Part of the System

Technology is an enabler says Efficio’s Peter Wetherill, but it should not be the sole of focus of procurement’s efforts

Focusing on technology alone will not guarantee procurement success in the digital age, Peter Wetherill of Efficio told delegates at IMPA London. Citing findings from the recent Efficio survey, Wetherill said that the preponderance with tech was not the major barrier to success now or in the future and that aligning people and strategy were far more important.

“For what we wan to achieve, the technology is there. And very infrequently is technology the barrier to us achieving what we want to do,” Wetherill said. “What we haven’t yet done is managed to apply it to our situation, our function yet. And I think the other challenge that we really face in, not just procurement, but in today’s working environment, is that historically technology was at the leading edge. 

“It was at the cutting edge in industry. And as a consumer you were behind that. And it’s almost, there are some exceptions, but it’s almost flipped today. So yeah, I commute to work and my phone, without me telling it, it knows sometimes where I’m going, it knows where I live, it knows where I park my car. It has all this information that it’s worked out about me.

“So actually when it comes down to some of these barriers, it is less about the technology available. It’s more about what risks are we prepared to take, what we prepared to give away, what policies are we prepared to change and throw out the window to say that we get a competitive advantage by doing something differently.”

The reality of tech he said was that very little of it means that we can get rid of a team of people, and replace them with a machine. It is more important to understand how each works, integrate them effectively. What companies often fail to understand is what the organisation’s people 
are like, how skilled they and how they like to work. 

“The reality of tech was that very little of it means that we can get rid of a team of people, and replace them with a machine”

“Do the research to reconcile the two and take a much more tailored approach so that the technology is right for your organisation. I do not think the simple answer to that is people need to change. I think it is, we need to, for our own organisation, make sure the balance between human and machine is right for us. If I have people that look like this and are always going to look like this, I need to find technology that fits them.”

Wetherill also urged delegates to view technology as an enabler rather than a cure all. That, he said, was achieved by starting with the basics such as spend visibility and gaining intelligence around where money is being spent. Control he adds, should be put in place to understand what people are working on and building a knowledge plan, of which content is a key constituent for making decisions.

“Technology enables us, technology simplistically can bring us two benefits in procurement,” said Wetherill. “One is process automation, and that has the maximum benefit of how many people are doing that job now. The second is making better decisions. And making better decisions is all about understanding what are we doing today? What could we be doing? And having that content available.

“So if we think about digital transformation and we think about this whole process as a vehicle, in this instance we can take a boat, but it could be a car, or it’s a vehicle. We talk a lot about technology, but technology is just the engine. And actually most of the engines out there are quite similar. Most of them are fit for purpose, they do the job, but that’s only one thing.

“An engine alone is not going to drive this boat. So there are a few things we need to consider. We also need content. Content is the fuel, and actually getting that right, we can put it in a Riva, or we can put it in Jaguar, we can put it in any system we like, because they will probably do the job. What makes the difference then is having the content. “And finally we need the driver. We need the users. We actually need to consider these things as a three, to successfully navigate through the digital transformation journey. And just focusing on technology alone is not going to cut it.”