Keelvar goes full circle and back to university

Pierrick L'Ebraly

March 21, 2024

Keelvar was born of the education system and is now giving back by helping third-level programs teach practitioner students best practices in sourcing, writes our VP of Growth, Pierrick L'Ebraly:

Our company has traditionally been a tool for advanced sourcing, and we usually enter enterprises like Coca-Cola, Siemens or Johnson and Johnson by winning over their Centers of Excellence with our techno-prowess.

Since donning a new hat as Growth Leader here at Keelvar, I’ve been asking myself: is the traditional route the best way forward, or can we do more for aspiring procurement professionals before they reach the next level? 

Simplifying the product and making Keelvar the front-door for all procurement to step through is one way to reach beyond sourcing experts. But we also wanted to lay out a ladder for the next generation to become experts in sourcing.

The answer was hiding in plain sight, in our academic roots as a University College Cork spinout: partner up with higher education institutions to deliver access to Keelvar and educate the upcomers in this space on industry sourcing tools and practices.

The institutions we’re partnering with recognize Keelvar is well positioned to help their students thrive in their future careers. I’m pleased to welcome programs at Nürnberg University, Germany, Saint John’s University, MN, United States, and Łódź University, Poland, in our users community, where they join 100 Fortune 500 companies as users of Sourcing Optimizer and Autonomous Sourcing.

The institutions we’re partnering with recognize Keelvar is well positioned to help their students thrive in their future careers

Let’s use this moment to take a step back to look at 3 drivers that motivate those partnerships.

1. Mind the (skills) gap 

There is a procurement skill gap that procurement software vendors are uniquely qualified to help close. Effective learning needs the freedom to try things out multiple times, as well as clear feedback on those attempts. However, in procurement, this setup is rare: more often, the reality is a fragmented tooling landscape, market conditions that constantly shift, and limited bandwidth for experimentation due to the often high cost of onboarding and change. 

Mastering procurement is a tough gig, and Keelvar's latest survey report highlights a desperate cry for smarter solutions: 63% of procurement pros are drowning in work, and 38% are doing it with teams that are stagnant or even shrinking. Yet every day we work with successful teams (for example, Mars and Stanley Black & Decker) at Keelvar that have built massive competitive advantages for themselves with the help of our solution.

We know about the importance of skilling up to scale up, and that’s why we’re doing more and more to encourage knowledge sharing in our users’ communities - notably by running monthly webinars for our customers alongside bi-annual Keelvar Konnect sessions, as well as our learning platform Keelvarsity". But we felt strongly that it was not enough, in part inspired by what others are doing in our industry. The only time in any person’s life when education is the number one priority is school - we wanted to ensure we were helping address that talent gap right where the means are to transform young minds into masters of sourcing excellence.

2. Skilling two birds with one stone

For all the good reasons to do it for the industry, there is, of course, a very direct benefit to Keelvar. By ensuring that students learn to the ropes using best-in-class tools, we’re raising the market expectations for what good will look like. The future professionals trained on Keelvar will find it difficult to accept “B2B grade interfaces” and recognize that powerful need not be synonymous with complicated.

Elevating the software game benefits all - customers first and foremost, product managers, and solutions consultants of tomorrow will be "digital procurement natives". These digital procurement natives already have us rethinking our technology to exceed their expectations, much like how the next generation of engineers reaching our development team are reshaping the way we deliver our software.

Elevating the software game benefits all - customers first and foremost, product managers, and solutions consultants of tomorrow will be "digital procurement natives"

3. Growth, growth, growth

This initiative is fundamentally a growth pursuit.
Top of the list: it's a toolkit for sourcing evolution. We’re big on giving trust a head start. By giving out our software to students, we trust they will benefit from it - but also challenge us to improve it - to grow their skill sets and ours. 

It’s also about listening to what procurement professors are telling us - to grow their programs beyond theory, they need to get the tools in the hands of (future) practitioners.

Secondly, it’s about delivering growth for our North Star metrics of active users and events run on the platform. No, a student tinkering with Keelvar is not worth the same commercially as an industry professional sourcing millions, if not billions, of dollars annually through our platform. But at their core, they’re both equally valid forecasts of our technology's trajectory. As pitched internally, I don’t know if we will get 1, 5, 20 or 100 (or, dare I say, 200?) future customers each time 100 students use our platform, but it’s an opportunity we're eager to take a chance on.

Lastly, delivering our software for free is a great way to challenge our existing onboarding and maintenance processes. Removing friction will help us be more efficient and ultimately, better serve our paying customers too.

If you’re running a procurement program, it’s time to get in touch!

Feel free to reach out to our Partnerships Director, Kasia Tati, to whom this program owes a lot, or to myself, and we’ll be glad to walk you through the simple steps necessary to help make sure your sourcing program also runs on the best tools.

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