Tag Archives: big ideas in procurement

Resistance Is Futile, Disruption Is Coming!

Massive changes are coming to procurement pros, whether they like it or not! Is it high time we started embracing, instead of resisting, them?

Mark Stevenson is one man who understands the key trends heading our way. An expert on global trends and innovation, he will be setting the scene with our opening keynote at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London.  We caught up with Mark ahead of the event to get to know him a little better!

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m an entrepreneur, an author, an occasional comedy writer, a musician, and, as some people like to define me, a futurologist, but I’m not at all keen on that particular term.

What don’t you like about the term Futurologist?

I think it’s a fairly dodgy profession overall if I’m honest. There are no qualifications required and it’s often associated with prediction and, of course, you can’t really predict the future, you can only make it. Also people who identify themselves as future-experts are as apt to be shaped by the culture in which they are embedded or dogged by their own prejudices and wish-lists as the rest of us, and tend to predict accordingly. For instance many futurologists are overly tech focused. My work is more about the questions the future asks us about the interplay of technology, economics, society and politics. My job is to help people and organisations to ask the right questions about the future and then convince them to answer those questions in a way that makes the world more sustainable, humane, compassionate and just.

 What are the key challenges procurement and supply chains face in the next decade?

Supply chain issues are hugely important at the moment and supply chain professionals are having a lot of questions asked of them.

The first challenge to overcome is achieving greater supply chain transparency. Plenty of procurement professionals, particularly in larger organisations, have no clue where they are actually buying from. When the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013 killing over 1,000 factory workers, many high-street brands were called out and, it materialised, ignorant of their involvement. Tragedies like this have forced high street companies to better audit their supply chains but there’s still a long way to go.

Secondly, organisations need to make their supply chains more sustainable by adopting science-based targets – addressing agricultural sustainability and reducing carbon emissions to give a couple of examples.

You’ve often advocated science-based targets in the past. Could you explain the concept in more detail? How could procurement apply these targets?

Science-based targets are a really simple idea and a very good way to think about sustainability. When it comes to dealing with environmental sustainability companies tend to say ‘this is what we can do, this is what we’re aiming for’ but, in reality, it doesn’t mean a whole lot when a multinational organisation vows to reduce its carbon emissions by 10% by the year 2034! That’s a recipe for planetary disaster.

Instead, organisations must figure out what they have to do based on scientific facts. The Science Based Targets campaign (a partnership between

Carbon Disclosuse Project, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF) helps companies determine how much they must cut emissions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Coca- Cola, Walmart and HP signed up to this and if they can do it, anyone can.

And, by saving the world you’re also saving your business. Companies who take this stuff seriously will out-perform because they’ll become more efficient and they’ll attract the most forward-thinking, young talent who want to work for companies of which they are unashamed.

In your experience, how open are organisations to new technology trends?

Not very! Organisations tend to be comfortable operating as they always have done.

Upton Sinclair put it well: ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’ Take Blockchain, it could take away the untrustworthy parts of banking: bankers, who will naturally resist this particular technology!

Another example is driverless tech- it doesn’t take an expert to predict that the 3.5 million US truck drivers would be wary of such an advancement – and rightly so. So we have to find a transition plan for them – which culture resists. But it’s a business responsibility to prepare for the changes and approaching transitions, you have a duty of care to your employees and not being future-literate is a dereliction of that duty. Remember, Blockbuster, the DVD rental company went bust the same week that Netflix released House of Cards.

If you had one key message for our delegates at Big Ideas, what would it be?

Wherever you work and wherever you end up in the next 15-20 years, remember that it’s going to be a very turbulent time. Massive disruption lies ahead and the bad news is that our current institutions and businesses are unfit for purpose. Ask yourself: what’s my best effort for myself, my family and for society (and remember they’re all related). If you don’t, you can prepare to be very irrelevant and very unhappy!

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017

A Whole New World: The Cognitive Computing Era

The age of cognitive tech is coming, whether procurement likes it or not! How can we be ready for the changes coming our way? 

