All posts by Justin Sadler-Smith

Lessons For Procurement Teams: We Should Be Serving Our Customers, Not Our Processes

How can procurement teams serve their organisations better?


Being a procurement professional can be challenging. The role requires individuals to vet contracts, pricing and supplier relationships. But the bigger picture is that procurement should be the eyes and the ears of the organisation when it comes to how much money is being spent. 

Procurement teams need to ask themselves the questions – what value can be added here, what problems are we trying to solve?

In an ideal world anyone working in procurement should be adding shareholder value, making an impact on the business’s return on investment, increasing social responsibility, driving innovation, enhancing the organisation’s reputation and mitigating risks.

As professionals, we want to enhance our company’s reputation and manage risk

While I have been in the industry for more than 25 years and I assume that this is what drives CPOs, I’m not the only one. Recent research conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services confirms it, with 55% of respondents saying that ethical and commercial considerations are equally important when evaluating suppliers.

But how could procurement professionals know it all?

Procurement leaders are not soothsayers. Nor are they mind readers. The only way they can possibly serve our organisations effectively is if they know what’s happening – the answer lies in having greater transparency of spend. Again, the HBR survey agrees: 90% of executives surveyed indicated that increased business transparency leads to better-informed decision-making across the entire organisation.

What’s stopping procurement from serving the business quickly and efficiently?

Something is holding procurement teams back. That something is a combination of outdated processes and siloed technology that prevents procurement from seeing the bigger picture.

In some instances, manual processes are providing incomplete data or data that is woefully out of date. In others, a lack of support from top management, finance or legal teams is hampering procurement. And sometimes the technology is there, it’s just too siloed to be valuable.

In short: the lack of connectivity between those responsible for sourcing, procuring, paying and reporting on an organisation’s financial transactions is preventing procurement leaders from being able to do what we know they should do, what they want to do and what they believe it is vitally important for them to do.

So how do they move from a situation where, at best, procurement professionals are seen as the naysayers of the business towards an ideal world in which procurement is proactively managing supplier risk, driving innovation and improving shareholder value?

Change the way businesses connect, and the way they buy

It’s time to reimagine the buying ecosystem. Imagine if, instead of having an adversarial, competitive relationship with suppliers, procurement could actually build strong emotional connections for the benefit of both parties? It’s possible.

And, if it works, the entire procurement-supplier relationship will change to provide better results, for more impact, greater transparency and increased shareholder value. And it can all happen faster, more efficiently.

It’s time for change

Quite frankly, the world has changed. Procurement teams who simply think their role is to reduce costs or ‘drive a hard bargain’ in a way that compromises supplier relationships may very well no longer have a job in 10 years’ time. Changing the very nature of the procurement function and its business impact isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s a ‘must-have’.

But it’s not just up to procurement teams to change this.

Procurement does not operate in a silo. As the impact of the coronavirus expands across the world it becomes increasingly obvious that managing suppliers in isolation will not solve bigger problems. As those who buy and procure goods and services, procurement doesn’t just have a responsibility to our organisations: it has a responsibility to know about every touchpoint along the supply chain.

The answer lies in collaboration

There are already pockets of people who do it right: who share information willingly, who build supplier relationships for the benefit of all parties and who understand the data behind the data. 

They deserve to be supported in this change.

It’s time for suppliers and technology providers, for vendors and innovators to join forces and make procurement of the future a business unit to be proud of.

Technology providers need to come in with a collaboration-first mindset and then make a commitment. Vendors should be saying, ‘This is what we think you need, this is how we’re going to solve that problem, and this is the ROI this solution can deliver.’

To improve connectivity within organisations and between procurement and suppliers we need to put collaboration first.

Rise Of The Procurement Ecosystem

Why is an ecosystem approach better than an end-to-end source-to-settle (S2S) suite in procurement and buying?


Digitisation of procurement and sourcing is in full swing. And the applications that provide these services are booming.

