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Decision makers reveal the growing centrality of digitising processes such as procurement to business success

Leaders including business heads from global giants Mastercard and Nestle have acknowledged the growing importance of implementing ‘technology with a purpose’ into business processes such as procurement. This follows hot on the heels of a report from the Confederation of British Industry which suggested a £100 billion boost from digitising this aspect of business.[1]

Delegates from industries including banking, financial services and FMCG met at the Data, Intelligence and Tech X Forum held by Procurement Leaders to talk about the benefits, challenges and impact of digitising procurement. Technology is impacting both strategic and operational procurement, with businesses considering how it will not only affect the way they operate but also transform the entire value proposition procurement offers to suppliers, customers, and internal process partners.

Many business leaders talked about how they have had to work with start-ups and Fintech companies to execute ambitions and become more data-driven. Speakers reflected on the pressure to become more agile and streamlined when it comes to procurement whilst collaborating with Fintechs and start-ups. Adapting their processes to become shorter, to reduce the speed to market of services when competing in increasingly competitive markets, has become critical to success in the digital age.

Mark Bromley, Sourcing Lead, UK & Ireland Mastercard said “Transforming procurement is about going beyond saving money and contract discussions to drive a conversation which is more aligned to business goals.

“Speed to market of products and ideas is important. For us it is about product and brand impact – especially in the payment world, where technologies, innovation and products are differentiating how businesses work.”

“Empowering the team with the right skill set enables the procurement department to think outside of the box and come up with a different approach to working. For example, dealing with different suppliers which include start-ups and Fintech is requiring us to adapt our ways of working to become more agile in the end-to-end procurement process.”

James Waite, Head of Technology Product & Enablement, Gibbs Hybrid discussed the use of agile methodologies and ways of working to implement innovative ideas. He said, “Companies need to build an execution plan quickly and create a culture which is more open to innovation. Building a talent ecosystem and tapping into a talent pool requires strategic thinking and exposes a business to new ideas.”

Discussion centred on being able to distinguish between the hype of different technologies and understanding the business impact of integrating them into the procurement function.

Christophe Villain, Global Head – Procurement Excellence, Nestlé said: “‘Technology with a purpose’ is what is going to be disrupting procurement going forward. The uberisation of services is affecting every business function and we are looking at another Industrial Revolution with Artificial Intelligence and Automation.

“What’s harder – changing a lightbulb, or analysing 300 contracts? The answer is the 300 contracts for humans. It is actually the opposite for AI. One aspect of technology disruption focuses on process optimisation and automation and the second is to increase transparency of data to drive business value.”