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From The Backroom To The Boardroom: Procurement & Supply Chain Leaders Step Up

Procurement and supply chain leaders are experiencing newfound appreciation and opportunity following their response to COVID-19.


COVID-19 hit supply networks hard. So hard, in fact, that 97% of organisations experienced a related disruption. Still, there’s more to the story than disruption and chaos.  

Insights shared by over 600 procurement and supply chain professionals actually paints a positive and inspiring picture: supply chain and procurement leaders were prepared – and responded brilliantly – when faced with a global pandemic that literally brought the whole world to a sudden halt. Now they have an opportunity to reset the procurement agenda.

A Look Beneath the Surface

Consider the data beyond headlines. While nearly every organisation was impacted, only 17% said the supply chain disruption was severe. On the other hand, almost half agreed the impact was minimal or moderate.

Similarly, despite the macro economic turmoil, the impact on supplier payments has been relatively modest. Most contracts and supplier relationships survived the chaos, showing the strength of existing relationships and strategies. According to our research:

  • 58% of organisations are still operating and paying their suppliers per contract,
  • 14% are speeding up payments to suppliers,
  • 6% are providing direct financial support.

When the pandemic affected supply chains directly, procurement responded quickly and effectively. The majority of organisations (65%) were forced to source alternative suppliers for affected categories. As of early June, 79% of those surveyed had already found alternative suppliers for affected categories, with 53% locking down new suppliers in less than three weeks. Amazingly, 18% were able to find new suppliers in only a weeks’ time. This response has not gone unnoticed.

The Spotlight Shines Bright

The agility shown by procurement and supply chain leaders, along with their ongoing criticality in managing the crisis, has been a boon for the function with executives and board members. 

“The crisis has put procurement in the spotlight,” commented Ian Thompson, Regional Director, UK and Nordics at Ivalua, a source-to-pay technology provider. “There are a lot of talented executives now getting the attention of the c-suite for the first time.”

When we asked how leadership leveraged procurement and supply chains teams during the crisis, only 16% of survey respondents said they were still being viewed tactically. On the other hand, 40% said their recommendations are solicited more than usual and 22% said they now have a seat at the executive table with input on key decisions.

“For as long as I remember, the question has always been how do we make the C in CPO a real part of the c-suite?” said Thompson. “It’s finally happening, and procurement needs to capitalise.”

According to Thompson, the key is taking advantage of the new platform. “Now that you have the attention of the c-suite, you need to have an agenda, and use the platform to properly set the record straight for what procurement is all about, and what’s possible. When called upon, you can fix the problem, or, you can fix the problem and reframe the conversation internally.”

The heightened attention has also led to renewed interest in procurement and supply chain careers. As a result of the crisis, nearly 62% of all respondents and 71% of millennials said their interest in procurement and supply chain has increased.

“The interest is very high. Procurement has become an essential function during the crisis, especially on the direct side. We have procurement teams that are fueling the food supply chain, sanitising the country and ensuring the flow of essential services across the globe. More people are recognising the importance of procurement and supply chain,” said Thompson.

The current dynamic should lead to fresh career opportunities for Generation Next. The function’s performance during the crisis sets the stage for increased investments in talent development and technology, a bigger seat at the executive table, and new opportunities for ambitious practitioners to make their mark.

A Rare Opportunity To Reset And Accelerate

Will businesses go backwards due to necessity and survival or will they step up and push forward to go further and faster to achieve the right balance?


Many of us are in a post-covid state of mind, I most certainly am. But will you and your organisations come out of this stronger, weaker or just different? Of course, the crisis is still very much real, affecting many people and businesses with long-lasting effects.  Perhaps there are slight signs of a slow down in certain parts of the world but who really knows how things will fare without a vaccine. Either way, we have to overcome this and look towards the new normal, which I believe can be a better one.

The pandemic is surely one of the greatest affecting the world and for many it has or will be a pivotal turning point. On the personal side, it may bring focus back to the things that really matter, be it family and friends or health and lifestyle. Or, it may send you down a new path. On the business side, it may question the raison d’être and bring focus to finding the right balance between society, the environment and the economy. From certain perspectives, the pandemic presents businesses a rare opportunity to accelerate on digital transformation initiatives that have been dragging over the last few years. Not for the sake of digital transformation but rather to rapidly ensure more resiliency and hone in on or further develop competitive advantages.

Who better to bring balance, build resilience and solidify competitive advantages than Procurement and Supply Chain.

Balancing the Imbalanced

Until recently it would have been fair to say that most businesses operated in an imbalanced manner with regard to society, the environment and the economy. With the main focus being on economic development, too often at the cost of society and the environment. Of course, there have been big strides made in recent years to balance this out but the big question is – What Happens Next?

