Satya Mishra, Director, Product Management at Amazon Business, discusses how CPOs have become an important voice at the table to drive digital transformation and efficient collaboration.

Harnessing efficiency is at the heart of any digital transformation journey.

Digitalisation should revolve around driving efficiency and achieving cost savings. Otherwise, why do it?

Amazon is no stranger to simplifying shopping for its customers. It is why Amazon has become a global leader in e-commerce. But, business-to-business customers can have different needs than traditional consumers, which is what led to the birth of Amazon Business in 2015. Amazon Business simplifies procurement processes, and one of the key ways it does this is by integrating with third-party systems to drive efficiencies and quickly discover insights. 

Satya Mishra, Director, Product Management at Amazon Business, tells us all about how the organisation is helping procurement leaders to integrate their systems to lead to time and money savings.

Satya Mishra: “More than six million customers around the world tap Amazon Business to access business-only pricing and selection, purchasing system integrations, a curated site experience, Business Prime, single or multi-user business accounts, and dedicated customer support, among other benefits.

“I lead Amazon Business’ integrations tech team, which builds integrations with third-party e-procurement, expense management, e-sourcing and idP systems. We also build APIs for our customers that either they or the third-party system integrators can use to create solutions that meet customers’ procurement needs. Integrations can allow business buyers to create connected buying journeys, which we call smart business buying journeys. 

“If a customer does not have existing procurement systems they’d like to integrate, they can take advantage of other native tools, like a Business Analytics dashboard, in the Amazon Business store, so they can monitor their business spend. They can also discover and use some third-party integrated apps in the new Amazon Business App Center.”

Why would a customer choose to integrate their systems? Are CPOs leading the way?

Satya Mishra: “By integrating systems, customers can save time and money, drive compliance, spend visibility, and gain clearer insights. I talk to CPOs frequently to learn about their pain points. I often hear from these leaders that it can be tough for procurement teams to manage or create purchasing policies. This is especially if they have a high volume of purchases coming in from employees across their whole organisation, with a small group of employees, or even one employee, manually reviewing and reconciling. Integrations can automate these processes and help create a more intuitive buying experience across systems.

“Procurement is a strategic business function. It’s data-driven and measurable. CPOs manage the business buying, and the business buying can directly impact an organisation’s bottom line. If procurement tools don’t automatically connect to a source of supply, business buying decisions can become more complex. Properly integrated technology systems can help solve these issues for procurement leaders.”

Satya Mishra, Director, Product Management at Amazon Business

Beyond process complexity, what other challenges are procurement leaders facing?

Satya Mishra: “In the Amazon Business 2024 State of Procurement Report, other top challenges respondents reported were having access to a wide range of sellers and products that meet their needs, and ensuring compliance with spend policies. 

“The report also found that 52% of procurement decision-makers are responsible for making purchases for multiple locations. Of that group, 57% make purchases for multiple countries.

“During my conversations with CPOs, I hear them say that having access to millions of products across many categories through Amazon Business has allowed them to streamline their supplier quantity and reduced time spent going to physical stores or trying to find products they’re looking for from a range of online websites. They’ve also shared that the ability to ship purchases from Amazon Business to multiple addresses has been very helpful in reducing complexity for both spot-buy and planned or recurring purchases. Organisations may need to buy specific products, like copy paper or snacks, in a recurring way. They may need to buy something else, like desks, only once, and in bulk, at that. Amazon Business’ ordering capabilities are agile and can lessen the purchasing complexity.”

How should procurement leaders choose which integrations will help them the most? 

Satya Mishra: “At Amazon Business, we work backwards from customer problems to find solutions. I recommend CPOs think about what existing systems their employees may already use, the organisation’s buying needs, and their buyers’ typical purchasing behaviors. The buying experience should be intuitive and delightful. 

“Amazon Business integrates with more than 300 systems, like Coupa, SAP Ariba, Okta, Fairmarkit, and Intuit Quickbooks, to name just a handful. With e-procurement integrations like Punchout and Integrated Search, customers start their buying journey in their e-procurement system. With Punch-in, they start on the Amazon Business website, then punch into their e-procurement system. With SSO, customers can use their existing employee credentials. Our collection of APIs can help customers customise their procure-to-pay and source-to-settle operations. This includes automating receipts in expense management systems and track progress toward spending goals. 

