Procurement Operating Models Explained

Centralised? Centre-led? What’s the difference, and how do I know which operating model is best for my organisation?

Starting a new job can be both stressful and exhilarating. The people are different, the location is strange and the way they work is peculiar to that enterprise. There may be a seven-level procurement organisation chart or a loose, undocumented reporting structure to be navigated.  What is also daunting is the “in-speak”, the specific terminology which may be like a foreign language to you.   Let’s clear up some misconceptions about ways that procurement can be organised, and try and demystify some of the jargon.

 An operating model is just the way the procurement function is set up to work.  Most companies start up being decentralised, unstructured and even disorganised until the workload grows.  As the functions expand and mature, there needs to be some form of formalising and centralising of the activities to consolidate the spend. Only then can we expect to make savings and reduce our risk exposure.

Centralised or centre-led?

Centralised procurement does have its benefits. It means more control over suppliers and contracts and it helps drive supplier diversity and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.  The risk is mitigated and skills development is made easier, expanding capabilities.  However, it can become a very bureaucratic and expensive cost centre. Too much data and not enough information can cause loss of focus and poor service to stakeholders.  People at the centre do not always understand regional and local supply markets and consumption patterns.  If “central” means the US and the region is Papua New Guinea, there may be cultural challenges too. As procurement organisations move on and mature, over time, many of them become centre-led, taking some time to decentralise personnel and day-to-day operations.

Image: www.zycus.com

Wherever your organisation is on this curve, it is helpful to know what it means to be where.  There is no one best structure. The way your organisation works is influenced by the external supply market, the end-users needs and the overall company strategy. You just have to ride the wave.

 Centre-led procurement organisations concentrate on defining strategy and policy for both their direct and indirect procurement.  Corporate spend can be fully leveraged on strategic commodities and services which are well-suited for centralised sourcing.  Non-strategic categories not suited to centralised sourcing can be handled by the individual business units or regions.

Centre-led procurement uses a category management structure which supports the rollout of sourcing and contracting plans to business unit and regional level.  The type of set-up is often called a hybrid model.

Category management means the bundling of third-party spend into buckets to extract more value.  The main aim behind category management is to aggregate the internal demand and achieve economies of scale by contracting the best suppliers at the lowest price.  In its best form, it involves an active category manager to roll out category plans, strategic sourcing and supplier management initiatives.

In a centre-led organisation, a global category manager would set the strategy for the category group, e.g. transport logistics, and for the sub-categories (also sometimes called commodities) within that group:  road, rail and air transport, freight forwarding, port activities and courier services.  At regional or divisional level, the category plans are followed and executed locally to achieve the best results for the organisation.  This is the ideal but it is rarely implemented in full. Some categories are really challenging. Marketing services, technology and professional fees come to mind.

Cross-functional teams (CFTs)

To be effective, a category needs to be managed using one or more cross-functional teams.  A cross-functional team comprises representatives of key divisions and business units that work together, with procurement, to achieve the best results for the organisation in that category or commodity. Although extensively used in strategic sourcing, CFTs are being used increasingly and successfully across process improvement, product development, quality assurance and the assessment of suppliers.

The benefits are well-documented:  a more robust outcome, transfer of skills and learnings, improved internal cooperation and sustainable relationships.

Global organisations that run virtual CFTs have special challenges.  With the application of innovative methods and up-to-date online technology, it is now easier and more effective.

Whatever the operating model or the make-up of the CFT, the satisfaction of stakeholders and end users is paramount.  A stakeholder is anyone that has a vested interest in the outcome of your project or action.  He or she could be any one of these:

  • An internal departmental executives, manager or end-user
  • Another procurement team member
  • A co-opted subject matter expert
  • A supplier or a subcontractor
  • A member of the media or a regulatory body

Stakeholders are capable of influencing the success or failure of a project.

 The model is not cast in stone

As a procurement organisation matures, it is likely that executives will revise and adjust a hybrid or centre-led structure so that it stays aligned to corporate objectives and continues to deliver value.  The best model is always the one that delivers results through open lines of two-way communication and uses processes that are flexible enough to take into account regional and cultural differences.

5 Ways Procurement Can Make Brexit A Breeze

So much about Brexit is still a mystery. But one thing’s for sure – procurement pros can help their organisation turn a negative into a positive!

It’s impossible to say precisely what the role of procurement will be in the post-Brexit world; the future is simply too uncertain.

And it’s easy to infer this sense of overwhelming uncertainty in the procurement world if the results of Odesma’s new Brexit survey are anything to go by.

Despite having conducted two surveys several months apart, very little appears to have changed in procurement teams with regards to their action and response plans.

As Nick Ford, Co-founder – Odesma,  admits “the interesting thing coming out of these surveys is that this is without a doubt the biggest negotiation our country is going through in terms of procurement. But it’s still a very uncertain picture. And we’re right in the middle of it.”

Indeed, over 63 per cent of respondents admitted that they have no risk register or contingency plan in place within their procurement teams post-Brexit.

And a whopping 82 per cent of professionals feel that they are under more pressure than before to reduce the cost of third party goods and services.

