Tag Archives: procurement software

The New Age Of Procurement Technology

Procurement technology went full sail and you eagerly jumped on board. But now 90 per cent of all technology is about to become obsolete. Are you prepared for the new age? 

As the vice president of Basware’s Purchase-to-pay solution it goes without saying that I’m involved in a lot of procurement technology selection decisions. And over the years, I’ve noticed a recurring pattern in the process, across numerous organisations. It tends to play out a little bit like this:

A CPO of a large organisation is at the end of their tether thanks to a messy purchase-to pay process. It’s the age-old story with AP and procurement operating independently, maverick spend with unapproved suppliers, late payments and paper absolutely everywhere.

The easiest, and seemingly smartest, solution to the problem is the implementation of a new purchase-to-pay system, which said CPO requires, being extra savvy, to be a Software-as-a-Service solution. The CPO knows they can get a decent ROI on whichever supplier they choose.

So what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, our CPO is only looking 5 inches in front of their face! It’s no exaggeration to say 90 per cent of today’s procurement technologies will be obsolete in the coming years. And so procurement needs to start looking much further ahead!

Remember Siebel? We can’t either…

You’d be pretty hard pushed to find an organisation that uses Siebel nowadays. You might even struggle to find someone who knows what it is!

Siebel was the cream of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) crop in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. It was the absolute best at its time.  Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on licensing and implementing Siebel, with the promise of visibility, efficiency, and improved customer satisfaction.

Fast forward a mere ten years and…nobody uses it.  It turned on a dime thanks to Software-as-a-Service and, more specifically, Salesforce. An enormous technology shift took place, and suddenly Siebel and everything like it was utterly obsolete. More than a few CMO’s were fired as a result.

What can we expect from the next tech shift?

What can we expect from the next technology shift? We hear about  AI, machine learning and cognitive computing all the time and there’s a lot of concern amongst procurement professionals that it’s going to displace our workforce.

But it’s coming to procurement whether we like it or not. There’s a glaringly obvious application of AI for procurement professionals.

One word: data.

When today’s CPOs try to objectively evaluate the functionality of potential new solutions, they’re often bypassing  a crucial aspect (opting to solely measure tactical functionality); the game-changing competitive advantage their organisation can achieve through the power of the data.  There are two major considerations to be made here.

  1. Is the system architected for centralised data capture?

    The system should be able to capture your data, the data of all organisations using the solution  and, ideally, be able to connect with other solutions.  The more the system is designed for centralised data capture, the better chance you have of being able to take advantage of the latest  data-driven tech changes.

    My advice is that you eliminate anything that focuses solely on you and your data.  If it’s not central, you can be sure you’ll get stuck behind and end up like one of the organisations using Siebel.   But, of course, design alone is not enough.

  2. Does the system actually capture that data?

To capture all of this data, there are three parties that matter: suppliers, requisitioners, and AP. This is where tons of business cases fall apart.

  • Suppliers: To capture data you have to get all your suppliers on the system. Not just your big sophisticated suppliers, every single one! You have to get them connected, or you will fail, if not today then most definitely in the imminent future
  • Requisitioners: Who are the worst employees when it comes to using a procurement system? It’s fair to say that it’s often the sales and exec teams;  the people driving revenue for the company. These groups are only going to use a new procurement system if it’s the easiest and fastest way for them to get their jobs done, which means it has to fit in seamlessly with how they work.   If you don’t give them a system that they want to use, you won’t have them, and again you won’t be capturing the data from their transactions.
  • AP:  This is probably the most important part but so often an afterthought when looked at from a Procurement perspective. Consider how many hundreds of thousands or millions of invoice transactions are processed within your company. Now multiply that by the thousands of other companies out there and you’ll get a sense of how quickly that data can scale. Most P2P systems can’t process all of those different kinds of invoices. And that’s where we end up in Siebel world, yet again!

By committing to finding and using a system that captures all of this data, and does so not just for your organisation, but in a truly centralised platform, procurement will soon be able to achieve the following:

  • Fraud detection
  • Machines that know when you need something. Doesn’t it seem miraculous when Amazon knows what you need and presents it to you when you login?  Let me tell you that it’s not. It’s data
  • Dynamic discounting marketplaces
  • Exceptions handled without any human intervention, based on patterns of prior behavior in the data. This might not be behavior that humans can readily identify, but machines can with ease by crunching all of that data

Procurement would do well to remember that, In today’s world, the big value is in the data, not in tactical functionality.

Eric Wilson is the head of Basware’s Purchase-to-Pay business for the Americas and APAC. 

The Procurement Love Triangle

Love the idea of software solving all your procurement problems? You’d better make sure it’s working in harmony with your people and your processes. 

