The Dentsu Aegis Network is the first global marketing services group built for the digital economy; designed around the needs of its customers with the goal of driving sustainable business growth for their brands and business. Growth through acquisitions (such as Merkle), aligned with organic development, is key to the company’s own strategy. To keep pace with that growth it became essential for Dentsu Aegis to create a centralized procurement team in each of its regions of operation.
Sabrina Traskos, Senior Vice President, Procurement, heads up the organization’s American Procurement Team. “My team is responsible for the entire spectrum of procurement activities, from strategic sourcing all the way through to issuing POs and ensuring invoices are correct; as well as looking after real estate and facilities on a day to day basis,” she says. “The focus of what we're doing is supporting the entire network throughout the procurement lifecycle.”
The challenge for Traskos and her team is to build out a centralized function while assisting the brands across the Dentsu Aegis Network with their procurement transformation. “We have 32 business units in the United States so we’re getting 32 different constituencies on board with our Source-to-Pay process,” explains Traskos. “For some of them, it's the first time they're doing a purchase order, so a solid communications plan is an absolute necessity for us. It doesn't stop when we sign the contract with the supplier and get them loaded into the Source-to-Pay system. We have to make sure all of the relevant stakeholders know who our suppliers are, what the process is and what the transition plan is to switch to newly selected suppliers.”
Consensus building is integral to improving efficiency. “We aim to give people a say in the design of the processes and choosing the vendors,” pledges Traskos. “After all, they're the subject matter experts who know what they need best.” The next step to tackle is integrating the right technology. “When we win a new client, we often have to get up and running very quickly. Procurement needs to support whatever they need – it could be research, technology or recruiting, for example – with very quick turnaround,” explains Traskos. “But this can lead to wildly different approaches across the network which could present a data integrity issue. Procurement has a central role in harmonizing the process and making sure the purchasing data stays consistent.”
The pathway to the successful integration of new brands into Dentsu Aegis’ processes is aided by a governance structure. “Steering committees are at the heart of this,” says Traskos. “We have representatives from each of the business units and we meet regularly to discuss procurement projects, potential savings and to analyze any disruptive technologies.” She believes it’s vital to build a community approach to change while providing the opportunity to learn from your peers.
To support positive disruption, what innovations is Dentsu Aegis embracing on its procurement transformation quest? Traskos is excited about the advent of Source-to-Pay across Dentsu Aegis Network. “Previously, it's been a bit of a journey just to get aggregated spend or figure out how much we spend in a particular category or with different suppliers. Source-to-Pay’s spend analytics is going to help the team leapfrog to another level where we can provide our internal clients with recommendations and opportunities to save, build partnerships where appropriate, and really improve overall vendor management and relationships.” She believes building an ecosystem will improve user experience and bring through more initiatives to enhance efficiencies and savings.
Currently, Dentsu Aegis is keenly focused on the benefits of automation. Dentsu’s Automation Team works with Catalytic and UI Path on robotics and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) to aid the transition from paper to digital. “We’ve been able to achieve some significant savings in terms of reducing the amount of time staff spend on basic tasks,” says Traskos. “This enables us to shift our employees’ time to work on more strategic functions and that benefits our clients. The success of the efforts to date allow us to roll out more automation of other processes.”
As Dentsu has grown through acquisition, its real estate portfolio has grown as well. Now, the company seeks to work on real estate consolidation in order to reduce the overall costs of running so many offices. For Traskos alongside Chris Bendowski, VP of Real Estate and Facilities, to achieve this without disruption, partnerships with the likes of Canon Solutions America are key. Canon Solutions America, a leading imaging technology and managed services company, is providing office services to ensure robust support for the smooth running of office functions for all employees. “Canon Solutions America supports us with everything from traditional printers to reception and event services. We have about a hundred offices in the US alone, with as many as seven in some cities,” adds Traskos. “As we renovate office space and design offices more conducive to collaboration, we need network and WiFi support to create a stable and high performing environment in the workplace. Cisco solutions help us achieve that with a high level of confidence while achieving savings.”
Cisco are also involved with a project to install POE (Power Over Ethernet) lighting to provide energy savings across the organization. “The beautiful thing about POE is the ability to collect data from all your devices and look at room utilization, who is using the room and the capabilities that come along with that. For example, you can adjust the temperature of a conference suite according to the number of occupants. Big Data is helping us drive efficiencies here, and offer a customized experience for our employees.”
Looking at trends across the procurement panorama, Traskos is enthused by the way data accessible via user friendly dashboards is enabling category managers like Sultan Bajwa to make quick decisions on her team, both on a tactical and strategic basis. “All of the data provided via IoT sensors can lead us towards greater savings. For example, the ability to look at energy consumption by floor helps us streamline processes and become more cost efficient.”
Sustainable procurement is a top priority for Dentsu Aegis Network in 2019 and beyond. “We’re getting the message out there to make sure our suppliers understand how important it is,” confirms Traskos. “Source-to-Pay can help us set up the initial relationship. From the initial RFP, a supplier will see Dentsu’s statement on sustainable procurement, they see how much of the scoring is based on them having a verifiable sustainable procurement program within their organization, and how they should align with the UN SDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals). Once they become a supplier, we communicate on how our sustainability program is progressing, and more specifics on what we require within the various categories. The communication must occur on a regular basis to build a community in tune with our objectives and further the SDGs.”
While Traskos notes that all procurement organizations are focused on savings targets, continuous monitoring via data now allows for a more nuanced approach able to identify areas for acceleration to meet the organization’s goals. “Our center of excellence, led by Alex Love, pays really close attention to savings and trying to help different business units achieve their objectives,” she maintains. “Source-to-Pay will provide a big lift for us but we don't want to underestimate the change management that's involved.”
Allied to its financial and sustainability goals for procurement, Traskos is keen to encourage communication across the business around reducing its carbon footprint. “For travel and expenses, how do we partner with IT so that we can leverage Microsoft Teams to its full potential? What else can we do to partner with different airlines and reduce our carbon footprint? What can we do with S2P in terms of making sure that the SDGs are being pushed out to our different supplier partners? Not only are we making it 15% of our scoring, to determine who to partner with and who has made this a priority, but we're trying to make this more visible by building a communication strategy around it. Not just for within Dentsu but within the procurement community at large, because everybody should be working towards making the world a better place for the future.”