Dealing With Supply Chain Disruption – Simplifying Procurement with Automation – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series

In this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series, we’re talking all things supply chain and how simplifying procurement with automation can go a long way in helping companies adjust to and deal with supply chain disruption. Organizations are navigating different tax rules based on jurisdictions, trying to align systems, coordinating with vendors, and managing reporting and compliance. When you add in the globalization factor, new rules, pressures from customers for environmentally friendly suppliers and processes, it’s a lot for any business to handle. So, what can businesses do to navigate and manage these challenges? And what can we learn from the disruption of the last 18 months to be better prepared for the future?

I’m joined today by Chris Carlstead, Head of Partnerships & Alliances, Corporates Segment, at Thomson Reuters, and Kelley Lear, Senior Director of Partnership & Alliances at Thomson Reuters. Our conversation centers on the procurement process that many businesses are struggling with today and how it can be improved to positively impact the bottom line.

Our conversation covered the following:

  • How global procurement strategies have shifted over the last 18 months or so as a result of a global pandemic.
  • Looking long-term, thoughts on what organizations must consider in order to evolve.
  • ESG initiatives are all the rage today. Why it’s important for procurement teams to integrate their organization’s ESG objectives into their sourcing strategy?
  • Some of the main challenges in integrating ESG initiatives into the procurement process and how organizations can address these challenges.
  • Implementing new software systems can be a daunting proposition and, in many cases, these initiatives do not meet the organizational expectations. We explored the uniqueness of Thomson Reuters’ tax engine and why it’s a fit for so many organizations.
  • Why procurement and IT leaders should care about Thomson Reuters’ ONESOURCE Indirect Tax.

Bottom line, procurement operations are more complex today than ever before and simplifying procurement with automation is quickly becoming table stakes. If you’ve not yet explored Thomson Reuters’ ONESOURCE Indirect Tax, today is a good day to remedy that.

You can watch the video of our conversation here (and subscribe to our YouTube channel while you’re there):

Or stream it by way of your favorite streaming platform here:

You can learn more about ONESOURCE Determination for SAP ARIBA at the SAP Store.

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Shelly Kramer: Hello, and welcome to this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast. This is part of our interview series of discussions and I’m joined today by Chris Carlstead and Kelly Lear from Thomson Reuters. Chris is the head of partnerships and alliances in the corporate segment and Kelly is a senior director of partnerships and alliances. I will say that we spend a lot of time here at Futurum Research talking about the importance of strategic partnerships. And so I love having both of you on and being able to share your insights about the value of partnerships. And today we’re going to have a conversation about the procurement process that many businesses are struggling with today, supply chain disruption that we’re all navigating and how our processes, as it relates to procurement, can be simplified and automated.

We know that if you are tuning in for this show, taxes and supply chain today are probably everyone’s favorite topics of conversation. But we know that as organizations have to navigate different tax rules based on different jurisdictions and trying to align systems throughout the organization, vendor coordination, managing reporting and compliance, all of these things can represent significant headaches and challenges. And then when you add in the globalization factor, new rules, pressures from customers, not the customers that pressure us but pressure from customers who want environmentally friendly solutions, suppliers and processes, it’s a lot for any business to handle.
So what can you do to navigate and manage these challenges? What can we learn from the disruption of the last 18 months to be better prepared for the future, to be more resilient as an organization? All of those things are exactly what Chris and Kelly and I are going to be talking about today. Chris and Kelly, welcome to this show.

Chris Carlstead: Thank you.

Kelly Lear: Hi, thanks for having us.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely, absolutely. And I know both of you are global travelers and we have pinned you down in separate hotel rooms wherever it is you are in the country so that we could have this timely conversation. So thank you so much for making time to join us. I’d love to start. Chris, will you just tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, kind of your career path? I’d love to know more.

Chris Carlstead: Chris Carlstead, and thanks for the opportunity to be on the show here. I started my career in accounting back at Arthur Andersen, which is no longer with us, unfortunately, but was a great place to start my career and slowly worked my way through consulting into technology in the early 2000s, and then have been in software and technology ever since and never really looked back, but I’ve been fortunate to combine the beginnings of my professional career in accounting and tax with technology by focusing in on areas that help professionals solve complicated problems by leveraging technology. It’s been a great run and currently at Thomson Reuters where I lead up our partnerships and alliances group for Thomson Reuters in Nebic.

