Selling While Shy: Introverts in Sales

While it sounds counter-intuitive to declare introverts make the best salespeople, their characteristics may truly make them a perfect fit for a sales job.

introverts1

Last month, Procurious looked at the work of Susan Cain, and assessed whether introverts could thrive in procurement. Now, on the other side of the coin, with help from College Match Up, we look at why introverts actually might be the best sellers too.

Best Sellers

Introverts make up 50.7 per cent of the personality types in the United States. An illustrated chart of the introverted personality types shows the percentage of different introverts in the general public.

Sales jobs are expected to increase by 5 per cent in the next decade, and by 2024 there are a projected 778,000 new jobs to be created. As these jobs are created, new people will be searched for to fill them, and industry specialists will be looking for a particular skill set for a good salesperson.

Traditionally, the most defined skills for people in a sales role have included:

  • Assertiveness,
  • Self-awareness,
  • Empathy,
  • Problem-solving skills,
  • Optimism.

Not exactly a set of attributes that you would associate with introverts or introverted people. So why would introverts be useful, and potentially better, in these roles?

Key Attributes

Well, introverts are often quiet and thoughtful which works well in a sales setting, because customers are often put off by the high-energy assertive employees.

Introverts themselves prefer to be helped by other introverts, and at the same time, introverts communicate best one-on-one, which is great for a sales role, because they can really connect with their customers.

Introverts are known to form few deep attachments rather than many, shallow friendships. In a sales environment, this works because they can form deeper relationships with their customers than extroverts, leading to people trusting them more.

Finally, introverts are known for being reflective. This again ties into the sales environment, as they will be looking back on their performance and working out how they can do things better next time.

Need Convincing?

So, what kind of career options are there for introverts who want to try working in sales? Introverts might try out being advertising agents, real estate brokers, sales engineers, or travel agents to name a few.

If you still need convincing, you can check out this infographic from College Match Up:

Introverts in Sales

So what do you think? Do you think that introverts would make better sales people? Could there be a way to leverage an introvert relationship between buyers and suppliers? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Technology Will Expose Supply Chain Deficiencies in Near Future

In the not-too-distant future, technology will reveal everything about products, and expose all the supply chain deficiencies that exist.

Supply Chain Deficiencies
Molly Harriss Olson, CEO, Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand

Smartphones, embedded with the technology that enables consumers to scan items in the supermarket and see the entire supply chain process, will happen sooner rather than later, according to Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand CEO, Molly Harriss Olsen.

“We’re getting to the point that we can build these technologies. Mark my words, it’s on the way and it will be instantaneous. The world of connectivity isn’t coming – it’s here,” she told the room.

Cleaning Up Supply Chains

While the procurement industry well and truly knows about the challenges of cleaning up the supply chain, the fact that the technology that would automatically expose supply chain deficiencies was met by furrowed brows. As she made the statement, you could literally hear a pin drop in the large conference room.

Fairtrade assists marginalised producers (mostly in the agricultural space) and addresses issues like child labour, environmental issues, water usage, waste management, ensuring the employment of women and helping these farmers to have profitability in their farms and a robust foundation upon which they can succeed.

This includes the 30 million coffee farmers around the world who are at the mercy of speculative financial markets.

She impressed on the procurement professionals in the room that they had the power in their hands to either resolve the problems the planet faces in the future, or contribute to it.

“The biggest leadership decision you need to make as a procurement leader is implementation. Once you make that, you can’t even begin to imagine what the impact might be.”

Moving Away From Economics

Harriss Olsen was asked by a major Australian food brand representative, whether Australian businesses were embracing the initiatives implemented by Fairtrade.

“On the whole, I’d say we’re on the edge of embracing it. I’d urge you to take the next step. We need to stop making every decision based on economic grounds. We are either part of the solution, or we’re part of the problem. All our decisions are based on improving the planet. Virtually everything we can buy is traded on the stock market, and value the farmer gets on a daily basis,” she says.

“It might come as a surprise to you that while we got rid of slavery some time ago, there is still an extraordinary amount of it going on today. And until is blows up in your face, you often don’t know what you’re dealing with it.”