This is a pivotal point. Will businesses go backwards due to necessity and survival or will they step up and push forward to go further and faster to achieve the right balance? I do hope it’s the latter and guess what, I believe Procurement is a key player in this. How you spend can transform your business and beyond. Where a business directs its spend can make the difference between an unsustainable imbalance and a sustainable balance to develop society, the environment and the economy equally. I strongly believe (and hope) we’ll see more and more organizations taking a stronger stance on this issue. Be it stronger support or stricter policies around supplier management for sustainability and diversity or more efforts to improve the communities involved in and around a business. Overall, Procurement organisations can influence entire ecosystems of suppliers to develop with this balance in mind.

Building Resilience

Resiliency has always been an important business strength but naturally during times of crises, there is more focus on this. For Procurement and Supply Chain leaders, while this is very likely not a foreign concept, it is likely that they have not had the opportunity to fully execute on a strategy to be more resilient to external events. This is the opportunity to show real business value. Now is the time to show the business how Procurement can add value around supplier risk management, new sources of supply, changes to contractual arrangements and much more.

Building resiliency begins with suppliers but must involve collaboration with the business. How much information do you have on your suppliers? How well connected are you to your suppliers? Are you monitoring risk across your suppliers? Do you have a mechanism to communicate and collaborate with suppliers in times of crisis? Do you have a clear view of supplier hierarchy to understand parent / child relationships? Do you know who your suppliers subcontract to? The list of questions that need answering is long. Needless to say that Procurement must accelerate on its plans to digitally connect to its suppliers to get better information, better assessment of risk (and performance) and overall infuse the multitude of Procurement and Supply Chain processes with better supplier information to improve decisions.

Solidify A Competitive Advantage

Lastly, the opportunity to establish or further develop a competitive advantage is too great to ignore. Some may ask, how can Procurement help here? We have seen first hand from our customers that Procurement does, in fact, have a lot to contribute in developing a competitive advantage. There isn’t an easy answer, however, as it really depends on the business and industry. We have a leading telecom customer where procurement was instrumental in generating significant revenue. Another where Procurement impacted the financial performance of the company by launching more new products, faster and more profitably.

Procurement is a gateway to probably the most significant source of innovation that any company has, its suppliers. By harnessing this rich resource companies can build great competitive advantages but they also need the people, processes and technology to take full advantage.

Technologies such as strategic sourcing, procure-to-pay or full source-to-pay that are instrumental in managing spend must empower versus limit. Often however, software solutions are designed in a way that forces organizations to compromise due to the limitations and restrictions presented. For those organizations that are ready to develop a competitive advantage (and many won’t be, as they still need to attain a level of maturity), technology must empower the skills and ideas that people have to be implemented and executed. Technology must empower creativity, this is how a competitive advantage is both born and executed.

Is The Secret To Change And Successful Innovation A Matter Of Timing?

Innovation and change – we know we need to do it but taking the first step is always hard. However, waiting until change is forced upon us could lead to even more pain.


“Execution is all about timing – people don’t want to do things differently…until they have to”

James Varga, CEO – DirectID

Change. It runs against our very nature to accept and embrace it, even when we know it’s for the best. People will rail against it, undermine it, challenge it or be completely apathetic to it. That is until something forces them to accept it and the need to do something differently.

That’s exactly the issue facing global procurement professionals at this very moment. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced each one of us to reconsider the how our jobs are done and how we help our organisations. Fortunately, we have a group of leaders whose first thoughts on change are how they can make it happen, to rely upon.

Procurious is one of those organisations considering how to provide its service in the current climate. Faced with not being able to have CPO Roundtables in person, we grasped this opportunity to connect our leaders virtually, ensuring that our CPOs still had the chance to gather and share their ideas and experiences. Because at times like these, as Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Pragmatism over Pomposity

Although the Roundtable took place against the backdrop of COVID-19, the discussions on the day had a far greater focus on the future than the present. Procurement not only faces the challenges of global supply disruption while ensuring that employees can operate in a safe environment, but also ensuring that the profession is well prepared for what comes next.

Part of this preparation is bringing innovation back into the everyday conversation about how procurement looks, feels and operates. This is not innovation as a management buzzword, but as a practical concept that helps realise real change and sets procurement up to face any and all future challenges. As one of our speakers, Gareth Hughes, Director of Property and Procurement at Whistl noted, “We need pragmatic procurement, not pompous procurement terms”.

Innovation here is about finding the areas where change can make a lasting difference. It’s also about ensuring that, even though the timing may not seem quite right, having the tenacity to make ideas a reality is critical for procurement’s future success.

With that in mind, we’ve picked out our three key messages from the Roundtable for you to take back to your organisation.

1. Supplier Innovation – Fit for the Future

“We need to focus on the positives that have arisen from the COVID-19 experience.”

Ian Thomson – Regional Director UK and Nordics, Ivalua

Innovation is a fleeting concept. A brand new, imaginative and forward-thinking idea one day can quickly become obsolete before we even have a chance to do anything with it. The trick is to keep challenging the idea that things need to be done in a certain way and not to ignore the ‘hard’ challenges for fear of rejection.

