You will be Assimilated: The Collective Intelligence of Procurement

For those who remember “The Borg” from Star Trek, you’ll remember the notion of a dispassionate alien mind-being that would suck up your individual mind to subsume into the collective intelligence.  Resistance is futile. 

Crazy stuff, right?  Or maybe not.

Flash forward to today.  For most people, your every move is being tracked by your smartphone, social media apps, web browsing, and credit card transactions.  Ever wonder why Google and Amazon are basically giving away their helpful devices and AI assistants?  You are being watched.  You are the product (not the customer).  You are the raw materials of a collective intelligence being built upon your individual experiences and desires.  In other words, the proverbial machine is watching and learning from you (in order to sell to you, er, rather, to “better meet your needs”).

But, this is all consumer stuff, right?  B2B is different, right?

Sort of – but it’s not THAT different.  And with all the regulatory pressures coming on consumer data privacy, as compared to much of the privacy that you sign away your rights to when you enter an employment contract, the tables may actually turn here. If you’re using a popular cloud-based Procurement system, you are also being watched (many providers analyse your system behaviour to figure out how you navigate the system and how to help you… yes, the chatbots are coming). If you use a procurement “business network” or eMarketplace (e.g., Amazon Business), your suppliers are signing away some of their intellectual property – whether they know it or not.  And smart companies are trying to gain a market intelligence advantage through digital business strategies in the supply chain. There’s a reason why GE created Predix; why Flex funded Elementum; why DHL sells supply chain risk technology; and so on.  Adoption creates insight and intelligence… and advantage.

All this isn’t necessarily bad for you though.  It serves up price benchmarking, risk intelligence and improved system usability.  It also signals how the world is moving away from “empty apps” that push documents around in workflows and move towards systems that are building intelligence to make your apps “smarter”.  This intelligence is typically built using machine learning fed by large data sets that help improve repetitive tasks like spend classification. Of course, AI is a bigger topic, and there are 23 distinct areas in AI for procurement and supply chain that we’re following that I can’t cover in a single blog post!  For example, contract management is a great example where AI is already having an impact and this will be very disruptive in the Legal services (e.g., Legal BPO) area.

Still, building your collective intelligence for your firm doesn’t necessarily require AI.  You can avail yourself to some good old-fashioned knowledge management built up from the various collectives that are all around you:

  • The internal corporate collective. Learn from consulting companies and build presentation storyboards of your procurement projects that created change and value – and use them to win over skeptical stakeholders.
  • Your supplier collective. Your current supply suppliers, previous suppliers, “almost suppliers” (who bid on your business), and potential suppliers via crowdsourcing are a wealth of knowledge – if you know how to tap them through supplier innovation programs and proper supplier management processes.
  • Your customer collective. This includes not just internal stakeholders, but external customers as well.  For example, Lenovo uses its social customer mining tools to identify key customer/demand information that can be passed upstream to suppliers.  On the flip side, many similar intelligence tools are being deployed on the supply side with varying results (that’s a whole topic for another day).
  • The installed base collective. Your procurement app providers, consulting providers, and managed service providers are likely working hard to extract and productize your individual intelligence into a re-saleable collective intelligence. Choose a provider that is working on building collective intelligence into its overall platform strategy.
  • Your peer/community collective. There are lots of communities out there right now where you can learn from your peers – and many of them are free. You’re learning right now by reading this on Procurious, so you’re already well on your way!

We even practice what we preach at Spend Matters when we tap into this collective intelligence of procurement technology users by capturing end user satisfaction (think Net Promoter Score on steroids) and using it as an entire axis of our “SolutionMap” vendor scoring model/methodology.  And, yes, there’s a freemium version (it has eight procurement technology areas mapped out based on five different buyer personas from which you can select)!

The bottom line is that although we all start with a certain amount of individual intelligence, it’s the collective supply market of intelligence that is all around us if we can learn how to tap it, build it, and wisely bring the right intelligence back to our individual selves (and we’ll even be able to augment that individual intelligence into our own personal bots and ‘digital twins’).  And since procurement should be enabling stakeholders to also tap that collective intelligence of supply, it couldn’t be a more important competency to build right now.

So, go bravely into that supply market and assimilate yourself into the collective intelligence of procurement and be smarter and better from that experience.  It’s really what life is all about, isn’t it?

This article was contributed by guest author Pierre Mitchell, Chief Research Officer and Managing Director at Azul Partners.

You Don’t Have To Be In Melbourne To Strike Gold Today

The Big Ideas Summit has landed in Melbourne! And there’s a plethora of inspiring and insightful content for you to sift through…

Some would say that Melbourne is famous for the Victorian gold rush of 1851. For a short time the gold output from Victoria, Australia  was greater than in any other country in the world.

Today as Procurious launch The Big Ideas Summit in Melbourne for the first time, we’re having our very own gold rush!  We’re pretty confident we’ll be exporting some of the best procurement content and thought provoking discussion  for you to dig in to!

And don’t worry if you’re not able to  join us in person for the event, you can still strike gold!  Simply sign up to Procurious and join the digital delegates group for The Big Ideas Summit Melbourne 2017 to access live content throughout the day.