It’s a complex time for procurement professionals; who must consider how the function will be impacted by an increase in the cost of imported goods, freedom of movement (or lack thereof!) and a potentially depleted talent pool.

On a positive note, 73 per cent of procurement professionals believe their organisation sees procurement as an important part of its post-Brexit preparation process.

At our London Big Ideas Summit, Nick Ford discussed how procurement can help turn Brexit into an opportunity for their organisation. As businesses prepare, the role for procurement teams is increasing dramatically and it’s “a real opportunity to put procurement at the front and centre of your organisation.”

Here a just a few ways that procurement teams can add value:

1.New Negotiations

Worryingly, according to a couple of the delegates at Big Ideas Summit, some suppliers have already started adding a “Brexit Tax” into their pricing, as well as Brexit clauses within their contracts.

Rather than seeing this as a negative, however, procurement can use this as an opportunity to open negotiations with these suppliers and ensure that value is still being delivered post-Brexit and beyond.

2. Enhance procurement position in the organisation

The survey made it clear that Brexit will put procurement front and centre in organisations.

Procurement functions that show more innovative approaches and see this as an opportunity, rather than a risk, to help companies get their act together can steal the spotlight and use it to their great advantage.

3. Focus on Supplier Risk Positions

According to Helen Mackenzie, Head of Procurement in Scottish Local Government, some suppliers have started to “self-select” for contracts and not bid for overseas work in case risks prove too high post-Brexit.

In knowing this, procurement can understand the risk positions of suppliers and account for this in their tenders. This could mean more local business.

4. Re-engage Stakeholders

According to Nick, one of the biggest opportunities for procurement is re-engaging with stakeholders. Linked to enhancing procurement’s position, the profession needs to gather information from all sides and help to drag heads from the sand throughout the organisation.

5. Drives position of supplier portfolios

Brexit is an opportunity to do some supplier clean up and, as part of that clean up, get some leverage to drive costs down. Spreading the risk for procurement by having a diverse portfolio of suppliers (including local, SME and social enterprises) could give a greater foundation in the future.

Nick’s parting words? “The most positive viewpoints on Brexit are coming from companies that are actually getting their acts together!”

“It’s going to be an interesting time over the next couple of years. And we’ll see procurement rising through the organisation.”

Nick Ford spoke at Big Ideas Summit London 2018. Register as a digital delegate to hear more from him catch up on the day’s action. 

A Little Less Hesitation, A Little More Risk Taking

As human beings, we are naturally averse to risk and uncertainty. But our lives are little more certain than a game of poker – and we’d do well to embrace that! 

Caspar Berry, professional poker player extraordinaire,  knows exactly what it means to take risks. But he admits that it can be a scary business.

“People are broadly hard wired to be risk-averse and that’s not a bad thing per se. It keeps them alive. Its kept our species alive for however many thousands of years.”

“What we call risk aversion is essentially a desire to succeed in the short term. And a desire to succeed is another way of describing a fear or aversion to loss and risk.

“It’s a legacy of a period when we were, like almost every other animal, driven by only short term goals; eating, sleeping and procreation. It’s only a problem when we couple this with a desire to achieve long term goals like sales figures.  In this scenario our desire to succeed in the short term, to close every sale we try and make for example, conflicts with this long term goal and it becomes a problem.”

Life is like a game of poker…

Caspar was first introduced to Poker by a friend when holidaying in Las Vegas in the summer of 1999.  “With my background in, and love for, economics, I got it immediately. Poker is just a game of resource allocation on a terrain of uncertainty which, when you think about it, at a fundamental level is all that we ever do in business and life every day!”

And that’s Caspar’s philosophy in a nutshell. He equates the uncertainty of our everyday, working lives to  game of poker to explain our inherent risk aversion whilst encouraging us to challenge that natural instinct to flee from risk. “I try to show in my work how and why the world is more uncertain than we like to think a lot of the time and why we create that illusion – in order to be able to get through the average day.

“We need certainty and we need the illusion of control in order to be able to function. we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves… it’s in our genes!”

The benefits of risk

If it’s in our genes why on earth fight it? Is there any real benefit to injecting a little extra uncertainty if it pains us so very much to do so?

Apparently, yes! According to Caspar studies show that the more we acknowledge and embrace uncertainty the better our judgement and decision-making apparatus.

“There’s not a lot we can do about most uncertainty: manage risk where we can; mitigate it where possible. But the economics of risk and reward say that resource allocation is most efficient where we can embrace uncertainty, think probabilistically and stop looking for the outcome most likely to succeed.

“By riding the volatility to some extent we can get better ROI as a result.

“Certainty is nice but efficiency and the bottom line is what is important. Take a long term view, accept greater ‘negative’ outcomes’ and ‘negative metrics’ and focus on the metrics that matter.”

Does Caspar believe we should take more risks in our working lives?

“We should. But it’s easy to say. In order to be able to do so we need to be aligned both with our own expectations and those of our organisations.

“It’s no good one person saying they’re going to accept greater volatility for greater long term returns: the person who judges them whether it’s themselves a colleague or boss, also needs to be on the same journey. I don’t judge anyone negatively for not being able to push the latitude and risk level but it’s important to engage in a conversation in order to try.

