Category Archives: Generation Procurement

How to Prepare Your Organisation for the Cognitive Revolution

Everyone procurement team is talking about AI, cognitive technology and machine learning. But for these technologies to work at their best, your business needs to be prepared… 

There is a lot of talk these days about Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Sourcing, Machine Learning, and data-driven procurement.

Almost every major procurement organisation in the world talks about how their organisation uses these tools to make decisions.

The direction of procurement is almost certainly towards data-driven decision-making.  This is a reality we all need to embrace.

I certainly subscribe to the notion that the best procurement decisions come from fact-based data-driven strategies and I firmly believe that over time, cognitive tools and technologies will become better and more effective than they are Today.

The truth is that we are not there yet.

As someone who’s industry is in the cross-hairs of cognitive technologies, I have been exposed to more than a few examples of how this technology works.

The category knowledge that these tools will draw from to generate their insights currently resides with guys and gals like me.  As such, we (the subject matter experts and category leaders) of the procurement space hold a special and specific set of keys that unlock these technologies.  It is with that focus that I would like to proceed.

In order for these technologies to work best there are certain fundamental elements that must be right in order for the tool to generate the best insights.

Good Data

Well organised and structured data is an essential foundation for cognitive technologies.

When it comes to any form of data analytics, the old adage “garbage in, garbage out” still holds .  Unfortunately, the vast majority of organisations simply have poor data.

Before you can point any cognitive tools at your data set, the data needs to be scrubbed and normalised.  This is still done manually by a team of people.  I’m sure one day this will be 100 per cent automated and perhaps technology will find a way to avoid these errors in the first place.  The fact is that whenever we receive data Today, it is highly flawed and requires weeks of work to make it usable.

Here is a good primer on data collections.

Be sure you allow sufficient time for your data to be cleansed before you deploy your cognitive tools.

Define your Benchmarks

The greatest value that AI and cognitive will bring is being able to benchmark your organisation in ways never before possible.

In a recent article I wrote on how to use bench-marking to develop cost estimates, but cost estimating is not the extent of how you can use bench-marking with AI.

Consider the value of bench-marking your organization against a competitor’s current performance.  Cognitive tools allow you to bring in publicly available information in real time.

Imagine that you are an electronics manufacturer and your closest rival releases their financial report.  Cognitive tools can seek out these reports and extract data from them to benchmark against your performance.  You can also combine cognitive tools with web crawlers that seek out competitor’s pricing information.  Without cognitive tools, this kind of information would require weeks or months of manually collecting data.  Cognitive tools allow this kind of analysis to be done instantly.

To take advantage of AI, take time to consider all the different ways you can measure your performance and see if you can come up with a few you never thought possible before.

Market Indices

All goods and services are affected by market forces. Staying on top of market indices is important for making strategy decisions.

An effective cognitive data strategy uses data from market indices.  Market Indices will enrich your own data and allow you to forecast into the future.  Adding this level of depth to your cognitive platform will reveal the actionable insights that cognitive data promises.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is great resource for all kinds of indices.  If you are in construction, there are a number of private organizations that publish various indices to help forecast the future.  Look at the AIA, Dodge, and AGCjust to name a few.

Add market indices to your data set to enrich your analytics and strategise with forecasting.

Category Expertise

Cognitive technologies offer beautiful data outputs rich in data and content, on their own these outputs are just eye-candy.  The interpretation of that data and content must be made by skilled experienced subject matter experts.

Eventually we may get to the point where computers can read the data and a clear strategy will be automatically spit-out for anyone to act on.  Even then, how you act on the data will require some expertise.  Until such time, you must have your cognitive data interpreted by a human with category expertise.

It’s too easy for data to be misinterpreted and for an organisation to run-off in the wrong direction.  Even the most advanced Artificial Intelligence we have Today is unable to interpret the various human factors that go into strategy making and for that reason, Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) are still required.

Be sure you know that the person who will receive and interpret your data has the skills needed to execute a sound strategy.  After all the time and energy you invest in cognitive tools, you need to be sure your direction is sound.

Closing

The future of AI and cognitive is bright.  We are heading in a great new direction where information will rule.  Today there are a few trail-blazers paving the way for us all.  Those using these new technologies Today are sure to be better prepared Tomorrow as they find new and creative ways of using data to guide their business decisions.


This article was originally published on Luis Gile’s website. Check out more of his content here. 

Sign up for next week’s webinar: Clean Up Your Act! Category Management AI-Style. 

How To Upgrade Your Procurement Mindset

In a world where cost-savings are no longer king in procurement, how can the function demonstrate its business value and earn a seat at the table? Jaime Mora talks upgrading your procurement mindset!

In recent years, our organisations have gotten a better understanding of the valuable contribution Procurement can deliver to the business.

