Tag Archives: procurement technology

In Search of Your Perfect (Supply) Partner

With an estimated 200 million suppliers operating around the world, how can you be sure you have the perfect partner? Fortunately, here’s where technology can lend a hand.

Perfect Partner Suppliers

Recent estimates put the total number of suppliers operating around the world at a staggering 200 million. To put this in context, that’s like having every person in the UK operating a supply business. Three times over.

The risks for procurement in this scenario are there for all to see. With an enormous number of potential suppliers, how do you know you are dealing with the right ones? Are you getting the best deal you could?

And with the suppliers you do have on board, how are you driving contract compliance? As well as being expected to deliver the value in the contracts, procurement needs to ensure that objectives are aligned with internal stakeholders, including the CFO.

Innovation in ‘Tail’ Suppliers

Common thinking in procurement now is that the profession can no longer ignore small- and medium-sized suppliers. By continuing to use the same suppliers, procurement misses out on innovation opportunities, as well as savings opportunities.

Traditionally these suppliers have been dismissed as ‘tail spend’, and ignored in terms of strategy. As we experience a period of unprecedented market change and volatility, procurement is now looking to these same organisations to help drive efficiencies, and competitive advantage.

The other factor procurement must take into consideration is how to measure the risk within their supply chain. One slight issue from a first, second, or even third tier supplier, could have drastic consequences for an organisation’s reputation.

Technology as Competitive Advantage

If organisations want to thrive in increasingly volatile climates, they need to leverage their technology. Effectively using IT capabilities and procurement technology can help develop a competitive advantage.

More and more organisations are streamlining traditional procurement activities, and freeing up resources for strategic projects. The ability to do this, while sourcing and managing suppliers, requires up-to-date IT capabilities and analytics, as well as best in class procurement technology.

Oracle’s aim is to provide its client with complete, open, and fully integrated solutions which help to reduce both the cost, and the complexity, of the IT infrastructure.

David Hudson, Business Development Director at Oracle Cloud Solutions, believes procurement needs to realise that the future is now.

“Delivering the right capabilities for Procurement professionals to drive greater collaboration, process standardisation, increased efficiency at a reducing cost remains a big challenge.

“At Oracle, we aim to help our customers achieve great cost savings and overall value, while reducing supplier risk, and increasing compliance. Technology, such as our Strategic Procurement portfolio, can help to deliver these key benefits, particularly when integrated throughout the process, as part of a modern Cloud solution,” says David.

Build Your Competitive Advantage

Procurious Founder, Tania Seary, has previously stated that, “Today’s supply chain executives must be brave and bold. They are expected to handle cataclysmic events and act with extreme agility.

“There’s one qualification – and I would go so far as to say that it’s the defining qualification for today’s supply chain leaders – that separates the highest performers from the herd. And that’s courage.”

This courage can be bolstered by understanding the role and benefits of technology, especially Cloud software and platforms, in procurement strategy, planning and decision making. By being more informed, procurement leaders can make these bold decisions, and ensure they are staying ahead of the competition.

Web

To find out more on how procurement can better manage risk and complexity, and integrate technology to help them thrive in a changing world, join Tania Seary and David Hobson for a free webinar on 7th November. Find out more information and register here.

The Benefits Procurement Can Realise from RPA Adoption

Understanding the benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can help sell adoption to the rest of the business.

RPA Procurement Automation

In our first instalment, we described the fundamentals of robotic process automation (RPA), how it is typically used, and some pricing trends.

Here, we discuss some of the benefits of RPA, as well as what to think about as your organisation considers adoption.

The RPA Value Proposition

Purchase-to-pay organisations that are implementing RPA expect benefits in higher productivity and lower operating costs (Fig. 2).

RPA
Fig. 2 – Benefits Expected By Purchase-to-Pay Organisations with RPA

These improvements are realised in a number of ways, including:

1. Ability to bypass the IT department

Because RPA does not require IT development resources, and calls for a very limited technical infrastructure, businesses are able to undertake these projects by themselves.

