Exploring the market maturity of services procurement spend management

Understanding the factors affecting where we are on the market maturity curve of services procurement spend management.

Episode highlights

Contingent spend and Services spend need managing in different ways
SoW's new importance
The role of technology in services spend management
Balancing self-service procurement with control

Posted by: ZivioReading time: 93 minutes

With Sana Ali, Services Procurement Manager, EMEA, TAPFIN

Learn more about SoW and services spend management provided by TAPFIN.

00:00:00 - Services procurement as a specialism in workforce management businesses
00:08:30 - MSPs role in the management of services spend
00:15:00 - Legislation's impact
00:20:15 - How a holistic view can stop services spend falling between the cracks
00:29:20 - Changes in stakeholders and responsibilities for SoW and services spend management
00:39:30 - Reasons why services spend isn't managed effectively
00:48:00 - Technology's role in services spend management
00:59:40 - Services spend management isn't a one-size-fits-all solution
01:08:00 - The benefits for the services providers
01:15:00 - Summing up where servics spend management is on the maturity curve


Jonny Dunning:   
0:00          Right. So we are now in progress. And I’d like to put a very warm welcome out there for Sana Ali. Thank you very much for joining me. How are you?

Sana Ali:               0:09          Thank you for having me. I’m really well. It’s funny that we haven’t done this before. But we’re finally here. So thank you for having me. It’s pleasure.

Jonny Dunning:   0:17          But we’ve been talking about this stuff for good two years plus now, and watching the market as it’s developed, and seeing it go through all the cycles of IR35 spoke to be happening first time around, then actually happening. So yeah, I’m really glad we’re doing this. And I appreciate you taking the time.

Sana Ali:               0:34          Now, of course, we’ve had some predictive and some cynical conversations as well. So it’s nice to finally put a topic to this and organize it. But thanks for having me. 

Jonny Dunning:   0:42          My pleasure. And I think you’re right. We have had some where we’re caught, we’ve been kind of deeply ingrained in all of this sort of stuff, and really focused on it, and looking at how we think it’s going to move and what things are going to impact it. And I think that very much ties into the subject we want to talk about today, which is looking at services, procurement, spend management, and where are we in that market maturity curve. Because as you and I know, and we’ve discussed many times before, services, procurement spend is not a new thing. It’s been around for a long period of time and it’s very large, but the management side of it is still, in some cases at a very early stage of maturity. And that’s something we can look into in a bit more detail. And before we get started dive into all that, so I know that your role is that you are the statement of work subject matter expert and services procurement specialist for EMEA at tapping, who are obviously the MSP arm of the talent solutions MSP arm of the manpower group. But how did you actually end up there? How did you get to this position?

Sana Ali:               1:48          It’s a brilliant question to be honest. And I think like Paul, I somewhat - I like to say that - I strategically positioned myself to get to this area, but without giving you a full list of my CV, I studied accountancy way back when at university now. So I’ve got that somewhat a bit of a numerical or mathematical mind to a certain degree. But again, as I said, I fell into this sort of service provider world, and I’ve been in the industry for about - I’d say - 9 or 10 years. Coming up to... But yeah, I’ve not looked back. And I think, again, as I said, I’ve been quite what I like to think I’ve been quite strategic in terms of the decisions that I’ve made throughout these sort of 9 to 10 years. And I started off in the UK, being aligned to which was probably one of the first SOW services procurement, pieces of work or spend being included as part of a service provider. And I was part of that very small community. And I think I was fortunate enough to be given that opportunity. It was always something that interested me when SOW procurement and things like that sort of were discussed as part of my earlier years. And I think that sort of level of flexibility and that change and the element that you’ve got strategy, and it’s quite defined in terms of what’s needed, but it’s so [unclear 0:03:24] the level of excitement there, for me was always there. So I was quite fortunate, again, in terms of the opportunities that I was given. But I also again, I felt like I was quite strategic in terms of what I chose as well. And a lot of the organizations that I worked for, and clients that I worked for were mostly within the financial services space. So I think they have always been that industry, that space has always been sort of at the forefront of defining what SoW and services procurement looks like. And we’ll talk about this in a little bit more detail as well. But that industry really, for me, from personal experience has, I think, really started to define where we are headed amongst some of the other aspects and elements in other industries as well. But yeah, I guess cutting the story short, I somewhat sort of fell into this, but again, I like to think I was quite strategic in terms of how I really positioned myself and managed to get that sort of SME title, which is mainly attributed to the operational experience that I come with as well over the years.

Jonny Dunning:   4:29          Yeah, I think, you’ve got to be have a certain type of thought process to be within one of these large organizations with these large service providers with the range of services that they offer to then push that into a very specialist area. And certainly when you first started getting involved with this, it was a very, very small area. It’s obviously expanded out massively. And its importance has grown significantly. But when we have spoken in the past and met at events and stuff like that, some of the events were things like IR35 events, where statement of work and services procurement being talked about in the context of the reforms coming into the private sector. And I think within large managed service providers, staffing companies, you have these breakout specialisms where somebody might be an IR35 expert, that very closely aligns with the core business of the recruitment arm of that type of business. But in terms of your specialism and your expert knowledge in the area of services procurement, I think that’s a much smaller, more select group of people that are spearheading that now globally for some of the big service providers.

Sana Ali:               5:41          And I think that really is such a great point as well that you’ve made that because I think there’s somewhat a bit of a misconception when it comes to my side of the fence, which is the staffing industry, the sort of service provider space. And it is that the world of contingent and MSP is sort of mutually exclusive, and the same as the world of SoW. And I think that is a huge misconception, because, yes, there are a lot of parallels between the two worlds, but they are two completely different pieces, completely different spaces essentially. And the spend and your drivers, your strategy [unclear 0:06:19] on that is, again, I guess, it shows the level of infancy and the level of maturity that is still needed within certain markets for sort of organizations and even staffing industries to sort of really understand. These are two different things. Yes, they are somewhat parallel and go hand in hand to a certain degree, but the way that you approach each of the two different types of spends in different areas are completely different. And I think the world and the market is certainly starting to see that. And IR35 being one of those sort of set of links from it from a UK market, absolutely has sort of lifted the lid and then showed organizations that actually SoW spend is mammoth. It’s huge within an organization and there’s so much untapped strategy that untapped processes and benefits that are there and need to be achieved. So yeah, we’re certainly starting to move in the right direction, I would say. It’s interesting to say that because there’s a huge misconception in my view in terms of the two being mutually exclusive. And yes, there’s huge parallels. Yes, there’s benefits and sort of bringing them and marrying the two together. But the approach is very different for both of them.

