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Article
Digital Transaction Management for Procurement

Digital Transaction Management (DTM) has profound implications for procurement. Here are some key lessons learned during sessions on this at Dreamforce 2015 and DocuSign's Procurement Advisory Council.


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At Dreamforce this year, I attended a panel session called ‘The Future of Digital Supply Chain and IoT.1 That is a broad topic, because digitization of the supply chain means several things:

  • Product Design Digitization—Taking the design information contained in CAD/CAM systems and integrating it across the supply chain and throughout the product’s lifecycle (e.g. in manufacturing, installation, operation, service, andrepair).
  • Transaction Digitization—Eliminating paper documents from intra- and inter-enterprise workflows and bringing unstructured electronic documents (e.g. Word, .PDF, etc.) into a Digital Transaction Management (DTM) system, complete with workflow management, integration with enterprise systems, nonrepudiable e-signatures and audit trail, mobile support, multi-factor authentication, and global legal enforceability.
  • Collaboration Digitization—Digitally capturing the human-to-human dialogs that accompany transactions and tasks. These dialogs comprise the inter-enterprise knowledge sharing and decision-making processes.
  • Physical Product Digitization—a.k.a. the Internet of Things; adding sensors, intelligence, and connectivity to physical products, so that they can be deeply interconnected into the digital domain.

In this article, we focus on transaction digitization. When transactions are digitized, it has profound impacts on the supply chain and specifically the procurement function. 

DTM and Compliance

I also attended DocuSign’s customer advisory council session for procurement executives. Compliance was cited by the procurement professionals in that session as one of the key drivers of value derived from digitized transactions. Compliance has a number of different aspects, including employees’, suppliers’, and partners’ compliance with corporate policies and with the applicable local, national, and international laws and regulations. I saw a demo using DocuSign to send code of conduct documents to be signed by suppliers, which is commonly done on an annual basis. In this demo, the list of suppliers and necessary information (e.g. name and contact information of the supplier’s legal representative) were contained in a .CSV file. That file also included a field to include a personal note to each supplier. During the importing of this data into DocuSign, the user was able to correct any typos they saw, and/or enter the personal note, and save it without having to go back into Excel and open the file to edit it.

Then they simply took the required fields from the .CSV file (these showed up as labels off to the side) and dragged and dropped each field onto the appropriate corresponding information line (like for company name, signers name, title, address, etc.) in the code of conduct .PDF file. Doing this converts the .PDF file into a digital transaction that can be automatically sent, digitally signed (with a legally enforceable signature), returned, and tracked throughout the process. This whole authoring process for creating this was easy enough for any typical procurement professional to do without the need for extensive training or help from IT. This kind of easy execution is critical to realize the widespread adoption of Digital Transaction Management across the vast array of transactions that a company conducts. It has to be really simple, or today’s super-busy professionals will simply say, “I don’t have time for this. I have to get my job done.”, and then go back to doing the task in their traditional way (i.e. compose an email, send it, hope the vendor responds and if not hope that they remember to remind them). 

From a compliance perspective, this approach has some big advantages. First, the automation of sending out a large number of documents like this makes it virtually assured that these documents will be sent on time to all required vendors. With manual approaches, mistakes are made, vendors forgotten, and things slip between the cracks. Furthermore, the dashboard makes it a snap to see which vendors are tardy in responding and the workflow system can send automatic reminders to both the vendor and the buyer, keeping things on track and on time. The electronic signature is nonrepudiable and the system provides a complete indisputable audit trail. This last point can be important when proving diligence towards compliance with regulations, for example proving that a specific employee went through FCPA training. 

Attracting and Retaining Millennials

Another point brought up by several of DocuSign’s customers was that today’s younger worker doesn’t want to work in an organization with twentieth century infrastructure and processes that still use faxes, paper documents, and physical signatures. A modern digital transaction infrastructure is an important element of an overall talent recruiting and retaining strategy, especially for the younger workforce who expect everything in the office to be as simple as their experiences on their mobile device or tablet.

Offline Signing—True Anytime, Anywhere e-Signatures

One thing I heard often from DocuSign customers is that one of the biggest factors driving their digital transactions initiatives was the need for speed and agility in their businesses. Going from sending paper documents around for approval to digital workflows and electronic signatures can reduce average turnaround times from days to hours or even minutes. In support of this need for speed, DocuSign talked about their new offline signing capabilities for mobile devices. This allows the user to sign a document or transaction anytime, anywhere, even when there is no network connection. The signed document is sent as soon as a connection is re-established. This capability helps keep things moving in situations when the signer is on the move or in a remote, ‘off-the-grid’ location.

Expanding Global Reach

Even small and medium companies are global these days, dealing with customers, suppliers, and partners around the world in just about every country. For this reason, a DTM (Digital Transaction Management) platform must not only have e-signatures that are legally enforceable across all these jurisdictions, but also must take into account the regional and national differences in regulation, culture, custom, and signing ceremonies. This is an area that DocuSign has invested heavily in, as witnessed by their acquisitions of Comprova (Brazil), ARX (Israel) and OpenTrust (France). DocuSign’s DTM platform provides Brazilian Digital Signature support enabling Brazilian businesses to use the smart card-based digital certificates issued to them by the Brazilian Certificate Authority (ICP Brasil). ARX has more than 2,000 customers and millions of users. ARX’s flagship CoSign products support highly regulated industries and provide key compliance certifications—such as NIST’s FIPS 140-2 Level 3 and Common Criteria EAL4+ certifications—important across the globe. France-based OpenTrust provides EU-accredited technology and has a strong presence in Europe with support for independently certified e-signatures for civil law countries.

Procurement Folks Love DTM

This customer advisory session reinforced for me how much the procurement professionals using DocuSign love the way the platform helps them accelerate approval processes, manage supplier certifications, provide an audit trail that they can refer back to, reduce cycle times, and lower transaction costs—these are all comments these customers made unprompted. The DTM platform really bolsters the procurement department’s internal customer satisfaction—employees are genuinely grateful for the much more rapid  turnaround times (often reduced by 80% or more), easy sign-off process, and visibility into status of the approval process. I also heard repeatedly how quick it was to implement and how easy it was for employees and suppliers/partners to use.

The Digital Transaction Future is Here

The last speaker at the advisory council session was the Director of Procurement for the City of Santa Clara, who has started using electronic signatures across their 50 departments. When government bureaucracies start using a technology, you know its time has come. Digital Transaction Management is not something that only the leading edge tech companies are doing. It is starting to become table stakes to compete in today’s global fast paced world across industries, geographies, and organizations of all sizes.

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1 The panel speakers included Bruce Richardson (Salesforce’s Chief Strategist), Anu Gardiner (DocuSign’s Global Head of Procurement), Linda Chuan (Sr. Director - Global Source-to-Supply at Salesforce.com) and Carrie Ericson (VP at AT Kearney). -- Return to article text above


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