Shelly Kramer: That’s awesome. As a business executive, I run three separate companies. I will tell you that tax solutions that make my life easy and make my accounting team’s lives easier are at the top of my list of things that are very important to me. So I like it. Kelly, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kelly Lear: Sure. It’s funny I started at Arthur Andersen as well coming straight out of my MBA and headed up development for a global tax product there. Then went into product management and professional services. So I worked with global companies implementing tax technology solutions, doing financial transformation projects and work like that to automate everyone’s lives. And now I work with Chris on our partnerships and alliances team and we really look to our technology partners and others service partners to really extend and enhance our solutions to make our clients’ lives better. So that’s basically what I do.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Making people’s lives better, that’s something I love waking up every day thinking about. I mean, I feel like that’s a little bit what my job is like as a tech analyst is having my finger on the pulse of what’s happening across the world and digital transformation journeys and what those are comprised of and the value partnerships play and all of that sort of thing. And I do truly feel like a great deal of what my focus is is on helping inform, talk about technology solutions and make our clients and other people’s lives better and easier. Whether you’re talking about an enterprise organization or a small to midsize business, we all have the same needs. So being able to leverage technology solutions to help make things easier, quicker, better, more accurate, all of those things are nerdy, exciting things.

Speaking of challenges, supply chain. It’s funny, I have 15-year-old twin daughters and when we’re having a conversation and they say something, “Well, mom, because of the supply chain issues, things might not…” I feel like I’m doing something right, at least I’m forcing my children to listen to the many things I care about. One is supply chains, and by their very nature, supply chains are susceptible to disruption. However, I can safely say that nobody predicted a global pandemic and all of the shifts that we had to make personally and from a business standpoint, organizational standpoint, how those things were going to change our organizations and the challenges that they were going to present to us. And so I think havoc is a great word to perhaps employ here, but Chris, what I’d love to hear more from you about is I know without question that global procurement strategies have shifted over the course of the last 18 months to two years. Talk with us a little bit about that if you would.

Chris Carlstead: Yeah, I’d love to. No doubt the last 18 months have caused basically the entire supply chain, corporations all around the world to kind of reassess how they look at procurement and overall their procurement model. I suppose it’s probably worth just even reflecting on the last 18 months. Probably never in the time of history has the world stopped like it did 18 months ago, and the havoc and chaos that created for us at our personal lives for sure but into the supply chain, it was never done before. Well, I wasn’t alive during the last pandemic. The global nature of our economy is certainly different than it was 100 years ago.

And so you think about the realities of that and how raw materials stopped getting pulled out of the ground. You had the next line of manufacturing stopped. You then had the distribution stopped. You then had the ability to put it in a retail stores, your services or goods, that also stopped. And then what was really interesting is that while that was all one common impact, when it started to turn back on and we’re still in that process, not everything turned on equally. So you then started creating friction within the supply chain and areas that became out of the individual buyer and suppliers control. And that has had lasting effects, which you just mentioned your children. We notice it every day when we go in the grocery store and some aisles are filled and some aisles are missing very important items that you may enjoy.

What I find particularly ironic about that circumstance is that disruption, while significant, probably the most significant we’ve ever experienced, and procurement, they’ve been going through some disruption over the last many years. One of the things that we’ll talk about a little bit later is the relationship we have with Ariba who basically leveraged technology to create two phenomenons that are now being questioned, one is the global nature of supply chain, due to that technology like Ariba, was able to reach the furthest areas of the world to be able to identify suppliers and get them at the lowest cost possible. And that was the goal, that was the driver, that was the motivation.

And now as we come out of the pandemic, the pandemic’s caused us to reassess whether or not a global supply chain, let alone the lowest cost or the most important drivers. So if we take a step back and say, well, then what does that mean to us? It really starts to have us reassess locality or location of where we’re supplying goods, the reliability or resiliency of that supply chain itself, then ultimately speed.

So if you take that then kind of from the macro level and move it down into the micro level, that then gets into concepts like category management where as I just previously mentioned, cost was ultimately the main goal. Let’s drive down the cost. And in the end, quality, and some people might question that, well, quality’s important too. Yes, sure. You can decide you want quality to a certain level, but then you’re still going to look for the lowest cost at that level of quality. And now there are going to be many other factors that we’re going to consider where cost will be one of many as opposed to one of a few and it may not even be the most important one. And things that I think we’ll also talk about a little bit later like ESG will now play an important role in how we rebuild our supply chains.

