So, how can you actually get more “As-a-Service”? 5 Key Elements from Procurement Services


Procurement BPO has changed substantially over the last decade. Growing maturity of procurement technology and commodification of significant parts of the procurement value change altered the value proposition of procurement BPO: From very large lift and shift outsourcing deals, heavily dependent on labor arbitrage, to smaller (about a fifth the size of ‘legacy’ deals) engagements leveraging procurement platforms, advanced analytics and intelligent automation. This exemplary of the shift in services we call the “As-a-Service Economy”. As we interview service buyers and service providers for the 2016 Procurement As-a-Service Blueprint, we home in on five facets representing Procurement As-a-Service:


  1. Continued use of automation and robotics in services. Transactional procurement has changed tremendously. Not only by better platforms (see #5) leading to fewer and fewer exceptions in processes, and processes and exceptions that can’t be handled on a platform can be done with Robotic Process Automation. As an illustration: in spend analytics automation is used to automatically aggregate, cleanse, validate, classify and report spend data. Further areas with lots of intelligent automation potential are invoice processing, purchase order management, contract management, auto-routing of exceptions to stakeholders, invoice matching procedures, payment status and tracking.

    Traditionally, the ‘higher value’ activities in contract management, category management and strategic sourcing have been consultancy driven. Skills are scarce and hard to repeat and scale.

    It’s about knowledge and expertise and labor intensive processes. The market sees an accelerating talent issue, as category and sourcing experience is scarce and you can’t buy experience. Really good sourcing or category experience is built over a minimum of 10 years and many experts are retiring at a higher rate than new talent can be brought on. So there is a need for knowledge management and an opportunity with cognitive and AI becoming more mature to solve a part of this puzzle.

    With cognitive platforms maturing, we will see a change in the more strategic parts of procurement.

  2. Strategic sourcing and category management expertise and capabilities. Sourcing and category management drive a lot of value for clients, for instance in tail spend. There are many small categories, small sourcing events and potentially poorly sourced products in enterprises, which don’t warrant building in house category expertise. Procurement As-a-Service providers are expanding internal category management and sourcing capabilities by attracting and retaining more sourcing talent, arming sourcing and category talent with more and better analytics, insights and market intelligence and nurturing an ecosystem of partners, growing in the role of brokers of capability.
  3. End-to-end capabilities. Service providers increasingly bring in traditional sourcing consulting skills into Procurement As-a-Service delivery, opening new doors to buyers looking for consulting skills at lower (BPO) costs, enhancing capabilities across the value chain. Procurement As-a-Service covers the entire Source to pay (S2P) Value Chain. The growing role of technology is enabling closed loop processes, with advanced analytics creating continuous feedback loops. New value creation in transactional procurement hinges on one to many solutions and services, deriving data and bundling insights across multiple client engagements. The game in procurement business services is scale, being able to deploy limited skilled resources across multiple clients, not on the project basis but on concurrent, day to day, shared basis.

    Providers’ ability to bring sustainable change to the client organization is key to Procurement As-a-Service. Traditional challenges are compliance with procurement policy, contributing to transforming the procurement function and stakeholder management as part of continuous change management, beyond the transition period.

  4. Commercial models. HfS’ research shows that while As-a-Service delivery is gaining ground in many horizontal and vertical offerings, the adoption of As-a-Service commercial models is lagging behind. Gain-share was popular in the early days of procurement outsourcing, but its popularity seems to have faded since in many cases the wrong behavior was incentivized. Determining actual savings and which part of the savings should be contributed to whom proved a nightmare. We are having a good look at how service providers supporting the As-a-Service vision introduce new commercial constructs and if they are bringing those into existing client engagements.
  5. Platforms. Procurement technology is now much more integrated in platforms, where much of the technology of the past was separate, heavily customized and bespoke (point) solutions.  SaaS enabled technology platforms such as Ariba, Coupa, SMART by GEP, Tradeshift, Accenture’s Radix and Capgemini’s IBX have taken a significant role at the core of procurement. In a nutshell, platforms consolidate a set of suppliers, automate most processes and put (commoditized) processes at the fingertips of buyers.

    Platforms are eating into the traditional procurement outsourcing model. The mega deals of the past slimmed down due to the degree of technology being sourced, reducing human labor dependency in procurement. Key ingredients of Procurement As-a-Service are usage of platforms, services with embedded platforms, services around platforms and integration of platforms in service delivery.


What To Watch

Winners in Procurement As-a-Service are those providers going beyond merely providing a replacement or extension of existing procurement, by providing a vision and strategy for the future of procurement.

This vision includes:

  • Leveraging multi client insights, experience and buying power
  • Models for Customer management 
  • Providing smart solutions for indirect (tail) spend
  • Expanding expertise in strategic sourcing and category mgmt
  • Putting Intelligent Automation at the core of (digital) procurement operating models
  • Leveraging procurement platforms (proprietary and 3rd party) in engagements and the ability to provide technology management across clients in a one to many model
  • Building closed loop processes
  • Data and information foundations
  • Using advanced analytics for (near) real time information and insights 
  • Skills in consulting, technology and relationship management
  • End to end supply management
  • Creating communities for clients

The 2016  HfS Procurement As-a-Service Blueprint will investigate the progression service providers have made on the As-a-Service Journey, their vision for the future of procurement and their ability to bring this vision into the real world of procurement.

Posted in : Procurement and Supply Chain


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