5 Expert Tips To Reduce e-Waste

You’re being asked to source more sustainable products, meet climate goals, anticipate post-pandemic supply chain shifts and reduce end of life impact. It’s a challenging task, particularly with IT products. The good news is, many procurement professionals have taken on this assignment before you, and they’re here to help. 


With more than 50 million metric tons generated annually, e-waste has become the world’s fastest-growing waste stream. Only around 20% of global e-waste is actually responsibly recycled. 

With the typical IT contract based on a three-to-four-year use cycle, the piles of e-waste are growing ever larger. While procurement with a purpose can net you impacts across the organisation, the solution is circularity, an approach gaining traction around the world.  

Transitioning from a linear to a circular economy can solve some of society’s most pressing sustainability challenges when it comes to IT products. In this blog, we share expert tips on how to source sustainable products, cut costs and meet climate goals through circularity – the solution for circular procurement of IT products.

Defining Circularity 

In a linear economy, we make products from virgin natural resources and we discard those products once we’re done using them — often after a relatively short time. Today’s linear consumption creates substantial carbon dioxide emissions, exhausts natural resources and creates vast amounts of hazardous waste.  

In a circular economy, resources are handled more responsibly, with a goal of extending the lifetime of products and recirculating all materials without producing any waste. Circularity means no waste, lower emissions, longer lifespan, lower costs, and a cleaner environment. 

Where do we start?  

Circularity isn’t an abstract notion. Many organisations are practising it now. They’re demanding – and getting – change from suppliers. 

A new report from TCO Development, the organisation behind the leading global sustainability certification for IT products TCO Certified, offers concrete examples of organisations and manufacturers practising circularity. The report sets out how the circular economy helps solve many of the most pressing sustainability challenges associated with IT products. They’ve distilled their research into 33 tips for bringing circularity to your organization.  

Based on the interviews with experts around the globe, here are the top five tips to make your procurement more sustainable.  

1. Use your IT products longer: this is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the consumption of natural resources and cut greenhouse gas emissions. And it cuts costs. 

The studies show that simply adding two years to a laptop’s life reduces emissions by 30 percent per year. And extending the life of a computer workstation from three to six years saves 28 percent on costs. To keep computers in circulation longer, buy durable products that are possible to repair and upgrade, and choose models with enough performance to cover long-term needs.  

2. Work to gradually implement circular practices in your organisation. Take-back programs are an easy way to start.   

Large brand owners such as Dell, HP and Lenovo are starting to see IT equipment as a service. They, and all other brand owners with products certified according to the criteria in TCO Certified, have programs that take back computers after your organisation is finished with them. It’s an easy first step to add this to your organisation’s purchasing process.   

3. Think circular when you purchase IT products. Use circular criteria.  

For example, add specifications for durability and repairability that will allow you to keep products longer, and criteria for reduction or elimination of hazardous substances that make materials more recyclable. Communicate your goals and tactics with internal and external stakeholders throughout the IT product life cycle.  

4. Give your IT products a second life by reselling them. 

Even if they no longer meet the needs of your organisation, your equipment still has value. Discuss resale options with a reputable refurbishment or remanufacturing firm that also ensures your data stays secure. Consider charitable donations or surplus resale to employees. 

5. Acknowledge that circularity is a team effort and that no one can do it alone. Internal and external cooperation is crucial! 

Invite decision makers and specialists from at least your IT, procurement, sustainability, finance, facilities and communication teams to create circular practices inside your organization. And don’t go it alone – team up with other buyers to increase your purchasing power and influence. The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council is a good place to start. Learn more about TCO Certified and get free support with your sustainable IT procurement. 

Procurement’s role 

As manufacturers are moving circularity forward through product design and service offerings, what’s the role of procurement? Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council CEO Donna Westerman sees procurement professionals as key to driving demand for change.  

“Procurement has the power to influence an entire product ecosystem. The decisions made on what to buy impact not only product design but also how those products affect our environment and business resiliency.” Westerman said. ”Now, more than ever, procurement is at the forefront of what a sustainable future can look like.” 

Take the first step 

The key learning from all the interviews with industry leaders and organisations is simple. Get started. The transition to the circular economy is essential, and we all need to play an active part in it. It doesn’t matter so much what the first step is, as long as you take it. As Chris Fielden, Group Supply Chain Director for Innocent Drinks said, being unafraid to fail is key. 

Learn more 

To see the 33 hands-on tips for circular management of IT products from TCO Development, and read the full report, Impacts and Insights: Circular IT Management in Practice, click here 

How To Lead Through Difficult Times

How do you lead through difficult times? What four key roles should all leaders play?  


This year has been one of the most challenging in modern times for business leaders, organisations and employees worldwide. And as many famous quotes allude to, nothing is tested more in challenging times than leadership. Many leaders step up and shine, yet just as many fall victim to stress, anxiety and frustration, leaving them a shadow of their former selves. 

So how do you make sure you’re the former? 

One person that knows how to lead in the best of times, as well as in the worst, is Vice-President of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM, Amber Armstrong. Amber’s illustrious career at IBM started when she joined the company as an MBA graduate 13 years ago, and she’s quickly risen through the ranks. 

Amber joined us for our latest podcast episode in the IBM Career Bootcamp series to delve into all things leadership and in particular, how to lead through difficult times. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in the podcast:

What does being a great leader actually mean and how would you define your personal leadership style? 

Over the years, the definition of leadership has evolved enormously. Leaders, recognising that the more authoritarian styles of leading are no longer effective, have begun to diversify their styles away from command and control and towards a more inspiring vision of what leadership should be. But is inspiring others the sole role that leaders need to play nowadays? 

Not at all, according to Amber. Amber thinks that there are four things every leader needs to do in any organisation. In fact, Amber believes that these four things are so important that she had her team of executive managers agree to them as part of a leadership pact. 

Amber is clear on what she thinks these four things are: 

‘Leaders should, in my opinion, set the vision, communicate clearly, prioritise relentlessly and finally, coach.’

