Louis Fernandes of Basware – Future Proofing Your Tech Investments

We still see many speakers at conferences who work for software firms and basically give a 20-minute sales pitch for their firm. That’s fine if it is advertised as such, but less fair on the audience if it is positioned as a session of more general interest!

So, brownie points and three cheers for Louis Fernandes, UK Country Manager for spend management solution providers Basware, who spoke about “Future Proofing Your Tech Investments” at the recent eWorld event.

His title proved to be an accurate description of his material, and he barely mentioned Basware at all in his thought-provoking half an hour or so. Instead, Fernandes started by suggesting that most of us select technology based on a problem we have now. In the P2P world, that might be accounts payable and procurement acting independently, to many unapproved suppliers or other obvious pain points.

But … what is coming around the corner? How do you know you are not missing future opportunities, or failing to address imminent issues? How do you make tech investments you won’t regret in a few years’ time?

Most organisations build their business case for P2P on internal efficiency and savings. Buyers then consult the analyst firms who suggest “these are the 5 suppliers you should be talking to”. All of them will tell you they can help you make those efficiencies and savings.

“So, then you set up an evaluation panel, develop a scorecard – and we all add up the scores based on functionality of the products”. But, Fernandes says, we are only looking “at the problem we can see in front of us”.

Think about Siebel – it was the number 1 CRM tool in the market. It came with all sorts of promises, but 10 years later no-one used it, because of the advent of SaaS and Salesforce.com specifically. Whole business models shifted. Now that SaaS shift has already happened in procurement – but what is going to hit us next?

Might it be artificial intelligence (AI), which is coming to procurement – and “is going to render 90% of existing procurement technologies obsolete” according to Fernandes.

That’s because the volume of data is going to change everything. “For buying organisations looking to explore AI technologies, understanding what data is needed and ensuing access to it will be critical”.  The mantra for procurement? Simplify operations, spend smarter – and aim for 100% visibility, 100% capture, 100% user adoption.

Then Fernandes did bring things back to a bit of product-specific discussion. At the centre of the Basware P2P proposition is the Basware network – suppliers connect once, transact with everyone. The network supports multiple partners, inter-operability is key, and use is free to suppliers.  And data capture will be key in the age of AI and predictive analysis, so your system needs to handle all invoices (not just those that are PO-backed) if you want to capture everything. Once you have the data, then options from dynamic discounting to fraud detection and automatically created requisitions will open up.

So … back to the CPO and her/his colleagues making that software selection decision. Most are “measuring functionality tactically in the here and now” – rather than looking at the longer-term strategic considerations, such as whether the system is architected for centralised data capture.

That general message seems spot on, and we might add one point. The Spend Matters US Solution Map approach to technology analysis is the first to recognise in its methodology that different types of user organisations have different requirements in terms of their procurement tech. That also seems reasonable, so do think about your specific needs, as well as focusing on the future outlook, as Fernandes suggests.

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