Efficient and Paperless
Our clients are amazing for providing us feedback on how we can help them streamline their processes and improve how they do business. We do this by adding, tweaking and enhancing 4castplus in ways that can eliminate duplicate effort or unnecessary steps. One consistent request we’ve received over the past while has been appeals to help them with the friction and bottlenecks that occur when a purchase order (or subcontract) is issued to a vendor. Specifically with the approvals, signing, sending, and acknowledgements that are required to finalize the contract.
I use the word friction not in a negative sense, but to mean the amount of meaningless effort that goes into printing, signing, scanning, uploading and sending that has to happen – not just for one person – but for the multiple people that are required to sign a PO. Not to mention the signature required by the vendor. For some clients, there are 4 or more signatures that are required from individuals within their company; and then a final one for the vendor. The additional challenge our clients faced was a lack of visibility into whether the vendor had received and signed the PO after it was sent to them. Contracts were getting sent, and the buyer would receive no feedback, acknowledgement or signature for days, weeks and sometimes not ever; causing delays and uncertainty. To us, all this is unnecessary churn that can eat up a ridiculous amount of time, especially on projects where there are 100s or even 1000s of POs.
So, we fixed it.
We Decided to Smooth Things Out
To address this challenge, we’ve added 5 key new features to 4castplus procurement. Here they are in short:
- First, we added extensions to the Vendor Portal for purchase orders, submittals and vendor e-signatures
- Second, we also added enhancements to purchase order approvals workflows to allow for each approver to e-sign the PO
- We also added what we call, smart signature lines in the purchase order designer tool. This allows designers to add intelligence to where the signatures go for each approver.
- There are also now several new auto-notifications that can be configured to notify individuals on event triggers related to PO issue, approval, signatures, acknowledgement, etc.
- There is also now a lot better visibility for the buyer as to the status of the PO after it’s been issued to the vendor – i.e., have they acknowledged and signed it
With these new enhancements, all that churn around signatures and issuing POs is eliminated and people can go on with their day without all the nuisance and paper clutter.
Here's How it all Comes Together
In reading the above list of enhancements, it may not be clear how it all comes together in a smooth workflow, so following is a description of how it works starting from when a purchase order is first submitted for approval. The following leave out some details for brevity:
- The buyer submits a PO to be approved. This will enter the PO into a multi-stage approval workflow.
- The approver at each stage can review the PO details and, upon approval, also agree to digitally sign the PO
- Once all the approval stages are complete, and all approvers have digitally signed, the PO will then be “Committed”
- This committed PO will be automatically shared with the vendor and will appear in the vendor’s private 4castplus portal
- Any other documents related to this PO will also be shared with the vendor through the portal
- The vendor will also receive a notification email that includes a link that, when clicked, will route them to the vendor portal
- Before the vendor can open the PO, they will need to click the “Acknowledge” button. This indicates to the buyer that the vendor has received the PO
- Once acknowledged, the vendor can then open the PO and any related document attachments for their review
- The vendor can then “Accept” and sign the purchase order
- Once the vendor has accepted (and signed if applicable), the transaction is complete and the buyer is notified
- All documents are available to both buyer and vendor
The above steps are intended to provide both simplicity and visibility for both buyer and vendor; and to streamline the process by eliminating all the extra manual steps traditionally found in this process.
Everything in One System
You might be thinking, why didn’t you just use DocuSign or some other 3rd party eSignature tool? That, of course, was certainly a consideration. However, introducing a separate application into the process would reduce the simplicity, and would invite extra steps, emails and additional cost. On top of which, the digital signature aspect is only one piece of the equation: the convenience and transparency provided by the 4castplus vendor portal with its communication channels, document management and security, far exceeds what an external eSig platform can provide.