And yet, there remains a feeling that the function has not yet reached its full potential. Procurement is certainly a relevant and appreciated corporate function. But we’re not yet sitting in the C-Suite…

As procurement professionals, we unanimously agree that the function should be elevated within the business, but convincing those at the top is easier said that done.  Whilst all organisations consider implementing cost-savings to be a crucial part of business success, it’s no longer regarded as a strategic process or a competitive advantage. Leaders are becoming increasingly aware that savings alone will not distinguish them against  their competitors. As such, procurement can be dismissed within the business as a less important function.

The bottom-up approach

If traditional procurement contributions are not at the top of an organisation’s agenda, how can procurement earn its place in the C-Suite?

It’s difficult to find a “one size fits all” recipe but we could start by upgrading our procurement mindset. I propose that we rebrand  ourselves as: “External Competitive Advantage Strategists.”

But what on earth does that mean?

As it stands, we’re  pressured into taking a bottom-up approach to our work. We know we have to bring savings to the table, we achieve this, and only then do we start thinking about the other nice things we can do with our time; innovation, sustainability, supplier development etc. And we deliver on those things too.

It makes sense that the more value-adding contributions we make, the more arguments we have to justify a spot, and a voice, at the highest levels of the organisation.

But in reality,  we end up doing bits and pieces here and there, following trends and simply trusting our gut.

Taking this approach is one of the reasons that procurement objectives and output may deviate from actual business goals.

Taking a top-to-bottom approach

If we truly want to step up our contributions, we should be taking a top-to-bottom approach. Our organisations operate in highly competitive environments, where sustainable advantages are required in order for us to outperform our competitors.

Procurement is uniquely positioned in the business given our access to so much information from our supply networks and an awareness of the opportunities here. We’re in the perfect position to source more than just products and services – we can actually source competitive advantage.

Procurement is capable of seeing things strategically. We can analyse where our organisation stands in a competitive environment and we are capable of both meeting our business targets and identifying where and how our organisation could compete better.  To take a holistic approach, this should be complemented with strategic analyses of our suppliers.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece,  cost-savings will always be appreciated. But procurement’s work should never be limited to that. The new approach to procurement is about sourcing the external competitive advantages on offer to give our organisation unique advantages in a competitive environment.

Imagine the following scenario: one of my organisation’s strategies is to develop its people. From my knowledge of the supply market I know a particular supplier that is uniquely skilled in people management and development and this makes them the most competitive supplier. We have the power to bring this supplier to the table; to initiate the discussion to build a partnership and leverage the supplier’s competitive advantage, or even a vertical integration.  Boom! Now Procurement is sitting at the M&A table.

As saving becomes a commodity and not a priority, it is time to reinvent procurement. Leave the Procurement Manager title behind and become a External Competitive Advantage Strategist!

3 Top Tips For Dealing With Legacy Contracts

How sure are you that all your current contracts are still delivering their intended value? Or is the legacy beginning to hold you back?

In the third article in a series charting the key issues in public sector procurement, we examine the challenge of delivering value in long-term contracts.

As we have discussed in previous articles, time is a precious commodity in public sector procurement. The time taken to tender, retender or extend contracts needs to be factored in when making an initial decision on contract length.

Make the contract too short and there’s less scope for realising the value that you have worked into it, or very little incentive for suppliers to invest in the relationship (and potentially offer something of more value, for example, innovative solutions).

However, a contract that is too long has just as many issues. There’s more time for relationships to sour and more time away from the market where new solutions and technology might be providing better services and efficiencies. Finally it’s more time locked into a contract where costs are only likely to be on the rise.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to contract length. A goods contract might benefit from a shorter term as it means new products or solutions can be assessed as the market develops them. There’s also the argument that for less complex goods a strong business relationship isn’t as critical, particularly if you aren’t going to do business with them again in the future.

That’s not to say certain products shouldn’t have longer contracts instead. Where there is high value, or a high level of complexity, a longer contract term may be necessary to ensure continuity of supply, or ensure the stability of a supplier.

A service contract might be better served with a longer contract. There’s more time for both parties to develop their relationship and gives the supplier time to understand the service without looking over their shoulder from Day 1.

But what of the contracts that professionals have no say over their length?

The Legacy Issue

It’s inevitable with the churn of professionals that at some point you will end up in a role where there are contracts that have been put in place by colleagues who have moved to a new role, or left the organisation entirely.

And you’ll certainly not be alone in thinking, “why have they done this?” when you get your hands on the contract specifics. You’ll probably even end up attributing issues on the contract to PBE (Previous Buyer Error) – even if you swore you’d never be one of those people!

In the public sector, the majority of these contracts will be in place for 3-5 years, potentially with an extension period should it be applicable for the contract, good or service. The extension could be up to another two years, meaning there’s a long time between procurement exercises for the product in question.

A hangover from previous public sector practice in procurement is perhaps the willingness to set contract length at 3 years and rarely changing. This might be the norm for frameworks (limited to 4 years at its longest length anyway), but as we have mentioned, there’s scope to make the length shorter where appropriate.

Another consideration for legacy contracts come in the information that is attached to them. It’s likely that, unless it’s been refreshed, most of the information will be out of date. Without the up to date information, you may not be able to see the full picture and it’s something that will have to be done as a priority when it comes to any extension or retender.

