Eyes on the prize: 5 ways soft skills can help you focus on the big-ticket projects

From guest contributor Shaun Hughes, Chief Procurement Officer, Telstra.

In a complex and hyper-connected world, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to juggle every demand on your time without losing sight of important projects. The solution doesn’t lie in downloading the latest time-management app, or introducing the latest project management methodology, but in the development of five key soft skills. 

I’ve always been impressed by jugglers. Otherwise known as multi-taskers, the best jugglers are seemingly able to keep an unbelievable number of projects and tasks in the air at once. But underneath the whirl of frenetic activity, impressive as it might look, is it really effective?

Firstly, trying to juggle too many projects at once often leads to short-termism. Rather than make hard prioritisation decisions on what really matters, we often fall into the trap of focusing on the most urgent task at hand.  Meanwhile, the big-ticket projects that really make a difference are lost in the swirl of activity.  Busy-ness leaves no room for effectiveness.

You may be able to get every task done on your list, but does it really add value?  We all know what our best work looks like, but are we setting ourselves up for success?  Creating the time to think and to prioritise is essential, but how do we know that we’re working on the right things?

Soft skills remove ambiguity.

Modern procurement is about driving a change agenda.  Great organisations have great talent and great talent doesn’t always agree.

I used to think getting things done was about getting everyone to yes, now I believe it’s about getting the “NOs” to neutral and maintaining enough momentum in the “YES camp” to move things forward.

But the task of converting all those NOs to neutrals can sometimes seem overwhelming. If you don’t have existing relationships in place, you’ve simply got no idea why individuals (or entire functions) are resisting your change agenda. Confronted with so much ambiguity and complexity, it can be hard to know where to start.

What I’ve found is if you simply roll up your sleeves, start talking to people and understand their perspectives it’s amazing what you learn about what is important to them and why.  Understanding this takes a bit more time sometimes, but change is much more likely to stick.

Five soft skills that will help you win back your time

1. Make the effort to really connect – see the person, not the task. Take the time to understand those around you, what is important to them, their fears and aspirations, what motivates them.  While the degree of connection each of us want at work will vary, when we connect as people in a real and authentic way the whole human dynamic of that relationship changes.  When our focus is only on the task, it’s much harder to see the person and the impact your agenda might have on them.

2. Ask not tell – start with a question, and then keep asking questions. Even if you want to talk about your agenda, when we ask permission to do so, something changes.  We are now being invited into the conversation. The dynamic shifts from one of pushing our own agenda and position, to a pull dynamic where we are being asked to explain it.

When the conversation pauses, inquire with curiosity.  It never ceases to amaze me how different things can be in reality to how they appear on the surface.  When we simply listen with a view to finding space to talk ourselves, I wonder do we always hear what is being said to us?

When a really important idea that I just don’t want to forget hijacks my ability to listen, one thing that works for me is the simple act of writing that thought down. This seems to remove the need to keep trying to remember it, or the urgency to blurt it out, and allows me to listen. 

3. Reasonable people acting illogically – most people in business are smart, pragmatic and reasonably rational. Admittedly, we all have moments when we lapse a little, but corporate norms of behaviour tend to reinforce pragmatic rationalism.  So, when we see behaviour that doesn’t quite make sense to us, it’s often because we don’t fully understand what’s important to those around us.  What should we do?  Start back at point 1 and build a relationship.

Throughout my career I’ve taken many opportunities to do many different things in many different parts of the businesses I’ve worked in. Different roles in different industries, but always coming back to my core skill in commercial / financial management. Breadth through rotation provides a wider perspective on the world around us and I’ve certainly benefited from this. It’s amazing how much you can enjoy learning something new; the broader our own experiences, the easier it is to understand the perspectives of others. 

4. Learn to let go – for many overworked jugglers, the problem can be of our own making. If your leadership style means controlling every decision and rewriting everything your team produces, you will always have too much on your plate. Learn to recognise talent, enable it, establish a set of principles to work by and communicate these clearly. Then, simply get out of the way and let talent be talent.

You may be surprised to find that the quality of work goes up as people feel more empowered and valued.  Do any of us do our best work when we know the boss is going to get out the red pen and rewrite the whole thing?

4. Know when to call in the umpire – we have umpires in sport for a reason. Sometimes in the heat of the moment the desire to win distorts the player’s perspective of what’s really happening.  Imagine a tennis game without an umpire ….
                In            out!
               In!          Out!!
               IN!!        OUT!!! 

Nothing can stall a project quite so much as an unresolved disagreement.  So, rather than let the relationship falter, or prosecute the same issue repeatedly, be pragmatic about when to find an umpire.  Make your respective cases, accept the decision and move on.

