Insights for Procure-to-Pay and Finance Leaders

Is your procurement process smart enough to cope with future user experiences?

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Capgemini’s blog. Capgemini Group, a Tradeshift partner, is the former owner of IBX Business Network, which Tradeshift acquired in April 2017.  

We live in a time of constantly updating technology. Every day could bring a new advance that changes the lives of countless people. Each year, we see the release of a new wave of smartphones that strive to possess more innovation than their competitors. Technology is a field that demands ingenuity and flexibility. Like a surfer waiting for a big wave, we must prepare ourselves for the momentum new developments will bring so that the proverbial board does not slip out from under us before we have the chance to stand up.

Consider Amazon. In 2015, it introduced Dash Buttons, portable devices designed to allow a customer to order a specific product with the push of a button. More recently, Amazon released Echo, a hands-free, voice-controlled device that has created new options in the world of procurement. By speaking with Echo, a customer can add milk and eggs to a shopping list or even just order them online. Other companies are following suit with their own versions of Echo, with products like Google Home (soon to be released) and Apple’s “Siri Speaker” (currently in the prototype stage).

Of course, these developments provide exciting new opportunities for suppliers and customers alike, but they also introduce new stresses for existing systems. At the moment, procurement processes provide a limited set of options for placing orders. Though this may prove sufficient at present, these processes will become too slow to support new ordering technologies in the future. Just as a surfer must adapt to each unique wave, organizations will have to consider how to best handle innovative options like buttons, voice ordering methods, and the new forms of access into systems they will require in order to avoid falling beneath the wave.

To that end, companies must begin to think about how they will adapt to technology years down the line. The unfortunate truth is that by the time new developments hit the market, it will be too late for a business to adjust without being left behind by its competitors.

In order to prepare for the future, you should begin working today. Ask yourself: how will your procurement system respond to Echo attempting to place an order? Will it be able to handle the demands of Siri when an employee needs to order critical supplies? Without appropriate preparation, our surfer will either miss the wave entirely or crash trying to ride it.

Take time now to think about the future possibilities of digital assistants such as Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana; these virtual aids continue to grow more sophisticated and their importance in procurement will only expand over time. More and more, people will work in connection with digital tools in a business capacity. Consider the implications now, and you will thank yourself in the future when your procurement process is prepared to adapt to new and unforeseen burdens.

Smart Process Loops could be the simplest answer to a complicated problem. Smart Process Loops are entry and exit points built into your procurement process through which other systems can retrieve or exchange data and leverage portions of your procurement process. It is through these openings that Alexa and Siri will gain access to your system and introduce a new wave of possibilities.

Preparing for the future may seem as daunting as a towering wave because new technology is unpredictable and volatile. But you don’t have to make these changes alone. Finding a partner with a history of future-oriented thinking and a wealth of experience can help make preparations for new technologies more feasible. Imagine another surfer telling you exactly when to stand in order to ride that towering wave. Make sure to look for a history of flexibility, which indicates a potential partner’s ability to adapt to technological developments as they arise.

It is important to recognize the ever-changing nature of the technology market and begin taking action now to avoid losing your balance while competitors ride the next big wave. Ultimately, no single, “cure-all” solution exists. Instead, you will have to add a great deal of openness to your procurement process to account for the seemingly infinite number of ways in which technology can and will change.