Tag Archives: cloud technology

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.

2016 Rewind – Best of eLearning – Disrupting the Status Quo

We’re counting down to the new year by looking back at some great eLearning content from 2016. Here, we learn how technology can help procurement disrupt the status quo.

disrupting status quo

“If you’re not disrupting, them you’re being disrupted.”

This was one of the key learning points we heard regarding procurement technology this year. And when it comes to technology, you always need to ask the experts. That’s exactly what we did in a webinar in early November.

We invited representatives from Oracle and Enrich to Procurious HQ to talk about the way procurement can leverage technology in key areas.

Status Quo No More

The current pace of change around the world is unprecedented. Procurement and the wider organisation are quickly recognising that maintaining the status quo will not suffice in staying ahead of the pack.

This is only a small sample of the webinar, but you can download the rest here.

While many organisations talk the talk about technology, few actually walk the walk. And for many, the status quo is still how they go about their business. But as times change, organisations are recognising that they need to as well.

During the course of the webinar, we heard:

  • Why the challenge for business is to be able to adapt and apply new solutions for innovation and competitive advantage;
  • Why many organisations are still grappling with getting data into a structured and accurate form that they can use for predictive analytics;
  • That people tend to underestimate the complexity of stitching together the myriad vendor solutions as they aim for a more B2C-type interface; and
  • That change management is vital in technology implementation, or people will revert to old habits.

So make sure that your technology implementations in 2017 go smoothly by learning the lessons of the past. If you want next year to be the one where your procurement team leaps forward, you’ll need to ensure your technology is working for you, not against you.

You can read more about how technology can help boost procurement on the Procurious Blog. You can also catch up with other thought leadership from our community on the eLearning Hub. And there’s a whole lot more there to keep you interested too! Happy viewing!

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.

Cloud, Not Laughter, The Best Procurement Medicine

A spoonful of Cloud makes the medicine go down. Healthcare patients in England could benefit from a move to Cloud eSourcing.

laughter medicine

This article was written by Daniel Ball, Director at Wax Digital.

Healthcare organisations are under constant scrutiny to deliver high quality care to patients. In England, it’s The Care Quality Commission which regulates all health and social care services to ensure fundamental standards of quality and safety are met.

The findings of its reviews are published to the general public. This puts organisations not coming up to scratch at risk of suffering from a negative public reputation.

Improving Quality of Care

However, help is at hand from The Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP). The organisation works with healthcare organisations to identify areas where quality of care can be improved.

The HQIP is an independent organisation responsible for managing clinical audit contracts on behalf of NHS England. It was launched to promote quality in healthcare, and, in particular, to increase the impact that clinical audits can have on healthcare quality improvement.

Commissioning and managing clinical audits means having to source a range high quality external experts to carry them out. To do this, HQIP recognised that best practice procurement tendering processes were needed to to run an audit.

HQIP saw the value in moving to an eSourcing platform so that it could speed up the procurement process. It knew that if it was able to source experts quicker and do away with paper-based, manual tender processes, it could save itself valuable time and resources.

Moving to the Cloud

HQIP decided to go with Wax Digital’s cloud based web3 eSourcing. This allows the organisation to publish tenders electronically and make use of existing templates. It also enables suppliers to submit responses online.

The system also offers a mix of automated and manual scoring facilitates, with subsequent contract awards also taken care of electronically via web3.

Its project management function also allows HQIP to plan its eSourcing activities so that all relevant information is stored in one central place, which can be easily accessed by system users.

Judith Hughes, interim Head of Procurement at HQIP said: “As we’d aimed for, Wax Digital web3 has greatly improved our processes. Moving away from paper-based tendering has significantly reduced the time it takes to review and award teams for projects.

“It has also helped further ensure our quality guidelines are upheld and we now have a much more efficient way of engaging with our suppliers and them with us.”

An increasing number of healthcare organisations can benefit from the speed and efficiencies offer by cloud-based software. Innovation starts within the supply chain. By rolling out eSourcing technology, HQIP enjoys a more efficient supply chain for audit management. This in turn can aid healthcare organisations meet required care standards, and improve the quality of service for patients.

Procurement Goes Cloud-Based To Mitigate Risk

Many procurement professionals aren’t taking all available routes to mitigate risk in overseas transactions. Cloud-based solutions can change this.

Mitigate Risk

A high percentage of procurement professionals aren’t doing everything in their power to mitigate risk when trading with overseas countries, according to an Australian fintech startup.

Trade with international countries can be fraught with issues, warns Hugh Young, General Manager at Octet.  And while there are tools on the market to help mitigate risk, there are plenty of major companies that continue to trade without any kind of secure platform in place.

Mitigate Risk – Know Who You’re Dealing With

Young says that, to start with, it’s critical that you know who you’re dealing with. “It’s critical that anyone dealing with China and ordering meaningful volumes actually goes and visits the supplier on their own turf, which is a lot different to meeting them at a trade show,” he says.

He also adds that nothing can replace the peace of mind that comes with actually seeing the factory you plan to do business with. This helps to get get a clear picture of their production processes, something that’s paramount to mitigating risk.

