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Welcome to another episode of The Procuretech Podcast!

We’re continuing our third series of conversations with industry leaders, which now releases twice a week.

Tech and Remote Workforce Management – Lilia Stoyanov from Transformify

Today’s guest is Lilia Stoyanov, someone who truly wears many hats. 

She’s a professor at Ziggurat Business School. She’s an independent contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine. And most importantly, she’s the CEO of Transformify – a vendor management and payroll management system.

Our conversation opens with a brief catch-up on Lilia’s background.

Lilia Stoyanov’s early career

Lilia started off in the shared service space, working for Coca Cola where she helped to build a shared service centre. Her role, as either CFO, or – as at Coca Cola – director of procure to pay, involved structuring shared service centres.

The big challenge was that Coca Cola, like so many large enterprises, had a variety of subsidiaries and a confusing tangle of legacy tech. Lilia’s job was to decide how to bring all that together, and which PTP system or STP system to implement. 

This meant factoring in time, and of course cost. Which at the enterprise level could be huge.

It’s not only the cost of the system. With those types of traditional procure to pay suites, you often need an army of consultants to implement it as well.

Then there’s training people how to navigate new systems that are very complex. And they shouldn’t be.

In the past, it seemed like suites needed to look complex in order to impress buyers with all their functionality.

Now it’s the opposite.

Users are demanding simplicity and accessibility. Whether this is the influence of Gen Z entering the workforce, or just users losing patience with outmoded tech, the message is the same: Software needs to be user friendly.

Leaving enterprise to become an entrepreneur

This eye for simplicity and user-friendliness was an inspiration for Lilia.

The same could be said for her unique vantage point: Working inside growing companies that are breaching into the enterprise level gave Lilia insights into the process of building a business. 

It was only a matter of time before she wanted to do it for herself.

Having seen how enterprises function, she could see what the common problems are before she even began. And it’s important to know the pitfalls, and also what the market is demanding. Otherwise, you can’t bring a product to the market that everyone else needs and is ready to buy.

Lilia would absolutely recommend this to budding entrepreneurs.

 If you’re considering such a journey, first of all, how do others do it? How are successful businesses structured? What’s the hierarchy? How do you manage teams? How do you respond to change? How do we respond to fast paced growth?

And after that, you’ll be ready to do it yourself.


How did Lilia’s experiences in corporate influence Transformify?

There are two big problems that pretty much every procurement team faces.

One is finding talent in the right places at the right costs. 

The other is managing one time vendors, or occasional vendors, and dealing with the bureaucracy and human error that goes into maintaining vendor master data.

What Lilia’s doing now at Transformify tackles both.

But what lessons from the world of corporate inspired the creation of Transformify?

Vendor management is a big one. 

Be it regular or one-off vendors, using a traditional approach is very time consuming. It takes a long time to get a vendor into your vendor master data, then a long time again if you need to change their invoice details, etc.

Transformify shifts that responsibility on to vendors themselves. 

They have a portal where they can do things like update bank account information. And once it’s done, it’s done for everyone on all sides.

After that, Transformify also consolidates payments. It aggregates all payments to thousands of vendors into one. Instead of collecting invoices from thousands of vendors, you get one invoice.

Someone else is automating the entire process. So there’s no need to reconcile payments to invoices, no need to check if those invoices are tax compliant. Nothing. It’s a simple, smooth process.

Rather than something like a tail spend automation system, what Transformify offers is essentially an integrated platform that enables companies to replace X number of vendors with just one.

And that’s a big relief to the finance teams, payment teams, procurement teams and everyone involved.

It’s usually Finance people who approach Transformify. 

Their payments teams struggle with transferring payments, making sure there are no duplicate payments or late payments, handling the resulting tax liabilities…

It’s the CFO that oversees all those functions, or the finance director. So it’s absolutely not surprising that they’re the people screaming “we need something!”.

 

People Management and Transformify

Moving on to the people management side of Lilia’s business, and how this relates to the evolution of user-friendly tech, talk turns to the geographically diversified workforce.

We’re looking at technology that is mobile-first, user-friendly, and enables procurement as a function to allow stakeholders to self serve.

This means that procurement, at least in theory, can work remotely: You’re not having to be on site to serve your stakeholders with day to day operational problems.

This then enables you to have a much more geographically diversified workforce.

As an employer, this means you can take advantage of lower salaries, lower taxes, lower social contributions, and of course, to tap into a wider talent pool.

The biggest challenge in procurement is getting practitioners to think outside the box to be a bit more visionary rather than technocratic.

But how does this work, practically?

Firstly, cloud-based solutions are definitely the future here.

The reason is simple. It’s not only remote working – it’s simplicity. Let’s say you’re on a business trip, and you want to quickly check something before you start negotiations. You need access, and you need access from a completely different location.

We’re also seeing fewer companies that want to support an app, and also to support desktop. Focusing on both can lead to a confusing user experience, or one version having missing functionalities. So that’s another reason for a shift towards cloud-based solutions, and responsive design.

When it comes to hiring people across borders, COVID taught us a lot of lessons.

Even companies that weren’t open to hybrid work, or remote work, are now having to open up to it.

As a result, more companies are hiring the right people, regardless of their location. 

You might have people in various continents in various time zones, and that’s absolutely normal now. That’s the future, and there isn’t any way back.

 

Managing payments to a globally diverse workforce

Transformify offers services for both independent contractors and payrolled employees who live overseas.

For one-off overseas contractors, there’s what’s called payroll on demand.

Here, Transformify acts as an authorised reseller. It buys the services provided by all those independent contractors, checks their components, documents, whatever else is needed, and then it resells those services to the end customer. 

Again, the end customer receives just one invoice.

When you want to add someone to your payroll, but they live in Asia, or Africa, for example, they need to have all the same benefits as any other tax resident of that particular country.

That’s why Transformify has a vast network of local partners across the globe, making sure this employee gets everything they’re entitled to, wherever in the world they are.

Both contingent workforce (in terms of category spend) and talent acquisition and retention are very relevant in terms of procurement. We’re starting to see companies taking that bold leap into hiring outside of their jurisdiction. 

But a lot of HR teams don’t really understand the options available to them and just say: “No, we’re not taking that risk”.

And that’s a shame when you see so many positions on LinkedIn going unfilled.

There’s plenty of talent out there, it just means why you might need to pay a bit more.

Just because your office, or your headquarters or your team is in one jurisdiction doesn’t mean all of your employees need to be.

 

Making procurement sexy

Acquisition teams almost need to become marketers.

They need to be able to sell the role. It’s not just copy pasting the description from somewhere, you need to make it really relevant.

You need to make it appealing if you want the best talent to apply. And the same is applicable to procurement.

You’re selling a product. You’re selling a role within your company, and people need to buy into that.

If you want the best procurement talent, make it sexy!

We should really get some T-shirts printed with that…


Wrapping Up

Lilia’s been a great guest, but that’s all we’ve got time for on this episode of The Procuretech Podcast. 

If you’d like to connect with Lilia, or get in touch with us here, you can find all the links you need below.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll catch you in a few days for the next episode!


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