Data: You Complete Me

AI has the potential to shoulder a vast amount of the #procurement workload. But machines can only do the work for you if you capture all the data in the first place.
Last month Procurious hosted the very first Procurement Thought Leadership Forum in Chicago to discuss the evolution of procurement; what the future holds for the profession; how we can effectively determine the size of the global market; the importance of professional associations and maturity levels across the globe. 
The event, sponsored by Basware and attended by a number of the world’s leading procurement consultants, sparked some fascinating discussion and debate.

Dealing with Data

Remember that Tom Cruise movie – Minority Report? Eric Wilson, SVP Basware North America, certainly does. “In the movie Tom Cruise swipes things on a giant screen, he then predicts a crime and the team prevents it before it happens. It was pretty cool. Especially, back in 2002 when we didn’t even have touch screens on our cell phones and artificial intelligence (AI) was in the realm of science fiction.”

Of course, today we all use AI in our daily lives, whether we realise it or not. As Eric asserts “AI is the new electricity. When we replaced steam powered machines with those using electricity, we transformed transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and so on; increasing efficiency tremendously.  AI has the same, huge potential, but nobody truly knows yet how it will change the world.”

Indeed, as  Eric pointed out it’s difficult to think of an industry that is not being impacted by AI;  IT, FinTech and Healthcare, to name just a few, are all being totally transformed. Self driving vehicles is an industry that is built entirely on AI.

But holding the right data is critical in order to harness the benefits of new technologies. If an organisation can turn all the data they hold into tangible customer value by leveraging machine learning and AI they can actually begin to benefit from these technological advances in the market. But to do so relies on having the right volume, quality and completeness of data .

“If you don’t have a view to the future when you are evaluating automation options, not only will you not achieve your business case for today, but three years from now, your system will be obsolete,” states Eric.  “It will be obsolete because it did not capture all of the data in the first place.”

In Eric’s mind there are no two ways about it: you can’t use AI if you don’t have the centralised data for those machines to learn from. “And so, my key takeaway now and always is: when you are putting together your RFPs for systems, data better be first and foremost on your mind!”

The conversation century

Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined Youtube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for Youtube, in order to understand the social media space.

It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs. A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms or racking  up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in. Youtube ultimately offered them the opportunity to be heard.

Elizabeth is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust. “The people” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out. But the reason so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust is that our leaders are still so far from getting it right! We simply don’t have leaders at a political level that have invested in a voice on social media.

Some key things to remember when trying to start conversations online:

  • Most leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture. You don’t. Go at your own pace but keep people informed as you do it. It’s ok to communicate to people that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!
  • Believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do. Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication. If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say because youdon’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!
  • Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key. EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making. Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter.

Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”

The value of professional certifications

Rick Blasgen, CEO – Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Tom Derry, CEO – Institute of Supply Management ISM led a session on the evolution of procurement  and supply chain and the value of professional certifications.

Both leaders are very optimistic about what the future holds for procurement and supply chain professionals . “I think [these professions]  will be an embedded feature of every competitive global company around the world because they see so much of what goes on,” argues Rick. “We see it really growing into the fabric of successful companies.”

And Rick believes professional certifications “are a normal part of continuing to educate yourself and continuing to be knowledgeable about such a dynamic and ever-changing field.”

“One of the things important to CSCMP is to advance the logistics, supply chain and procurement professions and the careers of those working in them. The only way we do that is by being thought leaders and thinking about using the new technologies and tools that have never before existed.

“Our certifications will educate you on these things and then test that you have the understanding and can utilise the complexity within them.”
“An association used to function as the place where people felt obliged to belong,” says Tom. But nowadays he doesn’t believe professionals feel such a sense of needing to belong to an association  just for the sake of belonging  “They need value for money and they expect a professional body to provide tools and skills that enable them to be successful at a critical moment in their career.”
Sizing up the procurement market
Braden Baseley, ProcurementIQ Analyst discussed the size and maturity of the global procurement market, revealing preliminary  insights from their specially commissioned research report.
The research reveals…
  •  There are 554, 560 procurement pros working in the US, which make up 0.4 per cent of the workforce
  • The average salary for a US procurement professional is $72,199, which is pretty good considering the average US salary is approximately $55, 000
  • California, Texas and New York employ the largest number of procurement professionals
The report will also explore how procurement skills are changing and evolving and the skills that are most desirable in procurement teams.
The Procurement Thought Leadership Forum was sponsored by Basware. 

The 3 Rules Of Epic Storytelling

The key to creating real engagement – the type of engagement that actually leads to action – is deceptively simple. Learn how to become an EPIC storyteller with these tips from Influence Nation CEO Julie Masters.

 We are, by our very nature, storytelling creatures. It’s how we’ve been connecting since the Stone Age when we sat around campfires sharing our stories as a way of showing vulnerability and intimacy – and we’re hardwired for it.

According to Forbes, storytelling ‘the new strategic imperative of business’. Think about what happens in your mind when someone starts talking about statistics. Now compare that to what happens when they start telling you a story. Immediately you make yourself the lead character – how would I feel if that were me? How would I have responded? And there you have an emotional connection.

Looking at the explosion of social media and reality TV, not only are we storytelling creatures, we’re suckers for real stories – full of ups, downs and lessons learned. In the business world, regardless of whether you’re putting together a pitch presentation, vying for venture capital funding or presenting to the Board – your primary objective should be to get people emotionally connected enough to your message to take action. To help you get started as an epic storyteller – here are my three top rules:

MAKE IT REAL

Stories are so much more impactful when they are real – especially if they happened to you. A speaker I work with once said, “You don’t tell and retell a great story, you live and re-live it”. It’s hard to live and re-live a story that isn’t yours, however, we don’t always have the opportunity to take inspiration from our own lives. I recently coached a CEO who had to present at an industry convention, she needed to share how the digital revolution had fundamentally changed their consumer. Instead of jumping into some hard-core statistics, we took a different approach. She said “I want to introduce you to Emma…”

Emma wakes to the sound of her iPhone alarm. She quickly checks the weather forecast and emails before getting out of bed. She reads the news on her iPad, drops the kids at school while listening to a favourite podcast, orders the weeks groceries online… and on the story went. Every single statistic was covered by Emma’s journey and at the end the question was posed: “Who here has a day that resembles that?” Everyone put up their hand. In under 3 minutes, she had the room convinced that digital devices have completely reinvented our lives. Compare that to 10 minutes spent going through statistics and figures – which is the most compelling?

