Pierre Laprée, Founder and CEO of Per Angusta, an agile SaaS Procurement Performance Management platform which enables procurement teams to work together to best meet urgent needs
During our conversation, Pierre shared thoughts on elevating procurement’s role, single source of truth, product discipline, saying no, listening, challenging, becoming procurement’s operating system …Raspberry Pi and Corpse Reviver 2.
1. What is Per Angusta’s mission? What is your point of differentiation?
“Per Angusta’s mission is to elevate the role of procurement”
This means helping our clients focus on something that is quite often left aside in procurement organizations, that is procurement performance management, to which there are a few aspects.
Firstly, there are a set of activities that procurement organizations would carry out internally. We need to consider: how do we build our roadmap, how do we set targets and (more importantly) how do we actually follow up and manage the team?There’s a lot of technology out there that focuses on transactions, but not so much on what people are doing with the technology and building and monitoring the procurement transformation or operational roadmap.
Next, there is a strong aspect of collaboration, as procurement and strategic sourcing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You need to deal with your stakeholders, and your suppliers. We try to provide a way for the buyers to organize that well. This is not just executing an online RFP or in the planning and delivery phase, but also when measuring results at the end.
“Next is becoming the single source of truth between procurement, the stakeholder and finance”
It’s about ensuring procurement’s contribution to adding value and optimizing costs, that people are aligned, and they speak about the same thing, on the same data. We do this by being extremely open which is very important to our clients. With larger organizations, we have replaced Excel and SharePoint for example to handle those activities. These teams have plenty of other procurement technology. We work in conjunction with these teams and we become the bloodline of all these tools. By becoming a central piece to that, we help the buyer organize their work.
Finally, procurement performance management is also about managing the process with the buyer that will lead to those benefits being realized and that’s really what we focus on.
We have a very strong and disciplined approach to product management. We are very specific on the way we decide if something makes it to the final product, or not. I think that this is one of the things that our clients like. Sometimes we have had to say no. And we said no and because we have worked in procurement, we were able to explain why this was not a good idea. We developed this ability to look a client in the eye; challenge them and show the customer value. We say no because, as procurement professionals, we know that there is a better way.
“We have a software vendor and procurement background that has a tremendous influence on the product, which helps us build a better solution with the client.”
2. What have been the most significant decisions in the Per Angusta’s journey so far?
I hinted that product discipline is certainly one of our strongest foundations. Before I started in procurement, I was an IT project manager and I implemented ERP financial systems. I hated every minute of that because you had to do pretty much everything and that included implementing terrible ideas.
So I said to myself, never again, and we started saying no to clients. We have the courage to say ‘you shouldn’t be tracking this or that’ which provides users with more trust, and that there are other ways to ensure that you are compliant or that you have enough scrutiny on your result.
“This ability to say no, has helped us build a real product. We have a single code base for all of our clients”
As a software vendor, this means that it’s a lot easier to maintain.
Yet, it provides a lot of flexibility as whatever good idea is put forward and included in our product, all clients immediately benefit, which creates a community of good or best practices that is embedded in the tool. When a client helps us improve something, all the other clients will be able to get that as part of their subscription. So this discipline has helped us build the product in a very lean manner. It has helped us remain very agile. This has helped us to not only go faster, but broader with all of our clients which is something I take pride in which has brought us to where we are today.
It can be difficult. 6 years ago we kept saying no to things. 2 years ago we said, okay now, because the solution has moved, practices have moved. When we have an opinion, we stick to our guns, and obviously if the situation changes or if we get better arguments, then yes, we are not stupid: we’ll add it up and make changes. History has proven that it takes a very strong conviction to get here, which is where discipline is important. Ultimately, it’s good for the clients because maybe they need to change a thing or two, but it’s something that is not sustainable in the long run.
3. You’ve talked about the breadth and scale of your customers: what do you look for in the ‘perfect’ customer and what do they look for in you?
Good question. I’d say the ability to listen and be challenged. I’m saying that because we’re one of the very small players on this market, but we’re starting to make a difference. We’ve had clients that were bold enough to trust us. Our largest client has over 1,000 buyers and we signed with them – when we had a team of six people! Can you imagine how bold these people are to make that kind of decision? Ultimately, they did that because they believed in our vision and they believed in our capability to execute.
One of the things I will be eternally grateful for is when we challenge them, they say ‘it is how it is’ and we have no choice on what we want to do – that’s fine, but on a lot of other times they say ‘actually, you’re right’. When they start talking to their users they admit they don’t even know why they were doing that in the first place!
