Posted in Procurement Automation

Automate Purchase Order Tracking in 3 Steps

Purchase orders (POs) play a vital role in every organization, whether it’s a university ordering library books, a company procuring raw materials for manufacturing, or an agency purchasing services from a vendor. 

POs are also one of the most admin-heavy business processes. They’re prone to errors, bottlenecks, lost paperwork, unnecessary back and forth, and maverick purchases. 

This can lead to incorrect deliveries of goods and services, delayed orders, overspending, and even outright fraud if purchase order tracking systems are not in place.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at what purchase order tracking is and how it benefits your organization. We’ll also look at how to set up automated purchase order tracking.

Contents:

What is Purchase Order Tracking? 

Purchase order tracking helps organizations make their procurement processes more efficient and transparent. 

With PO workflow automation, organizations can create digital purchase orders and swiftly route them for approval. It also makes it easy to keep track of each purchase order as it passes through multiple stages and various approvers.

The ability to easily track POs is one of the key benefits of purchase order workflow automation software. Purchase order tracking refers to the act of monitoring the status of purchase orders, either in real-time or in an analytics dashboard — or both. 

How to Track Purchase Orders Efficiently

Typically, to find out the status of a PO, employees or departments need to retrieve the PO number, then call or email the procurement department or vendor. 

If they’re lucky, the person they’re asking for an update is organized and has the information on hand to provide an answer immediately. However, this is rarely the case in paper-heavy offices, which means waiting for an update. 

Another way to track purchase orders is through Excel spreadsheets. There are even free templates available. Spreadsheets are fine if you’re a growing business or if you only process a few POs from a handful of vendors each month. 

But using spreadsheets for purchasing isn’t practical — they’re difficult to maintain and prone to errors. If someone forgets to update the values, you’re working off of outdated information. It also makes tracking purchase orders more difficult as you start to work with more vendors.

With purchase order software, tracking is efficient and painless. 

Anyone in the workflow can check the current order status of the PO — as well as vendor information, order date, and more — with a few clicks. Meanwhile, automated notifications help keep everyone updated as the PO moves from step to step.

Moreover, by integrating your purchase order tracking software with your accounting software or creating a custom dashboard, you can get detailed insights into your spending and streamline the purchasing process.

Advantages of Purchase Order Tracking

Manual PO processing involves an endless stream of Excel spreadsheets, back-and-forth emails, lost papers, and late invoice payments — not to mention invoicing fraud going undetected.

Purchase order tracking offers the following advantages over the traditional, outdated way of doing things.

Increased Convenience and Quicker Processing

34% of employees say a lack of standard processes gets in the way of their work. 

With automatically tracked POs, you can say goodbye to countless hours of tedious administrative tasks and approval bottlenecks. Save time by creating digital purchase orders and automating routing between approving parties. 

Automated notifications and reminders keep things moving so POs don’t lie forgotten in inboxes. They also make it easy to keep track of which stage a purchase order is in.

Greater Control Over Expenditure

Building conditional routing into your purchase order workflow helps make sure that POs are subject to approval under specific conditions. 

For instance, if purchase orders exceed a predetermined amount or originate from a department with a history of overspending, it automatically routes to a senior manager for approval. This helps ensure that your organization’s procurement policies are followed. It can also prevent duplicate orders from going through.

Fewer Errors, Inconsistencies, and Fraud

Automation drastically reduces errors and vulnerability to fraud by taking manual data entry out of the equation, standardizing approvals, and enabling automatic matching. 

With an automated purchase order tracking system like frevvo, it’s easy to connect your workflow with other business tools, such as your SQL database. This means you can create dynamic forms that automatically populate certain fields when selecting a vendor.

You can sync in both directions, making it easier to update each line item in your database using data from your workflow submissions. You can also set up automatic matching between invoices and purchase orders to flag inconsistencies for review.

Automated workflow tracking creates a robust audit trail and builds approvals into the purchasing process.