However, a big lesson learned from early pilots is that IT needs to be involved in some capacity early in the project, even though this may bring in extra bureaucracy and potentially slow down progress.

Getting IT to sign off on performance demands, system availability, security infrastructure, etc., will pay dividends later when RPA is in production.

2. Shorter, less expensive development cycle time

The typical timeline to develop and deploy RPA is six to eight weeks, dramatically less than traditional, IT-led application integration projects. The latter’s cost to design, program, test and maintain system interfaces is significant. In some instances, it can exceed the cost of the software itself.

The ability to link systems through the user interface layer in a non-invasive way, without these costs, is core to RPA’s value proposition.

3. Labour Cost Savings

RPA vendors claim to deliver as much as 60-80 per cent in savings. Feedback from participants in interviews conducted by The Hackett Group indicated that returns are much more modest, but still significant at 20-30 per cent.

4. Increased Auditability and Consistency with Fewer Errors

Routine tasks executed by humans are prone to errors and inconsistent application of rules. Robots apply the same set of rules consistently and operate without errors.

Furthermore, all tasks executed by robots are recorded, and these execution logs are auditable.

5. Improved Scalability

Human capacity is difficult to scale in situations where demand fluctuates, leading to inefficiencies such as backlogs or overcapacity.

In contrast, robots operate at whatever speed is demanded by the work volume. Multiple robots can be deployed when demand exceeds the capacity of a single one.

However, an RPA must still work within the performance limitations of the software with which it is designed to interact.

Looking Ahead

We predict that RPA may have an impact on the number of people needed to perform mundane, repetitive tasks. Ultimately, this is a good thing, because many of these resources can be reassigned to more rewarding activities and job satisfaction will increase.

Fortunately, this shift in the profile of source-to-pay talent is consistent with the direction that procurement has been heading in for some time, moving away from transactional work, to more of a trusted advisor and partner to the business.

This will require complex problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and intellectual curiosity. There will also be a strong need for people who understand how to orchestrate a combination of automation solutions to obtain the best results.

Patrick Connaughton is the Senior Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Programme at the Hackett Group. He has published groundbreaking research in areas like spend analysis, contract life cycle management, supplier risk assessments and services procurement. You can contact him via email or on Procurious.

You can also learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program here.

eCatalogues are Just Spreadsheets, What’s the Big Deal?!

How many times have you heard someone compare eCatalogues to spreadsheets? It’s time to clear up the differences!

eCatalogues on Tablet

This article was originally published on Suppliers Matter.

That’s what the owner of a small office supply company asked me back in 1999. I was an independent supplier enablement consultant, and it was taking me longer than he wanted to create his first electronic catalogue in Ariba for his largest customer.

Here are the ten things I wish I had said as to why electronic catalogues aren’t “just spreadsheets”. I’ve also added a handful of insights that some newer eProcurement solutions now have to offer when it comes to eCatalogues.

The end result may “simply be a spreadsheet”, but it’s ensuring what’s in this spreadsheet that requires due diligence.

1) Appropriate Selection

eCatalogues need to contain all things that the customer buys from you, and none of the things you’re not supposed to sell.

If you have the contract to sell office supplies, and you’ve been given explicit instructions to only include office supplies, then you can’t include the kitchen sink.

When it’s time to export item information from the back end system, it should be just for your customer’s desired items.

Some larger suppliers have been known to insist their eCatalogues can’t be filtered, in an effort to sell more stuff. You don’t want to play those games.

2) Accurate Pricing

Obviously the prices for these items has to be accurate. Sometimes the calculation of the sell price can get complicated. For example, if it’s X per cent off list for one type of item, but Y per cent off for another. Or if there’s a list of most commonly ordered items that are more highly discounted than the rest.

If your customer finds one item that is priced higher than it should be, they’ll lose trust and question all other item prices.

Newer eProcurement platforms now support tiered pricing, bundles, configurable/custom options, etc., which can help when if you sell more complicated products or services.

3) Consistent Names

The item names are the first thing that a customer sees in their search results, so it’s important that they are strong and also follow a consistent naming convention, for example: Widgets, Small, Pack of 20.

