Returning after a three-year hiatus, Digital Procurement World was one of the most highly anticipated events in the 2022 Procurement calendar. And just like every major Procurement technology and service provider in Europe, The Smart Cube was proud and excited to be in attendance.
Unsurprisingly, the event showcased a very different digital Procurement landscape to that seen when the event last ran in 2019. If you didn’t get the chance to attend – or even if you did – here are some of our experts’ top takeaways from the event.
Key takeaway 1: Companies are embracing digital Procurement ecosystems, but be wary of digital fatigue
- Yash Rai, Vice President, Procurement and Supply Chain Solutions
We’ve been saying for a while now that the days of ‘one size fits all’ digital Procurement suites are numbered. Based on the sheer number of digital start-ups in attendance at DPW 2022 alone, that certainly seems to be ringing true across the industry today.
Across multiple keynotes and sessions at the event it became clear that more and more companies are embracing an ecosystem-based approach to Procurement technology. They’re building bespoke tech portfolios, combining capabilities from multiple companies to create the exact set of tools they need to tackle their Procurement challenges.
But, while plenty of people were eager to discuss that approach and talk about the specific capabilities they’ve been experimenting with, only a small fraction of those teams seemed to provide enterprise wide deployment success stories and best practices.
There’s no doubt that building and curating an ecosystem of specialised solutions and capabilities is the best way to empower the modern Procurement function. But the teams driving digitalisation must ensure that the tools they choose are fully aligned with the needs, challenges, and preferences of the Procurement team. It should empower your people, which means carefully planning and managing change and not rushing it, to ensure digital fatigue doesn’t set in.
In other words, the AI and digital capabilities they deploy must complement and augment their HI – their Human Intelligence. The Smart Cube has long championed a balanced approach to AI and HI in Procurement, and it’s very exciting to see more and more organisations start to recognise how the two should be applied in tandem to enable Procurement success.
Key takeaway 2: As Procurement digitisation and transformation progress, organisations need to ensure they’re still delivering the insights teams need today
- Tim Storrie, VP Client Solutions, Analytics and Intelligence
It was amazing to see so many businesses embracing digital Procurement and investing in advancing their Procurement workflows and operations. I’m seeing the kinds of long-term transformational mindsets needed to help Procurement fulfil its full potential.
But as teams fix their sights on the technology for the future, it’s important that they don’t lose focus of what Procurement teams need today. Transformation shouldn’t come at the cost of the high-ROI content teams need to keep making good decisions day-to-day.
There are still numerous major disruptive events ongoing across Europe and beyond. To mitigate the impacts of those threats and capitalise on opportunities, Procurement teams need actionable insights now – not a couple of years down the line.
Looking forward, I suspect that the most successful Procurement organisations over the next few years will be the ones that can carefully balance long-term evolution with the short-term demands of teams operating in volatile markets and categories.
Key takeaway 3: A lot new ‘digital’ roles in attendance, which tells us a lot about the future of Procurement
- Alok Agarwal, Vice President, Procurement and Supply Chain Solutions
A lot has changed in the Procurement world since 2019. But one of the biggest surprises at DPW 2022 was all of the new digital-related job titles on the list of attendees. From Digital Procurement Directors and Innovation Managers, to Digital Transformation Leads, organisations across multiple industries are cementing their commitment to digital Procurement innovation through the creation of new senior roles.
That makes sense. Impactful and successful change of any kind requires specific leadership. But the question that immediately jumped to mind for me was “where have these people come from?”
After a few conversations around the show floor, it became clear that a lot of these people weren’t new hires. In many cases, they seemed to be new titles for those that previously headed up Procurement Centres of Excellence (CoEs).
Again, that makes a lot of sense. The CoE exists to advance and empower the Procurement organisation, just as a digital transformation or innovation lead would. But something I’m very keen to keep an eye on is whether the redefinition of those roles leads to a shift in focus away from the other essential services provided by CoEs.
Just as Tim pointed out, it’s perhaps another piece of evidence that the shift towards long-term transformational thinking has the potential to create short-term gaps in how well the Procurement team is enabled and empowered day-to-day.
Key takeaway 4: When choosing technology partners, organisations seem a lot less risk-averse – but de-risking Procurement is still high on their agendas
- Marcy Bucci, Vice President Procurement Analytics & Intelligence
Standing in the crowd at DPW 2022, it was hard to believe that not too long ago, “start-up” was almost a dirty word in the world of Procurement technology. In the past, there were a few suites of proven Procurement solutions out there, and the function’s digital journey largely amounted to making an informed choice between them.
Now, things look very different. The sheer number of focused start-up technology partners exhibiting at the event was amazing. But what was even more incredible was how willing even the most historically risk-averse organisations were to engage with them.
The partnership landscape has evolved. Teams are willing to take a chance on unproven (or at least, less proven) vendors, so long as they appear to have the specific capabilities their organisation needs.
Interestingly, amongst the technologies on show at the event, the largest crowds seemed to congregate around those associated with tackling Procurement and supply risk. Looking back at the three years we’ve all just been through – and the disruptive events still ongoing today – it’s easy to understand why.
But that throws up its own interesting question. If Procurement teams are willing to take a risk on unproven technology partners to help them reduce risk, are they not simply swapping one risk for another?
In practice, the two types of risk aren’t similar, however it’s interesting to observe these shifts in mindset. I’m looking forward to seeing how things evolve, and what Procurement’s position on digital and operation risk looks like in a few years’ time.
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To explore our latest Procurement insights, or discover how The Smart Cube could help you balance short- and long-term Procurement demands, and strike the right balance between AI and HI in your organisation, visit our website.