Jonny Dunning:   7:44          Yeah, I mean, you’re buying different things. If you’re engaging contingent workforce, you’re paying for an individual’s time. If you’re buying an outsourced service, you are paying a company to deliver an outcome and service providers deliver an outcome. And I think that whole outcome based approach to getting work done has had some clear driver’s things like COVID, with all the remote working and just different ways of working have really pushed forward. Things like the gig economy have driven it in a different way as well. But it was already massive. And I think one of the interesting things is for people outside the industry... So if we look at the maturity curve, if we say, “Okay. Early in the maturity curve, companies have got a problem with managing services spend. Are they going to look to address it themselves or they’re going to look for an expert partner to do it?” And I think if you look at the transition and the growth of the contingent workforce, certainly, some companies do it differently. A lot of big companies will use a managed service provider to put their arms around it. Some companies will do it themselves about their internal functions. But certainly, the services procurement market, however mature we may come to the conclusion it is, it’s nowhere near as mature as the contingent workforce management market. But that’s where companies were reaching out to specialist partners to say, “Can you just take the problem off my hands?” And it might be just a particularly critical part of the problem. But I think for people outside the industry, they almost look at and say, “Well, how come a staffing organization could help an organization with services procurement spend?” Because they are different. But I think there’s a clear similarity in a problem solving exercise and what constitutes that layer of service that can be put around it. Although I think there’s still contract certain extent being defined as the market matures. But would you agree with that?

Sana Ali:               9:36          I completely agree. Completely agree! And I think, again from a personal experience over the last several years, it’s a question that I get asked all the time. “Why should we pick you as a service provider as a staffing organization to come in and help us do what we as an organization think we actually do much better because we’ve got dedicated procurement teams, we’ve got dedicate cash free managers to come in and do this?” And I think absolutely yes, that world contingent and the SoW world services procurement are very different. But again, to those parallels that I was sort of mentioning, those parallels are so definitive in the sense that actually, there is huge benefit of having a staffing provider or a staffing industry sort of with that knowledge and understanding of that non-permanent, to bring it together. And its almost sort of trying to enhance what has been defined in the world of contingent and MSP for so many years. It’s now very mature. And in a sort of almost a global landscape, really in most markets, there is huge value of sort of trying to link in those parallels, but also being very clear and aware that the differences are there, and to manage those in a different way. But I think to bring that together and bring that holistically, I think, which is the key thing here. It is that holistic element that really can sort of help organizations start to build data, get that visibility that they’re looking for, and really start to lift the lid up and see what that space looks like. Because I think for most organizations, the biggest problem even to date regardless of what market you’re working in, regardless of what era and space and what type of industry you’re in as an organization, there is still such limited to no visibility when it comes to SoW spend. And I’ve certainly seen that the conversation changes and evolve, so wonderfully I think, over the several sort of - I’d say - five to seven years. And it’s really nice to see that there are drivers within the sort of the global landscape that are starting to bring that education forward for organizations, but also start to bring the sense of urgency as well, in the sense that we need to speak about this. And whether it’s biasly, whether it’s a staffing industry or a service provider that will help you manage this, or whether you decide to take like in-house, I think, we need to chat. And it certainly is being had. And I think just to that point as well, it’s a global landscape. And the essence of services procurement is a global landscape. And I think for most organizations, the way that a lot of organizations will work because they look at it from a regional level. And I think sometimes that’s where the problem occurs. It is that when you’re looking at your strategies from that regional element, you’ve got different markets that are at different levels of maturity. We know, I think we always speak from a UK perspective and a US perspective, when it comes to SoW because the US is typically more seen to be the more mature market when it comes to SoW and services procurement, whereas the UK not necessarily, but I think certainly in the last sort of 12 to 18 months, with the discussion of IR35, the UK is starting to really come up to speed and there’s different elements of that education that are taking place, different elements of that maturity that are coming into play as well. And it’s again - as I said - it’s wonderful to see and I sort of come in for talent solutions tap in from an immediate perspective. There’s the European markets as well that I think are starting to follow suit. But again, it’s sort of trying to... And again, from my side of things being part of the staffing industry, its really starting to have that conversation with organizations and help them sort of see actually. If you start to look at this, not just from a regional level, and on a global level, you are going to start to unearth some hidden truths almost, well-hidden secrets as well. Well you may or may not be aware of those, but it starts to align some of those discussions and bring those to the service surface. And then also look at it from that sort of global holistic viewpoint as well, which I find, we’ve evolved so much over the years, but it’s still very interesting to see how some clients who look at that spend.

Jonny Dunning:   14:23        Yeah, it’s interesting that you mentioned the regional element. I’m trying remember the name of the legislation in Germany. Is AEG the equivalent? 

Sana Ali:               14:29        Yeah, I believe so. 

Jonny Dunning:   14:31        It’s kind of equivalent to IR35.

Sana Ali:               14:32        The similar one in Italy as well. So yeah, it’s interesting, because there’s different elements or different variations of what we have in the UK now from an IR35 perspective. You’ve got that in a lot of the European markets. And it’s been around for longer than it has in the UK. So it’s really interesting how some of those conversations start to flip around on their head.

Jonny Dunning:   14:57        Yeah. And its kind of like you say, it’s an education side, where for some countries like in the US, outcome based work delivery SoW is, to a certain extent, much more common. And in places like Germany, getting work done under that SoW’s type contract is very common. I see a lot of it in the Nordics and places like that as well. And I agree with you. I think the approach that UK Government have taken, it’s like with a 1099 versus WTO in the US. Governments globally, are going to say, “Come on, we got to define this properly for tax reasons, for the way that people are working, on outcomes.” It makes a lot of sense, in a lot of ways for people to address that and go, it’s a different way that I could get something done. But taking that aside, there’s a massive, like a mammoth spend that’s already happening. But I think, it’s the right thing, but it’s got to be the right time as well. I do think there are various factors that have come together to make this a critical time where, for those of us, like you and I, who have been deep in the detail of this for a period of time, as seeing this all really start to go much more mainstream now. And that was one of the reasons why I thought it’d be great for us to have this conversation. 

Sana Ali:               16:17        I think from a global scale; I think... 

Jonny Dunning:   16:22        Sorry, carry on. 

Sana Ali:               16:24        No. I was just gonna say it’s from that global scale as we’ve sort of somewhat touched on some of the legislation that impacts some of those regional sort of European based markets. But I think from a global scale, unfortunately, so it’s taken us a global pandemic, like COVID to sort of hit and actually have organizations sort of look at their overall strategies, whether that be their remote workforce, as sort of an overall organization, whether there’s other sort of strategies in place as well, technology comes into play as a certain degree for it. You know, it’s things like that, but organizations really now, I’ve seen in the sort of the last 12 months, absolutely, also. It is that they want to work smarter, they want to be smarter, they want to continue to leverage data and technology, but it’s almost being in a rock and a hard place, sometimes for some organizations as well, because as you mentioned, it’s when is the right time, but I think having a global pandemic, unfortunately, it’s sort of meant, it’s forced unfortunately to a certain degree for organizations in terms of the way the world is headed. It sorts of forced organizations to really review and analyze what are our priorities and not just that, but what is the data, what spend look like in order for us to sort of look at what are our priorities and which direction do we take. So yeah, it’s interesting, because there’s so many different aspects and elements that come into it. But I think certainly, so yes, we’ve seen the SoW, service procurement space evolves over - I’d say- the last 5 to 7 years dramatically, but in the last sort of 12 to 18 months since COVID. It’s really almost exacerbated everything and expedited everything. Because organizations are sort of coming to me now and say, “Can we talk about SoW?” As opposed to how it was maybe three years ago. I think I was having to sort of pursue organizations and say, “Look, this is something you need to sort of look into. You need to understand what your SoW look like. You need to sort of really start to peel away the layers within this space, and not just sort of leave it to how it’s working today.”

