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While the U.S. economy is firing on all cylinders, thanks in large measure to more effective supply chain management strategies, large swaths of Australia burn. Responders are doing everything they can to get a handle on the wildfires, which have scorched over 12 million acres thus far, according to the most recent estimates from The Associated Press.

Combined with the earth temperatures continuing to edge higher - 2019 was the second-warmest year on record globally, based on measurements from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - major corporations are going to greater lengths to be more ecocentric in their supply chain strategies.

Nestle decries deforestation
A classic example is Nestle. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Switzerland-based multinational food and drink processing company has let it be known that it will no longer purchase soybeans from Brazil from one of the country's largest producers due to suspicions they were cultivated on converted land. Nestle is hopeful that this new policy will demonstrate the seriousness to which they take environmental degradation in general and the damaging effects of deforestation in particular. Indeed, Nestle intends to entirely eliminate the practice from their supply chains no later than 2023.

Deforestation is less common, but still a problem. Deforestation is less common, but still a problem.
Although there is greater awareness about deforestation, why it happens and why it's bad for the planet, the practice is still quite common, particularly in Latin America. According to 2019 data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, slightly less than 4,000 square miles were deforested in the Amazon last year. While that's up several hundred miles from 2018, the total is down substantially compared to the mid-1990s, when roughly 11,000 square miles were leveled.
Nestle's more hard-line stance appears to be working. Ruth Kimmelshue, supply chain and stability chief at Cargill - which is one of the world's largest and oldest exporters of soybeans - told the Journal her company is taking every effort to be more green friendly in their harvesting activities.
"We believe we have a strong ethical compass, and we have the obligation to act," Kimmelshue explained.

Hennes & Mauritz, VF Corp. go to similar lengths
Also stepping up to the plate when it comes to becoming better stewards of the environment is Hennes & Mauritz, a Swedish multinational firm specializing in clothing. The company, whose portfolio includes designer retailer H&M, informed its investors and customers back in September that it would cease and desist from purchasing leather hides from Brazil, The Journal further reported. The only thing that could reverse those intentions is if producers' ability to establish their livestock doesn't derive from portions of the country where deforestation is common. Meanwhile, footwear apparel firm VF Corporation, which uses Brazilian leather in many of its name brand dress shoes and sneakers - such as Vans and Timberland - is taking similar measures in Brazil. Approximately 5% of the shoemaker and apparel company's leather supply chain derives from South America's largest nation.

As more businesses and countries take small steps toward building a cleaner, greener planet, the hope is these efforts will pay off in a large way, perhaps evidenced by calmer weather patterns.

The following blog comes to us from Julien Nadaud, Chief Product Officer at Determine and SVP, Innovation at Corcentric.

Contract management – or contract lifecycle management (CLM) – is a software solution that provides full-time, automated contract monitoring and helps optimize each stage of the contract lifecycle. Pretty straightforward.

The bigger question is, why do you need one? That’s also pretty straightforward: Because contracts are the lifeblood of every organization. They manage risk, relationships, even revenue to a degree. They exist to be used – leveraged – in the best interests of your organization, as well as those it does business with.

But consider, even a mid-tier company could have tens of thousands of active contracts stored in computers, servers, flash drives and, of course, file cabinets. Do you know what’s in all those contracts?

Probably not. That’s why every organization needs an effective contract management solution to manage the full contract lifecycle, pave the way to greater risk and spend management, and ultimately, drive bottom-line impact.

Contract management is a full-time, automated contract monitoring system

While it is a commonly held belief that contracts are static “documents that are frozen at a point in time and represent rights and obligations that are to be delivered over a future period,” that’s not the full story.

They are in fact living documents that need to be actively managed from cradle to grave to make sure they are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Contract lifecycle management (CLM) is the constant process of ensuring that a contract is structured properly and reviewed appropriately, its provisions enforced and intent realized, and its weaknesses recognized and corrected.

Contract management solves problems at each stage of the contract lifecycle

According to IACCM (the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management), at a minimum a satisfactory contract lifecycle management solution must include:

  • A central repository and an enterprise-wide, structured process to manage contract creation and execution
  • The ability to effectively manage contract milestones via automated alerts
  • Automated workflow for contract review and approvals
  • Obligations management capabilities and key performance indicators to improve contract compliance and performance
Beyond that, there is no precise, universally accepted model of the contract lifecycle. Our model views the lifecycle through the lens of business challenges, and we’ve divided it into nine stages: request, authoring, negotiation, approval, execution, obligations management, amendment, audit and reporting, and renewal. This makes it easy to identify a subset of challenges for each stage, discuss their business impact, and examine how technology can meet those challenges and capitalize on opportunities for improvement.

