An Interview on Taking Procurement to the Next Level with Rich Sains
For this episode of Supplier Experience Live Podcast, we were joined by Rich Sains. Rich is a procurement practitioner who has spent over twenty years working in a number of organizations for various industries, including retail, hospitality, and FMCG. After gaining experience, Rich went on to establish his own business, Acada, which provides a procurement platform focused on performance, insights and analysis that helps procurement teams increase capacity and reduce time to value.
With Rich we discussed:
- How Procurement has evolved to become a more strategic function
- How transformation impacts people, skills and roadmaps needed today
- The technological revolution of Procurement
Procurement as a strategic function
Rich started off the discussion by explaining how, in the last few years, Procurement has been becoming respected as a function within organizations, as it moves away from looking at traditional cost-savings as the only measurement of value it can bring.
“Procurement has become much more strategic, especially over the last two years since the pandemic, but even prior to that the reputation was growing and moving away from some of the tactical and admin work that we’ve been doing in the past. I think there’s definitely a better understanding of what Procurement does and the value that it can bring,” he says.
Over the years, Procurement has, from a digital perspective, fallen behind other business functions such as Sales, Marketing, HR, and Finance. Those functions have seen much more investment in technologies that have elevated them to where they are today. Rich believes now is the time for Procurement to have its ‘15 minutes of fame,’ as new forms of technologies enter the market.
“We’ve got this great new wave of digital technology that’s coming into the function that will help to take it to the next level. […] We can’t afford for Procurement to stay very process-oriented and very slow; we’ve got to use digitization to close that gap. We’ve got to move at the speed of the business,” he explains.
Transformation: People, skills and the importance of the roadmap
When asked about the digital side of Procurement, Rich highlighted one of the most important aspects that is too often overlooked: people. It is people who need to adopt and adapt to new technologies, to the new environment and who need to have the right mindset, focused on continuous improvement.
“One of the key areas where teams fall down is that they don’t always have the right skills. Having the right digital skills is vital. That means potentially bringing in people from other parts of the business and, clearly, you can up skill procurement people as well,” he believes.
Aside from the people aspect, having a digital roadmap is critical to successfully embedding new technology into the business and into Procurement processes. According to Rich, the entire Procurement strategy needs to be designed around the digital roadmap, and vice versa.
“I think you’ve also got to think about the processes and the data behind it as well. I think Procurement has got quite a big problem with data; a lot of the data is owned by different functions. It’s very siloed and that can be quite painful. So, as part of the roadmap, we want to be making sure that we’ve got the current state thinking about what objectives we’re looking to achieve, and then design for your strategy,” he advises.
Overall, the market and processes concerning digital transformation have changed in recent years. Five to ten years ago, the only way to make a change was through complex, difficult, expensive, and time-consuming processes and systems. Nowadays, new technologies have lowered barriers to entry.
“I think people hear about transformation and think there’s going to be a big change. There’s going to be disruption and lots of additional effort for me – and that can switch people off. What teams need to be doing is thinking of it with a more agile mindset, focusing on that continuous improvement. In order to do that you need to be ensuring that there’s an incremental investment in technology. So, making that part of your ‘business as usual’ rather than saying we need to go out and do something big and complex,” Rich explains.
Technological revolution of Procurement
When asked about recommendations for enterprises looking for technological solutions, Rich says it should not be an insurmountable task, provided there is a proper process and access to resources, such as scouting agencies and thought leaders from the industry.
“Look at the gaps you have, the current state, and where you want to get to. Build that roadmap and get the funding and sponsorship that you need in order to undertake this, and then really understand what the technology landscape is like,” he advises.
Finally, Rich is optimistic and excited about the future of Procurement, as the function is starting to co-create and innovate with suppliers. Rich believes it will only become even more pro-active, forward-thinking, strategic, and valuable.
“I feel like Procurement really can be a very creative function, a very commercial function, solving business challenges and really leveraging the value of our supplier base to drive competition and innovation,” he concludes.