Tag Archives: Cloud computing

Is Independence The Next Procurement Disruptor?

In workplaces that have less structure and much greater independence, where we can bring our own technology to work and use it to innovate, what does the future hold for procurement?

Disruption has become something of a buzzword lately. With brands like Uber, Airbnb, Airly and Tesla making headlines in Silicon Valley it’s very easy to get swept up in the momentum; where is technology taking us and how can it lead us to better outcomes?

Is technology fear making you freeze?

After speaking at a Young Innovators conference in Denver Colorado recently, I met with delegates afterwards to discuss their technology challenges.

Our conversation revealed that whilst technology was viewed as a great enabler and business simplifier, they were fearful of the cost and effort required for implementation – so fearful, that many had resisted changing existing legacy technology even when they knew it was bad for business.

It reminded me of Kodak, a story so powerful in reminding us how an inability of a company to act due to fear of change, risk aversion and desire to protect the status quo killed a global business.

When it comes to legacy software, perception might be that it’s better the devil you know. But we have reached a new era of the digitally connected individual, one who values instant access to information. The digitisation and connections of our personal environment is leading to the same changes within the workplace, allowing buyers to become more productive and engaged in the buying process.

Procurement teams have successfully become more integrated into businesses through a combination of people and technology and have delivered strong savings and operational improvements, but where are the future incremental improvements going to come from?

Reinventing the rules with the cloud

It’s becoming very clear that cloud-based applications are and have re-invented all the rules.

Cloud based applications are driving a fundamental shift that will transform many aspects of procurement and strategic sourcing.

Procurement teams are beginning to understand the benefits new technologies can bring to an organisation, even when it means that buyers are working with, and bringing software and applications of their own choice into the workplace.

Traditionally we have focused only on the team, today we are witnessing the rise of the individual within a team. A future where procurement individuals are connected to the organisations approved suppliers but continue to use their own technology to improve those interactions and connections. This is allowing them to find and deliver incremental improvements businesses are demanding.

The trend is right in front of us, our work environments have transitioned from structured workplaces to become open and community based; the same is occurring with our technology decisions. We still come to the office each day but work in an environment that has less structure, more innovation, flexibility and freedom.

Bring your technology to work day

Today you can bring your own technology into the office, use it to drive innovation, supplier connections and collaboration and then connect to the business mainframe to download and upload data.

The future will see more individuals challenging existing processes and demanding better connected applications that are just as fluid and flexible in business as they experience in their personal lives.

Our future procurement leaders will look for solutions that simplify key processes, are easy to implement and use and gather the key data that can be utilised to improve decision making.

Finally, I recently came across the following quote from a CPO in an Accenture article, “it’s gotten to the point now where technology is evolving faster than my mind is conceptually able to digest it”.

Welcome to the world of you, the procurement individual!

Alan is a thought lead and CEO of sourceit, a technology company that has led the market in the development of simple and easy to use sourcing applications for a wide of direct and indirect categories.

Sourceit offers three different products for buyers:

  • RFQ – request for quote software for products and services
  • Market – a specialized procurement and job management application for marketing services, and
  • Catalog – an inventory management and on-demand product/services ordering application.

Why Procurement Should Be All About the Cloud

The Cloud is the future for procurement. If that’s the case, why do we still have so many questions about it? 

the cloud

Procurious are at ProcureCon IT in Amsterdam this week. Stay up to date with the latest highlights on the Blog, and follow live on Twitter.

We sat in a very interesting, interactive panel discussion yesterday on anything and everything Cloud related. This is one of the most talked about topics in procurement, so it’s no surprise that it generated a lot of discussion at this week’s conference.

As Tania Seary noted, the cloud has a touch of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ about it. Everyone’s talking about it, everyone is convinced that they need it, but not everyone knows exactly what it is or how to use it. It’s clear that procurement is being hindered by this lack of clear understanding.

We were particularly interested in hearing the views of the panel compared to the others we’ve heard this year. What we heard was a consistent message, aligned with other Cloud experts Procurious have spoken to.

In our Oracle webinar last month, our discussion touched on the array of options in technology available to procurement. Also discussed was the idea of how traditional offerings differed from those from smaller, more agile companies.

All About the Cloud?

