5 Key Findings from the ‘Making It Stick’ Research Literature Review – Part 2

Have you read The Faculty’s Making it Stick report yet?

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Our researchers undertook a literature review to understand the present state of play for CPOs worldwide. This is the second part of The Faculty’s article on the key findings from the literature review.

In the previous article, we discussed:

  • How benefits realisation levels are poor and remain an enduring challenge for CPOs around the globe.
  • The need for organisation-wide change management programs to address poor benefits realisation.

To wrap up the final three findings:

3. Business alignment and shared goals are integral to winning stakeholder support for identified benefits

As mentioned above, Procurement can’t drive savings all the way to the bottom line in isolation from the rest of the business. Shared goals across the organisation are absolutely essential for stamping out the culture of “somebody else’s problem” when it comes to poor benefits realisation.

Noah Costelloe (Ernst & Young) wrote in 2014: “The procurement team should not be the ‘sole owners’ of savings. Instead the focus of the team should be on facilitating and driving initiatives. They should also be accountable for the governance function through recording, measuring and reporting savings.”[1]

So, what’s the first step to creating shared goals? The answer is to ensure Procurement’s targets are aligned to those of the wider business. A report from Proxima (2015) stated that “Success in the procurement field … is a nebulous concept [because] procurement’s objectives aren’t usually clearly defined. Or perhaps, more accurately, it’s because procurement’s objectives are defined quite differently by its practitioners and the business leaders they serve.”[2]

The Managing successful programmes report already quoted above gives excellent guidance on alignment: “[Procurement must] provide alignment and clear links between the programme [benefit], its vision and desired outcomes, and the strategic objectives of the organisation involved.”[3]

4. Procurement teams are expanding their strategic footprint beyond costs through the identification and realisation of additional value opportunities.

What do additional value opportunities have to do with benefits realisation? Everything. In the Making it Stick report, “costs” are identified as the base of the pyramid, or the essential piece that must be in place before the function can move beyond transactional benefits, through commercial to strategic benefits.

If you can’t make savings stick, you won’t have the base necessary to successfully expand the value you contribute to the organisation. In ProcureCon Europe’s 2014 survey of 2,000 procurement professionals, “Total Cost Savings” still retains its place as the most popular metric for measuring the value of procurement (85%).[4]

KPMG’s The Power of Procurement (2012) reports: “Significant opportunities still remain to drive sustainable bottom line and top line value …. Procurement will need to stretch beyond savings to become a centre of value creation throughout the organisation. Executives will also need to play a part.”[5]

5. Clear definitions and categorisation of savings and other benefit types drive cross-functional understanding, shared measurements and realisation.

Without rigorous benefits definitions in place, other parts of the business with dispute Procurement’s wins. Benefits should be:

  • categorised by type
  • agreed upon with Finance
  • clear and concise
  • in plain English (not “Procurement lingo”)
  • aligned to business targets
  • linked to a clear set of measurement and validation methodologies.

To illustrate the importance of a set of definitions, consider the term ‘savings’. If you were to tell a roomful of colleagues from various departments that Procurement is focused on savings as its primary benefit, it’s more than likely that there will be multiple interpretations of what a ‘saving’ actually involves. Andrew Bartolini wrote in 2014 that “Savings [is] an inherently complex metric [with] greater disparity among the definitions used by procurement teams today”.

A 2006 report from CAPS Research found that, “Crucial to [Procurement’s] mission is the proper categorisation of the various types of cost reduction and their application to the company’s operating budgets and profit and loss measures.”[6]

The Making it Stick report contains sample definitions and measurements employed by participating organisations. Reproduced to give readers a broad set of examples to adapt for their own organisations. A concise set of definitions aids cross-functional understanding and should be developed in partnership with the wider business.

If you haven’t done so already, you can download the ‘Making It Stick’ research report here.

[1] Costelloe, Noah. Five things: getting the basics right in Procurement. Ernst & Young, 2014, p.4.

[2] Cooper-Bagnall, Jonathan, “Defining procurement success”, Proxima, June 2015

[3] Great Britain Office of Government Commerce, Managing successful programmes, Norwich, The Stationary Office, 2003, p.32.

[4] ProcureCon Europe 2014 Benchmarking Survey.

[5] KPMG. The Power of Procurement: A global survey of Procurement functions. KPMG, 2012, p.14.

[6] Ashenbaum, Bryan. “Defining cost reduction and cost avoidance”, CAPS Research Critical Issues Report 2006, p.2.

Procurious Big Idea #45 – Procurement Raising Its Voice

Cath Hill, Group Marketing and Membership Director for CIPS, talks about her idea to get procurement to raise its voice as a profession.

Procurement has long been the unsung hero in the organisation, but now it’s time to make both internal and external people aware of the great work the profession does.

See more Big Ideas from our 40+ influencers.