Reap the Benefits of a Structured Approach to Responsible Procurement

You are about to set out on the journey to make Responsible Procurement more integrated into your procurement processes.

Responsible Procurement

To reap the benefits – and win recognition – you will have to be well prepared, implement the right tools and processes, and communicate every achievement. But where to start? In this article, I share some things you should consider.

Define your commitment

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a major item on a CEO’s agenda. No annual report is complete without making reference to CSR performance, including the performance of an organisation’s suppliers. CSR is set to be the most influential mega-trend affecting the procurement function by 2020.

Many companies have worked towards Responsible Procurement for a while through a Code of Conduct. A Procurement Leaders CSR Survey in 2012 highlighted the following reasons for pursuing a Responsible Procurement approach:

  • Reduce reputational risk: 71 per cent
  • Moral obligation: 49 per cent
  • Create business opportunities: 36 per cent
  • Legal obligation: 34 per cent
  • Respond to consumer demand: 34 per cent
  • Satisfy investors: 23 per cent
  • Reduce cost: 18 per cent
  • Satisfy the management: 8 per cent
  • Repair reputational damage: 3 per cent
  • Other: 7 per cent

However, in order to reach new heights with your approach to Responsible Procurement, it is time to become more specific. You need to be able to communicate your commitment. This includes your approach to Responsible Procurement, as well as all the achievement targets that you have set out.

Focus on What is Relevant to You

I know of a lot of companies who have copied what everybody else is doing, only to then realise that the massive amount of data that they had collected was a massive waste of time – for both the company and the suppliers – as they had no system or processes in place to handle it, or react to it.

End-users and consumers are demanding. They read your website before they buy from you, and they’ll likely do the same before applying for a job in your company. The mistake many companies make is continuing to focus on everything – environmental, social and economic aspects. Are they all relevant to your business?

Start by asking some of the following questions:

  • You want to take your approach to new heights. Which heights?
  • What is it exactly that you would like to achieve with your Responsible Procurement approach?
  • Where would you like to be in 3, 5 or 7 years time?

You could also:

Conduct a workshop – Gather your most important stakeholders and try to find out how you will combine your company’s CSR, Procurement and Business strategies in one vision. Make sure outcomes are measurable and actionable. Use your own words and your company’s DNA, and don’t be afraid to prioritise. A brand needs a stand. What is your stand?

Gather a fact pack – Understand your company’s drivers, which industry sector standards your company needs to comply with, and what ‘footprints’ you and your suppliers are leaving behind. Most importantly, do some benchmarking.

What kind of approach do your competitors have to Responsible Procurement Management? How does it fit into your current supplier base? I often see that companies forget to look at the supplier base and try to apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach. For example, if you are a bank you don’t want to answer questions on animal welfare.

Develop a strategy  In order to create a strategy, it is important to define your expectations towards your suppliers and procurement professionals. Turn it around and look at what expectations they could have of you as a company. How will you communicate your approach? How will you measure on your progress? What kind of training will you conduct (if any)? Which kind of processes and tools will have to be “reworked”?

Develop a Code of Practice – Right now you might have a Code of Conduct. A ‘Code of Practice’ is a document which not only indicates what your commitment is, but also a document where you indicate what you want suppliers to do in order to meet your requirements.

You need to be much more specific, because that is what consumers expect you to be. And understand that this will show on the bottom line, because the more you share your ‘best practice’ with your suppliers, the more return on investment you will see.

One Last Piece of Advice

Do not underestimate the change management part of implementing a Responsible Procurement approach. Make sure that the top management, not only from your company, but also from your procurement organisation, is involved. You are starting out on a journey which will change your company over time.

Coupa Inspire: Rethinking the Possible with Rob Bernshteyn

Lights, music, action! Hugo Britt recounts his experience of the spectacular opening keynote at this year’s Coupa Inspire conference.

Coupa Inspire

The Faculty’s Hugo Britt recently attended Coupa Inspire ’16, a dynamic conference bringing the Coupa community together in San Francisco, California. 

Doof, doof, doof, doof.

