Facing the possibility of an economic recession, one of the world’s leading professional services companies felt the urgency to improve its grasp on spend management – the practice of fully understanding and managing supplier relations and company purchasing.
With 738,000 employees and $3.8 billion in services contracts, it was crucial for Accenture to not only identify every dollar being spent but also assess whether the organization was fully exploiting each expenditure.
But a sense of frustration pervaded the company, as procurement teams complained about limited visibility into contract terms and challenges tracking statement of work (SOW) agreements, pacts specifying goals, and deadlines expected of external employees.
The capacity to generate the SOW contracts and effectively manage services spend depended upon the region since each was reliant on different processes and documentation requirements.
Inadequate services spend visibility also increased exposure to local legal and regulatory risks.
Likewise, customers were unsatisfied with a procurement process that was disjointed and inflexible when quick changes were needed.
Improvements were needed and the deadline was tight.
“Procurement functions require a lot of time and effort working with suppliers to negotiate the best contract with the best terms,” said Patricia Miller, Accenture’s interim Chief Procurement Officer (CPO), “but if we are not able to compare the delivered service against that agreement in a systematic way, how can we assure that the hard-earned negotiated terms were applied?”
To relieve this quandary, Accenture launched a campaign to build a vigorous, dynamic procurement function to unlock more value by providing extraordinary visibility into services spend.
The global standard at lightning speed
Based in Dublin, Ireland, Accenture specializes in digital, cloud, and security technology strategies, consulting, and operations, serving more than 40 industries in more than 120 countries.
Now, as it conceptualized a new platform to effectively manage services spend, it was forced to change its deployment system.
Previously, deployment planning was laborious, requiring substantial time and investment. The lengthy process slowed feedback on solution design, as well as delivery times on changes.
Yet, Accenture had a dependable, long-term partner in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software pioneer SAP, first adopting the company’s solutions in 2004.
As it faced its latest challenge, Accenture chose SAP Fieldglass, a vendor management system for services procurement and external workforce organization, to provide reporting and analytics.
In addition to implementing a global standard template – rather than a variety of country-specific prototypes – the solution would be customized to meet local invoicing, legal, and regulatory requirements.
From submission to payment, not only would turnaround time be reduced, but collaboration and communication with suppliers were about to reach unprecedented levels.
Meeting changing markets and business demands
The function was deployed back in 2020 in the first of many country-by-country rollouts.
Although the typical technology deployment had taken an average of one year per nation, the expedited timeline enabled 14 countries to begin using the solution within 12 months.
A global management team was also formed to support the effort.
Given the importance of the implementation, constant feedback was needed, and the enhanced technology amplified the level of dialogue, streamlining both testing activities and the ability to deliver required changes.
Today, Accenture’s procurement arm is better equipped to meet changing market and business demands than ever before.
For the first time, Accenture has a heightened understanding of the “hidden” workforce associated with its service business. Since external workers may not always fit traditional profiles, users are able to cull contract information to link specific employees to their individual skill sets.
Explained Jane M. Kennedy, Global External Management Director for Accenture, “Today, we have much-proved…visibility for management (due to) an online solution that aligns to each worker’s type of engagement.”
Suppliers noted the ease of transitioning to SAP Fieldglass, and the pace at which entire companies were able to adopt the platform.
Currently, 2,000 suppliers have implemented the system, while $ 1 billion in services spend are managed through the function each year, resulting in a more transparent supply chain and significant cost savings.
That includes the reduced fees for document storage in regions where procurement practices were primarily paper based.
Users report 99% greater accuracy, as well as 7% error reduction per 10,000 SOWs.
For creating a global standard procurement process through its development of a novel solution, Accenture was distinguished as a finalist at the 2023 SAP Innovation Awards, a yearly ceremony honoring organizations using SAP technologies to improve business and society. You can read their pitch deck to see what they accomplished to earn this honor.