Is there anything wrong with acknowledging where you are and saying “Hey, we’re not going to agree on this, how about we get a third party to be an umpire?

Good communication, transparency and investment in relationships may seem like a counter-intuitive way to lesson your workload, but your soft skills are the most effective method you have of bringing those multiple projects under control, focusing on the big-ticket items that will really move your business and your career in the right direction, and driving lasting sustainable change.

Telstra is a leading Australian telecommunications and technology company, offering a full range of communications services and competing in all telecommunications markets. Hear more thought-leadership from Telstra at Procurious Big Ideas Summit Melbourne on Monday 30th October. 

How To Train Your CEO To Get What The Business Needs

The majority of CPOs are still reporting three levels down from the CEO. Enrico Rizzon, Partner, Procurement & Analytics, A.T. Kearney Australia outlines how procurement can build a strong business case!

On 30th October, we’re bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Melbourne! Want to join us? Grab a ticket here to secure you seat! 

Procurement leaders in large corporations face a tough business environment. Facing low growth, disruption, increased competitive pressures from well-funded private equity firms and nimble technology-focused innovators, the demand for creative procurement services to deliver not only on cost improvements but also create new solutions that help the overall business strategy is growing.

However, more than 50 percent of procurement functions are still seen as a service rather than business functions with only a small proportion of CPOs reporting into CEOs – the majority still report three levels down.

The need for procurement leaders to be able to build strong business cases that proactively influence and challenge CEOs is greater than ever. The overall goal is to make the CEO understand that what you provide can help solve business challenges, not just the procurement issues.

To deliver on these business challenges there are three key skills that all CPOs must adopt if they’re to succeed.

Herding cats

 Herding cats is a challenging and vital skill when it comes to engaging the c-suite. Those with experience will understand that, at that level, there are individual agendas and incentives that drive different, and not always helpful, behaviours especially when the levers and areas being utilised to deliver value are less commonly associated with procurement. One needs to be politically aware, and know how to navigate this to ‘corral the cats’ and drive the change that is necessary to unlock the value for their businesses.

Speak their language

 The c-suite are not interested in what you want, but they are interested in what the business needs. A simple language change through framing conversations with the c-suite differently can have a dramatic impact.  Think of this as, ‘same, same but different’. To put this into practice, Chris Sullivan from CCA, who now reports directly to the CCA Group CEO, suggests structuring procurement’s role along dimensions that mater to the business and are clearly aligned with the business strategy. It is especially important to ensure that all in the procurement team understand and learn this.

 Build trust

One of the quickest ways to burn trust is to talk about procurement and not the business. Building trust is not easy and it takes time, but once achieved it will transform Procurement from a services function to a business partner whom the CEO relies on. This can only be built through delivery, and more importantly consistency of delivery. There is no point in over-delivering one year, only to not deliver the following year. This extends to numbers and metrics that Procurement use to report delivery. In a recent A.T. Kearney survey, CFOs consistently felt that metrics used by Procurement were less robust than other service functions. If what you report is not credible, then your trust will also quickly be eroded. Overhauling delivery metrics is a sure-fire step to building trust with the CEO.

Mastering these three skills will stand you in good stead to engage the c-suite to not only improve the overall Procurement function, but to truly impact the business so that it can grow and prosper.

My final piece of advice is to be bold.

As George Bernard Shaw famously said, ‘the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.’ In these times of low growth and disruption, being reasonable may not deliver the result for you or for the organisation you serve. So back yourself, be bold, help lead the change that the business needs.

Take the first step and you may be pleasantly surprised at what eventuates.

Want to hear more from Enrico Rizzon? He’ll be speaking  at The Big Ideas Summit Melbourne. Join us LIVE to discuss the big-ticket trends affecting procurement – grab a ticket here to secure your seat!

Does Your Procurement Team Have The Human Touch?

We’ve had quite enough of the scare-mongering out there that says the robots are coming to steal our jobs! We’ve got some inside info that suggests having a human touch in your procurement team is by far the most important thing!

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

We’ve heard it all before, right? Cognitive technology is coming and, in case you hadn’t gathered, it’s a pretty big deal.

By 2020 all of our important procurement decisions will be made with the assistance of artificial intelligence. We know that our teams must “transform or die” if we don’t want the function reduced to the back office,  facing extinction.

Given the scare mongering and hype around AI, most procurement professionals have accepted that they must map out their cognitive journeys, hone their skills and prepare for a very different future.

But what does that future look like?  Are procurement teams of the future made up entirely of savvy data scientists? Can you even have a future in procurement if you’re not a data whizz?

Can you beat the bots with the human touch?

Our latest webinar, in partnership with IBM, takes the more optimistic, and realistic, approach that humans can, and will, win the day!

