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. 

Five Steps To Become A Procurement Tech Champion

Upgrading your team’s procurement processes is daunting. This guide will help you choose the right tech solution and make your project a raving success


So you’ve had the same procurement system for years. Or Covid-19 may have exposed just how unsustainable paper and manual processes can be?  Is the status-quo no longer enough?

Maybe you’re thinking this is your chance.  Supply Chain is now front-page news and the talk of your C-Suite. Within this new climate, leaders are questioning whether they have the right people, the right tools, the right processes and the right model for success.   How many of the shortcomings of your group would have been mitigated or eliminated if you had the right tools? 

Is it time for a small refresh, like a new Source-to-Contract platform?  Or maybe you’re after something bigger – like a complete Source-to-Pay system.

No matter the scale of change, more organisations are choosing to mitigate their risk and ensure success with completing a Success Blueprint prior to going to contract with their new tech.

After all, you don’t want to be part of the 33% of IT software projects that overrun on time, or the 66% that overrun on budget.

Luckily, we’ve got advice from expert Matt Stewart, Founder of RiseNow. He’s helped over 200 companies implement procurement systems, so he knows exactly how to make your change a success.

Here are your five steps to conquering an upgrade in your procurement tech.

1. Decide if it’s time to replace your existing system

If your users and suppliers have turned against your platform and are refusing to adopt due to usability and/or its inability to address their most important use cases, it may be time to move on.  For other organisations it may not be as bad as it appears.  If that is the case, don’t get caught into thinking the grass may be greener if it is possible to make some tweaks to configuration, redesign some processes, and reinvigorate your end-users with some proper training and change management. 

Be careful who you listen to as you seek advice and counsel on what you should do.  Make sure you align with a true advocate that isn’t trying to just sell you more software that you don’t need.  Also make sure they know your industry, use cases,  and are experts in the S2P/P2P space.  

We will be going into much more detail later in our Major Tech Fails series on how you to know when it is time to replace vs. Optimize what you have in “How To Know When It Is Time To Replace Your Tech.” 

2. Build a blueprint

You’ve compiled a list of absolute requirements, extensively searched the market and gathered feedback from key staff and stakeholders.  You feel confident that you’ve landed on the best solution for your business… right?  Maybe not.

Success stories start early on, well before contracts are signed and implementation begins.  Too often, organisations are lured in by the solution that provided the best demo, had the most eye-catching features, or offered the lowest price-tag, as we talked about during “How To Avoid the 5 Most Common Tech Mistakes”.  The trick to avoiding these obstacles?  Knowing about them in the first place. 

A RiseNow Success Blueprint accomplishes just that.  A success blueprint, or what others called a Pre-Engineering Study or Phase 0, is our proven process that brings alignment between all parties before you hit the ground running  It gives you the ability to anticipate issues that are likely to occur in the implementation and allows you to plan in advance to prevent delays and cost over-run situations.

By actively managing risk, you can set your project up for success.

3. Justify your case for change

Investment in a new tech solution is not something an organisation takes lightly.  To make your tech solution attractive to your CEO you’ll need a compelling business case.  But if you’re relying on the post-implementation phase to demonstrate that efficiency is actually being achieved, it’s probably too late.

You need to be clear from the start about what your organisation needs in terms of return on investment and decide exactly how you will report on the measurements that will demonstrate positive ROI.  Measure what matters.

Begin with knowing and owning every number in your business case.  Take time upfront to fully identify realistic savings opportunities by critical area and to quantify costs, both during the implementation and post go-live operating costs that may require more research to confirm. 

Follow these steps, plan to measure what matters, and when the time comes to defend your case for investment you can more easily defend it.  Your executive team will have the detail behind the numbers to fully buy-in, and you’ll have built an implementation plan that is realistic, predictable and achievable. 

4. Put it to work

You’ve secured the resources you need, built your blueprint, selected your perfect tech and proven your business case.  Ready to put your new solution to the test? 

Remember that implementations are ongoing projects, not just business as usual.  Implementations are all about people, decisions, and level of commitment.  Whether it’s end-users, suppliers or partners in the business, new tech has an impact on their everyday functions.  You want stakeholders engaged, informed and excited.  Make sure to weave your “why” into every stage of implementation.

