Tag Archives: data-driven procurement

How To Create A Procurement Service Desk

How can you centralise disparate tools and requests to receive, triage and manage work across the source-to-pay process without replacing your applications? It’s not as impossible as it sounds.


Are your stakeholders frustrated with finding their way through the procurement maze? As a procurement practitioner are you overwhelmed with navigating your way through a variety of disparate tools and requests, such as procurement, accounting and reporting, to get your work done?

Many organisations are increasingly improving the efficiency of the procurement process by implementing a “Procurement Service Desk,” which is a single, centralised user portal for stakeholder requests, routing, communication and PR/PO status reporting.

One-stop shop for “all things procurement”

By using one portal instead of multiple systems, the Procurement Service Desk provides seamless engagement for procurement and its stakeholders, which helps procurement organisations receive, triage and manage work across the source-to-pay (S2P) process. The single portal improves the overall user experience and outcomes with procurement for stakeholders, including requestors, legal, finance and operations.

With a Procurement Service Desk, stakeholders no longer have to spend days trying to figure out where to go, who to call, and what information is required to engage procurement. The platform provides procurement stakeholders with a simple user experience to submit procurement requests. A dashboard provides full visibility to requests and statuses throughout the end-to-end procurement process. Stakeholders and procurement now collaborate directly in the centralised portal instead of through numerous emails, files and phone calls.

Procurement organisations typically realise these value-based outcomes after implementing a Procurement Service Desk:

  • Automated triage of work to appropriate practitioners through intelligent routing
  • Improved user experience for clients, supplier and S2P practitioners
  • Workflow data captured in a structured manner for utilisation to improve processes, deliver efficiencies and provide an improved experience
  • Enablement of metrics that matter
  • Intuitive, easy-to-use platform
  • E2E flow supported by a single platform

Shortening the process through intelligent triage

Through the Procurement Service Desk, stakeholders submit requests covering the full S2P process, including sourcing, contracts, supplier onboarding, purchase orders and invoices. By using standardised processes and forms, the Procurement Service Desk ensures compliance and gathers required data from stakeholders.

Requests are based on standardised processes and forms, ensuring compliance and that required data is received upfront from the stakeholders. Because procurement professionals don’t have to chase down additional information from stakeholders, the Procurement Service Desk enables a more efficient process and quick turnaround times.

When a request is submitted through the Procurement Service Desk, the platform triages the request through intelligent routing rules to the appropriate procurement practitioner for no-touch handling.

Triage rules based on commodity, request value, country and supplier match the request with the most appropriate procurement practitioner. This automated triage ensures work gets to the right team quicker and more accurately, improving stakeholder customer satisfaction.

The Procurement Service Desk provides procurement with full visibility to the types of requests coming into the organisation through an executive dashboard, helping managers measure and address workload balance and required skills. The platform also provides improved data-driven insights based on the volume and types of requests received from stakeholders.

Integrating processes and systems

Because the Procurement Service Desk sits on top of an integration layer, the intake request process connects with the back-end disparate tools and micro services. Procurement manages their full workload in a single platform regardless of the back-end transactional systems. By sharing data from the intake process bi-directionally with the back-end transactional applications, the Procurement Service Desk eliminates data re-entry, improving process efficiencies and analytics.

The Procurement Service Desk also easily connects to other services, such as Marketplace and Analytics, making them easily accessible. Previously disparate tools and services, they now easily scale and function as a fully integrated platform.

After making the decision to move to a services desk, procurement organisations should begin looking for a system platform to manage the Procurement Service Desk and integrate their key systems. By working with a company with specific procurement experience, organisations reduce business disruptions and speed up implementation.

Learn how IBM Procurement Services can help to reduce business costs and meet the challenges of complex global enterprises through effective data-driven source-to-pay operations by visiting www.ibm.com/services/procurement

The Efficiency Value of a Marketplace Approach

Procurement talks a good game when it comes to efficiency. However, few are walking the walking when it comes to taking real action.

This is the second in a three-part series of posts. If you missed my first, ‘Instant Access to Supplier Information a Step Change for Procurement Productivity’, click here to read it.

In that post, I presented a challenge to anyone who assumes that having technology guarantees progress. Make sure your technology is earning its keep and not just putting your inefficient, manual methods online.

In this post, I’m going to take the same approach to efficiency.

What is Real Efficiency?

We talk a lot about efficiency in procurement, but we take very few steps to actually improve it. Real efficiency is more than doing more with less. It is also about timing. Sometimes, doing the same task at a different time increases the impact potential of the effort behind that task.

Take risk management or risk mitigation as an example. Addressing risk should be an active part of the sourcing process, not something to be managed afterwards. While risk information is readily available, sometimes what procurement really needs to know what their peers think of a supplier.

That is why tealbook combined internal supplier knowledge, data from Dun & Bradstreet, and aggregate intelligence from your industry peers into each supplier profile. Adding a peer view to the supplier discovery process not only makes it more robust, it significantly increases the trust factor for everything procurement learns.

Addressing risk early is critical. Two of the first opportunities procurement gets to mitigate risk arise during the supplier discovery process:

1. Inviting more qualified suppliers to participate in the sourcing process improves the final award decision.

You’re always going to lose some suppliers to disqualification or elimination. Investing in the discovery process up front decreases the fall-off rate, and ideally presents the team with a larger number of more qualified suppliers to negotiate with and consider for contracts.

2. Looking at supplier-related risk factors before the sourcing process begins makes it possible for procurement to push back on requirements if they are too confining.

Procurement tries to be good about collecting risk information in RFx’s, but many times it is too late to change the direction of a project based on what the team learns from suppliers.

By doing an early assessment of the available pool of suppliers and their relative risk before going to market, procurement creates an opportunity to widen the pool of prospective suppliers.