This is the mantra of Ian Thomson of Ivalua, who chose to look for the positives for procurement in the challenges posed in the current global climate. What is striking, according to Ian, is how traditionally adversarial relationships – competing organisations; buyers and suppliers – are changing for the better as people pull together.

This not only provides an amazing opportunity to develop long-lasting leadership and trust, but also opens the doors to supplier-led innovation. This can be achieved by having greater pragmatism when it comes to new ideas, as well as increasing our appetite for risk to embed real change.

2. Volatility requires flexibility

“Businesses are operating in massively changed contexts. To use foresight, we need to develop multiple long-term strategies.”

Jessica Prendergast, Freelance Foresight Consultant at Future Insights

An organisation’s appetite for risk is one key to successful innovation. Being too risk averse can stop worthwhile ideas in their tracks but failing to fully plan for future risks can be just as bad. That’s why Jessica Prendergast, a freelance Foresight Consultant, believes that the one-dimensional continuity plans that most businesses have belong in one place – the bin!

According to Jessica, in order to innovate and predict the future, organisations need to develop multiple scenarios to cover all possible eventualities. ‘Foresighting’ is how the thought process for this starts, helps us to understand the role of automation and technology and how we can learn and apply today from these techniques.

Jessica used the example of our changing ways of working recently. At the beginning of the year, widespread Working from Home would have been unthinkable for most organisations. Now it is the ‘new normal’. Good leadership and community spirit have made these changes easier to implement, and has highlighted how organisational planning can be helped by taking a broader view.

3. Timing is everything

“An idea isn’t great until you prove it, an idea can be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

James Varga, CEO – The ID co.

Planning multiple scenarios, being more accepting of risk and working more closely with suppliers to innovate is only half the battle. Getting people to accept an idea at the best of times will always prove tricky due to people’s natural aversity to change. Even the most innovative idea ever may struggle to gain traction if the timing is wrong.

However, there are ways to tips the scales in your favour. James was able to share his top three with the assembled group:

  • Be tenacious – make the most of issues facing the organisation to highlight innovation and make change happen;
  • Don’t assume – not everyone will think your idea is great, you’ll need to test and measure to prove its worth;
  • Accept a bit more risk – moving smaller suppliers and accept more risk in our new normal, you never know where it will lead.

The underlying key to these three points is removing the blockers to innovation by focusing on adoption of ideas. Then your focus can be coming up with one great idea and making it work, rather than lots of ideas that may ultimately deliver less for your organisation.

Collaboration is King

However, your organisation is approaching the current situation, it is always worth remembering that there will be life (and work) on the other side. Taking time to focus on the future at a point when many of us have the time to do this could make a critical difference to how procurement looks and operates at the forefront of public consciousness.

Not every problem can be solved. Sometimes it’s about mitigating the impact, which can be helped by planning out your multiple scenarios and accepting a bit more risk to be open to new ideas that can have a positive impact.

And, no matter what you do, it’s important to remember that you are not alone – there are thousands of procurement professionals tackling the same issues who are willing to share their thoughts and approaches. As the world changes the way we work, it’s time to collaborate as much as we can and become the leaders who are facing change head on.

If you’re interested in accessing market-leading industry insights and networking, express your interest in joining Procurious’ Roundtable Program here.

Procurement Technology – What It Can And Can’t Replace In A Manufacturer’s Journey Towards Supply Chain Resilience And Agility

A review of the key elements in supplier management for manufacturers and how Source-to-Pay procurement technology can support the journey towards supply chain resilience and agility in times of crisis.


As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts global supply chains, procurement organizations around the world are scrambling to react. There are many supply chain management lessons to learn from the Covid-19 crisis.  However, some organizations are better prepared to weather this storm than others. Many of these organizations are already using Source-to-Pay technology and are now realizing more than ever that technology is a “must have” to ensure their supply chain remains resilient and agile throughout a crisis. In this article we’ll review how supplier management capabilities in Source-to-Pay technology can free-up and enable a manufacturer’s direct material procurement team to do what they do best to ensure the supply chain remains resilient and agile: be creative and strategic.

Supplier Data Quality & Management in Decision Making

It may be the most basic level, but data management may also be the most daunting for some organizations. Supplier Data is at the core of every procurement activity, and it is critical for those dealing with direct materials in manufacturing. Often, what procurement teams end up with are multiple collections of data stored in tiny, disconnected data silos, such as: spreadsheets, MS Access databases, email and even the dreaded manila file folder and sticky note.

Obviously, these methods of capturing and recording data have limitations, and these limitations can hamper decision making in several ways, and ultimately impact the management and resilience of the organizations supply chain. Some of these challenges include limited:

  • Ability to collaborate, identify opportunities or issues and act
  • Transparency, or ability to scale data, across an organization
  • Ability to enrich data sets with other, related data sets.