Jonny Dunning:   18:49        Yeah, I agree. I think, various things have got to come together and you do need certain elements to progress with solving a problem like this. You need clear business drivers. You know, it’s a big problem that’s been around, but company has got loads of problems. What’s at the top of the list? And COVID shone a light on that. Generally, the solutions these days will need enabling technology. And I think that’s an area where, certainly from our point of view, as a tech provider in this space, as a specialist tech provider, IR35 in the UK was one of the big drivers actually which took us down this line. But that was when it came into the public sector, kind of so if you look back at like 2017~2018, when people first started to try solve/address this problem more effectively. But that’s transitioned out much more widely on a global basis now across the public and private sector. But I think there’s also this wider picture of just kind of bringing together how work gets done, because you can look at it and you can go services procurement and contingent workforce, for example, a very, very separate but as if you take it up to the CEO or the CFO or the CIO level, and they’re looking at this saying, “What is the most effective use of all of our resources?” That’s the key question they want to answer. And in some organizations, I mean, they’ll have contingent workforce will sit as part of services procurement, which was kind of can make it slightly complicated, because I see it as a kind of a separate thing. And this is where we can talk about how this kind of falls through the cracks in organizations side. I had a very interesting conversation with a lady called Carla Roberts from WTC Legal, who’s a real specialist on the legal side, and we were talking about how the legal side of SoW can kind of fall through the cracks between tax law and employment or recruitment type law. And I think the same can happen with this spend generally, and how that [and] where that spend is managed, whether it’s just specifically within procurement versus HR contingent workforce, different category managers within procurement. It depends on an organization to organization basis. But the thing that brings it all together is it’s about getting work done. And also it ties into the use of terminology. For example, us talking about statement of work. And Statement of Work clearly is a contract type. 

Sana Ali:               21:21        Nothing this work really. 

Jonny Dunning:   21:23        Yeah. But I think the good thing about it is when you look at trying to get clarity on how you define services procurement. And so for us, our remit is, the end to end lifecycle management of any services procured, contracted and delivered under a statement of work. That statement of work is central to, certainly for us how we define our market, and I’m sure it’s central to how you do it, because there are various different ways of contracting to get work done. As we discussed, contingent workforce is contracting with an individual to use their time, services procurement is contracting with an organization under a statement of work for them to deliver an outcome. So I think, some people use the term SoW a lot, some people will be very much in the kind of services procurement mindset, but it’s a contract mechanism for the delivery of work and it sits alongside. The other ways of getting work done, whether it’s permanent workforce, contract and temp workforce, or these outsourced service providers. But in terms of how that’s all kind of come together but is still separate? Do you think that has helped the approach for service providers where you’re looking to provide this holistic view?

Sana Ali:               22:36        Yeah. And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there really, because I think that really is one of the drivers or one of the value adds of having a staffing through a service provider come in and sort of help with that, because like you’ve sort of mentioned, there’s so many different variations of what we classed as SoW spend or sort of outcome based spend. You can have sort of consultancy strategic type work that falls under that bracket. You can have still a certain degree managed service type work that falls under that bracket, rightfully or wrongfully so. And you’ve also then got some of what could sort of almost be a [unclear 0:23:19] contingent workers, but we won’t say that. But you’ve got that sort of type of work that’s project based, but it’s more on a time and material basis with an element of outcomes and deliverables that are to be achieved throughout that project lifecycle. So there’s so many different variations. And I think having a staffing provider or a service provider come in, and sort of help organizations really look at that is, again, it leads back to that whole holistic visibility, because they are at the end of the day, whether they’re contingent, whether it falls into your SoW bucket, they are non-permanent workforce that you are employing. And yes, there’s different contractual elements, there’s different commercial setups and constructs, and but they are non-permanent workers essentially. And so I think that really is where bringing in a staffing provider and get them - this is not a sales pitch - I think is something that’s really helped start to bring that education into it is by just simply giving organizations that level of visibility for them to look at whether it be individual bodies coming in and out of your organization or whether it be the spend, whether it be your volumes, whether it be your timelines, anything along those lines, even suppliers. It’s to give that visibility and that really is a starting point. And I think a lot of organizations are now starting to understand the importance of that for various reasons. You know, I guess if you are the CFO, you’re going to look at where can I cut costs, where can I drive the most amount of savings, whether that be sort of from it from a hard cost negotiated element or whether that be to put in some sort of a service in place where I can start to really get those quick wins and achieve as much of your cost savings as possible. So to a certain extent, by bringing a staffing provider that is you trying to secure your cost savings, because you are understanding, you are equipped with the data to see where that spend is coming in and out of, for you to start to get a holistic picture. So yes, I think, as much as over the years, those different levels or types of services procurement SoW spend for organizations has been a minefield, and still is today, I think, to a certain degree, I think if you’re looking at it from a staffing industry or a service provider perspective, I think it’s really helped us start to partner and start to bring forth that education with organizations and sort of say, actually, if you start to just get simple visibility, you’ll be able to understand what is rightfully sitting in those buckets and what are actually the key buckets that you have within that area itself. So it’s a bit of a mixed one for me. I think, it certainly has helped evolve those conversations, but I think today [unclear 0:26:23] is still a huge minefield.

Jonny Dunning:   26:28        Yeah, I mean, when we talk about the nuances of variations in how this work is delivered, which is ultimately what we’re talking about with all of this stuff, it’s about work being done. And that’s where, for me, it always comes back to is your understanding of work contracts or not. That’s a really clear defining delimiting factor. You can say, either is or isn’t. It’s a binary thing. Is it understatement work or not? And so I think on that side of it, that’s a very useful. That’s why we’ve certainly said using the phrase SoW quite a bit because it is that clear defining factor that has an underlying requirement of a process flow, and it has an under underlying legal requirements, and it has an underlying way that is going to be delivered different from other stuff. And so what you’re talking about with regards to this holistic viewpoint, and as I said earlier, if you’re the CFO and CFO - as you pointed out - CEO, you just want to know what resources you have to handle which ones you should be using. So you could be looking at cost savings. If a CFO just turns around to the chief procurement officer and says, “We spent 100 million on services last year. We’ve got to save money spend 80 million next years.” That’s just a cost saving mentality. I think a lot more CFOs and CPOs are coming around to mentality saying, “What are we getting for it? What’s the result?” That’s the kind of panacea, isn’t it? To understand all of the money you’re spending on services and getting work done. And what’s the most effective route? And it’s always going to be the most effective route to get this piece of work done over here is different to the most effective route to get this piece of work done over there. But you’ve got choices. You’ve got different work delivery channels. But if you look at the maturity, I mean, I’ve had chief procurement officers say to me, certainly from like a service and technology perspective, that basically service procurement, this is a little while ago, more these sorts of comments saying it’s just being completely left behind compared to contingent workforce. But it’s catching up now. And that’s where there’s this huge opportunity for organizations to make massive wins. You know, if you look at contingent workforce, pretty mature, as you say, globally, obviously, that still needs to be run very well and very effectively. There are always ways to do it more efficiently [and] more effectively. And there’s the war for talent to consider. But with services procurement, in a lot of cases, it is pretty Greenfield. And so there are these huge wins for organizations be able to make. And one thing I was gonna ask you was, in terms of your time within the industry, specializing and looking at this, and when you look at the typical stakeholders that managed service providers, workforce solutions providers will interface with, how have you seen that change in terms of the type of people within organizations that you’re dealing with? 