Finally, you should always be aware of what Terms & Conditions the contract was issued with and if it complies with all current regulations and legislation. Compliance is key here, so you shouldn’t hesitate to speak to your Legal team. It’s also something to remember when setting up new contracts that they account for all legislation, both current and potentially to come into force during the contract term.

From Legacy to Cutting-Edge

There’s no getting away from the legacy issue. You might put in a terrific, watertight contract now, but in 3-5 years’ time, it could be one of those legacy contracts your colleagues are wrangling with! If there’s no getting away from it then, what is there to do?

Never think you can’t put your own mark on a contract, even if it’s already up and running. Even a contract that’s over halfway through still has another half where you can contract manage and add value, all the while looking at options for the new contract.

So what are my top tips for dealing with the legacy issue? I’ve put some below:

1. It’s never too late to start contract management

Ultimately, preserving or releasing value in a contract comes down to the quality of the contract management. And it’s never too late to do some good contract management. If you work on the basis of any value is good value then even half a contract is enough time to make sure that your organisation is getting something out of this.

2. Use the time to build relationships

If you’re struggling to release any value from a legacy contract, use the remaining time to build up good relationships with the incumbent supplier. You’ll get to know their business and anything you learn can help when it comes to putting together new requirements for the next contract. At the very worst, you’ll get a chance to assess the whole market and see your other supply options!

3. Prepare for the new contract

Don’t leave it too late to start working on the new iteration of the contract (or retender). You might have planned for a good exit, but you need to be sure that any new contract going to do a better job. Use the time wisely and make sure that you put any lessons learned into practice.

How Not To Break Up With Suppliers: 5 Tips From the Movies

What can Hugh Grant, Will Ferrell and Homer Simpson teach us about ending important relationships in procurement?

Credit: PolyGram/Working Title Films, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Knowing me, knowing you (a-haaaa)
We just have to face it
This time we’re through
Breaking up is never easy, I know
But I have to go…

ABBA – Knowing Me, Knowing You (1976)

I’m not the first to draw a parallel between romantic break-ups and ending a relationship with a strategic supplier. The similarities are many: the relationships may have existed for years (decades in some cases), you’ve been through both good times and bad together, and sometimes your two companies are so interwoven that there can be no hope of a clean break.

But… all good things must come to an end sooner or later. Without going into the tell-tale signs of when it’s time to let a supplier go (that’s an article in itself), I’d like to concentrate on how not to end a supplier relationship. And – once again – let’s look to Hollywood to provide an illustration for each point.

1. Don’t make a shock announcement

“Ricky – you and I – we both know this marriage has been over for a long, long time.”

“I honestly did NOT know that!”

Don’t be like Carley Bobby in Talladega Nights. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a shock break-up, it’s incredibly unpleasant for the person who was hitherto living under the assumption that things were going smoothly.

Giving your suppliers no hint that the relationship isn’t working is both unfair and unprofessional. Break-up “shock” can be avoided by holding regular and ongoing catch-ups where KPIs are tracked and red flags discussed, along with honest communication about your organisation’s willingness to continue the relationship into the future.

Don’t be fake! If you’re deeply unhappy with your supplier’s performance but you’re all smiles and encouragement whenever you meet, it really won’t help the situation as the supplier will see no reason to make changes or improvements.

And who knows? If you’re able to have an honest discussion with your supplier about why you won’t be renewing their contract, it may become the catalyst for a change in behaviour that ends up removing the need to break up altogether.

2. Don’t be blasé

“Welcome to Dumpsville, population: YOU.”

Don’t be like Homer Simpson. After it’s revealed that Bart has tricked Edna Krabappel with a series of fake love letters, the Simpson family rally around to compose a final letter that will sensitively end the relationship without further breaking the heart of poor Edna. Homer, unfortunately, just doesn’t get it.

Don’t be flippant. Be serious – the decision to change suppliers can potentially impact people’s careers and livelihoods. In the case of small suppliers, it may even bring them to the brink of bankruptcy if your business makes up a high proportion of their income.

Make time for a proper conversation. Schedule a face-to-face meeting if possible, or a phone call as the next-best option – but don’t hide behind an email.

Similarly …

3. Don’t be cold

“Rhett! If you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

After Rhett Butler delivers this zinger to Scarlett O’Hara in the closing moments of Gone With The Wind, she collapses sobbing on the stairwell. Scarlett is heartbroken, and clearly needs help – but Rhett has already gone, striding determinedly off into the heavy fog.

The equivalent behaviour in procurement would involve calling a supplier to end the relationship, then hanging up without giving them an opportunity to debrief and discuss. It’s entirely possible that the supplier won’t want to talk (and might even hang up on you), but if they do want a discussion you need to make yourself available.