Shelly Kramer: Yes, absolutely. I was listening to, gosh, I think I was listening to something on NPR this morning and they were talking about consumerism. Americans are great at consuming. Consumerism is actually what powers the economy, but then when you step back and you look at things like some of the choices that we make and some of the fast fashion choices that we make and things like that, sometimes our proclivity to be consumers is not always a good thing when we’re talking about sustainability efforts and good for the planet thing. So it’s a big conversation and I think that as you said, it used to be that procurement teams were charged with finding the lowest cost provider in a category and just get the best deal and do whatever you can to get the price down.

I think that we’re seeing interest in ESG for sure, and we’re seeing a customer profile of a buyer who is interested in things beyond just price and is interested in, what does this mean from a sustainability standpoint? What is this vendor that we’re thinking about working with like from an ESG standpoint? And the reality of it though is the bigger your organization is kind of tracking all these things manually, I think it’s nearly impossible. So it’s a big challenge. Kelly, let’s talk a little bit longer term. We know some of the challenges that organizations have and some of the things they’re focused on, but what do they need to be thinking about in order to be able to evolve and grow?

Kelly Lear: Well, I think there’s really a couple of approaches that procurement teams can follow to execute the strategies that Chris kind of outlined there. So end-to-end automation overall is key, I think, when concerning procurement. And as Chris mentioned, increasing accuracy, speed overall in the procurement process and vendor processes, and then a key addition here is really the vendor risk and the amount of time and turnaround in that third party vendor process is really key. So in addition to these teams kind of needing to work towards that end-to-end automation, they really, I think, need to improve the visibility and accuracy across the board through the procure-to-pay process.

And as we know, at Thomson Reuters, because we deal with taxes all the time, not just the technology, procure-to-pay taxes are always hard to address because it’s really difficult to align your systems, your processes, your data, coordinating across all your vendors. And then also managing that reporting and compliance. A lot of times, and you’re probably aware of this, a lot of times IT teams are not fully aware of the complexities as it relates to the procure-to-pay process when you bring tax to the table. So there’s a lot of vendor tax calculation complexities, direct pay permits, exempt sales, all of that kind of thing that really levels up the overall complexity with the vendor process, ultimately affecting the supply chain. So super challenging.

So I think really looking at that where you could have a implementing an indirect tax engine into the ERP and really kind of streamlining that across the board with a system like Ariba where it’s focusing primarily on that procure-to-pay is really key.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I think so too. So getting the tax right the first time and every time is not only important for peace of mind but it mitigates costs, it mitigates risks. I mean, there’s nothing worse than getting a notice that you’re due for an audit or something like that. So I think that the benefits are great to really think about how you can streamline your processes, how you can add automation into the processes and how you can get rid of that manual procure-to-pay business that you’ve been doing.

Kelly Lear: Yeah. I mean, just to follow up on that, I think that looking at minimizing the amount of touch points you have with any of your vendors and not having to do rework is just really important within the supply chain.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Absolutely. Well, and you know what, we didn’t touch on this, but from a security standpoint as well. I mean, I think the fewer times you’re navigating those touch points and everything else, the better it is for everyone. We talked a little bit about this at a couple of different points in this conversation, but these days ESG is the thing, environmental social governance, and we’ve got lots of ESG initiatives out there and I know we’re going to have more moving forward. So, why is it important for procurement teams to integrate their organization’s ESG objectives into their sourcing strategy. Kelly, I’m going to let you start first on that one.

Kelly Lear: I think there’s a few things at play here. If you think about consumers, they’re going to have a heightened awareness of the ESG issues, trending towards buying goods that meet their values and not necessarily just the value price kind of option there. If you look at millennials, Gen X, Y, Z, they’re gradually becoming our biggest customers or consumers, and these individuals are making those purchasing decisions really much more connected to their values and especially more focused on ESG related issues. If you look at the employees though, they’re also looking at increasingly interested for working with companies that have an ESG agenda. So looking at corporate sustainability values and things like that. And also for brands to stay relevant, they really need to demonstrate both the consumers and employees ESG best practices all the way down the supply chain so that you get to the source of the supplier decision at the material transaction level.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely.

