Category Archives: Procurement News

Cloud, Not Laughter, The Best Procurement Medicine

A spoonful of Cloud makes the medicine go down. Healthcare patients in England could benefit from a move to Cloud eSourcing.

laughter medicine

This article was written by Daniel Ball, Director at Wax Digital.

Healthcare organisations are under constant scrutiny to deliver high quality care to patients. In England, it’s The Care Quality Commission which regulates all health and social care services to ensure fundamental standards of quality and safety are met.

The findings of its reviews are published to the general public. This puts organisations not coming up to scratch at risk of suffering from a negative public reputation.

Improving Quality of Care

However, help is at hand from The Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP). The organisation works with healthcare organisations to identify areas where quality of care can be improved.

The HQIP is an independent organisation responsible for managing clinical audit contracts on behalf of NHS England. It was launched to promote quality in healthcare, and, in particular, to increase the impact that clinical audits can have on healthcare quality improvement.

Commissioning and managing clinical audits means having to source a range high quality external experts to carry them out. To do this, HQIP recognised that best practice procurement tendering processes were needed to to run an audit.

HQIP saw the value in moving to an eSourcing platform so that it could speed up the procurement process. It knew that if it was able to source experts quicker and do away with paper-based, manual tender processes, it could save itself valuable time and resources.

Moving to the Cloud

HQIP decided to go with Wax Digital’s cloud based web3 eSourcing. This allows the organisation to publish tenders electronically and make use of existing templates. It also enables suppliers to submit responses online.

The system also offers a mix of automated and manual scoring facilitates, with subsequent contract awards also taken care of electronically via web3.

Its project management function also allows HQIP to plan its eSourcing activities so that all relevant information is stored in one central place, which can be easily accessed by system users.

Judith Hughes, interim Head of Procurement at HQIP said: “As we’d aimed for, Wax Digital web3 has greatly improved our processes. Moving away from paper-based tendering has significantly reduced the time it takes to review and award teams for projects.

“It has also helped further ensure our quality guidelines are upheld and we now have a much more efficient way of engaging with our suppliers and them with us.”

An increasing number of healthcare organisations can benefit from the speed and efficiencies offer by cloud-based software. Innovation starts within the supply chain. By rolling out eSourcing technology, HQIP enjoys a more efficient supply chain for audit management. This in turn can aid healthcare organisations meet required care standards, and improve the quality of service for patients.

Do You Know a Rising Supply Chain Star?

Judges are looking for your nominations for a rising supply chain star for ’30 Under 30′ 2016. A multi-talented, young professional who is an influencer and trailblazer in their organisation.

rising supply chain star

ISM and THOMASNET.com’s 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars recognition programme returns for its third year, with nominations opening this week.

The programme was first launched to address a worrying lack of Millennials choosing Procurement and Supply Chain as a profession. This was particularly an issue in an environment where an entire generation of Baby Boomers were expected to retire in the next three to five years.

Together, ISM and THOMASNET.com are celebrating and broadcasting the achievements of young professionals in an effort to bring more Millennials into the profession, while also preparing them to step into senior roles earlier than expected.

Going Global

The big change this year is that the competition has been scaled up to the international level. This means we’ll see even more diversity in personalities, professionals and organisations represented by the 30 winners.

According to THOMASNET.com’s Director of Marketing and Audience Development, Donna Cicale, opening the programme up globally is an acknowledgement of where the supply management industry has been in the past, and where it’s heading in the future.

“Many supply management professionals today are managing global suppliers, responding to global issues, and thinking ahead for global growth. Young professionals all over the world are facing enormous challenges and accomplishing a huge amount.

“It makes sense to extend this fantastic recognition opportunity to these talented individuals, and learn as much as we can from one another.”

Who are the Millennials?

Research organisations and government bodies can’t seem to agree on the age range of Millennials. Typically, however, the term refers to anyone born between 1980 and 1995.

This means the youngest Millennials turn 30 in 2025, when they will make up 75 per cent of the global workforce. They’re followed by Generation Z, the oldest of whom turn 20 this year. They are now beginning to filter out of educational institutions and also enter the workforce.

What does it take to become a Supply Chain Star?

