3M – Digital Transformation in Purchase-to-Pay

August 15, 2023
Season 4, Episode 30

In this episode of the Business Excelleration® podcast, in 2022, 3M won a Digital Award from The Hackett Group for their digital transformation in purchase-to-pay. The Hackett Group Principal and Global Business Services Advisory Practice Leader Vin Kumar talks with 3M Global Services Director Marco Ortiz and Intelligent Automation Solutions Global Lead Ashish Shrivastava about how they have automated the procurement reconciliation process, and the role that technology has played.

Welcome to The Hackett Group’s “Business Excelleration Podcast,” where week after week we hear from experts on how to avoid obstacles, manage detours and celebrate milestones on the journey to world-class performance. This episode is hosted by The Hackett Group’s Digital Enablement and Global Business Services Advisory Practice Principal Vin Kumar. His guests are 3M’s Global Service Delivery Director Marco Ortiz and 3M’s Global Lead for Intelligent Automation Solutions Ashish Shrivastava.

3M won an award for how they used intelligent automation solutions to address one of the key issues they were facing in their global business services organization. To begin, Marco explains the situation they were aiming to adopt and solve for. 3M is a captive organization in which all of their collaborators are 3M employees. Since the beginning of starting the accounts payable organization, they faced operational issues and inconsistencies. They found that even though their team was doing the best they could, the problem was not improving after five years. Marco came to Ashish to see how they could use intelligent tools to address the problem. The first step was to come up with a conclusion for the process rules and gaps, which needed to be filled. Then they began with the initial prototyping without a very clear understanding of what they were going to create. In the second stage, they connected workflow with the technology. They used data from Salesforce as a case management tool to be worked upon.

Next, they brought machine learning, such as Amazon Comprehend, into the picture to classify each item and extract key documents. This is when the system became broader, more sophisticated and able to manage a higher volume of work. The leveraging and retraction of different tools to find the ones that worked best was a great method to follow. Listen as our guests highlight “the culture of continuous improvement.” From initially launching the product to its final solution took one year, and then another year to deploy it completely. The solution was so strong that it was able to adjust to different areas of the world very smoothly. Then, Marco and Ashish share a few of the challenges they encountered along the way. Their ultimate focus was on analysis, because employees were spending too much time on understanding the discrepancies and doing analysis. Extra time was put into solving the issues. The American team has found that the solution actually evolved on its own, which helped them to better address inefficiencies in the solutions.

Before wrapping up, our guests try to quantify the benefits that the technology delivered. They did see some savings thanks to productivity and employee satisfaction. However, the biggest payoff was how the solution impacted financials in terms of open items dropping and an even larger value created. It has also shed light on the other areas, which could benefit from doing the same thing. As we speak, the 3M team is currently working on a new and improved version 2.0 of the technology. They have also just launched another project analyzing all of the benefits of the solution. Finally, Ashish highlights a few key takeaways he and his team realized along the way: short cycles, scaling and prototyping, and focusing on getting something working and helping operations in the short term.

Time stamps:

  • 0:49 – Welcome to this episode hosted by Vin Kumar.
  • 2:00 – The problem 3M solved through intelligent automation.
  • 6:40 – Leveraging data and insights.
  • 9:38 – Fine-tuning and coming to the best solution.
  • 13:15 – The timeline from identifying the problem to creating a solution.
  • 15:30 – The challenges 3M encountered along the way.
  • 22:35 – Quantifying the benefits of the technology.
  • 26:15 – Ashish and his team’s key takeaways.