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E-Procurement, also known as supplier exchange, is the use of digital tools and technologies to streamline and automate the requisition, ordering, and purchasing of goods and services in a business-to-business context. Although the origin of E-Procurement can be traced to the 1960s with the advent of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), it has evolved into a sophisticated process employing online catalogs, bids, purchase orders, and invoices in the 21stcentury.

In this article, we shall look at how E-Procurement works and discuss its benefits. We shall also discuss various types of E-Procurement tools and address common challenges faced by organizations in implementing E-Procurement solutions.

How does E-Procurement work?

The term E-Procurement is often confused with E-Commerce, but the two are different in their functionalities.  Unlike E-Commerce, E-Procurement operates within a closed system accessible only to registered users, typically managed by a chief procurement officer or department. This facilitates strategic interactions between organizations and preferred suppliers, emphasizing relationships to negotiate contracts, set budgetary guidelines, and enhance the overall procurement process.

Various tools and technologies, including online auctions, web-based procurement systems, and purchasing platforms, are used in E-Procurement.

The E-Procurement process typically comprises the following stages:

  1. E-Informing: The exchange of information between parties, both within and outside the organization, initiates the process.
  2. E-Sourcing: E-Sourcing involves pre-qualifying suppliers, aligning with the organization's business requirements and goals to evaluate their qualifications.
  3. E-Tendering: This stage entails a comprehensive assessment of potential suppliers, ensuring transparency in the evaluation process. E-tendering facilitates the entire tendering process, from creating requirements to contracting, reducing legal errors and enhancing efficiency.
  4. E-Auction: E-Auctions deviate from traditional auctions by introducing more potential buyers, preventing sellers from being overly restrictive. Buyers can employ reverse auctions to solicit bids and select the lowest offer.
  5. E-Ordering: The final step involves product ordering, where employees access digital catalogs to place orders quickly, leveraging rendered contracts for easy reference.
  6. E-Analytics: One of the key features of E-Procurement is that it enables analytics.  Procurement analytics involves identifying, collecting, and analyzing spending data to inform purchase decisions. It encompasses budgets, purchase history, spending reports, and expenditures, crucial for optimizing costs and enhancing expenditure management. This process extracts valuable insights from the flow of cash between the organization and suppliers, aiding in informed decision-making.

Benefits of E-Procurement

E-procurement isn't a one-size-fits-all solution; businesses can tailor its implementation to address specific bottlenecks and inefficiencies in their operations.  It offers a myriad of advantages, some of which include:

  1. Greater Productivity:
    • Cuts waste and inefficiency, reducing costs and lead times.
    • Eliminates time wasted on phone or mail orders, allowing online orders in seconds.
  2. Increased Control:
    • Centralizes information in the E-Procurement environment for heightened control.
    • Reduces supply problems, including pricing mistakes, order duplication, and inventory issues.
  3. Better Buying Power:
    • Facilitates effective management of relationships with suppliers.
    • Enables businesses to negotiate better volume discounts and consolidate purchases for increased buying power.
  4. Good Inventory Management:
    • Supports the implementation of just-in-time inventory management.
    • Facilitates online sourcing of materials and supplies, strengthening supplier relationships.
  5. Data Accuracy:
    • Reduces mistakes and human errors associated with manual ordering systems.
    • Minimizes missing orders, order duplication, and enhances overall efficiency.
  6. Customizable implementation:
    • Allows businesses to start the E-Procurement system gradually.
    • Offers the flexibility to implement specific components based on business needs and priorities.
  7. Optimum Supplier Network Maintenance:
    • Enables real-time reporting and comparison among vendors.
    • Empowers businesses with the ability to quickly check and compare prices and lead times.
  8. Digital Transformation Opportunities:
    • Transitions from inefficient email and spreadsheet processes to a centrally controlled database.
    • Allows a centralized repository and management of procurement data across various departments and even branches of an organization.

E-procurement software enables the automation of almost all activities involving procurement, enhances policy enforcement, and allows customization of user experiences. 


Types of E-Procurement tools

There are various types of e-Procurement tools used for various purposes within the procurement process

The most commonly used types of E-Procurement tools are:

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange):

    • Enables the exchange of messages between two organizations.
    • Batches notifications with other messages, expediting processes.
    • Ideal for specific messages like order confirmations or invoices.
    • Implemented within close networks, not open networks like the internet.

