Kelly Barner Reflects on 25 Years of Procurement Innovation
Procurement is accustomed to thriving in the midst of constant change: always maturing, evolving, and pushing towards the next biggest thing. In fact, we’re so focused on the future, that we rarely pause to look back.
As JAGGAER celebrates its 25th anniversary, It provides us all with an opportunity to look back to the beginning of procurement’s journey and appreciate the critical innovations that have occurred along the way. 25 years takes us back to 1996, when gas was $ 1.23 per gallon and a dozen eggs were $ 1.31. I graduated from high school that year. And while I wouldn’t discover procurement for another 7 years, I’ve had the extraordinary opportunity to walk this road with an amazing community of professionals and companies for nearly two decades.
When I think of the most noteworthy developments in procurement over the last quarter-century, two primary things come to mind – both of which position us for an extremely bright future.
The Caliber of Procurement Talent Has Skyrocketed
The days of procurement being a low impact gathering place for inconsistent skillsets are over. Today’s procurement professionals are high performing, appropriately trained, strategic thinkers. In many cases, they either set out to have careers in procurement or were specifically recruited from other roles for their capabilities and experience. From category expertise to executive-level experience, today’s procurement professionals are a force to be reckoned with.
We saw procurement’s capabilities in full force as they rose to the occasion in 2020, but this was just the latest in years’ worth of disruptions, instability, and uncertainty that have given us opportunities to shine. From the 2008-2009 global recession to more supply chain specific events such as the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, procurement has honed their skills through many ‘trial by fire’ situations. 25 years ago, working in procurement qualified you to – keep working in procurement. Today it qualifies you for anything you decide is on your ambitious career path.
SaaS, Cloud Hosting, and Project-Based Implementations
One of the most enabling changes over the last two decades has been on the technology front. The combination of cloud computing and the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery model have made it faster to implement new technology, easier to transition between solutions, and absolutely reasonable to leverage a best-of-breed solution for a specific need without losing enterprise-wide data continuity.
Anyone who has been around long enough to remember CombineNet knows that our current model was in the works for a long time. CombineNet was an innovative sourcing and optimization platform acquired by SciQuest (which would later rebrand to JAGGAER) in 2013. Founded in 2000, CombineNet’s solution was typically used for large sourcing projects that required complex optimization modeling such as LTL freight and national location-based services. The technology was available for subscription on a project basis rather than as a software purchase.
CombineNet’s model was as unique as it was revolutionary, and it was years ahead of its time. I know this firsthand; from 2005-2008 my team at Emptoris went head-to-head with CombineNet on a regular basis, duking it out to win the clients with leading-edge optimization requirements. This approach to technology is now far more commonplace, and it has given procurement the tools and functionality we need to be as agile, opportunistic, and strategic as each category demands.
If we look 25 years in the future, we focus our attention on the year 2046. What will we reflect back on when JAGGAER reaches their 50th anniversary? No one knows for sure, but I can easily envision the following:
- 2026 – 5 years forward: AI and machine learning will be commonplace, both for analytics and chatbot-led stakeholder support. Self-guided buying will be the rule rather than the exception, improving both procurement’s internal brand and respect for our strategic capabilities.
- 2031 – 10 years forward: Procurement earns a broad role within the C-suite as the owner of company-wide initiatives for supplier diversity, sustainability, and risk. As external reporting on these initiatives becomes more common, procurement takes on a more visible role with shareholders and the customer base.
- 2041 – 20 years forward: Procurement will have further evolved to become the voice of the supplier in addition to being a key contributor to top-line growth. Because supply chain value creation and societal consideration are a requirement for market entry rather than a source of competitive differentiation, the head of procurement will serve as a key spokesperson for the company as whole.
When I think about the journey procurement has been on over the last two and a half decades, I am proud and humbled at the same time. I joined the profession at the pivot between old and new, on-premise and cloud, tactical and strategic. I love this field and the colleagues I have met along the way. Even if all of my predictions are wrong, I am positive that procurement is on the upswing and is positioned to achieve great things now and into the future.
About The Author
Kelly is the Owner and Editor of Buyers Meeting Point. She has a unique perspective on procurement from her experience on both sides of the negotiation desk. She has led projects involving members of procurement, supplier and purchasing teams. Kelly has practical skills in strategic sourcing program design and management, opportunity assessment, knowledge management, and custom taxonomy design and implementation.