Procurement: Three lessons we can learn from remote working

Procurement ; teleworking
April 16th, 2020
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Remote working isn't a new concept in the world of procurement. However, what is new for procurement departments in the context of COVID-19 is the way in which everyone is having to work remotely, each and every day.

This shift from the exceptional to the everyday is having an impact on the way procurement departments are operating. Here are three lessons that have already emerged after just one month of working remotely:

Procurement lesson no. 1: Accelerating invoice digitalisation

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, procurement departments had been working to develop the digitalisation of invoicing and payment processes for two reasons:

  • Management economics driven by digitally processing supplier invoices
  • Increased reliability and the reduction of ongoing recorded disputes

Remote working serves as a third compelling reason for why procurement departments should strive to finish digitalising their processes. With procurement teams confined to their homes, sending and processing physical invoices has become an impossible task.

As a result, ensuring business continuity, to which invoicing is crucial, relies upon fully digitalising:

  • The sending of invoices
  • The validation chain
  • Processing and payment

Procurement lesson no. 2: A new way of working collectively

Remote working isn't just about working away from the office, which is already a common occurrence in the procurement world, at least within larger organisations. This is why the clear second lesson for procurement departments while working remotely in lockdown is the need to adjust the way in which the team works.

Rules for using the coffee machine or chatting to colleagues in the office next door clearly no longer apply. Not to mention, of course, the friendly practices that are unique to each team. We must therefore work within these constraints to identify ways in which we can work differently.

Procurement departments are introducing new rules to ensure that departments are working together and fostering collective innovation, with a focus on:

  • Remote management and being responsive when making decisions.
  • Trying out new tools to help conduct team meetings

Procurement lesson no. 3: Reinventing inter-departmental relationships

The third lesson for procurement departments in the wake of COVID-19 is less so their ability to respond to new business needs, but rather their ability to maintain strong relationships with other departments, despite the strain of the crisis.

Procurement departments have had to adapt to an entirely new way of collaborating due to:

  • Intense pressure from other departments to help sustain, and often shape, the supply chain.
  • The reorganisation of teams remaining on-site, which sometimes means bringing new internal partners into the fold.

Procurement departments have had to learn to be flexible very quickly in order to strengthen the agility of the company. However, at the same time, teams have continued to strongly assert their strategic capabilities:

  • Identifying the underlying needs behind the urgency of demands
  • Managing supplier risk despite operational pressure
  • Driving innovation to boost the company's capacity for recovery

In conclusion, the reported continuation of remote working [1] as part of organisations' practices highlights the current efforts of procurement departments towards maintaining their contribution at the level typically expected. The progress made towards managing relationships remotely will prove worthwhile moving forward.

In light of this new perspective, "Why is the Cloud now required in procurement", a recent article written by Xavier Laurent, Manutan's Director of Value-Added Services, is worth another read. The accelerated change in procurement practices inherently strengthens the article's relevance.


[1] Cette épidémie qui accélère la transition numérique (The epidemic that is accelerating digital transformation) — Les Échos 14/04/20

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