Are you one of those unfortunate procurement professionals who spend the end of every month putting on your detective coat and becoming a sleuth in a never ending quest to find paper spreadsheets and those who created these monstrous disasters? If you work for a small to mid-sized organization and are tired of chasing after people every month for their purchase orders, Bellwether Software offers a viable alternative for your business, ePurchasing Management Xtra or ePMX for short.
ePMX is a cloud-based, procure-to-pay system that is really geared towards small to mid-size businesses and is local government-friendly as well. Dan Ross, VP of Sales & Marketing for Bellwether, said that the typical user counts for their customers are less than 50 end users and 10 procurement department users.
The current version of the ePMX system does not offer any real-time integration with ERP systems, but can export data to them. The next version of ePMX will allow for integration with Open API’s and is scheduled for the first quarter of 2015. According to Dan Ross of Bellwether, “the next major version release of ePMX will be a significant upgrade to the current version. It will include a new UI, notification center, WYSIWYG work flow & approval process builder, and report builder”. However, current ePMX users are able to import/export data to AP or into an existing ERP system.
While the more recognizable names in the procure-to-pay space target huge customers who want better procurement system performance than their ERP systems are able to provide, Bellwether’s solution is more targeted at smaller organizations who are replacing manual processes with a more formal process that gives them the control over procurement that the big companies already have.
One feature of ePMX that we found appealing was the fact that you are able to only license the actual modules that you will be using as opposed to paying for modules that are irrelevant to your organization. This is a great cost-savings opportunity for organizations just getting their feet wet in the online procurement world without causing an aversion to due to price.
Bellwether is up-to-speed with the trend of “approvals by email” where no logging into the system from a desktop is required for approvals. As we often mention, this particular capability can cause stress on IT in terms of security concerns. With respect to security, Mr. Ross states, “those users on mobile devices still need to log in with a user name and password at least once. After they authenticate them self once, they can do additional approvals until they log out or the system logs them out. The client chooses the length of time a user is allowed to be logged into ePMX in the configuration settings based on their security requirements”.
The requisitioning module is fairly simplistic, but also very intuitive. Requisitioners have the ability to PunchOut to a vendor website, select their items and ePMX will download all the order information. Then they follow the ePMX requisition workflow for approvals and continue the process. In our opinion, it is impressive that a small company can utilize PunchOut capabilities.
The quotations module does a nice job of organizing and automating the creation of the type of basic RFQ’s that smaller companies do and allows procurement departments to compare bids in a unified location. It accepts quotations in sealed bid format only – no reverse auctions or dynamic bidding events are facilitated by this particular module.
Even though the graphical user interface doesn’t have a particularly cutting edge look, it is actually pretty pleasing to the eye and thoughtfully designed. We really like how various records (requisitions, purchase orders, RFQ’s, etc.) can be accessed via dropdown box in the various processes where they are needed.
Though many eProcurement systems shy away from inventory, ePMX has an inventory module which would prove to be valuable for a smaller company that doesn’t want to have to deal with a separate inventory system or worse – inventory kept in an Excel spreadsheet!
ePMX offers a very user-friendly help functionality. Say you are in a particularly deep part of the inventory module and you are unsure of how to handle a particular process; all you have to do is click on the help function and a web page pops open that matches the particular area of the module you are in. In our opinion, Bellwether hits a home run with this feature as it allows the user to quickly find information as opposed to crafting their own search terminology with respect to what they think their problem is at the present time. This takes considerable stress away from the user and allows them to finish their tasks at hand much quicker and more efficiently.
Deployment of the Bellwether ePMX system only takes a 3-4 week implementation time frame and is for clients that choose the cloud option. According to Mr. Ross, “currently 90% of Bellwether clients choose the cloud version. Only organizations that have extreme security requirements choose the on premise version”. Mr. Ross further states, “for clients that choose the purchase option for on premise installation, they can expect to add an additional 3-10 business days to the set up process”.
Overall, Bellwether ePMX offers a great opportunity for smaller companies to professionalize their transactional purchasing process. It is designed to provide a proven structure to most of the purchasing activities in which smaller companies engage.