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Mindset of the Modern IT Procurement Leader: Innovate, Automate, and Collaborate

Maria Centeno, Head of Procurement at Zuora and former Director of Strategic Sourcing for Marketing and Events at Salesforce, has unique insights into the challenges of modern procurement and sourcing leaders.

As tech enterprises purchase over 600 SaaS subscriptions annually, unsurprisingly, Gartner forecasts that enterprise SaaS spend will reach $466 billion worldwide by 2020.

With business units purchasing software at astounding rates, today, procurement leaders must partner closely with business leaders. Because up to 50% of total SaaS spend is found outside of known expense types, if partnerships fail, “rogue software spend” can abound.

To reinforce the partnership between procurement and its business partners, reduce rogue software purchases and contain SaaS spend, Maria first provides necessary procurement functions, such as:

  • Research tech solutions
  • Guide the adoption of SaaS applications
  • Measure utilization and user experience
  • Track SaaS renewals

Additionally, Maria builds value by driving the innovation of:

  • An enterprise database of software user reviews
  • Automation of time-intensive, low-skill sourcing tasks
  • Cross-enterprise goal alignment

In 2019, Maria left her position at Salesforce to pursue a role at Zuora, the leading subscription management platform. Today, she leans on her experience and continues expanding her skills to drive innovation as Head of Procurement at Zuora, where her responsibilities are now expanded to all categories.

Consumerization of Technology Raises Expectations and Risk

Zuora is The Subscription Economy® Leader. As a champion of pay-as-you-go pricing and packaging models, Zuora employees embrace cloud-first mentalities and subscription-based software to improve their work and their personal lives.

Slack serves as an example in many organizations. Consumers began utilizing Slack for group communication outside of the office. Soon organizations witnessed the integration-friendly platform migrating into business units to replace clunky corporate messaging applications.

From intuitive interfaces to powerful customer service, consumer technology raises employee expectations for tech at the enterprise level. Employees will no longer comply with antiquated enterprise-wide software systems when they utilize better technologies outside of work.

Consequently, the ease of adoption and one-click integrations of SaaS empower business leaders to have more fluid tech stacks than ever before. Too often, the fluidity results in proliferate shadow IT and risk.

However, with strong partnerships, IT and procurement leaders can uncover shadow IT and spread governance best practices. Additionally, partnerships help procurement empower business units to inform the innovations made possible through strategic SaaS adoption.

User Reviews Must Inform Tech Innovation

Maria notes that, in our daily lives, 89% of purchases are based on reviews. At Salesforce, and now at Zuora, Maria champions the expansion of a SaaS marketplace that includes user reviews. Through reviews, all business units can level up their tech stacks by leaning on the knowledge of their colleagues.

To collect user reviews, Maria has witnessed very few challenges. People are often delighted to provide feedback on their experience, good or bad, of any given product. At Salesforce, the questions her team implemented were simple:

  • What was the cost?
  • What value was derived?
  • Would you recommend this solution to your peers?

This feedback loop is not only valuable to other SaaS buyers within the company. The reviews repository empowers a system of record that enables procurement to identify low-performing vendors and select preferred vendors.

Additionally, user reviews inform procurement leaders of sentiment surrounding current technologies. As large tech companies purchase hundreds of SaaS applications annually, procurement leaders must allocate resources to prioritize continued education of software solutions.

Utilize Technology to Stretch Resources

As enterprises increase their SaaS and cloud-based software consumption, procurement teams face demands that greatly challenge their resources.

In large companies, when resources are slim, the work is often contracted out. However, outsourced work can hinder future innovation. In Maria’s experience, automation is the solution to combat resource shortages.

Consequently, Maria has challenged her team to identify opportunities to innovate. Transactional experiences, such as pricing comparisons, can and should be automated. Additionally, creating and comparing contracts can be automated.

While automation is a buzzword around procurement teams, enterprises need the manpower regained once successfully automated processes are in place. Through automation of time-intensive, low-skill sourcing tasks, procurement leaders can:

  • Better the employee experience of their procurement teams
  • Accelerate application adoption
  • Better inform sourcing initiatives
  • Free up resources to prioritize business value

Most importantly, automation enables procurement teams to better serve the enterprise, from software users to board members.

Flat Organizations Collaborate Better

At over 1,000 employees, Zuora is a fast-growing global company, but not nearly the size of Salesforce. As a result, unique to Maria’s experience at Zuora is the closeness she feels to business leaders across the enterprise.

From her desk, she can see board meetings in progress and interface with leadership, including Zuora’s CFO, Tyler Sloat. The regular facetime enables Maria to align her goals with business goals, accelerating change and innovation.

Additionally, within business units, Maria has her procurement team entrenched. For example, when procurement leaders understand marketing and how technology is impacting the sales funnel, they can better inform major purchases, such as the selection of an enterprise CRM.

Today, the goal of the modern procurement leader is not only to deeply understand the technology at play in an organization. At Zuora, Maria has ensured that procurement consistently increases collaboration, empowers education, and provides value enterprise-wide.