Register your attendance for our free webinar, Man & Machine, which takes place on 8th February 2017. 

A New Era Of Computing

 We’ve entered into a new era of computing: “the cognitive computing era”, which follows the eras of programmable and tabulating systems and represents a massive jump forward that will transform how enterprises operate.

This new era is defined as such because there is a fundamental difference in how these systems are built and how they interact with humans. Traditional programmable systems are fed data, knowledge, and information, and they carry out and return results of processing that is pre-programmed. In this case, humans are doing most of the directing.

Cognitive technology is different; it accelerates, enhances and scales human expertise to solve more complex problems by understanding language and interacting more naturally with humans. It can reason to find patterns and form hypotheses, making considered arguments and scenarios planning. And this is exactly what Watson is about.

Watson is a cognitive technology that can think like a human and is available as SaaS products and a set of open APIs (Applications Programming Interface) such as natural language classifier, speech to text, text to speech, visual recognition, etc.

What Does Watson Mean For Procurement?

This disruptive technology, by creating a new digital ecosystem, is pushing Procurement to create a new business model, moving away from objectives centered on cost take out and taking a new customer centric and revenue growth approach. CPOs must employ the right strategy, structure, skillset and cognitive technology if they want to be in a strong position to demonstrate their relevance and value to the organization.

Procurement organizations and their leaders need to embrace the reality and potential for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cognitive procurement as readily as they would accept other technologies and developments. AI will bring changes and challenges but it will also bring amazing opportunities for the profession.

As we apply AI to certain procurement tasks and processes, we will begin developing internal capability and expertise.

Applying Cognitive Tech To Procurement

Cognitive technology has already proven to be particularly helpful at helping procurement with a number of specific tasks and programs. These include:

  • Quickly sorting through very large amounts of structured or unstructured data. This is especially useful for benchmarking and supplier analysis
  • Providing very detailed supplier assessments of a single supplier, a group of suppliers or the whole supply base
  • Providing in-depth risk assessments, identify hidden risks, and calculate rate risks
  • Supporting and validating decision-making during supplier selection

More generically, cognitive computing will undeniably be a key ingredient to innovation, helping to find new ways of operating, providing new insights, uncovering new opportunities and last but not least it will elevate procurement professionals to the well-deserved advisor role by extending their capabilities and growing their experience.

How Can Procurement Prepare For The Changes That Are Coming? 

The question that so many procurement organisations are asking is how can they make cognitive tech a reality and where to start?

Adopting and integrating cognitive solutions into an organization is a journey and not a destination.

Firstly, CPOs need to be clear about what matters the most. In order to grow their company’s business and best benefit from the technology, they must set realistic expectations and develop long-term plans with incremental milestones

Secondly, transformation doesn’t happen by itself. It requires the vision and support from the top. As an example, Bob Murphy, IBM’s CPO, is the biggest driver of change in terms of transforming his organization. He saw the potential in cognitive technology and the prospects for Procurement and became an evangelist within the team; encouraging, sponsoring and demanding we embrace this opportunity.

Thirdly, leveraging big data is a key area to take advantage of, especially in data management. This ensures that organisations have the right structure and strategy. At IBM, we have appointed a Procurement Data Officer and also hired data scientists within the procurement team as we understood that procurement needed to take a more active role in extracting and analyzing data to demonstrate its value especially by leveraging the data we are managing and generating. (i.e data in RFP answers, ….)

The Race Is On – Can Procurement Shape Up In Time?

With cognitive technology, procurement teams will be equipped with the tools to navigate the procurement process quickly, easily and more compliantly. This will allow more time for procurement teams to focus on strategic supplier activities after contract signature, such as performance management or supplier collaboration and innovation programs. But is the function ready for this shift?

Embedding such advanced technology requires some serious changes in skills and competencies within our teams. Procurement leaders will have to search for procurement professionals not only focusing on their core competencies, such as category expertise, negotiation skills or market knowledge, but it will be more and more important to hire people with the “right” soft skills. The function must onboard and retain people with excellent relationship management and analytical skills and with a high aptitude to work with advanced technology and financial acumen.

