The Point by Buyers Meeting Point
Webinar Notes: The Digital Procurement Era
This week’s webinar notes are from a May 23rd event hosted by BravoSolution (part of their 2017 Real World Procurement Series) and presented by Dr. Rob Handfield, Executive Director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, and the co-author of The Procurement Value Proposition and a new title being released in June, The LIVING Supply Chain: The Evolving Imperative of Operating in Real Time. The webinar is already available on demand here.
While it is an oversimplification to say that ‘digital procurement’ consists of efforts that never have to transition into paper form in order to move forward, that quality is central to the advancement that digital procurement allows. As Rob pointed out, digital capabilities – specifically communication and payment – are what allow Uber to flourish all over the world.
When interactions are not bound by location, everything can become decentralized and virtual – and the shift is not confined to intra-company contact. Companies like Amazon and Google are able to cross into seemingly unrelated industries based on a core capability that they figure out how to apply elsewhere. Individuals can become part of powerful global trends by engaging on social media. The resulting business environment is far less divided into big and small, new and established than we have been accustomed to in the past.
What are we supposed to do in the face of all this convergence? Speed up. Velocity was central to Rob’s presentation, specifically in the context of customer value creation. When goods and information flow faster and with less friction, decisions can be made quickly and with greater accuracy. Velocity will create competitive advantage for organizations that can integrate it into their culture, along the lines of evolution and the survival of the fittest. The question remaining for me is whether we can build velocity as an individual talent capability?
Most of us have woken to the idea that each organization must act as a productive member of a larger chain – or ‘ecosystem’ as Rob put it. We need to take a multi-functional, multi-organizational view at all times, and the business objectives of all parties involved must be aligned. The silos that we are trying to drive out of our companies block our view of data, obscuring the truth and slowing our reactions. The same is true in up- and downstream supply chains. If we are to move to an ecosystem view, we need to be prepared for some new dynamics: not all organizations in the ecosystem are equal, and their relative importance is not necessarily dictated by their size. When we identify the critical player in the entire top to bottom chain, it may even be a surprise (I believe Rob shared that the wildebeest plays this role in nature – hence the picture above).
Finally, no discussion of the supply chain is complete without an acknowledgement of risk. When we accept unpredictability as a constant condition, the only available solution is more access to high quality, real time data. Timeliness is what builds trust and allows decision makers to move the business forward quickly, ultimately leading to additional investments in / greater awareness of the need for accountability and sustainability throughout the ecosystem.