Teamwork is Procurement Dreamwork

Divide the task and multiply the success – why teamwork is just as critical for procurement success as individual brilliance.

teamwork

Sue Steele, Senior Vice President Global Supply Management for Jacobs, asserts the value of collaboration and teamwork for procurement success.

Sue also reveals what skills she looks for when hiring at Jacobs, discusses the critical importance of mentoring, and outlines the key skills procurement professionals need.

1. What were your first 3 jobs

  1. Student Activities Advisor at Auburn University
  2. Energy Conservation Consultant at Florida Power & Light (FPL)-Miami, Florida
  3. Power Services Representative-FPL, Miami, Florida

2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

I wish I’d known that teamwork and collaboration are just as important as individual performance.

3. What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

  • Strategic Sourcing
  • Systems Savvy
  • Cost Leadership.

4. How valuable have mentors been in your career?

Mentors are absolutely critical for career success. Throughout my career I have benefited from mentoring by executives, career coaches and peer to peer mentors.

5. What does it take to work at Jacobs? What are you looking for when you hire talent?

Jacobs is a technology, engineering, and construction firm so skills in those fields are preferable. We also look for experience with our clients or competitors in the Engineering & Construction industry.

Leadership, teamwork, good communication skills and innovation are other qualities we rate most highly. 

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you stand out from the crowd.

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Winning Popularity Contests Doesn’t Make a Great Manager

A great manager isn’t out to win any popularity contests. They want to win your trust and respect – and this is how they do it.

stuart-brocklehurst great manager

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip satirising office life, has observed that people frequently tell him how their manager is exactly like the incompetent Pointy Haired Boss. But no one ever sees any similarity to themselves.

Good leadership is a hard, and rock-strewn, path to take. It’s clichéd to state that management is not a popularity contest. Yet too many are more concerned with being liked by their staff within the present moment. And by failing to take and keep to tough decisions, they fail to win the respect and trust of their teams over time.

What Makes A Great Manager?

A great manager inspires our support and commitment, while not backing away from hard choices and difficult conversations. They are fair and consistent so their staff know they will be treated equally. They recognise achievement and celebrate individual improvement.

A great leader cares about each individual’s personal development and invests in it. Financially, perhaps, but far more importantly, invests their time, knowing that the return in greater productivity, in the time handed back as team members increase their capability, is invaluable.

Teams will back a manager who listens to them. They don’t expect the answer to every suggestion or request to be ‘yes’, but they – we – need to know that we’ll be heard, and paid the respect of a clear explanation of whatever path is chosen.

Empowerment is not abdication. It’s not dumping your problems on someone else’s plate. Empowerment is structured delegation, being clear on what you expect, keeping close to progress and being available to support through the difficulties which are encountered in any worthwhile endeavour.

It’s Not About How Much You Know

To be the leader of a team does not require you to have greater knowledge or skills than the members of that team – were that the case, it would be a pretty severe limitation on promotion.

What CEO knows more about finance than their CFO, more about HR than the HR Director and more about procurement than the CPO? Leadership requires comfort that each member of your team may – will, if you’re lucky – be better at their job than you.

And your job is to help them to perform to their very best.

Leadership is about inspiration. A leader must have a clear vision of where they’re going, whether it’s a small team, a department or a whole company they need to take with them. They must believe that vision.

They must articulate it clearly in a manner which is authentic to them, whether that is quietly one by one or loudly from the conference stage.

Do this, and your team will believe and engage with your vision, as you embark on a common journey together.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Innovate & Create Your Way To A Better Procurement Future

Why should the ability to create novel solutions for issues be second nature to procurement teams in the coming years?

create

Donna Trowbridge is an accomplished Sourcing Manager with more than seventeen years of international experience. She has been the Group Head of Procurement at DBS bank for the past three years.

In our sixty-second-interview she explains why it is so important to approach problem solving with creativity, using the wealth of resources at our disposable within supply chains. Experimentation and adaptation are critical skills for the procurement industry.

Donna offers some great tips on recruiting, and draws on her experiences of living in Asia and working with millennials to offer some valuable insights.

1. What were your first 3 jobs?

My first ever job during the school holidays was as a caller in a bingo hall. I used to call out numbers for the customers to mark off their cards.

