You’ve probably already read countless think pieces about remote working and its lasting prevalence after Covid. So I’ll spare you the long intro, and let’s instead take a more tactical view and address a specific problem with remote working – how do we provide our remote workforce with the supplies they need in a structured way, and how can we control cost while doing so? Specifically, how can we get our employees items like office supplies? Furniture? Even cleaning supplies? Companies are facing the prospect of a permanent and increasing remote workforce, and now must develop infrastructure and processes to supply and support those employees on an ongoing basis. 

When the remote workforce exodus started, a lot of companies were not set up to manage their remote employees and had to adjust on the fly, which has led to some loose procurement practices. Employees may have been tasked with buying their own supplies, and that free-for-all mentality comes with problematic after-effects. For example: 

Lack of control of suppliers, items, and purchase thresholds 

Without clear direction on where to purchase items, and without a mechanism to direct those purchases, employees may be purchasing items from any available source – whether the largest national retailers or the convenience store down the street. This lack of control extends past the supplier level to the individual item level. In these circumstances, employers have no control over the item, the brand, or the price at which purchases may be made.  

Poor data and lack of visibility into purchase patterns

A consequence of purchases being made from various sources is that data is also scattered.  Without robust SKU and supplier-level data, procurement organizations do not have the scale or visibility to negotiate adequate discounts and incentives. Consolidating purchases to key suppliers allows you to negotiate preferred pricing and terms, which also identifying preferred items and brands. 

Wasted time and company resources to review and approve expense reports

AP teams may be processing individual invoices and/or approving individual expense reports across these disparate sources. Consolidating purchases to preferred suppliers and utilizing a punch-out catalog system opens the opportunity for automated approvals, e-invoicing, and summary billing that reduces churn for internal finance teams. 

Undue financial burden on employee

In some cases, employees may be asked to purchase supplies on their personal credit cards and submit for reimbursement, which places undue financial burden on those employees. 

So what tools are available to manage this problem, and how can companies ensure they’re getting the best deal for their remote workforce? First, leverage an e-procurement platform such as Corcentric’s Procurement Management Software to develop punch-out catalogs. These punch-out catalogs can onboard multiple suppliers into a single ordering platform, and integrate preferred pricing while guiding purchases to preferred items, suppliers, and brands. 

In addition, Corcentric’s sourcing consulting team has as worked with major suppliers to negotiate competitive pricing in key categories such as office and janitorial supplies. By leveraging the consulting team’s expertise, companies can ensure they are receiving best-in-class pricing and program management through the punch-out catalog systems.  

Remote working comes with new challenges to manage employee spend habits, but it also creates new opportunities to address new spend patterns and adapt with the ever-changing landscape. With remote working seemingly here to stay, now is the best time to implement tools to improve these processes. 

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Ian Boyd

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