MAKE IT COMPELLING

Some of us are born with the ability to tell a really great story, but it usually requires three pints and a shot of tequila. For the rest of us (and where alcohol isn’t an option), the answer is to sharpen your skills. The key to a compelling story is energy. If you’re speaking in front of people, start by using your whole body. Remember the ‘live and re-live’ rule – how would you tell this story if you were literally re-living it? How would you use your hands? How would you move your body? How would your voice change? In the most recent studies, body language accounts for a huge 55 per cent of how a message is received, so harness its power and start literally taking up more space.

If your story is going to be consumed on a digital device rather than in person – look at using video as a storytelling tool. With video content predicted to account for 80 per cent of internet traffic by 2019, customers are sending a clear message. Don’t tell me, show me. And if you want me to amplify your story by sharing it – tell me on a platform where I’m already actively sharing content. It might be Snapchat, it might be Instagram stories – look to where your target market is already hanging out and start a conversation.

(If you want to learn more about powerful ways to use your body – Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy delivered an incredible TED Talk on the topic of ‘power posing’).

MAKE IT ACTIONABLE

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see from great storytellers. The story ends – there’s an eager and engaged audience – ready to take action – and then – nothing. The most effective stories are the ones that finish with a simple request.

I recently watched a documentary about the alarming decrease in the whale population. It lasted an hour and, by the end, I was willing to do anything in my power to help. The credits rolled and that was it – no way for me to turn my new-found passion into action. Compare that with the Dolphin Safe label campaign. In this case the action was simple – only buy cans of tuna containing this label. A simple request that has permanently changed my buying behaviour.

I interviewed Daniel Flynn the Founder of social enterprise Thankyou a months ago on my podcast. He was telling me about the beginnings of Thankyou – when he knew the core to it’s success would be to get products stocked by a major retailer. He set up a meeting with 7/11 and – in the two weeks before the meeting – ran a social media campaign asking consumers to do one simple thing. To let 7/11 know that if they stocked Thankyou products – they would buy them. Within one day, 7/11’s social channels were flooded with support and within a few weeks – their products were stocked in 7/11s around the country.

The key to creating real engagement – the type of engagement that actually leads to action – is deceptively simple. Tell compelling stories – on the right platforms – and make simple requests. In a world where we’re overloaded with information. Epic storytelling will continue to be the only key to cutting through the noise.


#BigIdeas2018 speaker Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the weekly podcast Inside Influence.  http://juliemasters.com

Are you in Australia? There’s still time to reserve your seat at the Sydney Big Ideas Summit on Tuesday 30th October. Book now: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

Can’t make it to Sydney? Become a digital delegate and catch all of the action LIVE right here on Procurious. Digital delegates can download a free copy of Julie Master’s ebook: The Influencer Code. https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-sydney

5 Challenges in Indirect Procurement

Indirect spend is a notoriously difficult area to bring under control, but it also offers enormous saving potential … if you can get it right!

There’s a lot of buzz online at the moment about indirect spend because we’re barrelling towards one of the major events for indirect on the U.S. procurement calendar: ISM INDIRECT2018.  We’ll have a look at the conference line-up in a minute, but first, let’s review some of the enduring challenges for those tackling indirect spend. 

Five enduring challenges in indirect

Real change happens when CPOs get involved and influence buying behaviour across the entire organisation – and in every category. But the hurdles they face include:

  1. Lack of investment: Indirect procurement is typically under-invested, especially given its potential to create significant savings for organisations.
  2. Lack of capacity: The indirect procurement team has to focus on sourcing commonly purchased and high volume goods and services, as well as transaction processing.
  3. Lack of mandate: The primary responsibility for most indirect procurement categories often lies within the business units. For some categories, such as travel, it may not even be clear as to who actually owns the policy.
  4. Lack of awareness and low visibility of indirect procurement: Indirect procurement is often seen as less important than direct procurement in the eyes of senior executives. It is seemingly even less important at the business unit level. Many stakeholders view an indirect procurement professional’s role as the ‘rubber stamper’ at the end of the process.
  5. Organisations lack the skills required for effective stakeholder management:The indirect procurement function has to find ways of working more effectively alongside the various business units and stakeholders within each business unit.

INDIRECT2018

What happens in Vegas … will definitely need to be brought back to your organisation and implemented at the earliest opportunity!

ISM’s INDIRECT2018, running from 7-9 November at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, is being billed as the essential educational event for indirect procurement professionals.

Speakers include:

  • Rahul Vijay, Head of Global Tech Sourcing at Uber – Telecom, Internet of Things and Sourcing: Powering 10 Billion Uber RIdes
  • Karen Fedele, Head of Procurement Centre of Excellence, Shire – Stakeholder Engagement: Unlocking Procurement’s Value
  • Jessica Rosman, VP Procurement at Caesars Entertainment – Sourcing in a unique and challenging environment – while sustaining the environment

Also on the program:

  • The future of indirect technology
  • Transportation costs in a challenging economy
  • Balancing successful travel relationships
  • Techniques for complex supplier negotiations
  • Reducing risk exposure
  • Roundtable discussions
  • Supplier showcase

INDIRECT2018 also includes a strong focus on nurturing the up-and-coming generation of indirect procurement gurus, with five student presentations and thee announcement of 2018 scholarship winners.

