Category Archives: Technology

What are the Most Valuable Tech Skills in Procurement Right Now?

The future of procurement is digital. Experts share the tech skills you need to thrive in that future.


The future of procurement is digital. How can you make sure you’re part of that future? By understanding what your company needs from procurement, then using the right digital tools to meet those needs.

Here are the most valuable tech skills in procurement:

Supplier risk management

Companies want better supplier risk management, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Our recent Supply Chain Confidence Index showed 27% of respondents didn’t have the tools they needed to act quickly in the crisis.

That’s why supplier risk management technology is top of procurement leaders’ list of digital priorities.

Employers now expect procurement teams to move faster and mitigate risk long before another crisis hits.

End-to-end supply chain visibility

A by-product of proper supplier risk management is increased visibility, according to Hau Lee, Professor of Operations, Information and Technology at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“You need end-to-end visibility about your supply network (capacity, inventory, disruptions, production yields, lead time, bottlenecks, social and environmental performances, their financial conditions, etc.), and your demand network (orders, demand forecasts, backlogs, channel inventory, promotion plans, and disruptions),” Lee says. 

There are a host of tools out there to improve visibility. One is IBM Sterling Inventory Visibility, which is a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS). It compiles all of your inventory information from different platforms so you can see available product in real-time.

That’s just one example. Lee recommends educating yourself about other available tools that improve visibility. These harness technology like the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and deep data analytics.

Reduce complexity in global sourcing

Professor Lee says understanding the intricacies of global trade, and how technology can reduce complexity, can make you an extremely valuable asset.  

“Today, you need to be aware of the tens of thousands of bilateral trade agreements that exist between some key trading countries for products and components that may affect you,” Lee says. 

And not just for minimising disruption. Where and how you source products can have a major impact on your bottom line.

Lee uses the example of breaking up a product and sourcing parts from different countries, like sourcing frames from Cambodia while the other parts from China. That way, you can use Cambodia as the country of origin instead of China, which can save you a great deal in taxes and custom duties. 

“As countries start to gradually recover from COVID-19, attention will be shifted back (it has already started) to trade wars, tariff frictions, and protectionism,” Lee says. “Databases from WTO, for example, should be useful. Some experts call this “tariff engineering,” and there can be big differences.”

Conduct due diligence on suppliers for complete transparency

Ethical sourcing is already a hot topic, and it’s even more scrutinised now. Your company’s reputation is on the line, and you are held accountable for how and where you source materials.

It’s certainly a top concern for your company’s executives. They desperately want assurance that suppliers are reputable. Luckily there are digital tools that help you do your due diligence for potential suppliers, Professor Lee says.

“For example, many big brands have already been using IPE, the Chinese website that captures environmental violations in China, as a source of data to do due diligence of their prospective suppliers,” Lee says.

In fact, companies like Nike use apps to connect with the factory workers and educate them, Lee says. “[That] allows them to have better visibility of the conditions of the factories (instead of just relying on imperfect factory audits to monitor), and at the same time help to improve productivity there.”

Interpret data in a meaningful way

Being able to understand and interpret data is sorely needed in procurement.

This is especially true before you bring in new tech systems, says Susan Walsh, Founder of The Classification Guru.

“An area that’s often neglected is data preparation or cleansing before the implementation of any new software or systems,” Walsh wrote in a recent blog. “By the time it’s discovered there are errors in the data, staff have lost faith in using the software and are disengaged, claiming it doesn’t work, or they don’t trust it because it’s wrong.” 

Research from Deloitte shows CPOs struggle with an organisation’s data complexity. If you can untangle data and whip it into something meaningful, you’ll have a job for life.

Step away from the admin

The beauty of procurement technology is cutting out admin and simplifying processes.

The ugly side of that same technology is displacing people who currently handle that admin. That’s why you need to gain useful skills beyond manual data processing if you want a future in procurement.

But where do you start, especially if new technology seems overwhelming?

Craig Carter, Professor of Supply Chain Management in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, says start with the basics.

“Supply management professionals need to have a general understanding of all of the technologies that are being adopted or are on the horizon – AI, blockchain, descriptive analytics, and predictive analytics,” Carter says.

But don’t panic, as Carter adds that understanding does not mean mastery. You don’t need to become an expert overnight.

Technology is coming

Don’t be surprised if this future tech is on your desk a lot sooner than you think. The pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of technology, as shown by our Supply Chain Confidence Index.

When asked which technologies show the most promise for helping to mitigate future pandemics and supply disruptions, 49% said predictive analytics and 38% said AI/ machine learning.

Ultimately, companies will do anything they can to minimise risk. Which is why procurement is so perfectly placed to contribute.

All you need to do is prove you have the answers they need, says Professor Carter.

“What is necessary is a demonstration of a procurement professional’s strategic value,” Carter says. 

“Procurement professionals who can critically analyse, think strategically, and build relationships will continue to be in demand.”

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

The Christmas Supply Chain – But Not as you Know it!

Airmiles on a sleigh? Elves and Modern Slavery? Sustainable fur for Santa’s suit? Industry 4.0 technologies could change the very fabric of Christmas supply chains…

If you’re anything like the team here at Procurious HQ, it doesn’t feel we’ve recovered from last Christmas, let alone be ready for this year! While the festivities kick-off, we can’t help but think about the key role Procurement and Supply Chain play in making the holidays have all the joy and cheer you could possibly need.

However, it’s impossible to fail to see how the traditional Christmas supply chain will be altered in years to come and it’s all down to innovation and Industry 4.0 technologies. And there’s one organisation that might really see some changes. That’s right, we’re talking about Santa.

Now, as none of us have been fortunate to venture into Santa’s workshop at the North Pole (not for the want of trying…), we don’t know what technology he already possesses. A veritable Christmas-load of magic, yes, but is it time for a Kringle 4.0 upgrade to make sure he’s staying up to date with current trends.

Let’s have a peer into the supply chain to find out…

Airmiles, UAVs and RPA

Global population growth may have slowed to around 1.05 per cent per year, but it is still on the rise and expected to hit 10 billion by the late 21st Century. What this means is that Santa is going to have to find a way to exceed the already blistering 650 miles per second he has to travel in 2020 to ensure that he completes his deliveries on Christmas Eve.