Here’s what procurement’s top influencers (and speakers at Big Ideas Melbourne) have to say on the big ticket trends affecting procurement today!

Procurement and the Conversational Century

When he was born in July 2013, Prince George of Cambridge became the first royal baby to have his own hashtag…

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

And pope Francis became the first pope to engage with a wider audience through Twitter…

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

Read more here

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

It’s  important that procurement teams address the biggest trends and challenges facing our organisation today. Telstra’s Alexandru Butiri shares five challenges – and five solutions – to trends that will resonate with procurement professionals everywhere from connecting the dots between disruptive technologies and earning a seat at the table!

Read more here

How To Train Your CEO To Get What The Business Needs

Procurement leaders in large corporations face a tough business environment. 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. How can procurement train their CEO to get what the business needs?

Read more here 

Eye On The Prize: 5 Ways Soft Skills Can Help You Focus On The Big Ticket Projects

Roll up! Roll up! See the procurement pro dazzle as they juggle 80 balls in the air!!

Sure, it might look impressive, but underneath that whirl of frenetic activity, are you actually adding any value?

When you prioritise keeping multiple balls in the air, you wind up ineffective and shortsighted. But the solution doesn’t lie in downloading the latest time-management app….

Read more here

Cogntive Process Automation Is So Much More Than Robots

With 45 per cent of business processes having the potential to be automated, it’s of little surprise that organisations are embracing the opportunity presented by technology. For many robotics and robotics processes, automation is the starting point.

Re-imagining the way the organisation operates at its core and using technology to enable new ways of working is what cognitive process automation is really about and that;s when the magic really starts to happen…

Read more here

Sprinting Outside Your Comfort Zone

Who could be a better pick to advise on endurance than an ultra-marathon runner?

As a former lawyer turned athlete, Samantha Gash has experienced challenges that require an enormous amount of persistence both within a corporate environment and on the running trail.

Samantha has seen first-hand how projects and big ideas will fail without the right mindset and the extraordinary achievements we’re capable of when we tap into our hidden reserves of persistence.

Read more here

Workplace Inclusion: Cut The Fluff

Business leaders are tired of hearing the “D” word – Diversity. Because the reality is that by and large  businesses already have diverse workforces.

Walk into most workplaces, and you will see some form of workforce diversity: age, gender, physical ability, sexuality, culture, thought. But the problem remains because we are simply not including these diversities where and when it really counts in business.

Read more here 

Renegotiating Mindsets From Competitive To Collaborative

Procurement leaders are facing more pressure than ever in the current business environment. In the wake of prevailing disruption and increased competition from nimble technology-focused companies, the c-suite have become eager to see procurement leaders make their function deliver more and add greater value to the organisation.

When you change from seeing your top suppliers as competitors to enablers, how you negotiate with them will change dramatically…

Read more here 

Why you should encourage dissent in your procurement team

From Brexit to the election of President Trump;  from numerous terrorist attacks to Spain’s crisis in Catalonia, unthinkables have been occurring at an alarming frequency throughout the past few years.

Unthinkables such as these disrupt everything that we presume to be stable and constant, they create an unthinkable environment and, unfortunately, they’re not letting up as we approach the end of 2017.

We know it’s important to change the way we do business to prepare for an uncertain future but how should we be managing our teams and who should we be recruiting to help the function, and wider organisation, face the uncertainties of the world today?

Read more here

Follow all of the action LIVE from The Big Ideas Summit Melbourne via our digital delegates group.

Micro-inequities Add Up

How often do you a halt a conversation, mid-flow to check your phone or reply to a text message? Ever thought about how actions like this impact the people around you? Tom Verghese explains micro-inequities. 

Let me ask you this question, how many of you have experienced one or more of the following scenarios:

  • You’re talking to someone and they’re looking at their watch while you’re sharing some information
  • You’re talking to someone and they’re texting on their phone
  • You’re talking to someone, the phone rings, they turn around and they have a long conversation with the other person on the phone while you’re just standing there?
  • How many of you have experienced being excluded from small talk?
  • How about someone passing you in the corridor of the office without speaking or saying “Hello” to you?
  • Have you ever had the experience of someone taking credit for your work?
  • How about someone constantly mispronouncing your name and not making any effort to get it right?
  • Or someone calling you a nickname without your permission?

All these are examples of what is known as micro-inequities. Micro-inequities is a term defined by Mary Rowe in the 1970s. They are defined as those subtle and disrespectful behaviours that exclude others. Sometimes they’re very difficult to recognise for both the person doing it and for the person receiving it. When you commit a micro-inequity you may only do one at a time and it may not have a big impact, but it is easy to imagine how over a period of time these individual behaviours can add up and have a significant impact. It’s like a drop of rain – if a drop of water hits you it probably won’t make a difference, but if drops of water hit you constantly it is certainly going to get you wet!

How do you become more aware of the impact of your behaviour?

The key issue here is how can each of us be more consciously aware about our behaviour and its impact on others? One way to address this question is to understand the idea of micro-affirmations. Micro-Affirmations are the opposite of micro-inequities and again are often the small and subtle behaviours that demonstrate inclusion.