These challenges in the direct material supply chain pose a real threat, especially in a time of crisis and let’s face it, there is no shortage of events that could jeopardise and/or disrupt a business, potentially impacting their profitability, business continuity, image, and reputation. Often, organizations try to band-aid the data problem, which can cause long term problems and inefficiencies long into the future. This is where Source-to-Pay systems can help – by providing procurement teams with a system that centralizes information and ensures data quality meets a high standard. This in turn enables procurement teams to better evaluate a situation, make decisions and act.

Managing a complex network of direct material suppliers

Manufacturing supply chains are notoriously complex, and this fact has been a common topic of the news media throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a manufacturing organizations’ procurement team that is on the front lines fighting for the supply chain’s survival. However, procurement teams often lack consistent visibility beyond their tier 1 strategic suppliers for each product line, and this limits a company’s ability to ensure the materials and processes required to produce a product are consistently available.

It’s not uncommon for direct materials procurement teams to capture information on sub-tier 1 suppliers. However, organizing and making sense of this data is so challenging that it is uncommon for all but the most critical product elements in the most mature procurement organizations. This is where Source-to-Pay (S2P) technology can help, by enabling procurement teams to capture important information across the entire supply chain so they can identify potential issues early, initiate collaboration with the necessary parties and take action to support suppliers and mitigate potential issues.

Risk & Performance Management

The evaluation of direct material suppliers is often nuanced and complex depending on the final product, regulatory concerns, and other requirements. However, it is up to the procurement team to find a way to ensure that suppliers:

  • Are not risky;
  • Perform well over time;
  • Meet quality & regulatory requirements;
  • Maintains the right certifications, and more; and
  • Meet Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expectations.

Empowered with all this information, procurement teams can ensure supply chain continuity and resiliency, and that value is maximized for the company. But it just isn’t possible to achieve the levels of organization and collaboration necessary to collect all the data from suppliers, 3rd party data providers and internal business processes to give buyers a complete picture of each supplier across the supply chain without a serious database and supporting processes. To get started and keep the process more manageable, many companies focus on a smaller subset of key suppliers.

Source-to-Pay technology can help procurement teams establish and organize campaigns to collect & update supplier information and receive real-time supplier risk management updates on important risk factors (e.g. Financial, etc.). Furthermore, these solutions can help procurement collect feedback from stakeholders, track and maintain certifications and more. With this information, procurement can rapidly identify and classify issues and then collaboratively work with suppliers on improvement plans.

Developing Suppliers: Establishing & Implementing Supplier Strategies

One of the benefits that effective supplier development programs have in common is they establish mutually beneficial partnerships between the supplier and buying company. These programs enable bilateral feedback, opportunities for product and service innovation, access to new markets and investment. The key to the success of these strategies begins with communication and transparency, both of which are also essential in times of crisis. Additionally, manufacturers with mature supplier development strategies in place tend to have:

  • Access to reliable data,
  • The ability to identify critical suppliers across all tiers of the supply chain,
  • Capabilities to monitor and manage supplier risk and performance,
  • The ability to closely collaborate with the supplier, often including commercial, operational and technical strategies and plans.

Accomplishing and maintaining each of these elements over time is often a challenge for all but the most mature procurement organizations, but it is never too soon to lay the foundation. Source-to-Pay technology can help procurement lay the foundation, by fostering communication, collaboration and better visibility across the global supply chain. 

Supply Chain Resilience and Agility

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is now painfully aware that even the best run supply chains can encounter significant challenges. However, some supply chains will recover faster than others because of their resilience and agility. What the best performing supply chains most likely have in common is a procurement organization with a strong data foundation to support effective decision making, the ability to collaborate and communicate with and support all tiers of their supply chain, monitor and track risk and performance and effective supplier management and development strategies that has produced close partnerships.

Throughout each of the elements described in this article, Source-to-Pay technology replaces much of the manual, non-strategic effort necessary to support and manage supplier relationships. The result is a foundation that empowers procurement teams to add more value to the organization and be better prepared to manage their supply chain through times of crisis.

The Coronavirus Has Exposed How Delicate Our Procurement Ecosystem Really Is

Do we need a fundamental reimagining of what our procurement ecosystem looks like? We think so. Here’s why 


For so many around the world, the experience of the coronavirus has been like waking up from a dream, only to realise you’re still in it. You knew the world around you, or you thought. But suddenly, frighteningly, everything you knew started to become unstitched. The four walls of your apartment became rather stifling, but the blue sky outside seemed more radiant than ever. You savoured your favourite pasta, you learnt to use just one sheet of toilet paper. You wrote a letter to a loved one. You realised how precious a hug can be. 

The pandemic, undoubtedly, has been about the big things. Lives lost, businesses broken, economies shattered. But for many of us it’s also been about the total inversion of the small things. Take, for example, ‘essential workers,’ the people that – let’s be honest – before, we rarely thought about. This crisis has highlighted just how important the supermarket shelf stackers, cleaners and parcel delivery people are to our daily lives. These jobs are not ones we aspired to, nor ones most appreciated. Now though, we’ve had to take a step back from our life of never-ending convenience and expectation to understand that these people are the ones that prop up everything, while we continue unwittingly. The delicate ecosystem that supports each and every one of us has been exposed, and there’s no going back – not now, not ever. 