What does this mean for Rudolph and the other reindeer? After over 300 years of delivering presents, could reindeer be on the way out and be replaced by a more innovative solution to help Santa out? As technology develops further it might even be possible for the traditional sleigh to become an Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAV), or perhaps for reindeer to be overtaken by RPA.

Both solutions come with their own drawbacks. The airmiles on the sleigh are gargantuan on an annual basis, though with it being powered by magnetic levitation (or magic) the carbon footprint is at least very low. There is a limit to the current technology on time in the air for UAVs, as well as how far away a pilot can be before the signal is lost. And if the sleigh is a UAV, who is going to eat all the mince pies and carrots and deliver all the presents?

Blockchain and Sustainability

There are few conversations around Industry 4.0 without some mention of Blockchain and traceability. But with the volume of gifts that are given around Christmas increasing exponentially, it’s something that is more important than ever to aid traceability of products, but also their source raw materials and the individuals who made or used them.

Now, we know that the Elves (more on them in a minute) make all the toys for Santa, but Santa still needs to source his raw materials from somewhere. When considering sustainability, we also need to look to a future where Santa’s suit is trimmed with sustainable fur and he’s using a sustainable, or Vegan-friendly, leather for his harnesses and boots.

Santa, of course, should be using blockchain to ensure that all his wood is grown in sustainable forests, all his electronics are free from conflict minerals, and his second, third and fourth et. al. tiers in his supply chain are free from Modern Slavery.

Which brings us back to the elves. We would hope that they are provided with the best of living and working conditions and countless sources have told us how much they enjoy their jobs. But we should still be able to request their employment contracts under a Freedom of Information request. Just to make sure…

Optimisation and Risk Mitigation

With the supply chain becoming increasingly complex, as well as the increasing number of deliveries, Santa needs to find a way to optimise his supply chain. He already has key stakeholders to provide input, as well as having access to the myriad data from global sources. Santa may be able to use technologies like IBM’s Resolution Rooms, which facilitate discussions and create references and knowledge for future problem solving.

A key risk in 2020 is COVID-19. Not only will Santa have to load his sleigh with presents, but he’ll need gallons of hand sanitiser and a face covering for each household. Crowdsourcing ideas or using Resolution Rooms would be a good way for him to set an effective strategy for how to handle this.

Finally, one key aspect of supply chain optimisation is focusing on your strengths and outsourcing other activities. Santa may well decide that his strengths lie in present delivery and bring in other stakeholders to provide logistical and technical support.

Who’s the Boss?

What has also become clear during 2020 is that organisations that don’t recognise gender equality are doomed to failure. You only have to look at the success of the Procurious Big Ideas Summit to recognise the role of successful female leaders in business now and in the future. Fortunately, Santa already has a female leader who can play a more critical role as the organisation’s CEO – Mrs Claus.

As the organisation grows and so do the challenges of the global supply chains, Mrs Claus will play a pivotal role in the smooth running of operations, ensuring Santa has the freedom to focus on delivering presents. Mrs Claus brings a strong leadership to the North Pole, making sure strategic planning begins in plenty of time and that the right decisions are made. It’s high time Mrs Claus got the credit she deserves from the rest of the world!

The Future is Bright…

No matter what the future of the Christmas supply chain looks like, we all know it’s in good hands and (hopefully) making best use of the Industry 4.0 technologies available. Take time to consider all the work that goes into this when you wake up on Christmas morning and find your presents waiting for you (we’re assuming you are all on the nice list…).

It truly is a technologically driven Christmas miracle!

How to Select a Marketplace Platform – What You Need to Know

Marketplace solutions will drastically improve end users’ experience, increase our own efficiency and revolutionise how suppliers and buyers engage with one another – so here’s what to look for in a Marketplace Platform.


Over the past two decades, we have seen an outstanding increase of B2C e-commerce platforms, now representing 30% of total trade1. As a result, it is no surprise that B2B e-commerce is also seeing significant growth in popularity built upon B2C e-commerce platforms’ success.  Until recently, B2B e-commerce platforms have been limited to a small number of indirect categories such as MRO or Travel & Transportation. However, we are now seeing companies expand their use of marketplaces across indirect categories due to an understanding that the path forward is to transform the Source-to-Pay process to allow end users to self-service their requirements.

Marketplace solutions will transform the overall Source to Pay (S2P) process in three ways:

1. Improve the end-user experience from search to buy, allowing budget holders to buy “in three clicks” as they are used to in their personal B2C shopping experience, thus increasing client satisfaction

2. Drastically reduce procurement teams’ time and effort responding to tail & tactical needs so they can focus instead on value-add activities and strategic supplier relationships

3. Improve the way suppliers and buyers engage with each other, with a focus on small and medium businesses — a move from “off-line” to digital offers via the marketplace reduces the visibility gap of products and services offered by large and small suppliers.

In this blog, I outline the transformation journey to prepare for a marketplace approach, as well as identifying how to select the right marketplace platform for your needs.

Transformative journey for end users, sourcing team and suppliers 

The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated S2P digitisation and the need for CPOs to propose new approaches that satisfy both end users and suppliers. These include improving end user satisfaction through self-sourcing, focusing the sourcing team on value-add activities, and complying with preferred supplier strategies.

Improve end-user satisfaction through self-sourcing

For a certain level of need, under a certain spend clip threshold, it can be onerous for end users to follow company guidelines, be trained on ERP or e-sourcing platforms and to try to find the products or services they want. The risk of this burdensome process is that end users may go “off-line” (outside of Procurement’s visibility), select their preferred vendor, then issue a retrospective PO to their organization.

Whereas, embedding a marketplace platform into the company’s ERP or e-sourcing platform will transform the “procurement end-user journey,” giving the power of sourcing and selecting vendors to the end-users to suit their needs and leveraging the natural “best buy” environment of the marketplace platform to improve savings.

Focus the sourcing team on value-add activities

Once the traffic of spot buy and tactical needs is funneled through a marketplace environment, the sourcing team can focus on the strategic needs of the organisation. They will also gain visibility to the tail and tactical needs of their organisation thanks to the analytics capabilities embedded into the more advanced marketplace environments. With this view, they can analyse the marketplace traffic and supplier revenues and consider switching some relationships from tactical to strategic.

