Big Ideas From The Procurement Capital of the World

Procurious’ flagship event, the Big Ideas Summit, is landing in Chicago in September – and we want YOU to be involved!

The Big Ideas Summit is landing in the Windy City, and this is your chance to be a part of it! If you can’t join us in Chicago in person on Thursday 28th September (seating is strictly limited to 50 CPO-level attendees), don’t worry – now’s your chance to register as a Digital Delegate!

Why Chicago?

From McDonald’s to Walgreens, Boeing to Motorola, Greater Chicago is home to dozens of Fortune 500 brands. Because it’s the third-largest economy in the U.S., it’s no surprise that it’s also a major hub from American procurement activity. Chicago has more purchasing professionals than most American regions, and has proven to be a magnet for innovative CPOs.

That’s why we’ve chosen Chicago as the first U.S. location for our digitally led procurement think-tank, the Big Ideas Summit! After three successful years in London, the Summit is an interactive, online event where up to 50 senior executives, industry thought-leaders and CPOs come together to connect with digital delegates from across the globe via our social media platform to discuss and test strategies and solutions for real world change.

What’s on the agenda?

Big Ideas Chicago will debate the latest, game-changing issues: global economic and geopolitical shocks, Industry 4.0, harnessing innovation and cognitive technology.

“We are bringing together the top 1%, who are on the leading edge of the profession. We want to crowd-source ideas and push procurement and supply management from the past and into the future,” says Procurious Founder, Tania Seary.

Big Ideas Chicago will feature keynote presentations from:

  • Urbanist, futurist and Author Greg Lindsay will uncover why innovation today is fundamentally social and often the result of engineered serendipity.
  • ISM® CEO Tom Derry, will talk through the five traits you need to be a truly agile and forward-thinking digital CPO.
  • Sibylline CEO Justin Crump will build the case for procurement teams to transform into crack intelligence gatherers.
  • Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf will provide strategies for making complex decisions under great pressure and without a full data-set.
  • Basware Vice President Purchase-to-Pay Eric Wilson will discuss why data is the alpha and omega of Artificial Intelligence.

To quote Uncle Sam…

We want YOU! If you’re a CPO or equivalent and within hailing distance of Chicago, be sure to secure one of the 50 seats available at The Wit Hotel on Thursday 28th September by registering here.

If you’re not quite CPO-level (yet) or based on the other side of the globe, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Simply register for free as a digital delegate on Procurious, and we’ll bring all the Big Ideas from Chicago to you!

As a digital delegate, you’ll be able to access all of the content for free, and at your leisure; whether it’s from your desk, on the go, or in at home with a glass of wine.

By registering as a Digital Delegate, you can …

  • Gain access to insightful discussions via our Big Ideas Summit Chicago group
  • Connect with our influencers and ask questions live on the day of the events
  • Share big ideas for procurement with the Procurious community
  • Follow the day’s events live via our social media channels
  • Access video content from our speakers and attendees on-demand, after the event.

So, what are you waiting for? Register now free of charge as a digital delegate for Big Ideas Chicago!

Please Fire Me: I Just Can’t Quit!

Stuck in a miserable, but well-paid, job you can’t afford to quit? Don’t get yourself into that position in the first place!

Philip H. “hates his life”. Those are his exact words. Specifically, he hates his all-consuming job. The work bores him and he no longer believes in his firm’s mission. The gruelling hours he puts in cost him time with his family that he can never recover.

Here’s the kicker: Phillip earns several million dollars a year heading a major office of a top-tier advisory firm. So, you might ask, why doesn’t he quit?

He’s says he can’t afford to.

There’s a big mortgage on a luxury apartment, and another on the beautiful beach house he and his wife bought two years ago. (“The summer weekends we spend there are the only thing that keep me sane,” he says.) Then there are the three kids—all enrolled at a private school. The eldest will start college in a year; the others will follow soon. Tallying up his obligations, Philip envies his Wall Street friends who earn ten times as much as he does.

A couple of days ago I mentioned this story to a well-known financial columnist. “I hear this all the time,” he said. “Lots of people moan about how miserable they are at work but they can’t see a way out.”

“Boo, hoo,” you might say. “I’d trade places with Philip in a heartbeat.” But would a huge income really make up for feeling horrible about your life?

You might think that you could put up with a few years of misery for the freedom it would buy you. You’d put a lot of money in the bank, and then walk away to do whatever you like: launch a small company, or spend the rest of your days lolling on the beach. Maybe you’d devote the rest of your life to doing good in the world. Whatever your goal, you’d collect your last paycheck and say, “Adios.”

