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Why we've created a "Salesforce for Procurement"

With Canopy we've developed a "Salesforce for Procurement", mirroring what's happened with the tech ecosystem in Sales and CRM

Canopy is the equivalent of 'Salesforce for Procurement', with all your supplier data to hand
While Sales has a whole IT ecosystem for CRM, Procurement has been slower in getting tech-rich supplier management

There's no doubt that information technology has transformed the world of sales teams everywhere. Platforms such as Salesforce and HubSpot have driven the world of CRM (customer relationship management) to new heights. But where's the IT equivalent for procurement teams? The stakes have never been higher when it comes to having a complete picture of your suppliers. There's an increasing regulatory onus on companies ensuring that their suppliers are doing the right thing. And at a time of rising prices and ongoing supply chain disruption, companies need to be making well-informed strategic decisions about procurement. In this blog, we focus on how Canopy is the "Salesforce for Procurement".

A potted history of CRM development

We've identified five stages on the journey to contemporary CRM. Stage one of CRM development was a pre-computer model, when the standard sales toolkit was a rolodex, a telephone, and a notepad. It was up to salespeople to build contacts as best they could, to fill the rolodex, use the telephone, and scribble in the notepad. Reports to sales managers would largely consist of verbal reports which rarely identified the sales funnel clearly, and certainly didn't make for easy sharing of data.

With the advent of desktop computers and the IT revolution of the 1990s, spreadsheets took over from the rolodex and the notebook. This stage two was a step forward in terms of monthly reporting, but it was fraught with file version control issues. And although spreadsheet programs are powerful tools, they don't lend themselves well to being databases. Data was still not easily searchable, let alone being visible to key decision-makers.

Supercharging the CRM tech stack

CRM took a step forward to stage three of its development in the 2000s. Salesforce was one of the first products to recognise that companies and contacts are not lines in a spreadsheet but more like a file in a (digital) cabinet. They need data-rich records, and more than can fit in a spreadsheet cell: documents, contact cards and meeting notes, let alone organisational structure charts and qualification criteria for leads. Much of the information that’s critical to the sales journey was missing. The platform acknowledged that by digitising the 'filing cabinet', information could become searchable and would be visible across a sales team.

But CRM and the visibility of its data has a power beyond sales. At stage four, CRM became a tool for exec teams to build out strategic information that allows them to make the big decisions. From pricing models to the territories which they want to operate in, CRM can provide the tracking data they need to inform these decisions. And we'd argue that CRM is now at stage five of its development: a rich tech ecosystem of apps that feed into the central CRM database and perform a range of functions, such as document storage and invoicing automation. The Salesforce AppExchange is the clearest example of this.

Procurement is stuck at stage two of this timeline

So where's the equivalent supplier management IT ecosystem for procurement? For the industry as a whole, we seem to be stuck at stage two: using Excel as a tool which becomes increasingly unwieldy. Granted, file sharing and collaborative working tools mean there are fewer version control problems. But there are security issues with file sharing, there is still no scope for a document repository in a spreadsheet, and data is still not adequately searchable.

Most companies are getting to realise they need to move beyond Excel. Much of the data they need is a regulatory requirement: documentation, certification, and approvals. And unlike Sales, Procurement has a clear goal: to pay the right people the right amount and on time. That requires essential fault-free information on payment details that the right people can easily find and amend if necessary. Some larger companies have come up with bespoke higher-tech solutions; for instance, BT Sourced started as the procurement arm of the BT Group with great fanfare early in 2021. But that approach takes a lot of resources, which keeps it out of reach for most smaller organisations.

The ProcureTech ecosystem is developing

In fairness, there is currently a lot of procurement innovation. Indeed, the renowned procurement expert Elouise Epstein recognises this in a recent LinkedIn post (Read Eloise Epstein's post here). Her Spider Map of ProcureTech solutions is a complex network of software that covers different procurement capabilities. Together, they focus on many of the key areas that exercise procurement professionals daily, from risk and ESG to category strategy and pricing intelligence. But we'd argue that the 'centre' of her map is still lacking a comprehensive supplier management platform. As experienced by the evolution of CM systems in Sales, Elouise’s ‘nirvana’ end state for the Procurement Tech Stack relies on a core foundational data layer, or CRM system if you will, to manage supplier records.

As the "Salesforce for Procurement", Canopy takes you on a tech journey

That's what Canopy is here to do. It recognises that your suppliers are often complex organisations and handling all the information you need about them is itself a critical task. We've built the platform with the capability to plug in to existing data sources, from Companies House and CreditSafe to Avetta and SafeContractor. It allows procurement to do the higher value-added elements of their role better. It reduces the risk for human error in capturing key supplier data, reducing time taken for onboarding and giving suppliers the power to ensure their details are correct. Canopy captures the history of data amendments, which can be essential in case of potential dispute (one of our clients has already used Canopy as a definitive record of evidence in a court of law).

What's more, Canopy gives senior exec teams the rich reporting and analysis they need to make strategic decisions. Data becomes more visible in a consistent format that helps you understand supply chains in each country. And it can therefore drive proper insight into big strategic decisions, such as addressing an over-reliance on a single supplier in a particular territory. That's why we think of Canopy as the "Salesforce for Procurement".

To find out more about how our award-winning supplier management platform, Canopy, is the equivalent of a CRM for Procurement, contact one of the team today.

Post by Nick Verkroost

Nick is an experienced business leader and the CEO for Canopy (OCG Software), the rules-based Supplier Management platform. Nick's focus is on commercial and operational excellence and ensuring our clients maximise the opportunities that Canopy offers.


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