Category Archives: Technology

How To Avoid The 5 Most Common Tech Selection Mistakes

How do you avoid making a potentially costly mistake when choosing a tech solution?


The selection of a tech solution is one of the most contentious exercises procurement organisations can go through. There are few other things that so many people in the organisation will come into contact with on a daily basis.

Get it right and you’ve probably only met people’s expectations. Get it wrong and, not only will those people make it known that the solution isn’t performing, but your organisation will also face living with a (costly) mistake for a long time.

There are countless factors that can complicate the process, from a seemingly never-ending list of requirements from across the organisation, to sorting out ‘needs’ from ‘wants’ when it comes to the requirements. And that’s not to mention that procurement teams tend to struggle when buying software for their own department, each member brings their own baggage from working with previous providers, and each individual brings their own personal preferences into this selection. 

Even if you think you are going to do things differently, you may end up inadvertently making a mistake somewhere along the line. To help you out on your next tech selection, we’ve compiled a list of the “5 Most Common Mistakes Made When Selecting a New Tech Solution.”

1.     Choosing ‘What’ Over ‘How’

Most software selections follow a similar pattern.  The selection team meets with key stakeholders and compiles a list of requirements. The requirements are then categorized into groups denoting what is a ‘must have’ versus a ‘nice to have’ and anything in between.  This then creates a scoring system that helps score the RFP responses.     

That is all good, but what I see many times being missed is there is way too much focus on ‘what’ a solution does vs. ‘how’ that feature/function is being delivered to address your most complex use cases.  Even if the feature is something your organisation needs, there’s no guarantee that how it works will suit your organisation and be widely adopted. 

2.     Picking looks over performance

It’s a new, all-singing, all-dancing system that looks the part. It’s got a sleek, visually impressive and stimulating User Interface. Buttons are in intuitive positions and there’s a color scheme designed to make the user feel more relaxed.

But the look of the solution belies the issues that users will experience due to a poor underlying system architecture.  On the surface, any provider can make the simple look intuitive and easy, but what about the more complex use cases and scenarios?  The best solutions have the ability to make even the most complex use cases appear easy and intuitive. 

And don’t be fooled, sometimes systems that focus only on a few use cases but excel at making them look easy, may lack the depth and breadth to address other key areas your users need.   

We have also found that some systems focused so much on making their new tech shiny and appealing to the eye, that they missed building it on a strong foundation.  Organizations that have complexity and high volumes may see their systems performance degrade which negatively  affects user adoption.  No matter how easy the system is to use, if it is not up and ready when you need it, end users will push back. 

So don’t be drawn in by the appealing look of a new system. Instead, really get to understand how the system was architected and if it is able to keep the complex simple for your end users.   

3.     Opting for low cost over ROI

Another thing to avoid when selecting a tech partner is a race to the bottom on price. The cheapest solution is not always the best solution. It may well end up costing you more when it comes to lost opportunity throughout the life of the agreement, cost overruns on implementation, integration, lost productivity and, in the worst cases, terminating an agreement early and going back out to the market.

Procurement, and the wider business, need to understand the true Total Cost of Ownership of all the solutions, which will in turn allow for a more true calculation on the Return on Investment (ROI). In order to calculate this effectively, it is a must to include the difference in savings one platform will achieve vs. the other.  Including those lost savings(if there are any) into your Total Cost of Ownership comparison may show that while the cost of the software is lower per year, the true cost is much higher. 

So, before you settle for the low-cost option, understand what value the solution is giving back to the business and factor that into your decision-making process.

4.     Boardroom decisions without end-user input

We’ve all worked in businesses where a new tech solution is implemented, only for it to fail to deal with any of the key issues it was meant to address. Many organisations do not engage end-users at all or speak to them after the selection has already been made.  Only then to find out that the solution that was selected in the boardroom, misses on many of the key use cases.

Not only does this make your employees feel undervalued but it also breeds resentment every time they must use the solution that hasn’t solved any of their problems.

Take time to include your end-users in the decision-making. They are the ones who will use the solution most, so their input could be the difference between success and failure.

5.      Failing to Complete a Success Blueprint Prior to Software Selection

You’ve fully detailed your requirements, gathered information and feedback, and conducted an extensive search of the market. You feel like you know which solution is best for your business, because the customer is always right, correct? Maybe not when it comes to tech solutions.

Organizations will frequently select the shiny new object or the solution that costs less.  Other times they will go with the software that conduct the best demo or has the best sales team.  Those are typically not the best indicators of future success. 

Trusting a demo or a great sales presentation is very risky.  Planning for success and putting the spotlight on what really matters is key to mitigating your risk and creating a predictable outcome. 

The RiseNow Success Blueprint that we talked about during the “How To Make Your CEO Fall In Love With Your Tech” does just that.  It also helps organizations navigate the software selection process to make sure success is achieved with the best platform for your organization. 

The trick to not making these mistakes is knowing about them in the first place and putting a proven plan in place to mitigate them. Yet even then, there’s no guarantee you won’t make a mistake, but the odds will definitely be in your favor. And keeping these 5 essential tips in mind the next time you go out to market may help you avoid making the same mistakes again.

To go deeper on the perfect tech implementation, tune in to our series ‘Major Tech Fails.’

Technology For Dummies: Your Easy Guide To Everything From Automation To Robots

Here’s your simple explanation of six technologies that will change the future of procurement.


Are you tired of nodding along when people throw around terms like ‘blockchain’ and ‘machine learning?’

Fear not. Here is your simple guide to six technologies that will change the future of procurement. Spoiler alert: some of these are already here and shaking up the supply chain.  

Quantum computing

What it is: Quantum computing is an entirely new kind of computer based on the science of quantum mechanics. Sounds intimidating, right? Don’t worry – this stuff is pretty cool.  

Quantum computing is exciting because it’s not just some super powerful version of the computers we already have, explains physicist Shohini Ghose. “Just like a lightbulb is not a more powerful version of a candle, you cannot build a lightbulb by building better and better candles.”

It’s far more advanced than our current computers, so it can solve problems that we can’t even begin to solve now.

How it works: If your personal computer had a personality, it would be a stubborn person who can only see things in black and white. The answer can only be 0 or 1. That’s known as a bit.

Quantum computing is more open minded. It knows life isn’t that straightforward. The answer could be 0 or 1, or anywhere on the spectrum between the two. That’s known as a qubit (pronounced cue-bit). That spectrum makes quantum computing super powerful.

As Wired’s Amit Katwala puts it: “If you ask a normal computer to figure its way out of a maze, it will try every single branch in turn, ruling them all out individually until it finds the right one. A quantum computer can go down every path of the maze at once. It can hold uncertainty in its head.”

That tolerance for uncertainty opens up a world of possibilities, like uncovering new chemicals or speeding up the discovery of new medicine.

Katwala adds, “If you can string together multiple qubits, you can tackle problems that would take our best computers millions of years to solve.”

Is it really that exciting? Well, in IBM VP of Research Bob Sutor’s words: “I think it’s going to be the most important computing technology of the century.”

Why it matters for procurement: Quantum computing will vastly improve logistics problem solving.