The procurement landscape will have to reshape to a more business leading capability that has to operate in a much more virtual and networked environment where emerging roles of data scientists, business relationship managers and innovation scouts, to mention a few, will be increasingly required.

In short, beyond just being capable of creating visible savings, the role of the procurement organisation will have to shift its focus beyond cost reduction efforts, and move towards a trusted advisor role; accurate, fast and efficient.

There’s no doubt about it, late adopters of the digital transformation or organisations failing to take into consideration the growing exigencies such as speed, value for money, collaboration will be soon perceived as road blockers rather than enablers.

Join Procurious’ free webinar, hosted by Tania Seary with Manoj Saxena, Pascal d’Arc and Nathalie Fekete to make sure you’re ahead of the cognitive technology game. 

 

 

Learning the Fine Art of Creativity

We live in an ideas economy where creativity is the new currency. So is it possible for those with less artistic flair to learn how to get their creative juices flowing? 

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Everyone’s A Little Bit Creative 

Many of us enjoyed a childhood spent imagining, innovating and creating whether we were painting pictures, constructing dens from cardboard boxes or inventing fantastical make-believe games.

Indeed, the vast majority of research into child psychology suggests that we are all born naturally creative but we subsequently endure an education system or working environment in which our imaginations are more or less stamped out of us.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter, firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. Of course, some adults demonstrate greater potential than others but by employing certain techniques and embracing our inner creativity, we can all achieve additional moments of pure genius.

In a world where innovation is the new currency, procurement teams that fail to execute their ideas with originality will fall behind and die. James will be on hand at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London to give our CPOs and online delegates tips to release the creative genius in their teams.

Innovate Or Die

The maxim that organisations must innovate or die has never been more true thanks to rapid technology developments and fierce competition. In procurement, CPOs need to foster their intrapreneurs and work to achieve what Bannerman calls a ‘return on inspiration’:

“ It is easy to become fixated by Return On Investment in business, and often with good reason. The problem with traditional ROI, however, is that it is built upon ‘known returns’.

Creative Thinking, however, is more closely connected with ‘surprise returns’. You don’t always know what you’re going to get at the end of it – because creativity involves ‘the defeat of habit by originality’ (as Arthur Koestler once said in his 1964 classic The Art of Creation.

Yet, to those with an open mind, it can still be worth exploring the world of “return on inspiration”, as the ad agency Golley Slater referred  to it,  to see what comes out the other side”

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, Bannerman will be putting 50 CPOs through their paces as he introduces them to lateral thinking exercises.

“ During our interactive session we will look at the C.A.N.D.O. model – which I write about in Genius!  This pinpoints the 5 main ways to come up with new ideas, whatever the challenge and whatever the problem: New Connections, New Alterations, New Navigations, New Directions and New Oppositions.

Before we explain what they are, and how they can be used in the real world of work, however, we’ll start off with a few Lateral Thinking exercises.

Take the question ‘What do you lose everytime you stand up ?’ for example. Many people struggle with this question, because they approach it far too rigidly and logically.”Maybe you lose your balance?” or “Maybe you lose the comfort of your chair” etc… If you apply a little Lateral Thinking and spin the question around, however, it can start to become much easier. ‘What do you gain everytime you sit down’ ? You gain a lap!

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!

What’s It All About? The Big Ideas Summit 2017 FAQs

From Mumbai to Melbourne; and Paris to Poughkeepsie, you can take part in the world’s largest procurement event – free.

Register as an online delegate for The Big Ideas Summit in London here.

Last week, we announced that the Big Ideas Summit 2017 is going global with events in London, Sydney, Chicago, Dubai and Singapore. If you’re interested in getting involved but still not entirely sure what’s going on, look no further! We’ve compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions to get you fully up to speed!

What is it?

The Big Ideas Summit is a unique online event uniting procurement and supply chain professionals from around the globe to drive innovation and inspire change.   

