Uber’s remarkable growth over the past decade has been fueled by the public’s desire for speed, simplicity, and convenience. Since its beta launch in May 2010, Uber has transformed the way we think about transportation and now counts an estimated 100 million users worldwide.
But it wasn’t always as fast, simple, and convenient for Uber to carry out basic business functions, such as procurement. When the company began in 2009, it operated like most startups: employees bought what they needed through non-standard channels.
As the company grew and matured, they realized they needed a procurement program that would enable the company’s continued growth, help enforce procurement policies, and give them broad visibility into fast-growing expenses that remained largely opaque.
“That was a big challenge for the payables team,” recalls Mark Arrigotti, Head of Global Procure2Pay at Uber. “We were operating by the seat of our pants when it came to making purchases and that’s not where we wanted to be. We wanted to develop a mature process that could scale with Uber while providing the necessary controls and oversight. A formal procurement process needed to be implemented.”
Bringing Amazon Business along for the ride
In 2015, they got what they wanted. That’s when Uber signed up with Amazon Business, which serves millions of business customers of all sizes with hundreds of millions of products. Amazon Business offers business discounts, fast shipping, account management tools including reports and analytics, and a range of payment options.
“We looked at the typical big-box office suppliers,” says Blaine Milner, Senior Procurement Analyst at Uber. “We chose Amazon Business as a preferred provider because it could keep up with Uber’s rapid growth. It has a broad basket of categories, great fulfillment, and a simple interface that’s already familiar to nearly everyone. We could replace multiple vendors and the hassle of managing them. And we could finally understand our spending—and control it.”
The procurement team at Uber fell in love with the powerful analytics and documentation tools offered by Amazon business because they provide detailed, comprehensive, easy-to-understand, highly graphical business-analytics reports that help speed their decision-making time.
The team also takes advantage of the tight workflow integration between Amazon Business and its Coupa business spend management platform, which coordinates the flow of purchase orders and other documentation between the two systems.
Procurement data in real-time
Implementing Amazon Business Analytics has changed the nature of reporting— and how reporting is used—at Uber by allowing real-time visibility into employee purchasing activities and the ability to adjust and correct course on the fly.
“We used to review procurement data every two or three months. Now we can look at it in real time, which makes us much more agile in our decision-making. What procurement policies do we need and which policies need refinement? We can answer questions like that far better than we could before,” says Arigotti.
Using the Amazon Business data, Arrigotti and Milner can identify items that employees buy too often and activate policies that limit the frequency and amount of those expenditures. When an employee submits a purchase request that exceeds the policy, he or she receives a noncompliance notice and an option to amend the request.
“Right off the bat, we can use Amazon Business to stop people from making maverick purchases,” says Arrigotti. “With Amazon Business, we can get awareness of maverick spend before it happens. The analytics we get are the building blocks for that. This is a key part of transforming into a mature purchasing system.”
Familiarity breeds contentment
The procurement and finance teams at Uber realized that none of this would really matter if they couldn’t get their employees to use the platform. But they needn’t have worried. Because purchasing on Amazon Business is so familiar, simple, and convenient, an ever-increasing percentage of Uber’s North America-based employees are using it every day.
“With Amazon Business, the customer experience is superb,” Milner says. “Anyone who’s bought anything on Amazon will know how to use Amazon Business. There’s little to no learning curve.”
Uber expects to expand its use of Amazon Business as it continues to grow. “We wanted a procurement program that was easy and something end-users would adopt,” says Arrigotti. “Amazon Business not only does that—it helps fuel the growth of the company.”