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Collaborating with start-ups: How KWS co-developed a cognitive sourcing tool with Lhotse

Geraldine Craven

The Strategic Procurement team at KWS, a world-leading seed producer, has been accelerating their digital transformation, investigating how technology can improve the efficiency and performance of procurement across the organisation.

One recent focus for the team has been to support stakeholders with their tactical spend management, by finding a more efficient sourcing of competitive quotes. A highly manual process, often exceeding the relative savings achieved, this was a prime use case to explore digitalisation.

Around the same time, start-up company Lhotse was seeking a partner with whom to co-develop their cognitive sourcing tool. Recognising the opportunity to leverage Lhotse’s expertise to build and trial a sourcing tool that would be tailored to its requirements at little cost and low risk, the team at KWS agreed to collaborate on this project.

How did they do it?

In August 2020, KWS and Lhotse partnered to co-develop and pilot a minimum viable product (MVP) using an agile development approach. From the outset, KWS and Lhotse adopted a collaborative approach to their partnership, ensuring transparency, open communication, and a genuine test-and-learn approach. By bringing their IT team and users right across the business into the development process early on, the tool has achieved a high adoption rate across the business.

How does it work?

Supported by artificial intelligence and integrated seamlessly in existing interfaces, the cognitive sourcing tool gives buyers the ability to source multiple bids, in just six clicks or less, using natural language and a simple, guided process. The tool offers a very simple sourcing experience for the purchaser, ensuring relevant bids are sourced by the bot and then clearly presented to the buyer, showing suitable and known suppliers first, then collecting further offers for comparison. The tool also offers analytical reporting capability so Procurement teams can have clear overview of all past and ongoing requests.

Is it helpful?

Yes. The team estimated that supporting buyers with sourcing competitive bids would have required an additional headcount of approximately 4-5 full time employees but have managed to avoid this expense. KWS implemented the user-friendly tool in a short space of time, at a low cost and low risk to the business. By being actively involved in the product development, they were able to influence the functionality and user interface in a way that engaging with more established vendors is not possible.

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