Throughout her career, Amber has used these four priority areas to not only lead others, but also to gather feedback and learn and what is and isn’t working. Beyond these things though, Amber has also put considerable thought and effort into her leadership style and has come up with a personal mantra that describes how she personally wants to lead: 

‘From a personal brand perspective, I aspire to be known as someone who is passionate, focused and kind.’ 

‘And in moments when things get particularly tough, there’s one particular thing I try to have more of.’ 

Discover what this is for Amber in the podcast.

How do leaders develop their own personal style? Should they do this through experience or through someone like a coach?

Amber’s personal leadership style is well-known and admired at IBM. But how do we all go about developing our own unique version of that? Amber has developed her style through a combination of experience and also through working with an executive coach, and she believes both of those things helped her get where she is today. 

From an experience perspective, Amber believes that it was through making mistakes and having empathy that she came to develop her current style: 

‘I joined IBM 13 years ago after I graduated from business school, and fortunately, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities here. This has led to many successes and also countless mistakes, but I’ve taken the opportunity to learn from each and every one of them.’ 

Amber remembers one particular period in her career where she came to understand the critical importance of kindness as an element of her personal leadership style: 

‘At one point, I was told I have to give a lot of people bad news, news which would affect their personal lives.’ 

‘I put up a sign at my desk with my mantra, the words passionate, focused and kind. I felt such comfort having those words there, it helped me to turn them into a reality throughout that difficult time.’  

Recently, Amber also started working with an executive coach who has further helped her shape her leadership style. This has been beneficial for one specific reason, she says. 

Find out what that reason is in the podcast.

Can you lead without necessarily having a leadership position? 

Amber has had an extremely successful career, and now manages a large number of people, including fifteen other managers. But for those of us who may not be in such senior positions, or perhaps those of us who may not be leading anyone at all, is it still possible to be a leader? 

Absolutely, Amber says. 

In fact, there’s one thing she thinks all leaders need to do, regardless of our level of seniority: 

‘If you want to lead, you need to take care of yourself first.’ 

‘For me, I do three things to take care of myself. Firstly, I run a mile, I make sure I sweat. Secondly, I walk 5,000 steps every day and then thirdly, I meditate for ten minutes. Self-care is so important.’ 

Beyond self-care, Amber also wants to let us all in on a little secret, and it’s an important one. In a nutshell, even leaders with a great amount of authority (those who are senior and have a lot of responsibility), don’t really have authority unless they can garner respect. Amber explains: 

‘To be a leader, you need people to respect you, you need them to trust you. So even if you’re an authority figure, sure, you can force people to do things but that isn’t leadership.’ 

‘Leadership is about creating clarity and building respect. You need to be able to influence others in a positive way.’ 

Also in the podcast: 

  • What needs to change about our leadership styles in these challenging times 
  • The pink recession 

And much more. 

Amber Armstrong’s podcast on leading through difficult times is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

How To Persevere When You Want To Give Up

When things get too hard, do you ever want to give up? Here’s how to persevere when you get that uneasy feeling


This year more than ever before, we’ve heard the word ‘new normal.’ We know that life may not go back – soon or ever – to what it was before. But how do we adapt to that? And when things get tough again, which invariably they will, how do we persevere through the challenges and come out on top? 

One incredible person who certainly knows a thing or two about how to adapt and persevere is Nicky Abdinor, a clinical psychologist, ability advocate, and founder of the non-profit, Nicky’s Drive. Through her work as a psychologist and her own incredible life experience, Nicky deeply understands what it means to adapt and persevere, and her advice is an inspiration to us all. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in our incredible 15 minute podcast with Nicky: 

What does adaptation and perseverance really mean? 

Nicky is not simply a scholar who understands a concept – adaptation and perseverance have been her personal life mantra since she was born. Nicky was born without arms and also with shortened legs. Nicky’s parents, who had no idea that she had a disability until she was born, were totally unprepared for it. But instead of focusing on what Nicky couldn’t do, her parents decided to focus on what she could do. Growing up, Nicky firmly remembers her parent’s attitude towards everything: 

‘From the beginning, my parents decided to focus on my strengths. Instead of thinking “oh, can Nicky do that?” they instead said “How can Nicky do that?”’ 

Given her disability, things that came easily to others were not always easy for Nicky. She didn’t focus on that. Instead, she quickly learnt to be flexible in how she approached challenging situations, and adopted a problem-solving mindset. Everything she did, she approached with curiosity and decided that adversity could be to her advantage. 

Adaptation and perseverance, Nicky, represents exactly this. Having the mindset and flexibility to navigate difficult situations, and persevering through them, even under challenging circumstances. 

How do we overcome a lack of self-belief when we need to persevere? 

At times, all of us struggle with our own self-belief, and it can get in the way of us persevering through challenging situations. We have to turn that self-belief on, says Nicky, and simultaneously turn off the voice in our heads that tells us we can’t do it. And she has an intriguing recommendation for how we do so: 

‘To overcome the idea you might have in your head that “I’m not good enough,” you need to recognise that your brain has its own hard drive, and it has the tendency to store things that are quite critical.’ 

Nicky gives a good example of this – something that we can all relate to: 

‘Say you did a workshop and you asked for feedback, and nine out of ten people said they loved the workshop. But one person said they didn’t learn anything.’

‘The hard drive of your brain would be more likely to store the feedback of that one person, and you might dwell on that.’ 

In order to overcome that hard-wired negative feedback, Nicky recommends you focus on one thing and one thing alone. Discover what that is in the podcast

How do we get better at adaptation and perseverance? 

For Nicky, one of her favorite quotes that is now more meaningful than ever, is from Viktor Frankl, author of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning.” After his time in Auschwitz, he wrote: 

‘When we’re no longer able to change our situation, that is when we are challenged to change ourselves.’ 

What this means is that in many situations, we may not have control of much, but what we do have control of is how we perceive those situations, and how we change our behaviour accordingly. This might sound easy, says Nicky, but behavioural change is hard. It takes more than simply reading an article entitled ‘10 steps to stop procrastinating’ or ‘5 steps to a more positive mindset,’ for example. 

If we want to make sustainable changes in our behaviour, Nicky says, we should ask ourselves these four important questions: 

  1. What is the behaviour I want to change? 
  2. When do I need to change it?
  3. How can I change it?
  4. Why do I want to change this behaviour?

