Alternatives to using item catalogs

When our customers first see what can be done with the Item Master File (item catalog) in SpendMap, their first reaction is usually elation.  They love that they can put a list of approved items in front of their Requisitioners and Buyers, they love how most of the data entry goes away (item descriptions, pricing, account coding, etc. will default on new orders based on the selected item), and they love how they can run reports to get accurate spending history by part number.

But at some point the reality sets in and then comes the inevitable “You mean I have to set up all that item information?”.

So this post outlines some options for (and alternatives to) maintaining item catalogs in SpendMap.

Using One-Offs

First, you don’t have to use the Item Master File.   Even if you do, you don’t necessarily have to use it for everything that you buy.

SpendMap supports “one-off” (free-form) items, so users can simply enter the description and other item details manually on each order rather than selecting from the item catalog. This might be the case for all your orders or you might elect to set up some of your items in the Item Master File (typically your most commonly purchased items) while using one-offs for rarely purchased items.

In many cases, the 80/20 rule applies here.  If you’re like many SpendMap users, something like 80% of your purchasing volume will be for 20% of the total number of unique items that you buy.  So take the time to add the high volume items and perhaps use one-offs for the low volume stuff.

Importing Your Items

If you do decide to add any significant number of items to the Item Master File, you might want to import the data to save time.  Many suppliers can provide their item catalogs to you in electronic format for this purpose.  SpendMap includes flexible integration tools, which can be configured to import data from many popular file formats, such as Excel, CSV files, etc.

Adding Items On-The-Fly

Another alternative to setting up all the item details in advance is to add items to the Item Master File on-the-fly as you need them (i.e. as you create orders in the system).  While you would still be doing the same data entry, the work would be spread out over time, which can me more palatable for some people.  As with the use of one-offs, the 80/20 rule applies here too – you might want to take the time to add the high volume items when you first implement the system and then add the less commonly used items on-the-fly when the time comes.

PunchOut to Select from Suppliers’ Online Catalogs

Finally, another option is to use the PunchOut module, which lets you “connect” SpendMap to your suppliers’ online order entry systems to select items when creating orders (think Staples, Grainger, Corporate Express, etc.).  Since you’re selecting the items from your supplies’ websites, it’s their responsibility to maintain the item details, not yours.  All the item details are then “pulled” back into SpendMap to complete the order.

One Size Does NOT Fit All

Finally, please note that these options of not mutually exclusive.  You might, for example, import your commonly used items, add some on-the-fly, use one-off items from time to time, and PunchOut when buying from some but not all of your suppliers.

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