It’s not that easy, though. You wouldn’t make a bundle starting out. You’d have to put in your time first. And when serious money began to come in, it would be tempting to reward yourself creature comforts for all the stresses you endure. The higher you climb the ladder, the harder it will be to leave. Then one day you’d turn around and find yourself in Philip’s unhappy shoes.

It might seem that I’m writing about a problem that affects only a small set of people. But I think Philip’s case illustrates issues that apply wherever you are now in the organisational hierarchy, and whether you love your job or loathe it.

Most work choices aren’t either/or

It’s late in the game for Philip, but assuming a different role in his firm might be rejuvenating. Going on sabbatical might set a great example for other colleagues. By framing his decision as stay-or-go, he’s missing other opportunities.

If you’re unhappy at the office, other people know it

Philip’s negativity must come out sideways. If he hates his own job, how can he be enthusiastic when a colleague lobbies for a new project? A big part of his job is evaluating other people’s performance. His attitude is bound to warp his judgement. (I also worry about what he’s like at home.)

Toughing things out is not a career plan

Somehow Philip drags himself to work every day. Maybe he takes pride in his perseverance. As they say, however, “persisting in the same behavior expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” The way things are headed, he risks getting pushed out by his peers. Maybe that’s his subconscious agenda, but it would be an ugly way to go.

Plan your end game

When you take on a job, set a date when it will be time to move on to something else. You can always revise it one way or another, but it’s usually better to leave a year early than a year too late.

The most important lesson of Philip’s story is not getting into his situation in the first place. If Philip had kept these precepts in mind, he would have been alert to his growing feelings of frustration. At an earlier point, a lateral move to another firm or an entirely different field might have been easier. And if he had allowed for the possibility that the job might get stale, he might not have saddled himself with so much debt. But by the time he realised he was on a treadmill, he had gone so far he felt he couldn’t step off.

Sunk cost traps aren’t just financial. They can also be social, emotional, and deeply personal. Philip may have trapped himself with worries about what others will think about his walking away from what most regard as a dream job. I’d remind him of Samuel Johnson’s advice – that we’d worry less about what others think of us if we realised how seldom they do.

In the end, Philip’s self-respect is what counts. Walking away might feel as if he’s repudiating how he’s spent his recent years. But to me, belatedly changing an unhappy life sounds a lot better than doubling down.

This article was written by Professor Michael Wheeler and was orginally published on LinkedIn.

Professor Michael Wheeler’s Negotiation Mastery course on Harvard Business School’s HBX launched earlier this year. Applications for the next wave of students, starting in September, are now being accepted. Version 1.4 of his Negotiation 360 self-assessment/best practice app is available for both Apple and Android devices. It includes coaching videos and a tactics exercise.

Want to win a XK-X300 Quadcopter Drone? Take our survey!

With world-class talent and unlimited potential, a career in procurement can be brilliant … but you’ll need a plan to make it happen. That’s why we’ve launched our “My (Brilliant) Procurement Career” survey to understand how YOU will manage your own career into the future. 

Ten minutes is all it will take to put yourself in the running to win this quadcopter!

We need your input to discover:

  • In what ways are our peers across the globe seizing control of their own career management?
  • Do procurement professionals expect the profession to thrive, or to disappear by 2030?
  • Is crowdsourcing answers on social media an effective way to get the solution you need?
  • Do individuals in procurement feel isolated, or well-connected with the wider profession?

We’ve kept the survey to under 10 minutes – we know you’re busy!

Want to know more about the quadcopter? Check out this video review:

Cool, right? But you’ve got to be in it to win it! My Online Career is only open until Friday 8th September. You’ll also receive a copy of the report summarising the findings of the survey.

CLICK HERE to take the survey now!

Attention All Employees: Report For Microchipping

Does the idea of a corporate microchip implanted into your body make you squirm, or are you fascinated by the possibilities?  

“Hold your breath – one … two … [stab].”

A Wisconsin-based marketing company (Three Square Market) recently hired a piercing professional to inject microchips into 50 of its staff. The radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are encased in glass capsules about the size of a large grain of rice. They were injected into the fleshy part of participants’ hands, between the forefinger and thumb.

Sounds like something from a corporate dystopia, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, all of the microchipped individuals were entirely voluntary – along with a handful of journalists who were eager to see what it was like.

What can the microchips do?

At present, not much. It’s entirely internal to Three Square Market’s office, where microchipped staff can wave their hand to open doors, unlock computers and pay for items in the kiosk, provided the systems have the software installed and a contactless chip reader.

But in the future, the possibilities of human microchips are only limited by the scale of the technology’s implementation. Scannable items such as passports, drivers’ licenses and credit cards would no longer be necessary. Car keys could become a thing of the past, and of course home automation systems would be operable with a wave of the hand.

There’s a good example of microchips in play in Sweden, where a company named BioHax has implanted nearly 3000 customers with chips that enable them to ride the national rail system without having the show the conductor a ticket.