“Its our own results we’re sabotaging, sometimes inadvertently, if we don’t!”

Caspar Berry spoke at Big Ideas Summit London. Register as a digital delegate to hear more from him and catch up on the day’s action. 

What Is IBM’s CPO Looking For In New Hires?

IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, talks soft skills, AI and what he’s looking for in his leadership team at IBM…

This Article was written by IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy.

Procurement professionals should be excited about Artificial Intelligence and robotic automation.

We’re looking to these technologies to handle the repetitive tasks, the more mundane pieces of work, so that humans are freed up for higher value activities.

Cognitive technologies will also act as advisors enabling procurement professionals with the insights to quickly adapt to changing market conditions.

I learned a long time ago that the key to success is having a great team. And there is a very human element to procurement. There will always be a need for people to handle the relationship management side of the function, with both suppliers and stakeholders and make the strategic decisions.

The acceptance and the excitement around cognitive have grown at IBM as we have educated our employees on the major opportunity that it represents and developed them in preparation for the digital age.

The importance of soft skills in the digital age

As we continue down the digitisation path in the Procurement industry, with more of our transactional functions being automated, there is a greater need for our procurement professionals to increase their soft skills.

When we think of the soft skills necessary for future success in the procurement industry, we focus on building closer stakeholder and supplier relationships. Broadening our communications skills, including active listening is a key enabler to both visibility to value proposition, but also in understanding our stakeholder requirements from their point of view.

Another critical element is having better agility skills; think flexibility, adaptability and speed.

Our requesters who run the IBM business have tremendous demands that can be fluid based upon the market environment. Our procurement professionals need to be able to react in-kind and continue to provide the IBM corporation with the best value and innovation from our suppliers.

Digital credentials have a curriculum of eLearning and experiential training for our procurement professionals to follow as they build their soft skill profile within the procurement context.

Key skills for IBM’s leadership team

In potential members of our leadership team, there are two crucial skills, that we look for.

1) Digital literacy 

Leaders who want to thrive in the procurement profession need to develop an understanding of:

  • Data analytics –we can gather data but how do you use that data to gain insights?
  • Robotic processes – how can you automate tactical processes so human capital is used to the greatest effect?
  • Cognitive computing – understanding how to digitise a process end-to-end so it is interconnected and insightful.

2) Relationship building

While leaders need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge, their focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ, and their ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. Listening is critical – When we’re talking, we’re not learning.

Project management, empathy, innovative thinking and an agile mind-set are also critical skills at IBM.

You hear a lot of people talk about procurement leaders becoming “trusted advisors” to their businesses, but I think we need to take it to the next level and become “essential partners.”

We should enhance everything that we touch.

This Article was written by IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy.

Bob Murphy will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit London 26th April 2018. Register as a digital delegate to hear more from him and follow the day’s action live. 

Could The 21st Century Wilberforce Please Stand Up?

The world is in dire need of a 21st century William Wilberforce to realign the corporate moral compass on this increasingly pressing issue of modern-day slavery

In the early 1800s, the politician and social reformer William Wilberforce famously spearheaded the movement to abolish slavery. His campaign was long and hard-fought, beginning in 1787 with the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and culminating in 1833 when the House of Commons passed the Slavery Abolition Act.

Wilberforce, by this stage, was in poor health and died just three days after seeing his life’s work pay off. But he had achieved what he set out to – slavery was effectively wiped out across most of the British Empire.

Modern Slavery Today

There are more than 30 million forced labourers around the world today.

Now, nearly 200 years later, I can imagine Wilberforce turning in his grave at the prevalence of modern slavery in today’s supply chains and the thought of all he worked for being undone.

According to the International Labour Organisation, there are more than 30 million forced labourers around the, with recent high-profile cases uncovered in almost every industry – from indentured servitude in commercial fishing near New Zealand to child labourers in the cocoa and coffee industries in Latin America and Africa.

Closely analysing suppliers and, perhaps even more importantly – where businesses tend to source their components or raw materials, can reveal alarming and eye-opening results.

A construction company, for example, might discover it is using iron from China, where the industry is poorly regulated and there is a high probability of forced labour.

A search for women’s shirts in Malaysia could reveal cotton sourced from Mali, another potentially problematic region in terms of labour practices.

As with so many areas of modern life, it feels like we’re forgetting the lessons we should have learned from history – to the point that we’re in dire need of a 21st century Wilberforce to realign the corporate moral compass on this increasingly pressing issue.

Procurement pros should take center stage on tackling modern slavery

Procurement has a crucial role to play in the fight against modern slavery. These issues allow procurement to move away from the “back office” and take centre stage.

Previously mundane tasks such as supplier screening actually turn out to be critical in helping a company stamp out the scourge of poor labour practices, indentured workforce and poor working conditions, whether in Bangladesh or the UK – where recently arrived immigrants are working for less than a minimum wage.

More than a third of UK businesses are still failing to combat modern slavery, according to the latest CIPS survey.