Sana Ali:               29:18        So this is where I think it starts to get a little bit complicated to a certain degree, in my view. And I think we’ve gone from several years ago to sort of dipping our toes in the water, in the minefield, that is services procurement spend. You know, oh yes, let’s just lump it all under MSP and contingent. It’s all one and the same thing. Now where we’re actually saying, yes, there are some parallels and there are some differences. But what are those differences and where are the elements that we need to apply and I think it goes to the element where it’s having those specialist skill sets. That really is the key difference between the two and I think it’s technology also, for me, comes into this as well. And I think, without technology, without the right technology, without the right forms available, you sort of really not going to achieve very much, because we’re now in an age of digitization, we’re now in an age of automation, and there is always is that form where, we always say that our services, our people lead with technology enabled, and I think that is still very much prevalent and very much important. And I think certainly we’ve made leaps and bounds within the technology space. And now Johnny, you’re absolutely be able to do that much better than I will. You know, it’s starting to become just as equal with the level of skill sets and the individual people that are available to provide a particular service and sort of look into the realm of service procurement SoW, marrying up very closely to what is the technology going to provide you. We’re in an era of AI that’s becoming more and more important. It’s becoming more and more common with a lot of technology. And so that is a huge thing. It’s for your data to be able to do more, it’s for your service to be able to give you more, and it goes back to the whole organizations within the SoW space. They just want to get the work done. And I think, again, if you’re looking from a staffing industry, a service provider, we also want to work with the clients to get the work done. But it’s evolved so much in terms of what those priorities lie and what those value adds and drivers are. But I think, definitely, we’re now in an era or in an age where there is digitalization, there’s technology, there’s automation as AI, you’re looking at all of that. And I think that is just as important as the sort of the actual skill sets and the people service that is being provided as well.

Jonny Dunning:   32:02        Yeah. I mean, if you look at the stuff you can do with AI, we’re doing some stuff, in some ways, it’s quite future looking, because there’s so much amazing stuff you can do when you’re genuinely capturing this data and analyzing this data. And it’s just a whole world of opportunities for organizations to do better work for suppliers to do better work to be recognized for it to find these niche suppliers, not maybe just always stick to the tried and tested that, where there’s less innovation or less diversity, all these different kinds of things. But the bottom line is you have to capture the process effectively. You’ve got to do the kind of like less jazzy stuff, less fireworks. You’ve got to do the basics really, really well to capture that. And you’ve got to make it easy for people. And that’s the responsibility of the service providers. It’s responsibility of the technology providers to end up in a situation where you have something that’s at the level of maturity of contingent workforce where you’ve got technology and service providers that work very well together and solve the problem. But one of the other things with regards to the stakeholders, I was kind of referring to was, obviously when you’re into interfacing with customers, so in terms of the type of stakeholders you’re dealing with now from a services procurement angle and the variation in who those stakeholders are within client organizations, how have you seen that change over time? In the sense that you’ve kind of imagine being an outsider service provider, you’d imagine that in the very early stages, it might have just been conversations with HR and people like that, where it wasn’t really that relevant to them. And they might push it over to procurement, but it might get pushed back and maybe not. Whereas now I’d imagine it’s more procurement load, maybe finance load, where are you guys seeing that those conversations mostly taking place now?

Sana Ali:               33:52        You’re spot on that really, because you know, as much as the sort of the overall service and the target audience has evolved as well. It’s not just your HI or talent acquisition teams that are being discussed. When you’re referring to services procurement spend, they are secondary almost. It’s your target audience are procurement, your CPOs, your CFOs that actually they’re looking at it from not just a granular level in terms of what are the bodies coming in and out of your organization. You know, have we got the right strategy in place? It’s a lot wider scale. It’s a lot more strategic in the sense that actually, can we save some money here? Are we getting what we’re paying for it? There’s so much more that goes into it now that I think for you to miss procurement or finance to a small degree, out of those discussions they were having when it comes to services procurement, it would just be [unclear 0:34:59] respects I think we look at things from a different flip side, and so will talent acquisition, because they’re more focused on sort of individual bodies, the people, that sort of culture side of things. Whereas with services procurement, you’re not necessarily bought into an individual body. In that particular case, it’s not, you know, excuse me, but it’s not a bum on a seat that you’re looking for. You’re looking for an outcome to be achieved by a service provider, by a consultancy, by a supplier. So it’s absolutely procurement, your CPOs that are your target audience that actually are driving some of these conversations, and are the ones that you need to sort of get on board to a certain degree as well and help them see that there’s so much value that can be provided and driven. There’s so many different ways to get work done at the end of the day. And there’s a lot of different measures and protocols that you can put into place to ensure that what you’re paying for is indeed what you’re getting. And I think that’s essentially what it all boils down to. It’s that level of service and that outcome that pretty much that clients pay for when you’re signing up to a SoW. So yeah, that’s definitely, I think, changed. In my view, I think it changes very, very quickly, because particularly when you were sort of had service providers that are having those conversations, we very quickly realized that actually HR and talent acquisition when it comes to SoW services procurement spend are not the ones that are going to make those decisions. And they need to be involved because it is their world. It’s them that need to sort of buy into it and see the value and the drivers and the benefits that can be achieved and look at it from that sort of future utopia. So yeah, that’s certainly, I think, evolved. And in my view, again, something that happened very, very quickly, and I think rightfully so.

Jonny Dunning:   37:02        Yeah. I find it fascinating. I’ve been involved in workforce technology my whole career. And just looking at the emphasis on workforce and the wider context of workforce and getting work done, that’s just changed massively. In the last 20 years, that has changed a lot. And even if you just look at how individuals work, 60 years ago, job for life. Now, gig economy, all sorts of different options, outcome based [work], all sorts of different ways of doing things. But within organizations, I find it fascinating how that is managed now and how it’s going to be managed in the future, when you look at coordinating it. So basically, if it comes right to the CEO, and they say, “What is the most effective use of all of our available resources?” That’s their permanent headcount. Its their contingent workforce. It’s their services supply chain. And who’s in charge of bringing all that together? I think procurement have a massively important role to play as a center point where they are dealing with internal stakeholders and all different types of external stakeholders. And to a certain extent, if they do it right, they’re controlling the data. And it’s that control of the data and centralization of the data, that is probably the most crucial thing just in terms of providing that information and strategic decision making. 

