Call for change

As procurement functions realize the value their data and their relationships with third parties can add to an organization, they are trying to shift from their traditional offering of transactional compliance to being a business partner that can help their companies grow their bottom line.

Making this transition means standardizing, simplifying and automating the elements of traditional procurement to create a frictionless buying experience. This accomplishment will help move procurement functions toward enabling intelligent procurement.

As Accenture makes this shift itself, we recognized the need for a strong data and analytics foundation. Our Procurement Plus organization—so named with the word “Plus” added to reflect the shift in delivering value above and beyond what is expected of traditional procurement—is developing a data strategy and program to empower us to be more data driven in analysis, information tracking and decision making. We recognize this is a journey, and like all transformations today, the journey is best undertaken in an agile way.

When done right, a data and analytics strategy is a powerful tool that enables Procurement to be a valuable business partner delivering real change as our Procurement Plus did with Accenture’s closed-loop spend management (CLSM) approach. CLSM is a new, data-driven operating model for managing the source-to-pay life cycle that targets indirect and direct costs for meaningful and sustained transformation.

Procurement Plus by the numbers

1.1K

people*

$7.4B

procurement spend

1.3M

invoices paid

50

countries

47

ventures & acquisitions work projects

32%

US spend with diverse suppliers

As of Accenture fiscal 2020 year end.
*On top of standard procurement FTE it includes more than 500 FTE in Accounts Payable and our internal contractor managed service provider.

When tech meets human ingenuity

In our attempt to deliver a data strategy, we started small with the focus on delivering value. This approach allowed us to gain support for a larger investment to turn us into the intelligent procurement function that we aspire to be.

Agile journey to intelligent procurement

Digitizing processes to create access to data

Our agile journey to transform procurement began with Accenture’s move to SAP Ariba Buying and Invoicing and the deployment of the Guided Buying capability across Accenture to improve the buying experience. Our Procurement Plus and global IT organizations have continued to collaborate to enhance our capability. We are transforming content, digitizing procurement processes, building automations and intelligence on SAP Ariba, all on the journey to developing intelligent procurement.

Throughout this time, we’ve gained experience in addressing data and developing analytics solutions along with Accenture’s Applied Intelligence organization. Together, we have developed several advanced analytics solutions that help us address specific issues today.

Setting the foundation for advanced analytics

The advanced analytics solutions we have developed include:

Ariba procure-to-pay process improvement. We are using Celonis, a process mining and execution management solution, to identify and remove bottlenecks in the procure-to-pay process and improve the quality of execution. In so doing, we are optimizing standardization at scale. The data visualization capabilities of Celonis are helping us to develop deeper insights, allowing us to have fact-based conversations and highlighting similarities or differences of workflows, categories, or countries that are impacting global process turnaround time. We are leveraging the newer workbench and execution management capabilities to automate the execution of activities to confirm we can offer a higher level of operational service without increasing head count. This is a powerful enabler for change.

General ledger recommendations. We are using predictive analytics to identify and assign the financial data on requisitions and non-purchase order invoices. This capability better prepares buyers who are less familiar with accounting to be more accurate with their purchases, improving their user experience and significantly streamlining downstream accounts payable accuracy, time and cost.

Predictive contractor fulfillment. This tool uses predictive analytics that draw on historical information to help Accenture determine whether a contractor request can be filled. It also helps to assess the quality of the requirements and to view trends on cancellations by categories, clients and geographies. The tool allows our contractor onboarding teams to apply their time where it’s most valuable, delivering huge time savings in effort and higher satisfaction from suppliers in the quality of requests that they receive.

360-degree supplier relationships view. By integrating data about Accenture’s family of suppliers with Dun & Bradstreet services, this tool helps us understand the full scale of the relationship and partnership Accenture has with our suppliers, which is the key to gaining better insights as we partner with them.

Metrics at users’ fingertips. We have created and integrated targeted dashboards across the procure-to-pay and accounts payables areas to cascade to any user. The dashboards present performance against service level agreements (SLAs) and other business outcomes and key performance indicators (KPIs). They also derive data-driven, actionable insights and determine high-impact opportunities for process and key outcome improvements.

