Lucy Ruck leads Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce. These are her eight steps towards more inclusive tech procurement.

Procuring the right technology that works for everyone and drives value can be challenging. Here are eight steps to consider. 

Introducing accessible and inclusive technology can deliver huge benefits for your organisation and for your disabled staff and customers. These include improved employee and customer retention, greater productivity and innovation, a positive brand reputation and improved compliance. 

Yet, with so many new and emerging technologies on the market, how can you be sure that you are procuring tech that meets the needs of everyone?

Making the case for inclusive tech

Developing an inclusive procurement strategy, whether for tech or any other aspect of your organisation always begins at the same point – the need to understand and make the case for inclusion. 1 in 4 people in the UK has a disability, with the majority of disabilities being not immediately visible. This means that many of your customers and employees will no doubt be living with one or more disabilities. Therefore, purchasing tech that improves the experiences of disabled people rather than creating additional barriers is vital. 

However, when budgets are stretched and procurement teams are facing competing demands, it is often the cost argument that can be the most persuasive. By law, organisations are legally responsible for ensuring the accessibility of any technology they procure and distribute to their employees and customers. If this has not been considered then an organisation may be discriminating against disabled people without even realising it. An example could be a new website that is incompatible with screen reader technology often used by people who are blind or who have sight loss.

If accessible alternatives were not built in from the outset, then some costly retrofitting may be needed. With the cost of retrofitting estimated to be up to 100 times more than building in accessibility from the beginning, the cost argument is clear. Obviously, fixes and patches will still be needed for technology that you introduced in the past but, whenever possible, it makes more sense to start with technology that is inclusive by design. 

Inclusive technology procurement 

So, how do you now turn your commitment to inclusive tech procurement into a workable strategy? Here are some steps to consider. 

1. Consider signing up to the Accessible Technology Charter

This affirms your organisation’s commitment to accessible technology. Commitment 9 covers procurement and states: “We will require, help and encourage our technology supply partners to develop and deliver accessible products and services. We will formally consider accessibility in all our procurement decisions. We will purchase solutions which are as accessible as possible.”

2. Commit to accessible procurement

Make a formal public commitment to procure accessible technology through an executive declaration. This will help to establish commitment and persuade any reluctant colleagues about the importance of accessible technology in the organisation. It will also give procurement teams the authority to prioritise inclusion in their purchasing decisions. 

3. Establish your needs

Establish your needs around assistive technology through consultation with employees and customers. This can involve surveys, focus groups made up of members from your disability network, feedback on the implementation of any workplace adjustments, as well as feedback from training and recruitment processes and user testing. 

4. Detailed, specific information for suppliers

Create a detailed specification for suppliers. Be specific with suppliers from the beginning about how the technology needs to work for disabled users. Terms like ‘accessible’ and ‘inclusive’ can mean different things to different people, so define what you mean by detailing what functionality is needed from any tech solution. 

5. Ask the right questions. 

Business Disability Forum has created a basic list of questions to ask suppliers when purchasing technology. As you gain greater levels of understanding as to the needs of your organisation and its disabled users, you can expand on these questions, tailoring them to suit your circumstances.

6. Partner with the right stakeholders

Involve the right people in the selection process. Get colleagues with knowledge of digital accessibility involved in analysing and awarding bids. 

7. Test appropriately 

User test for accessibility. Make sure disabled users test any technology throughout the procurement process. Testing with the appropriate users will much more effectively uncover problems or pain pain points than not.

8. Check on performance

Continue to monitor products to make sure they are meeting the accessibility standards agreed with the supplier. If they are not, work with the supplier to help them improve their knowledge and to develop a solution. You may want to put contracts on hold while this happens or even consider terminating a contract if the issue cannot be fixed.

Procurement’s potential to deliver strategic wins for the business is being hampered by slow adoption of digital tools and platforms.

Arnaud Malarde, Smart Procurement Expert at Ivalua, explores the need for procurement departments to digitise their operation in order to meet the evolving demands of the business. 

Over recent years, increasingly connected supply chains have exposed businesses to a wide range of geopolitical risks. As a result, the procurement department has become instrumental in helping businesses to tackle their greatest challenges. Whether it’s reducing supply shortages, curbing inflationary impact, or mitigating disruption from global black swan events – a high functioning procurement department is more important than ever.

But the procurement function is currently being held back by a chronic lack of digitisation. Research shows that procurement leaders say less than half (47%) of current procurement and supplier management processes have been digitised. Organisations are also wasting more than a fifth (22%) of their time dealing with manual or paper-based procurement processes. Half of procurement leaders (50%) recognise the issue, saying the rate of digitisation within procurement is too slow. Every organisation needs to evaluate their procurement digitisation progress, and ensure transformation is a top priority.

Procurement can help organisations react to future challenges, and ensure the business is on track to achieve ESG standards. But for this to happen, digitisation is essential.

The old ways are not always the best

The time to digitise processes was yesterday – as it’s already having a serious impact on the businesses which haven’t. A lack of digitisation wastes time through drawn out, manual tasks. Not only this, but it also limits organisations’ ability to make quick, informed decisions regarding their suppliers. After all, if procurement teams are bogged down in low-value tasks, and can’t access information quickly through digitised procurement solutions, how can they be expected to make informed decisions quickly?

Inflation currently remains high and for most, the economic outlook is uncertain. But, a lack of digitisation is also preventing organisations from tackling rising inflation and spiralling costs. Procurement teams need granular visibility into current supplier data. Without it, it’s easy for inefficiencies to pile up. As a result, businesses miss opportunities to identify savings through initiatives like early payment terms.

What’s more, slow digitisation is making it almost impossible to attract and retain the best talent for 41% of procurement leaders – creating more disruption for procurement teams in the long run, as they lose talent to more tech-savvy competitors.

Businesses need to act fast to utilise the full potential of digitising procurement processes. This will help drive savings and improve efficiency. Not only this, but it will also reduce risk at a time when curbing needless spend is crucial.

Don’t let AI pass you by

Businesses that remain reluctant on procurement digitisation are putting themselves at a disadvantage today. Not only that, but they are sabotaging their efforts in the future as well. By failing to digitise processes, businesses will be unable to make use of emerging technologies further down the line.

AI can be the catalyst for procurement transformation, with clear use cases for automating spend (re)classification, supplier deduplication databases, contract risk analysis, and invoice data capture. In fact, 63% of procurement leaders say they have already implemented or plan to implement AI or machine learning technology.

But to harness these technologies in full, it’s important to build a solid data foundation. To do this, 85% of organisations revealed they have implemented or are planning to implement data analytics within the procurement and supplier management function. But just 30% said they are “very confident” in the quality and accessibility of their supplier data when it comes to supporting effective procurement. Poor-quality data will limit the insights produced by AI and prevent organisations from achieving its full benefits. Organisations need access to actionable data insights into their supply chain processes.

Achieving this starts with digitisation. Businesses must take a smarter approach to procurement, which builds a solid and reliable data foundation that will inform decision making. This will help reduce the risk of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ and ensure organisations are on track to make the most of any emerging technologies.

AI-dapt or perish

To ensure their place in the future, businesses must digitise now. This will not only be fundamental to removing the tedium of manual, paper-based tasks – but also to put them at the forefront of the procurement AI revolution. To do this though, they must walk before they can run, taking a smarter approach to procurement that builds a solid data foundation for transformation.

After all, those who can transform quickly will be able to spend more time on high value tasks and improve visibility into suppliers to reduce risk or identify opportunities. This will help them catch up with other businesses and give them the edge over competitors.

Could the added resilience and holistic oversight offered by an Integrated Business Planning approach make it an alternative to S&OP for procurement teams?

The nature of procurement is changing. In response to contextual forces, technological adoption, and growing complexity, the procurement function is being pressured to become more agile, resilient, and more strategic

As a result, older approaches to business planning are starting to feel inadequate. Sales & Operations (S&OP) based procurement has been employed widely throughout the industry for years. Now, some argue, meeting the challenges of the modern procurement environment requires a fresh approach. 

In a recent episode of the Supply Chain Management podcast, Ben Sellers, a business advisor for Oliver Wight, argues that the time may be right for the industry to shift to a new, more modern approach called Integrated Business Planning (IBP).

Many procurement functions with an S&OP approach, he argues, struggle to plan for “easy-to-predict tasks, let alone for more complicated or unknown disruptions”. IBP solves that problem by more effectively preparing organisations to pivot when necessary. Also, the approach supposedly creates a more holistic understanding of the procurement process between traditionally siloed departments. Not only that, but it emphasises constant reevaluation and updating of the planning procedure. “Two-year planning cycles need to be updated monthly and even in some cases weekly or daily,” Sellers argues. 

What is IBP? 

Integrated business planning is an approach that uses software tools and a platform approach to integrate and streamline all aspects of the business planning process. This includes procurement, manufacturing, distribution, and sales. 

Using clever AI tools, an IBP tool can pull data from multiple areas of the business. It can then process it, and display the results through a single platform. This greatly improves the procurement team’s ability to understand the needs of the business. Not only that, but it also creates essential visibility into external forces that may create pain points outside company walls. 

According to Sellers, “it often takes a crisis for a company to acknowledge a different approach is needed.” IBP, on the other hand, enables good management and leadership and through constant evaluation ensures the company is positioned properly for change.

As the day-to-day nature of the procurement function continues to change, so too will the skills required of procurement professionals.

From backroom buyers to boardroom “orchestrators of value”, the procurement workforce is undergoing just as radical a transformation as the function that they perform.

Less visible—-or framed as a labour shortage—than the adoption of new technologies and methodologies is the fact that, while procurement teams may have adequate staff and skills to address the demands of the industry today, very few procurement leaders are confident in their talent’s ability to meet the future demands of the function—just 14% according to a recent Gartner report. 

The procurement skills shortage 

CPOs are increasingly facing a shortage of skills as procurement becomes increasingly saturated with complex technologies requiring a minimum level of technological know-how to make the most of newly adopted technology like advanced data analytics. 

This would be enough of a problem by itself, but Gartner’s study found that technology was far from the only at-risk area with regard to the gap between current ability and future demand. A staggering 96% percent of respondents reported at least a small gap in their needs for technology and data skills, while 86% reported the same when it came to business acumen.

“Procurement leaders are aware that the competencies required to drive transformation are different from traditional procurement skills, and that there are significant gaps between their current and future needs for the most important competencies,” said Fareen Mehrzai, Senior Director Analyst in Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice.

According to Scott Berkman, chief procurement officer at Elior North America, the answer lies not in seeking to hire staff with the technology and business acumen necessary to meet future need, but rather identifying employees with the ability to acquire those skills with proper development and training, as well as the right attitude and approach to the role. 

Hire for the DNA, train for the skill

“On the procurement side, it’s DNA. You hire for DNA and train for skill,” he said in a recent interview.  

Communication, curiosity, and the ability to function within a team are all key criteria for a good potential hire, Berkman added. However, he also noted “there is competition for talent, so based on that, in the hiring process, you have to be able to offer a differentiating environment.” Offering training on new technologies should be seen for the win-win that it is. By doing so, organisations allow procurement professionals to strengthen their skillset while also meeting the evolving needs of the business. 

The CPO of a technology company, interviewed as part of McKinsey’s 2024 procurement industry report, noted that “Procurement professionals are going to need to be much more digitally fluent, so that they can learn from the data that is available to them. Just figuring out what are the right questions to ask the data is something that more and more supply chain professionals are becoming adept at, and that’s really going to help people be more surgical in making selections, measuring supplier performance, and building future plans.”

At the same time, developing the business acumen side of things in order that procurement can step into the function’s increasingly strategic role successfully. Whatever technology, skill, or strategic competency CPOs need to ensure their function can handle the demands of the decade to come, however, McKinsey’s report emphasises the need to “gain, retain, and develop talent.” 

Both public and private entities are turning to digital procurement marketplaces over the traditional direct interaction approach.

The increasing movement of private enterprises and, more slowly it’s true, public sector organisations’ IT systems to the cloud is driving a significant shift in the way that the procurement, sourcing, and tender processes work. 

“Dramatic changes in the global economy, ongoing supply chain disruptions, the rise of a highly distributed workforce and the rapid digitalization of the consumer have pushed organisations to adapt swiftly and evolve to survive – not just from a procurement perspective but also their core business model,” said Kahly Berg, Senior VP, Digital Experiences, at SAP SE, reflecting on the findings of a 2022 survey and noting that “the digital marketplace is here to stay.”

The digital marketplace is “here to stay”

By this year, the majority of procurement professionals (54%) told SAP that they wanted to be buying goods and services primarily online, either through a vendor’s own site or a digital marketplace, with 44% of respondents citing a “one-stop shop for multiple vendors” as the most important feature in a digital marketplace.

More and more, public procurement divisions are turning to digital marketplaces, like AWS Marketplace, for a more competitive and cost-effective sourcing landscape. 

AWS Marketplace functions as a digital repository of third party cloud based software, made up of business applications, reporting tools, and migration utilities. Hosting more than 2,000 independent software vendors offering more than 12,000 products, the platform serves as a comprehensive resource for public sector procurement.

According to Jim Helou, worldwide leader of business development for AWS Marketplace public sector, there is a widespread push among states, cities, and counties in the US to transition their primary applications from on premises data centres to cloud platforms

In meeting that need, the AWS Marketplace has emerged as a crucial middle man between public sector entities and service providers. Simplifying product exploration is central to this effort, with the platform’s landing page providing IT directors with a user-friendly interface to navigate its extensive catalogue. 

Moreover, the Marketplace significantly expedites the timeline for researching, purchasing, and provisioning software. Procurement, often a daunting task within the public sector, is notably streamlined through Marketplace, reducing the procurement process by close to 50%. 

Digital transformation can break down barriers and improve procurement’s ability to collaborate across the ecosystem.

Collaborative procurement is one of those ideas that, on the surface, sounds so obvious it’s hardly worth talking about. Of course procurement is collaborative. Obviously, the relationships built up throughout your value chain can significantly impact your organisation’s performance. It goes without saying allowing the relationships and mechanisms of collaboration within your supply chain to degrade is bad. If left unattended, it can hurt your business outcomes, increase costs, and expose you to risk. 

Collaborative procurement: not as easy as it sounds

However, just because something is obvious, doesn’t mean it doesn’t bear a second look. Just because something appears to be working, doesn’t mean that a new approach wouldn’t be beneficial. 

The procurement sector is undergoing a profound transformation. Procurement teams are evolving away from the backroom, transactional function of years past. What’s emerging it something new—something streamlined, agile, strategically responsible, and digitally integrated. The role of the CPO is changing, too. 

“The CPO is not only the chief procurement officer anymore, but the chief partnership officer as well—partnerships externally with suppliers and internally with other functions and business units—with procurement being a knowledge broker, creating value from the collaboration between inside and outside of the company,” the CPO of a large industrial company wrote in response to a recent survey by McKinsey & Company. Collaboration is not only in direct collaboration with an external network of suppliers, but it also serves as a porous membrane to facilitate collaboration between the business and its ecosystem. 

Digital transformation is impacting procurement’s ability to analyse large data sets with machine learning and AI. These next-generation tools also help manage risk, predict trends, and automate repetitive, error-prone tasks. Perhaps more importantly, there is also room for technology to improve the ways procurement collaborates within and without the business. 

The benefits of collaboratively approaching procurement 

Collaborative procurement can reduce costs, improve quality, increase innovation, and enhance relationships between procurement and its suppliers and partners. 

Mike Edmunds, Managing Director at Trade Interchange, argues that “accepting sub-par methods of communication and collaboration, and allowing these to negatively impact your process and consequently your company’s success, simply doesn’t make sense.” 

Collaborative procurement can be digitally transformed with a variety of tools. These can range from cloud-based platforms that support real-time communication, as well as document and data management, to e-procurement systems like SAP Ariba, which automate and streamline procurement processes. Adoption of these management platforms and communications tools is nothing new. However, they are often underutilised in service of collaborative procurement. 

Whether implementing simple tools or AI-powered automation, determining the goals of the collaborative digital transformation is essential.  Edmunds writes that, “the impact of effective collaboration is extensive, rippling throughout a business in order to nurture a success-driven environment in which great achievements can be accomplished.” However, he adds that “It is as much a mindset, a determination, as it is a phenomenon to be assisted through external assets like technology and software.” 

The EU is implementing new digital tools to enable system-to-system communication across a wide range of member states’ eProcurement systems.

New digital tools put in place by the European Union Commission are “opening up the European public procurement market,” according to a statement made by the commission. In order to create “a more competitive landscape” for public spending, the Commission has implemented CEF eDelivery, a technology agnostic solution based on AS4. AS4 gateways make it possible to exchange tender information between the different eProcurement systems.  

The implementation will, the Commission hopes, lead to “better quality and better prices for contracting authorities and taxpayers.” 

Public authorities in the EU spend approximately €2 trillion per year on public procurement. This accounts to approximately 14% of the collective member states’ GDP, and almost 30% of government expenditure. 

Over the last five years, there has been a “steady rise” in the level of procurement process digitalisation throughout Europe. 

The goal of this sweeping digital transformation is that federal, regional, and local contracting authorities and businesses have access to multiple online procurement services. Not only this, but the new tools are making sure that procurement departments throughout Europe can manage the tendering process electronically. 

These digitalisation efforts would, the commission hoped, deliver cost savings, shorten and simplify processes, reduce red tape and administrative burdens, increase innovation and provide new business opportunities for SMEs. 

Public procurement in the EU remains fragmented

However, a recent study by the Commission found that despite the fact that public calls for tender from across Europe are aggregated into a single platform, direct cross-border procurement accounted for only 3.5% of the total value of contracts between 2009 and 2015. 

“How can we explain such a low number? Well, if we take a closer look, there are a number of reasons including language, local regulation, knowledge of local markets but also we can see that the digitization of procurement has actually created new barriers for cross-border procurement,” wrote a spokesperson for the Commission in a statement. The Commission’s investigations uncovered a lack of interoperability between different member states’ procurement systems. 

As a result, the implementation of CEF eDelivery has reportedly standardised the way eProcurement systems communicate. As a result, the Commission claims, this has “made life easier for both suppliers and contracting authorities who can now exchange information and messages throughout the procurement process while using their own systems.” The hope is that by creating better links between different countries’ back end systems, the EU Commission’s new tools will make public spending fairer and more competitive throughout the region.

Spend management platforms are vital for procurement digital transformation, but many CPOs regret their choice of S2P solution.

Procurement is the most recent of the supply chain functions to undergo a strategic evolution. Sourcing is increasingly recognised as a driver of value for the business as a whole with the ability to drive technology adoption and sustainable reform. 

Digital transformation is no longer optional in procurement. Technology adoption is a  prerequisite to success over time, especially at scale. Demand for procurement technology platforms and solutions is understandably high. As a result, so is the supply. 

Procurement platforms abound 

The growing importance of technology to the procurement process is driving an explosion of “ technology platforms, data providers, and start-ups,” according to researchers at Capgemini. However, while this bountiful supply of new tools, platforms, and potential partners holds the promise of digital transformation success, the profusion is making it “overwhelming for decisionmakers in and outside procurement,” to make the right selection. 

Another report by Forrester found that, while adoption of digital tools in the procurement sector has been widespread and enthusiastic, “many organisations think they are more advanced than they actually are.” 

Forrester’s report warns that, when selecting source-to-pay (S2P) procurement tools, many procurement leaders are failing to properly evaluate their needs and the potential of the software itself. This is a potentially serious hurdle for the sector, as choosing the right tools is critical, and failing to do so can badly hinder transformation. 

They found that numerous organisations struggle with their technology choices. A staggering  82% of respondents who switched procurement platforms regretted the decision and were considering switching again. 

Capgemini notes that, while these S2P platforms are maturing and “offer robust solutions for various businesses,” many organisations are still struggling to realise the value they offer. 

Ecosystem onboarding issues 

One of the key problems for procurement departments implementing new S2P platforms could lie outside the organisation. According to the Forrester report, the top obstacles leading to changing technologies were supplier onboarding followed closely by user adoption. 

The researchers found that an inability to effectively onboard suppliers to a new S2P platform the most common reason for switching software solutions. 

“It is no longer acceptable for selfish CPOs to impose expensive and/or unwieldy software on their suppliers or force them to incur fees or agree to vendor terms,” argues the report. It adds that, in order for the digital transformation of procurement to be successful, the process must be inclusive of suppliers. Steps such as onboarding and responding to RFXs in addition to transactional processes such as ordering and invoicing cannot be neglected. 

Procurement needs better data to drive a more strategic, digitally empowered function, and embracing better principles of data collection can be an effective start.

Reliable data is pivotal in the procurement process. Traditionally, high quality data has helped organisations maintain transparency and fairness throughout the supplier selection process. This helps ensure that bias and corruption have no room to flourish, as well as driving efficiency. 

Increasingly, the more strategic and digitally-driven nature of the procurement function is leveraging big data into more valuable insights. Big data analytics powered by artificial intelligence (AI) are vital when it comes to identifying risk. Analaytics also also critical to predicting trends in complex systems, optimising sourcing strategies, and reducing costs through efficiency. 

However, advanced data analytics are heavily reliant on the quality of the data used to fuel decision-making. The same is very much true for AI, machine learning, and automation. Unfortunately, data quality is an area where procurement teams have historically struggled. Obscurity beyond the first tier of suppliers, siloed information, and even having too much irrelevant data can all undermine the quality and usefulness of your company’s data. 

How do we get better procurement data? 

Better data can drive a more strategic, digitally empowered procurement function. In order to get that data, embracing better principles of data collection can be an effective start. 

First, procurement needs to standardise the ways it reports, collects, organises and stores data. This helps ensure data integrity and quality. Standardised data collection also helps define clear processes and classifications across the organisation. Procurement sits between the organisation and the supplier ecosystem. Therefore, it has the potential to be a major repository of valuable data and even more valuable insights. However, procurement needs to organisae that data in a uniform way. Adopting a common taxonomy can facilitate data reuse, eliminating redundancy and promoting consistency across sources for more accurate insights.

Once data has been standardised, uniting internal and external information, ensuring that the information is accessible is vital. Data that is readily available and digestible fosters a culture where information drives decisions. A centralised, transparent repository where trustworthy information can be readily accessed to support decision-making creates a more agile, resilient procurement function. 

Providing access and training for analytics tools empowers employees with data manipulation skills, while central storage enhances information retrieval. Access controls can safeguard sensitive data, and department-wide cybersecurity training (with regular refresher courses) can help identify red flags and prevent vulnerabilities. 

Lastly, choosing the right data is more important than what you do with it. For efficient procurement strategy execution, understanding organisational goals is a vital step to guiding data collection. 

Rising workloads and skill shortages make procurement a prime candidate for automation. Here are the 7 best places to start.

Procurement is increasingly being asked to exist at the intersection of multiple contradictory trends. 

At a time when procurement leaders are searching for ways to deliver strategic wins and new forms of innovation for the business, the traditional yardsticks for success—reliability and cost containment—have never been more important. Procurement teams are consistently being asked to do more (and more complex) work. Simultaneously, procurement headcounts aren’t rising in step with workloads. 

CPOs are increasingly turning to automation as a way to support existing staff while increasing efficiency, streamlining processes, and managing internal spend. For procurement leaders exploring the potential for automation to alleviate pain points and unlock new strategic wins, we’ve put together the top X use cases for automation in procurement. 

1. Payments 

Manual payment processing, including invoice management, is a common cause of bottlenecks, delays, and data entry errors. The risk of human error and lack of visibility also raise the risk of vendor fraud. 

Robotic process automation can automate payments based on specific triggers. These RPA bots can improve supplier relationship management and maintain a positive business reputation by reducing processing time and errors. By automating the payment process, accounts payable can efficiently and accurately handle payments, record transactions, and store data for subsequent reporting activities such as month-end close and financial reporting.

2. Contract management 

Contract management is another time consuming element of procurement. The ability for RPA tools to automate some of the more time consuming elements of the contract management process can be a huge source of efficiency for procurement teams. 

Contract management automation tools can draft new contracts by automatically extracting vendor information from other sources. They can flag imminent or incipient compliance breaches or contracts that are about to expire. Automating the contract management process can even improve customer satisfaction, as the number of errors and time to delivery go down. 

3. Pricing negotiation 

A large part of the procurement process is cost negotiation between procurement representatives. While the process seems, on the face of it, to be very human-centric, pricing negotiations are actually a prime candidate for automation. Once a procurement department receives a vendor quote, they can use an RPA bot to automatically negotiate prices based on a rules-based framework. Certain pre-programmed criteria determine whether the bot approves, rejects, or negotiates a quote.

4. Repeat orders 

Traditionally, procurement teams would be required to either manually monitor inventory levels across the organisation or wait to be told to reorder stock by other stakeholders. With RPA tools, bots can automatically monitor inventory levels and create purchase orders for the products that are about to be depleted. 

5. Inventory management 

Much like repeat ordering, inventory management automation takes a highly manual and error-prone process and streamlines it. 

Combining RPA tools with IoT devices makes it possible to monitor inventory levels in real time. This then enables automated reporting and inventory audits. For businesses like grocery stores that rely on fresh inventory and need to avoid overloading on perishable produce, having an up-to-date inventory report is crucial. Automated inventory management identifies products lingering in the warehouse, reducing the chances of overstocking perishable items.

6. Supplier onboarding 

Supplier onboarding is a long and necessary process that can consume a lot of valuable time for procurement teams. By using RPA tools, CPOs can automate multiple aspects of the onboarding process. Bots can, for example, scrape supplier information from the web like references and prices, and compile it into a report. 

RPA also has the capacity to conduct a basic evaluation of suppliers based on rule-based decisions. For instance, if a company needs a logistics company with experience moving fragile or unstable materials, and can’t find relevant case studies on the vendor’s website or profile, the vendor may be ranked lower. When done manually, these initial assessments can be time-intensive. By delegating these tasks to RPA bots, procurement teams can focus on more valuable work.

7. Sourcing 

Sourcing is the process of identifying and selecting suppliers to meet the organisation’s needs. Traditionally, sourcing is a highly manual, time-consuming process prone to delays and communication errors. 

A procurement automation platform streamlines this process by providing a centralised portal for supplier communication, bid comparison, and document storage. It also offers insights on price and delivery to ensure procurement teams are able to select the best supplier based on criteria  including, but not limited to, price, reliability, sustainability credentials, and more. Increasingly, automation is allowing AI-enabled solutions to buy and sell products with minimal human intervention and oversight.

Tonkean, provider of AI-powered process orchestration, has confirmed the release of new intake capabilities for procurement teams.

Tonkean has announced the unveiling of Collaborative Intake offering new capabilities for enterprise procurement teams.

The company confirmed the news on Wednesday (April 17th) which will see the introduction of a new suite of capabilities in its ProcurementWorks solution.

Collaborative Intake enables cross-functional, in-workflow collaboration and engagement across every step of the entire intake lifecycle, from intent through resolution.

Tonkean is a first-of-its-kind process orchestration platform that helps enterprise internal service teams. Via Tonkean, users can build processes that are personalised for each requester and that use AI to automate the intake, triage, and resolution of every request.

“Without a proper venue for real-time collaboration, the quality of work suffers,” said Sagi Eliyahu, co-founder and CEO at Tonkean. “Tonkean’s Collaborative Intake ensures procurement is present, responsive, and effective from intent to resolution—transforming a transactional silo into a strategic nexus.”

There are several core new capabilities including contextual, real-time collaboration, dynamic workflow adjustments and omnichannel communication.

Tonkean Collaborative Intake builds on ProcurementWorks, a lifecycle orchestration tool for enterprise procurement teams that Tonkean released last year. ProcurementWorks allows procurement teams to intelligently automate the purchasing process end-to-end. This is also to create guided buying journeys for strategic spending personalisable to end users.

Collaborative Intake empowers procurement teams to provide buying experiences that are even more seamless and effective. The main benefits include proactive engagement, reduce human error and higher quality work.

Read more here.

SourceDay has announced a strategic partnership with industry cloud company Infor to deliver supply chain visibility.

SourceDay has announced a strategic partnership with industry cloud company Infor.

It is expected that the alliance will bridge the gap between ERPs and supplier networks. This will also be while enhancing the efficiency of direct spend purchase order lifecycle management.

Delivering supply chain visibility

As part of the partnership, SourceDay is now an Infor Certified Solution Partner. It will deliver deep, bi-directional technology integration across Infor’s Discrete Manufacturing ERPs. Shared customers can now manage direct material POs proactively and comprehensively from creation to receipt.

SourceDay is a supply chain collaboration platform that integrates with any ERP system to overcome the risks and costs inherent in manual PO lifecycle management processes. It helps manufacturers and distributors achieve supplier on-time delivery rates as high as 96%. This is through providing unmatched visibility and control over inbound supply.

Further, Infor is an official reseller of the SourceDay platform, which validates the SourceDay solution while significantly expanding customer reach.

Strategic partnership

“I’m thrilled to partner with Infor as the supplier collaboration platform of choice for their customers and prospects. This is the culmination of a rigorous process where Infor selected SourceDay based on the quality of our technology and shared commitment to our customers’ success,” said Clint McRee, co-founder of SourceDay. “SourceDay will continue to focus on proactive supplier engagement and data accuracy that today’s supply chain teams require to mitigate risk and unlock next-level business outcomes.”

Mark Humphlett, Industry and Solution Strategy Director at Infor, added: “Infor is focused on creating and sustaining collaborative relationships with partners, such as SourceDay, that have considerable vertical market expertise and are well aligned with our solutions and CloudSuites. This new partnership demonstrates Infor’s continued focus on quality and commitment to its customers.”

Read more about the new partnership here.

Simon Geale, Executive Vice President, Procurement, at Proxima, discusses the art of sense and simplicity despite a significant digital transformation in the space.

Some things change quicker than others.

In procurement’s case, it is speed so fast that the function’s own rulebook is almost being rewritten.

Truthfully, procurement has had to think on its feet. A rough Covid pandemic mixed with navigating the complexity of wars and inflation has been a cumbersome combination. But procurement has not been without help. The acceleration of digital has stepped up to the fore with many functions embracing tech-driven processes in ways previously alien to increase efficiency and decrease costs. Add last year’s buzzword, generative AI, into the mix and procurement is almost unrecognisable. The function isn’t tucked away out of sight anymore, it stands as an important cog in an organisation’s machine.

And having witnessed procurement’s trials and tribulations first-hand is Simon Geale. Having served as Executive Vice President, Procurement, at Proxima since June 2021, he has been involved with the organisation for almost 14 years overall. Geale has worked in procurement for more than two decades and has spent the majority of his career in solutioning roles designing procurement organisations and programmes. 

