Procurement leaders have emerged from the pandemic stronger and smarter thanks to the recent development of next-gen tools such as AI and automation to support strategic goals and build resilient organizations.
To explore this technology in the evolving role of procurement leaders, Sourcing Industry Group (SIG) recently brought together Kate Seagriff, Director of Strategic Sourcing at TripActions, and Aurelie Krau, Travel Consultant at Festive Road, to discuss the topic with SIG President and CEO Dawn Tiura.
The webinar "Building Resilient Procurement Organizations with Travel & Expense Technology" pushed the audience to reexamine whether they have the tools to scale business growth, gain real-time visibility on spend, and show value by driving continuous improvement.
The Evolving Relationship Between Procurement and Technology
As the panelists explained, procurement functions are becoming the cornerstone of organizations as cross-business optimization and efficiencies grow in importance. The role of spend analytics and the procurement function has further shifted against the backdrop of a changing global economy influenced by the fourth industrial revolution, the localization of the value chain, and increasing consumer demands from mass customization and personalization.
Procurement is entering a new era of increasing complexities in which traditional measures of success such as cost savings are no longer the sole focus.
Instead, and as reported in the Deloitte 2021 CPO Survey, "changing business dynamics and increasing layers of complexity" and corresponding "expectations" are transforming the way the industry thinks and acts.
For example, new and more challenging areas such as "climate change, geopolitical stability," and "increasing societal expectations" are now part of the new equation.
The introduction of these emerging variables is causing organizations to re-examine their digital transformation strategies, including how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help them address the industry's challenges.
The SIG Survey
In 2021 SIG surveyed 100 procurement professionals from Fortune 500 and Global 1000 organizations on digital transformation and AI in procurement.
Based on the results, it is clear that those responding to the survey believe that "procurement's priorities lie with how AI technology can streamline the roles and processes to deliver meaningful and sustainable results."
Unfortunately, and despite the opportunity for more significant gains, the survey reports that "several obstacles" make it difficult for organizations to "bridge the divide" between the promise of digital AI and the realization of its optimal benefits.
Crossing the Divide
Understanding the importance of AI and identifying the challenges with realizing its potential to redefine and empower procurement to achieve critical objectives is the first step to crossing the aforementioned divide.
Mary Zampino, Vice President – Content, Research & Analytics
I often say one of the most satisfying things about my work in procurement is experiencing the diversity across our client base. At WNS Denali, we support Procurement teams across all industries and regions. The way we partner with each client is unique and because each organization has its own challenges specific business objectives, we strive for total business alignment. That requires embracing all the nuances.
With a business-aligned approach, we dive into the core of what makes each client tick. What are the business’s main priorities and what is driving growth? What do stakeholders care about most? What is the business culture like? How are end-users influenced and inspired to drive compliance?
Not surprisingly, we see some notable trends within industries. Across our high-tech industry clients, whether they be software developers, high-tech manufacturing firms, data centers, or other high-growth, innovative organizations, a few key themes influence the solution model:
Alpar Kamber, Executive Vice President & Head Procurement Services, WNS Denali
2020 created a unique situation for businesses and significant learnings from the unforeseen circumstances of the pandemic. 2021 will be the year these learnings are put into action. Internally, this may mean updates to standard operating procedures, workflows and other processes to better prepare for the unforeseen. The explosion in online training and the expected increase in budgets will offer more opportunities. Businesses with a well-trained workforce will have a competitive advantage.
Training is perhaps more critical in 2021 than in years’ past. It is well known that a comprehensive training and development program empowers employees and improves retention. According to LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning report, 51% of learning and development experts will be launching upskilling programs while 43% will be reskilling their teams. So much has been learned across industries, disciplines, etc, that it will be critical for not only the Procurement organization to be an active participant in training but Marketing, Accounting, Manufacturing, Supply chain, etc.
Streamlined Procurement can be Part of the Solution
Across organizations, departments are being challenged to do more with fewer resources. As a result, finding the time to participate in training sessions becomes more difficult. Establishing a priority for what training is most important becomes a challenge. Finding ways to make company-wide processes easier lowers the burden on the individual department in 2 ways. First, simpler technology or processes eliminates the need for formal training sessions, and an easier process saves time and encourages user engagement.
To be able to see where you’re headed, you’ve got to look back at where you’ve been.
I just looked back at my December 2019 blog post and I was spot on, but for all the wrong reasons. I predicted that we would continue to elevate the role of strategic sourcing, broader adoption of technology, and a focus on upskilling sourcing and procurement teams.
I did not predict that a global pandemic would make the world talk about “supply chains,” albeit with a focus on toilet paper, Clorox wipes and a shortage of personal protective equipment. People came to realize that strategic sourcing professionals were the heroes who protected their sources of supply or quickly adapted to secure new sources.
