Best of breed technology in complex services categories

When and for whom do best of breed tools make sense? And how can they add value within a wider tech stack?

Episode highlights

The digital transformation roadmap
Best practices and guiding principles on technology choices
Turning a tech strategy into action
Best-of-breed tech for complex services categories
Bridging the gap between IT and procurement

Posted by: ZivioReading time: 100 minutes

With With Joël Collin-Demers, Consulting Principal, Pure Procurement

00:00:00 - Choosing the right technology set for delivering a business objective
00:11:30 - The digital transformation roadmap
00:19:50 - Best practices and guiding principles on technology choices
00:23:45 - Bridging the gap between IT and procurement
00:29:40 - The stakeholders in the technology strategy
00:38:20 - Turning a tech strategy into action
00:42:00 - The role of app market place
00:49:50 - Best-of-breed tech for complex services categories
01:05:45 - Trends in visibility


Jonny Dunning:        0:00       Okay, let’s get started then. So I’m very pleased to have Joël Collin-Demers, who is the Consulting Principal at Pure Procurement, based out of Montreal. Joël, thank you very much for joining me how you doing?

Joël Collin-Demers: 0:13       I’m doing good. I apologize for the tongue twister that is my company name. But first of all, but yeah, I’m doing great. Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jonny Dunning:        0:22       Good stuff. Excellent. So we’ve got some topics lined up to discuss today, based around an area that’s very much of interest to both of us digital procurement, digital transformation. Within that, we’re obviously gonna be looking at a wide range of areas, but a couple of focus areas are looking at best of breed versus kind of sweet type approaches from the technology side, and also looking at the specific challenges that sit around the procurement of complex services. But before we get into that, as we always like to do on this podcast, it’d be great to get a bit of an understanding of your background, just talk to people kind of how you came through your procurement journey, and where you are now and what you’re doing now?

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:03       Yeah, sure. So I started my career in Australia on an internship with a consulting firm down there when I was there, on exchange, and they were focused on business process management, pure business process management. So, look, mapping processes, looking at the inefficiencies and the optimization opportunities in there. And I kind of got the bug, at that point in time came back, and I was doing a Bachelor of Business and Administration with specialization in IT management. And consulting was something that was interesting to me as well, just because of the fact that you were able to see, a lot of different industries, a lot of different businesses, ways of doing things in a relatively short amount of time compared to working in industry for 5~10 years at a time in different companies. So that was the main draw and then worked at IBM out of university for seven years there about and started implementing SAP, MM, Materials Management, the purchasing module with clients and then kind of grew from there, right? Because if the question for me was always, what is the best tool set? What’s the best way to give an application portfolio or an application architecture to procurement for them to reach their business objectives as easily as possible? And so I ended up managing the procurement, implementation or system implementation practice at IBM, Canada. And three years ago, I want to say three, four years ago, when I’m on my own to be able to branch off into even more systems, so not just the SAP portfolio, but also looking at, with the other ERPs whether it be Oracle, JD Edwards, understanding those better understanding the source to pay suites better so whether it be [Unclear], or Ariba, GP, Jagger, all those sweets as well. And also looking at more pure play technologies, right, so that the teal books, this CVO is the all the different technologies that are out there that were created to solve a specific problem within a vertical in that procurement value chain. Right. So yeah, in the last four years, I’ve been in my firm procurements and I also get to learn about new technologies as I go through and it’s always in the quest to be able to provide the best answer to how do I solve for different procurement challenges or objectives that I have within a business and being able to adapt that answer to different industries, different contexts, different spend profiles? So in a nutshell, that’s where I’ve come from. And that’s what I’ve tried to build as an expertise over time. And it’s remained interesting. So I’m still here.

Jonny Dunning:        3:54       Yeah, absolutely. And I think, there aren’t really that many specialized systems experts in the field that you’re in terms of the breadth of experience and understanding you’ve got and it’s an exploding field. I was at a really interesting meeting earlier in the week that [Unclear] were running. Dr. Louise Epstein and it was with procure tech Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong? Lance Youngest company, make him a very famous cyclist there for a second, really interesting looking at Eloise, Eloise is kind of market map where I don’t know if you’ve seen the procurements market map?

Joël Collin-Demers: 4:29       The spider map.

Jonny Dunning:        4:30       Yeah, I mean, it’s just incredible how quickly it’s growing. And it was brilliant to have lots of those companies there and some kind of corporates there as well and various analysts and investors and stuff like that, just getting involved in the conversation. It’s a rapidly expanding area, and people are constantly looking for specialist solutions. In fact, I was randomly having a conversation the other night with where I was taking my daughter to a sports club and one of the other dads I was chatting to them. They happen to work in procurement, they were saying, “I’m really looking for a contract manufacturing outsourcing platform.” And, people are looking for these really specialist needs right now in procurement. So, it’s a huge growth area. 

Joël Collin-Demers: 5:11       And I was actually just to finish on that point, I was actually posting something on LinkedIn yesterday when I’m gone. It’s to a point where, there’s a paradox of choice where we have all this choice of different solutions to be able to cater to procurements needs, but there’s so many of them, but trying to analyze them all, will only get you unhappy with the outcome, regardless of what the outcome is. Because there’s too much to do, right? It’s like, when you’re shopping for a pair of jeans, if there’s only three choices to choose from, then you do your analysis quickly, you pick one and you’re happy with the outcome, generally speaking, but if you go to Levi’s, and there’s 300 pairs of jeans are going, “Oh, I’m gonna be here all afternoon. And I won’t be satisfied with what I get when I come out either.” Right? So we’re kind of getting into that phase of the procurement application market these days.

Jonny Dunning:        5:58       Yeah, absolutely. And I like the way you describe yourself, I think I saw this on LinkedIn where you described yourself as a translator between procurement and IT. I think that’s a very apt description, is something that’s kind of within some organizations, it maybe ties in a little bit to what they’re doing around procurement excellence. But I think in terms of being able to bring that advisory to the party, it’s a very critical area.

Joël Collin-Demers: 6:26       For sure, because the way I see it, so I grew up in the IT world. And then one of the things I left out when he asked me to introduce myself as I also did a master’s, or certificate in Strategic Procurement, because I wanted to be able to develop that piece as well. And to me, I know all the IT processes, how you deploy changes through a landscape, how you manage an IT landscape, for an ERP, the difference between an incident ticket and a request ticket and just being able to navigate the IT organization. And often if you’ve you spent your entire career in procurement, you don’t necessarily have that that visibility or that skill set. So coming to the table, to a CPOs office to a procurement directors, office category managers and having the discussion around. Okay, well, what are you trying to get to as a business outcome? And then let’s solve for that with technology. Whereas sometimes I feel like we take the inverse approach where we’ll buy technology, and we’ll try to make it fit to the procurement organization. So yeah, I’ve seen that being at the intersection of those two things. And for any business function, really being able to understand how to navigate the IT department and the technology piece to serve the business is really an interesting place to be at. Right. And in that advisory also, really push CEOs and procurement organizations to build up the digital and just IT literacy of their folks in general, because that’s something that will allow you to go faster in your innovation within your organization, especially with large enterprises, of course.

Jonny Dunning:        8:04       And how do you see that if you look through the different strata of kind of roles and functions within procurement? Do you see much kind of pushback from people at any level within procurement around technology in terms of I don’t want to be automated, we don’t want to change things? Do you see any of that sort of kind of negative fear factor? Or do you think people most people are pretty bought in?

