In a year defined by the disruption of the biggest global health crisis in living memory, the focus for Vanitha Prabu, Global Procurement Manager, IT and IT Services at BT Global Services India, remains relatively unchanged. Based in India, Prabhu oversees IT indirect sourcing for Asia Pacific and globally, as a captive unit of the telecoms giant.
Prabhu’s teams have been forced to overcome the same challenges all companies have faced during the past 12 or so months. But the fundamentals of her job, she says, remain the same: delivering value to stakeholders and suppliers inline with the group business objectives of BT.
The means the organisation uses to navigate the increasingly choppy waters of global procurement are undergoing a dramatic digital transformation journey, equipping BT’s procurement professionals with the modern tools and resources to react to the ever shifting landscape.
"We believe in new ways of working,” Prabhu says. “We have been focusing more on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and many more emerging technologies. The focus is on simplifying the actual process and minimising the time we are investing in these tasks. We have introduced many tools within procurement to ensure the life of our procurement personnel is simple but brilliant. We now have all the information, data, and everything else we require available in one click. We have also started a digital garage, which will help us to please an order and get what we want in one click. That is a power of digitisation.”
Though COVID-19 placed further pressures on even the most basic procurement functions, Prabhu believes the outbreak was an energising testing ground for the unit’s new capabilities, and how procurement organisations can lead from the front in risk-mitigation. “We took a very proactive approach and we never waited long to act,” she says. “We started monitoring the performance of our suppliers, how they're doing, what the impact might be, and then ensuring there is business continuity so there is no impact to the supply chain.”
As the pandemic took hold of countries around the world, Prabhu’s teams were forced to wrestle not only with how quickly they reacted, but “how swiftly you are able to make decisions”. She uses the example of a supplier in China, which was unable to fulfil its obligations due to restrictions imposed in response to the virus. “Now you see the supply chain is getting impacted, so you have to ask what are the other sources of suppliers? Do you have in-country sourcing, or are there local country sourcing where you can quickly procure the services so that your supply chain is not disrupted? I don't want that experience again in future,” she jokes. “But we are prepared for those now.”
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