Like this? Join Procurious for FREE and meet like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

What You Can Expect from a Procurement Job in Australia

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After three weeks, eight flights, a wedding and some workshops, I’m finally back from my trip to Australia. It was a great trip – as well as spending time with my friends and family, I had the chance to reconnect with the procurement community ‘down under’.

Australia is where I started my procurement career and I feel I know the landscape down there pretty well. So on the flight home I penned my tips for anyone considering a procurement role in the ’lucky country’.

1. You’ll land in a hotbed of procurement talent

The spotlight is shining bright on Australian procurement professionals. Kylie Towie, the CPO of WA Health, won this year’s ‘Procurement Leader of the Year’ Award. Last year’s winner was another Australian Scott Wharton, who is working in New York as the Global Head of Enterprise Supply Chain for Citi.

The Procurement Leaders Award pits the top supply chain and procurement professionals from around the globe against one another. Having Australians win the award in consecutive years is a major achievement for Australian procurement.

According to Eva Wimmers, the former CPO of Deutsche Telekom, the procurement function in Australia is in a mature state.

2. Be Wary of the Boom

Unlike the rest of the developed world, the Australian economy was, by and large, unaffected by the Global Financial Crisis. In fact, Australia has seen unbroken economic growth for the last twenty something years. Unemployment rates are enviably low (6 per cent), there is very little public debt and inflation has been stable for many years.

For procurement, huge resource and infrastructure projects over the last decade have meant that Australian companies have needed to purchase a lot of stuff.

Sounds perfect, right?

Not quite. The Australian economy weathered the financial crisis largely thanks to its enormous natural resource sector (and the Chinese appetite to consume these resources). However, 2015 has seen shaky growth figures from China, causing commodity prices to plummet, and the Australian economy is feeling the pinch.

Large resource projects have been mothballed, and will likely remain so, until commodity prices show significant signs of recovery. While the mining and resources sectors are only one part of the Australian economy, the knock-on impacts for business confidence across the country cannot be understated.

3. The supply market is shallow

Although the Australian economy is strong, it’s important to remember that it is also isolated and relatively small. As such, the depth of the supply market is not comparable to markets in Europe and the USA.

Monopoly or duopoly suppliers dominate many industries, meaning you’ll need to get creative with your category management plans. Good category managers are constantly looking to create competitive tension in the supply base. This may mean leveraging international suppliers more frequently or even producing the required product internally.

4. You’ll be part of a connected community

The Australian procurement community is well connected. There are more than 2000 Australian members of Procurious (it’s one of our strongest membership groups).

CIPS has a strong and active presence in Australia. The Institute runs events, provides certification and training and numerous networking opportunities for procurement professionals down under.

The Faculty, too, provides a number of development opportunities for procurement professionals in Australia. The company’s Roundtable acts as a forum to bring together elite procurement professionals to share their experiences and insight.

By leveraging Procurious, CIPS and The Faculty, you’ll find it very easy to connect and continue to grow as a procurement professional.

5. There is a unique industry focus

People used to say that Australia rode on the sheep’s back. While, strictly speaking, that’s not true any more, the Australian economy is certainly very heavily weighted towards primary production. The retail and services sectors are respectable, but it’s mining and oil and gas that really drive the economy.

6. The pay is good

Procurement pays well in Australia. According to recruitment firm Hudson, a full-time procurement manager in Western Australia can earn between $150 and $210k; experienced category managers can expect to earn about $120-150k. Even taking into account unfavourable exchange rates, these salaries are enviable when compared to similar positions in the US or Europe.

7. And you’ll need every cent

Australia isn’t cheap. Sydney consistently ranks amongst the world’s most expensive cities to live in. Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide don’t trail too far behind.

House prices in Australia have boomed in recent years. A modest, two-bedroom apartment in Paddington (a suburb in inner-city Sydney) will set you back roughly $1200 a week in rent.

If you’re buying in the same neighbourhood, you’re looking at close to $2 million. The cost of living (eating out, shopping, etc.) is also consistently high too.

8. Visas can be tricky but not Impossible

If you’re not an Australian or New Zealand national, you’ll need a visa to work in Australia. There are a number of different visa options for people looking to migrate to Australia for work, but the most common, particularly amongst senior level staff, is sponsorship.

Visa sponsorship requires commitment of both time and money from employers, but, as Brendan Turner from The Source told me, “Australian employers are open to visa sponsorship, especially for senior roles and for those candidates coming out of the UK market.”

9. It’s Fun!

There is no that opportunities for employment and personal development are abundant in Australia, but it’s the lifestyle that is the true superstar.

Whether it’s lattes in lane ways (Melbourne), surfing on the Sunshine Coast (Queensland), or barbecues in Bondi (Sydney), the Aussie way of life is second to none. We love our sport, we love our beaches, the food is fresh, the coffee is great, the air is clean and sun is almost always shining.

To quote one of our B-grade celebs…“Where the bloody hell are ya?”

Ahhh…it’s enough to make you home sick.

