Mobility & Procurement: The Next Phase of Sourcing Transformation

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Steve Whiteman, CEO of Intesource

In today’s procurement world, the strength of your strategic sourcing team can be a major factor in your overall success – and emerging technologies and increased access to data are empowering buyers to achieve greater results than ever before.

While old-school sourcing skills and values such as supplier relationships and category expertise remain as relevant as ever today, new tools are transforming the way businesses run reverse auctions, approach supplier negotiations, and manage categories. Full-service e-sourcing in particular enables procurement teams to maximize the value of their supply chain by making it easier to run more events, source complex categories, and use historical data to achieve greater results. As a result, procurement teams are better able to drive down costs and develop an environment where it’s easier to collaborate or challenge suppliers.

Through the use of new procurement technologies and access to better data, sourcing teams have turned the supply chain from a tactical business unit into a strategic cog, driving new revenue and profitability. Even more exciting – the best is yet to come.

Today, mobile devices have infiltrated practically every facet of our lives – ushering in a new age of access to information anytime and anywhere. However, the procurement industry hasn’t yet come close to capitalizing on the potential benefits of mobile technology.

But it will. The growth of mobile technology across the globe is staggering. According to Forrester, by 2017 there will be 905 million tablets in use globally. And according to Cisco, by the start of 2014 (meaning now!) the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth. It’s only a matter of time before its impact is felt in procurement.

The Mobile Procurement Opportunity

What will procurement’s mobile revolution look like? In essence, it will extend the benefits of sourcing technologies to procurement professionals on the road, further empowering them to drive greater results and value. It will give buyers and managers instant access to critical information – enabling them to do their job faster, smarter, and more easily.

With an application that extends the functionality of an e-sourcing solution to mobile devices, buyers can perform many of the same functions on the road as they could at their desk. Whether they need to look up past event data – including specific vendors, categories, or dates – to leverage for a current bid, contact key personnel, or organize and stay on top of multiple ongoing events, mobility will ensure that conferences and out-of-town meetings won’t impede procurement pros from doing their job effectively.

And ultimately, that’s where the biggest impact will be: giving procurement teams an optimized user experience that enables them to be more effective and drive more value for the company.

Preparing for Tomorrow

Even though mobile capabilities haven’t fully permeated the procurement industry, sourcing leaders should prepare today to ensure that their business will be ready to fully capitalize on the emerging technology.

Here are three steps that today’s procurement leaders should take:

Empower buyers with e-sourcing technology and data. As explained, mobile procurement will enable buyers to leverage the benefits of e-sourcing and supply chain tools anytime and anywhere. The shift to a technology and data based sourcing strategy isn’t always an easy transition for buyers – especially those that rely heavily on old-school sourcing tactics – so initiating that change today will make it easier for your business to adopt mobile capabilities down the road.

Map out your mobile strategy. Enterprise mobility is a complex IT challenge – and there’s a lot to consider when developing a mobile strategy. Will you allow employees to use their own devices, or will the company provide devices? How will they be managed and configured? What data plan will you use? When will your solution provider offer mobile access? Thinking about these issues now will save a lot of time.

Talk to your CSO. Security concerns have consistently hovered over the excitement and growth of mobility – and for good reason. Instant access to data means easier access to sensitive information for cybercriminals, as well as a bigger risk of employees mishandling critical data. To ensure that your mobile procurement initiative doesn’t put your business at risk, make sure your security team is able to lock down and manage the devices and data being transmitted.

The next stage in buyer empowerment

When your buyers have the tools they need to overcome sourcing challenges, they can achieve the type of supply chain transformation that maximizes profitability throughout the organization. Double-digit savings, dramatic reductions in process inefficiencies and value leakage, and stronger supplier relationships are within reach – but it’s up to procurement leaders to provide an optimal employee experience to make it happen.

That’s why CPOs and procurement managers need to look ahead to the next wave in sourcing technology: mobility. There’s no question whether or not mobility will have an impact on sourcing – but how businesses capitalize on the benefits offered will depend on managers’ ability to embrace the emerging tools.

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