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Empowering Decisions
July 26, 2018

Winning Strategies to Build an Intelligent Procurement Operation.

Winning Strategies to Build an Intelligent Procurement Operation.

It’s time to up your digital game.

In this fourth and final part of our blog series for the release of CPO Rising 2018: The Age of Intelligence, Managing Partner & Chief Research Officer of Ardent Partners returns to delve into Chapter Four – Strategies for Success. He caps off the report by offering best practices and forward thinking from leading global CPOs about how to achieve Intelligent Procurement. They run the gamut from common sense to “why didn’t I think of that?” — and you’ll find many more in the report itself which is available for download.

CPO Rising 2018: The Age of Intelligence is the thirteenth annual Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) themed report that I have written. It’s part of the ongoing dialogue my firm, Ardent Partners, has with CPOs and other procurement leaders. The report examines the general competencies and capabilities of procurement organizations today and highlights the management strategies and tactics that leading CPOs use to get the most from their teams. Here I continue my discussion of the fourth and final chapter of the report.

CPO Rising 2018: The Age of Intelligence

Be open minded, opportunistic and adaptable.

As I mentioned in my last post, procurement intelligence is defined differently by people based upon the context of their roles and responsibilities within the procurement department. But, our analysis reveals some commonalities that CPOs and their teams should notice: Being intelligent in procurement means embracing data and analytics, and being agile, collaborative, proactive, and mobile enabled.

But the quintessentially intelligent procurement team is not born or created overnight; it must mature (or evolve) with the adoption of sound strategies, the application of steady leadership, the deployment of modern business solutions, and the consistent use of said systems . While it may sound daunting, it really isn’t.

Here are a few ideas to get you started (find more in the report):

  • Develop and hire data science capabilities. Big Data is here to stay and will only get bigger. Do yourself and your team a favor and consider adopting a dual approach to acquiring data science capabilities: develop them in-house and make some strategic hires. Having data literate staff will help you make sense of your data and also make inroads towards predictive procurement analytics.
  • Invest in technology to automate core processes. You will need modern technology solutions, like advanced/Big Data analytics and supplier management platforms, in order to make headway. Otherwise, all the data scientists in the world won’t make a world of difference. If you’re stuck in manual, paper-based processes and systems, look to automated systems as the next step. If you’ve automated, consider next-generation systems, like advanced/Big Data analytics or “smart” solutions.
  • Identify legacy platforms that can be enhanced or replaced. If you’re looking to up your digital game, you may be able to build on what you have in-house rather than completely replace or overhaul existing technology infrastructure. Weigh the costs of integrating existing solutions with next-gen innovations, or putting advanced analytics tools atop ERP or MRO systems to recapitalize existing resources.
  • Execute a digital transformation. If you’re feeling lost, or like you don’t know where to begin, sit down with all the relevant stakeholders (the executive team, IT, AP/Finance, et al) and devise a roadmap for digital transformation. It doesn’t matter where you start — upstream with strategic sourcing, or downstream with procure-to-pay — so much as you have a plan to transform, you execute, and you follow through.
  • Make technology adoption a priority and mandate its use. The value of capital investments, like technology and human resources, cannot be maximized if staff neglect to use the tools they are given. The “old way” may be more familiar and the staff may be more adept at conducting business as such; but no one ever gets better without practice. Sell the value that these tools can deliver, prioritize their use, and when all else fails, put it in writing and hold people accountable.

What’s your next move?

We are living in the age of Big Data and intelligence, and the only way to keep up is to embrace the intelligent procurement paradigm and not look back. Intelligent people implementing intelligent processes with intelligent, robust procurement technologies are already propelling the best among us into the next great era of procurement. If you’re not excited by these opportunities, you are simply working in the wrong profession. If you are excited about what’s coming, then your next move should be to download CPO Rising 2018: The Age of Intelligence.


In Chapter One: The State of the CPO, Andrew Bartolini explained how the rise of Big Data and powerful analytics is creating “procurement intelligence,” an area that will be one of the drivers to change the current paradigm of the procurement industry.

In Chapter Two: The State of Procurement, Determine Chief Product Officer Julien Nadaud examines the concept and reality of an intelligent procurement department, one that is not dependent upon a single technology, process, or strategy but rather an ecosystem of interconnected and interdependent plans, solutions, and innovations whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

In Chapter Three: Procurement Performance, Kelly Barner of Buyers Meeting Point looks into the question of whether “spend under management” is still a representative performance metric for procurement, one that is able to reflect procurement’s financial contributions, strategic effectiveness, and operational priorities.

Check out our on-demand webinar with Dan Roehrs of Tradeshift and Andrew Bartolini, Managing Partner and Chief Research Officer of Ardent Partners, where we explore CPO Rising 2018 in the context of Increasing Intelligence with Smarter Platforms.

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