Procurement is ‘on the cusp of a revolution’

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
10 October 2018

Procurement is on the edge of a technology-led revolution, according to a former CPO at BP.

Guy Hubball, a procurement strategy advisor who spent the last 10 years as a CPO at BP, said we were moving towards a world where all transactional processes would be automated, overseen by category managers with relationship skills and deep market expertise.

Speaking at the SAP Ariba Procurement Summit in London, he said: “We are on the cusp of a revolution in procurement and it will be technology led.”

Hubball said there would be “fewer, more senior people, totally reliant on technology and having data-led decisions”.

“We have made huge strides in procurement over recent years but I think we have a long way to go,” he said.

Hubball said the function would be based around three cores: category managers, technology-led procurement operations and independent data teams analysing things including supply chain risks and demand spikes.

He said it was critical to get the right processes in place, which were not too complicated and overly bureaucratic, and in the future this was likely to involve chatbots and voice assistants helping stakeholders.

“The requisition is dead,” he said. “Requisitions are horrible to fill in. We will be using voice and chatbots. We will allow users to build specifications with the help of artificial intelligence.”

Hubball said he learned the importance of the right process at BP. “My biggest mistake at BP was it took me too long to realise that the fundamental process we had was broken,” he said. “It took me too long to realise no one was using that process.

“Fundamentally you have to accept good process delivers good outcomes.”

Hubball also called on buyers to be more demanding with providers of software systems.

“We have a really difficult relationship with systems as procurement people,” he said. “A lot of them are built out of financial systems.

“We need to be more demanding of systems providers to get what we need.”

Hubball said to move towards this way of working, procurement departments needed the right operating model, a talent management strategy and digitisation of the end-to-end purchasing process.

“You need an operating model that allows change on a constant basis, not a transformation every three years,” he said.

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