SX: Intelligent Spend Management with a CX Approach

By Laura V. Garcia
John Wookey is back at SAP, helping procurement up its game, bringing a CX approach to intelligent spend management...

As one who loves procurement, there are some people I deem myself lucky to meet. Mr John Wookey, President of SAP’s Intelligent Spend and Business Network Group, is one of those people. Wookey has spent much of his career changing the face of how we work, and as the enterprise technology industry continues to evolve, Wookey continues to do just that. 

Having boomeranged to his old stomping grounds at SAP, Wookey is once again smashing silos and building bridges. Wookey re-joined SAP in October of 2020, after spending most of the previous decade at Salesforce during a time when they were going through some pretty expeditious growth. Wookey had left SAP for Salesforce back in 2011 when the company consisted of about 5,000 employees. By the time Wookey left Salesforce that number was nearing the 49,000 employees that it reports today. 

Prior to his departure, Wookey had spent a few years at SAP building the first set of on-demand applications to take to market. This marked the beginning of the cloud journey. Years later, Wookey reconnected with a few board members. As Wookey explained, “We had a very strong alignment in terms of where we saw the market going, and the criticality of things like cloud computing and the operating model for software in the future. We also agreed that some of the new emerging technologies like artificial intelligence needed to come into applications in a much more integral way than what we saw happening in the marketplace.”

He continued, “We also saw a need to move beyond an org-centric approach to software to a network-based approach. We wanted to really delve into how software could not just help to improve internal operations and efficiencies, but also help organisations to interact more effectively with their trading partners. We were looking to build a software model that connects organisations and helps them optimise various objectives as part of that exercise.”

“It was really a meeting of the minds around where we saw the industry going and then an idea for how we wanted to help SAP get there.”

And get there they did. 

Beyond the Org; More Than Just Spend

SAP’s Intelligent Spend and Business Network Group break down digital barriers, building bridges instead, creating a network that gives organisations the framework they need to drive improvement initiatives, increase efficiencies, and foster innovation-fuelling collaborations. 

Allowing the free flow of information makes for a more dynamic business model, allowing suppliers, business partners, and stakeholders to gain valuable insights, share ideas, source suppliers and respond to offers.

“Every CPO is trying to think about how to make their suppliers a more integral part of their innovation strategy and get them more engaged in the process. That's much easier to do on a common, single platform than over a hodgepodge of systems,” Wookey said.

“The fact is, all these organisations have these networks of relationships, but they're effectively managing them outside of the technology that they're using to drive the procurement process. So the idea is, you have a framework in place but what we need to do is change the boundaries of that framework. We need to take it from the organisation to the network of relationships you're really trying to support as part of optimising that process.”

“And in doing so, this opens up the opportunity for you to drive more cost efficiencies, more operational efficiencies as well as environmental measures and social objectives such as ethical sourcing, or supporting women-owned businesses. People want to be able to instrument all of this with their system. In my view, we're doing two things. We're making the framework bigger, and we're adding more dimensionality to it.” 

“It's interesting because when I was at Oracle, my biggest competitor was SAP. And I always admired the fact that not only did they have compelling solutions but they took on some of the hardest business problems in the industry,” Wookey said.

Finding a way for procurement to gain control and harness spend on things like direct and indirect materials spend, travel expenses, and contingent labour are some of those industry problems SAP tackled.

Cost, Control and Compliance: Gaining Control of The Seemingly Uncontrollable

As The Hackett Group’s Key Procurement Issues report showed, increasing spend influence remains a top priority for CPOs for 2021. Hence, a need for better ways to manage all categories of spend across an organisation.

John says when it comes to spend management, procurement is always looking to gain what he calls “The three Cs; cost, control and compliance.” This is what allows procurement to gain the control they need to strategise on spend, find and realise cost savings and enhance compliance. 

Of course, SAP provides some handy solutions such as SAP Concur and SAP Fieldglass so you can do just that. As Wookey said, “What's unique about SAP is we provide the best in class capabilities for each of these spend categories across the organisation from a single solution provider. And all of them connect to the SAP Analytics Cloud.” 

SAP Analytics Cloud offers powerful enterprise-wide advanced analytics that gives CEOs and CFOs visibility to look at all the dimensions of spend from operational costs to social responsibility and environmental objectives.

SX: The Supplier Experience

Before we “sat down” I had dug up an old article Wookey had written while at Salesforce.

“You asked me about the CRM article, and it's interesting because CRM to me, is the mirror image of spend management. You're either the buyer or the seller. With CRM, what you need to think about is the full life cycle experience of a customer from the time they're a part of the marketing campaign until you sell your service and you upgrade.”

“As a customer, it's frustrating to buy something, then call the service department, and you have to spend time explaining who you are, what you bought and when you bought it. It just doesn't make sense to you that they don't already know that. That's the problem, not understanding the full lifecycle of the customer. And it's the same for a supplier. Suppliers get frustrated too when they go through that process from being awarded a contract from a sourcing event, to then go through the requisitioning, ordering, invoicing, and settlement process. Then if some part of that process breaks, they call up the buyer, and they can't get it fixed because those systems aren't connected.”

“I see trading partner engagements very much the same way. It's about how you provide business continuity in the relationship. And that's what we're trying to really support with our business network approach.”

And so, it seems, Wookey and his colleagues are yet again leading the way, taking the friction-free, multi-channel customer experience customers today are demanding, flipping it on its head and giving it to procurement, from RFX to payment of invoice. Because, as John says, it’s two sides of the same coin. Make it easy to do business with you, and people will do exactly that, and you’ll pick up efficiencies and some dollars along the way.

Just as I say I’ve run out of questions, John jokes that it’s a good thing because he’s run out answers. But he’s left me, and I hope our readers, a little smarter, and maybe even a little happier than we were going in. And for that, I thank him.


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