Sana Ali:               38:31        And also leaving the trends somewhat as well. Because, again, as you’ve mentioned, you’ve got procurement that handle internal and external stakeholders. So it’s sort of being at the forefront of what those trends are, but also to a certain degree being able to dictate where those trends really evolved for an organization as well, regardless of those external elements that come into it, I guess, whether they’re regulatory or sort of legislative base, but just from an organizational perspective, you can sort of start to lead the way in terms of what those trends will look like.

Jonny Dunning:   39:07        Yeah, absolutely. And so if we look at organizations and their historical management of this services procurement spend, where it has kind of fallen down within organizations? What do you see is the primary reasons why, historically, it’s not being managed effectively? 

Sana Ali:               39:29        So I think, for me, there’s a few elements. And I’ll have to be very, very cautious with how I articulate this. But I think the issue, the big issue is down to the fact that the SoW services procurement spend, it’s so dispersed across business areas within an organization, there’s limited visibility for most as well. So it’s almost like you’re have a need, whether you’ve got an internal stakeholder and external stakeholder, there is a need, you sign up to a SoW, it goes... You know, I’ve missed out a huge level of steps there. There is quite a process that will go through. But essentially you’ve signed that SoW contract, you’ve start the work, and then it all sorts of just disappears into the either. And because also the type of spend the level of work, the level of picks that you will get come through for an organization are just so massively dispersed, you will have different levels of spend that are coming in, different tenure lengths that are coming in, you’ve different locations, different brands, so it just becomes a huge minefield. And for most organizations, that SoW, that services procurement spends and that process is quite fluid. So usually, I’ve sort of seen under a certain budgetary threshold, you’ll have internal hiring managers and stakeholders that are able to, essentially, do things how they see fit. 

Jonny Dunning:   41:09        Also known as total chaos. 

Sana Ali:               41:12        Absolutely. And I think that’s exactly where then the problem comes in. It’s because, yes, I think, we’re in a day and age where there needs to be a level of empowerment, there needs to be a level of control that I think stakeholders should have and are entitled to. But I think there are, also from a grander scale, levels of processes and controls that need to be put into place to ensure that mindset is being aligned from a holistic perspective. And so I think for me... Again to summarize that, the issue, the main issue for me is the spend is so dispersed, there’s level of limited control, limited visibility beyond a certain point, I think, are probably some of the bigger issues. But there’s also, I guess, if you look at it from the flips in terms of why has it taken us so long to start to pin the importance of discussing and really educating organizations on services procurement spend management, I think really does to a certain degree boil down to that target audience. You’re talking to procurement individuals. You’re talking to see CEOs. You’re talking to CFOs. And I think once you start to get down to that granular level of detail, and particularly again, coming from a staffing industry and as a service provider, when you start to sort of speak to a category manager and say, “Right Mr. or Mrs. Category manager, I am basically saying that I’m going to be able to automate 60% of your job that you do today using some form of technology. I’m gonna eliminate that for you. I’m going to start to achieve more cost savings through that automated process. I’m going to take away some of your SME capabilities, some of your niche experience.” When I take that away, I’m going to automate it all, it becomes natural, it becomes a very personal conversation that you start to have. And I think, once organizations, once individuals take that level out of it, that sort of personal element out of it, and sort of see the bigger picture and see actually, we can then as individuals, we can then as an individual procurement team focus on some of the more biggest strategic elements if we are able to outsource a lot of this work, start to build that data visibility, give away some of those administrative pain points that you would have throughout every step of the way from a sort of an end to end lifecycle perspective, we can work on some of the more strategic elements, we can really work on that overall strategy for the organization, and sort of pick on those big ticket items. Because there is... You know, I’ve seen so many procurement teams that, unfortunately, are just sort of brushed away. They’re there because organizations feel that they need them, but they’re just so undervalued. And I think that’s incredibly wrong, because procurement teams, I think, for me, if they are managed, and I think if they are seen to positioned in the correct way in an organization, there’s so much value that can be achieved. And they are there for a reason. And I think they need to be utilized and leveraged in the right way. So I think that also is probably one of the reasons why sometimes these conversations and when it comes to services procurement management, it sorts of fallen through the cracks, because either you’re looking at the CEOs that aren’t necessarily really considering procurement teams. They’re not really [unclear 0:45:04] that will help you drive those discussions, will help you educate your internal stakeholders, and also your external stakeholders to a certain degree as well. So there’s so many different aspects. And I think there’s so many different ways that you can look at it as well. But I think those to me are probably some of the main reasons why these discussions have taken so long for us to get to it. It has taken, in my view, a global pandemic various different bit of legislation and different global markets to get organizations to actually start to see the value of procurement teams and start to see the value of sort of lift up on their services procurement spend, and really start to do something about it. And I think also, it’s just the fact that it’s been left for so long, it becomes such a mammoth task. And most procurement teams, which are the ones that will essentially inherit these conversations and inherit these projects are a lot of the times, so sort of bound up in loads of different tasks that they can’t necessarily focus on some of the larger ticket items. Again, as I said, so it’s becomes a bit of a struggle. I think it’s the fact that it’s such a mammoth task that you need to have a sufficient level of budget available, you need to have a sufficient level of individuals available, a team available that can dedicate their time to really looking at this in the right way. Because I think there is a fine line between let’s just look at services procurement spend, let’s tick the box, and actually, let’s do this right. There’s a huge element of change management that comes into place. Education, even from an internal perspective... You’ve got... We sort of touched on the fact that internal stakeholders will have a lot of control for setting these things up on their own. So it’s changing that mindset and sort of bringing in a new wave of thinking a new way of buying that needs to come to this. So there’s... Yeah, I could talk non-stop about this, but there’s a lot of reasons why I think [unclear 0:47:20] falling through the cracks, but we are absolutely making headway. I think that the time is now where we’re moving so quickly towards what utopia will look like and that utopia will continue to change as well. So yeah, we’ve definitely moved in the right direction over the last several years and continuing to do so as well.

