Tag Archives: data

Three Data And Analytics Considerations Every Organisation Should Make In The Pursuit Of Digital Transformation

The tools exist – and are affordable – to utilise Procurement data throughout the organisation for actionable intelligence. So how do you make that transformation? IBM Procurement’s Laura Beth Hirt-Sharpe writes the definitive guide to clearing the myriad hurdles.


A Procurement organisation’s success relies on transformation from standard spend visualisation tools to a comprehensive strategy to monitor, maintain and utilise Procurement data throughout the organisation. With the advent of inexpensive, efficient and reliable data collection and curation capabilities, many Procurement executives have the opportunity to efficiently create actionable intelligence from their data. Though a myriad of tools, methods and services are available to support this work, a significant hurdle remains for organisations: leaders must determine the best tools and services and curate an appropriate data strategy and data-driven culture to drive the change necessary to remain competitive.  All this, while cutting costs and reducing complexity.

As leaders embark on their Procurement analytics transformation, they face three major considerations: data and data governance strategy, data cleansing and curation, and skill gaps in core analytics and data science skills. In this blog, I will provide suggestions for each consideration based on my experience with global clients at various levels of maturity.

1. Data and data governance strategy 

Many Procurement organisations begin their digital transformation by thinking that data strategy and technology strategy are one and the same, when in reality these are two distinct, codependent pillars. A best-in-class approach to data strategy is to begin with the outcomes you are looking to drive from your Procurement data.  These outcomes can range across various domains beginning with traditional spend analytics, risk and compliance monitoring, to AI-based trending of key metric behavior within your environment, and many more in between. Once you have a clear view of the outcomes you want to drive, begin thinking through important questions like: 

·   What data needs to be captured and what level of structure is required within those elements? 

·   Is this data captured today, and if so, how?

·   What data gaps are present against target outcomes?

·   Does reasonably consistent master data exist across various source systems?

·   How can data completeness, accuracy, and meaningfulness be assured over time?

·   What is the best way to collect and curate data over time?  (This is not a “one and done” event!)

·   How can Procurement processes be optimised to ensure efficient and effective data capture?

These types of questions will help shape your data and data governance strategy. It is important to understand that there will always be a trade-off between speed of execution and granularity of data capture. Finding the right balance is key, and ensuring you have the right technology and innovation partners in place is crucial to optimising this balance. 

2. Data cleansing and curation 

There are two primary factors to consider with regard to data cleansing and curation: determining who from your organisation should be involved and maintaining value drivers in your dataset. 

Who should be involved?

Procurement data teams within an organisation typically lean toward one of two strengths: data science or Procurement. Some organisations focus on pulling data experts from other parts of the organisation to Procurement to help curate an accurate merge of their datasets into a “source of truth” dataset. However, through this method, Procurement subject matter experts (SMEs) have a limited stake in the data cleansing activities.  Knowledge of Procurement is essential to rapidly increase the data return on investment, such as supplier name normalisation and logic flagging.  If those knowledge assets are not brought into the process early, the path to monetisation will be slow and spotty. 

Alternatively, some organisations choose to assemble a team of Procurement professionals who can educate themselves on data techniques and procedures and curate the source of truth data. For these organisations, technical issues and lack of repeatability of process steps ensure the source of truth dataset will require a similar pruning process again in the future. This also has drawbacks in that data architecture is best left to data professionals – especially data that will be used for AI and Cognitive algorithms.  Merging Procurement SME talent with data design in a Procurement environment is tricky. Couple that with the reality that top data and Procurement talent have “day jobs” makes this investment in talent critical, complex and expensive. 

What are the key value drivers?

Organisations that pull their data into a central repository and want to utilise it to its fullest should maintain two value drivers within their dataset: 1) Procurement-specific categorisation and 2) knowledge-infusion based on outside information. 

Cleansing data to support a Procurement taxonomy cannot rely alone on a set of off-the-shelf tools built for classification of natural language – sentences and paragraphs – but will need to be curated for terms and phrases specific to Procurement’s categories. Furthermore, high-accuracy categorisation of spend data hinges on multiple fields such as supplier name, GL classification and rich line-item text fields. 

Utilising these Procurement-specific fields in classification requires more advanced algorithms to decide between potentially disagreeing field content.  To further complicate categorisation and curation, data experts are regularly tasked with combining non-structured information into the source of truth dataset. This work requires technical knowledge and industry acumen to execute as well as regular refreshes of data and terminology.  For example, these data points could include diversity supplier type, occupancy and building information as well as market intelligence purchased from third party providers. This work requires an in-depth knowledge of the source of truth dataset and supporting datasets which may be unstructured. These fields must be updated and verified with Procurement stakeholders. Categorisation work and additional field inclusion require a significant investment by Procurement organisations to create and maintain.

Determining the right team and the value drivers within Procurement-specific data is a task that takes dedicated individuals, time, and effort. However, the size and forethought of this effort will determine the return on data initiatives.

3. Core analytics and data science skills 

A pervasive issue I see with organisations that hire data scientists from top schools at high salaries is that they struggle to extract value from the data that already exists in their systems due to lack of Procurement acumen.

Another common issue is that an organisation’s current team cannot afford incremental budget for the aforementioned data resources, and therefore leans on its existing Procurement and IT staff to monitor, maintain, and report utilising spreadsheets and visualisation tools.

Cross-collaboration

Both approaches leave a significant amount of value unrealised for the business. Instead, I recommend cross-collaboration across the organisation, designating analytics champions and emphasising grassroots training.  Without these, the value of your data will remain untapped and will require a significant amount of future investment to digitally transform your business.

A successful data-focused organisation is one that is fully integrated within your Procurement function. The data team cannot be a siloed organisation, building point solutions for the loudest stakeholder’s pain point. There needs to be an agile approach to daily activities, with a robust backlog and tasks prioritised for highest return to the business.

