Exclusive: Tech for tech’s sake ‘a waste of time’ says CPO

23 April 2019

The use of technology in procurement is ‘useless’ unless it is for the right purpose, Covéa Insurance’s chief procurement officer has warned.

Sylvie Noël, CPO at the insurance firm, told SM that procurement professionals need to remember that “technology is just a tool to sustain the evolution of business.”

She said: “Procurement has changed a lot in the last five years, and it's still moving a lot and we have to take this evolution into account to figure out how to work better.”

Noël argued that while there is often a temptation from businesses to look to different technologies to fix problems, procurement teams should focus on specific pain points and be open and flexible on what solution will be the best fit.

In an interview during the Ivalua Now: The Art of Procurement event in Paris earlier this month, she said: “I'm not looking for any tool, I'm not looking for any technology in particular, like AI or chatbots.”

Noël added: “What I'm looking for is for added value which will allow my team to focus on really doing business and not doing pure transactions. I'm not looking for technology, I'm looking for what will most benefit my team.”

She commented: “If you don't know what you want, there's no use in buying a tool because it isn’t going to give you the solution. Tools will sustain the processes you want to implement but if you don’t know what those are yet, don't buy anything, don't spend any money. It's totally useless.”

Instead, procurement professionals should decide what their priorities are and how they want to achieve them before looking to the market for “the appropriate solution” to fit their purpose,” she added.

Noël and her team have been working to use AI to optimise the way contracts are processed and to analyse contract details.

Although this use of the advanced technology has proven to be successful at Covéa Insurance, she believes that value, rather than the implementation of technology, should be the priority.

However, this has to be seen in the context of how technology is resulting in changes to the way procurement teams work.

“We are working as part of an ecosystem far more. It's a new way of working where everyone has their own goals, and we have to be an organiser. We have to organise it and to be careful that everyone is playing the right music. If we work that way, we can create real value,” she said.

“You've got to show people the added value we have which is not just about money, it could be  services, warranties, all the elements which surround buying.”

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