It was a privilege to join the co-hosted Vizibl executive dinner last week in London where we brought together 20 senior procurement and sustainability leaders to discuss the hottest topics in procurement.
Our new CEO, Richard Hogg, kicked off the proceedings by thanking our co-founder, chairman, and former CEO Mark Perera for his long history of procurement thought leadership and his unwavering passion for – and commitment to – sustainability.
Richard then went on to welcome our co-host for the event, Nick Jenkinson. Having served as CPO at Santander, in addition to holding senior procurement leadership roles at the likes of Astellas, ARYZTA, and dmg media, Nick has also twice implemented Vizibl as part of a procurement transformation programme. Passionate about change management and procurement’s future, Nick has 13 years’ worth of insights on digital transformation projects and has broad experience in a variety of verticals, having worked across seven different industries during his 20 years in the function.
To break the ice, Nick got us started with a multiple-choice quiz on procurement technology which he generated with the help of ChatGPT. It was great to see the engagement and discussion around the room to questions such as how much is spent on cloud computing annually, how much is being invested into procurement technology (the market was worth over $5billion in 2020), and the percentage of procurement technology implementations that are successful (just 30-40%, probably owing to poor change management processes, lack of executive buy-in, or failure to pin articulate the business case).
Key procurement technology takeaways
Stating the case to the wider business
During the event, Nick shared many valuable insights that he has built up over the years working on and spearheading procurement digital transformation projects.
The key takeaway for me was that when considering digital procurement solutions it’s imperative that procurement leaders focus on the outcomes that the solution will deliver to the wider business. Doing so enables you to more effectively build the business case, secure buy-in from above, and to ultimately make a justified investment.
Gartner has found that procurement leaders are more likely to receive approval when they request the exact technology they want and need as opposed to making lesser or partial requests. Gartner customers can get more information about procurement technology budgets and business cases by accessing their April 2023 note, ‘Navigating Budget Requests for Procurement Technology’ here.
Taking a best of breed approach
Another key takeaway from Nick was the importance of adopting a “best of breed” approach to selecting procurement solutions; the procurement technology market has become increasingly fragmented over recent years, with many small providers addressing specific challenges or niches that suite providers struggle to encompass. No single provider will give a team the full capabilities to match every challenge they’re facing, and adopting this “best of breed” pick and mix approach to technology will allow you to select and combine complementary individual solutions to more effectively tackle a broad array of needs.
One piece of advice that really resonated with me was the warning not to let your IT department derail your selection process by trying to convince you that the solutions you already have in place will meet your requirement when you know they won’t. The procurement function are the subject matter experts on the gaps and challenges that technology needs to overcome, and should trust their own judgement when it comes to selecting solutions.
The changing role of procurement
During the dinner portion of the evening, I was involved in several very interesting conversations around the table about the rapid evolution of the procurement function’s role and priorities.
It became very clear that while cost is still hugely important, procurement leaders are feeling increased pressure to deliver on sustainability commitments, particularly around scope 3 emissions. The leaders that I spoke with all see the key challenge as balancing this traditional remit against these newer objectives, with it creating increased workload for their teams as they are tasked with engaging suppliers effectively on ESG issues.
Though there is considerable trepidation, all agreed that supplier sustainability being so core to overall business ESG goals signals an excellent opportunity to raise procurement’s profile within the business. In one specific conversation a CPO highlighted how their procurement team were being called upon for emissions data by other areas of the business to aid tender processes with potential clients and partners, enabling them to demonstrate the wider applicability of their work.
Overall, the dinner was an excellent opportunity to get together and hear the objectives, challenges, and priorities of those who are the coalface of procurement and sustainable procurement leadership in 2023, in addition to drawing on the insights of an experienced procurement leader like Nick around change management, procurement technology investments, and better supplier engagement. Not only will these insights help his peers who joined the dinner, they will also allow us in the Vizibl team to more effectively help procurement professionals at these organisations to rise to the challenges they are facing.
For more information on building a business case for procurement programmes and investments, particularly in the sustainable procurement space, see the guide we constructed with procurement legend Peter Smith, Procurement with Purpose: Eight actions that will pass the business case test.