Standardized, Consistently Compliant Forms 

Purchase order tracking software allows you to standardize your forms and workflows, which reduces deviations from your company policy. 

Using standardized PO forms across suppliers can also take a few minutes out of the process, as employees won’t need to locate each supplier’s form before creating a PO. 

By standardizing your forms, you can ensure that they are always compliant with internal policies and vendor requirements as well as government regulations.

Reduced Operational Costs

71% of employees say up to 20% of their time is spent on mundane tasks.

Tracking purchase orders digitally can save your organization time, money, and resources by removing much of the manual work from the purchase order process. 

By freeing up your employees’ time, PO automation allows them to be more productive and focus on what you hired them to do instead of mind-numbing admin tasks.

Greater Transparency and Spending Insight

Accurate PO tracking gives you and the purchasing department greater insight into where money is going. Reviewing and analyzing spending patterns can lead to considerable savings. 

PO automation software often comes with built-in dashboards that update in real-time. When you can see all your accounts payable expenditures at a glance, it’s easier to trim the fat. 

Optimized Business Intelligence

Purchase order tracking also drives business intelligence and can give greater visibility into the status of specific projects. For example, seeing that a key supplier has delivered a shipment early might allow you to adjust your manufacturing timeline or make changes to your inventory.

Or, you might set automated deadlines based on shipping deadlines, which will allow you to source from alternative vendors to ensure your product launch stays on track.

frevvo dashboards

Dashboards in frevvo let you analyze your procurement workflow.

Set Up Automated Purchase Order Tracking in 3 Steps with frevvo

Every organization’s approach to the procurement process is unique. As such, each business needs a slightly different solution when it comes to automating purchase order tracking. 

With frevvo, you can automate many of your accounting processes and create a purchase order workflow that meets your exact needs. 

Use our drag-and-drop visual form builder and workflow designer to create the perfect digital PO form and set up approval routing rules — all without any coding or help from I.T.

Say goodbye to error-prone Excel spreadsheets, rote data entry, and manual approval processes that cause delays, costly mistakes, and missed purchases that impact roadmaps.

Automating your purchase order workflow and tracking POs digitally is easier than you think. Simply follow the steps below, and you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time.

Note: The following steps require a frevvo account. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial to try it out for yourself.

Step 1: Install a Template

Hit the ground running. Install a pre-built purchase order form template with a single click.

Installable templates from frevvo

Step 2: Customize Your Purchase Order Form

Modify the template to build the exact form you need without any coding using our 100% visual form builder. Should you need assistance, we offer no-obligation support options. 

Purchase order form

Step 3: Configure Conditional PO Routing

Next, set up your workflow using the drag-and-drop workflow designer. You can also select the purchase order template and customize it accordingly.

Establish conditional routing rules to route POs to relevant parties based on certain conditions. For example, an order exceeding a certain amount may trigger additional routing before the PO is processed by the accounts payable department.

Conditional routing for workflows

Having a VP or other senior manager review every purchase order isn’t the best use of their time. Conditional rules, like the one above, improve overall efficiency.

Deploy and Track Purchase Orders Automatically

After testing the workflow, deploy it with a single click. To track your purchase order, simply go to your task list and view the built-in audit trail for the PO. You can search for specific POs using data in the form and view the current status at any time.

Creating an audit trail in frevvo

frevvo comes equipped with a number of built-in workflow analysis reports. Using these reports, it’s easy to track purchase orders, identify bottlenecks, and optimize operational efficiency.

For example, you can easily track all currently open purchase orders by viewing the Active Processes report and drilling down to the purchase order process.

In-depth reports from frevvo

For a detailed overview of workflow analysis and how to use frevvo’s built-in reports to improve productivity, read Workflow Analysis: How to Improve & Optimize Your Processes.

Features to Look For in Purchase Order Tracking Software

There’s no shortage of workflow automation platforms. Here are the features to look for when choosing purchase order tracking software.

