Journey to intelligent procurement with SAP Ariba
Accenture adopts SAP® Ariba® to evolve procurement from compliance to frictionless buying to embedding intelligence and driving value for the business
Accenture’s global Procurement organization uses SAP Ariba solutions to manage more than $5 billion of spend every year. Accenture’s Procurement and global IT organizations made the strategic decision several years ago to move Accenture’s on-premise SAP Ariba instance to SAP Ariba Buying and Invoicing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), supporting Accenture’s IT strategy to be platform powered, cloud first and intelligence driven.
The move to SAP Ariba’s Guided Buying capability on SAP’s cloud solution marked the beginning of a journey of creating a new generation of procurement. The program team’s initial challenge was to deploy the Guided Buying capability on SAP Ariba Buying and Invoicing across Accenture to transform the buying process for more than 500,000 Accenture people. From there, the team needed to determine how to innovate further to evolve procurement capabilities to become more streamlined, intelligent and value-producing for Accenture.
“We are transforming procurement into an intelligent portal solution that guides people to the right channels, seamlessly and intelligently.”
An expanded program team deployed SAP Ariba Buying and Invoicing, devoting six months on the initial go-live followed by a 12-month global deployment to more than 60 countries. They used the Accenture SAP Cloud Platform Center of Excellence assets, agile methodology and cloud experience. They also made high reuse of SAP Ariba-specific process documents, requirement templates and configurations, enabling them to stand up solutions quickly. A global design allowed the team to develop and deploy 80 percent of the solution in the first deployment and greatly accelerate subsequent deployments.
The deployment was one of the first and largest SAP Ariba Guided Buying instances globally. The enhanced capabilities of the cloud-based SAP Ariba vastly improved the buying experience, especially for infrequent users, and has been key to shaping the buying behaviors for Accenture people. SAP Ariba allows Accenture users to be faster, more compliant and more cost-effective in their purchasing. The solution improved the buying experience and increased procurement savings by intuitively directing Accenture buyers to goods and services with contracted pricing.
With the foundation of SAP Ariba On Demand in place, Accenture continues to refine and enable content and look for opportunities to leverage new functionality, such as the Procurement Operations Desk. At the same time, Accenture shifted its strategic focus from managing controls and compliance to improving the user experience through standardization, simplification and automation to reduce friction in a compliant manner.
This shift allows more procurement professionals to engage in activities that drive additional business value, from managing the supplier and contract life cycle, to innovating with ecosystem partners, to promoting greater sustainability. With this shift in focus, the organization rebranded itself to Procurement Plus to reflect the fact that it is no longer simply a back-office, spend management function.
Key areas of focus of Accenture’s Procurement Plus journey include:
Focus on content enablement
Accenture grows its product and service catalog and contract content by continuously increasing and enhancing content. One aspect is enabling the capability to buy commoditized items directly from such marketplaces as Amazon Business, allowing Accenture to offer a wider array of products and reduce catalog setup and maintenance effort in these categories.
Enhancement of guided buying, digital buying and UX
Accenture continues to enhance the Guided Buying capability including a new capability to proactively advise employees on the purchase options of IT accessories when they exchange laptops. In addition, Accenture and SAP are currently teaming to deliver an improved guided invoicing experience, which will extend the Guided Buying design cues to invoicing activities, making for a better experience for infrequent users.
Digitization of procurement operations
Manual procurement-related legal and regulatory review steps were built into the buying workflow and brought online. This shift from offline to online digitized Accenture’s entire scope of procurement operations, reducing manual workload and providing end-to-end transaction transparency and audit traceability that helped drive improvement in the processing turnaround time.
Accenture is using the process mining solution from SAP ecosystem partner Celonis to leverage this transparency and traceability to develop deeper insights, such as: Are similar workflows running in processes across the different spend areas, across the different categories in different regions and how or where can they be influenced? This solution helps Accenture to continuously improve the customer experience and effectiveness of internal teams by reducing friction and improving turnaround time.
Yet another digitization advancement is a Procurement Operations Desk that runs in 23 countries with individuals who perform approval activities for requisitions effectively. These individuals allocate manual work to Procurement agents, speed the processing of purchase requests, differentiate the requirements and where needed, assign purchase requests to specialized agents. They are well equipped to consolidate information from purchase requests onto a single dashboard. These activities have resulted in increasing the quality of service, shortening turnaround time and reducing risk.
Move to intelligent procurement
A key goal is to create a more intelligent platform that is attuned to end-user needs by leveraging predictive analytics, automation and AI. One example is Accenture’s use of AI and predictive analytics to identify and assign the general ledger to requisitions and non-purchase order invoices. Another is the development of a virtual assistant that surfaces on different pages during the buying process to give automated responses or connect the user with a live agent. It will eventually simplify updates to forms.
Development of intelligent spend management
Accenture strives to be a data-driven enterprise, and as such, the Procurement Plus organization is developing analytics on spend—on what, why and where are suppliers meeting objectives and what alternatives exist. The vision is to expand the management of spend with intelligence to other areas of the business, such as time & expense and travel expense, using analytics across areas. Accenture’s single global SAP S/4HANA® instance enables data to be readily available and accessible to provide these insights. Procurement Plus is in the process of combining and enriching data from multiple systems in Accenture’s data lake so that it can obtain more profound insights.
The need for better visibility for spend has driven Accenture to move to SAP Fieldglass® as the solution that will help Accenture to manage its statement of work for services-based spend. This can aid Accenture to actively manage services contracts, improve audit focus and achieve more accuracy in aligning to contracted terms.
“The work is not over when stabilization is done. It is actually the beginning of the most exciting part of the journey. Benefits to both the buyer and seller increase when you build automations and intelligence upon the SAP Ariba solution.”
Procurement Plus recognizes that the technology itself will not solve business problems. Our program structure ensures we understand the business outcomes we want to accomplish and understand the operational changes that are needed to deliver those. In many cases, this requires us to engage with other groups on the journey, whether it be Accenture’s workplace team on the enablement of the catalog on SAP Ariba or the marketing organization on the enablement of their services statement of work on SAP Fieldglass.
Digital transformation requires the entire Procurement Plus team to bring an innovation mindset to help improve the experience. To encourage this, as a function, Procurement Plus supports the larger team not only in the generation of ideas, but also in the upskilling necessary to enable the team to build the business case, pitch the idea and support its delivery.
SAP Ariba Buying and Invoicing enhances capabilities for Accenture users buying goods and services and increases contract compliance. The adoption of Guided Buying has directed buyers to simplified buying on catalog with a five-times improvement of compliance on transactions on contract annually for the first two years. In 2019, Accenture’s intelligent procurement SAP Ariba solution was selected as a Digital Trailblazer winner of the SAP Innovation Awards.
Every step of the journey is measured and evaluated against a desired business outcome to confirm value is being delivered. The team is also tracking “hours reimagined,” which measures where capacity is created and then confirming those resources are upskilled to be prepared for the next level of procurement services. Accenture’s Procurement Plus and global IT organizations continue to partner with SAP to inspire and influence its technology road map and proactively plan for SAP Ariba innovations as they are developed.
“Embracing a digital mindset and committing to the SAP Ariba platform has positioned Accenture to take advantage of continuous innovation with each new release and apply the New now.”