ERP Systems (Enterprise Resource Planning):

    • Manages administrative tasks such as manufacturing, logistics, distribution, and shipping invoices.
    • Encompasses sales, delivery, billing production, inventory management, and human resources.

Online Bidding:

    • Popular and user-friendly e-Procurement system.
    • Provides a centralized platform for managing bids from various suppliers.
    • May be slow and cumbersome, posing challenges in spending tracking.

Email Bid Watching:

    • Allows suppliers to electronically submit bids through an email notification system.
    • Faster and more efficient than online bidding.
    • Tracking spending may pose some difficulties.


    • Advanced e-Procurement form enabling bid submission through secure pipes instead of emails.
    • Faster and more efficient than email bid watching.
    • Setup and usage can be more complex.

Web-Based Procurement:

    • Similar to email bid watching, allowing suppliers to submit bids through an email notification system.
    • Provides a user-friendly online platform for procurement processes.

Each type caters to specific needs, offering diverse advantages and challenges. The choice of E-Procurement tool depends on the organization's requirements, preferences, and the level of complexity they are willing to navigate for an efficient procurement process.

Challenges in implementing E-Procurement

The digitization of business operations, particularly in long-established manual processes like procurement, may seem overwhelming initially. The transition, like any transition, poses teething troubles, demanding adaptation to new technologies. However, overcoming these challenges is essential for unlocking enhanced productivity. Some of the common challenges to implementing the E-Procurement solution and ways to overcome them are presented below:

Understanding the System:

    • Challenge: Limited understanding among buyers and suppliers may cause confusion and delays.
    • Solution: Prioritize education and communication to ensure stakeholders comprehend the benefits and processes.

Stakeholder Alignment:

    • Challenge: Resistance from different organizational segments may impede adoption due to concerns about its impact.
    • Solution: Engage all stakeholders in the decision-making process, emphasizing benefits and garnering unanimous agreement.

Correct Implementation:

    • Challenge: Mistakes during setup can result in delays, frustration, and overall failure.
    • Solution: Conduct a thorough review of the entire procurement process before initiating deals, ensuring correct setup from the outset.

Lack of Adequate Training:

    • Challenge: Insufficient training on E-procurement technology can hinder effective navigation.
    • Solution: Leverage online resources for comprehensive employee training.

Poor Integration with Other Systems:

    • Challenge: Incompatible systems within different company departments hinder seamless processing.
    • Solution: Allocate time and resources to integrate various departmental systems with E-procurement.

Unclear and Complicated Rules:

    • Challenge: Complexity and lack of clarity in E-procurement systems can confuse employees.
    • Solution: Offer clear and concise instructions, ensuring a thorough understanding.

Limited Storage Capacity:

    • Challenge: E-procurement systems may face limitations in data storage capacity.
    • Solution: Regularly assess and expand storage capacity to accommodate growing data.

In addition to the above challenges, the implantation of e-procurement in developing countries faces challenges like a lack of necessary infrastructure, which includes issues with internet access and electricity. This can lead to delays and errors in the system. 

Legal and regulatory frameworks may not fully support e-procurement, creating uncertainties. 

These challenges must be addressed in a Governance basis. Countries need to invest in improving infrastructure and provide alternative solutions like mobile-based platforms. 

Aligning laws and simplifying procurement rules are essential steps. 

Overcoming resistance to change and building trust through awareness campaigns and transparent systems is crucial for successful e-procurement adoption.

How to select E-procurement Software

The E-Procurement solution suited to a business may be an off-the-shelf product or a custom-developed one, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Off-the-shelf solutions are typically cost-effective, as development costs are shared among multiple users, and they offer quick deployment. These solutions come with a proven track record, regular updates, and customer support. However, they may have limited customization, integration challenges, and scalability issues.

On the other hand, custom-developed solutions are tailored to your company's specific needs, providing maximum flexibility and a perfect fit for your workflow. They offer smooth integration with existing systems and can scale as your company grows, offering a long-term solution. However, custom development comes with higher costs and a longer development time. There's also a risk of over-engineering, potentially leading to increased complexity.

In some cases, a hybrid approach, using an off-the-shelf solution as a base and customizing certain modules, maybe the best compromise. 

