Zycus Horizon Dispatch: Bad Seinfeld References Meet New Procurement Tech “Ingredients” (Including Blockchain)

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Yesterday at Zycus Horizon, I gave a talk to a small breakout group titled “Cooking in a New Source-To-Pay Kitchen.” The topic gave me carte blanche to essentially bring up trends and ideas shaping the future of procurement and combine these with some bad references from my favorite Seinfeld episodes (for example, imagine the equivalent of procurement saying “no soup for you” to stakeholders that it would rather avoid engaging).

For better or worse, the topic – and how I presented it – was the one I would want to hear if I were in the audience. In other words, unlike a keynote, I got to plough through a truly insane amount of content and ideas in an abbreviated timeframe – and toss in a few jokes along the way. This is certainly not everyone’s presentation cup of tea (try explaining blockchain in a couple of minutes or less) but the whirlwind adventure hopefully led some folks to go to Spend Matters or at the very least Google for greater insight on certain topics.

My five core cooking ingredients for new procurement dishes:

  1. Evolution of networks and platforms. The shifting role of networks (for example, new and pre-integrated “apps” from third-party providers integrated with platforms) is a critical component of how these intermediaries between buyers, suppliers and even other third parties (e.g., payment providers/funders/banks, logistics providers, etc.) will change procurement technology in numerous ways. Other “ingredients” of future networks I introduced in this section include: the bastardization (so far) of the concept of “open networks,” direct materials and EDI, supply chain network models and “the death of the empty application.”
  1. Blockchain (new architectures and conventions): I did not do justice to blockchain in less than two minutes during my talk (here’s an excellent ‘Cliffs Notes’ version of my recent, fuller presentation on that topic, courtesy of my colleague Peter Smith), but I did begin to make the case for it — based on the current explosion of data, the limits of current approaches to network collaboration and true master data management between trading partners, systems of record vs. systems of agreement, systems of trust, etc. Of course, this is just the start of the argument that drives to the value of blockchain architectures, but hopefully it piqued the interest of attendees.
  1. Future of modules and applications: In this section I introduced the declining importance of modules themselves (especially within suites) and the value of their points of intersection and connecting. I also talked about the incorporation of AI/machine learning into procurement modules, social collaboration components and both “punch-in” and “punch-out” strategies for integrating suppliers and third parties.
  1. Supporting the true complexities of categories: few generic (not specialized) procurement solutions support the ability to truly manage and influence complex categories effectively today (marketing, print, events, construction, legal, professional services, etc.). There’s also the broader question of what constitutes “managed,” as some P2P providers have very loose definitions here! We must also consider how to support the broader lifecycle of these types of categories as well as how best to incorporate market intelligence and benchmarking at all stages of internal customer, stakeholder and supplier engagement.
  1. Making talent smarter through technology – this is one of my favorite “ingredients” for the future of procurement technology. The shift and my premise is this: applications are not just making us smarter, they are replacing the need for talent in certain places. This begs the question, does procurement really need to “get smarter” or up-skill, given this shift? And will systems replace (and be better) than people? There’s also the broader danger that if we get so reliant on systems, much like the humans in the movie WALL-E, we won’t be able to move out of our lounge chairs and actually fix (and steer) the ship when our systems inevitably fail at some point.

Bon apétit!

Stay tuned for further coverage from Zycus Horizon later today and tomorrow.

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