Joël Collin-Demers: 8:31       Most people are pretty bad. And I think because they see, I think it’s an older mentality where, if you’ve been around and you’ve done a couple of technology projects, over the years, you’ll see that it doesn’t necessarily take you out of the picture, or automate you as a procurement professional, what it does, is it changes the nature of your problems. So instead of dealing with how we’re gonna get this amount of work done, which is more like, updating price lists on a monthly basis. Well, if we’re able to automate that, then the problem becomes, okay, well, how do we make sure that, we’re actually paying those prices when we order and we loop that back with the invoicing process, and we’re able to have better visibility into the compliance to those prices, and the actual usage. And so as you go up through the maturity curve, of the technological capabilities that you have in your organization, the nature of your problem, change, but you still have, you still have all these questions to answer and all these other things that you’d be able to do to extract more value from procurement.

Jonny Dunning:        9:42       Yeah, it’s moving away from transactional interest strategic activities, and it elevates the game of procurement and it means the type of skills required in procurement, start moving more towards the analytical side of things, the strategic side of things, but I think it’s great in terms of bringing a new generation into procurement. And I would say that if you’re kind of like the current generation coming out of university looking for their first jobs, really smart people, then they’re going to expect a decent level of digitalization within organizations so that they can actually use those high level skills. Whereas the thing, if companies get caught behind the curve trying to be to, you know, stick to old fashioned processes, it’s just gonna be unattractive to the new wave of talent coming in as well.

Joël Collin-Demers: 10:27     Absolutely! I think you hit the nail on the head with that one, and I would also argue, you have like a wider set of skills, right? So we see ESG, like being able to do more spend analysis, being able to spend more time on vendor relationship management, or really specific niche categories and developing strategies for those where, you know, without systems, we were doing more of a blanket approach, where we have three different types of processes and now we can afford to have 14 to be very niche and target very specific characteristics of a category or subcategory. So I think you’re totally right, it’s being able to have that tool set and offer those tools to younger generation is also a differentiator in terms of recruitment, and potentially retention.

Jonny Dunning:        11:20     Yeah, so you touched on an interesting point earlier about taking a strategic approach, understanding what the goals, aims problems are of an organization before you start even thinking about technology. Rather than trying to make technology fit as looking at what’s happening as standard. I think that’s a really crucial point. And it’s something that a couple of the enterprise procurement professionals who were at this event the other day on some of the tech companies we’re bringing up, is just about, there’s no point in digitalising, a poor process. And quite often that can happen, where you’re basically taking something that’s inefficient and making it inefficient in a digital format. That’s not what it’s all about. So would you be able to talk a little bit about how you typically advise organizations? And what the sort of problems and starting points are that you usually come across?

Joël Collin-Demers: 12:17     Sure. And just to add on to what you were saying, the best way that I’ve ever heard it said is, if you have a chaotic process, and you automate it, you’re just gonna have automated chaos, right? Yeah, that’s right. So I’ve always found that to be very visual, in terms of explaining it. But anyways, to answer your question more directly to how I would approach like a mandate with certain clients, for me, it’s all about road mapping, right? And being able to understand, okay, what is the organization spend profiles? Or are you in manufacturing, and you have a lot of direct spend, you also have some indirect spend. And we need to consider both of those in the architecture of the systems. And when I say the architecture, the systems, I mean, agnostic of technology, right, so there’s like seven main blocks that I see in procurement system architecture, there’s spend analysis at the front, then we get into sourcing and category management strategies that we get into CLM, or Contract Lifecycle Management. And once we’ve got, that’s more of the Strategic Procurement modules, then when we get into more operational purchasing, we’ve got the procure to pay or procure to order modules, where we’re cutting recs, approvals for disorders, doing goods, receipts, or service receipts, we’ve got invoicing, and accounts payables. And then we’ve got a supplier relationship management that kind of, is threaded across the entire value chain. So those are the big pieces. And then I’d look at those big pieces with that company spend profiles and, their organizational profile as well. Are they based in North America? Are they global? What are the other considerations that we need to have in there from an IT standpoint? And finally, the deployment strategy based on existing constraints? So is there already 18 ERPs that we need to take into consideration? Or is there a one single ERP? Is there already a source to pay tool in there somewhere? Like, are there other tools that we need to take stock of before starting? And so we have kind of all the pieces, right? We have, okay, what’s our business profile, spend profile? What do we have in terms of objectives for each of those blocks I mentioned? Where are the big value drivers for our business, in our industry? And then fourth, what are the third, what’s the constraints that we have to play with from an IT standpoint? And once you’ve got all those components, you can start to think about, okay, well, what’s the highest priority from a benefit standpoint? What’s the highest priority or what’s the easiest thing to implement from an adoption standpoint to get the ball rolling and what other constraints do we need to think about in terms of IT projects that are on the roadmap? Are you replacing an ERP system? Is it a fresh ERP system? Do you have other constraints, other projects that are coming in interfering, or that need to be considered in a roadmap? And then once you do that, it’s an iterative process, right? You’ll put it, put it on the table, once we’ll look at it, poke holes in it, and adjust it. And eventually we get to, okay, this is where we’re at, this is where we want to get to, these are the value drivers, these are the adoption drivers, these are the constraints that we need to be aware of. And then it’s all about execution, right? Like the crafting that initial strategy is relatively easy in the grand scheme of things. The execution afterwards, the plan, the plan is, is you’re never going to execute 100% on the plan. So you always need to keep updating that roadmap as new information becomes available, as well. And as you face different challenges within the implementation of the projects. But doing that, and also keeping each of the pieces of that roadmap in execution as small and as simple as possible, is what’s going to get you from crafting that roadmap to having something that’s completed in terms of desired end state.

Jonny Dunning:        16:18     Yeah, and that architecture, how long would you say that? I think you said seven parts to that architecture? 

Joël Collin-Demers: 16:26     Oh the seven blocks.

Jonny Dunning:        16:27     Yeah, seven blocks? How long would you say that architecture has been established as a kind of best practice?

Joël Collin-Demers: 16:38     So do you mean, theory?

Jonny Dunning:        16:40     Yeah. Because the way I’m looking at it is, you’ve got that kind of layout, and you’ve got those elements to it. But if we go back to like, the new crop of kind of procure tech companies that are coming out now, all the time, some of them will cross over, some of them will slot and we can come into this later when we talk about best of breed. But it’s an interesting, potentially, like, where does that paradigm sit? How far through is that, that kind of top level paradigm, those areas are always going to exist for companies? They’re going to always be an important part of it. But I feel that with the options, there are now in terms of the type of technologies you can use and where they overlap, that is still going to remain the same. But it feels like it could be quite fluid in how that’s achieved.

Joël Collin-Demers: 17:26     Absolutely. I’m not going to have necessarily one solution that covers all of them. And or one solution for each of the blocks, right? It’s depending on what you’re looking at. And we did cover that, because that’s kind of the peace between the system agnostic or technology agnostic roadmap, and the execution is selecting the technologies to fill in that roadmap. And depending on the technologies that you’re looking at, they’re going to have a different a breadth, a different depth. And so you need to be really clear on what you’re trying to solve for so that you’re able to, to then make tradeoffs or make decisions based on what technologies stand out to you, right? Because you might have a technology that does everything you want it to do from a procure to pay standpoint, but they don’t offer anything on the sourcing contract management side of things. And so you’re gonna have to have interfaces between with another product, right? So those are all tradeoffs that, there’s no silver bullet, or perfect way to go about it. But it’s making sure that yeah, what’s the priority? And then let’s focus on that, let’s make sure that we have open flexible configurable applications, where we’re able to push data in through API’s, get data out from API’s, extract all the data from database tables, and that we’re able to have some flexibility in terms of, extending those API’s as needed. And if you’re able to purchase and prioritize, purchasing those types of solutions, in your priority, in terms of what you’re trying to accomplish from a benefit and adoption standpoint, then at least you’re not painting yourself into a corner, by buying something that you’re never going to be able to build on top of or extent.

