An Easy Guide to Procurement: Processes, Types, and SAP Optimization in 2023

Updated May 5, 2023

Published May 5, 2023

I. Introduction to Procurement

Definition of procurement

Procurement is the process of acquiring goods and services from external sources to fulfill business requirements. This involves identifying the need for goods or services, sourcing and selecting suppliers, negotiating contracts, and managing supplier relationships throughout the contract lifecycle. Procurement is a critical function within organizations as it enables businesses to acquire the necessary resources to operate effectively and efficiently.

Importance of procurement in business operations

Procurement plays a critical role in the success of businesses as it ensures that the organization has access to the goods and services necessary to operate. Effective procurement practices can help businesses to reduce costs, improve quality, mitigate risks, and enhance overall supply chain performance. In addition, procurement also helps organizations to comply with legal and regulatory requirements, and to meet their sustainability and social responsibility goals.

Overview of procurement processes and types

Procurement processes can vary depending on the needs of the business, but typically involve several stages, including needs identification, supplier selection, contract negotiation, purchase order processing, receipt and inspection, and payment processing. Procurement can also be classified into different types, such as direct procurement and indirect procurement, strategic procurement and operational procurement, global procurement and local procurement, and centralized procurement and decentralized procurement.

II. Procurement Processes


Requisitioning is the process of identifying the need for goods or services within an organization and generating a request to acquire those goods or services. This process typically involves creating a purchase requisition in a procurement system, which outlines the details of the requested goods or services, including quantity, delivery requirements, and budget allocation.

Sourcing and selecting suppliers

Sourcing and selecting suppliers involves identifying potential suppliers who can provide the required goods or services, evaluating their capabilities and qualifications, and selecting the most suitable supplier(s) based on criteria such as price, quality, delivery time, and risk factors. This process may involve issuing requests for proposals (RFPs), requests for quotes (RFQs), or other sourcing documents to suppliers, and may also include conducting site visits or supplier audits.

Negotiating and contracting

Negotiating and contracting involves engaging in discussions with suppliers to agree on the terms and conditions of the procurement contract, including pricing, payment terms, delivery schedules, warranties, and other contractual provisions. This process may involve multiple rounds of negotiation and typically culminates in the signing of a legally binding contract between the buyer and supplier.


Purchasing is the process of issuing purchase orders to suppliers, which authorizes them to deliver the goods or services outlined in the procurement contract. This process may involve verifying that the requested goods or services meet the required specifications, and that the supplier is authorized to provide them. Once the purchase order has been approved, the purchasing team will send it to the supplier and track the delivery of the goods or services.

Receiving and inspecting

Receiving and inspecting is the process of accepting delivery of the goods or services ordered from the supplier and verifying that they meet the specifications outlined in the procurement contract. This process may involve checking the quantity and quality of the goods, as well as verifying that they were delivered on time and in good condition. If any issues are identified, such as damaged or missing items, the receiving team will work with the supplier to resolve the issue.

Paying suppliers

Paying suppliers is the final step in the procurement process, which involves processing invoices and making payments to suppliers for the goods or services provided. This process may involve verifying that the invoice matches the purchase order and that the goods or services were received as expected. Once the invoice has been approved, the accounting team will issue payment to the supplier, typically via electronic funds transfer or other payment methods outlined in the procurement contract.

III. Procurement Types

Direct procurement vs. indirect procurement

Direct procurement refers to the acquisition of goods or services that are directly related to a company's primary business operations, such as raw materials or production equipment. Indirect procurement refers to the acquisition of goods or services that are not directly related to a company's primary business operations, such as office supplies or maintenance services.

Strategic procurement vs. operational procurement

Strategic procurement refers to the long-term planning and management of procurement activities in order to achieve specific business goals, such as reducing costs or improving supplier relationships. Operational procurement refers to the day-to-day execution of procurement activities, such as issuing purchase orders or managing supplier relationships.

Global procurement vs. local procurement

Global procurement refers to the sourcing of goods or services from suppliers located outside of a company's home country, often with the goal of reducing costs or accessing specialized expertise. Local procurement refers to the sourcing of goods or services from suppliers located within a company's home country, often with the goal of supporting local businesses and economies.

Single sourcing vs. multiple sourcing

Single sourcing refers to the practice of procuring goods or services from a single supplier, often with the goal of achieving cost savings or building a closer relationship with the supplier. Multiple sourcing refers to the practice of procuring goods or services from multiple suppliers, often with the goal of reducing supply chain risk or ensuring a competitive marketplace.

