Dear Procurement (Part 3): Apply traditional procurement technology in non-traditional, socially distanced ways!

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The coronavirus crisis has put procurement pros out of their element as they have to work from home, but if you’re willing to seize the opportunity, it can be done. And the traditional technology that’s used for clients can be turned inward to help your own team as co-workers socially distance.

This series started off by telling you how cloud-based solutions, especially those that go beyond Zoom and Google Docs, can turn your kitchen table, sofa and even bed into your mobile procurement command center. We explained, in Part 1 and Part 2, how the following eight tasks that are probably only ever done face-to-face in a crowded meeting room could be done just as good, virtually, if not better.

  • Category Planning
  • Vendor Site Audits
  • User Groups and Workshops
  • Internal Category Intelligence, Supplier Intelligence and Market Intelligence
  • Contract Negotiations
  • End-User Product Qualification
  • Inventory and Asset Management
  • Project Post Mortem

But the capabilities of modern procurement platforms don't stop here. Today we're going to focus on how to use everyday procurement tools in creative ways to accomplish even more tasks and increase your distributed, virtual productivity.

Today we'll look at the four standard source-to-contract modules (S2C) and give you some creative ideas for using them to maintain, and maybe even increase, levels of productivity in this crisis.

Note: These are non-traditional use cases!

RFX/Sourcing

Use RFX technologies to find out not only what your team is doing outside of normal category project management, but also what your team thinks should be done about key issues and what they would like to do during the crisis. Consider:

  • When you think about it, the heart of an RFX is a powerful, configurable, customizable survey tool — who says that has to be limited to querying suppliers?
  • If you can't all be in the office, and can't be on Zoom with each other all the time (because you're on it with various stakeholders and clients), and need to work across time zones, it's a great way to collect information.
  • And don't limit RFX technology use to just sourcing project tasks. Use it as an opportunity to capture what else is being done, what else could be done, and how the company can help them ... and decide between suggestions.

Let's take this latter point first! Is your team feeling disconnected? Then you should be using modern technology to help them feel connected.

You can use Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other technology to simulate an off-hours lunch gathering or happy hours ... and just talk. You can have leaders do internal webcasts — not just limited to politicians with TV shows. The internet is your communication channel.

And use the RFX solution to find out the best times, formats and topics for these socially oriented virtual telecasts, discussions and gatherings. And this is just the start of the creative ways you might find to employ surveys and other information collection tools to your advantage.

Analytics

Analytics analyzes data. What can you do differently? Well, quite a bit. Instead of using the graphical mapping capabilities to map the supply chain, map the internal support chain, the client base, and the intersection. See where people are, how the coronavirus situation differs across their geographies, who needs the most help, and how people in different locales can help each other.

Focus more on process analytics than spend analytics (because, let's face it, the priority now is supply assurance, not cost reduction, and just keeping inbound and outbound supply chains running).

Here’s a creative approach you might try:

  • Track the process times for as many tasks as you can and store as many data points as you can.
  • This may include who, what, where, associated products/categories/projects, previous and next steps, etc.
  • Then identify which processes seem to be slowing down …
  • … But within those tasks look for any outliers where certain subsets of tasks are seemingly being accomplished faster than normal.
  • Then find the common denominator, and representative individuals, and learn from that to make everything, and everyone, more efficient.

SXM / Supplier Management

When you're all co-located, it's easy to figure out who is not only readily available, but who is best capable of addressing a new challenge. When you're distributed, and you can't easily jump on Zoom on five minutes notice, it's not.

But if you had immediate access to everyone's skill sets, the equipment they have available to them at their home office (or an actual office if they are still allowed to go in), and their typical hours of availability — you know the best team members to reach out to first.

And the same way you can use an SXM system to keep track of supplier products and skills, you can use it to create a private team workspace to keep track of team member skills and equipment at their disposal. Each team member when they have a need, can query this and find out the right team members to reach out to for a quick chat to find out if they can help, and if not, who is most likely to be able to help (as those with the right skills would likely know all the experts in the organization).

Contract Lifecycle Management

Now, what could you possibly use contract lifecycle management for in a non-traditional use case setting? After all, the entire platform was built to manage contracts, right? Yes, but contracts are, at their core, documents (that two or more parties agree to and sign).

And the best platforms have great document management systems that not only support versioning, check in and check out, but change tracking, and content analytics. Instead of Google Docs, you can use CLM for more managed distributed document creation. But you can also use the analytics capabilities of CLM to analyze existing documents to see if any have relevant information that you might need to tackle a current problem or create necessary project documentation.

In other words, to this last point, instead of looking for force majeure clauses in a traditional contract analytics use case, look for process clauses, configuration clauses, etc. by training the analytics on keywords, phrases, etc. relevant to your problem at hand.

In Summary

Now that you need to do more with less, use the full capability of tools at your disposal to tackle challenges you had not thought of, and, simply put, do more.

And this is just the beginning. If you have other ideas, we invite your perspective as well!

Carpe Diem et Provocationem Ad Resurgemus!

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