Jonny Dunning:        19:12     Yeah, I guess it comes down to the fact that procurement is not uniform. It’s not uniform across different organizations, in terms of how people see the world, some people very much look at the world as direct versus indirect. Some people very much have a very specific category strategy. Some people are talking about going beyond categories and looking at the world in a slightly different way. I think that must present some pretty unique challenges for you in the sense that the way a procurement organization is set up is so different in different organizations. And the level of maturity is going to be quite different. Clearly the type of clients you’re dealing with probably got a fairly mature set up I would imagine in most instances, but it’s really not a uniform thing, it seems to me.

Joël Collin-Demers: 19:57     Absolutely. And to call back to what I was saying at the outset, that’s why it remains interesting to me, but important work as well. Because each organization to your point is gonna have a different profile and a different language and a different way of setting up their structure. And you might have businesses that are in the same industry, but have additional divisions and other industries. And so it becomes a puzzle, to go through the methodology, the approach, but the questions and the constraints, and the considerations are always a bit different, right? And so the answer is never quite the same. So, at that point, I’d say, be careful to do anybody listening of falling into the best practices trap, right? Because yes, there are best practices up to a certain level of granularity, but then when you will try to apply those best practices to your business, there’s always going to be nuances, and there’s always going to be considerations that are unique to your context. And so, it’s often hard to add, like I get asked that question, at the beginning of relationships, and then there’s an easy answer. And then as we get into the more granular issues there, okay, well, what’s the best practice for oil and gas service purchasing for cleaning services in remote areas, and you go, like, that’s so specific, like, I don’t think I can give you a best practice, there’s no report that says how to do that. So, I think it’s being able to have expectations on best practices and on solutions that are realistic in terms of the granularity to which they will provide you a solution that’s out of the box.

Jonny Dunning:        21:38     Yeah, and I guess some of the best practices actually, on the strategy side of it, if you’re employing strategic best practice, then in terms of how that can be applied to the rollout and the use of technology, as long as you’re following the best practice. So that is going to have to apply to your specific circumstances, maybe that follow some kind of 80/20 rule where you know, kind of 80% of the best practice is going to apply, but there’s 20%, that’s going to be company specific, or maybe more if it’s like a really specialist mining company that does something quite unique, for example. 

Joël Collin-Demers: 22:08     Yeah, I like to think of it as guiding principles, right. So like, go gather the best practices that you see that are more generic, come back and say, Okay, well, what is our priority? What are our guiding principles for when we’ll have to take trade off decisions? So are we going to prioritize user adoption or benefit realization? Because often those are at odds, right? So what’s the priority there? If I have to roll out the most complex module to get the most benefit, that’s not going to help my user adoption. So, am I better to start with something that’s a bit more simple, but that’s not going to have the same amount of benefits? That’s always a conversation I run into, right. So being clear on how you’re going to address trade off decisions, as you meet issues is something that I think is, is more valuable than trying to figure out the best practices for any given scenario. 

Jonny Dunning:        22:59     Yeah, I think that, that point you just made about adoption versus benefit realization, as a huge one, just in terms of, I tend to see this quite a lot where people are maybe using slightly more legacy systems, or they’ve got overarching systems they’ve had in place for a long period of time. And the benefits just not there, where you’ve got massive, massive forms, just requiring huge amounts of information, taking up loads of time, just the adoption fall off is it’s a complete false economy where, I guess if everyone was just stuck in a room, saying, “If we collect all of this information and go to the [Unclear] degree, wow, we’re gonna have these incredible insights.” And it’s like, “Well, you know what? People have got to do a job.” And they’ve actually got to think about the user. And that brings me back to the point we were talking about earlier with regards to bridging IT and procurement. What’s the kind of typical gap that you see? Or what’s the kind of typical scenarios that you encounter when you’re addressing that when you come in fresh to a new organization?

Joël Collin-Demers: 24:00     So when you asked me that question, not necessarily like the biggest gap, but the biggest challenge is often integration, right? Like, people will be specialized in IT in a given system and a given technology. And as when you come in with procurement with this roadmap that I’m speaking of, and you’ve selected maybe 1, 2, 3 technologies that are going to be your base for covering those seven blocks I was referring to earlier, then the complexity is in making sure you have the right integration and the right people that understand how to manage integration? How to develop and deploy integration between systems, because that’s often where we’ll see things fall off in terms of adaption and complexity, because the integration scenarios haven’t been thought out correctly. Because the way I think about it is you have a business process, right? There’s 10 steps to get from trigger to the vendor result that you’re looking for. And then you’re going to have maybe, have to go through three systems to be able to get to that end result that you’re looking for. And so you have to thread the needle through of that process through those different systems. And that requires not only system interfaces, but also like, potentially process interfaces. And what I mean by that is making sure that the definitions are the same throughout, right. So, if I start off a requisition in a plant, which is a, an organizational structure concept in one system, and then I’m sending it to another system where the concept of plant doesn’t exist, it’s a division, and then I come back into an invoicing system, and it’s called an organization, then people are gonna get confused when they talk to each other across the organization if they’re working in those different systems, right? So thinking about how are you going to solve that and that’s it goes back to the to the flexibility of the systems that you’re purchasing as well that can we re-label things? Can we think about the technical integration piece as well? But I find that’s the biggest challenge at the end of the day, when you’re trying to cater to the entire value chain of procurement with systems is being able to not only have that roadmap, have that deployment strategy, but then at a granular level, how does that process and the terminology and vocabulary? How is it integrated from end-to-end, to make sure that...?

Jonny Dunning:        26:31     Totally agree, we see that a lot with things like taxonomies. Taxonomy is a huge one, but even just to kind of like, say, structured cost coding, and how that’s applied, and what terminology is used within that. But also, if the company has made acquisitions, or if they’ve got multiple different types of operation, the layers and layers of complexity are almost infinite in the sense of some of these really, really large organizations, they are incredibly complicated. And they’ve grown through acquisition and ended up with this giant beast.

Joël Collin-Demers: 27:02     Hopefully, I mean, and in that scenario, you’ll have a center of expertise, a center of excellence that’s in your procurement team that’s also kind of technology focused, and they’re waking up and going to bed every single day thinking about how do we remove that complexity, right? How do we, in an M&A scenario, is there a way for us to onboard those folks into an existing system or two, to think about how we’re going to integrate them into the culture, essentially, of the company and what that means at a system level?

Jonny Dunning:        27:33     Yeah, and another thing that I find interesting about the whole kind of interfaces and integrations side of things is, I feel like in some ways, it’s got simpler, or I feel like the way the more modern technology operates, it is can be a bit simpler, just in terms of things like using existing single sign on two factor authentication and stuff like that just across the board. So if somebody’s using a new system, typically when we wrote out for a customer will use their internal system single sign on, so they don’t have to register for a new system, create an account, that just basically acts as a single sign on just does that straightaway. That plus, I mean, white label, is that something you see people using much?

