CPO Summit: The Battle for Meeting Modern Source-to-Pay Needs

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I recently got back from the CPO Summit held in the historic Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), a London conference venue housed in an 18th century mansion with a long and rich British military history dating back to Henry VIII. Within the historic Armoury House were several notable military artifacts, while outside we faced regiment parade, guns ready for parade at the Artillery Garden, the largest garden in the City of London.

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With a military mindset throughout the conference settings, attendees were on the defensive – wanting to pursue a discussion about how to optimize anything from their source-to-pay technology efforts. But speaking of history, what amazed me was how many presentations focused on the same goals and challenges that could have been presented ten years ago.

For instance, one presentation talked about the savings they obtained on their eSourcing tool over the past five years, without much discourse on how the current business was looking to expand beyond existing usage or using outdated methodology approaches to address innovation. For those organizations, it was evident they did not get the memo on the topics in which people were most interested, from advancing procurement transformation to identifying ways to improve on acquiring better talent.

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Addressing Change with a Supplier-Centric Approach

So, to address these discussion points that were top of mind, I presented the topic of “supplier- centric” source to pay. Our contention: inconsistency in the collection and maintenance of information required for paying and managing suppliers and assessing their performance creates discontinuity.

Centralizing supplier management as part of source to pay allows legal, procurement and finance to perform searches and initiate processes that decrease repetitive efforts and improve spend under management. Linking processes on a common technology platform enables this to be done while reducing supplier risk and minimizing the chances of an oversight, such as purchasing from non-compliant/high-risk suppliers or duplicating payment.

After our presentation, several people approached me to discuss how this transformation could take place. They were eager to talk about linking supplier information with areas such as inventory and warehouse management, or improving process optimization by looking to adopt one technology platform to optimize workflows across all stakeholders.

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A Focus on Usability

Another “Did you get the memo?” moment was the discussion we had at our roundtable outside the Armoury House – the theme focused on millennials — usability and flexibility of a system as being critical to encouraging user adoption, promoting efficiency and ensuring compliance. The roundtable assessed the importance of UI/UX as a primary decision criterion for deploying source-to-pay technology to a younger workforce focused on innovation and collaboration.

During the discussion, one lady told us of the solution her company was using today, which was UI/UX designed a decade ago to optimize the first generation of iPhones in 2006. Another shared the story of their ERP-based procurement solution being almost impossible to use, but no one can make the changes unless IT is involved.

While everyone shared ideas and concerns on UI/UX in enterprise solutions, one thing was evident – “Amazon-like” was one of the most common themes, which basically could be summarized as, “How do you make it so that I just log in and start using it without training?”

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800-lb Gorilla in the Room

Finally, while all these conference topics have been common concerns of procurement professionals globally, one thing that stood out the most to me was the need for better intelligence in the era of Brexit.

While the Brexit theme was only one presentation at the end of the day (and not the best, I might add), it was clear this was on the minds of most of the attendees based on their respective roles in procurement, but no one clearly had a solution. The uncertainty of how the divorce will work out for business was palpable for both UK-based firms and those on the Continent.

Under new Home Office proposals, three million EU citizen residents and employees in Britain must apply for inclusion on a “settled status” register if they want to stay in the country after Brexit. This poses a big challenge, especially if the right systems aren’t in place. Another situation, particularly in the public sector, is around managing the “buy British” plan, aimed at helping UK-based suppliers, supply chains and infrastructure companies when bidding for public sector contracts.

Overall, the approach of improved visibility and collaboration is a precursor to being prepared for Brexit and the changes that are ahead. So, to summarize our theme of the platform at the conference, using a technology such as Determine would accelerate the digital transformation for those looking to address Brexit or other procurement-specific requirements with tangible areas that a source-to-pay platform can provide, including

  • Addressing the lack of automation of supplier contract management and procurement processes with a built-in business process management solution.
  • Ability to draw upon ease of use UI/UX and a familiar look and feel for users, regardless of role.
  • Easy to configure, scalable capabilities that streamline collaboration with vendors and market forces, driving adoption and innovation.
  • Strengthened compliance via a “single source” of truth/metadata for all procurement processes, internal and external, available from your laptop or mobile device.
  • Increasing savings by lowering operating costs, delivering value-added benefits across departments, outside of procurement’s normal charter (cost reduction, cost avoidance, etc.) through improved stakeholder interaction with procurement, processes and data.

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