IBM (one of the biggest players in quantum computing) gives the example of global shipping. If companies could improve container utilisation and shipping volume by even a tiny fraction, it would save millions and reduce the carbon footprint. That’s the scale of quantum computing’s ability.

It can also help supply chain managers improve decision-making and manage risk by responding in real-time to changing market demand.

Internet of Things (IoT)

What it is: The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking real-world objects and connecting them to the internet.

You’ve seen this with the boom in ‘smart appliances’. These home appliances are internet-enabled, letting you turn on your coffee maker, start a load of laundry, and even pre-heat your oven with just a smartphone.

How it works: The Internet of Things lets you create a network of devices that can ‘talk’ to each other and share data.

And this explosion of smart products will only get bigger. In fact, there could be more than 41 billion IoT devices by 2025. Why? Cheap computer chips and widespread Wi-Fi.

Why it matters for procurement: Even though the Internet of Things is widespread in homes, the biggest market is actually businesses. The so-called Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is already commonplace – especially in manufacturing through the use of sensors and other monitoring devices.

These internet-enabled devices give companies greater control, and even help ensure safety. For example, pharmaceutical companies use IIoT temperature sensors when transporting vaccines to make sure they stay at the right temperature.

McKinsey notes that sensors are also used to monitor container-fill levels: “This real-time transparency allows the logistics team to manage the material flow more accurately and order raw materials and other inputs closer to the date they are needed, reducing inventory.”

The firm says these monitoring abilities are even more important in a post-pandemic world.

Machine learning

What it is: Machine learning is the ability of a computer programme to ‘learn’ and adapt based on new data, all without the help of a human.

How it works:  The programme sifts through huge amounts of data looking for patterns. Then companies use those patterns to inform decisions and influence customer behaviour. It’s how Netflix chooses what shows to suggest for you. The more you watch on the platform, the more data it has about you and the better it can predict what you’ll like.

Why it matters for procurement: There are many use cases for machine learning in the supply chain. One especially relevant one is improving demand forecasts. At the moment, it’s hard to account for all the variables in supply chain. As McKinsey points out, there are long-tail items, extreme seasonality, customer preference changes, and media coverage that all render forecasts useless.

Yet with machine learning can help companies reduce forecast errors by up to 50%. And equally important, it can reduce lost sales due to product unavailability by 65%.

Another example comes from professional services firm EY. The firm was asked by a major shipping port to help with the logistics of 100 vessels coming and going each day. When predicted arrival times were off, the port faced expensive bottlenecks. So EY used machine learning to analyse different sources of data – like tidal patterns and historical arrival information. It combined that with satellite navigation for more accurate tracking. As a result, the port saved more than $10 million from increased accuracy.

Through machine learning, computers can process more data points about a business than a human could ever hope to analyse. That means unparalleled visibility in the supply chain.

Enterprise blockchain

What it is: A blockchain network is a way to store digital records so different parties can all access the same version of the truth.

The records are unchangeable, which helps build trust by taking away human bias and politics.

How it works: Enterprise blockchain is a blockchain network that is specifically for businesses. It’s different from other types of blockchain because it’s private. The only people who can access records are those who have been invited.

Apart from blockchain records being transparent and unchangeable, they can also improve speed.

For example, the United States Food and Drug Administration recently finished a pilot programme with IBM to track and identify prescription drugs using blockchain. The results? It now takes two seconds to trace medicine, instead of 16 weeks.

Why it matters for procurement: Of all industries, blockchain has made the biggest impact in supply chain and logistics. Several companies already use the technology to keep tabs on what’s going across the supply chain.

One example is US retail giant Walmart, which requires all lettuce suppliers to be part of its blockchain network so it can track the product’s journey from farm to shelf. They use IBM’s enterprise blockchain as part of the IBM Food Trust.

Some retailers are using this traceability to improve customer confidence. They include QR codes on packaging so customers can simply scan with their smartphones and see a product’s history.

Human augmentation

What it is: Human augmentation is using technology to give humans increased physical and mental abilities. One example is an exoskeleton, which is a wearable robotic suit that makes humans stronger. And you thought Iron Man was fiction…

Most technological advancements seem to take humans out of the equation. Yet this area is all about improving human capability with technology.

How it works: Essentially, human augmentation is about making up for human design flaws.

As David Cearley, VP analyst at Gartner, said, it’s about “moving from designing for humans to architecting humans themselves”.

Gartner describes four main types of human augmentation: sensory (hearing, vision, perception), appendage and biological (exoskeletons, prosthetics), brain (implants to treat seizures) and genetic (somatic gene and cell therapy).

One example is the ability to control a machine using just your mind. By popping on a wearable device, a person can operate machinery with the power of thought. Who’s developing such a device?  The US government, of course.

And it’s not alone in seeking new ways to enhance performance. Gartner predicts 40% of companies will use human augmentation technology by 2025.

Why it matters for procurement: The obvious use for biological augmentation like exoskeletons is in warehousing, automotive, and manufacturing. Benefits include letting workers lift heavy things with minimal effort, protecting them from bodily injury, and working longer without fatigue.

And companies are already realising those benefits. Car manufacturer Ford has used exoskeletons for workers since 2018.

Robotic Process Automation

What it is: Robotic Process Automation (RPA) means using software to automate processes with “bots”. These bots do simple, repetitive tasks like data entry and reconciliation.

How it works: Bots are programmed to use your company’s IT systems, just like a human would.

By automating repetitive tasks, companies cut down errors. These bots can also perform tasks much faster than humans. Consulting firm Deloitte says it takes a bot one minute to do what it takes a human 15 minutes.

It gives the example of a robot pulling data from a PDF into an Excel document, using that information to generate an invoice, then sending the invoice by email automatically. The idea is letting the bots do the repetitive stuff, freeing you up to do higher-level thinking.

Why it matters for procurement: RPA has huge potential for supply chains and procurement. In fact, shipping company DHL uses it to automatically invoice carriers and schedule delivery appointments.

And shipping company Maersk relies on bots to complete 38 different procurement processes, like reporting and requisitioning.

Likewise, industrial company Siemens uses bots to get quotes from companies that aren’t current suppliers.

At this rate, it might not be long until automated sourcing becomes the norm in procurement.

Does automation make you nervous about your role?

You aren’t alone, says Natalie Chapman, Head of Urban Policy at the UK’s Freight Transport Association (FTA).

“Anxiety about mass automation is widespread; in one study, 34% of UK workers surveyed believed automation would result in large job losses and that few will be replaced by new and different roles,” Chapman says.

Encouragingly, though, she adds that FTA research shows technology will be complementary, replacing routine tasks rather than job roles.

“In response to the rise of automation in the workplace, skills demand will change in the coming years,” Chapman says. “The need for workers skilled in manual dexterity and precision will decline – as these tasks can be completed by machines most easily – and in its place, employers will seek staff skilled in analytical and innovative thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence.”

So, the good news is the robots aren’t stealing our jobs. At least not yet.

Want to know more about all things tech? Tune in to our recent series Major Tech Fails where we set you up for a total tech-success.

