Tag Archives: procurement solutions

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.

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!

5 Keys to Unlocking Successful Integrated Business Planning

Many companies still struggle with executing a strategic integrated business planning (IBP) process that effectively integrates demand planning, supply planning, and financial planning.

Successful Integrated Business Planning

Most simply put, the process should drive decisions on how to best meet demand (customer/consumer sales for existing and new products) within supply constraints in order to optimise financial return. Yet answers to the questions of each planning component of IBP (See Figure 1) can be dramatically different, and lead to very different results if addressed in silos versus an integrated fashion.

Put more bluntly, companies that successfully execute IBP achieve greater operational and financial benefits than those that do not. A key requirement for that success is collaboration, including a disciplined, repeatable process that drives integrated decision making, and a balanced scorecard for performance measurement.

Integrated Business Planning_Slide 2

Figure 1: Components of Integrated Business Planning

Based on our experience, we at The Hackett Group believe unlocking IBP can deliver the following competitive advantages and benefits:

  • Visibility into the financial implications of decisions and actions related to demand and supply.
  • Significant cost improvements driven by a more efficient and effective supply chain.
  • Improved top-line revenue growth.
  • Inventory deployment improvements, e.g. “the right product in the right place at the right time” based on customer demand, which reduce excess deployment costs.
  • Increased customer satisfaction as a result of more accurate demand planning and inventory availability which reduce out of stocks and back order issues.

However, with all the evidence that implementing IBP leads to important benefits in an increasingly competitive environment, why do many companies continue to miss out on the potential rewards of IBP?

We believe there are five keys questions that companies can use to open the doors to an effective and efficient IBP process. The first two questions deal with the market place and competitive environment in which the business operates, while the final three questions help assess internal improvement opportunities based on best practices for process, people, and data, systems and technology capabilities tied to IBP.

  1. What are the big-picture IBP trends in the marketplace?

Here are three examples of what leading companies are doing:

  • Streamlined annual planning and budgeting processes.
  • Balanced scorecards, with cascading metrics.
  • Unified data models and better integration of technology platforms to support advanced planning and analytic capabilities.
  1. How do our supply chain cost and metrics compare to other companies?

Benchmarking can serve as a useful tool for measuring performance against the competition. Armed with valuable key performance metrics for cost, process and resources, supply chain leaders are equipped to make critical decisions and address areas of opportunity.

As an example, the metric “Demand/supply planning costs per $1000 revenue” is an excellent indicator of overall efficiency (see Figure 2):

Demand & Supply Costs

Figure 2: Demand/supply planning costs per $1000 revenue across industries. Source: APQC 

  1. Are optimal planning processes in place throughout the organisation?

Establishing a best-in-class IBP process is the foundation for maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of any organisation. Example best practices include:

  • IBP goals and objectives are clear and well understood.
  • The IBP process evaluates gap resolution and business optimisation options.
  • Materials and reports supporting IBP are exception based. 
  1. Do we have the right people at all levels of the organisation, to own the plan, make decisions, and ultimately be held accountable for the plan’s execution?

Equally as important as the right processes, is having the right organisational talent and accountability mechanisms in place. Example best practices include:

  • Adequately staffed resources with required knowledge and skills.
  • Clear ownership and accountability.
  • Discipline to adhere to decisions made as part of the IBP process.
  1. Finally, are we equipped with the appropriate technology (tools and systems) necessary to fully support integrated business?

To enhance supply chain technology capabilities that both support and optimise the integrated business planning process, best-in-class organisations successfully employ supply chain systems and tools to maximise their IBP process.

Importantly, the firm must have the tools and systems needed to bring together and reconcile demand, supply, and financial plans in order to identify gaps and imbalances.

Read the full Hackett Group Supply Chain Insight Report here to learn more trends, best practices, and metrics which help supply chain successfully transition to Integrated Business Planning

Hanna Hamburger, a Director in the Strategy & Operations practice at The Hackett Group, has over 25 years of industry and consulting experience. She has worked extensively with consumer products and retail companies as well as life sciences companies in the areas of sales, marketing and supply chain process, technology and tools, and organisation performance improvement. A longer version of this article is available on The Hackett Group’s website.

Raise Your Glasses to the Cloud

Does being stuck in our ways, and doing things “the way they’ve always been done”, mean procurement misses out on the benefits of the Cloud?

You can download the latest GEP white paper on the impact of cyber security, and the benefits of a cloud-based procurement technology solution here.

You can buy flip-flops that have a bottle opener built in to the sole.  Notwithstanding the sartorial choice of sporting said footwear, the synthesis of the two household objects into one ‘solution’ was clearly something born of necessity, or desperation, or more likely both.