Don’t underestimate an investment in change management.  A tailored communication strategy, understanding of stakeholder impacts, and a solid training approach can drive effective adoption.  Getting in front of detractors and people with concerns is one of the most effective ways to reduce resistance and concerns.  Focus on continuous improvement and keep in mind that no tech solution will be 100% perfect. 

Change happens because of people – not despite them.

5. Prove it

It’s finally time to prove the value of your new procurement tech and report back on your ROI.  Refer back to your criteria for success.  Through these previously identified KPIs and value targets, create dashboards and reports that are easy to visualize.  Note how your organisation has clearly benefitted, archive deliverables and adjust.

Retaining buy-in is critical to the ongoing success of your implementation.  Bear in mind that some pain points and aspects of your business process will always remain, no matter your tech.  Having a realistic approach to what and when you’ll deliver will put you on the path to success.

We cannot ignore the current climate; Covid-19 has forced risk avoidance to the forefront of KPI tracking.  The agility of your supply-chain will become an increasingly important measurement.

Times of crisis create opportunities for growth.  Organisations that capitalise on these opportunities, using them to invest in their people, processes and technology, will stand out. 

So once more, maybe this is your chance.  What kind of leader will you be?

Join us for our upcoming webinar – Major Tech Wins – where we joining forces with RiseNow’s Matt Stewart to chat with CEO of Supply Chain Sherpas, Joe Walsh, Director of Digital Procurement at PPG Industries, Michelle Welch, and Procurious’ Helen Mackenzie. Register here for your free digital ticket.

People Aren’t Adopting Your Tech: Now What?

How can you get your tech launch back on track if adoption is less than desired?


You’ve done your research, selected a new tech solution, secured buy-in from your C-Suite, and spent time setting it all up and testing that it works.  You have a detailed plan in place to measure success and everyone has attended training.  So, you press the button and ‘go live’, then sit back and watch the fruits of your labor grow.

Or maybe not.

After months of planning and integrating, user adoption is… underwhelming. In fact, the conversation at the water cooler is about how the new tech is a management fad and a waste of resources – and why the old ways are the best. And suppliers know they don’t have to make a change because they’re still getting paid in the old way.  All parties are still left wondering “What’s in it for me?” 

It looks like your implementation is reaching a state of emergency – so how do you convince people to take the new tech plunge?

1. Make Adopting Appealing and Achievable

Managing any big change is all about people and a tech adoption is no different.  It doesn’t matter how good the technology is if your end-users don’t embrace it.  Before you start out on your plan to get adoption underway, consider how well you know each user population and what could be their barriers to adopting?   

  • Have you been clear with users what the objective of the tech change is?

Take the time to ensure your end users clearly understand the case for change and why it’s necessary to implement the system.

  • Have you connected to their “why”?  What’s in it for them and their suppliers?

Making a connection with the emotional side of the brain is often critical in a period of change.

  • How well do you know their concerns/frustrations/fears for the impending change? 

Take the time to understand what may be your users greatest barriers to adopting.  Work together on finding solutions and let them ‘own’ the solutions you find. 

  • Are the steps toward adoption clear?  Do they understand the timeline?

Comprehensive plans, training and support are vital to keep things on track.

2. Keep It Simple

Don’t get trapped into the belief that just because this is the way it has always been done, that your process can’t be changed.  Too many organizations take cumbersome, complex processes and try to automate them.  They spent all this time shopping for an intuitive user experience for their employees and then they design/configure a solution that their users resist. 

Take a tip from the old US Navy design principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) – to stop your potential state of emergency reaching a code red.

Configure your tech to first support most of your users and use cases. Don’t fixate on the complex or outliers. Based on our experience, when you adopt a critical mass of users the momentum will be restored, and your potential state of emergency will then pass.

Finally, as the Harvard Business Review advises, highlight anything that won’t be changing. Are there policies that will still be in place – for example, ‘no PO, no Pay’?  Reassure your users that it’s the ‘how’ not the ‘what’ that is changing. It helps to simplify people’s perception of the impending change.