The EU recorded the largest increase in slavery of any region worldwide (according to research by British analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft) with 20 of its 28 states reporting higher levels of slavery than they did in 2016.

There is clearly still more work to be done.

Who should step forward and become the new William Wilberforce?

Another Parliamentarian?

A leader with deep religious beliefs?

NGOs?

Pressure groups who can organise boycotts?

Brand attacks might ignite fleeting moments of righteous social media outrage, but society needs to dig a lot deeper to effect lasting change. You can boycott your local shop but that won’t impact a large buyer of steel or soybeans.

You have to persuade companies that it’s not just the right thing to do but that it’s also better business.

My view is the CPOs of the largest companies are best placed to start solving this problem. Collectively, the Global 2000 spend $12 trillion on goods and services annually so by tying their purchases to purposes, these companies can ensure they provide fair labour practices across their supply chain.

Now is the time for a coalition of well-intentioned and influential businesses to come together and become a modern-day Wilberforce that can stamp slavery out for good.

SAP Ariba’s James Marland will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit on 26th April 2018. To find out more information and register to attend in person or as a digital delegate visit our dedicated site. 

“Hey, Procurement…” The Rise of Chatbots in Supply Management

Procurement tech guru Bertrand Maltaverne explores the benefits, limitations and pitfalls of chatbots in procurement – with some animated examples!

“Hey, Siri,…”

“Alexa,…”

“OK Google,..”

Digital assistants are ubiquitous. We talk to them (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc.). We chat with them (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WeChat, etc.). They are in our phones, in our computers, and even in our homes. Now they are also making their way into our offices!

Procurement professionals need to start taking notice, because chatbots present a valuable and unique opportunity to provide better services and experiences for internal customers and suppliers. They can also support and assist procurement professionals with their daily activities, becoming virtual colleagues or consultants.

Of course, as with any new piece of technology, it is important not to succumb to the hype and to be aware of the technology’s limitations and constraints before deploying bots everywhere.

Value = Outcomes AND Experiences

The term “Conversational Commerce” was coined by Chris Messina in 2015. In his article, he focused on how messaging apps bring the point of sale to you. He first introduced the idea of assistants that people could interact with to buy things from a company. This is precisely what Amazon did and has popularized with Echo (the hardware) and Alexa (the AI-based assistant that “lives” inside Echo).

The idea of voice or text-based interactions with a bot can be extended to much more than B2C and to “buying things”. The value proposition of such technology is to digitise interactions and conversations while also making technology more accessible.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Gains in efficiency and effectiveness because of tailored and context-aware interactions. Chatbots remember everything, they know where you are, and can tap into data from all your other applications.
  • Less time and effort needed to learn how to use Procurement technology: conversations replace graphical user interfaces (everybody knows how to type or speak; no need to use explicit and codified instructions).
  • Interoperability and accessibility: users chat in the application or channel they prefer (SMS, Instant Messaging, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Alexa, Twitter, etc.). All bots leverage one common robust back-end system that processes and interprets natural language.

All in all, chatbots contribute to the creation of omni-channel and replicable but unique user experiences for stakeholders, suppliers, and for the Procurement teams themselves. Improving experiences is one of the pillars of the digital transformation of Procurement. In addition to delivering business benefits (savings, risk reduction, innovation, growth, etc.), it contributes to making procurement a supplier/customer/function of choice.

“Every time [customers] interact with a product, a service, a person, or an automated system, they judge how well the interaction helped them achieve their goals, how much effort they had to invest in the interaction, and how much they enjoyed the interaction.” Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning, Josh Bernoff, and Kerry Bodine

Use Case 1: Guided Buying (Chatbot as an Admin.)

This is a use case that is very close to B2C: a Procurement assistant is deployed to handle demands from the rest of the organisation in order to replace or “augment” traditional eProcurement solutions. Requesters interact with a bot that proposes solutions based on:

  • the needs identified during the conversation,
  • the Procurement strategy (preferred suppliers, preferred items, contracts in place),
  • other factors (purchasing history, real-time availability of products, context, etc.).

The approval process also happens via chat. If available, the chatbot adds the approver to the conversation, creating a group chat. Or, the Procurement Assistant opens a new one-to-one conversation with the relevant approver. Approvers can then ask the chatbot how much of the budget is left and then immediately approve/decline the request without leaving the chat. The same can happen for other process steps (order confirmations, goods receipts,etc.). The assistant initiates discussions to ensure the process is compliant and efficient.

Use Case 2: Operational Support (Chatbot As a Colleague/Consultant)

Chatbots can also be invaluable assistants in operational support. The most straightforward and immediate application: query management. A chatbot can become the single point of contact for internal and external queries about purchase orders, invoices, and much more. Several companies are already successfully using such capabilities in their Procurement portals to provide quick answers to a vast amount of queries, which leaves their teams with time to focus on  more complex requests and value-adding tasks.

It can even go further as the following scenario demonstrates:

Now, let’s compare what happened above with a scenario in the context of siloed organisations and where such technology wasn’t used. The purchaser would probably have learned about the earthquake on his way to work while checking the news on his smartphone. He would only have been able to assess the situation and prepare contingency plans once he arrived at work, losing valuable time. In may organisations this would take hours or even days because access to information is spread across multiple systems. This would result in a very different reaction time compared to the example above, where the cognitive agent reacted almost immediately after the event and prepared recommendations during the night.