The crown cap on a beer bottle, the correct name for which is actually a misnomer – the ‘crown cork’ – is 124 years old and still going strong. The ubiquity of the particular type of stopper means that almost everyone can access a tool designed with the express purpose of removing one, but finding oneself on the beach without one can lead to some unusual inventions, or some risky and occasionally painful improvisations.

Bottle Opener Flip Flops

Necessity – the Mother of Innovation

What is surprising is that it took seventy years for someone to come up with the bright idea of combining the crown cap with a screw thread on the bottle – negating the need for a tool altogether, and even today bottles of beer that one can open with a simple twist are far from the norm.

Interestingly, that most useful combination is still limited to mass-production, mass-market brands, and rarely or never to be found on small-scale, independent, or craft brewery products.

The same, of course, applies to wine. There is unquestionably a huge resistance to screw caps on premium products from the industry, the consumer and the media alike.  Until, that is, you actually talk to the real experts.  Not the self-appointed armchair connoisseurs – I’m not being denigrating, I’m definitely guilty-as-charged – but those who really know their stuff.

I’ve met wine producers, merchants and critics all of whom are desperate for the screw cap to be considered as acceptable at the “high end”, as at the mass-market end, because the product is only better as a result.

Consider the labour-of-love winemaker who has to play Russian Roulette with their prized vintage every time a piece of possibly-contaminated tree bark gets stuffed in the neck of a bottle.

But, on the whole, we consumers feel it cheapens the product, and the lack of ritual and satisfying “pop” detracts from our enjoyment of the contents. The real experts say it’s just snobbery – and, of course, they’re right. But today there remains a relatively low ceiling on what a restaurant can charge for a bottle with a screw cap. Good wines simply don’t come in screw-capped bottles.

What finally convinced me of the ridiculousness of that position was finding myself with wine but without means of access. Today I find myself tutting in a very English manner if I find I need to go get a corkscrew to open a bottle.

Migrating to the Cloud

I find myself in the same mindset when thinking about the Cloud.  For a while I felt somehow discomfited by the idea of putting all my files, and music and images and books and data in the cloud, preferring instead to create my own personal cloud of NAS drives and IP sockets so that I could access what I wanted, wherever I was, but I would still ‘have’ all my data.

How daft is that? If my NAS drive goes down (which it has) who has to run around in a panic trying to fix it? If I move house or country (which I have) who has to handle the business of relocating and reconfiguring equipment to deal with the change?

You see the point, I’m sure. I was on a hiding to nothing. Insisting on a model of how data storage should be, because that’s how it’s always been, supported by some spurious mythology of physical location, is no different to saying screw-caps cheapen the experience of drinking wine. Nonsense.

Cutting away all the snobbery and enjoying wine starts and ends with glass to mouth. What happens up to that point might be interesting, but it’s not in the least relevant.

Now I find myself tutting in overly-dramatic fashion if the service or software I need is NOT available in the Cloud. Install? Oh, really!

Cloud computing is a loaded subject. There are genuine concerns, and genuine things to be concerned about, when considering moving business critical systems into a new environment.

But, let’s make no bones about it, you need to be thinking about those things anyway. The threats and risks won’t go away if you choose not to pay them any attention.  But the opportunities sure will.

We’ve applied a great deal of brainpower to design and build a cloud procurement platform that delivers a massive bang-to-buck ratio, in a secure and highly performant environment, and our two-part paper, ‘Securing Procurement in the Cloud of Tomorrow‘, is designed to help business and IT people alike start a meaningful dialogue on the subject. The Cloud is here, it’s huge, and growing.

But even now I catch myself out. Trying to improve performance of my video editing capability at work I spoke to our splendid and ever-cheerful head of IT about getting some kind of box dedicated for the purpose.

“Have you thought about a cloud video-edit-suite solution?” he said.

Well, d’uh!

Enterprises should be moving their procurement processes to the Cloud, say GEP. For more on this, download the latest white paper research.

For more information on high-performing procurement software, visit the Smart by GEP website.

Procurement’s Future: Upskilling in Supplier Relationship Management

Why upskilling in Supplier Relationship Management is key to the future success for the Procurement profession.

The rapid development of artificial intelligence and cognitive technology is completely redefining the boundaries of what is possible for procurement. To fully take advantage of this new era and remain relevant, CPOs and their organisations will have to react very quickly and re-orientate more than ever their focus towards supplier relationship management.

Why is SRM fundamental to Procurement?

The traditional and archetypal focus of the CPO has been on cost savings, whilst arguably neglecting the supplier relationship. We have reached the point where applying pressure to suppliers to cut costs is unsustainable. It has been proven that working on improving relationships with suppliers is the key to fostering innovation; to go beyond just savings and develop more value adding capabilities.