The panel, chaired by Procurious founder, Tania Seary, included Christiaan Murphy, Global Software Category Manager at CGI, and Michael Delle, Regional Head for SI & IT Sourcing at Ericsson.

Both men are active in the procurement space, as well as active members of Procurious! Christiaan Murphy is responsible for CGI’s global software spend of around 500 million per year.

Michael Delle is part of Ericsson’s global organisation for category management for SI & IT. He has a unique perspective on the Cloud, familiar with it for internal use, but also as part of the reselling systems integration programme at Ericsson.

CGI is divided around procurement categories (telecoms, software, hardware), but this isn’t common to all organisations. Traditional structures could present some difficulties in management of the Cloud, particularly from the point of view of data centre.

Michael raised the point about a lack of shared Cloud best practice for processes such as contract management. When it comes to negotiating cloud contracts, are you paying a subscription or a monthly cost? Either way, you need to be sure of what service level you expect for your costs. It needs to suit you, your organisation and your customer expectations.

Hidden Costs of the Cloud

Another fascinating area of debate raised was that of the hidden costs of the Cloud. Many people have chosen to focus on the benefits it offers, but few have stopped to consider the unseen costs.

Michael, in particular, was keen to point out how surprised people were when they found this out.

The first was the difficulty of getting back out of the Cloud environment once you were in it or even simply switching to an alternate vendor. There is always difficulty in migrating away from what you are buying, but the Cloud adds an extra level of complexity to this, especially when it could take months to get your data out!

It’s important to have a recovery scenario for your data and a contingency plan in place in case the cloud fails.

The second cost relates to legacy solutions. Some organisations involved in the Cloud environment would still keep their legacy solutions on site.

This was a conscious decision in many cases, with concerns about Cloud migration driving this. However, it did lead to duplication of technology and, more importantly, cost.

Cloud Brokering

One final topic of interest surrounding this topic is Cloud brokering. For those of you who don’t know (and we were one of them), this is more simple than it sounds. As you might be able to guess, a Cloud broker is an intermediary between a Cloud seller and buyer.

The concept of brokering has grown in Cloud software, as companies are asked to provide a service for people who don’t know what they are doing. Often, these are mid-sized companies who could benefit from the Cloud, but can’t dedicate the resources to understanding it better.

The companies that are suffering in this area were larger organisations with solutions for managing data centres. Cloud software is trending towards very specific solutions, which can be open source, and not dependent on the larger providers.

These ‘point’ solutions are proving to be better than the larger, all-in ones. The Cloud is enabling the trend towards virtualisation, but are hurting the providers offering off-site management, as people don’t see it as a requirement any more. It’s possibly better to go with the ‘point’ solutions, and avoid the software lock-in.

What do you make of the discussion points in this panel? Do you agree? Why not create your own discussion, or contact Michael and Christiaan on Procurious to find out more?

Does Insurance Against Failure Really Keep You Covered?

Is it really worth taking out insurance against system failure? Is the true value in a system that works first time, all the time?

space launch insurance

Download ‘Parting the Clouds‘, Smart by GEP’s latest whitepaper, to understand the difference between Cloud Solutions and SaaS Software.

There was a debate in the office that ran for a while when we were putting together the white paper that’s associated with this post.

“Yes,” said one camp, “we understand that there are technical, operational and architectural differences between Cloud and SaaS, but so what?”

In other words, why should Procurement care how their software “solution” is delivered to them, as long as it works?

“Fair point” said the others, “but if we believe the cloud model is inherently more secure, robust and future-proofed than the other, should we not call out that distinction?”

“Again,” came the response “if a SaaS implementation is backed by the necessary service level agreements from the supplier, what’s the difference?”

And that is when the subject of insuring space launches came up.

Bear with me.

Can Insurance Really Cover Everything?

Insurance is what we’re talking about, of course. Ensuring your Procurement operation can carry out the business at hand without interruption or disruption is a primary goal of selecting the right software system. The SLAs in the contract with the vendor are what comprise that insurance policy.

As is the case with everything in the insurance world, the greater the degree of protection you want, the higher the premiums.  But there is also a matter of the risk.