According to Cicale, judges will look for three main characteristics in the next batch of Rising Supply Chain Stars. Individuals need to be:

  • Multi-talented: “We look for people who demonstrate and excel at a wide range of skills beyond business acumen. We’re searching for fast learners, effective communicators, quick thinkers and natural leaders.”
  • Influencers: “Supply chain stars must be ‘movers and shakers’ in their organisations. They need to be skilled in getting others engaged, bringing colleagues on-board, and working towards common goals.”
  • Trailblazers: “We’re looking for individuals with ‘firsts’, or accomplishments not previously realised by their organisation. A ‘first’ can relate to timing, budget, initialisation, integration or adoption.”

Procurious caught up with inaugural 30 Under 30 winner Nick Ammaturo for his view of the essential attributes needed to win.

“When I look at the previous years’ fellow winners, I see a ton of common traits between us. There’s definitely a shared level of passion for supply chain and procurement, coupled with the motivation to advance skills and careers through challenging roles and continuous learning.

“Most importantly, 30 Under 30 winners all display curiosity. They all have a genuine interest in how their roles fit into the bigger picture.”

What prizes will the 30 winners receive?

30 Under 30 winners all receive a complimentary one-year ISM membership, as well as free admittance to ISM2017 in Orlando.

One lucky “Megawatt” winner will also have an all-expenses paid (up to $5000) trip to the same conference. Each winner also receives a THOMASNET.com Supplier Discovery and Evaluation “lunch and learn” session for their teams, and any other teams in their organisations.

Most importantly, the winners will gain widespread recognition from managers, companies and peers, as their achievements are celebrated and broadcast through industry journals, blogs, magazines and newspapers locally and globally.

Essentially, the programme identifies 30 “ones to watch” every year. Make sure you keep an eye out for the winners. They could be a future procurement leader in a company near you. And soon.

Do you have a Millennial supply chain star in mind for the 30 Under 30 awards? Nominations are now open – visit THOMASNET.com for more information.

Stimulating Competitive Bidding With Traffic Light Feedback

What does a traffic light have to do with the sourcing process? When you’re considering sharing information, it might be a good way to retain a balance.

Traffic Light

RFX processes can be frustratingly opaque for suppliers, particularly in the private sector.

Submitting a bid can be like trying to play a game of darts in the dark. After the dart leaves your hand there’s simply no way of knowing if you’ve hit anywhere near your target. And frequently there’s no response until the buyer informs you that your bid hasn’t been successful.

Don’t Give Away Too Much

Why are buyers typically so hesitant to give feedback? It may be due to a perception that knowledge is power, and giving away too much information will cause you to lose your advantage. To a certain extent, this is true. Too much granularity might allow the supplier to determine the target price necessary to win.

Similarly, giving away too little will cause your supply base to become frustrated and disengaged with the sourcing process. What buyers need to achieve is a balanced response, giving just the right amount of feedback to stimulate the supplier into giving a further discount.

A little bit of ambiguity can go a long way towards stimulating aggressive bidding behaviour, especially for suppliers who are aware that they’re in second or third place.

In a thoughtful article on the pros and cons of supplier transparency, Charles Dominick explains that a high level of transparency (through feedback) will help suppliers focus on what your needs are, instead of having to guess.

Transparency fosters open communication, collaboration and continuous improvement, and will help build your reputation for fairness and impartiality.

Finding a Better Way

Speaking at SciQuest’s Next Level Conference in Nashville, solution consultant Jason Hochreiter explained his organisation’s “Expressive Feedback” feature, which is a part of the Advanced Sourcing Optimizer module.

“Buyers need to get into the mindset of suppliers during the RFX Process”, he says. “Greater visibility of how their bid compares may actually help stimulate competitive behaviour and potentially lower bid prices during a sourcing event.”

SciQuest’s Expressive Feedback is named as such because it’s highly configurable, meaning that the buyer can choose when, how and what feedback to give suppliers during the sourcing event.

For example, the buyer may choose to only give feedback after the second round of bids, either sending out specific comments or using a green, yellow and red traffic light system to show at a glance if the bid is competitive, non-completive or significantly non-competitive.

Using the Traffic Light For Fast Decisions

Colours are a powerful tool to show suppliers at a glance how competitive they are, and if used intelligently, can encourage suppliers to make an impulsive decision to lower their bid.