Register now for ISM INDIRECT2018

Deep-Dive: Where To Find The Best-Paid Jobs in Procurement

Want the best-paid job in procurement? The upshot from two key reports: be prepared to move, think strategically and develop your soft skills.

At a time of supply chain globalisation and the frenetic adoption of e-commerce, procurement professionals are emerging from dusty back rooms and warehouses to claim their rightful place as key facilitators of doing business.

The advent of online giants such as Amazon is placing an increased emphasis on moving goods swiftly into consumers’ hands – often on the same day. At the same time, borders are becoming increasingly irrelevant as multinationals seek to source goods and services in ever-efficient ways.

Given the seismic changes, it’s a great time to work in procurement.

But be warned!

The increased demand for skilled professionals does not necessarily translate into greater monetary rewards, let alone more perks, with some sectors (or geographies) offering better conditions than others.

Two recent major salary surveys highlight the remuneration trends – and discrepancies – across the key English-speaking jurisdictions of the UK and the US.

Australian and Irish surveys also support the overall picture of excellent demand outstripping supply in most markets.

In some cases, employers are battling to find the right candidates. But the surveys also show the environment is fast evolving and practitioners need to upgrade their skills constantly.

On a disappointing note, the surveys also show the empowerment movement that emerged from Hollywood’s “Me Too” push is yet to translate into equal salaries and opportunities for women.

Some employers also bemoan a dearth of soft skills. In other words, job candidates may be technically proficient but are poor communicators or lack emotional intelligence.

The bottom line – UK salaries

Brexit is increasing demand for procurement professionals in the British market, according to the annual survey undertaken by the UK Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), in league with the recruitment firm Hays.

As CIPS explains, Brexit (Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union) is already creating supply-chain upheaval, with one in seven EU businesses with UK suppliers already sourcing these goods and services elsewhere.

The spectre of protectionism and tariffs promises even more upheaval.

“Professionals will need strategic skills, data management and a steady disposition to help businesses find their way through the particular challenges faced by their organisations,” CIPS says in its 2018 Procurement Salary Guide and Insights.

Overall, 68 per cent of the 4000 survey respondents earned a pay rise in 2017, averaging 5.1 per cent. That’s 4 per cent more than the previous year and well above the 2.2 per cent increase for British toilers overall.

At the top of the tree, Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) earned an average £124,000, 11 per cent higher than the previous year’s £112,000.

Experience, overall, is being rewarded: of respondents with more than two decades’ experience, 72 per cent received a pay rise compared with 53 per cent for those with fewer than two years’ experience. However, the latter received an average 6 per cent rise compared with 4 per cent for the veterans.

The bottom line – US salaries

Naseem Malik, managing partner of Virginia-based recruiter TYGES Elite describes the US market for procurement staff as being at an all-time high. Latest reports suggest there are 650,000 more openings than there are qualified workers.

“The procurement market has been tightening for the past couple of years and is definitely showing no signs of abating,” Malik says.

The US Institute for Supply Management’s 13th Annual Salary Survey presents a more cautious picture, showing overall compensation (pay) grew 1.7 per cent in 2017, to $US117,425 from $US115,440 previously.

This was less than the 5 per cent increase recorded in 2016. However, median compensation rose 4.2 per cent to $US100,000 ($US96,000 previously).

At the rarefied end, average pay for the top 5 per cent of earners fell by 4.5 per cent to $US368,505.

Emerging practitioners – those with less than four years’ experience – could expect $US77,996 on average.

Of the respondents – 2979 in all – 85 per cent saw their base salary increase, with only 5 per cent taking a salary haircut.

Of the former, the average increase was 5.3 per cent, while those who missed out saw their pay packet decline 7.6 per cent.

Malik says that US entry level to mid-management level salaries have steadily increased by 8-10 per cent annually since 2016.

“When it comes to senior levels, we are finding their total compensation packages have stayed competitive, with a focus on enhanced long term incentives as a reward.”

Mind the (gender) gap

Sisters might be doing it for themselves, but it looks like they will need some help at a structural level to reach pay parity with their male peers.

“Across all industries there’s a gender pay gap; it’s talked about daily,” says Tony Megally, general manager of specialist Australian procurement recruiter The Source. “That’s an ongoing challenge and a conversation we need to have.”

The firm surveyed 1000 industry professionals and found 59 per cent were male and 41 per cent were female. At leadership level, the imbalance rises further – to 62 per cent male and 38 per cent female.

Megally finds that men are far more willing to nominate an ambitious salary, “whereas females feel they need to be an expert and have all the knowledge in order to ask.”

As a result, the firm is consistently coaching female candidates to push for what they think they deserve and to back themselves.

The UK report revealed slippage in progress, however, with 71 per cent of men and 64 per cent of women receiving a pay rise in 2018.

This compared with a 65-63 per cent split in 2017 and marks a regression to 2016 levels.

But of the women who did win an increase, they did better than men: a 5.3 per cent rise as opposed to 4.9 per cent.

“The most striking pay disparity remains at advanced professional level, where men earned 33 per cent more than women (£85,398 compared with £63,986), a pay gap that is even larger than last year’s 25 per cent,” the CIPS report says.

However, women earned more than men in a number of operational and tactical roles, including as procurement officers, contract officers, assistant buyers and purchasing assistants.

The US study shows a similar disparity at all seniority levels.

Male chief procurement officers earned an average $US279,413 compared with $US221,137 for their female counterparts, a 26 per cent disparity.

At procurement manager/sourcing manager levels, men earned an average $US119,492 compared with $US103,903 for women, a 15 per cent difference.

There’s always a ‘but’: average salaries for females increased 1.8 per cent to an average $US98,780, pipping the average male increase of 0.9 per cent. Then again, the average male salary of $US127,908 was that much higher in the first place.