His company Proxima provides expert procurement services to a comprehensive client list featuring some of the world’s largest organisations. As a part of Bain & Company, Proxima helps its customers spend their money wisely through an extensive suite of procurement consultancy services focused on cost transformation, supply chain sustainability and decarbonisation. “My role is not like a traditional Chief Procurement Officer (CPO), I’m more market-facing,” discusses Geale. “I’m there to communicate what we think, what we say and the services that we build. I essentially keep in touch with our communities and calibrate what we do as business accordingly.”

Simon Geale, Executive VP, Procurement, at Proxima

Sense and Simplicity

Indeed, the procurement world of 2024 is in a vastly different place than it was when Geale first joined. 20 years of digital transformation and evolution have taken place since then. But interestingly, in 2005, in a previous role at Philips Electronics he attended an internal conference where he heard the launch of the tagline ‘Sense and Simplicity’. Given the trajectory procurement has been on since then, how curious is it that ‘Simplicity’ is one of Geale’s key themes of 2024? “I suppose it’s something that’s always stuck with me, that concept of let’s make things that make sense to our customers and are easy to use. We have to think about the value to the customer in everything that we do.

“For example, five or six years ago we had built a supplier management platform and I was trying to sell it within the procurement community. I can remember having many meetings with procurement teams and very few, if any, walked out of that meeting saying this was a bad idea. There was universal enthusiasm for the concept and the feedback was great. But the adoption was low, contingent of driving quite a big organisational and operating change. It was too hard at the wrong time.”

Looking back to move forward

One can learn a lot from the past. Famous scientist Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Indeed, Geale believes that what went before can act as a powerful reminder of how far procurement has come. The general perception of what procurement is and what it does has also shifted over the years and despite clear evolution, Geale affirms the core human elements remain the same. 

“I remember doing a speech on supply collaboration once, and actually some of the best lessons were from the 1990s in automotive,” he explains. “I think topics like relationships, talent, capabilities, skills and digital, they don’t go away. They keep coming back round but the business environment, and our capabilities have moved on. The questions are slightly different, but the theme is the same. It’s easy to dismiss something from 10 years ago and think it’s old news. But it all comes back around and actually, a new innovation could be a learning from the past or a fresh take on something.”

Procurement’s new dawn

Every year, Proxima consults leading CPOs to get their take on the opportunities and challenges in the year ahead in Proxima’s CPO Report. This year’s entry had reflections from the likes of Thomas Udesen, CPO at Bayer, Sandra Brummit, CPO at NiSource and Laura Cook, Director of Procurement at Primark. Having spoken to dozens of CPOs as part of the report over the years, Geale believes a common theme is that the average CPO is juggling having to do more with less resource than five years ago. 

“CPOs might have grown their function, but it’s in response to a much bigger to-do list,” he explains. “They’ve virtually all got big cost targets, a resilience agenda, data and transparency agenda and digital initiatives which means more tech investments within the businesses that they serve. Yes there is more sophisticated tech available to them to help them but they are unlikely to have unlimited budgets.

“They probably need to shift around some skills, balance some external insights to help challenge their thinking, and pick and choose where they need external support. On the positive side procurement is more relevant and better understood than in past times. They’ve likely got an organisation that has a better understanding of who they are and why they partner with them which means they can backtrack on some of the historic processes and red tape and allow for more flexibility and self service. The CPOs that we interviewed are really focusing on trying to get people to spend time and efforts on what really matters.”

Procurement future-focused

In the report, Udesen discussed three core areas that procurement leaders should focus on. Eliminate time consuming tasks, sustainability and learning from mistakes. “Firstly, it’s time to eliminate practices that are consuming too much time and not adding value: think tedious, time-consuming processes that can be eliminated and replaced with more pragmatic and practical measures,” he reveals in the report. “We must continue to adapt and evolve our profession, learning from mistakes of the past, to stay current and applicable to future generations of business challenges.”

As technology’s influence in procurement continues to soar, Geale is in no uncertain terms that the landscape is moving towards a more transparent and connected model for value chains. However, he acknowledges that while a defined movement is underway, change this seismic won’t happen overnight. “The themes that we’re currently looking at around resilience, cost, sustainability and growth are going to be the same because they always have been,” says Geale. “It’s the world that’s changing and themes are staying very similar so it’s how we react to those. Things are going to change around the planet, and we are going to have to react to them. We don’t quite know how much or how yet, but I think it’s going to be fascinating.”

Tom Kieley, CEO and co-founder at SourceDay, discusses his company’s secret sauce and how it has risen to the top of the pile, delivering unified supplier collaboration for manufacturing customers.

Some of the best innovation is born through frustration with existing offerings.

Having built their careers in manufacturing, SourceDay’s founders grew tired of unnecessary costs, increased risk, and wasted time and productivity caused by ineffective supplier communication and incorrect ERP data. This led them to create a solution that would prevent direct materials inventory surprises and unnecessary costs and also rebuild trust between manufacturers, distributors, and their suppliers.

Today, SourceDay is a bi-directionally integrated platform for any ERP where the purchase order (PO) demand is generated. The company delivers 100% of purchase order demand to suppliers through the lifecycle of a PO. This is to ensure that suppliers have no surprises and always have the most real-time, accurate source of truth. An ERP streamlines many of a company’s internal processes, but when it comes to keeping track of critical PO changes in a timely manner, procurement teams are still stuck in manual work, such as spreadsheets, emails, and post-it notes.

By digitising and creating configurable smart rules for PO change management, SourceDay removes up to 80% of the manual procurement work. This is while eliminating the persistent question marks around end-product delivery times and costs. Through seamless integration with a customer’s ERP, SourceDay ensures that every purchase order is delivered to suppliers without fail and allows for true 100% supplier collaboration through a portal, email, or EDI.

With the transformative addition of complete PO visibility, SourceDay doesn’t just enhance existing ERP capabilities. It sets a new bar for PO accuracy and on-time delivery for direct materials procurement. In today’s digital age, embracing such clarity and intelligent use of technology isn’t a luxury; it’s the key to ensuring a business remains agile, robust, and ahead of the curve.

Since its inception, SourceDay has been on a mission to eliminate manual work, production delays, and inbound supply inaccuracies from the procurement lifecycle. In just under a decade, SourceDay went from an idea on a whiteboard in a small office to nearly 300 customers and more than 80,000 suppliers globally who interact through the solution daily.

Tom Kieley, CEO, SourceDay

People are a huge difference-maker

As CEO, Tom Kieley is used to making tough decisions. However, he explains that hiring the best people for the right stage of the journey is the most challenging aspect of the role. Without great team members, a business can’t be successful long-term. While the organisation’s requirements dictate part of the job criteria, finding people who are already equipped with knowledge of the industry and the customer set plays a crucial role in the hiring process.

“We want to deliver value to the customers efficiently and effectively,” he explains. “We’re fortunate we have executives who are visionaries in their fields. They can help carry the business to be the industry-leading solution while disrupting the supply chain technology space.”

Experience across the company

“Hiring people with highly relevant industry experience has been very important. For example, we have former buyers on our sales team. They’ve walked in our customers’ shoes and had to live with the pain that SourceDay solves,” explains Kieley. “We have team members who were manufacturing operators, so they understand the challenges of manufacturing first hand.”

The impact that relying on external suppliers can have on a manufacturer when things aren’t going according to plan is often significant and costly. “A minute, an hour, a day of downtime from a missing part or component drastically impacts the bottom line of manufacturing, which is already a low-margin, highly cash-sensitive organisation.”

Removing the Buyer/Supplier Communication Gap with Unified Supplier Collaboration

A major frustration (and point of risk) in procurement, especially for manufacturers and distributors, is the constant PO line changes impacting production scheduling. Buyers are caught in a nearly no-win situation. They can waste hours they really don’t have manually chasing down and staying on top of changes (hoping they or their supplier didn’t miss something critical) or they can wait until the ERP updates (often the next day) and be behind on time-sensitive decisions.

“There isn’t a manufacturer or distributor who hasn’t felt the painful ripple effect of missing a critical PO change,” says Kieley. “It impacts inventory costs, expedite fees, production and labour schedules, and end-product delivery dates.”

The historical challenge has been the absence of a closed-loop supplier collaboration platform that accounts for supplier workflows as much as buyer workflows. SourceDay has solved this issue with Unified Supplier Collaboration (USC), a simple, yet powerful workflow tool that allows buyers and suppliers to communicate and collaborate through their preferred channel. That can be the SourceDay portal (even without a login or training), an EDI connection, or through normal email communications. The SourceDay solution captures and updates critical PO line changes–in real time–directly into the ERP, retaining a single, accurate source of truth for shipment, demand planning and production scheduling. “With USC, there’s no more supplier surprises, no more guesswork, no more inaccurate ERP procurement data, no more “where’s my part?” and no more ripple effect across the organisation,” Kieley adds.

SourceDay: How everyone benefits

  • Receive and manage timely PO confirmations and changes from suppliers.
  • Find MRP inaccuracies with accurate PO data.
  • Build strong, performance-driven supplier relationships with supplier scorecards.
  • Robust US-based training, onboarding, and support.

Buyers

  • Accurate lead time and MRP data to significantly improve on-time delivery.
  • Increased visibility into KPIs for data-driven decision making: OTD, move-ins/move-out, price changes and more.
  • Streamlined integration and onboarding for speedy time to value.
  • Robust implementation and ongoing support.

IT

  • Quick integration ensures speedy time to value and return on investment.
  • Lightweight IT integration with any ERP.
  • Training done by SourceDay’s team to take pressure off IT teams.

Executives

  • Reduce business risk caused by external suppliers.
  • Decrease customer SLA penalties.
  • Lower average inventory on hand to increase inventory turns.
  • Increase ERP data accuracy for key business decisions.
  • Increase visibility into repeatable and accurate revenue forecasts through improved demand and scheduling data.

COVID-19 drive

The COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 highlighted many inefficiencies in supply chains. Pre-pandemic, the supply chain technology space was limited and there wasn’t much innovation beyond traditional ERPs. Kieley explains that boardrooms were not yet at the stage to buy technology as a “differentiator” and were instead throwing people at the problem. “When the pandemic hit, it really highlighted challenges that had always just been overcome through brute force and people,” reveals Kieley. “You were forced to send everyone home other than essential workers in the warehouse and shop floor. This significantly impacted visibility and communication with critical suppliers.”

The pandemic exposed the gaps that manufacturers and distributors had in their business model, which created a great deal of risk in operations. Kieley illustrates the stark paradox manufacturers were experiencing with and without SourceDay to help keep the lights on. “We had several hundred customers we were able to get data from that showed their buyers never skipped a beat because of SourceDay,” he reveals. “Many customers were able to tell us they were getting 90, 95% on-time delivery even through Covid. In contrast, companies that weren’t using SourceDay ground to a screeching halt for six to 12 months while many of them were trying to get visibility and communication back with their suppliers. Outside of email, everyone was back at home, lost.”

Choosing the best emerging technology

Indeed, technological transformation is a big part of most organisations’ puzzle. With new technology causing significant waves of interest in procurement and supply chain, there is a rush by technology providers to quickly bring technology advances to market, often before actual value delivery has been vetted out. SourceDay has taken a different approach. The company has bypassed some hotly discussed emerging technologies because of the low impact to customer success.

One area of tech SourceDay has researched and tested extensively is artificial intelligence (AI). Properly utilised, AI has the potential to drive millions of unnecessary manual hours out of the procurement process. “We’ve added strategic experts from supply chain and data science backgrounds to deliver more solution value to customers. This is more proactive visibility, change tracking, and analytics; information that used to live in error-prone spreadsheets and email or was otherwise unusable,” explains Kieley.

Gen AI drive

One of the biggest crazes of the past few years has been generative AI. Since the rise of OpenAI’s ChatGPT model, leaders have been rushing to find ways to leverage chatbots into their processes. But, it comes with risks attached because large language models are not always reliable and often incorporate made-up data.

In contrast, Kieley explains that SourceDay’s data set solves the accuracy problem with AI. “The problem is that gen AI models are often opinions and points of view that are not always factual,” reveals Kieley. “Our dataset is factual and action-derived. It reflects what has happened in the past on a supplier’s ability to hit on-time delivery, price changes, quality, responsiveness, ability to ship on time in full, and all of the components that happen through those transactions that again, otherwise existed in email or voice that were uncaptured. As a result, our AI is able to use fact-positive historical data to provide insights and recommendations to customers.”

Customer case study: Chatsworth Products (CPI)

Chatsworth was facing a number of supplier-related challenges with their Epicor ERP, all of which centred around how they were managing the process of acquiring parts and raw materials. They predominantly relied upon email, phone calls, faxes, and spreadsheets to manage supplier communication, none of which facilitated visibility or easy tracking.

As a result, before working with SourceDay, Chatsworth’s suppliers were chronically late delivering materials. The manufacturer had to amass significant buffer stock to keep production going. After watching a demo of the SourceDay platform at an Epicor user group, Chatsworth immediately knew they needed this solution to resolve supplier issues.

SourceDay enabled Chatsworth to improve supplier collaboration to such an extent that on time delivery (OTD) went up to 90%. In doing so, the company was able to shift to a just-in-time model and reduce on-hand WIP inventory needs by 66%. This allowed 90% of warehouse space to be freed up and converted to a manufacturing floor.

Chatsworths’ Products Senior Director of Materials and Logistics said: “Three years ago, we were living in chaos. Now, with our hyper-growth and with the new tool, I can’t remember the last time we were short a part.”

Not only did SourceDay help minimise risk impacting Chatsworth’s business, but the benefits allowed them to optimise factory operations to drive more revenue through production.

Eye on the future

Looking ahead, Kieley is optimistic about the upcoming years at SourceDay. Having achieved considerable success in a relatively short time, he is showing no signs of slowing down amid an exciting time for procurement and supply chain. “Our future is bright. We have built strategic partnerships with organisations that are additive to our platform and/or we are additive to their platform,” he says. “It’s vital in helping SourceDay reach a bigger market and start going more global. Today, most of our customers are in North America.

“There’s truly nobody doing this in the way we do it. And explicitly, I think groundbreaking, transformational technology for manufacturers and distribution companies enables them to succeed in otherwise challenging environments. Global conflicts are becoming an increasing challenge to supply chains. If you’re shipping into parts of Europe today, you’re having to spend 25% or 30% more. Technology is here to stay in this space, and there’s not enough awareness of our platform. We’re about the specific supply chain procurement market we’ve created and solved. For us now, it’s about building awareness in the manufacturing and distribution verticals and helping organisations to thrive.”

In keeping with new EU deforestation legislation, new pilot programs trace soybeans throughout large agricultural companies’ supply chains.

US-based agricultural goods trader Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) has introduced a new level of digitally driven transparency into its procurement process. The company loaded and shipped the first vessels of verified, fully traceable soybeans from the US to Europe in January.

Regulatory pressure to increase transparency  

ADM initiated the pilot program in order to adhere to new EU regulations. Introduced in 2023, the regulations prohibit contact with deforestation in organisations’ supply chains. ADM reports the program traced the passage of 2.4 million bushels (64,000 tonnes) of verified soybeans to Europe. 

“While there are still issues—including how full compliance will be defined, measured and enforced—to work through in advance of the EU’s deforestation regulations, we are confident in our ability to continue to deliver to customers in Europe,” said Jon Turney, ADM’s vice president, EMEA Crush. The tracing program utilises a mixture of digital technology, according to ADM. They revealed that this includes FBN’s Gradable digital platform. Next, ADM applies the digital stack to its origination and transportation capabilities. The result is an allegedly successful attempt to verify, trace and segregate participating beans from farms to their final destination.

“At ADM, our future and success depend on the farmers we work with and for, which is why we’re committed to helping support their businesses and their legacies by ensuring that global markets remain open to U.S. agricultural products,” said Matt Hopkins, ADM’s vice president of North America River and Export.

100% transparency from bean to customer

ADM representatives say that the company intends to deliver a 100% deforestation-free supply chain by 2025. The company claimed in 2022 that it can trace 100% of its soybean suppliers in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. 

Scope 3 emissions are coming under closer scrutiny throughout multiple industries. This is especially true in the agricultural sector. Soybean producers in particular are widely scrutinised for their role in deforestation across Latin America. ESG targets are becoming more difficult to hit, and organisations need to strive for greater transparency within their procure-to-pay cycle. 

According to a blog post by GEP, there are several steps that drive traceability in the supply chain. Embedding ESG into the supplier assessment process, collaborating more closely with those suppliers to foster their ESG-focused cultures, and embracing technology driven solutions are all effective steps in increasing traceability as a way to drive ESG goals in the procurement process.

They note: “As the world moves towards standardised reporting and regulatory requirements for ESG, companies that prioritise visibility and traceability across their supply chains will not only meet compliance obligations but also gain a competitive advantage. They will forge alliances with suppliers and consumers, driving positive change and contributing meaningfully to sustainability goals.”

Artificial intelligence could deliver “best-of-the-best” analyses in seconds to automate and enhance the generation of RFPs.

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is being explored for its potential applications throughout the sourcing and procurement sector. Potential uses for the technology range from improved compliance to threat modelling and supplier relationship management. 

However, the most impactful application of generative AI—not to mention the one with a good deal of potential to be applied now, not in some indeterminate amount of time when the technology matures—could be to the request for proposal (RFP) process. 

What is an RFP? 

An RFP is a formal document than procurement teams issue to potential vendors. The issuer details the product or service they are looking to acquire and vendors place bids in order to secure a contract. 

An RFP takes the form of a questionnaire-style form requiring potential vendors to enter data about the product or service they can provide. This allows procurement teams to more effectively gather and analyse data from multiple potential vendors in order to make an informed decision. 

RFP pain points 

In both the public and private procurement sector, RFPs are a central element of the procurement process. As such, the manual RFP creation process consumes significant time and resources for procurement departments. 

Delays can derail sourcing cycles and disrupt supply chains. As with any repetitive manual process, RFP writing is also an error-prone process. The consequences can range from an improperly sourced service to a dangerous and expensive breach in compliance. 

Also, the quality of the RFP can affect the quality of vendors who respond to it. As a data gathering tool, a poorly constructed RFP will also produce poor quality data, which can lead to hiring a poor quality vendor. 

Generative AI and the RFP process

The ability for generative AI to rapidly analyse and synthesise information could not only automate and standardise the RFP creation process, but qualitatively improve the design of the RFPs themselves. 

According to McKinsey, generative AI can serve as an invaluable tool when prioritising categories and suppliers based on market development, spend analysis, and supplier leverage. “This analysis prioritises spending with the highest potential to drive value for the organisation, while deprioritizing categories or suppliers where value will be more challenging to obtain,” their analysts note

The client team behind the report developed this generative AI powered “RFP engine” to use anonymised and sanitised RFP templates and cost drivers from “more than 10,000 RFPs and their responses” in order to identify and replicate the “best of best” analyses in a fraction of the time. “It also learned what drove winning bids and redesigned future RFPs for optimal bid structure and cost granularity. Finally, it predicted, and prevented, omissions and mistakes in the bids,” note Aasheesh Mittal and Jennifer Spaulding Schmidt, McKinsey analysts.

By intaking vast amounts of data in the form of successful and unsuccessful RFPs, generative AI could potentially allow procurement teams to both automate and enrich their RFP generation processes.  

With cyber attacks on the rise, Chief Procurement Officers need to take a more active role in protecting their organisations.

The number of attacks against supply chains is rising at an alarming rate, and increasingly it is the case that a business’ most common vulnerability is their supplier ecosystem. “If your company were to get breached, there is a 70% probability it will be through one of your vendors,” noted Norman Levine, a senior manager at Omnicom in a 2021 webcast. By 2025, Gartner predicts that 45% of organisations around the world will have been the subject of a cyber attack on their software supply chains. 

Increasingly, then, CPOs have a meaningful role to play in standing between potentially risky suppliers and their organisations. 

Robust cybersecurity

However, the increasingly complex and digitalised nature of the procurement sector isn’t making this job any easier. Baber Farooq, a senior VP at SAP Procurement Solutions wrote in a recent op-ed that “As companies and consumers increasingly rely on global, interconnected supply chains, procurement operations are now a favourite target for cybercriminals.” 

According to a 2023 survey of CPOs by Deloitte, fewer than 3% of procurement leaders felt they had “high visibility” beyond the first tier of their supplier network. 

“If enterprises don’t know who they are doing business with—directly and indirectly—it is almost impossible to manage risk proactively,” Farooq writes. 

Setting the standard

Only by setting standards for their suppliers that garner real visibility deep into their supplier ecosystems, and then supporting that visibility with periodic monitoring is essential. 

“For procurement leaders to avoid risks, they need to start from square one. That means performing due diligence during the supplier selection process and implementing continuous monitoring across their extended supply chains throughout their relationship,” argues Farooq. 

“Risk Ledger reports that over 20% of organisations do not conduct cybersecurity due diligence before entering a contract. On top of that, 23% of suppliers do not have formal agreements in place with their third parties regarding security clauses. These situations compound the risks of cyberattacks and make an organisation increasingly vulnerable to a breach.” 

In this innovative partnership, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts as the two companies focus on taming tail-spend with an on-demand platform with embedded change management.

Businesses have been leaving money on the table for years. For most organisations, (indirect) tail spend flies under the radar because of the large number of lower-value transactions, a fragmented supply base, and a poor user experience. This results in process inefficiencies and lost savings opportunities that can be eight to 13 percent higher than with more competitive sourcing.

Simfoni and Kearney set out to solve this problem, joining forces on solutioning tail spend management. The partnership pairs Kearney’s rich heritage and expertise in procurement transformation and change management with Simfoni’s composable analytics and spend automation technology. The result is a comprehensive global delivery model that significantly improves tail spend management, which until now has been a major problem for large and smaller organisations alike.

“We started our journey over three years ago,” says Stefan Dent, co-founder of Simfoni. “It takes some time to form a bond. You get to know one another working together on client engagements and then you realise that the relationship is really working, so you double down on the commitment.”

Simfoni helps businesses “see spend differently” leveraging data analytics to gain a deep understanding of user needs across everyday ‘tail spend’. Founded in 2015, Simfoni is a leading provider of tail spend, spend analytics, and e-sourcing solutions for large and midsize businesses around the globe. Simfoni’s platform uses machine learning and AI to accelerate and automate tail spend management, saving time and money. Its solution quickly ingests and organises complex data to uncover opportunities to optimise tail to higher value spend. Simfoni emphasises rapid value delivery through on-demand spend automation solutions that are operational in weeks rather than months.

Remko de Bruijn, senior partner at Kearney

The Kearney–Simfoni partnership delivers a unique and powerful proposition, combining Simfoni’s digital tail spend solution with Kearney’s know-how and ability to launch a transformation and unlock the promised value, says Remko de Bruijn, a senior partner at Kearney. “There are many digital procurement solutions around, but frankly, many of them aren’t delivering the promised value, typically because of challenges with user adoption and change,” he says. “Kearney continuously assesses solutions in the market, with one of our other partners, ProcureTech, and together, we concluded that Simfoni is leading in tail spend. This is how we found each other.”

Kearney is a leading global strategy consulting firm founded in 1926, with more than 5,700 people working in more than 40 countries. The company works with more than three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500 as well as with the most influential governmental and nonprofit organisations. Kearney is a partner-owned firm with a distinctive, collegial culture that transcends organizational and geographic boundaries—and it shows. Regardless of location or rank, the firm’s consultants are down-to-earth and approachable, with a shared passion for doing innovative client work that realises tangible benefits for their clients, in both the short and long term.

“We see Simfoni as a powerful solution to realise savings in indirect tail spend. It’s about not only data and spend automation, but also the customer experience,” De Bruijn says. “This is crucial when dealing with everyday spend as most users are non-procurement professionals.”

Kearney aids businesses in implementing Simfoni’s solution quickly, mitigating risks associated with unmanaged spend and vendors. “The attractive thing about Simfoni is that the solution manages tail spend—optimising both spend and vendors—with the savings funding the digitisation. It’s a tail spend solution that delivers a comprehensive service,” De Bruijn says. “Simfoni will even pay the tail suppliers with Simfoni becoming the ‘One Vendor’ for the tail, which creates additional benefits in accounts payables and working capital.”

Simfoni and Kearney both operate globally, which is important since their customers often operate in multiple regions around the world. “It’s a very interesting and powerful proposition,” De Bruijn says.

Stefan Dent, co-founder of Simfoni

Simfoni designed its tail spend platform from the ground up. The company founders came from the procurement domain, having worked in a variety of procurement leadership roles and at other procurement technology providers. “Let’s face it, existing solutions never solved tail spend, which accounts for around 80 percent of your vendors and transactions and around 20 percent of spend value,” Dent says. “Until now, the only options were BPOs, where you effectively outsource your tail to be managed by humans in a lower-cost country, or you use self-service bidding platforms. These solutions deliver some value, but it’s like putting a plaster on a wound.  You never properly cure the problem.” 

Simfoni’s platform is unique in that it is first and foremost a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution with integrated buying services and digital procurement content components that connect with a client’s existing systems, or Simfoni can operate autonomously. Dent says that’s not even the best part. “The user experience is the most important element because, as Remko pointed out, most tail spend users are not procurement professionals,” he says. “Our users are in R&D, IT, plant operations, or marketing. They want an intuitive, easy-to-use solution to source and buy goods and services to support the everyday needs of their business. This is where traditional eProcurement systems fail.”

Dent says Kearney is an ideal partner being a trusted advisor to many of the world’s largest organisations. Kearney’s expert knowledge of procurement and transformation are a vital part of the offering. “Kearney’s input and expertise is crucial as Kearney helps our clients scope their tail spend program and update their procurement operating model while Simfoni frees up resources, allowing the client to focus on higher-value activities,” he explains. “At the end of the day, technology alone doesn’t solve tail spend. It’s about change. Kearney helps our clients make that digital shift. That’s why our partnership is so powerful because together we provide a comprehensive change and a digital solution as a package. The opportunity for our clients to finally control and optimise tail-spend is huge.”

Linda Chuan, Chief Procurement Officer at Box, discusses the value of delivering effective and long-lasting change management in procurement.

Being at the forefront of change requires a specific type of person – it’s not for everyone. 

But for those that are equipped to deal with the volatile and at times, disruptive, nature of change, that’s where the rewards can be uncovered. 

Knowing this all too well is Linda Chuan. She is a seasoned sourcing and procurement operational excellence executive with a public accounting background and a strong ability to execute from vision and strategy. Her innovative experiences with organisations large and small have culminated in a unique, but practical end-to-end view and understanding of business processes. Chuan’s approach to problem-solving is holistic, mixed with a blend of discipline, creativity, agility and resilience. She has demonstrated successes in her execution and delivery with real results time and again, while also leading successful transformational digitisation strategies.

Procurement’s transformation

The industry she serves has undergone quite an evolution in recent times. Having transformed from a back-office function into a dynamic, exciting, enterprise division at the forefront of change. Procurement and its professionals have been on quite the journey in recent times. As such, Chuan explains that the space is, in fact, so unrecognisable that even its definition has changed. “Procurement started out as purchasing for primarily manufacturing companies decades ago,” she discusses. “Then it evolved from purchasing to procurement where the practice and the profession required more skills around understanding contract verbiage and how the commercial terms would impact the business. There was a little bit more skillset required, legal terms, understanding contracts, all the way to what we know today as strategic sourcing.”

Fast forward to 2020’s Covid pandemic and procurement was forced to shift again amid significant disturbance to supply chains. As a result, procurement was swiftly elevated to the c-suite and became front of mind for most CEOs globally as businesses looked to tighten their belts while urgently finding alternative methods of supply.

“Following Covid, I think we, as procurement professionals, are now mandated to be even more than strategic sourcing and add value to the company,” affirms Chuan. “We’re asked to look ahead and think about the macroeconomics as well as the microeconomics and how it could impact the company and get that translation to direct company impact earlier. This is all while being able to help either prevent large risks or promote opportunities within the company so they can then maximise what’s happening out there in the marketplace versus where everyone was reacting to what has already happened and trying to be prepared for what was coming.”

Tech disruption

Disruption has meant procurement was propelled to become even more strategic and forward-facing following a recent surge of black swan events as technology takes a firmer grip on the space. “The whole profession has evolved, especially over the last 10 or 15 years, where we’re becoming increasingly more strategic and important to a company.”

The company Chuan serves is a cloud content management company that empowers enterprises to revolutionise how they work by securely connecting their people, information and applications. Founded in 2005, Box powers more than 115,000 businesses globally, including AstraZeneca, JLL, Morgan Stanley, and Nationwide. Headquartered in Redwood City, CA, Box has offices across the United States, Europe and Asia. Chuan joined Box over four and half years ago and was recruited to help with establishing the firm’s procurement function and building it from the ground up.

“Any engagement or relationship with a third-party provider, whether it’s buying widgets, purchasing services or even SaaS across the entire company is under my scope,” she explains. “Box has grown globally to reach new regions such as Japan and Poland to UK and Australia. We’ve continued to grow even throughout the pandemic. It’s my third role to establish and build out a sourcing and procurement organisation from the ground up. I find that to be so rewarding and every company’s a little different. What might’ve worked in my previous roles may not work at Box. I love having to tailor and think about which processes and what systems could work that would fit each company’s specific and unique culture, executive level preferences as well as the employees. It’s very exciting.” 

Blank canvas

For Chuan, her passion is to make things as easy as possible for the end user. She likes to think about a procurement organisation as a service firm. “We’re like a small entrepreneur company within an enterprise,” she tells us. “Our customers are our internal employees. As the company and the employee base grows, the customer base increases too. To me, it’s really imperative that we think about the user experience because every company has policies to check off, but who really ensures that we are compliant to those policies? A lot of other larger companies find it’s easier to make the policy a mandate where employees must follow, but I find that with high-tech companies, it’s more of a case of “influencing” rather than “mandating” in that kind of environment.

“In order to establish more of a centralised process where all of the employees would have to come through this one system and one intake, it has to be so user-friendly or else people are not going to want to come to you. If you make it easy for them and design the process in such a way that the policy is already incorporated, then employees will want to utilise the process. It should feel like they’re just going through the process, but they’re walking through the actual compliance policy and ensuring that we’re doing all the right things to protect the company, but they shouldn’t have to feel the burden of it.”

The Box Advantage

According to Chuan, unless she can show her people a new process or system that’s guaranteed to be more efficient, she understands there will be a degree of reluctance to accept change initially. “I’m already thinking about the whole change management programme at the beginning of when I need to select a solution, especially if there was an RFP involved, rather than waiting until we’ve selected a solution and are in the implementation phase. To me, that’s too late,” she explains. “Change management happens when a project has been approved for you to go find a solution or when the project has been initiated by your senior executives through an investment committee meeting or via a software review committee. That’s where change management actually starts.”