Green: Consider what you need for the traffic light to show “green” – what does this actually mean? It could signal that the supplier’s price is within 10 per cent (or whatever percentage the user configures) of the target price. Or it could mean that they’re within the top five bids, without giving away their actual ranking.

Keep in mind that you wouldn’t want to alert a supplier to the fact that they are the cheapest, as it would almost certainly stop them from putting in a lower bid.

Yellow: This is where the psychology of feedback comes in. Hochreiter explains that it’s human nature to care about the loss of something (such as moving the traffic light from “green” to “yellow” status). This may prompt a fast decision to attempt to regain that status.

A supplier, seeing that they’ve slipped from the green bracket into the yellow bracket, may quickly submit a cheaper bid without considering the longer term implications of this action.

Red: Hochreiter cautions against using “red” for a supplier that you are interested in retaining. “If they see red, it’s likely that they won’t update their bid but assume instead that they are out of the race. Adjust the range as needed, so they’ll see yellow and will be more likely to compete.”

For more information about Advanced Sourcing Optimizer, please visit SciQuest website or contact SciQuest.

Lisa Malone, General Manager Procurious, was reporting from SciQuest Next Level 2016 last month, bringing you all the best bits.

Reliance on Outdated Tools Hamstrings International Growth

An over-reliance on outdated tools and processes in the supply chain is harming growth, and cutting competitive advantage.

Outdated Tools

Today’s international business environment is more complex than ever. As this complexity, and volatility, continue to grow, companies need to ensure that processes and tools are up to date. Without doing this, they risk cutting their growth prospects, and erasing their competitive advantage.

Growing global risks, evolving supplier networks, and economic difficulties in key, and traditionally stable, markets all must be factored in. Businesses not taking advantage of Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS) systems run the risk of much increased costs.

Failure to adapt to new technology also means that companies will be left with limited flexibility to respond to changing market conditions.

Responsiveness and Agility

In the past twelve months, the global economy has suffered from a period of unprecedented, and unheralded, volatility. Events like Brexit, ongoing civil unrest, and the rise of extremist terrorist organisations, have left global supply chains in jeopardy.

Organisations can no longer rest on their laurels and bank on continuing success. Ensuring success in this environment requires robust scenario planning, the ability to adapt quickly to change, and the capability to deal with changing suppliers and business partners.

As many experts have highlighted, procurement and supply chains need to be agile in order to adapt to external changes.

Outdated Tools and Systems

Global supply chain consultancy, Crimson & Co, recently conducted research into the tools and processes organisations were using in their supply chains. At a majority of respondents, they found a continued reliance on outdated tools, and legacy systems.

The research found that over two-thirds of those surveyed still relied upon ERP and spreadsheet systems.

The findings also showed the benefits that an effective APS system could deliver. Respondents highlighted a potential 20 per cent reduction in working capital, 5 per cent increase in service level, 6 per cent reduction in logistics costs, and 3 per cent reduction in the cost of goods sold.

This research has gained more credence in recent weeks, with the bankruptcy of Hanjin shipping, and the associated issues for US retailers.

Failure to Rise to Challenges

Dave Alberts, Director at Crimson & Co, explained:

“A continued reliance upon outdated planning tools like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, bolstered by an array of spreadsheets, prevents many businesses rising to these supply chain challenges.

“If supply routes need to change following disaster, or old trade agreements can no longer direct freight transport, businesses leaning on ERP systems can find themselves on the back foot and unable to take advantage of such changes.

“All in all, these outdated tools can result in significantly increased capital and service costs in the case of any changes to the supply chain status quo.”

Alberts also highlighted the need for businesses to update their planning tools in order to remain competitive. Legacy systems inhibit the ability to innovate and improve supply chain processes.

Alberts argues that these companies will likely fall behind more reactive and agile businesses supported by more flexible planning tools.

“There is a clear incentive for businesses to adopt a robust APS system. Through benchmarking of planning and scheduling solutions, companies can quickly work out the systems that need updating and the practices that need improving. They can then work to develop these areas where necessary.

“In most scenarios, the adoption of an APS system can result in reduced overall supply chain costs and greater ability to deal with complex business decisions,” Alberts concluded.

From Drowning in Paper Contracts to CMS Utopia

Lack of visibility, time-consuming manual processes – it’s an all too familiar story in procurement contract management. One university shares their journey from contract chaos, to CMS utopia.

