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Want to feel more impactful at work? Give automation a try

I personally feel automation is the most important tool that will continuously improve our work lives in the next couple of years. In its simplest form, it eliminates the need to do tedious, monotonous work — while in its most elegant form, automation reduces the need for human touch points until well into a process, at a point where human interaction is a benefit, not a necessity. As people look to automation, it is important to differentiate between basic automation and automation that needs intelligence built into it for the future. So, when I say “building in intelligence,” I’m speaking to the need to transform your operations through automation and the need to introduce disciplined approaches to automation program structures in order to identify and prioritize those scenarios that can be automated.

Supplier onboarding: Top 12 ways to speed up the process

virtual supplier room

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Jag Lamba, Founder & CEO of GetCerta.com, a provider of a SaaS platform for supplier management and contract lifecycle management.

At many large enterprises, it can take 3-6 months to onboard a new supplier. This is because, as each new supplier adds multiple layers of risk (operational, reputational, data security and privacy, compliance, regulatory), several internal functions (e.g., procurement, legal, infosec, compliance) need to get involved to mitigate those risks. One prospective client told me recently, after a particularly painful supplier onboarding experience, that upon looking through her emails retroactively she realized she had interacted with 20 people, created eight separate artifacts and touched 15 unique systems to onboard a single supplier. Obviously, things can and must improve.

Faster supplier onboarding doesn’t have to come at the expense of strong risk controls. In fact, the only way to move faster is with better risk controls.

Here are my top 12 strategies for onboarding suppliers faster while lowering risk.

2020 Predicaments and Predictions in Procurement Analytics: What’s Likely, What’s Revolutionary [PRO]

It shouldn’t be a big shock to learn that procurement analytics is a big deal right now. After procurement organizations have built some basic spend cubes (or “spent cubes”) and dashboards, they’re looking for deeper predictive insights into spend, contracts, suppliers, costs, process improvements, supply risk and other areas. In fact, analytics was by far the most cited technology area expected to have a business impact within the next two years by CPOs surveyed in the recent 2019 Deloitte Global CPO Survey.

The biggest area of interest within analytics have been:

* Self-service analytics/visualization for business stakeholders and procurement staff
* Predictive analytics for power users (e.g., for price/cost/volume forecasting)
* Performance analytics and dashboards (e.g., supplier scorecarding, category dashboards, etc.)
* Support for digital initiatives such as AI/machine learning (which is usually about focused predictive analytics problems), RPA (that either requires some analysis within a process or conversely is about helping to automate the analytic workflows), or big data analytics (e.g., using IoT sensor data from the supply chain)

The Predicaments
However, while analytics are hot, the implementation barriers can be stone cold killers:

* Poor data quality. 40% of CPOs cited the inability to generate insights and analytics because an even greater number (60%) cited poor master data quality, standardization, and governance.
* The master data quality problem is very familiar to practitioners who run any type of analytics that have to do with suppliers, items and contracts — i.e., most of them!
* Some ERP suites and procurement suites have fragmented master data within their product lines, and nearly all these solutions don’t have master data that can be used as part of an MDM-type solution (e.g., having a supplier master that can serve a true SIM solution from an MDM standpoint rather than just creating another vendor master file to add to the heap).
* Generating forward-looking insights based on external data and intelligence rather than just simple spend forensics — especially category-specific insights that are typically built from scratch.
* The struggle to create analytics that go beyond off-the-shelf operational reports from the various modules/tools in the market.
* Dashboards that are attractive, but can be visually overwhelming and not help you prioritize where the key opportunities are.
* IT organizations that may be pushing legacy data warehouses and BI tools that don’t allow more democratized analytics to be developed with an increasingly digitally savvy generation of business users and tools (that might also need to get adopted by an older generation of procurement practitioners). Data visualization and predictive analytics were the top two digital skills prioritized for procurement technology training over the next year.

In the rest of this Spend Matters PRO brief, we’ll dive into the current and future state of the procurement analytics area, and make some predictions about what we expect to see in 2020 from a market standpoint, but also a more detailed technical standpoint.