One example of a micro-affirmation behaviour is inclusive verbal skills. When you’re leading a group discussion, make sure that you are involving everyone. Encourage contributions from everyone in the group, especially those who are quiet. There will always extroverts and introverts; extroverts are those who always have ideas to contribute to the meetings, and it’s easy if you are not being conscious to actually exclude the introverts. You may need to specifically ask the introverts for their ideas and input.

A second example is using non-verbal skills such as eye contact, smiling and nodding of the head. Acknowledge people when they speak up and say something, or make a contribution to the team. These micro-affirmations will lead to a greater sense of inclusion for all.

In today’s world of social media, it’s really tempting when you’re talking to someone to answer your phone or send a text. I’m not saying that you can’t ever do that, but I would challenge you to try to be conscious of what you are doing and its impact on others. It is not difficult to ask for permission to put a conversation on hold while you answer a phone call. Alternatively, have the phone on silent mode and focus and be present in that conversation.

Why You Should Encourage Dissent In Your Procurement Team

Think you’d prefer an easy life when it comes to managing your procurement team? Think again! If you truly want your organisation to flourish and cope with the unthinkable events coming your way, you need an organisation that’s rife with dissent!

From Brexit to the election of President Trump;  from numerous terrorist attacks to Spain’s crisis in Catalonia, unthinkables have been occurring at an alarming frequency throughout the past few years.

Unthinkables such as these disrupt everything that we presume to be stable and constant, they create an unthinkable environment and, unfortunately, they’re not letting up as we approach the end of 2017.

We’ve heard from  Nik Gowing, BBC Broadcaster and Visiting Professor at King’s College before on the importance of managing what he decribes as “the new normal” and preparing for an uncertain future.

If procurement needs to change the way we do business, how should we be managing our teams and who should we be recruiting to help the function, and wider organisation, face the uncertainties of the world today?

Say no to the conformists

“Leaders need to be liberated from that conformity which guaranteed their career progression. The challenge is how to achieve that” says Nik.

As much of the research conducted for Nik Gowing’s and Chris Langdon’s 2015 report Thinking The Unthinkable reveals – leaders are still extremely reluctant to embrace dissenting voices within their organisation.

“We tend to dismiss dissenting voices as cranks or extremists or whatever they are, which I think is dangerous. It’s very difficult within the system to fix this”, said one former top official.

But the alternative is blind conformity and fear of speaking out about key issues and unthinkables. What our organisations don’t need in the age of uncertainty,  is an army of “yes men” who, no matter what their ability or potential are restricted and confined by an ingrained workplace culture of conformity.

“You can take the best analysts in the world, and if you don’t demand outstanding advice from them, you won’t get it.You’ll just get dross”, said Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford.

Say yes to the mavericks!

A welcome alternative is to embrace mavericks and dissent in the workplace. As the Unthinkable report suggests, “rigorous conformity must be seen as at best a neutral qualification, but in reality it is more a negative.”

“If your policy options are all risk averse, then you tend to end up with indecision. If your policy options encompass and embrace the concept of managing risks, then you’ll take a managed risk in the context of the policy frameworks”, said a leading academic specialist in risk-management.

Our procurement teams should  encourage and reward maverick thinkers in their teams because they are the unique thinkers, the innovaters and the ones best placed to predict and cope with unthinkables.

But is this shift in workplace attitude achievable?

How to encourage dissent within your procurement organisation

  1. Stop hiring people like you

One surefire to fail in your attempts at nurturing a team of mavericks, is to employ a non-diverse team.

Diversifying the C-suite whether it’s by skill-set, age, gender, sexuality, outlook or race opens up enormous potential for innovation and different points of view.

A cyber-security specialist [said] “We are guilty of introducing people that are like us into the C-suite as opposed to somebody who is nothing like me but who may well have a different lens, a very different lens …We are recruiting people into our C-suites because they’re like us.

Creating new roles is another way to improve diversity within an organisation. The unthinkable report notes how organisations have employed, for example, a Chief Digital Officer, to manage and prioritise the massive amounts of company data, and Political Scientists who are hired, sometimes for the long term, to advisory boards and management teams of US companies including some in the US Fortune 500.

The ultimate aim is ensuring that all voices are heard to guarantee a range of opinions and input.

Most of us who are chairman or chief executives actually very consciously hire at least one person onto the board, who, by their very nature, is not conformist, is the awkward squad.

2. Build systems that ensure dissenting view find their way to the very top

Rigid organisational structures have a part to play in restricting innovative thinking.

One way to address this is to blur the workplace hierarchys  and encourage open discussion at all levels of the business, giving junior employees a platform, and the confidence to share their opinions and ideas with those at the very top.

They are leaders who encourage open, non-hierarchical debate with unambiguous signals for change that confirm an overarching intention to secure change of behaviour, culture and attitudes. One example is a principle adopted at one major investment bank. In staff meetings there is no longer a visible hierarchy with a chairperson sat at a top table. Attendees stand with a clear expectation that, “Everyone can speak about what they think might happen”.

This approach removes any fear of a “career penalty” for speaking out of turn or sharing a particularly obscure idea.

