Integration Of Multiple Technologies For Improved And Efficient Procurement Ecosystems
The procurement domain has always been quite dynamic, but the covid-19 pandemic acted as a driving force that threw several companies into a tailspin. In an exclusive interview with CIO Applications, Jaime Robles, Vice President Procurement & Sourcing at Casey’s, explains how such businesses can leverage the amalgamation of various technologies to execute their procurement strategies effectively. Having worked in the procurement and supply chain sector for over two decades, with industry giants such as Phillips, Walmart, and GE, Jaime is an expert in the field and has worked in over ten different countries. Jaime shares the industry know-how and the best strategies that business leaders must focus on.
What are some trends or noticeable paradigm shifts in the procurement landscape?
Several CPOs are still debating the kind of procurement model they must use. The latest trends in the domain are less focused on controlling procurement process and more on gaining better visibility and transparency plus data analytics. Procurement Category Manager roles are becoming outdated, and businesses utilize customer-centric data analytical services to bring more value to their brands. Another prevalent trend is that organizations decide how to build their procurement ecosystem. Several solution providers enable businesses to connect various systems to core technology and adapt swiftly to the dynamic market scenarios by becoming more agile.
“Businesses direly need strategic sourcing expertise where employees can collect data and analyze it, share that data with stakeholders and suppliers, and eventually execute a business strategy that complements their goals”
How do you evaluate the right technology that you use for procurement? What are the checklist contents that you’d follow, and how would you oversee its successful implementation?
Currently, in the global business arena, procurement technologies are disrupters. My approach while building category management, procure-to-pay, or other procurement organizations, is always unconventional. I initiate the process by positioning technology at the core. The core source-to-pay technology comprehensively addresses the problems businesses face—whether it’s about daily operations, management of user requests, connection with vendors, analysis of cost margins, and the impact they can have on P&L.
At Casey’s, we selected Coupa as the core source to pay technology partner, but I firmly believe that a company needs different elements of the procurement ecosystem from different providers. For Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM), we partnered with iCertis. We integrated their solution with Coupa and other vendor called Apex Analytics for Supplier Master Data. This is how we built an ecosystem of different interconnected technologies. I believe that category management roles can be more relevant when data and analytics play a center role and procurement operating models navigate around the technology. Businesses direly need strategic sourcing expertise where employees can collect data and analyze it, share that data with stakeholders and suppliers, and eventually execute a business strategy that complements their goals. Our thought process while building these procurement ecosystems is to deliver the most value to the company.
While selecting the technology, the first thing to bear in mind is that it must be customizable, adaptable, and flexible enough to address the challenges of a particular company or industry. Secondly, businesses need a solution that is constantly evolving and improving. Considering that the pandemic was critically disruptive for supply chains, companies are now contemplating how they can improve their operations by embracing technology. By the time they finalize their implementation strategy, their choice of technology is already obsolete. Hence, a constantly evolving technology is a must. Meanwhile, the quintessential element of integrating these technologies lies in selecting the right integration partner.
There are a plethora of consulting firms available in the market that businesses can choose from. But the determining factor is the sheer speed and scale at which they can understand and adapt to your business needs while executing the integration. In addition to this, the vendors must also possess expertise in modifying the implementation process in accordance with the dynamic market scenarios, budgets, and customer concerns. We partnered with the Shelby Group for integration with Coupa. They have been an extremely reliable partner for us.
What is your suggestion on procurement to work in good cordiality with the rest of the organization? From a leader’s standpoint, what is your idea of an ideal procurement operation?
Procurement is a shared responsibility. In my opinion, procurement teams must be customer and service-oriented. Businesses must work closely with their partner and adopt a strategy that focuses on providing exceptional customer experience and satisfaction. Companies must also provide an outstanding experience to their internal stakeholders and suppliers as, in the end, they must act as an enabler or facilitator between them.
At Casey’s, the business model that we implement is a self-service model, where we do all the legwork for the company and build all the interfaces to provide a touchless and digital experience to our customers. They can venture into the platform, select what they need without any interference from the procurement teams, and interact directly with the vendor. We have positioned our procurement functionalities so that we are empowered to provide positive customer service with a meaningful experience, and it goes the same way with our suppliers. We want them to happily work in tandem with us and see us as partners rather than competitors.
What would be your advice to somebody who’s following your path?
Well, the first thing they need to ensure is to understand the role of procurement in their company agenda. Business leaders firstly need to make procurement a relevant part of their organization, the value it will bring to the table, and the improvement and enhancement it needs.
Secondly, they need to ask themselves these critical questions:
• How do we take procurement to the next level?
• How can we become more agile?
• How can we digitalize procurement and make it more relevant and fast and provide a better customer experience?
Then they need to ask questions from a technology standpoint: • Do we need different technologies?
• Do we understand where we are and where we want to progress?
• What are the inadequacies?
Often businesses don’t execute proper procurement transformation strategies. They just do procurement re-organization, change the titles, and continue the same operations. What they need to do is challenge how they currently conduct their business and how they can leverage technology to improve that. Indeed, some investment is needed, but the ROI is immense, such as cost-reduction, improved operational efficiency, and better management. Additionally, there are several experts, companies, and colleagues who are willing to help such businesses throughout the process and share their experiences.
Looking ahead, what plans do you have in refining procurement for Casey’s? Where do you see the procurement landscape evolving, and how do you plan to position yourself accordingly?
Here at Casey’s, they gave me the responsibility to build a procurement organization. We had to build procurement from the ground up and prepare a three-year roadmap on how the plan will be executed, and we are midway right now, procurement foundation is done with fantastic results. The team is able to deliver value and results along the way as the company is constantly evolving. What we plan to do now is to take it to the next level through a systematic maturity process, where we will finalize integrating other technologies. Casey’s will have 95% plus visibility and outstanding alignment of technologies, giving it flexibility and removing waste our of the system while implementing automation on every corner. We are growing tremendously, and procurement is a key enabling factor. In the coming years, we will implement AI and ML-based solutions that not only will provide a real time efficiency in our daily operations but help us to accomplish a truly Best in Class Procurement Excellence.