Chuan is passionate about harnessing a positive company culture. She stresses within Box operating with a mentality of collaboration, transparency and inclusiveness holds the key to success. Chuan explains that one of her best strategies is to imagine herself as an owner of a company as it leads to better decision-making. “It’s about always trying to think about doing the right things by the right people,” she discusses.

Secret sauce

“The culture is so special and it’s truly about walking the talk versus just talking the talk. It’s about making that culture real and living every single day like our two founders, Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith. The culture itself makes it easy to collaborate and build that relationship and that trust with my fellow employees, knowing that the procurement sourcing organisation is there to help protect them and make the company better. Doing it together is so much easier than trying to push through by yourself, and I call it with every deal that ‘it takes a small village’. We have a really, really good relationship with our legal department and with our vendor trust department. I am enjoying a level of engagement and utilisation of my function more than any other company I’ve been blessed to be a part of. The culture at Box is our secret sauce.”

Given the speed at which the procurement function is shifting, being proactive to the latest trends in transformation could be the key between success and failure. Indeed, one of the most highly anticipated innovations of the past few years ChatGPT has captured the imagination of procurement professionals globally. The race to explore the technology and examine how the natural language processing tool could be introduced into processes is already underway. However, its arrival brings with it fresh fears that AI is here to replace humans.

Future-facing

According to Chuan, that couldn’t be further from the truth. “I don’t see it as taking jobs away, I see it as improving our job and work life,” she explains. “Most people don’t want to do those mundane, low-level data entry, tactical tasks anyway. But if you don’t have people or the right system checking that the data going in is of good quality, then you can’t count on the reporting and the analytics on the backend. But the problem is that people don’t want to do it. Wouldn’t it be perfect to have a replacement with AI, robotics and machine learning that could do all of the things that people don’t really want to do anyway?”

Looking ahead

Having said that, Chuan is clear that there must always be some form of human influence and oversight over AI. One of procurement’s biggest challenges in 2024 and beyond is making new tech work for each respective organisation. Chuan believes procurement, and indeed the world, isn’t to be ruled by technology, but instead used as a tool. “There has to be some kind of monitoring and human judgment to QC/QA the results,” she says.

“I don’t think we’re at the point where machines can replace judgemental thinking. I think we need to have an eye on ensuring we’re doing the right thing ethically by people and making sure that we’re using technology responsibly. Let’s say we do all of that, the increase in the level of job productivity that AI could bring to many people should outweigh people’s fears. I don’t think we should be fearing it. I think we should be looking at it from an analytical and strategic view and get excited about the prospect of having all the time to be more innovative and forward-thinking. To me, that’s where the fun and rewarding work is.”

Hear more about Linda Chuan’s passion for delivering change management in procurement in our CPOstrategy Podcast.

With the power to accurately simulate the entire procure-to-pay process, digital twins could create much-needed predictability in an increasingly unpredictable world.

Procurement priorities in 2024 are shifting. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, pure profit motivation led to exceedingly long, widely distributed, complex, and fragile value chains. In the last four years, however, the world has begun to realise that the endless succession of geopolitical disasters, climate catastrophes, and once-in-a-generation economic hiccups isn’t going away any time soon. As a result, organisations are increasingly pivoting their priorities towards a more balanced approach. 

Not only must procurement maintain cost-containment in uncertain economic times, and (more and more) be a driver of strategic and sustainable innovation for the business, but CPOs in 2024 find themselves at the the forefront of companies’ risk management strategies as well. 

According to an Amazon Business report, when it comes to the top activities procurement leaders recognise the need to invest time and money into, “technology and tools to increase efficiency” (36%) and “taking steps to mitigate risks in the face of economic or geopolitical challenges” (35%) comfortably claimed the top spots. 

Considering “many of the top risks identified by respondents have the potential to disrupt procurement operations with little warning,” procurement leaders looking to drive innovation, improve efficiency, and increase their ability to anticipate and mitigate risk are exploring the potential of digital twins. 

Digital twins in procurement?

A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical object, organisation, person, or process. This digital duplicate enables users to test and predict behaviour in different hypothetical situations. Organisations in the manufacturing industry have been using digital twins for years to facilitate iterative prototyping. More recently, however, the technology is increasingly being paired with AI and machine learning. As a result, digital twins can track and model more complex systems than ever before. 

A digital twin designed to track a procurement process or supply chain is called a network twin. Supply chain leaders have hailed digital twins as a useful tool for monitoring and testing logistics networks and supply chains. However, the technology is still underutilised in procurement. A report by Gartner found that 60% of supply chain leaders were planning to invest in digital twins. While that is a high number, it is still noticably smaller than in other fields like industrial manufacturing and logistics. A report by McKinsey found that “70% of C-suite technology executives at large enterprises are already exploring and investing in digital twins.”

The lack of applied analytics to digital twins in procurement may be partially responsible for the slower pace of adoption. Steve Kyle, a consultant for Deloitte, notes that “dynamic visibility” has the power to transform supply chains. This is only true, however, he stresses, when analystis translate that visibility “into recommendations and actions.”

Digital twin readiness in the procurement sector

Adopting digital twins is a complex and potentially fraught process. Nevertheless, Kyle explains that much of the building blocks that would enable a successful and widespread deployment of the technology in the procurement sector are already available to most procurement leaders.

These “enablers required to implement digital twins,” include “highly scalable computing power and storage, availability of historical data, advanced algorithms, ability to integrate external data, and the technologies to make sense of it all.” Many, if not all of these key tools, he notes “are already available and being used.” 

Digital twins bring the capacity for long term planning, disruption detection, integrated business planning, and increased resilience to the procurement process, but Kyle points out that CPOs and CSCOs struggle with finding the right tools, getting the timing right, and articulating the value that a large investment like a digital twin (and the necessary analytical tools to unlock its potential) demand. 

Edmund Zagorin, Founder of Arkestro, discusses his company’s rise as a predictive procurement orchestration platform.

“What if there was a better way to compare quotes from suppliers?”

This question led Edmund Zagorin down a road of discovery which culminated in turning an idea into a start-up.

While working as a procurement consultant, Zagorin observed how much time his sourcing teams spent building Excel pivot tables. The problem? Category experts needed to identify potential errors in supplier submissions at the item level before an award scenario could be properly evaluated. Together with childhood friend Ben Leiken, who had risen to become an engineering and product leader at SurveyMonkey, the idea was to find a way to automatically pre-populate text in a sourcing project with little to no manual data entry required from procurement users of suppliers. Leiken had seen firsthand the impact that so-called “smart defaults” could have on survey completion. And Zagorin knew that in procurement, more completions would mean more supplier offers, which could yield better commercial outcomes for the procurement team. Arkestro, then Bid Ops, was born.

Studies show that when procurement is able to predict a plausible range of commercial outcomes ahead of a supplier offer, there is enormous leverage created when the buying entity names the price. Summarising the past decade of research, Lewicki et al.’s 2007 “Essentials of Negotiation” states that “…whoever, the buyer or the seller, made the first offer… determined the final selling price, with higher final prices when a seller made the first offer than when a buyer made the first offer.”

For this reason, Arkestro customers began delivering material higher cost savings outcomes than traditional RFPs and RFQs, a fact that caught the attention of Ariba co-founder Rob DeSantis. Together, Zagorin and DeSantis brought together an experienced management team, led by IBM and Ariba alum Neil Lustig as CEO. Lustig’s experience as CEO of Vendavo, a predictive pricing company used by sell-side teams to achieve better negotiated outcomes, made him ideal to scale Arkestro into a global juggernaut.

Edmund Zagorin, Founder, Arkestro

Today, Arkestro is the leading predictive procurement orchestration platform that enhances the impact of procurement’s influence, especially for large manufacturing enterprises across any procurement activity and spend category that involves collecting a quote from a supplier. Arkestro turns the traditional procurement process on its head: instead of the supplier creating a quote or proposal and then a procurement analyst using competitive offers and benchmark data to decision the desirability of that offer or action an approval, Arkestro customers use a predictive model to benchmark a potential quote before contacting suppliers, putting procurement in a position of leverage to either ask for their desired outcome using an AI-generated Suggested Offer or generate an Instant Counter-Offer to any quote.

Arkestro then helps customers persistently monitor the changes in quoted price for this item across all procurement activities, tracking trends and changes and helping teams proactively uncover the optimal procurement configuration for each item and basket with respect to timing, geography, quantity, lead time and other attributes.

By embedding game theory, behavioural science and machine learning models directly into the procurement process, Arkestro enables customers to dramatically accelerate cost reduction projects, often with existing preferred suppliers and attain their best available cost outcome for every unique item more frequently and at greater scale across their spend. This predictive procurement approach is especially helpful for technical procurement categories such as highly engineered components, materials and capital equipment, as well as categories like metals, chemicals, food ingredients, MRO, packaging, logistics and even IT.

Enterprises who are on a journey to create sustainable and antifragile data quality for their procurement function are turning to Arkestro as the predictive approach eliminates the two manual steps that tend to introduce errors into item-level identifiers: the step where the supplier creates a quote, and the step where procurement analysts have to validate, correct, give feedback and approve it. By using a predictive model to generate and validate supplier offers, Arkestro offers a continuous improvement path for enterprises whose digital procurement journey includes cleansing item-level data to create a true item-based “data foundation.”         

Transformation journey

And since its founding in 2017, Arkestro has been on quite the transformation journey. The company has expanded rapidly and scaled its product – as well as for spend categories and industries served – globally. In a little over half a decade, Zagorin, Leiken and their team have created a true enterprise grade AI infrastructure platform that can be embedded into the likes of spend management giants SAP Ariba or Coupa or used as a standalone database and application.

Despite significant success in a relatively short space of time, Zagorin is keen to stress that his initial vision was to solve a problem that he was also experiencing in the market. “Our growth has corresponded to a great degree with a widening of the aperture of where we feel predictive technologies can make an impact for procurement teams,” he discusses. “I think one of the other things just from a paradigm standpoint is that procurement processes involve a lot of manually created data. There’s a lot of data entry on the supplier side, procurement side and on the stakeholder side throughout the process. Every keystroke in every process introduces the possibility of human error.”

Predictive procurement is a new approach that suggests the data before a human user enters it. What Arkestro has introduced is the idea of predictive and working with customers to apply that at different stages of the procurement process through AI. “One of the things that’s also been interesting, and you’ve seen this in other areas of AI, is that you can cross a threshold where at some point in the model it gets good enough that it really provides exponentially more value as it’s being used,” he says. “As opposed to software, which traditional software degrades over time, it gets stale and the interface feels clunky. As new interfaces come out, AI has almost the opposite dynamic where it actually gets better. It’s smarter by itself just by people using it. That’s also been pretty exciting to see.”

Procurement’s evolution 

Indeed, the procurement space is in a state of flux. Amid significant transformation driving the function forward, it has never been such an exciting time to be involved in the industry. The rise of AI and machine learning is having a seismic impact with there also being hopes that new technology could reduce the need to bridge talent gaps.

“If you asked five years ago what’s holding procurement back from digitally transforming the operation and living out your full potential, I think a lot of procurement professionals would’ve said how hard it was to hire,” Zagorin explains. “People were saying: ‘Oh we have data quality issues where it’s really hard to actually know what we’ve spent, what our spend per supplier looks like for our core geographies, let alone what we paid for each individual item. We went out and bought a bunch of digital platforms and we’re struggling to gain adoption which is related to the data quality issues.’ This is what I heard from executives when I was working in procurement. Because traditionally,  if you have a process and it’s not being consistently used, then it’s not going to accurately represent the most important attributes or business logic of the data that’s moving through it.”

Despite the positive introduction of tech innovation, procurement has also had its challenges. Supply disruption as a byproduct of COVID-19, wars in Ukraine and in Israel as well as inflation concerns, it is fair to say the function has never been more talked about in the C-suite.

“Boom, there’s the next wave of Covid, or suddenly there’s a war somewhere in the world,” he shares. “It has felt like there’s always something and it really creates context switching for procurement teams which is stressful, plus being bad for productivity. This is especially the case for digital transformation projects in procurement, and it’s also demotivating because it makes people feel like they’re not making progress. This then means that the length of the project elongates and you have this kind of stuck-in-the-mud feeling that it’s hard to get quick wins and generate momentum. That’s what customers are thinking about as they are looking in the market to find a true partner not just for their digital journey, but for their AI journey.” 

Given the speed of procurement’s evolution, there are voices that believe the function requires a rebrand. Gone are the days of procurement being regarded as a back-office function hidden away out of sight, today it stands as an exciting, dynamic force at the forefront of innovation. “I live in California where job titles are a little bit looser generally,” explains Zagorin.

“If we look at procurement needing a rebrand, the big challenge that I see with procurement is that the structure of a lot of these categories doesn’t necessarily correspond with either the activities associated with them or with the relationships with the suppliers within those categories. What we have in procurement with ‘category management’ is we’re frequently asking procurement professionals to be a jack of all trades and master of none within their categories. Perpetual ‘crisis-mode’ is not a recipe for letting up-and-coming procurement professionals develop the category knowledge and domain expertise that are traditionally necessary.”

Procurement’s bright future

Looking ahead, Zagorin believes there has never been a better time to be working in procurement. “The profession has a lot to offer, and it really is this huge engine of value creation at most big companies,” he explains. “Arkestro serves enterprise manufacturing companies typically with multiple plant locations which buy at both the corporate and the plant level creating a lot of item-level data quality issues. What we’re seeing is the ability for companies to get live on Arkestro in a matter of days and often deliver a payback period for their entire solution costs in a matter of weeks.

“If you look at deployments of enterprise technology five years ago, that’s a stark difference in terms of what procurement’s promising versus what it’s delivering and the time-to-value. We have a new generation of startups, from intake to tail spend to what Arkestro does, more on the strategic side and or on technical procurement categories and direct materials, often starting with a bill of materials and handling all the back-and-forth with the suppliers up to allocation, awarding and the purchase order. You have this cohort of startups that’s just getting bigger and more people are using us to run large physical manufacturing operations. There’s not a lot of direct competition in the space of these growth-stage startups. 

“I think what’s going to happen is more and more companies are going to say if it makes business sense and we think there’s tangible value in doing it, then let’s find a way to test and learn. Let’s find a way to try it out to implement it in one geography or for one business unit or category and just see how it works. Five years ago, it was always easy to say we’re too busy or we have other stuff going on. What’s changing today is if you’re not testing and learning constantly from new technology, you’re going to miss out because the stuff that’s happening right now is world-changing.

“Generative AI and novel technical approaches to on-demand superintelligence are going to be as impactful to many enterprises as the development of the internet, not to mention human society at large. The people who are playing around with it and staying curious and running experiments are going to create a lot more value. They’re going to have a lot more fun, and they’re going to build great teams and organisations that lay the groundwork for the next generation of procurement professionals.”

The digital transformation of public procurement can achieve real benefits, but barriers to adoption still exist.

The past several years have seen a radical surge in the digital transformation of procurement practices in the private sector. This change has become widespread, as corporations seek to innovate in the name of cost reduction and risk aversion.

The public procurement sphere has traditionally been slower to adopt new technology and practices than the private sector. However public procurement is starting to show signs of the same sweeping digital transformation.

The benefits of a digitally transformed public procurement process are significant. Government bodies that transition to digital procurement systems and strategically adopt technology to help alleviate traditionally niggling pain points will find themselves more capable of meeting future challenges. 

Public sector procurement organisations are aware of this and the desire to digitise their operations is widely present.

Andrew Cooke, Microsoft’s global policy lead for the public sector, noted last year that “We have heard from several governments that they both want, and need, to modernise their approach to technology procurement and to mitigate the risk of the public sector falling behind in the benefits made possible through digital transformation.” 

However, meaningful friction points still prevent public procurement organisations from digitally transforming. Stricter compliance regulations, tighter budgets, and more complex approval processes for newer technologies like AI to be adopted are slowing innovation. Overcoming these pain points, however, can yield tremendous benefits. 

The benefits of digitally transforming public procurement 

From digitising records and user data to creating transparency in service of stricter ethical and ESG standards throughout the procure to pay process, digital transformation can have significant benefits for the public sector.

Public sector procurement is driven by different motivators than the (more or less) pure profit incentive of the private sector. In the private sector, even initiatives like risk management and sustainable behaviour are framed within the scope of their potential to protect revenue and increase brand value. This means that, in the public sector, digital transformation can have more profound benefits. 

Sally Guyer, Global CEO of World Commerce and Contracting, pointed in a recent interview to the South Korean public procurement system, which has successfully deployed AI analytics to diversity, strengthen, and nearshore its procurement process.

She noted that 75.6% of the government’s total procurement spend is now awarded to SMEs through the evolution of its AI platform. The move has reportedly increased transparency in the procurement process and generated cost savings of $1.4 billion for the government and $6.6 billion for businesses. 

Procurement transformation can also ease friction points between the public and private sectors. “Procurements are at that nexus between the public sector and how it spends public money and interacts with the private sector,” Warren Smith, Chairman of the U4SSC Thematic Group on Smart City Procurement, said in a recent report by the ITU.

He added however that, while technology has an important role to play, “what’s really key in all of this is how you build trust and confidence between governments, companies, and civil society – such as charities or social enterprises – who all have a role to play in that transformation journey.”

Will the skills shortage and increased demand push the procurement sector to automate more than 50% of its sourcing?

The procurement sector is changing. CPOs face increased demand for strategic innovation, sustainability leadership, and risk mitigation—in addition to traditional requirements valuing cost-containment. 

As the role and nature of procurement shifts, however, procurement teams are finding themselves faced with a problem. Despite rising budgets, procurement teams are still facing the need to complete more work with fewer resources. This state of affairs is leading many CPOs to explore the opportunities presented by automation. In Conjunction with artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, automation has the potential to drive efficiencies in procurement. Not only that, but the technology also has potential to mitigate skill shortages in their workforces. 

Alan Holland is an optimization, game theory, and algorithmic mechanism design specialist who heads up AI procurement company Keelvar. He believes that 2024 will be the year that “autonomous sourcing goes mainstream.” He adds that “This year will see the first enterprises conducting >50% of their sourcing events in fully automated processes. Tailored workflows for Indirect and Direct categories will automate sourcing for goods and services across all major industries.”

Automation in the procurement process

Leveraging AI and machine learning to build behavioural foundations built on advanced analytics, automated automated sourcing supposedly simplifies procedures, eradicates inefficiencies, promotes fairness, and identifies avenues for generating additional value throughout the procurement process. 

Allegedly, the software framework that can handle up to “90% of the event tactical workload”. This means eliminating manual data management and identify patterns in previous procurement interactions. One of the leading causes of procurement disruption is human error across repetitive, low skill manual input tasks, which automation could alleviate. The result is that procurement teams better understand their operations with more time to focus on less repetitive tasks. 

Procurement remains highly manual

While procurement teams have made promising initial steps towards implementing much-needed automation, truly impactful adoption remains a long way off. Recently, a KPMG report found that, although there has been significant automation of many elements of procurement in recent years, “many activities that can best be described as ‘transactional’ or even ‘swivel chair’ remain.” Also, jobs that involve advanced analytics suffer from “data gaps, system gaps, and resource gaps.”

The report’s authors argue for more autonomous forms of automation. Entities like bots could benefit procurement with the ability to fully or partially take over more strategic roles. 

“More advanced bots can execute complex cognitive tasks that mimic human behaviour. In its most advanced form, bots can interpret vast amounts of data from multiple structured and unstructured sources, including text, voice, images, and video,” add the report’s authors.

“These bots can evaluate information and use specific algorithms and ontologies to simulate reasoning— make decisions based on a mix of evidence and probability—in a way that would mimic human actions. These bots can work alongside procurement professionals to streamline and improve some of the organisation’s most strategic activities, such as category management and supplier management. They can spot patterns in spend and operations, proactively seek market intelligence on suppliers and categories, and even provide coaching to both procurement and business users on the ins and outs of process and policies.”

Risk management has risen (almost) to the top of CPOs’ priority list for 2024. Here’s how they’re tackling it.

If ever the world truly reached a state of “new normal”, that state is one of constant disruption.

Even by the time the COVID-19 pandemic threw the world’s supply chains into a state of utter turmoil in March of 2020, procurement teams were already dealing with a heightened state of disruption. The US-China trade war that defined most of 2019 had barely simmered down before most of Australia was on fire and a US drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani which made an escalating war with Iran look like a very real possibility. Lockdowns, protests, earthquakes, war in Ukraine, spiking oil prices, genocide in Palestine, and both the accidental and purposeful disruption of shipping through the Gulf are just a smattering of the disruptions to which procurement professionals are becoming accustomed.

“After the last few tumultuous years, procurement teams are still facing steep challenges in getting ahead of supplier and supply chain risks,” writes Greg Holt, Product Marketing Director at Interos. “Unfortunately, there are no signs that the heightened frequency of disruptions we’ve seen over the last few years will abate in 2024.”

It’s clear that the procurement teams that learn to manage risk on a daily basis will be the ones that fare best in a world increasingly defined by geopolitical instability and a collapsing climate.

Procurement risk management strategies

Risk management is not a one-time process, nor a single overhaul of policy; managing risk requires constant oversight and frequent reevaluation to ensure you avoid disruption today and are ready for problems that will arise tomorrow.

Streamline your data, break your silos

Procurement departments are often repositories of some of the best risk management data in the whole organisation, gathering large amounts of information on suppliers and other external factors. Procurement departments that take a more purposeful approach to their risk data can quickly establish themselves as repositories of “data, assessments, monitoring and alerts,” becoming “trusted partners who can maintain the risk intelligence needed to support the business with insights, trends and a common view of the risks posed across the extended supplier ecosystem.”

Automate away human error

While there is no shortage of questions when it comes to applying automation to complex tasks (not to mention new pain points and sources of risk), correctly implementing automation can create immediate benefits when used to take repetitive, resource intensive tasks out of human hands. Repetitive, menial tasks are common in procurement systems, and are the most prone to human error. Automation tools can reduce errors and free up time for procurement workers.

Use digital transformation to diversify your supplier ecosystem

There’s a limit to the amount of decision making and supplier diversification achieved by human means. There’s simply too much decision making to be juggled. However, with the help of AI, procurement departments can diversify and adjust their supplier ecosystem much more effectively and to a greater degree. For example, the South Korean government has adopted AI-powered decision making to nearshore a significant portion of its procurement spend. Now, 75.6% of the government’s total procurement spend is now awarded to SMEs through the evolution of its AI platform.

By Harry Menear

CPOstrategy explores this issue’s Big Question and uncovers if now is the greatest time to be in procurement.

Procurement has a unique opportunity.

Amid unprecedented digital transformation and innovation, it finds itself in a state of flux and momentum. For professionals who like change, procurement is the place for them. The years of procurement standing still are long gone, its position in the c-suite is only becoming increasingly secure and prominent.

As Covid outlined, businesses need flexible and agile supply chains that are equipped to deal with local or global disruption based on macroeconomic factors. This could be an aforementioned pandemic, wars like the ones we’ve seen in Ukraine and Israel in recent years or other external issues such as the Suez Canal disruption or inflation concerns. Procurement’s time is now. 

At DPW Amsterdam 2023, the notion that procurement exists in today’s world as an exciting function that spearheads the c-suite. In comedian and host of DPW, Andrew Moskos’, opening welcome, he noted procurement’s transformation and shouted. “Procurement used to be boring but now we’re all rockstars. We run the company, we’re in the c-suite, we run ESG, sustainability, risk and 80% of the spend of a company goes through us.” His message was met with loud applause from a capacity crowd at former stock exchange building Beurs van Berlage.

Michael van Keulen, CPO, Coupa

According to Michael van Keulen, Chief Procurement Officer at Coupa, it’s the feeling of ‘no two days are the same’ which keeps him energised and feeling refreshed about meeting new challenges in the space. “I wear so many different hats every single day,” he explains. “I always say sometimes I’m an accountant, others I’m an environmentalist. Sometimes I’m the treasurer or a finance person, but I’m also sometimes a psychiatrist. Sometimes I’m a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, a judge, an environmentalist and yes even a wizard.

“I never know what my day looks like. I can plan it, but something may happen where everything goes out the window. Procurement will always be going through some type of disruption. It’s about how you drive the competitive edge and how you drive value despite that. Procurement is the best gig in the world. It’s great that more people have started to see that now too.”

Right now, generative AI is the latest craze causing quite the buzz in procurement. Indeed, its noise is loud with its true influence yet to be determined. But it’s worth remembering generative AI didn’t start with ChatGPT in 2022. Chatbots actually go back to the 1960s. Among the first functioning examples was the ELIZA chatbot which was created in 1961 by British scientist Joseph Weizenbaum. It was the first talking computer program that could communicate with a human through natural language. But, given the introduction of a far more advanced model – ChatGPT – gen AI isn’t just making waves in procurement but across industries globally too.

Daniel Barnes, Community Manager, Gatekeeper

For Daniel Barnes, Community Manager at Gatekeeper, the stakes are high. As a self-confessed change agent, he believes procurement stands at a make-or-break moment. “You’ve got people who are stuck in the past that are archaic with what they’re doing. Then there’s those who are really pushing the profession forward,” he explains. “I see it as a moment in time where procurement kind of goes one in two ways. It’s extinct in terms of how it used to be. There’s solutions which have automated workflows and are doing the work that traditional procurement people used to do. We can pull people along, but there has to be a willingness to change or it’s not going to happen. That’s why I think it’s great to see people that are showing that willingness. They may not have the answers, but they want to learn.”

Alan Holland, CEO, Keelvar

According to Alan Holland, CEO of Keelvar, he is bullish and optimistic about procurement’s future, stressing that decision-making for the function is easier than ever before. Holland affirms tomorrow is “very bright” as procurement enters an era with intelligent software agents that can automate workflows and make the human workday more efficient. “There’s a whole new range of possibilities where creative and thoughtful planning will provide a competitive advantage for organisations. Procurement can be far more influential in how successful their companies can be. It’s a game-changer.”

Scott Mars, Global V

Scott Mars, Global Vice President of Sales at Pactum, affirms procurement’s in its golden age given the number of vendors operating within the procuretech ecosystem has hit soaring heights. He tells us, “I was speaking with a CPO recently and he said 10 years ago you could name the procure to pay and ERP vendors on one hand, now there’s hundreds of them and all these periphery vendors for AI and spend. The most visionary procurement leaders aren’t just looking at these all-encompassing solutions, they’re bolting on niche solutions into their ecosystems to make their teams more efficient. I think we’ll start to see a consolidation in the coming years of all these little companies into a few larger players to do really an end-to-end type solution. I expect someone to come up with a solution to close the loop in procurement.”

Stefan Dent, Co-Founder, Simfoni

While procurement, like many industries, is still plagued by talent shortages, there is hope that AI could hold the answer. But while its influence is crucial in one hand, is there a risk that the industry could go too far the other way and become over reliant on technology? Stefan Dent, Co-Founder at Simfoni, believes soon Chief Procurement Officers will soon be thinking differently about their workforce. “This is arguably the best time for people to join procurement, as you’ve got this great opportunity to embrace digital and make it happen. Young people can question ‘Well, why can’t it be done by a machine?’ They’re coming in with that mindset, as opposed to fighting being replaced. I think for graduates coming into procurement, they’ve got the opportunity to play with digital which is a wonderful thing.”

Matthias Gutzmann, Founder, DPW Amsterdam

Today, procurement, and its professionals, find itself amid meteoric change. Indeed, its future could be anything. Matthias Gutzmann, Founder of DPW Amsterdam, believes it is time for procurement to create a buzz about the profession. “It’s the best time to be in procurement,” he explains. “It’s the most exciting era to be in procurement and supply chain. We need to get loud about it and celebrate that fact.” 

B2B procurement is headed for a new, more dynamic, digitalised era defined by a more strategic approach to traditional processes and new challenges.

The procurement industry isn’t a back-office function anymore. Much like the transition of IT departments from obscurity to the C-suite over the past 10-15 years, procurement is making its way into the limelight.

“We are entering a new era of smart business buying where senior leaders are understanding the impact procurement can have on efficiency and overall company success,” said Alexandre Gagnon, vice president of Amazon Business Worldwide, at a recent Amazon Business event attended by more than 1,000 procurement leaders across the public and private sectors.

“The procurement function is now cross-disciplinary, spanning both functional and strategic purviews as buyers are planning to invest more in technology and optimisation while future-proofing their companies and organisations,” added Gagnon.

Procurement’s transition

The 2024 State of Procurement Report released by Amazon Business in conjunction with the event points to an array of indicators that the nature of procurement is fundamentally changing. From the traditional procurement workloads concerned with day-to-day purchasing, to a more recently emerged responsibility of future-proofing the business against disruption (by another pandemic, for example), procurement’s goals are “ever-growing”.

In order to keep up, the discipline is “transforming at lightning speed,” claims Gagnon in the introduction to the report.

Data gathered from over 3,000 procurement professionals supports this inclusion. Key findings include the fact that 95% of decision-makers say their organisation currently has to outsource at least a portion of their procurement to third parties, the fact that 95% of decision-makers say their procurement function has “room for optimisation”, and 53% of respondents who say their procurement budgets will be higher in 2024 than they were this year.

Tech-driven procurement

Technology investment is expected to be high on the agenda, as procurement leaders attempt to bring increased visibility and resilience to their departments. A remarkable 98% of decision makers said they were planning to invest in analytics and insights tools, automation, and AI for their procurement operations, with the (anonymous) VP of purchasing at a major global bank in the US saying that “Making investments in the right tools and technology [is critical] because you rely on data as a procurement organisation. There is … spend data, contractual data, invoices, and more. Without the right tools in place, you can only do so much [with your data].”

Reflecting on the changing role of procurement in the modern enterprise, Gagnon added that “Ultimately, procurement not only keeps operations running, but plays an integral role in achieving key organisational goals, and with smart business buying, companies have procurement solutions to serve as a growth lever for organisations.”

By Harry Menear

Coupa Software and Acquis Consulting Group has released an eBook offering tips on how to navigate the challenges of the procurement landscape.

A new eBook from Coupa Software and Acquis Consulting Group providing guidance on how to navigate the challenges of the procurement landscape has been released.

The eBook offers real-life success stories from the likes of Dent Wizard, Sun River Healthcare and Eyecare Partners while uncovering essential strategies for enhancing efficiency and driving growth.

Additionally, the eBook provides expert guidance on mastering procurement and compliance in today’s economic landscape as today’s leaders are forced to re-examine their internal processes, particularly when it comes to business spend management.