TYGES Elite’s Malik says the US gender gap is shrinking, with the trend likely to continue because of new laws in several US states that ban employers asking candidates what their current salary is.

“Companies now have to put a competitive offer on the table to ensure they close the candidate,” he says. “Otherwise, they lose out to companies that have a better handle on the marketplace.”

In Australia, Jigsaw Talent Management reports an average salary of $A172,730 for males placed this year, compared with $A153,139 for females. That’s a difference of 13 per cent, compared with 11 per cent four years earlier. But the story is nuanced, with females out-earning males in the highest category ($A200,000 and above) and the lowest category ($A100,000 and below).

According to Nikki Bell, the chair of the CIPS Congress, the profession does not appear to be bucking the “ever present” gender pay gap despite its reputation as enablers and innovators.

“We simply must do more to enable skills and career opportunities and eradicate any diversity-related road blocks,” she says.

Where to find the best (and worst) positions

The ISM survey shows that taking a global approach helps bolster the pay packet: international sourcing operatives topped the scale at $US140,565 overall.

There also appears to be industry appetite for aspiring James Bonds, with ‘market intelligence’ professionals earning an average $US139,472.

For a market intelligence chief – the industry equivalent of ‘M’ in the Bond movies – the average pay was a chart-busting $US337,132. (Keep that confidential, of course.)

While candidates might not rate social responsibility highly on their list of imperatives, it pays – literally – to take on those roles. A sustainability/social responsibility officer earns an average $US135,300, while a chief supply chain sustainability officer (or equivalent) earns $US325,992.

In the UK, the best industry sub-sectors for getting a raise were defence (88 per cent of staff), pharmaceuticals and life sciences (85 per cent), hotels and catering (83 per cent) and fast moving consumer goods (81 per cent). But the best pay rises in quantum terms went to workers in the telco and marketing/advertising/PR sectors, with increases of 8 per cent and 7.4 per cent respectively.

The ISM survey reveals a vast disparity between salaries depending on industry sector.

The best sector to be in is healthcare, which would appear to be generally impervious to economic conditions. With ageing western populations, it’s also a natural growth sector.

Healthcare procurement professionals earned an average $US148,360. Also faring well were those in fuel and utilities ($US136,578) and telecommunications ($US138,863).

The worst paid were those in manufacturing ($US117,636), metals ($US120,255) and electronics ($US121,316).

Hot demand Down Under

Thanks partly to billions of dollars of infrastructure projects, including massive rail network expansions in Melbourne, Australia can’t get enough of the right procurement people.

“It’s been a really hot market this year,” says The Source’s Tony Megally. “The Australian economy is growing generally so it’s really tight finding the right people across all industries.”

On the services side, candidates with deep knowledge of the telco and I.T. sectors are also in huge demand, especially at mid-to-senior levels such as sourcing or category manager.

Megally says more mid-tier corporates are investing in procurement functions, often the result of bringing in management consultants to review the supply chain.

“Traditionally, they have not had a centralised procurement function and bring on a leader to create the pathways and processes on how to better spend their money on goods and services.”

At the periphery, talent supply has been constrained by the Australian government’s crackdown on 457 visas – temporary working permits for foreigners – with procurement removed from the list of eligible professions.

Irish eyes are also smiling

Irish-based recruitment firm Morgan McKinley says supply chain management has become one of Ireland’s fastest growing sectors, partly because the country will remain a member of the European Union. This means that many companies prefer Ireland over the UK for their procurement activities and shared service functions.

That is being reflected in remuneration, with average salaries increasing by 3-5 per cent year on year.

Employees in highly skilled senior roles are enjoying salary packages that are 15-20 per cent higher.

“Those planning to secure a new career opportunity can expect an increase of between 8-12 per cent. With an increase in opportunities and a continuing skills shortage, we expect this trend to continue next year,” the firm says.

“We equally expect there to be an increase in the number of supply chain professionals choosing Ireland as their desired work location in the coming years, therefore increasing the talent on offer and potentially suppressing continued salary growth.”

More than money?

Most professionals would likely volunteer that job satisfaction factors outweigh the amount that lands in their bank account every month.

But don’t be fooled: money is important.

The US ISM survey asked respondents to rank 14 factors when considering a job. The result? Eighty-five per cent cited the hip pocket, followed by job satisfaction (81 per cent).

An improved work-life balance (80 per cent), pension plans (78 per cent) and medical and dental benefits (79 per cent) also ranked highly.

Respondents were less enamored with health and wellness schemes, with only 60 per cent considering morning calisthenics or a free gym an influential factor.

Only 58 per cent considered sustainability or social responsibility programs to be important, while 58 per cent were attracted by mentorship programs.

Also ranking lowly were childcare and elder care benefits. Given the ageing population, we might expect the latter to become a more elevated consideration in coming years.

Education counts

For procurement professionals, the embossed paper on the wall does count when it comes to salary and – presumably – job satisfaction.

The ISM survey shows the average industry salary for a high-school graduate is $US83,283 – above that overall for those starting out ($US77,996).

For those with a bachelor’s degree, the stipend increases to $US106,909 and then to $US137,670 for a master’s. For doctorate holders – only 2 per cent of procurement professionals have them – the average salary rises further to $US175,827.

Industry-specific qualifications are even more crucial: practitioners holding one or more ISM certifications earned an average 12.8 per cent more than those without: $US123,041 versus $US109,087.

Holders of the Certified Professional in Supply Management qualification boosted pay by 14 per cent to $US125,158, relative to peers without the paperwork.

Similarly, holders of a Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity pulled in $US124,337 – 14 per cent more.

In the UK, CIPS members (MCIPS) earned an average 16 per cent more, with the disparity increasing according to seniority. Senior buyers who are MCIPS earn an eye watering 23 per cent more than non-MCIPS.

