Webinar highlights: How to drive successful procurement transformation

  • Ruth Crawford
    July 19, 2023

Get key takeaways from our expert-led discussion on how to drive successful procurement transformation, with industry Procurement Directors and CASME.

When we think about transformation in procurement, it’s easy to forget the fundamentals. There’s a common tendency to get caught up in how the latest technologies can help us evolve or what the most pressing challenge in the market is right now.

But for truly successful transformation, it’s worth coming back to three core tenets of effective organisational change: clarity and alignment on goals, digital transformation, and talent.

In our recent webinar, focused on these three discussion points, we were joined by procurement experts for an in-depth conversation about how to ensure successful procurement transformation. 

You can watch the conversation on demand to get the expert panel’s complete advice for driving transformation, drawing on their decades of experience in the industry. We’ve also captured some of the key takeaways below.

Panel attendees:

  • Omer Abdullah – Co-Founder, The Smart Cube
  • Graham Crawshaw – Procurement Content Director, CASME
  • Andre Almeida – Procurement Director LATAM, AkzoNobel
  • Anastasio Yehyawi Valenzuela – Senior Director Procurement, (formerly Chobani and Unilever)

Align procurement’s goals with the wider organisation

Starting the session, Graham asked the audience what they consider the biggest challenge in driving procurement transformation – and nobody on the panel was surprised to see that resistance to change from stakeholders was the top result. 

“I’d say that around a third of stakeholders often don’t understand why changes happen. That’s why it’s important to communicate why the changes you’re making are so important to the wider enterprise,” explained Andre. “Think about what the benefits are for procurement, your stakeholders, and your organisation.”

This point tied directly into one of the key ideas that drove the conversation; thinking about procurement as part of the wider business. As Anastasio added, “When we drive transformation in an entity like procurement, it’s often part of a whole collective corporate transformation. It has to be aligned with the strategic goals of the organisation. Procurement isn’t an island; it’s part of a big ecosystem.”

While gaining stakeholder support might be a significant challenge, the audience shared that executive support for transformation is already there – and in many cases, it’s driving the direction of transformation throughout the organisation. 

“You should be starting with the corporate strategy and driving that down throughout the organisation,” added Omer. “When we think about trade-offs in terms of cost, innovation, risk, and stakeholder satisfaction, they should be aligned to corporate goals. For example, if you’re a CPG company, you might be focused on driving customer satisfaction and innovation – and that should be part of your procurement transformation.” 

Andre shared similar thoughts, adding that each element of the transformation should be led by specific people. “At the end of the day, it’s about having the right people doing the right things,” he explained. “Having people that are constantly looking at risk, thinking about customer satisfaction, or truly understanding your stakeholders’ desires can go a long way.”

Digital transformation is a catalyst for procurement transformation

Digital transformation is a term that can mean something different for every organisation, but the panel highlighted that it should be looked at as a driver of change in procurement. 

“It’s merely a tool – it’s a catalyst. It’s important not to lose sight of what we’re doing,” explained Anastasio. “It’s the greater strategic vision that’s really important. From there, everything will fall into place.”

Andre added to this point, sharing how the concept of digital transformation in procurement has shifted in recent years. “The world has become much more competitive. Just ten to twenty years ago, procurement was mostly focused on cost savings, but now there’s so much more to think about,” explained Andre. “It’s now about considering how we can improve customer satisfaction, quality, and supply chain resilience – and digital transformation is something that enables that.” 

Of course, it’s easy to look to digital transformation as a way to solve these challenges, but finding the right technologies is a challenge in itself. Fortunately, Anastasio and Andre both had some advice. 

“You need to think about the core competencies of your organisation. You can’t just copy another business’ strategy, because every organisation is different,” explained Anastasio. “Understand your own strengths and weaknesses – do your own SWOT analysis.” 

“I’d also suggest really understanding your enterprise strategy, and asking: ‘Where do we want to go as an organisation?’” added Andre. “Then consider how procurement can support and enable that strategy with the right technology.”

Graham also offered his perspective from the CASME community, suggesting that digital transformation doesn’t need to be as complex as we often make it. “I don’t think there’s one solution; I think it’s a real mix of things. For the procurement function, it’s about looking at how you do things and seeing if there’s an easier way to get them done,” he suggested. “Consider where you can make those little improvements…it’s a constant change.”

Talent should sit at the heart of procurement transformation 

While innovative technologies are transforming the way procurement operates, the panel highlighted that it’s still a very human function, and talent is always going to be a key element in driving transformation.

“Talent needs to be front and centre of the transformation agenda,” suggested Omer. “If we don’t rethink our talent needs today, we’re not going to succeed.”

This was a shared perspective across the panel, and as the conversation continued, we started to uncover some of the key skills that will be important to invest in over the next few years. 

“I think stakeholder management is going to be a skill that’s even more valuable in the future. We won’t have to work with repetitive tasks as much, so we’ll have more time to focus on stakeholder relationships,” suggested Andre. “I think there’s also a huge gap between data scientists and management. It’s hard to find people who can translate what a data scientist is saying into business language.”

Anastasio shared similar thoughts, re-emphasising the human element that sits at the heart of procurement. “AI is just a tool – we still have to be able to interpret the outcomes. You need people with sound business decision mindsets,” he explained. “Procurement is a human function.”

Andre added that the function is built on internal and external relationships. “You have to talk to your suppliers, talk to your stakeholders, understand what they all want and add value. And in my opinion, with new technology, it’s going to become even more of a relationship function.”

Get the full conversation on demand

This is just a snapshot of what we covered in the conversation. 

Watch the session on demand to get all the experts’ insights, including what they’re prioritising over the coming years, how they’ve driven procurement transformation in the past, and what they recommend procurement leaders should be thinking about today.

Watch our on-demand recording.