Joël Collin-Demers: 28:13     Yeah, white label, I’d say, so for the branding aspect of things and then extendable API’s is the other, right? Like being able to, we have the same types of data objects throughout the value chain, you have RFP events, you have sourcing projects, you have contract workspaces or contract projects, you have requisitions, approvals, purchase orders, good receipt, documents, invoices, like those objects are fairly common across that value chain. So being able to, as a service provider, offer up API’s for what are going to be exports and imports of, of objects that are going to come from other systems, and then being able to, as part of your solution, configuration, extend those API’s to say, “Oh, if I need to add, you know, an additional two or three fields to be able to cater to what that other system needs, or is going to send me for that data object,” is something that’s absolutely gotten better. Over the last 510 years, I think the portion that remains for integration, a challenge is threading the needle on the business process end-to-end. So more of the business side of things and how we fit that into IT. So it goes back to the translation, right? Being able to have somebody at the intersection of procurement and IT.

Jonny Dunning:        29:31     Yeah. So obviously, kind of the underlying strategy is absolutely critical in terms of how that architecture will sit for that large enterprise. And how does it kind of spring out from there if you talk about that a little in a little bit more detail, because, obviously, and in fact, firstly, when you’re actually creating that strategy, who will typically be the key stakeholders you’re dealing with running that strategy internally?

Joël Collin-Demers: 29:59     Right, so it’ll be either the CSV, I was referring to earlier, or will have the CPO really directly involved in it as well. So typically you’ll have a center of excellence or a director or senior director that’s been kind of mandated to look at the technology end-to-end and then we’d bring stakeholders into the exercise depending on what vertical we’re looking at, right. And then the idea is to craft a holistic picture, make sure that folks who are responsible for the end-to-end procurement function and process agree with the business outcomes that we’re trying to reach and how we’re going to reach them with that roadmap, with the system agnostic technology architecture, so in practice, how that would go about as we’d have some advises workshops on so we have a business process hierarchy that we developed together, we make sure we’re recovering the entirety of what the business does. We take the spend profile out as well. So what’s the spend for the different categories? And to be able to say, “Okay, well, and what processes in the process hierarchy match to the different categories within the spend profile?” And then we have a good picture of the sizes, and we go and do workshops to understand in granular fashion those as this workshops as well, if there’s not already process mapping that’s being maintained within the company, which is often the case, or it’s been done, but it was done three, four or five years ago hasn’t been maintained. So we do the SS workshops to understand what’s the current state of the situation with regards to all the processes in that hierarchy? And then we’re able to say, “Okay, this is the essentially the today’s picture, right?” And then from there, I’ll take that away, come back and discuss future state.

Jonny Dunning:        31:49     The to-be scenario.

Joël Collin-Demers: 31:50     Yeah, the to-be exactly when I say future state, like the desired end state, those are all synonyms, right, propose something and say, “Here’s so based on what you told me, your processes are here, here’s the seven blocks. And here’s what we would do for those seven blocks to be able to cover those different requirements, those different use cases or process scenarios. And here’s what that requires in terms of technology, agnostic of solution, right?” So and then from there we go, okay, well, if we all agree on that conceptual model for a target and state, we look at breaking it down into a deployment plan. So what do we attack first and why? What are the guiding principles that bring us to that decision? We all agree on that. And then we could start looking at okay, well, what are the pieces of technology that will allow us to do that deployment roadmap? And then it’s kind of a back and forth as well, right? Because based on the constraints or the offerings of technology that are there, the licensing models, this licensing structure, we might come back to the deployment plan and say, “Okay, well, based on the fact that we really liked this piece of technology, and the constraints in buying that piece of technology, mean, X, Y and Z, we have to adapt the deployment plan to that, or we have to accept certain costs are going to be paid and not for licenses, and we’re not going to use the product until later on.” So it’s kind of optimizing the model for the real data that we put into it as we go along. So I hope that gives you more of a perspective in terms of what that would look like in terms of, a project or an engagement.

Jonny Dunning:        33:26     Yeah, totally. Absolutely. It’s super useful. I’m just wondering how on earth you’re able to visualize that for people because especially when you’re dealing with different stakeholder groups, like you must have some incredible PowerPoints and like Gantt charts, flow diagrams, because that’s something that we deal with on a level of just looking at the areas that we deal with around services procurement. Quite often it will be and as isn’t to be processed that we’re looking at, but it depends whether you’re looking at, you’re dealing with procurement excellence, you’re really deep into the process, you’re dealing with the CPO, you may be dealing with internal stakeholder buyers, it’s quite hard to communicate that to everybody the same way.

Joël Collin-Demers: 34:05     Yeah, you’re definitely not going to do it in the same way. So you’ll have similar deliverables that explain the same information at different levels of complexity, and also with different functions in mind, right. So like, an IT architecture, where we’re going to look at the data flows and the interfaces between systems is going to be an eyesore for the business folks who just want to know like, what are we doing for those seven different blocks? So yeah, for sure, there’s different deliverables that communicate the same type of information in different ways to satisfy the requirements of different types of stakeholders.

Jonny Dunning:        34:42     Yeah, and that’s the art in the translation that you do really, isn’t it? It’s science and art.

Joël Collin-Demers: 34:47     And the other piece is that those requirements, those deliverables might change from client-to-client. So, I could propose deliverables that do that for sure. But then if I get into an organization where IT has a very specific template for architecture drawings that they use, I’ll typically adapt to the client. So I can just explain to me your nomenclature and I’ll do it in that way and work with your enterprise architect to be able to, to put that together. If there’s certain project management gating, procedures or processes that an organization’s have in place, and we need to present certain things in specific formats, that executives in that PMO gating process are used to looking at, I will adapt to that as well. So, it’s also very organic in that sense, where, yes, I can come in with my deliverables, my standard templates, but oftentimes, I’ll have to tweak those, adapt those to the organization so that we get folks understanding, right, that’s the end goal, at the end of the day is to have everybody on the same page, even though it might take multiple different pages to accomplish that.

Jonny Dunning:        35:58     Yeah, that makes complete sense. So you’re creating the initial strategy, you’re then creating an understanding of the process and communicating that out to get buy in and understanding across the organization, when you’re going out to get that buy in, what’s that typically look like? I mean, it’s obviously gonna be different in different types of organizations. But how much involvement from how many different groups do you kind of tend to advise or again, is it very specific on the organization case per case?

Joël Collin-Demers: 36:33     Yeah, it depends on the org. But that’s where I’ll most likely sit down with, the change management team or the change management admin folks from the project. And we’ll develop a strategy on the change front as well, right? So what are the power dynamics within the business? Who’s got a vested interest in procurement working well, or in different verticals within the process, the seven different boxes I was referring to earlier. So looking at it, so to me, it’s really putting that framework in place where we have a common language or common lens to look at all the issues through right. So, if we use those seven boxes, then we can take change management, sit down and say, “Here’s the seven boxes, right? Here’s how we will look at it from a process and technology standpoint, how do we need to look at it from an org standpoint in those seven boxes as well?” So if I’m talking about sourcing and in my deployment plan, I’m going to hit sourcing first, who’s going to be impacted by that? Who needs to be involved in terms of this processes? And then, are we extending that for to be processes, and we need to warn someone or get someone’s input on? What the new state of things is going to be? And so I think that’s the approach, right? It’s really using the standard, ADKAR method from ProSigh. What is it? I have it written here, awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement, right? So we’ll think about that with the change management team, and they’ll do their org impact assessment and identify the stakeholders, and it will bring that together with the deployment plan and the seven process areas to be able to say, “Okay, here’s how we approach each of those stakeholder groups.”

Jonny Dunning:        38:12     Okay, so you’ve worked through your strategy. And you’ve then created an understanding of where we are now, where we’re going to, you’re starting to communicate that out and get buy in. Next, I guess it’s on to actually making it happen. But at that point of the process, what percentage of the hard work is done, because I’d imagine that actually, that the buying part of it the understanding the acceptance of process to the acceptance of goals, that must be quite a big part of it.