Pitfalls and limitations

Relying on conversations instead of graphical  user interfaces has many benefits, especially for the mobile worker or casual user. However, there are limitations and challenges.

Voice-based conversations are the most natural ones and are also the most challenging from a technological perspective, especially in a B2B context. This is due, in part, to the international nature of business. For example, names of people or companies are not familiar words that a chatbot can quickly recognise, and to make things worse, they are often not in the same language as the one used to converse with the bot.

In addition to technical challenges like these that will likely be solved someday, there is a more human challenge: the conversational paradox. It explains why chatbots are still not widely used.  The paradox is that something very natural (a conversation) is done with another unusual counterpart (a machine), which turns the experience into a very unnatural one. So, when asking a chatbot something, the first questions people are confronted with are:

  • what instructions can “it” understand?
  • what words should I use to make sure I will be understood?

This represents  both a significant barrier to usage and a risk for adoption. It is therefore important to design and deploy chatbots with that in mind and:

  • not to use them as the only communication channel (it should be one among many others),
  • not to oversell the technology as being human-like (it inflates expectations and is a guarantee for failure),
  • to provide cues and guidance (like the menus/lists in the examples above)
  • to have a smooth and almost transparent hand-over to a real person if the machine fails to understand a user.

Conclusion

“By 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.” –Gartner

Conversational user interfaces are still a novelty, especially in B2B. However, they will become more widely used as technology makes further progress and people get more used to it. So, for Procurement, now is the time to investigate their potential as an additional way to provide a streamlined and personalized user experience both inside and outside of the function.

In addition to  delivering the right outcomes, experiences are also a crucial component of the value that the rest of the organisation gets from Procurement. Customer satisfaction is at stake.

The implementation of chatbots, like any other technology, has to be pragmatic, defined by clear use cases, and should not be viewed as a solution in itself. Chatbots will not solve all of an organisation’s problems, , but they can be used as a means to an end!

Time to learn how to say: “Hey, Procurement…”

Conference Season Is Upon Us!

Turn on the auto-reply, pack your suitcase and strap yourselves in – it’s #procurement conference season.

Why are so many great conferences packed into the same few weeks of the year? Yes, the weather is usually reliable, but having successive (or even overlapping) conferences forces procurement pros to pick and choose carefully. And your conference budget isn’t the only issue here – simply finding the time to step out of the office for more than one multi-day event (plus travel) can be very challenging.

Let’s have a look at some of the big events in your region.

EUROPE

SAP Ariba Live

Amsterdam, 23-25 April

SAP Ariba’s biggest event in Europe will be packed with interactive presentations and workshops, and offers the chance to meet some of the real thought-leaders and technical wizards from SAP Ariba itself (not just salespeople!). The agenda reflects SAP Ariba’s ongoing theme for the year, Procure with Purpose.

Procurious will be there! Don’t miss the Diversity and Leadership panel session featuring Procurious Founder Tania Seary talking about how procurement professionals can leverage our uniquely human qualities in the world of Industry 4.0, and the critical importance of supplier diversity for the future of procurement.

Related articles on #ProcurewithPurpose:

How Your Network Can Turbocharge Procurement – SAP Ariba President Barry Padgett

Exploding the 4 Social Enterprise Myths

Supplier Diversity? I Don’t Have Time For That!

… and be sure to sign up for our upcoming #ProcurewithPurpose webinar on Modern Slavery.

 

Procurious Big Ideas Summit

London, 26 April

You didn’t think we would forget to mention our very own flagship event? The Big Ideas Summit is an innovative, digitally led event with a small audience of 50 or so procurement influencers in the room, and hundreds of Digital Delegates interacting online. So, while you might not get a chance to attend in person, be sure to click the link above and register as a Digital Delegate to receive a treasure-trove of content and videos from the Summit.

Speakers include legendary IBM CPO Bob Murphy, ISM CEO Tom Derry, risk-taking and decision-making expert Caspar Berry, futurist and business-builder Sophie Hackford, futurist and urbanist Greg Lindsay, security expert Justin Crump and a whole host of procurement gurus from some of the biggest brands in the profession.

Related articles on #BigIdeas2018:

How to Prepare For Post-Brexit Procurement In The Dark

Why Diligence Is Due

6 Critical Skills You Need If You Want To Succeed In A Digital World

IBM CPO: You’re Finished If You Think You’ve Finished!

How to Turn Your Procurement Team into a Cracking Intelligence-Gathering Organisation

4 Ways to Engineer Serendipity in Your Workplace

Don’t forget to register! https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-digital-delegates

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

The 11th Annual Asia-Pacific CPO Forum

Melbourne, 1-2 May

The Faculty CPO Forum attracts the top CPOs from all across the region, but funnily enough, this event isn’t all that focused on procurement. Instead, the agenda is packed with big-picture thinking, with futurists, experts on disruption, sports stars, diplomacy and trade experts, and others all contributing to a thought-leadership extravaganza that has delighted delegates for over 10 years now. Includes the announcement of the 2018 Asia-Pacific CPO of the Year.