To share a story from my FMCG days, I remember sitting next to a procurement colleague who had the unenviable job of ending a relationship with a small supplier over the phone. The call lasted about one and a half hours. After the initial, difficult part of the conversation, the supplier asked her for advice on what they should do next – and that’s when the whole tone of the conversation shifted to that of a positive coaching session. By the end of the call, the supplier was still understandably upset but also armed with plenty of advice for the future.

One last thing to keep in mind is that business requirements are cyclical. Although you may not want to work with a particular supplier any more, who knows what the situation will be a few years down the track. If you ended the relationship coldly or otherwise unprofessionally, it’s going to be very difficult to pick up from where you left off.

4. Don’t do it at the wrong time

“Do you love someone else? Do you, Charles?”

“… I do.”

Don’t be like Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral. While he ultimately makes the right decision, his shocking timing earns him a much-deserved punch to the face from his jilted bride.

In a way this advice contradicts what I wrote above about keeping your suppliers fully informed about how the relationship is going, but you do need to use some common sense when it comes to picking your moment.

Suppliers who value a relationship will often go the extra mile, whether this means putting more staff onto a project, or working additional hours without passing those costs on to you. It pays to keep in mind that once a supplier knows they’re soon to be let go, they may not perform with quite so much gusto in those last few weeks or months of the contract.

Another parallel to help illustrate this point is when someone in your team is working out the last few weeks of their employment after taking a redundancy – you’re never going to see their best work in that period.

5. Don’t send mixed messages

“Please don’t go.”

“I am not spending the rest of my life with a loser. I’m gone.”

 “Good, then get the hell out of my life! Who needs you? Beat it! Leave me alone! … [2 seconds later] “I’m sorry baby, I didn’t mean that either…”

Adam Sandler is at his best in this scene from Happy Gilmore where he’s alternately screaming abuse and crooning love songs into his apartment building’s intercom. While he desperately wants to stop his girlfriend leaving, he’s also consumed by a schizophrenic desire to get in the last, angry word.

Suppliers want to know where they stand with you and your organisation so they can plan for the future and invest in your relationship with confidence. Again; good communication, honesty and transparency are the way to go. Crystal-clear KPIs will help you clearly delineate where suppliers are performing well, and where they need to improve if they want their contract renewed.

The other factor that can muddy the waters of supplier relationships is misalignment within your own organisation. This can involve the supplier receiving contradictory messages from the different parts of your organisation that they work with, pulling them in different directions and ultimately harming their ability to meet your company’s overall requirements.

Do you have another example from cinema that illustrates one of the points above? Share a link below!

4 Reasons Why Your Organisation Isn’t Embracing Cognitive

In the battle for capital, how does procurement ensure its cognitive projects come out on top?

At last month’s London CPO roundtable; Amit Sharma, Global Procurement Practice Leader for Cognitive Process Services (CPS) –IBM led our attendees in a discussion on how procurement leaders can ensure their cognitive projects come out on top.

There is so much potential in cognitive technology to transform the role of procurement. It will allow professionals to do dynamic forecasting, telling you when to raise acquisition and awards contracts to a particular supplier based on a triage.

“For procurement, maintaining our relevance to the organisation beyond cost savings is imperative” said Amit.  “[Procurement pros] need to embed the latest in technology as best practise into the business as it will free up our time and help us to move from transactional to strategic management.”

“The logic is unquestionable.  We know the sophistication of AI is going to come. It’s a question of when, not if.”

But when it comes to making the leap to cognitive, which can do a world of good for analytical and predictive analysis, organisations are still hesitant.

Procurement needs to make the business case for how cognitive can add long-term value and, as Amit reminded us, “If you’re not convinced, you can’t convince someone else”

Throughout our discussion, four key reasons for an organisation’s reluctance to embrace cognitive tech became apparent.

1. Remaining skepticism at the value of cognitive

As Amit explained, cognitive technology like Watson can help procurement professionals to analyse reams of data. It would, for example, allow users to plot the price at which they are being charged for something by suppliers and analyse how the index has moved in past [x] years. Five years ago this process would have been extremely time consuming but with the index data, the system can quickly tell you exactly where you’ve been overcharged.

So it all sounds great. But in reality, business leaders are often skeptical about the actual cost savings brought about by this kind of analysis.

Do you genuinely make better decisions in the long term by having so much data at your fingertips? Or can you have just as much success through effective negotiations with your suppliers?

Amit’s response to this “If you’re not doing spend compliance – you don’t know if you’re compliant. If you’re not analysing this data, you don’t know the potential cost savings.”

“I spoke to a CPO who thought their processes were good. [But it was discovered that] there was a 40 per cent unit price difference across the company in the same category, simply because the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing!”

2.  Spend within organisations is fragmented

One key problem for procurement, when it comes to implementing cognitive technology, is that the CPO doesn’t always have the authority to drive transformation. Perhaps they are reporting to a CFO who doesn’t see value in cognitive tech or the spend might simply be too fragmented across the business. When it depends on lots of other people, procurement are unable to drive change effectively.

