We live in a dynamic world where billions of people make billions of choices daily. The sheer multitude of choice makes it increasingly difficult to have shared experiences – those kind of global watershed moments that push change and innovation forward at an accelerated pace. Covid-19, in its own terrifying way, stopped us all and immediately narrowed our choices. But it also gave us one unified experience and one unified goal: Fight the virus, stop the spread.
A true global watershed moment had arrived. Suddenly, the whole world understood the importance of the supply chain. Procurement had been thrust onto center stage, and the spotlight was both harsh and illuminating.
Spotlight on Procurement
There’s no way to plan for every outcome. There just isn’t. No risk plan can predict the future with 100% accuracy. There’s no judgement to be laid at anyone’s doorstep. The impact of COVID-19 wasn’t something supply chain professionals could have easily seen coming. So, as the whole world watched the demand for certain products like N-95 masks, PPEs, disinfectant and toilet paper soar, they also saw the dramatic consequences of supply chains that weren’t built for pandemic-driven demand.
The links between the supply chain and business continuity, between business continuity and employment, between employment and economies, those links were now on stark display for everyone to see. Interdependencies that were once just the language of procurement professionals had become the common language of the world.
But this new spotlight on procurement did more than just highlight mistakes. It also spurred on miraculous innovation. Although we all saw what happens when companies don’t have agile and transparent networks, we also got to see what happens when procurement professionals are suddenly pushed into new ways of thinking and doing. New networks were established overnight. There was a rapid evolution of the buyer/supplier relationship. They went from being partners to innovative collaborators; answering demand by reconfiguring processes at speeds thought impossible pre-COVID-19.
The spotlight has shown us what is possible in procurement.
The spotlight also further revealed just how important it is for organizations to have strategic, forward-thinking procurement leaders. Leaders who have a significant place at the decision-making table. Leaders who are given the resources they need to mitigate risks. Leaders who can respond to volatility and uncertainty by doing three things almost simultaneously:
- Respond – by rapidly creating short term stability
- Recover – by focusing on navigating through the recovery
- Reinvent – by creating networks that can deliver long-term resiliency
You are those leaders, and business has never needed your leadership like they do right now.
Our challenge now is to leverage what we’ve learned and incorporate those lessons as standard practice. We can have greater visibility into our supply chains. We can achieve a 360-degree view. We can rethink and reimagine decades-old processes and embrace agility and nimbleness with a start-up mentality. We can automate more and allow our people to focus on the aspects of the business that need and should have human expertise. We can put the spend where it matters and build even more sustainability into our networks.
The Path Forward
What we cannot do is go backwards or return to business as usual. Procurement is standing at center stage and the whole world is watching. We may not be able to have a risk plan to address every disruption, but we can – and must – revisit, revamp and reexamine those plans with greater frequency and greater scrutiny.
We need to be constant in our questioning and improving. How can we get ourselves out of silos and disjointed processes and close data gaps? How can we make approvals centralized across all spend categories and processes? How can we better collect and use data to address complex buying scenarios and to conduct deeper risk analysis throughout the entire process? There are a lot of big questions, I know. But we must ask them, and we must answer them.
The spotlight may be hot. It may be unbearably bright. But it also allowed the world to see us and understand what we do. Let us use this watershed moment to build the networks needed to serve and protect our global economies.
I know these feel like dark times, and yes, there are so many unknowns and questions about the lasting impact of COVID-19…but we are already seeing evidence of what is possible if we work together. Collaboration, a buzzword thrown around for years, is now the true path forward through disruptions. And collaboration is what procurement does best – merging innovation and ideas with precision and efficiency
So, we need to get comfortable in the spotlight. We are staying at center stage.
Frankly, it’s exactly where procurement should be. Because what we do now, and how we apply what we’ve learned, will dictate how we overcome the next global crisis. It’s that important, and I know we can rise to meet the challenge.
There is much opportunity to be had in remaining center stage of this situation, and it will require continued dialogue as new events unfold. I look forward to speaking with Dawn Tiura and the entire SIG community during the upcoming virtual SIG Procurement Technology Summit that begins on May 11.
Chris Haydon leads SAP Procurement Solutions, focusing on customer success while defining end-to-end spend management solutions that drive differential business outcomes. For the past decade Chris has been a crucial part of SAP Ariba’s leadership, serving since 2017 as senior vice president of customer value and, prior to that, of solutions management. He has also been SAP Ariba’s chief strategy officer.
In his current role, Chris is responsible for aligning procurement solutions across all functions at SAP to ensure successful outcomes for our customers. A tireless customer champion and passionate executive with over 20 years of experience in business network operations, product management, procurement, customer management, and strategy, Chris brings a wealth of expertise and thought leadership to the marketplace. He leads SAP’s procurement product strategy, portfolio, and product roadmap in close coordination with the Product Engineering team and works with the Commercial team to identify target markets and changing business requirements.
Chris holds a Bachelor of Business degree in Information Management from the Queensland University of Technology.