Tag Archives: digital age

Now, More Than Ever, It’s Time For Procurement To Go Digital

At a time when technology is transforming nearly every aspect of the enterprise and its approach to buying and selling, the role of the procurement professional — already central to any organisation — has become even more strategic, more consequential, and more indispensable.

By linking together vast troves of data across enterprises and unlocking meaningful insights, cloud-based applications have freed up procurement professionals from the tangle of day-to-day tactical activities so that they can focus on strategic responsibilities such as supply chain resilience and flexibility, brand protection, and new sources of innovation.

Key Accelerators for Digital Transformation

The transformation is just beginning. As emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things and blockchain begin to take hold, procurement will become even smarter, faster and more connected. And beyond savings and efficiencies, it will open the door to innovations that improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately, impact revenue generation.

Another accelerator in digital transformation in procurement are business networks. They are driving totally new way of interacting and expanding the value that procurement can deliver across the enterprise.  Just like their social counterparts, they bring together millions of buyers and sellers and provide a community in which they can shop, share and consume. On a true many to many platform, trust and transparency are the benefits the network participants find.

Managing Supplier Risk and Corporate Responsibilities

More than ever, customers, regulators and investors hold companies accountable not only for their own ethical conduct, but for that of their suppliers and their suppliers’ suppliers. Companies with strong supply chain practices invest to mitigate any risk and respond to adverse events and recover from the any disruption faster. With business networks, companies can gain the transparency needed to ensure that they are not only in compliance with laws in every locale they operate in, but that they are upholding and advancing their own corporate social responsibility goals.

Leveraging real-time and historical purchasing data, supplier intelligence and business network content, procurement can shine a light on the materials, regions, and suppliers that are most likely to have issues or challenges with unexpected natural disaster, forced labor or conflict minerals. To drive a positive impact, companies may launch campaigns to connect diverse suppliers on the business networks in underdeveloped markets where a little assistance goes a long way.

Supplier Insights for Innovation

Take product design. Suppliers can be rich providers of design ideas, providing insights on new technologies and innovation while improving costs given their technical knowledge of manufacturing processes. Adopting the Design to Value approach, companies involve procurement organisations in the product development process far earlier.

Through business networks, procurement gain significant supplier insights quickly and potentially open the door to new, more innovative and cost-effective ways of producing products and components.  With a better collaboration with suppliers on the networks, the companies can even invent a new product or services and create a new business model. Finding new sources of supply in a global operating environment is exponentially easier with a business network.

Procurement Leading the Digital Transformation

This enhanced visibility and insights in supply chain through data may have once seemed a luxury, but business networks and the technology underlying them make it easier to achieve today. Procurement organisations that embrace these ideas can continue their digital transformation journey and lead their companies to new worlds of operational and performance excellence.

Pat McCarthy will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. For more information and to request an invitation to this leading CPO event, click here.  

The Key Procurement And Technology Trends for 2019

The times, they are a-changing, and so are the markets and environments that procurement operates in. What then are the key trends in procurement and technology you need to watch for in 2019?

View Apart/ Shutterstock

As I am reliably informed by my Christmas-mad colleague, there are only 125 sleeps (as I write) left until Christmas. That means there’s a little over 18 weeks until the year ends, so it’s time to start looking forward to what’s coming in the next 12 months.

2019 is set to be a seismic year around the world. Major changes, such as further geo-political upheaval, the looming spectre of global trade wars and tariffs aplenty, have the potential to disrupt supply chains and set metaphorical trip wires for procurement professionals everywhere. And, as we’ve already heard, it’s rarely been more important to get a solid grips on the key factors in the market and external environment.

So gather round as we gaze into the opaque mists of the future and make some educated insights into the key procurement and technology trends waiting around the corner.

  1. Supplier Management

Let’s start with an oldie, but a goodie. Wait, I hear you cry, supplier management isn’t a new trend! We’ve been talking about this for years. Well, if we’ve talking about it for years, why aren’t we any better at it? And why is it that it’s one of the key areas a large number of procurement teams fall down on?

Like it or not, your suppliers hold the key to all your wildest procurement dreams. Innovation, top and bottom line cost reduction, avoidance and savings, stress-free supply of services and goods and free cake for all! (Ok, maybe not that last one!)

In their Vision 2020 publications, pwc state that the top 25 per cent of procurement functions will have gone beyond incremental improvements and be implementing fundamental change to process and policy alike. This includes how they interact with suppliers and shifting focus from cost and value to Return on Investment (ROI).

These outcomes all hang on better supplier relationship management in order to tease out further innovation from suppliers (who are seen as partners, rather than sponges to wring cash out of) and closer collaboration to source solutions to problems we don’t even know we have yet.

At the heart of this is great communication. Select the right suppliers and talk to them more. You never know, you might just learn something!

  1. Blockchain and Digital Adoption

Unless you’ve been living in a cave on a remote hillside (or perhaps a Faraday cage in your basement), you should have heard by now about blockchain.

From blog articles to webinars, it’s one of the hottest topics in procurement right now, and is likely to still be throughout 2019. Blockchain is and will continue to be a key tool in shaping the transparency of a supply chain. Information is shared and transmitted easily and safely, while the technology allows an “immutable signed and time stamped record of identity, ownership of assets, transactions or contractual commitments”.