My career after graduation started with Honda. I initially applied for a quality assurance roll on the manufacturing line at Honda. They decided I would be best suited to procurement. 

At first I was a little shocked I would be paid to shop just shows – how little I knew! looking back it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

After 6 years in direct procurement at Honda, I wanted to explore more of the indirect procurement and so moved to a role at Barclays Bank in London as Head of Corporate Real Estate Procurement.

This was the start of a very long and fulfilling career in Financial Services Procurement, which has also facilitated me living in Singapore for the last 10 years.

2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

When we recruit, we are more often than not drawn to people who are very similar to ourselves. I struggled with this in the first few years of my career.

Now I realise that team diversity in skill and style is key to success, my aim in recruitment is to hire people that are better than me, and not be afraid of that.

3. How can CPOs attract and retain millennials?

A lot has been said I think a little unfairly about millennials: lazy, unable to focus, need instant gratification, to name a few. The “blame” if any of these things are true is with the manager of the millennial not the entire generation.

Millennials are attached to things they are passionate about. Interestingly for me on a recent recruitment drive, I found all of the Millennials interviewed had a genuine passion for social responsibility.

This one for procurement is easy. We all have CSR but with the help of our millennials we have taken it a step further and we help social enterprises who are customers of our bank in all of their negotiation needs. Millennials are providing their unique skills to help a social cause which provides a very important feel-good factor.

Retain is another matter. Employers should provide the tools and training millennials are accustomed to as a bare minimum. They also need to be constantly challenged and given opportunities to grow.

However, nowadays, a job or company for life doesn’t exist. If you can get 5 good years before they move on, then I think that’s ok. We just need to have a strong pipeline of talent to step up to roles as people leave.

4. Does the procurement talent gap exist? Or is it just as perception problem?

Its 100 per cent perception. Especially for me living in Asia, as the population of Asia is in the billions, and it’s normal for graduates to have masters degrees. How can we then say there is a talent gap?

The problem is in fact caused by CPOs who create the gap by being so specific about the experience they require. I recruit on skills not experience.

I work in a bank with one of the best teams I have ever managed. In my team I have a dentist, a soap opera star, a bank manager, and a person who used to buy chicken for subway. Diversity for me is definitely key.

5. What’s more important for your hires – attitude or aptitude?

100 per cent attitude. Everything else can be taught.  After all, we buy things, not build space rockets.

6. What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

Business aptitude. We must talk to the business on their terms, not ours, and understand the problems they have, and help to solve them.

A mindset of innovation – always thinking how to create novel ways of solving problems by leveraging the huge resources we have in our supply chain. Not being afraid of failure, learning to experiment and change and adapt ideas, and an understanding of data are also important.

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you stand out from the crowd.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Don’t Just Have Great Ideas – Incubate Them to Succeed

Your career doesn’t hinge on just having big ideas. If you take a good idea and incubate it right, you could have the recipe for real success.

gabe-perez incubate

How can you incubate your big idea on the job? Forget about the size of the idea and focus on execution. An idea is nothing without execution. There are a lot of big ideas that sound great on paper but never go anywhere. And, a lot of “small” ideas, when executed successfully, can turn into something much bigger.

Before you incubate your idea, you need to figure out whether the factors for successful execution are in place.

And, you also need to figure out whether your idea is worth incubating in the first place. What kind of measurable value will your company realise if this idea is executed successfully?

For procurement specifically, that may mean taking a step back and making sure your idea aligns with the company’s strategic priorities. Is your company trying to cut costs? Are they looking for top line growth through mergers and acquisitions? Are they trying to innovate with suppliers?

Conceive, Incubate, Execute

The big idea in procurement right now is to elevate the organisation based on value delivered. That’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be the result of building a track record of executing initiatives that support the company’s larger goals.

That doesn’t necessarily mean bringing a big idea, or even a new idea. Frankly, it might be finally executing on ideas that we’ve been talking about in the profession for many years, in order to build the credibility needed to take new ideas forward.

To build credibility, I’m a big fan of testing ideas quickly on a smaller scale. A great way to incubate an idea is to find a department or stakeholder that could benefit from the value that your idea could deliver, and see if they’ll work with you on a trial.