Nicky emphasizes that we need to be clear about our answers to these questions, though, one question is far more critical than the others for a very important reason. Find out what it is and why in the podcast.

How do we pick ourselves up again when we’re down? 

A big part of perseverance is picking ourselves up when we’re feeling down. Usually, when we’re down people tell us to focus on the good things in our lives. More importantly, Nicky actually believes that we need to be a little more accepting of the vast spectrum of our emotions: 

‘In order to persevere, we actually need to accept that the entire range of emotions, from joy to sadness, are part of life. We don’t need to feel happy all the time.’ 

‘When we try to avoid difficult feelings, that can do more harm than good. Right now, we’re all on an emotional rollercoaster. We need to allow ourselves to feel.’ 

In order to smooth the rollercoaster though, Nicky recommends we do a few important things. Discover what they are in the podcast.

Nicky Abdinor’s podcast on adaptation and perseverance is part of our IBM Sterling Supply Chain Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

4 Reasons Social Media Is A Gamechanger For Supply Chain & Procurement

Thanks to the power of online collaboration, social media has played an essential role in helping supply chain and procurement professionals manage COVID-19.


Where would we be without social media? Imagine trying to navigate through this crisis without the support of your social networks. At Procurious, we have provided a safe space for our almost 40,000 (we’re at 39,964 as I write!) supply chain and procurement leaders all over the world.  We’ve played our small part in helping our members step up to the plate, curveball after curveball.

In honor of World Social Media Day, it’s only right that we tip our hats off to how far we’ve come as a community. We’ve helped our members find jobs, advance in their careers, make critical connections across the world and collaborate to tackle some truly complex and exciting challenges. We’re extremely proud.

Today, we’re reflecting on a few of the many reasons social media has become a professional powerhouse:

1. It can help anyone, anywhere in the world

Think of how big your network would be without the virtual groups, forums, discussions and networks you’re a part of today. The best part is the skies the limit —and communities like ours are growing every day.

But even beyond individualized benefits, influencers like Professor Karsten Machholz, from the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (or FHWS) in Germany, demonstrated the impact users can make when they use their platform for the greater good. Amidst the crisis, 65% of businesses were required to quickly source alternative suppliers for affected categories. And while procurement’s response was mostly impressive, some organisations are still struggling. Social media has allowed Karsten to play a huge role in recovery. “With the use of my procurement and supply chain networks like Procurious, I am trying to help companies find alternative suppliers in order to make their supply chains run again.”

Joanna Martinez, founder of Supply Chain Advisors LLC is another example of influencers leveraging social media to make an impact and help others. “Watching all the people being furloughed or laid off, I started ‘Pay it Forward Fridays’, where I use my connections and expertise to help people begin the journey back to employment. I’ve been a practice interviewer, a speaker to Zoom groups focused on the job search, have proofread resumes, made connections, and been a reference. I haven’t found a person yet that I haven’t been able to help in some way.”

2. The more we put in, the more we get out

Since coming together to prove our organisational value, we’ve made monumental strides in outshining old stereotypes and proving our organisational worth. Still, we’ve come too far to lose our seat at the executive table.

When asked about the pressures of today’s environment, Chief Heart Officer of SupplyChainQueen, Sheri Hinish, explained that COVID-19 has taught us a valuable lesson. “We are ONE planet – each of us interconnected in ways we may not be aware of or see. You can’t watch the news without hearing supply chain nowadays…. Literally, we are seeing that supply chains have the ability to save lives and power the world we share.”

This requires us to learn more and give more: to society and our professional networks. Social media makes this possible.

3. It boosts collaboration

Although much of the world is still at home, social media has brought our community closer than ever. “The pulse for information due to COVID has created a space for helping others better understand and prepare for external risks, visibility, social and environmental insights that are all tied to building resilient and transparent supply chains.” – Sheri Hinish, SupplyChainQueen.

It’s clear the support we’ve given each other is admirable. Beyond that, we’re progressively moving and adding value outside of our normal realm. For example, some procurement teams have contentious relationships with their suppliers.  But according to Sarah Scudder, President at Real Sourcing Network, the dynamic must change – and social media is helping pave the way.  “COVID-19 is forcing companies to save money and be more efficient… I want all procurement professionals to believe in collaboration and teamwork with suppliers instead of ‘us versus them’.”

There is no “I” in team. Effective collaboration requires communication and sharing. It can be especially uncomfortable if your organisation is doing something for the first time. But, who says you can’t borrow from another playbook? That’s what makes professional networks so unique. Chances are, someone out there has tackled a similar issue to whatever you are facing today… and they’re willing to share what they learned.

4. Online communication can be just as personal and productive

Our own Principal Advisor Helen Mackenzie proved connecting virtually doesn’t need to be any less intimate than meeting face-to-face. “I’ve been working hard to connect CPOs with each other. We’re having virtual coffee breaks where three or four of us come together just for a chat and to exchange information, insight and ideas. I like to think that being that community connector, which after all is what we’re about at Procurious, has helped the CPOs I’ve shared a virtual coffee with feel that they are part of a wider network that’s there to support each other.”

With major changes ahead, it’s critical we keep up the momentum. The most rookie mistake supply chain and procurement leaders can make is not being receptive to further change. As Dave Food, Strategy Director at Prophetic Technology expertly puts it: “The future is full of possibility, say no to the old ways and leverage the new potential. Early adopters are the powerhouse of tomorrow.” And social media is the enabler.

For more game-changing insights and inspiring stories from key players themselves, check out our COVID-19 Gamechangers whitepaper.

And if you haven’t officially joined Procurious yet, do yourself the favor and make today the day.


How Kelly Barner Became The World’s No 1 Procurement Influencer

Reaching influencer status on social media in any industry comes down to two things. Procurement and Supply Chain Influencer, Kelly Barner reveals what what they are and why it is important…


With world social media day only moments away, it’s time to reflect on how far the procurement profession has come in promoting itself to the broader business community and the world.

It was only six short years ago that we launched Procurious as the world’s first online network for procurement and supply chain….and since then we have seen a plethora of social media influencers emerge representing our profession.