Forget The Pretty Face, It’s The Content That Matters

Don’t be seduced by a sleek user interface or fancy bells and whistles – it’s the solutions ability to address your most critical spend categories, use cases and suppliers that really matter in the long term.


It’s easy to be taken in by the shiny exterior of a product, it’s pretty packaging, isn’t it? As we all know, companies use clever product branding and marketing to draw us in and boost their sales. And the pretty-packaging strategy is no different when it comes to tech solutions. 

Think about the last tech solution you or your organisation purchased. More than likely it had an appealing design, intuitive user interface, and web 2.0 look and feel.  Or maybe you were drawn in by the way the system looks in mobile or app form? These are all design features intended to lure in a tech buyer.

But is design really what matters most when it comes to making a success of your tech implementation?

Success Requires More Than Just a Pretty Face

Once you’ve decided to purchase a new tech solution, you pull together your shopping list of requirements. Key stakeholders add to your list of requirements and then each requirement is stack ranked based on need.  “Must-haves” vs. “nice to haves” are thrown together into an RFP.  Tech vendors check all the boxes and impress you with their demos.  By the time you see the third or fourth vendor, you start to believe, any one of these vendors can meet our requirements and help us achieve the success we desire.    

Then the system demos take place and that pretty packaging comes into play. There’s a risk that all the focus on the shiny new objects distracts from what really matters. So how do you stay focused and stick to your requirements and select a tech solution that’s right for you? 

Here are my three tips to keep your mind focused and ensure your head isn’t turned by the razzle-dazzle of a great sales presentation.

1. Keep suppliers top of  mind 

One of procurement’s key relationships is with the suppliers that we use. Choosing a solution that puts the suppliers’ user experience at the top of your priority list is pivotal to making your tech implementation a success.

Your business case probably includes reducing supplier-related work. As far back as 2015, Hackett Group research estimated that e-invoicing could cut costs by 31 percent and supplier enquiries by 24 percent – big wins for you and the team if you get the implementation right.

But this goes beyond making it easy for suppliers to transact efficiently, it includes making it easy for suppliers to keep their content up to date.  Supplier data, certifications, qualifications, financial info, and catalog info are just a few things that suppliers can keep up to date to make it easier on you and your team.   

During your selection process, don’t forget that suppliers are no different to any other user of new tech. They expect it to be free and easy to use or they, like your end users, will do all they can to go around the system.

Successful supplier adoption of new tech can be critical to making your implementation work. If buyers ensure that regularly used suppliers are onboarded correctly and ready to go at go live, then adoption will be a whole lot easier for your end users.  Why?  Because the suppliers they are used to transacting with, will be easily found in your new tech.   Resist the pretty packaging and keep your supplier experience top of mind.

2. Ensure your new tech effectively addresses the categories that matter most

Imagine you have just installed your new tech and your end users engage the platform only to find that their spend categories are not enabled.  It doesn’t really matter how intuitive the user interface is or how much it looks like Amazon.com.  If they can’t engage with their suppliers and buy from the categories they typically buy, they will not adopt your new tech.  

Buyers of tech can easily be persuaded to focus on the shiny new object.  Don’t be distracted, stay focused on what really matters for your end users.  What spend categories must your new tech address to deliver the value your business case promised?  

Make sure your new tech supports the categories and departments that are large spend areas, but are not effectively managed today.  If your new tech can match the spend coverage you have today, while also positively affecting categories and departments that you have typically struggled to manage, you will see wider spread adoption and a significant increase in spend under management.  Your end users will feel as though they have been heard and will appreciate that you are implementing a solution that appears as though it was built for them.

3. ‘Keep the main thing the main thing’

In the razzle-dazzle of the tech demo, it’s easy to lose track of the critical use cases that separate success from failure. Tech companies will want to show off their most fancy stuff, but that is not typically where success is found.  In fact, many that focus on the shiny objects don’t focus enough attention on the use cases that matter most.  

For example, what’s the real use of an Amazon-like procurement system when a very small percentage of your spend is actually “shopping” for items?  It is also a very low bar for any system to shop for a laptop, put it into a shopping cart and route it for approvals.  That changes though if your end users are shopping for MRO and/or research items where shopping is the norm.  

We are also seeing a trend for organizations moving toward systems that are able to effectively address use cases for both direct and indirect.  This is certainly an area that you don’t want to assume your new tech can effectively address.  Take the time to engage the right stakeholders and let their voice be heard.  Bringing them in after contracts are signed is way too late. 

Ask yourself – does the tech solution give me what I need? Are core functions as they should be? Is the user experience for suppliers and end users acceptable for your standards? Does the solution cater to your key categories and departments? You will find there is a big difference between updating your processes to fit best practices to minimize customization and feature requests with your new tech and trying to fit a square peg in a round hole on the other. Make sure you’re clear on what your critical use cases are and the features that you will need to support them. Consider how much you are prepared to change processes to fit within your new tech and document everything so all parties are on the same page on what needs to be done.  This will help clarify which tech is a better fit and which solution is better aligned to support your industry and organizational uniqueness. 

It’s great to have a tech solution that has a pretty face. But the lure of pretty packaging may lead you down a path that’s just not right for you, your team or your business. Use my 3 tips during your selection process to ensure you get a solution that will deliver the outcomes you are expecting. 

To go deeper on how to find your perfect tech match, download our e-book ‘How To Select Source-To-Pay & Procure-To-Pay Systems That Deliver Results‘ and tune in to our series ‘Major Tech Fails.’

C’mon Procurement Pros – Pucker Up And Get Your Tech Dollars Now

NOW is the time to start a robust process to select, fund and implement a new technology system. 


Your CFO needs some love right now – supply chain isn’t something they’ve had to worry about much before…because you had it all covered!!  For the first time in their careers they’ve had to get into the details of how you keep it all going.  Your poor pandemic-battle-scarred CFO is now looking for some new ways to mitigate future business continuity risks.

Procurement and supply chain leaders around the world have the answers to future potential business disruption woes – what’s needed is some serious investment in technology!

COVID-19 has placed the risk of future global supply chain disruptions at the top of the C-suite’s agenda. Not wanting to be caught out again, company leaders are desperate for a better, faster way to recover the next time a crisis strikes.

Their eyes are firmly fixed on supply chain.

So, it’s time to wipe the dust of all those technology business cases – and get on Zoom, pucker up to the c-level and ask for the cash.

It’s the right time

The pandemic caught us out. It stripped away the luxury of time, revealing the real supply chain risks that we knew had been lurking just below the water line for years.

The tide went out and our weaknesses were exposed – a lack of visibility into our multi-layered supply chains, an overdependence on single geographies and single supply source and a lack of agility to pivot and close the supply gaps.

As we move forward, supplier risk, supplier collaboration, value analysis, cost reduction, quality, and compliance will be more important than ever. 

NOW is the time to start a robust process to select, fund and implement a new technology system. 

How to pucker up

But how can you make sure you select the right system and construct a convincing business case, especially when budgets are being slashed across the board?

Here’s your guide to technology selection and adoption, pulled together from years of experience.