Analytics champions

Analytics champions are an important, yet often overlooked, position. Data Translators are another name for this role, as organisations need to treat data as another language with certain speakers of the database and statistics “dialects.” 

For example: if an executive has a short turnaround project that is important for continuing operations, they need to meet with their function’s analytics champion before they meet with the data team. The intent of this role and meeting is to vet, assess and format answers to the rudimentary questions that often derail otherwise productive data initiatives. Potential topics to cover include data availability, awareness of the project backlog, agreement on fair timelines and investment, and blockers. 

Organisational growth

Analytics champions need to be cultivated internally first as functional experts and grow as the organization evolves. There are positives to hiring versus training, but as discussed earlier, without the proper functional understanding you will likely see a lack of results without the proper structure in place. 

Your current functional team knows your business, processes, industry, and supply base best, so enable them to make decisions and give structured guidance to the data experts, even if a data translator is required.

Meaningful transformation through modern Procurement

Analytics is at the forefront of high-impact Procurement organisations as a trusted business advisor role, as a supplier relationship reference source, and as the foundation of effective compliance management. Through analytics, modern Procurement can be predictive in their actions and trusted throughout the broader business. To produce the granular level data required for actionable intelligence, source data has to expand beyond basic accounts payable and purchase order elements.  New sources of information, such as demand, consumption and compliance data from a variety of internal and external sources must be linked. This process appears daunting, but we have seen meaningful transformation happen over small, structured, prioritised steps with a focus on data as the foundation for meaningful transformation.

To solve for this complex need, Procurement Business Process Outsourcing services are innovating through AI-based technology infused with an influx of new and re-purposed Procurement talent skilled in data science, mathematics, statistics and computer science. Ensuring the correct mix of skilled data resources with Procurement experts has proven to be an expensive challenge for CPOs, and an opportunity for market-leading specialists such as IBM Procurement Services. These services assist Procurement organisations to meet their analytics demands while empowering their sourcing practitioners to focus on taking action based on the analytically discovered opportunities. Incorporating knowledge built across clients and industries, these services allow Procurement to adjust focus around high yield data and statistically verified opportunities.

Make Sure Your Data Has Its COAT

Dirty data can be costly – but accurate data is always a great investment. Make sure your data has its COAT and you’ll never be out in the cold, writes Susan Walsh


If your data doesn’t have a COAT, there could be a range of bad or costly decisions made which could affect the business performance, financial situation, risk jobs, or even the fate of the company.  You wouldn’t go out in freezing temperatures without the appropriate coat and you shouldn’t work with data or make business decisions without the same level of protection – accurate data.

And, just like with coats, there are different levels of quality data services out there. If you buy a cheap jacket, it might not be waterproof or protect you from the elements, it won’t last much longer than one season and you’ll need to buy another the next time winter rolls around again. It’s the same with data – if you don’t invest in good quality service you will end up paying twice as much, if not more, in the long run to fix the earlier mistakes. Don’t be left out in the cold.

So, what is COAT?

Consistent

Generally data is used by many people or teams, which can lead to multiple classifications of one product. For example, one person might put DHL as a ‘courier’, while another might log it as ‘logistics’ or ‘warehousing’.  A taxi might be classified generically as ‘travel’ when it should be classed as ‘Travel > Road Transport > Taxis’ and a project cost should be assigned to the same budget or GL code, not several.  Or it could even be a simple as units of measurement. One person may use ‘Litre’, another ‘Ltr’ and another ‘L’ – but these should all be one format.  This means everything can be reported accurately, you get a true picture of what’s going on and better business decisions can be made.

Organised

Data is only useful if it’s organised.  Think of a messy closet: you’re looking for your favourite top but can’t find it as everything has been thrown in there.  And, much like your closest, you can organise your data in different ways, depending on what you want to get out of it and that will produce different reports/analytics.  You may want to assign data to employees, teams, departments, functions or internal categories, as well as time periods such as months and quarters, or year groups like P1, P2 etc… So, for example, when you need the information on the accounts that Sharon in Finance is working on, or the sales teams’ performance for the quarter – you can pull that information quickly.

Accurate

This can mean different things to different people. At its most basic level, accurate data is correct.  In more detail, this could be no duplicate information; correct invoice descriptions; correct classifications; no missing product codes; standard units of measure (e.g. ltr, l, litres); no currency issues; correctly spelled vendors; fully classified data; or the right data in the right columns.

So, what does this mean?  It means greater visibility across your business in several areas, allowing better decisions, as well as time and cost savings and increased profits.

Trustworthy

This is critical.  Business decisions around jobs, staffing, budgets, cost savings and more are all based on data.  Data is used by everyone from the bottom to the top of an organisation. You have to be able to trust that what you’re looking at is the right information, and you need it to be accurate in order for your teams to use the data in their daily jobs. 

If they don’t trust the data, then they might not use the fancy new expensive software you’ve just spent tens of thousands installing.  Or the new AI you’ve installed may not produce the right results because it’s learning from dirty data.

Like a good coat, data is an investment – not a cost.  By making sure it has its COAT on, you’re saving time, money and avoiding future problems.  And also like any coat, it needs to be maintained.  You need to continually ensure your data is consistent, organised, accurate and trustworthy to get the most out of it.

Have you ever experienced a make or break moment at the hands of your data? Let us know in the comments below!

Three Reasons Why Procurement Has A Beautiful Future

Why should you be excited about procurement’s future? Three experts weigh in as we close out 2020 and look forward to a new year.


Now is the perfect time to be in procurement.

Think about it – when have we ever enjoyed so much trust, influence, and freedom to make changes?

We asked three experts why they’re excited about procurement’s future.

We can protect our companies 

Procurement is finally shedding its image as a support function. Now the c-suite is learning how much strategic value we can add.