As a result of rising inflation, as well as the cost of capital and labour, it has meant businesses need to identify new ways to improve margins, drive sustainable growth and scale productivity. However, many existing solutions at mid-market companies are already stretched to the limit.

This led to Dent Wizard, Sun River Healthcare and Eyecare Partners coming to the same conclusion – digital transformation can take painful and antiquated processes and make them stress-free and efficient.

The new eBook is considered a must-read for leaders seeking to overcome the complexities of today’s procurement space amid a challenging economic climate.

To find out more about how Dent Wizard, Sun River Healthcare and Eyecare Partners recommend organisations can transform their business spend management, download Coupa and Acquis’s free eBook here.

New data from Emergen Research suggests the procurement technology market will be worth approximately $17.9 billion in 2032.

Increased adoption of cloud services, artificial intelligence (AI) and process automation are driving strong growth in the global procurement software market.

According to a report released this week by Canadian market research firm Emergen Research, the global procurement software market is expected to register a rapid revenue CAGR of 10.4% over the decade following the 2022 financial year—from a global valuation of $6.67 billion at the start of the forecast period to $17.90 billion in 2032.

The report’s authors found that “increasing use for cloud-based procurement solutions and rising need for automated and efficient procurement processes are key factors driving market revenue growth.”

The talent challenge

In the face of a talent shortage—exacerbated by growing demand and increasingly supply chain complexity—the report expects to see cloud-based procurement systems attain widespread adoption.

“Cloud-based procurement systems have many benefits such as easy deployment, flexibility, scalability, and lower infrastructure costs. This software allows for real-time access to procurement data, leading to better informed and timely decisions,” note report authors. “In addition, this software also makes it possible for companies to access procurement software at any time and from any location, which makes it easier to manage procurement procedures globally.”

Is automation the solution?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will also support procurement teams in overcoming the pain points presented by the skill shortage, stricter regulations, and supply chain instability. The report suggests that the technologies—if correctly adopted—could be instrumental in “helping companies to automate increasingly complex procurement processes while enhancing decision-making.”

However, high up-front costs may present an insurmountable barrier to entry for some organisations, and a deterrent for others, the report notes. These costs include software licensing fees, implementation costs, training expenses, and any required hardware upgrades. Emergen researchers also note that concerns over data privacy and cyber security could slow adoption of cloud-based solutions.

By Harry Menear

Kathleen Anne Harmeston discusses some of the key items sitting on the 2024 agenda amid seismic digital transformation.

Procurement, in my opinion, has experienced one of the largest direct knock-on effects of unprecedented inflation and geopolitical issues over the last two years (including supply-chain issues caused by Brexit, the US-China Trade War, and European instability of the Russia-Ukraine War).

Procurement’s challenges

We are seeing this impact in the form of cost increases across nearly all industries and challenges in securing and maintaining reliable, dynamic, and cost-effective supply partners.

Boardrooms are struggling to understand why they should invest further funds to bolster the CPO remit, including investment to help them technologically revolutionise the business and the function. Possibly this is due to a lack of visibility on how procurement can be a high performing business partner, which offers a proactive, seamless, automated and value-adding service supporting profitability and ESG efforts. CPOs are now tasked to sell the benefits of investing in procurement over and above the safety blanket of ‘cost reduction’ as the signature sell.

The above obstacles will also be underpinned by the phenomenal opportunity of integrating AI into the procurement function alongside many other digitisation opportunities. Those companies who welcome technological innovation of their P2P systems and supplier management processes are likely to have better competitive advantage and risk management as a consequence.

Kathleen Anne Harmeston

CPO’s five key items on the 2024 agenda

The general consensus I have gained from speaking with my peers are:-

  1. Profitability (of course).
  2. Agility and digital readiness within the P2P and business management systems.
  3. Delivering ESG for the firm and not just  giving  “lip service” to the exercise.
  4. Risk management within the elaborate complex web of supply chain networks.
  5. Driving Innovation through the supply chain.

2023 saw the same old issues in limited control over and transparency in third-party spend. This was due to supply instability, semi manual processes, rising costs and value leakage from off-contract spend.  With this in mind, boardrooms are more likely than ever to push back on the CPOs call for further investment. But this creates a circular argument of investment needed in the function, combined with business’ commitment to approved supplier compliance to meet the board challenges in 2024. 

Moving to 2024

Digital readiness has become imperative as team members continue to work in hybrid or remote ways, but also because inefficient manual processes and limited digital visibility and automation of spend management causes significant lost opportunity and risk. Recent studies from KPMG and SAP show that 37% of procurement processes are still semi auto and manual and 77% of Executives complain they cannot access a good spend data real time. These studies have been further supported by research from Ivalua which states:

  • 53% of procurement and supplier management processes have yet to be digitised.
  • 22% of procurement teams estimate that they are wasting their time each year dealing with paper-based or manual processes.
  • 50% of procurement leaders think the rate of digitisation within procurement is too slow.
  • 47% say existing procurement systems are not flexible enough to keep up with constant change and market uncertainty. 

Inefficient procurement processes often result in disorganised data management and reporting -ultimately leading to executive frustration. These issues further invite problems such as duplication of payments or delays in payment.

What are the technological innovations for 2024?

The shape and structure of the procurement division in the future will change quite dramatically with the ever-increasing integration of AI. When the second wave of more sophisticated generative AI software arrives – which improves its reliability of output, data leakage, and data security – AI and machine learning may well plug the gap of manual human input for certain portions of the procurement division. With AI (or any kind of automatic digitization for that matter) we will soon embrace the automation and celebrate the headcount savings in procurement, and instead ask for investment in greater strategic skills and the next level of development for our procurement staff.

AI truly has the potential to transform procurement. From specifically supply chain management, to helping with demand forecasting and inventory management to logistics optimisation, new product development cycle time improvement, and supplier engagement. AI will also help with managing our spend via creating predictive reports for cost reduction opportunities.

Specifics for CPOs look for in 2024

Advanced AP Invoice Automation Platforms

Advanced accounts payable invoice automation platforms process invoices in any format with good speed and accuracy. It means going touchless eliminates the pain of managing paper invoices. By reducing the cost per invoice, shortening cycle times, and increasing spend control, these cloud-based electronic invoicing systems offer built-in matching and automatically identify errors, duplicates, and overpayments. They ensure payments are only made for ordered and received goods. Many APIA platforms can be tailored to specific organisational needs. This is with features like cognitive OCR invoice capture, smart coding, and invoice approvals to further streamline the process. These platforms can integrate with existing financial or ERP systems for seamless digital payments. While their advanced features like duplicate invoices and fraud checks, along with integrated exception handling, demonstrate the future of invoice processing in the P2P cycle.

Mobile P2P solutions

Mobile platforms are becoming more useful and available in the P2P process by shifting to cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. The convenience of mobile apps allows users to manage procurement activities on the go. This is also while offering real-time access to crucial data and processes. This mobility not only increases efficiency but also enables quicker decision-making. CPOs can also integrate their P2P systems with other cloud-based applications, such as ERP, CRM, and BI, to create a seamless and holistic view of your procurement performance.

Data analytics and visualisation

Data analytics tools are the applications that enable you to analyse your P2P data in an actionable way. These tools will help you improve your decision making, performance measurement, and reporting. For example, you can use dashboards, charts, and graphs to visualize your spend patterns, savings achievements, and compliance levels. You can also use predictive analytics, machine learning, and natural language processing to generate forecasts for your P2P strategies. Visualisation software has also made huge strides in being able to share new product development ideas. This is also while helping progress the supplier collaboration and management agenda.

Integration of blockchain for greater transparency and security

Blockchain technology is rapidly transforming the P2P sector with its unparalleled transparency and enhanced security features. By integrating blockchain, businesses are able to establish immutable records for every transaction. This will significantly boosting both transparency and security within their procurement processes. This technology is particularly effective in fraud prevention and compliance adherence and supply chain tracking.  It ensures that each transaction is reliably recorded and easily verifiable, underscoring its growing importance in the P2P landscape.

Supplier collaboration

Supplier collaboration is the practice of building long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with your key suppliers, based on trust, transparency, and value creation. It can help you improve your supplier performance, reduce risks, and drive innovation. For example, you can use supplier portals, e-procurement platforms, and digital contracts to communicate with your suppliers more effectively. You can also use supplier scorecards, feedback mechanisms, and incentives to monitor and reward your suppliers for their performance.

Sustainability and social responsibility

Global supply chains are complex and can be multi-tiered. This presents a serious challenge for CPOs with limited visibility into the supply chains for sustainability and social responsibility.  AI-powered reporting will enable teams to keep track of supplier and product information. This is via using global data sources from different countries, regions and languages. The key is to raise the issues and gain the sponsorship to address the risks proactively. Mapping systems and technology can help but only if this policy is embedded within the business. There is movement from tier one contract management of supply chains to managing the supplier networks.

User experience and engagement

User experience and engagement with your P2P system, such as ease of use, functionality, design, and feedback is important for the function. Alongside engagement, it can help you increase your user adoption, satisfaction, and loyalty. For example, you can use mobile apps, chatbots, voice assistants, and gamification to make your P2P system more accessible, intuitive, responsive, and fun.

Concluding remarks

The P2P landscape in 2024 will be shaped by technological advancements and a shift in business priorities. From the integration of AI and blockchain to the emphasis on sustainability and mobile solutions, these trends are redefining how companies approach procurement and supplier relationships. Despite executive reluctance to engage in further investment, during periods of inflation and market stagnancy, digitisation must be embraced with the option to either pivot or perish. Adoption of new systems and processes requires training and capacity planning within procurement departments. This is so that the business-as-usual services can continue without a downturn in service levels. Businesses that adapt to these changes will enhance their operational efficiency and position themselves strategically for future growth and success.

By Kathleen Anne Harmeston, CEO, CXO, Director, Advisor, C Suite Coach

Fairmarkit has revealed a partnership with ServiceNow and unveiled an automated quoting integration in a bid to scale efficiency.

Fairmarkit has announced a new partnership and integration with ServiceNow to boost productivity for customers.

The company, which is a leading autonomous sourcing solution set on transforming the procurement of goods and services, has unveiled an automated quoting integration with the ServiceNow platform to drive efficiency.

Scaling efficiency

It is anticipated that the move will help enterprise procurement increase spend under management, source goods and services efficiently as well as operationalise DEI and ESG initiatives through an automated quoting process.

With Fairmarkit’s automation, AI and GenAI capabilities embedded within ServiceNow’s Source-to-Pay Operations solution, end users can automatically create, send and award quotations from within the ServiceNow interface which streamlines processes and decreases turnaround time for competitive quoting.

Buyers maintain the same level of user experience and functionality they expect from Fairmarkit sourcing including reduced cycle time, greater visibility into spend, higher savings and improved compliance and diversity maintenance from within the ServiceNow interface.

Initiated via a ServiceNow sourcing request, requests for quotes (RFQs) are automatically sent to suppliers and bids are collected and presented to the user for an award decision within ServiceNow. Once an award is made, a purchase requisition is created and the customer’s desired ServiceNow workflow is continued.

Revolutionising the way forward

Kevin Frechette, CEO of Fairmarkit, commented: “Fairmarkit’s integration with ServiceNow furthers our commitment to revolutionising the way all organisations buy and sell. We are fired up to work collaboratively with joint customers to ensure the most user friendly and efficient purchasing process possible.”

Kirsten Loegering, VP, Product Management – Finance & Supply Chain Workflows at ServiceNow, added: “From enterprise end users to seasoned procurement professionals, automated quoting with Fairmarkit will simplify the intake-to-award process, while also increasing opportunities for costs savings and efficiency gains. Establishing this partnership with the market leading sourcing solution opens the door for enterprises to bring more spend under management, enables end users to competitively quote with little effort, and paves the way for more value and less manual work.”

Blockchain promises added transparency and security for the procurement process, but are the benefits worth the price of admission?

Blockchain—the decentralised ledger technology that powers cryptocurrencies and NFTs—could be an immensely disruptive force in the procurement and supply chain management sectors. We’re going to take a look at how blockchain might impact procurement, and whether it represents a meaningful innovation or if the costs outweigh the benefits.

Blockchain: the hype

Using a combination of different technologies, including distributed digital ledgers, encryption, asset tokenization, and immutable record management, blockchain creates an unbroken and tamper-proof (in theory) chain of information.

For example, storing the entire service history of a vehicle, the transaction history of a house, or the provenance of a piece of art on a blockchain theoretically renders it trustworthy and incorruptible. A potential buyer could review the timestamped information included on the blockchain and be confident in its accuracy. In principle, blockchain could reduce or remove the need for intermediaries in highly regulated and complex transactions—like real estate, for example.

“Have you bought a house lately? Imagine if you could have transacted with the seller directly, even though you had never met, confident that the deal would be recorded in a way that neither of you could change or rescind later,” write Gartner analysts David Furlonger and Christophe Uzureau, suggesting that “You wouldn’t have to reconcile rafts of personal information with a real-estate agent, mortgage broker, insurance agent, property inspector and title company” if you were making a transaction using the blockchain.

Furlonger and Uzureau suggest that record keeping and verification is just the beginning and, once developed and combined with other technologies (characterised by lots of hyper and limited real world applications) like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things, and the Metaverse, the real potential of the technology will be unleashed, creating “whole new social and economic constructs in the peer-to-peer age of Web3.”

Blockchain: the reality

In actuality, Blockchain outside of applications for cryptocurrency isn’t actually… very interesting? It’s certainly not new. Blockchain technology not used to underpin a cryptocurrency is just a distributed append-only data structure. Often there are some users that are allowed to make additions to the structure. In the real estate example used Furlonger and Uzureau, that might include the homeowner, a surveyor conducting an appraisal of the property, the utility company providing electricity and water to the house, and professionals hired to perform maintenance on the property. A private blockchain could collect and verify the history of a property like rings on a tree, and provide an authoritative account that is, in theory, free from tampering. The thing is, that sort of verification is called a consensus protocol, and they’ve been around since before the 1960s—as have append-only data structures.

The reality is that the new, shiny applications for blockchain aren’t actually very useful. Supposedly, Blockchain technology offers up a way to verify information (or conduct a transaction) without relying on an intermediary, or blindly trusting a third party. “Trust-less” is the phrase that gets thrown around a lot. However, the result is often that you’re just trusting the technology underpinning the blockchain over a human or a public institution.

Building trust

As Bruce Schneier pointed out in an article for WIRED, “When that trust turns out to be misplaced, there is no recourse. If your bitcoin exchange gets hacked, you lose all of your money. Your bitcoin wallet gets hacked, you lose all of your money. If you forget your login credentials, you lose all of your money. If there’s a bug in the code of your smart contract, you lose all of your money. And if someone successfully hacks the blockchain security, you lose all of your money.”

One glaring example was the 2019 case of cryptocurrency exchange CEO Gerald Cotten, who died while being the only person with the password necessary to access US$145 million worth of other people’s Bitcoin. Far from being trustless, it would seem the people who lost access to their money were placing their trust in a single individual who died, leaving them no physical or legal recourse to get their money back.

There’s also the very valid criticism of blockchain-based technology that it’s an environmental disaster. NFTs caught most of the heat for this over the past few years, but all blockchain-based technology needs to be stored somewhere in a constantly active server. As noted by the NASDAQ in a report from earlier this year, “The energy consumption of blockchain technology results in significant greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.”

So, blockchain is bad?

Not necessarily. I, personally, will stake what reputation I have on the fact NFTs and cryptocurrencies are misguided and valueless gimmicks at best and insidious, cynical techno-cults (that burn fossil fuels more enthusiastically than the UV lights at the Bored Ape convention burned out crypto bros’ retinas) at worst.

However, remember the boring version of blockchain technology? The append-only data sets we talked about before may not be new or especially sexy, but they’re an element of blockchain technology that could be incredibly useful for the procurement sector.

Blockchains in procurement

The procurement sector has traditionally struggled with opacity. Sourcing goods—especially from overseas markets—through networks of distributors and middlemen can muddy the waters and conceal vital steps in the source-to-pay process. The origin of goods, labour practices, contact with modern slavery or deforestation, can all be concealed in a murky supply chain.

Tracing the progress of an item from its raw materials through to a finished product is “often a challenge for today’s supply chains due to outdated paper processes and disjointed data systems that slow down communication. The lack of data compatibility exposes supply chains to problems like visibility gaps, inaccurate supply and demand predictions, manual errors, counterfeiting, and compliance violations,” notes an AWS report. However, with blockchain, procurement and supply chain management organisations can “document production updates to a single shared ledger, which provides complete data visibility and a single source of truth. Because transactions are always time-stamped and up to date, companies can query a product’s status and location at any point in time. This helps to combat issues like counterfeit goods, compliance violations, delays, and waste.”

Global network

If the documentation of, say, a shipment of EV batteries, can trace a direct line from a lithium mine in Australia to a factory in China through a global network of suppliers, all the way to their arrival at a factory in Ohio, the procurement department sourcing those batteries can scrutinise every piece of the value chain much more effectively for quality control, potential counterfeiting, and ESG compliance. 

It’s not as flashy as Dogecoin, but it’s actually useful, especially as corporations make efforts to divest major polluters or other parties with poor ESG practices from their supply chains in an effort to reduce Scope 3 emissions and stop propping up reprehensible practices like modern slavery and deforestation.

By Harry Menear

Keith Hartley, CEO of LevaData, discusses why procurement’s golden age is now amid the rise of transformative tech solutions.

“This is the golden age to be in procurement.”

Keith Hartley, CEO of LevaData, doesn’t hold back.

Similar to his passion for surfing, he is constantly on the lookout for the next challenge to tackle. The company he leads is an integrated, AI-powered supply management software platform that is transforming direct material sourcing by helping companies reduce costs, mitigate risk, and accelerate new product development.

Given the trajectory of the procurement function’s journey over the past 10 years, few could doubt the change the space has seen. Indeed, procurement was once a back-office function siloed out of sight, but today it stands front and centre in business operations as a key cog in the machine. Hartley recognises that while it is an exciting time, procurement is still a laggard and restrained. “I would say we’re woefully behind in procurement,” he admits.

“The function’s teams are typically not ones to raise their hand and demand the tools they need to do their job. If you’re a salesperson and you work in a Customer Relationship Management system, it’s a given you need a system to do your job, and if you’re in finance, it’s a given you need an ERP system. When you turn to procurement, there’s not widespread acknowledgement that you need a tool like LevaData to do your job.”

Keith Hartley, CEO of LevaData

Powering smart supply chains

LevaData powers the smartest supply chains in the world by constantly analysing business objectives against real-time market activity and community intelligence. The company is trusted to deliver improved margins, control risks, generate new product velocity, and achieve multi-tier supplier engagement with purpose-built tools for quick collaboration and decisive actions. LevaData creates a competitive advantage with transformational and predictive insights. “What we are replacing are spreadsheets and emails, but some major companies are still 100% reliant on them,” discusses Hartley. “It’s an antiquated way of doing business. Macroeconomic shocks aren’t new, and obviously Covid was a significant one. With these shocks in the global supply chain, you must understand the impact on your specific business.”

Hartley speaks to how at the end of the day, companies still need to make a profit. “It’s about finding alternative sources of supply and buying the parts at the right price. These are challenges that don’t go away; in fact, they were heightened during Covid and have continued with ongoing geopolitical tensions. The reality is there are always macroeconomic shocks that cause supply to be constrained and prices and lead times to be variable. This has a direct impact on how organisations deliver results and drive revenue growth. Covid really heightened the need for companies to get this workflow in order, and that’s what LevaData has been addressing. The procurement people have been thrust into the light. If they don’t have the tools they need, then they’re stuck. The job is incredibly complex, and procurement needs all the help it can get in today’s world.”

The arrival of generative AI

As generative AI continues to emerge in conversations in procurement and beyond, its rise has caused much excitement within organisational structures. Indeed, OpenAI’s ChatGPT’s launch in late 2022 has only amplified this conversation, with many eager to harness the benefit of efficiency and cost savings as quickly as possible. But just because it’s new, does it make it right?

“It’s early days. It’s mostly hype so far in terms of how it’s being adopted and brought forward, but I’ve never seen a faster accelerated hype cycle than gen AI [has] right now,” explains Hartley. “LevaData is a leader in AI and is using it in two areas of our product. We’re still in the early infancy of AI and what it can do. We use AI to help us contextualise all the different data sources. We take over 154 data sources and blend them. This is data that doesn’t make sense together. Most data-heavy people tap out at about 12 or 14 data sources because the mathematics gets so complex. The complexity has kept the indirect procurement providers away from this space.

“The second part where we use AI is where we identify parts based on savings potential. There’s a lot of potential for the generative piece incorporating an even larger number of data sources. This is huge. AI is going to change a lot and will take some time, but I’ve never seen such a rapid hype around AI before.”

Procurement’s golden age

Looking ahead, Hartley is full of optimism and enthusiasm for procurement’s future and believes we are entering the “golden age.” “The best part is that we’re just at the very start,” he explains. “If you’ve been in indirect procurement for the past 50 years, you’ve been wowed by Coupa, JAGGAER and Ariba, as they have sold the world on the benefits of source-to-contract and procure-to-pay workflows. That works well for indirect procurement, when you are buying pencils, chairs and laptops in volume. But the more complex workflow of sourcing direct materials, the very materials that you turn into products to sell in the market, has largely gone unnoticed. Fortunately, companies have realised the direct sourcing opportunity, and started investing in AI-powered tools like LevaData.

“Legacy spreadsheets and email should no longer be the de facto standard for direct material sourcing. With the convergence of AI, big data, and analytics platforms, procurement professionals can be the heroes they and their company deserve. The next decade is going to be a wild ride in procurement.”

RPA promises increased efficiency, lower costs, and an end to staffing issues, but can procurement teams implement successfully?

Though it’s less frequently associated with automation than its more robot-friendly cousin logistics, procurement is a discipline that’s undergoing a radical transformation.

“Your new procurement employee will work 24/7, never call in sick, rarely make mistakes,won’t complain, and never ask for a raise. Of course, this is not your typical worker, but a procurement software robot—or bot.”

Automation in Procurement: Your New Workforce is Here, KPMG, 2020

Although it reads like the opening paragraph of an abandoned Nanowrimo project started by someone who’d just finished I, Robot, I assure you this report released in 2020 by consultancy KPMG is an entirely serious endeavour. Although the global clamour to replace employees with robots may have died down a little now that a few million professionals have been dragged kicking and screaming back to the office, the benefits that automating elements of the procurement function could deliver are hard to deny.

RPA is big business and isn’t going anywhere. In 2022, the global robotic process automation market was estimated at $2.3 billion. It’s expected to grow at a CAGR of 39.9% between this year and the end of the decade.

From multinational corporations to the US Department of Homeland Security, robotic process automation (RPA) is emerging as a popular way to manage complexity within a large supply chain, automate repetitive tasks, and enhance the capabilities of a procurement department. The US DHS’ procurement department, for example, spent just under $24 billion across about 60,000 transactions in 2022, and is increasingly handing the responsibility for contractor responsibility determinations, as well as automating tasks for the Customs and Border Protection—allegedly cutting jobs that took an hour down to just a few minutes.

As KPMG’s report stresses, “leveraging procurement bots is the next logical step as organisations look to benefit from advancements in digital capabilities.”

RPA adoption in procurement—the Benefits

  • Added visibility
  • Improved efficiency
  • Reduced costs

Large amounts of traditional procurement processes involve repetitive tasks like requisitioning, purchase order management, checking compliance, andanalysing spend, supplier onboarding, and more can be automated using an RPA bot. This is not only because RPA is getting smarter, but also because businesses’ procurement functions tend to be more consolidated within a single platform that is more closely integrated with the business in a modern enterprise. In a sufficiently digitalised system, there’s little to stop RPA from creating efficiencies by eliminating menial tasks.

Likewise, by integrating RPA into a company’s enterprise resource management (ERP) platform, it gains access to vast amounts of data that can then be tracked, analysed, and used to draw insights faster than a human could hope to tackle the same task. Most modern supply chains comprise several different pieces of specialised software, and making each one talk to one another smoothly can create serious pain points for procurement teams, but RPA can do a great deal to smoothe over the cracks.

RPA Risks and How to Overcome them

  • Data exposure
  • Lack of oversight
  • Misguided direction and overspend

As mentioned above, RPA works best when fully integrated into as much of your system as possible, with access to as much data as you can feed it—especially with modern RPA using AI to make more and more intelligent decisions based on raw and unstructured data sets. Obviously, this creates a potentially huge, glowing weak point in your company’s cyber security framework. Because RPA bots replace human workers, they need access to the privileged information that humans have, and those bots are just as—if not more—vulnerable to attack.

RPA bots can automate a great deal of tasks, but it’s easy to lose track of the fact that they’re just bots and, without proper oversight and direction, they could create inefficiencies, security flaws, and breach compliance—all costly problems, especially if the typically costly technology fails to address the original inefficiencies or issues it was bought to resolve.

Automating procurement processes could undeniably lead to increased efficiency, lower costs, and a more resilient procurement function, but only if implemented with intentionality, and given proper oversight once up and running.

By Harry Menear

A consortium of volunteers from California have slowly restructured their state schools’ digital procurement process. Next year, it plans to go national.

Procuring digital goods and services for public schools in the US has reportedly been a fraught process for decades. A fractured landscape between underfunded public institutions and a private tech sector has struggled to even accurately assess students and regulators’ needs, let alone finding the right edtech (education technology) to meet those needs. 

This is all made harder by an increase in the amount of technology being integrated into schools—whether that’s good, bad, or maybe both, it’s undeniably expensive. The global education technology market was valued at $123.40 billion in 2022 by Grand View Research. It’s expected to expand at a rate of 13.6% between now and the end of the decade.

The power of education for procurement

Edtech is also a wide umbrella, with examples ranging from apps, overhead projectors, and chromebooks for students to thousands of screens, digital signage, and “content management platforms” like those found in Christopher Columbus High, an all-boys prep in Miami which the South Korean tech giant Samsung has transformed into a “connected campus”. In the US, procurement functions working for individual school districts are often forced to work with smaller budgets, fractured regulatory landscapes, and to compete with private schools with larger budgets that drive overall prices in the sector up.

Tired of inefficient processes and uneven contracts, a consortium of procurement professionals working in the California public school system are looking to change the edtech procurement process in the US.

The Education Technology Joint Powers Authority (Ed Tech JPA) was formed “out of frustration” with the existing system, or lack thereof, in 2019. The volunteer group, made up of procurement specialists and school purchasing professionals, has spent the past four years streamlining procurement for digital products and services, leveraging the buying power of multiple schools to negotiate prices, buy in bulk and save money.

From a grouping of school districts located in Irvine, San Juan, San Ramon Valley, Fullerton, Clovis, El Dorado County and Capistrano Unified districts, the consortium has grown to include 163 member districts that educate around 2.3 million students. The organisation has been awarded 23 procurement contracts to date, and is growing rapidly in education.

At the California IT in Education (CITE) conference, held in Sacramento during November, JPA President Brianne Ford, predicted that next year would see the program expand beyond California and make group bargaining procurement for edtech a national feature of the US school system.

By Harry Menear

Automotive supplier Continental has chosen to work with JAGGAER to implement its global purchasing strategy while driving digitalisation.

Spend management firm JAGGAER has announced it is working with automotive supplier Continental to push its digitalisation agenda.

In a press release published on Monday (December 11), it was revealed the manufacturer will use JAGGAER’s spend management tools to implement its global purchasing strategy. The JAGGAER ONE suite will counteract previously isolated solutions and harmonise the areas of purchase-to-pay, source-to-contract and business partner management.

A multi-stage rollout is set for launch, beginning in Germany and the United States before being slowly expanded globally.

The release detailed that one of the most important factors for Continental choosing JAGGAER was due to the extensive and highly standardised range of functions of JAGGAER ONE, which already covers many existing requirements. In addition, this not only ensures a quick time-to-value, but also ensures a low implementation risk. Continental confirmed it found JAGGAER’s multi-ERP capability “particularly impressive”, with a total of 30 ERP systems needing to be connected.

Following the project’s launch earlier this year, the implementation of JAGGAER solutions within Continental will take place in several stages. Initially, the company will focus on the procurement of non-production materials and raw materials. It will start with the optimisation of the source-to-source contract process. In the next project phase, Continental will focus on the procure-to-pay process to ensure security of supply for employees globally. This is done via predefined catalogues and to optimise follow-up processes.

As well as the global rollout and digitalisation, there are also plans to expand the use of software to direct purchasing.

Conrad Smith, Founder and CEO at Graphite Systems, discusses the similarities between Formula One and procurement amid significant digital transformation.

“Our business, like the F1 driver, knows to go fast.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that procurement and Formula One are worlds apart at first glance. However, to Conrad Smith, Founder and CEO at Graphite Systems, they are actually a lot closer than initially meets the eye. A petrolhead by his own admission, Smith shared the stage with Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner at DPW Amsterdam 2023. As a purchaser with almost 30 years of experience, Smith has overseen quite a transformation during his procurement career. He says that with everything going digital, you would assume that purchasing would accelerate. But it is, in fact, the opposite.

The pace of purchasing

“Over these 30 years, you would think purchasing would be getting faster,” he tells us. “Business is speeding up, but purchasing is slowing down – that’s stunning. When you think about it, where else in the world is slowing down when everything’s going faster and faster? Even though we’re investing in Coupa and Ariba and all of these expensive purchasing tools, it’s still slowing down. Our business stakeolders know business is speeding up, and so their tolerance is going away. In the nineties, when you onboarded a supplier, you just needed commercial data, name, address, tax, and banking.”

Conrad Smith (left) with DPW founders Matthias Gutzmann and Herman Knevel

Having been founded in February 2019, Graphite Systems is the premier supplier life cycle and risk management solution. The emergence of risk and due diligence has become a primary function within procurement. Vendor due diligence during the procurement process ensures users can identify and mitigate the risks present with a vendor they want to do business with during the contracting process. For Smith, he believes that this transformation has been 15 years in the making.

“I think that it was typical that a purchasing leader would point to other stakeholders and say it’s legal that’s holding this up, privacy or security. They’re the ones stopping the process from happening,” he explains. “And quite frankly, I’ll admit, those were my early thoughts. This is like a hot potato – I don’t want to be owning it. I look stupid because of the slowness I described. Think how stupid the business thinks we are when they come and say, I’m working on a project, I need this consultant here on Monday. And our best response is that it’ll take weeks or months to onboard the supplier”           

“Weeks matter, and we need to go through all this risk and due diligence. It’s really important to do the risk and due diligence, but we can’t do that at the expense of the speed of business. While business is quicker, in every measure that you look at, purchasing is going slower. It’s dumb, and the business knows that, and it means we lose credibility. It needs to happen, but we need to be very intelligent about it and not just do things the same ways we’ve always done them.”