With those entry-level requirements in mind, let’s take a look at what a full-featured CLM solution does in the context of what challenges it’s trying to solve for.

Contract Request

Challenge: Slow cycle time is the number one enemy of contract efficiency. And it begins with how simple or difficult it is to request a new contract, get it into the queue, and route it to the right people with all the required information. This is especially true when an organization has a centralized approach to contracts. Slow cycle times can push revenue into the next quarter and make procurement a roadblock.

Solution: A well-designed contract management solution integrates seamlessly with an organization’s line-of-business (LOB) systems. This makes it easy for anyone in an organization to initiate contracts from within familiar applications and devices, and search for contract-related information they require, eliminating system access as a process bottleneck.

Contract Authoring

Challenge: New contracts don’t use the latest, approved templates or language, which makes it difficult to enforce standards without costly and time-consuming legal review. This creates bottlenecks, or worse, renegade contracts.

Solution: A contract management solution should recognize the fact that most contract professionals like to use Word, and incorporate its formatting capabilities. From there, using a selection of templates users can simply drag and drop language from a library of approved clauses and terms, often with the help of guided tools, to create a contract request, amendment or renewal. In addition to collaborative authoring and redlining features, advanced CLM solutions automate many tasks, like dynamically inserting required language for specific clauses and terms, tracking clause- and provision-level changes, setting alerts, and configuring approval workflows. The goal is total compliance with minimum effort.

Contract Negotiation

Challenge: The natural give and take of reaching consensus on contract provisions means that negotiation inevitably occupies a large percentage of contract cycle time. But communication glitches via fax and email as well the manual comparison of redlined versions to identify what has changed with each iteration and why those changes occurred can add delays that are easily avoided.

Solution: By reading changes in structured metadata and unstructured language, a contract management solution allows users to receive redlined contracts electronically, which can be routed and tagged for review by contract stakeholders. It also enables redlined versions to be compared side by side, often in Word or PDF renditions. A compelling feature of more advanced solutions identifies changes between versions that have not been redlined, which discourages “stealth” changes that can undermine contract integrity. Research by IACCM found that companies which leverage a CLM solution can cut their contract creation costs by 50% or more.

Contract Approval

Challenge: Complex, highly-negotiated contracts frequently require multiple approvals from different functions in an organization. Rules governing industry segment, contract type, dollar amount, number of contracts in force with a particular vendor, and so forth can also add variables to the approval equation. Usually, the more complex approvals become the longer they take.

Solution: More sophisticated contract management solutions provide a dynamic approvals process based on multiple criteria. Through the solution interface, users can tailor parallel and serial approval workflows to match the idiosyncrasies of any contract, which eliminates bottlenecks and minimizes costly delays. The most sophisticated solutions support approvals via mobile devices. This flexibility helps the organization optimize the approval process as business conditions change while maintaining control and enforcing standards.

Contract Execution

Challenge: Compared to negotiation and approvals, execution should be very simple. Yet incomplete approvals and missing signatures often delay this basically straightforward step.

Solution: A contract management solution can control and shorten the signature process through integration with third-party electronic signature applications, which eliminates the need for routing hard copy documents. A solution should also be able to upload hardcopies as part of an essentially automated, electronic process.

Contract Obligations Management

Challenge: No matter how well negotiated, no matter how favorable the terms, the benefits of a contract can be quickly and completely undone by a “file and forget” mentality. Remember, a contract is more than a point-in-time agreement whose constructive—or destructive—life goes far beyond execution.

Solution: Contract management technology can consistently provide two things during the life of a contract: visibility and control. Solution features such as fulfillment tracking, automated alerts linked to expirations, renewals, and key events, post-execution workflows, and sophisticated analytics and reporting help administrators maximize contract value.

Contract Renewal

Challenge: Contract renewal should be a time of opportunity—to refine, improve, and, if necessary, terminate existing contracts. But for many companies, renewal windows simply come and go unnoticed; resulting in opportunities lost and risk created.

