Understand the technology options – 2014 priorities for procurement leaders (part 5)

What should CPOs and other senior procurement practitioners be focusing on in 2014? A difficult question because of course every organisation is different, and you really need to ensure that your priorities align with your wider functional, business unit and organisational strategies, goals and objectives. But we’ve got five suggestions that are likely to apply in the vast majority of organisations, we suspect.  Here is the fifth and last of the series.

5.            Understand the technology options

The pace of technology development and change increases year on year. It’s hard to keep up, and if you’re not a technophile (which I’m not) it is easy and tempting to just ignore it as far as possible.

But going back to our second part of this series, around defining procurement’s role with respect to business stakeholders, we can’t afford to simply sit back or continue with what we’ve always used before, because others in the business will move forwards without us if we don’t keep up. And if there is a common theme throughout our four previous posts in this series, it is how technology can increasingly help procurement to achieve its objectives, if used properly.

We see continuous improvement in software from the well established in our industry like SAP / Ariba, Emptoris (IBM), BravoSolution / Basware, and the growing firms like Iasta, Zycus and SciQuest. And then there are the more niche players, often where the most exciting new developments start - whether that’s Seal Software in contract discovery, Sievo in benefits measurement, ProProcure in targeted marketing spend management, Trade Extensions and CombineNet in market informed sourcing, Sourcemap in mapping and collaboration... and no doubt there will be more coming along in 2014.

Then we see the trend to products that may not be technological advances, but offer extreme ease of use as their USP. Coupa are perhaps the archetype of this, but we’ve reported on smaller firms like Market Dojo and Source Dogg who are taking this route.

Now every senior procurement manager can’t be an expert in all of these technologies and keep abreast of the market perfectly. (We do like to think that is one of the areas where Spend Matters can help of course). But for a procurement function of any size, we’d suggest you need a designated person who has some sort of technology overview role – perhaps alongside other responsibilities, but someone who is doing some of this horizon scanning and keeping up to date with what is going on.

As well as the benefit to procurement, there is the defensive aspect of this too. Your internal stakeholders if they are smart will be looking at some of these options – whether it is the easy to use tools or the advanced solutions that strike a particular chord with them. If you’re not on top of this, they may well be, and we’re hearing more and more stories of users either just doing their won thing with SaaS type solutions, or rebelling against complex old style technology, and the CPOs who are insisting on its use. Protect your credibility, and get on the front foot technology wise.

So our three ‘take-aways’ for practitioners to consider:

  • Be aware of the latest technology developments (and read Spend Matters)!
  • If necessary, appoint a ‘technology horizon scanner’ in the procurement function to identify both essential development  and opportunities in the technology space.
  • Keep ahead or at least abreast of your users, who may be looking for new technology solutions, driven by ease of use and / or new functionality.

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