The idea that everyone needs to be a data scientist is a total  fallacy. In reality, only a very small percentage of the workplace actually needs these skills. The rest of the procurement workforce will need to be managing relationships with the supply chain ecosystem.

If cognitive technology like IBM’s Watson can handle the sourcing, the market intelligence and the data, the biggest gap for procurement to worry about is soft skills.

Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day examines how procurement’s role is transforming. We explore why the function needs to develop arelationship with the organisation that is much more strategic, placing it in a partnering and consultative role.

Think you could do with learning more about the importance of soft skills in the cognitive age, and which ones you should be concentrating on within your teams?  Sign up for our webinar on 24th October and check out our FAQs below for all the information you require:

What content can I expect from the webinar?

We’ll be discussing:

  • What cognitive tools are on the horizon?
  • How will the advancement of cognitive technology be an enabler, and not the disabler, of your procurement career?
  • Why  is the most robotically advanced procurement team in the world, focusing on their employees soft skills?
  • How can procurement teams map out their cognitive and talent journeys alongside each other?
  • If soft skills are king, which ones should you be developing?

Who are the guest speakers?

Tania Seary – Founder, Procurious

A true procurement entrepreneur, Tania is the Founding Chairman of Procurious, The Faculty and The Source. Throughout her career, Tania has been wholly committed to raising the profile of the procurement profession and connecting its leaders.

After finishing her MBA at Pennsylvania State University, Tania became one of Alcoa’s first global commodity managers.

In 2016, Tania was recognised by IBM as a #NewWaytoEngage Futurist and named “Influencer of the Year” by Supply Chain Dive. She hosts regular procurement webinars, and presents at high-profile events around the world.

John Viner-Smith – Principal, Mercer 

John earned his masters in international procurement from Kedge Business School in Bordeaux in 2003 and went to work at JPMorgan Chase as HR Sourcing Manager for EMEA.

After a couple of years at JPM he moved into consulting with ATKearney, specialising in Procurement work and stayed in Consulting until 2009 (he moved to Deloitte) until moving back into industry with Dixons Stores Group, where he was Senior Category Manager for Marketing and IT.

After that he spent two years as a Principal at KPMG in Shared Services and Outsourcing Advisory, where he became involved in work around Robotic Process Automation and Cognitive Computing in Shared Services environments before moving to Mercer to focus on a commercial excellence again.

He writes and lectures in leading business schools on the topic of Commercial Negotiation. John  currently live in Oxfordshire with his wife and two children.

Justin McBryan-  Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager, IBM

Justin has 20 years of Supply Chain experience and currently serves as IBM Procurements Learning & Development and Strategy Leader at IBM.
He has most recently been a Supply Chain Consultant for IBM specialising in logistics and procurement across numerous Industry verticals around the globe, including extended work in China, Mexico, Canada and Europe.
Justin’s passion for learning and development stems from his desire to collaborate and scale expertise through large organizations. Justin is a proud graduate of Loyola University-New Orleans and currently resides in New York City with his wife.

How do I register for the webinar?

Registering for our webinar couldn’t be easier (and, of course, it’s FREE!)

Click here to enter your details and confirm your attendance. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

I’m already a member of Procurious, do I still need to register?

Yes! If you are already a member of Procurious you must still register to access the webinar via this platform. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

When is it taking place?

The webinar will take place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017

Help! I can’t make it to the live-stream

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask a question?

If you’re listening live, our speakers would love to hear your questions and we’d love for you to pick their brains . Questions can be submitted throughout the live stream via the webinar platform, or via Twitter when you tag #Beatthebots @procurious_

If you think of a brilliant question after the event, feel free to submit your question via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Supercharge Your Intelligence

How can technology improve the savings, scope and speed of your supplier searches by supercharging your intelligence

The event might be over, but you can still  register for The Big Ideas Summit Chicago to access footage  from the event. 

“There’s a tremendous opportunity [for procurement] to leverage technology and data to accelerate processes and bring insight into the organisation.” says Stephany Lapierre, founder and CEO of tealbook.

After 10 years building a successful strategic sourcing consulting firm, Stephany launched tealbook in 2014, a cloud-based platform that uses machine learning to enrich supplier master data and accelerates supplier identification and qualification by as much as 90 per cent.

At The Big Ideas Summit last week we interviewed Stephany to learn the results of a recent partnership with The Hackett Group:

What’s the big problem?

We know that procurement processes need to be more agile. Particularly in larger organisations, which are threatened by disruption, the ability to adapt and be more flexible is of paramount importance to ensure survival.

But, as Stephany points out, when it comes to identifying qualified suppliers, agility is not procurement’s strong point…yet!

