Back to Hub

Amazon Business Reshape — Go digital, get the data, get visibility, become resilient

03/21/2022 By

Amazon Business Reshape was an inspiring event this month. In just half a virtual day it managed to cover themes as topical as the challenges reshaping buying in Japan (digital transformation), digital solutions for responsible buying, compliance through analytics, payment solutions for automating accounting and administrative tasks right through to agility in supply (with an example of delivering aid or rescue kits to refugee sites — we’ll touch on that later). And the event was geared not only toward the practitioners doing the sourcing and buying, but to the C-suite driving the strategies behind it.

Featuring customers from all over the globe, it was amazing to see just how diverse the Amazon Business customer base is — from international childcare organizations to financial services, buying any kind of tail spend items from nappies to IT equipment.

The insight into what these organizations are achieving through Amazon Business made for some exceptional customer success stories, particularly in terms of cost savings. For example, Harry Walker, UK Purchasing Director at international childcare, Busy Bees, explained how “by moving our nappies purchasing onto Amazon Business (which may not seem like a strategic purchase but with 42,000 children in UK nurseries alone, it is) and by switching to the Amazon Business brand, we saved 40% on what we were paying before.”

But it’s not just about cost savings — we listened in on some of the sessions, and the themes of purchasing agility, responsible sourcing and digital optimization came through in each one.

After the event we caught up with Molly Dobson, Country Manager UK & Ireland at Amazon Business to find out more about those key themes — and to find out how Amazon Business supports them. (Readers will remember Dobson from our interview last fall on business buying and sustainability — which we touched on again with her).

“Those overarching themes at Reshape this year,” she explained, “were emphasized by Chris Costello, General Manager, Amazon Business US, in the opening keynote. They perpetrated each session, regardless of what that session was about. And that’s because they are important, not only as key market trends, but to our customers.”

“We are seeing more and more conversations around responsible sourcing in particular emerging from all the sessions. Andrea Deichert Oswald, General Director Supplier Diversity and Procurement Operations at Union Pacific Railroad reminded us that a recent Deloitte study found 93% of companies plan to invest in responsible sourcing in the next 18 months. It’s not 100% but it’s a powerful figure. So it’s not surprising that these practices are coming up in all the sessions – from the keynote to the end of the event, as did the themes of agility and digital.”

Purchasing agility

“The theme of agility in purchasing resonates everywhere,” she said, “because agile procurement gives you flexibility, and flexibility allows you to be resilient. And if there is one thing we’ve learnt in the past two-and-a-half years it’s the importance of resilience to an organization. Disruption has forced us to learn to be flexible in our personal and professional lives in terms of how we operate, so agility and resilience come up time and time again among our customers across all industries and sectors — and procurement has a big role to play. Organizations are recognizing that this is a subject that needs to be on the strategic agenda.”

Endre Støgård, Global Category Director at Accenture shared some of his experiences related to how the world has changed and some of the unique requirements he’s been asked to satisfy. “Agility became critical,” he said, “because timing was critical. We found we were buying things we’d never been asked to acquire before, like masks or respirators. These were new items for us and we didn’t have existing channels for them. It created a whole new challenge.

“For one-off unique needs, we were able to work with the Amazon Business account team and ask them, for example, to put together a bundle of items for us and ship them together as a kit out to the market. For example, we’ve done this in a few unique situations where we were trying to put together recue kits for refugees in the US. We worked with Amazon Business to put together the care items we wanted to go out, and because of the business relationship we have with them, instead of selecting all the individual items, we worked to build a kit, so rather than the refugee site receiving 20 separate items they get one consolidated package.

“Delivery lead times are of course critical, but especially when we have urgent supply requests we go to our Amazon team, because we know that more often than not if we need to get something to Toronto tomorrow, they are the best partner to do that for us.”

Being so large, with resource all over the world, Accenture’s purchasing tends to be significant from a volume of spend perspective. He also mentioned that with many people working from home. getting the right resources to the right places at the right time became a priority. “And you need legitimate suppliers,” he said. “From a logistics perspective Amazon Business made this much easier, because it can ship to almost any where we want and that includes home addresses throughout the world. And a big benefit for us, with a truly global workforce, is the transparency it gives us.”

“Accenture’s message on agility and flexibility, in getting the refugee packages and related items to specific places is super important now. And because no-one knows what we’ll face in terms of supply disruption and alternative sources, we believe that antifragility and digital tools go hand in hand,” said Dobson.

“When we faced disruption two years ago, we saw a polarized situation in the readiness to respond, with organizations that were already well placed to pivot, and organizations that knew disruption was coming but didn’t put the steps in place to tackle it. So we saw two very different responses during the first lockdown. Now we are seeing a very different crisis that organizations need to respond to. Companies that can respond quickly will be able to minimize disruption and remove some of the fragility from their business operations.”

Digital optimization

There are many reasons why digital optimization is an ongoing topic of conversation. The pandemic has prompted it where it might not have existed before, and has accelerated it where it did. For Amazon Business digital is about enablement and empowerment.

“In my session, I talked to Kim Hur, Associate Manager of Global Indirect Procurement at Mattel, about digital tools as a critical enabler for firms that want to scale their business,” said Dobson. “To scale a business, whether a micro enterprise looking to grow or a large enterprise looking to scale further, digital tools are the great enabler because they can unlock productivity in your organization and automate things that don’t need a human touch, so we can focus on the more strategic initiatives that drive growth.”

This also came through in the session Spend Matters attended with Darryl Stead, Purchasing Manager EMEA at financial services firm Link Group UK. He talked about how they empowered their staff through digital purchasing. “With hybrid working,” he said, “we needed to equip staff in their homes so that they could continue to work effectively. That’s where the Amazon Business solution came in. It gave staff working from perhaps their dining room tables the ability to log on to their own account and order the equipment they needed to work from home successfully. We had a lot of positive feedback about this and requests to expand the products we made available to them. But another benefit was that because Amazon Business takes care of all of that, it frees up my procurement team’s time so they can focus on other projects rather than being involved in sourcing and ordering pieces of equipment for staff — it also freed up our Facilities and IT teams. This would otherwise have been a massive overhead for us.”

“This is a great message about agility,” said Dobson. “After a quick pilot, Darryl rolled out the solution and told people to get what they needed to get to do their jobs. That was a quick turnaround, because he and the leadership recognized the need to respond quickly and to adopt the digital tools that were so critical during the pandemic to ensure operational resilience.”

“This empowerment of buyers came up in many of the sessions, and I like what our Vice President of Technology, Doug Gray, said on maverick spend: ‘employees will always find a way, so we need to make it easy, while compliant, for them to do so.’”

“If you can get leaders to really embrace that and create a foundation that ensures employees are being compliant and responsible in any purchasing activity, have the confidence that the spend is visible, and then trust them to get on with it, that’s where you see the real empowerment. Because to the end user, they are simply getting what they need when they want it. And that makes for scalable, sustainable and responsible buying solutions.”


The resounding message of resilience that came out of the morning was echoed succinctly by Harry Walker: “Go digital, get the data, get the visibility — then trust your end users.”

This is but a snapshot of the event, but all sessions, including details of new product launches from Amazon Business, are available now on-demand upon registration

Find out more about Amazon Business Reshape here.