Jonny Dunning:   47:43        Yeah, I totally agree with you. I think, you’ve covered some really interesting topics there. And if you look at, for example, potential resistance within procurement teams to think “Hang on a minute, is this a threat to them?” I mean, you know, I know from firsthand experience and feedback from my colleagues and feedback from customers and clients talking to in the market, a lot of procurement teams are really frustrated at the fact that they’re spending 80% of their time on administrative tasks that they’re doing often manually. And as you say, for a SoW process, basically sort of disappears into the utopia or SharePoint at the point of contract award, that’s not the full process. You can’t see what you’re getting for it. And so I think when you look at automation, firstly, if you’re approaching services procurement, if you compare it to the procurement of goods and materials, it’s completely different. And to a certain extent, it is a lot more complicated. Supply chain is possibly more complicated when you’re looking at goods and materials. But in terms of the way that a service can be delivered, as you say, they’re very dispersed, very complex. And every project is different. They’re very nuanced. There’s a lot of variation. And that’s where it’s, again, comes back to the statement of work. That’s good, because it’s a central thing. You know, it has to work through this mechanism. And actually, if a statement of work is delivered correctly, when I talk about statement work, I’m talking about the end to end process from onboarding suppliers making sure they’re compliant, they’re running a bid to the contract, which is obviously the bit that is actually the statement of work. But then it’s the delivery of what was contracted to be delivered and making sure that it was on time and was it on budget. How much scope creep was there? Did they do a good job? All these sorts of things I see is that workflow that life cycle. And it needs a dedicated approach. You know, if you’re looking at buying goods and materials, you can use a catalog. You can buy stuff on Amazon. Very difficult to do that with services. It’s too complex. It’s too nuanced. So I think the tech hurdle has been a hurdle and but also the attitudes of people within procurement where they may be feeling threatened, I personally see it as completely reversed. Because the only things you should be automating or the things that should be automated, the things that need automating. And procurement people have a great background in managing relationships and negotiating and assessing data and helping make decisions. That’s really the value. And that’s where I think, procurement is undervalued in a lot of cases. 

Sana Ali:               50:29        Completely agree. 

Jonny Dunning:   50:31        And they’re partly constrained by what they’ve got to work with. So if they’re spending... I mean, that Deloitte CPI report that came out a little while ago. Three or four months ago, something like that. Yeah, I remember it was something like ridiculous. Like a very, very small percentage of CEOs were had more than like 30% strategic time. So I think, where you can have a dedicated approach, if you can automate the things that need automating, you say, get the visibility and the clarity on the data, get the things that you can outsource to be sorted out for you get them done through procurement can they look at the data, they can make inferences, that’s where an organization can pull together all this information on their workforce, understand what they’re getting for their money. Are they getting what they should be getting? Should they be cutting costs? Should they be spending more in certain areas because it’s driving real value? How does this type of way of getting work done compared to this type of way of working done for all sorts of different types of work? And that’s where the value is. And that’s where procurement elevate themselves to have that strong seat at the exact table to bring that information and control that information and help with that strategic decision making. So I only see it as a real positive and natural way to change for people to sometimes a bit resistant.

Sana Ali:               51:52        Yeah, absolutely. And I think, if we go back, goodness, I don’t know, 50~60 years ago, when things were really starting to pick up, when technology was actually sort of starting to rear its head, it’s almost like that. But we’re just sort of amped up on steroids to a certain degree. But yeah, I completely agree with you. You know, there’s... And I’m not just saying this from buyer’s perspective, but there’s huge value in that partnership. And I think once that sort of that threat or that personal element comes out of it, I think I’ve never come across an instance where I’ve not been able to sort of showcase the values and the benefits to a procurement team. It’s just about being able to articulate those discussions and have those discussions and sort of, I guess, take that personal threat element out of it. But yeah, I completely agree with you. 

Jonny Dunning:   52:49        I think the other side of it is enabling self-service is very important. Certainly, if you’re a tech provider in this space, critically important, because if you’re putting a tech solution in place, you kind of want to get out of the way as much as possible. You want to allow things to happen, not be a barrier, make it easier for people. And in a lot of cases, and a lot of organizations, particularly if their culture is not a mandate driven culture, and people are just doing stuff however they want to do, and its kind of out of control. So that’s not great for the organization, because they can’t see what they’re spending, they can’t see what they’re getting for it. Then there are other factors now, compliance risk. And all sorts of risks that are around that, that organizations are now identifying, as well as the fact of “Hang on a minute guys, this money is going out of the business, what are we spending on what we’re getting for it?” But in the way that the individuals are working with suppliers, if you can try and keep that as kind of friction free as possible, so you might have a situation where use technology to allow this to happen, it means that the buyer and the supplier can interface really easily through a piece of tech. And there’s no real hindrance in the waveform. In fact, it makes it easier. And it means that the buyers can see more suppliers and the suppliers get made aware of more opportunities. But then you’ve got procurement in the middle and potentially solution providers as well, where they are suddenly getting all this data. So the key is, if you can do that effectively, make that process capture that data effectively without just causing a huge amount of upheaval and organizational change and make it easier for people, suppliers as well as the buyers, then procurement have really got a great position to work from. They’ve suddenly got all of that. And in terms of the stuff that they’re doing, they can then have visibility of the whole process by automating out some of the just annoying bits that just things going here and there and different systems and stuffs on an Excel spreadsheet or it’s in SharePoint or... No one knows where the contract is or the share files. And they got to read through the contract. “Were there any milestones? Are those milestones still relevant? Did anyone measure that stuff?” That is done manually. If you’ve just got that, then you can concentrate on the strategic side of it. 

Sana Ali:               55:08        And it’s interesting you say that because the more and more conversations that I’ve been having with clients recently is that they all sort of talked to this Amazon style experience. And I think you sort of touched on that as well. It goes into the realm of self service. And I think there is a huge level of benefit that can be achieved when you’re self-serving. But I think, again, when it comes to services procurement spend, it can be a bit of a minefield. So I think when is the right time to bring in that sort of Amazon style experience, even though we are sort of heading towards that direction. But also, then it’s just list things like putting in a process. And you spoke to that. You’ve got procurement, you’ll have the likes of service providers that are sort of now going to have visibility and access to all of this wealth of data. What do you do with it? So it’s getting that balance right. But certainly, so I think, the more and more discussions I’ve been having with a lot of organizations, it’s, “Well we know. What about this Amazon style experience?” It’s sort of taking that automation to one step ahead. And I think that is the future. But I think still with the level of sort of infancy that we are seeing in certain markets and certain industries, I think we’re still away. Sometimes it’s just really going back to basics and simplifying some of those processes to sort of equip organizations with that data and sort of help them sort of see where and when is the right time to put that type of experience into place?

Jonny Dunning:   56:58        Yeah. And I think it’s always gonna be more difficult with non-binary purchases. Like buying services than it is with just things buying stuff. But Amazon is always seen as like the peak of efficiency of buying something and having it straight away. And I think if you look at some of the gig marketplaces, for example, some of the big gig marketplace like Upwork, and they are ways behind an Amazon in terms of just buying somebody doing something. It’s a different thing. But going back to your point about self-service, there’s a time and a place. And I almost see it as like, there’s a slider on the level of control that you can have. So you can go super low levels of control, and let people self-serve, or you could go super high levels of control and basically have procurement or an external provider involved in every single step of the process, because it’s super risk heavy and it’s absolutely critical and it just needs firmly getting under control. And maybe that organization have a more of a mindset of mandating these sort of things. But I think certainly, as a tech provider and I’m sure as a service provider, you kind of need to be able to do both, because everybody does this differently. And some organizations are going to say, “Well, let’s just start. I just need to see to spend. Let’s get everybody transacting, make it really easy for them, make it nice and simple, integrate with existing products, where possible and keep it all nice and light for them. Then suddenly, we can see everything that’s happening.” And then actually we can then... This is a risk, so let’s put some controls in this area here. Anything over this level goes to this, this sign off. If we’re getting a SoW that’s badly written and actually procurement or a service provider will give some advice on how to structure that more effectively or might get involved in negotiations, bids, all sorts of things. But I think it’s just having the flexibility to move that slider of control, the visibility will be there kind of anyway.