As one of our roundtable attendees pointed out “there are organisations I know who can’t justify the need to implement Ariba to their CFO- let alone cognitive technology!”

3. Trouble looking at the bigger picture

Several of our roundtable attendees cited short-termism as a key reason for their organisation’s lack of cognitive adoption. “The mistake we make is that we look at opps in a tactical way and not at the bigger picture,” said one CPO.

“For example, we know that there will be headcount reduction in the coming years and we will benefit hugely from cognitive tech, but articulating that at a hollistic level to the CFO and explaining it as a 5-year journey is the challenge”

4. Confusion about AI

Remarkably, one of the biggest challenges remaining around  the uptake of cognitive technology is a universal lack of understanding of what it actually is and the distinctions between different terms.

“You can start talking to a group about AI and within a few minutes people are talking about blockchain, as if the two are interchangeable,” said one of our attendees. “People need to have a clearer understanding of the buzzwords ; AI, blockchain cognitive etc.”

Of course, there are people who know a little and people who know a lot. And that’s a challenge in itself.

Read more here on the insightful discussions had at our London CPO roundtable. 

Procurement 2030: Makeover or Game Over?

The profession must evolve, but which way will it go? How can procurement give its value offering a makeover, and what are the indispensable human skills that will future-proof procurement careers … before it’s Game Over? Take the survey to help us find out!

10-15 minutes is all it will take to put yourself in the running to win a retro, cocktail-style arcade machine!

We need your input to discover:

  • What’s keeping procurement and supply management professionals awake at night as we hurtle towards the brave new world of Industry 4.0?
  • How is your procurement function preparing today for the digital revolution?
  • Which skills are most likely to be automated, and which skills are irreplaceable?
  • What does the future of procurement talent look like?

We’ve kept the survey to under 15 minutes – we know you’re busy!

Cool prize, right? But you’ve got to be in it to win it! The Procurement 2030: Makeover or Game Over survey is only open until Friday 22nd June. Participants will also receive a copy of the report summarising the findings of the survey.

CLICK HERE to take the survey!

One Step Closer To Invoice Automation…

How can smart coding functionality take invoice automation one step further…?

Depending on your organisation, the maturity of your invoice processing is likely varied even across your own internal workflows for different invoice types.

And like many others in your shoes, your goal is to get those things as automated as possible – regardless of invoice type – and shoot for 100 per cent invoice automation. The good news is full invoice automation is an attainable goal with innovation available in e-invoicing solutions today like smart coding.

What is smart coding?

Smart coding helps customers further automate their invoice processing of non-PO invoices, going a step further towards touchless invoice handling. With smart coding, invoices that are not automated by purchase order matching, payment plans (schedule, budget or self-billing), or automatic coding templates can now be automatically coded with minimal human interaction.

Why should you care about smart coding?

Smart coding speeds up invoice processing and improves productivity.

Traditionally, non-PO invoices are automated with business rules that are very laborious to manage. Finding a correct cost allocation is typically a challenging task for employees who are not familiar with bookkeeping rules, especially when there is no purchase order to copy information from. It requires the AP clerk to spend a lot of focus on this type of invoices – researching the origination of the invoice, reaching out to others in the business to ask questions and making an educated guess as to the best place to code the invoice. All of this takes time and often delays payment of non-PO invoices.

Smart coding automates those manual steps, so employees can easily code an invoice with a click of a button to automate more of the process. The solution leverages big data to analyse historical transactions, ultimately providing a highly reliable recommendation to the user that can also be complemented with business rules. Not only does this simplify the process for the user and save time in processing the invoice, it also reduces the need for the AP department to rectify erroneous coding lines at month-end.

How does full invoice automation prepare me for the future?

Everyone is talking about machine learning and AI – and invoice automation and e-procurement are certainly areas of application for these emerging technologies. But there a couple of things you must do today to ensure you’re ready when those technologies become the new norm. Use smart coding to help you:

  1. Automate as much as possible: Machine learning and AI are layered over systems, so you want to be as streamlined as possible in preparation for those applications. To do this, set your goals on a high level of automation. And this doesn’t just mean adding technology over clunky processes. As you mature your systems and strategy, make sure you’re re-engineering processes where necessary so workflows are optimized too.
  2. Get financial data: One major benefit of full automation is the central collection of all your financial data in one solution. Data is what feeds technologies of the future. Machine learning and AI are not effective in purchase to pay without a complete, ever increasing source of financial data. If you want to embrace machine learning applications, capture every possible piece of financial data in your purchase-to-pay system today.

Basware has the most advanced invoice automation solution in the world and we’re constantly improving it. Based on 30+ years in the industry, we’re rolling out features and functionality that continue to deliver the ultimate efficiency benefit to customers. With the largest open network, we have the unique ability to capture the most data across customers and combine that with third party data to deliver what customers need now and in the future.

6 Things To Consider Before You Buy Any Procurement Technology

Thinking of investing in some of the latest procurement technology? If you haven’t consulted market trends, got a third opinion and done all of your research, you might want to pull on the reins!