Kelly Lear: Yeah. Chris might touch on this as well, but we are seeing like our partners such as SAP, where they want to work with us on, we have a clear product in addition to our tax products which kind of looks at also the vendors that you might be doing business with that could be sanctioned in some way. So it looks at, as you onboard a vendor, could that vendor be linked to something like money laundering or terrorists or slave activities. Maybe they have like adverse media challenges for fraud and other things. So that’s a big area that we’re seeing as well.

Shelly Kramer: Oh my gosh, That’s absolutely a huge area. Chris, do you have some thoughts on this one?

Chris Carlstead: Well, I just think that companies, corporations around the world are in an amazing position to influence not only the global economy but the world, and the world in this context is us as consumers not only in how we buy things but how we interact with each other just due to their ability to market to the world and provide that messaging. And through that power, they can decide how they’re going to allocate their resources. And if they decided to establish ESG as a priority, they could really create a powerful impact and really shift the way we look at ESG and accelerate the benefits that would come from that and truly put in practices that are environmentally friendly, that are sustainable over time, that address social issues that we face in global unrest.

If they choose to do that, then we could probably really move the needle in a very quick way. And that’s, if you will, the right thing to do, and many companies are doing this already. For sure SAP and Thomson Reuters are leading the way in many of these categories, but still a lot of companies, being a going concern. They have shareholders, they still operate with an economic interest in mind. And I think even if you take that lens, you still find yourself in the same spot. You’ve got governments all around the world making this a priority by changing the regulations and the way we track things. You have technology companies making it easier to get access to this type of behavior. And then you have technology companies also driving tons of content to bring these issues to the forefront. So more than ever before, it’s easy to get access to this type of information. So the excuses are starting to die down a bit as far as what corporations should be responsible to do.

And so then when you think about it in the supply chain concept, if I’m currently buying something across the world and then I put it onto a ship that then uses oil to get it all the way across the world only to land on its shores to get disrupted by some social unrest and then ultimately make it to its destination, you could choose to, in that instance, use a local supplier. It’s both sustainable, environmentally friendly. You’ve probably got better visibility into the practices of that supplier because of the location, and you’ve also likely reduced your potential supply chain risk and disruption. So in the end, I think we’ll see more balance. And of course the US is going to definitely be buying goods from China for a very long time, but we might find a more balanced view in how we bring in the supplies into a given supply chain to minimize that disruption but also help the environment and address social issues along the way.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I think absolutely right. And I think really when it comes to ESG initiatives, these aren’t new. This is not something new that just started to become a buzzword. But what we are seeing is organizations the world over seriously embracing ESG initiatives and planting a flag in that in much the same way they planted a flag in their digital transformation efforts and journeys which are never ending. But I think the important thing here and the point that I want to make is that you can’t just give lip service to ESG.

I mean, you can try, but the reality of it is your customers, your prospects are knowledgeable about what making a difference from an ESG standpoint is and they know where to find information on what it is your company is doing, what it is your company is committed to, what it is your company has said you’re doing. You know what I’m saying? So I think it’s really important to not hit the easy button when it comes to these ESG efforts and engage in any kind of greenwashing. You really have to do what it is you say you’re going to do. And you have to be using technology solutions, I mean, if you’re smart, that help you track and measure these processes. I mean, that’s really the whole point here.

Kelly Lear: Yeah. I mean, I think that is the biggest challenge is many of the companies don’t have some of those systems or facilities or processes in place to communicate their ESG initiatives or expectations with the supply chain, which can be disparate all over the globe. So if they can do that and then track it on an ongoing basis, that’s super helpful. You’re going to get there.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. Talk with me a little bit. I know this isn’t necessarily easy. So what are some of the main challenges that you find people encounter, companies encounter when it comes to integrating ESG initiatives into their procurement processes? Chris?