“But we must not rest on our laurels,” says CIPS CEO Gerry Walsh. “Continuing professional development should be high on everyone’s agenda to always improve and find the right level of achievement.

“So, I hope this year our professionals will read more and do more to up their game and increase their usefulness so boards and CEOs sit up and take notice of how fundamental good procurement is for their business.” 

Soft skills give a hard edge

The UK survey shows that employers highly value so-called ‘soft’ skills such as effective communication, active listening, empathy and emotional intelligence.

It’s instructive that 67 per cent of total respondents said they had never received formal training in these skills, while less than one quarter (23 per cent) thought that academic institutions instilled the right skills.

The Source’s Megally says, traditionally, procurement has been perceived as a technical function, “but soft skills are front of mind.”

“Rather than talking about processes, it’s about building relationships and being a sales person, really,” he says.

“You can train someone in the technical elements, but those with a strong emotional intelligence are able to connect.”

TYGES Elite’s Malik says: “Soft skills have absolutely become just as important, if not more important, than merely technical skills when it comes to landing A players in the procurement world.

“Employers assume that the technical know-how will be there and they can assess that in their interviewing process. But they are just as concerned on the EQ side as well. They want candidates who understand stakeholder engagement and can build relationships both internally and externally.”

Meeting the industry’s challenges

As with any profession, procurement professionals must take the initiative in enhancing their worth to an organization. To borrow from John F Kennedy, ask not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for the company.

CIPS Congress chair Nikki Bell says the solution lies with individuals taking an active approach to learning and development, with an emphasis on the soft skills such as communication.

“As senior professionals and employers, we should not only be using our honed influencing and negotiating skills to address the matter directly within our hiring, reward and recognition policies,” she says.

“We should also be looking at what we can do individually and collectively to actively encourage, enable, mentor or support diversity in all its forms within our procurement communities, from entry level through to senior and executive leadership positions.”

She adds the profession must also seize the opportunity to ensure ethical and fair work practices across all supply chains.

A key message from the surveys is that the biggest pay rises are being awarded to those who can rebrand themselves as ‘analysts’: think of big data specialists, predictive analytics, e-procurement, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

As in so many walks of life, presentation is paramount in procurement.

Food Allergy Deaths Avoidable With Blockchain

The recent cases of tragic deaths caused by food allergies has opened afresh the debate on fully transparent supply chains.

Many of you will have seen or read news reports in the past couple of weeks regarding the tragic deaths of two women due to severe allergic reactions to eating pre-prepared food. In both cases, the food in question was purchased from the same retailer, though the resulting actions from the cases have been markedly different.

The cases have highlighted industry-wide issues regarding food packaging and labelling relating to allergens, as well as reigniting the debate on where the responsibility lies for food content and allergen checks within the supply chain.

Inadequate Labelling and Mis-sold Products

The first incident occurred after a woman ate a pre-prepared baguette that had sesame baked into the product, but had not been listed on the product’s ingredient list on its packaging.

A recent inquest found that the retailer had “inadequately labelled” its products, failing to highlight the presence of sesame in the food. While the organisation agreed with the coroner’s verdict, it has thrown a spotlight on industry packaging requirements, particularly when it comes to listing potential allergens.

The second death was as a result of a severe allergic reaction to the presence of dairy protein in a pre-packaged sandwich. However, unlike in the first case, the retailer has pointed the finger of blame squarely at one of its second-tier suppliers, claiming it was mis-sold a guaranteed dairy-free yoghurt.

The supplier in question, with whom the retailer has since ended its relationship, has rejected the claim that its product was to blame. They had their own supply chain issue in February 2018 when they were forced to recall some of its products due to undeclared milk, resulting in it ending a relationship with a third-party supplier. The supplier has denied that the recalled product is the same product as caused the allergic reaction, though the retailer and two independent authorities have conducted tests showing that the yoghurt in question had levels of contamination.

Where the fault lies for the contamination will be established in due course. And though this ultimately pales in comparison to the tragic loss of life, it does raise a couple of serious questions: Where does responsibility lie for ensuring product quality in the supply chain? And what can organisations AND suppliers do to ensure full supply chain transparency?

Introducing Blockchain to the Food Industry

The debate on the first question will continue to rumble on. In reality, the responsibility lies with every party, irrespective of which tier they are in the supply chain. That said, the buck ultimately stops with the end user, retailer or seller to ensure products are fully labelled and they are satisfied they are selling a quality (and safe) product.

The answer to the second question may be closer than you think, however. Blockchain has been discussed at length on Procurious and its applications in the supply chain are well documented.

Plus it helps that the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, has just unveiled its new food industry blockchain ambitions in China. The retailer plans to use the existing, proven, technology to ‘overlay’ the supply chains in the notoriously complex industry.

And with major producers such as Dole, Nestle and Unilever on board, as well as IBM as a technology development partner, this does have the signs of being the first step on a (long) road to success.

Success that could usher in new processes for how food information is obtained, stored and shared, allowing all parties to track the provenance of food from farm to table. This will give all levels of the supply chain the transparency required to know products are both safe and of the highest quality.

With what has been in the new recently, with impacts that none of us can predict and that potentially extend further than any of us know, this may also represent the first step to ensuring the similar tragedies don’t happen again.

Read more on Walmart’s food industry blockchain ambitions here.

Big Procurement Questions Deserve Big Answers

We know that procurement professionals like to get the latest intel on the hottest topics from the best in the business – so we’ve sorted you right out.  Your big procurement questions: answered. 

Elizaveta Galitckaia / Shutterstock

What are the surefire ways to speed up procurement processes?

Can procurement ever completely eliminate maverick spend?

Why shouldn’t procurement simply squeeze their suppliers for every dollar they’ve got?

What technology will be the most game-changing for procurement?

What’s the best question to ask a candidate during a job interview?