CMS Utopia

There are few procurement professionals in the world who haven’t dealt with paper contracts at some point. And very few, if any, who would look at this experience with any sort of fondness.

For the longest time, contract management has been a labour intensive process, with myriad issues caused by the use of paper contracts.

Every business suffers from the same issues, but not every business takes the steps to make a real change. We can all learn a thing or two from North Carolina A&T State University.

Drowning in Paper

North Carolina A&T starts as an all too familiar story, as you might imagine. NC A&T is one of the USA’s top historically black colleges and universities. It employs over 2,500 people, and educates over 11,000 students at any one time.

With an award-winning faculty, and programmes that focus on community engagement, it’s very much in demand.

However, it suffered from the same issues as many of its competitors. A manual contract management system (CMS), with little or no visibility on contracts, and an average of over 15 days to execute a contract.

At Next Level 2016, Nikki Williams, Director of Procurement Services at North Carolina A&T, talked candidly, and all too familiarly, about her experience of the process.

This included the process of scanning all the pages of a contract, walking (quite literally) to the third floor for signatures, and, of course, the inability to find a contract when it was needed.

On top of this, 99 per cent of the contracts were fully executed by a third party. Although the university would sign the contract, they would never get a signed agreement back from a supplier, and therefore never have a fully executed contract.

Contracts would rarely come back from the third party, and when they did, there was no repository to store, and find, existing contracts.

Chaos to CMS Utopia

Sharing their journey from contract chaos, to contract management utopia, Nikki explains their key goals were to:

  • Optimise the CMS process by:
  1. Eliminating paper contracts – this was an enterprise business goal for the entire university
  2. Reduce contract execution time from 15+ days to 5 days
  3. Reach 100 per cent fully executed contracts, with signatures from both parties
  • Deliver insights into the CMS process with:
  1.  A mechanism which tracked each contract throughout its life
  2.  Creation of a centralised repository for all contracts

Nikki shared the before and after implementation workflow diagrams – and the differences were startling. Rather than a heady mix of workflow rectangles, decision points and dotted lines, today’s contract workflow is a blissfully simple diagram. There are 4 task boxes, one approve or reject decision point, and only forward motion.

Full Steam Ahead

Using these forms, the procurement team can see that the request template is all ticked green. The form ties all the required, and specific, approvers to the workflow. Best of all, it’s fully automated.

The request form confirms that the supplier is not a student nor an employee (who they are not permitted to contract with), then channels it through the various approvers. All requests are also tracked through TCM (Total Contract Manager) by form number.

Once the request form is turned into a contract, a contract number is created, and tied to the forms so that every stage can be linked together. Once the vendor has signed the contract, it returns to TCM, which acts as the central repository. The system even completes basic information such as vendor names, department names, and approvers automatically.

The university now has a fully complete request workflow. The purpose of contract, department, and other information is contained within the request document. The contract goes to the appropriate person to approve or reject, and on that basis, procurement creates a contract. DocuSign is used to get both parties to sign off on the completed contract.

Challenge of Change Management

Asked about the roll-out of the process, Nikki acknowledges it has been a long one.  “We’re not just changing the workflow process, but we’re changing the contract policy at a Trustee level. Changing contract policy is driving the roll out, then we can rock & roll!”

For more information about Total Contract Manager, please visit SciQuest website or contact SciQuest.

Lisa Malone, General Manager Procurious, was reporting from SciQuest Next Level 2016 last month, bringing you all the best bits.

In Search of Your Perfect (Supply) Partner

With an estimated 200 million suppliers operating around the world, how can you be sure you have the perfect partner? Fortunately, here’s where technology can lend a hand.

Perfect Partner Suppliers

Recent estimates put the total number of suppliers operating around the world at a staggering 200 million. To put this in context, that’s like having every person in the UK operating a supply business. Three times over.

The risks for procurement in this scenario are there for all to see. With an enormous number of potential suppliers, how do you know you are dealing with the right ones? Are you getting the best deal you could?

And with the suppliers you do have on board, how are you driving contract compliance? As well as being expected to deliver the value in the contracts, procurement needs to ensure that objectives are aligned with internal stakeholders, including the CFO.

Innovation in ‘Tail’ Suppliers

Common thinking in procurement now is that the profession can no longer ignore small- and medium-sized suppliers. By continuing to use the same suppliers, procurement misses out on innovation opportunities, as well as savings opportunities.

