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Comment: Now, more than ever, it’s time for procurement to go digital

Procurement needs to go digital if it is to reach its potential, says SAP Ariba

At a time when technology is transforming nearly every aspect of the enterprise and its approach to buying and selling, the role of the procurement professional — already central to any organisation — has become even more strategic, more consequential, and more indispensable.

By linking together vast troves of data across enterprises and unlocking meaningful insights, cloud-based applications have freed up procurement professionals from the tangle of day-to-day tactical activities so that they can focus on strategic responsibilities such as supply chain resilience and flexibility, brand protection, and new sources of innovation. 

Key Accelerators for Digital Transformation

The transformation is just beginning. As emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things and blockchain begin to take hold, procurement will become even smarter, faster and more connected. And beyond savings and efficiencies, it will open the door to innovations that improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately, impact revenue generation.  

Another accelerator in digital transformation in procurement are business networks. They are driving totally new way of interacting and expanding the value that procurement can deliver across the enterprise.  Just like their social counterparts, they bring together millions of buyers and sellers and provide a community in which they can shop, share and consume. On a true many to many platform, trust and transparency are the benefits the network participants find.  

Managing Supplier Risk and Corporate Responsibilities

More than ever, customers, regulators and investors hold companies accountable not only for their own ethical conduct, but for that of their suppliers and their suppliers’ suppliers. Companies with strong supply chain practices invest to mitigate any risk and respond to adverse events and recover from the any disruption faster. With business networks, companies can gain the transparency needed to ensure that they are not only in compliance with laws in every locale they operate in, but that they are upholding and advancing their own corporate social responsibility goals.  

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Leveraging real-time and historical purchasing data, supplier intelligence and business network content, procurement can shine a light on the materials, regions, and suppliers that are most likely to have issues or challenges with unexpected natural disaster, forced labor or conflict minerals. To drive a positive impact, companies may launch campaigns to connect diverse suppliers on the business networks in underdeveloped markets where a little assistance goes a long way. 

Supplier Insights for Innovation

Take product design. Suppliers can be rich providers of design ideas, providing insights on new technologies and innovation while improving costs given their technical knowledge of manufacturing processes. Adopting the Design to Value approach, companies involve procurement organisations in the product development process far earlier. 

Through business networks, procurement gain significant supplier insights quickly and potentially open the door to new, more innovative and cost-effective ways of producing products and components.  With a better collaboration with suppliers on the networks, the companies can even invent a new product or services and create a new business model. Finding new sources of supply in a global operating environment is exponentially easier with a business network.

Procurement Leading the Digital Transformation

This enhanced visibility and insights in supply chain through data may have once seemed a luxury, but business networks and the technology underlying them make it easier to achieve today. Procurement organisations that embrace these ideas can continue their digital transformation journey and lead their companies to new worlds of operational and performance excellence.

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