Procurious will be there! Be sure to keep an eye on the Twitter hashtag #CPOForum18 for blog articles and a running update from the 2-day event.

Related articles on #CPOForum18:

4 Things Supply Managers Need To Know About China’s Belt And Road

Leadership Under Fire

4 Things CFOs Really Want From Procurement

 

USA

ISM2018

Nashville, 6-9 May

If you haven’t been to ISM’s massive annual conference before, we can’t stress enough how BIG this event is. With an action-packed agenda featuring no less than 100 educational sessions to choose from, it’s vital that attendees arrive in Nashville with a plan.

Don’t miss out on seeing Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington on stage, along with two giants of the U.S. Intelligence Community, General Keith Alexander and John Brennan. Keynotes aside, ISM2018 offers fascinating Signature Sessions, Learning Tracks, an Emerging Professionals Experience (featuring the inspirational 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars), and more.

Articles related to #ISM2018:

Navigating the World’s Largest Procurement Conference

30 Under 30 Stars Prove This Enduring Stigma Is Disappearing From the Profession

 

Other major events on the procurement conference calendar:

ProcureCon Indirect

Copenhagen, 16-18 April

REV2018 Jaggaer Conference

Las Vegas, 24-26 April

Featuring a keynote from Stephen J. Dubner, award-winner co-author of Freakonomics.

 Coupa Inspire

San Francisco, 6-9 May

Interestingly, Coupa Inspire is going head-to-head with ISM2018 this year with their event being held on 6-9 May in San Francisco. It’s another big one, with 100+ sessions and 8 keynotes including the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Ivalua Now

New York, 17-18 May

Know of any other major conferences (in April or May) that should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments! You might also want to check out Spend Matters’ conference recommendations.

6 Critical Skills You Need If You Want To Succeed In A Digital World

How should procurement professionals adapt in order to survive in a digital world? The digitally enabled workforce needs to nail six key skills…

This is a unique time for procurement organisations.

Never before have companies been able to derive more competitive advantage from superior procurement capability. The function’s role is shifting from a sourcing gatekeeper to a provider of insight and decision support, made possible by improved access to digital technologies, data and advanced analytics.

Investments in automation have helped make these organisations more efficient, allowing them to redirect headcount from compliance and operations-focused processes to higher-value activities such as sourcing and supply base strategy.

But this is only the part of the story.

World-class groups achieve their superior performance because they have higher-caliber people who apply their skills to effectively harness digital technologies and capabilities.

The Digitally Enabled Workforce Requires Six Key Skills

Effective procurement teams focus on people development from multiple points of view. Softer skills like relationship management and business acumen are important for managing customer relationships, while technical skills are necessary for analysing data and developing strategic insights.

The following skills are fundamental to the operations of procurement organisations in the digital era.

1. Business acumen

As economic volatility increases, category managers need to sit side by side with their stakeholders to make business decisions that impact the supply base.

It is crucial to understand complex business needs and be able to identify ways for procurement to address them using new technologies. Business acumen is fundamental to elevating procurement’s role as a trusted advisor.

2. Relationship management

Evolving the value of procurement requires working cross-functionally with a variety of stakeholders, from senior budget owners to line managers, as well as being a customer of choice and partnering with valuable suppliers. Procurement should have multiple communication channels open with business partners and customers to fully understand their needs.

3. Supply risk management expertise

In a market of increased risk and volatility, risk management capabilities are more valuable to the enterprise. For procurement, this no longer means simply reacting to events – now the focus is on predicting and avoiding risk using internal and external tools.

4. Strategic mindset

Understanding the broader market and aligning procurement’s vision with that of the business is fundamental to navigating change and extracting value from the supply base.

5. Data analysis and reporting

Big data will change the way procurement organisations use information. Those able to sort through the data and draw the right conclusions have the potential to add value to the organiSation. The tools are available today, but it will take years for widespread adoption, making analytics a prime vehicle for competitive advantage for early adopters.

6. Savings and financial analysis

Tying savings and value benefits to financial statements documents the business value contributed by the procurement organisation and drives profitability. Identifying direct procurement impact on the budget can be elusive but critical.

Digital Technologies Are Changing the Way Organisations Hire and Retain Talent

Access to new technology makes it possible to hire more effectively. By analysing demographics, job experience, recruiting data (like quality of resume) and environmental data, organisations can increase the effectiveness of new hires.

Even the culture of procurement groups is changing now that hiring standards have risen. Social media has provided new channels for knowledge and learning. Learning on demand is a common service delivered to employees, allowing access to training modules or experts from their preferred devices.

Joining networks of colleagues and outside communities to tap into knowledge and solutions to problems is common with tools like LinkedIn.

Strategic Implications

It is getting harder to find and retain people with transformation change experience and the ability to think strategically.

Unfortunately, procurement’s hiring practices, training and skills have not kept pace.

To compete, they must not let themselves be limited by organisational or geographical borders. By hiring globally, procurement deepens the potential talent pool and opens the door to new ways of thinking.