“By the time a business comes to procurement with supplier requirements, it takes an average of 41 hours of effort to come back with a list of qualified suppliers,” she begins.

“I was with a Fortune 500 CPO recently and asked him one question:

“When the business comes to procurement, what’s the process for getting back to them with a vetted list of qualified suppliers?”

“He spoke for ten minutes, listing all of the internal and external sources used by procurement!

“We have a portal, we use our analysts, third party analysts, we buy market intelligence reports, we use Google, as our stakeholders, and the list went on.

“If it takes 41 hours of efforts (typically taking 5 to 6 weeks), procurement is a bottle neck. You can now make that information available in real time… that changes the conversation. It’s game changing!”

If traditional approaches to decision making are broken, what does that mean for the future of procurement?

The Upside Of Supplier Intelligence

tealbook recently partnered with The Hackett Group to research the cost, effort, and business impact of supplier discovery and qualification. The resulting data became the foundation of a four-city series of executive roundtables focused on exploring and capturing the strategic impact of having access to actionable supplier intelligence to meet the demand of the business that requires speed, agility and innovation.

Over the course of those four evenings, The Hackett Group data came alive through the diverse perspectives of over 40 procurement thought leaders. Their combined insights are now available in a new white paper, The Upside of Accessible Supplier Intelligence, which was launched at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit in Chicago.

The paper addresses the transformative potential of supplier intelligence based on the themes we heard loud and clear from our executive participants, as well as discussion around the following points:

  • 15% of the sourcing process is spent identifying and qualifying suppliers.
  • It takes an average of 41 hours of effort per sourcing event, which translates into 23,165 hours for the average enterprise.
  • Over 60 percent of supplier discovery & qualification efforts are handled by strategic resources (category managers and senior category managers).
  • Applying machine learning and peer-driven intelligence to this challenge creates a strategic opportunity to accelerate and improve this process while increasing procurement’s total impact on the top and bottom line.

Procurement: The Guardian of Enterprise?

Procurement must find a way to reduce tactical work and reassign hours to strategic opportunities which will allow procurement to deliver better savings while aligning with the speed and expectations of the rest of the business.

Having instant access to trusted, actionable intelligence will therefore be a mandatory piece of the procurement technology landscape in market leading companies.

As Phil Ideson (Art of Procurement), the moderator for all four cities, stated in one of the roundtables,

“…Procurement is a function ripe for disruption. We have to be careful not to disrupt ourselves by being rooted on our traditional ways.”

Download the full tealbook white paper here.

Want to see more from The Big Ideas Summit Chicago.  Register now  (It’s FREE!) as a digital delegate to gain access to all of the day’s action including video interviews with our speakers and attendees. 

Line ’em Up: Five Ways To Take A Swing At The Biggest Challenges Facing Procurement

What are the hottest topics on the table for Australia’s leading telecommunications company? Telstra’s Alexandru Butiri shares five challenges – and five solutions – to trends that will resonate with procurement professionals everywhere.

Today, we’re at the point where we need to look forward to see what’s coming, understand where the dynamics of the industry are going, and make sure we participate in those trends. It’s equally important, however, that we address the biggest trends and challenges facing our organisation today.

The following five challenges are not the result of theory or a brainstorming session on the whiteboard. Each point is a red-hot issue that we, as a procurement function, are currently experiencing first-hand.

  1. Faster than anticipated global supplier consolidation

The challenge: The biggest suppliers on the market are growing at a great rate and becoming increasingly powerful. Supplier consolidation isn’t new, but it’s happening much faster than anticipated. This, in the context of value being captured at the layer of applications and services, can fundamentally impact our telco business.

Solution: One way to address this trend is for operators to join forces and form telco buying consortiums to aggregate volumes and share benchmarks. These can be cross-industry groups that use their combined numbers to counter the weight of global suppliers. Examples of buying consortia in my sector are BuyIn, Telefónica and VPC

  1. Increased complexity adding risk to the supply chain

The challenge: No matter how far down the supply chain it occurs, any instance of modern slavery, child labour, or environmental breaches will reflect very poorly on the purchasing organisation. The supplier ecosystem is now so complex that it can be full of grey areas, making it all the more necessary to do your due diligence not only with your direct suppliers, but with second, third and fourth-tier suppliers.

Solution: Again, forming alliances or joining ventures that certify or give some form of accreditation to suppliers is more effective than trying to tackle such an enormous challenge alone. Organisations need to educate their first-tier suppliers to do the same for their suppliers, and so on. This challenge is relevant from both a social and legislative perspective

  1. Getting the most out of procurement systems

The challenge: Today we are spoilt for choice with procure-to-pay (P2P) systems. While there are many start-ups and new solutions that are elegant, user friendly, and beautifully designed, the reality is that companies our size have to integrate multiple systems. We can’t just throw legacy systems out the window. Another challenge is that any investment in technology will be wasted if it’s grafted onto poor internal processes and unclear accountabilities.

