Q&A: Drive greater category value by uniting external and internal intelligence
- Category Management
Learn how JAGGAER and The Smart Cube’s collaboration is putting more power in the hands of category managers, with comprehensive intelligence all in one place.
Category management has always been about considering intelligence from a broad range of sources, both internal and external. But it’s not always easy to maintain a clear, up-to-date, and consistent overview of everything that’s going on.
That’s what JAGGAER aims to change. The software leader’s spend management platform, JAGGAER One, offers a single location for all internal strategic planning activities. And now, it’s joined forces with The Smart Cube to provide external intelligence through Amplifi PRO.
We spoke to JAGGAER’s Senior Product Manager, Ian Dawson, and The Smart Cube’s Chief Solutions Officer, Prerna Dhawan, to unpack the true value of this collaboration – and get a wider perspective on how category managers’ roles are changing today.
Here’s what they had to say.
Q: What are some of the most significant shifts you’re seeing in category management today?
Ian: Fundamentally, we’re seeing a huge drive toward improving the maturity of category management. Many procurement organisations are looking at their processes, people, and technologies to create a robust, digitalised operating framework that facilitates collaboration and intelligence sharing between business stakeholders; because ultimately, that helps them deliver on their other priorities.
Prerna: Ian’s right. We’ve seen so much geopolitical disruption in the macro environment, and now there’s a general greater recognition of the importance of category management.
We’re seeing many category managers trying to future proof their business and generate additional sources of organisational value, rather than just focus on cost savings. It’s becoming a much more strategic function.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges coming out of those shifts in category management?
Ian: To me, there are two main challenges for category management: one is data related, and the other is change management.
Category management requires continual assessment of data and engagement with stakeholders across functions to agree on the best way forward. Today, there are more and more sources of data available but gathering this, and more importantly, making sense of all this data is the real challenge.
On the change management side, successful category management requires close collaboration and alignment between procurement and business stakeholders. Changing behaviours and mindsets has the potential to introduce points of friction so procurement needs to demonstrate credibility and commitment to wider business objectives to ensure success.
Prerna: To add to that, category managers are also dealing with a much faster pace of business change – both internal and external.
Just a few years ago, most businesses would shift category tactics once a year, but now, strategies need to be much more fluid. You need to make decisions and changes on a weekly basis based on what’s happening around you.
It’s much more complex and requires greater access to data to make decisions in a more evidence-based manner. But like Ian said, category managers first need to make sense of that data and to ensure it’s robust.
Q: Where do you see the value of combining human and artificial intelligence?
Prerna: It’s impossible for humans to get hold of all the data available today and figure out what it means for their category, procurement team, or business. But that’s where AI can help.
At The Smart Cube, AI is there to help us gather and curate data sets to a point where human specialists can further analyse them for our clients. And from an overall category management perspective, AI can help with the mundane repetitive tasks of data management and analysis. But importantly, the human element is still crucial.
Category management is still very much about collaborating with business stakeholders and negotiating with suppliers, and that’s something AI can’t do – not now, or in the next few years.
Ian: Prerna sums it up really well. At JAGGAER we have a vision of Autonomous Commerce – and a key part of that is leveraging intelligence to automate and augment processes – for example, in strategic, upstream processes, like Category Management; artificial intelligence should support by generating insights and recommendations from the data that the category manager can then incorporate into their decision making process.
Q: JAGGAER and The Smart Cube recently joined forces to bring Amplifi PRO to the JAGGAER One platform. What’s the value in this partnership for end users?
Ian: JAGGAER One is our unified platform for managing customer source to pay processes, and provides access to masses of internal data, from supplier and spend data to contracts, orders and payments.
This partnership enables our clients to combine that internal data with access to external intelligence; such as market trends, commodity inflation, and deep dives into category specifics. Together, we provide category managers with a holistic view of all the internal and external context of their categories so they can develop better informed strategies, that deliver value faster.
Ultimately, it’s bringing strategies that are often captured in PowerPoint presentations, and making them more visible and measurable in day to day operations – ensuring teams and their leaders always have the right information at the right time.
Prerna: A lot of this is about visibility and ease of access to data. If it’s complex to access your data, you can’t do anything we’ve already talked about – such as focusing on relationships and making informed decisions.
Accessing Amplifi PRO through the JAGGAER platform allows category managers to clearly see everything that’s affecting their category and strategy, all in one place.
And, with many organisations operating with globally dispersed teams, it helps ensure that everyone is looking at the same data in the same space.
Q: How does Amplifi PRO align with JAGGAER’s strategy?
Ian: Our strategy is all around changing the way businesses are run, automating the mundane and empowering people to focus on more strategic goals.
Our Autonomous Commerce strategy is built around four key tenets: Networked, Intelligent, Comprehensive, and Extensible, and for us, The Smart Cube aligns with those – especially comprehensive and intelligent.
Combined, we offer streamlined, easy access to category intelligence that supports the entire category management process.
And finally, how do you think JAGGAER and The Smart Cube’s capabilities will change how category managers perform in their roles?
Ian: Firstly, I believe that it will give category managers a broader overview and open them up to different perspectives, suppliers and approaches they might not have considered otherwise.
Secondly, it will free up category managers to focus more on executing their strategy; developing relationships, tracking execution and responding to changing conditions proactively when needed – key activities, but ones that can often be held up by firefighting day-to-day.
JAGGAER One and Amplifi PRO will really lighten the load and allow category managers to spend more time on the strategic elements of their roles.
Prerna: For me, these capabilities add credibility to category managers’ recommendations. Now, category managers can have more confidence with stakeholders as their strategies are based on an unbiased third-party intelligence source.
I think it’ll also help category managers create a lot more consistency. When you’re caught up with day-to-day firefighting, it’s easy to forget about your overall strategy and make decisions that might not align with your business goals.
For example, if you lose a supplier, you could rush to find another one at short notice, but they might not align with some of your ESG objectives. Using JAGGAER combined with Amplifi PRO, that overall strategy is always going to be there at the front of your mind – making it easier to make smarter decisions.