Just as the ecosystem of life has been laid bare, so too has the fragility of our supply chains and the logistics monolith that supports it. ‘Before,’ a term that cannot be so casually used anymore, the proverbial ball was largely in our court. Our suppliers and contracts, hard-won after tough negotiations, became a feature, ever compliant, on a spreadsheet. We kept demanding, they kept producing – nothing to see here. Until of course, there was everything to see, and we were scrambling to figure out if not you, then who? The scramble laid bare the fact that our supplier represented a lot more in real life than as a piece of data on our computer. 

Yet still, for a while, it was a ‘China problem.’ They’ll sort it out, we told ourselves, after all, SARS! They know what they’re doing. We failed to own the problem as ours, we barely contemplated the potential for a global logistics breakdown. Force Majeure was there to protect our interests, not the fact that our cash-strapped supplier might be forced to shut – and may not have the ability to reopen. Overnight, it became a supplier’s market again. They knew we needed them, and badly. Their faults became our headaches – but what did we really expect?  

That supplier? That logistics trail? That global, intricately woven, incredibly complex system that supported us? That is our ecosystem. Those suppliers, we’ve realised, they’re so much more than a number on a spreadsheet; they’re a livelihood – ours. They’re complex, they’re human, our relationship is not a one-way street. Understanding them, analysing them, getting real-time data and above all, building a relationship, is the only way to keep them – and our precious ecosystem – alive. 

‘Before’ we squeezed them on price, because we could. After all, that’s our job, right? Now? Those dollars don’t count for much, if we can’t keep manufacturing. ‘Before’ we preferenced short-term gains, it just looked better. Now, we realise how little those gains counted for when we’ve had to throw our business continuity plans out the window. ‘Before’ we could afford to put process before people, we could afford to be blind rule-followers. We could afford to do what we always did, because that’s just the way it was always done. 

But now? We know. If the pandemic has done anything, it’s forced us to hold ourselves to a higher moral standard. Our suppliers are our partners, we should treat them with the respect that title deserves. Sure, monitoring tech is needed, some even say that it could have predicted the current interruption – and planned for it. But beyond the data, the AI, and all the tools we’ll soon have in our toolbelt, what we need most is human relationships. Respect. Good business practices. Efficiency, not processes. Value, not dollars.

Right now, we’re living a nightmare. But when we wake up, we’ll still be in a dream. Let that be one, procurement, where we forge new relationships, break new boundaries, and focus on what really matters – people. Let’s look to technology not to replace human interaction, but to enable us to better collaborate with our suppliers, and to do so with more of them (not just a few we’ve determined to be most strategic).

Procurement: The Startup’s New Best Friend?

We looked in an earlier blog at the benefits for large businesses of working with start-ups and SMEs and how procurement could make a successful connection. Here we investigate why procurement often has difficulties with small businesses and examine SME-friendly procurement practices already in use in pioneering organisations.

Procurement doesn’t engage well with start-ups – why?

Procurement often gets in the way of establishing good relationships with innovative start-ups.

Major corporations seeking the next start-up to rejuvenate their business models are running innovation labs and incubators. Often, suppliers participate in the incubators. But the initiatives are rarely owned by procurement.

In fact, procurement often plays the bad-cop role, creating barriers to the onboarding of new and innovative suppliers, asking for endless compliance documents, ending the magic of the incubation.

Why does this happen? Procurement has expertise in the supplier market. Isn’t it the team best-placed in an organisation to unearth innovative gems?

One difficulty is that not all partnerships with start-ups go through the typical customer-supplier relationship. They might come in other forms like a joint venture, an equity investment or a licensing agreement. And these are traditionally not procurement’s area of expertise. They typically involve other teams from finance.

According to a survey by KPMG, collaborations involving equity (joint ventures, equity investments, acquisitions, etc.) comprise 40% of total collaborations. Customer-supplier relationships comprise only 24% and licensing 19% of the total. Therefore, it’s understandable that procurement does not take the lead in all cases.

But procurement remains an asset. It has a key role in identifying potential targets. What’s more, in those 24% of cases procurement should be on top of the customer-supplier partnerships with start-ups. That is largely not the case.

I can think of at least 3 reasons why.

3 reasons why procurement does not approach startup collaboration well

For one thing, procurement is often not sufficiently aligned with its company’s business. It lacks the understanding to find the next start-up or innovation to accelerate business.

To build relevant partnerships, procurement must grasp its company’s challenges and its future areas of development. It needs to get a broader view. It needs to see beyond the often narrow procurement lens.

This kind of mindset must be instilled by the Chief Procurement Officers themselves – even though business curiosity remains everyone’s duty. This is actually one of the main recommendations produced by Forrester in its Q1 2019 survey about the keys to a successful procurement transformation.

