For the Last Time: ‘Procurement’ and ‘Purchasing’ Are Different

Shivasankari Bhuvaneswaran

November 28th, 2018 Procurement Process  

Procurement vs Purchasing

Procurement is often mistaken for purchasing, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. But those two functions are actually quite distinct—in their intent, the tasks they cover, the people involved and, most notably, what they accomplish.

If you ask a layman about the difference, you may get a reply that purchasing and procurement are one and the same. But, if you ask the same question to a procurement officer of an enterprise, you’ll get a significantly longer answer as to how and why there’s a world of differences between purchasing and procurement.

It is true that a few organizations prefer to use one term over the other, but failing to learn the key differences between purchasing and procurement can make an organization overlook key components that have the potential break an organization’s bottom line.

Now, let’s dive deeper into the concept of ‘procurement vs purchasing’, and see how they differ from each other.

What is Procurement?

Procurement is the set of tasks associated with buying a product or service. It is an umbrella term that covers tasks that happen before, during, and after the purchase of goods and services. A procurement process is a cradle-to-grave approach that starts from identification of needs and ends only when the need is fulfilled, or no longer exists.

An end-to-end procurement process consists of the steps listed below:

  • Surveying the market
  • Spotting potential suppliers
  • Creating an approved list of vendors
  • Spotting internal needs
  • Creating a purchase order online
  • Requesting proposals and evaluating quotations
  • Selecting the right supplier and negotiating effectively
  • Receiving goods and performing quality checks
  • Developing and managing contracts
  • Fulfilling payment terms
  • Establishing a good supplier relationship

What is Purchasing?

Purchasing is the set of functions associated with acquiring the goods and services that an organization requires. Purchasing is a small subset of the broader procurement function. This process includes activities like ordering, expediting, receiving, and fulfilling payment.

Listed below are the steps in the purchasing process:

  • Obtaining purchase requisitions
  • Requesting proposals and evaluating quotations
  • Dispatching official purchase orders
  • Receiving products and services
  • Checking the quality of delivered items
  • Effecting payment to vendors

Procurement vs. Purchasing: Similarities and Differences

Purchasing and procurement are two processes that are done during the process of acquiring goods and services for an organization. However, they vastly differ in their method and approach. This table represents their key differences:

Procurement

Purchasing

Activities related to acquiring goods and services Functions associated with buying goods and services
Steps that happen before, during, and after purchase Straightforward process of purchasing commodities
Used in a production environment (internal process) Used in a wholesale environment (external process)
Puts more importance on an item’s value than its cost Tends to focus more on the item’s price than its value
Refers to a set of tasks that spot and fulfill needs Refers to the specific task of committing expenditure
Includes need recognition, sourcing, and contract closure Includes ordering, expediting, and payment fulfillment
Follows a proactive approach to spot and fulfill needs Follows a reactive approach to satisfy internal needs
Relational–focuses on creating long-term vendor relationships Transactional–focuses on transactions than vendor relationships

In addition to the list of differences mentioned above, procurement vs. purchasing includes another major difference. Purchasing focuses on short-term goals such as fulfilling the five rights in a transaction (right quality, right quantity, right cost, right time, and right place), whereas procurement focuses on strategic, long-term goals like gaining a competitive advantage or aligning itself with corporate strategy or goals.

Impact of Automation on Purchasing and Procurement

Both purchasing and procurement involve several stakeholders from internal parties like employees in different departments to external people like vendors and contract negotiators. Irrespective of their differences mentioned in the procurement vs. purchasing table, both processes demand meticulous documentation. They both comprise of a complex web of procedures.

A single purchasing cycle might last for weeks whereas a whole procurement cycle can last for months or even repeated if a suitable bid is not found. If performed manually, both activities will have a common detriment of efficiency. Just the process of revising every document, evaluating every bid, and reviewing every invoice will cause too much delay.

Creating an automated procurement system, on the other hand, allows organizations to store all purchasing and procurement related files in one centralized database. While a shared network drive can fulfill this purpose, online procurement software can automate tasks. It can send automated emails, move documents from one step to another securely without human effort.

Procurement vs. Purchasing: The Need for Automation

In the battle between procurement vs. purchasing, there is no clear winner. Companies may choose an approach based on their unique needs. Small businesses may choose purchasing with an intention of keeping the process clean and simple, whereas enterprises may prefer a full-fledged procurement process just to make it a core part of their corporate strategy.

Whatever approach you choose to follow, manual tools like paper forms, spreadsheets, and Word documents will end up doing more harm than good. Automated procurement systems like KiSSFLOW improve productivity by standardizing strictly regulated processes like procurement and purchasing.

KiSSFLOW will help organizations shorten purchasing procurement cycles, improve collaboration, and ensure compliance without making a dent on their account. What’s more is that organizations get the independence to tailor a unique purchasing procurement process that is in tune with their business goals. The best part is that you don’t need coding skills to build your own procurement solution.

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