While the pandemic continues to rule our lives in one way or another, we still see shortages on components for home gym equipment, bicycles and even casters for home office chairs. So, while some supply chains still have issues, many industries are experiencing a boom year and outpacing sales over any year in the past.
Looking back at the news of this year, many of us vaguely remember the Australian bushfires, and I distinctly remember racing go karts when news broke that Kobe Bryant died. I know some people were distracted by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle walking away from the royal life and Parasite swept the Oscars. This was all immediately non-news and forgotten quickly when the pandemic became a reality. (Personally, I am glad of one “trend” that did not last through the pandemic, which was padded shoulders and puffy sleeves.)
2020 was a great year for thought leadership sharing as everyone suddenly experienced the same issues all at once. Many of the innovations and trends we saw emerge will continue to be essential as we move to 2021. To keep you informed, we bring you a round-up of the top webinars of the year!
5 Procure-to-Pay Trends to Watch in 2020
With the new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to take a look at look at the future of procure-to-pay (P2P).
Industry-leading procurement technology has one job: providing a robust yet easy-to-use system for transforming needed goods and services into value for a company so that it can excel at its own business.
SIG is always asking our event attendees, current and future members, and readers about their current issues and concerns. I have been tracking and analyzing their responses for almost 10 years now. While cost savings and value-add remain consistent and strong priorities, there's no doubt many are very concerned about meeting pandemic-related needs.
We are blessed to have a community of thought leaders and generous, experienced professionals who are willing to share their experiences and describe their wins.
We offer the following resources in your quest for COVID-19 related items specific to sourcing, procurement, and workforce management. SIG members can continue to search for related articles here.
In the resources listed here, you can learn how to set up crow's nest and a war chest, hear how Sprint/T-Mobile are managing the crisis using AI for their spend analytics, specific procurement best practices for today's market, how technology enhances continuity in your workforce and what happens if and when this is "all over." Plus, so much more.
SIG University Certified Intelligent Automation Professional (CIAP) Program graduate Daryl Hammett discusses the three key questions organizations should ask when framing technology decisions in procurement functions to best suit their business needs.
While legacy resource planning systems are key to all global supply chains, they are also cumbersome, expensive and not designed to support the type of relational data businesses deal with to drive decisions.
Procurement organizations are thinking more often about innovating old processing systems. What areas have inherent risks in innovating? To what degree do we change? How do we manage it? Who do we get involved? A lot of attention is focused on getting the results from innovation and change, especially those associated with people. Most companies have implemented procedures to manage and grow innovation, but I believe one of the most under-analyzed risks in innovation, and one that could be the biggest threat going unaddressed today, is the risk of group think in implementing change in procurement teams.
Shirley is a Vice President on the Business Process Services team with Everest Group. In this role, she advises senior stakeholders of global services including enterprises, service providers and investors in their strategic mandates and initiatives. She shares her take on the digital transformation – what companies need to do to stay relevant and the trends she’s seeing in the market and the industry. Shirley will share her expertise on this topic at the Midwestern Regional SIGnature Eventin March and the Eastern Regional SIGnature Event in September.
Your presentation at the Midwestern Regional SIGnature Event is about buying digital services for your enterprise--why is this such an important topic?
Digital transformation is impacting entire business value chains. Companies that do not have a plan to migrate from traditional models to focus on digitally led solutions will become irrelevant and obsolete. How organizations approach the building of their digital capabilities can result in real market differentiation, and a large part of that strategy depends on how they partner with global service providers and vendors.
The swift evolution of the digital landscape means procurement and sourcing teams must understand the implications of buying digital services so they can support their business and functional customers in obtaining the best outcomes from their digital strategies.
Edward J. Hansen brings more than 20 years of experience representing clients in technology transactions that involve significant business change. If you’ve attended a SIG Summit, then you are likely familiar with Ed and his work. In addition to being an active speaker at industry conferences, he has authored and presents the “terms and conditions” module of the SIG University certification program, regularly conducts contracting master classes (including for SIG’s Executive Immersion Program), serves on the advisory board of the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network, and is a regular guest lecturer at New York University’s Executive Master of Business Administration program.
You have a lot of experience representing clients in technology transactions. What are some examples of how technology has changed or impacted the way you approach your job?
The technology in place at any given time actually has little impact on how I approach my job. What does impact my job is the fact that the technology landscape when the deal is two years old may not be the same as it was when we went out to RFx.
I started working in the technology space in 1993 and spent almost a decade working with companies who were undertaking reengineering efforts. What I learned, mostly through trial and error, is that the process you go through in procuring and contracting for transformational technology is at least as important as the contract that emerges. Because of the velocity of change, the relationship you form during the process is often what carries the deal, and the contract has to reflect that.