An Interview on Digital Procurement with Charlotte de Brabandt and Max Kent
In this episode of Supplier Experience Live, we welcome Charlotte de Brabandt and Max Kent. Max is Vice President of Global Procurement at AP automation experts, Compleat Software. Charlotte is speaker, trainer, and ambassador for the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) with over 10 years of experience in global procurement.
In this episode, we explore the topic of digitalization in Procurement, including the concept of a digital-first approach, the growth of new technologies and a discussion on the issue of bad data.
The shift towards a digital-first approach
Charlotte begins with a piece of research from Kinsey, which reveals how COVID has accelerated the digitalization of companies’ operations. Charlotte points out that no industries or companies were exempt from these trends, as they all had to adapt not merely to achieve competitive advantage, but in order to survive. This has also brought about an increase in innovative practices, she believes.
“Companies are forced to suddenly take investments, to get funding for digital initiatives and this has increased, in my opinion, more than anything else,” Charlotte adds.
Max agrees, pointing out how many companies were not prepared for this new business and economic environment. As a result, they needed to implement changes as soon as possible, as they were being forced to, due to new rules, regulations and laws.
In terms of his own experience, Max explains, “It went through the roof, in terms of demand, in terms of people wanting to access their data and wanting to automate their procurement processes, after finding, for example, that their suppliers were not getting paid because all the invoices were going to office locations where no one was. (…) I think we’re just going to carry on with that trend now. I think that the wheels are turning now – and actually this has some really good positive benefits.”
Both Max and Charlotte agree that a digital-first approach will only be possible if implemented from the top-down, through the right leadership.
New technologies and how ‘less’ is not always ‘more’
Max highlights how more technologies are now being used than ever before, which is a good thing as “the more comfortable you are with the multiple pieces of software, the easier it is for you to go to different businesses, to a different company. You could literally switch your screen on one day working for one company, on one system, and the next day you could be working for a totally different company on a totally different system.” He believes that this adaptability brings benefits for everyone.
Charlotte agrees and adds that the use of more specialized systems and the automation of processes means that Procurement professionals’ time and resources can be better used elsewhere and spent on completing strategic, long-term and visionary tasks instead.
As these types of technologies become mainstream, more affordable and easier to use, they are also becoming accessible for everyone, rather than just enterprise companies. “Overall, we see a lot less stress because the customer is in control and they get to make their own decisions. They feel empowered. They have this stress-free environment, where they don’t need to wait for others to make certain implementations in their systems or processes,” Charlotte adds.
The data dilemma and making a business case for digital procurement & technological innovation
On the topic of data, Charlotte expressed dismay that so many companies are still using Excel spreadsheets to manage their supplier data. She adds, “I’m so surprised, with all of the advancement in technologies, that this seems to still be one of the areas where we must improve, our supplier data management.”
She further cites a D&B article which reveals that 20% of business addresses and 17% of businesses’ names change every year. Therefore, for a company even with just 1000 suppliers, the time and resources needed to keep that data manually, rather than automatically updated, are extreme and unnecessary.
For companies to be open to investing in new technologies, a business case detailing the benefits is required. Max suggests focusing on data analysis and presenting proof of concept by taking those in charge on a journey which will show them how certain technologies can advance the business, save time, save costs and align better overall with business goals.