Joël Collin-Demers: 38:41     It is, and it’s never over in the sense that people are, if I have a stakeholder, I bring into the sourcing process, workshops or a delegate from their team, they haven’t necessarily been in that workshops, I need to convince them up to a point or I use the word convince, I should say, they should understand what we’re trying to do to a point and buy into to what to use the expression you’re saying, right? But they’ll only buy into a certain point, right? And then that buying and not understanding starts decaying over time, because they have all this other stuff to do. So we have to continuously come back. And then even when it’s implemented, you still have continuous improvement, and folks need to wrap up on their maturity on the new process, the new solution, so that change management piece of understanding and buying, yes, you need to reach an initial threshold to pull the trigger on your project. But then you continuously need to have activities in that change management strategy to make sure that you’re keeping it at a decent level and even upgrading it over time or bringing higher over time. So yes, that’s a hard part of it. But I’d say the harder part is in execution, for sure. So being able to execute, being able to have the right teams in place, the right people at the right time to be able to do to respect that project management triangle for any of the pieces that are in that roadmap, because that roadmap is potentially huge, right? It’s changing the entire procurement function. And as much as we want to think that procurement is, as we say in French, and I’ll directly translate, steak, corn and potatoes, so like a shepherd’s pie, really easy to make. That’s the perception. But when you get into the details that you want cream corn in there, or standard corn? So there’s complexity there, for sure. So that’s why I always say as well like, once you’ve done that hard work, like it’s visionary work or strategy work to be able to craft a vision, then when you start deploying, do it in the smallest possible increments, smallest possible way, so that you’re able to control that project management triangle of timeline cost and functionality for each of those pieces as best as possible by keeping the teams smaller, by keeping the impacted users smaller as well. And it’ll build as a snowball, you’ll build the knowledge and the culture around those new processes and applications will start with a bit a couple of super users, and then they’ll grow. And if you did it right, they’re gonna grow by themselves over time as well, instead of having to push the rock up the hill.

Jonny Dunning:        41:14     Yeah, and then you’ve got the tech vendors to add to the party, you’ve got to rely on them through the execution phase as well, in terms of them supporting the process, being flexible, being there when you need them, providing the right level of expertise to help those teams.

Joël Collin-Demers: 41:28     And they’ll all know their technology very well and they should, where there’s a lack is again, in that integration to other platforms, they may have done it in the past, as a company doesn’t necessarily mean the team that you have on your project has done it in another context. And so you’re gonna face novel situations, always in those types of projects. And so having folks that don’t necessarily have the experience and integrating two solutions together, but have that mindset that thinking that methodology around integration, like, “Okay, what’s the process end-to-end? What are the terms that we’re using? Does it make sense end-to-end?” And then yes, the technology integration piece, but first and foremost, what’s the process end to end? And what are we trying to accomplish when those pieces are integrated together?

Jonny Dunning:        42:17     Yeah, the integrations side of things is a really interesting one, it ties very much into the adoption piece as well. So let’s just come on to a little bit of dive into looking at kind of like best of breed, solution versus sweet, or the combination of the two. So lots of the big players have now, app marketplaces, app stores, whatever you want to call them, where they have, like pre-built integrations, vetted, tech partners, that they can bring into the party. It feels like to a certain extent, that’s like table stakes. Now, if you’re a best of breed provider, in a sense, you need to be turning up and have solved that problem already. Really, if you’re selling into an organization, I guess it depends at what point you’re coming into the program. But yeah, what’s your view on the kind of the use of app marketplaces and how much value do you see in that in the way that they’re currently used?

Joël Collin-Demers: 43:14     Yeah, the app marketplaces themselves, like I think it’s nascent, and the apps will, might resolve a very specific problem. But I haven’t seen apps where, I’ll download a new service procurement module for my source to pay solution, right? Like it’s not as wide a breath of breath. So I think there is value to those app marketplaces for specific use cases. But typically, they won’t be as complex, at least in this the use cases that I’ve seen. So when I talk about integration, it’s more like, a sourcing application with a CLM application, making those work together. If you’re in a search to pay and you’re adding, an approval, some third party approval application that sits on top of your platform, then I think that’s to your point, table stakes, like it’s going to work natively out of the box, just install it. And the terms are the same, because it’s been built for sitting on that application. So I look at as two different categories of extensions, if I can put it that way, which I see more in the app marketplaces versus really a new module, a new functionality that you’re integrating with another technology and other code base.

Jonny Dunning:        44:35     It’s really interesting you say that, actually, because I would venture an opinion that that’s starting to merge. And it may be something that’s certainly happening right now. I mean, from our point of view, you could look at it as a new system, a new package for managing specifically, the procurement, contracting and delivery of complex services or cross those relevant categories. But from our point of view, as a tech vendor, we need to be ready to go within a source to play environment, for example. So it kind of crosses over with that app marketplace concept in the sense that you need to have an integration ready to go. So that an organization can switch you on within their source to pay environment, rather than having a conversation where it’s like, “We’ve got this solution, that’s going to massively increase value in your complex services categories.” But it’s completely separate to everything you’ve got, “Yeah, it’s a whole giant project, your main vendor has never heard of them. And it’s just a whole world of problems.” So it feels like those two sides of that merging in the sense that...

Joël Collin-Demers: 45:36     Also. 

Jonny Dunning:        45:38     I think they have to; I think that’s the way it has to go. Because you’ve obviously got some apps are very, very simplistic, and will be very, very small. The beauty is they’re there, and they’re ready to go. But even the more sophisticated ones now have to try and play in that way, and offer their services in that way. It’s just the way that, that infrastructure is set up. And that’s the way when you look at the [Unclear] market map, you’ve got these systems in the center. And a lot of the other players are really, part of their players to make sure that they can integrate or are already integrated with them, before they even really hit the market at high speed. 

Joël Collin-Demers: 46:18     Out of the box integrations, which, it’s potentially where we’re at today that I’m seeing on the field, and then if we can get to, I go into an app store and I install this new application. And there, you know, it just comes with the standards, egregious integration, as well, then great, man, if we could get there, I’d be a happy camper, for sure. The only thing I’d say is, I would still do my due diligence as an organization, before installing those apps, I still do the testing and make sure that from a process standpoint, that the terminology makes sense, because to the point that we’ve been discussing earlier, like, if you’re a service provider, and you plug into a bunch of different marketplaces, a bunch of different sorts of pay solutions, then I would also expect that you’ve done that homework on the process front, and the terminology front. And that if I download you in the eye value of marketplace, while you’re going to align your labels and your terms and your fields, to what is needed to work with the high value use cases. Whereas if you’re doing with Ariba, with both GP, that you’ve done that as well, right? So that your application kind of is a chameleon, depending on the marketplace where it’s at. And you’re not only integrating technically, but you’re also integrating from a process standpoint and the different data objects that are required in those to make that other system work. 

Jonny Dunning:        47:42     Yeah, I guess when we you get to the level of complexity of a significant additional value add is going to be about configurations as well. So I think there’s a level, there’s an onus of responsibility that sits with these kind of up and coming best of breed vendors to make sure, so I guess there’s two sides to it. There’s integrations and then there’s app marketplaces. So first and foremost, the onus responsibility is there on those tech vendors to make the effort, do the work, be first and have those integrations ready to go. Because then at that point, you can work with the end client, you can carry out the necessary configurations. And even if you line up with, Cooper’s taxonomy, for example, that might be used differently within a specific organization, because they’ve got their own very complicated oil and gas taxonomy. So I think configurations are always going to be key. But yeah, maybe that’s where the differentiator sits in the sense that you’ve got this kind of, there’s integration, there’s that marketplace, there’s a different level of complexity, or perception of how the complexity is going to work. But I think more and more, you’ll see the more complex solutions sitting within the remit of the app marketplace, where they’re not necessarily completely plug and play, because then it needs to be more considered than that. But for the end client to be able to purchase them, they know that the basics are already there. They can speak to the systems they’ve got in place. And then it’s a quick because even if two people are using [Unclear], they’re not necessarily going to be using it in the same way.

