How Businesses Can Protect Intelligent Spend Management in 2021?

No one could have quite predicted the year that 2020 has been

But as the world continues to feel the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and varying levels of lockdown, businesses are more focused on protecting against future disruption than ever before.

One vital area is procurement and supply chain. Battling against rapidly shifting consumption needs from the start of the pandemic, this business function was forced to adjust in record time. Technology played a key role in reinforcing existing infrastructure and finding new methods to access critical supplies, but there’s still much more to learn to help businesses build back stronger.

We asked some of the global experts in procurement and supply chain at SAP for their perspectives on what to watch for in 2021. Here’s what they had to say:

John Wookey, President, Intelligent Spend and Business Network

“In the new year, organisations will prove to be decisive in their approach to managing spend as they take steps toward business recovery. Only a holistic, cloud-based approach with the data underlying every spend decision — from direct and indirect goods procurement to contingent labour, services providers and MRO spend, all the way to travel and expense management — offers the necessary insights to counter disruption and extend competitive advantage. These insights help companies achieve their financial goals, as well as their operational, environmental and social objectives. Never before have connected commerce and intelligent spend management been as pivotal to business success as they are going to be in 2021.”

Sanjay Almeida, Chief Product Officer, Intelligent Spend Management

“As we look toward a new year and anxiously await the broad distribution of vaccines against Covid-19, leaders in the procurement, supply chain and logistics industries will take centre stage as nations mobilise to turn back the pandemic. How adaptable is our infrastructure, how agile is our technology and how ambitious is our purpose in the race to safely manufacture these life-sustaining breakthroughs and distribute them equitably? The eyes of the world’s 7.8 billion people will turn to leaders in procurement and operations management to help navigate what may be the most complex if eagerly anticipated logistical challenge of all time. The opportunity and responsibility are immense.”

Sean Thompson, Executive Vice President, Network and Ecosystem, Procurement Solutions

“Now more than ever, procurement is uniquely positioned to be transformative and highly impactful for businesses as we enter a new era of data-driven intelligence. A shift away from the traditional, linear supply chain to a broader supply network, coupled with dynamic partnerships driving innovation, will be key to gaining a 360-degree view of supply, improving cash flow, developing new products and pursuing sustainability initiatives. Breaking away from reactivity and focusing on proactivity will be essential in tackling new business challenges in a post-Covid-19 world. Network strategies, and making use of data-driven insights, will be important in avoiding repercussions from future shocks and shifts, replacing linearity with interconnectivity.”

Salvatore Lombardo, Chief Product Officer, Procurement Solutions

“As we welcome a new year, I believe that procurement — and particularly procurement technology — has a paramount role to play in restoring confidence to organisations as they seek to regain their competitive edge, revive their operational resiliency and replenish their hopes for the future. That level of confidence requires a seamless, integrated approach to digital business processes that extends visibility, reduces complexity and fosters collaboration. That’s how procurement ‘makes it happen,’ and it’s why we’re placing a strong focus on executing against our North Star vision for procurement in the year ahead.”

Baber Farooq, Senior Vice President, Product Strategy, Procurement Solutions

“Living with the coronavirus pandemic, and planning for a future with increasing uncertainty, many organisations are watching global supply chains and taking stock of their own risks in the market. Supply chains need to be structured differently moving forward to remain resilient and adaptable; and spend management organisations are going to play a pivotal and central role in leading that change. We can expect to see suppliers as the driving force for innovation in most organisations, helping realise the promise of artificial intelligence and begin to reverse the productivity slump. As such, companies will need to take a very different lens regarding management of their supplier base than in the past. I anticipate the rise of spend management professionals as trusted advisors, providing solutions and preparing for unforeseen events; delivering greater value by moving the conversation from cost-saving to strategy.”

Padmini Ranganathan, Global Vice President, Product Strategy, Procurement Solutions

“Humans are innately resilient. As companies – large and small – strive to survive the pandemic period and its devastating economic effects, we see human and machine intelligence coming together to play a significant role in decision making. Not only is this helping companies survive and fuel recovery efforts, but it is also inspiring new business models and transformation initiatives that are setting the course for long term growth. Companies are banding together as they look to share resources, responsibly dispose of inventory and spares, shift culturally to be more inclusive in work from home policies and naturally place greater emphasis on employee health and safety. Businesses will continue to incorporate more network-driven and digital strategies to engage with existing trading partners and find new ones. Meanwhile, procurement operations are front and centre leading efforts to accelerate digital transformation and drive greater supply chain resilience. To operate in today’s business environment, companies must focus on digitalisation to increase productivity, leverage data and intelligence to drive visibility in supply chains, shift sourcing strategies and create responsible trading partnerships for long term sustained business resilience and growth.”

Jason Wolf, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Intelligent Spend and Business Network

“As businesses experienced major shifts and disruption on a global scale, procurement leaders rose to the challenge and emerged as heroes in their organisations by securing critical supply and ensuring business continuity. Even more importantly, by laying the foundation for functional excellence in this way, they were freed up to connect to their organisations’ strategy and purpose despite challenges that at times seemed unsurmountable. However, as we come out of the crisis-mode that defined most of 2020, changes must be made to truly overcome supply chain disruption and ensure long-term resiliency. A critical lesson learned is the importance of establishing and maintaining strong supplier relationships. By proactively listening to suppliers and better understanding their experience and challenges, procurement leaders can take the necessary action to improve their businesses through their ability to secure critical supply, deliver with a greater degree of resiliency and accelerate savings by uncovering and addressing barriers. As we head into 2021, it is time to recognise the power these relationships have in providing insight for leaders to better understand their KPIs and move the needle for their businesses in a positive direction.”

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