Efficio: If procurement ignores digital literacy and soft skills, it faces ‘being wiped from the corporate map’

digital business transformation

Technology is becoming ubiquitous across all facets of the contingent labor industry, and procurement departments are feeling the evolutionary pull. Procurement operating models are changing, incorporating technology to enable better decision making. Without a greater focus on the people who will implement new strategies and solutions, however, that technology will not bring value.

In a recent Efficio study, “The Human Factor: Strategic Procurement and the Leaders of Tomorrow,” the procurement consultancy found that two key elements — digital literacy and soft skills — are necessary for procurement to successfully implement new models that will allow them to make data-driven decisions with a highly skilled workforce.

To understand how companies can use the survey in practical ways, we talked with Efficio Principal Simon Whatson.

Transforming from Contract Management to Commercial Value Management (Part 1): Setting the Table for Digital Transformation (especially for procurement) [PRO]

Are you looking to find that perfect business area for digital transformation this holiday season?

Well, look no further than contract management.

We know what you’re thinking: Improve the efficiency of processing legal documents? That doesn’t sound very festive, or even high impact! However, contract lifecycle management (CLM) itself is being transformed toward a more strategic and business-focused commercial approach that puts revamped contract information (which itself is being transformed to contract intelligence/knowledge through AI) at the commercial core of nearly all business processes. And yes, blockchain is obviously very relevant here too, but that’s a story for another day.

At Spend Matters, we use the term “commercial value management (CVM)” to denote this type of “CLM on steroids.” The word “contracts” (legal documents) is purposefully replaced with the term “commercial” (commerce / business) and “lifecycle” (of the contract) is replaced with “value” to denote the maximization and protection of monetary value embedded within all process lifecycles (e.g., source-to-pay, order-to-cash/configure-price-quote, plan-to-report, forecast-to-fulfill).

So, this area has a little something for all departments across a business to see and manage: spend (procurement), financial assets/liabilities (finance), legal obligations (legal department), service/asset management (IT), revenues (sales/marketing/CEO), risk/compliance (GRC), service-levels (supply chain/ops), vendors/suppliers (procurement, VMOs, etc.), SOW-based services (including contingent workforce), and all-of-the-above (global business services).

Most importantly, it’s an area that you can actually start small and increasingly collaborate cross functionally and generate hard-dollar financial value (although there’s still plenty of organizational land mines here). It’s also an area where artificial intelligence is being developed and implemented aggressively because of the money that is at stake and because of how broken the current processes and systems are.

In this Spend Matters PRO analysis, we will discuss:

* Priorities of more than 450 CPOs where CLM/CVM has direct relevance
* Why CLM/CVM is a critical competency for procurement professionals to master within source-to-pay (S2P) for planning your work strategically, doing better deals, eliminating value leakage, managing suppliers, etc. It also works hand-in-glove with sourcing, category management, and supplier management (relationship management, performance management, risk management, and information management)!
* Why CLM/CVM is also a critical influence tool to better engage stakeholders who are both spend owners and functional partners with a vested interest here. In later posts, we will share some stakeholder/category specific playbooks that you can use.

In subsequent Spend Matters PRO articles, we also will provide a detailed capability maturity model (and supporting digital capabilities/functionality of leading solutions) that practitioners can use to help plan their capability development, and, yes, their digital transformation.

OK, let’s dive in …

AI can drive better supplier negotiations with faster outcomes

global trade

Today, most sourcing teams ask for quotes by emailing one spreadsheet to many suppliers and re-assembling the resulting chaos in a pivot table. Some technologies have helped digitize the process, but the basic information included remains the same. Companies ask for quotes, and suppliers send what they believe to be their best initial offer.

To find out more about how technology is improving supplier negotiations, we talked to Edmund Zagorin, the CEO of Bid Ops, a Spend Matters Future 5 award-winning company that offers a cloud-based sourcing enablement tool. Bid Ops describes its platform as the first AI solution for automating sourcing negotiations using adaptive target pricing, or “Willingness to Discount” formula, as they call it. Find out more in this Q&A.

