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The rise of the ‘spendsetters’ – change agents in business spend

Chandar Pattabhiram Profile picture for user Chandar Pattabhiram June 14, 2022
When teams across divisions unite to make a difference, it creates a ripple effect into positive change - from maximizing business value to improving the world around us. Chandar Pattabhiram of Coupa looks at examples of ‘spendsetters’.

Image of Coupa's Inspire event 2022 © Coupa
(© Coupa)

At a time when the economic landscape is defined by uncertainty, businesses of every size and sort are prioritizing agility and resilience, and digital transformation is bringing the back office to the forefront. At this year’s Coupa Inspire conferences in Las Vegas and Berlin, we heard from our community of professionals from every sector of the economy and every part of the corporate org chart. Their stories showed how business spend professionals are stepping up and driving positive change within their companies and beyond. More and more, this community is becoming a hub for change agents.

We call it the rise of the “spendsetters” – the forward-thinking leaders who are seizing the opportunity to make new breakthroughs in maximizing performance and operationalizing purpose. These innovators are not just brilliant creators – they’re connectors, capable of breaking down silos and uniting teams across divisions to make a difference. The right process and the right technology are important, but it takes creative and collaborative human leadership to leverage these tools and build communities of change.

In my keynote presentation, it was a privilege to highlight some inspiring examples of ‘spendsetters’. These individuals are making a meaningful difference and helping their companies drive increased efficiency and agility while achieving key Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) goals.

At Archer Daniels Midland – a 120-year-old $100 billion Fortune 50 company with an incredibly broad footprint across the global nutrition industry – spendsetters Joe Canaday, Camille Batiste, and Carol Henschen broke down silos and centralized the company’s vast and complex procurement operation. By doing so, they were able to move the company from 2% electronic invoicing to 90%, achieve a 98% net promoter score, and, in the process, improve the company’s use of women- and minority-owned suppliers to an industry-leading 7.9%.

At Mastercard, Ryan Loock, Nagesh Kambala, and Jamile Salim – a team spanning procurement, finance, and implementation – created a single entry for all purchases for the company’s entire addressable spend base. By unifying capabilities across their supply-to-operations process in one platform, they reduced transaction cycle times by 87%. And with more visibility and control over their spend, they’ve achieved 2x improvement in annual savings. As Ryan – a lieutenant in his local volunteer fire department – told me:

“The fire ground is a great equalizer. You realize very quickly that you cannot achieve alone that which you can do together. You rise and fall as a team.”

At AstraZeneca, a joint effort between finance, procurement, and IT departments led by chief procurement officer John Dickson, senior finance director Robert Christmas, and global procurement director Alastair Smith resulted in doubling the amount of electronic invoicing to 86%, even during a period that was far from business as usual, as the pharmaceutical giant grew dramatically in both size and importance during the pandemic response.

But the impact of BSM isn’t limited to the bottom line – it’s a critical tool in achieving a higher purpose.

At World Vision, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the most vulnerable children in the most afflicted areas of the world, spendsetters Mike Grant, Rene Echegoyan, Ben Andrews, Tracy Stueve and their team members worked together to streamline and digitize operations across planning, procurement, and payments, all with the simple goal of getting goods and services to kids in need faster. In doing so, they achieved a 73% increase in spend under management and a 2x improvement in on-time payments, and made it possible for the organization to reach 77 million people in places like Afghanistan and Ukraine.

And at Saint-Gobain, a Paris-based global manufacturer, efficiency and purpose go hand in hand – thanks to the efforts of Philippe Boutonnet, who led a process of optimizing the company’s supply chain to achieve ambitious carbon neutrality goals. The company is on track to reduce key emissions by 20% between 2010 and 2025 thanks to their use of supply chain modeling.

Telling these stories, I was proud of our team’s work to deliver value for our customers, and even more proud of the community that has developed around our platform. They are taking this technology and using it to create measurable impact within their companies and in the broader community. These spendsetters see the true potential in advanced business spend management and are proving every day just how powerful spend can be.

You can see the full list of Spendsetter Award recipients on our blogs for Inspire Americas and Inspire EMEA, but the story doesn’t end there. Who will be the next business spend professional to recognize their power to launch a ripple effect of transformative change? I’m excited to discover whose story I’ll be introducing at next year’s Inspire conference, April 11-14, 2023. Could it be yours?

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