Step One – make sure you meet the business needs

It starts with understanding needs. As procurement and supply chain pros, we all know how to run a solid needs analysis….so I don’t need to labour this point.

To decide what works for your company and suppliers, remember the 80/20 rule.  For example, if 80% of your spend is on contingent labour, you are better off looking at a system that specialises in that functionality. 

What system is best?

Once you know your company needs, it’s time to narrow down the provider playing field.

This can get confusing, because you might pick your top three and accidentally end up comparing apples to oranges. One system could be a full end-to-end suite, and you’re comparing it to a contract management point solution and a sourcing tool!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed; there are literally hundreds of e-procurement technology suppliers in the marketplace right now.

About 10 years ago we saw a big push towards ‘best of breed’ solutions. There were very few fully-integrated suites that were intuitive and easy to use. Plus, a lot of companies had budget limitations, so they looked to point solutions for contracts, P2P, sourcing, supplier management, analytics, etc. 

That worked for a while, but then it became a nightmare to maintain all those integrations and the systems lacked true interoperability.  

Then came the race for fully integrated suites, which led to the likes of SAP Ariba, Coupa, Ivalua and Jaggaer who emerged to lead the pack today.

Will the strong preference for the fully integrated suites continue? That remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, we will see a thinning out of the market as some of the best of breed start-ups struggle for cash.

But only you will know what’s right for your company.

Finding the love…and the cash

Once you’ve chosen your tech system, it’s time to get senior-level buy-in. How can you make your case convincing?

It comes down to giving a clear, compelling ‘why’. Why now? Why this system? What will it mean for the company?

Some great messaging that would resonate with the c-suite right now would be:

  • Systems give transparency
  • Systems give control
  • Systems give confidence

As well as these overarching messages, you should tailor specific business case messaging and justification for investment in your system for different members of the c-suite.  For example:

Chief Executive Officer – mitigate business continuity risk and future profitability

Chief Financial Officer – cost control and visibility

Chief Marketing Officer – reputation risk, protecting brands and fostering innovation

Head of Operations – efficiency and continuity

Financial Controller – well, it’s obviously about control!

Another tip for developing your business case messaging is to reach out to your online peer community and look through social media, to find stories that support your reasons for investing in tech.

There’s nothing the c-level likes more than to do better (or avoid the same mistakes) than the competition. Your stories and examples on how peers are handling problems will be a powerful tool for motivating your senior leadership team to invest in your recommended technology. 

Keep a c-suite huddle

It’s critical to ensure you have a wide base of support across the senior leadership team so that your project has strong foundations.

Stay close to the c-suite throughout the project.  Don’t ever assume the support you secure today will endure. Keep them regularly updated to ensure your technology project stays top of mind (and the corporate strategic priority list!).

Also, beware the trophy-seeking sponsor who could be using your supply chain technology project as a pawn in their political power play. It is always difficult to pick these people, but the wrong choice could threaten your project’s success. You don’t want everything to go down the drain when your board sponsor’s career bets don’t pay off. 

Ensure change management isn’t funded out of small change

Business cases for tech have always focussed on headcount reductions (hard numbers based on FTEs taken out of Accounts Payable, administration etc) and efficiencies (more of a soft number) on the value side, and licensing and implementation on the cost side for investment in technology. Don’t forget to also factor in the total cost of ownership. Customisation costs, implementation, and productivity losses and gains are all important financial considerations.

All of these cost and other benefits are important, but you must ensure you include a significant budget for change management, training, user implementation.

As a profession, we have not had enough focus on how to implement technology; that’s our weak point. It’s difficult to ensure the organisation is gaining the full benefit of the system they have invested in – and for the most part, we do a pretty lousy job of it.

That’s because these are change management projects, not technology projects. It’s so little about systems and so much about the people who use them.

Too often, the implementation budget is the first thing to go when CFOs want a quick financial win. Don’t fall prey to their argument that people will work it out, or that it’s all straightforward. That logic is precisely how and why many technology projects fail.

Fiercely guard your change management budget, and make sure you have a dedicated project team to make it a success.

You can do this

This is your chance to step up and lead, showing your potential for a more senior role.

Given the high failure rate of these systems right now, it may be a high-risk strategy to take on the leadership of a procurement or supply chain technology implementation. But with risk comes reward; your successful project will be a great asset to your career progression and increase your visibility.

More importantly, it will prove that you understand the business and know how to solve complex issues.

As we work our way through this latest supply chain disruption, we are (sadly) capturing the real costs of this pandemic and will have much stronger financial proof points for investment in technology.

If this kind of disruption happens again, we know the magnitude of what it is going to cost. So we must put systems in place that will respond much faster to mitigate these potential losses.

Now is the time to step up and put forward your argument for investment. We may never have such a fertile and receptive audience as we do right now.

Act now, while the spotlight is on supply chain.  Don’t waste a crisis.

This blog is an excerpt from a talk given by Procurious founder Tania Seary, as part of the SIG Procurement Technology Summit. Want even more expert advice on choosing and implementing a new procurement technology system? Register for Matt Stewart’s podcast series

How To Prove The ROI On Your Tech Solution

Your tech solution should be delivering the benefits and ROI set out at the start of the agreement – but how do you prove this to your CFO?


Making a substantial investment in a technology solution is not something that any organisation takes lightly.  Getting the green light to go ahead often involves significant stakeholder engagement, a comprehensive sourcing and supplier selection process and, of course, making the business case for the investment required.

Once you’ve gone live with your new tech, your C-suite will want you to report back and validate if the money they invested was well spent?  Are you on track to achieve your projected return on investment – that essential ROI?

So, how do you prove your technology is providing the benefits outlined in the business case? How can you demonstrate that savings are actually being achieved?  Ideally, you can go to a single savings tracker that contains all of your key metrics and ROI outputs.

But if you’re leaving things to the post-implementation phase to capture and easily report on that information, then you’ve probably left it too late.  I’ve seen the inability to demonstrate and prove ROI being one of the key factors leading to a major tech fail. 

1. Know What Your Organisation Requires in Terms of ROI

Your process of identifying and delivering on ROI needs to start at the inception of your tech implementation project.  You need to be clear on what your organisation needs in terms of ROI.

Before preparing your presentation for project approval, make sure you know the answers to these key questions:

  1. What is your cost of capital?
  2. What does your organisation require in terms of payback?
  3. Over what period does your organisation measure Net Present Value(NPV)?
  4. What kind of return on capital expenditures does your organisation require?
  5. What projects were recently approved and what projects were recently rejected?  Talk to those that were involved and see what lessons you can learn so you don’t make the same mistakes.
  6. What other projects are you competing with?  How can you position your project as a bigger priority than the rest?
  7. Based on your project size, what is the process for obtaining approval?
  8. Who are the key players?  Once you know the process, identify the key players who will be determining your project’s fate.  What are their priorities and how can your project align?  If possible, get introduced to them and start building a relationship.

This will help you eliminate any potential surprises you may encounter as you seek for approval of your business case.Key here is to not make assumptions on what goes into your business case and what will, or will not, be approved. 