Buying procurement technology these days is a complicated business.

With ever more niche vendors entering the market and established providers offering increasingly sophisticated solutions, differentiating on face value alone can be as clear as mud. However, given that your decision will have an enterprise-wide impact, it’s crucial that you assess your options and make the most informed decision possible.

1. Separating Fact from Fiction

Of course, you will have the product marketing collateral from each provider such as datasheets and solution overviews.

However, you need to be aware of how much is marketing ‘fluff’ and how much is an accurate reflection of the solution’s capabilities.

To do this, you can turn to customer case studies and testimonials to understand what their experience of implementing and using the solution has been like. But remember, even that source of information comes with its own challenges and shortcomings. If the case study focuses on the customer’s functional use of the product, it may not offer you an accurate view of customer service levels or product performance, which are of course key considerations in making your decision.

This is where third party research and validation comes into play.

2. Look at market trends

Where do you go and how do you choose your sources of information?

The entire technology market is well served with analysts reporting trends, competencies and guidance on the good, the bad and the ugly of the industry. In searching for technology vendors that meet your requirements, this certainly helps sort the “wheat from the chaff”.

That said, the technology market is quite unique in that it experiences a rapid advance in product capabilities. With competition driving innovation, product sets evolve quickly and when you’re looking at R&D in technology sphere, one year is a long time. This means that its essential to ensure that the information you’re using, and basing your decision upon is up-to-date and reflective of the latest capabilities within the market.

3. Consult The Magic Quadrant

One of the world’s largest, most respected analyst organisations for technology research is Gartner. Each year or so, they produce the Magic Quadrant which is a culmination of research in a specific market, giving individuals a broad view of the relative positions of the market’s competitors. The Gartner Magic Quadrant research provides a graphical competitive positioning of four types of technology providers in fast-growing markets; Leaders, Visionaries, Niche Players and Challengers.

They produce this research for a range of technology sectors, including procurement sourcing applications, and it is a well-trusted source of information for assessing your options when you go to market.

Access the Latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Strategic Sourcing Application Suites.

4. Make sure you’re using up-to-date analysis

Given the considerations around the pace of advancements in the eProcurement sector,  it is all the more important to ensure that you’re using the most current information available. In addition, because of the time between each report release, you’ll find that vendors that have been in a Leaders quadrant can fall from grace into lower quadrants/waves.

This is because to remain in the Leader segment is dependent on a vendor’s investment in product functionality and features, as well as their business vision to meet the needs and demands of the procurement marketplace. Customer satisfaction and referencing is also taken into consideration for the research, meaning a strong Leader position is indicative of a satisfied customer base.

5. Get a third (Party) opinion

There are a number of consulting and analyst organisations who conduct independent research of the technology space in order to provide a clearer, qualitative segmentation of the marketplace. By supplementing the information supplied by providers with this third party research, you can validate performance and delivery to build a more objective view of the market place. To get you started, here is a short list of publishers that you can turn to for information:

  • Spend Matters Network
    This leading network of procurement websites is a great source of current procurement insight. Their commentary and reporting examines the latest news, techniques, “secret” tools of the trade, technology, and its impact. Most of the content is free to access, but there is a Spend Matters Pro membership that will give you access to exclusive research and content.
  • Procurement Leaders Network
    Procurement Leaders™ is a global membership network, serving senior procurement and supply chain executives from major worldwide corporations, providing independent procurement intelligence, professional development and peer-to-peer networking. It has a broad range of research into various sectors, but you do need to be a member to access most of the content.
  • Supply Management
    Supply Management is the official publication of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply and features the latest news, view and analysis for procurement and supply chain professionals worldwide. The website provides daily news and opinion and exclusive content, in addition to access to more than 15,000 articles.

6. Do your research

As the marketplace for procurement software and technology continues to grow, it can become a confusing place for those looking to choose a solution; you’ve niche providers who offer specific pieces of software and more established leaders offering integrated full-suite solutions. Each promises to deliver the most effective, powerful solution but how much of that is bluster and how much is grounded in truth? By all means utilise the product marketing information that a vendor provides, but scrutinise it too. Is what they say true?

Ensuring you conduct thorough third-party research and refer to existing customer testimonials is key to finding the answer to that question and key to you selecting the best solution for your organisation.

This article was written by Dan Quinn, SVP Jaggaer MENA.


Join JAGGAER In Munich next month for REV 2018 – two action-packed days, filled with the latest in eProcurement innovations, trends, and strategies designed to help you accelerate your spend management digital transformation.

Hear how your peers are leveraging highly engineered technology to deliver strategic procurement value to their organisations.

Spaces are limited so secure your place today and check out the incredible speaker line-up.

The Two Obvious Challenges Of Digital Transformation That Everyone Ignores

A digital transformation is set to take place in the coming years, and the Procurement world can expect substantial changes as a result. 

As Heraclitus once said, “the only thing that is constant is change.” Another thing that is equally true today is that digital is playing a central role in pushing organisations and individuals towards change.