If it works, now you have a proof point, someone willing to champion your idea, and you’ve learned more about what it will take to execute on a larger scale. Results and value delivered are the best way to overcome resistance when you are looking to execute a change to the status quo.

Sharing the Knowledge

I met a procurement professional whose idea was to help his company speed up the sales cycle, something that’s strategically important at most companies.

His insight was that since procurement is always involved in negotiations, his team could help the sales team understand the thinking of the procurement teams on the opposite side of the table in sales negotiations.

He brought that idea to sales leadership, and they agreed to a trial where his team worked with sales executives on strategy for a few deals. Sales saw immediate value in the form of less resistance and faster time to close.

They were able to build on that success to create a company wide initiative where procurement was assigned to sales people to help on strategic deals.

That’s a great example of incubating and executing a new idea. But there’s also value in revisiting old ideas that have never been executed properly.

Accountability on Value

For example, at Coupa, we started with the idea that customers should continually measure and quantify the results that technology has delivered to their organisation. We call this ‘Value as a Service’.

Too often, in enterprise software, business cases were created to fund the purchase of software, but then organisations and software vendors were never held accountable to delivering the promised results.

The cloud delivery model gave organisations and vendors shared visibility into results. However, the mind shift toward a culture of accountability around value hadn’t happened yet.

If we wanted to go after the big audacious idea that value from every implementation should be measured, it would have been a huge leap from where the market was at that time.

Instead, we started with a smaller aspect of value that we called Savings as a Service. We partnered with our customers to quantify the savings they achieved by deploying our service. By helping them define savings goals, and having quarterly business reviews for accountability, we were able to document over $8 billion in savings.

From there, we moved into our bigger vision of Value as a Service by expanding our measurements into other value metrics.

Focus on the Outcome, Find the Idea

The problem with chasing big ideas is that they’re often too big to execute. Maybe you lack the credibility to get the needed resources and buy in. Or it’s something that wasn’t on the radar, so it doesn’t have budget and you’d have to pull resources from somewhere else.

People also fear change and they fear failure. The bigger and more complex the idea, the more reluctant they are to jump on board.

But don’t let that stop you. Focus on the outcome you’re trying to achieve to figure out which ideas are worth incubating. Then, land and expand. Right-size your idea to something you can execute successfully. Deliver value on a small scale. Win over your champions.

Careers are made not by having big ideas, but by being able to identify and execute on good ideas, big and small.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Is the Age of the Tech Unicorn at an End?

Once, every tech start-up wanted to be a unicorn? But could the age of the unicorn be at an end? And what will replace them?

unicorn

For the past few years, much of the talk for new technology start-ups has been about achieving the moniker of a ‘unicorn’. Many have tried, plenty have failed, but there are as many that have succeeded.

However, as many people warned, the constant rise of the ‘unicorn’ was always going to come to an end. And even some of the big name unicorns from the past few years have lost this particular title.

So, is the age of the unicorn at an end? And what is coming next to take their place?

Rise of the Unicorn

For those of you still unfamiliar with the term, a unicorn is a technology start-up company, which reaches a valuation of over $1 billion. The companies are characterised by rapid growth, and are generally privately funded, either through VC, or other routes.

The issue with unicorns, one that investors were aware of from the start, is that they are not profitable. Well, at least to begin with. Most unicorns aim to prove concept, and grow market share, before making any money.

Valuations tend to be based on future projections of worth, which is why truly defining a unicorn is tricky. Currently, the Wall Street Journal lists 155 unicorn firms, Fortune 174, and VentureBeat 229.

There are plenty of recognisable names on these lists. Uber, Airbnb, SpaceX and Dropbox, to name but a few. Many of these companies also appear on lists of organisations still considered to be disrupting their respective industries.

It’s probably easier to argue that companies like Facebook and SpaceX, unicorns of the past, have surpassed that title by being profitable in their own right. And profitability, after all, is surely the key.

Pop! Is that a Bubble Bursting?

When we first visited the topic of unicorn organisations a little under a year ago, we did highlight vulnerabilities in this set up. Venture capitalists and their investments are as much susceptible to market changes as any other business.