Making Efficiency Proactive

In addition to thinking about the timing of tasks and what impact that has on efficiency, procurement needs to look for opportunities to combine activities.

If you are going to conduct a supplier discovery exercise anyway, why not search a platform that incorporates third party risk data in addition to supplier information and buyer knowledge? tealbook incorporates D&B information into supplier profiles so procurement see which suppliers offer the product or service they are looking for in one place.

Taking efficiency to a more proactive level, why not pre-vet hundreds (or thousands!) of suppliers across a wide range of categories? With the right technology and information, procurement could, in essence, create a custom virtual marketplace of suppliers that are ready to bid at any given time.

A broad approach drives efficiency because the suppliers are already vetted and risk is moved up in the process without adding a step or a delay. This is an ideal application of technology because it enables something procurement can’t do on their own on the same scale.

Value creation goals notwithstanding, good procurement teams want competition as well. Without the supplier discovery pre-work being done, procurement is stuck with the same old suppliers time and time again.

And there is nothing efficient or strategic about that. Marketplaces are certainly not a new idea, but they are a path to efficiency that we should look for ways to improve.

Now that I’ve shared my point of view on scalable technology and marketplace efficiency, I’m going to wrap this series of posts with an optimistic view of procurement’s forward looking potential.

Gregg Brandyberry is a recognised pioneer in procurement and sourcing technology. He has over 40 years experience in industries such as automotive, textile, manufactured goods, electronics and healthcare.
He is the former Vice President of Procurement – Global Systems and Operations for GlaxoSmithKline, and a Senior Advisor for A.T. Kearney’s Procurement and Analytic Solutions organisation.

Procurement Will Be ‘Cognitive’

It’s time to redesign the function to be ‘Cognitive’. Procurement once again faces revolution, and this time it is beyond ‘only’ a transformation. The function we know today will cease to be.

The first turning point saw the profession move to an industrialised model, including centralisation and strategic sourcing. Later on, transformation reached another key step, enabling Category Management, and increasing focus on automation for higher efficiency, better compliance, and outstanding cost savings.

Taking the function to the next level, CPOs then focused on supplier innovation and risk mitigation, to provide more value to their stakeholders on top of day-to-day savings.

Today, equipped with the right technology, CPOs have the opportunity of accessing, and acting upon, huge volumes of relevant data in order to truly impact supplier innovation and mitigate risk, two major mandates in today’s procurement environment. Deriving insight from this data provides the modern CPO with an incredible opportunity to execute procurement strategy on an entirely new level.

New, Data-Driven Era

As the buying function continues to automate, CPOs can plan and prepare for a new data-driven, ‘Cognitive’ era.

Let’s firstly clarify what cognitive technology is, before we explore its implications. Cognitive technologies are products of the field of artificial intelligence. They are able to ingest data and continuously learn as humans would, but with data on an enormous scale. They can perform tasks that only humans could, thereby allowing the workforce to concentrate on more innovative work streams.

Cognitive technology now brings the capability to ingest all (even unstructured) data, and can understand its meaning, reason and context to generate hypotheses, arguments and recommendations from which procurement professionals can make more informed decisions.

How is This Relevant to Procurement?

It means that we can now apply technology to automate and execute tasks that were initially performed manually. Many companies have now implemented catalogues, and automated PO creation, invoicing and reporting, all being ‘operational’ or administrative tasks.

What Procurement cognitive technologies bring to the table is the ability to take over strategic sourcing tasks, such as RFx creation, analysis and even scoring, including a level of complexity and data analysis that can’t be handled by ‘human’ on the same scale.

Even market research or negotiation can be improved, to reach a point when the technology will perform these tasks in a better, more efficient and secure manner.

What Does That Mean for our Procurement Function?

It means that the opportunity for Procurement is huge. However, the function needs to be ready and start considering how technology will indeed transform their very role and skill-set in their organisations.

1. Changing CPO Focus: Today, focus is placed on the front end of the procurement lifecycle, mostly on steps until the contract signature with suppliers. Introducing Cognitive technology to this part of the process will allow procurement to concentrate more on the post-contract signature activities. Vendor management will become critical, improving supplier collaboration, innovation and value-add.

2. Organisational Structure: Is the relevance of organisation by spend category diminishing? The model was relevant to procurement objectives which were to industrialise operations, consolidate, standardise and leverage volumes to generate savings. But today we know that we are reaching the limits of this model, and we are changing our success factors towards outcomes and values, so organisational changes to reflect this will pave the way to a function that is successful and efficient.

3. Measuring Procurement Success: One of our key measures is savings, but because KPIs such as revenue growth, value add, innovations, customer satisfaction, and risk management are also becoming increasingly important, we need to be able to implement a reliable calculation model to quantify progress.

4. Technology Assessment: Are CPOs equipped with the right tools to fully enable this collaborative approach with stakeholders and suppliers, as well as being well to manage risk and protect their brand?

5. Skills and Training: CPOs will need to define what new skills their team will need to develop to be successful in a new strategic model of cognitive procurement. Key competencies such as a collaborative ability to manage complex vendor and stakeholder relationships, leveraging technology, influential communication skills, problem solving, and changing agent attitude, will become even more critical.

In fact, failing to acknowledge the need to evolve will put the procurement function in a position of road blocker rather than a growth enabler, threatening competitive advantage. Embracing a cognitive approach encapsulating procurement data represents a key stepping stone for procurement organisations to remain relevant to the business and successfully differentiate themselves.

With the right strategy, structure, skill-set and cognitive technology, the procurement function is best placed to thrive and evidence its value to the organisation.

IBM are one of the sponsors of the Big Ideas Summit, being 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.

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