No-Code Automated Workflows

Not everybody has the technical know-how to code.

The first thing to look for is a purchase order system with an intuitive interface that anyone can use to create workflows. It should also make it easy to create business rules that route forms to the right approvers.

Here’s an example of what frevvo’s workflow editor looks like:

Purchase order workflow

With the editor, anyone on the team can build their own automated workflows without having to write a single line of code.

Intuitive Form Builder

Forms are a necessary part of the procurement process. Look for software that comes with an easy-to-use form builder.

To avoid wasting time on sending POs back to correct mistakes, the software should also have validation features that check for errors and perform calculations automatically.

Here’s an example of frevvo’s dynamic form builder:

Purchase order form

To customize the purchase order form, simply drag any of the elements from the palette on the left side and drop them into the form. You can also configure individual fields. For example, you can make certain fields required or limit what users can input.

Built-In Mobility

As more work gets done on mobile devices, built-in mobility is simply a must. This ensures that employees can get their work done whether they’re on a smartphone or tablet.

Here’s an example of how mobile forms look in frevvo: 

Purchase order tracking on mobile devices

With frevvo, your forms and workflows are mobile-friendly out of the box.

Role-Based Access

Role-based access is another must-have feature. This lets you assign permissions to employees based on their roles and responsibilities. 

Here’s what role-based access control looks like in frevvo:

Role-based access feature on frevvo

With these settings, you can specify exactly what users can and can’t access.

Automated Notifications

Whenever a task is assigned to someone, you’ll want that person to be notified immediately. 

Any purchase order tracking software you choose should make it easy to customize and configure notifications.

Users can quickly act on any notifications they receive.

Third-Party Integrations

Look for software that can integrate with your existing systems. 

With frevvo, you can connect your workflow with a SQL database and create dynamic purchase order forms that automatically fill in vendor information.

Here’s an example of how that looks:

Form fields automatically populating in frevvo

Pulling in information from your database cuts down on manual data entry. This saves time and leads to fewer errors. 

Cloud-Based Storage

Physical storage is expensive. Direct costs include paper and ink, while indirect costs include time spent on maintaining file cabinets and searching for certain documents.

Look for a solution that can post data to the cloud. This helps you maintain accurate records and provides an audit trail.

With frevvo, you have the following options on how to send and store data:

  • Send email
  • Post data to your web application
  • Send to Google Drive
  • Send to your file system
  • Send to SharePoint

In-Depth Reporting

Purchase order tracking software with in-depth reports is a must. 

Measuring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) helps you measure the efficiency of your workflows. They can also help you identify bottlenecks in a process and areas of improvement.

Here are a few reports that are available in frevvo: 

In-depth reports in frevvo
  • Active Processes: See a complete breakdown of what workflows are in progress and what their status is.
  • Throughout / Productivity: See the average and maximum durations of your workflows — useful for identifying bottlenecks. You can also see a full breakdown of processing times by users and approvers.
  • Recent Submission Activity: Get an overview of recent workflow submissions and click the graph to get more details.

Get Started With Purchase Order Tracking

Purchase order workflows are essential for the procurement process. But any inefficiencies can result in higher costs and delays in securing the goods or services your organization needs.

With frevvo’s workflow software, you can easily set up automated workflows and keep track of each purchase order as it moves through each step. The software is fully visual, so there’s no need to hire costly programmers or spend months on development.

Sign up for a 30-day free trial to automate purchase order tracking. You can get started right away with a pre-built workflow or build one entirely from scratch.

Author:

Ashish Deshpande has worked in the process automation space for over 20 years. He has been instrumental in successfully deploying frevvo’s software at hundreds of organizations such as HBO, New York University, and Boston Public Schools. Ashish has contributed to leading publications such as Forbes, business.com and readwrite.com. Ashish received a PhD in Computer Science from Yale University, and a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India.