Traditionally these suppliers have been dismissed as ‘tail spend’, and ignored in terms of strategy. As we experience a period of unprecedented market change and volatility, procurement is now looking to these same organisations to help drive efficiencies, and competitive advantage.

The other factor procurement must take into consideration is how to measure the risk within their supply chain. One slight issue from a first, second, or even third tier supplier, could have drastic consequences for an organisation’s reputation.

Technology as Competitive Advantage

If organisations want to thrive in increasingly volatile climates, they need to leverage their technology. Effectively using IT capabilities and procurement technology can help develop a competitive advantage.

More and more organisations are streamlining traditional procurement activities, and freeing up resources for strategic projects. The ability to do this, while sourcing and managing suppliers, requires up-to-date IT capabilities and analytics, as well as best in class procurement technology.

Oracle’s aim is to provide its client with complete, open, and fully integrated solutions which help to reduce both the cost, and the complexity, of the IT infrastructure.

David Hudson, Business Development Director at Oracle Cloud Solutions, believes procurement needs to realise that the future is now.

“Delivering the right capabilities for Procurement professionals to drive greater collaboration, process standardisation, increased efficiency at a reducing cost remains a big challenge.

“At Oracle, we aim to help our customers achieve great cost savings and overall value, while reducing supplier risk, and increasing compliance. Technology, such as our Strategic Procurement portfolio, can help to deliver these key benefits, particularly when integrated throughout the process, as part of a modern Cloud solution,” says David.

Build Your Competitive Advantage

Procurious Founder, Tania Seary, has previously stated that, “Today’s supply chain executives must be brave and bold. They are expected to handle cataclysmic events and act with extreme agility.

“There’s one qualification – and I would go so far as to say that it’s the defining qualification for today’s supply chain leaders – that separates the highest performers from the herd. And that’s courage.”

This courage can be bolstered by understanding the role and benefits of technology, especially Cloud software and platforms, in procurement strategy, planning and decision making. By being more informed, procurement leaders can make these bold decisions, and ensure they are staying ahead of the competition.

Web

To find out more on how procurement can better manage risk and complexity, and integrate technology to help them thrive in a changing world, join Tania Seary and David Hobson for a free webinar on 7th November. Find out more information and register here.

How to Realise and Unlock the Benefits of Supplier Diversity

New research has revealed the benefits organisations can realise by having a top-performing supplier diversity programme.

Supplier Diversity Programmes

Full Benefits of Supplier Diversity Not Yet Achieved

Historically, supplier diversity programs have focused on a narrow combination of meeting government spend requirements, and participating in corporate social responsibility initiatives with under-represented communities.

For example, survey respondents in The Hackett Group’s 2016 Supplier Diversity Study report that their most important objectives are:

  • Improving the corporate image in the marketplace;
  • Supporting corporate culture around diversity and social responsibility; and
  • Complying with regulatory requirements.
Objectives for Supplier Diversity Programmes
Critical Objectives For Diversity Programmes

However, companies are starting to realise that they will not achieve maximum benefits from supplier diversity programs if their objectives stop there. In fact, by expanding the goals and activities of these programmes, organisations can gain access to new markets, innovative supplier partnering practices and avenues for improved corporate branding.

Several hurdles can prevent procurement organisations from obtaining the necessary support to invest in a supplier diversity programme. Often, business leaders worry that dedicating resources will ultimately mean sacrificing procurement savings.

However, The Hackett Group’s research suggests that not only do procurement organisations with top-performing programmes experience no dip in efficiency, but they extract even more benefits from the programme.

For example, 23 per cent of diverse suppliers often or greatly exceed buyers’ expectations and the majority of remaining diverse suppliers are meeting expectations.

Supplier Diversity Expectations & Ranking
How Diversity Suppliers Rank Against Buyers’ Expectations

Top-Performing Organisations Take Strategic Approach to Supplier Diversity

Supplier diversity is evolving from a check-the-box corporate social responsibility requirement, to a strategic enabler providing access to new and innovative products, and increased market share in new and developing communities.

Top-performing companies recognise this and have begun working toward achieving a broader range of benefits from their programmes. Successful ones typically address three areas: global expansion, supplier partnering and reputation management.

