From SAP Ariba to Basware; several people I’ve chatted to in the past couple of weeks have been theorising about the move of Justin Sadler-Smith from Head of Ariba UK & Ireland to General Manager of Basware UK & Ireland.
Justin harbours great ambitions for Basware. It’s one of the motivations for the move. Like many people connected to the procurement tech landscape, Justin believes that the end-to-end single vendor selection is outdated, not uniquely because a single provider is not necessarily superlative across the spectrum, but also because investment in new strategic projects has come under increasing scrutiny in times of economic pressure and uncertainty, particularly in the UK.
“Basware excels in AP automation, P2P and spend visibility. We’re recognised by the analysts, especially for our AP functionality. Raising our profile so procurement leaders and organisations are aware of our capabilities is going to be key for us,” he said. That’s a challenge Basware has had – profile. Basware, a global vendor with its roots in Scandinavia, has not performed to its potential in the UK market. I dug a bit deeper.
“Strong markets for Basware are the Nordics, as you’d expect, Germany, France and the US. The company is growing and has an enviable client base worldwide. Progress in the UK, however, has been modest, despite two quarters of growth. Surprisingly though, not the anticipated growth in the UK, despite having a hub of support engineers, the global marketing team, services teams, HR and sales all represented here — a current UK team of over 70,” explains Justin candidly. Another reason to make his presence felt. He’s hungry to step up the pace and run the race in the leaders’ pack.
Justin saw success at Ariba with impressive revenue growth and a renewed, energised team; the turnaround he’d aimed for. A testament to that is the greatest respect he has for the friends and colleagues he leaves there. That was a prompt to ask him what he was like as a leader; why has he enjoyed success where he’s trodden in the past 30 years in procurement?
“I work from the trenches. I hope that because I’ve been there, continue to see things from that perspective, I gain the trust from those around me, and vice versa. We share opinions and ideas.” Make no mistake either, there’s also a definite ambition and sense of purpose. Justin’s plans need to see results before too long and the challenge in that will be thrilling in itself.
Not only does he see the speed of change internally, so too from the perspective of his customers and prospects. We dug into the mindsets and practices of decision makers. “Our customers can’t wait for long periods to implement change. The very reason they go out for alternative technology is because they have challenges with elements of their S2P process that they need addressing. Not in many months’ time, but now. We need to react to their needs at their pace.” Justin continues to expand and flows into the theme of suite versus best of breed. No surprise that Justin shares the view that the end-to-end suite requirement has had its time. “Most organisations have a core platform or sections thereof already and don’t want to rip it all out and replace it. What they want is outputs – a problem solved, an experience enhanced – so replacing a suite is mostly not the aim, nor the budget.”
‘Outcomes’ is a term Justin uses throughout our meeting. Justin stresses the importance of ‘getting’ procurement and understanding the desired outcomes of customers in order to help them solve problems.
Basware’s recognised strengths are in AP automation, e-invoicing and its open supplier network. Its strong AP automation functionality has gained it support amongst finance leaders, which is never a bad start in terms of gaining support and budget. However, the message hasn’t traditionally crossed the floor to the procurement team. Despite scoring positively in Spend Matters’ eProcurement Solution Map, and other analyst assessments, AP and e-invoicing aren’t traditionally the glamourous functions of procurement, more a necessary administrative process. Justin is acutely aware that the strengths of Basware, with a dedicated fan-base in AP and e-invoicing roles, need to be felt more widely within procurement.
“We’re procurement’s best kept secret. What an opportunity for the Basware team and me to start shouting the message from the rooftops,” fizzes Sadler-Smith. He genuinely is excited about where he and the team he injects with his effervescent enthusiasm is going. So, what’s at the top of the list for Justin?
No surprise that ‘awareness’ is top of the agenda. “People need to be aware of a good thing: Basware and what we do for our customers.” Next on the list is building his team out, developing the skills and nurturing the talent. Getting the team dynamics and customer-centric outlook is very important to Justin, as is the symbiotic relationship with advisory partners, people like Spend Matters. Basware keeping us up to date on their developments, and the advisory partners keeping them up to date on market updates, is key to being in the leader’s pack.
So begins a new era for Basware in the UK; a significant coup for Basware to bring in Sadler Smith, having the support from the Basware board to ‘think big.’ No pressure then! I think the thrill of the challenge is precisely what makes Justin tick and where he will make his presence felt. We’ll be watching eagerly.