Looking at a long list of items that are consistently named makes it easier for the customer to select the right item.

4) Rich Descriptions

This is one area where the initial effort up front can really make a big difference, but it takes investment. If you want to have your items found in search results, and also help your customer make the right choice the first time, you need rich item descriptions that thoroughly describe your items. You should take advantage of as much space as the customer can support. If they allow 255 characters, use them!

Some suppliers simply export the bare minimum item information from their inventory, which is often hard to understand. And what’s frustrating for buyers is that the supplier’s B2C site has often got great rich content. However, suppliers frequently have two separate item databases – one for B2C/marketing and one for B2B/eProcurement.

If you happen to sell items from popular categories, there are now rich content providers that you can use to enrich your information.

5) Granular UNSPSC codes

There are so many reasons to make sure that the UNSPSC codes assigned to your items are granular and accurate.

Granular meaning that you can’t just assign the ‘Office Stationery’ code to all your items, even the office furniture and computer accessories.

And accurate, meaning that if you’re selling a standard office scissor then you need to use the correct code, and not just the first reference to scissors you see when searching the UNSPSC database.

The customer may have purchase requisition approval rules reliant on the codes to determine who should approve the request. IT may need to approve the computer accessory, and facilities may need to approve the furniture. Plus, your customer’s reports will be much more accurate in terms of spend reporting.

A new consideration is eProcurement systems now have browsable category trees that rely on the UNSPSC to assign the item to the most appropriate category. You want your items to fall under the right bucket and not all get clumped into one.

6) Images for Every Product

This is a no-brainer. You have to make sure as many of your items (if not all) have at least one, nice looking image. They should be professional looking, high resolution, hosted on a publicly available webserver, and assigned to the right item.

And if your customer’s eProcurement system supports multiple images, then give them more. Many suppliers don’t take advantage of this, however, and just do the minimum (if that). Make your items shine!

7) Valid Units of Measure

You don’t want to do all this work and have the catalogue not load because your internal unit of measure is “Each” and the customer’s system needs it to be “EA”. You need to ensure that all your items are using the UOMs that your customer supports.

8) Internal Part Numbers for Automation

If you want to automate the fulfilment of the corresponding electronic purchase order and have it flow seamlessly into your system, the part numbers have to be perfect.

You can’t manually create an item in the catalogue file called WIDGET and expect it to work. You need to export the part numbers out of your system, and only use those part numbers in the eCatalogues.

9) Properly Formatted File

All this has to be exported into a properly formatted file that matches the customer’s file format requirements.

  • XLS vs. XLSX vs. CSV vs. XML vs. CIF vs. ETC.
  • Field titles with correct names.
  • Not exceeding each field’s maximum length.
  • Ensure all their required fields are populated properly.

This is where it can get a little technical, but it’s a one time effort.

10) Automating the Update Process

Fortunately, we didn’t have to update static eCatalogues very often, so doing this once or twice a year was acceptable.

New eProcurement systems now support simple CSV files, and allow suppliers to upload securely. This means suppliers are now in a better position to automate the export, any mapping, and upload using relatively simple scripts or product information management (PIM) tools.

Suppliers, what else would you have told him? (Apart from go do it yourself!)

What Procurement Needs to Know About Robotic Process Automation

Just what is Robotic Process Automation? And what should procurement know about it before putting anything in place?

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) vendors emphasise their product’s capacity to replace human operators, using phrases like “digital workforce.” In simple terms, RPA is a software application that runs on an end user’s computer, laptop or other device, emulating tasks executed by human operators.

Its purpose is to integrate or automate the execution of repetitive, rule-based tasks or activities. RPA does not require development of code, nor does it necessitate direct access to the code or database of the applications.

Current Robotic Process Automation Use

Most current RPA implementations are in industry-specific processes such as claims processing in insurance, and risk management in financial services. These processes, and their associated tasks, are usually high-volume, structured, repetitive and implemented on old technology.

Normally, the processes are extremely stable. There is no technology migration or modernisation roadmap involved, and IT-led integration would be difficult and expensive.

