Getting Ahead of the Cognitive Technology Wave

There’s a paradox in artificial intelligence and cognitive technology. They can help us stay ahead, but also be the cause of major disruption.

cognitive technology

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“The future always comes too fast.” Those are the words of Alvin Toffler, the best-selling author and futurist known for his works examining the impact of technologies.

It seems paradoxical that the technologies that help us stay competitive in today’s global business environment can also disrupt industries.

For example, if your career spans 25 years, you probably have some personal perspective on this disruption. We’ve seen the Internet, enterprise software, and mobile phones emerge and evolve – and now could never imagine doing business without them. They’ve not only transformed our businesses and industries, but our lives and our world.

Some technologies cause ripples, some cause waves. Some businesses and industries benefit from the resulting changes, and others fall behind. A few businesses see changes on the horizon and take action. Yet others get swept up in the tide.

The Next Wave: Cognitive Technology

What’s the next wave? The next game-changing technology on par with the Internet, enterprise software, and mobile devices? Many analysts point to artificial intelligence, also known as cognitive technology.

Cognitive technologies are no longer the realm of science fiction. According to TechRepublic (ZDNet), technology and economics are aligning in a way that puts us at “a tipping point after which the use of artificial intelligence will become commonplace.”

IDC estimates that, by 2020, 50 percent of all business software will incorporate some cognitive computing functionality.

Also, the Pew Research Center noted, “By 2025, artificial intelligence will be built into the algorithmic architecture of countless functions of business and communication, increasing relevance, reducing noise, increasing efficiency and reducing risk across everything from finding information to making transactions.”

The Thinking Technology

Cognitive technologies actually understand, learn, and think through any objective, problem, or question you present, and then offer detailed answers, analysis, or solutions. They reason and learn like a human, but at enormous scale and speed, providing deeper insights and intelligence.

Cognitive technology presents a tremendous opportunity to business and procurement. For example, with cognitive technologies, procurement organisations can provide very detailed supplier assessments in just minutes, drawing from a wide range of data sources.

Additionally, they can provide much more in-depth risk assessments and uncover previously hidden sources of disruption and risk. And procurement can become more adept at innovating, providing the business new insights and opportunities.

In sum, cognitive technologies can unlock unimagined new insights, enable enhanced decision making, and deliver highly optimised outcomes and value.

Opportunity or Disruption

The opportunity for cognitive technology is tremendous, but organisations need to look ahead and prepare. Procurement leaders should start thinking how cognitive technology will transform roles and organisations. They must re-skill their team with talents that enable this shift.

Perhaps the best ways to do so are to start cognitive projects in certain key areas. Think about what projects or processes in your organisation could most benefit from cognitive technology.

As you apply these technologies to certain tasks and processes, you’ll begin developing internal capability and expertise. And you’ll begin to enhance the skill set of your professionals.

Another way to prepare for the cognitive future is to develop and hone data analytics skills and projects. Even in the absence of perfect systems or perfect data, analytics programs can provide tremendous value.

Levels of procurement and analytics maturity can vary and evolve over time. However, analytics can immediately play a key role in enabling procurement transformation and success, across a number of areas, including:

  • Savings and value creation;
  • Risk mitigation; or
  • Supplier development and innovation.

Research shows that the most successful procurement organisations take a more comprehensive approach to analytics technologies. And such programs build the foundation for application and success of cognitive technologies.

The future is always just around the corner. But some waves of technology innovation are bigger than others. Cognitive, by all accounts, is one of those big waves.

For those who fail to prepare, it guarantees disruption. For those who take the reins, it presents tremendous opportunity.

What if you could see the supply chain road ahead and mitigate risks before they become obstructions? For procurement, this helping hand can come from IBM Watson Supply Chain. Find out all you need to know here.

Supplier Engagement – The Advent Calendar Challenge

This Christmas, why not turn your advent calendar into a supplier engagement challenge? Sorry, there’s no chocolate involved…

advent calendar challenge

An idea came to me during a recent commute. With the shopping days to Christmas rapidly counting down and as we start to look forward to the season’s festivities, I thought about my son’s advent calendar and the treats he’ll find behind each door.

Then I thought about a way to turn this into a powerful and productive challenge to build, reinforce and develop relationships with suppliers.