But before any of us burst onto the scene, Kelly Barner was already here, promoting the work of our profession on Buyers Meeting Point, publishing books and writing original content to help upskill the profession while promoting key individuals, brands, publications and events within the industry.

Thinkers 360 and CPOStrategy Magazine recently recognised Kelly as the number one influencer on social media for procurement. So what has been her secret? How do you become the most influential person in a space where everyone is vying for attention? I reached out to Kelly to find out.

Kelly Barner: In my opinion, reaching influencer status on social media in any industry comes down to two things: 

1. Consistently working at it day in and day out. I’ve been sharing and engaging on social media since 2010. In the early days, I didn’t have a following, but I stayed on course, actively promoting my own content and following others and commenting on their content. I use some platforms to help me automatically promote content periodically after the main promotional window is over, but I do 99% of my social media work the ‘old fashioned way’ – I do it myself, as me, every day. If your online brand is important to you, you can’t fake authenticity. Give it 5-10 minutes a day, every day. That is enough to make a noticeable difference.

2. Not generating a following for the sake of the following, but looking at it as a natural (and very valuable!!) byproduct of doing excellent work, writing excellent content, and building real connections with real people. If you are just focused on building up your numbers, you will end up with an audience built for the wrong reason, and those connections won’t help you achieve your primary mission.

Tania:  When the field is open wide, it can often be tough to find the courage to “be the first” and get started. I know it found me a while to “find my voice” (and I still may be looking!), but it took a lot of courage to get started sharing my stories on social media.

Kelly: This is one of those cases where it helps not to have any idea what you are doing. I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes along the way (and continue to make them to this day), especially since I don’t have any training in marketing, PR, or social media strategy. But it has helped to have good friends by my side along the way. The procurement community is made up of amazing, generous, inspiring people that never fail to inspire me with new ideas and approaches to tough problems.

Tania:  But now the field isn’t wide open, we have a lot of influencers in our space, and in some ways, that could be more daunting – you could feel that you don’t have a unique story to tell, that it’s all been said..and maybe by people that you think are better than you.

Kelly: Everyone has a unique perspective to offer – that is the first, most important lesson I learned from Jon Hansen. He has been my mentor since day one, and early on I asked him why he was helping me. We both had blogs, and I wondered why he didn’t see me as a competitor. He pointed out (in his friendly, genuine way) that as long as we both write from our own point of view, there is no such thing as competition. No one can ever be you, and as a result, you will always have a unique offering to bring to the market. You can also beat people on time and quality. Work faster, and make sure your work is cleaner, that everyone else’s, and the readers will follow.

Tania:  I’ve always encouraged our community that they have a lot of great stories to tell. We have such interesting careers, interfacing with so many interesting, unique issues every day.

Kelly: The secret to great writing and social media engagement is… READING! I know that isn’t the most popular activity these days because we are all so busy. But it is absolutely critical. Read content on procurement, supply chain, business, communication – absolutely everything you can get your hands on. I read several newspapers every day as well as blogs, and monthly/quarterly business journals. It is amazing how often inspiration and insight come from unexpected sources. And – back to the idea of having a unique point of view – since no one else will be reading the same mix of sources as you, no one can duplicate your perspective. 

Tania:  With due cause, COVID has been a hectic time in procurement and on the news scene.  Our recent How Now report showed how well our profession handled the stress and actually have an increased interest and commitment to building a career in procurement and supply chain.

Kelly: I think procurement has done an outstanding job keeping the lights on in these unprecedented times. Who else knows how to get hard to find products and services? Who else can be creative about solving problems on the fly? Our companies have relied upon our agility and determination, but so have our families. I’m sure I am not the only procurement professional who applied her knowledge of supply chain management to keep the house stocked with food, medicine and – yes – even toilet paper. We’ve had some odd meals (turkey kielbasa, stewed tomatoes, and buttered toast, anyone?) but we always had something to eat – and I never missed a deadline at Buyers Meeting Point.

Given the additional information supply chains have received since the pandemic began, I think there is good reason to be hopeful that a flood of talented, hardworking professionals from other fields will join procurement and supply chain because of what they have read and seen during the shutdowns. 

Tania:  Speaking of increasing influence, Kelly, you have just made a big strategic decision to purchase MyPurchasingCenter from another female entrepreneur.

Kelly:  MyPurchasingCenter was owned by MediaSolve Group, a B2B Marketing Company led by Michelle Palmer, and it was edited for a long time by another well-known figure in the procurement industry: former Purchasing Magazine Senior Editor Susan Avery. They were both determined that ownership of MyPurchasingCenter go to someone that wanted it for the right reasons; not to part it out or gut its assets, but who would show respect for its legacy as a standalone information resource.

I worked on this acquisition for A LONG TIME. I knew Buyers Meeting Point was uniquely positioned to show the respect that Michelle and Susan wanted to see (and rightly so!) and to create tangible value with the MyPurchasingCenter brand, content, and social media accounts. 

Tania:  Just like when you started Buyers Meeting Point, this acquisition is a big step, it must have taken courage.  Were you nervous about the next step. Can you give any advice to people wanting to take that first entrepreneurial step?

Kelly:  My short answer to that question would be, “Just GO!” With the exception of ensuring your personal finances are in a state to support the leap before making it, you can’t overthink the decision to step out on your own. If you do, logic will stack up against the decision to become an entrepreneur every time. Nothing in the world can prepare you for starting a business, but no professional experience offers more riches. The highs and lows, gains and pains are like nothing else. I highly recommend that anyone who gets the ‘itch’ seriously consider acting on it!

Tania:  What do you think the profession will look like in five years?  What will MPC/Buyers Meeting Point look like in five years?

Kelly: In five years, I think procurement will be a primarily data-driven profession. Technology will be able to handle a lot of the process work we do today, leaving us to analyze data and work at the highest levels of the enterprise to inform and contribute to the development of corporate strategy.

My plan for BMP and MPC is to continue supporting all of the information needs of procurement and supply chain professionals. Five years from now, I imagine the full MPC content archive will be back online and I will have had some other creative spark about how to perpetuate the brand on my own. I can’t wait to find out what I come up with!