Procurement questions as big as these require big answers from  people who know their stuff.  Happily, we gathered 50 of procurement’s top influencers and thought leaders in Chicago last month for Big Ideas Summit 2018 and managed to steal a few quiet minutes to put some of them to the test.

Pat McCarthy,  SVP & GM – SAP Ariba

Pat on eliminating maverick spend…

“Procurement can [eliminate maverick spend] but it has to make the purchasing process a destination people want to come to”

Pat on supplier relationships…

“You have to have a great relationship with your suppliers, one where they benefit and you benefit so that making a profit and you fining value in their solutions is the right balance.”

Pat on his favourite job interview question…

“I love to ask candidates about the last book they read because I’m most interested in curiosity – are they curious, what are they curious about – it tells me a lot about them.”

Read more from Pat McCarthy in his blog Procurement with Purpose – Not All Rainbows and Fairytales. 

Doug Leeby, CEO – Beeline

Doug on eliminating maverick spend…

“I think there are certain people, especially executives, who are special and they will always go around the system. If you had the power to say only those that are in the system will be paid then perhaps you [could eliminate maverick spend] but i’ve never seen a situation that had 100  per cent compliance.”

Doug on  his favourite job interview question…

“My go to question is – what are two or three things that you’re really really bad at?  What I’m looking for is A) what they’re really bad  at but more importantly the degree of introspection they have. If they’ve been honest with themselves and done a real inventory of what their areas of development are, what are their weaknesses then they’re somebody I can trust and work with.  If I hear somebody say that they don’t have any then they’re not going to be a good fit for us”

Read more from Doug Leeby in this blog The Rise of the Contingent Workforce… And How to Manage It. 

Daniel Perry, Global Alliances Director – EcoVadis

Daniel on eliminating maverick spend…  

“I don’t think procurement can necessarily eliminate all maverick spend, buyers find ways around any rules that you might put in place.  But if you can provide a very strong vision and mission for procurement and the company in general as to why you are trying to avoid maverick spend, if you can align it to your company’s  sustainability mission or the fact that you want to try and avoid using suppliers that use modern slavery then it gives the buyer another cause for pause before going off and doing maverick spend.”

Daniel on game-changing technologies… 

“Transparency is really changing the way that business is being done these days –  there is much a higher expectation for businesses and their supply chains, who they work with and who they’re associated with so I think the technology around due diligence, around assurance, around using companies that are reputable is going to be a big game changer in the way that companies decide which suppliers to use.”

Read more from Daniel Perry in this blog, Making Sustainable Procurement Work. 

Check out all of our exclusive video content from Big Ideas Summit Chicago via the Digital Delegates group on Procurious. 

As You Sip Your Delicious Morning Cup Of Suppliers’ Blood…

Is supply management really full of psychopaths? Why do members of Gen Next want to change jobs so frequently? How can managers retain top procurement talent? We put all these questions and more to ISM CEO Tom Derry.

Psychopaths in the profession?

A few years back, a researcher approached ISM CEO Tom Derry and wanted to survey the ISM membership to build a psychological profile of people who go into supply management. A few months later, Tom opened the newspaper and was appalled to find a headline stating “The majority of procurement professionals are psychopaths!”

“That was then,” says Tom. “In those days, there was an expectation that your job was to sit across the negotiating table from your supplier, have zero empathy with that person, demand cost reductions, and extract the pound of flesh. Sure, I can see how those could be seen as psychopathic tendencies. But you’re never going to succeed in supply management [these days] with that kind of approach. The emphasis on supplier relationship management in particular is so critical. That [old] profile is never going to be successful in the profession today.”

The days of the blood-sucking, empathy lacking hardball negotiator are over, but we still have work to do to reinvent the profession’s image – and that’s where fresh, new talent is going to help.

Time to Jump?

Last year, Procurious’ “Gen Next” survey revealed that just under 50% of supply management professionals intend to change roles within the next two years, and 34% intend to leave their current organisation entirely within the next 2 – 5 years. We asked Tom if it’s unrealistic these days for employers to expect their employees to stay anywhere for more than five years.

“Not at all. I think it’s realistic for them to expect longer tenure, but there are a few key things that matter”, says Tom. These include:

  • Training on the job – people really value skill acquisition.
  • Challenging and new assignments giving people a chance to grow.
  • Giving them exposure to other functions in the business via a rotation program.

Retaining Top Talent

But how can a head of supply management retain their top talent? In Tom’s view, we need to be realistic. “Don’t be too defensive about talent”, he says. “It’s a wonderful thing for a leader to be known as a discoverer and developer of great talent, which inevitably means that some people are going to move on, but that’s attractive. If I’m looking for a place to work and I know someone who has a reputation for identifying and developing people who want great new opportunities, I’m going to want to work there. Develop a reputation that will work to your advantage.”

Tom also stresses the importance of making people feel valued. “You can’t overvalue how important it is for a manager to just walk around and talk to people. Take an active interest in what they’re doing. They’ll be happy to know that you know what they’re working on, and that you find it exciting and interesting, and that means a hell of a lot to anybody when a leader comes around and shows interest. It drives results for the company.”

“As a leader, you have to be aware of the profile and external reputation of your team, within the company and externally in the industry. You need to be forward-looking as a leader in creating an environment that’s always compelling and interesting. The best CPOs that I know are focused on where the business is headed in the next 3-5 years, and what kind of team they need to build to optimise the business that we’re going to become. If you’re looking backwards and focused on efficiency, you’re missing the point. You need to be thinking about where you need to take the procurement team to deliver on the future vision – and that is what will make you an attractive leader to any talent.”

In our 10-part “Tuesdays With Tom” podcast series, Tom Derry discusses a broad range of critically important topics that every supply management professional should be across.

Listen to the full podcast here.

Procurious Big Ideas Summit Rolls Into Sydney!

