An Executive Conversation hosted by LeasePlan and produced by Connect Media.

KEEPING COMPLEXITY MOVING

jackSeptember 16, 2019

Deepening fissures in globalisation, hostile trade wars, a drift towards isolationism and populism—all signs of a global paradigm shift impacting the movement of goods. Combined with reduced automation costs, consumer demands for seamless service delivery and renewed attention to sustainability, finance and procurement professionals are re-evaluating their priorities for continued success in the digital age – and transparency is climbing to the top.

LEASEPLAN and CONNECT MEDIA gathered leading finance and procurement executives from all sectors of the national economy for a candid and honest discussion on how businesses are navigating this shifting landscape. Our conversation unearthed a number of shared frustrations, as well as shared opportunities – this is what they had to say.

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SELF-EXAMINATION

It is all too easy to be ignorant in our current social environment; tribalism is entrenched in discourse, and algorithm-based echo-chambers are quickly diminishing the last remaining forums for real, open discussion. Growing levels of corporate mistrust are a symptom of this isolation, but in response, we are transitioning towards a heightened regulatory environment. Finance and procurement executives are being driven to better understand both the moral and business case for visibility over the enterprise.

A wider defensive conversation is now playing out across corporate Australia in the wake of the Financial Services Royal Commission. The belief that the industry herd-mentality offered some semblance of refuge from scrutiny is fading. Leaders are beginning to appreciate that earnest self-reflection is required for success and security. There is one damning question that leaders should ask when interrogating their own business models: what is the fundamental most exploitive thing we do, from a consumer perspective?

The mantra that the customer is king has never been closer to the truth in this age of digital accessibility, and this site of exploitation is where corporations are the most susceptible to attack from digital infused market disruptors. Ultimately, somebody will come along with a business model that exploits and attacks that weakness – it is your responsibility as a leader to identify and neutralise this threat at the source of the problem, rather than diverting resources in an attempt to mask or shape the public’s perception of the real issues.

This earnest self-interrogation is particularly important for finance and procurement. From responding to investor demands for transparency to vying for consumer allegiances, sustainable practice plays a central role in contemporary supply chains. There is no claim of ignorance in supply – visibility is essential for addressing vulnerabilities.

Now that modern slavery is beginning to attract the social and regulatory scrutiny that is deserves, finance and procurement executives must have the conviction to open the hood and address what they find. This is what courageous leadership in finance and procurement looks like, and what is required to navigate a business environment embroiled by transparency.

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DATA AND THE ACCESS-ECONOMY

We are in the midst of a shift away from ownership. There are clear examples of businesses that have grown to notoriety by pioneering in this access-economy:

“… IF YOU REALLY THINK ABOUT IT IN ABSOLUTE TERMS, WHAT IS UBER? UBER IS A 24/7 CHAUFFEUR SERVICE FOR 27-YEAR-OLDS.”

But the physics underlying this change have ramifications for all businesses. As one attendee noted:

“I THINK THE NOTION OF CATERING TO THE ACCESS ECONOMY IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL THINGS – IT BECOMES INCUMBENT ON EVERY BUSINESS TO THINK THROUGH THAT CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW DO I DEVELOP A FLEXIBLE, UNDERLYING BASE.”

Consumer mentalities are shifting; businesses must be ready to move in tandem. Here, the methodologies underlying the access-economy begin to translate into the infrastructure space. Maturing technologies such as blockchain – when coupled with the burgeoning Internet of Things – will have a radical impact on both the quality and scale of data being created across the entire supply pipeline. Finance and procurement professionals must be acutely aware of, and responsive to, the changing needs and capabilities of the enterprise:

“IF THERE’S SOMETHING TO BE OBSESSIVE ABOUT, IN TERMS OF THE UNDERLYING ARCHITECTURE OF YOUR ORGANISATION FROM A TECHNICAL STANDPOINT, I WOULD BE MASSIVELY-OBSESSIVE ABOUT DATA.
IF YOU GET THAT RIGHT, IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU WILL SUCCEED, BUT IT MEANS YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SUCCEED.”
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CONCLUSION

From the sheer pace of digital discovery to radical changes in consumer preferences, the complexity of modern logistics is thrusting supply chain leaders to the strategic forefront. Leaders who find a path through this volatility are shaping organisation-wide strategy and forging a new business reality.

As the technical landscape continues to evolve, the importance of engaging in continuous industry dialogue cannot be understated. Leaders around Australia are realising that maintaining a practical knowledge of changing regulatory trends, digital threats and technical solutions bears heavily on corporate and personal success. LEASEPLAN and CONNECT MEDIA will be continuing this series of executive conversations across Australia, empowering leading enterprises to evolve with the world around them.