Tania:  There’s a few things I’ve always admired about Kelly (being a lovely person would be the first), but from a business perspective, that she’s achieved this number one status, that she’s managed to do this without having to leave her family and travel like a madwoman around the globe to build her network and that she’s a great collaborator.

We’ve talked about the achievement of her influence, but what about being able to build this global network without travelling.  Kelly, what’s your secret?  Do you think face to face is a myth?  Has all our Zoom, Webex, etc during COVID proved your approach?

Kelly:  This is absolutely a unique point about my experience. I was a consultant traveling almost 100% of the time when I had my daughter 12 years ago. Overnight, I went from jetsetting to full-time first time parent, and it was quite a shock. I joined Buyers Meeting Point in 2009, 4 months before my oldest son was born (referring back to my point about about not overthinking the leap to entrepreneurship – logic would have told me that was a TERRIBLE idea! Who starts a business with a newborn and a 20 month old?). My youngest son was born in 2012, so I have had babies and/or kids for every minute of my entrepreneurial journey. It is amazing what technology will allow you to achieve. I don’t even have a home office. Before COVID-19, I worked at the kitchen table, and after my family all came home to roost full time, I moved to the dining room because I didn’t want peanut butter and jelly splattered on my laptop. 

I’m also lucky that I live about an hour from Boston, which brings a lot of people into my backyard. I make the most of those opportunities, and I have met many of my global colleagues – including you, Tania! – in person. There is something magical about sitting face to face across the table from someone you already have an online relationship with.

There is no question that being able to travel would have accelerated my career and influence, but not being able to travel wasn’t a deal breaker. Now that everyone else is in the same boat, I have an advantage because I’ve been working this way for over a decade. 

Tania:  And collaboration, you’ve always collaborated with others in the profession – Jon Hansen, Phil Ideson, and Stephanie Lapierre to name a few. I totally subscribe to this, we’re going to get a lot further promoting the profession if we all promote each other.  What’s been your approach to collaboration?  How do you choose who you want to collaborate with?  Will you be collaborating more or less with others into the future?

Kelly:  Deciding who to collaborate with has always been a gut decision for me. If I like you, there is almost nothing I won’t do for you. I received a ton of goodwill from people who were practically strangers when I was first on my own, and I have made a point of paying that generosity forward. This is another one of those areas where you can’t fake authenticity. If you really like someone, the collaboration comes naturally. If you don’t ‘click’ with someone, nothing can fix it. I’ve actually gotten stomach aches from dealing with certain people over the years, and I trust that 100%. After all, what is the good of taking on all of the risk of being out on your own if you can’t reap the benefits of being able to decide who you will work with and for?

Summary

I hope that leaves everyone inspired, with some great practical tips for increasing your own social media influence.  

From my own perspective, building a really compelling profile on Procurious is a great way to start promoting yourselves to 40,000 other procurement and supply chain pros around the world…and also connecting with them to solve your daily challenges.

Happy World Social Media Day Eve!

A Rare Opportunity To Reset And Accelerate

Will businesses go backwards due to necessity and survival or will they step up and push forward to go further and faster to achieve the right balance?


Many of us are in a post-covid state of mind, I most certainly am. But will you and your organisations come out of this stronger, weaker or just different? Of course, the crisis is still very much real, affecting many people and businesses with long-lasting effects.  Perhaps there are slight signs of a slow down in certain parts of the world but who really knows how things will fare without a vaccine. Either way, we have to overcome this and look towards the new normal, which I believe can be a better one.

The pandemic is surely one of the greatest affecting the world and for many it has or will be a pivotal turning point. On the personal side, it may bring focus back to the things that really matter, be it family and friends or health and lifestyle. Or, it may send you down a new path. On the business side, it may question the raison d’être and bring focus to finding the right balance between society, the environment and the economy. From certain perspectives, the pandemic presents businesses a rare opportunity to accelerate on digital transformation initiatives that have been dragging over the last few years. Not for the sake of digital transformation but rather to rapidly ensure more resiliency and hone in on or further develop competitive advantages.

Who better to bring balance, build resilience and solidify competitive advantages than Procurement and Supply Chain.

Balancing the Imbalanced

Until recently it would have been fair to say that most businesses operated in an imbalanced manner with regard to society, the environment and the economy. With the main focus being on economic development, too often at the cost of society and the environment. Of course, there have been big strides made in recent years to balance this out but the big question is – What Happens Next?

This is a pivotal point. Will businesses go backwards due to necessity and survival or will they step up and push forward to go further and faster to achieve the right balance? I do hope it’s the latter and guess what, I believe Procurement is a key player in this. How you spend can transform your business and beyond. Where a business directs its spend can make the difference between an unsustainable imbalance and a sustainable balance to develop society, the environment and the economy equally. I strongly believe (and hope) we’ll see more and more organizations taking a stronger stance on this issue. Be it stronger support or stricter policies around supplier management for sustainability and diversity or more efforts to improve the communities involved in and around a business. Overall, Procurement organisations can influence entire ecosystems of suppliers to develop with this balance in mind.

Building Resilience

Resiliency has always been an important business strength but naturally during times of crises, there is more focus on this. For Procurement and Supply Chain leaders, while this is very likely not a foreign concept, it is likely that they have not had the opportunity to fully execute on a strategy to be more resilient to external events. This is the opportunity to show real business value. Now is the time to show the business how Procurement can add value around supplier risk management, new sources of supply, changes to contractual arrangements and much more.

Building resiliency begins with suppliers but must involve collaboration with the business. How much information do you have on your suppliers? How well connected are you to your suppliers? Are you monitoring risk across your suppliers? Do you have a mechanism to communicate and collaborate with suppliers in times of crisis? Do you have a clear view of supplier hierarchy to understand parent / child relationships? Do you know who your suppliers subcontract to? The list of questions that need answering is long. Needless to say that Procurement must accelerate on its plans to digitally connect to its suppliers to get better information, better assessment of risk (and performance) and overall infuse the multitude of Procurement and Supply Chain processes with better supplier information to improve decisions.