Creating a holistic, robust digital strategy

Developing these specific solutions has allowed our Procurement Plus team to reach a mature stage in advancing our data strategy and deliver valuable use cases that showcase the return on investment to leadership. This demonstration has enabled us to begin the next phase of execution on our data and analytics journey.

Data Strategy. Our approach now consists of two layers: the first is the normalized movement of data to enable a simplified user experience and the second is the positioning of data in a shared location so that it can be consolidated and consumed. With this central storage in place, procurement data can be analyzed effectively cross-process. This ability allows us to gain new insights and be able to answer future, unanticipated questions based upon new business disruptions.

This new data-centric environment also allows us to accelerate development of more advanced solutions supporting the connected buying experience for our people, comprehensive frictionless third-party risk management, and intelligent procurement.

Connected experience. To reduce friction for our people, we are developing a “connected experience” for buying that is underpinned by a fully digitized process enabled by data and analytics. We recognized the need to give Accenture people a more effective response to “how do I buy something?” and be navigated through the procurement process.

Our connected experience capability consists of several key components. We are developing a “front door” via ServiceNow to provide users with a single and connected entry for all their procurement needs. Sourcing will be automated and handled through a dashboard giving users updates and reminders from all procurement systems all in one place.

The workflow data architecture will then connect all sourcing activities with the correct buying channel. This architecture will essentially bring our sourcing activities from the front door together with the buying into one central data lake that is curated and integrated. This visibility will confirm, for example, what we bought from a supplier and whether we paid them according to the terms agreed upon during our sourcing and contracting process. These and many other insights will enable us to measure process effectiveness through the total life cycle of procurement.

Third-party risk management. The data journey and the connected experience will support third-party risk management. By capturing the data in a curated fashion, from the time we make a request to buy through our sourcing and contracting activities and the buying process, we can measure the relative risk of any given supplier compared to others, both from a compliance and performance perspective, according to the criteria we set forth on what defines risk. Bringing together more data elements enables us to establish a risk score and gain a full view of each supplier.

Leveraging data to drive intelligent procurement

With the data we now have, we’re able to answer questions that we could never answer before. For example, we can measure whether our respective spend category plans are being implemented as intended. Detailed insights regarding spend and performance will move Accenture toward engaging with suppliers that are the best fit for our categories.

The insights help us confirm that we are engaging with the right suppliers to contribute to Accenture’s innovation and sustainability agenda. The insights also help us to obtain better arrangements, pricing, and quality and help us be smarter with the suppliers we’re engaging with, ultimately driving margin, where possible.

A few example use cases include compliance to contract and payment terms, demand concentration according to category plans, and balance of trade. Yet another example is getting a better sense of the trajectory around contractor needs in relationship to demand trends and costs. All these user scenarios were developed by a structured input/output review of data traversing the procurement processes. The outcomes help to highlight current disconnects in the process and identify the data that will be needed to join the processes automatically and analyze their effectiveness.

A valuable difference

The future of procurement is in intelligence. By unleashing data and analytics as we progress on our program journey, we anticipate gaining new insights to get better at managing the total procurement life cycle while continually improving the customer experience.

Key outcomes from our journey with process analytics:

Celonis
Continuously improves the customer experience and effectiveness of internal teams by reducing friction and improving turnaround time

Predictive contractor fulfillment
Fulfills contractor requests much faster and more effectively than our previous process and with less manual effort

General Ledger Recommendation
Delivers an improved procurement experience and greatly streamlines accounts payable accuracy, time and cost

Connected experience
Planned to be more comprehensive and standardized than today in guiding Accenture people through the buying process


“Bringing the right data and steps together in the procurement process will give us enormously valuable insights into how we’re contracting and buying and with which suppliers.”

— PATRICIA MILLER, Managing Director, Procurement Plus – Digital Transformation, Accenture

$51M

Annualized working capital benefits delivered by having greater visibility into our pending invoices, as of fiscal year 2021.

30%

Reduction in invoice approval time.

50%

Improvement in request-to-order time.

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