Paul Blake,  Senior Manager, Technology Product Marketing at GEP Worldwide is a keynote speaker at Big Ideas Summit 2017.  He’ll be talking about digital procurement transformation and why it’s so important for procurement to  adopt  digital-first models. We chatted to Paul ahead of the event to get his take on procurement’s current position.

Describe a perfect client for GEP?

The perfect GEP client is a large company with a lot of complexity in its spend but with a desire to do things better and drive more value into the business.

Do you think cognitive tech signals the end for the procurement profession in the near future?

I don’t.  Procurement has always been driven through human innovation and creativity, but that has often been constrained by the necessities of labour intensive transactional processing and data analysis.  Emerging technologies have the capacity to free the procurement profession from the bounds of document processing to focus more on driving new sources of value.

You’ve been at GEP for five years. What’s changed for the procurement function in this time?

Three major things:

  1. The cloud has come of age for procurement.  The industry can now conduct its entire operations completely independent of any infrastructure considerations.

2.  The unification of procurement and order processing.  Procurement’s remit used to end at the contract, with value realisation outside of their purview.  A single overview of “source-to-pay” gives a much greater ROI

3. The trend toward global harmonization of the supply chain is under threat.  That means increased risk, volatility and uncertainty.  Today, procurement teams need greater reserves of agility and responsiveness to remain successful.

What should we expect from the most successful procurement leaders of the future?

A recognition that procurement has a much broader, collaborative role to play across the entire business.  Reflecting changes in technology, the isolation of business functions into silos is retrograde thinking and a changing world will need a broad-minded approach to procurement operations

What 3 attributes make a great leader?

Education, education, education!

When is software not the answer?

When the question involves people and/or processes!  The three are so deeply interdependent that software itself is never the whole answer.

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017

The Surprising Truth – Apps Are Not Enough for Enterprise Mobility

Apps are all the rage, and businesses realise the benefits of having one. But many don’t realise that they need to go beyond an app for true enterprise mobility.

Apps for That

This article was first published on the Coupa Blog.

Apps have been closely associated with mobility since they exploded onto the scene with the launch of the Apple iPhone in 2007, followed by its app store in 2008.

Soon “there’s an app for that” became a running joke, denoting that just about anything that you wanted to do could be done on your phone using an app. We hit peak “app for that” when the American Dialect Society voted app the word of the year in 2010.

There are now millions of apps, and while it’s still true that you can do an amazing number of things with them, it’s also become clear that they have their limitations, especially for business.

Enterprise mobility requires more than just apps. So, when I hear companies announcing a new app with great fanfare, and sweeping claims that this innovation makes their product or solution mobile, I want to sit them down for a chat.

Mobility is a work style, not an app

Here’s what I’d tell them. An app is a must have, but enterprise mobility is a work style, not an app. More than sixty percent of workers are now working outside of the office at least part of the time. Apps are just one way of enabling them. True mobility is about letting people do business in the fastest, most efficient way possible, wherever they are, and that’s not always by using an app.

Apps present opportunities and challenges for the enterprise. A really good app, one that transforms a business process and makes it dead simple, can be highly addictive.

For example, I am on the go constantly. I couldn’t live without the Amazon app, because I place an order almost every day. I don’t even have time to even go to a local store for books and scissors for my kids, so I use the app to order wherever I am when I realise I need something.

My friend Lynn is also an Amazon fan, but she works from home or Starbucks, and uses one-click ordering on her laptop. She has never even downloaded the app.

Real challenge of enterprise mobility

It’s the same in the business world. This is the challenge of enabling true enterprise mobility: it’s multi-faceted.

Yes, you have to have a mobile app, and you have to invest in making it awesome, but an app can never match the desktop experience for managing a complex business process end to end.

And, if people still need to log in to the desktop application for all or part of a process, there has to be a really compelling reason for them to also download and use an app. If they can do something in some other way that is easier and faster than installing an app, they will.

On the other hand, for people who have to perform a particular process every day, or multiple times a day, downloading the app will seem like a small price to pay for a big increase in efficiency. They will naturally want to use it, and they’ll be raving fans.

Outside of these power users, the app will be irrelevant and they’ll never even download it. That’s why you have to give them other mobility options, such as mobile responsive design for tablets, smartphones and wearables, and my favourite, actionable email notifications. Yes, email.

Killer apps

What’s so great about email? You’d be hard pressed to find a business person who doesn’t have it on their smartphone and use it every day. So, if you can serve up something in an email and the user can take action without logging into a software system, and without having to set up a new account or go to an app, that’s a great mobility experience for most users.

We see this reflected in platform usage data at Coupa. Approving purchase orders is a common mobile use case. Not requiring approvers to be in the office to approve purchase orders has a huge impact for most companies, cutting PO turnaround time from an average of two or three weeks to 17 hours, the average across all our customers. But our data shows that most approvals are done via email, not by app, even though we offer both choices.