Solidify A Competitive Advantage

Lastly, the opportunity to establish or further develop a competitive advantage is too great to ignore. Some may ask, how can Procurement help here? We have seen first hand from our customers that Procurement does, in fact, have a lot to contribute in developing a competitive advantage. There isn’t an easy answer, however, as it really depends on the business and industry. We have a leading telecom customer where procurement was instrumental in generating significant revenue. Another where Procurement impacted the financial performance of the company by launching more new products, faster and more profitably.

Procurement is a gateway to probably the most significant source of innovation that any company has, its suppliers. By harnessing this rich resource companies can build great competitive advantages but they also need the people, processes and technology to take full advantage.

Technologies such as strategic sourcing, procure-to-pay or full source-to-pay that are instrumental in managing spend must empower versus limit. Often however, software solutions are designed in a way that forces organizations to compromise due to the limitations and restrictions presented. For those organizations that are ready to develop a competitive advantage (and many won’t be, as they still need to attain a level of maturity), technology must empower the skills and ideas that people have to be implemented and executed. Technology must empower creativity, this is how a competitive advantage is both born and executed.

How To Avoid The 5 Most Common Tech Selection Mistakes

How do you avoid making a potentially costly mistake when choosing a tech solution?


The selection of a tech solution is one of the most contentious exercises procurement organisations can go through. There are few other things that so many people in the organisation will come into contact with on a daily basis.

Get it right and you’ve probably only met people’s expectations. Get it wrong and, not only will those people make it known that the solution isn’t performing, but your organisation will also face living with a (costly) mistake for a long time.

There are countless factors that can complicate the process, from a seemingly never-ending list of requirements from across the organisation, to sorting out ‘needs’ from ‘wants’ when it comes to the requirements. And that’s not to mention that procurement teams tend to struggle when buying software for their own department, each member brings their own baggage from working with previous providers, and each individual brings their own personal preferences into this selection. 

Even if you think you are going to do things differently, you may end up inadvertently making a mistake somewhere along the line. To help you out on your next tech selection, we’ve compiled a list of the “5 Most Common Mistakes Made When Selecting a New Tech Solution.”

1.     Choosing ‘What’ Over ‘How’

Most software selections follow a similar pattern.  The selection team meets with key stakeholders and compiles a list of requirements. The requirements are then categorized into groups denoting what is a ‘must have’ versus a ‘nice to have’ and anything in between.  This then creates a scoring system that helps score the RFP responses.     

That is all good, but what I see many times being missed is there is way too much focus on ‘what’ a solution does vs. ‘how’ that feature/function is being delivered to address your most complex use cases.  Even if the feature is something your organisation needs, there’s no guarantee that how it works will suit your organisation and be widely adopted. 

2.     Picking looks over performance

It’s a new, all-singing, all-dancing system that looks the part. It’s got a sleek, visually impressive and stimulating User Interface. Buttons are in intuitive positions and there’s a color scheme designed to make the user feel more relaxed.

But the look of the solution belies the issues that users will experience due to a poor underlying system architecture.  On the surface, any provider can make the simple look intuitive and easy, but what about the more complex use cases and scenarios?  The best solutions have the ability to make even the most complex use cases appear easy and intuitive. 

And don’t be fooled, sometimes systems that focus only on a few use cases but excel at making them look easy, may lack the depth and breadth to address other key areas your users need.   

We have also found that some systems focused so much on making their new tech shiny and appealing to the eye, that they missed building it on a strong foundation.  Organizations that have complexity and high volumes may see their systems performance degrade which negatively  affects user adoption.  No matter how easy the system is to use, if it is not up and ready when you need it, end users will push back. 

So don’t be drawn in by the appealing look of a new system. Instead, really get to understand how the system was architected and if it is able to keep the complex simple for your end users.   

3.     Opting for low cost over ROI

Another thing to avoid when selecting a tech partner is a race to the bottom on price. The cheapest solution is not always the best solution. It may well end up costing you more when it comes to lost opportunity throughout the life of the agreement, cost overruns on implementation, integration, lost productivity and, in the worst cases, terminating an agreement early and going back out to the market.

Procurement, and the wider business, need to understand the true Total Cost of Ownership of all the solutions, which will in turn allow for a more true calculation on the Return on Investment (ROI). In order to calculate this effectively, it is a must to include the difference in savings one platform will achieve vs. the other.  Including those lost savings(if there are any) into your Total Cost of Ownership comparison may show that while the cost of the software is lower per year, the true cost is much higher. 

So, before you settle for the low-cost option, understand what value the solution is giving back to the business and factor that into your decision-making process.

4.     Boardroom decisions without end-user input

We’ve all worked in businesses where a new tech solution is implemented, only for it to fail to deal with any of the key issues it was meant to address. Many organisations do not engage end-users at all or speak to them after the selection has already been made.  Only then to find out that the solution that was selected in the boardroom, misses on many of the key use cases.

Not only does this make your employees feel undervalued but it also breeds resentment every time they must use the solution that hasn’t solved any of their problems.

Take time to include your end-users in the decision-making. They are the ones who will use the solution most, so their input could be the difference between success and failure.

5.      Failing to Complete a Success Blueprint Prior to Software Selection

You’ve fully detailed your requirements, gathered information and feedback, and conducted an extensive search of the market. You feel like you know which solution is best for your business, because the customer is always right, correct? Maybe not when it comes to tech solutions.

Organizations will frequently select the shiny new object or the solution that costs less.  Other times they will go with the software that conduct the best demo or has the best sales team.  Those are typically not the best indicators of future success. 

Trusting a demo or a great sales presentation is very risky.  Planning for success and putting the spotlight on what really matters is key to mitigating your risk and creating a predictable outcome. 

The RiseNow Success Blueprint that we talked about during the “How To Make Your CEO Fall In Love With Your Tech” does just that.  It also helps organizations navigate the software selection process to make sure success is achieved with the best platform for your organization. 

The trick to not making these mistakes is knowing about them in the first place and putting a proven plan in place to mitigate them. Yet even then, there’s no guarantee you won’t make a mistake, but the odds will definitely be in your favor. And keeping these 5 essential tips in mind the next time you go out to market may help you avoid making the same mistakes again.

To go deeper on the perfect tech implementation, tune in to our series ‘Major Tech Fails.’