I’m sitting in the Grand Ballroom of San Francisco’s stunning Westin St Francis hotel and the place is packed. The Coupa Inspire ’16 conference is just about to be launched, and all the seats are taken. People are lining the walls and spilling into an adjoining hall, complete with a big screen set up to cope with the numbers.

Outside the hotel lies San Francisco’s famous Union Square, most of which is taken up by an enormous pavilion bearing the Coupa Inspire logo. This is where the exhibiters spruik their products, and also where the 2000 or so delegates gather for breakfasts, lunches and networking.

The tent itself is generating a lot of interest among the locals – I was stopped by onlookers on more than one occasion, who asked me what the tent was for and what was going on in there. You could even hear the word “Coupa” shouted by tour guides from the top decks of the red buses regularly cruising past the square.

In the tent it’s dark, with spotlights flashing around the room, and the music is turned up LOUD. I can feel my ribcage vibrating: doof, doof, doof, doof. The guy at the sound desk receives a cue and, unbelievably, doubles the volume. Into this buzzing, clubby atmosphere, walks Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn, and the crowd roars.

Cultural Buzz

Coupa has to be applauded for the vibrant culture it has created. The 600-strong Coupa team’s enthusiasm is infectious, and the marketing is superb, giving the whole conference the atmosphere of a celebration. This celebratory buzz can be felt in the brilliant ‘Freedom‘ video, featuring the team lip syncing and dancing around their head office and Union Square.

Bernshteyn stresses that Coupa isn’t a technology company. Rather, it’s a “value as a service” organisation. Simply put, it’s about discovering, realising and optimising the value for its customers.

The numbers are impressive. Coupa has been adopted by hundreds of businesses globally, representing millions of users, and over two million suppliers on its open business network. Together, Coupa users conduct tens of millions of transactions per year, with approximately $200 billion in spend under management.

Building on Data

All of this activity on the system generates a vast amount of data, and the developers at Coupa take full advantage of its potential. “Think about what can happen”, says Bernshteyn, “when we combine the insights around the billions of dollars running through our system”. Customers have access to real-time benchmarking that shows how you are tracking against the entire Coupa community.

Bernshteyn also takes the opportunity to launch Perfect-Fit Benchmarks, which enable users to understand savings, invoice cycle time and more by industry and by category. This vertical application means the AI can predict the right time to buy specific products and services based on historical data.

Bernshteyn circles back to Coupa’s catch-cry: rethinking the possible through measurable value creation.

The software’s popularity comes down to the platform’s simplicity, efficiency and ease-of-use, designed to gain maximum visibility of what you’re buying and who you’re buying it from. The phrase “suite synergy” (at first I thought they were saying “sweet” synergy), is used constantly at this conference, referring to the single unified platform that has vanquished the decades-old frustration of software products not speaking with each other.

As Bernshteyn leaves the stage, the DJ enthusiastically takes the opportunity to rattle our eardrums again. I walk past him on the way out, and he has an excited gleam in his eye – he knows that we’ve got a huge event ahead, with more inspirational keynote speakers (including Sir Richard Branson), more exciting product launches…and plenty more opportunities to turn the volume all the way up.

Stay tuned for more from Coupa Inspire in the coming days!

Unlocking the Hearts and Minds of Millennials

A Millennial warned a room full of procurement leaders that they need to rethink their mindset if they’re ever going to win the hearts and minds of Millennials.

Hearts and Minds MIllennials

Too many Australian leaders overlook the fact that 50 per cent of the world’s population is aged under 30, and have no idea how to effectively communicate with them.

Holly Ransom is the CEO of Emergent Solutions, which works with leaders, organisations, and governments, globally to set the benchmark, and be frontiers of change and innovation.

It helps challenge their thinking, evolve their strategy and build their capability to engage with market disruptions head-on, unlocking new opportunities, outcomes and value.

Trusted Sources

The room full of procurement leaders collectively leaned in while Ransom spoke, captivated by her high energy talk despite it being the last session of the 9th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum, held in Melbourne last week.

Ransom outlined some research around purchasing decisions among Millennials that found that 1 per cent of Millennials trust advertising, 30 per cent trust blogs, while the majority are looking for some sort of online reference before making a purchase. And 65 per cent of Millennials are judging companies and businesses based entirely on their digital presence.