Here’s my idea. There are 17 working days this December – 17 doors. Behind each day’s door could be opportunity, problem resolution and innovation!

The challenge is simple – to call a different supplier each day and have a conversation. Simple. Too simple perhaps. So there’s a Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced challenge depending on how comfortable with supplier engagement you are.

Beginner Level

The easiest suppliers to speak to ‘should’ be the ones you currently do business with.

Call one of your current suppliers each day during December. Thank them for their help this year. Tell them what they’ve done well, how they’ve helped you and your business. Also, tell them what you’re looking forward to improving on with them in 2017.

Practically too, this is a great opportunity to find out what the supplier’s business hours will be over the festive period to ensure that contact arrangements and any contingency plans are in place if required.

Be interested in their plans for the festive break. Finally, make sure there’s something in the diary for 2017 to continue the conversation.

Intermediate Level

The intermediate level is to call a supplier you’ve never spoken to before (but which might be relevant to your business of course).

Find out what they do and how they do it. What have been their biggest achievements this year and what have they got planned for next year.  By this stage you are likely to have either ruled them in, or out, as interesting for the future.

If of no interest, that’s fine – but maybe they’ve got something very relevant to offer you in 2017 and they could help you. If that’s the case, book a follow up meeting for January! And yes, Public Sector friends, this is ok!

Advanced Level

The hardest group of suppliers to pick the phone up to might be those that have responded to your RFx and Tender processes this year, but which have not secured any of your business. Or suppliers whose contracts have expired and you’ve gone your separate ways.

Call one of these suppliers each day during December to thank them once more for their participation in your process or previous contracts. Find out how business has been for them this year, and whether the feedback you gave them has been useful to them and how they have developed or improved.

Ask them what they are looking forwards to next year and think about whether there might be an opportunity to re-engage in future.

Reward

Whilst an advent calendar themed challenge is a bit of fun, the benefits of this challenge I hope are obvious.

From practical information like opening hours over Christmas through to discussing, and potentially solving, real business problems. From identifying potential innovation opportunities to just finding out what your account manager is doing for Christmas, these conversations could add real value to you and your organisation.

Remember, as you walk past shop windows at this time of year, that you are your own personal shop window. And you are your company’s shop window to its suppliers, past present and future.

These conversations will build your personal brand and your company’s brand too. You might even have a list of ideas and opportunities to look forward to on that difficult first working morning after New Year too!

Share your Stories!

As it is the season for sharing. Please comment or reply and share your feedback on this challenge and on some of the conversations you’ve had. No one is going to check you’ve made 17 calls, but if everyone makes some calls, I’m sure there will be some direct value from it.

Enjoy connecting, and Season’s Greetings to you all!

Top 10 Trends for Spend Control & Procurement Automation

With the final months of 2016 fast approaching, it can only mean one thing – planning for 2017 is fiercely underway. In this article, we look into next year and share insights into how Spend Control and eProcurement Automation will evolve.

trends in spend control

These are not the macroeconomic trends you’ll hear from the large consulting companies. Nor are they the ‘who’s going to buy who’ predictions from the technology analysts. These are the trends that PROACTIS is seeing and hearing in our customer base, and in the companies we’re talking with every day.

We are participating in some of these trends, and we are even leading the charge on a couple. Some are not really even trends yet – some are just growing topics of discussion.

But these are all things real procurement professionals and real finance managers are thinking about, and doing today, as they move forward in their quest for world class Spend Control. Below is a summary of the top 10 trends for 2017.

  1. The Rise of Procurement 2.0

Procurement is rapidly moving away from what was once a personality-centric function where senior procurement professionals did a lot of the work themselves, did a lot of the work manually, and did a lot of the work using mainly the knowledge they had amassed from years in the profession.

  1. End-to-End eProcurement – Plugging the Gaps

Driven by the changing expectations of Procurement, there is now a growing vision of what ‘end-to-end’ procurement looks like and a conscious effort to move toward that vision. More organisations are moving to ‘source-to-settle’ solution suites to achieve maximum Spend Under Management.

  1. A Growing Focus on Supplier Collaboration

Few organisations really have the breadth, depth and quality of supplier information needed to do all the things they need to do.

