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Preparing for the Next COVID-19: Building Sustainable Corporate Agility for 2021 and Beyond

As the world moves into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are searching for the ‘next normal’. For forward-thinking enterprises, the answer is clear — it doesn’t exist.

2020 was a challenging year due to the constant unpredictability and operational headwinds. For procurement teams, at times it’s been nearly impossible to secure services and products that were once readily available.

Operational capabilities such as procurement, which was once considered merely important, became imperative for survival. Companies have come to quickly understand that more agile procurement functions enable them to adapt and navigate quickly through disruption.

That’s why corporate agility is the new differentiating factor; it separates companies that have been severely hampered by the pandemic from those that have been able to survive and even thrive.

Here’s how CPOs and other business leaders can foster sustainable agility while ensuring operational continuity with business stakeholders, suppliers, and customers across the value chain — no matter what 2021 and beyond bring.

Dynamic Sourcing Capabilities

During the initial COVID-19 wave, business and customer needs immediately changed. Buyers needed to confirm whether current suppliers were able to provide the new services they needed or whether they needed to partner with alternative, qualified businesses. Enterprises quickly realised how critical it is to arm their sourcing teams with an intuitive, self-service platform they could trust to find and collaborate with suppliers in an easy, immediate and effective way.

Procurement leaders are accelerating investment in this type of technology because it provides better results for all stakeholders. CPOs see the value of being able to quickly tap into their key suppliers’ capabilities — strengthening partnerships, accelerating information exchange, and identifying additional resources as needed.

Intelligent Business Process Automation

Automation isn’t a new concept, but, this year, enterprises have rapidly revisited their operating models and turned to more intelligent automation to transform their business processes. For sourcing and procurement teams, this has meant an increased adoption of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics.

These technologies provide a real competitive edge through more effective processing and contextualising of complex data, offering immediate, tangible benefits:

  • Business Users and distributed buyers have an immediate, fast and intuitive way to source services when and how they need them.
  • Providers no longer waste time with the painful, time-consuming request for proposal process and are able to focus on the core services that buyers are purchasing.
  • Procurement is increasingly viewed as a strategic partner to the business, focusing its time on accelerating company goals and priorities.

Companies that have used the past several months to invest in technology and reengineer their operating models for greater agility have seen immediate benefits and gained a competitive edge to drive innovation, boost operational impact and increase spend effectiveness. 

Transformational Future-Focused Mindset

When it comes to procurement, in a matter of months, COVID-19 accelerated a transition that was underway for more than a decade. CPOs have a unique opportunity to grasp this moment in time and to ensure they have the right people, processes, and technologies in place so they can remain agile no matter what disruption may occur next.

This future-focused mindset realises adaptability is an ongoing journey — one where the goal is to continually look for ways to improve efficiencies, efficacy, and the stakeholder experience. Instead of worrying about the building blocks of the past, today’s CPO is skipping straight to the requirements of the future, letting go of archaic processes and tools, and investing in new foundations.

The New Corporate Agility: Ready for What’s Next

Now is the right time to reflect on the past and look forward to a brighter future. In 2020, businesses had to dramatically alter their operating models. Some changes were forced by immediate, short-term needs, yet many led to fundamental, lasting shifts in agility that will position these companies for long-term growth and competitive advantage.

Although there is no such thing as the new normal, forward-looking CPOs and procurement teams are preparing themselves for the ‘next normal’ and investing in sustainable agility: core processes that empower stakeholders with immediate access and intuitive, self-service experiences. Combined with the power of technology to automate and streamline outdated processes, this transformation empowers procurement teams to focus on more strategic, high-value work and quickly pivot, as events dictate. By doing so, companies will be far better prepared to successfully navigate any future challenges.

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