The same holds true for suppliers. The vast majority of suppliers only get a few POs from a customer, and invoice once per month. For these suppliers, downloading an app to turn a PO into an invoice is an exercise that adds to enablement effort without yielding benefit. If you give your supplier an option to get all the data they need, at their fingertips via email, without requiring an app, the vast majority of suppliers will choose this option.

Does that mean the app is no good? No. But why go to another app to do what you could do in the app you’re already in? Most people won’t do it.

Quest for Innovation

But for people who do have dozens of purchase orders to approve every day, or business traveler who have multiple expense items to upload, it’s a different story. They use the app because it’s more convenient, and less error-prone, to have everything in one place and process everything at once.

That’s why for the enterprise, equating an app with mobility is wildly optimistic and naive. Innovation in 2016 is not about having an app. Simply having an app for this or that will never be enough.

In this age of personalisation and consumerisation, innovation means continually thinking about end-user experiences and using the latest technology to make business processes easier through any number of channels. It’s giving people options to work how they want, when they want and with as little friction as possible.

That is true enterprise mobility, and so far there’s no app for that.

Coupa Inspire: Rethinking the Possible with Rob Bernshteyn

Lights, music, action! Hugo Britt recounts his experience of the spectacular opening keynote at this year’s Coupa Inspire conference.

Coupa Inspire

The Faculty’s Hugo Britt recently attended Coupa Inspire ’16, a dynamic conference bringing the Coupa community together in San Francisco, California. 

Doof, doof, doof, doof.

I’m sitting in the Grand Ballroom of San Francisco’s stunning Westin St Francis hotel and the place is packed. The Coupa Inspire ’16 conference is just about to be launched, and all the seats are taken. People are lining the walls and spilling into an adjoining hall, complete with a big screen set up to cope with the numbers.

Outside the hotel lies San Francisco’s famous Union Square, most of which is taken up by an enormous pavilion bearing the Coupa Inspire logo. This is where the exhibiters spruik their products, and also where the 2000 or so delegates gather for breakfasts, lunches and networking.

The tent itself is generating a lot of interest among the locals – I was stopped by onlookers on more than one occasion, who asked me what the tent was for and what was going on in there. You could even hear the word “Coupa” shouted by tour guides from the top decks of the red buses regularly cruising past the square.

In the tent it’s dark, with spotlights flashing around the room, and the music is turned up LOUD. I can feel my ribcage vibrating: doof, doof, doof, doof. The guy at the sound desk receives a cue and, unbelievably, doubles the volume. Into this buzzing, clubby atmosphere, walks Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn, and the crowd roars.

Cultural Buzz

Coupa has to be applauded for the vibrant culture it has created. The 600-strong Coupa team’s enthusiasm is infectious, and the marketing is superb, giving the whole conference the atmosphere of a celebration. This celebratory buzz can be felt in the brilliant ‘Freedom‘ video, featuring the team lip syncing and dancing around their head office and Union Square.

Bernshteyn stresses that Coupa isn’t a technology company. Rather, it’s a “value as a service” organisation. Simply put, it’s about discovering, realising and optimising the value for its customers.

The numbers are impressive. Coupa has been adopted by hundreds of businesses globally, representing millions of users, and over two million suppliers on its open business network. Together, Coupa users conduct tens of millions of transactions per year, with approximately $200 billion in spend under management.

Building on Data

All of this activity on the system generates a vast amount of data, and the developers at Coupa take full advantage of its potential. “Think about what can happen”, says Bernshteyn, “when we combine the insights around the billions of dollars running through our system”. Customers have access to real-time benchmarking that shows how you are tracking against the entire Coupa community.

Bernshteyn also takes the opportunity to launch Perfect-Fit Benchmarks, which enable users to understand savings, invoice cycle time and more by industry and by category. This vertical application means the AI can predict the right time to buy specific products and services based on historical data.

Bernshteyn circles back to Coupa’s catch-cry: rethinking the possible through measurable value creation.

The software’s popularity comes down to the platform’s simplicity, efficiency and ease-of-use, designed to gain maximum visibility of what you’re buying and who you’re buying it from. The phrase “suite synergy” (at first I thought they were saying “sweet” synergy), is used constantly at this conference, referring to the single unified platform that has vanquished the decades-old frustration of software products not speaking with each other.

As Bernshteyn leaves the stage, the DJ enthusiastically takes the opportunity to rattle our eardrums again. I walk past him on the way out, and he has an excited gleam in his eye – he knows that we’ve got a huge event ahead, with more inspirational keynote speakers (including Sir Richard Branson), more exciting product launches…and plenty more opportunities to turn the volume all the way up.

Stay tuned for more from Coupa Inspire in the coming days!