Not all ‘digital’ transformation is the same: 6 degrees of difficulty [PRO]

Buzzwords abound out there, and a lot of common words are used by folks without necessarily having a common understanding of the meaning. For example, take the phrase “digital procurement transformation.” Even the individual words themselves alone can have different interpretations:

* Digital — Does this mean digitization of procurement processes through workflow automation, or is it something broader?
* Procurement — Is this all of source-to-pay or just procure-to-pay? Or just everything that a procurement department does, including broader supply chain efforts?
* Transformation — Can this just be incremental, continuous improvement, or does it have to be a more discontinuous transformation program?

The problem for practitioners is how to cut through the clutter of this terminology and more easily learn from others surrounding adoption of “digital” in different ways. For example, there is certainly a lot to learn just in terms of better implementation of systems for automating good old-fashioned sourcing, requisitioning, ordering, receiving and paying.

But, there are also higher order digital capabilities that go beyond just automating the proverbial cow path. For example, advanced analytics such as bid optimization can enable new sets of sourcing processes that were not really feasible before. Similarly, techniques such as community-based procurement that use technology across firms can create new value beyond automating within a single firm.

There is actually a spectrum of digital related competencies from basic source-to-pay workflow automation all the way through to procurement-enabled disruptive value chain initiatives. So, if you have mastered some of these basic capabilities for digital transformation and procurement, it is time to raise the “degree of difficulty” and see how others are faring in terms of picking the higher hanging fruit.

In this Spend Matters PRO analysis, we will outline six levels of digital procurement sophistication, and also see how more than 400 organizations stack up based on the latest research.

Shelby Group creates ‘Digital Invoice’ solution to tackle paper invoices

In procurement software projects, consultants usually play a role in tech selection, implementation or training, but The Shelby Group has taken its procurement consulting knowledge even further and created a product — one that can fill a gap that it saw when businesses struggled to deal with paper invoices in the digital age.

In accounts payable departments worldwide, it’s a common problem that paper invoices are still received from countless suppliers of varying sizes, and it’s known that digitally reading those invoices can save time and money if the clear rate can be improved.

The Shelby Group’s Digital Invoice is a powerful solution that clears a majority of invoices (both verified/complete and “close enough”) without human intervention.

Commercial Value Management (Part 3): Critical Commercial Use Cases to Align Extended CLM with the Enterprise [PRO]

change of control clauses

In our last installment of this CVM series, we highlighted a graphical framework to depict how commercial value management is about extending CLM into a more commercially enabling role in all enterprise areas where contracts (and value promises) are stored.

In this next installment of this series, we’ll highlight these areas and how to unlock some of that value for the benefit of the firm — and procurement.

Let’s briefly look at some of these areas to see how extending contract management to broader CVM approach is a practical way for procurement to get aligned with other areas (and with itself).

Commercial Value Management (Part 2): Using Next-Generation Contract Systems to Integrate Operations, Financials, Risk and Technology [PRO]

Let’s start this piece with a question: How are high-flying SaaS providers measured?

Answer: Growth (hopefully profitable) through repeatable subscription-based revenue.

And what are those subscriptions? Contracts.

The enterprise value of these companies, like others, is based on the promise of future cash flows that are increasingly built upon a portfolio of contracts. Want to maximize enterprise value (like the CEO)? Better get good at managing contracts! This is not in the way that your legal department might think of contracts, but rather in a business sense that maximizes commercial value within those contracts that will add up to enterprise value.

Put another way: If chief procurement officers want to move from “chief spend officers” to “chief value officers,” they’re going to need better strategies and tools to do value management.

“Value management” is the highest level of procurement’s evolution in a framework that I developed in my previous life leading procurement research at The Hackett Group.

The problem is that while there are great tools for spend management, when you start going broader into demand (and multi-tier supply) and deeper into financial value flow beyond single-tier cash disbursements to suppliers, the technology requirements aren’t yet well supported by existing tools and vendors.

In Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO series on commercial value management (CVM), we highlighted the fact that contract management systems are morphing from legal documents focused on transferring risk onto your trading partners, and toward systems that model all B2B commercial (and even non-commercial) promises with trading partners, regulators and even just internal stakeholders. The financially related “promises” or “commitments” are really obligations/rights that can be viewed as liabilities/assets. And these aren’t just ledger entries to close the books for regulators, but rather living, breathing promises made up and down the supply chain to deliver value to customers — at a lowest total cost of course!

