Accenture and the Future of Procurement Technology: The Virtual Company Mall

Virtual company mall

In Accenture’s daring report, Procurement’s Next Frontier – The Future Will Give Rise to an Organization of One, the authors spend a bit of time exploring the future of procurement technology. In fact, they suggest 5 areas that are likely to augment or replace today’s current tech investments. One of these technology areas Accenture describes as “the virtual company mall.”

In Accenture’s words, this is what the virtual mall will comprise:

“Owned and managed by procurement, the Company Mall will feature a cloud-based set of pre-approved private and public 'shops' (i.e., including content from outside the company) 
from which internal customers can select goods and services, supported with business logic that guides their purchasing based on policies, preferred suppliers and contracts. The mall will include a robust service desk that directs customers to the right shops and provides spot-buy services as required, as well as virtual agents delivering consistent and automated buying support. These services will be enabled by a mix of digital disruptors, including cognitive systems through intelligence augmentation and, where possible, intelligent automation.”

Let’s dissect what it will take for the virtual supplier mall to become reality:

  • First, it will require a strong e-procurement capability inclusive of powerful federated search, including internal catalog, supplier hosted catalogs, traditional web storefronts and dynamic storefronts.
  • Second, it will rely on a managed-service type layer of personalized capability that leverages both human resources, which could be managed internally, and likely robotic capability as well.
  • Third, it will require the ability to go past the 80/20 rule on shopping, including serving in the traditional Radio Shack-type mall role by enabling users to find highly esoteric items when necessary.
  • Fourth, it will require significant linkages with back-end systems such as inventory tools to mask where individuals are buying from, which could be internal storerooms.
  • Fifth, it will also require services procurement capability embedded with the core buying technology. Purchase to pay (P2P) meets vendor management system (VMS) meets freelancer management system (FMS) meets specialized category solutions? You got it – albeit with a clever front-end wrapper that masks the fact there are even applications running in the back end. After all, shopping in the mall must be simple!

I’ll offer my own take on this prediction in a follow-up post.

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First Voice

  1. Pierre Mitchell:

    Funny, back in 2005, I wrote a short piece called “Google, Guided Buying, and the Return of the Procurement Mall” and in it I tried to describe exactly this scenario…

    ‘Think about an end user who, rather than going to a clumsy Intranet site to find a few local e-catalogs and supplier “punchout” sites, gets instead a corporate Google-like interface any types in whatever they’re looking for. Then, the users gets automatically guided to preferred supply sources / channels (e.g., an e-procurement catalog, a supplier website, an internal inventory location, or a requisition that’s electronically escalated to the proper commodity manager) based on commodity taxonomies, supply strategies/policies, preferred supplier listings, commodity manager skills, local inventories, specialized knowledge rules, and supplier website content (or that of specialized content providers). In other words, users are guided to preferred supply sources before a maverick spend ever occurs.’

    Reminds me of a song…

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