Just ask Dr. Jonnie Penn, an artificial intelligence expert at the University of Cambridge and keynote speaker at the 2020 Big Ideas Summit.

He says the last 40 years of supply chain management were characterised by a push for efficiency.

“We see now that that’s too fragile a metric amid deglobalisation,” Penn says. 

“You need to start to incorporate other measures that give you security in the resilience of your system. 

“In the past you might have made a push for weekly or monthly planning. We’re now looking at a shift to continuous planning.” 

That puts supply chain management forward strategic leaders, able to prevent future disruption.

And the c-suite desperately needs that help.

Just look at one pharmaceutical CEO, who predicts the industry will move from global supply chains to more localised providers.

You have the opportunity to use data in a similar way to improve resilience.

But you might have to think about the way you see data, says Penn.

Great data meets three criteria:

  • Real-time
  • Structured in a way that’s easy to consolidate
  • Combines information from lots of different areas

Penn calls this ‘thick’ data, “which means that as opposed to just hiring let’s say a data scientist to crunch your numbers you’re also bringing in remote sensor engineers or ethnographers, sociologists.”

Those different perspectives are crucial to finding the best solutions.

We can drive innovation  

And that includes collaborating with your suppliers. 

Just look at Apple.

When Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, the screen was plastic.

Yet the next day, Jobs noticed the screen was covered in scratches and called his VP of Operations, Jeff Williams, demanding a glass screen for the official release.

Williams said it couldn’t be done in just six months. Every glass prototype they tried had smashed, and it would take years to create a shatter-resistant, thin glass.

But Jobs insisted.

So Williams worked with speciality manufacturing company Corning to create damage-resistant Gorilla Glass in time for the launch.

Now every smartphone in the world uses Gorilla Glass.

It’s interesting to note Williams joined Apple as Head of Worldwide Procurement. He’s now COO and tipped to replace CEO Tim Cook someday.

That proves procurement teams can meet specific business needs by working with suppliers to innovate, says Dr. Marcell Vollmer, Partner and Director at Boston Consulting Group

He says every procurement function of the future will drive supply innovations – including saving our environment.

Dr. Penn agrees. 

“To go it alone is just not sustainable,” Penn says. “You need to look at building common frameworks and using standardisation.”

And that includes sustainability.

We can save our environment

After all, Penn cites McKinsey research that 80% of greenhouse gas emissions and 90% of the impact on biodiversity come from the way supply chains are managed.

Depressing, right? It’s actually great news. It means we can have a huge influence on creating a sustainable supply chain – together.

Penn uses the example of the 240 million packages sent daily. Of that, 40% is dead space.

But new technology can scan each object and use optimal packaging. 

“That means that you can reduce the 40% air and ultimately all the derivative effects, down the supply chain of the plastic use and shipping and storage requirements.”

Another example is monitoring factory emissions in real time by combining satellite imagery with machine learning.

Clearly, there are countless ways supply chain professionals can make the planet better, says Supply Chain Revolution CEO Sheri Hinish.

“Supply chains are the conduit for building a better world; designing a better world,” Hinish says.

“We can come from different backgrounds, different parts of the world but at our core, we fundamentally want the same things. 

“So, it’s real and when you think about collaborating within a global context… this is what wakes me up every morning – to create a world that’s bearable, viable and equitable.”

Our beautiful future

That’s why all three of our experts say procurement has a beautiful future.

Combine your skills with technology advancements, and you’ll have endless opportunities to lead significant change.

And if that seems daunting, don’t worry; you’ve got experts on your side.

“Feel free to be in touch as you develop your data strategy and your AI strategy to accomplish your sustainability and resilience goals, says Dr. Penn.

5 Ways To Separate The Successful Supply Chains From The Rest

New computers can analyse a million rows of data in minutes. So why not let the computer do the heavy lifting? As a supply chain professional of the future, you won’t be manually processing data.  You will have data you can trust at your fingertips, as well as meaningful insights.  The rest will be up to you! IBM’s Takshay Aggarwal explains.


In the future, what will separate the successful supply chains from the rest? 

Procurious Founder Tania Seary sat down with Takshay Aggarwal from IBM to get his take on where we are, and where we are going.



Everything has changed

In 20 years of supply chain experience, Takshay has never seen a supply and demand shock at the same time.

“It’s completely changed how supply chain planning is done,” Takshay says.

Before, people used historical data to project demand – usually with a 5-10% variability or 1-2% percent for really mature organisations.  

But even with a high level of accuracy, too many companies were unsure which supplies were coming when. 

“Processes were so monthly and weekly orientated,” Takshay adds. “There was no sense of response; it was all about, ‘We’re used to this stepwise process and will get to it when we get to it.”

The result? Slow response time and lost sales. And reaction time was seriously hampered by years of cost cutting.

“An easy analogy is that you can cut and cut the fat to the bone, but when you need to run, where is the muscle?” Takshay says.

Sensing the market

That’s not true for all organisations, of course. Some companies invested in the right technology to detect changes in the market, which enabled them to respond quickly.

Takshay uses the example of two big retailers during the early days of the pandemic.  

“One retailer had sensing and response capabilities,” Takshay explains. “They secured all the available supplies in the market. Their shelves were stocked and their sales were booming.”

On the other hand, the second retailer’s supply chain officer was slow to respond. “They had traditional ways of doing stuff and their shelves were empty.” 

The difference between the two? “One supply chain officer is now promoted to the board and the other is finding a new job.” 

That’s why it’s so crucial to have the tools in place to detect market fluctuation and respond.

Looking at data differently

Going forward, how will you prepare for disruption – not only for your suppliers, but your suppliers’ suppliers?

The solution is incorporating non-traditional data for demand planning, Takshay says.

“Let’s say a discretionary spend category like electronics or fashion; you need to understand how unemployment is panning out in certain areas because that determines the footfall in your store,” Takshay says.

