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Interview with Michael Jud, Vroozi

Mike Jud image.jpgCongratulations on your recent appointment at Vroozi, a company which connects customers and suppliers in a unified spending solution on a single platform. This coincides with an important inflection point for the company. Earlier this year, Spend Matters, the top worldwide publication in the procurement space, selected Vroozi as one of just four companies leading the new eProcurement movement in “2015: The Year E-Procurement 2.0 Takes Shape,” also including Vroozi in the “Almanac 50/50 Providers to Watch.” Tell us about the buzz at Vroozi.

The buzz is the mobile procurement that we developed for end users to buy anywhere. Vroozi makes it ridiculously easy for users to buy the products and services they need. Business takes place away from the desk and we want to be sure that employees can make their purchases when that ‘aha’ moment strikes.

     For example, one of our customers runs amusement parks. They depend largely on a contingent workforce to keep the parks operating and to give their customers a fun experience. These employees are walking around with tablets and buying things that are needed for the park, such as plants for the gardens, painting services for the facades, parts for the machinery, supplies for food service, etc. Because of the temporary nature of the workforce, they don’t have time to train the employees. Our customer relies on the intuitive and familiar purchasing experience for users to self-train and get what they need.

     Vroozi is not only simple on the face but also in the enterprise underneath. The solution drives compliance, improves process efficiency, tracks spend, and integrates with our customers’ solution landscapes as customers would expect from an enterprise solution.

Could you explain what it means to have a responsive procurement platform? I see that you have a free trial offering available on the Vroozi website.

Vroozi’s objective is to take the complexity out of procurement and give end users an experience that they’ve come to expect from other applications/solutions they use both at work and at home.

     When we talk about “platform” we are talking about the interface design, the performance, and the integration technology that we developed to deliver that experience. “Enterprise underneath” means that the solution has to do a lot more work to help the user and must do it fast. It also means integration with existing solutions in real time to orchestrate the multiple systems that may be needed to drive the complete process. Behind the scenes the platform manages the complexity and does it with a fast response time that users have come to expect.

     The platform also delivers a consistent user experience across multiple devices – laptop/desktop, tablet, and mobile phone. The solution will adapt to the size of the screen. The consistent user experience across any device mitigates any confusion for users who work across multiple devices.

Vroozi announced it has partnered with DocuSign, Inc. to help procurement teams go fully digital to streamline and automate manual, paper-based purchasing processes. Tell us why this is an important partnership.

DocuSign has been a great partner for us. Customers will realize significant process efficiencies by going all-electronic. Typically when paper is introduced into the process, the incidence of errors and delays is also introduced. However, in some cases, customers may need to introduce paper into the process because of company rules or country-specific regulations that require a signed document. Going from electronic back to paper is like an ice cream manufacturer that lets the ice cream melt in transit. It creates problems. We want to “keep the ice cream frozen” and keep the transactions all electronic. Thus, we introduced a process with DocuSign where buyers and suppliers can exchange a purchasing document, such as a PO, for an electronic signature.

     We are also working with DocuSign on other development projects, such as improving approval workflows with electronic signatures. More on that later.

With the proliferation of the mobile workforce and an increase in BYOD, Vroozi’s solution is becoming an essential component of supply chain management. How does this fit in with most companies daily activities?

We have seen some great mobile practices by our customers. I mentioned before about an amusement park customers using mobile devices for their contingent staff to make purchases around the park. Effectively, companies on Vroozi now have a mobile workforce of thousands of employees who are walking around noticing things – missing items, assets in need of repair, unhappy customers, and opportunities for improvement to name a few. Heretofore, these purchases would be someone else’s problem – the someone who typically does the order.

Tell us what it means for your company’s suite of procurement solutions to be Plynt Certified.

I mentioned earlier how important the platform is for delivering “enterprise underneath.” Vroozi is a SaaS solution. There are great benefits for customers to deploy in the cloud. Customers can adopt rapidly and keep up with innovation without disruptive and upgrades. I see many companies reluctant to adopt the cloud because they don’t have the confidence that the cloud solution will protect their data. The Plynt Certification is validation of the security protocols that we leverage as part of the Vroozi platform. Customers can have confidence in the cloud and that their data will be protected.

What advice would you give your younger self?

First, I would yell at myself for not doing this sooner. It’s the typical, “why didn’t I think of that earlier?” scenario. But I would also give my younger self a pat on the back for listening to customers, particularly the end users within those customer companies. In the 15+ years in the industry I have definitely accumulated a wealth of knowledge about where end users struggle with procurement processes and why companies rely on procurement solutions to run their business. I’ve met some great people and great companies who really want to innovate in procurement. So, maybe I would give my younger self a more targeted list of customers who have been the most innovative.

Innovation and technology have been long-standing passions for you, so, tell us your secret sauce – how do you keep your inspiration fresh?

It really is about listening to the customers (and potential customers). My approach has been to solve problems. Customers do a great job of framing those problems. If I talk to enough customers then I find some recurring themes. Then the fun part kicks in, which is solving the problems. The fun is collaborating with innovative people to arrive at a solution. Technology is a great way to solve business process problems because you can get creative and get the solutions to do more of the work. This is where Vroozi came in. I knew the problems after spending 14+ years at SAP listening to some of the biggest customers in the world. Vroozi was addressing many of the usability problems that these customers desperately wanted to solve. Also, there are some great technology companies out there solving all sorts of business problems. Other inspirations come from these other companies who have made a process more familiar to an end user. If something is familiar to a user, then we want to drive that familiarity into our procurement processes.

Are there any best practices you can share?

I find that, in general, the catalog is a very underutilized tool. For that reason I started a blog series for how to leverage this tool for compliance and usability. For instance, when I was at SAP, I found many customers who wanted to build custom pages in front of their SRM system to guide users to the right procurement process. They were spending lots of money to develop these pages. The catalog is a familiar tool. Users are accustomed to catalogs and can use the catalog search to find what they are looking for. How do users find what they are looking for today? Most people do a Google search. Many customers limit catalog usage to a few categories of products and services.

     What they don’t realize is that they can have things in the catalog like rate cards, forms, “how tos”, contracts, and approved suppliers to name a few. When a user performs their search, s/he can can be guided to the right procurement procedure for the product or category.

     We also developed an innovative best practice with a customer. Instead of users creating a request and having to know all the accounting information, we designed a mobile shopping list scenario. This goes back to the times when mom used to put a list on the refrigerator door. If anything was missing from the kitchen, we would write it on the list. Mom would then take the list with her when shopping. Similarly, in the business context, employees can add items to a list without having to know any of the accounting. A power user responsible for the order can take that list and add the necessary accounting, shipping, and other information needed to create the order. There is a hand-off between the employee walking around and the power user to complete the order.

     With mobile procurement, any employee can make the request when the ‘aha’ moment strikes. The fear about a mobile workforce making purchase requests is that spending will increase. However, employees are buying the things they need, but now those products and services are coming in timely and are complying with company processes and guidelines.

What was the last book that you read?

It has been a while. I haven’t seen a book since I joined Vroozi in May. I do stay on top of Harvard Business Review. There are some great articles that apply theory to practical applications. In fact, I just finished a great segment on how design thinking is penetrating more than just product design. Companies are adopting design thinking when they think of developing strategy and process improvement for instance.

Would you suggest it to others?

I would. HBR usually gives me a different perspective and a way of looking at things at a different angle, which I find to be good practice for my job.

Mike’s interview was originally released in Ace in your Inbox monthly newsletter.

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