“How do we create an agile buying process” – reflections on the Reshape conference with Molly Dobson from Amazon Business

Business Leader recently met with Molly Dobson from Amazon Business at their Reshape conference, to talk about procurement, business, and digital transformation.

Your talk at Reshape was called Strategies to Scale Your Business. You spoke to Mattel as part of this – what did you find?

You would think that with being such a big organisation they will have everything sorted. But when you dig into the conversation, you see that there is always a part of the business that you can help with.

I spoke to Kim Hur at the company, and she saw that there was more opportunity to grow the business and free up the leaders and thinkers to do what they are good at. Scaling your business means empowerment for employees and one thing that stuck with me is ensuring that employees spend money in the business like it is their own.

It is a strong message to give people that you’ve got the resources and the tools to get what you need to do your job, but you need to make smart decisions and act as if this were your own money you are spending.

What are the overriding themes that you took from the Reshape conference?

A key theme that came out of the event was ‘how do we create an agile buying process’ and I love the word agility. Agility allows you to handle changes as they come and agile businesses responded better to the absolute chaos that no one expected over the last couple of years.

They were able to weather those changes because they had a foundation that allowed them to flex up or down different parts of how they bought or the channels that they bought from.

Responsible sourcing is a key topic too and one that was prevalent during the conference. Digital Transforming was too, and this is linked to agility.

Why do you feel it is important for businesses to embrace digital?

Digital is a fundamental tool if you’re looking to scale your business but if you are an organisation that says ‘I’m not ready for it, I don’t see the value’, you can probably run your business well up to a certain extent.

You’re probably going to cap your growth though if you don’t figure out how to use digital to scale. That’s why I always think of the digital tools that we have at Amazon Business as an enabler. It’s what helps organisations get beyond a certain point and see that kind of hockey stick growth that an organisation in the growth stages wants.

And why is it so important that companies embrace sustainability?

You don’t want to stop businesses from doing what they’re good at and for many companies, some element of travel is essential.

But if you can buy a product that has Climate Pledge Friendly badging on it, and you have a sense of the positive impact of that product, that is a good thing. Yes, you’re still buying because you need to, but you’re buying in a way that has the least amount of negative impact and the greatest amount of positive impact. This is also where digital is a great tool because you can inform people in that buying process of the impact of their decision.

Here is a scenario – you can buy three different types of paper for your office and the first two have no credentials but the third one comes from recycled material, or it was manufactured by a minority-owned business, then you can make an informed decision.

I will always be a personal fan of reducing consumption as much as possible.

How does the UK compare to other countries when it comes to digital transformation?

I don’t know if it’s more of a geographical question or an industry question. You may have an individual company in America that has access to new shiny tools that we don’t yet have here in the UK. But if you don’t have the right leadership buy in for adopting those tools and the change that comes with it, then what’s the point?

Here in the UK, you’ll also find organisations that don’t have some of the badging and some of the certification that our colleagues in America have. But you have very forward-thinking leaders who see the opportunity to use digital tools and improve their buying. They’re going to be lightyears ahead of someone in another country that just doesn’t buy into that. It is a combination of having the resources and using them effectively.

During the pandemic – e-commerce grew hugely. Do you believe the level of demand will continue?

We did see a big uptake in the use of online marketplace solutions, such as Amazon Business, during the pandemic, both from a supply side and from a customer side, because it was the channel available. It really accelerated something that was already there and created this new baseline where organisations that hadn’t been selling online before on Amazon Business, for example, they’re now there. And they’re going to stay there because they tapped into a new revenue stream. And they’re going to want to sustain that.

From a customer side, I don’t think any of us really know what normal is any more. So, I think it accelerated something that was already in the minds of many business leaders on agility, taking it back to where we started, where you tapped into an online or digital marketplace during the pandemic. I still want that available because I don’t know what the future is going to hold. So, having flexibility in the different sourcing channels that you have is important for keeping that agility and being able to respond to external factors that create disruption.

We did see a big spike in people buying online that hadn’t been seen before. Now we’re in a place where maybe it will normalise and we’ll see some ups and downs along the way as people’s buying behaviours may shift.

What do you believe will separate the winners from the losers in business?

I think those that are going to be most successful in the long-term are the ones that are willing to embrace change, as and when it’s needed, and even try to predict or pre-empt change and be ready for it. And again, that goes back to those organisations that do have a sense of agility and how they make decisions.

Are you optimistic about the future?

I would say I am optimistic about where we’re going because it’s been an awful last two years for many people personally and professionally. And we’ve now seen how organisations and individuals can be resilient through that and keep finding ways to persevere. So having that sense of grit, I think, we must because that’s really the only way to do it.

If you’d like to see Molly Dobson’s talk at Amazon Business’ Reshape conference, it is available to watch on-demand via the link here

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