Joël Collin-Demers: 49:06     Right. Exactly. And I think that’s a good vision that you’re laying out right. Like to get into a marketplace, you’d have to have some level some standard of integration that you’ve met with that other application. I think you still need to do that due diligence, but the it’s going to be an accelerator, right? It’s going to shorten that time for what needs to be done to be able to turn on the lights to that application to that integration for

Jonny Dunning:        49:30     Sure. Yeah, definitely. So if you look at the process of this digital transformation within a procurement function, a large organization, at what stage would you say is appropriate for the organization to start thinking about best of breed? Because clearly in that maturity curve, there are going to be big platforms, big base platforms coming in. Probably I would imagine at the earliest levels, some of the bigger architecture is going to come in but guide me on that My assumption would be best of breed might need to be a little bit further down the line when the gaps are more understood, or am I missing the point on that one? Yeah,

Joël Collin-Demers: 50:09     I think there’s two ways to see it, right? It’s either, I’m gonna go get a best of breed that I can use without any integration. So like, I think of one that comes to mind that I like a lot is [Unclear]. So, like procurement, performance management, like I can start looking at my portfolio and things that move the needle, without integrating into anything else, right. So that’s a pure play system that I can put it in, and then I’m going to look at building up my base, right, so my ERP system is, as I’m a bigger enterprise, or become a bigger enterprise is going to be key because it integrates with all my other systems, my other processes, my other functions, right finance, maintenance, production, etc, HR, and so I need to have that base there. And then whatever I can’t do within that base, that’s when I look to either a source to pay platform, or if that’s overkill for my business, then, niche pure play solutions that will come and augment my ERP capabilities, right? So that’s the way I see it is, if you’re able to go get pure play solutions without the integration piece upfront, or they’re going to drive significant amounts of value for that 20% of your business to drive 70% of the benefit in terms of procurement, then you can put pure play up front, but otherwise, you’re going to look at, “Okay, what does my base do, optimize my base, whatever my base can’t do.” Like, if an ERP system can’t do any sourcing, then you’re gonna go get a sourcing tool to fill out that block, in your architecture. Or you might get a source to pay an entire source to pay suite, depending on what you’re trying to achieve and the profile of your organization. And then whatever that other system can’t do, that’s when you’re going to look to other pure play applications to do for you as well, depending on the pain points that you have within your organization, right. So I could give another concrete example with a [Unclear] CX or Hicks. So there are really interesting supplier management platform. I like along with like the teal books of this world, where if I have a ton of suppliers, and I need better Master Data Management and just overall supplier relationship management governance processes, then I might be willing to get one of those pure play applications to help me do that. Because my ERP or my source database system doesn’t meet the mark in terms of my requirements. That’s right. But as well, I think what’s going to happen when you start looking at that is that there’s the pure play solutions are typically more expensive to support that vertical than, say, doing it in ERP, or doing it, in a source to pay because you’re cutting the cost of your licenses across the entire value chain. So you really have to have specific use cases or specific volumes or problems that are generating a lot of headaches for or a lot of FTE is that are dedicated to solving that problem for it to be worth the extra cost of a pure play solution for that given vertical.

Jonny Dunning:        53:11     Yeah, I guess it depends when the problem rears its head. I mean, so to come on to another area that I’m really interested to get your opinion on, which is just looking at this as in the context of whether you’re buying goods and materials, or whether you’re buying services, in particular, more complex services, that by their very nature are much more varied, hard to define, simply supply chain and goods, materials, but just more kind of intangible. I feel like in our experience with the procurement of services, it’s something that maybe gets identified later, in the sense that within traditional top level kind of procure to pay platforms, I don’t feel there’s necessarily the same emphasis given towards services specifically than there is towards goods and materials like catalog buying all that sort of, structured process, it’s much more difficult to apply to services, that feels like the sort of problem that kind of comes up later. And when people have solved the base issues and got the base processes in place, at some point, somebody’s going to kind of go, “Hang on with all of that spend, we don’t really know what we’re getting for it.” What do you see in terms of the main differences?

Joël Collin-Demers: 54:23     So I’d concur with what you’re saying right? Where it typically kind of gets pushed out on the technology roadmap, doesn’t have to, if it’s an area where you’ve got a lot of spend, and there’s a lot of opportunity, then you could certainly do it in parallel or have another application that’s specifically dedicated to services because to your point, whether it’s an ERP, a source to pay platform, they’re not typically optimized for all the different types of service purchasing. Having said that, I think if we get into services like services is a very broad category. And I like to put it on a continuum of the certainty of what I’m buying versus the uncertainty of what I’m buying. And then there’s a continuum there in terms of services. So if I’m buying cleaning services for a very specific area, or building or with an office space within my business, then I go back to my project management, threat training, where, I know how much the company knows, how much time it’s going to take, how much it’s going to cost? And they know the exact scope of what they’re needing to do. So that service very certain. And so it’s very much like buying a good, I can buy it through a good purchasing process without too much trouble, even though it’s a service. But as I go on that continuum, towards uncertainty of, what I’m buying upfront. So let’s say, an IT project to implement an application, where, I know the rates of the consultants or the folks that are coming in, or I have a fixed price. But let’s stick with the rates, because that makes it even more uncertain, right? I know the rates, I know the scope, we’ve signed a statement of work to some level, but there’s a bunch of different caveats and assumptions there that if they change, I subject myself to a change order. So, the scope is known but unknown at the same time, depending on the complexity of the application, of course, and then the timeline usually is good. But if you touch the scope, and the timeline changes as well, so when you get to those types of services, then you can’t buy them the same way that you do with a cleaning service, right, you need something a bit more flexible, that’s going to allow you to change that, that purchase order that purchasing device over time as things change, and that you have the proper control and governance around that process as well. Right. And then in that type of uncertain service, there’s two I see a lot like link to a work order for maintenance, right. So if somebody comes in to fix a machine, we know they need to fix the machine, they typically have a time to do so. But we don’t know how much it’s going to cost because they don’t necessarily know the problem until they open up the machine. So it’s linked to a work order, I need to have a purchase order to be able to do that. But that purchase order, the value of that might change. And so do I want to re approve it seven times? No. Do I know exactly the problem might go upstream? And then we might have to open new work orders so that there’s complexity in the maintenance piece. And then as I was referring to IT projects where I may have timesheets, I might have folks that are entering timesheets, and we might or might not know, on which projects, they’re going to put their time on any given week. So I can’t necessarily have the accounting info set in my purchase order before the timesheet comes in. So I need to be able to change accounting information as the work gets completed. So those are like some of the things that that you should think about when you’re thinking about how you’re going to support your services with an IT application. And then those requirements will dictate, am I trying to buy simple services that are very certain, or am I further along that continuum of uncertainty, and I need to have more complex considerations for the solution that I would be buying?

Jonny Dunning:        58:13     I think that’s a brilliant description, I really like that in terms of that continuum. So you are kind of on the far left, if you’ve got your kind of his certainty, high certainty, simple services, that’s, that’s maybe kind of like commoditized services, like an Amazon business type approach, where you can catalog and structure it and make it much more transactional. And then on the far right hand side, where you’re getting to these really complex and uncertain services, it could be a big IoT project, it could be a piece of consulting work, it starts out looking simple. And then it starts out looking this big, and it ends up that big.