Seven per cent of satellites and spacecraft fail at launch. Recently some fairly dramatic launch failures have made the news. The ones that really make the headlines are those that involve the destruction of a payload that teams of scientists have been working on for years.

You can almost feel the despair and horror of watching a decade’s hard work destroyed in mere seconds.

Usually, but not always, these payloads are insured against multiple possible eventualities. Launch failure, failure on deployment, failure on landing – as in the case of the recent ESA Mars mission. Naturally the premiums are immense to insure an interplanetary mission. Often the insurance by no means covers the ultimate cost of the failure.

The many millions paid out after a launch failure may cover some of the financial stake invested by the agencies funding the project. However, there is essentially nothing that can recover the loss of the science that was to be delivered. The physical and material can be replaced, but the loss of the results is absolute.

Don’t Insure Against Failure – Do It Right First Time!

A far better form of insurance for space launches is a system that doesn’t go wrong. This is in fact the calculated risk taken in many projects. Catastrophic failure cannot be mitigated with cash, so better to spend the insurance premiums on building something that won’t explode.

And this is why it seemed an appropriate metaphor for the kind of SLA insurance under discussion. It’s all very well having the on-paper insurance for failure coverage, but that’s of little consequence if the financial value of the pay-out can do nothing to mitigate the real cost.

This is why, then, we feel there is a clear distinction between different interpretations of what “cloud” actually means. The fundamental underlying scalability, security, robustness and other forms of risk really should be considered when making a genuinely informed decision.

Comparing vendor contracts like for like you may see the same SLAs – system availability, uptime and access. But without a doubt the benefit of an SLA is in never having to rely on it.

If your procurement technology fails, are you really covered against all the potential losses? What risks should you be considering when adopting new Cloud technology?

Download Smart by GEP‘s latest whitepaper, ‘Parting the Clouds to find out all you need to know.

Why Procurement Can’t Have Its Head in the Cloud Anymore

Cloud computing is set to dominate every aspect of our personal and professional lives. So why do we still understand so little about it?

procurement head in the cloud

Download ‘Parting the Clouds‘, Smart by GEP’s latest whitepaper, to understand the difference between Cloud Solutions and SaaS Software.

The world’s biggest search engine provides a great window into human psychology, at least of those humans that it’s algorithms decide are sufficiently similar to oneself.

Try it, it’s fun.

Today, if I type “how” it immediately offers me “how…to roast pumpkin seeds”.  Interesting if not immediately an issue.

“Should” suggests “Should…I text him?” Oh, the angst of so many web users! The answer is, of course, no. But will that stop you texting? Of course not.

And “Did” rather disturbingly suggests “Did the killer clown purge happen?”

I’m not sure whatever happen to incredulity and scepticism but people will literally believe anything these days, it seems. And, apparently, the clowns are coming to get us all.

Cloud Computing – Why…?

As so often happens, all of that came about because I got side-tracked while typing another question into my search bar, “Cloud computing, why…”

I was intending to research why a cloud was first adopted as the symbol for the distributed computing concept as opposed to, say a web. But instead I was offered, “Cloud Computing, why…”:

  • do we need it?
  • use it?
  • it matters?
  • is it important?

These are all equally fascinating questions, and clearly asked sufficiently frequently to reach the top of the suggestions list.

Like so many rapid developments in technology such fundamental questions tend to get over-ridden by the pace of change and adoption.

Do we need it? It’s a bit late in the day to ask that question when increasingly we have no choice.

Why use it? Same answer, perhaps.

It matters because virtually every aspect of our lives is in some way connected to it and that in itself answers the fourth question.

Before the most basic of questions can be even asked, the offered answers already indicate some kind of fait accompli.

An even more basic question, that begins “Cloud computing what…” tellingly generates as its top two suggestions:

  1. Cloud computing what…is it? (naturally); and
  2. Cloud computing what…accountants need to know

Well, I wasn’t expecting that.

Cloud Computing – What Procurement Should Know

But it is perhaps an indication of where we are in this particular technology revolution. Cloud computing is set to dominate every aspect of our interaction with the world and traditional ways of doing business are being shaken up and transformed before we can even get satisfactory answers to the most basic of questions.

In our world of procurement the future seems certainly to be in the cloud.  All the software vendors, like ourselves are offering cloud solutions.