Conrad Smith with Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner at DPW

Procurement’s changing

Smith explains that one of the reasons he can relate to the F1 analogy is that while cars are going faster than ever, the drivers are far safer today. “Every year, we see massive accidents take place,” he tells us. “I think last year, a car that was flipping head over heels tumbling and hit the fence before slamming into the ground but the driver was okay,” he explains. “There’s this principle that is very important in almost any situation where somebody says, you can have this or you can have that. It’s a false choice.

“You have to pick speed, or you have to pick safety. If you go in with a requirement that says it has to be fast and it has to be safe, that’s the F1 example. You have to go into purchasing and say it’s a non-negotiable. It has to be fast and safe. How can we rethink the design so it can go fast and be safe? That’s really my passion, and it’s possible. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s possible. Frankly, in the case of this purchasing problem, it’s way easier than it should be. But we’re still stuck on passing paper back and forth instead of just saying, there’s my profile. Everything you need is in my Graphite profile – just like everything you need to know about me [as a professional] is in my LinkedIn.”    

The future of creation, management, and sharing of data and documents between buyers and suppliers absolutely needs to evolve from emails, spreadsheets, and PDFs into a modern social network architecture. This transformation of information sharing has already proved its speed and efficiency in most other aspects of our lives. It’s time to quit wasting time and money on supplier onboarding and embrace modern technology in this critical procurement process.

Maarten van der Borden, Customer Transformation Director at Celonis, discusses the influence digital tools such as generative AI is having on procurement’s workforce.

“When something new arrives on the scene, people have a tendency to immediately think of the worst-case scenario.”

Maarten van der Borden is a Customer Transformation Director at Celonis. As AI gets increasingly complex and advanced, there are concerns from some sections of the workforce that robots will take human jobs in procurement. Indeed, one of the biggest draws of automation is the cost savings and efficiency it brings, with AI able to complete some tasks almost instantly. But van der Borden challenges that notion and believes technology should be used as an enabler.

AI’s impact on jobs

AI will, in my opinion, not replace anyone anytime soon,” he reveals. “What it will do is make life easier and change the way we operate. In the late 90’s, we couldn’t envision what having a mobile phone would be like. When those were first introduced, we thought how annoying it would be that you would always be reachable. Now we can’t imagine living without a phone.

“I don’t envision the elimination of procurement positions due to AI. Rather, a significant shift may occur in the transactional aspects of process analytics. Currently, individuals proficient in creating complex Excel macros or adept at extracting and transforming data into actionable insights are highly valued. These roles are likely to undergo changes, but this should be seen as an opportunity for enhancement, not a threat. It’s crucial to recognise this. My belief is that AI won’t be replacing jobs, particularly in procurement where human involvement is key. The role of technology should be to empower and improve processes in procurement, not to replace the human element.”

Maarten van der Borden, Customer Transformation Director at Celonis

The journey

Over the years, Van der Borden has distinguished himself through a series of impactful transformations and strategic developments, primarily at the nexus of IT, business operations, and finance. His journey has been marked by the successful management of large-scale programs, where his ability to engage cross-functional teams and collaborate with stakeholders at all organisational levels has consistently led to the achievement of key goals. Notably, he has a history of taking on complex and challenging projects, steering them from concept to completion under stringent conditions. This track record has established him as an influential change agent, known for transforming underperforming organizations into models of high performance and efficiency.

Having began his career in the Dutch Military, he experienced a similar journey to many procurement practitioners. Van der Borden fell into the space by a “happy accident” and never left.

He shares, “I didn’t know much about procurement initially, but I quickly grew to love it.” His journey led him to DS Smith, a major packaging organisation, where he successfully spearheaded a comprehensive global procurement transformation. Subsequently, he transitioned to head the finance transformation within the same company. In this role, he sought a tool that could effectively navigate the unique challenges of procurement compared to finance.

“I needed something that would show me how our financial processes really ran. It meant finding the most impactful inefficiencies and developing an action plan to deal with them.”

Celonis today

This search brought him to Celonis’ process mining capability, a product that resonated with him so profoundly that he decided to join the company. “Right now, I am a Customer Transformation Director at Celonis, which means I help our customers organise themselves around this solution because I firmly believe implementing a tech solution by itself doesn’t do anything. We will always need the human element to make the change and create value, based on the insights tech provides. I’m very happy to be here.”

Today, Celonis is the global leader in process mining, providing companies with a modern way to run their business processes entirely on data and intelligence. The firm pioneered the process mining category more than a decade ago when it first developed the ability to automatically X-ray processes, find inefficiencies and implement immediate, targeted, and automated action to resolve them.

Gen AI drive

Procurement is in a transformative moment. At DPW Amsterdam, generative AI was the buzzword on attendees’ lips everywhere you looked. For van der Borden he acknowledges how rapidly the space is changing as a result of an increased influence of digital tools.

“To me, the first big thing to realise when we talk about gen AI is the democratisation of data and process analytics,” explains van der Borden. “I think what’s really important is that procurement realm to me is a prime example of where gen AI can have a huge impact. I think what gen AI will do is open up the capabilities of analytics to a much wider audience than today. People who may previously have trusted some Excel sheets or PowerPoint slides presented to them to make decisions can now freely explore, or even converse with their own data and make informed decisions themselves. You start to build a community of data analysts rather than just having consumption of data analytics. That to me is the big game changer that gen AI is actually providing procurement with.”

Procurement’s perception

CPOstrategy sits down with Maarten van der Borden, Customer Transformation Director at Celonis, at DPW Amsterdam 2023

By its own common admission, procurement used to be boring. A function hidden out of sight and kept far away from the c-suite. Now, it’s front and centre, firing on all cylinders. Indeed, the Covid pandemic helped drive it towards the top of the agenda, in addition to other enablers such as transformation and ESG. For van der Borden, he believes procurement is beginning to shake off that old skin and be seen as more of a strategic function.

“We’ve received a bad reputation in the past because the impact has not always been clear,” he tells us. “Some analysis that people do on procurement as a strategic function is to ask what’s the real impact? Yeah, you manage the supply and demand but as long as I have my blue ball point where and when I need it, you’re doing a good job. If things start to fall over then procurement used to get the blame. What I’m really happy to see is that more and more CEOs are seeing procurement as a strategic function, not only driving value in the financial domain but also more and more as the primary contributors to a more sustainable future and the guardians of our corporate brands.

An evolution

“There’s been a noticeable evolution in procurement, particularly in the merging of processes like source-to-pay, procure-to-pay, and purchase-to-pay. Our definitions in these areas haven’t always been crystal clear. However, when you delve into purchase-to-pay, it’s apparent that this is where the transactional activities occur. Due its very transactional nature, this phase is measurable and reveals the outcomes of our upstream actions in sourcing. I’ve observed that these areas, despite often being managed by separate divisions or functions, are intrinsically linked. The transactional aspects are commonly seen in shared services, while the sourcing aspects represent traditional procurement.

“Bridging these two areas, in my view, is a significant shift. This is where technology truly demonstrates its value. By integrating and examining the transactional processes to understand their shortcomings, we can trace back to the root causes, often found in sourcing. This integration is fascinating to me. It allows us to assess the real impact of our efforts.”

At DPW Amsterdam 2023, Alan Holland, CEO of Keelvar, tells us about the acceleration of digital transformation in procurement and what it means for the next generation of the workforce.

Keelvar’s mission is simple – to help procurement teams globally to scale sourcing excellence.

Keelvar is powered by unique artificial intelligence, designed by category experts, to deliver significant savings and operational improvements for global enterprises such as the likes of Siemens, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Novartis and more. The company was founded in Europe’s largest AI research lab by a team of computer scientists and engineers specialising in AI, optimisation and game theory applied to strategic sourcing. Keelvar has raised $42 million to date in funding to accelerate product development and global growth.

The company is led by Alan Holland who has served as CEO since the company’s foundation in September 2012. Indeed, in his first year, he led the organisation to win the Cork Company of the Year in the small company category, and the firm has more recently been awarded a Gartner Cool vendor.

Having previously served as a lecturer in artificial intelligence in University College Cork’s Computer Science Department, Holland specialised in Optimisation, Game Theory and Algorithmic Mechanism Design. Such experience has helped give Keelvar an edge in terms of innovating with offerings that exceed competitors’ technical capabilities. This enables Keelvar to define an entirely new category of the solution, putting Keelvar in an ideal position to lead this new category that Keelvar has called autonomous sourcing.

CPOstrategy sitting down with Alan Holland, CEO at Keelvar, at DPW Amsterdam 2023

Evolution at scale

Procurement is in a state of flux. The industry is experiencing unprecedented amounts of innovation and change in a way which has ripped up the playbook of what went before it. However, Holland believes it is only in the past half decade or so where transformation has really started to take place. “If we look at the last 10 years, the first five of those procurement was very slow to change,” he discusses. “What we saw were technology landscapes dominated by a small number of large suites vendors who had acquired many companies, but most enterprises were satisfied in buying all the modules they would need to run their procurement function from one vendor. Rarely was it the case that the various modules did what their customers needed. Some of them might have worked in some ways, but others just didn’t serve the need at all.

“In the second five years of our being, things started to change. We did start to notice an increasing acceptance that best-of-breed was the way forward and that enterprises needed to accept that if they were to get the buy-in from their stakeholders, then they needed to work with a combination of best-of-breed vendors and piece together their specific technologies landscape rather than just buying it in bulk from one. I would say it was gradual at first and then suddenly, but it’s only been suddenly in the last couple of years. The pandemic likely accelerated some of that change.”

Trust first

Holland explains that in recent years, large multinationals are placing an increasingly important level of trust in smaller, best-of-breed vendors such as Keelvar to allow them to run their sourcing events and meet niche demands. He believes that in the past it simply wouldn’t have happened and strives to prove that faith right. “I suppose that’s a process where enterprises are gradually increasing their trust in what are smaller vendors, but these smaller vendors are becoming bigger because we’re serving hundreds of large enterprises,” he explains. “We’re gaining in strength and momentum and the barriers to adopting best-of-breed at scale are lowering and the market willingness to jump those barriers is increasing. That momentum is just gathering more and more force.”

Alan Holland, CEO at Keelvar

Using tech as an enabler for talent

Procurement’s talent shortage and the ways to bridge has been a hot topic for years. Whoever you speak to within the industry, everyone will have a different viewpoint. Some say procurement needs a rebrand, others say it’s a lack of education while others think technology could hold the key. For Holland, he believes it’s about making tech work and freeing up people in procurement’s time to focus on more value-add work that will help solve strategic goals.

“What is attracting graduates to procurement now is working with intelligent systems that are powered by AI and that allow them to be strategic and not working on routine or tactical tasks because machines are taking over the data-intensive areas of processing these workflows,” he tells us. “Our second product, which we launched about three years ago is autonomous sourcing. These are sourcing bots that are intelligent software agents that you can now design, build, and operate your own sourcing bots. If you’re somebody who understands best practices in sourcing, you can now build automated workflows so that instead of having to run sourcing events one by one and get through 15 or 20 a year, now you could design bots that are running hundreds of these events per annum.”

Procurement’s bright future

While not only opening up people’s day, using technology as an enabler to make life easier also acts as a way of encouraging the next generation into the industry. “What you’re doing is freeing up many other people’s time to spend on relationship management or innovation discovery and talking to the market, finding out what new suppliers you should be dealing with, visiting suppliers to check things are in order,” he says. “And that is the type of work that people enjoy doing. Machines are taking more of the data-intensive work off their tables, and machines are not good at work related to establishing trust. Machines have no empathy, but people do. The soft skills in procurement are becoming ever more important because the machines are taking over the harder skills. That is leading to a transformation in the type of work that procurement is doing.

“It’s also leading to a transformation in the interest levels that graduates emerging from universities have for this sphere. When it used to be that they were first introduced to a legacy system and told that this is what they needed to use to do their job. Young workers are coming with higher expectations about software and rightfully so, and enterprises are reacting to the need to satisfy the technology requirements of younger recruits now, which is a very good thing. It’s accelerating that digital transformation that we are seeing.”

The next step

Looking ahead, Holland is full of positivity for the future and believes decision-making in procurement is easier than it’s ever been. He believes tomorrow is “very bright” as procurement enters an era with intelligent software agents which can automate workflows and make the human workday more efficient. “There’s a whole new range of possibilities where creative and thoughtful planning will provide a competitive advantage for organisations and procurement can be far more influential in how successful their companies can be. It’s a game-changer.”

At DPW Amsterdam 2023, Brandon Card, Co-Founder and CEO at Terzo, discusses the rise of his organisation amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how it used the disruption to its advantage.

Terzo means third in Italian.

With the two founders having Italian heritage, they chose to describe what they set out to build – a platform that brings third parties together.

Terzo uses powerful AI technology to extract, analyse, and visualise its customer’s contract data. Terzo’s AI data extraction capabilities also reach beyond contracts and can solve an organisation’s document problems, from invoices to POs and more. Its platform was designed on the foundation of contract intelligence, providing business teams the necessary data to improve productivity, optimise spend, reduce costs, and manage risk and governance across their entire supplier ecosystem. Terzo is the first solution to provide critical data and terms to both legal and business teams to make decisions together.

Terzo’s journey

Brandon Card is the Co-Founder and CEO at Terzo. His company’s journey’s start was an interesting one, having been founded days before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that then ensued. But, reflecting on the disruptive nature of the situation, Card believes it actually helped get Terzo up and running quicker. “It just accelerated our timeline because we wanted to build fast,” he reveals. “When we put the team together, we had this concept that we wanted to get the product out as fast as possible. We knew that with Covid happening there was going to be a huge shift in how people were working. People were going to need to buy new solutions faster and it’s going to be harder to control spending. We knew procurement was going to have a host of challenges across the supply chain with this interruption with Covid. Our team on the engineering side believed we need to build faster.”

This led to Terzo’s team on the engineering side of the house to work diligently throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021 on building code and new releases with the vision of getting the Terzo product into the industry quicker. “We thought we might be able to help procurement given the challenges they have now with all of these new needs that the business is going to bring,” he says. “We probably built the product about 50% faster just because there were no distractions so there’s pros and cons when everything happens in life. Our team really worked well together and they buckled down and they took that time to focus on Terzo. It’s something I’m very proud of this team for doing that.”

Brandon Card speaks with CPOstrategy at DPW Amsterdam 2023

Developing relationships

A big part of what Terzo does revolves around strengthening relationships by uniting teams to unlock insights so organisations can make smarter decisions and maximise value from suppliers, customers and partners. Card believes this mantra holds the key to long-term success in procurement.

“It’s critical for us because when we think about whether we’re doing spend analytics or contract intelligence, it’s all about understanding the relationship with these different entities you’re working with,” discusses Card. “We’re not there yet but my big vision in the future is to build an enterprise relationship intelligence platform to understand every single business that you’re working with, whether it’s a customer, a supplier or a partner. The truth with these big organisations, a lot of their suppliers are also partners or customers. These relationships are very complex and they’re very critical to innovation.

“If you’re doing anything in the cloud right now, if you’re doing anything with AI or even autonomous driving, you need partners to get this done. You can’t build it in-house. And years ago, people would build in-house. When we were young growing up in the nineties, everyone had to build their own data centres and build their own software. We’re in a world now where you can go and turn things on online in a few minutes, and that’s where we want to be so you can push product out faster, competitive advantage, and I think these relationships are critical to procurement having a competitive advantage and driving value for the whole business.”

Procurement’s place

In today’s world, procurement is in the driving seat. The function isn’t siloed anymore, stuck in a back-office room and out of the way of everyone else. Despite such significant innovation, there is sometimes a perception that procurement is still boring. For Card, he believes one of procurement’s biggest challenges is changing that age-hold mentality of procurement within a c-suite.

“It’s about educating the CEO or the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of large organisations just how critical procurement is. A lot of them just don’t understand,” he tells us. “That’s the challenge we have, and that’s something we want to change. In the future, the CFO is going to treat the head of sales the same they treat the CPO. Right now, the chief revenue officer gets special treatment in every organisation. If you run sales, you’re treated differently because you bring in revenue. If you’re procurement, you’re lucky if you’re at the table. But I do see that changing.”

While Card believes this shift is already beginning to happen with younger CFOs, change such as this doesn’t happen overnight. “By doing this, you’re going to have a really balanced organisation and reduce risk while optimising their costs,” he discusses. “Ultimately, they’re going to be more efficient, and the teams are going to be working a lot better together. There’s going to be a better culture when leadership buys in because then procurement feels valued. They work harder, and that vibe carries throughout the organisation. That’s something that we want to help push for procurement but we know it’s going to take time.”

Matthias Gutzmann, Founder of DPW Amsterdam, discusses the conference’s rise to prominence, reflects on challenges and reveals future plans.

“Our challenge is always around asking ourselves how can we make DPW Amsterdam better every year?” 

It’s fair to say Matthias Gutzmann, Founder and CEO of DPW Amsterdam, doesn’t believe in standing still and resting on his laurels. 

​​Since launching DPW in 2019, the conference has grown from strength to strength and is now widely regarded as the biggest and most influential tech event in procurement and supply chain on the planet. And despite welcoming over 1,250 procurement professionals with more than 2,500 virtual attendees watching along at home in its 2023 edition in October, Gutzmann is eyeing continuous improvement. 

​​In 2018, Gutzmann was researching procurement conferences to showcase his then-employer, Vizibl, a startup. He was frustrated by the options. The existing conferences were prohibitively expensive for a limited startup budget, lacked investors, and failed to attract an audience of startup businesses, which is critical for the development of digital capabilities and to drive innovation. Identifying this gap in the market, Gutzmann left his job in New York, moved into his parents’ house in Germany, and invested his entire personal savings to launch DPW Amsterdam.​​     ​​ 

“As soon as one conference finishes, we’re already thinking about the next one,” he explains. “We all sit down and think about how we can improve the experience and what new technologies we can bring in next time. It really is a 12-month process to bring it all together.”  

Bringing DPW to life

Held at the former stock exchange building, the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, this year’s theme was “Make Tech Work” which focused on turning digital aspirations into a reality. There was a deep dive into discussions surrounding AI and machine learning in procurement, digital transformation strategies, sustainable procurement, supplier collaboration, risk management as well as innovation and disruption. The two-day event was centred on ensuring the vision of digital procurement happens now and how organisations can be challenged to deliver results instantly instead of only concepts and theories. 

Despite significant success, Gutzmann maintains that there are some difficult aspects to get right in order to make the magic happen on the day. DPW ​Amsterdam ​builds client booths themselves instead of allowing sponsors to bring them themselves. “That’s a massive undertaking to get this done because we need all the design elements from the sponsors,” he says. “It’s that quality standard but we know it comes with more work instead of just allowing people to bring their own stuff. We have Simone Heeremans, Head of Production, who is amazing and oversees logistics such as catering to the suppliers. 

​​“There is also the sales part of the conference which is selling the tickets and sponsorships. We have created this pull for the conference that we didn’t need to build a proper sales team around it. That said, there’s always a stress factor to get the numbers we want every year and grow it. So far, so good.”​     ​​  

​The uniqueness of the conference, the problem it solves, and the timing of the launch in 2019 were the basis for today’s success and fast growth.  
 
WHAT MAKES DPW AMSTERDAM SO UNIQUE?  

​Matthias Gutzmann:​​  

​​​1. THE AUDIENCE​​ 

​​​Traditional procurement conferences only attract procurement professionals. But, DPW Amsterdam recognised the need for breaking this silo and for more collaboration in order to harness the potential of new digital technology, targeting an audience of procurement professionals, business leaders, suppliers, startups, data scientists, investors, and young talents No other procurement conference brings this variety of people together.​​ 

​​​​ 

​​​2. WORLD’S BIGGEST STAGE FOR PROCUREMENT STARTUPS​​ 

​​​DPW Amsterdam is built to bring startups into the procurement ecosystem. In 2023, we displayed over 50 startups, giving delegates a unique insight into procurement innovation.​​ 

​​​​​ 

​​​3. ATTENDEE EXPERIENCE 
I always thought procurement events felt boring – and I felt lost in a sea of guys wearing suits and ties. So, at DPW, our goal is to make procurement cool and sexy. Not an easy feat, I know. Our dress code at DPW Amsterdam is strictly “startup casual.” You’ll see t-shirts, hoodies, and sneakers from attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and speakers alike. This dress code embodies our entrepreneurial spirit. But it also breaks down barriers– and levels the playing field between big-shot enterprise CPOs and 20-something startup founders. 

​​​Better than ever

A large focus for Gutzmann and his team has been tweaking the formula of the virtual experience. Due to the impact of COVID-19, DPW was forced to cancel its 2020 conference before offering a virtual-only event in 2021. The experience, although different, was praised for its ‘TV feel’ and still created a buzz for those watching at home. However, with day-to-day life returning to a new normal, DPW Amsterdam reverted to an in-person conference in 2022 but offered a hybrid solution for those keen to watch the action from afar. “There wasn’t really anything special about it,” he discusses. “If you run an eight-hour live stream from only one stage, you aren’t likely to keep people watching. That’s why this year we asked ourselves: what can we do to increase the virtual experience? So we did just that.” 

This year, Gutzmann and his team set about creating a pop-up broadcast studio to generate a television feel with live coverage from podcaster and host of Let’s Talk Supply Chain Sarah Barnes-Humphrey, as well as a reporter conducting interviews on the expo floor. “Now we’ve got cameras moving around which helps bring the whole conference to life,” explains Gutzmann. “We’ve really ramped it up this year and turned it into a large production.” 

Up until this point, DPW has run solely in Amsterdam which Gutzmann believes has acted as his organisation’s competitive advantage. It is this approach that has enabled DPW to allow it to reach the level it is today. Hosted at the Beurs van Berlage, Gutzmann is full of admiration for the historic building which was built in 1896. According to Gutzmann, he believes it is what sets DPW​ Amsterdam​ apart from other conferences operating in the space.

“We love it here, it’s unique and I feel it’s a key part of the experience,” he says. “But we’re becoming bigger and we might need to build something completely from scratch. Every year, we think about how we can do things differently. I don’t know if bigger is necessarily better, it’s also about the quality of the solutions we bring in. My goal is to map out the entire end-to-end tech ecosystem and bring in that diversity of solutions.” 

Bright future

Procurement, like many industries, is suffering from a talent shortage. The need to find ways to plug that gap, whether that’s through education, industry rebrand or AI, has never been so crucial. With an eye on the future, Gutzmann believes in procurement’s workforce of tomorrow and gave out around 100 free student passes this year. “When we talk to CPOs everyone’s talking about talent shortages so we understand the need to bring in that next generation and show them that procurement could be the way forward for them,” he says. “I think in the context of digital, who better to do digital than the next generation? They are more tech savvy so we need them and it’s a great opportunity for both sides because they can meet CPOs and it’s also becoming a place for recruitment too. We are doubling down on young talent 100% and it’s a win-win.” 

Gutzmann is candid about the future of DPW ​Amsterdam ​and is always open to feedback while striving for continuous improvement. He believes in the value of innovation and shaking things up in order to best meet attendee’s needs. “I always think we can always bring in new speakers, but this year’s agenda was incredibly strong,” he discusses. “It’s really about listening to the people. Ultimately how can we be more relevant around the solutions as well here? How can we better matchmake people? I was wondering about how we can work pre-event with some of the corporate attendees that are coming to the conference around mapping out their challenges to then have more meaningful matchmaking at the event because it’s an innovation showcase here as well. There’s more value to be had but we know that also comes with more work. There’s always more we can think about.” 

With an unprecedented amount of technology at procurement’s fingertips today, Gutzmann is in no uncertain terms about what the next chapter of the space holds. “It’s the best time to be in procurement,” he explains. “It’s the most exciting era to be in procurement and supply chain. We need to get loud about it and celebrate that fact.” 

CPOstrategy examines why replacing legacy systems could hold the key in procurement to achieve long-term success.

As technology evolves, modernising legacy systems in procurement becomes essential.

Change management is never straightforward or linear. Indeed, legacy systems are familiar to an organisation and the workforce might be reluctant to embrace a new way of working, or at least at the very beginning.

But how much damage is clinging to outdated processes doing to an organisation?

Replacing legacy systems

“For many organisations, legacy systems are seen as holding back the business initiatives and business processes that rely on them,” according to Stefan Van Der Zijden, VP Analyst at Gartner. “When a tipping point is reached, application leaders must look to application modernisation to help remove the obstacles.”

People often like their routines and a preferred methodology of how something is completed. This can lead to pushback from the workforce about the purpose of ‘fixing something if it isn’t broken.’ And the point of change for the sake of change is a valid one, up until an alternative which is going to demonstrate tangible benefits. The truth is that most legacy systems don’t allow for growth with older technology often not able to interact with newer systems and processes. In ‘7 options to modernise legacy systems’, Gartner pointed out six main drivers of application modernisation with three from a business sense and three from an IT perspective.

These are business fit, value and agility as well as cost, complexity and risk. If a legacy application isn’t meeting new requirements needed by a digital business, it needs to be modernised to fit properly and should be enhanced to offer greater value to the business. Without agility, a digital business will struggle to keep pace with the latest trends or craze and put the organisation at risk of falling behind competitors. Whereas from an IT side, if the total cost of ownership is too high or if the technology is too difficult to use, then modernising could be vital.

Overcoming resistance to change

Ultimately, change management is an essential component of any Chief Procurement Officer’s role. It can range from a small swap, such as a change of supplier, to wide-scale amendments such as altering the way goods and services are acquired or implementing a procurement or software transformation. According to data from group purchasing firm Una, 70% of change management efforts fail. In order to combat this, there are three key steps to overcoming resistance to change. These are engagement, managing resistance and not neglecting training.

Market disruptions, evolving customer demands and the necessity for a digital landscape has forced businesses’ hands. They are now faced with the task of completing legacy modernisation as a matter of urgency to deliver innovative products and services quickly and efficiently. Failure to do so could lead to being reactive instead of proactive – a risk that in today’s fast paced and ever-changing world that should be taken with caution.

At DPW Amsterdam, Gregor Stühler, CEO and Co-founder of Scoutbee, and Karin Hagen-Gierer, CPO and Strategic Advisor at Scoutbee, discusses the rise of chatbots and their influence in procurement.

Scoutbee was created with the idea of improving supply chain resilience through AI and big data to transform the way organisations use supplier data to discover and connect with suppliers.

The company, which was founded in 2015, offers an AI-powered Scoutbee Intelligence Platform (SIP) which uses graph technology and predictive and prescriptive analytics to deliver holistic supplier visibility that helps procurement make confident supplier decisions, drive cross-functional efficiency and optimise existing technology investments.      

Scoutbee’s AI-driven data foundation connects teams to any data point, internal, external, third-party and more, as well as any data combination necessary to orchestrate a resilient, competitive and sustainable supply base.

Gregor Stühler is the CEO and Co-founder at Scoutbee. He believes that waiting to invest in AI tools and underlying data training will be companies’ greatest sustainable disadvantage of the next decade. “AI is not an off-the-shelf product, so you can’t buy AI unless it’s a pre-trained AI on a specific use case but then it’s not a competitive edge,” he tells us.

“A competitive edge only emerges when you have a clear use case and training on top of that. The companies that start using those AI solutions sooner with their data have much better training in place. As a result, they’ll always be ahead of the game quite significantly. Companies that use off-the-shelf AI products will do well, but the ones that actually take it meaningfully and start trading on their own use case and their own data will be the ones that will be accelerating.”

Gregor Stühler, CEO and Co-founder and Karin Hagen-Gierer, CPO and Strategic Advisor, at Scoutbee

AI – Changing the game?

Karin Hagen-Gierer is CPO and Strategic Advisor at Scoutbee. She explains that there are a multitude of ways in which tools such as generative AI are having an impact on procurement to change the game.      

“AI is great to help with mundane and boring tasks,” she discusses. “It can help us with vendor requests that come in and can be appropriately channelled. It can help your colleagues to navigate procurement. When they have questions, they can interact with a chat solution and be guided in a much better way to find what they want much quicker. I think if we look at how it can enhance our teams’ effectiveness, it is really in market analytics, supplier searches, supplier evaluations, and ChatGPT that could help us broaden the spectrum. If you then look to more tailored solutions like Scoutbee then it’s a very different ball game that procurement professionals have at their fingertips. I’m noticing a drive on both efficiency and effectiveness in this space.”

Despite AI’s draws, Stühler is well aware of the challenges and hesitations around digital technology. As far as he is concerned, there are two waves of generative AI to be aware of.  “Wave one is about having a prompt and how tools such as ChatGPT can help with that,” he says. “For example, what are 10 RFI questions for aluminium cans?

“Wave two is where I merge and synthesise all of my data into our large language model and it has reasoning to drive decision-making and scenario planning. You do have to be careful though because you have to give the system all your critical data but you don’t want to input this into an open model. This means the use case has to be that you deploy a large language model in your own infrastructure, and own your own graphic card that will never actually leave your organisation.

Gregor Stühler, CEO and Co-founder at Scoutbee

“This is the biggest concern that we’re seeing because ChatGPT has brought a lot of progress but also a lot of questions. Now, when people hear that we want them to merge their data into a large language model that’s completely private, we’re met with some resistance when we explain to them that their large language model is running on their very own graphics card that we don’t have access to. That tends to give them more comfort to put their data into it,” he continues.

Stühler adds that he believes there are some misconceptions around ChatGPT and the nature of how accurate the data it provides actually is. As is the case with any new technology, these things take time. “It’s always the same. It happened with electric cars, nobody thought that would solve the battery issue,” he discusses. “I think we are right at the peak of the hype cycle when it comes to those things and people have figured out what they can use it for. With wave one of generative AI, it is fine to have hallucinations of the model and if something is spat out that is not supported by the input.

“But by the second use case, hallucinations are not okay anymore because it’s working with accurate data and should not come up with some imaginary creative answers. It should be always supported by the data that is put in. This is very important that people understand that if you train the model and if you have the right setting, those hallucinations will go away and you can actually have a setting where the output of the model is 100% accurate,” he further emphasises.

Procurement’s potential

According to Karin Hagen-Gierer, there is an incredible opportunity to create value in procurement today. Following unprecedented global challenges over the past few years, CPOs have never been in the boardroom so often – something she’s keen to stress.      

“The value of procurement through crisis has been proven,” she says. “We tend to say, it’s not a core business, but very often if things don’t go right, it becomes core very quickly and you are in the CEO’s office more than you might like. It’s the breadth of the role that allows to drive value: You impact the P/L impact, topline, and the ESG agenda to name a few. But then there is a need to future-proof your team’s skill set around how you can drive more impact from being more effective in the respective tool sets you’re using, the questions you’re able to solve solutions for. Additionally, you have to work on improving your efficiencies. Teams are not getting bigger, so you need to be enabled in a very different way to really drive all this value.”