Comply with preferred supplier strategies

In an “off-line,” non-digitised environment without means to track spend, it can be difficult to push tail and tactical spend to preferred suppliers such as minority vendors, corporate social responsibility (CSR) suppliers and small to medium suppliers.

The degree of supplier digitisation and ability to offer products and services “on-line” clearly allows procurement organisations to put those highly digitised suppliers and offerings in front of their end-users more easily than suppliers who are not as digitised. Marketplaces level the playing field for smaller suppliers.  And, marketplace ranking capabilities linked with supplier performance (such as EcoVadis ratings, on time delivery, minority spend, etc.) gives Procurement Sustainability Managers the ability to build preferred supplier lists directly into the marketplace environment and funnel end-user demand to those suppliers.

As companies decide to invest in marketplace capabilities, there are some key criteria to consider before selecting the platform that best fits your organisation’s needs.

How to select the right platform

Public vs. private B2B marketplaces

Public B2B marketplaces are the most developed solutions across the platform industry today. They follow the same principles of the B2C environment where suppliers and their associated products, services and pricing policy are fully managed by the platform owners. Platform owners may decide to provide their own products vs. those provided by suppliers invited into the marketplace, with limited visibility to alternative suppliers for the procurement organisation.  Consider the following key benefits and limitations of public marketplaces:

Public Marketplace benefits for Procurement organisations:

·  Content is fully managed by the platform owners

·  Onboarding of vendors is driven by the marketplace

·  Integration within current procurement platform is easy

Public Marketplace limitations for Procurement organisations:

·  Limited categories are available

·  Limited ability to integrate with legacy supplier base to offer products and services that the organisation has a history of buying

·  Payment process is often managed directly in the platform and control of spending is more difficult

·  Inability for an organisation to monetise their own supply chain

Given the limitations of public marketplaces, we are seeing a rapid rise in private marketplace platforms.  In some industries, the use of private marketplaces is quite natural. The hospitality industry, for example, was among the first to build procurement private marketplaces to propose to their franchisees and agents the ability to leverage their combined buying power, thanks to the digitisation of their needs both on the product and service side.

Before deciding to build your own private marketplace, a procurement organisation will need to size the effort required to build and maintain such an environment.  Consider also the following key benefits and limitations of private marketplaces:

Private Marketplace benefits for Procurement organisations:

·  Procurement organisation is fully in control of the suppliers onboarded

·  Historical vendors and associated content will help end-users buy-in

·  Fully aligned with internal procurement process including vendor payment

·  Organisation’s ability to monetise their own supply chain

Private Marketplace limitations for Procurement organisations: 

·  Content critical for marketplace adoption is managed by the procurement organisation

·  Potential lack of supplier competition on the marketplace

·  Time and effort required to set-up the environment vs. a plug and play public marketplace

Other critical aspects to consider when evaluating marketplaces

Products and services

Marketplaces are developed and implemented mainly to reduce the effort of managing tail and tactical spend. Within that spend remit, services are often as important as products. However, if a marketplace environment is optimised for products, it can be a challenge to add services.  Customisation and specification refinements are typically required to handle both.

Today, some platform providers have dedicated their platform to services while others to products — the end-user has to select one or the other environment based on his or her needs.

Collaboration capabilities

When selecting a private marketplace, if the procurement organisation has a say in the functionality, be sure to look at the platform’s collaboration capabilities between the end-users and suppliers. Collaboration bots can refine user needs and are a key enabler to self-source. 

RFQ capabilities

One of the first objectives of a marketplace is to control tail and tactical spend.  But next, we can expect the marketplace environment to manage much larger spend. To be successful in with larger spend and to differentiate further from e-catalogue providers, marketplaces need to increase the average spend clip levels while keeping a “best-buy” environment. Having “three quotes and a buy” capability within the marketplace will allow end-users to manage small RFQs directly for both products and services and will push upwards the level of spend transacted on the platform.

Analytics

Analytics capabilities are important for both the sourcing team and the suppliers. It will bring to the sourcing team a clear view of the organisation’s needs and potential missed savings reporting (such as when end users do not select the best available prices). For the suppliers, it is equally important that they understand how they are positioned in term of pricing, but also that they understand the most popular products and services to continue providing them and increase their revenue while participating in a “best-buy” environment.

With all of their benefits, whether public or private, we can expect B2B marketplaces to continue their rapid expansion into procurement organisations.  Marketplaces can dramatically improve user experience, enabling end users to self-serve when buying.  They can free up procurement staff to focus on more strategic activities.  And, marketplaces help connect buyers and suppliers and give more visibility to SCR suppliers and their offerings. 

Please comment or reach out to me to further discuss the value of marketplaces.  For more information, register for an upcoming webinar sponsored by IBM.

(1)   Brohan, M. (Dec 1, 2020). Gross sales on B2B marketplaces will finish strong in 2020 Digital Commerce 360.  https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2020/12/01/gross-sales-on-b2b-marketplaces-will-finish-strong-in-2020/

3 Reasons To Get Excited About The New Procurious

As 2021 dawns, it’s time for a new-look site with new capabilities for a new era – find out how it can help you catapult your influence.


There are so many benefits to increasing your network and influence. It won’t come as news to you that it helps to advance your career … but did you know that having more influence actually helps to increase the value you’re able to negotiate?

Think about it: people with more influence always get more – more deals, more access, more benefits – which prompted us to offer you more. After all:

Influence = value

In 2014 we created Procurious to help professionals like you grow their network and increase their influence, and it’s served our community well. Now, after what has been a remarkably challenging year, we felt it was the perfect time to enhance, upgrade and refresh the platform to help you achieve this, so we’re excited to share some of the updates we’ve been working on …

1. More tools to connect and grow your professional network

We believe one of the most important aspects of our profession is the development of strong relationships and a diverse network. This has always been at the heart of Procurious and has been a key focus for the new platform.

By introducing new features such as live-chat and profile additions like skills we’re making it easier to find, connect and collaborate with like-minded professionals.

2. Enhanced micro-communities and groups

Whether you’re sharing a valuable resource, discussing an idea, establishing a think-tank or reflecting and asking for feedback on a recent experience, Procurious has you covered!

We’re always looking for new ways to support the activities that help you and your team learn, grow and achieve excellence, and the upcoming enhancements to our groups and discussions are no exception.