Part of this process demands that leaders encourage their team to be intellectually and morally courageous.

“They encourage their team to take some risks. They don’t punish you if you don’t succeed every time. I think that is the hallmark of real leaders.”

BBC Broadcaster and Visiting Professor at King’s College Nik Gowing will update delegates at the Melbourne Big Ideas Summit on why business and political leaders are struggling to prepare for unthinkables, and what needs to change.Grab a ticket here to secure your seat!

Renegotiating Mindsets From Competitive To Collaborative

When you change from seeing your top suppliers as competitors to enablers, and take a collaborative approach, how you negotiate with them will change dramatically.

This article was written by Sarovar Agarwal, Partner, Communications Media and Technology Practice at A.T. Kearney. 

Procurement leaders are facing more pressure than ever in the current business environment. In the wake of prevailing disruption and increased competition from nimble technology-focused companies, the c-suite have become eager to see procurement leaders make their function deliver more and add value to the organisation.

However, the 2016 Return on Supply Management Assets (ROSMA) Performance Check Study, “What Good Looks Like,” released by A.T. Kearney at the end of last year found that only 15 to 20 percent of procurement functions deliver high value to their organisations.

The study revealed that there is a top-tier of standout performers, a middle-tier delivering value, but performing well below the top tier, and a large group of bottom-quartile performers that add limited value. For procurement leaders focused on becoming top-tier performers and adding significant value to their organisations, we suggest the following approach.

Work smart, not hard

There has been an organisation-wide push toward productivity improvement by businesses, especially by harnessing the power of technological advancements. Procurement functions should be looking at this as a great opportunity.

Historically, procurement has focused on the smaller 2000 suppliers since this is the area of least resistance. In productivity terms, this is like the tail wagging the dog, rather than the other way around. With resources squeezed, procurement leaders are now irrevocably turning to the top 20 suppliers, rather than the complete 2000, because these are the mega vendor agreements that can affect the organisation the most, and where the most value can be added if managed effectively.

Meanwhile, technological advancements (like RPA) are now enabling automation of the large volumes of transactional activity that goes on in procurement, especially for the smaller group of suppliers, to ensure the function remains effective and productive.

If we apply the 80/20 Pareto Principle to procurement, a shift in focus to the top twenty suppliers, nurturing those relationships and making them more effective, will result in better deployment of resources and so more peas – or greater results. One key thing to note is that simply switching focus to the top 20 suppliers isn’t enough, you need to nurture those relationships too, which requires a change in mindset.

Competitive to collaborative

When you change from seeing your top suppliers as competitors to enablers, how you negotiate with them will change dramatically.

When you move into the top 20 suppliers, you are dealing with strategic categories which if led and managed well can make a significant impact on the business. The challenge for procurement leaders is that the relationship status with these suppliers is often complicated.

For example, in the telco world, Cisco is a supplier to every telco’s network, they are also a sell-through partner, and a competitor for the sell-through business.

Which is why it’s very surprising that all too often procurement brings a toolbox – for example RFP, vendor management, basic category management etc – to the negotiating table. This industrialisation of the procurement process is useful for the tail end – those 2000 suppliers with low resistance – but it cannot be used for the top 20 suppliers who have the potential to impact your business and your role in such a way.

The tools to handle these special relationships put better collaboration and engagement of vendor partners at the forefront of the strategy:

Top-to-top engagement: The biggest critical differentiator for the collaborative sourcing approach is top-to-top engagement between the company and the partners – that enables proactive involvement of the c-suite. This can help establish the right leverage and also enable internal visibility.

Business led: A high degree of involvement from the business owners will further align procurement’s interests with the business challenges and opportunities. This requires great communication and trust between functions and top-line management.

Strategic alignment: Procurement functions should start with an open mindset, rather than spell out all the asks at the start. All too often, the cookie cutter approach takes over, which doesn’t deliver the right long-term solutions. This will help deliver tailor-made solutions based on vendor insights.

Collaborative solutioning: Procurement departments should adopt transparent and collaborative solutions. They should conduct design and immersion workshops with partners, to take them along on the journey. 

Involved facilitation by procurement: Finally, they should drive proactive governance and risk management.

Procurement leaders are best placed to play the Lead Orchestrator role to this new way of thinking about the top 20 vendors. For those procurement leaders who are aiming to become a sustainable source of value for the business, the top 20 approach is smarter, more productive and gets better results for your function and for your position in the business.

The first step is changing your culture and mindset towards the top 20 from competitive, to collaborative; from contracting, to partnering – and this is often the hardest!

A.T. Kearney’s Enrico Rizzon will 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!

Why Procurement Should Give Cognitive Tech A Warm Embrace

When you pushback on the advances of cognitive technology, you’re buying yourself, and procurement, minimial time. Working side by side in a warm embrace is the way to do it! 

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

There’s no question that procurement teams needs to prepare for their own cognitive journeys, to consider what their company’s digital transformation will look like, and then think about how to prepare, or even influence it.

But in doing so, are they also mapping out a talent journey?