When is it?

We kick off the global tour in London on 23 February 2017. But a lively conversation has already begun on Procurious! Expect to see most of the action between 09.00 – 17.00 (GMT) as we share video insights, quotes, photos and summary articles direct from London.

If you can’t join the action live, not to worry.  The thought-provoking discussions and debate will continue long after, and we’ll be sharing video footage of all our Influencers Big Ideas throughout February and March on Procurious. 

Where is it?

First stop, London! Although our Top Influencers will be meeting in Soho, due to its digital nature Procurious members across the world can get involved from the comfort of their office, armchair or even from the beach!

Procurious members can also use our iOS App to follow the action. It’s available in the Apple iTunes store and is free to download. 

How can I join in?

You’ll need to be a registered member of Procurious – join here for free if you haven’t already. Then simply access the Big Ideas Summit Group to soak-up thoughtful opinions, participate in insightful discussion, connect with our Influencers, access exclusive podcasts and interviews and share your own Big Ideas with the Procurious community.

We’ll also be live tweeting throughout the day, so make sure you’re following @procurious_ to share and respond to our tweets using the hashtag #bigideas2017.

Do I have to be a member of Procurious?

Yes. Participation as a Digital Delegate is free and open to all members of Procurious. By joining Procurious, you will not only have access to all the exclusive Big Ideas Summit content, but you will join a community of 19,000 like-minded procurement peers and gain access to all Procurious’ free resources, including being able to:

  • Upskill on the move with 80+ eLearning modules
  • Get your procurement questions answered by experts
  • Find out about relevant professional events around the globe
  • Become a digital delegate in the global think-tank, Big Ideas Summit 2017

Will Big Ideas be live-streamed?

Procurious boasts a global audience of 19,000+ procurement professionals, from more than 140 countries. If we were to cater to all of these time zones, it would be a tough job – so rather than live-streaming (and keeping you awake at awkward hours), we’ll share exclusive video and podcast interviews with Digital Delegates.

We will be using Periscope to live stream short videos from the day, but these videos – and all the Big Ideas videos  and podcast interviews – will be made available to you in the days that follow exclusively on Procurious.

I’m on the fence – why should I take part?

Here are five compelling reasons to join your fellow Procurians and stake your claim to the wealth of knowledge on offer:

  1. An audience with 50 of the world’s top procurement influencers
  2. Get your questions answered by world-class experts
  3. Make powerful new contacts around the globe
  4. Share your own Big Idea and make your voice heard
  5. Access exclusive content & learnings 

Who are the ‘Top Influencers’?

The term ‘influencers’ refers to the our 50 face-to-face delegates who attend in each city respectively: London, Sydney, Chicago, Dubai and Singapore.

Our experts span the worlds of procurement, technology, social media, journalism, social media, economics and academia.

Who are the sponsors and media partners?

The Big Ideas Summit is made possible by our partners IBMISMThe Hackett Group, and GEP

I’ve got a Big Idea of my own…

Great to hear! You can Tweet us your Big Ideas @procurious_ remembering to use the hashtag #BigIdeas2017.

Leave your Big Idea on Facebook – you can find us at www.facebook.com/procurious .

And of course you can tell the Procurious community all about it by joining the Big Ideas Group page and posting it to the community feed. 

Who is behind Procurious?

You can read all about us in Our Story.

 Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London.

Fasten Your Seatbelts: You’re Going Global!

The Big Ideas Summit, powered by Procurious, is embarking on a world tour. And you’re all invited! 

Register as an online delegate for The Big Ideas Summit in London here.

Fasten your seatbelt, fold away your tray table and return your seat to the upright position – we’re taking you and your procurement career on an epic journey!

Funding might be tight and you can’t even remember the last time you had a spare second to give to your career development but, in 2017, everything changes!

Procurious will be bringing you the best in procurement thinking from our events around the world. And the best news? You’ll be able to access all of the content for free and at your leisure; whether it’s from your desk, on the go or in the comfort of your own home.