Driving Procurement Power: Strategies in Purchasing

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This article was originally published on Tradogram.

Your eyes are locked on the road directly in front of you. White-knuckled, you jerk the steering wheel into obedience to keep the tires away from massive potholes.

One wrong move or missed sign, a bad assessment of the immediate situation, and your car goes over a cliff. The likelihood of this outcome could be greatly reduced if you had the foresight to anticipate the road ahead.

Definitive Strategies

How can definitive strategies be applied to scenarios that seem so distant and unknown, especially when there’s always a more urgent task demanding attention? You don’t have to be navigating a treacherous mountain pass to consider the benefits of strategic thinking.

The business of procurement needs leaders who understand what it means to implement purchasing strategies. This is easier said than done – what exactly does “being strategic” entail, anyway? From a general perspective, it involves critical analyses, interpreting data, executing decisions, continuous learning, and the ability to align employee’s divergent agendas (including those that remain hidden; peripheral vision is an asset, both behind the wheel and in the boardroom).

Where Procurement Comes In

Specifically, strategic procurement is when companies are able to plan and schedule group buying well in advance of deadlines. They centralize this process with the intent of gaining transactional efficiencies (and as a result, savings), ideally through the use of an ePurchasing solution. Communication between internal and external stakeholders is continuous, effective, and secure.

Global suppliers are selected from a database that provides comparative formats, customisable to the buyer’s unique needs (ranging from negotiating an optimal price point to managing user approvals and more). When this list of components synchronises, an organisation’s gears can shift smoothly; at the right moment, this is the difference between a brilliant hairpin turn and crashing into a rock wall.

Be The Driving Force

If this criteria seems daunting, rest assured that when a company is still struggling with the interpretation of “strategic”, there’s no reason to even think about enacting such an approach. Market research is overrated! One product or service is just as underwhelmingly adequate as the next! The CEO left for a business meeting with her tennis racket! Why should we create performance anxiety over a bulk order of sheet metal?

Sure, a purchasing department might be successful upholding mediocrity, but when opportunities exist for improvement, why not take advantage? Especially when such purchasing improvements serve to directly benefit those doing the purchasing. Be the driving force behind strategic procurement – what happens further down the road is worth putting the pedal to the metal.

Breelyn Lancaster is the Marketing Coordinator for Tradogram, a cloud-based procurement platform which aims to help buyers take control of their sourcing processes and aim for cost-effective solutions.

The Collaborative Economy – The New Globalisation?

New organisations, new social media platforms, great connectivity – all of these are expanding the wealth of knowledge and skills that individuals have access to. As this continues, are we looking at a shift in the nature of global trade?

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Ten years ago, I sat in a business lecture debating why globalisation was a good thing, and why organisations needed to be alive to the possibilities of being able to source any item, at any time, from anywhere in the world. Although I won that argument, I couldn’t have known how the world would change in the intervening decade.

Globalisation and Trade

At the time, I was young, idealistic and thought large, dominant global organisations couldn’t be a bad thing, no matter what my debate opponent said about local economies and global trade. I should say that this was also back when I drank coffee from the red, blue and green chain companies, before realising local, independent providers had them beat…

Now, reports are suggesting that traditional globalisation, the trade between countries, is decreasing. Some forecasts show that, for a third consecutive year, growth in global trade will be lower than overall economic growth, while others highlight that international capital flows are worth 10 per cent of what they were in 2007.

While it may be true that globalisation in a traditional sense may be on the wane, there is a new form of globalisation on the rise.

The Collaborative Economy

Cross-border trade is changing thanks to technological advances and increasing interconnectedness of subject matter experts and those who require specific skill-sets that they don’t already have access to. This is the Collaborative Economy.

Sites like Upwork (a combination of two pioneers of the collaborative economy, Elance and oDesk) allow organisations to ‘hire’ independent talent for one-off or short-term jobs, filling a requirement or skills gaps, without having to hire a full-time employee.

The difference in this case is that the individuals offering their expertise to meet business requirements are frequently in a different country or in a different time zone, but able to leverage technology to provide a service.

There are an estimated 80 million ‘sharers’ in the collaborative economy in the USA, as well as over 23 million in the UK and over 10 million in Canada. And with conservative estimates of investment totalling $25 billion, it appears that we are just scratching the surface.

Procurement Professionals without Borders

Procurement is very much at the start of its journey when it comes to the Collaborative Economy, but the potential is enormous. Asset sharing and transfer of knowledge could enable procurement to work across borders and access knowledge, all while reducing costs associated with travel and adding value through accessing best practice and reducing risk.

Online sharing platforms, such as FLOOW2 can assist with supply chain transparency and reduce overheads by facilitating the sharing of assets. And could we end up seeing this go one step further, with procurement professionals themselves being shared between organisations? It’s not as far-fetched as you might think.

