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After months of being hunkered down in crisis mode, most companies are focussed on recovery. Fathoming where and how to reallocate resources is one of the biggest challenges facing business leaders right now. And in the new world order, spend will need to be leveraged not only to help your organisation build strength, fast but also to weather future storms.

Your procurement team has the potential to really demonstrate its value here – through risk management, spend optimisation, forecasting and insight – making sure you spend on the right things at the right time, with the right suppliers. But your experts need fit-for-purpose tools in place to help you map out the road to recovery. If you've not yet invested in a technology-enabled procurement function, now could be the most pertinent time to do so. And here's why…

Automation frees up time for strategic input

Procurement process automation has many advantages. It reduces error and drives efficiencies. It also enables your spend experts to focus their efforts on unearthing strategic insight. With procurement resource and expertise in greater demand than ever, being able to free up your team's time by automating repetitive, manual processes is key.

Working in conjunction with data analytics and AI, automation can enable your procurement experts to identify exactly how you should be investing spend, to bolster your business and mitigate future risk.

Data insight means optimisation and preparedness

Data analytics platforms can give procurement professionals complete visibility of where and why money is being spent, making it easy to identify where significant savings and efficiencies can be made and where opportunities are being lost.

With this insight available, procurement can build bottom-line resilience, so your business can survive and thrive. They might, for instance, optimise supply chain spend, by directing it towards a smaller number of quality suppliers and purchasing at volume, for a lesser price. Importantly, they can drill down to provide you with the intelligence you need to make the correct spending decisions in these highly uncertain times.

AI can be used to gain even greater value from your procurement data. Using statistical and machine learning algorithms, AI can pool historic data from across datasets and help to identify trends and outcomes. And it's here that plans can be put in place to prepare for any future crises. With this technology at their fingertips, procurement teams can drill down into spend data, to test scenarios and forecast likely outcomes. Armed with this insight they are far better able to make strategic recommendations to senior management looking to nurture a more robust and agile business.

Spend visibility is all

Making good decisions around where to spend in the future, requires a proper understanding of where you've spent in the past, where you're spending now and why. What were the outcomes? And if you invested that spend again, what would the likely outcome be, in altered circumstances? Technology can enable your procurement team to access all of this information and, importantly, it can help them to share it with internal customers in a compelling and digestible way.

The latest data analytics applications are designed to analyse your data and present it back in simple visual formats that are easy to interpret and understand, telling a clear story. The simplicity of these apps means anyone in the business can access specific reports and dashboards relating to suppliers and spend, aiding dialogue and decision-making – and promoting a transparent spend culture to the benefit of everyone in the business.

Those companies which emerge from the Covid-19 crisis in a position of strength are likely to have a tech-centric approach to procurement. Applying data science to your spending decisions now will help to propel you up the recovery curve ahead of your competitors. Turbo-charging your procurement team with the tools they need to steer informed spend decisions could be the first future-savvy investment of many.

Ian Yates – Director, Barcanet

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