Solution: A contract management solution can help companies take advantage of each renewal opportunity by identifying contract renewal candidates, alerting managers in time to act, and automatically creating new contract drafts based on the contract in force.

Contract Auditing and Reporting

Challenge: There is no business document more in need of an audit trail than a contract. But ad hoc, manual processes rarely support the event logging that audit trails demand. Likewise, contract performance reporting requires the systemic capability to aggregate data over time.

Solution: Contract management solutions should give organizations a range of audit and reporting options such as contract compliance alerts, audit tracking at the field level, on-demand report generation, one-click access from reports to contract records, and easy integration with third-party reporting tools.

Contract Amendment

Challenge: Contracts rarely escape amendment. The give and take of commerce ensures that most contracts will undergo modification to reflect changes in the marketplace and in the relationships of their signatories. Without a consolidated view of a contract and all its amendments, it’s difficult to keep track of what has been done and why, particularly in long-standing relationships. This is especially true of master agreements that may have hundreds of amendments, with varying application to different parts of the business.

Solution: As it was in the obligations management stage, a 360-degree view of a contract relationship is essential to managing the amendment process effectively. A contract management solution should provide a single source of integrated data truth, providing an effective view of a business relationship that makes clear the prevailing language and terms across multiple contract amendments and associated documents.

Contracts aren’t static documents; they’re leverageable assets.

To sum up, a Contract Management solution helps an organization gain visibility into and control over all contracts, making day-to-day searching, authoring and contract administration easier, more effective and productive. Managing contracts with one comprehensive tool:
  • Cuts contract cycle time and boosts productivity—easy-to-use tools speed authoring and approvals while reducing the need for line-by-line legal review.
  • Gives greater visibility into deals—properly structured contracts recognize revenue sooner, reduce leakage, and increase opportunities for follow-on business.
  • Ensures compliance—audit and analysis features address the three aspects of compliance: contractual, operational, and regulatory.
  • Optimizes shared data, giving all contract stakeholders new insights into their commercial counterparty relationships.
To learn more about what contract management is and what it can do for your organization, download the CLM Starter Kit from Determine, a Corcentric company.

One of the many challenges that procurement professionals face when developing or transforming their procurement practice, is building out an effective Delegation of Authority policy. As there is no one-size-fits-all approach, creating a policy that both adheres to best practices and fits into the overall company strategy can be a daunting task. There are a multitude of different factors that must be taken into consideration, from the size of the organization in question, the industry it operates under, to the internal structure of the organization. However, there are still several steps that can be taken to make sure the DOA policy you develop works best for your business.

Current State Assessment: Before you start developing a policy, its critical to ensure that all key players have a thorough understanding of the current state of the organization. This includes performing spend data analysis to get a clear understanding of volume and amount of all purchased items. From this assessment, you can identify high frequency/low risk purchases that can be set up for self or auto approvals. Also, make sure you understand the current DoA policy (if it exists) and properly asses what you are looking to change.

Determine Priorities: What is the goal for your organization? Is it to drive user adoption, control and mitigate risk, or both? Understanding what the priority is will help make your policy more focused and effective.

Define Approval Thresholds: Draw out your approval limit hierarchy levels and make sure they align to the overall structure of the organization. This will change depending on the business, but usually thresholds are assigned based on hierarchy to the different roles in business (Manager, Supervisor, Director, VP, CPO/CFO, etc)

While using the steps above as a foundation to building out your policies, also take into consideration a few of the best practices suggested by industry experts below:

Strive for Simplicity

Complicated DoA polices often lead to resistance, as users may find ways to circumvent processes that they find too cumbersome. A easy to follow policy ensures requisitioners are readily aware of the required approvers for their purchases.

Use Existing ERP Data as a Framework

Leverage user data stored in your ERP system as a reference or as the foundation of the policies you create. This will also reduce the amount of manual management required in the future if there are role changes within your business.

Ensure Release Strategy Criteria is Identified and Well Defined

A few to consider are purchasing groups, monetary value and GL accounts purchases will go to.

Consider Security Policies

Ensure security process are in place to reduce risk during transitions of roles or responsibilities. For example, policies should ensure a requestor is not the sole approver of the same item.