At present, the leading non-industry-specific RPA application is the financial close and consolidation process. According to our purchase-to-pay research, 23 per cent of companies are at the earliest stages of adoption, i.e., either in a pilot or with the technology partially rolled out (Fig. 1).

Robotic Process Automation
Fig. 1 – Robotic Process Automation Trends in Purchase-to-Pay

The remaining 77 per cent have no immediate plans for Robotic Process Automation adoption. Despite the low take-up level today, 45 per cent of purchase-to-pay organisations believe RPA will be one of the areas with the greatest impact on the way their work gets done in the next decade.

The Best Processes for RPA

It is not the type of business process that makes for a good candidate for RPA, but rather the characteristics of the process, such as the need for data extraction, enrichment and validation.

Activities requiring integration of multiple screens, as well as self-service inquiry resolution, are also ripe for RPA. The key is that RPA is best deployed in a stable environment where no changes to the systems are on the horizon.

Other possible choices include processes requiring multiple software applications to execute different, but repeatable, activities and tasks.

RPA Pricing Trends

The pricing model for RPA is still evolving. Today, vendors are pricing RPA based on the cost of the full time equivalent (FTE) staff member it is replacing. For example, an RPA vendor may quote a price per robot that is one-third the cost of an offshore resource doing the work.

Onshore FTE pricing is being quoted closer to one-ninth, or 11 per cent, of the cost. This pricing model, developed to compare the cost of outsourcing a process versus automating it with RPA, essentially positions Robotic Process Automation as a service, not a software solution.

In our view, this model is inconsistent with industry standards governing the way software is typically priced. Therefore, we encourage buyers to seek an alternative gainsharing model where possible. This will both mitigate the risks of early adoption, and provide a strong incentive to the supplier to deliver results.

Patrick Connaughton is the Senior Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Programme at the Hackett Group. He has published groundbreaking research in areas like spend analysis, contract life cycle management, supplier risk assessments and services procurement. You can contact him via email or on Procurious.

You can also learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program here.

Welcome to the Uncanny Valley

Why are we happy to watch movies with AI and robots, but feel disturbed by near-identical humanoid robots in real-life? Welcome to the Uncanny Valley.

Uncanny Valley

Considering the robot theme of my last two posts, I was somewhat pleased last week to have picked up a radio show from the BBC in their series ‘The Why Factor’ called “Fear of Robots” in which they make some of the same points concerning our assumptions that robots will always be benign.

The presenter found himself somewhat disquieted by a robotic seal pup, and completely disturbed by an almost-human android.

He had, so the saying goes, entered the uncanny valley. Although we humans react (and sometimes over-react) very positively to human-like features – cartoon characters, dolls and the like – we have a generally very bad response to simulations which are very, very nearly, but not completely, life-identical.

The Uncanny Valley

Despite the extraordinary advances in CGI, many filmgoers find greater satisfaction and easier suspension of disbelief in watching old-style animation, than movies which seek to recreate the real world.

The characters just don’t move right, or look right, or something.  The difference is so slight and subtle, yet rings huge alarm bells in our heads.

One contributor to the radio show described very-near-human robots as giving us the same heebie-jeebies as walking corpses might. After all, they are cold, their skin tone is wrong, they don’t move naturally. Of course they freak us out.

Away from the uncanny valley, though, we love the broader approximations to human behaviour.  As we turn away in discomfort from the close-to-real, we delight in the more grotesque caricature.

It seems we’re more comfortable with the messy, chaotic, imperfect real-world, than a more sterile near-perfection.  Perhaps that speaks to a deep aspect of human nature, something that we software developers might do well to pay heed to.

Emotional Reactions

There are clear cases of this emotional reaction to human-like behaviour in the use of software, especially at work.

The response that many, if not all of us, had to that [expletive deleted] animated paper clip when it popped up and said, “I see you’re trying to write a letter, would you like some help with that?” was no different to the reaction we’d have to the co-worker who would keep dropping by to say, “You don’t want to do it like that. Do you?”.