Solution: Do your housekeeping before investing in technology by cleaning up internal processes and driving discipline around the use of P2P systems. Align the process, then align the technology. In other words, prepare your organisation so they can use the technology constructively, otherwise you’ll risk wasting money.

  1. Connecting the dots between disruptive technologies

The challenge: Used in isolation, disruptive technologies can potentially have an impact, but few organisations are looking at them in conjunction. For example, augmented reality will get an incredible boost from AI, while AI will be significantly enhanced by quantum computing. Take Yellow Pages (printed phone directories) as an example. In the early 2000s they recognised that Google’s desktop-based search engine was a competitor, but didn’t imagine that the incredible rise of mobile phones that enhanced their competitor’s reach. The fact that everyone had Google in their pockets had an impact on their business model which was more significant than anticipated.

Solution: Build operating models that are flexible enough to adapt and integrate these new technologies, and think about how they can be combined to further augment each other. Keep in mind the difficulty that big companies have in flexing fast – so prepare by disrupting yourself before someone else does.

  1. Gaining the elusive seat at the table

The challenge: Seeking a seat at the decision-making table has been a procurement goal for so long that it has become something of a cliché, but it is so important that it remains important to keep pushing. In today’s environment, a third party can at the same time be your supplier, your customer, your competitor, and your partner in different fields. All of a sudden, you’re looking at a complex, 360-degree ecosystem, and who sits at the centre of that relationship? Procurement.

Solution: Procurement can prove its worth by providing credible solutions to business challenges, owning the bottom line, and (importantly) owning cross-company transformation landing. Why? Because any transformation program will require your suppliers’ technology and knowledge to land successfully. Procurement controls those partnerships, so should therefore be central in any successful transformational program.

Telstra is a leading Australian telecommunications and technology company, offering a full range of communications services and competing in all telecommunications markets. Hear more thought-leadership from Telstra at Procurious Big Ideas Summit Melbourne on Monday 30th October. 

Procurement And The Conversational Century

The social media revolution has allowed for traditional institutions to create personal digital conversations with their audience. We are in the era of ‘The Conversational Century’.

On 30th October, we’re bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Melbourne! Want to join us? Grab a ticket here to secure you seat!

When he was born in July 2013, Prince George of Cambridge became the first royal baby to have his own hashtag. There were over 3.5 million Facebook mentions of the young Prince in the 24 hours leading up to his birth. Fast forward a few years to September 2017 and there were millions of people watching and commenting as Prince George took his first steps into full-time education.

And it’s not just the royal family taking the world of social media by storm…

Pope Francis became the first Pope to engage with a wider audience through Twitter.

Former U.S President, Barack Obama is the author of six of the top-ten most liked tweets of all time.

And  let’s not forget how Twitter helped Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. election…

Photo Credit : Jon Keegan, The Wall Street Journal

As of August 2017, Twitter hashtags are ten years old and the # symbol is used a stagering 125 million times per day.

The hashtag, which initially punctuated the more lighted-hearted of conversations,  has now become a powerful tool, adopted by politicians, marketers, campaigners and fundraisers alike.

Elizabeth Linder, a Princeton University graduate, is at the forefront of the social media revolution. She has described the intersection between Facebook and the 21st century governance as ‘The Conversational Century’. Linder started working for Facebook as their Government and Politics specialist in 2008, when the company had fewer than 100 million users.

She built up Facebook’s Politics and Government Programme for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Her role includes advising political representatives, government agencies, public administrators, and think tanks on the intersection of Facebook and modern governance.

What is the conversational century?

Social Media and networking play an important role in the practice of public diplomacy. Facebook, with its individual and country pages, presents opportunities for the public diplomacy sector to engage the public audience in a number of diverse ways. This engagement is part of the conversational century.

Linder defines ‘The Conversational Century’ as the new era in leadership, where leaders are turning outwards to have conversations with the public, aided by the latest social media technology. Social media is forcing traditional institutions and influential leaders to change their communication channels and dialogue.

Traditional institutions, such as the British monarchy, are actively using social media to engage with audiences, using a personal tone to create a digital conversation. The impact of the conversational century is seen through the shifting nature of communication, from a traditional, one-way channel, to a diverse, two-channel communication channel.

Back in 2010, when there were 500 million Facebook users, politicians running for office were only just beginning to explore new technology and start the transition to ‘digital elections’. Now, there are over 2 billion Facebook users, hailing from a diverse range of backgrounds, languages, and socio-economic classes. This gives political candidates and institutes the opportunity to speak to a very broad range of people, all at once.