Unfortunately, this chain of value doesn’t exactly flow across the fragmented landscape of systems out there. It’s hard enough to see contracted revenue & cost/spend flows in the direct materials supply chain where only a few advanced firms can stitch together some semblance of integrated business planning that brings in multi-tier supply-aware cost modeling and contracting (e.g., buy-sell arrangements for volatile commodities). Now, consider the services supply chain and an XaaS world where omni-channel value chains need to merge products and services.

For example, think about the mind-numbing complexity of field services operations where customer warranties (contracts) and service levels (contracts) need to be translated to supply fulfillment that can include leased equipment (w/ contracts), outsourced transportation services (and contracts), third-party contractors (directly contracted or via a service provider with its own contract), and even outsourcing providers (with BIG complex contracts) who might run the whole shebang for you. These contracts, sub-contracts, MSAs, SOWs, POs (a contract), etc. all have information in them related to direct committed revenue and costs/spend, but also hints at potential spend and business risk depending on what’s in (or not in) those contracts.

But, if you’re a CFO trying to manage your spending (“Spend” with a big “S” and not just supplier spend with a small “s”) and see both types of spending in terms of:
* Tying spend to revenue to understand profitability
* Seeing and shaping spend and resource commitments before they occur
* Cash flow implications of that spend
* Category and supplier views to maximize value from supplier spending
* Spend volatility based on price risk, volume risk, competitive risk and other supply risk factors like geo-political risk (e.g., trade wars) and regulatory risk (e.g. data privacy)
* Projects that drive this spending (e.g., in project-intensive industries)
* Drivers of this spend that are hidden (e.g., IT/telecom contracts of all forms)
* Legal spend (internal and external) to manage all of these contracts!

The problem is that you don’t have a single system to see all this. You have a G/L to close the books and maybe a planning-and-budgeting application rather than the “financial control tower” (go ahead and trademark that — it’s available) that you’d love to have something like an EVA/ROIC-type model that drives all the way down to the atomic contracts and execution systems. And if you’re good, you have a CPO with a single spend database and contract repository.

But, let’s face it, even for those firms with this, the contract is still usually a document artifact to refer to and not a dynamic system with complex pricing modeling and linkages to dozens of execution systems in the field that are REALLY governing the commercial aspects of operations. All you likely have in your contract repository is a field called “contract value.” And even in the simplest case, and even with the most modern S2P application suite, you’re likely matching supplier invoices to POs with payment terms that aren’t likely staying synched with the original contract.

So, contract data and associated CLM systems must transcend their legal artifact role and even move beyond the level of contract clause libraries and associate basic clause metadata. They need to go much deeper into the business realm (and not just the legal department realm) and be able to model and manage commercial data much more deeply. Doing this requires improved systems that manage what we call commercial value management — which is about commercial lifecycle management rather than contract lifecycle management. “Spend Management” is great, but spend is what you pay, and value is what you get. So you need to be really clear on who gets how much of what, under what conditions, and what happens if they don’t!

We spent a fair amount of time in our last PRO series installment that dove into the specific elements of CVM. In this second SpendMatters PRO series installment, we’ll dive primarily into the buy-side aspects of this topic and discuss how procurement organizations — and procurement’s functional peers in finance, IT, legal, GRC, SCM, sales and HR (and any related CoE combinations) — can use contracts as commercial data hubs to better support not just basic buy-side CLM within a source-to-pay context, but also how to use it to better connect procurement with these internal partners to help them manage spend/suppliers in their functions individually and also collectively with each other — and out to external stakeholders.

We’ll also highlight a few areas where CVM support emanating from a next-gen CLM platform can likely disrupt a few existing niche markets within and outside of the procurement realm.

Digital Business Strategy: The CPO’s Outside-In Agenda (Part 3) [PRO]

In the first two installments of this Spend Matters PRO series (see Part 1A, Part 1B), we noted that a number of pressing issues are shaping procurement from the outside in, yet chief procurement officers (CPOs) are still primarily concerned with issues set by an inside-out agenda — that is, cost-cutting and supply assurance targets mandated by upper management. Our PESTLE analysis of factors shaping the modern CPO agenda identified broad trends like economic instability, globalization, changing digital business strategies and the need to address corporate social responsibility (CSR) as areas that procurement organizations need to consider if they want to truly tap and manage the opportunities (and risks) offered by external supply markets, starting with sustainability and CSR in Part 2A and Part 2B.

