ProcureCon Asia 2023 Interview with Chris Hampden

August 2023

ArcBlue’s Director for Southeast Asia, Chris Hampden, spoke to the team at the ProcureCon Asia 2023 Conference about the services in-demand from our clients right now, the benefits of being a part of Bain & Company, and provided his tips for successful digital procurement implementations.

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My name’s Chris Hampden, I’m the Director for Consulting at ArcBlue in Southeast Asia.  We’re a procurement and supply chain consulting business, very much focused on the Asia Pacific market. Myself, like a lot of our consultants from across the business comes from Industry – which I think is a real key differentiator for us as a company. We all have experience, we’ve been in the shoes of our clients, we’ve lived and breathed procurement – we have the scars and the war wounds and the grey hairs to reflect that – so we can really bring a practical approach towards helping the organizations address their challenges.

[Text: How does ArcBlue support procurement leaders?]

ArcBlue has a wide range of services that we provide to our clients across the region, primarily across the whole of the value chain for procurement and supply chain. So that may range from Capability Development programs and training; through to major savings programs – looking at trying to build a clearer visibility and understanding of spend and how we can turn that into insights that will drive savings within an organization; likewise, we help companies understand their levels of capabilities of people within their procurement function through to huge holistic organizational transformations – how best to set up the operating model for procurement. Likewise, into the areas of Supply Chain Management – how we can help organizations optimize their logistics and supply chain management as well.

[Text: Which services are gaining the most interest from procurement leaders at the moment?]

What we see is a lot of clients coming to us really struggling with having good quality data and information around where they spend their money.  So one of the very common requests for us is that we help them to turn all the individual bits of data and information that they have around where they spend money, and bring that together into one single source of truth through a spend cube. From there we can help them to identify potential savings opportunities and really drive value through those opportunities in the execution phase as well.

So that’s one area. Another area is around Capability Development. As the world has been changing, both in terms of the impacts of Covid, but also technological changes, the skills and needs of a procurement function are ever-changing. So one of the things that we are being asked to do and work with many clients on is trying to understand the skills that are currently possessed within a procurement function and a supply chain organization, and then look at what are the future needs. And how we can then assess what those key gaps are and how we can try to bridge those gaps through capability programs that are tailored to the needs of those individual clients.

[Text: How does being an independent subsidiary of Bain & Company benefit your clients?]

Having been acquired by Bain & Company just over 18 months ago, I think it’s a huge recognition of the value-add that we bring as a consulting company. The value that it really has brought to us is our ability to then leverage the whole ecosystem and work closely with Bain & Company – both in terms of our own engagements and with their clients as well. We do a lot of knowledge-sharing and best practice-sharing with our colleagues and friends in Bain & Company. We have access to a lot of their knowledge management systems and their expert networks and we really look at how we can leverage that to the better benefit of our clients as well. The fact that we are a part of the Bain & Company family means that it’s really an enhancement of our reputation within the marketplace. And, as I mentioned previously, it really shows the trust that they’ve had in us through the experiences they’ve had working with us and our ability to add value to clients – whether that’s through cost savings or procurement organizational transformations or capability upskilling. This is something that we’ve done both for Bain, and Bain clients, and for our own directly.

[Text: What are your top 3 tips for digital procurement transformations?]

Digital procurement transformations are always quite an interesting experience for companies to go through. I think the first tip would be to:

  • Make sure you focus on your processes first. Many organizations try to implement procurement technologies without actually addressing the challenges that they face with their processes. And that is a sure-fire way to fail when it comes to a digital procurement transformations. So the first tip – focus on your processes, get them right before you try to implement any procurement technology platforms.

The second one would be to:

  • Think about the end user when you’re making your selection of the systems. Understand what it is exactly that you’re trying to achieve by implementing a procurement technology solution. It needs to be easy, it needs to be something that people can enjoy using, otherwise – it doesn’t matter how good the system is, people will not necessarily want to pick up and utilize that tool and you won’t necessarily deliver the value that you expect through that.

The third:

  • Look at the actual skills of your people. Particularly as different technologies come on board or as things mature – everybody’s talking about ChatGPT and AI – well do your procurement people actually have the knowledge and skills and capabilities to best utilize these? The training and upskilling of people around the digital tools is really fundamental to it. You can have the best systems in place, but if your people don’t want to use it, or don’t know how to use it, or don’t have the knowledge and skills on how to extract value from the information, then it really makes the transformation a challenge to make it a real success. So focus on the process, focus on the people and make sure you think about the whole change journey as part of one piece of work, rather than everything in silos. 

[Text: What’s the most valuable part of being involved in ProcureCon Asia?]

I think first of all, it’s just fantastic to be surrounded by fellow procurement leaders and professionals and the ability to bring together people from different industries and catch up, share experiences and knowledge and ideas. It’s really valuable for all of the participants and I can see this year it’s bigger and better than previously before with a wide variety of people from different industries and  sectors. So bringing everybody together, networking and collaboration opportunities I think is one of the key drivers for value of attending one of these events.

Second to that is also around the content, so I see the agenda is becoming more dynamic in terms of the topics that are being talked about. Previously, 5 or 10 years ago, everyone was just talking about one thing – cost savings. Now you hear sustainability, digital technologies, AI, supply chain disruptions… I think hearing different perspectives and take on these particular issues – and hearing some of the practical experiences people are having with some of these challenges and how they’re addressing them – is really useful insights, both from sharing with other companies and also staying close to the client base as to what their challenges are and how we can best support them to address those challenges.


Read the blog post from the ProcureCon Asia team: https://procureconasia.wbresearch.com/blog/arcblue-on-why-its-important-to-understand-your-organizations-current-level-of-maturity