Women in Procurement Wednesday: Agiloft’s Elisabeth Bykoff, from aspiring movie director to contract management executive

Elisabeth Bykoff is the Vice President of Global Alliances at Agiloft. (LinkedIn photo)

Kids are often asked about what they want to be when they grow up. Common answers vary but can offer insights. Elisabeth Bykoff wanted to be a movie director.

Today, Bykoff is the Vice President of Global Alliances at Agiloft, a contract lifecycle management (CLM) solution provider. So, not exactly a movie director but an equally fulfilling role, she said.

However, she knows that it takes a cast and crew to create a complete picture — and that is not unlike the business partnerships in her role now. Contracts take a lot of different components and end in a final, complete business transaction.

CLM is “driving a lot of focus and investments right now,” Bykoff said. “It not only drives innovation in legal operations, but also across the entire enterprise, including procurement, sales ops and IT. CLM is connecting these departments and fostering partnerships between sales, procurement and finance as each team realizes the value that can be extracted from contract data.”

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Bykoff joked that her journey to working in CLM and procurement took many twists and turns. After her desire of becoming a movie director faded away, she set her sights on becoming a lawyer, but ultimately settled on studying aerospace engineering in college. An internship at KLM and Air France was her first taste of the procurement processes that fuel business transactions around the world.

After graduating college, Bykoff moved from her home in France to the United States. She became a consultant at PwC, helping to build its Salesforce practice from the ground up. It was a taste of the start-up world within a large organization, something that sparked Bykoff’s interest.

When given the opportunity to work her way up the consulting ladder, Bykoff weighed her options and thought about what felt right for her career. She said “not right now,” and instead moved to Apttus (now Conga) to work on the professional services team. She helped to coordinate contracts for acquisitions as part of their CLM team. When a company deal led to restructuring, Bykoff got an opportunity to work on the strategy side of the house, focusing on global alliances and partnerships.

Then, she took a leap of faith and moved to New York to work for an early-stage start-up in finance and accounts receivable. After the Covid pandemic hit, Bykoff decided the company wasn't what she wanted anymore. After leaving and doing private consulting work for a few months, she got a call in August from an old colleague of hers, Agiloft’s CRO, Kevin Niblock, and she joined the Agiloft team that month.

Having the conviction to know what she wanted to get out of her career and being honest with herself is ultimately what led her to having such a prolific career with many new experiences and different roles along the way.

CLM was a natural industry for Bykoff to move into during the pandemic. As suppliers and buyers look to improve procurement processes for the remote workforce, a new emphasis has been placed on contract management. The pandemic’s disruption led to an immediate urgency to digitize contracts, with many enterprises employing new CLM vendors to speed up their contract cycles.

“At the beginning the pandemic we all took a pause,” Bykoff said. “A lot of businesses had to scramble to figure out where all their contracts were, asking ‘What have we signed up for that we won’t be able to deliver on due to Covid-19? Is there anything we can leverage to get out of certain contracts?’ And we’re still dealing with that today. A lot of General Counsels realized that they didn’t always have a good handle on where their contracts were and what legal obligations and risks lied within them. They lacked the transparency and visibility to pull levers and to manage the contract obligations in many cases.”

Today, Bykoff is responsible for leading global partnerships and alliances at Agiloft. She is part of a team that builds new partnerships and helps create a seamless, end-to-end experience for all of Agiloft’s partners.

As someone who has lived in different parts of the world, leading global partnerships and alliances was a natural fit. She is able to take her experiences living and working in different environments to think outside the box and connect with others. She is also able to use her diverse background as a woman in the industry to build stronger professional relationships with a variety of stakeholders.

Although, Bykoff says being a woman in the technology industry never negatively impacted her. From her earlier days of studying and working in STEM, she was always the minority in the room as a French woman, even if she didn’t immediately recognize it. However, it didn’t bother her, especially once she realized that by speaking up, she could advocate for herself, grow through experiences and move up in the industry.

Bykoff said that in the last year, Covid has led to mass digitalization and innovation in CLM and the procurement industry. The rising importance of public procurement has moved to the forefront as government officials as local agencies rushed to procure certain supplies and services amid the pandemic.

In addition to that trend, she said the role of business alliances and partnerships will greatly accelerate in the near future. At Agiloft, she hopes to focus on the role of partnerships between lawyers and procurement professionals to improve the cycle of contract negotiation.

Read about other professionals featured in our "Women in Procurement Wednesdays" series. Are you a woman in the procurement space who has a compelling story to tell? We’re all ears. Send us an email at: sehrmann@spendmatters.com.

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