Conversational Century and Procurement

Procurement leaders, much like political leaders, need to embrace the Conversational Century and the power of social media, in order to engage with a wide range of people and contribute to live dialogue.

Procurement itself will play an active role in the Conversation Century. Social media platforms, such as Procurious and Facebook, offer a unique opportunity for procurement professionals to share knowledge of what is happening in procurement. Companies and industries can showcase what they have done and what they are working on to an active and engaged audience.

Furthermore, as social media is increasingly integrated into corporate life, procurement can use it to play a key role in observing and analysing all sides of the business. It can be positioned between the customer side, internal stakeholders and the supply side.

The increased visibility of data resulting from the management of social customer relationships, social internal stakeholders, and social supplier relationships, will provide procurement with information-rich data which can potentially lead to increased collaboration, agility and faster decision-making.

Want to hear more from Elizabeth Linder? She’ll be speaking about The Conversational Century at The Big Ideas Summit Melbourne. Want to join us in person to discuss the big ticket trends affecting procurement? Grab a ticket here to secure your seat!

Boeing Acquires Robotic Aircraft Maker

Imagine an aircraft that can take off and land vertically, but isn’t a helicopter. It has an intelligent pilot, but there’s no human being sitting at the controls. Boeing has propelled itself into the world of futuristic aircraft with its acquisition of Aurora Flight Sciences.  

Boeing announced on Friday that it will acquire Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, a company that specialises in advanced robotic aircraft. Aurora already has an impressive portfolio of autonomous aircraft, including vehicles it has been working on with Uber for its flying taxi project.

Much of Aurora’s business in the past has been with the U.S. Military, namely DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and NASA. Its aircraft have attracted interest (and funding) mainly due to its advanced Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) technology, with the small company beating out Boeing and Lockheed Martin last year to build the VTOL X-Plane for DARPA.

What does Boeing plan to do with this technology? The organisation’s press release doesn’t reveal much, but there’s speculation that the acquisition will help bolster Boeing’s own expertise in autonomous aircraft and VTOL tech, with most of that knowledge being funnelled into military aircraft. On the civilian side, the combination of autonomous piloting and VTOL technology are ideal for finally developing the drone taxis we’ve been hoping for. It is unclear whether Aurora will continue to work with Uber on this project.

A report in the Wall Street Journal notes that the acquisition is likely to have an impact on the jet maker’s supply chain long before it produces self-flying planes: “The technology includes … machine learning capability, which could be used to make industrial operations more efficient. Aurora produces composite parts for aircraft and other vehicles, potentially a big attraction to Boeing as it looks to take greater command of its supply chain.”


In other news this week:

Air France Testing Blockchain Technology

  • Air France KLM’s engineering and maintenance division is evaluating the potential for Blockchain to become its new digital ledger for managing replacement parts on in-service aircraft.
  • A spokesperson noted that Blockchain’s resilience, traceability, integrity and disintermediation are well suited to the aviation supply chain.

Elon Musk On Track To Win Solar Battery Bet

  • Elon Musk has announced that Tesla has reached the halfway point of construction on the “world’s biggest battery” in South Australia.
  • The company has a 100-day deadline to complete the construction of a 100-megawatt battery array, or it will build it for free.
  • The batteries, expected to power 30,000 homes, were commissioned as an innovative solution to an ongoing energy crisis in South Australia.

 Image credit: Aurora Flight Sciences

Take the Positive Procurement Pledge

Eight months after its launch, the International Standard for Sustainable Procurement (ISO 20400) has the potential to help procurement professionals stamp out the worst aspects of supply chains worldwide. But what can be done to create a groundswell of support for this voluntary Standard?   

ISO 20400 creates a standard that will enable every organisation in the world, regardless of size, industry, and location, to have a flexible guidance framework on sustainable procurement. The Standard includes seven core subjects, including the environment, fair operating practices, labour issues and human rights, with a range of subtopics under those such as discrimination and gender inequality.

While some businesses have jumped at the opportunity since its launch in April, the voluntary nature of the Standard has meant that many organisations are yet to do so.

Take the Pledge

Kim Andrews, Sustainability Advisor at Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), says that the earliest movers regarding ISO 20400 are the ones that will get ahead.

“The conversation has moved well beyond sustainability simply being the right thing to do”, Andrews says. “Business leaders now understand that there’s a whole spectrum of concrete benefits, ranging from building resilience, future-proofing your organisation, managing sustainability risks and getting ahead of future regulatory requirements.”

GECA has recognised the need to jump-start the conversation and education around ISO 20400. To do so, the organisation has launched a challenge for businesses, government agencies, industry groups and non-governmental organisations around the world to take the Positive Procurement Pledge. By taking the pledge, organisations agree to develop, document and implement a sustainable procurement policy to govern all purchasing decisions by 31 December 2020.