Centralized procurement vs. decentralized procurement

Centralized procurement refers to the management of procurement activities by a central procurement team or department, often with the goal of achieving cost savings or standardizing procurement processes. Decentralized procurement refers to the delegation of procurement activities to individual business units or departments, often with the goal of enabling greater flexibility and responsiveness.

IV. Procurement Optimization in SAP

Benefits of using SAP in procurement

  • Increased efficiency and productivity in procurement processes
  • Greater visibility and control over procurement activities
  • Improved accuracy and compliance with procurement policies and regulations
  • Enhanced collaboration with suppliers and stakeholders
  • Better data analytics and reporting capabilities for informed decision-making

Key SAP procurement modules

  • SAP Ariba: a cloud-based procurement platform for sourcing and procurement processes
  • SAP S/4HANA Procurement: a module within the SAP S/4HANA ERP system that manages procurement processes
  • SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SRM): a module that facilitates collaboration with suppliers and manages the procurement process from sourcing to payment
  • ifm Supply Chain Excellence for Procurement: a module that simplifies materials planning for supply chains by providing quick and comprehensive access to data, customizable consumption requirements, and a clear and systematic display of messages and alerts for maximum transparency.

Best practices for optimizing SAP procurement processes

  • Establish clear procurement policies and procedures
  • Leverage SAP's automation capabilities to streamline procurement processes
  • Foster collaboration with suppliers to improve supplier relationships and drive cost savings
  • Continuously monitor and analyze procurement data to identify areas for improvement
  • Regularly review and update procurement processes to ensure compliance and efficiency

Common challenges in SAP and how to overcome them

  • Limited user adoption: If users are not fully trained or do not understand the benefits of using SAP in procurement, they may not adopt the new system. To overcome this, organizations can offer comprehensive training and support to users, and communicate the benefits of using SAP to improve procurement processes.
  • Data quality issues: Data quality issues such as inaccurate or incomplete data can affect the efficiency and accuracy of SAP procurement processes. To mitigate this, organizations can establish data quality standards and protocols, and provide regular training to ensure that data is entered correctly.
  • Lack of integration with other systems: SAP procurement may not be fully integrated with other systems such as finance or supply chain management, leading to inefficiencies and delays. To address this, organizations can consider investing in integrated systems like ifm Supply Chain Excellence, or work with third-party providers that offer integration services.
  • Complex procurement processes: SAP procurement can be complex and difficult to navigate, particularly for users who are not familiar with the system. To simplify procurement processes, organizations can leverage automation and workflow management tools to streamline procurement workflows and reduce the risk of errors.
  • Compliance and regulatory issues: Organizations must ensure that their procurement processes are compliant with relevant regulations and standards. To address this, organizations can work with legal and compliance teams to establish procurement policies and procedures that are aligned with regulatory requirements. Additionally, organizations can leverage SAP's compliance tools to ensure that procurement processes meet regulatory requirements.

V. Conclusion and Next Steps

Summary of key takeaways

  • Procurement is the process of acquiring goods and services from external sources, and is a critical component of business operations.
  • The procurement process involves several stages, including requisitioning, sourcing and selecting suppliers, negotiating and contracting, purchasing, receiving and inspecting, and paying suppliers.
  • Procurement can be categorized into different types, such as direct and indirect procurement, strategic and operational procurement, global and local procurement, single and multiple sourcing, and centralized and decentralized procurement.
  • SAP is a powerful tool for optimizing procurement processes, with modules such as SAP Ariba, SAP S/4HANA Procurement, SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), and ifm Supply Chain Excellence for Procurement, providing a range of capabilities to improve efficiency, accuracy, and compliance.
  • To optimize SAP procurement processes, organizations should establish clear policies and procedures, leverage automation and collaboration tools, foster relationships with suppliers, and continuously monitor and analyze procurement data.
  • Common challenges in SAP procurement include limited user adoption, data quality issues, lack of integration with other systems, complex procurement processes, and compliance and regulatory issues. These challenges can be overcome through training and support, establishing data quality standards, investing in integration solutions, leveraging automation and workflow management tools, and working with legal and compliance teams to ensure regulatory compliance.

Contact us for a 30-minute discovery call to assess your current procurement processes and identify opportunities for improvement using our SAP-integrated solutions.

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