As procurement organisations move through the Spend Control journey, they are recognising that one of the fundamental requirements for success is to have a solid, sustained handle on their supplier base. They are realising that supplier information is the lifeblood of Procurement.

  1. A Stronger Requirement for Buyers to be ‘Easy to do Business With’

Organisations that have put in place a solid Supplier Management cloud framework (which typically includes a supplier portal) are seeing that they can leverage this new capability to improve supplier interaction and commerce. This makes it easier for buyers and suppliers to do business.

  1. Cloud-Based Procurement will Remain – and for Good Reason

After looking at the options, the more organisations are opting for cloud-based options to solution licensing, deployment and management. Traditional software licensing, on-premise installation, and in-house technical management just don’t make sense anymore.

  1. Blurring the Line Between Software and Services

We have started to see more organisations combine software-as-a-service and associated people services into a broader solution to meet particular needs. For example, cleaning supplier records, sourcing specific categories of spend, and turning paper invoices into eInvoices.

  1. A CPO Mantra: Think Strategically, Act Tactically

Even procurement leaders with a clear end-to-end Spend Control vision are recognising that the war against excess cost and risk is generally won one battle at a time. Nothing big is ever accomplished in ‘one fell swoop’ and world-class Spend Control is a big thing.

  1. A Growing Recognition of the True Cost of ‘Shelfware’

Many larger organisations have made the move to one of the mega Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Financial Management systems. However, often the procurement modules aren’t fit for purpose and become ‘shelfware’ – software that’s just sitting on the shelf unused to any meaningful extent.

Organisations are recognising that if they are going to be successful, they must insist upon getting the right tools. And if they have to branch out from the ERP mother ship to do so, they will.

As a result, more companies are taking action and adopting integrated best-in-class applications.

  1. A Better Understanding of the Limitations of “Simple Self-Service Shopping”

Everyone agrees that employee adoption is a key factor in the success of a purchase-to-pay roll-out. The faster and more intuitive the experience, the more spend that’s likely to go through the system.

The problem is that it doesn’t do a lot of good to put spend through a P2P system if that system does not lead employees to purchase from approved suppliers using negotiated pricing and service agreements.

More organisations are now looking closely at how their solutions are going to help with all aspects of increasing Spend Under Management.

  1. The Importance and Value of Integration

No eProcurement system should exist in a vacuum. And no existing information systems environment is a blank sheet of paper.

More organisations are integrating their eProcurement solutions with a wider range of systems in order to create a single Spend Control umbrella over all aspects of enterprise-wide spend.

To find out more, download the full paper ‘Procurement Automation 2017: Key Trends & Hot Topics’.

Are Supply Chains Already Feeling the Trump Effect?

President-elect Trump doesn’t take office until January 20th 2017, but his impact is already being felt in global supply chains.

Trump trade deals

Yes, it’s been a little over two weeks since Donald Trump won the US Presidential election. And it’s still nearly two months until he officially takes office. Yet, it’s hard to get away from media reports on what will happen during Trump’s first 100 days in office.

NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), and import tariffs have all been in the news. And if global supply chains weren’t already watching with interest, they certainly should be now.

NAFTA – Overhaul on Cards

During the election campaign, Donald Trump made much of the movement of US manufacturing jobs to Mexico. One solution was to end US involvement in NAFTA, pushing companies to move jobs back to US heartlands.

The North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1994, effectively eliminating tariffs between the USA, Canada and Mexico. The agreement has allowed for seamless movement of goods across borders. It also means that the US currently has more trade with Canada and Mexico, than Europe and China.

An estimated $1.4 billion worth of goods cross the US-Mexico border every day. However, it’s not all been positive, with many organisations moving production to Mexico, where costs are lower.

However, in the past week, the stance from the Trump camp appears to be one of overhaul, rather than withdrawal. The President-elect wants to ensure a “better deal” for America, as well as reduce America’s $76 billion trade deficit.

This could include tariffs of up to 35 per cent on Mexican imports, and penalising companies moving production there. Other changes could include issue to do with currency manipulation, as well as labelling of meat products, and lumber production.

However, experts have warned that any or all of these measures could hurt the USA too. Increased meat prices in US supermarkets, higher house prices, and Mexican tariffs on US goods could all be on the cards. And that’s without the guarantee that jobs would come back to the US.

