Global Supply Chain Director & CEO

There is nothing like chatting to a procurement leader with a 30-year career under his belt who still gets infectiously excited by the industry. That’s Ninian Wilson, Global Supply Chain Director & CEO Vodafone Procurement Co Sarl, who visibly lights up when talking about procurement being in the spotlight and the technology that is shaping its ongoing transformation.

Ninian joined Vodafone in June 2009 as SCM IT Director, and was appointed to the board of Vodafone Procurement Company in November 2009. From 2014–2016 Ninian held the role of SCM Technology Director, responsible for all Technology sourcing in Vodafone including Networks, IT and new product development. In March 2016 he was appointed Director of Group SCM and CEO of the Vodafone Procurement Company, and he hasn’t looked back since.

In fact, Wilson has a canny knack of looking forward to the future, and he feels we will see a streamlining of processes, leaning on data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate certain tasks to provide the best outcomes.

“Our jobs all change over time when we get new tools and it wouldn't apply to everything we do,” says Wilson. “But if we think of the vendor selection piece, a tool or a capability that looks at the internet can bring in some suppliers, probably picks a few common ones, creates the tender document, sends it out, does the balanced scorecard evaluation at the end.

“This'll be a cool bit if we get it to do the negotiation, then put it into a contract, and uploads pricing information into our ERP system. That's what we're calling autonomous sourcing. We're currently building that to go live with our POC at the end of April.”

Vodafone uses a wealth of smart tools to provide unprecedented visibility, transparency and increased efficiencies based on data, but what if you could take that to the next level with predictive analytics? Having that historical database helps to look ahead to potential problems or to reduce inefficiencies.

Wilson talks about getting to a point where he may even be able to predict contract failure. While admitting those advanced analytics are not quite there yet, disruption like Covid-19 highlighted the need to assess and mitigate risk in the supply chain. That not only means being wary of companies that may be at risk of failure, but also supporting those that need it most by perhaps purchasing more inventory or adjusting payment terms.

“I think that becomes the new frontier for procurement,” says Wilson. “You should be doing machine learning, you should be doing artificial intelligence, but predictive is kind of cool if we can get there. I think there's a huge opportunity for us in predictive analytics, especially when you get into physical supply chain operations.

“We will be making some more digital investments to make sure that we maintain that resilience and build upon it over the next two to three years.”

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