Coupa Inspire Keynote: Some New Procurement Ideas (Part 2)

In less than a month, I’ll be delivering a presentation at the Coupa Inspire event (April 8-10) in San Francisco. I’m creating new materials for the show to highlight a number of areas procurement needs to focus on as it attempts to create new sources of savings, value, and risk avoidance. In the first installment of this series, I introduced the following five themes that I’m planning to weave into my talk, suggesting that procurement must:

  1. Become more elegant in strategy, structure and execution.
  2. Find new ways of fostering responsibility
  3. Instill a performance and metrics-driven culture
  4. Develop “unorthodox” CFO and finance engagement techniques
  5. Tackle predictive buying and decision guidance support

There are five additional elements I’m planning to weave into the talk as well. The first of these builds on the underlying capability to support the fifth element – tackling predictive buying and decision support guidance. This is, simply put, understanding the meaning of data enlightenment.

To this sixth element, procurement has a long way to go in not only becoming data driven, but reaching a stage of data enlightenment where it serves as the nexus for the broader organization in gathering, synthesizing and acting on both internal and external sources of spend, supplier, category, market/geographical and commodity information.  This changes the role of procurement from just information actor and influencer to knowledge and insight owner. One way to look at this is procurement as the corporate intelligence librarian for the twenty-first century. But there won’t be any card catalogs, buns, or spectacles to be found.

This element of knowledge management and information owner brings me to the seventh point that I plan to make – how procurement can become an organizational steward, orchestrating the complex and interrelated dance of internal stakeholders, suppliers and networks. I recently heard a partner from the Deloitte Sourcing and Operations practice refer to a similar concept as procurement getting into the business of sourcing and managing ideas for the company. Now that is a more elegant way to put it, but the concepts are the same. To source ideas, one needs to be able to gather, ideate, package and share, always being on the look out for the next big thing (e.g., a supplier innovation or a disruptive new product segment forming in an emerging market). Who better than procurement to take this role?

The eighth element is one that I admit to repurposing from past presentations, but trust me, the time is finally nearing for procurement to consistently and effectively lasso services spend. I can’t overstate the importance of services spend to the business – and to procurement’s future. If procurement organizations fail to play an enabling role in managing such category spending in areas including marketing, professional/management services, IT services, BPO, etc., we can kiss goodbye the slight – I would honestly argue superficial lift – we got from a few folks in the C-suite finally taking Peter Kraljic’s article on purchasing evolving from supply management to heart.

Winning the favor of services spend owners is essential. Part of this brings me to the ninth element that I’m working on, which involves disarming IT organizations and CIOs (in more ways than one). Procurement is at an amazing place when it comes to being the firewall between internal stakeholders, systems, processes and the outside world, focused usually – but not exclusively – on the demand side of the supply chain. Most IT organizations have not yet figured out how to effectively manage interrelated company processes and systems extending outside the four walls. Who better than procurement to take this lead and to truly disarm IT organizations, become a new partner to CIOs – not to mention helping better manage IT procurement and vendor management functions in new and more effective ways.

Of course this ties into my final tenth point of my talk: moving beyond the cloud to consider the broader impact – and intersections – of applications, networks and platforms that exist within and between organizations. This concept of platform is important. And it’s totally up for grabs at the moment. There is no Facebook or Twitter for procurement and supply chain, a centralized platform that organizations build off of to enable new types of transactional connectivity, visibility and risk management. How platforms relate to connectivity webs/networks and cloud applications themselves – and where functionality ultimately resides for users – is a critical question to ponder.

Join me in San Francisco at Coupa INSPIRE if you can. While I can’t promise that I’ll be able to pull off the Rob Bernshteyn 150 slides in 15 minutes routine, I am spending more time than I have in years pulling together a keynote that I hope, if you pardon the pun, inspires – or at least really gets attendees to think about the evolution of procurement’s place in the business.

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