3. Communicate and Make it Fun!

Don’t underestimate the need for a robust communication strategy from your executive leadership.  The higher in your organization the better. As Carol Kinsey Gorman stresses, talk about ‘what people want to hear and what they need to see’.  Think about how you want to present your message to drive adoption and then use all your powers of persuasion to generate excitement and buy in…so much so that they’ll want to start using it.

Remember, avoiding an impending state of emergency requires high-impact tactics to eliminate potential and real threats. When we communicate inside the business it is often boring and lacks appeal. We think that functional language and formats will suffice. Use change management and training teams to help craft fun and engaging messaging that will get your adoption points across.

All people are different and learn in different ways. Build training resources that use a range of different forms of media. Try video and audio alongside the written word. Onboard key people within teams to provide that personal connection and testimonial. They’ll become great champions to speed adoption throughout your organisation And if suppliers are part of your tech adoption process, communicate early and often with what is expected.   Then make sure you keep your message consistent no matter who is delivering it from your organisation. 

4. Plot a Clear Path to Code Green

Once your people know what’s expected of them and can buy into the change, the right support and a road map is all they need. Make sure you’re measuring the things you need to monitor progress with adoption, and that any risk can be mitigated.

Create metrics that identify individual progress on the adoption path, whether by users or suppliers, so you know exactly where they are. Be sure to monitor key influencers in the team, highlight quick wins and celebrate victories.  Target reluctant adopters for training or support. Using a continuous improvement approach, ensure users know that feedback is addressed.  Keep in mind that metrics can serve to reward as well as a means to course correct.

So, if your tech adoption process is starting to feel like a state of emergency there is plenty you can do to avoid reaching a code red. Focus on effective communication that engages your users where they are to take action, stay focused on meeting the needs of the masses, identify and address challenges early, and your new solution will become the talk of the company. 

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

Now Is The Time To Learn Industry 4.0 Technologies

Soon, Industry 4.0 technologies will be part of EVERY supply chain…


You already know technology is changing the way supply chains are managed.

What you might not realise is just how soon Industry 4.0 technologies will be part of every supply chain.

Companies want better transparency, greater quality checks, and increased efficiency. That’s why so many are turning facilities into “smart factories”.

In fact, 68% of manufacturers have ongoing smart factory initiatives, according to Capgemini research.

One example is Bosch, which responded to the recent global health crisis by making face masks on a fully automated production line.

Who is using Industry 4.0?

Having your equipment connected to Industry 4.0 technology lets companies like Bosch react quickly to world and industry events.

That’s just one benefit. But how widespread is it?

95% of companies are using at least one Industry 4.0 technology, according to research from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.

It’s no longer futuristic. It’s here.

But what exactly is Industry 4.0 technology in the supply chain? And how can you get your team up to speed?

What application is there for Industry 4.0 tech in supply chain?

Put simply, the fourth industrial revolution (or Industry 4.0) is a drastic change in the way things are made and distributed.

Such rapid tech advancements are triggering a digital overhaul of the supply chain. Some of these technologies include:

·  Blockchain

·  Artificial Intelligence (AI)

·  Internet of Things (IoT)

·  5G

Here’s a bit more about those technologies, and how they relate to the supply chain.

Blockchain

What it is: Blockchain is a network where people can store digital records in a shared, unchangeable way. There is one version of the truth, which helps build trust between different parties in the supply chain.

How it’s used in the supply chain: Retailer Carrefour uses blockchain technology so customers can see exactly where products come from.

Carrefour’s produce and meat suppliers record a product’s journey from farm to store shelf using IBM’s enterprise blockchain network – IBM Food Trust. That way, a customer simply scans the product QR code with their smartphone, and they can instantly learn the product’s provenance.

Not only does it give Carrefour greater visibility, it even increases sales.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

What it is: Artificial intelligence is technology that lets computers “learn” and make decisions by analysing data.

For example, Spotify analyses your music choices, compares it to other users, and combines that data to make artist suggestions based on people with similar taste.

How it’s used in supply chain: Lenovo uses AI to proactively predict and mitigate supply chain disruptions. It uses the IBM Sterling Supply Chain analytics, using the famous IBM Watson system.