Karin Hagen-Gierer, CPO and Strategic Advisor at Scoutbee

Stühler reflects on the past and admires the transformation procurement has undergone in the past decade since he joined the industry. “I came to procurement in 2012 and even then I remember this function being solely responsible for paying invoices and calling trucks to arrive sooner – at first glance,” he says. “Combined with the crises that now happened over the last couple of years, post-Covid has proven procurement’s value – and the impact organisations such as Scoutbee can make.    

“I think two key things will happen in the future. Firstly, the tech landscape is exploding so quickly that there must be a consolidation that will happen. Secondly, when it comes to generative AI I think those pragmatic use cases will become the new normal. ChatGPT will be like Google today to get insights. Generative AI and large language models will get increasingly powerful over time and will help if you feed it the right data and connect it to different data streams that you have internally. It can become this true copilot and help you with complex scenario planning and make you aware of weak spots in your supply base while helping you to strategically take the right steps. The future is exciting,” he concludes.

Stefan Dent, co-founder at Simfoni, and Richard Martin, CEO at Thinking Machine, discuss the power of data in procurement and the future of AI.

“See spend differently”.

Simfoni is revolutionising how businesses spend their money – via data. In today’s ever-changing world, everything is underpinned by data at Simfoni.

Founded in 2015, Simfoni is a leading provider of spend analytics, Tail Spend and eSourcing solutions to global businesses. Simfoni’s platform utilises machine learning and AI to accelerate and automate key parts of the procurement process which saves time and money while creating a pathway for supply chain sustainability. Its solution quickly distils and organises complex spend data to help discover opportunities and savings. It also gets up and running in days with an on-demand spend automation solution.

Indeed, Simfoni aims to take the hassle out of procurement through its automated, fluid platform that offers a unique pay-as-you-save pricing model which reduces barriers to technology adoption. Through fused revolutionary technology with AI-enabled content and deep expertise to automate, streamline and simplify procurement. Simfoni’s composable platform provides a selection of advanced automation modules that help customers sky-rocket savings and achieve sustainability objectives.

Stefan Dent, co-founder, Simfoni

Stefan Dent co-founded Simfoni and now serves as Chief Strategy Officer. He tells us his organisation was created ‘with a purpose to be different’. “A lot of customers have been working on full suite solutions for some time, which was seen as a sort of panacea for all ills that would solve everything,” says Dent. “It solved some areas such as direct spend, but these are large, mega expensive solutions that aren’t particularly agile. Ultimately, we came up with our own solution which is purposely different. We launched as a composable, agile solution that works with existing systems to boos ROI on tech spend. We apply next-gen technology to procurement that democratizes access to digital procurement tools – opening-up digital solutions to organizations of any size and across any sector. It means we can open our solution up to the masses and not just for large organisations.”

Relationship with Thinking Machine

Simfoni is powered by analytics. Its analytics solution informs spend, as well as watching how change is measured and performance is tracked over time. Now eight years old, Simfoni has fostered alliances with several younger companies offering specialist tools which have been embedded within the Simfoni platform. One such company is Thinking Machine, led by CEO and Founder Richard Martin.

Thinking Machine was founded in 2019 by Martin after he discovered the industry needed to find a better use of data to address ‘complex spend’ such as in Telecoms where you have multiple vendors, manual and frequent billing, changing tariffs and users. Martin explains that he witnessed all types of companies going through the same problems instead of only large companies. “Thinking Machine was developed as a way to give customers a single source of revenue across all services, pricing and demand but in a way that can be done at the very lowest level,” says Martin. “We would take all that complexity and be able to roll it up into actionable evidence that could be reconciled against their top-level financial numbers. It gives procurement directors the tools they need to actually be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their procurement operations.”

Developing key, strategic relationships with partners that can be depended on is an essential component to the success of any long-term business relationship. Simfoni relies on Thinking Machine to help manage its load and enable customers to go deep with Thinking Machine to extract even more value from their data. “We offer our clients the opportunity to go deep within certain domains,” discusses Dent. “We can then bring in Thinking Machine to help extract even more value from the data on complex spend.

Stefan Dent and Richard Martin speaking to CPOstrategy at DPW Amsterdam

“Thinking Machine’s application will ingest a large quantum of complex data. Their tools work like magic and allows data to be put into a readable format so they can make sense of the actual spend and quickly identify optimisation opportunities. This is part of our philosophy to work with niche technology partners because we shouldn’t do everything, so we need to put our resources where it counts. Resources like Thinking Machine work well by plugging into us, which means we offer incremental value to our clients without them going to market separately.

“It can also be very hard for a young company to work with large corporates because they’re untried or untrusted. This means for a company like Thinking Machine to connect with Simfoni is a win-win for everyone.”

Procurement’s bright future

Given the space procurement finds itself in today, the future is set to continue to be transformative. For Martin, he believes the introduction and influence of generative AI tools will help meet challenges in procurement head-on. “For the first time you see how it’s actually possible to be a unicorn with a 10-person team,” he explains. “The scales of efficiency are just out of this world. In terms of the procuretech industry, I think we’ve had a problem for a while now because there’s been all these best-of-breed solutions that are doing bits and pieces but is very difficult to stitch together into one cohesive platform that customers can make use of without having to know how to use 50 different tools.

“I think Gen AI offers a path to helping to smooth over some of those challenges and figuring out how to bring these things together. I think enterprises are going to start finding a lot more value in having all these best-of-breed solutions, such as Thinking Machine and Simfoni, while being able to use AI as a way to put this together into more of a single common layer that they can access. It is a very exciting time.”

For much of the past decade, Dent explains that he has believed that machines will take over mundane and outdated ways of working. Now, with the influence of tools such as Open AI’s ChatGPT, that digital future has only been accelerated and change the workforce of tomorrow. “Most CPOs of today are saying they need more headcount but I think they will soon be thinking very differently,” he discusses. “We predicted some time ago that Procurement departments will get smaller in headcount, maybe by even up to 50%. The procurement function of the future will be a lot smaller, leaner, and meaner.  Procurement teams will be more intelligent and strategic, in terms of both the people employed, and the digital tools used to manage spend.”

While Dent believes AI and machines won’t replace every human in procurement, it will mean forward-thinking teams need to embrace new technology with humans taking on higher-value roles. “The shape and structure of the modern procurement function will change quite dramatically, and people will need to upskill,” he discusses. “A lot of the work will be taken over by the machine eventually either 20%, 50%, and then a hundred percent. But the human needs to have that in mind and then plan for that next three to five years. The procurement function of the future will be smaller, and they should purposely be doing that, to then look at solutions to find a way to enable it to happen naturally.

“This is arguably the best time for people to join procurement, as you’ve got this great opportunity to embrace digital and make it happen. Young people can question ‘Well, why can’t it be done by a machine?’ They’re coming in with that mindset, as opposed to fighting being replaced by a machine. I think for graduates coming into procurement, they’ve got the opportunity to play with digital and change the status quo which is a wonderful thing.”

Scott Mars, Global Vice President of Sales at Pactum AI, discusses his organisation’s solution amid procurement’s digital transformation.

AI. It’s everywhere, all at once.

Procurement is one of the leading industries when it comes to embracing new solutions and ways of working. The space is waking up to the massive value that can be created through autonomous negotiations. And making a name for itself in the procuretech ecosystem is Pactum.

Pactum is an AI-based system that helps global companies to automatically offer personalised, commercial negotiations on a significant scale. The system adds value and saves time for both the Pactum client and their negotiation partner by aligning values to determine win-win agreements via easy-to-use chat interface that implements best-practice negotiation strategies.

Scott Mars has been the Global Vice President of Sales at Pactum AI since December 2022. He explains that his organisation is always striving to grow and expand its service offering. “At Pactum AI, we’re defining the space,” explains Mars. “We’re a creator for autonomous negotiations, we work with some of the world’s largest organisations and we’re really looking to expand the pie. The name Pactum originates from the Latin definition of an informal agreement between two parties. We can do up to 10,000 negotiations at once and unlock hundreds of millions of dollars of savings for our clients. We’re typically looking at tail-end suppliers and tail-end spending that no one’s touching. In many cases, that represents 80% of the negotiations.”

Exponential savings

Mars highlights a recent example of incredible savings achieved through Pactum AI’s solutions in a short space of time. Recently, Pactum worked with a travel and leisure firm in the UK to introduce its autonomous procurement solution. “We conducted a very brief implementation over two weeks, which led to a much larger enterprise rollout,” he discusses. “The CPO was actually on holiday while we implemented the autonomous procurement solution with his team. This involved optimizing payment terms with some of his long-tail suppliers.

“When he got back from holiday, there were 50 DocuSigns sitting in his emails, all related to extending payment terms. Many of them were remarkable successes, resulting in an average extension of negotiated payment days by more than 30 days and a 3% average gain from negotiated discounts and discount periods. This means we secured an average discount of 3% on each invoice when paid within the agreed-upon discount term. Our unwavering commitment to enhancing overall value not only positively impacts our clients but also extends to their suppliers, creating a win-win scenario for all involved.”

With AI having such a transformative effect on procurement, achieving efficiency and cost-effectiveness is more streamlined than ever through digital tools. But being alert to new threats, particularly in a space that is so open to innovation, does bring data security concerns. Mars recognises the challenge of cybersecurity and affirms Pactum ensures the safety and confidentiality of sensitive procurement data remains secure in chatbot interactions.

Digital future

“Everything is hosted in a private cloud, so each customer has a private instance. It means all of our data is secure from a generative AI perspective,” he tells us. “Large language models (LLMs) are great, they’re creative but they have their problems which means we’re only using safe LLMs. All of our negotiation design is kept in-house, and we use rule-based explainable AI which means all the data is secure per each customer. We have the largest repository of behavioural science, so those learnings are shared across our customer base, but all the customer data and all their negotiations are private to each customer.”

Looking ahead, Mars is excited about procurement’s digital future and explains Pactum AI’s vision is to transform global commerce. “At the moment, we’re only doing buying, but we are looking to move into the sales side as well,” he discusses. “Large companies have a huge footprint. For example, the Fortune 500 is 66% of the US economy. The plan is for us to move into selling which will give us the scale to transform global commerce. It’s definitely a grand vision, but we do feel that we’ll move from buying into selling and transform global commerce.”

For procurement generally, Mars is adamant that the space is in its “golden age” with the magnitude of vendors within the procuretech ecosystem hitting unprecedented numbers. “I was speaking with a CPO recently and he said 10 years ago you could name the procure to pay and ERP vendors on one hand, now there’s hundreds of them and all these periphery vendors for AI and spend,” he reveals. “The most visionary procurement leaders aren’t just looking at these all-encompassing solutions, they’re bolting on niche solutions into their ecosystems to make their teams more efficient. I think we’ll start to see a consolidation in the coming years of all these little companies into a few larger players to do really an end-to-end type solution. I expect someone to come up with a solution to close the loop in procurement.”

ORO Labs has announced it has raised $34 million in Series B funding led by Felicis with participation from existing investors.

ORO Labs has announced it has raised $34 million in Series B funding led by Felicis with participation from existing investors including Norwest Venture Partners, B Capital, and XYZ Venture Capital.

The move will see increased support for ORO Labs, which is a global SaaS provider and creator of the world’s foremost smart workflow orchestration platform for procurement, as it scales international and platform growth.

This latest round closes at the one-year milestone of ORO’s launch and the company’s November 2022 $25 million Series A, bringing total investment raised to $60 million.

ORO orchestrates company spend and supplier management across siloed systems and data to improve procurement workflows, increases visibility and makes it easier for business users.

ORO Labs co-founders Sudhir Bhojwani and Lalitha Rajagopalan

Humanising the procurement experience

The innovative platform helps companies quickly create intake workflows, build an integrated and orchestrated procurement tech stack, and dramatically simplify user engagement with purchasing throughout the organisation.

“We’re on a mission to humanise the overall procurement experience, simplifying and guiding end-to-end supplier engagement for efficiency and compliance,” said Sudhir Bhojwani, CEO and co-founder at ORO Labs. “Our Series B financing is further validation, not only of our success in executing, but also the opportunities as we continue to develop and scale ORO for international expansion and a host of new use cases – bringing incredibly easy start-to-finish procurement to even more organisations for agile operations and happy employees.”

“Our 2023 CFO survey identified procurement as the top pain point for CFOs and the number one spending priority,” said Victoria Treyger, general partner at Felicis Ventures. “ORO’s platform approach to orchestrating and simplifying workflows is driving adoption with global Fortune 1000 companies across a range of industries from financial services to pharma. Sudhir, Lalitha, and Yuan share a rare combination of deep procurement knowledge with the passion and insight to transform the category.”

ORO Labs co-founder Lalitha Rajagopalan noted, “I’m personally thrilled to have a woman investor joining the ORO board. Victoria brings keen go-to-market insight and a genuine love for procurement that will help us continue to scale our business, as well as a diverse perspective that aligns with important supplier inclusivity imperatives for our enterprise customers.”

Tackling the future

In use by leading global Fortune 200 enterprises, ORO provides organisations with a next-generation platform that streamlines procurement and reduces supplier cycle time using workflow automation. From intake to spend control, and contract management to supplier relationships, ORO’s smart procurement workflows empower organizations to optimize efficiency and drive success.

“Coordinating a global procurement organisation effectively and holistically with all stakeholders involved is a constant challenge for any enterprise,” noted Matthias Dohrn, President of Global Procurement for BASF. “ORO allows us to better do our part as procurement and orchestrate and scale thousands of value-generating procurement and business measures across the globe, understanding KPIs from a global perspective to streamline our processes, better engage employees and to generate EBIT. The low-hanging fruits are gone, and to manage thousands of improvement ideas, you need a tool to deliver – this for us is ORO.”

The news comes after ORO Labs was announced as the growth stage track winner of DPW‘s DEMO 2023 competition at DPW Amsterdam last month.

At DPW Amsterdam, Ashwin Kumar, vice president at GEP, discusses procurement transformation and what tomorrow’s challenge could look like.

Transformation. Procurement has witnessed quite a bit in recent years.

Given the widespread adoption and acceleration of AI and data-driven processes over the past decade, change has been a necessity rather than a nice to have.

Evolution of AI transformation

Ashwin Kumar is not unfamiliar with change. Having worked at GEP since May 2008, he has had a front-row seat to the transformation and change procurement has overseen. Now Vice President, he tells us about the evolution of the procurement function and how the landscape is shifting to meet future market demands.

“I think the way we see the industry evolve over time is because we started with web 1.0, simple ERPs that were fragmented with no easy way to connect systems,” he tells us. “Data was all behind firewalls and it was very expensive to manage or mine data. Then we had a big technology breakthrough in cloud systems where the people who were managing the storage said they had a solution. You can just simply push data out of the cloud and what we saw was a lot of that control that the CIOs had on data architecture and the software systems and solutions was being given to different functions.

“A lot of that enrichment of data happened because of the cloud platform that enabled it. Back in 2010, we made the decision to move away from a SaaS platform because even then we believed the future was cloud and that’s where data is going to be which could mean a gold mine. Our CEO made a very conscious decision to basically stop a really good product that was working and move to the cloud platform.”

Ashwin Kumar, Vice President, GEP

The GEP difference

Today, a global leader in AI-driven procurement and supply chain transformation, GEP helps enterprises take the lead and, using the power of data and digital technology, to stay ahead in the connected global economy. More than 1,000 engineers have spent the last 7 months to design and launch GEP’s new AI-native, low-code platform for sustainable procurement and supply chains, GEP QUANTUM. This new platform, launched last week, powers GEP SMART, the industry’s leading source-to-pay procurement application, GEP NEXXE, its next gen supply chain solution, and GEP GREEN, enabling companies to track, measure and achieve their ESG goals.

With the transformative power of AI, GEP enables businesses to operate with greater efficiency and effectiveness, gain competitive advantage, boost profitability and maximise both business and shareholder value. GEP helps global enterprises across industries and verticals build high-performing, resilient and sustainable supply chains.

Investing in dedicated spend analytics and solutions has become an essential part of the procurement process. Data is king and ultimately the more companies know and can predict, the better off they’ll be. However, some companies are still lagging behind when it comes to adopting digital tools created for better visibility and transparency. Kumar questions the reason for this and points to the possibility that there could be a perception that digital tools were hype or a fad – but affirms spend visibility is the real deal.

“If you look at spend data, if I’m the business stakeholder, you’re coming and showing me things that happened six months before,” he tells us. “One of the things we actively tell customers is to understand that there is a difference between spend and cost. Spend is basically the last AP data that you get, which means it’s not even current.”

Procurement’s greatest time?

Given the disruptive nature of the past few years, procurement has had to stand up and be counted. For Kumar, he reflects on global challenges such as Covid, a war in Ukraine and inflation and its knock-on effect on procurement and the supply chain. He maintains that it’s a “difficult time” to be in the industry at the moment given the hurdles procurement and the wider world has faced head-on recently.

“We started off with Covid where we went and told suppliers, sorry, I don’t have money to spend so I’m going to stop spending,” he tells us. “Two months later, you tell them there’s a supply shock and since I’m your preferred customer, can you do something for me? Make sure my products are getting to me on time. Then six months later, there was a war in Ukraine where you were testing suppliers to see which side they were on and questioning whether or not to do business with them. After that, there were inflation concerns so things are constantly changing and you’re pivoting from one problem to another.

“It now means you need to have a platform ecosystem with multiple solution options so that there isn’t a single point of failure and avoid the need for a “transformation” every two years. Given the pace at which things are changing in the macro environment, those single points of failure are quickly going from lack of supply to resilience to risk to people to visibility. It could be something else tomorrow, it could be ESG tomorrow, we simply don’t know. I could have a really good risk assessment tool, but that might not be my focus six months from now – it could be something else. So resilience in the form of digital ecosystem housing different point solutions is paramount.”

Zip has been named as the most innovative fintech solution after being recognised with an award.

Procuretech firm Zip has announced its platform was chosen as the Most Innovative Fintech Solution by the 2023 Tech Ascension Awards.

The awards evaluate the top innovations in fintech, judging applicants based on technology innovation, market research and competitive differentiators.

Class-leading vendors recognised by the awards deliver technology that solves critical industry challenges and produces valuable business outcomes for customers.

Zip, which delivers an industry-leading intake solution, provides enhanced spend visibility, integrations into a company’s tech stack and new AI capabilities to accelerate workflows and identify savings.

The company’s platform modernises procurement workflows with a single front-door for employee purchases.

Setting the standard

“Our intake-to-pay solution is a revolutionary approach to procurement, and we’re thrilled to be recognised,” said Rujul Zaparde, co-founder of Zip.

“Zip not only improves efficiency across every business function but contributes to a new, highly improved employee experience by solving first for employee adoption of spend controls.

“We’re on a mission to continue setting the gold standard for procurement. Zip is the only platform that seamlessly streamlines procurement processes from intake all the way through to payments.”

The Tech Ascension Awards applicants are judged based on technology innovation, market research, hard performance stats and competitive differentiators.

The awards acknowledge leaders in enterprise and consumer technology. Two panels of enterprise and consumer industry experts judged submissions based on factual company descriptions. They were also measured on relevant statistics and data points as well as distinctiveness in the marketplace.

“As AI, cloud and interoperability serve as the new driving forces, we’re honoured to recognise these leaders in innovation,” said David Campbell, CEO, Tech Ascension Awards.

“We look forward to continuing to recognise companies that hold the power to transform the financial landscape for the better, driving advancements that improve accessibility, security and simplified experiences for users.”

Georg Rösch, Vice President Direct Procurement Strategy at JAGGAER, discusses his organisation’s approach amid significant transformation and evolution

Procurement is at a sliding doors moment – its direction of travel could go one way or another.

The influx of new technology makes procurement a dynamic and interesting industry in 2023. Following global challenges felt around the globe, procurement practitioners have had to step up in the face of adversity. To the industry’s credit, procurement has so far come through it but now it’s about embracing the world of today and finding ways to deal with pressing issues such as ESG and the knock-on effects of a war in Ukraine while also navigating inflation concerns. Of course, all this is on the back of COVID-19, of which the aftermath is still felt in some quarters.

In a recent CPOstrategy Podcast, Georg Rösch, Vice President Direct Procurement Strategy at JAGGAER, tells us all about how spend management giant JAGGAER is helping procurement teams overcome the challenging backdrop and discusses digitalisation strategies within the space.

Georg Rösch, Vice President Direct Procurement Strategy at JAGGAER
Georg Rösch, Vice President Direct Procurement Strategy at JAGGAER

The road in which procurement professionals end up where they do is always an interesting one. Can you tell us why procurement was the path you chose which led to your journey to JAGGAER? 

Georg Rosch (GR): “I would say I stumbled into the procurement space. Growing up, I was always a technology person and had a very early interest in computers. When everyone was playing video games, I was playing around with software and started coding. Eventually, one thing led to another, and I found myself in a small procurement startup in Vienna in development. This is really where I found out that this is interesting stuff. 20 years later, it’s crazy to think I’m still doing it because I didn’t even know this field existed and I think that is felt industry wide. But I still love it and getting to combine procurement with technology is something I’m really interested in.” 

In your view, how would you explain JAGGAER and sum up what differentiates it from other players in the space?

GR: “JAGGAER has been around for more than 25 years and came together through a lot of mergers and acquisitions. I came through from a branch that was local to Austria and the company has become one of the largest procurement software vendors out there. What I really like about JAGGAER is our vision of autonomous commerce. First of all, it sounds weird for a procurement software vendor not to have the word procurement in the tagline. But that’s done on purpose, because when you think about what a procurement software firm really does, it’s about communication and collaboration between buyers and sellers.

“For a while, JAGGAER was really good at the indirect procurement side which revolved around the whole P2P process. That’s really where a lot of our business came from. But this has evolved over the past 20 years into more of the source-to-contract process that’s being added which is proving so important. It’s not just the execution, but also the strategy of how you build everything and how you find the right sources. As part of autonomous commerce, we created four pillars. It’s networked, intelligent, comprehensive and extensible which spells NICE so it’s very easy to remember.”

Can you expand on the NICE strategy that JAGGAER has developed? What is its true meaning?

GR: “Networked basically means you collaborate with your suppliers, buyers, sellers, partners – everyone. It’s like the modern-day town square where the commerce happens – it’s the foundation of everything. Then it needs to be intelligent which means the question isn’t just about what data you have, but how do you intelligently use the data to drive the processes? Next, you have comprehensive. That encompasses all the functions you have starting from analytics, category management, supplier management, sourcing contracts, ePRO, supply chain management and quality management. It’s all of these beautiful things and how they work together. 

“Finally, extensibility means a lot of different things. It means being open to communicating with other systems. With our platform, you can bring in a lot of external data – ESG and sustainability, risk, enriched supplier data, and more – from our partners into our solution. This allows you to make smarter decisions across the procurement cycle. Another aspect is that not every company is the same. Extensibility also means, ‘how can I tailor the solution to my needs?’ This completes the picture that we are working towards here at JAGGAER.”

The procurement space itself has undergone major transformation over the past decade and suddenly, it is so much more than just a back-office function out the way of everyone else. What has been the catalyst for its transformation in your opinion?

GR: “Procurement is really at a make-or-break moment. Supply chain and procurement have been really in the spotlight in the last couple of years. It’s been a case of ‘oh my, there aren’t any shipments coming anymore’ or ‘people are not buying the stuff that they bought before because our whole way of life changed.’ So, we were working from home, and we were not going out to restaurants or buying new clothes because we were all in our tracksuits all day. Society shifted. This meant procurement and supply chain management was really important because they needed to navigate all of this.


“This is why expectations and visibility of these functions rose during that time. But now we’re at a critical point. Can those functions deliver the value that they should? And can they continue this momentum? This is why I’m saying we’re at the make-or-break moment and there are a lot of companies that really made this transition and change to where procurement is an advisor to the business which is so critically important. Think about everything that’s not going away such as ESG with the environmental element, human rights and the governance of those different processes. Procurement is playing such a critical role of managing all these different agendas within our board level topics today.”

How is JAGGAER driving value to companies in a way that perhaps it didn’t before?

GR: “At JAGGAER in procurement, you want to cater to the most mature companies but many of your potential customers are not the most mature firms. It’s a challenge and that’s the balance that you need to strike. You have to be ahead of the curve and in front of the market, so we take this very seriously. We have a dedicated team that’s only working on what we call innovation to uncover questions like how do we use these new technologies? How can we bring this into the solution? How do we drive value for our customers with these things? We did this by coming up with what we call a maturity matrix, where you can see which step of the maturity scale you are on right now.


“It’s five steps in total but no one is at step five yet. The current technology that exists today is at step four, but the space is constantly changing. As a customer, they can measure where they are and say, ‘I might be a two at that process, but I’m a three at that’ and work out what needs attention. They can ask themselves the question, should I even do this? Does this make sense for me as an organisation? We really try to work with those maturity models because it helps us whenever we work with a customer to assess where they are and tell them this is where you can go, and this is what you can achieve by doing that. 

“It helps us have the right conversations with our customers which was part of the vision of autonomous commerce. We have autonomous commerce as our North Star and know where we and the industry are aiming for, so it’s imperative our customers know the way too.”

How important is it that any technology introduced actually serves a purpose instead of being introduced for technologies sake?

GR: “People love technology, I love technology. But in business, we shouldn’t use a tool just because we like it. Tools should drive value. I won’t use something just because it sounds fancy. I’ll take whatever solution can truly solve the problem. At JAGGAER, when we evaluate solutions, we always consider what really helps us as an organisation and what drives value. At the end of the day, we are here to make our customers successful.  And how is that success measured? Each customer might have different KPIs, but in the end, it’s driving valuation and value for the company. Value can look different for your organisation, whether it’s higher customer or shareholder value. We have to be very pragmatic about the means of how we help because what works for one company potentially doesn’t work for another.”

What does the future of procurement look like to you? How exciting/challenging does the road ahead look for the space?

GR: “I believe it’s continuing the path that we’re on right now which is bringing more data and market intelligence into the whole procurement process. Procurement overall has to move away from gut feeling decision-making. Success stems from bringing all the information that’s needed for procurement into a solution for data-driven decision making. What I’m seeing right now is more strategic information regarding important topics such as environmental impact and human rights. All of this should make a difference and influence the decision making in procurement. This is how procurement drives the sustainability agenda of the company and reliability across the supply chain. This is really where I see procurement going. It’s about taking in all this information, being the advisor to the business, and making the right decisions to drive the company strategy. The future is exciting.”

CPOstrategy explores this issue’s big question and questions whether procurement is in need of a rebrand in order to get to the next level

Does procurement need a rebrand?

Procurement’s transformation in recent years has been exponential. 

As an industry which has embraced technology at scale, there is a greater clarity in spend, expanded category coverage and increased return to shareholders. But is there enough awareness about procurement and is it doing itself a disservice? Procurement professionals aren’t often known for being great marketers. But in today’s fast-paced world, being sure an audience can understand something quickly is essential. Without strong brand potential, procurement is risking not living up to its full potential.

For example, procurement’s brand is often left to customers to work out. To many, people think that procurement is solely about purchasing or negotiating contracts. However, they are often unaware just how innovative and exciting procurement can be. From some sections, procurement is still sometimes thought of as some back-office function tucked away out of sight. But now, particularly in the face of massive challenges over the past few years, procurement has become so much more.

Solving talent shortages

Shaz Khan, CEO and Co-Founder of Vroozi

In a recent CPOstrategy Podcast, Shaz Khan, CEO of Vroozi, discussed how rebranding procurement could help solve its talent shortages. He believes the space must be more strategic than just finding themselves there one day. He told us how corporate procurement is currently in a “golden age” and that by making job roles more relatable it could encourage fresh perspectives to enter the industry on purpose instead of by accident. “When you say you work in procurement, try explaining that to your family or friends because it takes a while! In reality, we as human beings in our day-to-day lives are sourcing every single minute of every day,” he explained.

“We are sourcing where our dry cleaning is, we’re negotiating at the farmer’s market for carrots. When we look at corporate procurement, we need to ask ourselves, do we need to be rebranding this function? We need to get more individuals not just falling into procurement by accident and make it more measured and predictive.”

What’s holding procurement back?

Executives “falling” into procurement has long been a common joke shared among those in the industry. But in what other line of work does such a high proportion of the workforce accidentally stumble upon their chosen industry and end up staying? It is both a compliment and an achilles heel to procurement but ultimately that method leads to periods of talent shortages which is what the industry is experiencing today. Procurement’s talent problem is not just down to one thing, given how COVID-19 impacted the industry and people’s decision to opt for a career change in the post-pandemic world. In order to address the problem, it all starts with education.

Pauline Potter, Director of Procurement at Evri

“I certainly didn’t know that this was a profession when I was at university and I don’t think I’m alone in that,” explains Pauline Potter, Director of Procurement at Evri.

“It all seems crazy to me because I genuinely think this is such a fantastic career path that people can take. It’s hugely variable with loads of paths you can go down and you can apply a similar skillset to all kinds of businesses. I think the first thing procurement can do to address the talent shortage is raise the profile when recruiting.

Nicolas Walden, Associate Principal at The Hackett Group, agrees in the importance of rebranding procurement but also believes that a lack of education could be holding procurement back. “I was talking to a CPO recently and he was saying when he looks across Europe, there’s only a small number of universities that actually offer degree level qualifications in procurement or supply chain,” he says. “I know from colleagues in the United States that there’s many more universities there that offer this level of education. This can create the entry point of a pipeline of talent for the future. This means they’ve got the skills, mindset and the training in what we need in terms of modern procurement.”

Recruitment in procurement

Khan highlights the opportunity procurement has to redefine how it presents itself to the workforce of tomorrow. It is his belief that getting rid of the misconceptions surrounding procurement could hold the key. “Higher education and the lack of programmes going forward after graduating is a real problem,” he adds. “Corporate procurement can be an incredible entry level area because it centres around data. You’re leveraging cutting edge toolsets and are making an impact on the company – your job isn’t boring. It’s not pushing paper back and forth or getting on phone calls with suppliers to talk about delivery schedules.”

Fadi El Mouallem

And procurement roles don’t just have to apply to ‘procurement people’. Global procurement executive Fadi El Mouallem affirms that people could add their valuable transferable skills from other industries and be successful within the space. “I like to attract talent from different industries, not just procurement or finance,” he discusses. “I’ve had the likes of project managers, salespeople and engineers come into procurement and they all made a career out of it.

Success is making them feel that they belong, so they can grow into this space and make an impact. If they choose to leave procurement later, then that’s fine.”