Second, procurement often lacks the time and resources to perform these tasks.

Its resources are too often consumed in labour-intensive activity that has lower added value – like gathering data from scattered legacy systems.

This is where having a powerful digital procurement platform that automates processes and enables actionable analytics is key. You free resources for new value-added tasks.

With such a tool, you could even afford to have somebody specifically in charge of supplier-enabled innovation.

A third and more general problem is that procurement processes are not designed to work effectively with new start-ups.

They tend to favour larger companies, especially under the dependency criteria or volume concentration strategies.

Let’s dig into this aspect of things.

Time frame. To start with, procurement and start-ups work within different time frames.

For start-ups, typical procurement qualification processes take too long. They often require browsing many documents, answering hundreds of questions and attaching several justification documents.

And start-ups often face these obligations before they know about the type of partnership and the benefits that are expected.

On the other hand, decision-making about a qualification process or a purchase order is too slow. Start-ups expect answers in days, not weeks.

Resources. Resources are scarce in start-ups.

Start-up employees often have many functions. They find it very time-consuming to deal with complex organisations with numerous specialised points of contact – one for bidding, one for contracting, one for ordering, one for invoicing, etc.

They want access to the real decision-maker.

Procurement cannot change a company’s complex organisation. However, it can define a single point of entry for start-ups: a person with a strong internal network in the organisation, a deep understanding of the organisational maze and the ability to grasp the particular challenges start-ups face – and how to solve them.

Checks and declarations. A supplier wanting to work with a large company typically has to pass several checks and tests.

This process is designed with bigger organisations in mind. The process includes checking dependency criteria, environmental charters, ethical declaration, quality labels and so on.

The solution here is: start simple. Use a non-disclosure agreement to ensure confidentiality, a letter of intent to ensure motivation and some intellectual property (IP) general rules in case any IP is built jointly.

Invoices. The main concern for start-ups about procurement processes is invoice payment.

Big corporations are often slow at paying supplier invoices. But cash is a matter of survival for start-ups.

This is a critical point in collaboration. Start-ups would rather get less money but get it faster.

This means that a company with an efficient source-to-pay process will definitely have a competitive advantage over its peers when it comes to working with innovative start-ups.

Good procurement practices already in use that are helping start-ups.

Here are good practices already implemented by some best-in-class procurement departments.

First, they have opened a gate for start-ups. Several procurement departments have created a dedicated start-up portal based on the Source-to-Pay solution they use. Some have even interfaced it with public start-up portals.

Second, they have adapted the contracting process to focus only on the essentials of a start-up collaboration. They avoid sending a hundred pages of standard contractual documents at an early stage.

For example, the process could evolve along with the incubation stages of the target that have been defined – for instance a non-disclosure agreement for ‘discovery’, data protection clauses for ‘incubating’ and proof of concept with formal description for ‘pilot’.

Third, they have speeded up decision-making. They have implemented shorter approval workflows for interactions with start-ups: contracts, orders, invoice and payment processing.

Next, they have set up accelerated payment terms. Making these the default for start-ups is a major part of speeding up the payment process.

Finally, they have appointed a dedicated contact person. She or he facilitates start-ups’ interactions with the organisation.  

So it’s well worth considering why your procurement department may be struggling to interact well with SMEs and start-ups. And looking at the SME-friendly practices already in use in some organisations can provide key inspiration for changes you can make.

For this reason we will take a more detailed look in part 2 of this blog at use cases from pioneering large companies.

For more information on how Ivalua can help you work better with SMEs, go to ivalua.com

5 Steps To Providing Procurement As A Service 

The core activity of Procurement 4.0 will be to deliver <<as a service>> in the same way that cloud technology has evolved…

By Black Salmon/ Shutterstock

At Ivalua Now The Art of Procurement earlier this month, Emmanuel Erba, Group Chief Procurement Officer – Executive Vice President -Capgemini discussed what the journey leading us to Procurement 4.0 could look like.

In an unprecedented period of technological disruptions, we simply cannot escape them. Emanuel advised that procurement professionals choose to see this as a realm of opportunity and question how to deliver all the promises of digital transformation to our clients.

The procurement environment is changing and this must be embraced or the profession will sink like a stone, he warned.

Unpredendented disruptions

  1. Cloud : Cloud is now the primary way of delivering and consuming IT – it’s the new normal. No one can imagine running a business without cloud computing
  2. Cybersecurity:  Last year, 689 million people globally were victims of cybercrime. By 2020 60 per cent of businesses will suffer major service failures. In today’s world, no CEO goes to bed certain that tomorrow their company will not to be impacted by a cyber threat. Cybersecurity needs to be integrated within our systems
  3. Business Platforms: These are a core feature of our current landscape. Business platforms have enabled getting the client closer to the supplier
  4. Industry 4.0
  5. AI and automation: This will strongly disrupt data gathering and processing. Repetitive and mundane tasks will be automated

What would your CEO say if you asked them what their priorities are? It’s likely that the way you manage costs is not high in the agenda. It’s important to understand what top management wants and what your clients expect and then work out how your procurement team can address these needs.