Approximating the real world, including human behaviour, when developing the software that we need to interact with, is thus a complex matter.

Get it right and the user experience is one of delight and sustained engagement. But go too far and users are actively put-off by the feeling that the software itself is somehow working against us.

At GEP we’ve been working on user experience technology that puts the human at the heart of process.  We are, of course, some way from software that has a human personality. And although the possibilities are immense, they are not without risk.

Imagine sitting down at your desk each day to find that overnight everything has been rearranged to make it slightly more convenient for you.  Perhaps so you don’t have to reach so far for the telephone, or your chair is aligned more ergonomically to the monitor.

Such things could dramatically improve our day…or screw it up entirely, leaving us feeling irritated or even violated.  As creatures of habit we naturally reach for the place where the telephone is, which is not always ideal.  It just is.

A Real-Life, Virtual Assistant

But there is another, more subtle, set of possibilities that we might permit to assist us without, to be frank, freaking us out.

You might imagine an assistant who begins by learning how you work, where the shortcuts are that you naturally take, and how other might be offered to speed things along.   Then when the time is right, you assistant might suggest you have some choices, all in good time, no rush.  The assistant makes notes of how they can improve your life and recommends rather than enforces changes.

In time you might start noticing that there is less clutter around and you’re completing tasks faster without having been trained, directed or instructed.  User consent to small changes that help keep things tidy could be far more effective than wholesale re-ordering of menus and icons.

It’s something we have to keep in mind when developing software that should be designed to help you work.  There is a fine but definite line between being helpful and just downright irritating.

It reminds me of the wonderful scene in Father Ted where a sales assistant tries to tempt Mrs. Doyle with an automatic tea-maker.   “It will take the misery out of making tea.”  Her response?  “Maybe I like the misery!”

Cloudy Future for ERP Based Procurement

Traditional ERP systems just don’t do the job for procurement. However, an integrated, Cloud-based approach could be the answer the profession is looking for.

Cloud & ERP

This article was written by Daniel Ball, director at eProcurement specialist, Wax Digital.

The benefits offered by best-of-breed eProcurement technology are well documented. Procurement professionals don’t need much convincing of the advantages of using them.

However, for some organisations, stepping away from using their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system’s in-built purchasing tools isn’t always an easy option.

Modern ERP systems offer organisations a way to manage, collect and interpret data from a variety of business activities across seemingly all business functions, from purchasing and finance to HR and customer service. They also integrate all internal data-collection systems so that all business functions rely on one single database.

This one source of real-time data can help businesses to make decisions based on facts rather than assumptions. To coin a well-used phrase, they could be considered something of a panacea capable of eradicating all business process ills.

There is another way…                                                                                                             

However, for all of the many benefits ERP offers to the organisation as a whole, it’s not uncommon for procurement teams, amongst others, to be frustrated by its rigidity and functional limitations. While core functions such as Finance, Manufacturing and HR are well supported by ERP systems, Procurement, it would seem, is often less so.

Procurement teams will therefore inevitably face the choice between continuing to use ERP, or move to an alternative best-of-bread solution. Today this almost invariably means a cloud-based system that needs to integrate seamlessly with ERP.

The Integration Challenge

But how can procurement convince the rest of the business, and especially the IT department, that the existing functionality on offer to them is no longer adequate for their needs and that moving to a cloud-based system that can be integrated with ERP can be done easily and securely?

We’ve seen many of our customers seek to replace the procurement modules offered to them by their ERP systems but who have been stopped by the integration challenge. They have faced concern from IT managers that integrating with a remotely-hosted, third-party system may pose a risk to the organisation, especially when business-critical master data and finance systems are concerned.

However, the tide is now turning. Some cloud-based eProcurement solutions can securely integrate with ERP and their finance systems. This offers users freedom of choice and the ability to automate, improve, and better manage many of their day-to-day procurement processes.

Feasibility of Integrated Systems

A platform which comes with its own ready configured Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is certainly a major step forward in convincing the finance and IT departments and using a separate but integrated system is not just possible, but advantageous.

