The higher the demand for (cost) transparency and controlling in purchasing, the more important is a high quality of data. In service procurement, the quality and detail level of the service description play a crucial role. They create the basis for an objective measurability that is required at many points throughout the procurement process and beyond. The manner in which FUTURA facilitates the shift from functional to process orientation and thus lays the foundation for a high process quality has been summarized in the FUTURA® method.
FUTURA® is a collaboration platform with all functionalities that are required for collaboration throughout the procurement process in the cloud – and is thus more than just a digital platform for data exchange. Quotations, purchase orders or service entries are not imported or exported by means of an attachment via a simple XML interface. With FUTURA, all users, both external and internal, can access and process the shared data base – controlled by authorizations – throughout the various procurement phases. Without multiple entries and without media breaks.
FUTURA Cloud interconnects all parties involved in the procurement process on the initiator’s and contractor’s side: Planners, consumers, purchasers, suppliers, service providers, approvers, and controllers. These highly functional, collaborative processes mostly come into play in the planning and execution of construction projects and also in the handling of maintenance and small-scale measures.
Invoices with attached measurement sheets are the rule for services rendered. The invoice is posted at the initiator. If it turns out that the measurement is incorrect, the invoice must be corrected in consultation with the contractor. Consequently the contractor changes the attached measurement sheets and creates a credit note. The initiator books the credit to the invoice, etc.
Depending on the scope of the documentation, this process can be quite complex and is usually handled manually which causes a great deal of extra work on the initiator’s and contractor’s side.
In FUTURA, the verification of the service entry or measurement is done online via the FUTURA platform BEFORE invoicing. The contractor enters his services rendered directly into the FUTURA cloud and the initiator can view, check, correct or clear them. This way, correction cycles are easily handled online via the FUTURA cloud. If the reported service is cleared, the service entry sheets (SES) are automatically created in SAP for the corresponding service lines and the purchase order commitment is automatically reduced. After that, the invoice would be posted in the SAP system with reference to the service entry number and automatically verified. In addition, a credit memo procedure can be set up to further automate billing process in SAP.
Dealing with changes is not just in construction works a common practice. Expectations regarding the mapping of digital processes must also take into account how flexibly planners, service providers and suppliers are integrated, not least in the change processes and billing. It is important to make changes immediately known to all stakeholders and systems – not least the leading SAP system – in order to maintain transparency and active control options. In FUTURA all stakeholders are working with the same database and moreover, process-integrated with the SAP system. This means that any changes in FUTURA, for example change orders, are immediately displayed in SAP at the push of a button. This makes real-time controlling in SAP possible.
A simple interface via XML merely allows the import and export of data. This, however, has little in common with true process integration. The SAP integration provided by FUTURA® is based on directly activating functions in SAP. This means that business process changes in SAP are initiated via FUTURA – and reported back in real time. The automated, bidirectional communication of the systems eliminates the need for manual intervention or correction and ensures a seamless and complete document chain in the background.
Isolated applications, such as AVA programs (tendering, awarding and billing) or web-based data exchange platforms for the awarding and billing of services or construction services usually have only a rudimentary SAP connection or no SAP connection at all. In this form they are not suited to build on the digital core in SAP. Building on the digital SAP core is precisely the approach the solutions of the FUTURA collaboration platform are taking. One special feature is a seamless process integration that provides a consistent document chain in the leading SAP system – fully automated.
Users have to work in one system only instead of several. In addition, data changes are possible without any problems and are automatically transferred across system boundaries. This means that the SAP system, which is the digital core, is fed via FUTURA with all the necessary data required for compliance and also for further purchasing controlling or reporting.
The basis consists of standardized, bidirectional, real-time interfaces, which are mainly using standard BAPIs. A BAPI is a standardized programming interface of the SAP Business Objects and enables FUTURA to access data of particular business processes of the SAP system and to directly call and run functions in SAP. That is the big difference compared against a simple interface (e.g. XML), which only ensures a data import and export.
A sophisticated so-called error handling ensures that the processing status is displayed in the other system in real time. ALL project information is recorded and provided across system boundaries. This increases user-friendliness and improves the quality of results.
A lack of transparency in the overall project is primarily reflected by in the following issues:
The prerequisite for controlling in real time is therefore a transfer of ALL the items or service lines of the service specification of a purchase order and not only the header data as 1 performance unit as aggregated sum to SAP. FUTURA transfers GAEB-compliant orders at the touch of a button: individual service lines are created in the SAP system for each item in a service specification. Only this can ensure transparent billing and automated commitment reduction in the SAP system and thereby establish the basis for a meaningful purchasing controlling.
Many activities of the operational procurement process, e.g. from creating a call for tender, selecting suppliers through to payment processing, often involve manual effort. FUTURA® helps to raise the level of automation in service procurement. Defined approval and release workflows ensure a smooth cross-departmental collaboration.
Value limits, access to framework agreements or the choice of approval procedures – a large number of individual workflows can be mapped in FUTURA for different use cases in service procurement. This includes the classic sourcing process, which can be extended to the AVA process (tendering, awarding, and billing). FUTURA also has a streamlined process for invoicing by placing the verification of services rendered BEFORE invoicing. This eliminates classic invoice verification and the time-consuming coordination procedures with many media discontinuities via the specialist department.
Using the workflow engine implemented in the FUTURA platform, you can model and configure the processes, approvals, and authorizations for the various application processes and circumstances. For example, approvals can be carried out in any number of stages through to the sampling procedure, in which, depending on the predefined specification, verification takes place only after a certain interval. For instance, if a free text is reported back, the purchaser can be automatically involved.
The complete documentation from the call for tender through to the awarding, the simple administration of all decision-relevant documents and the audit compliance (i.e. the immutability of data) are just one side of compliance requirements. Many procurement processes involve numerous people and departments. The decisive point here is a consistent “four-eye principle”, which FUTURA facilitates automatically.
Workflows can be adjusted in FUTURA by means of a roles and rights concept that guides the actions of all stakeholders depending on specific data and information, permissions and value limits.
The prerequisite for a consistent database is provided by the FUTURA® supported GAEB format for service specifications. Because the greater the proximity to services around maintenance and repair as well as in the project and investment business, the higher the demands regarding data quality in the definition of requirements and in the handling of these services: there is no way around the use of multi-level service specifications, as provided by the GAEB standard.
The FUTURA method focuses particularly on how service specifications can be created, used and further processed by the stakeholders involved in the subsequent processes. This has a decisive effect on many stages in the procurement process: starting with the comparability of quotations; the verification of the quality of services rendered; the change order management through to the follow-up processes of billing and controlling in the leading SAP system which is the digital core.
SAP originated from materials management and therefore lacks the necessary interfaces and usability to represent the special requirements for the procurement and processing of construction works and services. Data exchange formats used in the service and construction industry, such as GAEB for example, are not supported.
Only the integration of FUTURA enables the automatic transfer of specifications created in the GAEB format to SAP for further processing. This is particularly important in construction purchasing when working with extensive GAEB specifications and the billing of service line is done by measurement. Although multilevel specifications can be manually created using SAP, this option is hardly used due to its user-hostile handling.
Data quality in the form of the standardized GAEB format is not only the working basis in planning, but also a great advantage in purchasing because purchasers can directly access GAEB service specifications for their requests or tenders; GAEB-based quotations submitted by suppliers and service providers can be compared and transparently billed – and all that automatically without imports via third-party solutions since originally SAP does not support the GAEB format.
With the fully integrated GAEB structures, FUTURA thus bridges the gap between technical and commercial business processes.
Hartmut Schwadtke, Managing Director
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