Procurement, like many industries, has been through a tough time. But as a sector very much at the forefront of technology innovation the future looks equally exciting and bright. By rebranding procurement, being open to people from all walks of life and empowering the talent of tomorrow to emphasise that this could be the place for them to thrive, it could bring positive change that will stand the test of time.

CPOstrategy visits HICX’s first Supplier Experience Live as organisations gear up to remove friction and become a customer of choice.

Supplier experience has never been such a hot topic.

After decades in the darkness, the importance of supplier experience is finally on the agenda.

Truthfully, success can’t be achieved alone. Without happy, committed and strategic supplier relationships, a business will stagnate. And now, organisations are waking up to the potential a robust supplier base could unlock.

The rise of Supplier Experience

Earlier this month, HICX launched its first-ever Supplier Experience Live the day before DPW Amsterdam. Hosted at the Tobacco Theatre in Amsterdam, it was recognised as an official DPW Amsterdam side event. The event’s vision was to help organisations use supplier experience to remove friction and become a customer-of-choice.

The half-day event began with a welcome from Ragnar Lorentzen, Chief Commercial Officer at HICX, who opened the door to the world of supplier experience and the market developments that have led the way. Lorentzen handed over to the first keynote speech from Dr. Elouise Epstein who explained that the ERP system was dead. Epstein suggested that the solution could be how well you exchange data with third parties.

Following Epstein was a panel discussion that featured Ruth Bromley, Director of Procurement Enablement at Heineken, Adam Hubbard, Senior Manager of Supply Chain, Governance and Performance at EDF which was moderated by Tommy Benston, VP of Global Client Management at HICX. The conversation advised of ways to gain a competitive advantage in procurement and supply chain through supplier experience management. Bromley highlighted three key learnings: speed, standardisation and simplicity, believing in a “single source of truth”.

Dr. Elouise Epstein
Dr. Elouise Epstein

Driving supplier adoption

Later, Anthony Payne, CMO at HICX, discussed how to drive supplier adoption and engagement through supplier marketing. Payne explained the value of segmentation which is the process of dividing the market into subsets of customers who share similar characteristics. Payne equipped the audience with six recommendations to take forward and advised them to use caution with the language they use with suppliers. Following the coffee break was Duncan Jones, former Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, who unpacked the reality of how to decide on the correct types of solutions in the new best-of-breed era amidst a transition away from the traditional database-centric approach.

The afternoon continued with a panel discussion involving Marc Bengio, Senior Director and Head of Technology Enterprise Procurement at Johnson & Johnson, Lance Younger, CEO at ProcureTech and Jacy Bassett, VP of Professional Services, to explore the topic “Demystifying the technology landscape: How do you architect for Supplier Experience?” Each speaker gave their viewpoint on how to arm the procurement function of tomorrow to meet the challenge of an ever-changing digital world. The conversation offered guidance and counsel amid an explosion of transformative solutions in the space.

Costas Xyloyiannis, CEO at HICX
Costas Xyloyiannis, CEO at HICX

Bright future

Finally, Costas Xyloyiannis, CEO at HICX, took to the stage to announce the launch of IUBN which he explained was a streamlined way to identify legal entities in a bid to create net efficiency within the supply chain. One system, one time, everywhere.

Speaking exclusively to CPOstrategy at the event, Xyloyiannis told us, “It’s pretty significant running an event like this. I’ve been in the space 23 years, and finally, I feel like the focus is shifting. Two or three years ago no one was talking about supplier experience so it’s great to see a movement starting to happen. It is very satisfying because you see people’s minds changing in the same way that it did for the customer and employee experience.

“What you have to think about is that almost every company is also a supplier so it’s in your interest to focus on the supplier experience side. In another context, you’re also a supplier and people should understand that we’re all in it together. If you don’t think about solving it, then you’re going to have that pain yourself.”

Supplier experience is just getting started. Reimagine the possible.

Global research and advisory giants Deloitte and DPW has announced a partnership to bring procurement innovation to organisations.

Deloitte and DPW has announced a partnership to bring procurement innovation to organisations.

Under the terms of this strategic alliance, DPW LABS, the consulting arm of DPW, and Deloitte will work together to refine the boundaries of innovation in procurement.

From problem and strategy definition to proof of concept and deployment, through the DPW LABS innovation capabilities and digital ecosystem and Deloitte’s global transformation capabilities, the move allows for impact to be delivered at scale.

Deloitte is a global provider of audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax and related services.

The firm, which is a member of the Big Four in professional services, currently has about 330,000 employees in more than 150 countries and territories. 

Founded in 2019, DPW stands as a global leader in procurement innovation. DPW LABS empowers organisations to identify and seize collaborative innovation opportunities with DPW’s line-up of pioneering startups, scale-ups, and tech innovation experts.

Herman Knevel, co-founder and co-CEO at DPW, said: “We are excited about this strategic partnership with Deloitte.

“This partnership will enable us to join forces and make tech work, expand and complement our impact at global scale.” 

Michiel Junge, partner of sourcing and procurement at Deloitte, added: “We are united in our mission to make procurement awesome.

“The partnership with DPW will enable our clients to tap into DPW’s capabilities and ecosystem and define their procurement future.”

The move comes after DPW welcomed over 1,250 procurement professionals to Amsterdam for its annual conference.

DPW Amsterdam has quickly made its name as a hub of innovation and collaboration. It is one of the biggest and most influential tech events in procurement and supply chain.

CPOstrategy travels to the Netherlands to soak in the atmosphere of one of the world’s biggest and most influential tech events in procurement and supply chain – DPW Amsterdam 2023

“You are the reason why DPW exists.

“It’s been my mission from day one to break procurement out of its silo and create what I call the end-to-end ecosystem and that is you.”

Digital Procurement World (DPW) Founder Matthias Gutzmann’s first address to the crowd gathered before the main stage had a clear tone of appreciation.

The rise of DPW Amsterdam

Today, DPW Amsterdam is one of the world’s biggest and most influential tech events in procurement and supply chain. Its exponential rise in a relatively short space of time is undeniable. Its story began with a frustrated Gutzmann having discovered a lack of procurement conferences to showcase his previous employer. This led to Gutzmann finding a gap in the market and set about solving the issue himself. He left his job in New York, moved into his parent’s house and invested all his savings to launch DPW. Months later, DPW’s launch conference in September 2019 welcomed 400 industry leaders while being praised from across procurement. Under the watch of Gutzmann and co-CEO Herman Knevel, DPW’s influence and pull has only grown since.

This year’s event was located at the historic former stock exchange building, the Beurs van Berlage. Built in 1896, the building breathes character and history. Its architecture and rich past, alongside its central Amsterdam location, showcases its sense of place and being.

DPW Conference, Amsterdam 2023

Innovation

DPW Amsterdam has quickly made its name as a hub of innovation and collaboration. This year, more than 1,250 procurement professionals gathered to connect, learn and innovate, while over 2,500 virtual attendees watched along at home. The buzz and hum of chatter was audible, the sense of excitement evident. And the attendees were certainly in for a treat. This year’s theme was “Make Tech Work” which focused on turning digital aspirations into a reality. There was a deep dive into discussions surrounding AI and machine learning in procurement, digital transformation strategies, sustainable procurement, supplier collaboration, risk management as well as innovation and disruption. It was all centred on ensuring the vision of digital procurement happens now and how organisations can be challenged to deliver results now instead of only concepts and theories.

Speakers across the two days included renowned experts and visionaries including the likes of Dr. Elouise Epstein, Partner at Kearney, Yossi Sheffi, Director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author David Rogers, among dozens more. Sarah Barnes-Humphrey led superb virtual coverage of the event and allowed those unable to make it to still feel a part of such an important conference in the procurement calendar. There were book signings from Sheffi and Atif Rafiq, eye-catching tech innovations showcased on stage and even an appearance from F1 legend and Haas Formula One team principal Guenther Steiner.

DPW's founder Matthias Gutzmann

Digital future

To sum up, in comedian and host of DPW Amsterdam Andrew Moskos’ opening speech he reflected on procurement’s evolution and transformation. “Procurement used to be boring but now we’re all rockstars. We run the company, we’re in the c-suite, we run ESG, sustainability, risk, and 80% of the spend of a company goes through us.”

Change is here and procurement holds the cards. Let’s Make Tech Work.

CPOstrategy examines 10 of the best ways to use artificial intelligence (AI) in procurement

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest buzzwords in procurement. Everyone wants to get their hands on it and introduce it into their strategies.

Particularly in procurement, AI is often talked about being the answer to all challenges. It can be used to overcome complex problems and deliver efficiency while also being introduced within software applications such as spend analysis, contract management and strategic sourcing.

In this article, we will list 10 of the best ways to use AI in procurement.

1. Machine learning spend classification

AI algorithms can help categorise, clean and classify data automatically. Machine learning spend classification helps detect patterns and uses them for prediction while allowing for better decision-making. Examples of spend classification techniques include supervised learning, unsupervised learning in vendor management and classification reinforcement learning. 

2. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

National Language Processing (NLP) is the branch of artificial intelligence focused on understanding, interpreting and manipulating human language. It can be used to gain valuable data and information to streamline time-consuming processes. Information contained in legal documents can be interpreted through AI for the procurement of relevant data. It allows procurement professionals to get ahead and use an AI assist engine to receive alerts to proactively monitor progress. It also allows for compliance over the life of multiple agreements with the same or several vendors.

3. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) mimics human actions to eradicate repetitive tasks. While not strictly AI in the traditional sense, RPA does provide procurement with opportunities to improve process efficiency and is part of the wider family of AI. It can assist with the likes of contract management, input identification as well as purchase request and order submission, among more benefits.

4. Anomaly detection

With AI being able to process vast amounts of data quickly, it is able to stay up to date on the latest developments and changes in the procurement space at speed. Automated notifications on things such as anomalies, new opportunities and recommended activities allows for immediate action to be taken and provide suggestions on what should be done instantly. Rapid detection will ensure risks are mitigated and resolved before they become problems.

5. Purchasing

AI can be utilised to automatically review and approve purchase orders. Chatbots can be used to check the status of acquisitions or automatically approve virtual card payments. AI can analyse data and assess the reliability and quality of suppliers based on predefined criteria. This helps the purchasing team select the best suppliers quickly and accurately.

6. Contract management

Contract management can benefit through using AI to create, store, review, index, retrieve, analyse, negotiate and approve agreements. A big benefit delivered by contract management solutions that use AI is standardised metadata reporting which eliminates the need for category managers and legal counsels to manually read contracts to gain insights into the commercial part of their supplier relationships.

7. Supplier risk management

Supplier risk management is an important part of the procurement process and is around understanding what happens if a supplier fails to meet its obligations. To combat this, AI can be used to monitor and work out potential risk position through Big Data. Millions of different data sources are screened in order to provide alerts on potential risks within the supply chain.

8. Accounts payable automation

AI can automate most manual tasks in accounting such as data entry and invoice routing. Using AI for this substantially reduces procure-to-pay cycles, minimises the need for humans to get involved and integrates multiple workflows into a seamless process.

9. Strategic sourcing

Using AI in strategic sourcing is a key tool in a procurement practitioner’s arsenal. AI can be used to manage and automate sourcing events while also leveraging machine learning for the recognition of bid sheets, as well as specialised category-specific e-sourcing bots such as raw materials and maintenance.

10. Automated compliance

AI can also be used as a valuable tool for compliance officers to help work out potential risks, monitor employee behaviour, generate reports, provide recommendations as well as educating employees about the importance of compliance. For organisations without a source-to-pay system, compliance is a useful alternative and allows procurement teams to seamlessly compare payment terms, identify duplications as well as determine non-compliance.

This month’s cover story features Fiona Adams, Director of Client Value Realization at ProcurementIQ, to hear how the market leader in providing sourcing intelligence is changing the very face of procurement…

It’s a bumper issue this month. Click here to access the latest issue!

And below are just some of this month’s exclusives…

ProcurementIQ: Smart sourcing through people power 

We speak to Fiona Adams, Director of Client Value Realization at ProcurementIQ, to hear how the market leader in providing sourcing intelligence is changing the very face of procurement… 

The industry leader in emboldening procurement practitioners in making intelligent purchases is ProcurementIQ. ProcurementIQ provides its clients with pricing data, supplier intelligence and contract strategies right at their fingertips. Its users are working smarter and more swiftly with trustworthy market intelligence on more than 1,000 categories globally.  

Fiona Adams joined ProcurementIQ in August this year as its Director of Client Value Realization. Out of all the companies vying for her attention, it was ProcurementIQ’s focus on ‘people power’ that attracted her, coupled with her positive experience utilising the platform during her time as a consultant.

Although ProcurementIQ remains on the cutting edge of technology, it is a platform driven by the expertise and passion of its people and this appealed greatly to Adams. “I want to expand my own reach and I’m excited to be problem-solving for corporate America across industries, clients and procurement organizations and teams (internal & external). I know ProcurementIQ can make a difference combined with my approach and experience. Because that passion and that drive, powered by knowledge, is where the real magic happens,” she tells us.  

To read more click here!

ASM Global: Putting people first in change management   

Ama F. Erbynn, Vice President of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement at ASM Global, discusses her mission for driving a people-centric approach to change management in procurement…

Ripping up the carpet and starting again when entering a new organisation isn’t a sure-fire way for success. 

Effective change management takes time and careful planning. It requires evaluating current processes and questioning why things are done in a certain way. Indeed, not everything needs to be changed, especially not for the sake of it, and employees used to operating in a familiar workflow or silo will naturally be fearful of disruptions to their methods. However, if done in the correct way and with a people-centric mindset, delivering change that drives significant value could hold the key to unleashing transformation. 

Ama F. Erbynn, Vice President of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement at ASM Global, aligns herself with that mantra. Her mentality of being agile and responsive to change has proven to be an advantage during a turbulent past few years. For Erbynn, she thrives on leading transformations and leveraging new tools to deliver even better results. “I love change because it allows you to think outside the box,” she discusses. “I have a son and before COVID I used to hear him say, ‘I don’t want to go to school.’ He stayed home for a year and now he begs to go to school, so we adapt and it makes us stronger. COVID was a unique situation but there’s always been adversity and disruptions within supply chain and procurement, so I try and see the silver lining in things.”

To read more click here!

SpendHQ: Realising the possible in spend management software 

Pierre Laprée, Chief Product Officer at SpendHQ, discusses how customers can benefit from leveraging spend management technology to bring tangible value in procurement today…

Turning vision and strategy into highly effective action. This mantra is behind everything SpendHQ does to empower procurement teams.  

The organisation is a leading best-in-class provider of enterprise Spend Intelligence (SI) and Procurement Performance Management (PPM) solutions. These products fill an important gap that has left strategic procurement out of the solution landscape. Through these solutions, customers get actionable spend insights that drive new initiatives, goals, and clear measurements of procurement’s overall value. SpendHQ exists to ultimately help procurement generate and demonstrate better financial and non-financial outcomes. 

Spearheading this strategic vision is Pierre Laprée, long-time procurement veteran and SpendHQ’s Chief Product Officer since July 2022. However, despite his deep understanding of procurement teams’ needs, he wasn’t always a procurement professional. Like many in the space, his path into the industry was a complete surprise.  

To read more click here!

But that’s not all… Earlier this month, we travelled to the Netherlands to cover the first HICX Supplier Experience Live, as well as DPW Amsterdam 2023. Featured inside is our exclusive overview from each event, alongside this edition’s big question – does procurement need a rebrand? Plus, we feature a fascinating interview with Georg Rosch, Vice President Direct Procurement Strategy at JAGGAER, who discusses his organisation’s approach amid significant transformation and evolution.

Enjoy!

Welcome to issue 43 of CPOstrategy!

Our exclusive cover story this month features a fascinating discussion with UK Procurement Director, CBRE Global Workplace Solutions (GWS), Catriona Calder to find out how procurement is helping the leader in worldwide real estate achieve its ambitious goals within ESG.

As a worldwide leader in commercial real estate, it’s clear why CBRE GWS has a strong focus on continuous improvement in its procurement department. A business which prides itself on its ability to create bespoke solutions for clients of any size and sector has to be flexible. Delivering the superior client outcomes CBRE GWS has become known for requires an extremely well-oiled supply chain, and Catriona Calder, its UK Procurement Director, is leading the charge. 

Procurement at CBRE had already seen some great successes before Calder came on board in 2022. She joined a team of passionate and capable procurement professionals, with a number of award-winning supply chain initiatives already in place.

With a sturdy foundation already embedded, when Calder stepped in, her personal aim focused on implementing a long-term procurement strategy and supporting the global team on its journey to world class procurement…

Read the full story here!

Adam Brown: The new wave of digital procurement 

We grab some time with Adam Brown who leads the Technology Platform for Procurement at A.P. Moller-Maersk, the global logistics giant. And when he joined, a little over a year ago, he was instantly struck by a dramatic change in culture… 

Read the full story here!

Government of Jersey: A procurement transformation journey 

 Maria Huggon, Former Group Director of Commercial Services at the Government of Jersey, discusses how her organisation’s procurement function has transformed with the aim of achieving a ‘flourishing’ status by 2025…

Read the full article here!

Government of Jersey

Corio: A new force in offshore wind 

The procurement team at Corio on bringing the wind of change to the offshore energy space. Founded less than two years ago, Corio Generation already packs quite the punch. Corio has built one of the world’s largest offshore wind development pipelines with projects in a diverse line-up of locations including the UK, South Korea and Brazil among others.  

The company is a specialist offshore wind developer dedicated to harnessing renewable energy and helps countries transform their economies with clean, green and reliable offshore wind energy. Corio works in established and emerging markets, with innovative floating and fixed-bottom technologies. Its projects support local economies while meeting the energy needs of communities and customers sustainably, reliably, safely and responsibly.  

Read the full article here!

Becker Stahl: Green steel for Europe 

Felix Schmitz, Head of Investor Relations & Head of Strategic Sustainability at Klöckner & Co SE explores how German company Becker Stahl-Service is leading the way towards a more sustainable steel industry with Nexigen® by Klöckner & Co. 

Read the full article here!

And there’s so much more!

Enjoy!

Pauline Potter, Director of Procurement at Evri, discusses her firm’s drive to delivering sustainability and offering best-in-class solutions.

Today, Evri stands as the UK’s biggest dedicated parcel delivery firm and is armed with more than 18,000 couriers.

It has over 8,500 local one-stop ParcelShops and lockers and a growing network of best-in-class hubs and depots. Founded in 1974, Evri has undergone significant transformation over the years, most recently a successful rebrand with Hermes UK in March 2022. And overseeing the company’s procurement function is Pauline Potter. A Cornell University graduate in the US, Potter trained as an engineer before moving into consulting at KPMG and Efficio.

Indeed, setting the standard in procurement isn’t easy. It takes hard work, dedication and a drive to consistently deliver and meet customer demands, particularly in today’s world. However, to companies like Evri, they take challenges in their stride.

In our recent CPOstrategy Podcast, Pauline Potter, Director of Procurement at Evri, discusses her firm’s driving sustainability while at the same time delivering best-in-class solutions while maintaining its position as the UK’s biggest dedicated parcel delivery company.

Welcome to issue 42 of CPOstrategy!

This month’s cover story sees us speak with Brad Veech, Head of Technology Procurement at Discover Financial Services.

CPOstrategy - Procurement Magazine

Having been a leader in procurement for more than 25 years, he has been responsible for over $2 billion in spend every year, negotiating software deals ranging from $75 to over $1.5 billion on a single deal. Don’t miss his exclusive insights where he tells us all about the vital importance of expertly procuring software and highlights the hidden pitfalls associated.

“A lot of companies don’t have the resources to have technology procurement experts on staff,” Brad tells us. “I think as time goes on people and companies will realise that the technology portfolio and the spend in that portfolio is increasing so rapidly they have to find a way to manage it. Find a project that doesn’t have software in it. Everything has software embedded within it, so you’re going to have to have procurement experts that understand the unique contracts and negotiation tactics of technology.” 

There are also features which include insights from the likes of Jake Kiernan, Manager at KPMG, Ashifa Jumani, Director of Procurement at TELUS and Shaz Khan, CEO and Co-Founder at Vroozi. 

Enjoy the issue! 

CPOstrategy is a proud partner of ProcureCon Asia Transformation is on the lips and minds of every procurement and supply…

CPOstrategy is a proud partner of ProcureCon Asia

Transformation is on the lips and minds of every procurement and supply chain professional right now. Procurement is increasingly being recognised for its vital role at the core of any business, thanks to the fact that CPOs and other supply chain professionals are executing enormous changes for the benefit of their organisations. 

Set to be a major theme at ProcureCon Asia this year, running between the 11th and 13th of July at the Equarius Hotel in Singapore is the topic of transformation. Procurement professionals from all over the globe will come together to share ideas, make connections, and learn more about the profession through interactive learning and keynote speeches from experts.

All hands on deck

Ter Long Tay, Group Director at JTC Corporation, is one of the event’s illustrious speakers. For him, procurement transformation is a necessity, and requires the full support of the entire business.

“Procurement needs to reimagine its purpose and the role it plays,” says Tay. “It must go beyond the traditional efficiency, productivity, and management of procurement lifecycle. Successful transformation entails understanding the business and partnering with stakeholders on the decision-making process and the strategy of the company. It means being able to create value and have a seat at the table.”

Tay himself has a long history of victories in the procurement sphere. Years of experience in the real estate industry and centralised procurement at JTC gave him and his team the opportunity to understand each element of the business and their considerations better, and procurement – hand-in-hand with digitalisation – has been able to offer added value through the knowledge and experience gained from this involvement. Alongside insights gleaned from data, the business has been able to evolve through informed decision-making.

“For example, in a review of our procurement policies for infrastructure development, we were able to achieve a good ratio of partner vendors supporting our business while maintaining a healthy share of new entrants,” says Tay. 

“This allows us to achieve a balanced outcome of value for money, business continuity, and industry development. We had intentionally used procurement as a lever to achieve other strategic outcomes, leveraging procurement to test or nudge the market in terms of specific sustainable solutions and investing in R&D for long-term benefit.”

CPOstrategy is a proud media partner of ProcureCon Asia 2023. Quote “CPOSTRATASIA15” for 15% off tickets here.

Woodlands North Coast, JTC

Meeting challenges head-on

Of course, there are often hurdles for procurement professionals to jump in order to successfully implement transformation. No big change is without its challenges, and Tay is experienced enough to understand where the pain points lie. For him, procurement has always been viewed through a certain lens, regardless of whether that lens still fits, and that can hold some businesses back. However, increasingly, the department is being looked to as a value-add creator of change.

“Traditionally, procurement has been viewed as transactional,” Tay explains. “Supporting operations while helping businesses reduce costs and increase profits. Now, companies are looking at procurement to achieve long-term business objectives. Arising from the pandemic,  businesses are actively reviewing their supply chains and changing from a ‘just-in-time’ mindset to ‘just-in-case’. 

“There is also significant traction regarding sustainability, and procurement is the department supporting new objectives more than ever.”

Seletar Aerospace Park, JTC

Business-procurement collaboration

Tay is bringing all of this expertise to ProcureCon Asia 2023, in order to share his knowledge with his peers and discuss solutions with other procurement professionals. The reason he wanted to speak at the event came from a ‘pay-it-forward’ mindset; he’s benefited enormously from speakers at previous summits sharing their own wisdom, and hopes to help others by sharing his own knowledge.

“I’ll be discussing the aspects of good business-procurement alignment,” Tay says. “Plus, the value procurement brings, how procurement can support the wider business through managing tensions – such as profits, governance, and risk management – as well as sustainability, and whether procurement is a leader or a follower.”

Tay hopes that focusing on business-procurement collaboration will achieve added value for those attending the summit. “Through collaboration within the procurement community, we can cross-pollinate ideas across different industries, encourage each other through success stories and learn from mistakes. We never walk alone in our procurement transformation journeys.”

For himself, Tay hopes to have the opportunity to network with his peers and continue gaining useful information and insights, as he has at previous events. “I want to learn from the best-in-class in the procurement community,” he concludes.

Read our other ProcureCon Asia preview here.

ProcureCon Asia is the leading procurement summit gathering and connecting CPOs and Heads of Procurement from the biggest companies in Asia. ProcureCon Asia 2023 will be happening from 11 – 13 July at the Equarius Hotel, Singapore. To learn more, click here.

CPOstrategy-Magazine-41

Welcome to issue 41 of CPOstrategy!

This month’s exclusive cover story features a fascinating insight into the procurement function at lighting giant, Signify.

A forward-thinking enterprise constantly reevaluating and adapting its operations against an ever-changing landscape, Signify has recently transformed its procurement function. And so we join Luc Broussaud, Global Head of Procurement/CPO and Arnold Chatelain, Transformation Program Director for Signify’s Procurement Organization to see why, and how, they have evolved procurement at the company.

Signify is a global organisation spread over all continents and Luc heads up the procurement function. According to Luc, he and his team no longer engage in traditional transactional procurement, but instead leverage digitalisation to deliver competitive prices as well as what they call ‘concept saving’, “Which is how we redesign or improve our product; leveraging the knowledge of our suppliers to make it cheaper, more efficient, easier to manufacture and install, and more sustainable for the planet.”

CPOstrategy - Issue 41

Luc joined Signify in 2018, after being the CPO of Nokia (based in Shanghai) and has always been working within procurement. He joined Signify with a broad skillset and a wealth of experience. “I joined because the people I talked to, from the COO to the CEO and CFO were all incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about procurement,” he reveals. Read the full story here!

Not only that, but we also have some incredible insights from procurement leaders at Heijmans, Datadog, HICX, DPW, ProcureCon Asia and SourcingHaus Research! Plus, the very best procurement events of 2023.

Enjoy the issue!

STADA graces the cover of CPOstrategy this month!

Our exclusive cover story this month features Alan Rankin, Chief Procurement Officer at STADA, who discusses his company’s journey to offering a best-in-class procurement function.

Few industries can say that statement with certainty. But for the pharmaceutical industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding a solution quickly was non-negotiable.  

Indeed, Alan Rankin, Chief Procurement Officer at STADA, acknowledges the role his sector played in helping to combat one of the biggest health crises of all time. He says the COVID-19 period made him “extremely proud” to be part of the industry. “The pharmaceutical industry worked hard to come up with a solution during a time when governments struggled to cope with what happened,” he recalls. “The industry had a real impact on the world being able to handle the situation and not going into financial meltdown. That alone makes me so proud to be in this space.” 

Read the latest issue here!

Today, STADA stands as a renowned manufacturer of high-quality pharmaceuticals. The firm operates with a three-pillar strategy consisting of consumer healthcare products, generics and specialty pharmaceuticals. Its consumer healthcare brands such as Hedrin, Nizoral, Grippostad and Zoflora are among the top sellers in their respective product categories…

Not only that but we also have fascinating discussions involving all the hot topics around the procurement function at the moment, with George Schutter, Former Chief Procurement Officer at the District of Columbia, Noemie Chetty, Director of Procurement of the Seychelles’ Public Utilities Corporation (PUC) and Trevor Tasker, CEO at EMCS Industries. Plus, Bob Booth Senior Partner, Finance & Supply Chain Transformation at IBM Consulting details how AI could affect the procurement function. “We are now witnessing a tipping point in the application of AI at real scale, and CPOs are wondering how this impacts them and their colleagues. This article aims to equip CPOs and their teams with some ideas to consider and some pointers on applying AI in a professional capacity to their company,” he reveals.

All this and lots, lots more!

Enjoy!

Nicolas Walden, The Hackett Group, discusses today’s landscape & what procurement’s future could hold amid a turbulent time for the industry.

Nicolas Walden, Associate Principal at The Hackett Group, discusses today’s landscape and what procurement’s future could hold amid a turbulent time for the industry.

Procurement is in a state of flux. Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the procurement landscape is volatile and requires…

Procurement is in a state of flux.

Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the procurement landscape is volatile and requires agility to navigate turbulent waters. But, despite significant disruption could there still be opportunity?

Simon Whatson, Vice President of Efficio Consulting, is optimistic about the future of digital procurement and despite a challenging few years he is confident of a successful bounce back. He gives us the lowdown on the direction of travel for digital procurement in 2023. 

As an executive with considerable experience in the space, we’d love to learn more about your background and how you ended up in procurement. Why was this the specialism for you and how did you get involved to begin with?

Simon Whatson (SW): “I think the one-word answer of how I came into procurement was accidental. I studied maths at university, with a year in France, before I began looking for different roles to apply for.

“Eventually, I was offered a position with a big plumbing and heating merchant with global operations. I worked in that supply chain team for two and a half years. Although it was called supply chain, a lot of the work was procurement, which involved negotiating with suppliers. It was after that stint there, that I discovered consulting and joined a boutique procurement consultancy. Now I am onto my third consultancy and I’m very happy here!

“In terms of why I’ve stayed, one of the success factors in procurement is being able to work cross-functionally. Procurement doesn’t own any of the spending that it is responsible for helping to optimise. It must work with other functions and the spend owners. I quite like the people side of that, building relationships, almost selling internally to bring teams together. That really appeals to me and is a key reason why I’ve been very happy in procurement.”

As we move into exploring procurement today in 2023. The space is filled with challenges and complexities. You only need to look at the last few years. Covid, war in Ukraine, inflation – how would you describe the world’s recent challenges and their effect on the industry and what do you feel CPOs and leaders can do to combat these issues?

SW: “I would flip it around and say that these are not so much challenges but rather opportunities for procurement. When I started my career 18 years ago, procurement was often fighting to get a voice and there were complaints that procurement was not represented at the top table, but the war in Ukraine, inflation, COVID and ESG, these are things which are now on the C-suite agenda and procurement is ideally positioned to help companies face those challenges. If you think about COVID and the war in Ukraine, procurement is in a privileged position to help with this.

“I see some procurement functions that prefer to do what they know, which focuses on the process and transactional side. However, there are also many forward-thinking CPOs and procurement professionals out there, that have really seized this opportunity of being on the C-suite agenda and drive the thinking and the solutions to some of these big challenges we’re seeing.”

Although new technology in procurement has been around for well over a decade, digitalisation has become so much more of an important topic. How would you sum up where procurement and supply chain are in terms of digital transformation today?

SW: “It’s a bit laggard, but digital transformation is difficult, and we have to recognise there are some real trailblazers. There are some firms doing some fantastic things in digital to produce better outcomes. If you contrast your experience when you’re buying something in your private life, it’s much easier than 20 years ago. You can get access to a wealth of pre-sourced things, whether it’s food, a holiday, a car, or a book. You can see reviews of what other people think of these things.