This isn’t consultancy – this is freelance procurement. When asked about my ‘Big Idea’ for procurement, I voiced the opinion that in the next decade people wouldn’t work for one organisation or in one place, but on multiple projects and in many teams, dependent on the required skills for the job.

It has taken less than 6 months for others to talk about the same subject – how long before talk becomes reality? I’d be interested to hear what you think and if you would set yourself up as a procurement freelancer. Let’s start a debate – maybe someone else will win this time!

Injecting Social Media into Local Government’s New Commercial DNA

A good dose of social media activity could help local government make the most of the sweeping EU Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR2015).

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Local authorities have been advised by Crown Commercial Service (CCS) that these new regulations would require “a complete reversal of the commercial DNA in the public sector”. While attending the East England Local Government Association (EELGA) Procurement Masterclass in Cambridge last week, it became apparent that UK local government has a mighty task ahead of them.

Moving forward, the public sector will need to place far greater effort into pre-tender activities (identifying needs, market research, supplier engagement) and into post-tender activities (contract management, continuous improvement, negotiation), instead of focusing as much on the tender itself.

‘Bolder and More Collaborative’

In the UK, local government procurement spend is estimated to be approximately £57 billion annually. EELGA, an association created by the 52 local councils in the East of England, is a catalyst for collaborative working – bringing together groups of councils to harness their collective expertise, strength and knowledge.

According to the EELGA Procurement Lead, Eddie Gibson, the new regulations will requireprocurement professionals to become bolder and more collaborative”.

Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry City Council and National Procurement Champion for Local Government, told the Society of Procurement Officers National Conference in February 2015 that, “although the procurement profession had an excellent reputation for compliance, procurers needed to be innovative, risk-taking, adventurous and even disruptive.”

Maybe that’s why I was called in to speak at their Masterclass!

Bringing Procurement Together

I always love to see professionals getting together.

Why? Because as many of you know, one of the reasons why we started Procurious is that I worry that large portions of the procurement profession are ‘uncontacted’, that much of our ‘tribe’ is working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge available to help them do their jobs better and learn. 

Apparently, there are more than 3.5 million procurement professionals in the world, but there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily connect with.

So where are the other 3 million procurement professionals? What are they doing? How are they surviving/thriving/developing?

 We know that in the case of EELGA, there are at least 100 procurement professionals connected through that group.

Before I started Procurious, I was a member of a regional community, similar to EELGA, on the remote content of Australia. Our community has a Procurement Roundtable of 30 leading Australian companies at its core, and has shown me the benefits and growth achieved by collaborating, learning and working face to face.

Procurious encapsulates all those learnings in an online environment that helps connect procurement communities around the world. Nobody need work in isolation any more. In fact, I hope that Procurious is showing that there are indeed significant opportunities in us all working together.

The Power of Social Media

Social media presents a great opportunity for any group to expand their influence, get noticed for their activities across the board, attract talent, expand their supplier markets and market intelligence gathering opportunities and, with Procurious, potentially work collaboratively across borders and certainly with other public sector professionals in the UK.

To provide a bit of context prior to speaking at the conference, we had a look at the Top 10 suppliers (by value) to UK Local Government.

The Top 10 suppliers had an average of 40,000 followers on LinkedIn and 16,000 followers on Twitter. Admittedly these suppliers exist on a national, and often international, scale, but their social media presence allows them to be part of the conversation and be instantly recognisable when people search for them.

The benefit for procurement here is that these suppliers’ social media accounts are often a valuable source of information about their businesses. From press releases to new products offerings and beyond, these accounts represent a great, public source of information for procurement to access.

Procurement Stepping Up

At the conference, I threw out five challenges to the attendees at the Masterclass that you may also like to take up:

  1. Connect with Peers

Think about your LinkedIn or other social media accounts. Are you missing any important connections? Are you connected to everyone in your regional peer group? Take 5 minutes now to find out.

  1. Connect with Suppliers

Are you connected to your key suppliers on social media? How could you be using social media to connect with other suppliers, or gather market intelligence or widen sourcing possibilities?

  1. Tracking the External Environment

What tools are you using to keep track of the external environment and your extended supply chain? Consider what social media platforms you could use for this and what information you might be able to access.

  1. Personal and Organisational Brand

What does your profile say about you as an individual? How about your organisation’s profile? Take the next 10-15 minutes you have free to have a critical look at your own profile. Make sure your information is up to date, you have a good profile picture and you are calling out interesting, shareable and compelling information and content for people to see. 

  1. Share Your Best Practice

Could you contribute to an ‘open-source’ project for procurement? Is there any good/best practice from your organisation that you think people would benefit from? Get on to social media and make this available – it will promote your organisation as a thought leader, but also raise your profile.

There you go, five quick challenges that will help inject social media into your DNA and help build your profile and the image of the procurement profession.

Good luck!

Future Technology That May Change The World

As Artificial Intelligence and Digital Currencies (like Bitcoin) seek to transform our lives, what effects will these new advances have on commerce and the world’s supply chains?