Non-traditional data includes areas of demographics like looking at unemployment or how a disease is spreading.

“You will start seeing a lot of what we call demand sensing in the near term, and driver-based forecasting which is trying to understand larger drivers in terms of promotions, in terms of macroeconomic factors,” Takshay explains.

“I think that’s where we’ll see demand sensing capabilities, like trying to understand the near term impact of weather or demographics and how they affect demand.”

Spreadsheets won’t cut it

Technology will also change how you use that non-traditional data, Takshay says.

That’s because higher computational power creates the ability to process data at lightning speed.

“The basic math hasn’t changed, but what has changed is how fast you can ingest that data,” Takshay says.

Think of it this way. How long would it take you to analyse a million rows in an Excel spreadsheet? Yet for some of these new models, a million rows is nothing.

Artificial intelligence can quickly process large amounts of data, making it easier to extract meaningful data. 

It will also be easier to bring in different sources of data – as and when –  they’re relevant.

For example, data about the pandemic spread might be a big consideration now, but six months from now it might not be relevant (fingers crossed!)

Instead, you may be more interested to ingest data at scale about economic recovery. AI can help you make sense of a huge amount of data and understand correlations – something that used to take an army of data scientists to uncover.

Welcome to efficiency

That ability to analyse vast quantities of data will also make demand planning a lot easier.

“If you ask any demand planners, 60 to 70% of their work today is about cleansing and harmonising data, and 20-30% is figuring out what it’s saying,” says Takshay.

Now, technology can eliminate much of that manual processing. In fact, Takshay says IBM estimates around 40 to 60% of that work will be covered.

“Now imagine if you’re a demand planner and you don’t have to go through those daily tasks to get the data cleansed,” Takshay says. 

Making it personal

So what does the future hold for supply chain?

Takshay predicts consumer demand is moving toward mass personalisation. The challenge for procurement teams will be supporting that personalisation in production, without losing efficiency or driving up costs.

“Ten years from now, we will be talking more about how we can better understand the consumer,” Takshay says.

“Everything will be done by machine. Supply chain may become irrelevant. It all becomes about mass personalisation so that’s where we start putting our efforts.”

That’s why human empathy will be an even more essential skill. Quantum computing could eliminate 80% of today’s procurement tasks, so our greater contribution is using human emotion to meet customer needs.

Hear Takshay’s full talk with Tania Seary in our exclusive webcast series The Future of Supply Chain Now.

How to Be Super Normal: 5 Must-Have Traits to Get Ahead in 2021

What does it take to be Super Normal? Here are the 5 must-have traits to get ahead in 2021 without driving yourself crazy.


There’s no turning back. There’s only the here and now. And whatever you call it – the new normal, now normal, the end of the world, or as we’re labeling it, the Super Normal – it no longer matters. What matters is how you adapt, move forward and make a difference.

There’s a lot of difference-making that still needs to happen. Procurement and supply chain must lead the way, just as we’ve done in the past. According to McKinsey, “in the five years immediately following the 2008 financial crisis, total return to shareholders for companies with top-quartile procurement capabilities was 42% higher than for companies whose procurement operations were in the bottom quartile.”

That’s a significant impact. Clearly, we have what it takes to succeed. But this is not the same environment as the global financial crisis. The game has fundamentally changed and we need a new playbook to win, manage stress and get ahead.

The Super Normal: Start by Owning Your Vulnerability  

Resilience is core to the Super Normal. We’ve been talking about it since March, which begs a deep discussion: What actually makes us resilient?

It has nothing to do with our age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. Instead, according to a Harvard Business Review study, there are two driving factors. The first is exposure. The more exposed you are to the suffering or event, the higher your resilience levels are. As HBR puts it, “this strongly suggests that we discover our resilience only when we are forced to meet unavoidable suffering full in the face. It’s when we face that reality, and see ourselves and how we respond to it, that we find the basis for resilience.”

The second factor is the extent of the threat. The more tangible, the more resilient we become.

An HBR survey asked how many people had experienced workforce changes as a result of COVID-19. There were 11 possible changes to select, such as sheltering in place, layoffs and furloughs, and changing use of technology. Ninety-six percent of respondents globally said they’d experienced at least one issue. This is similar to our business study, which found that 97% of organisations experienced a supply chain disruption related to COVID-19.

This isn’t surprising – so why does it matter? Because as leaders, we need to own our vulnerabilities. Our Super Normal requires us to be open, transparent and direct. You can’t force a return to normal just to calm anxiety and stress. We have all suffered to some extent and glossing over the potential implications – whether it be layoffs, longer work hours, hard conversations with suppliers and customers, a demand for new skills, or changes at home – is counter-intuitive.

Instead, own the vulnerability, be clear about your team’s exposure and communicate what needs to change. When people understand what’s at stake, they are remarkably resilient.

The Super Normal Playbook: Heart, Brain and Vision

Resilience amidst chaos requires evolution. We need to change and adapt, even if we don’t know what the future holds. While there’s no easy button or universal blueprint, we’ve learned a lot in 2020 about how to be Super Normal.  

1.       Super Normal Professionals Think the Unthinkable

If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that anything can happen. Pandemic, trade wars, recessions, natural disasters… the list goes on.

Being Super Normal requires us to come to terms with an inherent truth: Uncertainty is certain.

We need to engrain this mindset into our team, decisions and actions. Once we see that the big picture is cloudy and unpredictable, we can better prepare ourselves for success, and quickly overcome the shock factor when everything abruptly changes. Being ready for sudden change – and having a plan of action – puts you ahead of nearly everyone. 

2.       Super Normal Professional See Limitless Opportunity

Don’t let the state of our world get you down. Instead, get up, make a plan and get going. Be positive.

Changemakers see opportunity in crisis. They understand that the dynamics have completely changed, and there are limitless opportunities to improve your reputation, get noticed, move up and make an impact.