For data analysts, the potential flood of information from microchip use within a company is alluring – data could be collected every time an employee makes a purchase, enters the building, or uses a photocopier.

Can microchipped people be tracked remotely?

Not yet. The microchips aren’t a GPS device, but are entirely passive until they come within a few centimetres of a compatible reader, just like a bank card. Pet owners familiar with the technology know that microchipped pets can’t be located remotely if they go missing – instead, owners must wait until their pets are handed into a vet with a chip scanner.

Will employee microchips one day be compulsory?

At Three Square, over 60% of the company volunteered to be microchipped. The remaining 40% had a range of reasons for demurring, including a dislike of needles, a fear of having foreign objects in their bodies, and privacy concerns.

The concern is that if this technology becomes mainstream, a refusal to allow your company to embed you may lead to losing out on a promotion, raise, or simply being seen as “not a team player”. Forward thinking legislators in Pennsylvania have already introduced a bill to outlaw mandatory chip embedding, with a spokesperson saying: “If the tech is out there, what’s to stop an employer from saying either you do this, or you can’t work here anymore?”

Another issue is that with an increasingly mobile workforce, a chip that only works within the walls of a single organisation would become useless once that person leaves. One day, perhaps you would simply have your chip deactivated upon your exit interview and re-calibrated by your next employer, but this isn’t yet the case. Of those 50 volunteers at Three Square Market, it’s likely that a handful will move on to other roles within the next few months, but what becomes of their chips? The company won’t be happy with non-employees being able to open doors with a wave of their hands, so will the chips be (painfully) removed? Perhaps they will simply be deactivated, meaning users are left with a useless piece of “abandonware” technology embedded in their hands.


In other procurement news this week:

Are emerging professionals being paid more than experienced hands in procurement?

  • Based on 3808 responses across the United States, ISM’s 2017 Salary Survey revealed that emerging professionals (with under 9 years’ experience) are earning nearly $5000 more per annum than experienced professionals (with 9+ years).
  • This suggests that organisations are having to offer higher salaries to attract new talent.
  • The survey also revealed the following average salaries: CPOs – $259,340, VPs – $135,757, Directors – $153,347, Managers – $109,401.

Coupa appoints new Chief Marketing Officer

  • Cloud-based spend management company, Coupa Software, has announced that digital marketing executive and veteran software industry marketer Chandar Pattabhiram has joined the company as its chief marketing officer (CMO).
  • Named one of five CMOs to follow this year by LinkedIn, Pattabhiram has more than 23 years of experience in both fast-paced and large technology companies including Marketo, IBM, Badgeville, Cast Iron Systems, Jamcracker, and Anderson Consulting (now Accenture).

Intel to build a fleet of self-driving cars

  • Intel announced last week that it will build 100 high-automated cars to test self-driving technology.
  • The project will showcase Intel’s $15 billion acquisition of Mobileye, which closed this week. Israel-based Mobileye makes technology that helps vehicles “see”; collecting, analysing and transmitting data about the outside world.

Punished For Parenting – The Most Expensive “Time-Off” You’ll Ever Take

Ah, the joys of parenting! If you’ve got children, you’ll know that it’s pretty damn difficult, and costly, to return to the workplace post-parental leave – as if you needed that extra stress! What should your organisation be doing to ease your transition? 

You’re coming to the end of nine months (give or take) parental leave  and my guess is that you’ve never felt less “in the zone”.  You’re sleeping an average of four hours a night, haven’t had a shower in three days, can’t remember the last time you had a conversation about something other than nappies, Peppa Pig or puréed carrots and you’ve got 2157 emails, and counting, in your inbox.

Returning to work after having children is tough for numerous reasons; leaving your child(ren) in someone else’s care (and paying a hefty fee for the privilege), negotiating flexible working conditions, re-adapting to work and taking a sizeable pay cut to name but a few.

The true cost of maternity leave

It won’t come as a surprise that women are the most economically punished in this scenario.

A recent UK study by PwC, entitled “The £1 billion career break penalty for professional women” revealed that women returning to the workplace post-parental leave are losing out on an average of £4000 anually.

Numerous reports have considered the hours worked (around 100 p/w) by stay-at-home mums and calculated their deserved salaries  (in excess of £100,000) but we aren’t living in a dream world. Most women, in some capacity, have to return to the real world and they sure as heck aren’t earning what they deserve or filling the roles that reflect their experience and skillset. Indeed, PwC’s report suggest that two-thirds of women are working below their potential when they return to work and one in five are moving into lower-paid roles.

