Procurement in a pandemic: why flexibility is key

It may not come as too much of a surprise that the global lockdown has put incredible strain on supply chains and great scrutiny on sourcing and procurement methods. For a start, we saw a huge shift to organizations delivering tasks and sourcing and purchasing remotely. For those lacking the structures to support this, their inability to purchase goods and services temporarily affected many aspects of their operations as they joined the ranks of businesses seeking relevant supplies urgently – and often manually. The stories of weeks of phone calls to try and source a particular product are all too familiar for many.

The sudden need to increase sourcing and purchase of specific categories of items also put pressure on a number of sectors. PPE was the main – but not the only – category. For example, not all organizations were experienced in having staff working from home, so there was pressure to source IT equipment to support employees in doing this.

Supply chains were also affected by pivoting organizations who suddenly required new products and services while reducing their demand from their traditional channels. While food retailers faced bigger demand, most of the hospitality sector had to put orders on hold, as did whole swathes of the economy while lockdown was at its most severe.

So, as lockdown restrictions flex, businesses such as restaurants face unique challenges because they need to hold orders when there is a forced closure, and then switch orders back on when allowed to reopen.

This means that when procurement teams are forward planning, it is all about flexibility right now. With a good network of suppliers and the right technology to support sourcing and purchasing, it is possible to react to the unexpected. Agility is key. A key component to that agility is having the right supporting technology that works no matter where a team is working, and also user comfort with the technology. If it isn’t intuitive or the team don’t understand how to utilize technology, it won’t be as effective.
 
For sourcing and procurement teams, the ability to onboard new suppliers quickly is critical to that flexibility. Processes also need to be in place that support fast onboarding to minimize the risk that comes with rapidly adopting a new supplier.

And no matter whether a team is working in the office or at home, employees need to be supported to get the supplies they need to do their jobs, from approved suppliers, while following company policies.

Technology has been one of the foundations that has helped businesses to continue to operate during this crisis. 

When technology is applied in a simple, streamlined way, it helps procurement and finance teams make informed decisions and control a greater portion of their spend, which of course leads to savings, better supplier relationships and a reduction in risk.