“This is a chance to differentiate yourself from the competition and demonstrate leadership and innovation within your sector”, says Andrews. “It makes a lot of sense from a risk-management perspective. Here in Australia, we’re dealing with gas supply problems, water shortages, rising temperatures in summer, and climate change directly affecting resources. Companies need to start looking at these factors, identifying their own risks and planning to build capacity against that, and the ISO 20400 provides the framework to do so.”

GECA provides certifications and ecolabels across a range of standards by working with organisations to ensure they comply across multiple criteria including environmental and social aspects.

“The ecolabels do the hard work for procurement”, says Andrews. “When you see our logo, it means that yes, you can trust that all of the compliance with legal aspects and international trade laws has been addressed. The global nature of supply chains means that having an internationally recognised label is crucial, which is why we’re part of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) that includes 27 members spread across 57 countries and territories.”

With so many certified products available, there has never been a better time for organisations to start their positive procurement journey.

A sustainability roadmap

Complying with ISO 20400 will take time and commitment, which is why Andrews recommends that companies follow a three-year plan to do so:

Year one: Understanding ISO 20400 and how it currently aligns with your own policies. Identifying the risks in the Standard that apply most to your organisation, and how ISO 20400 can be integrated into your ways of working.

Year two: Using the tools and resources available for companies to help build new policies aligning with ISO 20400, and strengthening policies already in existence. Identifying roadblocks such as contracts, trade agreements or a lack of understanding among suppliers.

Year three: Refinement of your organisations’ policies and seeing how far you’ve come in increasing resilience and purchasing certified products.

“Sustainable products are now a $3 trillion business”, Andrews says. “Taking the Pledge gives organisations the opportunity not only to do the right thing but to get ahead of the competition as the sustainability mandate grows.”

Interested in taking the Pledge? Learn more here. Kim Andrews will introduce the Positive Procurement Pledge to attendees at GovProcure2017 in Sydney on 6 December. Click here to learn more and download an event brochure.

Five Surprises From ISM’s 2017 Salary Survey

A double-digit increase in salaries over four years, a continuing gender pay gap and similarity in salaries across generations are just some of the insights to be found in ISM’s foremost annual research initiative, the Salary Survey.

To create the ISM Annual Salary Survey report, for the past 12 years Institute for Supply Management has asked its members thoughtful questions regarding their salaries, benefits, current employment and what they’re looking for in future employers. This report’s purpose is simple: to empower the professionals we serve, through the provision of insightful, actionable information. We believe this information is so important for individual professionals (and therefore the profession) that we take the time to carefully compile thousands of responses from around the United States. The information gathered is then diligently reported back, every May, in an article in Inside Supply Management and in a detailed report available on ISM’s website.

  1. Strong momentum for salaries

This year, the Salary Survey found that in 2016, salaries continued to grow strongly compared to the previous year. This may be due in part to a strong job market, continuing the forward momentum from 2015 into 2016 with the average compensation for responding professionals being $115,440, an increase of 5% compared to 2015 ($109,961). In 2015, there was a 7.9% increase. In the longer term, salaries for procurement and supply management practitioners increased 14% from 2013 to 2016, as released in the 2014 to 2017 ISM® Salary Survey reports.

  1. Widening gender gap

More saliently, the average salary reported by procurement/supply managers was $109,401 in 2016 — and when broken down by gender, male managers reported earning an average salary of $114,207 while female managers reported an average salary of $97,948. While overall salaries have increased over the years, in 2016 men earned an average of 31% more than women, a substantial increase from the 24% reported in 2015.

  1. Professional certifications pay off

The survey further found that those who invested in professional certifications made more in 2016 than practitioners who did not. Respondents who have a professional certification reported that their average salary was $121,523, whereas those who indicated they did not reported an average salary of $108,141.

  1. Generational differences and similarities

Professionals can also start to see year-over-year trends in the detailed report and use information from the inaugural Generational Report, which was released this month. The Generational Report looks at information collected from Salary Survey reports over the years, and follows baby boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials as they move through the profession, reporting salary and other changes. For example, while millennials are a distant third on the generational salary scale (an average of $93,555), Generation Xers aren’t far behind baby boomers ($121,512 and $122,880, respectively).

  1. Considering changing careers?

The Salary Survey report has a specific section dedicated to individuals who are thinking of changing careers or are considering getting a professional certification. In 2016, nearly half of respondents indicated that they transferred into procurement/supply management from another career or vocation, and reported that the change resulted in an average salary of $118,140, 2.3% more than the overall average reported for 2016. Director, manager and experienced practitioner respondents from another field earned 4.7% more, 6.6% more and 7.5% more, respectively, compared to peers who have always worked in supply management.