“Sometimes we seem to forget that half of the world’s population is under 30; probably because we spend so much time talking about the other end of the spectrum – the elderly.”

She urged the room to bear in mind that the average American male has spent 10,000 hours gaming by the time they reach of the age 18, which is exactly the same amount of time they’ve spent in school.

“It’s about thinking about how you can leverage that to your benefit,” she says.

Feel Connected

The procurement sector needs to understand that trust is manifesting in new ways, citing the fact that people are prepared to jump into a car with an Uber driver they’ve never met, and appear to feel safe.

“This younger generation wants to see, connect and feel. They want authenticity from our brands and businesses, and they want to see that footprint extending to something far more than just shareholder returns.”

Ransom also touched on the changing face of the workforce, explaining that Millennials with a laptop and a few clients much prefer to work from anywhere.

“Freelancing is a reality and it unlocks the global human capital pipeline, which presents huge opportunities for businesses. You can hire someone to handle a project for you, rather than having to hire a new employee.”

The benefits of being able to outsource to a freelancer includes allowing leaders to think more laterally, and spend more time on their leadership approach, she says.

“Through leadership when dealing with consumers and suppliers, we need to make sure that Millennials can see, touch and feel what we’re trying to get across to them. They want to come on the journey with you.”

The ‘Why’ in Communications

Ransom also spoke about her initial cynicism toward Rotary International when invited along to a meeting, but the statistics prompted her to get involved to bring about change.

“When I thought about Rotary, I thought of pale, stale and male. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that there were 1.2 million members, and yet only 12 per cent of that were women, and 2 per cent of that were under 30. Hearing that was enough for me to want to get involved.”

Ransom has helped Rotary lead with the ‘why’ in their communications to help build engagement, and better explain what they’re about.

“We realised that Rotary focused too much on the youth message. It’s a classic example of how easy it is to assume that our why, is someone else’s why. And that wasn’t the case here.”

Ransom ended by giving an example of innovation that involved a young girl who was given $10. She used the cash to hire two DVDs, which she played them in two halls, and charged everyone a few dollars to come and watch the movie. She turned that $10 into more than $300, in a clear demonstration that innovation doesn’t have to be expensive.

“I challenge you to think about what that $10 could do to build engagement in your business in the next two weeks. We need leaders to stop thinking that innovation needs to be hugely expensive, and that you need entire teams to drive innovation. That’s just simply not the case.”

Automation & Giant Aircraft – Revolutionising Logistics

As new technologies take hold across the supply chain, we take a look at the main disruptors revolutionising the logistics industry around the world.

Revolutionise Logistics

There seems to be two approaches to the next steps for organisations and disruptors revolutionising logistics – go automated, or go huge! From new technology for driverless trucks, to the soon-to-be-largest aircraft in the world taking off in the UK, there are game changing disruptions afoot in the logistics industry.

Plane vs. Blimp

In the past week, the world’s largest freight aircraft touched down in Australia, following a 14,000km journey around the world from the Czech Republic. But, even this huge plane looks set to be usurped by an even bigger aircraft, about to undergo flight tests in the UK.

The Antonov 225 Mriya, weighs in at an astonishing 175 tonnes, is 84 metres in length and needs six engines to help it get off the ground. It’s capable of carrying loads of up to 640 tonnes, and is the only one of its kind. Perhaps most surprising is that this behemoth is nearly 30 years old.

The plane has mostly been used in recent years in the logistics field to transport heavy commercial items, such as heavy mining equipment, around the world. It touched down for the first time in Australia earlier this week carrying a 117-tonnes mining generator to a customer in Western Australia.

However, it’s about to be surpassed in size (although not in load capacity) by a new aircraft hoping to carry out its first UK-based test flight in the coming weeks. The Airlander 10 stands at 92 metres long, and has required the world’s largest hangar to be constructed in order to allow it to be housed.

The key difference about the Airlander? It’s a blimp. While this currently limits its payload to 10 tonnes, it’s hoped that successful flight tests, and commercial use, will enable a larger craft, with a 50-tonnes payload to be manufactured.