Define and consider workflows:

What are the current workflows your organization uses and are these being considered while drafting the DoA? This is often company specific, but below are a few most used:

  • Category Approval - Is the buyer purchasing from the correct vendor at the right price?
  • Management Hierarchy Approvals - As previously mentioned, value thresholds based on company roles.
  • Cost Center Approvals - Ensures costs are being applied to the direct cost center.
  • Strategic Souring Approvals - Defined value thresholds set to determine if purchases need to go out to bid.
Ultimately, a delegation of authority policy should clearly establish organizational responsibility, with assurance that recipients who have been delegated authorization meet the appropriate experience and requirements. Keep in mind that policies should be kept updated to reflect the current state of the business and key personnel are made aware of any changes. By taking the suggestions above into consideration, you should be well on your way to creating an operative DoA policy that aligns with the needs of your business.
Back in July, our fearless webmaster, and noted humorist, Bill Dorn discussed the importance of the “Golden Rule” during any negotiation. His message was simple: Don’t ask for the unreasonable in a negotiation. There are few sentiments I agree with more when it comes to business. And while it is necessary evil, it doesn’t need to be viewed this way.

Whether we like it or not, we all have to negotiate in life and it’s important to refine our skills in order to effectively realize value for our clients and/or ourselves. Some of us have roles that require us to negotiate on a daily basis, and in procurement, negotiation is a crucial part of any sourcing or purchasing process. But, negotiating doesn’t need to have this “evil” stigma attached to it.

Let’s look at what negotiation actually is. In short, a negotiation is a dialogue between two or more parties with a common goal or purpose, with the aim of achieving mutual benefit for all involved. The fact is, though, that most don’t look at negotiating this way. If you’re like me, you dread the day your car finally perishes, in part due to the fact that car buying can be stressful and unpleasant. Why is that? Purchasing a new car should be an exciting and fun experience, but it seldom feels that way when you’re in the middle of a negotiation with the dealership or salesperson. During a training I attended the instructor shared an anecdote about how his father never haggles price when buying a new car, fearing he will be perceived as cheap or greedy. But, the dealership typically expects prospective clients to haggle and negotiate, in fact they build this into their pricing. So when the instructor’s father didn’t negotiate, the dealership was actually pleasantly surprised that they sold a car, to be frank, to a “dupe.”

The moral of this story is that negotiations are more often than not expected and welcomed in certain circles or industries, and for most procurement professionals this is especially true. We as professionals shouldn’t be afraid of perception, like my instructor’s father, when it comes to performing or initiating a negotiation. The other party may already be prepared to negotiate and only set their price to begin any preliminary conversations while still establishing themselves as competitive or a leader (based on their first quote). Moreover, regardless your occupation, negotiation skills are vital and important in everyday life and shouldn’t be ignored even if you don’t negotiate or deal in your current profession.

Now that you’ve established you need to negotiate or reach a deal, what do you do next? You learn how to negotiate effectively. Check back next week where I will discuss how to negotiate effectively and compassionately by building trust and commonalities, in what some call Trust-based Negotiations.

This blog comes to us from Ashley Brizendine, Marketing Manager at Determine, a Corcentric Company. 

The search for a P2P solution (purchase-to-pay) software can be daunting and, quite frankly, mind-boggling. Identifying a tool that best fits organizational business processes, user needs and the desires of stakeholders can be downright exhausting — especially if you’ve never implemented an outside solution before. Knowing some of the key features and benefits to look for in a worthy P2P solution will help make the search a bit more bearable, and empower your organization to choose a tool that everyone will be happy with.
1. Lives in “The Cloud”
P2P software comes in a few different forms. Some organizations choose to build a tool internally, while others purchase software that is then implemented and hosted on-premise. Both of these options come with a higher cost of ownership and, oftentimes, clunky configuration. A best-in-breed P2P solution will offer dynamic cloud-based software. With software that lives in the cloud, the vendor remains responsible for the overall functionality of the tool and partners with organizations to support ongoing business needs and processes.
2. Automates purchase orders
Chances are — if you’re searching for purchase-to-pay software it’s because you’re trying to make daily operations more efficient. And of course, there’s no harm in making things easier for you and your procurement team, either. With that being said, automation is the way to go. An automated procurement process from requisition to P.O. to supplier submission workflow that’s audited, validated and error-free should be a required feature of any solution you are investigating.
3. Configurable
One of the most elusive features to find in a sustainable P2P solution is configurability. Due to major differences in business processes from one organization to the next, a cookie-cutter software solution seems like an easy fix, right? Unfortunately, these typically require a great deal of process adaptation and change management on the buyer’s side. The right P2P tool will enable its users to adapt the solution to their workflow and business needs — not vice versa.
4. Exists as a single source of data

