Executive Q&A with Tom Anthony, Oracle: ‘We’ve Made Some Amazing Strides’


Tom Anthony knows a thing or two about the procurement profession. After all, he’s been around the block quite a bit.

He’s amassed 18 years of experience at Oracle, and currently serves as vice president of procurement product strategy. (Many of us at Spend Matters have known Tom for a while, covering his insights at Oracle OpenWorld, among other things.) So it’s no surprise that he’s seen a significant amount of change within the procurement sector over the years — but has it really changed all that much since he started out?

We recently caught up with Tom in an email conversation to get his latest views.

How did you first get into procurement? What drew you to it?

I worked on procurement in the late 80s and early 90s as part of “plant-level systems” that included manufacturing and production reporting, MRO, quality, purchasing and payables. Anecdotally, I also wrote an outbound PO fax solution in 1992 to get rid of paper POs company-wide.

Describe your current role as vice president, procurement product strategy at Oracle. What is your favorite part about it?

I wish I could describe it, but “it” changes on a daily basis. My team is concerned with the capabilities we build and when we build them with the end goal of customer success being the outcome.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing procurement today?

Same as it ever was. Getting procurement elevated beyond the transactional enabler to being a strategic contributor to the business. Supplier management is one of the key areas we have been focused on with customers, and it seems to be getting a lot of attention. From simple pre-qualification through to tier-n compliance and spend visibility, we have been able to make some amazing strides.

What are the biggest challenges you have in your current role, personally?

Finding a way to fit more hours in a week.

How do you see the role of procurement evolving inside your customers’ organizations? And within Oracle itself?

We have a very global procurement organization that I would segment into indirect- and direct-focused. The indirect side is completely focused on streamlining processes and mitigating risks. We have automated the procure-to-pay process (and are rolling out Cloud next year along with direct), and have processes in place to ensure proper fiscal and legal review of purchases we make. On the direct side, there is more of a strategic focus on supplier management and sourcing in support of manufacturing. We have a diverse range of make-to-stock, configure-to-stock and configure-to-order processes that all include procurement of the direct materials but also third-party services. Those processes need to be done efficiently, cost-effectively and accurately with the end customer in mind.

How does your team anticipate changes or trends in the industry?

Luckily my team is very senior and all have a deep and broad background. We do rely heavily on external input from analysts, but primarily from working with senior executives from our customers to validate our direction.

How have your customers deployed your technology to their advantage?

Most of the folks that are moving to Oracle Cloud-based solutions are doing so to streamline the full P2P process versus just simplifying the requisitioning and approvals phase of the process. This type of change requires procurement and finance to work together in ways that have traditionally been difficult. The folks that have made this investment have seen dramatic improvements in terms of both realized savings and in real process efficiencies.

How vital is industry intelligence to you in your role, to your team and to your organization?

In certain industries, it can be an important input into our planning processes.

What are some of the resources you go to for research?

Analysts, articles and in many cases looking at how our customers are using our solutions.

What are the key traits in organizations that you partner with (or that you look for in potential partners)?

Most of our partnerships are either implementation partners, or solution partners. For implementation partners, I look for folks that have adopted cloud deployment vs. on-premise methodologies and have a proven track record in delivering customer success. For solution partners, we look for solutions that are complementary and that also have a proven customer track record.

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