2. Know Your Numbers

Begin with knowing and owning every number in your business case.  In order to deliver, you first need to have sufficient detail of your targets.  If not, how will you ever know what you are aiming for and if you achieved them?  I mention that because I find many business cases are template-driven and lack the defendable detail when it goes under the spotlight.

For example, many times I will see a blanket percentage applied to all spend.  Or an efficiency savings applied across all POs and invoices.  Basically, I see many organisations adopt a one size fits all approach to many of these business cases.  That may work for some organisations, but it doesn’t for many of the CFOs we work with. They want to know specifics. 

They also understand that each category of spend is different and should be treated as such.  What is realistic to be achieved in one category, may not be realistic for another.  What was achieved by one organisation does not inherently mean that you can experience the same result in your organisation. 

There are a lot of factors and assumptions that must be considered in the process of creating the business case.  .  This includes being able to know how each category of savings was calculated, so when the time comes to present the business case for approval it is easily defended

We coach our clients to never go into a meeting with their CFO to get their project approved if they are not 100% clear on how each number in their business case was calculated.  If they don’t know their numbers at the start of the project, they will have a really difficult time knowing how to realize those savings after go live. 

You have to know and own your numbers better than anyone. Those that don’t, rarely succeed.  If you don’t know how those savings will be realized and what the critical path and key performance indicators are to realize those savings, it will be very easy to get distracted during implementation and lose sight of what is most important.

If you want to be able to go into your CFO’s office and show off how you have over-delivered on your promise of savings and efficiency, then it would be wise to take the time to know and own your numbers before you kick off your next project. 

 3. Measure What Matters

Part of our success blueprint process is making sure we’re clear how to capture and report on the measurements that are going to demonstrate positive ROI. Being clear about cost baselines is an essential starting point.  Making sure you are clear as to how you’re going to capture the following financial metrics can help ensure your ROI can be tracked throughout the life of the project:

Make sure to capture any REVENUE impacts:

  • Are there back end supplier rebates that the project is improving?  
  • Are you enabling product innovation that can be tracked? 

How will the project contribute to less spending:

  • Operational Spend reductions, your plan to track future spend and compare your historical spend 
  • Where your project creates the opportunity to avoid historical spend altogether.  Is that historical spend in an existing budget or is it leakage that needs to be tracked?
  • And where are there reductions in capital expenditure or overall lower Total Cost of Ownership?  As an example, are there license and hardware costs from retired systems that are removed from the budget? 
  • And lastly, resource utilization and efficiency: Are you doing things faster and better and thus requiring less resources?

The Right KPIs are going to drive the project ROI.  They need to be presented and agreed upon during business case approval.  From there, the path to monitoring the financial benefits are easier:

  • Building Dashboards that can handle the data and calculations for your metrics.  
  • Capture the current state as well as your goals over time, and then track the advances throughout the implementation and rollout.  

This will translate to easier benefit analysis.

In the absence of the right dashboards and savings tracking process, resistances within the organisation have stronger voices during any project setbacks.  This ultimately can erode the confidence inside and outside the project team.

Soft benefits go alongside your financial benefits, though they are usually much harder to quantify accurately. They can be factors such as your employees having improved utility, skill, and even joy with their activities.  That investment in your people should be measured and recognized continuously.  It should be captured through periodic feedback surveys as well as activity audits. 

Engaging with end-users and suppliers both at the outset and on an on-going basis will give up-to-date information and allow for changes to be tracked.  Ensuring cross-function coordination is also necessary, as the tech solution will touch all areas of the business.

There is no single solution to providing a fully accurate ROI calculation.  Take the time upfront to fully quantify costs, including those that may require more research to identify.  Capture processes and work patterns so that efficiencies can be identified.  And secure key stakeholder sign-off, so you’ll have consensus on what returns you expect and how it will be measured.

How Covid 19 Affects What Gets Measured

We cannot ignore the times we are in. CEOs and CFOs will be adjusting key KPI’s.  Whether you are driving change or reacting to their changes, as Procurement and Supply Chain leaders, it is imperative that you are in synch with leadership. 

In recent times, more and more companies are measuring their performance towards diverse, green and ethically compliant spend goals.

And now Covid-19 has forced risk avoidance into the front lines of KPI tracking.  

The agility of your supply chain will become an essential measurement.  For instance the percentage of your business that can be fulfilled through alternative distribution channels, modes and suppliers will be key to measure.

And all these primary and alternative options will come under more stringent risk criteria.  Risks will be evaluated by geography, ethics, politics, as well as financial stability.

In Closing

It’s a cliché, but what gets measured gets managed and what gets managed gets measured.  

Whether you choose to implement a savings tracking module within Source to Pay or not, I feel that it is very important to create a standardized intake and validation process for each KPI.  Pair that with a robust and flexible analytics solution to best monitor those KPIs that roll up to the overall project ROI.

Those that have followed these footsteps, are confident when they get the request to meet their CFO in a few hours to review how their project is tracking towards the business case.  They are actually excited because this is what they have been waiting for – a great opportunity to not only prove the ROI, but to also advance their career. 

To go deeper on how to find your perfect tech match, download our e-book ‘How To Select Source-To-Pay & Procure-To-Pay Systems That Deliver Results‘ and tune in to our series ‘Major Tech Fails.’

Spend Analysis Is A Secret Weapon

Spend Analysis can help build a roadmap on category sourcing and capture savings.


I firmly believe that spend analysis is probably the simplest yet smartest exercise a procurement department can conduct. And I’m not talking about leveraging a spend cube technology and running a GL file to get some rapid classification, albeit, that is the first step many of us take. But how about those of us who don’t have a robust spend technology deployed yet? Well, good news is that the value of analyzing spend is not in the complexity of the tool, or the visualizations that it produces, or even how quick they are produced; but it lies in the power of understanding spend patterns and asking the right questions behind those visuals and tables.

For many years my team and myself have conducted spend analysis exercises in MS Excel or Access and things have worked out very well, and we’ve learned a fair share of valuable lessons in terms of both effective spend classification, as well as result interpretation. This last one critical in operationalizing and mobilizing procurement teams. Unquestionably, these lessons when applied together can become a secret weapon to an organization, and even if every company applies them, the “secret” part of it remains true as every spend profile is different to each company as well as the strategies employed to develop a competitive edge. Here are some of the things, I’ve learned from analysis dozens of spend profiles over the years:

Spend Analysis can help build a roadmap on category sourcing and capture savings. This is no secret, as it is the primary reason why anyone would run a spend analysis. The mechanisms by which spend is classified and categorized help organizations understand where money is going, to which vendors, in which regions, on which categories and how diluted or dispersed spend might be across these areas. Accurately classifying spend is the first step in identifying levers across spend categories, where aggregated volumes might drive value or how “quick-and-easy” it might be for the organization to identify and drive savings to the organization.