If you’ve been in the procurement space for some time, you’ve likely heard the stories about nightmarish processes where the entire purchase-to-pay stream was spread out amongst various tools, departments and approvers. Some of the benefits of having a single source of data include:
  •          Promotes collaboration between requisitioners and suppliers
  •          Improves user adoption
  •          Helps control spend and maverick buyers
  •          Monitors performance, compliance and risk

5. Provides visibility into process and data workflows
Going from catalog to payment is a chain reaction — a group of processes running in series and/or parallel for both the goods or service and the order/payment processing. The ideal P2P solution will provide a dashboard of sorts, giving needed personnel the visibility into each step of the process while streamlining governance, capturing savings and gathering data for later analysis. This increased visibility enables your procurement team to be more intentional in sourcing goods and services while expanding cost-saving efforts.
6. Catalog Management
What good is a fancy new procurement solution if it doesn’t actually make things easier? Catalog management is all the rave these days (at least in procurement). Top of the line procurement solutions will give users easy-to-navigate, simple search and purchase capabilities. Think about searching for something on Google, or buying something from Amazon — the idyllic experience — just in your P2P software.
7. e-Invoicing
While not all procurement solutions include e-Invoicing, there are some out there that offer it. Essentially, e-Invoicing is the automation and alignment between procurement and accounts payable. It helps speed up the payment portion of the purchase-to-pay cycle while maintaining visibility and compliance. You may not find this to be a necessity when looking at various P2P software, but it proves beneficial if you are looking to enhance payment control and overall responsiveness to invoices.
8. Built-in reporting capabilities
Automated reporting capabilities, as well as the ability to build independent reports, is a feature that is much-desired by procurement professionals. Built-in reporting provides users with strategic insight and control over real-time savings and spend management. P2P tools that capture important data throughout the purchase-to-pay lifecycle assist in monitoring performance, compliance and risk — and bring us to the Holy Grail of procurement…
9. Spend Analytics
What is your quest? To seek the Holy Grail! Which in procurement is, of course — savings. Best-in-breed P2P solutions will have embedded reporting capabilities to capture real-time data on savings, supplier spend, spend by region, and much more. This data is then analyzed and put into a digestible format so that you and your team can improve efficiency andcompliance, uncover maverick spend, and save more money for the organization.
10. Integrates with other tools
The benefits of having the right P2P solution in place can reach far beyond procurement, especially if the tool has the ability to integrate with other systems and/or exists on a platform that includes other modules that may impact procurement processes and efficiency, such as contract management, supplier management and sourcing.

In recent years, supply chains have become increasingly complex and, as a consequence, produced more data for companies to interpret. That need for additional interpretation - so firms  can make the most informed decisions about everything from partners to purchasing - comes with a cost. It may take even a highly qualified person dozens of additional hours to figure out what all that extra information means, whereas it would take a software program based around artificial intelligence mere seconds.

For that reason, AI has increasingly become a critical weapon in the arsenal of many companies at various steps of the supply chain, including industry titans like pharmaceutical giant Merck, according to CIO. Simply put, companies of all sizes have a financial incentive to improve the efficiency of their supply chains, and for larger firms in particular, the areas for investment - when taken correctly - can lead to notable improvements in the bottom line.

Interpreting data more effectively will be a boon to any business in the supply chain.Interpreting data more effectively will be a boon to any business in the supply chain.
As connected supply chains generate more data through additional buy-in, AI systems can quickly and easily identify patterns - and thus, potential inefficiencies - in that data far more quickly than a human could, the report said. As such, global investment in not only the technology that generates this data, but the AI that makes it actionable, is surging across the industry.

Positive and negative data
Data itself is a simple statement of fact; in some cases, those facts can be great for a business while in others, it can highlight a serious issue, according to Transforming Data with Intelligence.

Consequently, the more companies can do to make sure they cultivate and collect data on an ongoing basis, the better off they will be as it relates to seeing where they stand, and potentially identifying trends before they even arrive.

Just like anything else, there are ripples caused by any change in a supply chain, the report said. If one logistics firm three steps away in the supply chain has a two-day delay in its operations, that will be felt - potentially with magnified impact - at every additional step. Being able to see such an issue arising - thanks to AI - gives partner companies the ability to react with greater agility.