The 2017 Deloitte CPO survey interestingly revealed that whilst the vast majority of procurement leaders see the need to train and develop their people, only 31 per cent were planning to focus on training in digital skills in the coming year.

John Viner Smith, Principal, Mercer and speaker on today’s webinar has some thoughts on why this is the case, “I think part of the reason is that there’s no consensus at present as to what the skills people need to acquire are to be ready for this [cogntive] world.  It’s just not clear for the leaders concerned yet.”

Last week we outlined the key soft skills procurement professionals should be developing to prepare for the cognitive age.  But what about the attitude on the ground? Procurement professionals are still wary of the impact cognitive technology will have on the function, which results in a level of pushback and reluctance to accept the changes that are coming.

The warm embrace of cognitive technology

“It may be reasonable to look at the state of technologies today and think ‘No worries, I can’t see anything out there that could do my job’, but that’s not the risk.” John explains. ” The risk is that these technologies, coupled with other disruptors, could make your job obsolete and truly redundant. Imagine being a farrier at the very beginning of the 20th century; if you were thinking ‘Thank goodness they haven’t invented a machine that can shoe horses better than me’, you were kind of missing the point.”

So what is Justin McBryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM ,seeing in terms of pushback within his organisation?

“I don’t know if I would characterise it as a pushback so to speak.

“We see it as a warm embrace across the organisation but a wary embrace as well. As we digitise the organisation and continue to march forward into the cognitive era, certainly the technologies on the horizon are noticed and seen [by our employees.]

“But I say a warm embrace because a lot of the technologies we are building, have built and continue to build need the procurement skills and institutional knowledge that we’ve built over the years including all of our great people. In terms of where we are today and as we’ve been rolling out Watson Supply Chain etc. we see it as more of an embrace.”

Cognitive tech is “not necessarily a replacement of the person, it’s someone sitting next to you and helping you.”

The environment that Justin describes is one of collobaration, with seasoned procurement pros looking to help machines learn and work alongside them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing so with the wary eye of “what’s next?”

But as Justin points out, as procurement teams embrace and integrate these cognitive technologies, they can also be asking themselves “What can I do to begin to point my skill development in the right direction?”

Exploiting the advantages of cognitive technology

There’s a lot of scare mongering out in the field that says that if you’re not a data scientist, you don’t have a future in Procurement.

But we’re reassured by the fact that IBM is working hard on developing its employees’ soft skills and is a strong advocate for how cognitive tech will allow professionals to better perform their roles not seek to replace them.

When it comes down to data scientists versus soft skills experts, Justin believes they’re sequential from each other and likens it to climbing up two different kinds of hills, “We want the majority of our organisation to build up on their soft skills. We’re happy if everyone builds up their analytics skills. We certainly need a solid group up at the top who can drive the innovation and integration of the cognitive tools.

“We need our best and brightest from a data scientist perspective but not all of us need to be there.”

“If we continue down the cognitive path we’re going to have a lot of tools to add to the procurement portfolio. The digitisation of our organisations  free up time for our employees to focus on two big things that are important for procurement:

  1. Getting closer to clients
  2. Creating time and space to innovate on our processes and innovate on the solutions that we’re delivering to our client

“The more we add to the digital cognitive portfolio of tools that procurement pros can use, the more time that is freed up on the innovation and client engagement space, [which is an opportunity for procurement] to exploit the advatages of the cognitive era.”

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

Big Ideas Summit Lands In Marvellous Melbourne!

Toot tooooot! After wowing audiences in London and Chicago, Procurious is steaming into Melbourne to bring the first ever Big Ideas Summit to Australia! With only one week to go, now is your chance to buy a ticket or join the Digital Delegate Group to follow the action online. 

If you’re interested in getting involved but still not entirely sure what’s going on, look no further – we’ve compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions to get you fully up to speed!

What is it?

The Big Ideas Summit is a unique online event uniting procurement and supply chain professionals from around the globe to drive innovation and inspire change. At the Big Ideas Summit in Melbourne we’ll be driving the conversation on the following topics:

  • Procurement in the digital age
  • Trend-spotting and pattern-hunting in procurement
  • Human skills in a machine world
  • The Conversational Century

Our international line up of speakers includes BBC Broadcaster and Visiting Professor at Kings College, Nik Gowing (UK); IBM’s Global Client Centricity Leader and cognitive expert Anita Karlsson Dion (USA); A.T. Kearney Partner, Board Member and data lake guru Patrick Van Den Bossche (USA); and Founder and CEO of the Conversational Century & Facebook’s advisor to the Royal Family, Elizabeth Linder (UK).

When and where is it?

The Melbourne Big Ideas Summit kicks off on Monday 30th October at the stunning Telstra Theatrette at 242 Exhibition Street, Melbourne. If you’re in Australia, there’s still time to reserve your seat! Visit the event website to learn more and secure your ticket today.

If you’re not in Australia or can’t make it to Melbourne, simply join the Digital Delegate Group here on Procurious to follow the action live and access valuable content after the event. Expect to see most of the action in the Group between 08.30 – 18.00 (AEDT) as we share video insights, quotes, photos and summary articles direct from Melbourne.

