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Scouting for excellence – how DPW’s ScoutLab is changing the face of digital procurement

30 June, 2022 | By DPW

Since its formation, ScoutLab has been helping some of the world’s biggest companies source and scale technology that can transform the way they operate. Formed in June 2020, when DPW teamed up with corporate and technology innovation experts nlmtd, ScoutLab has since developed a ground-breaking program that enables procurement organizations to harness the latest tech to deliver value and improve business outcomes.   

Now, two years on, DPW catches up with ScoutLab co-founder Pieter-Paul van Oerle, to discuss the latest developments at a company that is at the forefront of digital transformation.

How has ScoutLab helped procurement organisations in their digital transformation?   

It brings a lot of acceleration to the transformations that these businesses need to go through. I originally come from the innovation and digitalisation domain, and in those teams, procurement is often seen as a roadblock to quick transformations. For younger, innovative companies, the stereotypical view of procurement, makes it not easy for them to work with. That’s the image that procurement still has in many organisations. When DPW launched in 2019, we saw a community, we saw an energy – we saw the forward-looking, progressive procurement people together in Amsterdam. Now, DPW and nlmtd have brought that expertise to bear and are delivering real change together through the ScoutLab programme.    

What can ScoutLab bring to the process?     

We have experience in designing and running open innovation programmes, specifically in tech scouting and accelerating innovation projects. DPW and nlmtd wanted to combine to bring these opportunities to the procurement community. That was the trigger we had at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020. DPW’s annual conference is built around inspiration and understanding the possible – and it’s ScoutLab’s aim to bring all the great new digital tech into the process immediately, from supplier intelligence to supplier relationship management. The whole value stream of tech tools that you need to get insight and more transparency. There are hundreds of new tools out there but how do you find the ones that are best suited to your company? More and more procurement organisations, particularly more progressive procurement organisations, get a lot of trust from the board. They see that they can make a difference, they see that they are impactful.  

The speed and the agility we bring are what’s inspiring. It’s almost addictive. Once we’re done with one problem, we’re out there finding a way to solve another one.

Pieter Paul van Oerle, Co-Founder ScoutLab, DPW

How key is the sustainability element to ScoutLab’s offering?

In more and more companies, sustainability has become a key priority of the supply chain and the procurement department. Procurement is being asked to fix the problem for the rest of the company because they control 90% of all CO2 emissions. You need completely new tools to do that. You need them, not just in your processes, to get the transparency and traceability of emissions and the reporting capabilities – but if you want real improvement the fact is that you have to find new suppliers and more sustainable materials and components that are less harmful to the environment. You need to build an ecosystem of suppliers and partners who want to help you build more sustainable products.   

Is this the really exciting part of what you can offer?

What if procurement can be a more innovative function – bringing new ideas to the business. How do you open up that innovation? How do you collaborate and bring new products to the market? The reaction has been amazing. We’re now in the process of introducing the ScoutLab offering more actively into the DPW community. I recently talked to a digital transformation lead in a global leading company that has been doing a lot of transformation work in their business for the last two years. This procurement guy was almost frustrated and upset that he didn’t know about us. “I wish I had known about you guys two years ago,” he said. “It would have saved me so much time and energy and would have improved the quality of the work, so much.” Everybody who gets this task in the company, they’re inventing the wheel, right? And it’s very difficult to do that. We are doing it over and over again for different organisations. Not only do we master the process and the methodologies to do it well but also see more and more solutions that really work for our clients. Then we bring that expertise, experience, and that analysis into these projects.   

What kind of timelines does ScoutLab operate to?

We typically take around six weeks from challenge definition to solution selection. To do so, we create a long list of potential solutions in a matter of weeks, using data analysis, using experts, using crowdsourcing. We then do a selection of the best tool and help companies run a 100-day pilot. In three months, we want to prove if this tech is going to work for a company. The speed and the agility we bring are what’s inspiring. It’s almost addictive. Once we’re done with one problem, we’re out there finding a way to solve another one. Working with young tech companies brings new methodologies. This is the kind of feedback we’re getting. It’s great for startups too. Even if they’re deselected, they’re also happy about the experience because it was clear, fair, and short. They would rather know after three weeks if they’re out rather than be part of a nine-month RFX procedure where they have to spend tons of time and effort to then learn they didn’t make the cut. They really appreciate the speed and quality of the process.   

And ScoutLab also looks beyond traditional borders?

Yes. ScoutLab connects corporates and other companies to technology for the innovation they are looking for. We don’t have the bias that comes with working deep only in the procurement industry. We constantly find new technologies across other industries and by adding our lateral thinking make sure our customers also get that broader view in their search results. The problem with most scouting services in procurement today is that they only search inside the silo of the procurement industry, which limits the number of potential solutions to their problem. But often, we find technology suppliers that are outside the procurement domain. For instance, we get a request from procurement that they want a workforce planning tool that helps them to plan the way their team works. That’s not a digital procurement tool, that is an HR tool. We can also identify those, because we also have a huge network outside of procurement. So, by expanding the search across industries, a new and unique solution can often be found. Cross-industry collaboration – reaching startups beyond the procurement sector – is at the heart of ScoutLab’s approach and often where the smartest solutions are found.

Can you give us an example?

Let’s take Coca-Cola as an illustration of what ScoutLab can bring. We helped them identify a tech supplier that could deliver a solution for them on the configuration of a very complex procurement project. They had been looking for many months, internally and externally with the help of well-known industry analysts. They had almost given up. We sought to understand the challenge and then defined in quite a bit of detail what this technology had to do. We didn’t just look at the top ten procurement vendors because they’re the ones that Coca-Cola can also find. We look at databases including hundreds and thousands of tech companies. We found a company completely outside the procurement domain, in manufacturing, but one that had all the right technology components in place to build that solution in a few months. We did the 100-day pilot and we proved it worked in a really short period. That company is now being adopted for global use. This company was based in a small province in the north of the Netherlands – the kind of location you wouldn’t be actively searching for emerging tech companies in.    

Which other companies are you actively working alongside? 

We are currently helping Johnson & Johnson define the way they’re working in their Procurement Garage, based on their vision. They are launching a Procurement Garage that provides a safe environment for them to bring on board the latest technology providers. Johnson & Johnson’s ambition is to address the challenges of the present and future by harnessing collaborative innovation, experimentation, and data-driven outcomes. Their aim is to optimise the impact the company can have on the doctors, patients, and the customers they serve.

DPW is supporting Johnson & Johnson in the following areas:

  • Defining and designing their procurement open innovation strategy
  • Determining value metrics, mindset and behaviours to make digital work
  • Prioritising the innovation opportunities to the procurement strategy 
  • Deciding which challenges should be accepted into the Procurement Garage, and which ones not, for scouting, piloting and scaling

We created a playbook that explains clearly to other colleagues the way this Procurement Garage was going to work. From our perspective, we support the scouting and the selection process; we do the 100-day sprint to test the innovation. For each project, we help define the value case and we test the progress in the stage gates. Working hand-in-hand with digital procurement companies and academics that are willing to invest and co-develop solutions, we want to get to a point where they build the team and have the capabilities to run the Garage by themselves after we hand it over.   

About ScoutLab

Innovation is at the heart of becoming future-ready. ScoutLab is your strategic partner for technology scouting and scaling and empowers progressive organisations to identify and execute collaborative innovation opportunities together with pioneering startups, scaleups and tech innovation experts from DPW and nlmtd.

A part of DPW, the industry’s leading ecosystem for digital procurement, ScoutLab has been helping enterprise companies worldwide expand their innovation ecosystem and emphasize emerging technologies.

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