Working hand in hand
Because AI is increasingly common, it's also vital that companies do more to make sure they collect as much data as possible through devices connected to the internet of things, according to Business Insider. Global spending on AI is already surging, but for many businesses, that expenditure should be accompanied by a solid investment in IoT tech to ensure the full value of both is realized. Of course, many firms see that value proposition as one worth pursuing in the years ahead; while global IoT spending is expected to hit a little less than $250 billion this year, it should rise to as much as $450 billion by 2023.

Any supply chain participants that have not made at least some investment in these tech options within that time frame may find themselves falling behind the competition in short order.

As Procurement and Supply Chain professionals stare down an exciting new decade, our Source-to-Pay experts are once again sharing reflections and predictions in a new whitepaper. Procurement in 2020 sees the spend management leaders comment on the last twelve months and discuss the trends and topics that will define Procurement in the 2020s.

What's Next for Procurement? 

This time around, the Supply Chain thought leaders focus on subjects including: 
  • The ongoing conversation around sustainability and the perils of inaction
  • Ethical sourcing and its benefits for recruitment, customer satisfaction, and company culture. 
  • Procurement's essential role in promoting ethical behavior, driving visibility, and protecting corporate reputations. 
  • The considerable benefits of purpose-driven Procurement and Supply Chain Management.
  • Procurement's various talent gaps and the ongoing battle over world-class professionals. 
  • Digital transformation, its benefits, and the numerous obstacles in Procurement's way. 
That's just a small preview. To learn more about the exciting (and uncertain) future ahead, download Procurement in 2020 today. 

An all-too-common occurrence in the logistics industry is supply chains growing along with your company, but eventually become a bit too bloated to run at an optimal level. While there may only be some concerns here and there as supply chains evolve, it's wise for companies to do all in their power to slim down those inefficiencies and get their operations as lean as possible.

The biggest key to operating a lean supply chain and operation is for companies to make sure they build themselves out with flexibility in mind, industry expert Don Marshall told Supply Chain Digital. Every growth and investment decision should be made with the idea of being able to remain agile even as the business adapts to industry trends. That could be as simple as investing in smaller tech that's easy to build on, such as by adopting RFID tags for various aspects of your operations, or as big as moving to a building that's perhaps a bit bigger than is necessary today so the business can grow comfortably into a stronger future.

In addition, it's often a good idea to keep an employee pool relatively small, as a means of ensuring everyone is on the same page, Marshall told the site. While this obviously doesn't mean companies should cut the talent they have, being a little more cautious about undertaking temporary hiring sprees could serve them well in the future.

Look for ways to slim down logistics operations.Look for ways to slim down logistics operations.
Digging into the processes
While the above is certainly an outline for how companies can build the infrastructure needed to support themselves as they slim down their supply chain, there are many processes that go into making that a reality, according to The Balance Small Business. That starts with procurement; it's vital to ensure one hand knows what the other is doing at all times, so duplicate orders of items to ship or materials used in production are kept to a minimum and there is no wasted money or space.

Likewise, it's important to make sure warehousing practices are kept streamlined, with on-hand inventory numbers kept just-right, and everything arranged so the most wanted items are easily accessible for pickers and packers, the report said. Then, everything can be shipped out with greater efficiency, keeping transport costs to a minimum as well.

Getting it right
Of course, for companies to truly succeed in slimming down their supply chain, they need insight into - and buy-in from - every department, according to long-time industry leader Chris Anton, writing for Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

"From a warehouse and distribution center view, this would be an excellent time to actually practice another old-school management technique: management by walking around or MBWA," Anton wrote. "Take the time to explore the distribution center, looking at obvious places to evaluate."

That kind of teamwork not only makes the vision behind these changes more likely to address company-wide needs, but also requires everyone to understand the benefits they will reap from pulling in the same direction on the project from Day 1.

This blog comes to us from Ashley Brizendine, Marketing Manager at Determine, a Corcentric Company. 

Eliminating the Fear of AI.