Digital transforms everything, from B2B to B2C and beyond: what we consume and buy, how we consume and buy, and how we work. We are just starting to see some of these changes but what we are witnessing today is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is much more to come. Within the next few years, a digital revolution is set to take place, and the Procurement world can expect substantial changes as a result.

This is why Procurement needs to embrace “digital” and succeed in that transformation more than any other function. the function has been lagging behind and the current situation is far from ideal.

The adoption of any change is not something that should be taken for granted. John Kotter, in his international bestseller, Leading Change published in 1996, reports that 70 per cent of change initiatives in organizations and businesses fail. More recent sources reveal a similar situation. Despite years of experience in the project management field, projects continue to face the same issues and obstacles year after year:

Source: Project Management Institute: Pulse of the Profession 2018

History shows that Procurement is also not immune to recurring challenges,  especially when it comes to the Procurement technology that has been around for years. However, adoption (by teams, by stakeholders, by suppliers) is not a reality for most organizations. Analysts and research firms have all reached the same conclusion. For example, many reports show that the adoption of eSourcing by “best-in-class” companies has stagnated at 60 – 70 per cent since 2007.

So, considering its past record of poorly managing digital initiatives and the growing need to respond to ever more frequent and profound changes (both representing threats and opportunities), Procurement must urgently learn from the past and find new ways to transform and move forward. Although one article cannot cover every aspect of such a vast issue even taking the time to consider the few simple and pragmatic points presented here can already difference between success and failure.

Challenge #1: Understanding the many facets of “digital”

“Executives increasingly use the term “transformation” as shorthand for “digital transformation.” But the ongoing digital revolution does not itself constitute a transformation—it is a means to an end, and you must define what that end should be.” What Everyone Gets Wrong About Change Management, Harvard Business Review

The most common mistake that organisations make is to look at technology as the solution to all their problems and to think of it it as an end in itself (when it is just a means to an end). A second pitfall is that, many organisations tend to use new technology “to mechanize old ways of doing business. They leave the existing processes intact and use computers simply to speed them up.” By doing this they are actually missing out on the real value and transformative impact of some of the latest technologies. When implemented strategically and intelligently, new technology which can enable organisations to do things that were previously impossible.

“Ideally, [the] investment will lead to digitally automated processes, even beyond the transactional purchase-to-pay, with only limited manual support required. Such digital tools and processes will additionally support business process outsourcing and shared-services centers, further boosting efficiency. Ultimately, however, the benefits will arise not simply from reducing costs, but also from freeing up highly qualified procurement resources from mundane, repetitive tasks so they can focus on delivering value to the business.” Procurement 4.0: Are you ready for the digital revolution?, PwC

This poor understanding of what technology can do and what organisations can do with technology  is painfully evident in the misuse of words like digitisation, digitalisation, and digital transformation. These terms are often used interchangeably when they actually mean very different things:

  • Digitisation is the conversion from analog to digital. Atoms become bits (e.g. digitisation of data). You cannot digitise people.
  • Digitalisation is the process of using digital technology and the impact it has (e.g. digitalisation of a process). It is what most digital projects in Procurement are actually about.
  • Digital transformation is a digital-first approach that encompasses all aspects of business, not just Procurement (which is why ”the digital transformation of Procurement” is an abuse of language; a good one to make though). It leads to the creation of entirely new markets, customers, and businesses (people, capabilities, processes, operating models,…).

So, before defining what technological approach to take, the first step is to determine and identify the business value that needs to be captured or improved as a result of a digital project.

Challenge #2: Transformation and people

Many organisations make another serious mistake when looking at digital initiatives. They approach them in the same way they would approach simple IT/technical projects, when these projects really need to be about transforming business. n. This tendency also explains another set of common mistakes that result from forgetting the human aspects of these projects.

“In the most basic sense, people have been the missing variable in the digital transformation equation. Instead of the prior decade’s obsession with business-IT alignment, enterprises must now pursue a more balanced approach to digital transformation that’s equal parts business, experience, and technology.” 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey, PwC

Absence of (or weak) meaning

”If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” —Lewis Carroll

A surprising but persistent issue in digital projects is the lack of real business/use cases that detail “why”  the change is a necessary one (goal, purpose, vision). This lack of purpose makes it almost impossible to create the proper conditions for a successful change, to motivate people, and to drive adoption.

An organisation that does not know where it is going will have difficulties defining some of the critical aspects of digital projects. For example:

  • deliverables that include, among other things, the requirements for the solution to be implemented (poor requirement management is one of the most common issues),
  • scope (which categories, which suppliers, which geographical locations, which processes…),
  • roll-out and deployment plans (what, where, when, how).

