When a prominent hedge fund or a Fortune 500 company needs help, they turn to AlphaSights.
AlphaSights is a booming, global “knowledge broker” – a firm that connects companies with experts in various areas. Whether it’s oil and gas, health care or the automotive sector, AlphaSights understands the multi-faceted corporate realm and how to link its clients to the best consultants and specialists available.
But even seasoned knowledge brokers need help, from time to time. AlphaSights’ growing New York City location didn’t have a streamlined, efficient procurement process. And the office needed one.
To solve that problem, AlphaSights began using Procurify.
We spoke with Gabriel Harris, senior associate and head of operations at AlphaSights New York City, about what Procurify has meant to his company’s procurement process.
Q) We think AlphaSights is a fascinating business. Can you describe what AlphaSights does? And, can you give us a sense of the history of the company?
AlphaSights is a knowledge broker. We were founded in 2008 in London and launched our New York office in late 2010. Essentially, we work with our clients to help them connect with expertise in various industries.
Over the course of a few years, our managing directors had seen growth in the company so they decided to open the New York office. Since New York, we’ve opened offices in Hong Kong and Dubai as well. We have a global footprint and are covering all major time zones and regions. We are very much a growth-minded company; we are aggressively trying to expand our global operations.
Our clients are primarily hedge funds, private equity funds, management consulting firms and some of the major Fortune 500 companies. As our clients are going through a research or decision making process, they come to us to connect them with the best expertise in a particular industry to help them understand more about whatever it is they are looking at.
For example, if we had a client that was investigating procurement and purchase order systems, they would come to us and ask us to connect them with former executives at the major players, former executives at major startups in the industry to understand the market landscape and what the major industry dynamics are.
We act as the intermediaries between our clients, who are searching for expertise and critical information, and the actual experts that would be consulting with our clients. It’s really everything from enterprise systems to oil and gas, healthcare, automotive, heavy industry, technology, financial services we really run the gamut on the types of projects we work on.
Q) We’d like to start with a three-part question about your organization’s purchasing process:
- Can you describe the size and scope size of your purchasing process?
- Who oversees it?
- Because you’re in knowledge brokerage or professional services, are there any nuances or distinctive characteristics to purchasing in your field? Is there anything unique to purchasing at AlphaSights?
As a firm, we fit the niche of a professional services firm. So, I would say we are, in terms of our purchasing behaviour, fairly analogous to other professional services firms. We don’t have any heavy industry suppliers that would cause us to have a drastically different procurement process. Frankly, up to about three months ago, we didn’t have defined procurement process. It was, basically, we found items on Amazon, or we needed toilet paper, so someone would send an email to the administrative team and it would be ordered and shipped to the office. There was not a huge approval process for that kind of thing.
The same went for events for the office. There was a lot of conversation around how to manage costs and make sure we were saving and spending in the right areas. But, at the end of the day, there wasn’t a defined approval process.
What we’ve done over the last few months – and a lot of it has been with the help of the Procurify system – has been to look at what we’ve been doing and developing a defined system for managing purchasing requests and understanding who our vendors are. By doing that, we can begin, in some respects, to exploit economies of scale with vendors to get better pricing.
Where the purchasing process has gone now – and it has been communicated and understood throughout the business – is that if someone is submitting a purchase request, it is done with Procurify. The request has to go through the necessary approval channels, which are department heads, up to a certain amount, and then myself or our managing director or our head of technology depending on the expense level. Currently, one of our administrative coordinators is doing all of the procurement so the request gets bumped to her and she does all of the ordering and makes sure it all gets executed.
We didn’t have any kind of inbound delivery receipt tracking in the past either, but now we are doing the three-way matching and making sure we are checking everything we get in and that is in good condition. That is something we would not have done if the option wasn’t easily available in Procurify.
Q) AlphaSights has grown – and continues to grow – rapidly. That is a great “problem” to have, but can you elaborate on some of the operational stresses that brings?
We generally can’t buy enough to stay ahead of ourselves. When we’ve calculated one month what we expect to use for toilet paper or laptops, for instance, we learn we have 10 more people coming on and we need to get ready for that. Immediately, all of those numbers are gone because we need more stuff.
I think some of the pain points are being able to keep up and, because we hadn’t really tracked anything before to the extent we should have, the ability to build the data set of what we need is really important. Procurify has helped us do that. We can now examine the information we have and track it over a longer timeline.
Q) How did Procurify help?
Procurify is, simply, providing structure to our procurement process and providing a benchmark for how various procurement processes could work. Procurify made it a lot easier for approvers to have visibility over what was being requested and purchased – that was a big improvement for us. Now that the approvers have to really put their name next to what is going on, I think they are examining what they are approving with far more scrutiny than they had previously.
Also, the receiving piece has been really helpful for us because it wasn’t something we had thought of previously. It allows us to have another control on our inventory.
Q) Okay, now for another three-part question.
- Now that some help has arrived what does that allow you to do?
- Does Procurify open up potential capital cost savings down the road?
- Or, have savings been found in areas such as increased employee efficiency or a decrease in admin time?
On the efficiency side we are already reaping the benefits. It’s as simple as getting the receipts and the invoices from a purchase and tracking that in Procurify, and having it all attached to a purchase order. So, we don’t have the admin time of someone running around and chasing receipts to the same extent we did.
The approver efficiency is also important – again, it just automates it that much more so people can just click it and go as opposed to planning a meeting to have a conversation about what should happen and why it should happen a certain way.
I can definitely see the implications for managing our capital costs down the road much, much better. One of the reasons I was so keen on a purchasing process was because it allows me more hands-on, quick access to the visibility I needed in terms of managing expenses and managing costs for the teams.
Q) Was there anything in particular about Procurify that most impressed you, or you found most beneficial?
The whole system has been amazingly useful for us. From start to finish, everything the system does is something we weren’t doing in that capacity before. The most direct impact, I would say, has been on the requester-approver workflows.
Our philosophy internally is to take a lean infrastructure approach so we don’t have any servers on site. With most other systems you would have to be installing a major server network to get a system up and running. Procurify was plug and play: on the first day I could start my trial and we’d be off and running.
The fact that Procurify is the cloud makes it so much easier to use and make quick decisions on using the software.
Q) How important is having remote access to Procurify for your company? Do you have people working off-site often? If so, is remote access a particular benefit?
Our managing director needed to approve a very large expense for me recently – and was working from our London office at the time. I sent the request, the request popped up in his email, he logged in, approved it and that was it. That made life a lot easier and because of our global footprint, it will continue to do so.
Q) If you were the star of the next Procurify commercial and you had to deliver a final message on why AlphaSights uses Procurify – what would that message be?
Procurify allowed us to build a framework for our procurement process without a lot of upfront time and investment in terms of implementation. It was very easy and very quick, but gave us an exorbitant amount of features. It is extremely good value, very easy to use and very fast and agile to implement and make changes.