As procurement professionals across the globe embrace the Digital Transformation and all of the changes that come with it, it would be remiss not to mention the hesitancy and scepticism that P2P pros also experience when it comes to certain advanced technologies — in particular, artificial intelligence (AI). An unfounded fear looms over this forward-thinking automation, with workers and industries alike suspecting that AI will eliminate entirely the need for a human workforce. However, a recent webinar sponsored by Corcentric reveals just the opposite. The webinar, 3 Things P2P Pros Need to Know About AI, defines artificial intelligence, breaks down its specific capabilities and uncovers the key benefits it provides to procurement.

Defined as the ‘Holy Grail of Computer Science’ by Bill Gates, AI still remains to be mysterious terrain for most. Mark Brousseau, the host of the webinar, helps clear the air by giving us an altruistic definition of AI and its purpose. According to Mark, AI enables software and machines to understand tasks — allowing technology to perform human intelligence. AI is capable of:

  • Understanding tasks
  • Analyzing data sets and patterns
  • Employing “machine learning”
  • Training itself to recognize documents
  • Information mining
  • Monitoring business processes

From this list of capabilities alone, it becomes easier for P2P pros to understand how AI might be helpful to their line of work. Let’s review some of the key benefits that make artificial intelligence a tool to be desired, not feared.

AI Improves Productivity

P2P functions remain heavily dependent on manual processes, with most of a procurement professional’s time spent processing transactions rather than working on value-added tasks like cash flow analysis or supplier management. AI works to analyze large amounts of data, identify patterns and features within the data and applies what it learns to new data. This gives precious time back to procurement, empowering P2P pros to be more strategic in nature and plug away at identifying opportunities to improve upon operational efficiencies and effectiveness.

Better Cash Management

The world of P2P comes with a lot of data, and that is an understatement. Spreadsheets upon spreadsheets, paper reports, and file cabinets full of data that we’re never quite sure what to do with, or simply don’t have the time or resources to dissect. AI captures all of this data, helps us manage and make sense of it, and is capable of integrating with an array of other systems so that the data is easily transferred and visible across the organization. In turn, this “dark data” becomes something procurement can leverage to improve cash management.

AI: The Risk Mitigator

With payment fraud on the rise and an increasing number of government mandates to follow, procurement teams are under a microscope and a great deal of pressure when it comes to monitoring transactions and mitigating risk. And chances are slim that every piece of data can be tested for potential issues. AI is continuously running the background; providing constant data testing and monitoring and identifying any compliance issues.

So have no fear, AI is not a threat to procurement professionals. Rather, it will enable us to spend more time performing tasks that create added value, while also continuously working to improve process efficiencies and the overall effectiveness of the organization. Understanding the benefits provided to us by AI and forging a symbiotic relationship between human talent and technology is fundamental as the Digital Transformation progresses.

Many experts in the supply chain sector agree that more likely needs to be done to ensure companies at every step are keeping up with changing technology and opportunities. Doing so these days is often seen as part and parcel with making sure the supply chain is as simultaneously secure and open as possible, so real-time information is shared easily but remains protected.

One of the big concerns many companies may have about implementing such technology, however, is what it might do to their workforce, according to Supply Chain Digital. However, even as automation of certain processes in the supply chain is taking hold - such as using AI to interpret large data sets in seconds, or utilizing robots to pick certain items off shelves - there is little question about the importance of the human involvement in that work to double-check computerized management efforts, make sure picking is done properly, pack shipments and more.

The warehouse of the future may not look that much different from today's.The warehouse of the near future may not look that much different from today's.
The way forward, then, is likely to make sure human skills are optimized for a more automated environment and make sure there are always non-automated tasks for them to complete, the report said. This may require companies to rejigger their training efforts or otherwise change their traditional ways of doing business, but the concern that people will be pushed out of the supply chain in favor of 100% automation, at this point, seems ill-founded.

Getting in front of the trends
Instead of investing whole-hog in automation-specific technologies these days it may be more judicious for companies to make investments in the tech that undergirds it, according to Logistics Viewpoints. For instance, companies would be wise to ensure there is a strong 5G capability and readiness within every aspect of their operations, so the sheer volume of connected devices that will likely come under their roof in the years ahead are able to get the bandwidth they need.

Combining that investment with plans for future efforts around incorporating AI and robotics will likely form a potent combination that guarantees companies remain competitive, even in the face of ever-growing competition, the report said. Once that's done, there can be other tech investment considerations made as well.

