Two industry vets with deep SAP Ariba experience reflect on procurement’s 20-year journey into the digital age (Procurement Foundry Special)

Posted on February 20, 2020


As I read the recent Procurement Foundry article by Sourcing Solved’s Iain Campbell-McKenna, I was reminded of the saying that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

More than a popular axiom, there is genuine urgency behind these words when it comes to the digital transformation of procurement.

On one side, you have surveys such as the one from McKinsey reporting that close to 80 percent of executives are in a wait-and-see holding pattern regarding a move into digital. Across the chasm between inaction and action, you have the trailblazers. These are the ones who have made a digital move and are, according to Deloitte, disappointed with the results.

Reminiscent of the early days of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software in which a sales representative for Oracle once told me that he doesn’t get out of bed for any deal less than $1 million, beyond the hype there is uncertainty and disappointment.

Getting back to the Campbell-McKenna article, aptly titled A new mindset for a new technology — Why procurement needs to think differently in the digital age, there is the beginning of an answer to the question how do we make technology work for us this time around?

Here is the excerpt with a link to the full article at the end.

Richard Holmes, a Senior SAP Ariba Consultant who works as an advisor for Sourcing Solved, and I recently had a chance to share a coffee and to reminisce about our years of experience in the procurement world. Specifically, how during our time working together, we provided Ariba advisory services, including supplying consultants to implement Ariba P2P solutions successfully. When I say years, I am talking about the days long before there was “the cloud”, back when Ariba came on a CD (on-premise).

My focus was on talent acquisition and consulting utilisation to ensure ongoing SOW alignment with desired outcomes, while Richard spent most of his time helping organisations get their procurement initiatives back on track for countless global enterprises. If you check his LinkedIn profile, you will see a lengthy ‘who’s who’ of recognisable industry giants.

Given the breadth and length of our combined people/technical experiences, we took particular notice of the results of a recent Deloitte survey of CPOs. According to the survey, a majority of executives have a high level of dissatisfaction with the results of their digital procurement initiatives.

As we settled into our second cup, the same thought crossed both our minds; wasn’t the digital age supposed to make things easier? After all, the common catchphrase for the new digital era is that today’s technology can get you up and operational within months and weeks versus years.

Hindsight is more than 20/20

Looking back, both Richard and I agreed that while our challenges were different, the initiatives that struggle all seem to share similar characteristics or traits.

Use the following link to read the rest of this article, and while there, check out the many other interesting articles and resources on the Procurement Foundry site.