“My team recently launched an App Center where customers can discover third-party apps spanning Accounting Management, Rewards & Recognition, Expense Management, Integrated Shopping and Inventory Management categories. We’ll continue to add more apps over time to help simplify the integrated app discovery process for customers.

“Some customers choose to stack their integrations, while others stick with one integration that serves their needs. There are many possibilities, and you don’t just have to choose one integration. You can start with Punchout and e-invoicing, for example, and then also integrate with Integrated Search, so your buyers can search the Amazon Business catalog within the e-procurement system your organisation uses.”

Are integrations tech projects?

Satya Mishra: “No, integrations should not be viewed as tech projects to be decided by only an IT team. Integrations open doors to greater data connectivity and business efficiencies across organisations. Instead of having disjointed data streams, you can connect those systems and centralise data, increasing spend visibility. You may be able to spot patterns and identify cost savings that may have gotten lost otherwise. 

“It’s not uncommon for me to hear that CPOs, CFOs and CIOs are collaborating on business decisions that will save them all time and meet shared goals, and integrations are in their mix of recommendations. 

“One of my team’s key goals has been to simplify integrations and bring in more self-service solutions. In terms of set-up, some integrations like SSO can be self-serviced by the customer. Amazon Business can help customers with the set-up process for integrations as well.”

How has procurement transformed in recent years?

Satya Mishra: “Procurement is no longer viewed as a back-office function. CPOs more commonly have a seat at the table for strategic cross-functional decisions with CFOs and CIOs.

“95% of Amazon Business 2024 State of Procurement Report respondents say the purchases they make mostly fall into managed spend. Managed spending is often planned for months or years ahead of time. This can create a great opportunity to recruit other stakeholders across departments versus outsourcing purchasing responsibilities. Equipping domain experts to support routine purchasing activities allows procurement to uplevel its focus and take on higher priorities across the organisation, while still maintaining oversight of overarching buying patterns. It’s also worth noting that by connecting to e-procurement and expense management systems, integrations provide easy and secure access to products on Amazon Business and help facilitate managed spend.”

What does the future of procurement look like?

Satya Mishra: “Bright! By embracing digital transformation and artificial intelligence to form more agile and strategic operations, CPOs can influence the ways their organisations innovate and adapt to change.”

Read the latest CPOstrategy here!

  • Procurement Strategy

Nigel Greatorex, Global Industry Manager at ABB, on how digital technologies can support decarbonisation and net zero goals

Nigel Greatorex is the Global Industry Manager for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at ABB Energy Industries. He explains how digital technologies can play a critical role in the transition to a low carbon world by enabling global emissions reductions. Furthermore, he highlights the role of CCS and how challenges can be overcome through digitalisation.

Meeting our global decarbonisation goals is arguably the most pressing challenge facing humanity. Moreover, solving this requires concerted global action. However, there is no silver bullet to the global warming crisis. The solution requires a mix of investment, legislation and, importantly, innovative digital technologies.

Decarbonisation digital technologies

It’s widely recognised decarbonisation is essential to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Decarbonisation technology is becoming an increasingly important, rapidly growing market. It is especially relevant for heavy industries – such as chemicals, cement and steel. These account for 70 percent of industrial CO2 emissions; equal to approximately six billion tons annually.

CCS digital technologies are increasingly seen as key to helping industries decarbonise their operations. Reaching our net zero targets requires industry uptake of CCS to grow 120-fold by 2050, according to analysis from McKinsey & Company. Indeed, if successful, it could be responsible for reducing CO2 emissions from the industrial sector by 45 percent.

A Digital Twin solution

ABB and Pace CCS joined forces to deliver a digital twin solution. It reduces the cost of integrating CCS into new and existing industrial operations. Simulating the design stage and test scenarios to deliver proof of concept gives customers peace of mind. Indeed, system designs need to be fit for purpose. Also, it demonstrates the smooth transition into CCS operations. Additionally, the digital twin models the full value chain of a CCS system.

Read the full story here

  • Sustainability Technology

In early 2019, the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) was introduced in Hong Kong by the Food and Health Bureau…

In early 2019, the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) was introduced in Hong Kong by the Food and Health Bureau to regulate indemnity hospital insurance plans offered to individuals, with voluntary participation by insurance companies and consumers. The VHIS was designed as a means of encouraging and supporting customers to purchase private healthcare services and for Koh Yi Mien, Managing Director Health and Employee Benefits at AXA Hong Kong, this scheme represents a broader transformation of healthcare and insurance services. “Currently, the demand on healthcare in Hong Kong in the public sector is incredibly high with very long waiting times and waiting lists,” she explains. “As a result, people just aren’t getting timely access to treatment. The private sector in Hong Kong, which is world-class, has capacity. So, if we can rebalance and shift some of the elective work from public to private, it will free up more people to use the public service in a timely fashion.”

