Source One's latest whitepaper series offers reflections from a variety of Supply Management's most notable thought leaders. Providing their unique perspectives, these recognized authorities discuss the evolving and ever-popular topic of Procurement Transformation. This week, we're taking a closer look at the third installment in the series. Titled "People, Processes, Technologies," it examines the various interdependent components of a successful Transformation.
In his contribution to Procurement Transformation: Industry Perspectives, JAGGAER's Kristian O'Meara discusses the hype that tends to surround new Procurement technologies. While Procurement is a unique function in many ways - uniquely collaborative, uniquely innovative, uniquely impactful - O'Meara is quick to inform reader that it's just like every department in one crucial way. It's often over-impressed with new technologies. "Too often," he writes, "the appearance of a new technology is perceived as a 'magic bullet' for the department's problem du jour."
The enthusiasm surrounding Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and the like is largely understandable. Though these technologies have hardly reached their full potential, the possibilities look just about endless. What's more, Procurement departments have grown accustomed to tactical obscurity within their organizations. Naturally, CPOs and other leaders within the department are eager to stand at the cutting-edge. This eagerness often inspires them to sink resources into wrong-fit technologies. O'Meara remarks, "A CPO may be so excited to stand at the forefront of their industry that they neglect to ask why they ought to, or how they should."
O'Meara makes it clear that curiosity and an innovative spirit are key if Procurement wants to continue its decades-long strategic evolution. These qualities, however, must go hand-in-hand with "caution and healthy skepticism." To support his argument, O'Meara quotes Bill Gates' famous rules for business technology, "Automation applies to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency . . . automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."
In addition to skepticism and curiosity, O'Meara advocates for more active listening in Procurement's approach to technology. "Great listeners," he says, "make great leaders." Great listeners will more effectively familiarize themselves with every department's goals to drive enterprise-wide initiatives. They'll also foster a sense of collaboration that should prove essential to any transformation.
He concludes with a reminder for readers. Procurement's technologies, he suggests, are only effective when they're aligned with the department's processes and people. "Technology alone won't drive Procurement's future or facilitate its transformation," he writes, "prizing technology at the expense of people and processes is worse than putting the cart before the horse . . it's like leaving the horse in a ditch, telling the driver to go home, and waiting for the cart to drive itself."