It’s helped Lenovo find previously hidden cost savings, all the while improving productivity.

Internet of Things (IoT)

What it is: In a nutshell, Internet of Things connects physical devices to the internet. Some examples are smart watches and self-driving cars.

How it’s used in supply chain: L’Oréal wanted to introduce more flexibility into its production line so it could respond faster to customer demands. Their customers expect more customisation options.

So it partnered with IBM to create a smarter factory – using a combination of sensors and cameras connected to production that let them pivot in real time.

That connectivity allows them to operate a large organisation as flexibly as a start-up. Just how flexible is it?

“We can produce the base and then choose the colour for a lipstick right at the very last moment,” as Operations Chief Digital Officer Stéphane Lannuzel puts it.

5G

What it is: 5G (or fifth generation) wireless technology will make it faster and easier to connect on mobile phones. You’ll be able to download videos at lightning speed, and say goodbye to awkward lags when videoconferencing. It has bigger capacity than the current 4G, meaning you can connect a lot more sensors and smart devices at once.

How it’s used in supply chain: Samsung produces IoT sensors that monitor warehouse safety conditions. That data is processed with IBM analytics, alerting supervisors when equipment might need repairing or when conditions become unsafe. Since 5G is superfast and there’s no lag, supervisors can act straight away.

5G matters the most when every second counts.

How can you learn Industry 4.0 technology?

All of this shiny new tech is exciting. But it won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to use it.

McKinsey declared 2020 the “year of re-skilling”, due to the acceleration of Industry 4.0 technology.

The firm predicts that in the US, around one-third of production roles could change profoundly over the next decade. That means the way you interact with all stages of supply chain management will change as well.

So it’s essential to get up to speed, and help your team prepare too.

So what’s the best way to do that?

First, a skills analysis

Once you have a plan for new technology adoption, look at the skills you need to make it happen.

For example, Deloitte research into AI skills gaps found the top four in-demand AI skills are:

·  AI researchers

·  Software developers

·  Data scientists

·  Project managers

Your team may not necessarily develop AI technology, but they will certainly need to know how to use it. Once you know what skills you need, you can compile that into a skills roadmap.

Next, match skills

Do an analysis of the skills your team already possesses, then match them to the skills on your roadmap.

Hopefully there will be some overlap, but you can expect you will need to up-skill or re-skill your team – especially if your company doesn’t use much Industry 4.0 technology yet.

Then comes training

Good training is a significant investment of time and money. In fact, more than a third (34%) of organisations say training costs are a barrier to digital supply chain management.

But the cost of training is far less than the cost of your company being left behind because it didn’t adopt new technologies fast enough.

The right training looks different for every company. You might choose in-house, external, or even a mix.

One popular option is the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Academy. It acts as a complement to other training you offer, giving your team access to skills aligned to market demand.

Your team can learn the needed skills to:

  • Build smarter supply chains
  • Deliver on customer needs through smarter fulfillment
  • Reduce the cost, complexity and risk of supplier onboarding and management

Why any of this matters

Ultimately, getting up to speed on Industry 4.0 technologies is about more than transparency or agility.

Global supply chain disruption has accelerated the need to make changes towards the way people make and buy goods.

That means supply chain professionals have the opportunity (and responsibility) to use their purchasing power for good, according Professor Olinga Ta’eed, Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise & Government.

When you couple large amounts of money with positive ideology and advanced technology, Professor Ta’eed says it’s the “biggest instrument to change the world.”

“Let’s use that money to nudge society into better ways [and] behaviour,” he says.

Supply chain strategist Sheri Hinish agrees.

“Supply chain is really tied to a concept of shared responsibility,” she said in an interview for SAP Ariba Live.

“Doing well, doing good, making fiscal sense of this value creation across stakeholders. There’s no other domain positioned to really deliver that long-term value other than supply chain because we are truly end-to-end.”

“Supply chains have the ability to save lives,” she adds. “We are literally seeing this unfold before our eyes.”

For more Industry 4.0 talk, join the conversation in our Supply Chain Pros group

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.