Making A Case For Vendor Automation
Three Points To Consider from a Top Procurement Consultant
Like many people coming out of college, Snow Rutkowske didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do after she graduated. But she knew one thing for certain.
“I needed a job,” she quipped.
Fortunately for Rutkowske, she quickly landed at Huron Consulting and over the last 16 years has carved out a career that has been rewarding for her and the clients she advises. After leaving Huron to work in procurement at Illinois Tech for a few years, Rutkowske returned and is now a senior director of Huron’s higher education consulting group with a focus on spend management. Her focus is primarily on projects related to procure to pay, assessment, transformation, strategic sourcing and the cost saving side of patients and contract negotiations.
Rutkowske recently met with PaymentWorks to share some of the expertise and wisdom she has collected since entering the world of procurement. As the conversation concluded, Rutkowske offered three reasons why a procurement team should focus on automation tools.
Human resources- meaning the actual humans performing the work- are precious and can sometimes be very hard to come by. Workers get burned out and it’s incumbent upon leaders to do what they can to keep their team from being overstretched, Rutkowske said. The more transactional tasks that can be automated, the more time that your employees can focus on doing things that brings satisfaction and joy to them.
When Rutkowske first shared with her team at Illinois Tech that the organization would be investing in technology to automate some of their task oriented work, there was, understandably, a bit of apprehension. They voiced their concern by asking” Well, what am I going to be working on?”
But as they stopped doing the day-to-day transactions and got into the more strategic areas, the satisfaction level of her team increased. They became a lot more engaged and found their jobs more fun.
“That is something I think we could all use more at work,” Rutkowske said. “Automation was a help, not a hindrance.”
Automation is here to stay, that should be clear by now as the 21st century moves into its third decade. But for businesses that have been slow to incorporate automation, it may be tempting to try to catch up all at once. Not so fast, says Rutkowske, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Instead of going from zero to 100, Rutkowske’s advice is to try a little bit at a time and prevent the kind of shock to your team’s system that may set it back in the long run.
“Any little automation is the right direction and the right step,” she said. “And you often find that when you get started you’re going to realize, ‘Oh, it’s not as difficult as I thought’ and you’re going to realize its value. Everybody around you is going to realize its value and that would then propel to even more automation.”
Rutkowske also reminds that progress is not necessarily linear, it’s exponential.
“The more automation that you do, the more benefit and return you get,” she said.
When Rutkowske was working at Illinois Tech she had to deal with a problem common to many universities as well as businesses: limited resources. As a result, she needed to figure out how to get more done with less. That’s where automation came in.
With a team of only five people across procurement and accounts payable combined, their time was very valuable and adding automation became a necessary tool to alleviate work anxiety.
“I wanted to make sure that we were able to automate and get our precious time out of just typing data from paper into a system so we can have more time and dedicate energy and resources to more strategic initiatives,” she said. “We wanted to transform ourselves from, ‘Oh, they’re just a box that we need to get checked.’ Or, ‘Oh, they’re a gauntlet that we have to run through.’ To, ‘Oh wow, they’re a true partner, I want to reach out to them because they are going to be able to help me solve my problems, or they make my life easier.'”
To make things easier at Illinois Tech, Rutkowske began looking at ways to automate vendor onboarding,, the vendor data validation and the payment information validation, among other things.
“I made the pitch to help the university with that automation to shore up our risk management and compliance and help us all sleep better.”
Hear all of Snow’s best advice here.
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