Coupa Inspire Keynote: Some New Procurement Ideas (Part 1)

In less than a month, I’ll be delivering one of a handful of keynotes at the Coupa INSPIRE (April 8-10 in San Francisco). I’m planning to share what’s top of mind in our thinking about the future of procurement, including what must change within organizations looking to get past current “walls” with respect to organizational and procurement empathy, respect, adoption, results and elevation.

While I’m still fine-tuning the details, there are ten themes I’ll hit as I test some new ideas we haven’t yet explored in our research (but will increasingly in the future). I’ll cover five below and the rest in a future post.

My first theme is focused on procurement becoming More Elegant in strategy, structure and execution. My belief behind procurement elegance – which is different, though certainly linked, with Guy Kawasaki’s concept of “enchantment” – extends across procurement activities. It starts with and includes themes about how organizations use and select the right tools, implement and execute programs/processes, and relate to and engage the rest of the organization. And it even extends to how, in the case of marketing spend as a category example, procurement team members dress to fit in with the business to garner respect! But trust me: there’s nothing superficial about elegance, even in wearing clothes to impress marketing types.

The second theme I’ll talk about is procurement’s role of Fostering Responsibility in new ways. Granted, you’ve all heard the concept of basic purchasing responsibility buying before – directing spend to preferred contracts/suppliers, avoiding maverick and unauthorized spending activities, ensuring the right workflow/approvals, cutting down on paper, reducing purchasing fraud (yes, it’s still prevalent, although not talked about as much as it needs to be), etc. But responsibility procurement extends far beyond basic controls and systems. It can impact an entire organizational approach to reducing business risk, improving diversity programs, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and many other areas. Fostering an improved culture of responsibility requires both bottoms-up and top-down approaches. I’ll explain how (and why) during my speech.

The third theme is how to truly Instill a Performance and Metrics-Driven Culture in procurement (and finance) and how such an approach can greatly improve procurement’s overall effectiveness and influence. In my talk, I’ll explore how to make not just benchmarks and KPIs more pervasive in procurement, but also the value of becoming more quantitative and analytical in general – and how this applies to general priority setting, thinking, problem solving and supplier/stakeholder engagement at many levels of the business.

The fourth element I’ll explore is what is probably best termed “Unorthodox” CFO and Finance Engagement Techniques to create greater sources of procurement value, from identified and realized savings through to new types of working capital management approaches. I’ll also emphasize the “why” and “how” of senior finance engagement and some general tips for getting the attention of CFOs and rallying them behind the procurement cause.

The fifth element I’ll cover is the rising important of what I’ll term Predictive Buying and Decision Guidance around different aspects of sourcing, transactional buying and supplier management/risk management. This is an emerging area, especially within the req-to-pay lifecycle for indirect goods, but one where we can point to useful examples and archetypes within services procurement (contingent labor) and direct materials (risk management). The concept of predictive buying and decision guidance is to leverage intent of the user and to provide recommendations based on the outcomes they want to achieve within the context of the application itself outside of a different analytics layer or dashboard. Such approaches can focus on the basics (e.g., providing guidance based on costs or general compliance) or more advanced, such as delivering predictive risk and performance analytics.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll highlight five additional areas:

  • The meaning of data enlightenment
  • Disarming IT (in more ways than one)
  • Lassoing services spend
  • Becoming the steward – internal, suppliers and networks
  • Beyond Cloud: Applications, Networks and Platforms

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