While it’s never likely to rival the Antonov for capacity, the Airlander has a number of potential uses in the logistics field, including commercial, military and scientific research.

Driverless Big Rigs

From the giants of the air, to giants of the road, but with a difference. In the past 12 months, Mercedes, Volvo and Daimler have unveiled their own driverless trucks, with the intention of removing some of the potential danger from the trucking industry.

However, they may be overtaken by a new team on the market. Otto, a team formed by former engineers from Google, Apple, Tesla, and including Anthony Levandowski, the former leaders of Google’s self-driving car project, is approaching this issue from the other side.

Instead of designing autonomous trucks, the Otto team and aiming to create technology that can be fitted to trucks already on the road. The technology is aimed at increasing safety by allowing drivers the chance to sleep, while the truck drives itself along the long American highways.

While this might not seem as impressive, there are a number of benefits from this approach:

  • The technology can retrofitted to the majority of vehicles retrofitted to existing vehicles;
  • It’s cheaper than the outlay for a new truck in its own right;
  • It aims to help, rather than replace drivers, meaning there will be human control for some of the journey;
  • It doesn’t fall foul of legislation in a number of US states which require steering equipment, or a driver, to be in the vehicle cab.

The next steps in this area will be fascinating to see, particularly how the major manufacturers react to this, and potentially adapt their offerings to account for it.

Procurement Awards Season Here

We couldn’t let this week pass without congratulating some of the worthy winners of procurement awards around the world.

  • Johanne Rossi, CPO at Caltex, took home the ‘CPO of the Year‘ Award at The Faculty’s Asia-Pacific CPO Forum
  • Rising star Joanna Graham, Strategic Sourcing Manager (Asia Pacific) at BP, received the ‘Future Leaders in Procurement‘ Award at the same event
  • Timothy R Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., was awarded the 2016 J. Shipman Gold Medal Award, by ISM, in recognition of his distinguished service for the cause and advancement of the supply management profession.
  • Volvo, Flex, Roche and J&J were among the winners at the Procurement Leaders ‘World Procurement Awards‘. See a full list here.

Is bigger necessarily better in logistics? Could we see a combination of both larger size and automation for vehicles in the future? Let us know what you think below.

We’ve been keeping an eye on the headlines this week, giving you something to share over your morning coffee…

Gartner Reveal Supply Chain Top 25

  • Research firm Gartner has revealed its annual Supply Chain Top 25 for 2016, now in its 12th year
  • For the first time, Unilever has topped the list, ahead of McDonald’s (2), Amazon (3), Intel (4), and H&M (5)
  • Previous multiple winners Apple and P&G have been awarded a place on the ‘Masters’ list by Gartner, which celebrates 10 or more years of sustained supply chain leadership
  • New entries to the list include BMW and Schneider Electric, with both HP and GlaxoSmithKline returning after a few years’ absence

Read more at Supply Chain Digital

HP Release “Large-Scale” Manufacturing 3D Printer

  • HP have announced the release of the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution, the world’s first large-scale manufacturing 3D Printer.
  • The model prints items 10x faster than current machines, and one version offers an end-to-end solution (including software).
  • 9 companies, including Nike, BMW and J&J are currently testing the machines on a large scale
  • Stephen Nigro, who runs HP’s 3-D printing business, said that “Customers are looking at how to transform their (3-D printing) business from prototyping to production.”

Read more at USA Today

Procurement “Cut Off” Says Report

  • According to a new report, procurement teams in hotels are seen as not collaborating with other departments.
  • The Hotelier Middle East’s Hospitality Procurement Report 2016 shared the perception that procurement were “trying to do it cheap” from members across the region.
  • The report goes on to share some examples of best practice in getting procurement more involved.
  • These included having procurement represented at meetings with key suppliers, as well as in design meetings for major hotels.

Read more at Hotelier Middle East

UK SME Spend “Stalling”

  • A report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has claimed that efforts to direct more public spending to UK SMEs has stalled.
  • The current Government set a target of 33 per cent of overall spend to be with SMEs by 2020, though despite major efforts, it doesn’t appear to be working.
  • One issue the PAC highlighted was a lack of clarity on whether the money was being spent directly with SMEs, or via larger contractors.
  • The PAC has also disputed figures stating that spend with SMEs was up from 6.8 per cent in 2010-11 to 27.1 per cent in 2014-15

Read more at Supply Management

Using Community Collaboration to Create a Change Narrative

Finding a way to create a narrative for change can be the difference between an organisation being able to successfully adapt, or not.