3. New and convenient ways to find and participant in live events

We love assembling our community to share and discuss new ideas, important trends, emerging challenges and exciting opportunities, and our new approach to events aims to make this easier and more powerful.

With simplified search and registration, event specific community feeds, upcoming session alerts and integrated live-streams, we’re looking forward to helping everyone in our community to make the most of these opportunities to connect.

Procurious is here to help you take control of your procurement and supply chain career. The more you give, the more you get, so be generous: together we can all move forward through Procurious.

If you have any questions at all about Procurious, please get in touch at [email protected]

Three Data And Analytics Considerations Every Organisation Should Make In The Pursuit Of Digital Transformation

The tools exist – and are affordable – to utilise Procurement data throughout the organisation for actionable intelligence. So how do you make that transformation? IBM Procurement’s Laura Beth Hirt-Sharpe writes the definitive guide to clearing the myriad hurdles.


A Procurement organisation’s success relies on transformation from standard spend visualisation tools to a comprehensive strategy to monitor, maintain and utilise Procurement data throughout the organisation. With the advent of inexpensive, efficient and reliable data collection and curation capabilities, many Procurement executives have the opportunity to efficiently create actionable intelligence from their data. Though a myriad of tools, methods and services are available to support this work, a significant hurdle remains for organisations: leaders must determine the best tools and services and curate an appropriate data strategy and data-driven culture to drive the change necessary to remain competitive.  All this, while cutting costs and reducing complexity.

As leaders embark on their Procurement analytics transformation, they face three major considerations: data and data governance strategy, data cleansing and curation, and skill gaps in core analytics and data science skills. In this blog, I will provide suggestions for each consideration based on my experience with global clients at various levels of maturity.

1. Data and data governance strategy 

Many Procurement organisations begin their digital transformation by thinking that data strategy and technology strategy are one and the same, when in reality these are two distinct, codependent pillars. A best-in-class approach to data strategy is to begin with the outcomes you are looking to drive from your Procurement data.  These outcomes can range across various domains beginning with traditional spend analytics, risk and compliance monitoring, to AI-based trending of key metric behavior within your environment, and many more in between. Once you have a clear view of the outcomes you want to drive, begin thinking through important questions like: 

·   What data needs to be captured and what level of structure is required within those elements? 

·   Is this data captured today, and if so, how?

·   What data gaps are present against target outcomes?

·   Does reasonably consistent master data exist across various source systems?

·   How can data completeness, accuracy, and meaningfulness be assured over time?

·   What is the best way to collect and curate data over time?  (This is not a “one and done” event!)

·   How can Procurement processes be optimised to ensure efficient and effective data capture?

These types of questions will help shape your data and data governance strategy. It is important to understand that there will always be a trade-off between speed of execution and granularity of data capture. Finding the right balance is key, and ensuring you have the right technology and innovation partners in place is crucial to optimising this balance. 

2. Data cleansing and curation 

There are two primary factors to consider with regard to data cleansing and curation: determining who from your organisation should be involved and maintaining value drivers in your dataset. 

Who should be involved?

Procurement data teams within an organisation typically lean toward one of two strengths: data science or Procurement. Some organisations focus on pulling data experts from other parts of the organisation to Procurement to help curate an accurate merge of their datasets into a “source of truth” dataset. However, through this method, Procurement subject matter experts (SMEs) have a limited stake in the data cleansing activities.  Knowledge of Procurement is essential to rapidly increase the data return on investment, such as supplier name normalisation and logic flagging.  If those knowledge assets are not brought into the process early, the path to monetisation will be slow and spotty. 

Alternatively, some organisations choose to assemble a team of Procurement professionals who can educate themselves on data techniques and procedures and curate the source of truth data. For these organisations, technical issues and lack of repeatability of process steps ensure the source of truth dataset will require a similar pruning process again in the future. This also has drawbacks in that data architecture is best left to data professionals – especially data that will be used for AI and Cognitive algorithms.  Merging Procurement SME talent with data design in a Procurement environment is tricky. Couple that with the reality that top data and Procurement talent have “day jobs” makes this investment in talent critical, complex and expensive. 

What are the key value drivers?

Organisations that pull their data into a central repository and want to utilise it to its fullest should maintain two value drivers within their dataset: 1) Procurement-specific categorisation and 2) knowledge-infusion based on outside information. 

Cleansing data to support a Procurement taxonomy cannot rely alone on a set of off-the-shelf tools built for classification of natural language – sentences and paragraphs – but will need to be curated for terms and phrases specific to Procurement’s categories. Furthermore, high-accuracy categorisation of spend data hinges on multiple fields such as supplier name, GL classification and rich line-item text fields. 

Utilising these Procurement-specific fields in classification requires more advanced algorithms to decide between potentially disagreeing field content.  To further complicate categorisation and curation, data experts are regularly tasked with combining non-structured information into the source of truth dataset. This work requires technical knowledge and industry acumen to execute as well as regular refreshes of data and terminology.  For example, these data points could include diversity supplier type, occupancy and building information as well as market intelligence purchased from third party providers. This work requires an in-depth knowledge of the source of truth dataset and supporting datasets which may be unstructured. These fields must be updated and verified with Procurement stakeholders. Categorisation work and additional field inclusion require a significant investment by Procurement organisations to create and maintain.

Determining the right team and the value drivers within Procurement-specific data is a task that takes dedicated individuals, time, and effort. However, the size and forethought of this effort will determine the return on data initiatives.

3. Core analytics and data science skills 

A pervasive issue I see with organisations that hire data scientists from top schools at high salaries is that they struggle to extract value from the data that already exists in their systems due to lack of Procurement acumen.

Another common issue is that an organisation’s current team cannot afford incremental budget for the aforementioned data resources, and therefore leans on its existing Procurement and IT staff to monitor, maintain, and report utilising spreadsheets and visualisation tools.

Cross-collaboration

Both approaches leave a significant amount of value unrealised for the business. Instead, I recommend cross-collaboration across the organisation, designating analytics champions and emphasising grassroots training.  Without these, the value of your data will remain untapped and will require a significant amount of future investment to digitally transform your business.

A successful data-focused organisation is one that is fully integrated within your Procurement function. The data team cannot be a siloed organisation, building point solutions for the loudest stakeholder’s pain point. There needs to be an agile approach to daily activities, with a robust backlog and tasks prioritised for highest return to the business.