Next-generation procurement organisations are “borderless,” allowing for the free flow of ideas and talent regardless of geography. Leadership is distributed based on supply and customer priorities, not headquarter location.

The model that procurement must work toward is one that is capable of expanding, contracting and adapting rapidly as situations change, just like modern-day supply chains.

This article was written by The Hackett Group’s Laura Gibbons Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Program and Amy Fong Associate Principal, Procurement Advisory Program, and Program Leader, Purchase-toPay Advisory Program. 

Do You Know What Your Supplier’s Supplier’s Supplier Is Up To?

So you’re pretty sure there’s no slavery lurking within your supply chain? But what can you do to be 100 per cent sure?

Modern Slavery. You’d know it if you saw it, right?

Especially if it was under your nose…

And on your watch…

In fact, you’re certain that there are no instances of modern slavery in your supply chain, because you’ve safe guarded against that terrible reality. You’ve got procedures in place.

But do you really know what your supplier’s supplier’s supplier is up to?

Given that 40.3 million people are victims of modern slavery across the world, it’s quite possible you don’t.

Finding instances of slavery somewhere along the supply chain is the stuff of every procurement pros worst nightmare, but the stats don’t lie.

And that’s why it’s so important for procurement teams around the world to accept and address the problem, in order to put this abhorrent practice to bed for good.

Procurement Unchained

On 2nd May 2018 we’ll be hosting a new webinar – Procurement Unchained – in partnership with SAP Ariba as part of the Procure with Purpose movement.

We’ll be discussing:

  • What can you do to identify instances of modern slavery within your supply chains?
  • How to eradicate slavery once it’s identified and ultimately, prevent occurrences altogether
  • How is legislation like the UK’s Modern Slavery Act impacting business policy? 
  • Could blockchain and other emerging technologies help us put an end to this abhorrent practice?

Who is speaking on the webinar?

  • Tania Seary, Founder – Procurious
  • Padmini Ranganathan,  Global Vice President – SAP Ariba
  • Fiona David, Executive Director Global Research  – Walk Free Foundation
  • Alisa Voznaya, Manager, Risk Consulting – KPMG UK

How do I register for the webinar?

Registering for Procurement Unchained 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 email with a link to the webinar platform in the run up to the event.

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 enroll to access the webinar. We’ll send you a email with a link to the webinar platform in the run up to the event.

When is it taking place?

The webinar will take place at 10am EDT/ 3pm BST on 2nd May 2018.

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’d like to ask one of our speakers a question please submit it via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Commit to Procure with Purpose

Procure with Purpose is a movement. A coalition of committed, energised procurement professionals who want to deliver value beyond cost savings and efficiencies.

Through the Procure with Purpose campaign, we’ll shine a light on the biggest issues –from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability–and on you –our members -who are already driving exponential change.

Our webinar,  Procurement Unchained takes place at 10am EDT/ 3pm BST on 2nd May 2018. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

10 Questions to Ask in a Purchase-to-Pay Demo

$1 million is wasted every 20 seconds collectively by organisations around the globe. So, here are some areas to dig into and questions to ask during a purchase-to-pay demo. 

$1 million is wasted every 20 seconds collectively by organisations around the globe.

Yes; you read that correctly – organisations are losing money to the tune of $1 million every 20 seconds due to poor project management practices, according to a recent survey from Project Management Institute (PMI).

This same survey also reported that 52 per cent of projects in the last year experienced scope creep, with one of the main reasons being erroneous requirements gathering.

Seeing these stats and given my profession, I immediately thought of purchase-to-pay projects and how procurement and finance professionals can ensure they have what they need when evaluating purchase-to-pay solutions against their requirements document.

With over 7 years in the business, I’ve seen prospective customers led astray by solution providers making them unsure of exactly what they’re looking for in terms of functionality, and more importantly what they need to solve their business challenges.

Sometimes cleverly crafted demos can gloss over important nuances or mask inadequacies, which can cause major problems later during implementation – and the dreaded scope creep. So, here are some areas that I recommend digging into and questions to ask during a purchase-to-pay demo.

10 questions to ask in a purchase-to-pay demo:

  1. Does the e-procurement solution do line item requisition approval workflow? 

That’s a mouthful, so let’s break it down. Imagine you have a user that wants to buy three items requiring three separate approvers in the e-procurement solution. This person fills the virtual shopping cart with these items, just like on Amazon.

But unlike Amazon, these items need to be approved and POs issued before ordering happens. And because you want your users to get the items they need quickly, you want to make sure the e-procurement solution automatically issues POs and places orders as each individual request is approved without waiting for the other approvals – this is line item requisition approval workflow. The alternative is a linear approval workflow where each step is dependent on the previous step, meaning all the POs are held up until that approval workflow is complete.

This means all POs are reliant on the final approval in the linear chain and the entire process slows way down. Ultimately what happens in the latter scenario is your users get fed up with the slowness of the system and start purchasing outside the system – often referred to as maverick spending – so they can get what they need faster and more easily.

