Six ways buyers can harness the potential of technology

When was the last time you encountered a supply chain professional or colleague who didn’t have a smartphone or social media account?

Like the rest of the world, procurement has gone digital. According to a recent survey conducted by Oxford Economics, the function is undergoing a radical modernisation, leveraging technology to improve processes and transform the way work gets done.

Today’s supply chain professionals are part of an “always-on” culture. And they need to be empowered with technology and insights that enable them keep pace. To discover, connect and collaborate with their trading partners and peers across the street and around the globe. To work anywhere, anytime from any device. To create new value that spans the enterprise.

How can you enable this within your organisation?

Rethink the process
Supply chain management isn’t a set of discreet tasks performed in silos, but a connected one carried out across many functions and geographies. And the key to executing it well is in linking multiple parties and systems using a common platform that supports the entire source-to-settle process and provides a gateway for collaboration both within and beyond the enterprise on a global scale. Networks are a great way to do this.

Get connected
Every day, billions of consumers around the world use social networks to manage their personal connections. To shop, share and consume. Why? Because they make things easy. The same is true of business networks, which provide an equally easy and consumer-like way for companies to manage their trading relationships and commerce activities.  

With a few clicks, you can shop for the goods and services you need to run your business, order and have them shipped. When it comes to payments, you can kill the paper cheques and transfer the funds electronically. Or you can review your receivables and decide whether you want to offer a discount in return for early payment.

You can view and manage your spend across all major categories and find opportunities for savings. You can manage your entire workforce – temporary and full-time employees alike – and empower them to do their jobs anywhere, anytime from any device. And you can engage your customers across multiple channels and create personalised experiences along every step of their journey that delight and keep them loyal. So get connected.

Don’t just automate, innovate
Digitisation is the first step most companies take to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their supply chain operations. And while it’s a good start, automating processes such as procurement, orders, invoicing and payment doesn’t in and of itself create value.

Where the real value of digitisation lies is in enabling new processes that drive more collaborative, intelligent and transparent ways of operating. Processes like dynamic discounting that allow buyers to secure discounts that can be reinvested in research and development or sellers to lock in funding to expand their business. Or contingent workforce management through which companies can identify and manage highly-specialised resources needed to develop that next-generation product and open new revenue streams. 

Such processes can change the game. And networks make them possible by providing a common platform from which all parties can in connect and collaborate – regardless of the back-end systems they may be using.

Work smarter
Like their social counterparts, business networks house incredible amounts of insights and data that can be used to learn in context and act in smarter ways. You can, for instance, access performance ratings on potential trading partners along with recommendations from the community to determine who to do business with or detect risk in your supply chain. You can combine in-the-moment purchasing data with historic trends to predict stock outs before they happen and direct replenishment. Or gain real-time insights into invoice approval status to more efficiently manage your cash. Engage in these communities and unleash the power of this information to optimise your supply chain decisions and accelerate innovation and growth.

Run simple
Complexity is the enemy of business. Every year, it costs the 200 biggest companies in the world an estimated $237 billion (£152 billion). That’s 10 per cent of profits buried under a mountain of waste, inefficiency and missed opportunity. Digitisation can remove this complexity by enabling new, more efficient processes that allow you – and your supply chain - to run more simply than ever.  

Get moving
In today’s economy, digitisation is the on-ramp to innovation and success. With the right strategy and solutions to support it, you can transform your supply chain and create entirely new levels of value for your organisation. So get on the highway and go fast. Or your competition may pass you…

☛ Marcell Vollmer is chief operating officer at Ariba.

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