Analytics champions

Analytics champions are an important, yet often overlooked, position. Data Translators are another name for this role, as organisations need to treat data as another language with certain speakers of the database and statistics “dialects.” 

For example: if an executive has a short turnaround project that is important for continuing operations, they need to meet with their function’s analytics champion before they meet with the data team. The intent of this role and meeting is to vet, assess and format answers to the rudimentary questions that often derail otherwise productive data initiatives. Potential topics to cover include data availability, awareness of the project backlog, agreement on fair timelines and investment, and blockers. 

Organisational growth

Analytics champions need to be cultivated internally first as functional experts and grow as the organization evolves. There are positives to hiring versus training, but as discussed earlier, without the proper functional understanding you will likely see a lack of results without the proper structure in place. 

Your current functional team knows your business, processes, industry, and supply base best, so enable them to make decisions and give structured guidance to the data experts, even if a data translator is required.

Meaningful transformation through modern Procurement

Analytics is at the forefront of high-impact Procurement organisations as a trusted business advisor role, as a supplier relationship reference source, and as the foundation of effective compliance management. Through analytics, modern Procurement can be predictive in their actions and trusted throughout the broader business. To produce the granular level data required for actionable intelligence, source data has to expand beyond basic accounts payable and purchase order elements.  New sources of information, such as demand, consumption and compliance data from a variety of internal and external sources must be linked. This process appears daunting, but we have seen meaningful transformation happen over small, structured, prioritised steps with a focus on data as the foundation for meaningful transformation.

To solve for this complex need, Procurement Business Process Outsourcing services are innovating through AI-based technology infused with an influx of new and re-purposed Procurement talent skilled in data science, mathematics, statistics and computer science. Ensuring the correct mix of skilled data resources with Procurement experts has proven to be an expensive challenge for CPOs, and an opportunity for market-leading specialists such as IBM Procurement Services. These services assist Procurement organisations to meet their analytics demands while empowering their sourcing practitioners to focus on taking action based on the analytically discovered opportunities. Incorporating knowledge built across clients and industries, these services allow Procurement to adjust focus around high yield data and statistically verified opportunities.

There’s A Template For That – Procurement Tools For The Gig Economy

As the workforce bounces back, the gig economy is expected to boom. So how will this mode of employment suit Procurement? We asked Prometheia Procurement CEO Jody Rowe.


COVID-19 has raised many challenging questions about the way in which we work. It’s causing individuals and companies the world over to review their operating models. The procurement profession is not isolated from this and will need to think about the security of supply chains, how we work, who to work with, what an effective operating model is, what systems to use, the questions are endless…

This changing environment is driving the need for procurement solutions to be flexible and virtual, and to provide simple access.  We need processes and tools which empower all users and ensures continuity of knowledge, especially for the gig economy which requires access at any place, at any time.

We are also under a lot of pressure to make smarter decisions that mitigate risk, leveraging the best consulting knowledge in the business, while still ensuring retention of key personnel.

It’s becoming obvious that we now need to embrace open systems that provide instantaneous connection that enables group collaboration and creates a valued global network and access to knowledge.

The drivers of these changes are simple – it’s down to cost and managing risk. The question is how to get things done whilst keeping overheads down and providing real value? The opportunities of enjoying full-time work at one company for the entirety of your career has greatly reduced. Some industries, such as Oil and Gas, are already acutely aware of the steady shift towards the gig economy, which has been driven by both companies’ and individuals’ needs as people seek improved work-life balance.

Do companies need to maintain a large physical footprint or would they be better reducing their liabilities by gaining access to a diverse, flexible and talented workforce when required? As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have downsized and placed recruitment freezes, yet have still managed to operate effectively. To me, this demonstrates an underutilisation of resource pre-pandemic.

When the rebound from COVID-19 comes, companies will move even more towards the gig economy to meet their needs for short-term contracts and freelance work. With commodity price fluctuations and layoffs continuing, it is likely we will see this kind of marketplace continuing to grow for the foreseeable future. 

In a gig economy, employers have access to a flexible workforce with the appropriate talent available at short notice. There’s no upskilling required as contractors are typically experienced specialists in their field, which can result in projects being completed more efficiently. Contractors often enjoy much greater flexibility in terms of work location, schedule and leave, as well as the excitement and experience obtained moving from one project to another; all of which ultimately adds to their valuable skillset.

Digitisation is paramount for a gig economy to be effective; reliable global access to systems exists and is well-tested. Access to global resources can be sought easily and work can be undertaken anywhere in the world. There are multiple workforce gig economy websites that successfully provide ad-hoc services: you can send a scope, obtain a price and get the work completed.

So why not access procurement in this way?

When you reflect on the way in which we are working in multiple countries – UK consultants working with an Australian client, Australian consultant working with an Indonesian client – you can conclude this new smarter way of working is upon us. Adapting to this change would be pivotal in continuing to deliver value within the Contracts and Procurement function. There’s no denying the function is critical to any business in managing risk, providing strong governance and soundly managing spend.

The answer was to develop a digital platform which provides access to talent across the globe via a flexible and virtual model which provides a cost-effective opportunity to fast track performance, access to procurement professionals that can save time and money, and assistance in managing risk and spend by offering easy-to-use services that can be accessed from anywhere.

And so was born Promitheia Procurement: A comprehensive online procurement tool that provides business with the opportunity to purchase procurement templates and work with online professionals to design any business procurement function to meet their unique requirements.

Procurement Process Technology: 3 Keys To Adding Clarity Post Covid-19

Here are three keys to conceiving, deploying and using technology to elevate the performance of your procurement process operations from IBM’s Chander Vashistha


Procurement organisations depend on technology to manage their source-to-pay (procurement) functions most efficiently and effectively. Technology also provides exceptional services experience to their requestors, buyers and suppliers. However, organisations often find the process of selecting, implementing and using technology platforms and applications challenging. While procurement technology provides many benefits, organisations that do not select the right technology, integrate the technology to create a connected ecosystem and create processes to use the technology often do not realise the full benefits.  

Clarity is the cornerstone of successful procurement practices, and procurement technology must support and enable clarity between both parties. When organisations do not receive full value from technology systems, the issue often comes down to clarity. However, it’s essential that clarity exist before adding in the technology. Technology doesn’t create clarity, but improves and enhances clarity already present in the process.