Key features to look for when looking an ideal E-Procurement solution include an easy setup process, quick integration with existing software, an easy-to-use interface, remote accessibility, effective communication tools, efficient workflow automation, asset management capabilities, and the ability to generate comprehensive reports. These features collectively contribute to the efficient management of the procurement process, offering a streamlined, transparent, and user-friendly solution for organizations of all sizes.

Top E-Procurement Software

The right procurement software can reduce costs and unlock new opportunities. With a multitude of solutions available, choosing the ideal one for your business is crucial. Here are the top ten procurement software solutions for 2023, each offering distinctive features, advantages, and drawbacks. 

Coupa Procurement

Features: Cloud-based application for spend management; serves industries like healthcare, retail, technology; provides real-time visibility of the entire P2P process; streamlines orders and ensures a flexible transaction model.

Advantages: Maximizes profits by controlling finances; improves visibility and compliance in the purchase-to-pay process; offers a simplified purchase order requisitions process; supports advanced AI and machine learning techniques for fraud detection.

Drawbacks: Steep learning curve; complicated integration process; customer support available only via chat.

Oracle Services Procurement

Features: Enterprise application for sales and purchasing businesses; automates, controls, and collaborates on the complete P2P process; provides real-time visibility; tracks tax regimes based on different categories.

Advantages: Controls spend on various categories; enhances visibility on supplier performances and costs; simplifies processes with an intuitive centralized database; automates tasks to streamline workflows.

Drawbacks: Not supported features include capturing product data from URL, requisition creation notifications, mobile receipt management, and push notifications.


Features: A cloud-based procure-to-pay solution known for accurate reporting, proactive spend management, and complete procurement process control.

Advantages: Trusted globally, Fraxion offers multi-level approvals, spend analysis, vendor management, and integration with various ERP systems.

Drawbacks: Complexity may arise during the integration process.


Features: Tradogram excels as an e-procurement software with customizable management support, cloud-based accessibility, and tools for automating purchase orders, RFQs/RFPs, contracts, requisitions, and invoicing.

Advantages: Endorsed by numerous businesses, Tradogram provides social proof, enhanced mobility, security, and clear insights through seamless data flow between modules.

Drawbacks: While easy to use, customization may have limitations.


Features: GEP SMART, a world-leading source-to-pay software, employs artificial intelligence for spend analysis, savings tracking, contract management, and vendor management.

Advantages: Provides comprehensive control over procurement, unifying upstream sourcing and downstream procurement.

Drawbacks: Initial customization may be time-consuming.

Pipefy for Procurement

Features: Acting as a visibility and communication layer, Pipefy for Procurement streamlines purchasing by connecting disparate systems and activities.

Advantages: Bridges gaps between core systems, enhances visibility, reduces costs, and facilitates communication among teams.

Drawbacks: Setting up may require specialized knowledge.


Kissflow Procurement Cloud

Features: Kissflow's cloud-based procurement software leverages low-code power for flexible and automated procurement workflows.

Advantages: Empowers users to build lean solutions, reduce bottlenecks, and gain control over the procurement process.

Drawbacks: Modular deployment may necessitate adaptation.


Features: Procurify is a cloud-based solution offering centralized procurement data, real-time reporting, and streamlined spending management.

Advantages: Simplifies tracking, managing, and controlling spending with real-time reporting and mobile accessibility.

Drawbacks: Limited in-depth customization may be a concern.

Procurement Express

Features: Procurement Express is a paperless app streamlining small business purchasing through an easy dashboard and automation.

Advantages: Manages processes seamlessly, automates approvals, and syncs with accounts for real-time access.

Drawbacks: Suited more for small businesses. 


Features: Precoro is a no-code solution optimizing procurement processes, automating approval workflows, managing suppliers, and providing real-time reports.
Advantages: Eliminates manual procedures, reduces human errors, and integrates with ERP and accounting systems.

Drawbacks: May require additional training for optimal use.


The benefits of digitization of the procurement process go beyond mere efficiency gains, offering enhanced transparency, cost savings, and strategic advantages. With features like streamlined workflows, real-time collaboration, and robust spend management, these solutions allow organizations to optimize the procure-to-pay process. While challenges such as infrastructure limitations persist, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks and the adoption of E-Procurement is no longer an option but a prerequisite to agility, innovation, and sustainable growth.