Today we move on to the second item topping the CPO’s outside-in agenda: digital transformation.

Digital transformation is increasingly creeping into a CPO's crosshairs because digitization is becoming a daily part of our personal and professional lives. Not only is software becoming critical for everyone in the organization to do their jobs, but the internet is becoming critical to sales and marketing to advertise and sell the product as well as to R&D to do research and engineering to control just-in-time manufacturing. Meanwhile, from a corporate strategy perspective, companies are aggressively looking at their digital business strategies — and consulting firms like Accenture, Deloitte, McKinsey and others are busy capitalizing on this. Distribution companies do not want to get “Amazoned.” (For example, Accenture is looking to next generation digital technologies to achieve it’s ZBx nirvana — and achieve sustainable zero-based spend in a zero-based supply chain.) Logistics firms do not want to get “Ubered.” Contract manufacturers want to become innovation incubators. And pretty much every finished goods manufacturer wants to embed telemetry to collect data and use it to improve customer satisfaction, increase top-line growth and pass the data back to the supply chain to improve operational efficiency.

Digitization is the new buzzword and just about every publication out there is talking about it, running articles on how to do it, and publishing “deep” exposes on the benefits of digitization. Best practice guides, case studies, futurist projections, and other in-depth studies are a daily occurence. Not all are equal, not all are relevant to your organization, and not all are even accurate. But that’s beside the point. Digitization is here, and its influence is only going to grow. So rather than sit back like a luddite and bemoan the coming wave of pink slips due to automation, CPOs need to rally their organizations around digital to help them see the benefits new technologies can bring (as tactical process cost reductions can always be invested in strategic value generation efforts if they use these same technologies to make the case, a case that does not necessitate a reduction in workforce, just a shift from the tactical to the strategic).

Guided Buying 4.0 — A Framework to Consider (Part 1: Guided Buying in E-Procurement) [PRO]

Many people know the term “Industry 4.0,” which describes the latest industrial revolution that combines big data, cloud computing, the internet of things (IoT), hyper connectivity, human-machine interfaces, robotics and embedded analytics that feature artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning. It’s revolutionizing manufacturing and supply chains, but what about the most basic processes that deal with B2B buying?

That brings us to the concept of "guided buying." It’s not new, but in the last five years of my experience as an analyst of P2P solutions, I have realized that it is a term used without much precision. I can compare it to terms like “platform,” "best practices," “world class” and others that have been overused so widely that they’ve lost the force of their meaning. Terminology should be defined with a specific scope, intent and substance for it to really be useful. So, I’ve been recently collaborating with my colleagues to provide more specific insights on this concept, and we’ve decided to develop a maturity framework to help do this.

The act of guiding is a deliberate and proactive process that helps the person being guided achieve their objective and reach their destination. This is a concept that we have applied to the purchasing function for several years. In fact, almost 15 years ago, the first analyst who wrote about this concept of "guided buying" was my friend, mentor and Spend Matters colleague, Pierre Mitchell. Here is some of what he wrote back then.

“Think about an end user who, rather than going to a clumsy Intranet site to find a few local e-catalogs and supplier ‘punchout’ sites, gets instead a corporate Google-like interface and types in whatever they’re looking for. Then, the user gets automatically guided to preferred supply sources/channels (e.g., an e-procurement catalog, a supplier website, an internal inventory location or a requisition that’s electronically escalated to the proper commodity manager) based on commodity taxonomies, supply strategies/policies, preferred supplier listings, commodity manager skills, local inventories, specialized knowledge rules and supplier website content (or that of specialized content providers). In other words, users are guided to preferred supply sources before a maverick spend ever occurs.”

Today, what's interesting is that we already have the IT tools and solutions that we did not have 15 years ago. Today, companies can apply the concept of "guided" in all areas of the organization, including in contracting and sourcing. However, the focus for this part of this series is in the transactional purchasing area within procure-to-pay.

Let’s take a look at this problem, our framework, and some strategies and solutions.