Obviously, people need to be willing to progress and one of the things that is a good sign, is when people want to move away from just reporting on the contribution and into actively managing that sourcing pipeline and conversations with their stakeholders. That’s a good thing because as soon as people are in this frame or state of mind, they will listen and they will be able to adjust part of the process that will help them achieve those objectives.
4. What are the foundations of a great team?
I hope it will not sound too cliché but the values. Since the beginning of Per Angusta, with a team of 5 people, we were trying to figure out how to operate, what we liked about the team and to learn how to make an impact. A year later we had a team of 13 people and we did the same thing with the help of a coach. Then when we were a team of 25, the same thing popped up so we’ve managed to keep that core culture within the team. For example, one of our project managers, a former procurement director joined Per Angusta because of our values. Can you imagine the leap of faith they made, leaving a job in large enterprise to join this small French enterprise trying to change the world of procurement technology?
“Ultimately, you can acquire competencies: you can buy competencies. You cannot buy values and that’s who people are.”
When we talk to our clients, they notice that values are not something that you state. It’s something that people can observe. So you do not state your values: people tell you what your values are from how you’re projecting them. We have one project manager, he was a senior buyer and we put him in front of a client that had 400 buyers. We had praise from the CPO, because he understood what we were talking about. Through our values, we aim to be as passionate and bold as we can, because, when we were a 30-people company and talking to a giant with 300,000 employees around the world, we had to be bold and courageous to bring value! We have to be authentic because we cannot achieve anything on our own. Again, values are key because it’s a people business after all.
5. As we emerge from COVID, what will you be doing differently? What have you learned?
We’ve learned the importance of informal communication, which seems impossible when working from home. But at 8.30am every day, we have a Teams Room open where people can just chime in and talk about what happened last night or simply say ‘hey I need to do that, I’m not sure what’s the best way’, so we’re trying to recreate these forms of communication. This is important because we are now building the team outside of France, in the UK, Germany and the USA. With the team being more distributed and decentralized, this will become important. I guess that our relationship with travel will also change…there will be less of it, but instead more meaningful travel. We’ve done 25 implementations completely remote, because of Covid.
6. A question from Tomas Wiemer, Global Procurement Digitalisation at Juniper Networks:
Do you see Configure Price Quote (CPQ) platforms connecting with Source to Pay (S2P) platforms to have an end to end view? For example, could we envision a sales revenue driven project (in telecom or tech industries) directly interconnected into a procurement project management to support all buying activities needed to satisfy a sales opportunity – it could include SW, HW, electronic components, training, temp labor etc.
This is a tough proposition, to be able to synchronise order and delivery, and the level of integration could be significant. As solutions continue to be more modular, procurement could just be a plug-in in the process in the future.
We already manage end to end transformation projects on our platform. For example, within Per Angusta we manage projects and have an instance for sales forecasting and management. We apply the same logic to revenue targets as we do with clients to savings targets. We also have clients in the construction sector where savings initiatives contribute to the price of the end product and projects where clients are looking to get certifications which ultimately contribute to achievement of revenue forecasts and objectives.
7. What does Per Angusta look like in five years?
“We will start to become the operating system for strategic sourcing. At the moment, we already have that vision.”
We focus on a very specific part of the strategic sourcing process in terms of functional scope, like now, we are integrating with over 30 digital procurement technology and content providers. We want to keep that vision of pulling together our values together with strategic sourcing with all these technology solutions, contracts and suppliers etc. Data needs to flow easily, be monitored and be actively managed and that’s exactly what we’re doing; along with understanding how to provide a layer of stability to the strategic sourcing technology landscape. We are trying to be the backbone for the procurement organization when it comes to strategic sourcing. I don’t like the notion of a one stop shop but rather the notion of a cockpit. The buyer will go there, get the information they need, manage the activity and the project, so then they will have an easy stepping stone to go to the source of the data. We bring convenience by building bridges between different platforms and different data repositories. I think that this is the vision: expertise, integration and openness. These things, I believe will take us very far in the future.
There’s competition from Excel and some suites have specialised solutions for initiative tracking. It’s almost a side project for them. We want to remain extremely focused so as not to spread ourselves too thin as we may not have the resources to invest expertise, time and development, which is why we have fantastic partners for that. It’s rare that we lose a project to someone, but if we do, it’s generally as a result of inaction. If people want to change, they will. If they don’t, they will stick to Excel.