Joël Collin-Demers: 58:45     Construction, all those types of services where you won’t know what the cost is 100% until it’s done, right, until you get the final invoice. And so a lot of organizations are ill-equipped to be able to manage that. And so they end up either managing it manually, or they’ll wait till the invoice comes in. And then like, do the purchase order process after the fact, which is counterproductive to why you’re doing purchase orders in the first place. So that’s where I think pure play solutions, especially in the service space, have a gap to fill and a story to tell and a value proposition to offer is, is around those complex services more and more.

Jonny Dunning:        59:25     Yeah, and it’s interesting when you apply that, ultimately the services may be different, but those complex services are all going to be procured in a similar way. The problems of complexity that exist with them are going to be managed through change orders, updating the overall statement of work, understanding what you started out with, understanding where you got to how long it took? What changed? Who changed it? Why?

Joël Collin-Demers: 59:49     And sending the cost to the right place, to the work order or to a project plan, or so the accounting as well comes and trips you up on those different scenarios.

Jonny Dunning:        59:58     Yeah. It’s a very, very different process to manage. I think, it’s interesting because it’s an area where if you look at certain industries, it will account for like 95% of their spend, if you look at like financial services, but even if you look at like manufacturing organizations, their spend on services is going up. And it’s becoming more and more important. So I think when you look at where the big for example, procure to pay systems came into play, services weren’t such a big part of the landscape. And the industry was at a very immature stage. So it was like, urgently get the basics under control and get the goods and material side of things under control. I think that’s really starting to evolve and move now. But it’s a difficult problem to solve. It’s a very complex problem. But that’s where...

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:00:45  You’ll spend many years optimizing the purchasing piece of the categories with technology, for sure. So that’s why I come back to that, yes, that roadmap is full function like it’s a plan, right? But then as you go, and you execute, you’ll meet new constraints. And all I’m doing in this type of work is, I see myself as an Excel Solver, right? Like, give me the constraints. And I’ll solve for the constraints that we know about, right? And then as new constraints coming in, I’ll solve again. But that will change the answer, right? So as many constraints as we could consider at the front of the front end, it’ll give us a good plan. But inevitably, new constraints come in or taken off. And so you need to consider that in the road mapping as well. And we modify it based on that, right? But you’re always trying to move forward, move up the maturity curve, move up in the stability of your enterprise, but I’ve never come to the end of a mandate with a client. We said, we looked at all the system architecture go, “Yep, it’s done.” That never happens, right? So, you’re always restarting, there’s always something to do to get more value out of your system architecture and out of your procurement organization. It’s just how far along are you to that 100%, right? And if you manage to be between 80 and 90, well, in my book, you are perfect theory, you should consider yourself at 100, right? Because there’s always going to be to, your point earlier, M&A, new plants, changes in the business strategy, etc, that you have to adapt to over time as well. So you’re never done. 

Jonny Dunning:        1:02:21  Yeah. And it kind of raises the point of the value of trying to keep things simple. Because there’s so much complexity going on around you. Just trying to keep solutions simple and trying to keep processes simple. Not over complicating things for the sake of it. I think, if you take services procurement as an example, it can almost be infinitely complicated. But the fundamental underlying way that people buy services and measure what they got for their money and understand who did what, how well they did? And what that means for the future is relatively straightforward. It’s just quite specific. Even if you take the way of looking at kind of fixed price, milestone deliverable type work versus time and materials, it can get very complicated where people making decisions around things like rate cards, but actually, that’s not really reflective of what’s being done and how much the project is costing, in the sense that, if your rate card is based on X, Y, and Z type of associate consultant, director, whoever it may be, who’s actually doing the work, how much of the time are you getting of these particular individuals? And but also, if consultancy is quoting X amount of time, and X amount of rates, that doesn’t necessarily translate into what’s actually delivered? Oh, well, it took us twice as long. The other consultancy were more expensive, but these guys have cost you twice the length of time. So it’s not as simple but just measuring the simple things means that you can then look back on it and get more insights. But I find it incredibly complex, just dealing with the services procurement arena, for you to deal with this as to how it fits in with everything else within a specific organization, I see a lot of need to deal with. You kind of like find yourself waking up at night with like, spreadsheets going through.

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:04:05  No, well, maybe when things are going less than optimal it does happen. Sometimes it’s more in the shower, while being showering and then you go, “Oh,” and then I write stuff on the wall. And I go like, “Oh, yeah, this is what we need to do.” But, no. And again, I’ve been in this space 10, 12 years and it remains interesting. I keep learning every day as well. Like I don’t have all the answers, for sure. And there’s new technologies I don’t know about but I think the baggage I bring to clients is helping accelerate them through that journey and meeting them where they’re at. So if I meet a client where you know, the technology literacy is not zero but close like they do everything in Word and Excel and SharePoint, shared drives, then we’re gonna have a much different conversation than if they’ve already got an ERP a source to pay platform in place. their sourcing is optimized. They’re looking just for to address a specific category like services, the conversation is going to be very different, depending on their spent profiling and industry as well. So that’s what keeps it interesting for me. And yeah, I don’t have all the answers off the bat, but I can surely get them right like so it’s been building that baggage over time in terms of, the entire value chain, and then going deep in different processes over time as well. And then being able to take that and reapply it and tweak it and change it for different contexts.

Jonny Dunning:        1:05:34  Where it’s like you say, constantly solving for the constraints, revisiting the new constraints, solve for those constraints, I like that, is a really good way to describe it. So let’s take an example of an organization that’s gone through the process pretty well. So far, there are a relatively high level of maturity. But as you say, there’s always more that you can do. And there are external factors that are changing as well. So if we look at visibility, so visibility is crucial in terms of what are we spending our money on? What are we getting for that money? Which suppliers are doing a good job? Where are we working well? Where are we not working well? In the future for these types of projects, which suppliers should we be looking at? Where do we need to build our supply base? What are the key kind of themes around visibility that you’re seeing coming up at the moment?

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:06:22  Not only the spend and like the basis spend? And not everybody has that base covered, especially in a context where they have a bunch of different applications, right. So it goes back to what you were saying around trying to keep things simple, right, I would say, “As simple as possible, but no simpler.” I think it’s an Einstein quote, if I’m not mistaken. So it same thing applies to system architecture, like don’t make it more complex than it needs to be. Because to that point, if I add a new system, then the data objects, the purchase orders, invoices, etc, are going to be in that other system. And I need to integrate that into my spin cube into my spend application to be able to have visibility over that. And also need to try to standardize all the data models so that when I’m filtering on fields, I can filter through the whole data at the same time. So, that’s one thing, just being able to have a consolidated view of spend. And then depending on the different parts of the world, there’s ESG. So social governance, being able to capture additional information on suppliers that we weren’t traditionally capturing. So whether it be certifications, for certain ISO standards, or certain social standards, whether it be the minority owned businesses, information and diversity information, so being able to capture that integrated into the decision piece. And then the other large domain that I’m seeing is, on time and in full information, right. So really pushing the transactions to getting confirmations from suppliers getting advanced shipment notices from suppliers, which used to be really just, your top 5, 10 suppliers where you have huge volume, they have the IT capabilities to give you those confirmations and give us those events, shipment notices, we’re wanting to push that down the supplier tail to be able to get that information for all types of suppliers and then be able to identify opportunities based on that, so there’s the meeting those diversity targets, but also to your point, being able to get that information around supplier performance in a way that’s not manual as much as possible. And then being able to drive category strategy decisions based on that data. So those are like the three big pieces I’d see. Right. So just getting your spend cube correct or full of all the data that you need from your different systems. Second is integrating that ESG and diversity information and making business decisions based on that. And the complexity there is just supplier hierarchies, right where like if I have subsidiaries, and different legal entities that are represent the same supplier, being able to sort that out and then mash the ESG information at the right level is the biggest problem or pain point I see in that space. And then on time in full.

