What is the Difference Between Procurement and Purchasing?

Many people use the terms purchasing and procurement interchangeably, but despite their similarities, they do have different meanings. Let’s clarify any confusion on the difference between procurement and purchasing.

Procurement deals with the sourcing activities, negotiation and strategic selection of goods and services that are usually of importance to an organization. Purchasing is the process of how goods and services are ordered.

In this guide, we’ll explain the difference between procurement and purchasing, and the roles that these two important functions play in business.

Table of Contents

 

What is Procurement?

Procurement is the process of sourcing and acquiring the goods and services a company needs to fulfill its business model.

An effective procurement strategy can save company money by negotiating favorable terms and pricing, and ensuring supplier quality and efficiency.

 

Steps in the Procurement Process

Procurement involves much more than just handing over the company credit card and paying for a purchase. An effective procurement strategy includes everything from identifying which goods and services a company needs right through to maintaining the right documentation and records.

Here’s a quick overview of the procurement process:

  1. Identify which goods and services the company needs
  2. Submit a purchase request
  3. Assess and select vendors
  4. Negotiate price and terms
  5. Create a purchase order
  6. Receive and inspect the delivered goods
  7. Conduct three-way matching
  8. Approve the invoice and arrange payment
  9. Recordkeeping

Keep in mind, how a company shapes its internal procurement process will be influenced by factors like the company’s size, industry, available human resources, and organizational structure.

For an in-depth explanation of the procurement process, check out our guide: What are the Stages of the Procurement Process?

 

Why is Procurement Important in Business?

Procurement is important in business because it directly impacts a company’s profit. For an organization to be profitable, the cost of procuring goods needs to be less than the amount it sells those goods for, minus whatever costs are associated with processing and selling them.

Enacting the best procurement procedures will ensure that the buyer (i.e. the company) is acquiring goods, services, or works at the best possible price at all times.

In addition, procurement is linked to several core business functions within an organization. So it should always be considered a critical part of any organization’s corporate strategy.

To understand this, consider how procurement can influence the four pillars of corporate strategy.

  • Corporate Identity
    • What does our company do and stand for?
    • What beliefs inform our business model?
  • Market Placement
    • Who are our customers?
    • What do they want?
    • What do they believe in?
  • Company Capabilities
    • What are our strengths and weaknesses?
    • Do our strengths support our long-term goals?
    • How do we want to grow?
  • Management Issues
    • Do we need to hire/develop talent to lead us to our goals?
    • Does the company have the resources needed to achieve our goals?

Procurement touches on each of these components.

For instance, procurement and corporate identity can be intertwined. If your business is building (or has built) its identity around an environmentally conscious ethic, then your procurement strategy should reflect that decision. Policies should be in place to ensure you are sourcing from companies with similar ethics, or that you are sourcing materials that are not environmentally hazardous.

A company’s procurement strategy should also be shaped with its market placement, company capabilities, and management issues in mind. The company needs the right people in place to put into action the beliefs/philosophies you want your business to be governed by. Dealings with vendors should reflect company philosophy. 

 

What is Purchasing?

Purchasing is a set of tasks involved in buying goods and services. Purchasing involves tasks such as ordering, raising purchase orders, receiving, and arranging payment.

 

What are the Steps in the Purchasing Process?

As a function, purchasing is a subset of procurement. As such, the purchasing process sits inside the procurement process.

However, unlike the procurement-related tasks outlined above, the steps explicitly related to purchasing should not be tailored to suit the size and scope of each individual business. These are fundamental steps of good purchasing and should be employed routinely as a best practice in all businesses.

Here are the steps in the purchasing process:

  • Purchase Order Acknowledgement
  • Advance Shipment Notice
  • Goods Receipt
  • Invoice Recording
  • 3-Way Match
  • Payment to Supplier

 

Procurement vs Purchasing: What’s the Difference?

Procurement and purchasing are both performed when a company needs to acquire goods and services. But these two functions have different focuses and different methods for achieving their respective end goals.

Here’s a handy table that explains the differences between procurement and purchasing:

Procurement Purchasing
What is the end goal? To identify company needs and fulfill the procurement of those needs. Strategic, proactive process. To arrange company expenditure and buy goods/services for the company. Reactive process.
How goods/services are assessed Places more importance on an item’s value than how much it costs. More focused on price than value.
When it’s deployed Involved in the end-to-end activities needed to acquire all necessary goods and services. Gets involved when it’s time to buy goods and services.
Tasks involved Everything from need recognition to sourcing, contract closure, and recordkeeping. Ordering, expediting, and payment.
How it deals with suppliers Focused on developing long-term, win-win relationships with suppliers (relational focus). Focused on making efficient transactions; not overly concerned with developing vendor relations (transactional focus).

 

Automating Your Procurement and Purchasing Strategy with E-Procurement 

Procurement and purchasing both fall within an overarching process known as the Procure-To-Pay Cycle. This cycle encompasses all of the steps a company must take to identify and acquire the goods and services it needs to do business. (In other words, it’s procurement and purchasing combined).

To help you visualize how procurement and purchasing support one another throughout this cycle, here’s when these two functions get involved in the Procure-To-Pay Cycle.

 

Procurement steps in the Procure-to-Pay Cycle:

  • Identify goods and services required
  • Approve purchase requests
  • Procurement
  • Identify suppliers
  • Sending Inquiries (RFQs and RFPs)
  • Receipt of quotes from suppliers
  • Negotiate pricing and terms
  • Select vendors

Purchasing steps in the Procure-to-Pay Cycle:

  • Acknowledge purchase orders
  • Advance shipment notice
  • Receive goods
  • Inventory management
  • Invoice Recording
  • 3-Way Match
  • Payment to Supplier

Automating procurement tasks and optimizing your Procure-to-Pay Cycle with e-procurement software can have a significant impact on your company’s bottom line.

Procurement and expense management platforms like Procurify can help your team better oversee all procurement and purchasing activities with features like:

  • Purchase requesting functionality for everyone on the team
  • Purchasing and procurement workflows
  • Purchase order creation, approval, and storage
  • Approved vendor catalogues that every team member can access online
  • Approval systems based on locations, departments and dollar thresholds, that are easy for employees and procurement managers to follow
  • A mobile app that helps you request, approve and receive goods on the go
  • Vendor management and vendor performance tracking
  • 3-way matching
  • Data exporting into your accounting system

The efficiencies that procurement and purchasing software can bring to your company’s procurement strategy can eliminate overspending and yield huge savings (both time and money), regardless of the size of your organization.

Conclusion

Because purchasing is a process within the overarching procurement process, both procurement and purchasing are often used interchangeably. In the business world, the practice of using similar terminology in either conversation or printed materials is routine, although it is often confusing and should be avoided.

Procurement deals with the sourcing activities, negotiation and strategic selection of goods and services that are usually of importance to an organization. Purchasing is the process of how goods and services are ordered. Purchasing can usually be described as the transactional function of procurement for goods or services.

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