Sana Ali:               58:57        Yeah. And I think that’s also one of the problems as well as that a lot of organizations get quite frightened when we start to talk about services procurement spend, because it’s just almost like they feel that... There’s a bit of a misconception in the sense that it’s all or nothing. And that can’t be further from the truth. And this is something I always say. And I always... You know, I’m a firm believer when it comes to this space. It’s never a one size fits all model. I mean, we have clients that have different variations and different levels of SoW services [unclear 0:59:31]. And right from their level of spend, level of volume, but it’s about sort of really, I guess, showcasing that it’s not a one size fits all model. It can be flexible, which I think is a huge fear for a lot of organizations and sort of has held a lot of clients back in terms of discussing and bringing up that topic as well, because it’s [unclear 1:00:04]. It’s so dispersed, but it’s also that sort of fear of taking on more than they feel they’re ready for or more than they can.

Jonny Dunning:   1:00:15     Yeah, I mean, if you look at the size of the spend, I think spend matters. It’s always quite roughly four times the size of contingent workforce in most organizations. You know, it’s somewhere between a trillion and 20 trillion spend. Not quite sure where but wherever it is...

Sana Ali:               1:00:33     When you start to go into the realm of trillions, not billions and millions, it becomes very frightening. 

Jonny Dunning:   1:00:40     Yeah, I mean, the contingent workforce market is worth something in the region of 500 billion. You know, four times the size of that. You know, a couple of trillion. You’re getting into some pretty big numbers there. And I think for organizations, like you say, if they can be concerned about an all or nothing approach, because they might think, “Well, we spent a billion on services, procurement.” Oh my God, that’s such a big thing to try and do. And it’s scary. And its giant decisions. And its globalism. They don’t have to do that. They can start with a portion of it. I think that’s one of the things that we’re seeing in the market, where the offerings that service providers take to market are not just a giant Big Bang approach. They are, as you say, more flexible depending on the size of organization, that appetite. You might have an organization that’s got 500 million spend. But actually, there’s 40 million spend over here. That’s super crucial right now. Because it’s in the UK. And it’s the need to find out if there’s an IR35 risk in the tail spend or whatever it might be. And that is the flexibility that we’ve seen starting to come in, because organizations need to be able to move forward without it being something that just grinds the gears to a halt. And I think we’ll see more of that as we move forward. People, initial proof of concept, get some spend on the management, “Hey guys, this is actually really good. Look at all this data we’ve got. Look what we can do with that now, because we’ve done it in our German IT division, for example. And now we’re getting these benefits from it.” And they can start pushing out to broader stakeholders, because especially when you get to the big consultancy stuff. The senior stakeholders involved, big amounts of money and where the spend, where their giant profile of services spend, what needs to be the addressable spend to start with will vary on that organization and their appetite. I’m sure that’s what you guys are seeing in terms of a service provider angle.

Sana Ali:               1:02:36     Yeah, absolutely. I think it goes back to what we were discussing earlier as well, just in terms of why a service provider. You know, this is something that we’ve had to work very hard on for the last several years. It is to showcase some organizations that actually... We can do services procurement. It isn’t just the realm of RPO MSP that we can manage, it is more to that. And we understand the differences as well. So you sort of again hit the nail on the head there, but there’s so many sort of pilot programs or proof of concepts that take place in our world. And I think maybe not so much now, because we’ve gotten to a slightly more mature stage with a lot of markets. But certainly in the starting years, there were so many conversations that I was having with clients. And I’m sort of looped into those pilot programs. And its sort of almost like, “Okay, well we kind of see the value, but we don’t want to commit to this whole lead. We’ll throw you a bit of a bone. Let’s sort of go forth with a pilot piece, and show us what you can do.” And fortunately, in our case, it’s worked well, because it makes sense. There is huge value there. And so we’ve been able to sort of work beyond that. But yeah, absolutely. I think, it goes back to that sort of earlier point in terms of why a service provider to help, one of the reasons that to help with your services procurement spend.

Jonny Dunning:   1:04:15     Yeah. And another thing that I find very interesting is looking at how service providers are adapting their offering and adapting the internal politics of their organization, where emphasis of the importance of the balance of power, when it comes to the different service provisions is that as it’s kind of expanded over time, but we’re talking about massive, complex global organizations, and ultimately, they are problem solvers. And I tend to see it more as workforce solutions now. Because it’s taking this more holistic view. But it’s a very exciting time and I think you got organizational change, you’ve got technology change, you’ve got just cultural change and how people are working differently. And all these things are coming together to make stuff that used to be kind of like bandied about, but no one was really ever doing anything about it. Like, five years ago, the concept of total talent management. Yeah, even just the way that talent is engaged has changed so much in that five years. But now, genuinely, people can get on top of their permanent workforce. They can get on top of top of their contingent workforce. They can get on top of their outsourced procured services, engagements. They can start bringing that all together. And to bring that all together, that’s where... If you are the intermediary, that’s managing all of those different services, then you can help them manage that data and look all those sorts of things. And then again, as I said before, there’s the interesting thing around: “How are organizations going to change their structure to manage that internally? Where are the decisions going to be made?” But if you’re running a giant company, it’s got to be a good thing. Suddenly, you want more dashboards, you want more information at your hand to be able to make these decisions. And so I think it’s a hugely exciting time. And yeah, it’s just... As we said, at the very beginning of this conversation, you and I’ve been chatting about this stuff for a while, and I’m certainly quite sort of nerdy about it. I know you love all the detail and a lot of expertise in this area. And it’s really nice to see kind of coming out and being discussed more widely and being looked at more widely. If you look at the technicalities of it, it’s not a hugely glamorous area. But I definitely think it’s quite a hot topic at the moment. But I think one of the reasons for that is because for a lot of people, it’s just a bit of a mystery. And procurement people get it. And a lot of buyers within organizations that sit in the program office understand it, because they’re buying stuff understatement of work all the time. But when you look at that spread across the wider organization. Yeah, it’s always been a bit more shrouded in mystery. Because... 

Sana Ali:               1:07:06     An error as always there. 

Jonny Dunning:   1:07:08     Yeah. And I think for some of the biggest service providers, that’s been a benefit in some ways, but also where a service provider is doing a great job, they want to be recognized for that. And sometimes I think, for the small guys, right up to the really big strategic guys, they can be working on something that if the business hasn’t really captured, what was defined to be delivered, they might be doing a fantastic job of consulting into an organization. And the organization, for example, might not be delivering on the advice that was part of that consultation package. And therefore, the organization might look at our work unfavorably and say, “Well, actually, was it really that great?” Whereas if they can see a bit more of the detail, they’ll understand the value they’re getting to the service provider. So I think there’s definitely a benefit on that side of it too. And what’s your kind of view on that supplier angle from a service provider point of view? And what have you encountered on that side so far?

