Daily Archives: October 27, 2023

Automation is Good Across the Board! But Automation still does NOT mean Automated.

Not that long ago, we penned Procurement Automation: Good. Automated Procurement: Bad because organizations that embrace the right digital technology do much better than their peers, but organizations that go all in and put too much trust in unproven technology without human oversight (while trying to run before they’ve learned how to walk) or good data (and then make worse decisions than having no technology at all, as recently determined by Gartner) are making a huge gamble while forgetting that it is the house who always wins. (And in this case the house is the technology provider that is charging you a lot of money for the technology that eventually fails and costs you time, money, and in the worst case, your job and/or business. But we digress.)

And while this blog is a Sourcing, Procurement, and related Supply Chain Technology blog, it was very happy to see a recent release from the Hackett Group, as advertised in a recent press release on yahoo! Finance / BusinessWire, that noted that while HR (and Humans are VERY important to successful Procurement Operations) operating costs increased significantly in 2023, Digital World Class organizations continued to spend significantly less than their peers while delivering more resiliency, employee productivity, and greater business value with less staff than their peers. The Hackett Group concluded that increased spend on technology plays a key part in driving the superior performance.

Other key metrics that Hackett pointed out is that companies with at least one business services function operating at Digital World Class levels see a five-year average performance premium over their industry medians -– an 80% improvement in net margin; 24% higher earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization; 89% greater return on equity; and 44% higher total shareholder return. (So imagine how good your organization would be doing if you were world class in Procurement and HR, and ensured that your organization always acquired, trained, retained, and promoted the best of the best.)

Hackett found that a key aspect of Digital World Class Organizations in HR, just like Procurement, was a greater use of technology (to the tune of 60% more likely to have and use the full capability of Human Capital Management applications).

There are a lot of great applications that a leading HR organization can employ that go beyond the specific applications mentioned of:

  • Human Capital Management
  • Time Sheet Management (for hourly employees / contractors)
  • Health (& Welfare) management

and, as Hackett points out, include the use of emerging technologies such as:

  • smart automation (not automated Gen AI applications)
  • advanced analytics
  • collaborative tools

For example, a good HR department will employ platforms that:

  • will use smart automation to onboard employees, ensure they get paid on a regular basis, ensure that their expense claims are properly routed and evaluated on a timely basis (and OCR use to reduce receipt processing), ensure that all information they enter on health/disability/etc. claims is auto-routed to the right third party systems (and not lost/transcribed wrong), etc.
  • will use advanced analytics to analyze its highest contractor/third party costs, determine what functions should maybe be brought (more) in-house, analyze it’s biggest employee benefit plan costs, optimize those costs (without reducing benefits), etc.
  • use collaborative tools for onboarding, training, and continued professional development, especially for remote learning and self-study

Just like a good Procurement department will employ platforms that

  • use smart automation to onboard suppliers, automatically distribute and collect RFPs, verify data that can be verified by a third party, do automated sanity checks, do initial analysis for presentation to a HUMAN, automatically generate POs from carts/contract schedules, automatically match, to the extent possible, invoices to POs, etc.
  • use advanced analytics to identify not only the greatest costs but the greatest opportunities available to the organization based on PPV (purchase price variance), market opportunities, consolidation, demand management, substitution, etc.
  • use collaborative tools to involve all stakeholders and make sure processes are automated to the extent possible

Because modern technology is far superior for tactical processing (thunking) than we are as humans. However, the leaders understand machines, while they can augment our intelligence with finely tuned applications, cannot think and leave the final decisions to the humans. Technology is applied appropriately for maximum success.

As Hackett says, the bottom line is that Digital World Class HR organizations are better at enabling their companies to succeed. They have streamlined the day-to-day transactional elements of their operations, and through systematic use of global business services and process automation have freed up an additional 12% of their teams’ efforts to focus on value-added activities. Now, they can more effectively focus on attracting, retaining, developing and engaging employees. The right digitalization helps people, and that’s why the right digitalization helps Procurement.