And given the global uncertainty that has been prevalent in 2016, many investors are looking for safer options. And this decrease in available funding has already seen a major impact amongst unicorns.

The pre-IPO investment firm Sharespost published an analysis in August that concluded that 30 per cent of all unicorns would lose their billion-dollar net worth. Some already have, and some have been pushed down that road in the past 9 months.

Big name companies like Theranos (once a unicorn, now subject of media interest for all the wrong reasons) and Evernote have already had valuations written down. Even Twitter and Uber have lost some of their valuation (though not enough to take them under the magic $1 billion mark).

Rise of the…Cockroach? Really?

Yes, really. Well, if you’re looking for a survivor, it’s well known that cockroaches could probably survive the apocalypse!

It might not be as glamorous a title, or an image, but the cockroaches are here to stay. Cockroach organisations differ from unicorns by having slow and steady growth, a closer eye on spending, and steady profits.

Cockroaches exist where funding doesn’t come as easily, but they can be smaller, more agile, and better prepared for uncertainty. And with smaller budgets, they are regarded as being more creative than their unicorn counterparts.

For investors, this represents a safer option, and a potentially better return in the long-run for them and their clients. While some unicorns will make it, and make it big for their investors, cockroaches are seen as a safer investment, something that is welcome in volatile markets.

Where will we be in another year? Who knows. We can’t predict which companies will still have their unicorn title, and which will be falling back. However, the chances are that the cockroaches are here to stay.

Cockroach or unicorn – which would you rather be involved with? Is the age of the unicorn really at an end? Let us know your thoughts below.

While you ponder that, here are this week’s procurement and supply chain headlines to keep you going.

Bangkok Fire Trucks Belatedly Enter Service

  • A fleet of 176 fire trucks are to finally enter service in Bangkok, a full 10 years after they were purchased.
  • The trucks have locked up in a warehouse for over a decade due to a prolonged legal dispute.
  • The Austrian-made trucks were locked up soon after delivery as part of a wider corruption scandal involving senior government ministers.
  • Due to their age, the trucks require extensive maintenance before they can be put to use.

Read more at The Nation

Self-Driving Delivery Boats to Ply Amsterdam’s Canals

  • The Amsterdam Institute for Metropolitan Solutions plans to use the city’s extensive  canal network to trial a fleet of autonomous boats.
  • The floating robot vehicles will deliver goods and provide driverless transportation for people along the canal network.
  • The boats can also be linked together to provide on-demand bridges and stages.
  • Amsterdam’s research into robot canal boats parallels the proliferation of self-driving cars in the US and elsewhere.  

Read more at The Verge

Amazon Business Hires White House Procurement Head

  • Amazon has hired the former head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Anne Rung, in a bid to increase its sales to government agencies.
  • The role, titled Global Leader of Public Sector Sales, will focus on helping Amazon win government purchasing contracts.
  • Rung will work closely with government buyers to purchase goods and services more efficiently.
  • In her Federal role, Rung reportedly saved taxpayers more than $2.1 billion in procurement spending by reducing duplication.

Read more at B2B eCommerce World 

30 Under 30 Programme Goes Global

  • ISM and THOMASNET.com’s 30 Under 30 Supply Stars programme has returned for its third year.
  • The programme celebrates the achievements of young professionals in Procurement and Supply chain, with the goal of attracting more Millennials into the profession.
  • This year, for the first time, the competition has expanded beyond the US to include nominations from around the world.
  • Judges are looking for multitalented professionals who are influencers and trailblazers in their organisations.

Read more and Nominate at THOMASNET.com

Cloud, Not Laughter, The Best Procurement Medicine

A spoonful of Cloud makes the medicine go down. Healthcare patients in England could benefit from a move to Cloud eSourcing.

laughter medicine

This article was written by Daniel Ball, Director at Wax Digital.

Healthcare organisations are under constant scrutiny to deliver high quality care to patients. In England, it’s The Care Quality Commission which regulates all health and social care services to ensure fundamental standards of quality and safety are met.

The findings of its reviews are published to the general public. This puts organisations not coming up to scratch at risk of suffering from a negative public reputation.

Improving Quality of Care

However, help is at hand from The Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP). The organisation works with healthcare organisations to identify areas where quality of care can be improved.