Secondly, with artificial intelligence and technological advances comes an increasing level of automation, not only of tactical and operational procurement tasks, but also complex sourcing activities, such as RFX creation, analysis, or even scoring. Even market research or negotiation can be improved, to a point where technology will perform these tasks in a better, more efficient and secure manner.

This will allow more time for procurement to focus on supplier activities after contract signature, such as performance management, or supplier collaboration and innovation programs.

In addition, procurement teams will be equipped with the tools to navigate the procurement process more quickly, easily, and in an even more compliant way. It may lead to the point where there is less of a necessity for a full, dedicated team. It is therefore important that the role of supplier management remains within the remit of the Procurement function, to avoid inefficiency and over-complication.

This is especially true for companies where part of this process is handled by different organisation. To improve in this area, there must be one owner who can efficiently coordinate the strategy, the training, and the performance management.

Another benefit of becoming more skilled at Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) is reducing risk. With a strong SRM process, Procurement can not only very quickly identify potential supply chain disruption, but also proactively mitigate any event that may occur, by fostering a collaborative and transparent relationship with suppliers.

Generating Innovation Through SRM

Supplier collaboration has also become an increasing focus for Procurement, especially where cost savings have been stretched to breaking point, and yet there is still requirement to go beyond this.

Suppliers and Procurement organisations have to work hand in hand to be even more cost effective and extract additional value from their relationship, and this on a long term basis. SRM is an invaluable approach to promote and generate innovation.

There is a well-known anecdote regarding a multinational car manufacturer, just one example amongst many others, of the benefits of good supplier relationship management. The company wanted to cut the cost of the window trim on their car, and turned to their suppliers for help. The suppliers created a new resin which would streamline the manufacturing process.

The result was a reduction of 2,700 gallons of diesel fuel and 60,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, by removing 19,200 truck miles transporting the parts between factories. It was a move that was both good for the environment (look at that carbon dioxide reduction), and dramatically cut costs.

Undeniably, in this context, by leveraging partnerships and collaboration, procurement teams become the customer of choice. They can therefore encourage and gain access to new innovations or insights, which could stand to be an important competitive differentiator.

What skills does the future Procurement workforce need to develop?

With this in mind, CPOs need to assess how their staff interact with suppliers, in order to determine whether they have the right skills, and also to understand what is missing, to fully unlock these supplier relationship management capabilities.

On that basis, and with the new direction that Procurement is taking, future procurement professionals should be looking to develop such skills as influencing leadership, change management and creativity. These are, arguably, not amongst primarily targeted skills in a current buyer profile.

With the advent of data insight and technology enhancing Procurement activities, CPOs will also have to upskill their teams to be able to fully maximise the potential of the tools available to them, as there is little doubt of the value available here.

Aside from data and tool utilisation, the human side is equally as important. Acting on insight and fostering the ability to listen, earn trust, and foster a high level emotional intelligence and creativity should also be part of the soft skills of the new buyers.

In an environment where technology will be ever-present, it will be even more important to master these skills, as maintaining customer satisfaction and high value relationships will continue to rely on the human side of the service management.

It becomes urgent not only for CPOs but also for the professionals working in Procurement today, to ask themselves about what should we do if we want to stay relevant to our organisation in 5 years’ time? How will we be able to fully endorse roles such as Supplier Relationship Manager and deliver value? Should we go on new training courses, and re-skill completely? What type of skills should be developed, and where and how can we acquire them?

These questions will need answers, and those who will address them first will obviously be ahead of the crowd in fostering innovation and adapting to the Procurement world of the not-too distant future.

IBM are one of the sponsors of the Big Ideas Summit, being held in London on April 21st. 

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Showcasing Your Big Ideas – Tackling Maverick Spend

Ahead of the Big Ideas Summit 2016 on April 21st, we’re on the hunt for your Big Ideas. Stuart Brocklehurst discusses how procurement can elevate its role by tackling maverick spend.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, which takes place on 21st April,  we will be asking our speakers and attendees to record their ‘Big Ideas’ live on camera for the whole of our Procurious community to see.

But we also believe that every single procurement and supply chain professional has a unique vantage point in the industries, communities and businesses they work in. You have been submitting your Big Ideas to us, and so far, we think they have been great!

Stuart Brocklehurst, Chief Executive at Applegate Marketplace

According to a survey by KPMG, on average 40 per cent of organisational spend happens without any input from procurement. At a time where procurement needs to be delivering value to the business, tackling maverick spend in the organisation is a good place to start.

Stuart’s Big Idea is exactly that. He believes that for procurement to be valued for its strategic role, it needs to demonstrate its impact on the whole organisation.