19,000 Procurious Members On Tour

For the past two years, Procurious has hosted The Big Ideas Summit, the world’s first digitally-led procurement event, in London.

The event has earned a global reputation as the most innovative leadership event for the procurement profession and 2017 promises to be just as exciting and thought provoking as we officially go global!

This year, we’ll be taking you around the globe with events taking place in London, Singapore, Sydney, Chicago and Dubai.

Wherever you are in the world you can fully participate for free by registering for each individual event as a digital delegate. You’ll be joining a community of 19,000+ procurement professionals, from 140+ countries, on Procurious to connect, learn, discuss and innovate together.

What is the Big Ideas Summit?

The Big Ideas Summit is an interactive, online event where up to 50 senior executives, industry thought-leaders and CPOs come together to connect with digital delegates from across the globe via our social media platform to discuss and test strategies and solutions for real world change.

2017 looks set to be a huge year for procurement thanks to rapid technology developments including advancements in cognitive tech and Industry 4.0. Surely there’s no better time to expand The Big Ideas Summit by sourcing ideas from top thought leaders not just in London, but around the world.

The procurement function must adapt and evolve to accommodate these technology changes and be ready to embrace what we’re calling Procurement 4.0. The question is: Are We There Yet?

The Flights Are Booked! Where Are We Going?

The Big Ideas Summit, London – 23rd February 2017 

Procurement 4.0: Are We There Yet?

We’ve got a jam packed agenda lined up for the primary event of the year. Our speakers will include:

  • John Macfarlane: Chairman, Barclay’s PLC
  • Linda Yueh: Fellow in economics, Oxford University,  Adjunct Professor of Economics at London Business School
  • James Bannerman: Creative Change Agent, Author of Genius
  • Mark Stevenson: Futurist, Author of An Optimist’s Tour of the Future

Nexus, Singapore – 30th March 2017

Navigating Procurement’s interface between cost and risk. Singapore’s NEXUS event will focus on managing the critical interface between growth and cost.

Pivot, Sydney – 17- 18th May 2017

Asia-Pacific CPO forum. Disrupting a decade of Big Ideas in Procurement.

Scrum, Chicago – 28th September 2017

A Procurement & Supply Chain Technology Sprint. Chicago’s SCRUM TM event will focus on the way technology is disrupting the workforce and reimagining how procurement value is delivered.

Reboot, Dubai – 23rd November 2017

Designing the Procurement 4.0 Workforce. Dubai’s REBOOT will focus on the talent and people implications of disruption created by Industry 4.0.

Buckle Up, We’re Ready For Take Off! 

The Big Ideas Global Event Series 2017 promises to light up social media, sparking vigorous discussions and crowd-sourcing ideas for the future of the profession but we can’t do it without you! We need your intput your questions and, of course, your big ideas for procurement.

By Registering As A Digital Delegates You Can…

  • Gain access to insightful discussions via our Big Ideas Summit 2017 groups
  • Connect with our influencers and ask questions live on the day of the events
  • Share big ideas for procurement with the Procurious community
  • Follow the day’s events live via our social media channels
  • Access video content from our speakers and attendees on the day and post-event

Who needs a workplace mentor when you can take your pick from the most exciting procurement influencers that the world has to offer?

You can now register free of charge as a digital delegate for our London event! What are you waiting for? Grab your passport and let’s go!

2016 Rewind – Best of eLearning – Incubate Your Big Ideas

As part of our 2016 rewind, we’re taking a look at the top eLearning modules added this year. Our first looks at how to incubate your big ideas for success.

So you’ve got a big idea for your organisation. But how are you going to get support to help make it a reality? And how are you going to grow it into a successful project?

That was the thinking behind one of our most popular podcasts from September’s Career Boot Camp. Gabe Perez, Vice President – Strategy and Market Development at Coupa Software, discussed how to incubate an idea on the job, and ultimately grow it for success.