Global Expansion

Supplier diversity programs usually start small and then grow in terms of domestic volume and geographic reach. Our survey found that 76 per cent of organisations have diversity programs that are currently limited to the domestic (U.S.) market.

Of this group, 40 per cent plan to expand their program globally in the next two to three years. Global expansion of supplier diversity brings additional benefits, including investment in global economic development and improved relationships with local suppliers and their communities.

Organisations should be sure to engage the appropriate partners before designing a global expansion of their programme. This can include corporate diversity groups and third-party diversity organisations.

Supplier Partnering

Supplier partnering is the process of developing and enhancing relationships with suppliers. Small and minority-owned businesses can be the source of added benefits, including cost savings, process improvements and product innovations.

Investing in the development of local suppliers helps build productive relationships and prepares suppliers to be successful partners. Buyers should also identify candidates for strategic partnerships.

While this is frequently the most immature area of supplier diversity programs, benefits can be significant.

Reputation Management

Developing a strong reputation for dedication to supplier diversity can result in increased market share and talent retention. There are multiple channels available to facilitate a clear and positive message regarding supplier diversity, including both internal- and external-reaching activities.

Procurement groups should look for reputation management opportunities that align with corporate objectives to increase collaboration between groups.

Organisations with strategic reputation management practices typical utilise some combination of social media and local, in-person interactions to interact with stakeholders and communities.

Programme Objectives Must Come from the Highest Levels of the Company.

Top-performing supplier diversity programs are developed and planned with substantial guidance from executive leadership.

Leaders of supplier diversity initiatives should make it a priority to create a culture supportive of diversity and inclusion, not just in procurement, but throughout the enterprise.

All diversity objectives, including supplier diversity, workforce diversity, and community and market interaction, should have the same strategic objectives in order to take advantage of a larger network and create a more collaborative workplace.

Laura Gibbons is a Research Director for The Hackett Group’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program. She has industry and consulting experience in areas such as purchase-to-pay, strategic sourcing, payment strategies, and organisational and process design. You can contact her on Procurious or via email.

Learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program here.

Changing Times for Low-Value Procurement Processes

Old practices die hard, particularly in low-value procurement. However, an Australian start-up aims to change this.

Low-Value Procurement

The dubious, but common, practice of ‘get three quotes but still use the same suppliers’ is firmly under the spotlight. And, thanks to public scrutiny and increasing procurement governance, it might soon be gone for good.

A growing number of Australian Governmental agencies and private sector organisations are looking to make their spend more transparent. And many of these organisations are turning to a Melbourne start-up to increase their accountability.

Ending Entrenched Procurement Culture

Award-winning platform VendorPanel is revolutionising decentralised sourcing in corporate Australia, with growth in the past two years exceeding all expectations.

Launched in 2008 by James Leathem, VendorPanel has been through a number of iterations over the years. It aims to put an end to the corruption-riddled ‘three quotes and no change’ procurement approach that has become entrenched in Australian corporate culture.

The platform is used by hundreds of Australian organisations, predominantly government agencies, to increase transparency, compliance, and savings in quote and tender-based purchasing from their approved suppliers and the marketplace.

Leathem explains that low-value procurement had been largely ignored across public and private sector organisations in Australia. This represents a multi-million dollar risk for procurement professionals, with massive corporate financial leakage, and formal governance processes being allowed to fall through the cracks.

“It’s confusing and difficult for buyers. Traditional procurement systems and processes are complex. Buyers are left to navigate preferred supplier panels, approved contractor lists and the market with no real assistance. This complexity serves to make processes slow and painful, so buyers often just go with what they know,” he explains.

“Problems are compounded when staff are dealing with arrangements managed by multiple external departments or organisations, and where contract information is accessed via multiple websites, documents and intranets.”

Undetected Low-Value Procurement Expenditure

Most low-value procurement expenditure remains undetected. This is because it’s either hidden in email, or the transactional amount is too small for management to bother scrutinising.

This makes it pretty easy for an employee get away with giving low-value contracts to the same business every time, instead of a better performing, or cheaper, company.

“It’s not necessarily full-on corruption, but a ‘better-the-Devil-you-know’ approach of using familiar suppliers. Either way it can land professionals in hot water, particularly in government when it’s public money being spent,” Leathem says.