Relocating Supply Chains

One company subject to plenty of Donald Trump’s ire during the election was Apple. The President-elect singled out Apple several times as an example of a company that should re-shore its production.

To emphasise his point, Trump has threatened to put a 45 per cent import tariff on all Chinese-made goods. At present, Apple devices are assembled in China, with key components sourced from specialised suppliers throughout Asia. In spite of this, however, re-shoring is not that simple for Apple.

Experts have warned that moving production would be challenging, citing a lack of skilled workers and a steep hike in costs. There is also the matter of the highly complex supply chain Apple has established in Asia.

Analysis carried out by the MIT Technology Review stated that higher labour costs, and logistics costs of transporting components to the US, would add between $30 and $40 to the cost of producing each iPhone.

However, the Nikkei Asian Review has reported  that Apple is actually looking at moving some elements of production. It would not be unprecedented either. In 2012, key Apple supplier Foxconn set up an iMac assembly line in Texas. And in 2013, Apple supported Flextronics, another contractor, in building a Mac Pro production line in Texas too.

The media this week reported a call between Donald Trump and Apple CEO, Tim Cook, leading many to suspect that discussions are already taking place. However this ultimately plays out, global supply chain movement and disruption could happen. And if Apple were to move first, it seems like that others would follow suit.

‘Made in China’ Great Again?

One country not looking favourably on President Trump’s policies and tariffs is China. It has been reported that China is unhappy with potential import tariffs, as well as being labelled as a currency manipulator by the future President.

Reports from state media have stated that any tariffs would be met with tariffs of China’s own. There was also a thinly veiled threat against raising tariffs above agreed WTO levels, and starting a trade war.

However, at the same time, China could be a major beneficiary of Trump’s plans to pull the US out of the TPP on his first day in office.

The aim of the TPP was to create a common market, similar to the EU, between its members – the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru. As these countries make up 40 per cent of the world’s economy, it was seen as a great opportunity for many.

However, critics argue that it favours big business, and Donald Trump looks set to abandon it in favour of freshly negotiated trade deals. The belief is that, without the USA, the TPP would be dead in the water. But that would open up markets to greater deals and trade with China.

Australia was one country that signalled it would be interested in a China-led trade deal. Deals such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could see China increase its power in Asia, leaving America in the cold.

What do you make of the policies announced by President-elect Trump in the past week? Could the US suffer by going down a protectionist route? Tell us your thoughts below.

So you’ve got more time to bargain hunt this Cyber Monday, we’ve tracked down the top news headlines this week…

Samsung and Panasonic Investigate Labour Abuses

  • A Guardian investigation has revealed exploitation of migrant workers in Malaysian factories producing goods for leading electronic brands Samsung and Panasonic.
  • The group of Nepalese migrant workers claim they have been deceived about pay, as well as having to pay large sums of money to secure the jobs.
  • Working conditions are reported to include 14 hours on their feet without adequate rest and with restricted toilet breaks.
  • Samsung and Panasonic have opened investigations into the conduct of their suppliers following the claims.

Read more at The Guardian

BMW Logistics Using Autonomous Robots

  • The first fleet of autonomous transport robots to be used in everyday operation has been launched by BMW.
  • The first fleet of ten robots has been put into operation at the car maker’s Wackersdorf plant.
  • The robots will transport components around the facility, and are capable of carrying loads up to 500kg.
  • The move comes as the company aims to remove as much CO2 emission from its manufacturing processes.

Read more at Supply Chain 24/7

Shell May Face UK Trial Over Nigeria Spills

  • A High Court is to make a decision on whether two Nigerian communities can bring cases against Shell.
  • The communities claim that pollution from repeated spills has caused lasting damage to their environment.
  • Lawyers representing the communities argue that Shell controls and directs its Nigerian subsidiary, and is therefore responsible.
  • However, Shell have also lodged applications to challenge the jurisdiction of the English courts in the matter.