Future technology that will change supply chains

There’s a change happening on factory floors the world over, as robots and automation increasingly replace the manual (human) workforce of old.

With the recent innovations in artificial intelligence, will the supply chains of tomorrow be at the mercy of robotic overlords? If so, do we have anything to fear?

Elon Musk has previously aired his own warnings while giving a talk to students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), saying:

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful… I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.”

Of course it’s perfectly natural to fear change. We must also be mindful that artificial intelligence is still very much evolving, and at this stage it’s an unknown quantity. There are some camps that fear the worst, that AI represents the destruction of mankind, with robots and humans embroiled in a bitter battle for survival. Flesh vs. circuits, the human condition vs. sentience…

Future Shocks

Not so according to Mustafa Suleyman – Head of Applied AI at Google DeepMind, who instead believes that this modern intelligence will help tackle some of the biggest problems facing the world today (think access to clean water, financial inequality and stock market risks). Indeed, the work of DeepMind was something Wired Editor David Rowan touched on at Procurement Leaders’ London gathering earlier this year.

David told us how DeepMind had created a “generalised artificial intelligence” – the earliest example of which was able to not only play Space Invaders, but master it to become the best player in the world. While this demonstration is certainly impressive, how can it translate to real-world scenarios?

The answer lies in Big Data as DeepMind observed: “We have global information overload from overwhelming systems complexity – they’re so complex and interlinked it’s possible that the US financial crash in 2008-9 caused the Egyptian revolution” [a time of widespread corruption and a stagnant economy that led to a national bread shortage].

If all of this (Big) Data is just sitting around, waiting for consumption, then why shouldn’t we make it available to robots for analysis and dissemination?

A Calculated Risk

Indeed, the significance of Big Data has not gone unnoticed by procurement’s leading lights…

A 2010 paper entitled ‘Artificial intelligence in supply chain management: theory and applications’ reviewed the past record of success in AI applications to SCM and identifies the most fruitful areas of SCM in which to apply AI.

Similarly, author of Supply Chain Visability.com -Jonah Saint McIntire, observed: “In time, as new generations of the AI are deployed, something truly game changing will occur. This is because machine learning will cross human learning capabilities fairly slowly. Remember that intelligence is modular and, as a result, machines may exceed humans in some forms of learning while lagging in others. The real breakthrough occurs when all necessary forms of learning are dominated by AI rather than human intelligence.”

If AI can help us realise that we have a problem, why then should we be fearful of this new technological dawn?

John McAfee – infamous programmer and creator of the world’s first antivirus software, has long insisted “that if you are a ‘routine cognitive worker’ following instructions or doing a structured mental task,” then it is your job that’s most at risk from the inevitable rise of the machines…

Payments Are Going Digital Too…

Bitcoin is an online payment system that is perhaps more widely recognised as the first decentralised digital currency.

Supported by open source technology, Bitcoin is not owned or operated by one individual or organisation. It is free to use (apart from an optional transaction fee) and can reduce the costs of transactions for merchants compared to credit cards.

The technology behind it is referred to as ‘blockchain’. The blockchain records all the transactions in a publicly available ledger. The ledger keeps track of what users are spending, provides authentication and keeps track of where the currency is.

Safety In (Digital) Numbers

New electronic payment systems and virtual currencies are expected to make paper currency the horse and buggy of the 21st century.

In a report commissioned by HP, the Ponemon Institute has made a number of interesting finds. Its “Security & Compliance Trends in Innovative Electronic Payments” paper reveals that support for digital currencies and new electronic payment systems are perhaps stronger than originally thought. And while 79 per cent of the US organisations that took part in the research plan to adopt digital currencies, a key barrier to the adoption of innovative electronic payments remains. Namely: the issue of security.

While new payment models are evolving, the same security fundamentals for maximum protection in the underlying payment process are still needed. The most critical are one-time passwords or tokens, federated identity and authentication systems and multi-factor authentication.

There is also the perception that the pressure to quickly migrate to the use of innovative electronic payments is making it difficult to address the security and privacy issues.

Digital wallets (or e-wallets) are used to hold virtual currency – and high profile names in technology like Google and Apple already have solutions in place to drive the adaption rate.

In-fact belief is so strong that almost half (46 per cent) of respondents predict that virtual currencies will overtake paper currencies within the next five years.

Perhaps there’s some truth in this… we are increasingly looking to financial institutions and credit card companies to make the inroads needed to take such practices to the next level.

They’ll be the ones to create new approaches to the security and privacy of the electronic payment platform. These organisations are closer to the consumer experience with electronic payment systems and might have a greater incentive to innovate and improve both security and privacy.

Transparency In The Digital Age

Is it such a leap to suggest that Bitcoin technology has the ability to transform the future of digital payments and aid supply chain transparency?