This transparency will have the added benefits, and some drawbacks, of making procurement and CPOs more visible in the public environment, say EY. Procurement will wield greater power and have greater opportunity to interact with external stakeholders. But, at the same time, organisational processes and procurement will play out in a public setting like never before.

In line with blockchain’s increasing influence, there is a predicted rise in digital adoption and use of the Cloud. An estimated $1 trillion of IT spend will be moved to the Cloud by 2020, according to Gartner, as organisations look to make their IT services more agile.

  1. Social Value

There is a prevailing opinion amongst the procurement professionals I speak to that 2019 will be the year for social value and sustainability to really take hold. Organisations have begun to realise that cost and quality are only a part of the overall package and not only do they need to be seen to be doing more in the community, but they need to follow through on it.

That goes for the wider supply chain too. Using work practices and value-adding benefits for communities into tenders will become the norm and procurement will no longer be able to award contracts on cost without taking the wider impact into consideration.

  1. Next-Gen Workforce and Automation

Disregard what you’ve heard very recently regarding automation, machine learning and AI as scaremongering. Yes AI will take on tasks and people may have to move to new roles, but it’s not a future that we should be burying our head in the sand about. It’s a natural human reaction to fear change, but procurement needs to muscle up and be brave in order to evolve and survive.

Infosys estimates that AI and procurement automation will eliminate human intervention in 15 per cent of digital spending by 2019. If that’s the case, then procurement needs to embrace the change and develop, train and retain its Next-Generation workforce to meet the demands of new roles where human interaction and input is still key.

  1. Risk

From Brexit to trade wars, risk is going to be possibly the biggest trends for businesses as a whole in 2019. The organisations who will thrive in this unstable environment will be the ones who are best prepared to deal with the unexpected.

Deloitte believe that procurement will become the forecasters of risk in an organisation, raising the profile of the function as it factors total cost of risk and risk mitigation in supply chains into contracts and tenders.

Risk runs throughout the other trends that have been suggested above. Brexit, protectionism and trade wars make supplier and supply chain management all the more important. The increasing need for cyber security as technology advances is something that cannot be ignored.

Procurement is ideally placed to deal with all of these risks, but it needs to put its hand up and be at the front of the queue, or face being left behind and marginalised at a time when the function has a crucial role to play.

Whose Services Are You Really Procuring?

The workforce is fundamentally changing and it’s increasingly important that you can access the skills you need when, where and how you need them. But with the increase in corporate usage of external workers comes additional challenges and risks.

Driven by the digital age, we’re seeing a shift in the way work gets done. Globalisation and new ways of working are rapidly changing how talent interacts with companies, making it increasingly likely that the top talent needed by a business might not be – and might not want to be – on their payroll.

As a result, organisations increasingly rely on the external workforce – including contingent worker, Statement of Work (SOW)-based consultants, freelancers, specialized talent pools and more. In fact, these resources now account for nearly 40 percent of the average company’s workforce.

Why is this happening?

There are four factors impacting the way work gets done:

  1. Data: Data is the currency of the digital economy and we hear a lot about it these days. Big data is powering new insights and enabling better business decisions and outcomes.
  2. Digital technologies: Advancements such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are speeding processes and increasing efficiency. Looking forward, technologies such as blockchain will disrupt industries by facilitating the exchange of goods and services.
  3. Design-thinking or user-centered design: This is driving better experiences by putting people at the center of technology, not the process or the product.
  4. People: Perhaps the most profound change we are seeing in how work gets done is with people. Many of today’s workers – millennials, in particular – are looking for different experiences rather than spending decades with one company. As technology has enabled people to be untethered, the external workforce has boomed.

The result is that a significant portion of the external workforce is now comprised of service providers. To stay ahead of the competition, you need to be able to easily access this specialised and you need to be able to manage it effectively.

Challenges in services procurement

With more and more companies using external resources to fill vacancies, compensating for skills gaps and staffing ad-hoc projects, how do you know you’re getting the best talent at the best price?

With products, it’s relatively straightforward – prices are fixed and margins are small for suppliers. When it comes to services procurement, the situation is very different. Margins vary hugely and tend to be relatively high for the supplier.

For example: you’re looking for a plumber to work onsite at your facility for a specific time. Rates will vary depending on their experience and grade. When engaging your suppliers, how can you ensure that the person they send isn’t someone with little work experience who is charging a premium rate? Without insight into who is actually working for you at any given time and confirming that they are providing the level of service you expect, how can you ensure you’re not overpaying?

Organisations need a single place to go to source, engage and manage service providers. But many are managing this key labor segment with fragmented systems and processes which puts them at risk for excess spend, compliance issues and decreased quality.

A lifecycle approach

A solution lies in an external workforce management model. This model should include:

  • Visibility across multiple service providers and headcount tracking so you know who is working for you across your entire enterprise.
  • True demand management to enable the correct buying channels for each category of service.
  • Financial control, operational efficiency and collaboration, both internally and with suppliers.
  • Risk mitigation and compliance to rates and budgeting against contracts, along with the ability to discover how much a service cost last time to better forecast.

Enabling a services procurement solution to drive better operational control and rigor around services engagements not only enables cost savings opportunities, but enables key value levers including compliance, cost, visibility, efficiency and quality.

Procurement plays a strategic role in helping their organisation gain workforce visibility, be more agile and derive more value from their services procurement management. But executing the service only gets you halfway there – full potential is reached with management of the entire lifecycle.

Interesting in learning about more about the SAP Fieldglass External Workforce Management Model? Click here.