Five Top Procurement Leaders Look at What New Year Will Bring

Read time: 13 mins
Five Top Procurement Leaders Look at What New Year Will Bring

It’s that time of the year when businesses start planning for the year ahead. This year could be especially challenging due to a number of factors contributing to heightened uncertainty around the globe. We asked several long time procurement professionals with experience navigating in all kinds of business conditions how they think 2017 will shape up, and what procurement should be thinking about as they seek to advise the business for the year ahead.

They include Coupa Executive Advisory Board members Amber Bauer, Founder and CEO of Donate4Refugees and former CPO of Engie UK; David Hearn, currently Chief Advisor at CPO Advisement Services and former CPO of Juniper Networks, and Jack Miles, Managing Partner at Mainspring Advisors; Mike Finazzo, Director of Enterprise Strategic Sourcing at H&R Block, and Tyler Chamberlain, Worldwide Head of Spend Management at Coupa. Here’s what’s on their minds. 

1. Cost cutting reappears on the horizon

We’ve had a sustained period of growth, and people are starting to worry the economy will soften, or that growth will get even choppier. Coupled with uncertainty following the Brexit vote and the US election, this may drive companies to try to get out ahead and curtail spending plans or look at cutting costs. Attention will likely turn to indirect procurement, which is a good thing, but only if they’re ready with analysis of the right areas to target.

That means procurement’s secret weapon in 2017 will be spend insight. Even before the inevitable cost-cutting demands happen, those at the top of their game will have sliced and diced their company spend data and be poised to take action where it will have the most impact. Prices have been squeezed hard over the last 8 or so years, so the biggest impact will come from challenging demand and scope, rather than boring old price.

To do this, sourcing will need to incorporate more PMO functionality, as future projects will encompass demand planning and management activities such controlling waste, reducing overall demand, and eliminating excess quality. Another area to look at is cost structure transformation. Projects in this area will focus on things like process re-engineering, consortium-based purchasing and supplier continuous improvement programs. Sourcing organizations will need modern tools, and they’ll either need to develop or attract sourcing professionals with more project management skills.

Organizations that are unprepared will be chasing the same low value targets as always - cutting travel and Post-it notes, and freezing laptop upgrades.

2. A renewed interest in developing local and ethical sources

The Brexit vote and the US President-elect’s promise to revisit international trade agreements has introduced new exchange rates fluctuations and uncertainty from overseas partners and suppliers over future trade agreements. The only certain outcome of all this uncertainty is that overall spending will be down.

The growth of home-grown supply may lead to a small reduction in overseas dependency. Headlines relating to child and slave labor resulting from exploitation of the refugee crisis (notably Syrian refugees in Turkey) suggests that procurement must maintain if not increase its focus on ensuring ethical supply chains and compliance to labor laws in 2017.

And, as governments sign up to more environmental commitments and consumers continue to show preference for socially responsible brands, procurement needs to be ready to roll up its sleeves to deliver step changes in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives. For too long, most of us have done little more than muck about in the shallow water. It’s time to dive in head first.

3. Greater supplier collaboration

As more companies deploy spend management platforms that automate or enable employee self-service for tactical procurement activities, procurement departments will find mundane supplier activities waning. That will give professionals across the source-to-pay process more time to focus on higher value add from suppliers, including suppliers of services.

Working collaboratively with suppliers to develop innovative solutions is second nature to much of the retail and manufacturing sectors, but it’s high time the services sector stopped talking and started acting. This is a team objective, not just a leadership one. Procurement should reposition itself as a business enabler by proactively analyzing spend data patterns and supply markets. We must deliver insights and recommendations that let business leaders make key decisions on how to meet their financial goals.

Suppliers are likely to welcome this shift; they would rather focus on value too. Both sides have always held collaborative supplier relationship management as a goal, but we just never had time to do it. Now it should become more widespread.

4. Time for indirect procurement to finally get some respect

Many indirect procurement groups finally have complete spend management data--including integrated travel spend data--and tools allowing them to present analytics to help their company save money. Executives will welcome this type of support for data-based decision making on where to cut indirect costs.

Procurement could improve its positioning internally by handing over the tools, analysis and responsibility to the business. We have to lose our “policing” persona and progress toward empowering the business with analytics that allow them to make local decisions. Functions within firms that have earned the respect of the businesses and executive stakeholders will find that proverbial seat at the table is there . . . with the chair pulled back and ready.

5. Continued growth of non-employee labor

Non-employee labor will likely continue to increase as individuals look for more flexibility and tire of old style management and thinking. Teams will become more used to remote working, so get those teleconference facilities working and, better yet, allow your teams onto Skype or a similar platform.

Procurement will continue to drive the trend away from day rates and full-time contracts, to a more flexible and affordable approach that is simply focused on delivery, business benefits and managing risk.

Firms that assist companies in this space will grow beyond the Managed Service Provider programs of the past. The big challenge in this space has always been figuring out what to pay, and we’ll start to see early stage firms that provide real time market data challenge incumbent providers of traditional human resource compensation data.

6. Reverse auctions for SaaS

Certain SaaS software has become commoditized enough to make the prospect of “rip and replace” a lot less daunting, and in some areas there is very little hesitation to switch out. This means that sourcing groups in some cases can get away with quick and easy reverse auctions on solutions that just a year or two ago would have required complex RFPs. That means those SaaS vendors are under more pressure to compete, and there are better deals to be made.

7. Continued technology evolution

Integrating sourcing, purchasing and procurement technology, and its interface, into wider business applications, has been single-handedly transformational for every organization that has had the acumen to implement it to date. If you haven’t done it yet… start today! In 2017 those CPOs who have already implemented enabling systems are fit to position Procurement at the center of their company, armed with arguably the best business data available.

Technology will continue to evolve over the medium to longer term to a mode with a core “container” with a myriad of transactional apps. Companies will see the impact as they start to control a much larger percentage of indirect spend.

Interested to hear more about where procurement is heading in 2017? Got questions? Ideas? Attend our live webinar “Big Ideas Shaping Supply in 2017,” co-sponsored by Procurement Leaders and featuring Bryce Berg, VP of Business Services of Molina Healthcare, and Ron Pachura, VP Finance, Digital Banking Group at Fiserv Tuesday, December 6 at 7 a.m PST/10 a.m. EST.