Technology is often implemented as the answer to complex situations. It can centralize, standardize, and facilitate access to data, allowing us to derive insights that inform operational and strategic thinking. Unfortunately, all too often these implementations result in the replacement of one type of complexity with another. They just move challenges online or layer on automation without reducing complexity or providing additional insight.
It is not necessary – nor is it a sustainable approach – to address complexity with more complexity. Instead, technology should simplify business complexity, increase understanding and make processes clear from start to finish for everyone involved. When the utmost visibility is required, such as with Public Sector solicitations, Procurement has an obligation to insist on simplicity and the information it confers.
One sure-fire way to increase simplicity is by limiting the number of technologies that are implemented. This tips the advantage to platform technologies, especially those that balance the rapid deployment of best practices with the flexibility to enable additional scope or functionality over time. Having to choose between quick results and sustained results shouldn’t be the only option.
Step 1: Deploy
By the time a need is realized, conditions may demand a solution that can be qualified and rolled out quickly to address an immediate set of problems. If detailed configuration is required before any improvement can be achieved, the time and cost to implement a technology may serve as its own barrier to ROI. If, on the other hand, rules-driven governance and usage based on relevant past experience is available, quick value is still a possibility. The early benefits of a rapid deployment often come from achieving a unified data model. This allows organizations to obtain a line of sight into each step in their procurement value chain. By leveraging information from one source, regardless of what they are trying to accomplish, using data from multiple stove-piped sources prevents critical strategic insights gained from a more holistic view of the procurement process. Moreover, the operations and maintenance around disparate system upgrades can be quite costly.
Step 2: Improve
Once short-term needs have been addressed, bigger picture goals come within reach. It is entirely possible to pursue best in class performance before all spend is brought under management. Unfortunately, solutions are often based on a fixed set of requirements and lack the vision and adaptability to provide additional value for users and suppliers after the initial implementation. In this scenario, today’s solutions become tomorrow’s problems. Change has to be allowed to take place over time, organically and in waves, to address mandated requirements and organizational innovation goals. An all-or-nothing approach will not suffice. The ability to configure and re-configure a procurement platform allows the team to scale up and down as objectives and priorities change, as new regulations take effect and as previously unforeseen roadblocks emerge.
Step 3: Expand
Complexity-driven projects usually start with an internal-only focus, but there is significant value associated with incorporating external information. This is especially true (and easier to achieve) when a platform allows Procurement to serve as a one-stop shop or single source of truth for all matters involving spend, contracts and suppliers. Comprehensive reporting facilitates better decision making, which requires the seamless combination of internal and external data sources. Taking new inputs into account, however, often requires additional adjustments and flexibility in both workflow and data integration capability. If a platform is unable to accommodate these requirements, the opportunity for increased efficiency, cost reduction and innovation may pass by unrealized.
The advancement of an organization’s Procurement capability is a multi-stage process. First the technology should facilitate growth from chaos to order, and then it must allow the organization to adapt as their scope and objectives expand. Today’s solutions can quickly become tomorrow’s roadblocks or problems if the technology in place does not have the desired flexibility and range. Deploying best practice rapid value producing functionality without being constricted by rigid workflow/business processes is paramount for entities who want to innovate and partner collaboratively with suppliers through best-in-class technology.