“Procurement and supply chain have been thought of as linear processes in the past,” says Mark Smith, Head of Strategy and Transformation for BP’s GBS Procurement organisation. “You start with a strategy, you end with a contract, you place an order and then, at some point, you’ll go back and restart. In the modern world, you’re constantly in all parts of that process.
“There might be new and emerging technologies that force you to rethink a strategy you devised six months ago; there might be changes to your demand patterns that come out of your ordering behaviour, necessitating a review of your supplier portfolio.” Enabling effective management of these concurrent processes, Smith says, is Compass’s raison d’etre. “The process’s execution may exist in different systems, such as SAP Ariba or some of our legacy environments, but Compass provides end-to-end digital integration of all elements of procurement in one place.
In terms of his overall corporate strategy, Smith is clear: “We must be agile and able to adjust as new technologies emerge, such as new battery technology or alternative forms of power and energy. The thrust of the procurement transformation is around three things. The first is people, the second is about enabling the organisation with the correct tools, and the third is about combining both people and tools together in order to harness BP's data to drive value.”
In addition to this, Smith states that the importance of being open to innovation and knowing how to integrate it within existing structures cannot be overemphasised. “Like many procurement organisations out there, we’ve really struggled with the notion that, every time you need or want something, you have to go to procurement and they will slow the process down. While we still have a way to go on that journey, we’re starting to see more use of self-serve catalogues, quoting and buying. The net effect of that is the creation of more space in the organisation to work through the innovation agenda.”
Although it can be a daunting process, he is confident that BP’s procurement teams have been receptive and supportive. “A lot of the effort that goes into procurement is effort that most of our workforce would rather not expend, such as in reacting to things we would have preferred to foresee, or in manually collecting information that allows us to make better decisions.”