The stigma associated with CV gaps and a lack of workplace flexibility in many organisations are both contributing factors to these concerning statistics, but there is some hope! By fully utilising the female-returner workforce, the UK could add £1.7 billion to its economy.  And a number of organisations are recognising this and taking promising steps to implement programmes that make the transition back to work seamless and accommodating for working parents.

Here are a few examples:

1. Offer mid-career returnships

Think you might be too old for an internship? What about a returnship? Returnships, open to men and women, are a growing trend in UK businesses, aimed at helping those who have taken extended career breaks by updating skills and easing people’s fear about big CV gaps and a lacking or out of date skillset.

Women Returners explain that “Returnships are higher-level internships which act as a bridge back to senior roles for experienced professionals who have taken an extended career break. They are professionally-paid short-term employment contracts, typically of 3-6 months, with a strong possibility of an ongoing role at the end of the programme.”

And the benefits are two-fold with the employer benefitting as much as the employee. They gain access to a high calibre diverse talent pool and are given a low risk opportunity to assess a potential employee’s suitability for a permanent role.

Companies in the UK who currently offer returnship programmes include PwC, Deloitte, 02, Mastercard and Virgin Money. You can take a look at the full list of companies offering returnships and what these programmes entail here. 

2. Let the dads parent too!

The easiest way to prevent parental leave destroying careers for women is to level the playing field for all genders.

The concept of paternity leave is still a fairly new one. Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce paid parental leave just forty years ago and, whilst more than half of EU countries have followed suit since then, the uptake is still low.  Men are reluctant to take their full entitlement of paid leave because of the cultural stigma attached. Most companies and countries offer far less leave for men than women and it sends a message: “Men don’t really need parental leave.” Fear of judgement, lost career opportunities and lack of role models all contribute to the lack of uptake.

When men and women are offered, and start claiming, paid parental leave in equal measure, it becomes everyone’s problem to find better ways of accommodating this leave within businesses- and that’s when change happens!

Some of the trailblazing companies include Netfix, whose parental leave policy allows parents up to a year of flexible paid leave, Amazon, who launched “Leave Share,” allowing Amazon employees to share their paid leave with their partners and Spotify, who offer six month full pay to all parents.

3. Build a creche

Flexible working is crucial for parents upon their return from a career break. Employees who are offered flexible work options such as being able to work from home, and at hours that suit them could be the difference between a parent returning to a senior role and having to take a more junior position, for which they are overqualified. What does it matter if one of your top employees leaves at 3pm each day to collect their children if they’re willing to work late into the evening to get the job done?

We talk a lot on Procurious about better assimilating family life with the workplace and whether it’s becoming more acceptable to bring your children to work. A number of companies are better providing for their employee parents with on-site childcare facilities. Goldman Sachs, for example, opened London’s first on-site creche in 2003.  It currently offers staff four weeks free care to ease the transition back to work from parental leave.

In the U.S. a third of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for provide on-site child care.

5 Ways Employers Can Appeal To Talent On Career Breaks

Prospective employees returning from career breaks have a pretty good idea of  their priorities. Want your organisation to appeal to them? Follow these steps…

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

When I returned from maternity leave I realised just how important it is to have policies and benefits in place to support people returning to work after a career break. Although mat leave for female talent is not the only type of career break businesses should consider, women returning to the workforce offer a valuable resource to employers, plugging skills gaps and boosting diversity.

So what do they look for when re-entering the workplace, and how can your company catch their eye?

After surveying 1,000 female professionals, the Robert Walters Group discovered that a strong salary and company benefits (90 per cent), career progression (88 per cent) and well-being initiatives (82 per cent) are top of women’s priority lists when returning to the workplace.

Flexibility (79 per cent) is also a main preference, with over half of respondents keen to move into a more family-friendly sector once their career break comes to an end.

However, there seems to be a disparity between the attitudes of employees and employers towards flexible working. While 84 per cent of female professionals want the option to work from home, it’s offered by just 39 per cent of employers. And although two-thirds of women would welcome the chance to work part-time, only 35 per cent of businesses provide this opportunity.

With all this in mind, it seems employers will only attract the brightest talent if they’re open to the idea of flexible working.

Top 5 tips when recruiting those on a career break

Of course, flexible working isn’t the only thing your business needs to consider when recruiting people after a career break. The following points are also key:

1. Understand what women want from their jobs

Flexibility, competitive salaries and career progression all remain important issues. Since only 24% of female professionals go back to their previous employer after a career break, it’s worth delving deeper to understand what they’re after.

2. Don’t make your recruitment messages too restrictive

Many women returning to work are looking to move into a new area within their sector, or to embark on a career that’s connected with, but different from, what they did before. So ensure your job ads and interviewing make it clear that you’re open to good people with transferable skill-sets and experience.