Spend Analysis is key to identifying tail spend, even more so, in defining it. Which seems to be almost a bi-product of the spend analysis exercise itself. Because Spend Analysis relies in tying suppliers to categories, irrespective of the taxonomy used, thresholds are typically set based on spend levels, which ultimately will put all the “unclassified” spend in one large bucket conventionally (but not conveniently) addressed as “tail”. Let me tell you a secret, Tail Spend is a big problem for a lot of organizations because that’s where a lot of unmanaged, unsupervised spend goes, this is where procurement policies and procedures die and all controls are lost, but inherently, where a lot opportunity resides. Controlling tail spend is a major priority for organization, especially those who have already executed on a sourcing roadmap and deployed (some) category management.

Spend Analysis helps – very accurately – identify procurement behaviors. Remember that tail spend conversation we just had? Well, analyzing tail spend can help us determine when buyers across the organization are buying from suppliers who are part of managed categories but who are not part of the negotiated deals the organization has in place, repeatability of this pattern with the same “unmanaged” vendor may mean the buyer has a preference towards that vendor, for whichever reason (e.g. buying from Lowes where a contract with Grainger exists); conversely, finding many “unmanaged” suppliers under the same category may mean the buyer isn’t aware of the deals that might be in place with a preferred vendor (i.e. buying from Fastenal, Lowes, Amazon, and McMaster Carr instead of simply Grainger), doesn’t know how to follow a process to purchase from that vendor, or more interestingly, the buyer may have a preferred payment mechanism or process to use, which by the way, it typically defaults to the one that’s easiest. A good rule to follow is that the easiest procurement process should also be the right process, needless to say organically decreasing rogue spend.

Spend Analysis enables compliance by driving visibility into all the things above, and helps us start asking ourselves questions about why we see purchasing patterns that should not exist, define how prevalent they are, what regions or departments are reoccurring offenders or even understand how some of those vendors are being paid. I’ve seen a lot of customers who prefer one payment method over others, some like the P-Card approach as they benefit from the rebates, some others prefer limiting their P-Card spend as much as possible in order to drive technology efficiencies into the payment process – think of dynamic discounting and supply chain financing methods, as some of these benefits.

Last but not least, spend analysis is a tool to mitigate risk across supply base and enhance supplier relationship management best practices. Think about it, knowing how much you spend with a certain supplier can tell you how much leverage you really have to negotiate pricing, but it can also tell you how much you rely on a given supplier to enable the continuous operations of your organization. If a stationery supplier goes bankrupt overnight, your business may be able to stomach that. But what happens when a supplier in a more critical category is badly exposed to risk, perhaps a supplier who produces a patented part to your broader supply chain process across the world? Knowing how much the business relies on its extended supplier network, with a high confidence level, is critical in managing inherent risk and adapt quickly when needed.

The value of ongoing and disciplined spend analysis can offer many insights into how the organisation operates. It provides windows into efficiencies and opportunities that may be captured by the business.  Moreover, spend analysis is not a “one-and-done” thing, the more frequently it is done, the clearer the trends and patterns become. If you are able to integrate spend analysis into other valuable source-to-pay tools and technologies, the company can really benefit from quick improvements and a sustainable procurement function. Spend analysis can enable a competitive advantage, you may even want to see it as the most exclusive secret weapon at your disposal.

What’s Under The Hood? Identifying Potentials Gaps With P2P Providers

4 must-have requirements for your next P2P solution 


Finding the best Procure-to-Pay (P2P) solution to meet your organization’s needs and goals is no small feat. The ideal P2P solution will take the entire organization to the next level through improved realized savings, compliance, and operational efficiencies.

So, how do you identify a best-in-class P2P solution? To start, I’ve outlined these must-have characteristics below.

4 must-have requirements for your next P2P solution 

1. A single data source.

The best P2P solutions host all information in a single database. A single, searchable data source enables a consumer-like online shopping experience that end users and suppliers will embrace. Having a unified data hub:

  • Decreases total cost of ownership
  • Provides one portal where suppliers and vendors can collaborate
  • Improves user adoption by allowing users to quickly find, compare, and purchase across multiple suppliers in one interface

2. Process and data flow visibility.

Visibility enables procurement teams to strategically source goods and services to expand cost saving efforts. Procurement can use data to negotiate better supplier terms and drive effective purchasing behaviors.

Best-in-class P2P solutions have robust analytics with both automated reporting capabilities and the ability to produce ad hoc reports. Users gain strategic insights into and control over real-time savings, spend by supplier, and spend by region, to name a few. In addition to spend analytics, behavioral data on the most popular items purchased, top search terms being used, and search terms with no resulting products are available within a click of a button.

3. Intelligent workflow capabilities.

A best-in-class P2P solution should allow you to trigger workflows based on user profiles. Intelligent, automated workflows in next-generation P2P solutions minimize time spent on manual processes, and can even make existing automated processes more effective.

Many organizations waste time chasing down invoice discrepancies (missing details, quantities do not match, misalignment with purchase orders). Best-in-class systems automate this process with business rules triggered by missing information. Administrators construct and configure the business rules to reconcile the inconsistency, deny the invoice, send it to an employee with AP permissions, or push it through without changes.

Intelligent workflows do more than automate workflows. Data and insights collected on employee efficiencies can reduce tactical labor and better allocate head count accordingly.

4. Dynamic cloud-based software.

When analyzing a best-in-class P2P solution, it’s important to understand how the software will be implemented into your environment. Why? Because how the software is implemented will directly affect your total cost of ownership.

Break down prospective P2P software into these four categories:

  • On-premise: Software is a single instance, built on-premise behind the company’s firewall. IT owns the licensed software and codebase, so only they can make configurations and customizations to the software. Most ERPs exist in this manner.
  • Hosted Cloud (SaaS model): Code is still designed for hosting on-premise, but lives in the cloud. Vendors are responsible for making any changes to the codebase.
  • Built for the Cloud: This is a self-service software. No code needs to be written to make any changes. The business owns the system, making it easier to maintain.
  • Living and Breathing Cloud: This type of software has all the benefits of “Built for Cloud,” but also leverages all of the benefits of the cloud provider (such as Amazon Web Services) to expand and contract. This technology is built for maximum performance, extremely fast loading times, and scales to handle maximum traffic on the system.

The technical capabilities of any P2P solution are obviously important, but don’t overlook these questions during the evaluation process:

  • What do customer references say about this vendor?
  • Will this vendor help lower total cost of ownership (TCO)?
  • Will this solution easily integrate with other solutions in the P2P landscape?
  • How will this vendor support the procurement team and company’s vision?
  • What is the pricing model and fee structure? Does the model allow for growth?
  • What is the implementation plan, and what is the support structure for post go-live? 

When you’re choosing a Best-in-Class solution for your organization be sure to look for signs of integrity and trust. They may not be on your list of requirements, but you’re choosing a partner for your organization, and when the going gets rough you’ll need an organization you can trust above all.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on 24 April 2020 by Katie McEwen. It has been republished here with permission.

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Why A Source-To-Pay Ecosystem Is Best-Practice

Learn why end-to-end, source-to-pay (S2P) suites are no longer a feasible option for modern businesses and instead, organisations should turn to partner ecosystems.


Master of all? Or specialise?

Once upon a time the “one size fits all” vendor approach seemed ideal. It definitely held appeal as it seemed to be an ideal way to cover all an organisation’s S2P needs while only requiring one vendor.