8. What are you doing for the planet?
Covid has made everybody think twice about a number of different things, especially sustainability and the planet. We try to do our bit, turning off the lights, sorting out waste and as a business we support colleagues not using their car to come to the office. Everybody’s trying to take public transportation, maybe the bike; things which we subsidise.
“These are only small things, yet they will compound into something much bigger.”
For example, we scored a silver medal with our partner EcoVadis. This year, we are starting a formal carbon footprint assessment where we will reduce our CO2 footprint and water consumption. It will only be a small impact, but it will make measurements much more tangible. We are still only at the beginning of our journey. It all a bit like procurement performance: you need the frameworks in place first, which EcoVadis has provided.
INSTANT PIERRE INSPIRATION
1. What is your favourite book or blog and why?
It may seem a bit old fashioned, but one of the books that made the biggest impact on me is The Quest of the Absolute by Balzac from the 19th century. There’s a rich chemist, who wants to find the smallest chemical principle at the basis of all things, until he invests all his money in stock which doesn’t end well. I resonate with this story because things you do can sound like a pipe dream, where you pursue something that might not exist. You need to have a big vision but also remain grounded. The book serves as a good warning and a constant reminder that you should not get lost in your dreams. It’s a constant reminder not to lose sight of reality.
2. Who is your favourite inspirational leader & why?
There isn’t really a famous person, but before creating Per Angusta, I had 3 managers who shared a common set of values. They were good at what they did, they were extremely demanding, but they’ve always been fair. Now that I manage a team of a certain size, it’s important for me to convey that sense of purpose in what we are doing. We demand a lot, but we do always stand by them when they experience any difficulty
Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor is useful for explaining how we can give candid feedback to people, because the truth can hurt.
3. What is your favourite app (not your own) or piece of technology?
Thanks to the first lockdown in March 2020, I got a Raspberry Pi Zero, a small $10 computer, and I started building a robot that was autonomous and could drive around and avoid obstacles. I’ve been writing software for the better part of my life! I fell in love with that thing; it’s so small and the fact it drives around your home avoiding the walls is fascinating.
4. What is your favourite cocktail?
Corpse Reviver 2. I love it. It’s French and the alcohol brings a bit of bitterness. It’s not very well known but I had it for the first time in New York when I was with my wife: we were on a rooftop bar of a magnificent hotel. We talk about it even now, it was the perfect moment with the perfect cocktail.
5. Finally, what’s your favourite way to celebrate success?
Apart from cocktails, I’d say an immediate celebration would involve having a beer with the team and my wife. If I have a bit more time, I’d say baking which I have grown very fond of, in particular a raspberry cake which is nice and light!
1. Create the single source of truth between procurement, the stakeholder and finance.
2. Combined software and procurement background and experience has a tremendous influence on the product.
3. Product discipline is an imperative.
4. This ability to say no, helps focus on building a real product.
5. Perfect customers have the ability to listen and be challenged.
6. You can acquire competencies, you can buy competencies. You cannot buy values.
7. Data needs to flow easily, be monitored and be actively managed.
About Per Angusta
Per Angusta offers a SaaS solution to help you build your Procurement action plan, set objectives, measure performance, and communicate the value created throughout the organization. Forget about Excel and start piloting your activity in a very easy-to-use software with extensive reporting capabilities.
With a more structured approach and better visibility your team addresses a larger volume of spend and thus generates additional savings. The return on investment is immediate. Per Angusta is a perfect fit for mid-size companies who want to further develop their Procurement function or larger, decentralized organizations who need visibility on their remote operations.
Our lean approach makes Per Angusta easy and fast to implement. In less than 3 weeks, your users are trained and you’re all set. Founded by a former Procurement director of a Fortune 500 company,
Per Angusta solves real world Procurement problems and enables your team to grow faster, better. Per Angusta is incubated at CREALYS, a leading French incubator focusing on innovative start-ups and backed by the French Ministry of Research.
Our industry is moving forward faster and faster, empowered by innovative, progressive digital procurement solutions created and led by inspiring teams. ProcureTechSTARS are the digital procurement company CEOs and Founders that are leading the change, they are entrepreneurs, engineers and architects collaborating to transform procurement and the enterprise. In an open conversation with these leaders Lance Younger will be discussing the highs and lows of building the future now, the challenges they’ve faced, their perspective on accelerators and hot topics, and what keeps getting them up in the morning (and keeps them up at night).