Wheeler Centre - Change

One speaker at the 9th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum opened the collective eyes of the audience to the possibility of change, and what that might look like.

Michael Williams, CEO of The Wheeler Centre, a public institution devoted to engaging conversation and Melbourne’s literary advocates, supporting the nation’s literacy activity.

Sharing Ideas and Conversations

Founded, and funded by a State Government injection, in 2009, it supports the health and vitality of the writing and ideas ecosystem. The centre also contributes to a deeper thinking society, and enables the storytelling and story-making that builds communities around the sharing of ideas and conversations.

“I’m very concerned that words used by companies in Australia today are losing their meaning. We seem to be forgetting how we use them, and how they can help customers and run businesses,” the head of the new cultural institution says.

Words such as agility, innovation and disruption, for example, he told the audience.

“We say these words as a sort of shorthand. I’d suggest that we need to stop and think about the words we say, and how we refer to them to do business. We say these words and repeat them to each other, and they’ve ended up being very much like those messages they play about piracy at the start of a DVD. They just almost cease to exist.”

Williams says he hopes that the Wheeler Centre gets to the bottom of some of these words, unravel what they actually mean, and change the conversations and business practices.

Challenging Perceptions

More than 200 events held across Melbourne each year challenge these perceptions, and work to extend the literary culture in the southern city. Speakers discuss everything and anything including pop culture, politics, history, literature, art and ethics. These discussions happen in Melbourne three times per week, and an average of 180 attend to the three weekly events.

Business custodians need to understand that people used to identify themselves as being readers of one of the local newspapers, but as the media landscape shifts, that’s no longer the case.

“We don’t identify ourselves as being a reader of The Age, or Herald Sun anymore. The internet is the biggest disrupter we’ve ever seen. It’s a challenge that we all need to get our heads around.”

Businesses need to understand that instead, consumers are looking to identify with authentic stories from brands.

Williams finished by pressing on the audience of procurement professionals in the room to consider that inviting people to be part of your own conversations, can be a hugely powerful way to engender broader engagement.

“True conversation starts with a question, so you need to consider how that might play out in your organisation, and find a way to make it authentic, rather than just hollow words.”

Dynamic Discounting to Ease Payment Woes

A new report has highlighted that three quarters of UK businesses plan to use Dynamic Discounting to reduce supplier late payment woes.

Dynamic Discounting

Changing legislation, public and governmental pressure, and the threat of financial and reputational penalties are leading many businesses to use innovative new methods to ensure suppliers get paid more quickly/on time.

As many as three quarters of UK businesses plan to use the practice of Dynamic Discounting – offering suppliers the chance to accept a lower than invoiced price in return for speedier payment – potentially helping to overcome the endemic problem of unfavourable customer terms or late payments.

Cash Flow Issues

In research conducted among 100 UK procurement professionals, on behalf of procurement software provider Wax Digital, 27 per cent said that their business already used Dynamic Discounting with suppliers. Another 30 per cent said they plan to start doing so in the next 12 months and a further 20 per cent said they had it as a longer term objective.

It was also recently estimated that UK small and medium sized businesses are owed an average of £12,000 each in late payments, equating to £55 billion countrywide. 23 per cent have also considered insolvency as a result of late payment related cash flow issues, while 68 per cent wait for 60 days or more for payment.

The government’s recent enterprise bill is also designed to tackle the imbalance of bargaining power between suppliers and their customers.

But the trend of businesses taking up Dynamic Discounting suggests that suppliers and their customers are taking matters into their own hands. Dynamic Discounting systems work by offering a scaled discount for early payment at the point when invoices are issued to customers.

This has also become possible through the increased use of e-procurement software that automates and massively speeds up the matching and reconciling of supplier invoices on the customer side. Because many businesses can now process invoices in a matter of hours they are in a better position to pay the supplier early, should they choose to do so.