If you can’t join the action live, not to worry. The thought-provoking discussions and debate will continue long after, and we’ll be sharing video footage of all our Influencers’ Big Ideas throughout November on Procurious.

How can I join in online?

To become a Digital Delegate, you’ll need to be a registered member of Procurious – register here for free if you haven’t already. Then simply join the group to access Big ideas, participate in insightful discussion, connect with our Influencers, access exclusive podcasts and interviews and share your own Big Ideas with the Procurious community.

We’ll also be live tweeting throughout the day, so make sure you’re following @procurious_ to share and respond to our tweets using the hashtag #bigideas2017.

Do I have to be a member of Procurious?

Yes. Participation as a Digital Delegate is free and open to all members of Procurious. By joining Procurious, you will not only have access to all the exclusive Big Ideas Summit content, but you will join a community of 23,000 like-minded procurement peers and gain access to all Procurious’ free resources, including being able to:

  • Upskill on the move with dozens of eLearning modules
  • Get your procurement questions answered by experts
  • Find out about relevant professional events around the globe
  • Become a digital delegate in the global think-tank, Big Ideas Summit 2017

Will Big Ideas be live-streamed?

Procurious boasts a global audience of 23,000+ procurement professionals, from more than 140 countries. If we were to cater to all of these time zones, it would be a tough job – so rather than live-streaming (and keeping you awake at awkward hours), we’ll share exclusive video and podcast interviews with Digital Delegates.

 I’m on the fence – why should I take part?

Here are some compelling reasons to join your fellow Procurians and stake your claim to the wealth of knowledge on offer:

  • Get your questions answered by world-class experts
  • Make powerful new contacts around the globe
  • Share your own Big Idea and make your voice heard
  • Access exclusive content & learnings.

Who are the sponsors?

The Melbourne Big Ideas Summit is made possible by our partners Telstra, IBM, A.T. Kearney and The Source.

 I’ve got a Big Idea of my own…

Great to hear! You can Tweet us your Big Ideas @procurious_ remembering to use the hashtag #BigIdeas2017.

Leave your Big Idea on Facebook – you can find us at www.facebook.com/procurious .

And of course you can tell the Procurious community all about it by joining the Big Ideas Group page and posting it to the community feed.

Who is behind Procurious?

You can read all about us in Our Story.

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in Melbourne.

Workplace Inclusion: Cut the Fluff!

3 Practical Ways to Move the Needle on Inclusion in the Workplace..

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

Business Leaders are tired of hearing about the “D” word. Tired of hearing about diversity initiatives, forums, unconscious bias training, statistics. We get it; leaders are probably tired because all of the hype is on the problem.

As D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) Practitioners we are tired also of the “fluffy” responses to inclusion that are labelled as solutions. We’ve all participated in some of the fluff: Cultural Diversity Week, Harmony Day, International Women’s Day, Gay Pride Marches, coin collections for paralympians!

The reality is that by and large Australian businesses already have diverse workforces. Walk into most workplaces, and you will see some form of workforce diversity: age, gender, physical ability, sexuality, culture, thought. Although these staff members are “celebrated” with seasonal activities like Harmony Day, we are just not including these diversities where and when it counts in business.

Why?

  • Australian leaders who hold the power are not from diverse groups
  • There is no real business motivation to drive inclusion
  • There is a lack of know-how on launching and driving sustainable change to move the needle on inclusion.

AUSTRALIAN LEADERS & DIVERSE TEAM MEMBERS: “Feeling like an onlooker at work”

Inclusion can’t happen if we continue to have a distance in structure and relatability between Australian leaders and diverse team members. Figure 1 shows the distance in structure – Australian businesses are still run by Anglo-Celtic men who may have little relatability to people from diverse backgrounds.

Figure 1: Australia’s Anglo Celtic Men still hold the power

How do people from diverse backgrounds feel? It is ‘feeling like an onlooker at work, or more like an invisible spectator than part of a team’. This is the experience of ‘otherness’, or exclusion in the workplace, that might be subtle but is pervasive (Research by Catalyst).

My experiences … have made me far more aware of my “Blackness” than ever before. I have found that … no matter how liberal and open-minded some [people] try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor … as if I really don’t belong. – Michelle Obama

The impact of exclusion can affect everything from morale to career advancement. Diverse individuals report being more likely to withdraw from full participation and contribution (engagement) to the business. At a business level, this typically means lowered productivity or at the very least, less discretionary effort. The problem is Anglo-Celtic male leaders may not even be aware that this is happening.

 

How do we get the attention of Anglo-Celtic male business leaders?

Unfortunately, we will get their attention mostly with business statistics that link to financials. So here are some compelling statistics:

Gender diverse and ethnically diverse companies return 15% and 35% better financial performance than their competitors. 

Sounds like a no brainer to get motivated to do something, right? However, Australia has got to have the diversity represented first and in the right senior roles. At present, every diversity category you pick is under-represented and our lagging shows on a world-stage, especially with women: Australia is only at 14th place worldwide for women on large, publicly listed companies; and 17th place for women in parliament. Once we improve this, then we can talk about leveraging inclusion to get Fig. 2’s financial success stories.