The HQIP is an independent organisation responsible for managing clinical audit contracts on behalf of NHS England. It was launched to promote quality in healthcare, and, in particular, to increase the impact that clinical audits can have on healthcare quality improvement.

Commissioning and managing clinical audits means having to source a range high quality external experts to carry them out. To do this, HQIP recognised that best practice procurement tendering processes were needed to to run an audit.

HQIP saw the value in moving to an eSourcing platform so that it could speed up the procurement process. It knew that if it was able to source experts quicker and do away with paper-based, manual tender processes, it could save itself valuable time and resources.

Moving to the Cloud

HQIP decided to go with Wax Digital’s cloud based web3 eSourcing. This allows the organisation to publish tenders electronically and make use of existing templates. It also enables suppliers to submit responses online.

The system also offers a mix of automated and manual scoring facilitates, with subsequent contract awards also taken care of electronically via web3.

Its project management function also allows HQIP to plan its eSourcing activities so that all relevant information is stored in one central place, which can be easily accessed by system users.

Judith Hughes, interim Head of Procurement at HQIP said: “As we’d aimed for, Wax Digital web3 has greatly improved our processes. Moving away from paper-based tendering has significantly reduced the time it takes to review and award teams for projects.

“It has also helped further ensure our quality guidelines are upheld and we now have a much more efficient way of engaging with our suppliers and them with us.”

An increasing number of healthcare organisations can benefit from the speed and efficiencies offer by cloud-based software. Innovation starts within the supply chain. By rolling out eSourcing technology, HQIP enjoys a more efficient supply chain for audit management. This in turn can aid healthcare organisations meet required care standards, and improve the quality of service for patients.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #15 – Thinking the Unthinkable

Modern leaders, in the C-suite and in Government, aren’t equipped to deal with unthinkable events due to a lack of skills, or sense of denial.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Managing Unthinkable Events

Nik Gowing, visiting professor at King’s College, London, says that we are seeing a very human sensation of feeling “overwhelmed”. This is happening to executive level leaders in both the public and corporate sectors.

Building on his ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ study, Nik argues that leaders aren’t equipped to deal with ‘unthinkable’ events, either through a lack of appropriate skills, or through denial, or wilful blindness.

Catch up with all the delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016? And maybe what we have planned for 2017? You can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today. Get connected with over 16,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Don’t Just Negotiate Your Salary, Negotiate Your Career

If you wait until salary discussions to negotiate, then you’re wasting your time. There’s more in your career you can negotiate well for.

negotiate-your-career

When I was consulting, two of my colleagues were staffed on a project that never really happened. Willhelm and Rob spent three weeks on a project in which the only work produced was a three slide project plan outlining the project approach, before they were stood down.

The client changed their plans and had no use for the team. Wilhelm and Rob were duly staffed on other projects and moved on.

At year end, as is the way with consulting firms, both were up for promotion. They both had to compile feedback from the projects they had been involved in during the year.

Meeting or Exceeding Expectations?

Both approached the manager of the M&A project and had broadly similar conversations, with one crucial difference. Rob called the manager and said “I was on that project that never really kicked off, in fact we only produced that one deck, so can we just agree that I met your expectations?” The manager agreed.

Wilhelm said “I was on that project that never really kicked off, but we did produce that one deck. So can we just agree that I greatly exceeded your expectations? I’m in a promotion year, so it’s a big deal for me”.

The manager agreed. It really made no difference to him (we worked in a different part of the firm), and Wilhelm secured his promotion.

Rob was appalled. How could Wilhelm have pulled such a dirty trick? They both did exactly the same thing and yet he made such a bold claim! Where was the justice? It took him months to shake it off, but when he did, a crucial realisation dawned on Rob; He had let himself down. Wilhelm wasn’t the bad guy; Rob had been naïve.

Through the Eyes of a Negotiator

When you see life through the eyes of a negotiator, you see opportunity where others see risk. Wilhelm recognised this. He guessed (correctly) that the manager wouldn’t care very much about the grade he gave for a consultant in a different business unit, on an inconsequential project that never really happened.