Read more on Supply Management

Canada Energy Decisions to Impact Freight Carriers

  • Canada has announced a plan to phase out all coal power by the year 2030.
  • Four affected coal power plants will will have the option of switching to lower-emitting resources or using carbon-capture and storage technology.
  • The move will have a knock-on effect on the country’s freight carriers, particularly the railroads.
  • Volumes of coal carried by railroads have fallen by 12 per cent this year, and are likely to get smaller still in the next decade.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

China’s ‘Global Giants’ Defy Worldwide Economic Slowdown

‘Global Giants’ in China are bucking the global growth trend. Against a backdrop of economic slowdown, these companies are striding forwards.

china global giants

China’s emerging global businesses are bucking the trend of domestic and international economic slowdown. According to a new report from global accountancy body ACCA and Lancaster University, growth rates are currently sitting between 12 and 64 per cent.

The report, China’s next 100 global giants, reveals the top 100 fastest growing businesses in China for 2016, tipping them as most likely to become ‘global giants’ in the next three to five years.

Huapont Life Sciences Co, which manufactures pharmaceutical, pesticide and active pharmaceutical ingredients, took out the top spot in 2016. This is an improvement from its second place ranking in the inaugural 2014 Global Giants report. It is followed by Hongfa Technology Co., and Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co.

“It is impressive to see that businesses in China are maintaining such high growth rates. Against a national GDP growth of 6 per cent, many of these countries are doubling this, some even multiplying it by 10,” said Faye Chua, head of business insights at ACCA.

“Almost half (46) of this year’s global giants also appeared in 2014. This demonstrates impressive growth maintained over a prolonged period. The number of new entrants, however, also indicates the dynamism of competition and business emergence here in China.”

Factors for Growth

The report indicates that there are common features between the top 100 businesses, with one of the most prolific being a highly effective business model.

“The successful fast-growing businesses in China are creating a ‘home base’ for globalisation. They are building market share and power domestically before, then applying these successful business models in other markets,” explained Ms Chua.

“Almost all of the top 100 have become either strong or dominant in their domestic markets. They are then able to pursue a more global strategy of acquisition and distribution in key overseas markets like Europe or the United States.”

Moving on from Manufacturing

Sector representation in the top 100 indicates an increasingly diverse economy in China. There has been a move away from the traditional dominance of manufacturing and production, towards services and intangible products.

The computing and communication equipment industry is the most-represented in the list, with 21 entrants.

Open for Business

The report indicates that, while successful businesses are based all over China, there are several metropolitan hotspots for growth.

Shenzhen is a rising headquarter for fast-growing businesses, home to 11 from this year’s list (up from seven in 2014). Beijing is home to 13 of the global giants, down from 17 in 2014.

There has been a movement towards headquartering in the south of China, in cities such as Fuzhou, Foshan and Shantou City. The report also shows an increase in the number of headquarters based in second-tier Chinese cities including Wuhan, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Nanjing.

The China’s next 100 global giants report considered companies listed on domestic Chinese and international stock exchanges, ranked against five measures:

  1. size (as measured by turnover);
  2. growth (in revenue);
  3. domestic presence;
  4. international presence; and
  5. business model and strategy.

The full list of China’s next 100 global giants is available at ACCA’s website.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #24 – Sharing Procurement Expertise

Procurement professionals have a great opportunity to develop themselves, and helps others, by sharing expertise in the charity sector.

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.

Sharing Expertise

David Lyon, CPO at Cancer Research UK, believes there is a now great opportunity for organisations to share procurement expertise. Procurement professionals can push their development, and give something back, by working with the charity sector.

David states that, in the age of CSR and transparency, young people can grow their own careers by gaining insight and knowledge in procurement by working with charities.

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 18,500 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

So You Want to Be a Content Writer, Do You?

We’re always encouraging our community members to get involved. Here’s your chance to become one of our content writers.

content contribution

At Procurious HQ, we pride ourselves on the quality of content we produce. Over the past two and a half years, we have carefully crafted a selection of high-quality content for you to peruse, digest and enjoy.

And while we’ve had a lot of fun doing it, we think it’s high time for even more of you to get involved.

We’d like to offer you the opportunity to get your work published on Procurious. There are great storytellers in the community, with great stories to tell. And we want to hear them all!

Not only is it a great opportunity for you to dip your toes into the blogging water, but it’s also a great chance to raise your own profile.

I Don’t Know Where to Start…

If you’ve attended a social media workshop run by Procurious, you’ll have heard us say that procurement needs to do a better job of selling itself. We need to improve the brand of procurement by better communicating the interesting stories that we know are out there.

