The Merger – A Procurement Short Story (part 3)

talent management

The Confession

(In part 1 of this short story, written by Peter Smith and  Steve Cobley of Ivalua, the procurement software provider, CPOs Jim and Gabrielle agree to share spend and procurement information as their two firms prepare to merge. In part 2, Jim discovers that his data is not quite as good as he thought it was ... now read on!)

A few days later, Jim was back in the meeting room talking again to the virtual Gabrielle – this time it was just the two of them, at Jim’s request.

“Look Gabrielle, I can give you some data but I’m afraid it is not as good as I would like it to be. For instance, our spend analysis is months out of date.”

Gabrielle nodded. “I know – our respective IT experts, Denis and Louise had a good conversation about technology and data yesterday I think. He briefed me. You know, I don't want to sound like we are perfect, but we get data every month, before the end of the following month.”

Jim continued. “We have some other issues too. Our list of contracts is not as complete as it should be - not all my team have been as diligent as they should have been in entering the details of each major contract. I’m going to knock some heads together about that.”

Gabrielle looked surprised. “OK, we don’t have so much of a problem there. Our platform enables information to feed directly from the sourcing operations into the contracts module. Nobody needs to add more data – until we get into the contract delivery phase of course, then we can add supplier performance data, or contract issues into the system.”

I might as well be honest, Jim thought.

“We don’t have any real project management or planning data either. I mean, I get regular reports from my top team, so I can share those with you and they give a decent overview of what is going on, but we don’t really do detailed work planning or anything like that. We probably should, to be honest.”

Gabrielle hesitated. She was aware this was sensitive territory now. “I don’t want to tell you that we do everything perfectly! But I think our system ...”

“Yes, Louise told me your system is better than ours! I’ll be honest, I guess I have focused on other areas. I’ve put a lot of personal time into the people side of things - recruitment, development, motivating the team. I may not have focused enough on technology.” Jim felt better for making that confession.

“Of course, people are important Jim, I know that. But I realised a few years ago that if we wanted to be the best in procurement, we had to have the best technology. It is as simple as that. Even if you have the best procurement people in the world, they are working with one hand tied behind their backs if they do not have the right tools, the best tools.”

“Our principle has been all about getting integration across our systems so that we have access to data that is easily available, timely and as complete as possible. If I want to develop a strategic relationship with my supplier, to capture their ideas and innovation, I must know what we are doing with them around the whole business, how they are performing. Even if we just want to have a tough negotiation, we must also understand the current picture. So we’ve invested to get that right platform to help us achieve that.”

Gabrielle was animated now.

“That is so important, it means the CPO has to get involved. I think Louise is excellent from what I have seen, but the leadership must come from the top. You don’t have to be an IT geek – my degree was in History - but I think a good CPO has to understand what technology can bring. Sorry, I don’t mean to insult you Jim! But it’s true.”

He could see why she had made CPO at such a young age – the obvious passion combined by the air of competence made him feel a little inferior suddenly. Gabrielle continued, now in full flow.

“OK, look, I was not trying to embarrass you. I am sure you do many thing better than us. You’ve been a leader in category management in our industry, your SRM programme for instance looks very good. But it sounds like perhaps we have made better choices about the systems we need to support our work. But that is good – it means we will have more synergy opportunities when we put the two operations together.”

That’s all very well, thought Jim. But I’m not sure I’m going to be here to see that.

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