Incubate, Grow, Succeed

How can you incubate your big idea on the job? Gabe’s top tip was to forget about the size of the idea and focus on execution. Without execution, an idea is worth nothing.

Gabe expands on all of this during his podcast.

In order to get the best from your idea, you need support from senior people. And in order to get this support, you need to understand, and then convey, the value this idea will bring to the organisation. After all, it’s not worth incubating an idea unless value can be derived from it.

Gabe also argues that the problem with big ideas is that they are often difficult to execute. But if you can focus on the outcome, then you can drive support, and get people on board. Ultimately, this can help build your, and procurement’s credibility, and make it easier in the future to execute other big ideas.

You can read more from Gabe on the Procurious Blog. Also, if you missed Career Boot Camp, you can catch up with all the podcasts on the eLearning Hub. And there’s a whole lot more there to keep you interested too! Happy viewing!

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #23 – Engaging Social Innovation

Are enough procurement professionals taking account of social impact in their work? Are they risking missing out on innovation?

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Procurement’s Social Impact

Timo Worrall, Senior Category Manager FM EMEA at Johnson & Johnson, talks about J&J’s ‘Social Impact Through Procurement’ programme. The programme is focused on driving job creation and increasing spend with social enterprises.

Timo argues that by engaging with social enterprises, procurement is not only accessing innovation and new suppliers, but giving something meaningful back to communities.

Catch up with all the delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016? And maybe what we have planned for 2017? You can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today. Get connected with over 18,500 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Big Ideas 2015 Flashback: The Disappearing Procurement Function

We’re looking back at some of the most popular ideas from Big Ideas 2015. Peter Smith talks about the disappearing procurement function.

Peter Smith, Owner and Managing Editor of Spend Matters UK/Europe, shared a more controversial view than other delegates for his Big Idea, that the procurement function would cease to exist in its own right in the next decade.

As a former Head of Procurement, and CEO of CIPS, Peter is uniquely placed to share this view of a disappearing procurement function. Peter believes that as organisations realise how much value procurement can add, and how much value they should be getting from it, they will realise that it’s too important to be left as it’s own function.

This will lead to a situation where every manager will be charged with getting the most out of their budgets and out of their activities, and to add value to the organisation.

Peter also argues that as technology advances and makes information more available to a wider audience, it disintermediates the procurement function. By making the data more transparent, it’s not just procurement who have access to it and can leverage it, but the whole business.

 

See more Big Ideas from our 40 influencers from the Big Ideas Summit 2015 on Procurious.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Big Ideas Summit 2016, visit www.bigideassummit.com. You can also join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Big Ideas 2015 Flashback: Building a Supply Chain Wiki

We’re looking back at some of the most popular ideas from Big Ideas 2015. Gordon Donovan examines the concept of a Supply Chain Wiki.

Gordon Donovan, Procurement and Supply Chain Manager at Metro Trains in Melbourne, shared his Big Idea last year around the concept of creating a Procurement and Supply Chain Wiki.

Gordon believes that there is a dearth of good information for procurement organisations around the full supply chain. This isn’t just the Tier 1 suppliers, but Tier 2 suppliers and subcontractors, and further down the chain.

This Big Idea focuses on harnessing the power of the community to build a centralised knowledge base for all.

Gordon admits that his Big Idea is quite daunting, but as he points out, it all has to start somewhere!

See more Big Ideas from our 40 influencers from the Big Ideas Summit 2015 on Procurious.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Big Ideas Summit 2016, visit www.bigideassummit.com. You can also join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Unifying Procure to Pay: A Leadership Challenge for the CPO

It might seem obvious, but removing silos in the procure to pay process can ensure spend optimisation. But it’s people, not technology, that hold the key.

Silos Procure to Pay

Imagine you were just elected mayor of your city, with a mandate from the voters based on an ambitious agenda that includes cutting costs. You’ve promised to streamline programs, increase transparency and work to a set of measurable success criteria which you laid out in your campaign.

You know there will be challenges. But, when you roll up your sleeves and get to work, you start to have some rude awakenings.