Yi Mien also points to a global drive for greater transparency, accountability, use of data and technology as well as promoting customer choice as key drivers of change in the insurance space. “It’s no longer a case of simply providing reimbursement to people when they need treatment,” she says. “It’s about being the patient’s partner throughout their whole life so that when they need healthcare, whenever and wherever they are, we are there to help and support them in their times of need.” 

The modern-day insurance customer is very different from the customer of the past. We live in times of greater access to information through the advent of social media and the increasing influence of the Internet and this has resulted in insurance customers being more knowledgeable about their conditions and asking more questions of their doctors than ever before. As a result, the balance between the customer and the healthcare provider is becoming more equitable. “Customers and patients, as a result, are becoming more demanding,” says Yi Mien. “Gone are the traditional ideas that doctor knows best. It’s not uncommon for patients to see their doctor with a list of demands, while expecting to be serviced.”

Running parallel to becoming more knowledgeable and demanding is the use of smartphones and how it has created a culture of service in an instant. When customers purchase etiquettes or use banking services, they expect the ability to be able to access and complete these transactions and services via their smartphone devices. Fewer and fewer people are accessing physical bank branches and the healthcare insurance sector, despite being still very traditional, is feeling the effects of this instant demand. “Healthcare is a very traditional sector sure, but asking patients or customers to book weeks in advance and telling them they don’t really have any choice is becoming increasingly unacceptable and so healthcare becomes a commodity,” says Mie Koh. “They, like any other customer, vote with their feet and want 24/7 access to quality healthcare without waiting directly from us as the insurer.”

The informed customer and patient have also transformed the relationship between customer and doctor. It is no longer a bilateral relationship and the entire healthcare ecosystem works to provide services from prevention right through to treatment. The result? Insurers like AXA work with customers before they are sick and encourage them to maintain their health, but they also work with clients during their illness and even afterwards AXA will continue to treat them in their rehabilitation. “During their healthcare journey, customers want some handholding in order to navigate the very complex healthcare system, to make sure they get the right healthcare provider, doctor and hospitals that are best for them in their time of need,” says Yi Mien. “This can only happen if we are using digital so that it becomes more real time.”

AXA has been embracing technology for a number of years to be able to serve and effectively work with its customers. It achieves this by starting with the definition of a product, because the product sets the rules. Yi Mien highlights that the rules would often be how AXA would spell out the terms and conditions, the provisions, but these rules also set the customer expectations. Throughout late 2018 and 2019, AXA has invested in digital to enable its customers to buy online, service online, claim online and check-up online. The company also launched a servicing app called Emma, a ‘digital companion’ that enables even faster service. Yi Mien describes this app as a true “health companion”. She is also keen to highlight that the technology is only part of the story. AXA has built a vast medical network with some of the leading hospitals and doctors and customers simply having to log into their companion app to be able to access this network at the touch of a button. “All they need to show is their digital card, their e-card, and with the QR code, the provider just scans it. All of the data is downloaded and all they need to do is sign, get their treatment, and then when they discharge, just sign that they have received the treatment and off they go,” she says. “The hospital will bill AXA directly so there’s no out of pocket. The data is also transmitted to AXA which means that we have more comprehensive and more reliable data.”

Comprehensive and reliable data is crucial to the technology journey of AXA, but it is also integral to the customer journey. With a customer’s entire electronic medical records stored effectively and securely, as Yi Mien notes, why would they go anywhere else? The data that an insurer handles is often complex in nature, but this data is processed through artificial intelligence, with AI being used to process claims more effectively and interpret the information to allow AXA to create rules and algorithms to better serve its customers. AXA also utilises AI through its companion app Emma. “Emma is our chatbot,” explains Yi Mien. “Emma has been built up based on a multitude of Q&As that our customer services team have recorded and collected over many months and years. As we continue to build, and more people use Emma, then the quality of the responses she has in her arsenal will improve.” In the first two months of operations, Emma recorded an accuracy level of 50%. Yi Mien firmly believes that as more people engage with Emma and as a result, the chatbot will evolve and become more of a real-time navigator that can direct customers across the whole ecosystem.