We know that procurement and supply chain operations are intrinsically linked to organisational survival and success. Whether you are at the beginning of your career or leading operations for a Fortune 100, there’s a greenfield opportunity in front of you. Thriving in the Super Normal requires you to see it and take advantage.

3.       Super Normal Professionals Invest in Themselves

Warren Buffet put it best. “By far the best investment you can make is in yourself.” 

This advice isn’t relatively new or unique, but it’s a game-changer for those that take advantage. What skills do you need to thrive in our Super Normal? What about the Next Normal? How will your day-to-day job change in the next 5 years?

Our recent survey found that the majority of organisations (93%) are investing big to propel procurement forward. The top three investments they are making in procurement are in data and analytics, talent development and technology.

Soft skills matter as well. According to LinkedIn, the top five most in-demand skills in 2020 are “creativity, collaboration, persuasion, adaptability, and emotional intelligence—all skills that demonstrate how we work with others and bring new ideas to the table.” 

If your organisation isn’t providing the necessary training or experience you need, make the time to get it yourself. The pandemic has accelerated the global tech transformation and heightened the need for modern skills, expertise and experiences, like analytics, digitisation, emerging technology, emotional intelligence and leadership. Super Normal leaders see where the world is going and stay ahead of the transformation by investing in themselves and their teams. 

4.       Supper Normal Leaders See the Big Picture and Know How to Focus

Where is your organisation going and what does it need right now? Super Normal leaders are always in the know, and when they aren’t, they are confident and proactive enough to request an immediate alignment meeting with leadership.

We only have so much time and resources and need to spend them where it counts. Today, for most procurement and supply chain teams, that means cost savings, supply chain risk and business continuity. But your actual goals and priorities may be different and could change suddenly. Going above and beyond your day-to-day supply chain and procurement operations to stay fresh on the strategic priorities of your organisation is paramount to success. Similarly, bringing modern and fresh thinking to the table that breaks through traditional results and delivers compounding value on key projects, like cost containment and savings, will make C-suite stop and take notice. 

5.       Super Normal Leaders Have a Heart

They put people first – and recognise that success starts with teamwork and human connection. They recognise that vulnerability – financial, mental, physical and social – is very real, and that people need time, space and support during difficult times. They know that talent wins 100% of the time.

While putting people first may sound simple, that’s not always the case, especially amidst the chaotic nature of our world today. Super Normal leaders are intentional about it every single day, with their decisions, actions, engagements and relationships. People are core to what they do – and why they succeed. 

You Have What It Takes: Embrace the Super Normal 

Life is chaotic and stressful. And you have everything you need to be successful now and in the future. Everyone’s Super Normal will look a little different – but if we continue to learn from each other, share our successes and look ahead, we’ll all be more than alright.

And finally, wherever this Super Normal takes us, always remember to make time for yourself and your family. Find something you love and embrace it. We are all tired, stressed and anxious. Happiness helps solve all three. If you are looking for more inspiration, check out what your peers say it means to be Super Normal.

Procurement’s Time To Lead Is Now. Here’s How to Take Advantage.

A new survey of 500+ professionals reveals where procurement must focus to establish leadership and earn executive trust.


Procurement: it’s your time to lead. New research from Procurious and Coupa, released today, reveals that nearly two thirds of professionals have seen trust increase with the c-suite over the past three months. Similarly, more procurement leaders report having a seat at the executive table today compared to May, when we asked the same question as part of our Supply Chain Confidence Index.

“Procurement leaders continue to step up and executives are taking notice,” said Tania Seary, Founding Chairman of Procurious. “Procurement plays a critical role in navigating the uncertainty we face today. The function’s stellar performance opens the door for more – more recognition, trust, and opportunities to lead. It’s time to take advantage.”

Procurious and Coupa surveyed over 500 procurement and supply chain professionals in July to assess the state of the function and what’s on tap for the second half of 2020. Reflecting on procurement’s strategic position within the organisation, just one-fifth (21%) report that they are still being viewed tactically internally. While that number is still higher than we’d like, most would agree that for a function that’s historically struggled to stand out and get the recognition it deserves, we’re moving in the right direction – in a big way. Consider that over the past three months, only 7% said they did not see trust increase between procurement and the c-suite.

“Procurement today has a clear opportunity to capture our seat at the table. The findings of this survey highlight how important it is for us to think strategically and ensure our objectives are aligned to the board and our peers in the c-suite,” said Michael Van-Keulen, CPO, Coupa. “We must step up to help our organizations not only control costs, but also mitigate risk, maximize value, and increase the agility needed in today’s business environment.”

These results build off Procurious’ research findings from earlier this year. “In June, we uncovered clear indicators that the c-suite was paying more attention to procurement and supply chain. This trend is accelerating as executives recognise procurement’s unique and essential position in the ongoing recovery,” said Seary.

Procurement leaders looking to capitalise on this newfound opportunity should focus on delivering results that increase resiliency and continuity, and improve the bottom line. According to our research, the top three areas the c-suite wants procurement to contribute to are mitigating supply risk (70%), containing costs (69%) and driving business continuity (64%).

“At first glance, we’re seeing a back-to-the-basics approach for procurement teams, with a laser focus on savings, spend visibility, resilience and risk mitigation. However, when you step back you quickly realise this approach is anything but traditional. The desired outcomes may be similar, but companies are investing more strategically, aggressively and intentionally,” commented Seary.

Second Half Procurement Priorities: Controlling Costs and Risk 

Procurement’s top three priorities for the second half of 2020 are similar to what we referenced above: containing costs, mitigating supply chain risk, and supplying the products and services needed to maintain operations.

