For almost a year now, the Corona pandemic has had the global economy firmly in its grip. In spring 2020, it quickly became clear that Germany was lagging behind when it comes to digitalisation. This is also true for procurement. But many positive developments were also triggered by the Corona crisis: for example, there was a kind of “forced digitalisation” in numerous businesses, authorities and organisations, and millions of people and thousands of companies experienced what the leap into the digital future feels like. More importantly, however, the Corona crisis helped to permanently change our view of digitalisation. An awareness emerged that technology and digitalisation tools are a stabilisation and success factor in times of existence-threatening crises that can decide the economic survival of a company, and are not just a negligible item on a business agenda. But what about the digital transformation today? Has procurement been able to learn its lessons from the Corona crisis and to live up to the current challenges and requirements?
Too little operational automation in procurement
According to surveys, the automation rate in operational purchasing is still comparatively low at the beginning of 2021. Yet the automation of operational activities plays a key role when it comes to digitisation. The automation of operational processes leads to reduced effort for manual tasks, fewer errors, more efficiency and transparency and consequently to process optimisation in procurement. All of this is an important cornerstone for the success of strategic activities, which come into even greater focus in times of Corona. In the fight against the consequences of the pandemic, purchasing plays a key role in the company. Disrupted supply chains put risk management, supply and process security at the centre of attention. The use of automation tools and software solutions enables and facilitates these tasks immensely.
The e-book “Smart Purchasing, Smart Buyers” deals with the question of how operational purchasing can be optimized through intelligent automation tools and innovative technologies.
Little willingness to use new technologies
Although artificial intelligence can fundamentally facilitate everyday work in purchasing, it is not yet seen as a decisive competitive advantage in many purchasing departments. Clarity about the extent to which data science and AI tools can currently be used and scaled lack. What is needed is information on how companies can easily and successfully implement and use AI-based software solutions to enable and drive the digitalisation of business processes. Cloud solutions – especially SaaS solutions – are also becoming increasingly important for modern procurement in the age of Corona, as cloud computing is characterised by high flexibility and low costs.
What must change in procurement in 2021?
All this shows that the procurement situation in many companies has hardly changed compared to 2020. But it is precisely the current pandemic that makes it necessary to not only rely on short-term solutions for crisis management. Rather, digital systems in combination with the advancement of new technologies are now decisive for competition. The impact of the coronavirus should be an impetus for structural change and an opportunity to quickly identify and address existing deficits in digitalisation. This must take the form of future-proof digitalisation projects. Checklists can help here to find the right software solution. Particular attention should be paid to long-term and sustainable digitisation partnerships. The digitisation of entire value and supply chains is definitely a major challenge for purchasing, but by using new digital technologies and state-of-the-art electronic solutions, procurement organisations can become more resilient both during and after the crisis.