Crafting The Job You Have Into The Career You Want

One way to take positive control of your job and career is through a concept called “job crafting”. This is how you do it…


Pursue your passions. This is the guidance we often receive as we are embarking on new jobs and careers. Whilst well-meaning this advice it is not always practical.

Many of us struggle to identify what our true passions are when it comes to work or become stuck trying to find the “perfect match” between our skills and interests and the requirements of a job.

For the vast majority of us the perfect or unicorn job doesn’t’ exist and even it did we might quickly outgrow it. The challenges and opportunities you might want today will probably look very different from those you may choose to pursue in two, three, or ten years‘ time.

This doesn’t mean we should give up trying to find jobs that fulfil and stimulate us, but we need to change how we find this work.

The secret of many people with fulfilling and engaging jobs isn’t that they have waited to find the perfect job, instead they have created, or crafted that role themselves.

Simply put, great jobs aren’t found; they’re made.

An introduction to job crafting

One way to take positive control of your job and career is through a concept called “job crafting”. Rather than waiting for others to create opportunities for development and progression, job crafting enables us to find opportunities for growth and innovation from within the jobs we already have.

Job crafting refers to individuals making changes to how they act, interact and think about their job in ways that makes the most of their individual passions, strengths and interests. Studies from around the world involving roles ranging from cleaners to CEOs have found that personalising our jobs in this way is linked to individual performance, wellbeing and career growth.

The most common and convincing explanation offered for job crafting’s positive influence on career progression is that it helps to create a better fit between the individual and their job, enabling them to express their values and beliefs whilst also making the most of their strengths and expertise.

Like people, job crafting comes in all different shapes and sizes. And there are many different ways to shape and craft your job including making changes to your tasks, relationships, skills, wellbeing and sense of purpose. Some examples of job crafting might include volunteering for new projects, doing an existing task or activity in a new way, or building or reframing existing relationships with colleagues, customers, vendors or producers.

How do you bring job crafting to life?

There are a number of ways that people can start to job craft, but here are two exercises that are particularly effective with employees who are keen to use job crafting to boost their career prospects and enjoyment.

1) Distant future – images and ideas from different career adventures

This exercise involves peering into the future and considering what you might be doing from a career perspective in 5 , 10 or even 25 years’ time.  I recommend sketching out 2 or 3 different career scenarios or adventures you might have. Questions to consider are:

–   In 2 – 25 years’ time what would be your dream job be internal and/or external to your current organization?

–   What will you be doing – what would a typical day or week look like? (what will you be doing, who will you be engaging with, what knowledge and skills will be using)

–    What skills and experiences will you need to develop further to be able to fulfil this career adventure?

Having a clear image of a future work self can enable and encourage us to create, find and seize opportunities to do things in our current jobs that they might not otherwise have had the courage or conviction to try.

2) Immediate future – starting to craft your job from tomorrow

When working with teams I often give them a job crafting budget of 10 minutes a day or a maximum of an hour a week. The secret to job crafting is to start small and to consider it a form of playful experimentation, testing out and finding the tiniest and most positive ways you can make your current job better.

These changes could be protecting an hour in your diary each week to learn a new skill, spending 10 minutes a day reading relevant industry and professional blogs, making connections on social media, changing how you structure and prioritise your day, or doing an element of your job deliberately differently (such as how you write a report or give a presentation).

To help you form some job crafting ideas here are some questions you might want to consider:

–   In an ideal world, what aspects of your job would you do more of? What would you do less of? Why? (task crafting)

–   What skills or knowledge are you most interesting in developing further? Why is this? (skill crafting)

–   What are your strongest relationships at work? (relationship crafting)

–   What relationships would you like to build further? (relationship crafting)

–   What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment in your work? Why do you think this is? (purpose crafting)

–   What changes could be made to your job to improve your health and wellbeing? (wellbeing crafting)

Careers are things that you build rather than things that you are given. If you approach job crafting with a combination of curiosity and commitment you start to shift your work in a positive direction that will make it more enjoyable and stimulating in the present and ultimately more rewarding in the future. Happy crafting.

Rob Baker is Founder and Chief Positive Deviant of Tailored Thinking a positive psychology, wellbeing and HR consultancy and author of Personalization at Work – a guide to bringing job crafting to life by Kogan Page.

Hear Rob talk with our Founder, Tania Seary, on all things job crafting, in our highly anticipated Career Bootcamp with IBM Sterling Supply Chain. Register here.

How To Discover And Utilise Our Strengths To Boost Performance

Do you know the difference between strengths and skills? Discover what it is and how to use your strengths to your advantage.


Have you ever been so focused on a task that you completely lost track of time? Do you ever do something, and then ‘light up’ without even realising it? If you do, then it’s most likely that you’re using your strengths and that’s a good thing too – playing to your strengths is key to career performance, productivity and personal wellbeing. But if you don’t know what your strengths are, how do you discover them? And can you help others do the same? 

As an occupational psychologist, helping others discover and utilise strengths to boost their performance has been the focus of my career and most recently, the focus of my work with some of the world’s most well-known organisations through my business, Bailey and French. 

I recently shared some compelling insights with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what we discussed in the podcast, and why it’s a must-listen for anyone wanting to boost their own professional and personal performance: 

What are our strengths and why do they matter? 

Have you ever been asked what your strengths are? We all have. But in my experience, being able to provide an answer to that question doesn’t mean you actually know what your strengths are. In fact, many of us confuse strengths with skills, but they are fundamentally different. Let me explain. 

People often make the assumption that if they’re good at something, that represents a strength for them. But if you are good at something, that’s a skill for you. A strength is so much more than that. A strength is something that you’re not only good at, but that you also truly enjoy doing. 

Another point of confusion I’ve discovered is that many of us believe we develop our strengths at work. This isn’t true, though. We develop our strengths in a unique period of our lives. I explain more about when this is in the podcast, listen to it here.

How do we discover our strengths and how should we use them to boost our professional success? 

Online, you’ll find a myriad of tools and tests that purport to help you analyse and discover your strengths. But in my experience with positive psychology, you don’t need complex tests to discover your true strengths. The answer is much more simple than that. 