Figure 2: Diversity Matters 

3 steps to cut the fluff and make inclusion matter

Do we wait to get representation first and then work at inclusion? No, start now – here is how: If you are at the top, the middle or indeed in any leadership role, here are three steps to cut the fluff on inclusion:

  1. Understand the diversities you are dealing with (MBWA)

Listening to the unique experiences of diverse employees (MBWA: management by walking around) and adopting inclusive behaviours will reap immediate benefits for your employees and your business. Do not fall into the trap of forming a view about the current state by using data based on outdated personal experience, assumptions and anecdotes or by talking a merit approach.

  1. Translate the potential business impact of continuing exclusion

For example, if you continue to have low levels of women or CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) women represented across your organisation, what does that mean for your reach with customers (51% of Australia’s population are women and we are one of the most multicultural nations in the world). Do you know how your engagement scores translate across diverse groups? Are your staff feeling like onlookers and are these hidden within a 70+ average engagement score?

  1. Commit to act with transparency and accountability

At a senior level, engage the right stakeholder to develop policy, set targets and then make the right leaders accountable for communicating and embedding the policy and the targets into the organisational operating rhythm. All other levels: start with simple acts of inclusion: don’t talk over someone, learn to pronounce someone’s name, encourage an opinion and be open to listening fully – basically invite an onlooker in and keep the door open.

So, cut the fluffy celebrations, events and festivals – instead, take some concrete steps to make inclusion happen on an organisational and individual level, in ways that allow people to be valued and encourage others to step up.

This article was written by Div Pillay & Michelle Redfern, Co-founders of Culturally Diverse Women.

Join us LIVE at The Big Ideas Summit Melbourne to discuss the big-ticket trends affecting procurement – grab a ticket here to secure your seat!

5 Soft Skills Procurement Pros Should Be Developing…NOW!

If you want to hold on to your procurement career  in the long term, you ought to be worrying about mastering your soft skills!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 got wind of the fact that IBM, arguably the world’s most robotically advanced procurement team,  is focussing on its employees’ soft skills.

As Justin Mcbryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM, explained,  why would IBM need a high volume of data scientists in their midst when they have Watson!?

Technological advancements will soon permit the automation of our processes; handling the sourcing and the market intelligence. In this environment, it’s the softer skills procurement professionals must master to ensure a long-term career.  That’s the real skills gap procurement should be worried about!

Ahead of next week’s webinar Beat The Bots – How Being Human Will Win The Day,  we outline the specific skills procurement pros should be mastering to prepare for the post-cognitive age, with the help of Justin and our second webinar speaker John Viner Smith, Principal-Mercer.

1. Design Thinking

There are some “incredible and transformative technologies that offer solutions to problems that were unimaginable just a few years ago ,but they’re just half of the puzzle.” begins John.

“Subject matter experts will have a role to play in framing  [these problems] in the most efficient way.”  It’s important that the solutions aren’t simply “sticking plasters but fundamental root cause fixes”.

This is a role for procurement’s best and brightest, and the skill needed to fulfil this role is Design Thinking; “the process of being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to bear on business problems.”

2. Thinking at the speed of digital!

Joh asserted that procurement must recognise that “thinking of digital solutions requires some understanding of new processes and ways of thinking.”

“Procurement people should be learning about methodologies like Google’s Design Sprint or Eric Ries’ concept of Intrapreneurship as defined in the Lean Startup that are used in other types of digital business.

“Too often procurement thinking is slow, bound in process and incredibly risk averse. Technology problem solving is experimental, iterative and views failures as key to learning. The idea of developing hypotheses, testing them, failing fast and iterating or pivoting in the course of a week, as per Google’s Sprint methods, would be alien to many Procurement people.”

Procurement has worked at a certain pace,  thus far. And it’s going to  have to get faster!

3. Active questioning and listening

This wouldn’t be a piece about soft skills without a mention of communication! We already know how important this skill is for procurement people but it’s going to be all the more valuable in a post-cognivite age.

Justin reminded us that communication is vital for everything “from presentation skills to phone etiquette and how to ask probing questions to your suppliers.”

In a post cognitive world you’re “going to become more of an owner and less of a process facilitator” asserts Justin, which is where active listening comes in.

When it comes to managing negotiations with suppliers, clients and colleagues, “We all have scripts e.g. How many widgets do you need, when do you need them by etc.”

“Every now  and then, you’ll have  been in a situation where a client has given a little bit more than you asked for. This is where the active [and critical] listening comes in.” How do you use that information to do the best job possible?

4. Negotiation

“We rely on the threat of competitive pressure to do our negotiating for us” says John.

“We source the spec and don’t always listen to challenges from Suppliers. When we’re engaging them to help solve complex problems, we will need to be more commercially empowered and highly skilled negotiators; able to get the best from our suppliers by offering the best of ourselves while optimising value.”

5. Imagination

“The future role of procurement can be solved in one phrase: problem solving” says John.

But procurement’s problem solving needs to take on a more innovative and imaginative approach.

