award-winning and feature-rich source-to-contract management software streamlines the contract management process with optimal governance, reduced friction, and high flexibility from e-sourcing to contract renewals. Moreover, CobbleStone Software - as a CLM and an e-sourcing software provider – is SOC 1, SOC 2, and Privacy Shield compliant. CobbleStone's user-friendly, robust, and scalable solution seamlessly connects with leading applications, including MS Word and MS Outlook, for unified and seamless source-to-contract management. it’s no wonder why Quadrant Knowledge Solutions recognizes CobbleStone as the CLM Technology Leader in the Spark MatrixTM Report.
This article was originally published on October 2nd, 2020, and was last updated on September 7th, 2022.