Another thing for companies to consider is the importance of maintaining the professional relationship, and visiting at least once a year. Some businesses have chosen to engage quality control agents in China, or other countries, which is also worth considering.

Fraud Risk in Exports

“The other major issue is fraud risk. Quite often Chinese exporters are SMEs and they’ll require a company to pay a large balance to be able to finance the manufacturing of the goods for you.

“But we don’t recommend agreeing if they’re asking for the balance to be paid before the shipment has left China. The risk of fraud is too high. It’s also possible for these suppliers to go out of business, taking your money with them,” warns Young.

Another common issue is the exporter deliberately uses a related company bank account, which looks almost identical to the other one. This can cause confusion for procurement, and could mean money is paid into an account that isn’t the exporter’s at all.

Businesses must also be sure to carefully check bank account details, and the names on all of the invoices they’ve been sent. At all times, individuals must check the documented supplier paper trail carefully.

Don’t Get Caught With Hands in the Cookie Jar

While some companies have created their own secure online platform to mitigate risk, many others are leaving their company exposed by not utilising one of the myriad existing secure platforms on the market.

“The world is in a cloud environment. Procurement professionals need to catch up, and implement something that’s going to protect them and their company’s reputation. Everything is shifting toward a secure platform over the coming decade.”

Young says that it’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong for those not utilising a platform.

“The procurement department only needs to get their hand caught in the cookie jar once for the mud to stick,” he says.

Connecting Customers & Suppliers

Octect GM, Hugh Young
Octect GM, Hugh Young

Meanwhile, Octet has partnered with Chinese bank Asiafactor to provide SMEs with a global payment platform. The company will now connect its customers across China to more than 10,000 suppliers around the world.

The partnership means Octet can cater to both existing domestic small to medium enterprises, as well as a range of prospective exporters throughout China.

Octet has also been working with Westpac to offer Australian businesses a platform to facilitate overseas credit card payments. The platform supports 10 foreign countries, and is the first platform of its kind for Australian banks.

Octet is a supply chain management and financing platform that enables people to manage and pay international suppliers. 

The platform is utilised by more than 1,000 Australian and New Zealand importers, spanning more than 60 countries, and facilitating over $1 billion in transactions. Suppliers include Unilever, L’Oreal, Mars, BlueScope Steel and packaging giant Visy.

Cloudy Future for ERP Based Procurement

Traditional ERP systems just don’t do the job for procurement. However, an integrated, Cloud-based approach could be the answer the profession is looking for.

Cloud & ERP

This article was written by Daniel Ball, director at eProcurement specialist, Wax Digital.

The benefits offered by best-of-breed eProcurement technology are well documented. Procurement professionals don’t need much convincing of the advantages of using them.

However, for some organisations, stepping away from using their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system’s in-built purchasing tools isn’t always an easy option.

Modern ERP systems offer organisations a way to manage, collect and interpret data from a variety of business activities across seemingly all business functions, from purchasing and finance to HR and customer service. They also integrate all internal data-collection systems so that all business functions rely on one single database.

This one source of real-time data can help businesses to make decisions based on facts rather than assumptions. To coin a well-used phrase, they could be considered something of a panacea capable of eradicating all business process ills.

There is another way…                                                                                                             

However, for all of the many benefits ERP offers to the organisation as a whole, it’s not uncommon for procurement teams, amongst others, to be frustrated by its rigidity and functional limitations. While core functions such as Finance, Manufacturing and HR are well supported by ERP systems, Procurement, it would seem, is often less so.

Procurement teams will therefore inevitably face the choice between continuing to use ERP, or move to an alternative best-of-bread solution. Today this almost invariably means a cloud-based system that needs to integrate seamlessly with ERP.

The Integration Challenge

But how can procurement convince the rest of the business, and especially the IT department, that the existing functionality on offer to them is no longer adequate for their needs and that moving to a cloud-based system that can be integrated with ERP can be done easily and securely?

We’ve seen many of our customers seek to replace the procurement modules offered to them by their ERP systems but who have been stopped by the integration challenge. They have faced concern from IT managers that integrating with a remotely-hosted, third-party system may pose a risk to the organisation, especially when business-critical master data and finance systems are concerned.

However, the tide is now turning. Some cloud-based eProcurement solutions can securely integrate with ERP and their finance systems. This offers users freedom of choice and the ability to automate, improve, and better manage many of their day-to-day procurement processes.

Feasibility of Integrated Systems

A platform which comes with its own ready configured Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is certainly a major step forward in convincing the finance and IT departments and using a separate but integrated system is not just possible, but advantageous.

We’ve worked with many procurement teams in leading organisations who’ve decided to reject the functionality on offer to them from ERP, and integrate cloud-based eProcurement.

One of our customers uses JD Edwards’ (JDE) ERP system for finance, and had used its procurement module for over ten years to raise purchase orders and approve invoices.

The system wasn’t very efficient or easy-to-use so certain departments chose to bypass it all together, preferring instead to manually process their orders.

However, the complexity and limited functionality of the existing system was preventing the organisation from making wide-scale purchasing efficiencies and not giving a clear view on organisational-wide spend.