Chris Carlstead: Like any change management topic, it’s about communication. You rightly point out that the issues and the topics themselves are not new. But again, I think the pandemic has accelerated a lot of things in the way we think. And while we don’t probably have time to get in all the social and political issues that surround topics like this, it’s definitely created a moment and a movement and we’re starting to see that change. But yet, the best intentions in the world don’t make change. You need to actually manage them through. And as a result, I think it’s going to be really important that companies are very transparent within their communications externally but also internally. Companies, while they may have a single brand, they’re made up of tens to hundreds to thousands of people with their own points of view and you don’t know always what the motivations are up and down your employee base. So it’s really important to be clear in what you’re trying to accomplish and why you’re trying to accomplish it as well.

You also need to put them in a position to empower them to make those decisions and to actually affect the chain. I remember a professor from years ago who impressed upon me the importance of really understanding compensation structures. If you create a bonus program that bonuses people on getting the lowest cost, they will get the lowest cost and it may be to the detriment of other important items for the company. And so in this case, there might be considerations for rewarding people for identifying suppliers who are socially responsible and environmentally responsible. So that could be another way to help work through that challenge.

But at the end of the day, it’s very difficult even with the improving technology, and it is getting better by leaps and bound daily, to know for sure what’s going on up and down in your supply chain. So I think that’s going to be the other challenge. A corporation should take responsibility for what it does, but understanding fully not only maybe one down or one up. That may also be within your purview, but often supply chains are far more complex than that. They have hundreds of people along the way and it’s very difficult to know everything that’s going on in your supply chain. So that will take some time.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. What do I about you, Kelly? Do you have any challenges to add, things that you’ve encountered along the way that you see organizations struggling with as it comes to integrating ESG initiatives into the procurement process?

Kelly Lear: Yeah. I mean, I think you guys teed it up fairly well here. If I were just to summarize, I guess I would be saying that that points to the sheer number of suppliers, the globalization and localization of the supply chain and how that structure can change over time as we’ve seen here more recently. But looking at that, all of those pressures, there’s definitely a lack of transparency. If we’re not leveraging certain systems, we’re not able to get access to the data that can be shared by all within the supply chain. And as Chris mentioned, really communicating that well, sharing and updating data on a regular basis, and really just maybe a lack of understanding as well as to how contractors and suppliers might be impacting through their operations the overall ESG initiatives of their partners and folks in the supply chain. So data, transparency, communication, all of those things are going to get you there, but you need systems to help you support that process, I think.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Speaking of systems; implementing, integrating new software programs is rarely easy and in many cases, some of the initiatives that we try to launch, maybe we have some hangups along the way when it comes to expectations within the organization. Talk with me a little bit, if you would, about what’s unique about your tax engine. Chris?

Chris Carlstead: Well, I would say for starters, we’ve been in the business for a few decades now and we’ve established a robust network of content developers and providers all around the globe. So we’ve got the ability to reach every corner of the world and every country that one collects tax. What I also think is really important is that while we are operating globally, we have a mentality of thinking locally. So even if you’re a small company that’s localized to a single state within the US or jurisdiction, we’re able to serve your needs as much as we’re able to serve the largest companies in the world.

We do that by fiercely going after the changes in tax rules and regulations that happen all the time. In fact, we’re here at an event, and Kelly was just referencing the 15,000 US jurisdictions. Tax changes happen anywhere from once to twice a day in countries like Brazil. So it’s a very, very complex environment. We ensure that our tax engine’s going to get those calculations correct. And you said it earlier, to get that tax right the first time. That’s really important for our customers.

The other thing that I think we’ve really strived to accomplish and in the last several years we’ve really accelerated these efforts as well, which is much like the economy itself has become more robust and our access to information has become more robust, the ability to connect to various source systems and the source systems that need to actually calculate tax has also exponentially grown. So we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure that we can integrate our offerings with the products that our customers want to use. I would pause there and throw it over to Kelly. She’s got a few thoughts I’m sure as well.

Shelly Kramer: To you, Kelly.

Kelly Lear: Yeah. I mean, I think that we are unique in that as Chris mentioned, we do have it is a platform integration with the ERP. So it’s not just the integration with Ariba, which is one part of an organization’s business with their procure-to-pay process and their vendor and supply chain processes, but it’s also where we can integrate with the e-commerce platform, any point of sales systems that might be dispersed globally. It’s all those order-to-cash or consumer experiences as well. And just like the vendor process, the least amount of touch points and the amount of accuracy you want to have real time is essential. And as Chris mentioned, our guys are basically reviewing in over like 205 countries, over 59,000 jurisdictions. In the US alone, we have like 159,000 rules.

