Time for procurement’s digital transformation

Time for procurement’s digital transformation

For business leaders, the past few years have been dominated by the topic of digital transformation. The message is now known to all: if you fail to integrate transformational digital technology and processes into your organisation, you are likely to quickly lose market share. We’ve therefore seen a period of rapid technological modernisation, where everything from customer service to sales and marketing, and logistics have been redesigned for the digital age.


However, as businesses have set about modernising, there’s been one business function notable by its absence from the process: procurement. Sure, businesses have continued to invest in discreet procurement solutions, such as cloud-based tools or eProcurement systems, but this change has been minimal. What’s been missing is the wholesale shift to an outcomes-based, data-driven approach that characterises true digital transformation. As a result, many procurement teams are simply putting a thin layer of digital technology on top of existing processes; look below the surface and you’ll find the same old analogue procurement processes there.


Undergoing a procurement transformation requires a root-and-branch rethink of what the function can do for the business. At the heart of this change will be the ‘Amazon-isation’ of procurement: the use of data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and smart user interfaces to make the function as insights-driven and user-friendly for stakeholders as Amazon is for consumers.


In a true digital enterprise, procurementis an important lever for control and competitive differentiation. It enables cost-efficiencies through the automation of repetitive tasks, delivers AI-enabled, real-time insights to help the business make better decisions, and, ultimately, improve employee experience.


For procurement teams starting out on a digital transformation journey, there are five key factors that must come into play:

  • Data – Teams must make sure they source data from as wide a pool as possible, both inside and outside the organisation. It is crucial to then ask the right questions of this data. For example, don’t simply look at what was purchased and at what price, but also look at why it was purchased.
  • Technology – It is important to put in place the technologies that can make sense of the data and draw out critical insights in a format the business can act on. This will include AI, natural language processing, analytics and bots.
  • User experience – Create new, intuitive tools that are easy for the procurement team, and consumers of procurement services, to use. The more user-friendly the experience, the higher the uptake will be.
  • Talent – Build a cross-functional team comprising data scientists, AI specialists, category experts and IT and design professionals. True digital transformation requires a new skill set and the race is already on for organisations to secure the talent they need.
  • Policies and procedures - Finally, it is essential to make sure all procurement procedures are outcome-based. Conduct a full review of procurement policies, procedures and operating models, and then ensure everyone understands their new responsibilities.

The digital transformation of procurement will take several years to complete, as it takes time for organisations to collect the right data, and put in place the requisite systems and processes. The race is on: if you want to ensure you have an efficient procurement function that adds value to the business, you must act now.


Kristin Ruehle leads the Procurement Business Process Services (BPS) offering globally for Accenture Operations


Read more about the next generation of digital procurement in Accenture’s new report


This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.

Kristin Ruehle
Posted by Kristin Ruehle

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