Cash in the Bank

Daniel Ball, business development director, Wax Digital, comments: “Serious late payment and cash flow issues are more likely to destroy a business of any size over and above anything else. It appears that the business community is now taking the bull by the horns to solve this growing problem while suppliers can use a different type of bargaining power.

“Although businesses may get paid slightly less for their products and services they gain the benefit of having the cash in the bank much more quickly.”

The research was commissioned by Wax Digital and conducted by Morar Consulting in early 2016.

Why Is a Project Procurement Strategy Absolutely Necessary?

An effective project procurement strategy is based upon a shared understanding of the role and purpose for the procurement process.

Project Procurement

Frequently, there are different perceptions of this at senior management, project management, end-user, and supplier levels.

A shared focus needs to be built upon an alignment of perceptions and understanding around what the project requires from a well performing procurement process, which is consistent with the agreed aims and objectives.

A procurement strategy that is successfully integrated, and implemented, within the Project’s cascade of objectives and performance measures, is recognisable by the following five characteristics:

  1. Clear “buy-in” from senior and broader project stakeholders to the benefits of embracing an agreed role and purpose for the procurement process, and how people need to interact to ensure that outcomes are achieved in a satisfactory manner.
  2. Competent, professional commercial people playing a key role in the process, at the right interaction points, to ensure delivery of clear solutions from supply markets that meet project needs.
  3. Key suppliers and contractors who treat the project as genuine ‘preferred customers’.
  4. Processes, systems, measures and enabling structures that support delivery capability along the entire procurement process cycle.
  5. Capacity and capability that’s available at the right pressure points.

Setting out the Objectives, Goals and Guiding Principles

Strategy documents need to outline two key facets — the objectives of the strategy, and the goals which are necessary to achieve these objectives.

The goals describe what will actually happen, and objectives describe what will be achieved as a result. The guiding principles reflect the core values on which the strategy is based, and which will inform all the actions which are planned as a result.

Procurement will:

  • be transparent;
  • be driven by desired results;
  • create the most economically advantageous balance of quality and cost;
  • reduce the burden on administrative and monitoring resources;
  • lead to simplified or routine transactions;
  • encourage open and fair competition; and
  • follow all appropriate regulations and legislation.

These values in turn translate into key performance indicators that can be used to assess the quality of results.

Setting the Objectives 

There’s no short, definitive list of subjects to include in procurement strategy objectives. Priorities change over time – strategies need to be reviewed and revised to reflect changes in circumstance and focus.

Subjects to consider include:

  • Operating Structure – is it fit for role and purpose, influencing where it should and as it should in a devolved environment? Do end users know what’s available to them by way of contract access and the procedures that they must follow, and are these procedures benchmarked against best practice, reviewed and updated as required? Is there clear project leadership of the procurement process?
  • Expenditure Analysis – is project expenditure on bought-in goods and services analysed in such a way that amounts spent, with whom, on what, and by whom, are understood, under control and spent optimally?
  • Maximising Value – how is it intended to maximise value through procurement activity, the use of competitive tendering and established collaborative contracts, and the deployment of procurement professionals?
  • Supplier Strategy – does the project have a strategy for dealing with suppliers and markets, such as buying local and compliance with relevant Regulations? Is there available guidance to suppliers on elements of the procurement policies (sustainability, SMEs etc, key contacts and signposts), and core values?
  • Social Responsibility – how does the project plan to take account of its social, economic and environmental responsibilities through procurement e.g. sustainability, health, safety and welfare, environmental management, equality, ethical procurement, working with the local business and social communities?
  • The Use of Procurement Tools – is there a strategy for operating the most appropriate, efficient and effective Purchase to Pay systems and procedures including use of procurement cards, e-tendering, e-auctions and an e-procurement platform and are the benefits of such use – reporting, planning, measurement and cost control – clearly explained and understood?
  • Supplier/Contract Management – are key suppliers identified and, if so, who are they and why are they key? What is the Project approach to supplier and contract management and what are the plans for monitoring supplier performance and managing improvements?
  • Performance Reporting – are there mechanisms/indicators in place whereby performance monitoring within the procurement process is routinely reported to senior management? Do such mechanisms include benefits and savings reports, customer and supplier feedback on the effectiveness of procurement performance?
  • Risk Management – are key risks and dependencies relating to procurement process, legislative and regulatory non-compliance identified, understood, monitored and appropriately communicated across the Project?