In the global discussion around AI, the topic of transparency is often a key point of debate. With governments around the world shining a spotlight on exactly what data is collected and how it is used, AXA ensures that it maintains an open and transparent dialogue with its customers. As customers engage with Emma and the companion app, they can at any time request their transcripts. Should they choose to speak with a human adviser, all calls are recorded and again they can access those recordings should they wish. Not only is this an example of AXA complying with global governing laws, it also highlights that the customer is at the very heart of every decision it makes and it maintains this as it continues to implement new technologies. “If you look at banking as an example, we all are so used to accessing our bank accounts at any time, be it through our phones or online,” says Yi Mien. “If we want to speak to someone, we can. If we want to go into a branch, we can. I believe this is the way to go with insurance as well. We make it easy for our customers to contact us. We are doing everything we can to allow that.”

“Healthcare is quite personal, so we are doing what we can to allow customers to speak to people, should they not wish to use our chatbot. These are very personal journeys and digital is still in its early days, so we really have to provide different avenues and channels for our customers to contact us.”

As Yi Mien notes, AXA designs its customer journey by starting at the product and going through all the way to treatment. The company makes every decision with the customer’s perspective in mind. As a doctor by trade, Yi Mien sees that all new products are designed by doctors because they understand how the patients move throughout the whole healthcare ecosystem. When AXA designs new products, it does not operate within a vacuum. It has a customer insight group, where around 1,000 customers operate as a real-time focus group in which AXA can test its products with. “When I think about future products, we will test with this group of people and get feedback to see whether we are aligned with the current customer need. So, it’s not just technology per se, but actually meets a customer’s needs,” she says. “One other area to make sure that we are doing the right thing, because technology also costs money, is to make sure that we are very robust in what we do. AXA is unique in that we sell life insurance, health insurance, employee benefits, and we also have P&C. So, being a multi-line insurer, we have the opportunity of having one approach and cross-selling across the business lines, which is a fantastic opportunity. We can only do that through technology.”

Over the course of her career, Yi Mien has been a champion of the transformative effect of technology in becoming a greater enabler for healthcare and healthcare insurance providers around the world. One area in particular that is close to her heart is the mental health space. In Hong Kong, the waiting time to see a psychologist is close to two years and if patients were to seek private care, it is an expensive solution. “Look at a country like Hong Kong, or Australia, they are so vast that there just aren’t enough practitioners to cover the breadth of the geography. Digital is the solution,” she says. “Digital enables people to seek, support and care at the time that is most convenient for them.”

“In the past two to three years, there has been a proliferation of digital tools. Recent studies have shown that digital tools are as good as, if not better, than in-person therapy because customers prefer to talk to a robot rather than face-to-face because they feel that the robot is not judging them.”

Another example that Yi Mien highlights is in the UK, where a VR program has been developed by programmers that is therapy through gameification. The treatment is consistent every time and because of its mobile platform, it is accessible. “We can provide it where you work,” she says. “That’s just one example as to how we can destigmatise mental health through technology.”

AXA operates within a broad healthcare ecosystem, an ecosystem made up of partners, providers and doctors and Yi Mien stresses that in the future of insurance, it will be impossible for insurers to control the ecosystem. “I don’t foresee a future where that happens,” she says. “Partnerships are incredibly important. Things are moving so fast there’s no way we can catch up alone. We need to have partners, collaborators, who are working together to ensure we are at the top of our game and at the forefront of innovation.”

“Over the course of our lives, so many different things can happen and so people will need better care and support. By having a collection of data that represents our customer’s needs we are able to push or suggest services that better meet those needs. In order for us to do that, we need to have players collaborate in the ecosystem. It’s imperative.”

As AXA continues this digital growth journey, the next few years will be defined by improving the agility of the digital companion in order to improve the interaction with customers. AXA will also be looking at developing a digital marketplace in which customers can go shopping within an AXA owned digital platform. For Yi Mien, though, the future is clear for AXA and in order to be successful, she feels it’s down to one thing. “AXA has a clear digital strategy for sure, where it will transform its digital system and build new IT infrastructure to transform the customer experience,” she says. “But the technology is only one part of the story.”

“Unless we can transform the customer experience to deliver a service they truly value, then technology doesn’t do anything. It’s important to recognise that technology is enabling us to transform healthcare, to make it easier, faster, and cheaper for people to receive care. That means in the long-term, sustainable healthcare and health services, which fits into sustainable insurance.”