Organisations with good clarity in their procurement practice see significant competitive advantages, business continuity, resilience and digital transformation. While these aspects are essential for a successful business, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting business disruption significantly increases their importance.

Here are three keys to conceiving, deploying and using technology to elevate the performance of your procurement process operations:

1) Align the purchasing strategy with operations and vision

When organisations lay technology on top of disconnected strategy and vision, the new platforms and systems often magnify the misalignments. Before focusing on technology, organisations should review their current strategies to ensure alignment. A well-connected procurement strategy and vision drives implementation of a frictionless technology ecosystem rather than a patchwork collection of discrete point solutions.

The purchasing process works within both your procurement process and overall company operations. On an even more granular level, the purchasing strategy tightly connects with procurement operations’ vision and procurement operations strategy. Before making changes, especially in processes and technology, practitioners must step back and consider strategic alignment.

After understanding your organisation’s purchasing strategy, procurement vision and procurement operating strategy, the next step is ensuring they all align with one another. After making any necessary changes, your organization will have the foundation to begin looking for technology that supports all three.

2) Understand the four types of procurement technology

Procurement professionals often assume — incorrectly — that all procurement platforms and systems fall into a single category. By understanding the different types, organisations can ensure they are researching and purchasing the best type of technology for their needs. Without clear understanding of the different types of procurement technology, organisations may purchase multiple technologies performing very similar functions, which creates waste and redundancies, not to mention wastes funds.

Procurement organisations use the following four types of technology:

  • ERP software and blockchain equivalents – SAP-MM, SAP-FICO, TYS blockchain, IBM Temp labor blockchain and RSBN blockchain
  • Commodity or process-neutral procurement technology – SAP Ariba Solutions, Coupa, Tradeshift, Sourcematrix and IBM SpendIQ
  • Commodity or process-specific procurement technology – IBM Oniqua, SAP Concur, SAP Fieldglass, Amazon Business, Alibaba 1688, Uber for Business, Service Now and JIRA
  • Cognitive e-procurement applications with intelligent workflow platforms – IBM Procurement Service Desk, IBM Watson Virtual Buying Assistant, IBM B2B Marketplace and IBM Direct Spend IQ

Organisations often invest in one or two types of procurement technology, which does not typically enable achieving their procurement strategy and vision. Often these organisations assume they fell short due to the technology implemented. By deploying relevant technology from each of the four types, organisations achieve the clarity needed to meet their goals.

3) Focus on cognitive e-procurement applications

Organisations find a wide range of choices in technologies, especially in cognitive e-procurement applications, which use artificial intelligence to open procurement transformation processes. This type of technology helps organizations transform the procurement process experience for buyers in direct, indirect, MRO and capital purchasing.

Because cognitive e-procurement applications are relatively new and come with a large amount of hype and innovation, organisations should fully understand what features they need as well as the features offered by each solution. By selecting the right application for your specific needs instead of the most feature-rich product, you’ll significantly increase your ROI and strategy improvements.

For example, Trust Your Supplier blockchain, which came to market in 2019, helps procurement professionals automate and digitize supplier information like a “digital passport.” The application also provides the immutability and trust that comes with processing transactions through blockchain. Because the application shifts the process out of procurement operations, the technology reduces cycle time, lowers transaction costs and improves reliability of supplier information management operations. Additionally, suppliers streamline their process by only submitting information to a customer once and can share the same information to other customers using a digital key for record access.

Making the move to integrate technology

As organisations continue to manage change and disruption due to the pandemic, creating clarity in your procurement cycle remains a high priority. Through using cognitive technology driven by intelligent workflow platforms, in conjunction with the three other types of technologies, organisations can create the most effective and efficient processes that drive business value. By aligning strategies, understanding the types of technology and implementing cognitive e-procurement applications inclusive of the technology ecosystem, organisations can improve performance, maturity and outcomes.

Chander Vashistha is the source-to-pay practice leader at IBM.

5 Ways To Separate The Successful Supply Chains From The Rest

New computers can analyse a million rows of data in minutes. So why not let the computer do the heavy lifting? As a supply chain professional of the future, you won’t be manually processing data.  You will have data you can trust at your fingertips, as well as meaningful insights.  The rest will be up to you! IBM’s Takshay Aggarwal explains.


In the future, what will separate the successful supply chains from the rest? 

Procurious Founder Tania Seary sat down with Takshay Aggarwal from IBM to get his take on where we are, and where we are going.



Everything has changed

In 20 years of supply chain experience, Takshay has never seen a supply and demand shock at the same time.

“It’s completely changed how supply chain planning is done,” Takshay says.

Before, people used historical data to project demand – usually with a 5-10% variability or 1-2% percent for really mature organisations.  

But even with a high level of accuracy, too many companies were unsure which supplies were coming when. 

“Processes were so monthly and weekly orientated,” Takshay adds. “There was no sense of response; it was all about, ‘We’re used to this stepwise process and will get to it when we get to it.”

The result? Slow response time and lost sales. And reaction time was seriously hampered by years of cost cutting.

“An easy analogy is that you can cut and cut the fat to the bone, but when you need to run, where is the muscle?” Takshay says.

Sensing the market

That’s not true for all organisations, of course. Some companies invested in the right technology to detect changes in the market, which enabled them to respond quickly.

Takshay uses the example of two big retailers during the early days of the pandemic.  

“One retailer had sensing and response capabilities,” Takshay explains. “They secured all the available supplies in the market. Their shelves were stocked and their sales were booming.”

On the other hand, the second retailer’s supply chain officer was slow to respond. “They had traditional ways of doing stuff and their shelves were empty.” 

The difference between the two? “One supply chain officer is now promoted to the board and the other is finding a new job.” 

That’s why it’s so crucial to have the tools in place to detect market fluctuation and respond.

Looking at data differently

Going forward, how will you prepare for disruption – not only for your suppliers, but your suppliers’ suppliers?

The solution is incorporating non-traditional data for demand planning, Takshay says.

“Let’s say a discretionary spend category like electronics or fashion; you need to understand how unemployment is panning out in certain areas because that determines the footfall in your store,” Takshay says.

Non-traditional data includes areas of demographics like looking at unemployment or how a disease is spreading.

“You will start seeing a lot of what we call demand sensing in the near term, and driver-based forecasting which is trying to understand larger drivers in terms of promotions, in terms of macroeconomic factors,” Takshay explains.