While the broader procurement industry complained about the issues that came with low-value procurement, nothing was being done to bring about change.

“There was a quiet acceptance that things were never going to change. Procurement professionals appeared resigned to the fact that a solution was impossible, because the problem was too big and messy. This was especially the case for procurement of Services.”

VendorPanel Leadership Team (L-R): COO David Bubner; CEO James Leathem; Commercial Director Matthew Clyne.
VendorPanel Leadership Team (L-R): COO David Bubner; CEO James Leathem; Commercial Director Matthew Clyne.

Procurement Match-Making

Leathem set out to disrupt the market after working with a professional services firm for corporate clients such as ANZ Bank, Fairfax Media, Macquarie and GE.

As part of his role, Leathem was involved in sourcing and engaging with supplier markets. The approach being taken was the best available to anyone at the time. It was a mostly manual approach using a series of internal databases and search processes.

“I saw an opportunity to automate the procurement match-making process by creating a honey pot that attracts the right people to you, rather than buyers always having to scour the market for what they’re after.”

Leathem started out by working with the local government sector, with the rationale that if it could work there, it could work anywhere. He secured a pilot across 155 local governments, and based on its success, VendorPanel was rolled out nationally across 550 local governments within 18 months.

The platform’s growth comes as the broader procurement industry searches for better, more efficient ways to tackle their role.

However, VendorPanel then had an unexpected challenge of showing the rest of the market that the technology was transferrable. Several years down the track this has been achieved, with hundreds of organisations now using the platform.

VendorPanel has now processed more than AUD$1.3 billion worth of sourcing from organisations’ own preferred suppliers, plus an undisclosed amount of public tenders and marketplace sourcing, making it one of the fastest growing technology companies in Australia.

The Benefits Procurement Can Realise from RPA Adoption

Understanding the benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can help sell adoption to the rest of the business.

RPA Procurement Automation

In our first instalment, we described the fundamentals of robotic process automation (RPA), how it is typically used, and some pricing trends.

Here, we discuss some of the benefits of RPA, as well as what to think about as your organisation considers adoption.

The RPA Value Proposition

Purchase-to-pay organisations that are implementing RPA expect benefits in higher productivity and lower operating costs (Fig. 2).

RPA
Fig. 2 – Benefits Expected By Purchase-to-Pay Organisations with RPA

These improvements are realised in a number of ways, including:

1. Ability to bypass the IT department

Because RPA does not require IT development resources, and calls for a very limited technical infrastructure, businesses are able to undertake these projects by themselves.

However, a big lesson learned from early pilots is that IT needs to be involved in some capacity early in the project, even though this may bring in extra bureaucracy and potentially slow down progress.

Getting IT to sign off on performance demands, system availability, security infrastructure, etc., will pay dividends later when RPA is in production.

2. Shorter, less expensive development cycle time

The typical timeline to develop and deploy RPA is six to eight weeks, dramatically less than traditional, IT-led application integration projects. The latter’s cost to design, program, test and maintain system interfaces is significant. In some instances, it can exceed the cost of the software itself.

The ability to link systems through the user interface layer in a non-invasive way, without these costs, is core to RPA’s value proposition.

3. Labour Cost Savings

RPA vendors claim to deliver as much as 60-80 per cent in savings. Feedback from participants in interviews conducted by The Hackett Group indicated that returns are much more modest, but still significant at 20-30 per cent.

4. Increased Auditability and Consistency with Fewer Errors

Routine tasks executed by humans are prone to errors and inconsistent application of rules. Robots apply the same set of rules consistently and operate without errors.

Furthermore, all tasks executed by robots are recorded, and these execution logs are auditable.

5. Improved Scalability

Human capacity is difficult to scale in situations where demand fluctuates, leading to inefficiencies such as backlogs or overcapacity.

In contrast, robots operate at whatever speed is demanded by the work volume. Multiple robots can be deployed when demand exceeds the capacity of a single one.

However, an RPA must still work within the performance limitations of the software with which it is designed to interact.

Looking Ahead

We predict that RPA may have an impact on the number of people needed to perform mundane, repetitive tasks. Ultimately, this is a good thing, because many of these resources can be reassigned to more rewarding activities and job satisfaction will increase.