Every single procurement and supply chain professional has a story or experience that is unique to them. From the weirdest thing they have bought, to the worst negotiation experience you have had, your story can help others no matter the subject.

And even if you don’t think you have a story to tell, your experience in procurement is just as valuable. There’s a pretty high likelihood that your experience could help one of your peers sometime in the future.

My Specialist Subject is…

Ok, so you don’t think your a great storyteller. There’s nothing wrong with that! But how about a subject only you can talk about? If you had to go on Mastermind and answer procurement questions, what topic would they be on?

Over the past couple of years, our community members have talked about a range of subjects, including:

Or how about telling us what it’s like to work in procurement in your part of the world? In the past, we’ve had a range of countries and experiences, including, Wales, Brazil and the Ukraine.

fountain-pen-on-paper

Content to Spark an Idea

Still stuck for something to write about? Why not draw inspiration from the events Procurious has held in the past year?

The Big Ideas Summit 2016 brought together thought leaders and procurement executives from around the world. We had great discussions on:

Or how about our Career Boot Camp, held back in October. We asked some of the biggest influencers in procurement to share their tips on boosting your career.

Get inspired by:

Build Your Profile

Being published on Procurious is going to help to raise your own profile in the procurement space. We will share your article across social media, where we have a global audience of over 50,000 people.

What’s more, if your blog is one of the most popular during a week, then it may be added to our weekly ‘Best of the Blog’ eDM.

So now it’s your turn. Sharpen those pencils, put fresh ink in your pen and tune up your keyboard – and get writing!

If you want to contribute to the Procurious blog, send an e-mail to [email protected] or [email protected] and tell us what your idea is.

Is Black Friday Still Important for Retailers?

Millions of consumers will be after a Black Friday bargain today. But, as a single day, is it still as important for retailers?

black friday sign

It’s that time of year again. The Thanksgiving turkey is digested, attention turns to Christmas, and Black Friday has arrived. Traditionally an American shopping day, Black Friday has expanded to hundreds of countries around the world.

An estimated £4 billion (nearly $5 billion) will be spent over the next 4 days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Of this, around half will be spent today, and an estimated £1.27 billion will be spent online.

However, as consumers change their shopping habits at this time of year, retailers are doing likewise. There are a couple of reasons for this, which we will have a look at now.

In Store vs. Online

The abiding image of Black Friday for most people is massive crowds, stampedes, fights over bargains (and the occasional punch up). The potential deals that stores offer are enough to turn the shoppers against one another.

And for many, this is enough to put them off leaving their house at all. In fact, the number of people heading out to the shops in the US on Black Friday has dropped to below 25 per cent, driven by more Millennials choosing to shop at home.

However, that doesn’t mean that less money is spent. In the USA, experts predict that total holiday spending (the months of November and December) will hit $632 billion. And, for the first time, over half of that money will be spent online.

Retailers are also changing their habits when it comes to opening times today. In previous years, many have started their sales at midnight, in order to maximise the shopping time available for consumers. But many stores are now choosing to revert to normal opening hours (something of a relief for staff, I’m sure!).

Surveys have shown that 59 per cent of shoppers do not agree with stores opening on Thanksgiving. But it’s not just consumer pressure, and benevolence to staff, keeping stores closed. The fall in in-store trading over the Black Friday weekend means that retailers aren’t turning as big a profit as they would like.

Add to the mix increased costs of opening (higher staff wages, security, logistics, and potential bad press), and it shows why retailers are stepping back from early opening.

Black Friday ‘Creep’

Another reason for retailers not seeing the benefits of Black Friday in store is the so-called ‘creep’. Much like adverts for Christmas 2017 started a few weeks ago (I kid you not…), online retailers have started to spread the sales out.

Amazon, largely considered to be the biggest exponent of Black Friday, started their sales in early November. And it plans to run these daily sales until the 22nd of December too. They weren’t the only ones, with Tesco amongst a host of companies starting sales earlier this week.

Some online retailers have done this to spread the logistical load of ensuring everyone gets their purchases in time for the holidays. Amazon are clearly learning their lesson from a few years ago, when it experienced serious bottlenecks in deliveries.

Bad Deals and Brexit

One thing that consumers need to be aware of before splashing the cash is that they might not be getting the best deal. A report from Which found that only half of Black Friday deals are actually cheapest on that day.