We already know that it’s possible to adapt Blockchains to keep track of what is going into a product, who has handled it etc. Using an app or website, an individual could stand in a shop holding a piece of clothing and be able to trace it all the way back to the farm that supplied the cotton. The information could be used to highlight working practices on the farm, use of pesticides, Fairtrade considerations and more, leading to far greater transparency.

Tracing the supply chain through the use of a ‘product passport’, showing the change of ownership of items through the supply chain and highlighting each step in the process would ultimately help to facilitate an understanding of the transactions from end to end.

What do you make of this brave new world: is more time needed to fully realise the benefits (and drawbacks) of such innovations?

Sourcing From China: A Guide for Small Businesses

It doesn’t come as a surprise that China ranks amongst the most popular destination for global outsourcing. Though its relative cost of manufacturing has increased in the last few years, it isn’t comparable to the costs in most of countries in the world.

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It is still one of the cheapest places retailers and manufacturers to source goods or some parts required for producing their goods. If you are looking to source from China, establish good relations with source suppliers in China and conduct smooth global sourcing processes, you can adopt the following 6 means to complement your outsourcing strategy and solutions.

1. Internet Search

It is true when they say that whatever you need these days will be found within the realms of the mighty internet. Search engines such as Google or Bing will display list of suppliers and their procurement services within seconds. You can filter or streamline your search as per your requirement.

Make sure that you consider the reviews of each supplier even before you get in touch with them. Most importantly, ensure that the supplier is a legitimate one. An internet search is not only quick but also cost-effective and location independent.

2. Social Media

Social media has proved its worth time and again for businesses. More and more companies are taking an initiative to pursue social media presence in order to connect with potential customers and buyers. Social media offers a direct channel of interact between suppliers and buyers. It is also a good place to gather reviews and feedback from other customers of your potential supplier. This may help you in understanding suppliers better and take decisions based on the gathered data.

On the other hand, it is important to remember to do due diligence as some of the reviews may be fabricated, unverified or doctored by the suppliers themselves. Be cautious and you will cut down the risk of getting up at the bad end of the deal.

3. Online Forums

There are numerous forums online that talk about topics related to sourcing in China. In case you have any industry-specific query about strategic sourcing or want suggestions, you can contact different forums.

Different members of the forum will definitely respond and help you in identifying suppliers and quality of China products. Online forums are the best place to connect, network and interact with many people from the same industry at once.

4. Trade Shows

This is one place where you get the opportunity to meet the suppliers in person. You can directly talk to them and inquire about their company, production capacity, quality control procedures and the like. Trade shows offer a platform where you can gauge a supplier’s culture and compatibility with that of your own, which may aid in better decisions.

Direct interaction also fosters better evaluation of suppliers, their overall abilities and what exactly they can offer you. Almost all companies that are a part of trade shows are legitimate, thus relieving you from the worry of being involved with an incompetent supplier or a fraud.

5. Trading Companies

You may find some trading companies within your own country that deal with global sourcing. You may get in touch with them and seek their assistance in finding China sourcing agent for yourself. Trading companies can help you search suppliers, narrow down your search and get you in touch with potential suppliers. They usually have insights that will help you in making informed decisions.

6. B2B sourcing platforms

There are several B2B sourcing platforms that offer a list of service providers and goods suppliers. Some of them include Made-in-China.com, Alibaba and Global Sources. These platforms will enable you to find localised results such as ‘verified supplier’, ‘accredited supplier’ or ‘onsite supplier’. B2B sourcing platforms not only provide you a credible list of suppliers but also of those who are blacklisted or banned from supplying products.

This will help you in identifying and establishing business relations with the right people without jeopardising your business or any other risks. Most of these platforms offer services that protect the buyers, such as credit check and supplier-capability assessment checks. Remember that ‘verified supplier’ only means that their existence of the sourcing company is verified; it does not assure the reputation and quality of the suppliers. Do your homework carefully before taking the final leap.

Choose the Right One For You

There is no restricted on the number of means you opt for. If you are satisfied by the supplier you met at a trade show, feel free to take the relationship ahead; if you have been referred to a supplier by a trusted person in a trading company, you can take the next step; if you feel you have gained enough information through online search and consulting various forums, don’t be afraid to contact the supplier.

If you are uncomfortable with just an online search to validate your sourcing strategy, then you can spend more time by attending fairs, talking to various trading companies, scouring through forums and then make an informed decision.

As the Director at Excella Worldwide, Shruti Agrawal is a strategist with an Electronics Engineering background and always on the lookout for ways to challenge and disrupt business models to make them better. Connect with @Excella_WW on Twitter.

10 Steps To Achieve Networking Success

Tips to network like a boss

‘It’s not what you know but who you know’ – never has this been a truer saying. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have made it easier than ever to target those in the know and the people who make the important decisions. But, many people just don’t know how to do it right.

