• Renier Bester

When procurement goes digital: Five enablers successful digitalisation journeys don't overlook

Digitalisation is happening all around us and we experience digital interaction with organisations on a daily basis: online shopping, logging insurance claims online, talking to a chatbot instead of a person when we’re looking for support on a website. The list goes on. What most people don’t see, is the tremendous effort behind the scenes to keep these interactions sustainable. However, any senseless slog can be prevented by the proper consideration of all the relevant enablers.


When looking more specifically at digitalising the procurement function in South Africa, the scenario is not much different. We’ve all heard that procurement should be like buying items from Amazon or ordering from Takealot: simple and easy. Yet this isn’t guaranteed as there are various factors in play to realise this magical state of procurement. That said, this magical state isn’t impossible to achieve, but getting there takes some doing.


In this five-part series of articles, we’ll take a look at some of the key enablers that, if neglected when commencing down this road of digitalising a procurement environment, will be the cause of most of the aforementioned slog. And yet, more often than not, we neglect them.


Each day we will have a look at one enabler, and why this forms a critical part of successful procurement digitalisation. Let’s get right into the details.


Neglected enabler of the day: Purpose


Most organisations will almost always have some form of ‘poster phrase’ or statement highlighting the purpose of adopting new best-of-breed technology. But, in most cases, when it comes down to it, their actual wish – I mean purpose – is for this new technology to just make all their procurement issues disappear and drastically reduce the workload of an already thinly spread procurement function, since everything will be automated. This statement is not clear, detailed or strong enough to be used as a compass to keep a project on course.


So what should a purpose statement look like?


The purpose statement of a procurement digitalisation program should closely tie in with how this program will contribute to achieving the overall procurement strategy. The procurement strategy is essentially what drives any procurement improvement programs, projects or initiatives. 


The effective digitalisation of procurement operations will require making some hard decisions that will change the face of procurement inside the organisation. This might lead to resistance and a tendency to try and hold onto old and familiar practices. This is when the purpose statement is key as a sanity check and reminder of why the organisation is going down this road and why, in most cases, continuing with some current practices and processes will not be acceptable in the future.


For the purpose statement to work effectively, it needs to be:

  1. strongly aligned to the procurement strategy

  2. detailed enough to outline how and where the digitalisation initiative will enable fulfilling the procurement strategy

  3. actionable, clear and to the point.

This will ensure that the purpose statement will be a tool for steering project outcomes instead of being a paragraph in a project charter document that no one but the auditors will read.


Emile Olckers is a principal consultant at Supply Chain Partner.  He applies his time enabling customer  procurement and sourcing optimisation and visibility using market leading digital platforms. Able to analyse customer challenges and provide suitable solutions using a combination of technology and process enablers, he is passionate about partnering with customers to deliver on their procurement digitalisation vision .Emile has spent his 18-years in business providing customers with insight and visibility into their inbound supply chain operations and leading the development of pre-populated business intelligence tools for SAP to enable customer visibility in very condensed periods of time. He has been involved with customers spanning multiple sectors: manufacturing, mining, petroleum and chemicals, transportation and airlines.

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