After two smash-hit Summits in London and Chicago, we’re bringing Big Ideas 2018 to Sydney, Australia! Find out how you can get involved.

Did you hear the one about the time an expert on influence, a clinical psychologist and a digital transformation guru walked into a bar?

…  Unfortunately we don’t have the punchline for you, because it hasn’t happened yet. But it WILL happen on Tuesday 30th October at the conclusion of the most exciting #procurement event to hit Australian shores – the Sydney Big Ideas Summit.

Julie Masters, Nicky Abdinor and Gus Balbontin are just three of the incredible speakers that will take the stage in Sydney. Let’s check out the agenda:

Innovate and Disrupt

Electrifying keynote speaker Gus Balbontin will open #BigIdeas2018 with a strong message about how to survive – and thrive – in an ever-changing market. Drawing upon his experience as Executive Director and CTO of iconic Australian publisher, Lonely Planet, Gus will share powerful concepts of change, adaptability, transformation and innovation.

Adapt and Perservere

Jamila Gordon has an incredible story to share about her journey from a refugee escaping the Somalian civil war to the boardrooms of some of Australia’s leading organisations. The former Qantas CIO and current Director of Jayride will deliver memorable messages about the importance of dreaming big, the keys to effective leadership amidst change, and the crucial role of resilience and positivity.

Born without arms, not without attitude! Nicky Abdinor is an expert on doing more with less. A clinical pyschologist and motivational showstopper, Nicky will demonstrate how to create sustainable change in our attitudes, beliefs and emotions.

The Procurement Evolution

One of the most recognisable faces in procurement, Tom Derry is the CEO of the Institute for Supply Management, a not-for-profit organisation with more than 50,000 members worldwide. Tom will join Procurious Founder Tania Seary for a fireside chat about the evolution of procurement, presenting ISM’s latest research into the procurement tasks most likely to be taken over by AI.

Supplier diversity, sustainable sourcing and corporate social responsibility are now recognised as key sources of competitive advantage for businesses around the world. Henrik Smedberg will share SAP Ariba’s thought-leadership into why every procurement professional must procure with purpose.

What will procurement resemble by the year 2030? The future is brimming with AI, cognitive technology, and robotic process automation. This presents an incredible opportunity for the profession, but also a great deal of uncertainty. In this session, delegates will collectively brainstorm the greatest threats and opportunities facing procurement, and identify the crucial skills needed to meet the challenges of Industry 4.0.

Delegates will also hear leadership insights direct from one of Australia’s top Chief Procurement Officers – Thomai Veginis, CPO of Telstra.

Surviving a toxic workplace

Have you ever reported to a workplace psychopath? Have you ever had to manage one? David Gillespie, best-selling author of Taming Toxic People, will take delegates through the strategies that will preserve our sanity in a toxic workplace. David’s articles on workplace psychopaths have been some of the most popular ever published on Procurious!

How do I get involved?

Attending in-person: If you’re within cooee of Sydney, this is your opportunity to be in the room! The Sydney Big Ideas Summit is suitable for highly motivated, forward-thinking, tech-savvy future leaders. If you fit the bill, join us at the Australian National Maritime Museum on October 30th, but be quick – places are strictly limited.

Click here to reserve your seat: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

Become a Digital Delegate: The Sydney Big Ideas Summit will light up social media, spark vigorous discussion and crowd-source ideas for the future of the profession via our Digital Delegate group here on Procurious. Sign up (it’s free!) to follow the action, including live-streamed speaker presentations, speaker interviews and blog articles without ever having to leave your own desk.

Click here to become a Digital Delegate: https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-sydney

When The Going Gets Tough… Keep Running!

On the fifth and final day of Career Boot Camp we chat to not one but two Ultra-marathon runners!

Aniwhite/ Shutterstock

Australian ultra-marathon runner Samantha Gash is a true inspiration. She’s run 3253km in 76 days across India, completed a 1968km expedition run along South Africa’s Freedom Trail and undertaken no less than four 250km desert ultramarathons.

But she can still recall the fear she felt when she ran her very first marathon.

“When you train for a marathon you only train to 32km. When I got to that point in the race I absolutely freaked out and wanted to quit because I was terrified. I realised I needed to keep pushing myself into those situations that scared me because running marathons and ultra marathons,  although impressive on some level,  are no where near like the real life challenges you’re going to face.”

Sprinting outside of your comfort zone

For Samantha, who was a “physically dormant” individual during her childhood and adolescence, took up running as a personal challenge “I really believe that we get such personal and professional development and an understanding of who we are when we choose to go into that unknown so I connected to the thing that scared me the most. Running for me became a way of me becoming mentally stronger and then I got the bug!”

Tom Evans , UK ultra-marathon runner, stumbled into the sport after challenging himself to complete the Marathon des Sables (a six day, 251km run across the Sahara Desert) in a faster time than his two friends.  He seems as surprised as anyone that he managed to complete the race in 3rd place, the highest ever ranking for a European entry.

Since then, he says, “lots of amazing opportunities [have arisen] to race all around the world, from Costa Rica to the French Alps. The performance side of things for me is important but what I really thrive on is that mental and physical challenge, you don’t know what’s going to happen. There are so many external factors that can change along the race or during a training session especially in these more arduous environments. For me it’s really humbling and I’ve fallen in love with the sport over the last year.”

Running – it’s (mostly) all in the mind…

Both athletes place huge importance in mental preparation ahead of a big race, “It’s definitely not seen as that important” says Tom. “But it plays a huge part. I try to focus on the process not the outcome.  Some days [of a race] it will not go great and sometimes it will – but if you focus on getting the small things done it will all add up. I’m big on setting goals and have high, but very realistic goals, that i am able to achieve.”

“It also helps to have a strong purpose so you know that when things get hard that you have an underlying purpose and know why you’re doing what you’re doing. ”

Samantha also credits mental perseverance as a key contributor to her running success “The mental component of ultra running really dictates how your physical body tends to flow and respond.