Rushing in without planning

Being too quick to take action and not allocating enough time to planning is another frequent mistake. Most people have a natural tendency to “do” and many prefer to skip the important planning steps and tend to dive right into new projects without taking time to think. Organizations are also under pressure to get results fast, and can be over eager to “make things happen” putting even more pressure on project teams to deliver. What is interesting is that preparation and patience are important and valued in many other areas of procurement. For example, Procurement practitioners know that 90 per cent of the success in negotiations comes from good preparation, but for some reason many forget to apply that same approach when it comes to the implementation of a digital Procurement solution.

Focus on deployment while adoption is left for later

”We’ve spent an awful lot of money on technology, but I still see people working in the old way,” complained the CFO of a large hospitality company.  The result is often widely deployed internal applications that no one actually uses effectively.” Convincing Employees to Use New Technology, Harvard Business Review

When an organisation launches a project to deploy a new solution, there is an implicit understanding that the system will also be used. But, this is yet another typical mistake. Assuming that, because a system is in place, people will use it is ignoring the fact that most people are creatures of habit. To draw a parallel to savings, the difference between a deployed solution and an adopted solution is like the difference between negotiated and realised savings. Adoption will not happen automatically. To achieve true adoption, specific action needs to be taken to get people onboard and these steps need to be defined and accounted for from the start (resources, budget, time).

Another way is possible and needed!

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” –Albert Einstein

The use of digital technology in Procurement is not a new topic. However, the way Procurement organisations approach such projects has to change. Experience shows that results are not at their best; Procurement technology is still far from being widely adopted and there are still many areas that will need to improve before teams can actually benefit from past initiatives.

More importantly, “digital” means much more than using a piece of software. It is a critical capability and characteristic in a world that is becoming more and more complex and is characterized by VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity). Only digitally-enabled Procurement organisations will thrive in our modern world because they will be able to transform apparent threats into opportunities and deliver more and better business value to the rest of the organisation.

How Digital Transformation Will Shake Things Up In Procurement

Some of the gains brought about by digital transformation will be immediate – including its impact on that all-important bottom line…

Throughout the past few years, many organisations have undertaken a strategy of digital transformation.

These transformations step-change many processes for businesses in order to take advantage of embedding faster, more collaborative and more analytical ways of working to better understand and serve both the business and customers to gain competitive advantage.

By leveraging this, businesses across the globe can enhance their productivity, their agility and in turn, their profitability. Indeed, digital transformation offers the potential to significantly reduce inefficiencies across the entire supply chain.

Let’s take e-commerce as an example. By improving the efficiency of a supply chain beyond brick-and-mortar retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers, it’s possible to collectively obtain a larger profit than each working in silos. By boosting the supply chain at every touchpoint, companies can reduce the overall cost as well as the opportunity loss, and crucially achieve a greater customer satisfaction rate.

On average, 60 per cent of an organisation’s costs are made up of spend on third-party suppliers of materials, goods and services. In turn, these suppliers have suppliers of their own, and so on and so forth. Essentially, everything that an organisation owns or buys is impacted by procurement teams, which means we as a function stand to benefit enormously from digital transformation.

The opportunity for procurement

Far from the persistent fear-mongering that digital transformation will be the death of procurement; this is an incredible opportunity for the function.

Digital transformation is making it easier than ever before for procurement teams to effectively play a significant role in optimising business and its supply chain, while delivering tangible cost savings.

According to The Hackett Group’s recent study, digital transformation reduces strategic sourcing costs and cycle times by 30 per cent and reduces data-collection errors, utimately leading to cost savings.

Automation also helps category managers obtain deeper spend reductions in specific areas and identify fresh opportunities for savings. It helps organisations identify sources of additional value, i.e., through its third-party suppliers, and retain it within the organisation. This translates into further value-add for the business.

Doing more with less

With a better supply chain, determined through strategic procurement technologies, organisations can reap the benefits, from manufacturing to processing.

To return to the e-commerce example; an enhanced supply chain allows for the physical delivery of a product at higher quality and with faster delivery times. This is especially valuable in this instance; as consumer demands continue to increase, businesses are aided through digital platforms that cater to the “right here, right now” mindset — a demand driven supply chain.

Procurement technology

Technology enables productivity and this means that technology enables us to do a lot more with less. If technology is at the heart of productivity, then procurement is the lungs of it.

Because of this, there has been a great deal of innovation in procurement technologies that drive value in both public and private sectors.

In particular, these digital innovations increase transparency and productivity while engaging healthy competition; they foster an environment where  innovation can propser.  Strategic procurement tools provide organisations with an opportunity to streamline processes and increase efficiency that add value to their businesses.

Automation is at the heart of the digital imperative. Digital innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, and those that are proven to impact the bottom-line such as those that increase the productivity of an entire supply chain have the greatest influence in positively contributing towards the growing economy. Forward thinking organisations that make strategic IT investments considerably strengthen their business outlook by opening up the opportunity for greater output at a lower cost.

This article was written by Dan Quinn, SVP Jaggaer MENA.

JAGGAER’s REV International 2018 takes place in Munich on 25th-26th June. You’ll have the chance to listen to a number of industry experts and procurement thought leaders as they share their best practices and the latest in procurement innovation. Register here.