“Not every situation is going to call for an RFX” explains Justin. “That speaks directly to the change we’re looking for [at IBM].” Too often “we see a need and our reaction from a process point is let’s go and do the RFX.”  Instead professionals “should take a deep breath and start understanding the client and exactly what they need,” and approach the problem in alternate ways.

John concedes, arguing that “running tender might be the solution (increasingly rarely!) but collaborative innovation with the suppliers we have is important.”

Procurement peoples’ jobs will largely focus on bringing innovation to the supply chain in the first place and really helping the business to understand their demand.

In short, Procurement needs to have a relationship with the organisation that is much more strategic and puts the function in a partnering and consultative role.  As Justin sums up, ‘ [at IBM] We’re still looking for the procurement experts, we’re still looking for people who can do the job. But we’re adding to the soft skills portfolio.”

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. 

Sprinting Outside Your Comfort Zone

When ultra-athlete, World Vision Ambassador and Melbourne Big Ideas Summit speaker Samantha Gash ran 3253 kilometres across India in scorching heat and punishing humidity, she discovered that even best-laid plans will always go awry. But, as she tells Procurious, any challenge can be overcome by adapting your plan, recalibrating and moving forward.    Hear Samantha Gash LIVE at the Melbourne Big Ideas Summit on Monday 30th October. Click here to learn more.

Who could be a better pick to talk about endurance than an ultra-marathon runner? As a former lawyer turned athlete, Samantha Gash has experienced challenges that require an enormous amount of persistence both within a corporate environment and on the running trail. She has seen first-hand how projects and big ideas will fail without the right mindset strategies, and the extraordinary achievements we’re capable of when we step outside of our comfort zone and tap into our hidden reserves of persistence.

As a World Vision Ambassador, Samantha Gash ran 3253 kilometres in 76 days across India, raising over $150,000 to fund education programs and creating a global digital campaign around the barriers to quality education for children across India. Her other achievements include a 1968km expedition run along South Africa’s Freedom Trail and four 250km desert ultramarathons as part of the Racing The Planet – Four Deserts Grand Slam.

It’s an impressive list, and reading it on paper doesn’t do justice to the heat, flies, exhaustion, injuries and sheer discomfort Samantha must have experienced on these ultramarathons. As she will tell the audience at the Melbourne Big Ideas Summit on October 30th, things never go to plan – but that’s okay, particularly if you have the right mindset to adapt and push onwards.

Adaptability

“You need to be incredibly prepared in the lead-up to a challenge, but upon execution you also need to be highly adaptable,” says Samantha. “Both components are important, because it’s likely that you’ll need to completely change what you thought you needed to do once things really kick off.”

Samantha isn’t exaggerating when she says that in India, not one day went to plan. “From weeks two to four, I was physically and mentally shaken by the fact that I had to walk for considerable periods at a time. I was experiencing body shutdown, brought on by the stress of running across India in 44 degrees and over 90% humidity, combined with trying to keep up with a demanding content schedule to meet stakeholder obligations when it would be optimal for my performance if I could rest”.

For two of the eleven weeks in India, Samantha says she was pretty much crawling. “My stomach blew up, I was getting injuries, and I wasn’t giving myself the recovery I needed. My body wouldn’t let me move beyond a power walk and short running sections. Eventually, I realised that I had to roll with it, and accepted that this was the reality for that part of the challenge. And that’s when my body started to heal itself. Seventy-seven days later, my body was injury free and powerfully running up the mountains in the east of India”.

Samantha says that when you’re doing projects of this scale, you’ll inevitably go through a breakdown period before you get to the adaption phase. “You have to be calm and kind to your body – it’s essential to get through this anxiety-ridden period.”

Relentless forward motion

The language Samantha uses – adaptability, stakeholders, execution – comes across as highly professional and wouldn’t be out of place in a corporate environment, reflecting her background as a lawyer. But there’s one over-used business catchphrase – “moving forward” – that takes on a different meaning when used by an endurance athlete.

“’Relentless forward motion’ is the idea that it doesn’t always matter how fast you’re moving; so long as you’re moving forward, you’re always moving towards your goal. It’s important to think about the strategic parts of the project when you’ll need to devote 100% of your focus and greater energy. When the odds are stacked against me in endurance racing, I rely on the strategies I have prepared that allow me to move forward.

“In a long term endurance event, whether physical or mental, people inevitably burn out and choose to opt out of the challenge. However, if you can’t mindfully push past the challenges, it’s irrelevant how fast you went.”

Strategic vulnerability

Samantha recommends that leaders should put on their “armour of toughness” at challenging times to make sure a project continues to move forward. This is particularly important at the start of a project, but down the track it’s often a good idea to show some vulnerability.

“Effective leaders know that it’s important to be able to show vulnerability, and also to accept vulnerability in others, in order to reach your goal,” says Samantha. “Sometimes the strongest leaders are the ones who can show their team a degree of vulnerability. Reversing the roles of leader and follower enables the team to step up and support you, because you won’t get the best out of your team members if you always show strong solid leadership and direct workflow.”

Samantha Gash is part of an incredible line up of inspirational, international speakers appearing LIVE at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit Melbourne on Monday 30th October. Time is running out – reserve your seat today!