But does that mean procurement professionals know everything they need to know about what that means? Is it even relevant? Should you care whether your software is in the cloud or not? Does it matter, as long as it works?

In principal you shouldn’t have to worry about any of it.  But when it comes to making a decision, it’s probably best to be informed.

Cloud, it turns out, is very loosely defined and when selecting a “cloud” solution it’s important to know what you’re actually going to get.  Without a doubt the most important factor is what the software can do for you in delivering maximum value to the organisation. But just as important is knowing what questions to ask to find the best solution for you.

After all, if the internet is to be believed at face value we’re about to enter a new phase dominated by an even more terrifying technology. Clown computing anyone?

Do you know there was a difference between Cloud solutions and Software-as-a-Service? With all the Cloud technology available, sometimes it’s hard to keep track.

Download Smart by GEP‘s latest whitepaper, ‘Parting the Clouds to find out all you need to know.

Raise Your Glasses to the Cloud

Does being stuck in our ways, and doing things “the way they’ve always been done”, mean procurement misses out on the benefits of the Cloud?

The Cloud

You can download the latest GEP white paper on the impact of cyber security, and the benefits of a cloud-based procurement technology solution here.

You can buy flip-flops that have a bottle opener built in to the sole.  Notwithstanding the sartorial choice of sporting said footwear, the synthesis of the two household objects into one ‘solution’ was clearly something born of necessity, or desperation, or more likely both.

The crown cap on a beer bottle, the correct name for which is actually a misnomer – the ‘crown cork’ – is 124 years old and still going strong. The ubiquity of the particular type of stopper means that almost everyone can access a tool designed with the express purpose of removing one, but finding oneself on the beach without one can lead to some unusual inventions, or some risky and occasionally painful improvisations.

Bottle Opener Flip Flops

Necessity – the Mother of Innovation

What is surprising is that it took seventy years for someone to come up with the bright idea of combining the crown cap with a screw thread on the bottle – negating the need for a tool altogether, and even today bottles of beer that one can open with a simple twist are far from the norm.

Interestingly, that most useful combination is still limited to mass-production, mass-market brands, and rarely or never to be found on small-scale, independent, or craft brewery products.

The same, of course, applies to wine. There is unquestionably a huge resistance to screw caps on premium products from the industry, the consumer and the media alike.  Until, that is, you actually talk to the real experts.  Not the self-appointed armchair connoisseurs – I’m not being denigrating, I’m definitely guilty-as-charged – but those who really know their stuff.

I’ve met wine producers, merchants and critics all of whom are desperate for the screw cap to be considered as acceptable at the “high end”, as at the mass-market end, because the product is only better as a result.

Consider the labour-of-love winemaker who has to play Russian Roulette with their prized vintage every time a piece of possibly-contaminated tree bark gets stuffed in the neck of a bottle.

But, on the whole, we consumers feel it cheapens the product, and the lack of ritual and satisfying “pop” detracts from our enjoyment of the contents. The real experts say it’s just snobbery – and, of course, they’re right. But today there remains a relatively low ceiling on what a restaurant can charge for a bottle with a screw cap. Good wines simply don’t come in screw-capped bottles.

What finally convinced me of the ridiculousness of that position was finding myself with wine but without means of access. Today I find myself tutting in a very English manner if I find I need to go get a corkscrew to open a bottle.

Migrating to the Cloud

I find myself in the same mindset when thinking about the Cloud.  For a while I felt somehow discomfited by the idea of putting all my files, and music and images and books and data in the cloud, preferring instead to create my own personal cloud of NAS drives and IP sockets so that I could access what I wanted, wherever I was, but I would still ‘have’ all my data.

How daft is that? If my NAS drive goes down (which it has) who has to run around in a panic trying to fix it? If I move house or country (which I have) who has to handle the business of relocating and reconfiguring equipment to deal with the change?

You see the point, I’m sure. I was on a hiding to nothing. Insisting on a model of how data storage should be, because that’s how it’s always been, supported by some spurious mythology of physical location, is no different to saying screw-caps cheapen the experience of drinking wine. Nonsense.

Cutting away all the snobbery and enjoying wine starts and ends with glass to mouth. What happens up to that point might be interesting, but it’s not in the least relevant.

