By Susan Avery
Readers always ask what the next “big thing” to impact their job – and industry, at large – will be. New trends and technologies are popping up every day in this digital age, so the ability to quickly adapt is critical.
The key here is flexibility – the ability to step outside the boundaries of your job description and get involved with different business units, skill sets and teams. Every unit needs to work together and operate cohesively to produce a well-oiled, effective machine. This helps keep employees, partners and customers happy, and pushes your company’s profits upwards.
We spoke with experts from various industries tied to procurement to get their take on the most important trends for 2016. Here are the five trends procurement professionals should keep in mind as 2016 approaches:
Millennials are here, promoting the rise of customer experience and mobile empowerment.
Millennials are changing the e-commerce landscape and the 2016 buyer will increasingly become the mobile millennial, says Mark Johnson, CEO of Four51. The Economist reported millennials occupy 34% of business positions in 2015 compared to 29% for baby boomers. They’ve come to expect the ability to work from anywhere, anytime, through any channel (desktop, tablet, mobile).
Almost half of all business-to-business online researchers are millennials and 42% of B2B buyers use a mobile device at some point during the purchase process (Think With Google). Forrester’s April 2015 B2B eCommerce Forecast showed 74% of buyers already research at least half of their work purchases online. We’ll see this increase in 2016 and companies need to focus on improving communication with this new generation of B2B purchasers. The buyer and supplier will experience great benefits as well as the overall economy. Those looking to retain millennial talent need to ensure their company can meet their expectations when it comes to flexibility and the latest technology.
Strategic “self-service” will become the new “full-service.”
The term “always on” comes into play here. Our society goes back and forth on whether this mentality will improve or disrupt productivity, but Johnson continues to see businesses reinventing themselves to become a better partner who is easy to communicate with.
It’s important to note this can drive cost reduction of order management and better customer support – aka happy customers and stakeholders, and positive spreadsheets. Forrester reported B2B companies can reduce client service costs by as much as 90% by moving to a self-serve e-commerce environment.
Cloud to improve partner collaboration in the supply chain.
Providing full service isn’t the only improvement needed when it comes to communication in the procurement process. Kurt Cavano, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of GT Nexus, knows that the key to success is deeper visibility and stronger communication between partners and suppliers. A cloud-based network delivers buyer-supplier collaboration to streamline ordering processes, enables inbound-to-plant visibility and provides a single view to manage global transportation. If adjustments need to be made along the way, it is now easier to do so and have full visibility as to where your shipments are, keeping customers and partners happy every step of the way.
Data breaches will change the terms of supplier contracts.
Research suggests 78% of organizations have experienced a data breach within the past two years. Procurement departments are far from immune to the immediate and long-lasting effects of a breach. Specific verbiage or complete omission of breach language within their thousands of contracts can have a devastating impact on the procurement department and the company as a whole.
Protect your company by focusing on this small, but critical, component, says Lloyd Alexander of Seal Software.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and procurement departments become new best friends.
Powerful AI through natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning drives automation, insight and efficiency in traditionally time- and labor-intensive procurement functions related to contract management, according to Alexander. Myriad drivers – supplier obligation compliance, KPI monitoring, event-driven contract requests and reviews, adherence to regulatory compliance changes, to name a few – demand adoption of this type of technology to maintain control in today’s 24/7, speed-of-the-internet pace.
The topic of today’s always on, digital society is a common trend we continue to see across the board, and companies (and individuals) looking to get ahead should keep this top of mind.
Susan Avery is Editor-in-Chief at My Purchasing Center. She writes articles, blogs and white papers and manages and creates other content for the online procurement and supply management publication. She produces and moderates roundtable discussions, podcasts, webcasts and video interviews. Susan has 30 years experience covering procurement and supply management for Purchasing magazine and Purchasing.com.
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