ACTION: develop and adopt a clearly documented procurement strategy in terms of measurable and managed contributions to the achievement of procurement, and ultimately Project, objectives.

Stephen Ashcroft BEng MSc MCIPS is a procurement learner stuck in the body of a procurement veteran, and with over 20 years’ experience still sees the glass as half full. Check out this article, and more, on ThinkProcure.

Should We Stop Using the Term ‘Strategic’ in Procurement?

No other profession puts the word ‘strategic’ on their business cards. Why do we do so in procurement?

Strategic

A high-powered panel at ISM2016 drove a spirited debate about the use of the term ‘strategic’ in the profession. Chaired by Joe Sandor (Professor of Purchasing and Supply Management, Michigan State University), the panel included:

  • Hans Melotte (ISM Board Chairman, Senior Vice-President and CPO, Johnson & Johnson);
  • R. David Nelson (procurement veteran and Chairman, Dave Nelson Group);
  • Jeff Smith (Global Sourcing Director – Indirect at DuPont); and
  • Beverly Gaskin (Executive Director Global Purchasing, General Motors).

Actions Not Words

Actions speak louder than words. That’s the message from Hans Melotte, who argued that it’s unhelpful for the profession to continually emphasise how ‘strategic’ we want to be.

Overuse of the term dilutes the concept, especially when having a conversation with sceptical stakeholders. “Procurement needs to be strategic”, says Melotte, “rather than just talk strategic.”

Being strategic comes down to having the right people in procurement, who can talk the language of the business, define their value contributions in a way that resonates with stakeholders, are forward thinking, proactive, and focused on the future.

Historical Overuse

When did procurement start to use (and overuse) this term?

R. David Nelson, who started out in an enormously different procurement landscape in 1957, has watched the profession grow from a back-office function to a highly-influential business partner.

As any modern professional knows, there are plenty of stakeholders who still remain unconvinced, and it’s very possible that our constant repetition of the term ‘strategic’ was a somewhat ham-fisted attempt to convince these sceptics that we do indeed deserve a seat at the table.

Interestingly, none of the major organisations represented on the panel use the term any more. Hans Melotte explains: “At Johnson and Johnson we abandoned the use of the word strategic, because you shouldn’t label yourself who you want to be – you should be who you are. The whole notion has passed its expiry date”.

Divisive Term

The other problem with the term is that it’s divisive. By calling half the population “strategic”, you’re implying the other half of the function is non-strategic. This sends a negative signal throughout the organisation, and breeds resentment around job titles.

Beverley Gaskin agreed: “Strategic buying is like an oxymoron. If you’re doing anything in the buying field that isn’t strategic, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Even the term “purchasing strategy”, says Gaskin, is misleading. “There’s no such thing as a purchasing strategy. There’s a company strategy and you have to understand your role in getting that done.”

The same concept appliers to how we talk about strategic and non-strategic suppliers. Again, it’s our responsibility to move away from divisive language. After all, you’re never going to tell a supplier that they’re ‘non-strategic’.

Definitions are important. Melotte reasons that if you define ‘strategic’ as something that serves the strategy – a choice wisely made, based on facts and intelligence – does that mean ‘non-strategic’ is defined as the opposite of this? No CPO would want any resources who are not aligned with the company strategy or value mission.

This isn’t to say that the term ‘tactical’ is the opposite of strategic. Professor Joe Sandor provided a valuable reminder that the word ‘strategy’ comes from the military, and simply means planning. ‘Tactic’ means execution, and a plan must be executed. Tactics, therefore, are strategy in action.

Jeff Smith of DuPont summed up the sentiment of the panel: “It’s time the profession moved away from the term”, he said. “If you behave strategically, you’ll always be invited back”.

Stay tuned for more from ISM2016 in the coming weeks. You can find out more about the event on the ISM website.