Retailers have been accused of inflating their pre-sale price to make a deal seem better. And, in fact, shoppers may have been able to find products cheaper at different times of year. The UK Government’s Pricing Practices Guidelines (PPG) states that any sale “must reflect the most recent price an item has been sold at for 28 consecutive days or more.”

So it’s worth being careful when it comes to your shopping, and not get swept up in the promotions. However, that said, UK shoppers might want to take advantage of the lower prices this year. As has already been seen this year, prices for goods and services look set to rise in 2017 as a result of Brexit and a weak pound.

The majority of rises are likely to happen in January, with Next, electronics retailer AO, Apple, Microsoft, and Dell, all either anticipating rising costs, or putting prices up already. So it might be that British shoppers won’t get the same deals this time next year.

The Last Word

Deals or no deals, I’ll be one of the Millennials shopping online today (after working hours, of course!). However, I wanted to leave the last word on Black Friday to Asda. The retail giant was one of the first UK stores to bring Black Friday deals to this country, thanks to its links to Wal-Mart.

However, following chaotic and violent scenes in 2014, the company shelved its plans last year. And for 2016, they’ve taken a novel approach to announcing a similar strategy for today, and why they’ll aim to have low prices all year round.

If nothing else, the video should make you smile. Happy shopping!

Procurement Isn’t Done Innovating

Changing the close-minded nature of a stakeholder to the value of procurement is a big challenge. But procurement isn’t beaten yet.

stakeholder management

Have you just started following this series of posts? Don’t miss the first two! I’ve been sharing my perspective on procurement productivity and efficiency from over four decades worth of experience in the field. Catch up here on Part 1 and Part 2.

If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know it is in my nature to look forward. I’m always trying to figure out what is likely to come next for a profession that has already seen so much change.

Although most of the time we consider savings as the primary procurement performance metric, our core focus should actually be on spend and what it can accomplish.

In my first post, I suggested that the total number of annual procurement hours is a fixed resource that must be maximised if we are going to approach our full potential. The same is true of spend.

A company’s total annual (or budgeted) spend is fixed. Simply shrinking it is a limited view of procurement’s impact, and one that has gotten us in trouble in the past for being overly cost-conscious.

Expanding View of Spend Management

In order to really influence spend under management, we need to back up or expand our view of the spend management process. Starting with eSourcing and moving forward is too late. By then, a significant opportunity to impact the category has already been passed.

The supplier discovery process – as reimagined by the team at tealbook, for instance – contains all of the value potential uncovered in downstream processes. While it might seem like more work to broaden the pool of prospective suppliers, it’s actually procurement’s best change to affect results by more than a shade or two at a time.

All measurements (savings, spend under management, etc.) need to drive meaningful improvements in results. They can’t just capture activity, and no measurement exists for its own sake. Because of the seemingly contradictory nature of the metrics in play, procurement is sometimes in the position of having to reconcile long term strategic value creation with short term business requirements.

In the face of this challenge, we have to make working the ‘right way’ so easy and intuitive that people don’t have an incentive to fall back on their old habits.

Importance of the Right Price

Procurement has successfully overcome a savings-driven mindset. It is time for us to help our internal stakeholders overcome a status-quo mindset. I have been in situations when an internal stakeholder tells me something along the lines of, “This is an area where we aren’t really concerned about what we pay.”

And while we need to be careful not to alienate someone by beating the ‘savings drums,’ this is a prime opportunity to educate, and to explain why it is important to get the right price regardless of what is being bought.

Each dollar spent has the potential to create varying levels of value. Not being worried about what you spend in a particular category or on a specific product is one thing. But what if you could accomplish more with that same dollar? Maybe there is a more innovative supplier or a next generation product available?

If a company’s doesn’t open their mind to what is possible, and investigate qualified alternatives, they condemn their potential to the bounds of the past.

tealbook allows companies to pursue inquiries like these without holding up the project timeline. In fact, an internal stakeholder can search the suppliers themselves if they like. They may even uncover new potential sources of supply that match their definition of desired value.

Shifting the Stakeholder Mindset

This mindset-shift is a challenge that the procurement community as a whole can stand up and address together.