We’ve worked with many procurement teams in leading organisations who’ve decided to reject the functionality on offer to them from ERP, and integrate cloud-based eProcurement.

One of our customers uses JD Edwards’ (JDE) ERP system for finance, and had used its procurement module for over ten years to raise purchase orders and approve invoices.

The system wasn’t very efficient or easy-to-use so certain departments chose to bypass it all together, preferring instead to manually process their orders.

However, the complexity and limited functionality of the existing system was preventing the organisation from making wide-scale purchasing efficiencies and not giving a clear view on organisational-wide spend.

Deciding to integrate a new eProcurement system with the JDE finance system that would enable a number of efficiencies including better spend control, more efficient order processing and payments, the organisation decided on a hybrid cloud approach allowing us to host our cloud-based service from within its data centres.

Wide Reaching Benefits

At another of our customers the procurement team was keen to make efficiencies to the management of its indirect spend across Europe.

Multiple systems were being used across the region for indirect purchasing, and these were largely manual, paper-based processes that did not provide full visibility and control over expenditure.

As a result, collaboration between the purchasing teams and finance, as well as with suppliers, was not integrated and could have lead to duplication on spend, or even the business purchasing goods or services it didn’t need.

In order to improve indirect purchasing across Europe, the organisation chose to move its entire European operations to a single, cloud-based eProcurement system to integrate with SAP.

Best-of-breed cloud-based, eProcurement solutions offer a host of benefits across the business, that are far reaching and extend beyond the walls of the procurement department.

Taking the Global Pulse of Procurement

How do you take the global  pulse of procurement and understand key current trends? Here’s a survey that helps do just that.

Global Pulse of Procurement

Zycus recently published their 2016 Pulse of Procurement report, an annual survey and report that highlights key procurement trends around the world.

The report draws on the thoughts and inputs of 650 procurement leaders worldwide, helping to draw valid, statistical conclusions across a number of topics.

The key areas of discussion in the 2016 report include:

  • The present state of procurement
  • The role of procurement technology
  • Hot current trends of procurement
  • The future of procurement

With participation in the survey increasing year on year, and the consumption of the report also increasing, it’s becoming one of the key information sources for procurement leaders. Procurious caught up with Richard Waugh, VP Corporate Development at Zycus, to talk through some of the key messages in 2016.

Procurement Technology 
Adoption vs. Satisfaction

One of the key findings Richard highlighted in this year’s report was the disparity between the high adoption of, but low satisfaction with, procurement technology.

In European countries all of the components of procurement technology have more than 50 per cent adoption. Core technologies such as P2P, eSourcing, Contract Management and Spend Analysis above 70 per cent.

However, only 1 in 5 survey respondents believed their technology solution was best in class or state of the art. One of the key reasons behind this, is that procurement are often left with a version of a legacy system, leading to low satisfaction.

Richard stated that, “These ‘best of breed’ procurement systems do exist, but it’s really only in the e-Sourcing area that state of the art tools are more prevalent.

“There is still a pent up demand for these best in class tools. These would help organisations make a step-change in performance, but many organisations are forced to make do with what they have.”

Supplier Performance Management

Richard believes that having the tools and technology available to enable closer collaboration with suppliers, will in turn drive innovation. These tools can help to measure the value of contributions that suppliers can bring to the table.

Richard stated that the more advanced procurement teams are already using technology to get closer to their supply base, and bring forward the best ideas for profit enhancement.

In addition to this, automation and procurement technology can help to significantly reduce manual, transactional activities, helping procurement get more from their resources, and at the same time enable the profession to be more strategic.

Spend, Perception & Risk
Spend Under Management

The Pulse of Procurement report also highlighted encouraging signs in the management of enterprise spend by procurement. In 2016, 26 per cent of the respondents have achieved an average of 80 per cent of spend under management.

These best in class performers have gone down the path of better stakeholder management and involvement. This allows them to access traditional ‘sacred cows’ of marketing, legal and IT spend.

However, according to Richard, there is still room for improvement. “The weighted average is only 57 per cent spend under management. If you’re average, you’re barely getting over 50 per cent of your spend managed.”