3. Learn more about flexible working

As we’ve mentioned, try to embrace flexible working – but avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Flexible working covers everything from job sharing and home-working through to part-time work. Further information is available from the Government

4. Provide childcare support

Half of professionals consider financial support for childcare to be important. This gives employers the chance to stand out from the crowd by offering family-friendly policies.

5. Make it easy for women to come back

Avoid the loss of talented staff members by keeping in touch with them during career breaks. Office visits, newsletters and social channels can all help. Some 79% of women say they’d find a mentor helpful during their transition back to working life. Mentoring schemes could ultimately give women a better idea of their future career options.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

This article, by Deborah Keogh, was originally published on LinkedIn. Deborah is Associate Director – Strategic Client Development at Resource Solutions.

Annual Leave: Make Sure You Seize The Days!

It’s the same story around the globe. Paid annual leave is yours for the taking but you never quite get round to using it…We need to shake up our priorities!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

Years ago, there were days that all blurred into one. I’d finish the week with little recollection of conversations had, what I’d achieved, or what job seekers I’d placed in amazing roles.

I loved my job. I loved it so much that I worked round the clock. You see, recruitment, like any sales role, is fast-paced and competitive. And the fear of losing a job to a competitor drove me to stay connected, 24/7. It also took priority ahead of personal relationships, which reflecting back, was a big mistake and huge learning curve.

Before I founded Agency Iceberg, I took two weeks off. I had resigned to launch my own business because I felt the recruitment industry needed a voice that would stand up for others, promote positive opportunities for women to address the gender gap, help parents find flexible roles and challenge the idea that recruitment was a ‘boys club’ or that talent agents will cut corners in any shape or form to make money.

Finding time to re-wire

It was also during this time I started doing things a little differently. I bought my first dog, Marlowe. I reconnected with friends that I had lost touch with from putting work first. I caught up with industry mentors to seek advice about launching my own business. And, after spending a few days recovering, I eventually started to feel my brain rewire itself and began ‘hearing’ conversations again!

Also, without being KPI driven, I didn’t need to check my phone as often. I wasn’t worried about missing out on client or talents’ urgent needs. My needs were put first. I started feeling calmer. I could concentrate for longer periods of time and recall conversations a week later. When my girlfriends and I caught up, I could relax and spend more time learning about their lives, rather than worrying when to get back to my desk and be reactive to other people’s needs.

After a few weeks of weeks rest and catching up with industry peers for advice and encouragement I felt that I was ready to focus on myself, my body (and lack of exercise and poor nutrition that needed to be seriously addressed) and my new professional goal: to start my own business.

If perspective was a performance enhancing drug, I’d be the first in line to sell it

In a 2010 survey of 1,700 global professional services workers, it was found that, “on average, workers report spending slightly more than half (51 per cent ) of their work day receiving and managing information, rather than actually using information to do their jobs”.

Furthermore, and perhaps more worryingly, “an average of half (51 per cent) of all those surveyed in each country say that if the amount of information they receive continues to increase, they will soon reach a ‘breaking point’ at which they will be unable to handle any more”.

At what point do we learn to stop?

Unfortunately, many of us don’t. In 2014, 11 per cent of Australians took no annual leave in 2014. Workplace perception around taking leave, leaving work on time, and what it means as a ‘productive worker’ weighs heavily on many workers, including those who come to Agency Iceberg offices feeling exhausted and on the verge of burnout.

In my own experience, I didn’t take annual leave because I felt guilty about it in the past. And when I did take leave, it wasn’t uncommon for employers to call me with urgent requests, so often I felt anxious, even when away from the office.

In Overwhelmed America: Why Don’t We Use Our Earned Leave?, the US Travel Association reviewed the factors contributing to Americans not taking paid leave. While a number of factors contribute to the findings, it suggests perhaps senior management plays a role in perpetuating myths that holidays are a ‘once a year’ goal.

“There is a striking disconnect between the importance that workers place on taking PTO [paid time off], and the ease with which they feel that they can take it. The central challenge is closing this gap”, the report said.

“Far too many employers do not encourage taking PTO (in policy and/or communications), and senior business leaders send mixed signals about the importance and benefit of taking PTO. Only 32 per cent of workers say that their employer encourages taking PTO; 33 per cent of senior business leaders either say nothing (19 per cent) or only discuss the merits of taking PTO once a year (14 per cent).”

Given that Australia has the third highest amount of average annual leave, behind countries such as the UK and Sweden, we aren’t lacking for options.

So why aren’t we taking leave more regularly, instead of when we’re nearly out of juice?

Well, as the Overwhelmed America report indicates, perhaps it is less about official policy, and more about how whether employees worry they’ll be ill perceived if they take regular breaks; the workload to manage while away; and that the business might actually fall over if they do hit pause.