Stuart goes on to say that this can only happen through giving access to user-friendly solutions, and demonstrate the benefits of doing this across the organisation.

How to Submit Your Big Idea

We don’t mind if you film your submission on your phone, tablet, laptop or PC. However, to help you out we’ve compiled a list of some of our recommended methods for reaching out.

Once you’ve completed your film, you can reach us by email ([email protected]); on Twitter (@procurious_) or via Google Drive or Dropbox (using [email protected]).

You can find all the information you need on recording and submitting your Big Idea here.

Want to know more about Big Ideas 2016? Then visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Why Predictive Analytics is Changing Procurement’s Future

The opportunity for predictive analytics and Big Data in procurement goes well beyond spend.

Artram/Shutterstock.com

Hackett’s 2016 Procurement Key Issues Study shows that increasing agility is a critical development area for organisations. It also shows that predictive analytics and forecasting tools are identified as having the greatest transformational impact on procurement in the future.

A confluence of high volatility, technology-led innovation, and hyper-competitive market conditions, has accelerated the rate of change in business to unprecedented levels. Agility is the key to success in this environment. In a procurement context this has four attributes:

  • Proactive Decision Making: Leveraging information and predictive analytics to improve the quality and timeliness of decision-making.
  • Value Chain: Industry leadership in digitising their value chain, including supply and demand chains, as well as internal operations.
  • Planning: Customer-centric planning processes and day-to-day business decisions.
  • Operational responsiveness: Permitting swift response to changes in the supply chain, customer preferences, the competitive landscape, and business strategy.

Overcoming Obstacles

However, accessing this data, information and market intelligence is a significant obstacle that must be overcome.

Becoming information-driven should be a primary focus area for procurement. The function must develop the tools and skills that will allow staff to apply market data and intelligence to decisions on spending and sourcing strategies. Creating deep, consultative working relationships with business leaders, demands that procurement bring this valuable expertise to the table.

This level of insight requires high-quality, real-time market intelligence. However, over half of the Key Issues Study respondents lack a formal market intelligence program or are in the very earliest stages of adoption. At the same time, establishing data governance and building a continuous improvement culture for data management and quality, are also tactics increasingly adopted by organisations.

Access to market intelligence, and ensuring that sourcing and supplier relationship management teams are using high-quality category and supplier intelligence, are prerequisites for agility.

Transformative Impact of Predictive Analytics

As procurement’s role matures from transactional facilitator to trusted business advisor, proficiency with the next generation of analytics – a.k.a. “big data” – will be a key enabler. Big data has been a game changer when it comes to customer analytics, offering an unprecedented ability to quickly model massive volumes of structured and unstructured data from multiple sources.

Good examples from the digital world include Google’s insight into customer behaviours and preferences, and Amazon’s ability to anticipate orders and ensure on hand stock to meet demand.

Source: The Hackett Group Key Issues Study 2016
Source: The Hackett Group Key Issues Study 2016

Predictive analytics refers to the use of statistical and mathematical techniques to predict the probability of future events occurring.

The predictive analytics and forecasting use case for procurement can be an increased focus on business outcomes, through greatly enhanced forward looking decision support capability; and automated and real-time information and analysis availability. Both of these are underpinned by greatly improved data quality.

Combining predictive analytics with cognitive tools will allow, for example, upgraded end-user buying experiences and automated sourcing actions to anticipate supplier and market events. It will also allow for forecasting of and acting to mitigate the impact of supply chain disruptions, and reduction of the severity of supplier risk events.

How do we respond?

As procurement leaders this situation poses challenging questions:

  1. What are the business outcomes and specific use cases for predictive analytics?
  2. How can we accelerate the organisation towards a single view of data and segmentation?
  3. Do we need to access new sources of meta and domain data?
  4. What is the value from faster, more frequent and higher quality information and insight?

Taking advantage of advanced analytical tools and methods requires appropriate staff with the skills to use them, as well as new technology roles, aligning business agendas, and elevating the overall level of technology knowledge. Future talent management plans should reflect the importance of training and hiring staff to handle the sophisticated analytical tools and methods, to deliver the full potential of Big Data.

Analytical projects are not without challenges. Procurement leaders who have not already started down this path should use the high-stakes competitive environment of 2016 as a burning platform.

About Hackett’s Procurement Key Issues Study

The results of this annual study are gathered from executives from over 180 large and global companies operating in the US, Europe and rest of the world, with annual revenue of $1 billion or greater. Find out more at the Hackett Group website.

Chris Sawchuk will discuss why procurement needs to be more agile during his keynote address at the Big Ideas Summit on April 21st.

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.