Naturally, managing supply chain risk remains front and center for organisations across the world. But risk takes on many different forms. What are executive teams most concerned about right now? The top five areas, in order of concern, are:

·       Operational risk

·       Supplier Risk

·       Business environment risk

·       Reputational risk

·       Cyber risk

Interestingly, the most prominent risk differs geographically. In North America and Asia Pacific, executives are most concerned about cyber. In Europe, the primary concern is operational risk. Either way, stronger investments in supply chain risk management will undoubtedly become one of the lasting marks of COVID-19. Mature procurement teams will never take supplier health, collaboration and risk lightly again.

When it comes to business risk, there’s often more than meets the eye. The survey also found that more than 80% of organisations have significant gaps in spend visibility, which is its own risk. This finding poses an important question: How can procurement teams lead and control supplier risk if they lack full visibility into where money is being spent?

Equipping Procurement to Lead and Thrive

Looking at the next 6 – 12 months, economic uncertainty was the number one concern for survey respondents, followed by cash and risk. Given the stakes – and procurement’s proven ability to add value in business-critical areas, including risk, resiliency, and cost containment – the majority of organisations (93%) are investing big to propel procurement forward. The top three investments organisations are making in procurement leadership are:

·       Data and analytics

·       Talent development

·       Technology

“COVID-19 continues to act as an accelerant for procurement transformation. The business case is right in front of us, and organisations are investing accordingly.” said Seary. 

While organisations are finally stepping up to fund procurement initiatives, the function still has an important role to play to shape the future. 

“We need to ensure the investments are strategic, and not tactical. We need to set the agenda, and ensure the c-suite’s vision for procurement is aligned with what we know is possible. It’s our time to lead, and we need to do it right,” said Seary.For more insights – including details on procurement priorities, operational gaps, investment strategy, supply chain risk and more, join Procurious and get the full report: Procurement’s Time to Lead.

AI: Threat Or Benefit?

Will AI kill the purchasing function? (Spoiler: this is far from certain.)


Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to scare many buyers and procurement teams. They wonder if “machines” are going to replace their jobs.

AI combines: 

  • big data – the availability of vast amounts of data
  • machine or deep learning – an ability to predict based on the past
  • robotic task automation – the automatic execution of business processes, based on rules.

It’s certainly drastically changing how procurement teams work. And automation and AI are eliminating some jobs, mostly task-oriented chores. 

But at Determine, a Corcentric company, we don’t see AI as a threat. 

We see that new technologies have made the purchasing processes faster, more compliant and more efficient for all parties. They have transformed the entire purchasing function.

They have saved a lot of time, supported strategic initiatives . . . and created new job opportunities.

Remember the old times? 

Times that those under 40 don’t know. Times, before digitalization . .

Remember how purchasing processes were carried out? They were manual, lengthy and we couldn’t rely on technology . . . Weeks, sometimes months, were necessary to write tenders (with a pen), place orders, track delivery . . . and so on. 

All this manual processing resulted in costly errors and long approval and exception-resolution cycles, which resulted in late fees and missed discounts.

Then there were compliance and security risks, high paper storage needs, time-consuming supplier inquiries regarding invoice and payment status – and difficulty implementing operational best practices.

To name but a few of the non-digital process challenges . . .

Fortunately, those times are over. Cloud technology, full source-to-pay solution, AI, machine learning . . . Information technology and innovations have revolutionised the way purchasing teams carry out their job, eradicating silos and increasing team productivity. 

No more friction

AI helps eliminate friction from the source-to-pay life cycle. By analyzing data sets and patterns, AI automates menial, time-consuming tasks, such as document classification, data extraction, invoice approval routing and exceptions resolution. 

According to industry surveys, 83% of business leaders believe that AI and other digital technologies provide an opportunity to reposition their overall business strategies. 

One of our customers, a real estate company, was looking at justifying the purchase of our solution. We came to the conclusion that the platform could replace an entire team working all day long to scan and manually enter invoices that were being received by fax or in the mail from suppliers. 

By being able to manage the PO process entirely online, including modifications and PO flipping, we were able to guarantee more than 90% of touch-free invoices. 

AI helped this company eliminate friction from the procure-to-pay lifecycle. 

Lower costs, better customer experience

By analyzing data sets and patterns, AI automates time-consuming tasks, such as document classification, data extraction, invoice approval routing and exceptions resolution.

The technology reconciles data, for instance, by finding the supplier from fuzzy names and addresses, or categorizing goods and services based on descriptions. 

Applying AI to specific operational tasks enables businesses to remove friction and reduce operational costs, enhance the customer experience and inform strategic decision-making. 

Our procurement solution offered a great opportunity for the company to move the people from doing invoice entering to the customer support team. 

And that is exactly what happened.

In less than a year, several employees moved from accounts receivable to business support. The feedback was that they seemed to enjoy building customer relationships much more than spending the day receiving, scanning and entering invoices. 

Overall, in this regard the company is ahead of its time. They are very successful in the market and have a much better customer satisfaction rating than competitors. 

Ease worker anxiety . . . communicate 

AI presents an enormous opportunity to improve job functions in procure-to-pay by eliminating mundane tasks. And freeing staff to focus on strategic work that adds value to the business. 

But that doesn’t mean that staff won’t worry about the impact of AI on their job security. 

Reduce potential anxiety around the technology by:

  • keeping staff informed of AI initiatives
  • involving staff in identifying tasks to be automated
  • conveying key benefits of the technology, and
  • providing training to staff with skills gaps.

In the short term, AI is going to be mainly used to help employees do a better job. In the medium term, it will replace job repetition with a lot of new career opportunities.

So – in summary – the more automation and value we provide through our solutions, the more business our customers are able to do. We shouldn’t consider AI, machine learning and smart applications to be a job threat.

But we need to manage change as machines continue to keep doing more and more to help businesses run more efficiently.

Visit corcentric.com to learn more about Corcentric, a leading provider of procurement and finance solutions that transform how companies purchase, pay, and get paid. 

