Proxima: delivering true value in procurement
Clare Harris, Executive Vice President Operations, describes how Proxima has established itself as a world leader in procurement consultancy services.
Over the last 25 years, Proxima has established itself as a world-leading expert on procurement consultancy services, helping a broad spectrum of customers to unlock their supply chain’s full potential, from the largest Fortune 500 entities to bespoke startups. Part of the company for over 15 years, Clare Harris, Executive Vice President Operations, states that her role has two primary responsibilities: 1) solve commercial challenges and 2) take advantage of commercial opportunities. “Ultimately, we work with our clients’ procurement and commercial teams to help drive value from their cost base.”
As a company, Proxima helps customers optimise what they spend with suppliers and build exceptional procurement functions. “When you think that, on average, about 70% of organisational spend is with suppliers, then you can immediately understand the potential that exists for savings and innovation,” Harris states. However, it isn’t necessarily a purely ‘cost-saving’ exercise; the company specialises in maximising the value of every penny spent. “It’s about understanding what value means to our clients, whether that’s cost, speed, return, risk efficiency, or quality. There are multiple perspectives across our client base.”
Contributing to the company’s enduring success has been a flexible strategy focused on being adaptable to the changing supply chain environment. That evolution, Harris says, has been characterised by increased networking, collaboration and emphasis on procurement itself. “The focus on churning through transactions and processes actually eroded value over time. I think procurement is moving more to the heart of organisations and it’s also becoming increasingly diverse, with many more female leaders today.”
The benefits of this industry development have been keenly felt by Proxima’s clients. One in particular, Arm, shares a close working dynamic with it: “Proxima has been able to bring both commercial expertise and category knowledge, while also injecting capability at a time when Arm’s existing procurement team were quite stretched,” Harris explains. Establishing a “two-way feedback” loop, the collaborators have been able to react swiftly to challenges and coordinate decisively, “We work together at pace and deliver value quickly.” Using different time zones to its advantage, Proxima’s UK team can hand over to the US team and vice versa, creating a continuous cycle of problem-solving capability.
This kind of partnership will prove vital in the post-COVID-19 world, where traditional operational patterns no longer hold true and an innovative mindset is crucial. As other companies strive to build an operating model for procurement that matches today’s challenges, Harris believes that Proxima’s breadth of expertise will become even more valuable. “When we first locked down, there was a feeling that businesses would, to some extent, ‘batten down the hatches’ and just focus on cost. However, I think a lot of them are now asking, ‘How can we transform ourselves to make decisions quicker?’, and that theme will continue into 2021.” Proxima’s aim, then, will be to guide that development and continue its ongoing mission of delivering real value to its customers.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”