But these vendors typically offer full end-to-end source-to-settle (S2S) suites, with only part of their solution dedicated to procurement and sourcing. 

In the latest ‘2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites’, only 59 per cent of respondents indicated that they used a sole solution for their P2P processes. 

But times are changing. And the days of an end-to-end S2S suite are coming to an end.

According to Gartner’s report, Don’t Assume You Have to Use an S2S Suite to Digitalise Procurement and Sourcing, ‘By 2021, the major source-to-settle providers will all offer extensive APIs and rearchitect their solutions to provide “unifying platforms” rather than one-size-fits-all solutions.’ 

There may be some organisations in which a sole S2S suite works just fine for their sourcing and procurement needs. But for the majority of larger organisations, and especially those operating on a global scale, that’s not the case.

Change your view of integration

According to the Gartner report Don’t Assume You Have to Use an S2S Suite to Digitalise Procurement and Sourcing, ‘One of the main reasons that buying organisations are attracted to the full suites is to minimise integrations. While this is understandable, it can’t be prioritised over having the right solutions.’

More advanced applications, like Basware’s, are built with integration in mind. In the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites report, Basware won awards for our strong integration capabilities. 

We received positive feedback from customers as to our integration abilities with back-end ERP systems, especially.

Basware solutions come with certified ERP intelligence, enabling seamless interoperability with the world’s leading ERP systems, including SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics. 

But our network of plug-ins also allows customers to pick and choose, then plug in, the applications and solutions that best fit their needs.

And while we’re proud of our history of innovation and P2P solutions, we’re also aware that in order to remain a leader in our field we’ve got to adapt and understand how we fit into the larger landscape of the future of S2S.

Gartner supports this sort of ecosystem of preconnected partners. And though this may cause a conflict for many S2S vendors, that’s not the case with Basware. 

We agree that ERP omnisuites have failed customers and believe that S2S suites will, too. Instead, we’re offering customers Networked P2P with a strong API framework and 100 per cent spend capture. 

Using this as the core solution, customers can build category-specific strategies to use the latest innovations such as cognitive sourcing, services governance or contingent workforce management, while capturing all spend into a single platform.

Consider a specialist

A ‘one size fits all’ approach might seem like an easy solution to your S2S problems. But this sort of blanket approach isn’t practical. It’s clear that no vendor offers a full S2S suite that is best in class across all modules. 

By going with a full S2S suite, customers are locking themselves into suites of uneven quality that will often take years to roll out.

This can lead to low and slow adoption rates.

And in order to achieve user adoption, Gartner says you ‘should focus on finding solutions that fits your buying organisation’s needs as closely as possible. This means that, in many areas, it makes sense to consider alternative specialist solutions to replace or — in some cases complement — the suite offerings.’

At Basware, we firmly believe in a future in which a microservices architecture will enable customers to manage vendors and spend in a core spend management platform like ours but also allow them to capitalise on the latest in specialist services. 

This could include:

  • Solutions for complex sourcing categories, like packaging and logistics
  • Linkages via API to data sources addressing sustainability, supplier diversity and other dimensions of supplier risk
  • Procurement savings forecasting.

Out of 13 vendors, Basware was awarded many top placings in ‘Gartner’s “Critical Capabilities for Procure-to-Pay Suites 2019”’.

These placings include the following, among others: 

  • #1 for AP Automation (Critical Capability)
  • #1 in Partner Ecosystem (Critical Capability)
  • #1 for Supply Chain Financing (Critical Capability) 
  • Tied for #1 in Integration (Critical Capability).

Next steps in your S2S ecosystem journey

As organisations become more comfortable with an ecosystem approach to procurement and sourcing technologies, they can also begin to understand their vendor’s partner ecosystem and how it aligns their roadmap.

Leading procure-to-pay vendors have established ecosystems with many preconnected and verified partners across various application markets. This includes partners such as ERP vendors, tax engines, supplier data providers and strategic sourcing application vendors.