The report writes, “the top barriers to taking PTO are a ‘mountain of work’ (40 per cent  difficult to take PTO), nobody else can do the work (35 per cent ), cannot afford it (33 per cent), and taking time gets harder to do the higher up you go (33 per cent) … Senior business leaders think taking time off is harder the higher up you go (56 per cent to 28 per cent for employees), that nobody else can do the work (54 to 31 per cent), and that they would come back to a mountain of work (54 to 37 per cent).”

Someone else CAN do the work

The idea that ‘no one else can do the work’ is a theme that I have felt very deeply in the past. There were years when I felt if I missed a day of work, there wasn’t anyone else in the business who could do the deal. It’s only looking back now, I realise how devoid of reality that really was. My colleagues were so darned good at their jobs, what I was actually worried about was missing out on a deal myself.

If you’re a top performer, the business will certainly miss you. But, as I’ve learned for myself, if you have failed to create a workflow that others can pick up in the occasion you get hit by a bus, or, your employer is not committed to resourcing regular leave, maybe there’s something in our  work DNA we need to seriously rethink.

There’s a lot to be said for the impact to productivity and motivation when employers build in reflection and decompression time. In addition to cognitive benefits, regular breaks promote decreased stress levels, higher productivity levels, intensified concentration levels, ability to regulate emotions and deal with stress at work, and the ability to delegate more effectively.

Prioritise rest and rejuvenation

Experience has told me, as countless books and studies do, the more regularly we prioritise rest and rejuvenation, the most effective and impactful we will be at work, as well as happier, and we can actually enjoy each other’s company every day.

Since my career break, I’ve made a commitment to not only lead by example by taking quarterly breaks, but to actively encourage my team to make plans every three months to get out of the office. I often sit down with my team during our weekly WIPs and openly discuss travel plans for the year to let them know that it’s okay to plan your personal life and enjoy it! You don’t need to tip-toe around the office and quietly plan your annual leave.

There are 365 days in the year, 249 workdays, and 20 annual leave days up for grabs in Australia. How are you going to spend yours?

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here

Anna O’Dea is a recruitment expert, LinkedIn Top Voice 2016 and Founder and Director of Agency Iceberg. This article was originally published on Smart Company.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Procurious’ Hugo Britt shares his experience of what happens when you truly disconnect – whether it’s on an extended career break, or just a short trip away.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

It’s 2009. I’m sitting alone in a tent perched high in the Italian Apennines, listening to the roaring of wild boars on the other side of the canvas. I’ve been scribbling away at my journal by torchlight in an effort to capture my experience hiking the 400km, 23-day Apennine Trail, when something makes me pause mid-sentence. I flip to a clean page at the back of the notebook and, in full caps, write the words “LIFE PLAN” at the top of the page.

I’ve still got that journal, but I remember tearing that page out a few days later, a bit embarrassed at how self-indulgent it seemed. What was I up to when I wrote it? I’m not normally one to come up with grandiose life plans – in fact, I usually have trouble planning more than a week or so ahead.

Here’s my theory.

Zooming out

By that point in my hike, I’d been trudging along for nearly 20 days. This was to be the last hurrah after nearly a year of travel. My then-girlfriend and travel partner (now, happily, my wife) was working in the UK, and I’d taken the opportunity to do something I’d always wanted before heading back to Australia – one of Europe’s spectacular long-distance trails. I was going it alone, not only in the sense that I didn’t have a hiking partner but because the trail rarely passed through towns. It was off-season, so I barely met anybody over those three weeks in the mountains apart from the odd deer hunter. I had a phone, but rarely had reception – and (it being 2009), I was yet to upgrade to a smartphone.

In short, I’d disconnected. I hadn’t thought about the job I’d resigned from for months – nor was I worrying about finding another job when my shoe-string travel budget inevitably gave out and I had to head home. If I did think about my career, it tended to be through a wider lens (“What do I really want to do with my life”) rather than the practical details (“I need to update my CV, line up some interviews, buy a new suit…”). Thoughts like this didn’t even occur to me, probably because they’d have been so incongruous with what I was doing at that moment, whether it was trudging up a slope or cooking dinner on a fuel stove.

My point is that if you do manage to properly disconnect, you stop sweating the small stuff. From memory, the four or five points in my so-called life plan weren’t about getting practical little jobs done – it was more of an epic to-do list. It included asking my girlfriend to marry me, deciding what city we wanted to live in, whether I really wanted to finish my current course of study – in other words, the big-ticket items.

Switching off on a short break

2017 – eight years later, I’ve just returned from a very different sort of trip. Our family of four took in the frenetic sights and sounds of Hong Kong for two weeks, which gave me a short, but invaluable, chance to disconnect from the office. Unlike back in 2009, I was very much employed this time around and must admit sneaking a glance at my inbox a couple of times in those first couple of days. Eventually, I made the conscious decision to switch off and did so by disabling just about everything on my phone apart from the camera app.