Deciding to integrate a new eProcurement system with the JDE finance system that would enable a number of efficiencies including better spend control, more efficient order processing and payments, the organisation decided on a hybrid cloud approach allowing us to host our cloud-based service from within its data centres.

Wide Reaching Benefits

At another of our customers the procurement team was keen to make efficiencies to the management of its indirect spend across Europe.

Multiple systems were being used across the region for indirect purchasing, and these were largely manual, paper-based processes that did not provide full visibility and control over expenditure.

As a result, collaboration between the purchasing teams and finance, as well as with suppliers, was not integrated and could have lead to duplication on spend, or even the business purchasing goods or services it didn’t need.

In order to improve indirect purchasing across Europe, the organisation chose to move its entire European operations to a single, cloud-based eProcurement system to integrate with SAP.

Best-of-breed cloud-based, eProcurement solutions offer a host of benefits across the business, that are far reaching and extend beyond the walls of the procurement department.

Cloud Computing – Don’t Get Stranded with Sharks

If you think that cloud computing is not for you, you may be left stranded…with sharks.

The Cloud - Sharks

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.

“If you think you’ve seen this movie before, you are right.” So said David Linthicum, author of ‘Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise‘.

He went on to say, “Cloud computing is based on the time-sharing model we leveraged years ago before we could afford our own computers. The idea is to share computing power among many companies and people, thereby reducing the cost of that computing power to those who leverage it. The value of time share and the core value of cloud computing are pretty much the same, only the resources these days are much better and more cost effective.”

In biological science there is a concept called convergent evolution, which essentially describes how different organisms have independently evolved the same solution to a particular problem.  The similarity in body plan between sharks and dolphins is a perfect example. Despite one arising from a fish and the other from a land mammal, the particular circumstances of life in the pelagic ocean have resulted in the gradual adaptation through survival of both groups into superficially similar morphologies.

New Era Solutions

The cloud computing model of this era is indeed offering a similar solution to a similar problem that the shared computer access model used to. Indeed I recall having to book computer time in my university days, and that on a machine with a fraction of the computing power of my wristwatch!

In that case it was simply a matter of limited availability of the machines themselves and sharing the cost between groups was the only model that made sense. Today the equation is a different one.  Raw computing power and data storage are dirt cheap…

As an aside, a quick sketch calculation confirms that data storage twenty five years ago cost around seventy thousand times the equivalent cost today. (To check my working: I installed a 100MB hard drive in a business system in 1990. It weighed 120Kg and cost about £1100 Sterling. Last week, I put a 1TB card in my camera for just under £140.)

…but it isn’t the cost of the machine resources any more that are the limiting factor. It’s the overhead. The cost of management and operation, the risk of failure and consequential loss, and the inertia lumped on the enterprise in times of radical and accelerating change.

Putting Software to Work

What is driving business systems into an effective shared computing model in the cloud is not the need for more resources at lower cost (although this is undoubtedly an unplanned upside). No, it is the need to decouple the business processes from the technology.

Yes, of course, the technology – and by that we mean software of course – is central to the business process. I mean, do we really need to say e-this and e-that anymore? But in the past our business processes were determined BY the software. Today cloud software can give us the flexibility to conduct business how we think best and the software can be put to work for us.

Perhaps that’s sounds a bit too rosy-tinted for some.  But the fact remains, the risk and cost of making the wrong decision in selecting a cloud software provider, is the merest fraction of what it was in the old, customised-behind-the-firewall days.

A recent conversation I had with a consultant suggested one client of theirs was looking to migrate their systems as-is to an SaaS platform over the next five to seven years. In that same time, a more decisive CIO could make the wrong decision about a cloud provider twice(!), and still be further advanced in ROI by the time that migration is over.

Overcoming Intertia

So, the imperative to move into the cloud is compelling but the skepticism around security can apply the brakes in many organisations.

Because cloud computing evolved from a different ancestor to the shared computer model – out of the chaotic, anarchic, everyman’s internet, run by nobody-knows-who, instead of out of the traditional, conservative club of private supercomputers run by accredited Systems Analysts –, and because of a slew of high-profile hacking cases, there remains a core of uncertainty in the procurement industry.

To that end we work closely with our customers to help them understand where the security risks today really lie, and the greatest of these is inertia.

As I think about the case of the company taking upwards of five years to take what they have today and put it online, I can’t get the image out of my head of a diver coming up from a leisurely reef excursion only to see the dive boat heading for the horizon.  Of course, if he can’t tell whether that fin belongs to a dolphin or a shark, you now know why.

It will take a company with very deep pockets and very great resilience in a rapidly changing world to be able to ride out the cost of being left that far behind.

There do remain reasonable questions around technical security that should be asked and answered in any selection process, and our two-part paper Securing Procurement in the Cloud of Tomorrow is designed to help that conversation.

Vivek Kundra, former federal CIO of the United States said, “Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because [cloud providers] can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies.”

The question is not whether, or even when. It’s how.

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

For more help on avoiding the sharks in procurement software, visit the Smart by GEP website.