Last week I had the honor of giving the closing session at SIG’s latest event on my side of the Atlantic: the SIGnature event in London, hosted by Mayer Brown. At that event, Peter Dickinson, global co-lead of Mayer Brown’s Business & Technology Transactions practice (and a great friend of SIG) gave a fantastic presentation in the morning on “Reimagining Sourcing for the Digital Age” where he looking at emerging technologies and services, the benefits and challenges that they provide, and why a new approach to sourcing is required when it comes to operating in this brave new world.
Sourcing and outsourcing lawyers benefit from a very useful – if hard-earned - combination of perspectives, in that they are as deeply immersed as anyone in the minutiae of specific deals while at the same time needing to maintain as broad an understanding as possible of the macro-level trends and developments driving the evolution of the space: it’s impossible to serve a client adequately, let alone superlatively, without knowing what’s happening far beyond the confines of one deal and/or partnership. Peter demonstrated to our London attendees just how potent that mix of perspectives can prove with a fascinating “state of the nation” address examining how the key emergent technologies are driving change in the outsourcing landscape, in how providers are serving their clients (and who’s doing both buying and selling), and in how corporate strategies and behavior are being transformed by an extraordinary complexity of overlapping factors – all illustrated on a micro level by well-chosen examples pulled from the extensive experience of Peter and his team at Mayer Brown.
Amazon. The name alone makes you think of something big. So it makes sense that they might have something grandiose on the horizon.
With that in mind, I want to start a conversation about whether Amazon might be the next Ariba or Coupa. I heard a rumor that 10 or so Ariba people have gone to Amazon with the intention of making it the next and biggest B2B network in the world. Think about it, we all know how to use Amazon, they have a network that is massive, they have distribution and delivery capabilities, so why couldn't they host additional suppliers and be the purchasing platform for businesses? Amazon has the money, they know how to fill demand, they are nimble, they are constantly innovating...what is to stop them?! They could fairly easily add a feature that limits our searching to approved items with our company's contracted pricing (that it knows to show when we log on with our company credentials) and then check us out with a credit card or even link directly to our accounts payable systems.
Amazon is wildly successful, has a surplus of cash and has set the standard for online purchasing and customer service...so why not go a step further and move from the B2C to the B2B world? I was in the San Francisco Bay Area recently to speak at Coupa Inspire. I love being in the Bay Area surrounded by brilliant people with amazing thoughts and aspirations. After living there for 30 years, I should not be surprised by the number of new companies, ideas and appetite for innovation, however I always am. While there, I spent an evening with my oldest son and his girlfriend, both typical millennials working in Silicon Valley. We started "what iffing" and (since my son has grown up with me as a mom talking supply chain and sourcing and spent time working for Coupa) we convinced ourselves that this is distinctly possible. So was it the wine...or are you drinking the Kool-Aid and see the possibilities here too??
The "cloud" is allowing Procurement organizations to engage beyond their four walls with peer organizations - for benchmarking and collaborative buying - and with suppliers for new product innovations and supply chain efficiencies. Procurement organizations have long focused most of their attention on getting their own houses in order...streamlining internal transactional processes to promote efficiency, realigning organizational resources to focus more on strategic and less on tactical or transactional activities...all for the betterment of their organizations. With foundational internal platforms and processes in place, more organizations will begin utilizing the cloud to get connected outside their enterprises in a number of new and exciting ways. Cloud technologies make it easier than ever before to collaborate with external enterprises – both suppliers and their peer group. And according to Capgemini Consulting, procurement needs to rapidly shift their attention to supplier collaboration, especially early involvement in new product introduction, in order to drive innovation: "Organizations are still reluctant to involve procurement and suppliers early enough in product development and innovation. And Procurement is still viewed as a silo function with KPIs that remain focused on tactical and cost reduction activities." While 80% of more than 1,000 CPOs surveyed by Capgemini concede that suppliers are involved too late in the corporate innovation process, they recognize that suppliers contribute value beyond the products and services they provide, both in terms of the quantity, speed and agility with which they provide them:
Richard Waugh, Vice President, Corporate Development, Zycus Inc.