In just this article’s small recap of Salary Survey findings, practitioners can easily start to identify where they fall among their peers. Information is collected on salary not only by position, but years of experience, education, geographic region, industry and many other categories.

Information like this gives power and perspective to the professionals consuming it, and helps them map out their future. Confidence and knowledge work symbiotically, and in this case, it’s easy to have confidence when possessing facts to back your decisions — whether changing positions and/or careers, negotiating for increased benefits or motivating a professional to pursue a certification. The information ISM provides helps empower procurement and supply management professionals. It’s what we do best.

The ISM’s Twelfth Annual Salary Survey detailed report can be accessed here or you can access Inside Supply Management magazine here.

8 Reasons You Won’t Want To Miss Basware Connect

Basware Connect is just around the corner, and is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the 2017 procurement event calendar. Procurious has the inside word from our knowledge partner Basware on the top eight things to watch out for on Wednesday 18th October.

  1. The very latest on Industry 4.0

Whether you’re from the procurement or finance function, it’s almost certain your role is already being impacted by the many facets of the 4th industrial revolution. From ‘business as usual’ technologies such as PDF e-invoicing to large-scale futuristic disruptors including blockchain, robotics, machine learning and predictive analytics, it’s up to you to keep up with the latest news on how the revolution is progressing and Basware Connect will help you to do just that!

  1. Engage with a blockchain guru

Blockchain has well and truly arrived, and organisations are scrambling to understand how they can incorporate this technology to reap the security benefits, keep ahead of the competition and avoid getting left behind. It’s a hot topic: Procurious’ own articles on Blockchain have attracted a lot of attention, demonstrating that procurement professionals are increasingly eager to get to grips with what this technology can actually deliver. Simon Taylor, one of the most recognised thought leaders on Blockchain and DLT, previously established Barclays bank as one of the leaders in blockchain thought and action. He is set to deliver one of the most anticipated sessions at the conference.

  1. Learn how to fail forward

We’ve come a long way from the days when failure was seen as career damaging and shameful. Today, businesses are embracing failure as an exciting, enlightening step towards success. Black Box Thinking author and Times Columnist Matthew Syed will demonstrate how to redefine failure in your organisation, taking attendees through his thought-provoking approach to high performance in the context of ever-increasing complexity and rate of change.

  1. Get to grip with megatrends

Don’t miss out on seeing Eric Wilson, Basware’s VP Purchase to Pay, speak about megatrends. We’re biased when it comes to Eric because he’s already proven himself to be a thought-leader in his profession via his excellent contributions to the Procurious Blog. Check them out:

  1. Will my job be lost to automation?

Automation has been impacting human roles for at least two centuries. In the US, over 50 per cent of the population was employed in agriculture in 1900, down to around 2 per cent today. Chair, Non-Executive Director and Business Advisor Natalie Ceeney will examine the coming impacts of AI and machine learning. Natalie has operated at Board level for fifteen years, holding three significant CEO roles. She is currently Chair of Innovate Finance, the members’ body for FinTech, and a non-executive Director on the Board of Countrywide PLC. She’ll be providing attendees with some examples of why some of the biggest brands have failed to stay ahead while others succeed.

  1. Get your questions ready for Basware’s executive team

Eric Wilson isn’t the only senior exec that Basware is putting on the stage. A line-up of Basware’s thought-leaders and top consultants will be presenting, and (importantly) will be available to answer your questions about the platform itself. Highlights include Ilari Nurmi, Basware’s SVP Purchase to Pay, who’ll be talking about “what’s hot right now” in the company’s solution roadmap, Andrew Dos Santos, Principal Business Consultant will be on hand to offer advice and Senior Product Manager Theresa Lacey will be demonstrating new functionalities and future plans.

  1. Immersive workshops

Nobody wants to sit back and listen for an entire day, which is why Basware has included some immersive workshops for audience members to roll up their sleeves and participate in. A highlight is the “demo area”, where attendees can see demos from across Basware’s product portfolio and speak to their experts. You can get hands-on with Marketplace, and even go as far as ordering a pair of wireless headphones to take home with you! Now that’s a valuable takeaway to bring back to the office.

  1. Network, network, network

Sessions aside, this event is an important opportunity to grow your professional network. Take along plenty of business cards, seize every opportunity to meet new people, and follow up by connecting with them on Procurious. To get the most out of the day, be sure to introduce yourself to the speakers post-event. Basware will provide the free beer, wine and pizza, you take the opportunity to network, network, network!

Basware Connect will take place on 18th October 2017 at CodeNode, 10 South Pl, London. Learn more about Basware Connect and register for free today.