“I think that’s where we’ll see demand sensing capabilities, like trying to understand the near term impact of weather or demographics and how they affect demand.”

Spreadsheets won’t cut it

Technology will also change how you use that non-traditional data, Takshay says.

That’s because higher computational power creates the ability to process data at lightning speed.

“The basic math hasn’t changed, but what has changed is how fast you can ingest that data,” Takshay says.

Think of it this way. How long would it take you to analyse a million rows in an Excel spreadsheet? Yet for some of these new models, a million rows is nothing.

Artificial intelligence can quickly process large amounts of data, making it easier to extract meaningful data. 

It will also be easier to bring in different sources of data – as and when –  they’re relevant.

For example, data about the pandemic spread might be a big consideration now, but six months from now it might not be relevant (fingers crossed!)

Instead, you may be more interested to ingest data at scale about economic recovery. AI can help you make sense of a huge amount of data and understand correlations – something that used to take an army of data scientists to uncover.

Welcome to efficiency

That ability to analyse vast quantities of data will also make demand planning a lot easier.

“If you ask any demand planners, 60 to 70% of their work today is about cleansing and harmonising data, and 20-30% is figuring out what it’s saying,” says Takshay.

Now, technology can eliminate much of that manual processing. In fact, Takshay says IBM estimates around 40 to 60% of that work will be covered.

“Now imagine if you’re a demand planner and you don’t have to go through those daily tasks to get the data cleansed,” Takshay says. 

Making it personal

So what does the future hold for supply chain?

Takshay predicts consumer demand is moving toward mass personalisation. The challenge for procurement teams will be supporting that personalisation in production, without losing efficiency or driving up costs.

“Ten years from now, we will be talking more about how we can better understand the consumer,” Takshay says.

“Everything will be done by machine. Supply chain may become irrelevant. It all becomes about mass personalisation so that’s where we start putting our efforts.”

That’s why human empathy will be an even more essential skill. Quantum computing could eliminate 80% of today’s procurement tasks, so our greater contribution is using human emotion to meet customer needs.

Hear Takshay’s full talk with Tania Seary in our exclusive webcast series The Future of Supply Chain Now.

How P2P will Become the Technology of the Future

Discover the value that a procure-to-pay (P2P) system can deliver to your business today and over the next five years.


The evolution of procure-to-pay (P2P) has accelerated dramatically over the past few years. And we can expect the pace to pick up further over the years to come. Originally, procure-to-pay / purchase-to-pay technology was seen as a way to connect procurement to finance via accounts payable, and as such it started life in the form of expensive and rather inflexible bolt-ons to on premise enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. No wonder that for many years, P2P did not have the greatest of reputations, even among procurement professionals.

In the early 2000s, dedicated eProcurement systems emerged. Yet, many large enterprises still do all their purchasing and accounts payables through their ERP systems, even though this leaves much of the process highly dependent on paper in the handling of purchases orders, requisitions, goods receipts and invoicing. Or, in one word, routine. Many ERP implementations even lack a requisitioning facility and a means to communicate electronically with suppliers.

As to accounts payable, in many organisations that do not have a dedicated, built for purpose procure-to-pay solution, vendor invoices still arrive by mail or email and the data must be keyed manually into an ERP or other finance system. If the benefits of touchless invoicing were not already apparent, they have certainly become so in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The other major issue that continues to plague many organisations is our old friend, maverick spend (or off-contract buying), which is especially likely to occur when anyone looking to purchase items needed for everyday use is confronted with bureaucratic obstacles. Shopping online and submitting an expense report is much easier than submitting a requisition or purchase order that takes ages to process. Without a dedicated P2P system, maverick spend is difficult to monitor effectively. It results in lost money as employees buy at retail prices when you should be securing handsome bulk or wholesale discounts.

(Although worse than that, it forces happy-go-lucky procurement professionals into the role of jobsworths …)

And heaven knows, after years of online shopping with the likes of Amazon, corporate buyers expect the option to order online and enjoy an e-shopping experience comparable to the one they enjoy as private consumers. They expect an experience that is user-friendly, intuitive, and frictionless. Running low on stationery? Simply pick items from a catalog, review the shopping cart and place the order. And maybe pay with a V-card (single user account) number.

This can all be done via a procurement department’s P2P solution – against contracts negotiated with preferred suppliers. The P2P solution allows end-users to shop and track orders as easily as if they were shopping online, with the added benefit that all the information the procurement department needs is captured too, giving greater transparency. Plus, if the P2P solution is integrated with upstream processes such as contracts management and sourcing, the ability to monitor supplier performance against negotiated terms and non-price terms and conditions.

What you should look for in P2P now

A few years ago, people were still asking if procure-to-pay automation is worth it. I think that case has now been definitively answered. Especially if you wish to demonstrate the value of procurement – your value – to the business.

A P2P software suite integrates and automates the entire back-office lifecycle of requisitioning, purchasing, receiving, paying, and accounting for indirect goods and services. By creating standard workflows between buyers, procurement and accounting departments, a P2P solution should provide more transparency into, and control over, indirect spend and should create a more congenial relationship between all stakeholders. SaaS technology accessed in the cloud, such as the JAGGAER ONE suite, has made affordable, flexible and technically versatile solutions P2P available. A major advantage of SaaS is the ability to update functionality and innovate continuously without affecting the normal day-to-day operation of the core solution.

What you should look for in future 

Over the coming years P2P will increasingly leverage artificial intelligence, natural language processing and robotic procurement automation to deliver an even better buying experience on the one hand, while further cutting costs, increasing efficiency, reducing risk and improving governance and insight on the other. Generally speaking, you can expect P2P solutions to be more open, network-oriented, autonomous, collaborative and intelligent.

Here are seven trends that I think you can reasonably expect to reshape P2P not in some distant future but between now and 2025.