Are you the person stuck in the corner of the room, trapped chatting to the same person for the duration of the event and leaving feeling dejected, like it was a waste of time or opportunities? You may have the knowledge and the expertise, but if you can’t connect with the right people, what’s the point?

Don’t worry! You can be the one circulating like a pro, making every meeting count and leaving with a fist full of business cards from the people that matter.

10. Are you attending the right events?

Who do you want to meet? Focus on the events where you are going to meet people who will help you. If you’re looking for a new job, identify those where you can meet potential employers. If you’re looking to sell a product or service, e.g. website design, don’t go to an event just for web designers. Identify who may need your service (e.g. bars and restaurants) and attend events where decision makers will be.

9. Entering the room

Enter the room with confidence: stand tall and scan the room to identify people you want to approach. Don’t rush straight for the sides or corners of the room; your underlying attitude is all-important as this is what you will be radiating. If you’re feeling self-conscious then maybe chat to the host to find out who is there. They may put you at ease and they may be able to introduce you.

8. Who to approach

Knowing which groups to approach can be the hardest part of networking.   Look out for groups of three people who are facing out towards the room – these ‘open’ groups are the easiest to join.

And if you need further help in getting into an established group, see if there is a table nearby that you can put a drink down on. This should open at least one person up and you can start a conversation with them.

Avoid closed groups, the ones that have three or four people huddled closely together as these will be the least receptive to interruptions.

7. The Handshake

The handshake gives you an insight into what the other person is like. A firm (not too firm) handshake is sufficient but there are three handshakes you need to be careful about:

  1. Dominant – the finger/hand crusher, implies you’re boss and not going to listen to anyone else
  2. The ‘Wet Fish’ – limp and powerless, this suggests you’re a walk over and
  3. Double touch – grasping both hands or hand and arm together, this can seem over-familiar.

Don’t write someone off completely for giving you the ‘wet fish’ though – they may have a hand injury!

6. Remembering names

If you have a name badge, wear it high on the right side of your body which makes it easily visible to the other person to see. Listen carefully when the other person says their name and repeat it in the conversation as soon as you can, as it will help to cement it in your mind. Word association can also help; try linking their name to a well-known phrase or person. If all else fails, it’s ok to ask and much better than guessing their name!

5. Building rapport

So you’ve made your approach and you remember their name. How do you build rapport? It’s not so much about WHAT you say but HOW you say it. We get on with people who are most like us, so you need to concentrate on two things:

  • Moving and gesturing in a similar way
  • Matching the speed and pace of their voice

Don’t be too obvious about it, wait a couple of second before copying actions, but if you’re able to you’re able to do this, it will make more positive impact on them than what you’re actually saying.

4. Be interested before being interesting…

You will get the most out of networking if you listen to the other person and find out what you can do for them. Ask key questions to identify their needs:

    • What makes a great customer for you?
    • What sort of contacts are you looking for?
    • Is there anyone I might know who could be useful to you?

Givers gain, so if you can help them first, they will be more likely to help you in return.

3. Moving on…

You have been chatting for a few minutes and you realise that this person isn’t able to help you… however don’t write people off straight away – they might be well connected with the people you want to meet.

If you’re in a group excuse yourself politely. If you’re with just one person it’s a bit trickier. Ask them to accompany you to the drinks table – you might lose them on the way, or find someone else to introduce them to while you’re there. If all else fails, it is socially acceptable now to tell them that you are there to network and would like to circulate more, wish them well and just move on.  

2. Work on your social networking personality

These days your virtual presence is as important as your physical presence. Make sure that your Linked-In profile is 100 per cent completed and get people to recommend you, especially from outside of your employment – client recommendations are worth a lot. Linked-In is great for connecting with key decision makers too.

As for Facebook, check your privacy settings. If your settings are set to public, only upload photos and comments that you would be happy for a client to see. If in doubt, tighten your privacy or don’t add it.

1. Following up…

You have attended an event and chatted to and exchanged business cards with a potential new client/employer. What next?

Ask if it’s ok to send them an email or message via LinkedIn and don’t be too pushy about meeting up. Be persistent but don’t pester: ask how you can work TOGETHER and if they don’t reply, back off.

If you have been chatting about a specific subject, send a link to articles or websites of interest. Really personalise the approach – a handwritten letter with an article of interest makes a big impression – and it will have the stick factor.

For more on this, check out my TEDX presentation on Successful Networking

Is there a crisis on the horizon for Asian economies?

The old saying used to be “If America sneezes, the world catches a cold”. Times are changing and now it seems that China has caught a cold, and the rest of the Asian economies may be coming down with something worse.

chinamarket_091815 In 1997, Asia was hit by an economic crisis, sparked by, amongst other things, a series of currency devaluations. When the Thai Government took the decision to unpeg the Baht against the US Dollar, it had a knock-on effect across the rest of the region, with falling stock markets and reduced imports.