To understand the value you can derive from a vendor’s product ecosystems, and to evaluate the effectiveness of its community, Gartner recommends requesting the following:

  • Data from the vendor outlining the number of ecosystem participants, the trajectory at which the ecosystem is growing and insight into those that use it regularly.
  • Metrics that disclose the number and frequency of documents, components or templates being uploaded by the vendor to the community (often called an online library).
  • A summary of the past three years of product updates originating from, or inspired by, suggestions from ecosystem partners.
  • Customer references that you can contact directly for an assessment of the vendor’s product ecosystems, and any user groups that they may participate in.

Ready to learn more? Read more about Basware’s rankings in the Gartner “Critical Capabilities for Procure-to-Pay Suites 2019” report. Download now.

Questions? Contact us! We’re here to help as you navigate the changes of P2P ecosystems.

How To Seize The Opportunities and Manage The Risks

Where supply chains are already complex, increased visibility throughout the supply chain and closer monitoring of risk are becoming more common…


By hybridimages/ Shutterstock

In 1992, Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama, the American political scientist and author, published the much-praised The End of History and the Last Man, which suggested that the spread of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism meant that the final and ideal form of human government was now clear and established. He foresaw “the end of history as such.”

It’s clear that 25 years on, life has not quite worked out like that.

The world continues to be as unpredictable as ever, with the rise of unexpected leaders such as President Trump, the emergence of China as a global superpower, Brexit, wars in the Middle East, and many other developments. All we can say about the future is there is still plenty of history left to be written, and anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen is a genius, crazy, or simply a liar.

Look for opportunities

But of course, times of change bring huge opportunities, too. The digital revolution has turned industries upside down, with disruptive market entrants seizing market share. Some incumbents adapt well and others don’t. Emerging markets hold great potential, too, which many western firms have been slow to pick up on. For instance, by 2050, Nigeria will be the third-most-populated country in the world, with more citizens than the United States.

It is also amazing how rapidly the politico-economic situation appears to change today; a few weeks ago, the press was reporting that the United States and Europe were about to enter a trade war. One meeting later, all seems well again, and the “U.S. and EU reach deal to calm trade war fears,” as The Guardian reported.

Where does this apparently ever-increasing pace of change leave the procurement professional and the organisations in which they work?

I’ve previously compared Brexit to the over-hyped “millennium bug” (Y2K) and related challenges stating that unlike Y2K, where there was a defined risk and problem to solve, Brexit poses significantly more uncertainty and therefore perhaps a wider range of risks to review.

That uncertainty is central to the challenge for organisations. We know there will be issues to be faced; tax, customs, and trade complexities, for example. But it is impossible to know yet exactly how Brexit will affect the business environment at the national, sector, or individual company level. So although it might seem tempting, this is not the time for procurement executives (or indeed anyone in business) to pull the blankets over our heads and ignore the situation – the “wake me up when it’s all over” approach, we might call it. The UK was, after all, an independent nation for many, many years before it joined the EU. 

We know life will go on after March 31, 2019!

 Be prepared

Indeed, fortune favors the prepared. Scenario planning, looking at the “what if” questions, is essential for organisations that can see their business being potentially impacted by Brexit. And whatever happens, procurement or supply chain leaders, with their focus on the external world, have a particularly important role to play.

Where supply chains are already complex, increased visibility throughout the supply chain and closer monitoring of risk are becoming more common with the help of leading edge technology including blockchain and “cobots”.  Increased deployment of blockchain solutions, for example, enhances frictionless, secure transactions and smart contracts, minimising paperwork and effort to manage compliance with increased regulations. While it’s early days for blockchain adoption outside of financial services, almost all major manufacturing organisations have ongoing work in this area.

But let’s finish with two key takeaways for procurement leaders based very much on currently available technology. Both relate to areas where digitalisation should continue or even be accelerated to position the organisation well for Brexit and a period of change.