But now, the industry has matured to learn that no vendor truly offers a full source-to-pay (S2P) suite that is best-in-class across all modules. Not to mention, the time it would take to roll out and maintain such a solution. In the past decade, vendors attempted to support the entire S2P process, however, as buying organisations strive to digitalise procurement and sourcing, it’s becoming apparent that a single suite is typically not enough to accomplish their goals.

Understanding your S2P ecosystem

Similar to wireless providers that switch between towers to ensure you never lose service, a proper S2P partner ecosystem makes sure you cover all areas of business spend, by using a multivendor approach. As noted in Gartner’s “Predicts 2019: Sourcing and Procurement Application Vendors Embrace APIs and the Ecosystem Approach”, “Growing partner ecosystems are making it easier for organisations to take a connected, multiple-solution approach to sourcing and procurement automation.” “By 2021, major source-to-settle and procure-to-pay vendors will have more than doubled their preconnected partner ecosystems.”

While the bulk of importance is directed towards automating purchasing, payments, and a flexible supplier network, there are many value-add services that surround the S2P process. Services like supplier management, risk management, and contract lifecycle management often only offer basic functionality from suite providers claiming an “end-to-end” solution. Best-practice suggests selecting one vendor for the core areas of focus, then supplementing with other products and services from specialised providers. Companies should evaluate the data in an ecosystem to ensure core information is shared between partners so that analytics can be applied on data across the systems.

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

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

Analyst perspective

In an interview with Magnus Bergfors, in conjunction with Spend Matters, Magnus details why, at one point and in some circumstances, an end-to-end suite.

He explains, “An end-to-end source-to-pay suite often seems more appealing than a specialist solution at first glance. And there are advantages to it — there’s no doubting that. The most practical one is from an IT management perspective. Your business will have fewer solutions to deal with and fewer integration points with an end-to-end approach. Second is that you get a similar look and logic across multiple solutions, making it easier to use. The third advantage is in the analytics where you can have data from multiple modules succinctly located in one place.”

Bergfors reveals that though there are many appeals to a singular S2P suite, it’s not always the best option. There are inevitable problems, including “…that your organisation sacrifices specific functionalities with a unified suite. When you sacrifice too much, it starts impacting your ability to manage your spend and stay agile in your operations.”

Additionally, he warns that “A lot of the end-to-end suites in the market today aren’t natively developed or integrated and are instead made up of acquisitions, some of which are better integrated than others.” So, even if a S2P suite claims to be end-to-end, it might operate more like a patchwork of solutions than a cohesive unit.

Join Basware at Connect Digital – free webinar series

Join Basware for our new Connect Digital webinar series where Magnus will further discuss his views and we’ll offer the opportuning for a live Q&A session. Find details for the webinar below.

Determining Your Future Tech Strategy – Spend Matters

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Hear from leading industry analyst Magnus Bergfors from Spend Matters on how to best determine your technology strategy and get the most out of the increasingly diverse and broad options available in the procurement technology market.

Register here

Fake Masks And False Cures: The Dark Side Of COVID-19

Criminals exploit COVID-19 fear with fake medical equipment. Here’s how world governments are fighting back.


COVID-19 means huge opportunities for criminals.

They are taking advantage of essential goods demand by flooding the market with their own shoddy versions – exploiting public fear.

Here’s a look at the most common (and concerning) fake products on the market.

Fake goods in the EU

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals and healthcare products are everywhere, according to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency.

In a recent report, it listed the most worrying fake items they’ve uncovered:

Medical equipment: face masks, virus test kits, gloves

Disinfectants: alcohol-based hand sanitiser, disinfectant cleaning wipes

Medicine: choloroquine (an anti-malaria drug initially thought to help treat the Coronavirus), other fake cures

Europol says the fake goods are sold through online stores created just to profit from the pandemic. Some even target victims through messaging apps like Telegram.

The goods originate from ‘frequently changing addresses in Asia’, making it extremely difficult to trace.

Europol is concerned these inferior goods could put people at serious risk.

“Counterfeit goods sold during the corona crisis do not meet the required quality standards and pose a real threat to public health and safety,” says Europol Executive Director Catherine de Bolle in the report.

“People who buy these fake products have a false sense of security, while they are in fact left unprotected against the virus.”

Substandard masks in the North America

And it’s not just Europe. The pandemic is keeping United States’ Homeland Security busy, with more than 200 criminal investigations related to COVID-19 so far.

One woman was caught selling illegal pesticide on eBay, claiming it could provide immunity from the virus.

Another man allegedly tried to sell 100 million facemasks to the government, despite not actually having any.

The man claimed his stash came straight from 3M, one of the biggest healthcare equipment manufacturers in the US.

3M responded with a lawsuit, saying: “3M’s legal team is taking strong action to protect 3M and the public against the conduct of those who seek to exploit 3M’s brand and reputation and defraud others during this time of emergency and crisis.”

3M is also suing a Canadian company for re-selling 3M masks at five times the retail price, vowing to “[put] a stop to those who are trying to cash in on this crisis.”

Another worrying trend in inferior products is testing kits.

The University of Washington School of Medicine spent thousands exporting kits from Shanghai, only to find some of the tests were tainted with bacteria.

The university has since recalled all tests to be on the safe side.

Seizing test kits in Australia

Australia has similar issues with shoddy test kits, according to Zoran Kostadinoski, Head of Border and Biosecurity at the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia (CBFCA).

He said the border force has intercepted hundreds of dubious testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Even though members of the CBFCA aren’t directly responsible for checking the authenticity of goods, they warn importers and exporters to be diligent.

“Procurement professionals need to ensure they source PPE from reputable manufacturers that provide quality products and meet the health standards of the importing country,” he warns.

“Until there is a global regulation of such products that provides certification, the issue of counterfeit goods in the supply chain will continue, as some look to make quick profit based on demand of such products due to COVID-19.”

China pledges to clean up

Authorities are doing their best to help people identify goods that meet safety standards.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even set up a website with photos of the most common counterfeit face masks.

Nevertheless, the question remains: why isn’t there greater effort to stamp out fakes before they are ever exported?

It’s complicated, as LA Times journalist Alice Su explains.

“It’s common for Chinese suppliers to export a product under one licensed company’s name but to source their products from second, third or fourth factories, like a chain of Russian nesting dolls, with little to no traceability down the chain of supply,” she writes in an article.

She also points out not all suppliers set out to produce inferior products. Many factories shifted to PPE production at the government’s request without knowing the proper quality controls.

Regardless, the Chinese government is making a concerted effort to shut down offending manufacturers and revoke their export licenses.

Fighting online crime in the UK

That process isn’t happening quick enough for people like Sarah Stout, however.

She’s the CEO of Full Support Healthcare Ltd, a supplier to the UK’s National Health Service.

Recently, she shared on LinkedIn that her company gets dozens of offers every week from manufacturers of the sought-after N95 mask.

95% of the masks are fake with forged certificates, she says.

“When I informed one supplier that I knew their certificates were fake, they said to me, “[O]k, if I give you real certificates for other product will you place an order?’” she writes.