Emmanuel believes that the core activity of procurement 4.0 will be to deliver <<as a service>> in the same way that cloud technology has evolved.

Five forces driving the market towards <<as a service>>

  1. Time to scale – The speed at which the biggest brands are growing is ever-increasing. For organisations including Youtube, Amazon and Android the time taken to go from 0-80 per cent WW market share is only five years
  2. Disintermediate– Direct access to the resource to capture value – for example Uber, AirBnB and Apple
  3. Go to market – GTM via most powerful marketplaces powered by AI, automation, analytics. For example, digital ads sold Teslas with $70 million in advertising investments
  4. Revenue share – All of these factor are funded by 20-30 per cent revenue share model and leverage of client assets
  5. Investment power – Free cash flow generated enables immense CAPEX ability and acquisitions

5 steps to providing procurement <<as a service>>

For procurement, the 4.0 wave should

  1. Integrate disruptions – let’s not ignore disruptions, Emmanuel argues, they are much more powerful than us!
  2. Gear its people to embrace – Globalise!
  3. Position its role as aggregator of services, either internal or external, and map them to the business outcomes of the organisation
  4. Adopt the platforms that will increase the speed of execution, the automation and the data insights
  5. Think not only bottom line impact but being a Growth Enabler

In the <<as a service>> world, you don’t need to integrate everything vertically, but rather focus on your key differentiators and aggregate other services in the most effective way thinking in terms of meaningful outcomes.

Procurement as a service can address sizable needs both in direct and indirect spend. As Emmanuel revealed Procurement cloud addresses a $5 trillion scope.

Procurious attended Ivalua Now The Art of Procurement earlier this month. Find out more here.

New Goals for Procurement – Driving Revenue Growth Through Supplier Collaboration

Procurement professionals need to think in more innovative ways about how we can drive competitive advantage and shareholder value for our organisations.

By Greg Epperson / Shutterstock

In my recent article, I talked about “the Art of Procurement”, and suggested that the time is right for procurement to move beyond our traditional focus on transactional improvement and basic cost reduction. Whilst remembering those are still important aspects of the role, we need to think in more innovative ways about how we can drive competitive advantage and shareholder value for our organisations.

Revenue growth is one key factor that determines shareholder value and organisational health generally. While profit is of course important, and the procurement goal of cost reduction plays a key role here, “you cannot cut your way to growth” (or ultimate success), as the saying goes. Growth is vital, and stock markets arguably value growth more than absolute profit levels or even margins.

So, firms can grow revenue through a variety of activities, for instance;

  • Finding new customers for existing products
  • Improving existing products (so the firm sells more)
  • Introducing new products – either totally “new”, or line / range extensions and additions
  • Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of sales and marketing activity

In every case here, it’s clear that procurement has a potential role to play. Even in terms of the “improved sales / marketing” route, there are possibilities – maybe procurement can work with the marketing team to find innovative suppliers in areas such as digital marketing? 

For one European bank, the capability of their internal procurement team has become a customer benefit that is winning new revenue.  Potential business customers – particularly small and medium sized firms who may not have much internal capability – are offered access to a set of procurement tools, templates and good practice guidance developed by the bank’s procurement team, who are also available for telephone consultation if the clients want that too. In a market where the core banking service on offer from every competitor is very similar, this has proved to be a differentiator that has won new business for the firm.

When it comes to improving existing products (or services), suppliers are often better placed than the business itself to identify opportunities. Procurement can really come into its own by supporting that supplier-driven innovation and improvement. But in many cases, it is not simply about identifying the innovation or improvement – it may well be that the firm gains revenue and advantage through the speed to market compared to the competition.  

That was highlighted in a recent webinar I enjoyed, which featured my old friend and ex-colleague Jason Busch of Spend Matters as well as KPMG and Ivalua. But the highlight was hearing from Mark Gursky, Director of the Procurement Center of Excellence at Meritor (a $4 billion global manufacturer of automotive components). He explained how procurement in that business was contributing towards ambitious targets for growth via new product launches.

The key was (and is) enabling more effective working between Meritor and key suppliers, who are supporting the drive for growth. That change in the whole working relationship between buyer and suppliers, needed to support Meritor’s goals, has itself been supported by technology (that’s where procurement technology firm Ivalua comes into the picture).

It struck me that the technology achieves two goals. First of all, to really make the most of what your suppliers can offer, you need to manage the basics of supplier management well. That means supplier master data management; spend and contract analytics; risk management and so on. Putting it simply, if you don’t have a grip on who your suppliers are, what they’re doing with you, where in your organisation they are already working, and how they are performing, then impressive sounding “supplier innovation programmes” will be built on sand.