Switching off helped me zoom out. It helped me put some common-sense context around the unanswered emails and unfinished projects sitting in my inbox. While I can’t claim to have completely stopped thinking about work during that two-week break, my thought process shifted from the detailed level (sweating the small-stuff) to discovering the bigger picture. Almost subconsciously, I was rearranging the tasks on my plate into a realistic order of priority, and even had a couple of “aha” moments – not by sitting down at a laptop and working, but while I was doing something completely unrelated, like lining up to purchase a ferry ticket.

Find your holiday brain

There’s some science behind this. Earlier in 2017, Procurious interviewed James Bannerman, a Creative Change Agent and phycologist about the best ways to unlock creativity. He said “Trying to be creative is like trying to go to sleep. If you’re too busy focusing on going to sleep, you’ll stay awake because there’s all sorts of brainwave activity linked to beta waves that will keep you from falling asleep.”

Bannerman explained that there’s a sweet-spot that allows creativity to flourish. “We tend to be most creative when we’re focused but not over-focused, and relaxed but not too relaxed. You’re more likely to think creatively when you step away from your desk, and do something like go for a run, or go for a drive, or simply look out the window. It’s about finding that optimum state.”

So, there you have it. Stepping away from your career allows you to perform better in that career. Time to book my next trip.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Facebook AI Research Team Shuts Down Negotiating Robots

Facebook has shut down two robots after they abruptly stopped using English and invented their own language while conducting a negotiation exercise.

There have been a flurry of reports over the past week about Facebook’s decision to shut down two chatbots – named Bob and Alice – after they developed a coded language that was incomprehensible to humans.

The initial experiment involved a simple conversation between one human and one chatbot where they negotiated the sharing out of some items – books, hats and balls. This conversation was conducted in English, along the lines of “give me one ball, and I’ll give you the hats”.

So far, so good. But when the human was removed from the conversation and two chatbots were directed at each other, the way they communicated immediately became difficult for humans to understand.

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Some media commentators have labelled the development “sinister”, with frequent references to Terminator, Skynet and – of course – Frankenstein appearing in related coverage. But Facebook researcher Dhruv Batra told Fastco that there was simply no guidance set for the robots to stick to the English language. “Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves.” Essentially, the bots found a more efficient way of communicating with each other.

Setting parameters

The topic of negotiation and AI came under discussion at a recent Negotiation Roundtable organised by CABL (Conti Advanced Business Learning). The attendees agreed that if a robot is going to run a negotiation, it requires very clear guidance around the parameters and objectives.

Another concern about AI being involved in commercial negotiation is that at present, they are unable to understand emotional intelligence. Thierry Blomet, Senior VP of Global Sourcing at Kemira, says that “Until we completely remove the emotional aspect, AI cannot run negotiations. Body language and emotional reactions are intangible, and are most unlikely to be modelled by programmers.” In the case of Facebook’s Alice and Bob, the human factor was removed.

Blomet points out that AI can play a valuable role in complex scenario modelling, which would be “much more complex than even the smartest procurement brain could manage. Whatever might happen in the negotiation would be included in that model, with the answers already pre-empted.”

Laurence Pérot, Head of Global Supply Chain Procurement at Logitech, agrees. “Big Data and AI will lead to much more efficient scenario modelling, particularly with supply chain, logistics and transportation bids.”

Orestes Peristeris, Supply Chain Expert at Yale, comments that ultimately, it’s about quantification and sophistication of statistics. “Do you have the data in the same place and in one system? What can be quantified and what cannot be quantified objectively? There are some things that can be used, some things we know will happen with some certainty, and some things that can’t be quantified. Finally, we’ll always need humans to take the outcomes of Big Data and apply it to the business context.”

As for the future of procurement negotiation, perhaps one day we’ll see buyers and suppliers lining up their chatbots against each other and letting them negotiate in rapid, complex code.

May the best bot win.

In other procurement news this week:

Hackett research reveals dramatic savings from digital transformation

  • New research from The Hackett Group has shown that the potential cost take-out opportunity through digital transformation is up to 24%, through the implementation of robotic process automation, advanced analytics, cloud-based applications and other approaches.
  • The research has also revealed that world-class procurement organisation now operate at 22% lower labour costs, have 29% fewer staff, and generate more than twice the ROI of typical organisations, with over $10 in savings for every $1 of procurement operating costs.
  • The Hackett Group’s Christopher Sawchuck commented that procurement technology has reached an inflection point: “World-class organisations can continue to reduce costs by embracing digital technology, and typical procurement organisations can leverage the same technology to catch up faster at less cost.”