Is Data A Promise Or A Peril? 3 Things That Really Matter

Why do organisations and leaders face such a challenge in using data at all, much less using it effectively.

By red mango/ Shutterstock

It’s everywhere and it’s generated every second. Just texted someone? You created data. Just booked an Uber. You created data. Did some grocery shopping? You created data. And that’s before we even get to your professional context. Sending an email, making notes in a meeting, paying invoices, assessing your business strategy. It’s all data.

With ninety per cent of the world’s data having been created in the last two years, Domo’s recent report shares some staggering facts about the explosion of information; equivalent to approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes per day. Not quite sure what quintillion is? If I say a massive, it’s a huge understatement. But you get the idea.

So, with all of this data, why do organisations and leaders face such a challenge in using data at all, much less using it effectively. And with all the talk of digital transformation and the role of analytics driving new insights, why is it proving so hard to translate data into meaningful actions and outcomes? These three things really do matter:

1. Upgrade your business and your thinking

Historically, legacy systems, fragmented business models and poor documentation are all elements that contributed to the difficulty of accessing meaningful data. Historically, organisations would have to work for months to collate important data on every aspect of the business; customers, sales, financials, and forecasting to name a few. Data would often be incomplete, unclear, or in some instances, missing. If you weren’t looking for it, you would be working on cleansing it, a painful by-product of the adage of ‘garbage in, garbage out’. The paradox of the digital world is that this becomes so much easier and harder at the same time. Easier because the capabilities of technology allow analysis of data to be faster and more insightful than ever before. We can now find patterns in historical information, and create predictions that help businesses position resources where demand and customer expectations intersect. And prediction is the alchemy of organisational success. Studying classics at university, I understand that prophecy and prediction are all about enabling the competitive advantage. And technology can enable that with thankfully a lot more clarity than a Delphic oracle.

The flipside of this however is that systems, processes and models are not necessarily well positioned to take advantage of what is now possible.  Doing things the same way is not designed to deliver a different outcome and for many organisations looking for quick wins, the foundational and cultural changes required to achieve foundational transformation are too complex. It’s easier to implement a digital technology. While that will improve the current state, the absence of a more comprehensive improvement strategy means an organisation will only go so far. To capitalise on the real opportunity data must become part of the DNA.

2. Don’t tell me more, tell me what matters

Along with internal and market data, organisations are now able to access a new world of data. Social media, third party data including weather and GPS, IoT and devices. Today data is literally and metaphorically, Big. The opportunity for an organisation here is that they can learn and use so much information that was previously unavailable. The agriculture industry can use weather and IoT to identify optimal harvest time, and retailers can use their own loyalty and purchase data with social media to target customers with highly personalised promotions and offers. And so with the quantum of data being so big, leaders are faced with another well known conundrum; that of analysis-paralysis. Where the challenge previously may have been not knowing enough because it wasn’t available or feasible to access, leaders are now confronted with the proliferation of data that creates a risk around not knowing enough because there is likely more that should be known. The organisational problem this creates then is that leaders are unable or unwilling to make a decision because the breadth of information is just too confusing or because there is personal risk in making a decision that may be proven to be incorrect if more data presents itself. Another mindset shift is required here and that is for leaders to make a decision based on the best possible facts at the time, and be ready to adapt and course correct should new data provide a different option.

3. How you use it matters even more than what you have

Data and big tech companies present very interesting case studies for cross-industry insight on how data can be used, and misused.  Some companies, like Apple’s Tim Cook, have come out very publicly to discuss privacy and how consumer data should be used, and how it should be protected. Others, like Facebook, have been conspicuous in their silence and their absence on their use of data given it underpins their business model. The last two years have seen a significant change in sentiment on what we, as citizens and as consumers, are willing to accept and condone. And while the conversation is still being played out, and the resolution is unclear at this time, it does provide valuable insight for any organisation that is collecting data and contemplating options for how it can be used. Trust in brand, and trust in leaders cannot be separated from how an organisation conducts itself.

Six Reasons You’re Still Stuck In Procurement 1.0

Robobai surveyed 250 procurement specialists and asked them what their pain points are within a growing organisation. Chairman and Founder, Julian Harris, shares the top six reasons you’re stuck in procurement 1.0…

Every business has the desire to grow and succeed and as a result of this targets are set to support the overall objectives of the GDP. It is natural to encounter many roadblocks along this journey and procurement is seen as an important area as it can both block or support growth.

We have recently surveyed 250 procurement specialists and asked them what their pain points are within a growing organisation. We then established the six biggest pain points from their perspectives.

1. The companies had outgrown their supplier base

79 per cent of the people we spoke to said that their businesses were not driving innovation in supplier relationships. The common theme being their existing suppliers weren’t adapt enough to support their growth model and that they did not have the correct systems in place to evaluate potential new supply partners in an efficient and fast manner.

2. Their current systems were inadequate

85 per cent of our survey said that they overall procurement process was to complex and resource heavy. The existing systems and processes simply aren’t up to the job and as a result Account Payable are constantly battling to keep on top of the processing and payments of invoices.

3. Poorly equipped for investment or acquisitions

According to our results, 76 per cent of procurement specialists said that with their current systems and processes, they would not be able to provide the relevant due diligence to any potential investors. This is a massive barrier to a company that is looking to expand in anyway.

4. Managing rising costs

81 per cent of companies admitted that they don’t challenge suppliers enough on cost or performance. The truth is, they are struggling with rising costs against income which is effecting profits, but they have inefficient systems in place that don’t allow them to manage their supplier contracts properly in these areas.

5. Ineffective supplier management

44 per cent of our specialists said that they need to manage their suppliers more effectively. They basically don’t have access to enough good quality data on suppliers to allow them to effectively challenge and negotiate the best deal for them.

6. Not enough control over spending

In our research 40 per cent of respondents said that they need to improve their budgeting controls. There are compliance issues surrounding using approved suppliers, and to fix this change is required to both their systems and culture to give the required visibility of spend.