  1. Will I be able to create complex workflows? 

Related to the first question is the ability to create complex approval workflows. While the goal should always be to streamline approval processes, certain business scenarios and regulations call for more complexity, and you should not forgo that requirement because the system isn’t sophisticated enough to accommodate. Don’t let the solution provider try to oversimplify matters or sway you with a sharp user interface – what you need is flexibility. The tool should give you the flexibility to create comprehensive workflows that address all your needs – not create multiple work-arounds that you must maintain. You also should be able to configure the workflow once and leave it mostly intact – which is better from a compliance standpoint – instead of having to constantly adjust to meet business needs.

  1. Will I get budget visibility during the requisition or approval process? 

This is a biggie. Perhaps the greatest advantage of automating your procurement and accounts payable (AP) processes is the visibility you get across the entire buying process. But here’s the key – you need that visibility proactively, not reactively with month-end reports. A proactive approach gives managers the visibility to see how purchase requests impact budgets as the requests are being made in real-time, so they can make informed decisions as to whether to approve or deny the requests based on their budget amounts. If managers can only see how purchases impacted budgets at month-end after the money has been spent and budgets used up, that’s a reactive approach and it’s not good enough.

  1. Is the sourcing tool easy to use?

Most purchase-to-pay solutions now offer sourcing as part of the full suite. In terms of value, this helps streamline more of Procurement’s job so they can focus on suppliers and other strategic procurement initiatives. If you’re adding on this functionality to make someone’s day-to-day tasks easier, it should be user-friendly and not more cumbersome than manual sourcing activities.

  1. Can the system perform partial returns?

Say you get a shipment of 10 laptops and one is broken. You want to be able to acknowledge receipt of ten laptops in the system and note the return of the one broken computer. And, you want to be able to track that broken item through the return process. Returns and tracking returns should not be an all-or-nothing process.

  1. Can the invoice automation solution truly process ALL invoice formats?

Remember those cleverly crafted demoes and nuances I was talking about earlier – invoice automation is a landmine for hidden inadequacies. I often hear of solution providers try to mask solution shortcomings by harping on getting more PO-backed invoices, when in reality driving a higher PO percentage is not going to solve your problems. So, let’s be clear about a few things here: you will always have a certain percentage of non-PO invoices and paper/email invoices are not going away just yet, but there’s no reason you can’t automate the processing of those invoice types anyway.

Therefore, you should choose a solution that can truly ingest and process any invoice type automatically (paper, electronic, EDI/XML, PDF, etc. – covering direct, indirect, PO, Non-PO spending) and convert these documents into true e-invoices (i.e. – invoices with structured data formatting for machine reading without human intervention). Your suppliers don’t need to change how they operate today – if they send paper invoices, they can continue doing that – but you can still get an electronic invoice. Automation of this process is key. Leveraging automation should eliminate the need for your AP staff to key invoices into the solution. It should also automate approvals, handle exceptions like extra costs, create all book-keeping information automatically and map the spend accurately to correct categories, regardless of invoice quality and with zero change management for suppliers. This means there is no disruption in the supply chain and you can get 100 per cent of your supplier on-board.

This was a lengthy section of highlighting nuances, but it’s key to understand why this is so important. The point of achieving this level of automation and sophistication in your accounts payable department is to capture 100% of your enterprise spending data by automating all invoices – not just some – so ultimately you get 100% spend visibility.

  1. Can the invoice automation solution do split coding on invoices at the line and header level?

Let’s say you have a trade show coming up. The event is an investment for three departments: marketing, sales and pre-sales. When you’re coding invoices for the event, you want to have the capability to take the sum amount and split it between the three departments. If you can only split at the line level, you will have to split-code each line three ways and that gets to be time-consuming and inefficient.

  1. Does the analytics solution offer out-of-the-box reporting and customisable reports?

You don’t want to reach out to a customer service representative every time you want to see your own financial data in a certain way – that’s time-consuming, annoying and can be costly depending on your service agreement. Make sure the analytics tool offers configurable dashboards and reports that have standard views to provide a starting point for your analysis, allowing you to drill into the details when necessary, and also gives you the ability to easily create, configure and export your data in the format you need.

Analytics should make your life easier – not more complex.

  1. How are upgrades handled?

The advantages of using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology are plenty, but to reap those benefits you have to be receiving upgrades regularly. Ideally, you want to be on a multi-tenant SaaS environment (if you want the real techy stuff, ask the head of your IT department – this person will know exactly what that means). But in short, this enables every customer in the environment to upgrade at the same time to the newest version.

Other environments stagger upgrades for customers, meaning that not everyone has access to the latest functionality and bug fixes (including features that ensure compliance) and worse, they fall behind on their upgrades. This begins to pose real problems due to fragmented support across various versions, some customers opting to skip upgrades and falling further behind and challenges maintaining the solution.

  1. What happens to custom fields during upgrades?

The custom fields you create and the data associated with those fields should remain intact when upgrades occur. You spend a lot of time and energy defining custom fields during implementation; there is no reason your solution administrator should have to go back in and do re-work every time an upgrade happens. This is a waste of time and you risk loss of data capture if those fields are not re-activated in a timely manner.