Wilhelm recognised that if the manager didn’t like “greatly exceeded”, he’d probably be ok with “exceeded” and or “met” expectations. He was candid about his reasons. Wilhelm saw a negotiation opportunity, where Rob only saw an admin call.

It’s a fine line between being assertive and being pushy, but sometimes it’s useful to go beyond our own comfort zones. Wilhelm, in addition to being a clever, hardworking and talented consultant, also knew that knowing when to push a little could be the difference between getting the promotion and not.

It was a useful life lesson for Rob, and one that has served him well since. Our careers are full of innocuous little negotiations like these. Getting the most we can from every one of them is key to being successful.

Don’t Just Negotiate for Salaries

Most of what is written about negotiation in our careers focuses on the biggest, most obvious negotiation – “Getting that pay rise”. But the focus of those articles is tactical advice for the negotiation.

It’s ok advice, but if the salary negotiation is the first and only time your boss has seen you try to negotiate assertively, then they may not be convinced that they need to take you seriously now you’ve put your “negotiating hat” on.

However, if you’ve strategically positioned yourself as an assertive, pragmatic, skilful negotiator, who knows how to use negotiation as a problem solving and influencing tool, they will come to that negotiation prepared to work with you.

Imagine you’re working at full capacity and your boss asks you to take on additional work. Refusing may be uncomfortable and counter-productive. You risk being seen as intransigent, lazy or fearful.

But simply saying “yes”, and figuring you’ll find some way to make it happen, poses risks the new project, your existing work and your reputation. Even worse, if you do flog yourself extra hard and managed to deliver everything, you could be seen as a “safe pair of hands”.

That level of output then sets the expectation they have of you. This then becomes the new normal for the year to come. Does that sound familiar? Does it seem unfair?

Setting Clear Expectations – On Both Sides

You could negotiate the terms of the new project. At the very least, this is your opportunity to set expectations regarding the impact of this extra work.

You can protect your time and capacity to do high quality work by making clear to your boss that if they want everything done they are going to have to find some extra resource to help you (not your evenings!).

Additionally you’re showing that you’re sufficiently in control of your workload to understand and have plans to mitigate for the impact of being given extra work. You’re still offering your boss a solution, and positioning it as a less risky one. Best of all, you’ve increased your perceived value.

You’re no longer the pushover who takes on everything and does an ok job most of the time, but sometimes drops the ball. Now you’re the pro-active manager of expectations, who is realistic about what they can achieve, and is comfortable with delegating work effectively and helps find solutions to problems.

Finally, when that salary negotiation comes around, your boss is comes to the table ready to make some concessions, because they are used to you being an assertive negotiator, not a pushover.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Fools Rush In – Take the Time To Be Cautious

Being cautious doesn’t mean you’re not ambitious. It’s not always a good idea to throw caution to the procurement wind.

be cautious

Miguel Caulliez, Chief Procurement Officer at Nokia, explains why it doesn’t always pay to make spur-of-the-moment, opportunistic decisions as far as your career is concerned. We should be cautious and take the time to assess what is right.

Miguel, who has worked for Nokia since 2010, values innovation and diversity in the talent he employs and lauds the benefits of having solid career mentors.

1. What were your first 3 jobs?

  • Financial Analyst at Auchan
  • Category Manager at GE
  • E-Business Leader at GE

2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

I think it’s important to try to not be too opportunistic. Take the time to be cautious when choosing which industry you want to work in. Changing function is a challenge, but changing industry could be an even bigger, and unwelcome, challenge.

3. What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

Procurement pros need to be curious and have a willingness to disrupt. They should also fully understand what innovation means and be able to work innovatively.

4. How valuable have mentors been in your career? 

Mentors have been essential throughout my career. I could not and would not have achieved what I have done without, particularly two of, my mentors.

5. What does it take to work at Nokia? What are you looking for when you hire talent?

 Opportunities are unlimited at Nokia, so I am always looking for talent who can find their own way and work independently.

I see it as my responsibility to give a framework to my teams, but I very much appreciate the diversity in opinions, backgrounds and methods.

