One week before the pandemic struck, Air Canada used SAP technology to implement a fully integrated suite of procurement solutions, enabling employees to seamlessly and efficiently begin working from home.\n\nGiven its enviable record in generating less atmospheric carbon, water waste and noise, Air Canada has attempted to export its forward-looking philosophy to all aspects of the company. \n\nYet, when the airline suggested shifting its procurement system away from the tried, but familiar, manual processes, there was a fair amount of internal pushback.\n\n\u201cThe biggest challenge was moving people to the digital world,\u201d conceded Pamela Zaravinos, the airline\u2019s senior manager of procurement operations. \u201cSome people are very easy to convince. And then, there are those who still don\u2019t want to change. So you have to put yourself in their shoes and show them the benefits of moving forward.\u201d\n\nThe truth was that Air Canada needed to take the opportunity to transform. Because of the manual tasks required, procurement processes were disconnected. For example, determining whether to pay an invoice meant engaging in a tedious routine that involved matching the purchase order, receipt and invoice. In order to gather internal signatures, documents had to be mailed out and sent back.\n\n\u201cWe didn\u2019t have visibility,\u201d Gilles Neron explained, the airline\u2019s VP of strategic procurement and corporate real estate. \u201cData is gold and if we can\u2019t measure, we can\u2019t improve.\u201d\n\nThe airline realized that it needed to move all its procurement information to a central location. But no one imagined that the plan would be realized just as the world was facing the COVID pandemic \u2013 and one of the most difficult periods in aviation history was about to begin.\n\nAgility in a time of disruption\n\nThe Montreal-based airline is the country\u2019s largest carrier and provider of passenger services.\n\nBefore the world shut down, Air Canada was ferrying 51 million passengers annually to close to 220 destinations on six continents.\n\nBy the time the procurement transformation was launched, Air Canada had already replaced its global invoicing software with a next-generation system. But the goal was to implement a fully integrated suite of procurement solutions for all Canadian operations.\n\nThe end purpose was both augmenting animation and gaining a consolidated view of spend and other processes.\n\nBy sheer circumstance, the platform happened to be deployed just as the company was forced to pivot in ways it never had before.\n\nWhen the pandemic was declared and travel restrictions imposed, Air Canada\u2019s revenues plummeted. \u201cWe had to readjust our sizing and cost structure,\u201d said Coralyn Ah-Moy, Air Canada\u2019s senior director for strategic procurement transformation. \u201cWe expanded into the cargo business, which was new to us.\n\n\u201cWe needed to be much more agile as a business to make quicker decisions and be able to change our network.\u201d\n\nImpeccable timing\n\nDespite this daunting task, Ah-Moy and her team were remarkably prepared.\n\nTwo years prior to the pandemic, Air Canada made the decision to introduce e-procurement and supply chain solutions, through SAP\u2019s Ariba network. By 2020, many of the airline\u2019s suppliers had also transitioned.\n\nIn early March, the new platform was officially launched \u2013 literally days before the World Health Organization (WHO) made its pandemic announcement. \u201cWe celebrated our go launch date in person,\u201d Zaravinos said. \u201cThe week after, we were told to take home our laptops and start working remotely.\n\n\u201cI have to say, there was basically no change for us when it came to our day-to-day jobs. There was no blackout period. We could exchange and transfer files seamlessly. We were still able to do what we needed to do.\u201d \n\nA lesson in resilience\n\nStatistically, the visibility tied to Air Canada\u2019s digital transformation had a swift, unprecedented impact.\n\nWith procurement employees working in the cloud on a shared system, the cycle time from purchase requisition to purchase order was shortened to about two days \u2013 while, in a single quarter, the average process time of non-purchasing order invoices was reduced by 33 percent.\n\nThen, there are the incalculable results: less human error and \u2013 in keeping with the company\u2019s environmental agenda \u2013 paper use.\n\nThis year, the transformation earned Air Canada a winner\u2019s trophy at the SAP Innovation Awards, an honor given to organizations utilizing SAP products to metamorphose both business and society.\n\n\u201cThere was a lot we learned along the way, especially about ourselves,\u201d Neron recalled. \u201cAll in all, it\u2019s been a great journey.\u201d\n\nAnd as that excursion continues, the airline has pledged to capitalize on the transformation when new opportunities arise. \u201cIn this data age, innovation is going to be faster and faster,\u201d Ah-Moy observed. \u201cNew things are going to be pushed and, if we didn\u2019t have that first layer, we would lag behind in ways that at some point would become insurmountable.\u201d\n\nYou can read all about Air Canada\u2019s remarkable digital transformation in their SAP Innovation Awards pitch deck.