Then, having got the foundations in place, technology can support the actual collaborative development work. Gursky talked about using the Ivalua platform to manage all the work between the firm and key suppliers. Information is captured in one place rather than emails flying around between lots of different people. Complex requirements can be quickly translated into bills of material, then suppliers can respond rapidly to requests and questions. Projects can be tracked, data and information exchanged securely between the parties, and outputs tracked and monitored via the platform. Information is easily shared, but proper controls are managed too, important when we’re talking about potentially innovative new products.

You can still access the webinar here to find out more about the Meritor story; it’s a great example of procurement looking beyond the norm, and really contributing to those wider goals such as revenue growth.  And at the Ivalua Now “Art of Procurement” conference next month, I’m expecting to hear more examples like that of procurement moving beyond our traditional heartland of cost control and transactional management.

You can book for that here, and join the firm, key clients such as Total, Suez and Deutsche Telekom (and me) in Paris for what should be a stimulating couple of days – maybe see you there!   

Ivalua are sponsoring today’s Big Ideas Summit in London. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow all the action wherever you are in the world.  

Your Procurement Resolution: Don’t Settle For Best-In-Class

What better time to set and start tackling key objectives for 2019? Your new year’s resolution is to be better than best-in-class…

In this time of personal New Year’s resolutions, it seems appropriate for leaders to also consider a resolution for their departments. For Procurement leaders in particular there couldn’t be a better time to do so. In recent years, the function has made tremendous progress in transforming into a strategic value driver.

Yet, as leaders broadly acknowledge, this transformation journey still has a long way to go. A recent study by the Hackett Group found that only 63 per cent of procurement organisations have even developed a plan for digital transformation and 33 per cent bluntly stated their service does not meet customer expectations. A Forrester study on enabling smarter procurement found only 22 per cent believe their reporting and analysis is where it should be and only 22 per cent that they have the required agility to respond to changing requirements.

So what better time to set and start tackling key objectives for 2019?

My recommendation is to set an aspirational resolution that reflects procurement’s true potential. One that is distinct from your MBOs, which are likely based on continuous improvement of performance aimed at closing the gap with best-in-class.

The problem with best-in-class

There is nothing wrong with benchmarking yourself and striving to improve performance to match the best of your competition. Organisations should do so, especially if still early in their transformation journeys. Success will result in greater value to those organisations. But achieving best-in-class performance won’t result in procurement becoming truly strategic, and may actually hinder progress in the long term.

How is that so?

Look at it in the context of the World Cup (or the upcoming Superbowl). Every team in the tournament earned its spot by being the best in their region. Hence, each team can be said to be best-in-class. Yet only one is the champion and that team doesn’t win by playing at the same level as their best-in-class peers but by playing better, doing something critical differently. Best-in-class is not a competitive advantage in sports, nor in today’s increasingly winner-take-all market. It is a stepping stone on the path to true greatness.

If leaders are to build competitive advantage and truly drive strategic value, they have to think beyond best-in-class and view that as an interim objective on their transformation journeys. Leaders must ensure that the people and technology they embrace to navigate those journeys have the capability to take them the full way, and not become a constraint at some point.

Yes, your top competitors are doing this right now

What exactly does going beyond best-in-class entail? Is anyone actually doing this? Yes they are. Your top competitors are extending their competitive advantage even as you’re reading this. Below are just a couple of examples:

  • Revenue: A leading Telco leveraged the flexibility of our platform to create a private marketplace where suppliers can bid for used mobile phones in mass volumes, generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year
  • Innovation: In 2014 Meritor launched a three-year initiative to drive massive value by transforming their supply chain in what can be thought of as a drive to achieve best-in-class. They then followed that with a new initiative to unlock massive innovation through a unique approach to new product introductions, configuring our platform to their ideas. The result? Their stock price rose from $4.45 to $13.30 at the end of 2016 and much further since, far ahead of competitor growth.

Note that in both of these examples the teams implemented best-in-class processes and wanted quick value. It should never be a compromise. But they kept the ultimate objective in mind and brought on the right talent and technology to take them to the next level when ready.

The talent challenge

In any meeting with CPOs I have attended in recent years, the top pain point raised is attracting and retaining top talent. Talent that is up to the task of driving successful transformations, to best-in-class and beyond.

The above examples illustrate an important point about talent, and the symbiotic relationship with technology. What good is top talent if your systems are too rigid for them to bring their best ideas to life? Out of the box best practices are important, but that shouldn’t mean constraining yourself from doing a few strategic things differently.

Meritor has a great team with great ideas. So when deploying software, they took embedded best practices but ensured they had the flexibility to easily configure once they were ready for that next phase. This empowered them to realise a unique and innovative approach that supported their financial success.

Realise your true potential

So as we enter a new year, filled with endless challenges and opportunities I encourage you to set a procurement resolution. One that, if achieved, will set you on the path beyond best-in-class, to building a competitive advantage. One that will empower your talent to truly make procurement strategic and realise your true potential.