Is Data really the answer?

For optimum results, you need optimized data

The benefits of good data are no secret. You will constantly see things written and hear conversations about how powerful data can be with regards to driving efficiency, reduce costs and even keeping customers within any business. But, in the world of procurement it is a must have. Why? Because with the right data you can massively improve your return on purchasing goods and services.

High quality, cleansed data helps to drive a more strategic view of procurement. It enables teams to make informed decisions, earlier in the procurement lifecycle. If you don’t have it, then sure you can view total spend, but in a very inadequate way doesn’t allow you to understand the size of the cost saving opportunities that exist. These opportunities may include variance in pricing, contract terms, consolidation, payment discounts or duration. You need cleansed, granular data to be able to provide good insights to make the right purchasing decisions. You simply can’t do this efficiently without having access to a platform that provides this quality of data in a timely manner.

Often, one of the biggest challenges in an organization sits in the realms of data. Without good quality data cleansing and data classification you will never have a genuine spend visibility.

When a company has good spend visibility they get timely, accurate, complete, and detailed data which offers invaluable intelligence and insight on their spending patterns, compliance and performance. These insights help them identify savings opportunities, drive compliance, and develop purchasing strategies which reduce cost.

Julian Harris, Chairman and Founder – Robobai, spoke at Big Ideas Summit Sydney. 

Data: You Complete Me

AI has the potential to shoulder a vast amount of the #procurement workload. But machines can only do the work for you if you capture all the data in the first place.
Last month Procurious hosted the very first Procurement Thought Leadership Forum in Chicago to discuss the evolution of procurement; what the future holds for the profession; how we can effectively determine the size of the global market; the importance of professional associations and maturity levels across the globe. 
The event, sponsored by Basware and attended by a number of the world’s leading procurement consultants, sparked some fascinating discussion and debate.

Dealing with Data

Remember that Tom Cruise movie – Minority Report? Eric Wilson, SVP Basware North America, certainly does. “In the movie Tom Cruise swipes things on a giant screen, he then predicts a crime and the team prevents it before it happens. It was pretty cool. Especially, back in 2002 when we didn’t even have touch screens on our cell phones and artificial intelligence (AI) was in the realm of science fiction.”

Of course, today we all use AI in our daily lives, whether we realise it or not. As Eric asserts “AI is the new electricity. When we replaced steam powered machines with those using electricity, we transformed transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and so on; increasing efficiency tremendously.  AI has the same, huge potential, but nobody truly knows yet how it will change the world.”

Indeed, as  Eric pointed out it’s difficult to think of an industry that is not being impacted by AI;  IT, FinTech and Healthcare, to name just a few, are all being totally transformed. Self driving vehicles is an industry that is built entirely on AI.

But holding the right data is critical in order to harness the benefits of new technologies. If an organisation can turn all the data they hold into tangible customer value by leveraging machine learning and AI they can actually begin to benefit from these technological advances in the market. But to do so relies on having the right volume, quality and completeness of data .

“If you don’t have a view to the future when you are evaluating automation options, not only will you not achieve your business case for today, but three years from now, your system will be obsolete,” states Eric.  “It will be obsolete because it did not capture all of the data in the first place.”

In Eric’s mind there are no two ways about it: you can’t use AI if you don’t have the centralised data for those machines to learn from. “And so, my key takeaway now and always is: when you are putting together your RFPs for systems, data better be first and foremost on your mind!”

The conversation century

Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined Youtube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for Youtube, in order to understand the social media space.

It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs. A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms or racking  up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in. Youtube ultimately offered them the opportunity to be heard.

Elizabeth is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust. “The people” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out. But the reason so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust is that our leaders are still so far from getting it right! We simply don’t have leaders at a political level that have invested in a voice on social media.

Some key things to remember when trying to start conversations online:

  • Most leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture. You don’t. Go at your own pace but keep people informed as you do it. It’s ok to communicate to people that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!
  • Believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do. Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication. If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say because youdon’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!
  • Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key. EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making. Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter.

Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”

The value of professional certifications

Rick Blasgen, CEO – Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Tom Derry, CEO – Institute of Supply Management ISM led a session on the evolution of procurement  and supply chain and the value of professional certifications.

Both leaders are very optimistic about what the future holds for procurement and supply chain professionals . “I think [these professions]  will be an embedded feature of every competitive global company around the world because they see so much of what goes on,” argues Rick. “We see it really growing into the fabric of successful companies.”

And Rick believes professional certifications “are a normal part of continuing to educate yourself and continuing to be knowledgeable about such a dynamic and ever-changing field.”

“One of the things important to CSCMP is to advance the logistics, supply chain and procurement professions and the careers of those working in them. The only way we do that is by being thought leaders and thinking about using the new technologies and tools that have never before existed.

“Our certifications will educate you on these things and then test that you have the understanding and can utilise the complexity within them.”
“An association used to function as the place where people felt obliged to belong,” says Tom. But nowadays he doesn’t believe professionals feel such a sense of needing to belong to an association  just for the sake of belonging  “They need value for money and they expect a professional body to provide tools and skills that enable them to be successful at a critical moment in their career.”
Sizing up the procurement market
Braden Baseley, ProcurementIQ Analyst discussed the size and maturity of the global procurement market, revealing preliminary  insights from their specially commissioned research report.
The research reveals…
  •  There are 554, 560 procurement pros working in the US, which make up 0.4 per cent of the workforce
  • The average salary for a US procurement professional is $72,199, which is pretty good considering the average US salary is approximately $55, 000
  • California, Texas and New York employ the largest number of procurement professionals
The report will also explore how procurement skills are changing and evolving and the skills that are most desirable in procurement teams.
The Procurement Thought Leadership Forum was sponsored by Basware.