Platforms are Needed to Accelerate Procurement Agility – But Don’t Overlook the Offline Contributions

Over on Spend Matters UK, the public defender wrote a great post on Why Platforms are Needed to Accelerate Procurement Agility and discussed how the digitization of our everyday lives through cloud-based services served up over the internet is arguably the single greatest consumer trend of the modern era. In this post, he noted that the digitization trend has also worked its way upstream into B2B value chains and since businesses don’t want to be “digitally disrupted” by others they are searching for new supplier capabilities they can serve up as new customer-facing services.

This is a great use of digitization capability where it makes sense, but it’s not just online agility that is needed, it’s offline too. And this is where modern platforms can make the most impact.

Consider the NPD/NPI lifecycle. Right now, what typically happens is engineering works in their own little world designing a product, and when it’s mostly done, they contact procurement to help them find sources of supply and qualify their preferred manufacturing houses. This is typically done in CAD/CAM software, disconnected from everything, and can be a slow process.

Initial design might have to be slow, but the fact that its disconnected can really slowdown the NPI cycle. If design is not plugged in to the rest of the enterprise, and Procurement cannot be involved from day one, the engineers might choose discontinued parts, work with unfavourable suppliers, or even work on features that are not desired by the majority of current customers.

Then there is sourcing. Without advanced knowledge, Sourcing will not only need ramp up time to identify sources of supply, but might be stuck trying to source materials in limited supply that have a locked in price higher than the organization can afford if it wants to meet cost targets. Early involvement can help Engineering understand where the cost is and select the right design options when it has a choice.

Then there is inventory and manufacturing planning. Procurement needs to be plugged into marketing and sales to accurately estimate demand, and have to be in tune with supplier production capacities and shipment times to make sure orders are placed on time and stock-outs can be addressed quickly in times of demand surge.

The only way NPD/NPI time can be minimized is if the process goes smoothly. The only way this can happen is if Procurement is involved from the beginning and can connect with each impacted department in the organization at the right time and can communicate with suppliers quickly and consistently. This can only be done with a modern platform and illustrates why platforms are truly needed for Procurement agility.