Download the research here: http://www.thehackettgroup.com/research/2017/wcpapr17/SalesForce-World-Class-Advantage-17Q2-PR.html

Collaborative Robots to Boost Warehouse Productivity

  • In a shift away from the apparent race to replace humans with robotic workers, firms are designing robots to work alongside people in warehouses and boost productivity.
  • “Collaborative” robots can have a variety of uses, including leading human workers to the exact location of a product, or carrying goods from one part of the warehouse to another. DHL, Bonobos and Zara are known to be experimenting with the technology.
  • The robots – costing tens of thousands of dollars – are relatively cheap when compared with the vast amount of conveyor belts and automation systems included in a typical warehouse.

Read more: The Wall Street Journal

Interested in attending a CABL Negotiation workshop? Visit http://www.cabl.ch/ to find out more. The founder, Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience with leading multinationals and over 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

IBM Global Procurement’s Radical Transformation

Transformation has become the new norm as organisations respond to an onslaught of shocks. But is there a best-practice way to go about transforming a procurement function? We interviewed Procurious Partner, IBM Global Procurement, to discover why they’ve been recognised on the global stage for their approach to the challenge.

If you were to stop any procurement professional on the street and ask what their function is currently up to, you’re unlikely to hear the reply, “Oh, you know – business as usual”. Instead, you can expect to hear a description of some sort of transformation. Whether it’s enterprise-wide or procurement-led, everybody’s doing it. In fact, you could argue that the process of transformation itself has become business as usual, especially if you’ve ever worked in a company where one transformation follows another, ad nauseum.

Where once your organisation may have needed to reinvent itself every few decades, today, an onslaught of shocks – technological, cultural, economic, and regulatory – is forcing companies to transform every few years. Five to ten years ago, your CEO might have become a business icon through a single transformation. The minimum requirement now is being able to execute multiple transformations, while success today is measured in your ability to foster a culture of continuous reinvention.

Showing how it’s done

IBM Global Procurement recognised the need to transform as market dynamics put increased pressure on its customers, which consist of internal IBM business units and external clients. Graham Wright, Vice President, Global Procurement and IBM Procurement Services, described some of these pressures. “We realised that our internal and external clients needed less complexity, more transparency, consistent processes executed with speed, and new solutions. The challenge was to find new ways to stay relevant and be successful – that’s why we launched a radical transformation not only to address the needs of the business but to keep pace with smaller, more agile competition and remain an industry leader”.

The team went about this by ramping up activity across three key areas:

1.Innovation: Leveraging strategic partnerships and key relationships to drive innovation.

The team unlocked the value of supplier innovation by implementing a state-of-the-art Supplier Enabled Innovation (SEI) program and using new, engaging tools, including cognition. The SEI initiative included 3rd-party ‘Voice of the Supplier’ surveys, supplier incentives including annual awards, and clear performance metrics.

2. Engagement: Delivering simple, engaging user experiences.

After identifying key client pain points around complexity, slow execution and delayed problem resolution, IBM Global Procurement followed a mantra of speed and simplicity to improve visibility, enhance workflows and reduce cycle times. Innovative engagement solutions, such as an “Ask Procurement” chat function for clients, have contributed to an impressive improvement in client satisfaction. The chat application is highly intuitive – it suggests self-service solutions for users, and provides direct access to live agents who can answer questions simply and quickly.

3. Analytics & Cognitive: Capitalising on foundational analytics and cognitive solutions.

No mention of IBM Global Procurement would be complete without a reference to its not-so-secret weapon – the Watson Cognitive Platform. Through catalog data enrichment and cognitive procurement solutions which provide users with refined real-time data for risk mitigation, market and supplier insights, pricing information and recommendations, the team realised significant efficiencies including hand-free POs and greatly improved process compliance.

As an extremely positive side-effect of this transformational effort, Wright reports that the team’s efforts are being recognised within the wider organisation. “The transformation has helped change the perception of procurement evolving from a cost centre to a value centre.”

While internal recognition of the procurement team’s value is gratifying, the Global Procurement Team was even more delighted to see their efforts celebrated at Procurement Leader’s World Procurement Awards, where the team won the award for “Transforming External Partnerships (Pioneering Business Impact)”. The team’s submission went through a rigorous 3-stage judging process including online judging, peer review and a face-to-face regional debate.

And that’s not all – amongst 350 submissions across 15 categories, IBM Procurement was short-listed for each of the 6 entries it entered a submission for, and picked up 2 major awards – the Transformation award, and another for Risk Mitigation.

Procurious is working with our Knowledge Partner, IBM, over the next 12 months to promote cognitive procurement to our global community. To learn more about IBM Global Procurement, click here.