Now I find myself tutting in overly-dramatic fashion if the service or software I need is NOT available in the Cloud. Install? Oh, really!

Cloud computing is a loaded subject. There are genuine concerns, and genuine things to be concerned about, when considering moving business critical systems into a new environment.

But, let’s make no bones about it, you need to be thinking about those things anyway. The threats and risks won’t go away if you choose not to pay them any attention.  But the opportunities sure will.

We’ve applied a great deal of brainpower to design and build a cloud procurement platform that delivers a massive bang-to-buck ratio, in a secure and highly performant environment, and our two-part paper, ‘Securing Procurement in the Cloud of Tomorrow‘, is designed to help business and IT people alike start a meaningful dialogue on the subject. The Cloud is here, it’s huge, and growing.

But even now I catch myself out. Trying to improve performance of my video editing capability at work I spoke to our splendid and ever-cheerful head of IT about getting some kind of box dedicated for the purpose.

“Have you thought about a cloud video-edit-suite solution?” he said.

Well, d’uh!

Enterprises should be moving their procurement processes to the Cloud, say GEP. For more on this, download the latest white paper research.

For more information on high-performing procurement software, visit the Smart by GEP website.

How can Procurement Work Smarter, Not Harder?

Time never seems to be on our side. It’s time for procurement spend its time more wisely, and work smarter, by leveraging new technology.

Z Hotels Work Smarter

Procurement, finance and operations have forever been working on ways to integrate simply and effectively. While it is reasonably simple to coordinate small teams in one office, hospitality is one industry faced with the tough task of managing spend and suppliers across multiple locations, multiple businesses within a business and a seasonal spend pattern.

Traditionally, these three departments have been engaged in a never ending paper chase between numerous locations and head office. Not to mention the arduous task of managing budgets across a multitude of locations, geographies and currencies. Until now, managing this extensive workload has meant the headcount in the back office goes through the roof and the time staff should be spent in front of the guest/client, is instead spent on pushing paper and placing orders.

Breaking with Tradition

So how do you fix this expensive problem, and work smarter?

Breaking decades’ old business patterns and cleverly using technology to simplify buyer – supplier interactions and location management. However, Z Hotels have cut administrative tasks by up to 90 per cent through simplifying and digitising many of their previously time devouring tasks.

Frontline hotel staff would spend up to five hours a week on purely administrative duties like placing orders, chasing paper invoices and pushing items through the approval process back to head office. Meanwhile, head office staff lacked the transparency and real time control on departmental spend and relied solely on location staff to be their eyes and ears.

Since bringing in a new, cloud-based procurement platform, they have cut admin duties for location staff time down by 90 per cent.

Bev King, CEO at Z Hotels, commented on the benefits of the new solution. “Customer service is at the forefront of everything we do, InstaSupply gives us the opportunity to have a much more automated solution that allows our staff to have time to focus on the service to the customers rather than try to fill the administrative gaps. The process has become very easy to use. We’re on the right track,” King said.

Supported Growth Ambitions

The platform now pulls together all orders, delivery reconciliation, stock, invoice processing, location management and budget tracking as well as a host of other functions still being refined within the portal. All this with full integration with the business’ accounting software.

When Z Hotels first brought in InstaSupply, at the end of 2014, they had big ambitions to grow. A year later, they have just opened their 10th site and are on course for another five by the end of this year.

Under the traditional model, a flurry of staff would have been brought in to handle the additional workload that growing nearly 300 per cent would have created. In fact, the head office team that deals with finance and procurement has stayed the same as it was in the beginning.

It is this ease of use that makes it a great solution for Z’s predominantly Millennial operational staff. Implementing a fully responsive, one click, cloud solution is in tune with the emergence of a dominant Millennial workforce who will no longer just get by with archaic systems and countless spreadsheets.

With a wealth of new technology available to procurement and finance teams, isn’t it time for your organisation to look at ways you could work smarter?

Watch a video on this case below:

Instasupply employs advanced cloud technology and a user-friendly web application to give users control of their time and their spend. Find out more about Instasupply’s purchase-to-pay ordering system, and supplier invoice management and consolidation functionality, at their website.