“But when you go into your workplace as a business user and you want to buy something, it doesn’t quite work like that yet. You often have to fill in a form, send it off and wait for them to come back to you. They might come back a little bit later than you were hoping and might tell you that they don’t have that part on the supply frameworks. I think people sometimes get confused about how it can be so easy to buy something as large as a car or a holiday on their sofa at home, but when they want to buy something at work, it seems to be quite cumbersome. Digital can help a lot with that, but it is incumbent on organisations and procurement functions to figure out how to recreate that customer experience that we’ve become accustomed to in our private lives.”

With a new generation of leaders growing up with technology, some might say that it could be a key driver in helping to speed the adoption in procurement along. Is this something you would agree with or what would you point to as a key driver?

SW: “I do think that it will act as one of the catalysts for further digital transformation in organisations, because if procurement doesn’t manage to recreate that customer experience that the new generation expects, then they won’t use procurement going forward and will look to bypass it.

“The analogy that I’ve used previously in this case is one of travel agents. I remember as a child, my parents were able to take us on holiday and I remember the whole process. We would walk into town to the travel agent, and look at some of the brochures of options. They often then had to phone the various airlines or resorts on our behalf. They might not be able to get through, so we’d have to come back the next day. I remember as a child being quite excited by the whole process but actually, thinking back, it was quite cumbersome. You compare that to now, with being able to review online, and you can get instant answers to your questions. It’s not a coincidence that travel agents don’t really exist anymore.”

How much of a challenge is it to not get caught leveraging technology for technologies sake? How important is it to stay true to your approach and be strategic?

SW: “We conducted a study of many procurement leaders and CPOs a few years ago, and one of the things that we found was that about 50% of procurement leaders admitted to having bought technology just on the basis of a fear of missing out, without any real understanding of the benefits that technology was going to bring. That was a real shock and a revealing find because technology is not cheap, and its implementation is quite disruptive. If you’re purchasing a system because everybody else is using it, then there could be some pretty costly mistakes. It is really important to make sure that when buying technology, it is because the benefits are fully understood.

“My advice to companies when looking to digitalise is own your data, visualise that data, and manage your knowledge. If you can focus on getting those things right in that order, and make your technology decisions to support that goal, then that’s a much better way of thinking about it rather than just jumping in and buying a piece of technology.”

It’s clear that the procurement space is an exciting, but challenging, place to be. What do you think will play a key role in the next 12 months to push the digital conversation further to take procurement to the next level?

SW: “Looking forward, one thing that procurement needs to do and continue to do is attract the best people. Ultimately, people are what makes an organisation, and it is what makes a function successful. I think procurement has often not looked for the right skills in the people that it employs. Traditionally, it’s looked for people with procurement experience and while they are valuable and required, we also need leadership potential. People who think a bit more outside the box and aren’t so process driven. A lot of what procurement has done in previous years has been process driven, so if you’re just limiting your search of people to those that have had procurement experience, you’re inevitably going to end up with a lot of people who are process driven.

“I think being bolder and recruiting people from different backgrounds with different skill sets is the way to go. If procurement can ‘own’ the ESG space, that will help with the younger generation see procurement make a difference. I think that’s one thing that will be key to success going forward.”

Check out the latest issue of CPOstrategy Magazine here.

CPOstrategy catches up with Sam de Frates, who has been leading procurement transformation at Mars, Incorporated, to discover how one of the world’s largest enterprises has put people at the heart of its plans…

Our exclusive cover story this month, sees us catching up with Sam de Frates, Vice President, Commercial – Europe, CIS & Turkey at Mars, Incorporated, and the leader of procurement transformation at the company, to discover how one of the world’s largest enterprises has put people at the heart of its plans…

Read the latest issue here!

CPOstrategy Magazine cover - Issue 39

Talk of technological change and digital transformations often excludes the most vital tools in delivering meaningful value within an enterprise: the people. Because new tools, processes and capabilities only truly maximise their value if they are shaped by the very people that require their services. The adoption of technology without the human touch can be an expensive opportunity missed.

An experienced procurement leader who has worked at some of the largest companies on earth, de Frates joins us for a chat from his London office to discuss how digital procurement at Mars has evolved under his guidance, whilst the company undergoes cross functional changes at scale – a hugely significant transformation with Mars Associates and its suppliers at its heart…

Elsewhere, we also we discuss the hottest topics within the procurement function, with Paul Howard, Chief Commercial Officer at New Zealand Defence Force and Manuele Burdese, Sr Director, Head of Business Insights & Analytics Strategic Sourcing & Procurement, Bristol Myers Squibb. Plus, we have some incredible insights from Efficio, Ivalua and Hilton Supply Management.

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

Digital procurement functions and leadership styles are changing as the pace of technology adoption accelerates.

The CPOstrategy Podcast: Unleashing the opportunity of procurement

Simon Whatson, Vice President of Efficio Consulting, speaks to us about the changing digital procurement function.

We also discuss how leadership styles are changing as the pace of technology adoption accelerates.

Here are five of the biggest procurement events happening during 2023 that chief procurement officers won’t want to miss.

Procurement Futures 


London, UK  |  1-2 February 2023 

Held at the QEII Centre in central London, Procurement Futures is a new conference, launching in 2023. It promises delegates the chance to find out how to make supply chains more resilient, with thought-provoking and presentations and discussions designed to inform and inspire.

There is a flexible programme of content that can be tailored to attendees’ preferences, with networking opportunities throughout and a huge variety of sessions to attend and take part in.

This CIPS event has three streams of content: Insights, Ignite and Interact. Insights will showcase presentations and panel discussions from leaders, Ignite will consist of hands-on workshops to help delegates optimise their procurement strategies and Interact will be smaller groups taking part in interactive roundtables and debates.

Speakers across the two days will include Ross Grierson, Director of Procurement, Primark; Patrick Dunne, Director of Group Property, FM & Procurement (CPO), Sainsburys Plc; Rebecca Simpson, Procurement and Supply Chain Director, Balfour Beatty; and Nick Jenkinson, Chief Procurement Officer, Santander. In addition, delegates are ablew to book a one-to-one career workshop, where they’ll get advice on professional development from coaches covering a variety of specialisms. 

Tickets are £795 for CIPS member, £995 for a non-member and £2240 for a supplier/solution provider, and there is a discount of 30% for tickets purchased before 30 November 2022. 


3rd World Digital Procurement Summit 


Berlin, Germany  |  2-3 March 2023 

The third World Digital Procurement Summit is aimed at procurement directors, VPs, managers and other industry specialists. The two-day event will focus on accelerating procurement processes, adopting emerging technologies, finding the right talent, overcoming the barriers to progress and embarking on a journey of transformation. It’s a hybrid event, bringing together procurement experts from various industries, which will maximise knowledge exchange opportunities. The event organisers list five key learning points for delegates: 

  1. Exploring the latest advances in data and cognitive technologies to gain greater insights and improve procurement processes 
  1. Overhauling the procurement ecosystem with new technologies and strategies to drive business value 
  1. Sharing the best practices of monitoring and managing a range of risks to hedge against future disruptions 
  1. Developing capabilities and skillset required for the digital transformation of procurement 
  1. Defining ESG metrics of the procurement strategy to ensure business continuity 

Speakers will include Paul Harlington, Group Procurement Director at TUI Group and Patrick Foelck, Head of Strategy and Transformation Procurement at Roche. 

Click here to check out a video from a previous event. Tickets cost €1495. 


Women in Procurement & Supply Chain 


Sydney, Australia  |  6-8 March 2023 

Returning for its 8th annual event, Women in Procurement & Supply Chain will deliver two days dedicated to leadership and the future of procurement. The event will feature a series of exclusive panel discussions and keynote addresses examining career development, overcoming imposter syndrome, working with confidence, developing an unbeatable talent pool, mentoring, diversity and inclusivity.

It will also address risk mitigation, digital disruption, ESG, sustainability, economic development, ethical sourcing, category management, cultural diversity, strategic sourcing, supplier relationships, procurement with purpose, and supply chain resilience. There are two pre-conference masterclass options on 6 March – that can be booked separately – covering either contract law or leadership skills. 

Some of the reasons to attend include: 

  • Discover the path to taking your procurement career to a new level while elevating your organisation with dedicated days on leadership and the future of procurement 
  • Learn best practice strategies to facedown supply chain vulnerabilities and reduce risk exposure 
  • Get ahead of the game with insights into the future of procurement and the impact of globalisation on modern supply chains 
  • Put yourself at the cutting edge of ESG and procurement with the latest updates and trends in procurement with purpose 

Speakers for the main two-day conference include Michelle Richard, Director of Procurement, Thales; Karina Davies, Chief Procurement Officer, icare NSW; and Kylie McKinlay, Procurement Partner – Property and Business, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

Tickets start at $3,495 with discounts available until 25 November 2022. 


Americas Procurement Congress 


Miami, USA  |  21-22 March 2023 

The Americas Procurement Congress will feature the region’s most progressive CPOs sharing their expertise

With a focus on what makes CPOs tick, the Americas Procurement Congress will feature the region’s most progressive CPOs sharing their expertise in keynote presentations and working groups.

Giving delegates the tools to stay on the cutting edge of procurement developments, there are also sessions aimed at those with responsibilities over governance, procurement capabilities and quantifying data. Unsurprisingly, sustainability will also be a key theme in 2023, and attendees will hear from a diverse range of sustainability leaders about how to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function. 

The agenda for Americas Procurement Congress 2023 will include: 

  • Sustainability of the future  
  • How to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function   
  • Harnessing the power of digital transformation  
  • Utilizing data as a driver of sustainable value, supply continuity and transparency   Agile procurement  
  • New approaches and skills that facilitate speed and agility   
  • Frictionless procurement  
  • Removing friction from the procurement process to support high-velocity sourcing   
  • Beyond Just in Time 
  • Designing future-fit supply networks for an age of chaos and conflict 

Tickets start at $3649. 


Americas Procurement Congress 


Orlando, Florida  |  8–10 June 2023 

Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo 2022 addressed the most significant challenges that chief supply chain officers and supply chain leaders face as they mitigate risk and navigate uncertainty in an increasingly dynamic and challenging environment.  

At the conference, the top 5 sessions that CSCOs and supply chain leaders met on included: 

  • Signature Series: The Future of Supply Chain 
  • What the Pivot to Sustainable Profit Means for Procurement Leaders 
  • The Art of the New Age One Page Dashboard: Why Your Current Perfor-mance Measures May Be Doing More Harm Than Good 
  • Manage Supplier Risk With Technology 
  • Procurement Role Redesign: Stop Fitting Square Pegs Into Round Holes 

Tickets start at $4725. 

Our exclusive cover story this month features Sangram Bhosale, CPO at Xcel Energy.

Our exclusive cover story this month features Sangram Bhosale, Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer at Xcel Energy. Sangram Bhosale is a highly experienced CPO with an impressive track record of delivering procurement excellence within the energy sector for some of its biggest names.

When the former TransAlta and Husky Energy CPO joined Xcel Energy as Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) in 2020, he wasted no time devising a procurement transformation plan to advance the function to the top quartile. One that would capacitate the rest of the organization to meet and overcome the many technical and tactical challenges to meet current and future needs.

Read the latest issue now!

What attracted Bhosale to Xcel Energy was its visionary leadership team and an opportunity to catalyze the profound shift in how energy is generated and consumed.

“One of the things that I love, and a big part of why I joined Xcel Energy, is that we are a purpose-driven organization with a bold vision of being an industry leader in clean energy. The fast-evolving and innovation-driven utility industry also attracted me,” he tells us from his Denver office.

“Today, utilities are no longer the stodgy beast of yesteryears where not much had changed for decades. New technology is being explored and adopted, with billions invested in grid expansion and strengthening to meet reliable, cleaner, and increased energy demand. To be at the forefront of and lead that clean energy transition aligns closely with my values and beliefs and makes my role at Xcel Energy very exciting.”

Elsewhere, we also feature exclusive interviews with Vice President of Procurement, Anna Barej, and Director, Procurement Center of Excellence, Shawn Calabrase from Best Buy, Alessandro Gaiati, CPO at Fedrigoni, Norian Wasch, Director Procurement at EuroFiber, David Latten, Head of Global Indirect Procurement at Logitech, as well as Heath Nunnemacher, VP Global Electronics Sourcing, TTI and Mark Brady, Global Supply Chain Director at McPherson’s. It’s a bumper issue!

Enjoy!

The Top Procurement Events for the first quarter of 2023.

Top Procurement Events for 2023

Hear from industry experts and keep up-to-date with the latest innovation in procurement by adding these upcoming, must visit, procurement events to your calendar in the first quarter of 2023.


ICSCM2023, 4th International Conference on Supply Chain Management

Macau, China | 13-15 January 2023


This academic conference – co-located with the International Conference on Computers in Management and Business – describes its main purpose as providing an international platform for presenting and publishing the latest scientific research outcomes on supply chain management. There will be opportunities for delegates to exchange new ideas, and to network with others, alongside the conference sessions. There is an optional tour, still to be confirmed, on the third day of the event.

Keynote speakers include Fugee TSUNG, Professor, HKUST (Guangzhou), Hong Kong, and Kwong Meng Teo, Senior Scientist, Huawei Technologies, 2012 Research Labs, China.


8th Annual Strategic Sourcing & Procurement MENA Summit

Dubai, UAE 24-25 | January 2023


Another hybrid event, the Strategic Sourcing & Procurement MENA Summit will offer delegates information on addressing current procurement challenges, focusing on areas such as category management, cost optimisation and risk mitigation. There will be case studies and discussions on e-procurement, plus solutions-based sessions on leadership in procurement.

Speakers will include experts from leading banks, telecoms, airlines, hotels, retailers, and other cross-industry companies, such as Emmanuel Augustin, Vice President Supply Chain Management | CPO, Dubai Airports and Kazim Duman, Director of Procurement, Rixos Hotels.

The agenda will cover:

  • Building a Sustainable Future
  • Risk Mitigation and Management
  • Prioritizing ESG: Procurement’s Role in Standardizing Sustainability
  • Cost Reduction and Value Generation
  • Talent Development and Acquisition Role in Strategic Sourcing and Procurement
  • From Good to Great in Digital Transformation
  • Leadership in Procurement Management
  • The Future of the Strategic Sourcing and Procurement

Procurement Futures London

UK | 1-2 February 2023


Held at the QEII Centre in central London, Procurement Futures is a new conference, launching in 2023. It promises delegates the chance to find out how to make supply chains more resilient, with thought-provoking and presentations and discussions designed to inform and inspire.

There is a flexible programme of content that can be tailored to attendees’ preferences, with networking opportunities throughout and a huge variety of sessions to attend and take part in. This CIPS event has three streams of content: Insights, Ignite and Interact. Insights will showcase presentations and panel discussions from leaders, Ignite will consist of hands-on workshops to help delegates optimise their procurement strategies and Interact will be smaller groups taking part in interactive roundtables and debates.

Speakers across the two days will include Ross Grierson, Director of Procurement, Primark; Patrick Dunne, Director of Group Property, FM & Procurement (CPO), Sainsburys Plc; Rebecca Simpson, Procurement and Supply Chain Director, Balfour Beatty; and Nick Jenkinson, Chief Procurement Officer, Santander.

In addition, delegates are able to book a one-to-one career workshop, where they’ll get advice on professional development from coaches covering a variety of specialisms.


3rd World Digital Procurement Summit

Berlin, Germany | 2-3 March 2023


The third World Digital Procurement Summit is aimed at procurement directors, VPs, managers and other industry specialists. The two-day event will focus on accelerating procurement processes, adopting emerging technologies, finding the right talent, overcoming the barriers to progress and embarking on a journey of transformation. It’s a hybrid event, bringing together procurement experts from various industries, which will maximise knowledge exchange opportunities. The event organisers list five key learning points for delegates:

  1. Exploring the latest advances in data and cognitive technologies to gain greater insights and improve procurement processes
  2. Overhauling the procurement ecosystem with new technologies and strategies to drive business value
  3. Sharing the best practices of monitoring and managing a range of risks to hedge against future disruptions
  4. Developing capabilities and skillsets required for the digital transformation of procurement
  5. Defining ESG metrics of the procurement strategy to ensure business continuity

Speakers will include Paul Harlington, Group Procurement Director at TUI Group and Patrick Foelck, Head of Strategy and Transformation Procurement at Roche.


Women in Procurement & Supply Chain

Sydney, Australia | 6-8 March 2023


Returning for its 8th annual event, Women in Procurement & Supply Chain will deliver two days dedicated to leadership and the future of procurement. The event will feature a series of exclusive panel discussions and keynote addresses examining career development, overcoming imposter syndrome, working with confidence, developing an unbeatable talent pool, mentoring, diversity and inclusivity. It will also address risk mitigation, digital disruption, ESG, sustainability, economic development, ethical sourcing, category management, cultural diversity, strategic sourcing, supplier relationships, procurement with purpose, and supply chain resilience. There are two pre-conference masterclass options on 6 March – that can be booked separately – covering either contract law or leadership skills.

Some of the reasons to attend include:

  • Discover the path to taking your procurement career to a new level while elevating your organisation with dedicated days on leadership and the future of procurement
  • Learn best practice strategies to facedown supply chain vulnerabilities and reduce risk exposure
  • Get ahead of the game with insights into the future of procurement and the impact of globalisation on modern supply chains
  • Put yourself at the cutting edge of ESG and procurement with the latest updates and trends in procurement with purpose

Speakers for the main two-day conference include Michelle Richard, Director of Procurement, Thales; Karina Davies, Chief Procurement Officer, icare NSW; and Kylie McKinlay, Procurement Partner – Property and Business, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.


Americas Procurement Congress

Miami, USA | 21-22 March 2023


With a focus on what makes CPOs tick, the Americas Procurement Congress will feature the region’s most progressive CPOs sharing their expertise in keynote presentations and working groups. Giving delegates the tools to stay on the cutting edge of procurement developments, there are also sessions aimed at those with responsibilities over governance, procurement capabilities and quantifying data. Unsurprisingly, sustainability will also be a key theme in 2023, and attendees will hear from a diverse range of sustainability leaders about how to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function.

The agenda for Americas Procurement Congress 2023 will include:

  • Sustainability of the future
  • How to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function
  • Harnessing the power of digital transformation
  • Utilizing data as a driver of sustainable value, supply continuity and transparency
  • Agile procurement
  • New approaches and skills that facilitate speed and agility
  • Frictionless procurement
  • Removing friction from the procurement process to support high-velocity sourcing
  • Beyond Just in Time
  • Designing future-fit supply networks for an age of chaos and conflict

Explore the top procurement trends in 2022 in detail.

The pace of evolution of the procuretech ecosystem continues to inspire the industry and we have seen digital procurement leaders rise in challenging times. So, what were the top procurement trends in 2022?

Last year’s ProcureTech100 cohort has outperformed their peers with over 40% growing exponentially, introducing new innovation, new partnerships and alliances. The 2022 ProcureTech100 cohort continue this drive with the most significant growth rate compared to their peers being in companies under 100 employees in size. Over 60% of the digital procurement ecosystem is made up of companies with under 50 employees with there being a clear step up required to building teams with over 50 employees. This correlates with the level and pace of funding within procuretech too and the step up to Series A.

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Agility, decision making, risk and collaboration drive the digitisation of procurement

65% of companies see digitalisation as being important to achieve their company and procurement objectives.

The key drivers for this digitalisation are process agility and decision making (79%), transparency, compliance and risk (78%), and supplier or partner collaboration (70%).  Leaders see optimising cost and cash flow as well as improving compliance and risk as key drivers to digitalise, priorities that mirror the current 2022 global challenges.

Whilst we are living in post pandemic times and in the middle of supply chain shortages,  digitalisation to help secure supply, is not seen as significant driver. Immediate issues have been addressed through the application of corporate and supplier talent. We would anticipate that this will change in the next 12-18  months through the introduction of new digital solutions to help solve these issues.

For large companies, with over 5,000 people, the digital drivers are focused on increased decision agility and risk compliance, whereas for smaller companies, less than 200 people, the drivers were stronger supplier or partner collaboration and improved transparency.

Driving revenue growth and optimising product/service demand were also evaluated as relatively low reasons to digitise. For future leaders addressing demand management will increase the importance of optimising product or services demand through greater access to data and application of digitalisation.

1 – New digital procurement categories and capabilities are emerging

As procurement’s scope continues to expand both across the company and through the supply chain, the great ‘unbundling’ of procurement continues too. This unbundling is characterised by the application of digital to either existing or new capabilities and skills. As a result we have seen the rapid emergence of point solutions to digitalise these areas from Candex for tail spend transactions to Scoutbee for supplier discovery. Their success is driven through the simplicity of the user experience which is enabled by advanced technology (which the user never sees). The application of point solutions extends to enablement through data too, for example Keelvar’s sourcing optimisation solution uses ocean and air freight benchmarking and market analytics from Xeneta, and Lytica is a standalone solution for electronic component spend analytics and risk intelligence enabled by real customer data.

The unbundling and digitalisation continues into existing and new categories too, with many new category specific solutions evolving. As companies digitalise their buying and supply channels it is possible to apply point solutions (if the volumetrics work) to most categories. Globality’s approach to services shifts the whole delivery model addressing both capacity and capability constraints. Niche solutions like Lightyear for Telecoms procurement and Zluri for SaaS procurement go deep within subcategories, often combining software with services to provide a point of differentiation and extending from the buying to management of solutions too.

“ We have spent the last decade creating toy boxes, now we have to create toolboxes that have the process, skills and culture integrated. My favourite tool box is for adoption.” Amanda Davies, Mars

2 – From interface to database

Traditionally, there is much focus by procurement on the ‘app layer’ that delivers the end to end capability. It is essential for procurement to be aligned with corporate digital and IT teams to design and deliver the whole procuretech stack. At the top of the stack the ‘interface’ and starting point of the user journey for buyers, suppliers, business users, chat bots and functional experts should be defined. Beyond a simple portal, Kore.  ai can provide this conversational interface as a multichannel interface into procurement.

Often this also integrates your procurement process orchestration and intelligence layers which are either embedded or connected to your app layer. There are significant improvements in user experience through the deployment of tools like ZIP and UIPath which provide this orchestration and have established integration.

The ‘middleware’ layer that connects apps including your ERP system to data can be provided by solutions like HICX, apexanalytics and Oro. Into this advanced companies are augmenting their data layer and foundation with AI and ML from solutions like Creactives and TealBook

Get started defining your procuretech stack and fungible data fabric!

3 – Best of All ecosystem of solutions

Fact: There is no equivalent of ERP for all of procurement. There is no equivalent of PLM for procurement.

As procurement’s role has expanded so have our digital and data needs. Each and every procurement team has an accountability to define their own digital procurement operating platform. This platform should consider ALL solutions, from the capabilities provided by traditional ERP and finance solutions to the latest process workflow, apps and data solutions. From this your own ‘Best of All’ solutions ecosystem will emerge.

This trend is happening across procurement and also within individual capabilities with procurement too. Especially those areas with multiple user journeys and many data feeds. This is creating ‘micro’ platforms.

“There is no one-stop shop to cover risk management end-to-end, we will likely require an ecosystem within an ecosystem, including one for risk apps within the broader digital ecosystem. The market is moving away from one solution does it all to ecosystem suites with central management and focussed solutions for specialist areas such as: Supply Chain Visibility, Mapping or Traceability; Cyber; Finance Etc. This is reflected in the spread of different solutions here across the ProcureTech100. The ‘winners’ will likely be the ones who best integrate in this ecosystem, and also transparently with ESG, ERP and other ProcureTech areas.” Tim Perry-Ogden

4 – Digital supply and demand more in balance

Over the last 10 years the supply of digital procurement solutions has rapidly increased. If you had asked for a blockchain solution to help with the provenance of goods 10 years ago you would not have been able to find a solution – now you can. For most of the current and new use cases you can now find the digital procurement solutions that you need. Moreover, in many areas there are now multiple digital procurement solutions providing companies with choices for their digital procurement operating platform. Where digital solutions don’t quite meet what you need then many digital solutions are prepared to flex their product roadmap to align with those needs.

Top 10 countires investing in procurement

Fuelled by investment

The venture investment into procuretech continues to grow, there are over 1,000 venture capitalists with single investments and increasing numbers of B2B investors that have multiple investments into procuretech.

Procurement teams are also clear on the investment required, the ROI and how quickly this needs to be achieved.

“We must go on this investment journey … we may need to tighten our belt in other areas but digitalisation is not one of them.” Marielle Beyer, Roche

📢 Sign-up for full access to the ProcureTech100 2022 Yearbook for the full report and more insightful articles!

The latest issue of CPOstrategy is LIVE!

This month’s cover story is an exclusive and compelling insight into the procurement strategy at Vodafone New Zealand.

This month’s cover story is an exclusive and compelling insight into the procurement strategy at Vodafone New Zealand.

“For me, the future of procurement is two things: digital and sustainability,” says Rajat Sarna, Chief Procurement Officer and these two themes are the thread that runs through everything he’s put into place since he took over the reins of the procurement function at Vodafone New Zealand in October 2020.

The role was a huge one to take on, too – the telco employs 2,000 people, serves 2.4m customers and is a $2bn revenue company. The scale of its operations is huge with customers consuming over 3 billion minutes, 4,500 terabytes of mobile data and 55,000 terabytes of fixed line data every month.  A key part of his mandate was to transform procurement into a market-leading operating partner to the business that would “ultimately improve the value that we deliver to our customers”.

Read the latest issue here!

Sarna went back to basics initially, thinking about what the future capability of Vodafone New Zealand would look like, and what its procurement operation needed to be to support this. He says: “It was very critical for me to have a purpose and it cannot just be better savings or improved cost position. That’s not purpose; purpose is: what are we doing in terms of how we align with the future of procurement?”

Elsewhere, we have exclusive interviews with procurement strategists Lawrence Kane, a SIG Sourcing Supernova Hall of Fame member and Nirav Patel, CEO of Bristlecone. Plus, a ProcureTech exclusive and a guide to the best procurement events over the next 12 months and much, much more.

Enjoy!

CPOstrategy speaks exclusively to Kathy Golding, Procurement & Supplier Ecosystem Services Leader at EY Global Services Limited, to see how a range of transformative initiatives have evolved the functions at the Big Four organization.

CPOstrategy speaks exclusively to Kathy Golding, Procurement & Supplier Ecosystem Services Leader at EY Global Services Limited.

This month’s cover story sees us speaking exclusively to Kathy Golding, Procurement & Supplier Ecosystem Services Leader at EY Global Services Limited, to see how a range of transformative initiatives have evolved the functions at the Big Four organisation, in a bid to benefit its operational excellence, its people experience, and the wider global community.

Read the latest issue here!

The global EY organization has over 350,000 employees across many countries, providing consultancy, assurance, tax and transactional services that “help solve EY clients’ toughest challenges and build a better working world for all.”

Kathy Golding is the Procurement & Supplier Ecosystem Services Leader at EY Global Services Limited and has been with the company for over 10 years, having spent her entire EY career in Supply Chain Services. Working under the guidance and leadership of Larry Phelan, Chief Supply Chain Officer at EY Global Services Limited and recognized by Procurement Magazine at no. 7 in the Top 100 Leaders in Procurement 2022, Golding helps manage the procurement and supplier relationship management of the Talent, Technology, and Brand, Marketing & Communications (BMC) categories across EY Global, with approximately US$5 billion annual spend. Golding is a highly experienced force at EY, and we were delighted to meet her at the company’s Canary Wharf office to discuss how procurement is evolving at one of the biggest enterprises on earth.

Kathy Golding, Procurement & Supplier Ecosystem Services Leader at EY Global Services Limited
Kathy Golding, Procurement & Supplier Ecosystem Services Leader at EY Global Services Limited

Not only that, but we also catch up with Vodafone NZ’s Rajat Sarna to see how procurement is being transformed at the telco through a start-up mentality.

And… there’s lots, lots more…

How can businesses cope with persistent, global supply chain issues and what are the concerns looming on the horizon?

The Digital Insight speaks to Nirav Patel, CEO of Bristlecone (a supply chain company of the $19bn Mahindra group), who discusses how businesses can cope with persistent, global supply chain issues – and outlines the concerns looming on the horizon.

The latest edition of CPOstrategy is live, featuring exclusive articles on Coupa, Just Eat Takeaways, Friesland Campina, DPW and ProcureTech

This month’s exclusive cover story centres around the Coupa App Marketplace, the digital ecosystem transforming procurement functions the world over.

We speak to Nigel Pegg, Vice President and General Manager of the Coupa App Marketplace and CoupaLink to find out more about the roll-out one year on.

Read the latest issue now!

The evolution of procurement into a true strategic business enabler is fuelled by technological advances. The ability to dig deep into data with true visibility into an enterprise’s entire spend and supplier network has been provided through ever-evolving platforms, such as Coupa’s highly successful Business Spend Management (BSM) platform. In BSM, Coupa has created a digital ecosystem that brings suppliers, vendors, and partners together in the same room with a single ‘source of truth’. 

 
Elsewhere, we discuss how strategic procurement is the way forward at a rapidly growing enterprise, with John Butcher, Group Procurement Director Just Eat Takeaway.com. Plus, we grill Maximillian Tan, Director Business Procurement Asia at FrieslandCampina, one of the largest dairy companies in the world with a cooperative tradition going back 150 years, on how he is unlocking value at the enterprise.

We also have features on DPW and its NEXT100, the CIPS Awards 2022 and revisit the winners of ProcureTech100 2021.

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

Editorial Director

CPOstrategy’s cover star this month is procurement transformation expert, and CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell…

Right now, procurement excellence is blooming. Experts determined to create change are coming to the fore and aligning procurement with SaaS to bring an end to the do-it-yourself way of working that decimates technology budgets. Tropic is one such game-changer, providing the tools to navigate software procurement’s complexities for competitive advantage.

Read the latest issue here!

The CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic is David Campbell, a born entrepreneur. He grew up on a cattle ranch in California and has always had at least one side-hustle on the go. Even as a child, he was running some form of money-making venture at any one time – but he didn’t necessarily consider that entrepreneurial pursuits were his calling until later.

CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell
CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell

Campbell studied English at UC Berkeley, and on graduating assumed he’d go into the arts. He’s a lifelong musician and writer, and he moved to a cabin in the woods to write the ‘next great American novel’. This venture, while it didn’t have the exact results he had hoped for, planted the seed in his mind that perhaps entrepreneurialism was for him because he loved setting his own hours and vision, creating a strategy, and executing that…

Elsewhere, we have exclusive interviews with supply chain and procurement leaders at the City of Edmonton and QSC, as well as the results of our first Sustainable Procurement Champions Index. We also have some exciting news from DPW too, ahead of its conference later this month.

Enjoy the issue!