Jonny Dunning:        1:09:23  I was gonna say with the ESG, particularly when it gets into things that are highly complex, like carbon at the moment, like carbon emissions, and actually looking at that, the biggest gains that organizations can make in terms of optimizing carbon is quite often within their supply chain. And it’s just getting that info, but that’s a whole new layer of information that was collected previously.
Joël Collin-Demers: 1:09:43  That’s right. And I haven’t bumped into that yet, but I’m sure it’s one or two mandates away, but yeah, collecting that info. And typically it’ll be a third a third party service provider that you’re pulling data from or if you’re trying to do it yourself to collect certain information from suppliers, it’s also putting that infrastructure in place, which is different or is a new a new challenge that I’m thinking about right now because you’re making me aware of it.

Jonny Dunning:        1:10:13  So, when you were talking just there about advanced on time information, are you kind of talking about real time effectively?

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:10:25  I meant, like shipment information. So if I have a purchase order, and I want my supplier, so I sent him a purchase order. And in my system, we have a lead time, seven days, or I’ve gotten from his catalog that the lead times approximately seven days, well, I would like a confirmation back from that supplier for both lead time quantity and price. Right, his price hasn’t changed since the last, since I took it from his catalog versus my price lists have been updated. So I want a confirmation on those three things. And right now, we’re either chasing for them by email, or we’re getting them manually, we’re not necessarily capturing the information in our systems. So having a dedicated way or a way to capture those confirmations and update our orders and plan around those updated dates or confirm dates is one thing. And then the second piece is event shipment notifications. So when they close the doors to the truck, they send you essentially the same information that was on your confirmation, but updated at the time of shipment, right. So they can say, “We told you that the delivery date was going to be on the 10th. But we just closed the doors to the truck, here’s what’s in there, we’re missing two pieces we thought we’d have and we’re going to be there on the 11th finally,” so that’s the advance shipment notice. And so you’re able to make just in time, adjustments or adjustments right before the delivery date as needed, based on that ASN information. And it makes receiving a lot more simpler as well, because I can just say, “Okay, receive everything that’s in the ASN,” instead of having to manually count everything that’s in the truck, right? So getting that information, or those two types of messages, lower down your supplier retail, and then being able to leverage that information for category management decisions for adjusting your strategy, like, “Hey, oh, we only have a really small volume with this supplier in this category.” But they’re hitting all their OTF, on time in full notifications or thresholds fairly consistently. Let’s try and with more quantity, that can be something that comes out of that, for example.

Jonny Dunning:        1:12:29  Yeah, it’s real time risk management effectively. And so applying that to the overarching category strategy. And I think, interestingly, the same is starting to become more of an ask in complex services as well, where people are just wanting, you know, how do you know when a project is off course, are people hitting their milestones? Are procurement involved in that process where rather than just infinite invisible change orders going through in the background, and then you know, just a big invoice hitting, our procurement, able to be aware that this project is going off track, this is over running and understand why and actually get involved in that process and help as it goes, because I think there’s a lot of misunderstandings that can happen in all areas that if that’s not communicated properly, is it the suppliers fault? Or is it not actually the suppliers fault? There’s an external situation that slowed that supply down, whether it’s in a shipping point of view, or whether it’s a delivery of a service, or when...?

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:13:22  A change in assumptions? Yeah, I know, for sure I see applicability there for sure. And if you’ve got a massive portfolio of projects going on within your business, and you’re using the Big Four, for a lot of those different projects being able to have that consolidated picture of, “Okay, well, we gave these guys 12 projects, and all 12 of them were delivered outside the initial timeline and cost scoped out at the beginning.” And then to your point, why is that? Well, it was the assumptions or is it really the supplier wasn’t able to deliver on their promises and then being able to integrate that into future decisions, for sure. And so I don’t see an issue with the applications being able to support that the big issue is putting in place the processes the mentalities and the data capture habits at the source, with the folks that are on the projects with procurement as well coaching their stakeholders and that’s the tough part. Right? I think that technology will help us get there, for sure.

Jonny Dunning:        1:14:29  There’s so many more fascinating areas. I’d love to dive into you in more detail. We’re gonna have to kind of start wrapping this up soon, but just out of interest in terms of what you’re doing, where do you see things with your business? Where do you see it? Where do you want to see it progress towards? What’s the kind of medium term goals for you?

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:14:50  Yeah, my big issue is there’s only 24 hours in a day.

Jonny Dunning:        1:14:56  Just over 24 hours [Unclear]. 

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:14:59  A small smidge. That’s right. Maybe I’m not making use of that smidge. 

Jonny Dunning:        1:15:04  You gotta try harder.

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:15:06  No, I think it just to be, I’m a solo practitioner, I don’t necessarily intend to grow a firm or anything like that. Like, for me, it’s really about the work. But understanding the complexity and getting my sleeves up and my hands dirty with folks in the work. And I feel that allows me to have conversations at all levels whether it’s the strategic, tactical and operational levels. And, I enjoy those different types of conversations. So I think it’s more of the same. And I’ll keep doing it until I know everything, which is never right. So I think it remains interesting for me. And I think it’s just more putting in place, more not methodologies, but frameworks, right way of thinking about things to simplify, the journey for folks. So whether that’s writing articles, or potentially writing a book on the topic of how do I as CPO, what do I have to do to meet my business objectives with technology in the current state of affairs, in terms of the market and, what I need my folks to have a skills and abilities?

Jonny Dunning:        1:16:15  I think you’re in a great place at a great time, and you’re gonna have so much information, going through everything that you’re doing that, you really will get have gathered up an amazing amount of experience. So I think it’s really interesting. And fair play to you. You also have a podcast going, don’t you? 

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:16:35  I do. Yeah. So you could go my site And I have some articles there. I have a couple of podcasts as well, I have to say, it’s more of a passion project that I’ll do once in a while more than a podcast that comes out every week. So we go deep into certain verticals, or certain types of solutions. And, often all my thinking about it is okay, well, for a given process within the procurement value chain, what’s the best practices? What’s the guidelines that I need to be thinking about, for that process with no technology? And then how do I solve for that with no technology? And then what obstacles do I run into when I don’t have technology, whether it’s a volume obstacle, a complexity, a data gathering obstacle? And then what kind of technologies are out there and can help me solve those pain points. So that’s the typical structure of the podcast. And otherwise, I mean, I’ll post on LinkedIn once in a while as well. For me, it’s just about having interesting conversations with interesting people and upping the maturity of procurement in general, with technology over time. And as long as that’s happening, it remains interesting. You’ll be able to talk to me about it.

Jonny Dunning:        1:17:47  Great stuff. Well, I think you do some great work. It’s really interesting to talk to you. I really appreciate the time. And yeah, the way that you talk about things. It’s just so structured. I really like that. And it’s put some great kind of pictures in my head about how you do what you’re doing. And yeah, I really appreciate you taking the time to join me.

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:18:05  Well, I appreciate you guys inviting me, Jonny, it’s been a pleasure, and I hope to do this again soon.

Jonny Dunning:        1:18:11  Excellent stuff. Thanks very much, Joël. 

Joël Collin-Demers: 1:18:13  Bye, bye.


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