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A year of trade-offs – Our analyst’s take on the “2023 Insights” series for the procurement solutions and services market

02/01/2023 By

In what has now become a tradition, December and January saw Spend Matters publishing a series of insights sourced from procurement-related tech and service providers. They told us what they observed from the previous year and how they expect these trends to shape the year ahead. It has been a fascinating read, and I have the privilege of wrapping it up.

You can see a complete list of all contributors at the end of this summary.

Firstly, let’s reinforce the fact that we’ve given up trying to “predict” anything. Instead, we framed this year’s series around “insights.” As I recently wrote in our weekly newsletter (which you can sign up for here), “the only certainty is uncertainty.” That sentiment summarizes the general consensus and lessons of the past two years.

This sentiment was also recently iterated by our own CEO and founder Jason Busch when he said that predictions are futile but “… what we can do is develop and pressure-test various hypotheses, learn to argue both sides and begin to see sign posts guiding us …”

It comes as no surprise, then, that all 23 contributors to our series agreed that 2023 would be another challenging year for the procurement community. It is also not surprising that supply chain disruptions, risk management and broader ESG were the topics that came up the most as key areas of consideration for 2023. To some extent, this is in line with the outcome of our 2022 series, highlighting the consequence of further disruptions in 2023 and the appearance of new regulations on, for example, carbon emissions and human rights.

2022 saw even more dramatic events impacting supply chains and the global economy. As if Covid-19 hadn’t been enough, the war in Ukraine and its consequences contributed to worsening an already tense business environment. The accumulation of disruptions has impacted the prioritization of efforts by procurement. Our 2022 wrap-up illustrated that ESG was clearly a growing priority in terms of coping with the disruptions AND environmental challenges ahead of us. Now that the business climate has further deteriorated, many contributors to our 2023 series highlighted the risk of seeing sustainability deprioritized to give way to more short-term pressures, and asked whether cost savings and resilience, as a result of the economic climate, are creeping back up the business agenda.

Trade-offs for business survival

Procurement has always been about trade-offs, but the trade-offs that procurement teams will face in 2023 are much more complex, with the stakes being much higher than they previously were. It is, to some extent, a matter of survival at the organizational level (business continuity) and global level (climate change). Therefore, as highlighted in the contributions we published, procurement will have to play a key role in addressing short- and longer-term imperatives. It is a massive opportunity for the profession — as long as it manages the basics and develops capabilities in critical areas: actionable insights and network engagement inside and outside of an organization’s walls.

As far as technology is concerned, many observers have highlighted how it can contribute to the above.

(If you need help finding the right procurement technology for your business needs, Spend Matters TechMatch can help you create a shortlist.)

Intelligent automation and augmentation were mentioned many times and represent ways organizations can become more intelligent and agile. However, this won’t be enough. There is still the need to become smarter and act together: relationship management is a recurring topic that covers more than tier-1 suppliers. Talent, tapping into internal and external capacities and abilities are key to achieving goals. It is an area where technology can tremendously help by cementing, sharing and improving knowledge or increasing inclusion (transparency, mutual understanding, goal sharing).

To find out more about what each of our contributors had to say, we have included links to each article here:

Agiloft, Archlet, Certa, Efficio, Flextrack, Globality , HICX, IBM, Inverto, Jaggaer, Keevlar, KPMG, LeveData,  SAP, Scoutbee, Simfoni, Supply Wisdon, Suppeco, The Classification Guru, Tipalti, The Smart Cube, Tradeshift and Zip

We hope you found the series as interesting as we did. If you’d like to keep on top of the latest capabilities and functionality in the procurement tech market, subscribe to Spend Matters PRO for granular analysis and procurement technology solution comparisons.

If you have any questions or would like any advice, as always, please reach out.