The health crisis has resulted in the largest remote working experience of all time, on a global scale. While employees have gained some independence, they must also rethink their individual and collective ways of working. More than ever, companies are questioning the organisation and tools available to their employees in order to restore fulfilment and performance. This thinking provides interesting perspectives for buyers in their daily work.
With greater flexibility and independence, buyers must focus on two advantages of remote working:
Communicating through technology
When it comes to networking, procurement professionals are the experts. Buyers interact with all stakeholders: management, employees or internal customers, suppliers etc.
But, for almost a year now, most exchanges have taken place remotely. While some buyers are considering returning to trade shows and business events after the health crisis, many are also enjoying using video conferencing systems for business meetings in order to save time and increase efficiency. According to the latest study by FEVAD (Fédération du e-commerce et de la vente à distance — Federation of e-commerce and distance selling), "Achats B2B & E-commerce" (E-commerce and B2B purchases), 37% of buyers will not resume face-to-face meetings after COVID-19, or they will, but only in a very restrained way. Most of them ultimately want to focus on face-to-face meetings for key moments such as responding to a call for tender, negotiating a framework contract etc. As such, we can draw inspiration from the Italian energy producer Enel's procurement department, which used smart glasses to visit its suppliers in the midst of the health crisis.
Also, one of the typical challenges of procurement departments is to ensure internal customer satisfaction. In order to do this, communication with company employees on a regular basis is essential so as to build trusted relationships, but also in a more timely and in-depth manner so as to assess and manage their overall satisfaction. When we know that 70% of the information learnt at work is the result of informal exchanges, it seems vital to make use of all available tools (corporate messaging, satisfaction questionnaires, Intranets) to maintain links with other departments.
Relying on data
In these particularly uncertain times, it seems crucial to clarify and share decisions based on numerical facts. This is the case for companies in general and for procurement departments in particular given their strategic role during this crisis.
To do this, buyers have several tools at their disposal:
- Supplier Relationship Management software provides a comprehensive view of the supplier portfolio and operations (listings, call for tenders management, risk management etc.).
- Expenditure analysis tools will centralise expenditure data and provide a comprehensive picture of how the company makes its purchases.
- Business Intelligence solutions will enable users to communicate information in a clear and informative way through dashboards or data display.
More than ever, procurement departments must rely on data in order to increase visibility and agility so as to quickly adapt to a changing and fragile environment. In addition, they also need this information to communicate, convince and unite their stakeholders around the strategic direction they are taking.
For each and every one of us, remote working means reinventing our routine and our ways of working. For buyers, the key is to combine communication, new technologies and data analysis.
 Informal Workplace Learning. Practice Application Brief No. 10.