Her experience isn’t unique. UK authorities say they’ve taken down 2000 Coronavirus scam websites so far, including 471 fake online shops.

Many of these websites were discovered through spam emails. One common email appears to come from the World Health Organization and offers COVID-19 health tips in exchange for personal password information.

James Brokenshire, UK Minister for Security, urged people to be aware of the many ways criminals exploit technology like email to gain advantage.

“It’s despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam and steal from people in their homes,” he wrote in a press release. “We all have a part to play in seeing they don’t succeed.”

In response, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre is asking for people to send them any suspicious emails.

It’s not just a UK problem, though. Pandemic spam mail is a global headache, with Google detecting 240 million COVID-19 related spam messages so far.

How to tackle it

Even though technology is used for exploitation, it’s also a key to stopping Corona crime.

One company in the fight is Systech, which lets you check if PPE product is authentic by simply scanning the product’s barcode with a smartphone.

The company uses blockchain technology to trace the product journey throughout the entire supply chain.

Similarly, Zuellig Pharma, an Asia-Pacific pharmaceutical giant, utilises SAP’s blockchain platform to verify authenticity.

Customers can scan a barcode on the package using the eZTracker app, and know instantly if the medicine is a legitimate Zuellig product.

This use of technology, along with the efforts of governments and the vigilance of the public, go a long way to combat the dark side of COVID-19.

However, until essential goods supply can match global demand, criminals will find a way to cash in.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

The Spy Who Loved Me – To Track Or Not To Track? That Is The Question

Companies ‘spy’ on remote employees using tracking software. Great for productivity? Or a massive invasion of privacy?


Covid restrictions are starting to ease, and soon the global workforce will swap their comfy sweats for a morning commute.

It won’t happen overnight, however.

Leaders like UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson want people to stay spread out, staggering shifts and working remotely where possible.

And some companies may even adapt policies to give employees the option of permanently working from home.

That leaves managers with the task of keeping staff productive from afar.

There are all kinds of ways this can be done, but one method stands out for its rising popularity (and sheer invasiveness): tracking software.

Here’s a look at what the software does, why companies use it, and its effectiveness.

Employee surveillance

Staff tracking software gives employers the ability to keep close tabs on employee.

Features vary, but this kind of software lets companies track everything a staff member does on a company computer.

This ranges from recording all websites visited, to taking screenshots every few minutes and sending them back to the boss.

Virtual monitoring isn’t anything new; IT and HR teams have used such tools for years. What’s new is the huge uptake in surveillance software subscriptions since the pandemic started.

In fact, one surveillance software company, Hubstaff, saw a 95% increase in new customers in March over February.  

Enforcing productivity

Is it overkill to record everything an employee does?

Not at all, says Courtney Cavey, Hubstaff’s Marketing Director. In fact, she welcomes being monitored with Hubstaff’s own software.

“The freedom it ultimately grants is priceless,” Cavey says. “[My boss] knows I’m working when I say I am because he can see that I’m tracking time and activity levels, and completing tasks, so he doesn’t have to look over my shoulder and constantly ask for updates.”

It’s certainly one way to make sure staff are productive. But it isn’t the only way.

Trust over anxiety

With all the other productivity tools for remote teams, including Slack and Zoom, why is surveillance software so popular?

It’s all about control, according to executive consultant Lloyd Bashkin.

“It’s perfectly understandable that CEOs will feel anxious at a time like this,” he says.

“[I]t’s a basic human need to want to feel a certain amount of control, and when that is stripped away, bingo – anxiety spikes.

“So rather than see [computer surveillance] as paranoia, for most CEOs it’s just a natural inclination to feel a certain amount of control.”

As CEO of management consultancy Lloyd Scott & Company, based in New Jersey, Bashkin says times of crisis only intensify a person’s leadership style.

“The perception of inescapable fear, such as COVID-19, will amplify a CEO’s behaviour – so untrusting CEOs become less trusting (as a way to relieve anxiety) and more mature, trusting CEOs become more trusting,” he says.

Loosening the reins

As an example, Bashkin points to a recent client – a CEO who clashed with his head of procurement.

The CEO had a long running dispute with the head of procurement, accusing him of having a negative attitude and of letting quality slip. Then the pandemic hit and remote working only made the conflict worse.

The CEO’s solution was to monitor the head’s computer activity closely. If that didn’t work, he’d simply fire him.

Luckily, a conversation with Bashkin helped the CEO realise the problem was his own trust issues. So the CEO gave the head of procurement more freedom to do his job without interference, and the problems disappeared almost overnight.

Output over input

That’s because staff realise when they aren’t trusted by their manager, and close monitoring can be demotivating.

“If employees feel their manager is looking over their shoulder at every moment, trust goes out the window immediately,” says Corporate Rebels’ Pim de Morree.

He thinks surveillance software is ‘micro-management gone wild.’

“Apparently, employers don’t feel the staff they hired are capable of doing a job without them tracking their activities,” he says. “It’s the workplace equivalent of a prisoner’s ankle bracelet.”

Instead of focusing on how work gets done, he says the real measure of productivity is what gets done.

“Figuring out how to measure that is the real problem to solve,” de Moree says.

Legal barriers

However, not all surveillance stems from mistrust or control issues.

There are vital reasons for monitoring staff computer use, like protecting networks from malware or other viruses.

In fact, some companies are required to track employee activities to meet legal obligations. The key to doing it well is transparency.

Employers should let employees know what information they collect and why, says Ashwin Krishnan, tech ethicist and COO of UberKnowledge.

He advises companies to explain staff monitoring “not in legalese terms, but in actual terms of what this means for [the employee].”

He says companies need a clear ethics and privacy policy for data ownership – like how long it’s held and what happens when it isn’t needed anymore.

“When employees can see the full extent of the responsibility and diligence shown by leaders, it breeds trust,” says Krishnan.

Be empathetic

That said, it takes more than transparency to increase productivity, Krishnan says.

Remote staff are far more productive when they feel supported – especially in these unusual times.

“Suddenly, the employee’s home life needs to become part of the manager’s discovery process,” he says.

“Not every employee may be willing to share this but letting them know that they have a supportive ear if they need it is crucial. [A]dapting previously scheduled work meetings (adjust timing, duration, frequency) to deal with this at-home reality shows empathy.”

Such empathy can also help customers be more patient with a company’s employees. 

Kristy Knichel, CEO of Knichel Logistics, a shipping logistics company in Pennsylvania, recently wrote to customers explaining her team’s new work situation.

Many of her staff are working remotely for the first time, and some even need company internet hotspots since they don’t have Wi-Fi at home.

“We understand that our employees are accustomed to the ease of communicating with one another in person in the office, so this has been quite a change to adjust to,” she writes.

“[O]ur team has made the transition smoothly and we hope that you have not experienced any disruption.”

Destination, not the journey

It isn’t easy to manage a remote team – especially during a pandemic.

It requires trust and empathy, while letting go of the need to control every employee move.

That’s why the best way to improve productivity is following de Morree’s advice and focus on what an employee delivers – whether in the office or not – instead of how they delivered it.

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