So it’s ever changing, it’s very challenging. So it’s not as simple as just having a tax rate look up. A purchase changes depending upon who’s making the purchase. If it’s a vendor, if it’s a customer, where they’re located, either in the US or globally, how they’re going to use that product, if they’re shipping it from one place to another, if they’re tax exempt or what have you. So pretty complex stuff. So anyway you can integrate that with a global platform like ours and be able to lift it up to where the customer needs to make those calculations quickly is super helpful.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Absolutely. So we talked about procurement and procurement teams. I want to talk also about IT teams. So, why should both procurement and IT care about Thomson Reuters and your ONESOURCE indirect tax software solution?

Chris Carlstead: I’ll jump in on that one. I think this kind of builds off the last question too and probably Kelly and I both were remiss in not mentioning it, but it’s simplicity. It’s about making complex problems easier to achieve or accomplish. And our goal as technology providers is to make those problems as simple as possible and allow our customers who are running their own businesses, whether they’re large or small, to focus in on driving value for their business and not on how to figure out how to comply with government regulations around the world. That’s number one.

Number two, and especially as we start to think about IT is while we have hundreds of products and certainly won’t rattle them off here, they basically sit in the middle between interstate…. They sit in the intersection of regulation and commerce. And that’s important because we handle the regulation piece while we help you do your business. And we do that in many, many categories from know your customer and know your vendor to supplier risk management, to tax, to legal risk and on and on and on. We do that for corporations large and small, but what the IT person should know is that that’s a one stop shop for them. There certainly are economies of scale and benefits to using single suppliers across multiple categories. And Thomson Reuters not only offers that all around the world, but they offer that in many categories.

So when you think about that in the context of indirect tax, it’s an important category because the world is continuing to evolve and as technology continues to improve, governments are getting better and smarter and more sophisticated, not only-

Shelly Kramer: And they want their tax money.

Chris Carlstead: They want their tax money. They want their tax money. And in some respects, it’s an unwritten contract between the corporations and the governments to pay that tax money. Most corporations I know don’t want to pay more than their fair share, but they recognize the need to pay and they want that to be as easy as possible as well. The technology that ONESOURCE indirect tax provides, it makes, again, that simple for you to comply with the governments around the world so that you’re not fighting them as to what you owe and everybody’s aligned that you’ve paid that fair tax and you can focus in on what you do best, which is sell goods and services to your customers.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Absolutely. I think that I am looking for, and I think the one thing I want to make sure that our listening audience understands is that a solution like this is applicable, and both of you have made this point, across the board, whether you’re talking about an enterprise organization or a small to midsize organization. And so when you’re watching or listening to this conversation, I don’t want you to make the mistake of thinking, “Oh, we’re too small for that,” because chances are, you’re not. And that just like in any other instance, if you’re looking for simplicity, peace of mind, risk mitigation, all of those things, this kind of solution is really something that is worth your time to take a look at because it does do exactly that, it simplifies.

Chris Carlstead: And you make a great point on that. I mean, I think there was a recent decision in the courts that basically increased taxation across all types of businesses. What’s notable about that is as we moved into a more digital economy and into e-commerce, companies who set up their shop digitally and start to sell online, they can’t really control where their customer is; whereas before with bricks and mortar, you pretty much were limited to the jurisdiction that that building sat in. Now you can become a global phenomenon overnight and be subject to all the tax rules that we’ve referenced earlier just the same as a large corporation.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. One point too that I want to make is that this isn’t new. Like this is not something that you’re just launching today. I mean, I think that you’ve been providing tax engine calculations for organizations through an integration with Ariba for a while now. Isn’t that the case?

Kelly Lear: That’s correct. Yes, we forget. Chris and I were talking about this, it’s been like over 18 years now, I think, that we had certified integrations with SAP, for example. So quite a long history, and we’ve continued to evolve that over time. So we’re not just kind of putting that in place. And as we mentioned, there’s always global and regulatory changes and shifts in supply chain. So we’re having to respond to that need for our customers. Some of the recent improvements we’ve done is adding a lot of functionality to the Ariba integration, for example, where we’ve got debit and credit memos can be processed more efficiently. So accounts payable can also use Ariba for all its invoices and adjustments instead of having to go into SAP accounts payable module, for example. So keeping it all in one place and really streamlining that.