Procurement pros are notoriously conservative in their sharing habits. While this makes a lot of sense in specific cases, any opportunity to contribute to, or benefit from, aggregate industry intelligence may be just the cure we need to closed-minded stakeholders and the frustration they create.

I have been around a lot of different procurement and purchasing groups, and they get all worn down. I’ve seen unbridled energy and excitement degrade to the point of becoming a lack of professional engagement.

When we don’t set up the true mission of procurement right – maximising the value of every dollar spent – it’s not a fun place to work. But hope is not lost. Procurement is not done innovating.

Catering to business clients is a big role for procurement. We need to draw those clients into the process and make it easy for them to understand the real meaning behind differentials in cost. Not just in terms of savings, but also in terms of what the spend can accomplish for the company. Ultimately, this will carry procurement forward to the next phase of our development.

And that is something I can hardly wait to see play out.

Gregg Brandyberry is a recognised pioneer in procurement and sourcing technology. He has over 40 years experience in industries such as automotive, textile, manufactured goods, electronics and healthcare.

He is the former Vice President of Procurement – Global Systems and Operations for GlaxoSmithKline, and a Senior Advisor for A.T. Kearney’s Procurement and Analytic Solutions organisation.

Crowdsourcing is the New Black – Use it to Your Advantage

The revolution in business financing is opening up a new world for small businesses. Here’s how to turn crowdsourcing to your advantage.

crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the new black. Over the past few years, this approach has enabled organisations to not only raise working capital, but also to build brand advocates, as a marketing tool, and a way of raising additional dollars for marketing purposes.

Startups have turned to crowdsourcing as a legitimate form of capital raising for a while. However, now established brands are following their lead.

Major brands like Dodge, Honda, Kimberly-Clark, DC Entertainment, American Express, Proctor & Gamble, Phillips, Microsoft and Coca-Cola have all turned to crowdfunding.

These brands have realised that crowdsourcing is a fairly inexpensive way to quickly reach thousands of potential customers and find out what they really think. It’s a pretty incredible tool when the backer dollars start rolling in.

Coca-Cola & Crowdsourcing

Coca-Cola has undertaken a few prominent crowdfunding projects in a bid to reap the social media and branding benefits. These include projects such as one to provide more clean water resources in rural areas in Mexico.

In another example, Coca-Cola turned to crowdfunding as a way to cracking a troublesome marketing brief. The company was amazed to receive 3,600 responses, and was blown away by the quality of the submissions. It said the film quality was better than it was getting from its agency partners.

The reason crowdsourcing can be so successful for brands is that is allows customers to become part of the plot line. Instead of passively consuming your brand’s marketing material, suddenly, they’re engaged and following your brand’s story.

Giving people the opportunity to experience brands actively in this way creates a connection that stays with them, helping them to evolve into a brand advocate.

Crowdsourcing can also create a call for action and real-time story creation, which is unparalleled. And while inviting customers to participate might be unpredictable, the reward is marketing that feels genuine, memorable and two-sided.

There are a range of crowdfunding platforms to choose from, including Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe in Australia, TeeSpring and Patreon, among others.

Harnessing social media for crowdsourcing campaigns can significantly amplify your campaign, too. Start by choosing appropriate social channels, select a memorable hashtag, create a campaign page, and leverage the community with informative posts.

Turn Crowdsourcing to Your Advantage

Here’s four ways to use crowdsourcing for your brand’s marketing:

  • Product validation and feedback: A crowd can validate a new idea, or tell you quite openly that it’s a bad idea. Either way, generating this feedback is a key component in creating something that people want.
  • Grow brand advocates: Crowdfunding can get people talking, and preferably, they’ll be saying good things. It’s a great way to cut through the clutter and tell your story. This can, in turn, create passionate brand advocates.
  • Build stronger exposure: Crowdfunding makes the news. When this exposure is harnessed, it can give projects the final nudge they need to cross into ‘viral’ territory.
  • Be loved by your customers: Utilising a crowdfunding platform as a storytelling tool helps a brand cut through the clutter and connect with existing and new brand advocates by showcasing your innovative side. When harnessed effectively, crowdfunding can enable brands to break down the corporate walls and express their uniqueness and innovative side.

Has your business dabbled in crowdfunding as a marketing tool? Tell us about it below.