In order to discover your strengths, I usually recommend that you start keeping a diary. In that diary, over the course of a few weeks, write down all of your experiences, both positive and negative, and both inside and outside of work. Then, go through your diary and look at themes. These themes are important, as usually you’ll find that there are a lot of activities you do on autopilot, and some that really stand out as enjoyable. 

Once you’ve identified your themes, in order to further identify your true strengths, I recommend that you ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. When was the last time I was totally absorbed in what I was doing to the point I lost track of time? 
  2. What was the best day of the last week and why? 
  3. When did I last ‘light up’ or get excited when talking about something I did? 

Keeping a journal, and asking yourself these three important questions should help you discover your strengths. 

Yet in a professional setting, discovering your strengths is just one part of the puzzle. If you’re working in a team setting, you also need to do one other critical thing. Listen to the podcast to discover what that is.

How do you help others identify their strengths? 

Throughout my career, I’ve seen an extraordinary number of organisations focus on fixing weaknesses. But ultimately, this is misguided. We all stand to gain so much more from discovering and utilising our own strengths (a key premise of positive psychology), as well as helping others discover and utilise theirs. 

But how do you help others realise their strengths? 

One method I always recommend is to offer people specific feedback when you see them doing something really well. This feedback, though, can’t just be any feedback. It has to be detailed enough to help them identify what they’re truly good at. 

An example of this might be the feedback after someone has given you a report. Instead of simply saying ‘that was a good report,’ try to be more specific around what was good, for example, ‘the patterns you derived from the data in that report were extremely insightful.’

Why is this important? It’s because helping people realise their strengths is not just good for them, but it’s great for your team dynamic and for the relationship in general, for one important reason. Listen to the podcast to discover why that is.

Also in the podcast:

  • I discuss my key strength and how I personally discovered it 
  • I detail why it’s so easy to talk about weaknesses. 

And much more. 

I look forward to you joining us in my podcast

Alex Bailey’s podcast on strengths and positive psychology is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the boot camp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

This One Trait Will Be The Key To Your Success In 2020

What trait will be the key to your success in 2020? We believe it will be resilience, and here’s why… 


Right now, no person in the entire world would call 2020 ‘easy.’ Whether we’ve been challenged personally or professionally, this year has been like no other. Which is why this one particular trait is more important than ever, and it is… 

Resilience.  

In recent years, resilience has become somewhat of a buzzword within management circles. But what really is resilience and why do we need it? 

Resilience, and more specifically, how to obtain it and use it to your advantage, has been the focus of my work for the last decade, and has inspired my now internationally-acclaimed book, Rise Warrior Rise. Through authoring my book, as well as working with numerous different organisations to help them transform their leadership capabilities through my Excelerate program, I’ve discovered what we can all do to build resilience and use it to accelerate our own personal and professional performance. 

Doing so was the topic of my discussion with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what you’ll learn in our podcast: 

What is resilience? 

Resilience is often said to be the ability to recover from adversity, and cope with change and uncertainty. But does being ‘resilient’ then mean that you won’t experience emotions in times of stress? 

Definitely not. 

From my research, I’ve discovered that being resilient doesn’t mean that you won’t experience life’s ups and down, in fact, it is only natural to experience these. Instead, resilience is the ability to still experience this depth and variation of emotion, but while doing so, be able to keep in touch with your best self. 

In my experience, resilience is far more than what people typically describe it as. In fact, I believe resilience has another aspect to it entirely. 

Discover what that is in the podcast

Why is resilience so important for professional and personal wellbeing? And what are the benefits of being resilient? 

Resilience has become a buzzword for a reason – we all know it’s important. But why? 

Professionally and personally, this year has been a challenge for all of us. And even though not every year will be as difficult as this one, we’ll always experience some challenges. This is exactly the reason why resilience is important – because we’ll always need it. 

While researching for my book and throughout my career in general, I’ve come across a lot of people who may not be as resilient as they could be, and that has resulted in some concerning behaviours. For example, if something bad happens to someone who isn’t resilient, typically they get stressed, and then withdraw. From there, they occupy their mind with negative self-chatter, and then they can end up feeling anxious, depressed or worse. 

But in good news, with resilience, the reaction can be the complete opposite. Instead of engaging in negative self-talk, those who are resilient typically tell themselves that the situation is temporary. And instead of getting stressed, their emotional and physical wellbeing stays intact, and they don’t lose touch with their vision for a great life.

The benefits of being resilient extend way beyond how you react when things get tough, though. From my experience, those who are resilient are more likely to lead abundant and opulent professional lives, and also are more likely to have success with their family and personal pursuits. In summary, resilient people are more likely to lead a full and rich life, without regret. 

Think this sounds wonderful? It is, and there’s one more critical reason why. Learn what that is in the podcast.

How can we become more resilient? 

It’s clear that being resilient pays off, both personally and professionally. How do we get better at it, though? 

To help, I’ve created a 13-step framework for people to increase their level of resilience. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry – you don’t need to be good at every step. Excelling at just a few steps is all you need in order to make a substantial difference. 

I won’t detail the 13 step framework here, but there is more information in the podcast if you’re interested. One important point, though, is that you do need to develop practices to keep you strong. An area that I recommend everyone works on is that of negative self-chatter. 

We all experience negative self-chatter at some point, and this is because the mind can be fickle and it often focuses on the negative. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where someone has said something awful, and it’s completely ruined your day, despite many other positive things happening? 

This is common, and we all need to do what we can to develop our own mechanisms to address it. For me personally, I’ve developed a unique routine to keep the negativity at bay. My routine includes getting up early in the morning, and doing some exercise (this might be yoga, walking or some weights). After I’ve done this, I then do exercises to regulate my breath. Even if I can’t regulate my mind, I try to regulate my breath. Finding something to focus on, for example my breath, enables me to enter a calm state. Then, I share positive words. I find that wholly rejuvenating. 

This type of self-care is critical for all of us, as it replenishes our ‘fourth being.’ More on that in the podcast – listen to it here

Remember, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, you can build, and benefit from, resilience. I look forward to exploring the topic with you in more detail.

Roh Singh’s podcast on resilience is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

Procurious Blog