We spoke to Chief Executive Officer at Zupa, Ollie Brand, about what businesses should look out for next year…
What are the big concerns for businesses next year? With the arrival of the Omicron variant, there is still a distinct air of uncertainty around how further Covid spikes could impact both seasonal and New Year trade. This is a concern for many businesses, particularly those operating within the supply chain. The biproduct of previous lockdowns, combined with Brexit, has resulted in shortages of HGV Drivers, supply chain bottlenecks and problems around staff availability and retention. Essentially, businesses and staff are having to do more with less resource and increased pressures around customer service. This, compounded with mounting supply chain issues and new regulations being introduced around product labelling, the landscape looks rocky to say the least. Next year, businesses will be looking towards technology to solve some of these problems, such as keeping one step ahead of changing regulations via live data updates and using automated trading platforms to reduce workloads and enable their staff to do more with less people.
What are the big trends in eProcurement for 2022? Undoubtedly product traceability and being able to track the carbon footprint of every item purchased via the supply chain, will be a key trend for next year. It is only a matter of time before this data becomes regulated, so businesses are already starting to take steps to account for this. With COP26 setting the precedent to slash emissions by 2030, and with major cities pledging to be net zero by this point, it is likely that this information will need to be visible on labelling in the future. We anticipate there will be a mass scale roll out of products which must be below a certain carbon metric at some point in the near future. There is of course a lot of groundwork needed to achieve this, and the sooner businesses start to make progress in this area, the better.
Artificial Intelligence Other trends that businesses should look out for in 2022 is the incorporation of technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence). For instance, in the case of supply chain issues across the industry, there is a real problem with suppliers using ‘just in time’ functionality to identify products as being ‘available’, but when it comes to the point of delivery, they discover they aren’t. This approach to ordering goods is causing widespread frustration around something that could be mitigated by identifying a percentage chance of delivery, or via communication with other systems. Manual entry can easily lead to human error, but AI models can improve this to ensure that data is cleaned and relevant. This could go as far as supporting regulatory data too, to make the user experience and human interaction smoother.
Forecasting and being able to use data around historic performance or external factors like the weather and national data around Covid levels, could also provide more reliable forecasts and ensure businesses don’t over or under produce and also avoid wastage. By using AI technologies, historic behaviours can pre-empt potential issues and alert businesses prior to them occurring.
The quest for a single source of ‘truth’ Integrations and communication between systems is also going to continue to increase as we head into 2022. As was evident when businesses were able to reopen following the initial lockdown in 2020, new innovative solutions came through to solve the issues that were being experienced across the sector, such as carbon neutral). The ability for systems to communicate and remove human error, will increase as we move into next year, giving businesses greater transparency via the ‘one system’ approach or ‘single version of truth’ experience that they are looking for.
How is cloud-based software evolving?
Cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) is becoming the standard across the industry. On-premise solutions come with higher maintenance requirements and a significant amount of capital up front. SaaS is preferable for businesses in most cases as it is vastly more secure and there is less maintenance required. In most cases organisations can scale this kind of software based on what they need, thereby only paying for what they use, making it more attractive from a budgeting perspective.
What key support will businesses need next year from their trading platform?
Other than keeping on top of operational spend, managing regulations and gaining greater live visibility of assets/stock and purchasing in real time, the main objective for businesses next year is to minimise the time staff spend at their computers (or on admin tasks) so they can focus on their core roles and do the things they love. A trading platform needs to have a simple user experience that captures all information about the business. This information needs to be a single version of the truth and accessible with minimal clicks. This will allow teams to work smarter and not harder as we move into the New Year.
eCommerce will also become very important for many businesses that are using trading platforms next year, because the data will help them to automate their sales plans more accurately.
eProcurement will grow rapidly over the coming five years across the UK and International territories. Businesses are already wising up to the savings that can be delivered when modernising trading platforms and these options will only increase next year as business sales campaigns get underway and grow momentum.