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

3 Career Questions to ask your boss . . . NOW!

Has your career lived up to your expectations? If not, It’s not too late to make a change. You just need to be asking the right questions.

jon-hansen questions

Last year Kelly Barner and I spoke at a public sector conference regarding the key findings from our book ‘Procurement At A Crossroads: Career-Impacting Insights Into A Rapidly Changing Industry‘.

In the two sessions we gave, we posed the following two questions to the audience.

With the first we asked, how many of you chose procurement as a profession?

For those of you who have been in the industry for some time, you will appreciate the thought process behind our query, as historically very few people actually chose purchasing as a career. Most sort of fell into the role.

Based on the response, it is clear that times have obviously changed. The majority of people raised their hands indicating that procurement was indeed, their profession of choice.

If You Could Turn Back Time?

We then asked the second question. Knowing what you know now, and if you could do it all over again, how many would still select procurement as a career?

In both sessions, regardless of age or length of time on the job, the response was the same. Approximately 50 per cent of those in the audience indicated that if they could go back in time, they would have made a different career choice.

The reasons they gave were varied, and are in and of themselves, worthy of a separate article. However, and corresponding with the focus of this post, there was a central or common theme. During the hiring process it appeared that very few asked their prospective bosses the right questions.

In short, they were more focused on being hired, without really understanding what the actual position entailed beyond a perfunctory role and responsibility job description. This I believe, is a common scenario that is played out across all professions in all industries.

Based on the above responses, it is imperative that job candidates ask the right questions.

So what are the right questions?

As a procurement professional, these are the three I would ask:

  1. What is your view of technology, especially in relation to its role in the procurement process?
  2. What is your approach or process for engaging key stakeholders, both within and external to the enterprise?
  3. What, if any, changes will we see in procurement in the next 2 to 5 years, from both an individual professional standpoint, as well as collectively?

By the way, it is never too late to ask the above questions, even if you are already nestled into a procurement career. The responses you receive could surprise you and, perhaps, give you a renewed enthusiasm for your chosen profession.

Now you may be asking yourself, why these three questions?

Because the answers you receive will reveal the true attitudes and values of your boss and the organisation as a whole.

The Technology Question

For example, take the technology question.

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If your prospective boss (and company) are heavily invested in making technology the primary focus of their efforts, then you will be in trouble.

While technology can obviously play an important role in automating the procurement process, thus freeing up valuable time for you to focus on more strategic endeavours within the enterprise, in and of itself, it will not get the job done.

As a supporting resource, technology requires people with an ability and desire to openly collaborate with key stakeholders which, not surprisingly, serves as a lead-in to the second question.

So if your prospective boss places a great deal of emphasis on technology as being critical to procurement’s success, that is a red flag. It means that you will likely find yourself relegated to a supporting role, as opposed to having a leading role, in the organisation’s procurement strategy.

Engaging Stakeholders

In terms of the remaining two questions, let’s start with the approach and process for engaging stakeholders.

For far too long our profession has operated in what I will call the zero sum game vacuum. Specifically, the belief that in order to win, someone else has to lose.

For example, during a lecture Kate Vitasek gave a couple of years ago, she talked about her time in purchasing with Microsoft. The co-author of ‘Getting To We’, who now champions the principles of being relational, recounted how she would be rewarded financially for driving down a supplier’s cost, even if doing so had negative consequences for said supplier.

IACCM’s CEO Tim Cummins also talked about how senior executive stakeholders at the negotiating table would routinely lie to one another about what they could do, by when they could do it, and for how much.

So when you sit across the table from your prospective boss, you need to determine if win-win is a vague sentiment without any real substance, or if they really understand the new dynamics associated with building relationships based on collaboration and transparency.

Change and the Future

Finally, let’s talk about question 3.

Asking your prospective boss to provide you with their take on how the industry and profession will change, may seem like a catch-all, pie in the sky question that is more likely to produce a perfunctory response, as opposed to eliciting meaningful insight.

However, if the answer you receive stands out from the same old generalisations one usually hears, you will know it. This is because it will reflect an attitude of new possibilities. An attitude no longer held captive to the traditional views of what our profession and industry is about.

In essence, this last question walks the talk of the first two. The answer you receive will legitimise the response for the first two questions. Because without change – or an understanding of what needs to change – improved stakeholder engagement and the proper assignment of technology is not possible.

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