 

Back in the current day, similar issues with slow economic growth and currency valuations in the region have many investors worried that a new crisis may be on the horizon. While many economists and experts may disagree with this, there are parallels being drawn between the situation today, and the one nearly 20 years ago.

Market Instability

Asian economies have just experienced their worst collective quarter since the Global Financial Crisis. Not even the Chinese powerhouse is immune to the slump, with its main stock market posting its worst quarterly results since 2008 and growth slowing to 6.9 per cent.

Currency valuations are down too. The Malaysian Ringgit has fallen a massive 26 per cent this year; the Thai Baht has hit a five-year low; Singapore’s central bank is about to undertake its second easing of monetary policy of 2015; Japan is facing another recession.

With export markets weakening, less money available to spend on imports, and China, long since the key customer for many Asian countries, unable to help due to its own perilous situation, there are concerns that it’s only a matter of time before there is a knock-on effect around the world.

Sales Slump

Last week alone saw five major global organisations report a sharp decline in sales, tied to poor sales in Asia, which have lead to falling profits and revisions of growth forecasts.

  • A 4 per cent fall in the sales of Barbie Dolls has hit Mattel profits (down to $223.8m from $331.8m last year), as a strong US Dollar impacts overseas markets
  • Shares in Hugo Boss dropped 10 per cent, with the organisation blaming the deteriorating Asian market; it went on to cut its growth forecast for sales and core profits to 3-5 per cent
  • Shares in Burberry dropped 8 per cent on Thursday last week, with its investors focusing on a dip in Chinese sales as the primary cause
  • Casino and hotel operator, Wynn Resorts, reported a 60 per cent drop in earnings in the three months to September. Its Macau operations, traditionally a major money earner, saw a 37.9 per cent decrease in net revenues for the same period
  • Nestle, still recovering from the Maggi Noodles safety scare, cut its growth outlook to 4.5 per cent, citing slower than expected growth in China

Global Uncertainty

As the situation in Asia develops, investors around the world are nervous about what might be coming next. Decreasing export revenues, in particular to the Chinese market, are set to have an impact on growing economies like Brazil and Turkey.

There are concerns in Europe too, where exports to Asia are big business, as slow European markets aren’t able to pick up the slack in sales. Even in the USA, where growth is much healthier, long-term instability may ultimately cause problems.

Winter of Discontent?

Where does this leave procurement and supply chain? As professionals, we need to be aware of the developing situation, both from the point of view of sales and exports, but also for risk exposure for organisations.

While some organisations may be able to take advantage of the situation by sourcing cheaper products and materials, we need also to be aware of the potential risks of making changes to suppliers and across supply chains.

Where the markets go from here remains to be seen. Investors and economists will both be hoping that the coming quarter brings more stability and wards off any further talk of a second crisis.

Do you work in Asia, or have part of your organisation in Asia? What are your thoughts on the current situation? Get in touch, or leave your comments below.

Meanwhile, Procurious has scoured the web for the top headlines in procurement and supply chain this week…

New Job Creation in UK Automotive Industry

  • Up to 28,000 jobs could be created in the UK automotive industry supply chain over the next five years
  • A report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) estimates British car production is set to reach a record two million vehicles annually by 2020
  • This boost in output will require an additional 9,500 employees at vehicle manufacturers in the UK, along with a subsequent increase across UK-based supply chains
  • The report comes in the wake of huge investment by car-makers and supply chain companies throughout the UK

Read more at The Birmingham Post

Uber App ‘Does Not Break UK Law’

  • A ruling by the UK High Court has decreed that the Uber app does not break the law
  • The court had been asked to decide whether the company’s smartphones were considered meters, which are outlawed for private hire vehicles
  • The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), which represents many of the 25,000 licensed taxi drivers in London, asked the judge to rule it was a meter and ban its use
  • The LTDA now plans to appeal

Read more on the BBC

Nespresso updates on ‘The Positive Cup’

  • CEO of Nestlé Nespresso, Jean-Marc Duvoisin, gave an update on the progress of ‘The Positive Cup’, Nespressos 2020 sustainability strategy
  • Marking one-year since its launch, Duvoisin announced that significant progress had been made towards improving the lives of thousands of coffee farmers, as part of the company’s AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program
  • Over the past two years Nespresso has been working with its partner TechnoServe to help re-build the coffee sector in South Sudan, resulting in the country’s first-ever coffee exports in 2013
  • Nespresso aims to source 100 per cent of its coffee from its AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program by 2020

Read more at PR Newswire

Wal-Mart to add Supply Chain Capabilities

  • The US retail giant will aim to add capabilities to its supply chain in order to improve efficiency in the coming year
  • CFO Charles Holley, speaking at an investors’ day, stated an expectation of an earnings fall in the year to January 2017
  • Wal-Mart plans to extend the capabilities of its distribution warehouses to allow for shipping of individual items, rather than servicing of stores alone
  • It is expected that this will improve accuracy and efficiency, while at the same time reducing costs

Read more at Just Style