Kulashekharan Srinivasaragavan, Digital Transformation and Product Leader
To overcome today’s challenges and deliver greater value from technologies such as Generative AI (Gen AI), procurement leaders must adopt a persona-centric approach.
A few months back, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Digital Procurement World (DPW) 2023 in Amsterdam. The excitement among attendees about the potential of new technologies like Gen AI to revolutionize procurement was palpable. However, there was a prevailing uncertainty regarding the initial steps to implement these innovations. Notably, procurement leaders showed keen interest in our stand's theme: Tech x Humans: Driving Procurement Forward.
A primary focus for leaders was enhancing business value amid procurement challenges: escalating market volatility, complexity, budget constraints, and heightened internal stakeholder expectations. Furthermore, the current economic and geopolitical uncertainties have rendered suppliers financially unstable, posing a significant risk to business continuity. Consequently, procurement functions must leverage data to foresee and mitigate these impending risks.
The procurement processes have undergone a profound transformation, with specialized cloud-based solutions to manage source-to-pay processes, including spend data, supplier onboarding, intake management, and compliance. These, along with the existing ERP solutions, have resulted in a complex procurement landscape comprising disparate systems that no longer provide a single source of truth to users.
This resonated across our discussions with procurement leaders. During DPW, the need for person-centric information enabling timely decisions and effective achievement of targets was underscored. Procurement professionals across hierarchies struggle to access comprehensive, accurate, and timely data for meaningful insights and lack the ability to get alerts and recommendations in both a reactive and proactive manner.
Why Persona-centricity is Essential Today
Despite enterprises investing in tools for data consolidation, cleansing, and visualization, their endeavors to extract meaningful insights from procurement data to achieve business outcomes fall short, I believe, due to the absence of a persona-centric strategy. While amassing data may be advantageous, its relevance and accessibility are vital to user personas—whether it is the Chief Procurement Officer, a Category Manager, or a Supplier Risk Manager.
Consequently, it has become common for users to expend time in tactical pursuits, taking away their attention from strategic initiatives crucial to achieving procurement objectives. The importance of a persona-focused approach is evident in the pursuit of a unified perspective.
How a Persona-centric Approach Works
Let us consider the persona of a category manager. To comprehend their landscape and be effective, category managers must leverage external data, including market conditions and supplier performance, and merge it with internal data, such as budgets, expenditures, and departmental needs. This information is spread across multiple sources and requires meticulous efforts to gather. This is where (the need for) persona-specific perspectives and technological advancements like Gen AI converge.
An intelligent bot can become the co-pilot to category managers, communicating in their professional language and providing contextual information to enhance their daily decision-making.
At WNS, while crafting the next-gen digital enablers for procurement, we commence with a persona-centric perspective. We aim to meticulously analyze diverse data sources—internal, external, and procurement process-related—to synthesize actionable intelligence and insights that offer practical recommendations to procurement teams.
How Gen AI Can Empower the Persona-specific Approach
Further, consider this scenario: envision yourself as a category manager for a furniture company overseeing critical suppliers that provide raw materials such as wood and metal. Picture a dynamic landscape where the metal supplier acquires the wood supplier. In such a scenario, the Gen AI-powered solution proactively evaluates the impact, analyzing data from both internal and external sources. The solution generates persona-centric recommendations for renegotiating with the new Metal+Wood entity. These enable you, the Category Manager, to secure more favorable payment conditions. Additionally, armed with comprehensive data-driven insights, you can plan and implement risk mitigation strategies while steering toward achieving optimal savings and cash flow targets.
By harnessing vast amounts of internal, external, and process data, our Gen AI-powered solutions excel at summarizing key insights relevant to the individual by focusing on diverse metrics, KPIs, and performance measures. It further delivers tailored recommendations that cater to the specific needs of each persona and their strategic objectives.
Embracing a Persona-centric End-to-End Approach
Let’s delve deeper into the category manager example. While providing Gen AI-powered insights and recommendations is valuable, true effectiveness lies in elevating the category manager to a more strategic role. For this reason, taking a digital-first approach proves pivotal in outlining the comprehensive scope of a persona—specifically, the category manager.
The key is having the Category Plan as a living and dynamic document that steers the team even amid turbulent times. This means digitally planning your category strategies, tracking the execution of relevant initiatives, continuously monitoring set targets, and responding to changing dynamics.
To effectively serve their businesses, category managers require a proven framework that facilitates consistent planning across the organization. This framework fosters improved planning, encourages collaboration, engages stakeholders, and leverages available internal and external data, providing a head start to the category planning process.
I often liken this to a catapult analogy: hitting a target necessitates knowing the target and understanding the resources required for the operation—pulling the metaphorical string.
Elevating Procurement with Persona-centric Solutions
Engaging with procurement professionals at DPW revealed a clear appetite for change in these challenging times. It presents an exciting opportunity to bring back personalized focus and enhance procurement personas with the transformative potential of new tech like Gen AI.
To conclude, I leave you with three key considerations for your procurement transformation journey.
Consider solutions that are digitally enabled, insight-led, and persona-centric.
Choose solutions that complement your existing investments.
Ensure the solutions bring procurement expertise and framework to propel the team forward.
Reach out to explore how we actively support persona-centric Gen AI implementation in procurement.
Kulashekharan Srinivasaragavan (Kula S) leads Digital Transformation and Products at WNS Denali. With over 16 years of versatile experience, he excels in both technical—integration and data warehousing roles—and functional—product management, delivery management, business analyst roles—primarily in the procurement and supply chain domain. Responsible for shaping the strategic direction of CPOTRAC and its suite of products, Kula ensures alignment with customer needs, market dynamics, and internal innovation involving digital technologies. Kula holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science Engineering and an MBA from BITS Pilani.
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