The increasing velocity of the global electronics supply chain, as well as ever quickening product cycles and enhanced competitive landscape for most high-tech OEMs makes choosing the right digital technology more than ever before.
We sat down with Shaz Khan, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Vroozi, a provider of a business to business mobile procurement platform to find out more about how customer centricity and mobile technology can be leveraged for strategic sourcing. We wanted to find out how having the right tools can make the supply chain and procurement functions make valuable contributions to the organization and its business objectives. Further, technology can enhance the traditional procurement efforts of reducing costs, while maximizing efficiency and enhancing margins.
EBN: Our readers are in high tech and electronics. Can you tell us about this trend of mobile-first, user-centric purchasing, the potential benefits and any factors that make it particularly relevant to these sectors?
Khan: Traditionally we see consumer technology follow after innovations in business technology. With purchasing and payables automation the pattern was opposite. Consumer purchasing technology spurred by B2C and B2B e-commerce channels progressed at an incredible rate. Consumers could expect very easy, mobile-friendly purchasing in their personal consumer habits, but found that purchasing at work was often very manual or complex. Providing a mobile-first, user-centric purchasing platform not only improves the company’s results, but provides a familiar shopping experience for users, which requires very little or no training.
The key benefits of a mobile-friendly, user-centric purchasing platform include:
- High user adoption: a purchasing solution that truly makes purchasing easier is quickly adopted when the user is put first.
- Better spend data: Better user adoption directly affects the data itself. Real-time data is incredibly powerful when it comes to spend analysis, because the faster you receive your data, the quicker you can pivot your spend strategy to what is best for your organization.
- Better savings: Better spend data ultimately leads to better spending and better savings.
- Eliminate bottlenecks/improve processes: Traditionally, procurement has been especially vulnerable to bottlenecks in what can be a complex process. With automation and mobile-friendly solutions, the process becomes as mobile as the employees.
What we have seen is the procurement department is leading the way with digital transformation for companies looking to improve their digitization and automation. In today’s world, digitizing is no longer an option. Not only in procurement, but in every department, companies that ignore the benefit of technology get left behind and cannot compete with those that are moving forward.
EBN: Increasingly supply chain and procurement are getting a seat at the table, recognized as a strategic part of the operation rather than a cost center. How can organizations leverage technology to bring more value to the strategic goals of the organization?
Khan: A huge factor in why this change has occurred is the ability to communicate the value of supply chain and procurement as strategic. A second is the speed at which users can get spend data feedback. Fundamentally, the value has always been there, but with new technology that value is hyper-charged and easier to demonstrate. With big data analytics, supply chain and procurement professionals can demonstrate better insights into how they spend in real-time. Before it took months, if not years, to be able to provide quality data about spending in categories, but now e-procurement users can open up their dashboard and see exactly how their company has been spending up to the current moment.
EBN: Organizations have a broad variety of technological options to choose from. What advice do you have for organizations who are trying to budget and a plan to leverage technology to improve procurement and supply chain performance? Who should be involved in these decisions and what are some of the considerations they should have in trying to prioritize investments in technology?
Khan: Every company is different and good procurement solutions are never one size fits all. At Vroozi, we work with potential users to find the right solutions for them. Some solutions are fundamental, like a powerful catalog management system with an easy purchasing interface – but beyond that, each organization has its own unique needs.
These decisions really need to involve the head of every department. Every department is affected by procurement even more than most realize. Generally, we see purchasing, finance, and technology as the key players making this decision, but we often find advocates in every part of the copany because good procurement truly helps the whole system run better.
EBN: By focusing on operational excellence, organizations can expect some key benefits. What are the main benefits organizations can expect? Are there any less obvious benefits that an organization might achieve?
Khan: One of the main benefits we look for are usability and productivity gains within an organization, not just with employees but with external trading partners and suppliers. Are employees spending less time on systems and processes for purchasing or more time? Business cases can only be realized if you have full participation from employees and if the system is not considered a chore. Technology is only one third of the classic “People, Process, and Technology” matrix and a platform must address all three components to be successful. I think another measure that often gets overlooked is the behavioral aspect of software utilization within an organization. Are employees generally happier working in Vroozi and is there a ‘stickiness’ factor that can be measured where employees and suppliers are consistently using the system? Transaction execution times will improve if this is the case.
EBN: How can organizations measure the benefits of investing in technology?
Khan: Naturally, any investment in technology should have a significant and tangible component of productivity gains and cost savings. For procurement, this is great because the savings are very quantifiable. Some of the key areas we focus on are:
- Contract compliance
- Supplier compliance
- Accounts payable (AP) error reduction & exceptions
- Electronic delivery of documents
- Cycle time improvements
- Supplier management
- Sourcing better pricing
EBN: How do you see the way that organizations are using technology to optimize the supply chain evolving? What’s the next frontier?
Khan: There are a few ways. The first is that as technology improves, it also becomes more accessible, especially in cost. There is now a huge trend where companies that would have never had access to expensive enterprise software that can now take advantage of the best procurement technology. For many of these companies this is the difference in very rudimentary Excel-based solutions to mobile-friendly, automated procurement. It is a real game-changer for many mid-size companies.
Of course, digitizing and going mobile is another huge trend in supply chain technology. Not only is mobile procurement an option now, but it is a safe, user-focused option that allows procurement to continue flowing even in a very mobile workforce.
As for the next frontier, artificial intelligence and predictive procurement with machine learning is an essential area for productivity gains. We will move from data collection and reaction to proactive resolution of exceptions and pushing of data with recommendations. For example, purchase orders and invoices can be electronically captured and any exceptions which occur in the lifecycle can be resolved through automation and decision trees.
— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, Editor in Chief, EBN