Fortunately, this shift in the profile of source-to-pay talent is consistent with the direction that procurement has been heading in for some time, moving away from transactional work, to more of a trusted advisor and partner to the business.

This will require complex problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and intellectual curiosity. There will also be a strong need for people who understand how to orchestrate a combination of automation solutions to obtain the best results.

Patrick Connaughton is the Senior Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Programme at the Hackett Group. He has published groundbreaking research in areas like spend analysis, contract life cycle management, supplier risk assessments and services procurement. You can contact him via email or on Procurious.

You can also learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program here.

The Human Side of Procurement Decision Making

No matter the sources available, procurement professionals trust above all else peers when it comes to information and supplier intelligence.

Peer Recommendation Supplier Intelligence

Earlier this year, I participated in research that explored current trends in supplier intelligence. More specifically, tealbook wanted to know what sources of information are the most trusted when finding new suppliers.

Here is what they learned:

Procurement professionals trust their peers, whether internal or industry colleagues, over any other source of information or intelligence.

In fact, 83 per cent of the survey participants held this opinion. Not only does this finding indicate that procurement should find and invest in efficient ways to access and centralise the knowledge of their peers, it offers procurement a secondary lesson about our own stakeholders and the best way to reach them.

Procurement can be an ‘acquired taste’ for some functions and business units. We can put out mission statements, tie our objectives to theirs, and endlessly share positive results and sometimes they still don’t come around to our way of thinking.

Are We Effective Message Carriers?

Maybe the problem isn’t the thought process. Perhaps, as we learned in the research about trusted sources of supplier intelligence, the issue is the messenger.

If that is the case, how can procurement go about finding other, more effective carriers for our message?

I am a huge fan of the town hall meeting format. Town halls are an effective way to speak to the organisation at large about strategic sourcing and procurement and emphasise that we are a collaborative partner ready and willing to add value.

About 6 months after I joined FORMA, I had a procurement town hall I presented as a ‘Lunch and Learn’. People either called in, participated via video conference, or sat in the auditorium area.

Our main messages to them were: “Here are some of the things that procurement has done. Here is how you can engage with us. Here is how you work with procurement.”

The Power of Testimonials

By far, the most impactful statements in the town hall were not made by procurement at all. They were testimonials made by procurement’s key internal stakeholders directly to their peers.

I had invited five key stakeholders at the VP level and Senior Director level, very high level representatives in the organisation, to come up and talk about what their experience had been with procurement.

They shared where they had found benefit, how had procurement helped them, and under what circumstances they would actively engage us again.

Those testimonials spoke louder, and reached further, than anything that I, or my team, could have said to help us with stakeholder engagement.

Once the audience members began to hear and understand the different ways procurement was able to provide support, they became more creative in their thinking. “Well, you know what? I have this project that’s coming up next week, or two months from now…”.

Or, “Here’s an initiative I never thought you could help me with, but I guess you can…”. It created a lot of momentum and opened a lot of doors. It was an extremely positive way of enticing engagement from our stakeholders.

Trusted Sources of Supplier Intelligence

Mary Kachinsky
Mary Kachinsky

When a town hall meeting isn’t a possibility, technology can often be called in to bridge the gap. This is why platforms such as tealbook fill a unique gap for many procurement teams. They offer a place where teams can store supplier provided information with their own notes and opinions.

This sits alongside commercial data from Dun & Bradstreet’s global database and aggregated intelligence on suppliers from industry peers. Having all of this information in one place is like being able to call a town hall to order anytime and any place. And there’s the additional bonus of not having to provide lunch!

The fact of the matter is, people want to get information and opinions from the people they know and trust. It is true in the case of procurement and it is also true with our internal stakeholders.

At the end of the day, we are all people that put more faith in recommendations from our peers than we do in a distant process mandate or firm that says, “This is the supplier to work with” or “Procurement has your best interests in mind – trust us”. We ultimately want to hear from our peers.

If you are interested in more about tealbook’s research into supplier intelligence, knowledge and discovery, you can download it here.

Mary Kachinsky is a member of the tealbook Advisory Board, and Vice President of Strategic Sourcing and Operations for FORMA Therapeutics

She brings over 25 years’ experience as a strategic partner and business leader in the research, development and manufacturing procurement functions spanning across the pharmaceutical, biotech and consumer electronics industries. Mary is a Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) and a Lifetime Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.).