Sana Ali:               1:08:06     So I think that’s still somewhat a bit of a mystery when it comes to this. And I don’t think it should be. I think the supplier side of things is so crucial, because we can sit here and talk about how wonderful that technology has progressed into, how wonderful the services have progressed from a management perspective, but at the end of the day, for an organization to get the work done, they need a supplier to be able to get the work done essentially. And so I think, also look buy a piece is so crucial. But I think where the discussion from a supplier angle or from a supplier lens has now evolved is that optimization piece. So historically, you’ll have organizations that have hundreds and hundreds, thousand even, global and regional supply base, that actually you’ve got probably 3% of that supply base that’s being actively engaged. And the remainder is just... Some procurement teams actually don’t even have active MSAs, active agreements with some of their suppliers. So it just becomes a bit of a, “Are we actually utilizing those suppliers? Are we optimizing them to the best of the ability?” And then there is also I guess, that element as well, that we sort of somewhat talked about is that once a SoW is signed, that’s usually the end of the process. That’s sort of... That SoW is tucked away in a drawer or in a SharePoint or in an Excel spreadsheet somewhere. And that’s the end of that. But are you actually motivating? Are you, are you optimizing that supply base? Are you engaging them in a way where actually they want to continue to do much better for you? They want to continue to deliver that sort of service. And from that perspective, that optimization piece is so important. And it’s sometimes just taking it right back to basics. And I think whether you’re looking at it from a service provider perspective or just an organizational perspective, I think what you really need to understand in order for you to look at that optimization piece for the supplier, it again, goes back to that fundamental that data, that visibility. Where are the areas that you can start to optimize? Where are the areas where you can chop some of the suppliers? And can you mix them in? And I think traditionally when it comes to sort of services procurement spend in that sort of supply base, it’s very elitist to a certain degree. You will have certain suppliers that are consultancies, you’ve got the likes of the big four, that will pretty much be at the forefront of that list. And there’s a different way. There’s a white glove service that you provide when you’re engaging those suppliers. So it’s bringing the right balance with that level of white glove service and that white glove approach, but also optimizing that overall piece. How are you sort of getting some of the smaller niche, maybe boutique consultancies involved with some projects, maybe traditionally wouldn’t even have the opportunities. And I think without going into too much granular detail from a procurement strategy perspective, but that I think really is a key thing. And I think that’s where, really were procurement teams, in my view, sometimes are undervalued. It’s because they bring that wealth of experience, those wealth of relationships, that wealth of knowledge from that supplier perspective, as well as various other things as well. It is that how do you bring that into place and remove some of them traditional elements where it’s just exclusively maybe the big four, or your suppliers that you’ve got a high value spend with. How do you mix that up? You’ve got to be a little bit controversial, I think, to a certain degree to start to really work through that optimization. So I think depending on which angle you’re looking at it from, to me, it always does come back to that optimization side of it, but also to a certain degree of usability as well, and your interaction. So you know, I mentioned that white glove service. You’ve got sort of the same degree that elitism that comes into it with the suppliers that you’re engaging on that side of things. But it’s just bringing those all into a good balance and good mix and sort of positioning where your focus and priority lies. And when the right time is for those.

Jonny Dunning:   1:12:56     Yeah, and it plays into other areas like, access to innovation and making sure that your supply chain matches your sustainability and diversity kind of expectations as an organization as a brand as a big business. 

Sana Ali:               1:13:12     Are they fit for purpose? 

Jonny Dunning:   1:13:14     Are they fit for purpose? Can I do a good job? Have they got the expertise? Are they the type of organizations you want to be working with, you want to align yourselves with? And all of these things, you can only do that if you have the visibility of what their supply population is. You can build that supply population. You can build the supply chain resilience on the service side by engaging with more suppliers and giving wider opportunities, as you say, rather than potentially, in some cases, it being very restricted to just a few very large suppliers. And I think organizations have come around to that a lot more. But they still can’t do it unless they can get access to that information. And that’s where it does help, in my opinion, the entire supply chain, not just the small, innovative, diverse, sustainable suppliers that the need to be given an opportunity to help those companies, but also the big trusted suppliers that are doing great work that need to be recognized for that and need to be utilized in the areas where they are most effective. And so I think it’s a hugely exciting opportunity all around for the whole kind of end to end supply chain. And so just to kind of round things off, then so we started off this conversation to look where are we in the maturity curve. Now I think we would both agree that organizations are really rapidly starting to come around to the idea that this is a very important area of spend. They need to manage it. They’re currently not managing it well. And they know the reasons why they need to do that. If you were to plot this course on a kind of like maturity curve, where would you say, and obviously, it depends in readable region and things like that, and possibly some industries. But in general, where do you feel this market is in terms of its maturity?

Sana Ali:               1:14:58     I think it’s quite steadily going on the up. I think, again, with those sort of somewhat regional markets and there’s specific nuances, I think there will be a few sort of ups and downs and those, but I would say as a whole, I think we’re quite steadily sort of on the incline.

Jonny Dunning:   1:15:17     Yeah, I think there’s the potential with these various factors that have kind of happened at the moment. Certainly, if you look at the UK market, I think there’s a potential for real exponential change. Because when you get a clear regulatory change that often drives the ideas... 

Sana Ali:               1:15:34     You’re forced to think about things. 

Jonny Dunning:   1:15:36     You’re forced to address problems that exist in the current services supply chain. How much of that is disguised? Contracting, for example. There’s clear drivers that needs to be addressed around that. But yeah, I think it’s varying maturity. For my own view on the market, I wouldn’t necessarily say there are clear markets, where there’s a much higher level of maturity. In some areas like finance, pharmaceutical, things like that, there’s a large spend on services and they’re highly regulated. So that definitely has a bearing on it. But if you look at engineering companies and the way the services that they buy, I think there’s a great range across all sectors, to be honest. But it’s an exciting time to be part of it. And no doubt when we next hopefully get to do this again at some point, we can reflect on how things have moved on, because I do think it’s going to happen quite quickly.

Sana Ali:               1:16:40     Yeah, I completely agree. I think being in this space is just incredibly exciting. I think we’ve had some great innovations come into place and things that are probably still on... Maybe not to be disclosed just yet, but I’m certainly working towards, but yeah, I think there’s some incredibly exciting times ahead. This industry has evolved so much and there’s absolutely no signs of it stopping. And so yeah, I think it’s a really good time and position for us all to be in.

Jonny Dunning:   1:17:13     Excellent stuff. Well listen, thanks so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. Super interesting to chat to you about all of this. And hopefully we can get together a little bit further down the line and see whether some of our prediction... 

Sana Ali:               1:17:25     Comes in our predictions. 

Jonny Dunning:   1:17:26     Exactly. Hopefully so. Excellent. Well, thank you very much for joining me. And I’ll catch up with you soon. 

Sana Ali:               1:17:32     Thanks for having me, Jonny. 

Jonny Dunning:   1:17:34     Cheers. 

Sana Ali:               1:17:35     Thank you.


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