Addressing the issues
Meanwhile, it's important for companies to consider both their own needs - for instance, whether their legacy ERP needs to be updated or completely replaced - as well as industry trends like broader use of warehouse and transportation management systems, according to Packaging World. That may mean collaborating with their various partners throughout the supply chain to ensure they're all on the same page when it comes to software and hardware adoption going forward.

Certainly, the more companies can do to start planning their investment cycles for 2020 - and beyond - the better off they will be when it comes to competing in an ever-changing and evolving supply chain ecosystem.
Throughout the decade, a "talent gap" has plagued Procurement. Most organizations simply cannot get a hold of the talent they need to make Procurement a value generator and thrive in a new digital era. Even fewer businesses can convince leading talent to stick around. According the latest Deloitte CPO survey, just 46% of Procurement leaders have faith in their teams.

To make matters worse, the "gap" is really several gaps. Organizations aren't just lacking for one set of skills. In addition to Procurement's traditional skill set, they're looking for candidates with a wealth of technological know-how as well as so-called "soft skills." They've got their work cut out for them.

Where can organizations start? Check out the infographic below for some suggestions.

Procurement's lingering talent gap is just one of the subjects Corcentric discusses in Procurement in 2020. Download the whitepaper today for a comprehensive look at the trends and topics that will define the next decade of Supply Chain Management.
I made a prediction earlier in the month that more organizations will look to become greener this year. There are plenty of things organizations can do to improve their sustainability, but Procurement pros are in an excellent position to help lead their organizations to meeting these goals. Why? Because we move beyond the confines of our facilities and can have an impact with all the suppliers our organizations choose to buy from.

So, what can Procurement do to help make our organizations more sustainable and environmentally focused, while still working to reduce costs and promote efficient purchasing?

“Sell” Green 

There’s cost savings in these initiatives, but also a level of change required to make them work – and it isn’t always easy to get stakeholders onboard with these changes. Here’s a tale of two organizations’ janitorial service providers to show what I mean.

Both organizations wanted to cut costs and considered moving to linerless trach receptacles to do it. Plastic trash bags take a notoriously long time to decompose (anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years). Cutting liners out can have a huge environmental impact for a large office – but requires personal change. One organization ended up cutting 80% of their liners to get greener and cut 2.5% of their monthly janitorial costs as a bonus. But this required employees to throw away gunky garbage (think lunch waste) in the still-lined receptacles in break rooms. The other organization’s management team felt this was too much of a burden to place on employees. Liners stayed in place.

Before we can start building a green Procurement strategy, we need to get our organizations and suppliers excited about the opportunities they bring. Is 2.5% monthly savings on janitorial services “worth it?” It certainly helps to position a change on cost benefits, but ultimately there’s an attitude change that needs to take place as well.

Establish Green Go-To-Market Events

Reducing or eliminating trash liners is just one green example. Green packaging options can cut waste while still offering exceptional protection for goods. Organizations can also push paperless initiatives. They can purchase green office and cleaning supplies, and eliminate disposable breakroom supplies in favor of reusable dishes and utensils. For organizations in deregulated areas, they can switch energy suppliers to those that offer green energy.

Procurement, naturally, has a hand in all of these decisions. As such, we should brainstorm such opportunities and propose go-to-market initiatives to bring such products in.

Even if a market event isn’t specifically focused on a green initiative, Procurement can promote sustainable purchases by including green elements in RFP documents. Ask suppliers to highlight green products in their quotes. Ask suppliers to outline their own green initiatives, and define what percent of their own suppliers offer green products and services. Make your commitment clear from the beginning.

Be a Green Advocate

Gut check question: Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? Follow-up: Have you already given up on any? If you have, you aren’t alone – less than 25% of people stick with resolutions after January ends.

Sticking with green initiatives will be much the same – it isn’t enough to sell green strategies once, or launch a few isolated green market events.

  • Work with management to set annual sustainability goals. Help the cause by tracking green purchases monthly as one of the overarching KPIs of this goal.
  • Work with suppliers as well. This will be particularly important for smaller suppliers that may not have much experience with sustainability initiatives, and don’t have the resources to devote to full-time team members to focus on being green. 

It Ain’t Easy Being Green

Beyond reducing environmental impact, there are certainly opportunities for cost savings from going green. But reducing an organizational environmental footprint and achieving those savings isn’t always easy.

Dedication is needed to identify green opportunities, see them through, and ensure that sustainability initiatives are a consistent focus as time goes by.