Perception

The report supports the idea that procurement is more of a strategic partner for the business now in many regions. This positive perception, and better visibility with stakeholders is more important, particularly in light of budget pressures.

In Europe, 9 out 10 leaders highlighted a positive perception of procurement by the C-suite. However, this region also has the greatest budget pressure. The majority of European respondents said that procurement budgets for 2016 were either flat or declining. This has led to teams being asked to do more with the same, or more with less.

In Asia-Pacific, the strategic role of procurement is still developing. Richard said, “There is an opportunity for Asia-Pacific to catch up this lag. As you start to manage the spend, the possibilities for savings are better. In fact, the savings goals for procurement are actually highest in this region as they address these categories for the first time.”

Risk

For the first time, supplier risk management fell out of the top 5 priorities for procurement in North America, although it remained in the top 5 in Europe. While this is probably reflective of the current macro-economic conditions in Europe (Brexit; political instability), it does show a potentially short-sighted approach in North America.

In better economic conditions, it’s easy to let risk fall down the ladder. And with less volatility in America, even with a Presidential election coming up, organisations may have changed their focus. However, as Richard states, now is not the time to take your eye off the ball on risk.

“The more mature procurement organisations are doing a better job of managing supply risk. They realise the cyclical nature of risk and the potential for a downturn, and understand the need to be more prepared. However, there is still a significant component who are tactically focused, and dealing with the current reality, rather than looking ahead.”

Pulse of Procurement

Finally, we asked Richard why procurement professionals should download the Pulse of Procurement report. For Richard, it was as simple as saving yourself time with data analysis, and getting a better view of the world outside your organisation.

“For most organisations, everyone is stretched, doing more with less. People tend to have a myopic view of what’s going on in their organisation, without seeing the bigger picture. They can’t readily benchmark themselves against the wider function.

“The Pulse of Procurement report gives you the chance to have data synthesised for you, and to gain some context as to how you compare to the function overall. This then allows you to see where you are leading and lagging in comparison.”

You can download the Pulse of Procurement report on the Zycus website. For more information on how to be involved with the next Pulse of Procurement survey, contact Zycus.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #4 – Effective Technology Utilisation

Justin Sadler-Smith believes that procurement must improve its technology utilisation, or risk being left behind by the organisation.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Justin Sadler-Smith, Worldwide Sales Leader at IBM, believes that, in the past, procurement’s technology utilisation hasn’t been effective or efficient enough for the profession to access its full value.

Justin also believes that too many procurement professionals and leaders believe they still have time to build capability. However, many don’t realise that technology change, such as cognitive technology, is already upon them, and their technology utilisation needs to improve fast in order to keep pace in the marketplace.

Catch up with all the thought leadership and ours delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

If you want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016, and what we have planned for 2017, you can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today, and connect with over 15,500 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

The Three Laws of Robotics Aren’t. So What Now?

The Three Laws of Robotics, as created by Asimov, don’t exist. But, as we move to a more automated world, should robots and AI fall under greater oversight?

Automation Robotics

Download the latest GEP white paper on the drive to an automated world here

In my previous post on the subject of the coming era of robotic process automation, I mentioned Asimov’s seminal sci-fi work The Caves of Steel. In it Asimov wrote of The City as the dominant force in human lives of the future:

“The City was the acme of efficiency, but it made demands of its inhabitants. It asked them to live in a tight routine and order their lives under a strict and scientific control.”

Asimov’s suggestion that there is a cost to progress might be seen as prophetic, but I think he was just one of a long line of writers who have warned that the future might be a bit ropey if we just pursue change in the name of progress, for its own sake.

But for all his attempts to conjure a dystopian image, Asimov was fundamentally a “technoptimist” with a repeating theme in his stories that progress would ultimately always be positive. In fact, his philosophy of robotics – and his “three laws” – have been so tightly woven into modern culture that it seems we hardly give a thought to the potential threats to our way of life, and perhaps to our lives from the advent of a totally automated future.