·   It will be a more collaborative environment for all stakeholders (internal and external) with full compliance, validations and approvals. P2P and MRP systems will collaborate through direct material order and fulfilment; P2P and corporate treasury will collaborate to support cash flow planning and optimize working capital

·   It will be more autonomous by taking charge of routine tasks such as all forms payment management and processing, improving the productivity of the payment process and the financial health of the supply chain

·   It will empower open business networks bringing together the entire community of buyers and suppliers, integrating and accessing external services and market intelligence feeds

·   It will be interactive with smart assistants assisting you through guided buying, vendor management and other chores

·   Enhanced intelligence will enable P2P systems to act proactively on behalf of users learning from and using all data sources and knowledge to make improvement recommendations to all stakeholder activities and the P2P process

·   It will deliver win-win finance programs to buyers and suppliers, for example dynamic discounting and supply chain finance programs

·   The focus of P2P will shift further from savings to value, reinforcing procurement’s profile as a strategic partner to the business

Conversational systems for guided buying and vendor management

Let’s stop calling them chatbots! Digital or smart help organizations will increase efficiency and achieve high levels of P2P user adoption because of their easy interfaces and clear answers. AI combined with natural language processing (NLP) has opened the door to new, more natural, and more intuitive interfaces that stimulate conversation with humans. There are many uses for digital assistants in procurement – too many to list here. However, the central issue is that procurement specialists are increasingly dealing with vast quantities of data, which means that a lot of their time is spent looking for information rather than using it. They will enable procurement specialists to converse with their AI-powered procurement software, which will do the heavy lifting involved in finding the relevant information and making intelligent suggestions as to what actions need to be taken in specific situations.

Through machine learning the digital assistant will be able learn about your preferences and your organisation’s policies and procedures. A good example is guided buying, whereby a person who needs to buy something will interact with procurement via a conversation conducted by a digital assistant. Based on the procurement strategy (preferred suppliers, preferred items, contracts in place, history of purchases, etc.), the digital assistant will propose solutions, perhaps looking through huge volumes of catalog entries to identify specific products or suggest alternatives.

Digital assistants can also be deployed for handling queries from suppliers, avoiding a lot of back-and-forth correspondences. I think they will become more engaging and human-like in their interactions with you. That, after all, was the original promise of artificial intelligence. But nobody’s perfect, so if the digital assistant cannot find the right answer, it can of course direct the user to a genuine flesh and blood procurement professional (you, for instance).

What innovations would you like to see, or expect to see, in procure-to-pay over the next five years? Let us know in the comments below! Keep up with the latest innovations at the 2020 Global Big Ideas Summit.

How To Skyrocket Your Influence In 2 Steps

Step away from the emoji button. Read on to learn how to build genuine influence in your personal brand. Learn to move beyond the micro engagements of liking and sharing. Be bold and brave – expand your connections and network by following our pro tips.


Mirror mirror on the wall

While browsing idly through social media recently I concluded that many of my peers have confused visibility with influence. Procurement is a small industry especially if you’re in a niche field or a small country. What makes this contracted market even smaller is that we stare into our own reflection. 

Seek to expand not reinforce the bubble 

Commenting, liking, gaining followers and profiling only those within your bubble only serves to reinforce the echo chamber that you reside in. Expansion and growth should be the aim of the game and that’s the trick that many are missing!

Number of likes and connections is not influence

All the chat about the importance of “raising your profile” has seen many people reach for the emoji button. They equate visibility and these micro engagements with achieving influence. I’ve even heard some peers brag about it “mate did you see my pic? Got 12 likes, brilliant ay? I’m raising my profile and building influence.” Um no, but I’m glad people liked your photo.

Sure, visibility will get your name out there and you’ll make connections but just like the platforms we use in our personal life, professional networking sites can create a trap for the uninitiated. They offer so much more than just how many followers you have!

Untapped potential

Think about how you engage online, do you make the most of all opportunities?

  • Chance to connect with and observe thought leaders
  • Expand your learning beyond your sector and follow other industry trends
  • Grow your knowledge of different areas within your technical field
  • Expand your support base by utlising online connections
  • Taking part in free webinars

Check out these tips to ensure you are getting the most out of your Procurious experience!

Fear stops meaningful engagement and expansion

Platforms where personal profiles are created on a “work self” image can fuel the fire if people view their professional / work self as separate to their “real life” self. On professional networking sites people can struggle to make genuine comments, challenge / ask questions or engage meaingfully for fear of looking dumb or speaking out of turn.

It’s such a lost opportunity! Don’t be afraid to be yourself, engage and connect with people.

What is influence and why care?

Influence is earned and grows over time. The difference between visibility and influence is that with a focus on your sphere of influence and who you engage with, you are building longevity and sustainability into your personal brand and therefore your career. You are thinking beyond your immediate role or even career.

There are many studies out there that have shown that people will change their careers significantly two or three times over the course of their lives, as described in this NY Times article.

How to get started

Hold up, I hear you… how on earth and am I meant to do that?

Start the same way everyone else does but don’t limit your professional networking to just likes, commenting and growing your connections. Keep your eye on the bigger prize.

Step one: getting started

  1. Join an accredited membership organisation like CIPS or IACCM. There are usually many ways to get involved and connect with lots of people through these avenues. This provides a supportive environment to get involved in chairing committees and speaking / hosting events.
  1. Awards. Keep an eye out for industry awards, nominate your team or yourself! I’ve seen some surprise winners – the only thing that set them apart from others was that they simply backed themselves and applied.
  1. Network. Don’t simply add just people on social media, if you do send an invitation add a note and make sure it’s relevant to something they just posted or wrote about. Think of people in your industry, can you reach out to any of them for a coffee chat? And then ask, who else do you think might be of value for me to connect with?
  1. Content. Remember the dictionary definition of influence: “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.” what content are you producing or contributing to that is building impact?

Step two: grow

Use your network of genuine connections to try and find ways to get involved in different projects and start expanding your reach.

  • Offer to mentor someone
  • Offer to host an event at your organisation
  • Ask for speaking opportunities
  • Write your own blog on an existing platform or your own profile
  • Connect with people through the content you’re consuming e.g procurious webinars and groups!
  • Ask to shadow a senior for a day to learn what they do
  • Talk to your suppliers and learn the other side of the fence
  • Learn from other sectors and follow other thought leaders for inspiration
  • Find someone you admire and see if you can unpick what makes them tick. You can check out Kelly Barner’s journey for some inspo
  • Think about yourself as a brand, what do you want to be known for?

Take the plunge! Expand your connections beyond micro engagements and you will add sustainability and longevity to your personal brand. 

Remember: be yourself, be humble and be authentic.

Picture source: www.brenebrown.com