You realise there’s a section in the city that has its own budget and runs its own services, because it’s in a special tax jurisdiction. And there’s a powerful labour union that dictates wages, job duties and hiring across the city.

You also find you can’t get accurate reports because data resides in separate systems that don’t talk to each other – and neither do the people who run them. You realise that, more than anything, the bureaucracy and the politics that have grown up around it are what shape how business is done.

The success of your initiatives, and the city as a whole, are your responsibility, and you’ll be held accountable. But you don’t have full visibility into, or control over, what happens. Accomplishing your goals under these circumstances is going to be a real leadership challenge.

Mayor of Spend Management

That’s what it’s like being the head of a procurement organisation today. You lead the official buying organisation, but the employees in your organisation will buy based on the easiest process available to them. If there’s a contract in place and you make it easy, they’ll buy against the contracts you’ve negotiated. If not, they’ll buy what they need on their p-card or credit card, and expense it. Or they’ll go out and make deals on their own and an invoice will just show up.

But spending is spending, no matter how it happens. It all ends up in accounts payable (AP) and the bills get paid. When it comes in through the front door, you have the opportunity to manage and optimise for cost and compliance. But there are also side doors – multiple independent buying processes – for things to get bought and paid for without you knowing it in advance.

This is also a leadership challenge, and one that most procurement leaders face. There’s no one who is accountable for all of the company’s spending. Everything goes through AP, but by the time it gets to them, the money’s already been spent, so they’re just focused on effectively managing the payment process.

The whole spend management process – invoicing, expenses and procurement – should be united under one leader responsible for optimising all of the company’s spending. This head of procure to pay, or chief spend officer, would manage the spend management organisation to a shared set of KPIs.

The Missing P: People

This is not a new idea and it makes sense to most of us. We now have the tools – modern, easy to use spend management suites – to streamline the process from end to end and enable data sharing to make each part more efficient. For example, everybody’s expensing the new iPad? Procurement gets an alert: Hey, maybe you should source that.

What has made this such a tall mountain to climb isn’t the lack of technology to support a unified process. It’s that most organisations don’t have alignment of their people. Even the best technology won’t fix everything if procurement and AP aren’t working together and aligned to the same goals.

Bringing the people together is a perfect leadership challenge for procurement to take on.

Think about it. Over the past few decades, the profile of the procurement profession has been rising. The average level of education and certification has been rising. The amount of spending that they’re managing is increasing. Procurement departments took centre stage during the great recession—not just cutting costs, but leading new strategic initiatives for their companies.

There’s a feeling in procurement that the profession hasn’t yet achieved the status it deserves. There’s still a lot of talk about striving to be seen as strategic, and to have a seat at the table with top leadership. Striving to ascend, as Tim Cook did at Apple, from procurement to CEO.

Executive Level Challenge

Here is your chance. We know there’s huge business value that companies can achieve from uniting procurement and AP in the procure to pay process – value far greater than the sum of automating each separately.

The world is changing faster than ever, and becoming more connected. In the consumer world, we have visibility and data everywhere; in the business world, not so much. You can see your Uber approaching on your smartphone but you can’t see where your invoice is in the payment cycle.

Your watch or wristband can tell you how many steps you’ve taken today, but you can’t tell how many orders have been placed against a contract. Your dishwasher can order its own soap from Amazon, but employees in many companies can’t even figure out the best way to buy a stapler.

Businesses need to achieve the same levels of visibility, efficiency and control in every area of their business in order to meet rising expectations and to stay competitive. A unified, automated spend management operation does that for spending.

If procurement wants to ascend to the heights it aspires, it can show leadership by spearheading the effort to tear down the silos between buying and paying so that someone, a chief spend officer, a head of procure to pay, a head of business services – it really doesn’t matter what you call them – can finally be responsible and accountable for making sure all of spend is optimised. Someone can finally be mayor of spend city.

Coupa are one of the sponsors of the Big Ideas Summit, to be held in London on April 21st. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.