An Automated Future

Without labouring the point too much, the Three Laws of Robotics essentially mean that, in Asimov’s world, robots are inherently safe, trustworthy and beneficial. In fact, it is simply impossible to build a robot that does not comply with the three laws, the very architecture of the robotic AI being hard-wired around them.

It is purest fiction, of course, although to speak to some enthusiasts for the subject, Asimov’s Laws really do exist.  But they really don’t, and that could spell trouble.

Life imitating art is all very well, but there is nothing whatsoever to dictate that an automated future can be assured as a “good thing.”

On the same day as I’m writing this piece, there are two news stories on the BBC website. In one, it is announced that robots will be working in two Belgian hospitals as receptionists, guiding visitors to the correct locations.

In the other, we’re told, a researcher at a university in the USA has built a robot that autonomously decides whether to inflict pain and bodily harm on a live human subject.

That the microcode for the two systems could be somehow swapped, or cross-fertilised, is the stuff of real dystopian sci-fi and, whilst highly implausible, it does raise questions about whether some progress is happening without sufficient oversight.

Robotics & Automation in Procurement

There is disquiet in many circles about the use of drones in warfare, and the step from human-operated to robotic drone is really only a matter of systems integration.

There are no Three Laws to guarantee that AI, robots and automation will be to our benefit.  Yet they may very well be.

There are grounds to be hugely optimistic about what technology can do for us, from carbon capture and storage, to non-polluting safe transportation, to dramatically improved health and longevity in the poorest parts of the world.

Even in our little corner of the world we call Procurement, the sky’s the limit if we want to pursue automation. The potential to dramatically transform how we operate is very great indeed, and only a matter of investment and a few person-years of effort out of our reach.

But in all of this, it seems to me, it is we who should direct and dictate how that progress is delivered and what it actually does.   Instead of being passive consumers and falling in line with the next developments, which may substantially change our working lives, the procurement industry has an opportunity to map out what the future could and should look like, and how we want the machines to work. For us.

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Robotics are the future, and the sky’s the limit for automation in Procurement, 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.

The Fear of Technology in Hospitality

Legacy systems and poor past user experiences are creating a fear around technology in the hospitality industry.

Technology Fear Hospitality

“I think it’s difficult for technology to get to the top of the list of things to do next” said Jane Pendlebury, CEO of HOSPA, in our recent roundtable on the topic of technology in hospitality. And with that, she nailed what I had been dealing with ever since InstaSupply started.

There is always something more pressing that needs attention before looking at a tech solution. Even if that tech solution will save you, or make you the money to pay for that other pressing something.

There’s this fear of the unknown that’s keeping a lot of hospitality businesses stuck in the past and relying on tools and systems that for a lot of other industries became obsolete years ago.

Hospitality Lacking Information

Lack of information and education is a key factor here. Peter Hancock, CEO of Pride of Britain Hotels, rightly pointed out that most people involved in the running of a hospitality business aren’t necessarily the “tech-iest” of individuals.

Experience with older systems and their tendency to create rather than solve problems has left a bitter taste in a lot of mouths. Couple that with expensive upgrades that weren’t made clear at the start of the contract and we have an added layer of mistrust.

The result of all this is an industry that’s still heavily reliant on paper, lacking transparency on spending and full of overworked staff. Front of house staff not only have to ensure their guests enjoy a great experience but in many cases handle a lot of finance and procurement tasks that are absolutely outside their job description.

Lightening the Workload

Technology is created to help lighten the workload and improve productivity, not to take away jobs or swindle businesses out of money because they don’t understand what it does.

Just as a washing machine will handle a lot more clothes and get them done a lot better and a lot quicker than you would by hand, so too will the right technology remove manual data entry, managing 145,789 spreadsheets and let you know exactly what you are spending and on what in real time.

Watch our full discussion on the fear of tech here:

InstaSupply is all about working smarter and simplifying business through technology.

InstaTalks are about bringing great minds together and uncovering where the fear of tech comes from when it comes to business operations.

Finding out what the pain points are and then educating people in plain language. No jargon, no small print. It’s time to understand that technology is a revenue generator, not a budget sinkhole.