First, make sure your procurement “fundamentals” are in good shape.Digital technology provides the means to do this more effectively than ever: robust vendor master data; visibility on spend and suppliers; and accurate, relevant, timely data about spend and spending plans, suppliers, and contracts. Understanding the supply situation in its widest sense is essential if the organisation wants to be well positioned to handle future change, shocks, and opportunities.

Second, consider the specific need for supply chain risk management to be robust, effective, and dynamic. That covers not just political risks, of course, but also financial risk, reputational risk, “man-made” risk (e.g., labor disputes at supplier plants), or natural disasters. It also needs to consider multi-tier supply chain risk, not just immediate suppliers. Technology is a key enabler here, as well, but organisations need to consider skills and mindset too when it comes to effective risk management.

To sum up, while no one would pretend that there won’t be issues, problems, and costs associated with Brexit, for the UK and indeed other countries, there will be opportunities, too.

SAP Ariba are sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March 14th. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever you are in the world. 

Procurement Pros – What’s Your Legacy?

Procurement leaders are starting to use the phenomenal buying power of their organisations to address big social challenges. What legacy do you want to leave?

In the old days, procurement was focused on two things: minimising costs and risk.

Purpose should be a pivotal part of every organisation’s business strategy. Being purpose-focused is essential to engaging customers and employees and being perceived as relevant, admired, and innovative by investors, partners, communities, and public entities. Today, it’s all about sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Why are organisations increasing their focus in this area? It is not purely out of the goodness of their hearts, rather, they understand that key stakeholder groups care about these issues.

Consumers increasingly gaining a conscience is helping to drive this change. According to the 2016 US National Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, which surveyed some 1200 individuals, 39 per cent  of consumers are likely not to buy a company’s products or services if they believe they are not “responsible” and 25 per cent will actively advise friends and family to avoid the company. Additionally, the report reveals that 84 per cent of global consumers actively seek out responsible products whenever possible.

Everywhere you look, business is under scrutiny. Whether it is for environmental practices, labour conditions, tax or paying suppliers on time, individual citizens increasingly are expecting companies to behave in a socially responsible manner. Stock exchanges and Governments are also now issuing requirements for companies to report on CSR data in annual reports, and CSR is increasingly perceived by investors to be important for their understanding of a company’s risks and opportunities.

Many of these issues are embedded in supply chains, and the role of procurement and supply chain in addressing them is therefore clear. Concerned citizens will expect action from government and businesses, which will, in turn, encourage firms to take steps that will reverberate throughout complex supply chains. The world is becoming smaller, which means we have increased, and faster, access to information about what organisations are doing and how they behave. This is a great opportunity for procurement and supply chain executives to play a leading role in these “wider world” issues.

This issue is no longer just for idealists or activists. For example, globally there are 46 million people worldwide who are modern-day slaves and about 150 million child workers. Any company doing business needs to make sure that its supply chain is not tainted by this cruel practice, and in many countries now, it’s not just best practice – it’s the law.

Eliminating forced labour from your supply chain is just one example of what SAP Ariba calls “procurement with purpose”. This is an umbrella term that includes social, environmental and sustainability practices. Leveraging the power of business networks like SAP Ariba and the intelligent, cloud-based applications underlying it, companies can gain a whole new level of transparency into the capabilities, performance, and social and environmentally responsible practices of their suppliers – and their suppliers’ suppliers. They can map the bill of materials for products and services right down to their raw materials and cross-reference this information with hotspots where there is a high propensity for the use of forced and child labor to determine their risk.  And, more importantly, they can receive timely alerts, which can be used to drive actions and report on them in meaningful ways.

All business leaders need to be focused on these topics. Research suggests that companies that do so can significantly outperform their rivals over a 10-year period. Or look at it this way: can you afford the reputational risk of a photo in social media showing one of your suppliers using child labour?

To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate”. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock (the world’s largest investment company)

Procure with Purpose

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’ve been shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Diversity and Inclusion.

Click here to enroll and gain access to all future Procure with Purpose events including exclusive content, online events and regular webinars.  

SAP Ariba are sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March 14th. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever you are in the world.