“If you can find ways of being calm when your body is stressed, when conditions are hard you just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore – mental is underrated by many people.”

That’s not to say physical preparation isn’t important too, ultra marathons are pretty far, and that’s an understatement, and often take place in unfamiliar conditions that require a lot of forward preparation.

Samantha has run races in the most extreme conditions, temperatures and altitudes and endeavours to simulate those conditions in her training schedule.  “When I can’t simulate the challenging component of a race I’ll replace it with something else equally challenging or something that pushes me.”

“In 2016 I ran from the West to the East of India,  which was going to be at a high altitude and in really intense heat. I couldn’t be constantly running in the heat throughout Melbourne’s winter so I put a treadmill in a hot yoga studio. I hate treadmill running, which is why I’m a trail runner but I went into a yoga studio late at night when classes were over, cranked the temperature up to 36-40 degrees and then ran on it for hours.  It wasn’t just physical training it was mental training.”

Tom cites similar challenges in his training regime “I’ve just finished [a race] running in the mountains. In the UK there are no mountains so sometimes you have to think outside the box in your physical training.

“Physically there’s only a certain amount of things you can control – the way i describe it is controlling the controllables. Any stone I can overturn and carry out detailed planning for is worth doing – I’ll train really specifically for each race.”

When the going gets tough…

Enduring the seemingly unendurable is part and parcel of ultra-marthon running  life. “You know it’s going to happen” explain Samantha, “and knowing that you’re going to go into a rough place can equip you for dealing with it.

“There is always a very clunky period when you move beyond training, you move beyond adrenaline and the excitement of early phases of something and it becomes really challenging as your mind and body is learning to adjust.” When Samantha ran across India it was tricky to adjust to the extreme heat. “We were running on a road where there was a lot of traffic and a lot of pollution so we were very burdened. And my body started to break down [to the point that] I was struggling to even walk.”

“When you can’t do what you think you could have done it’s natural to freak out and get a bit disillusioned.”

But in that moment it’s important to take control and embrace the unexpected circumstance you’ve been faced with – “that’s the exciting part!”

“Sometimes you have to walk or listen to music or change your pacer – you have to explore and experiment.  We are quite quick to be harsh on ourselves when things don’t go to plan – we need to move away from what we consider to be failure and redefine it as an opportunity.”

Tom agrees with Samantha stating that “things will go wrong but how you deal with these things will make the difference between a good and bad performance.”

Tom maintains his composure and determination by looking both forwards and backwards in time.

“What is the goal I set and how much do I want what I set out to do? I try to think about the outcome – knowing that if I really want this it’s going to be possible and my mind will conquer my body.”

“I also think backwards, thinking about all the process, everything I’ve put into training, all those workouts, the sacrifices I’ve made to get to where  I am.”

That attitude can “pull you out of any hardship to get you to the finish and achieve your goals.”

Samantha Gash and Tom Evans are speaking on Day Five of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.

How To Get Supply Chain A Seat At The Table

If supply chain pros can secure a seat at the table, it becomes easier to to share insights, challenge processes, support the business and be part of strategy creation – ultimately delivering value.

Laura Faulkner, CPO and Director Supply Chain Management for Nationwide Building Society, is truly passionate about developing the profession in order to raise its value and reputation within the business.

“As a fellow of CIPS I really am very keen to take on an active role in working across all industries; sharing best-practice and learning from the best of who’s out there.”

Laura is a firm believer that  Supply Chain functions act as an extension of the organisation as a whole and in her role at Nationwide Building Society she has led by example, “leading a team that supports the delivery of our business strategy but doing so in a really collaborative way with stakeholders and suppliers. Our suppliers and partners are simply an extension of our own firm . We have the ultimate responsibility and the actions of our suppliers reflect on us.”

Recent events have truly tested this mentality.  The collapse of Carillion, one of Nationwide’s biggest suppliers, in January 2018 hit particularly hard.

“When [Carillion] collapsed on 15th January we really did have only two areas of focus. One was to secure the services which was everything from security, reception, data centers and maintenance.

“But we also had to do the right thing by all of the Carillion staff that had served Nationwide for a number of years. Within six days of the collapse we in-sourced all 300 members of staff and directly contracted with the 160 sub contractors.

“To me sharing this kind of story shows how we can add value not only to our own organisation but also in sharing it across other industries. We’ve all got things we can learn from each other and it’s very key that we play a pivotal role within our organisation. We are that link to the supply chain, we do not outsource the risk that the supply chain brings and we have to take full responsibility.”

Getting (and keeping!) supply chain’s seat at the table

We were really interested to hear Laura’s thoughts on how supply chain professionals can secure a seat at the table.

“Well it’s easier said than done ,” she admits, “and at all the firms I’ve worked with it’s been something we’ve pushed for. We really do need a seat at every relevant table whether that be the investment boards or the strategy committees – you need to be part of the discussion not someone brought in and brought up to speed outside of the meeting.

“It’s easier when you’re sitting round the table to give your insights, to challenge, to support and really be part of either the decision making or the strategy creation.”

But, as Laura points out,  it’s always easier to get that first invite to a meeting.  It’s keeping the seat at the table that’s really challenging. “If you want to be kept at the table,” she suggests “you need to be able to add something and bring some unique, different types of thinking. [Supply chain management teams] are one of the strongest links to the outside world. Use it and you can bring insights and innovation.”

“We’ve just announced at nationwide that we’ll be investing a further £1.3 billion of investment into our new strategy and we are fully engaged in making that happen.

“I’ve been working with the CTO  – we’ve been holding meetings and strategy sessions with all of our key partners and investigating new possible supply chain partners and it’s that engagement and listening to what our suppliers have to say that will really help us develop the strategy further and ultimately deliver it.”

Laura Faulkner is speaking on Day Three of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.