They also we’ve improved like our direct pay permits as well as their vendor charge tax logic, which is something that our customers were really keen to see what we could do there and make sure that you don’t have any kind of overpayments on taxes. And also that we can set up a self accrual for each of those transactions as they’re invoiced, and then we just have a lot easier kind of posting for okay to pay. So once we know that something’s an auditable transaction and it’s ready to pay, that we’ve kind of streamlined that process really well. So yes, we’re always kind of improving on that and we forget it’s been a long time that we’ve had these integrations in place and we are trying to see what else we can do to bring them to the next level.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. And I think that’s an important part of the conversation. Chris, what actions can procurement take to help build resiliency into the supply chain?

Chris Carlstead: Sure. We talked a little bit earlier about kind of the shift from the sole focus on cost to more of a strategic approach that includes many factors. And I think at the end of the day, that’s really identifying your suppliers and making sure you understand how they do their business, not only in terms of the products they provide you but how they actually create those products, treat their employees, treat the world around them. And you can use technology to do that. Kelly mentioned earlier clear, but there are others out there that help you determine not only who a supplier is but whether or not you should be doing business with that supplier. We call that know your customer. In that case, know your vendor.

There’s also more information every day becoming available from a content standpoint to, again, leverage technology to inform the decisions that you’re making. So what I think is really exciting about what procurement’s going to be able to do is, and they have been starting to do it, is become more proactive in how they actually build that network and how they bring together these trusted suppliers together that they’re going to rely on to ultimately serve their customers. So, exciting times.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I think so too. Kelly, what do you envision the future of procurement to look like?

Kelly Lear: Well, I’m all about technology automation, so I’m always seeing what can you do to really scale up there and make it as seamless as possible. I really think, as Chris mentioned, that minimizing risk in supply chain has a much heightened focus right now. So anything we can do there to make sure that we’re doing that, and then scaling out to see how can we then, once we streamline that process, we de-risk our supply chains, then how can we also leverage that data through APIs and other like analytics solutions from our platforms to say how can we use that data to then predict and make good decisions about how we’re managing our supply chain. So really getting from kind of reactive to proactive and predictive. So I think that’s the future.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. And I think that’s incredibly exciting and it’s one of those things that when you go down this path and you start with the simple things, we’re going to embrace automation, we’re going to start with this low hanging fruit over here, back office, front office, whatever, whatever, get these things in place. And then in my experience, what happens is that you have these things in place and all of a sudden people are going, “Oh my gosh, that’s so cool. I had no idea how cool this is. Let’s do more. Please serve me, I have some more.”

To me that’s exciting because it’s the proof of concept and getting people excited about, “Oh, we’ve done this, what else can we do?” And then you’ve got people’s creative juices going and thinking, and like you said, what else can we do to streamline these processes, get a better data set, be able to better leverage the data and help us make data driven decisions. It really is super exciting to be involved in these rollouts because it’s so fun to see people not really know what to expect, have a little trepidation maybe along the way, and then just be blown away by what they’re able to do as a result. To me, that’s really exciting.

Kelly Lear: Me as well.

Shelly Kramer: Well said. Here we are, a room full of geeks. So of course we’re numbers people too, numbers in technology people, but that’s okay. That’s okay. To learn more about ONESOURCE determination for SAP Ariba, you can visit the SAP store online and I’ll include a link to that in the show notes and in our conversation here on LinkedIn. But I think that this is a wrap for our conversation. Chris and Kelly, thank you so much for taking time out of what I know is an incredibly busy week for both of you, and stepping away for a few minutes to talk with me and to share some information about your technology, your software solution here at Thomson Reuters. And so thank you so much.

Kelly Lear: Thank you.

Chris Carlstead: Very much appreciate it.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. And to our viewing, our listening audience, thank you for spending time with us. I hope that we have whetted your appetite for some more information about how you can simplify procurement with automation and streamline any disruption that comes as a result of supply chain issues and kind of the importance of having your hands around that, and really hope that we’ve introduced you. If you haven’t yet heard of the Thomson Reuters ONESOURCE indirect tax solution, that you’ll take a look at it. So with that, thank you for joining us and we’ll see you again next time.

Author Information

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”


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