How To Answer The “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question

Five tips from the experts on how to answer a commonly-used and deceptively simple interview question.

Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com

Remember the “Bridge of Death” scene from Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail? King Arthur and his brave knights must answer three questions posed by the keeper of the bridge in order to pass safely. If they get them wrong, they’re cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.

Sir Galahad answers the first two questions with ease, but is tripped up by the simplicity of the third:

KEEPER: Stop! What is your name?

GALAHAD: Sir Galahad of Camelot.

KEEPER: What is your quest?

GALAHAD: I seek the Grail.

KEEPER: What is your favourite colour?

GALAHAD: Blue. No, yellow! — Auuuuuuuugh! [Galahad falls to his death].

‘Tell me about yourself’ is a question posed by nearly every interviewer, yet data from Google reveals it is a question that a vast amount of people struggle with: on average over 33,000 people in the UK search online each month for answers or guidance on answering the question.

With this in mind, sales recruitment agency, Aaron Wallis, has collated a series of hints and tips for getting the most out of the common interview question and performing to your best ability.

1. Be prepared

As ‘tell me about yourself’ is such a common interview question, there’s nothing silly about writing down your answer and saying it in front of the mirror, or practicing your answer with someone you know. Whilst it can be good to have a rehearsed answer, it’s also worth bearing in mind that you don’t want to sound like you’re reciting it from memory. Be prepared to appear confident but natural.

2. Structure your answer

The best answers to the question give a brief overview to you and your experience, without taking too much away from the later stages of the interview.

Begin by outlining your current or most recent role and describing the skills or attributes that you bring or brought to the position, ensuring these will be relevant to the job you’re going for.

Finish up by saying while you’ve enjoyed your work, you’re excited for the fresh challenge this new opportunity brings, and why.

3. Consider what you want to get across

A common pitfall is mentioning too much about yourself that may either cause you to waste time during your interview or lose the natural flow of the conversation. Chances are that your interviewer has already studied your CV, so does not need to be told about every job you’ve ever had, or what your exam results were – even if they were straight As.

4. Avoid the irrelevant or controversial

Similarly, although you might be a cycling fanatic, or a keen cook, this can be totally irrelevant at the start of the opening stage of the interview. In the majority of job interviews, avoid talk of family, pets and politics.

5. Get ready for the following questions

If you’ve introduced yourself well, your interviewer is going to be impressed and keen to delve deeper. He or she will want to explore your experience, strengths and weaknesses further, but will do so under the impression you’re a good fit for the role. Make sure you can back up your initial answer with examples or anecdotes.

So, if you said: “In my current role I have increased sales by broadening our customer base,” just make sure you’re ready to answer follow-up questions later in the interview like: “How much did you increase sales by?”, or “How many extra customers did you bring on board, and how did you find them?”

Often the simple questions can be the ones which are the most unnerving if you haven’t considered what you might say. Generally it can be a good idea to plan out the interview in your head from the very start to the very finish. It’s never a bad thing to be over-prepared!


For a more detailed guide on answering the “tell me about yourself” interview question, please visit: https://www.aaronwallis.co.uk/candidates/advice/answering-tell-me-about-yourself

Understanding The Shape And Cut Of Procurement Organisations

Elaine Porteous clears up some common misconceptions about the ways  procurement  organisations can be structured, and demystifies some of the jargon…

Sergiy Bykhunenko/ Shutterstock

 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 organizations move on and mature, over time, many of them become centre-led, taking some time to decentralise personnel and day-to-day operations.

Figure 1: The procurement journey

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 centralized sourcing.  Non-strategic categories not suited to centralized 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 organization.  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 organization 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.

Demystifying The 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant For Procure-to-Pay Suites

Gartner named Basware a Leader in the 2018 Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites for the third time – but it’s not as mysterious as it seems. Read on for a demystification of the Gartner Magic Quadrant evaluation process.

Everett Collection/ Shutterstock

It’s Not Magic – It’s Basware

I’m not sure why it’s called the Gartner Magic Quadrant but I’m sure that there’s no magic behind our recognition as a Leader. In my role as Senior Analyst Relations Manager, I have the unique opportunity to interface with nearly every aspect of our global business from research and development to product management to customer support to sales and marketing, and I can tell you our success boils down to 2 things – we’re 100 per cent obsessed with customer success and we work hard to deliver.

Why is Gartner so influential and how are purchase-to-pay vendors evaluated?

With over 15,000 employees and over $3 billion in annual revenue, Gartner is a massive research and advisory firm that has a strong reach in the purchase-to-pay market, particularly with CIOs. Its reports are widely read, and the Magic Quadrant is regarded as a useful tool in creating vendor shortlists. The report comes with a graphic that depicts the purchase-to-pay market using a two-dimensional matrix that evaluates vendors based on their ‘Completeness of Vision’ (horizontal axis) and ‘Ability to Execute’ (vertical axis).

‘Ability to Execute’ primarily focuses on the caliber of the vendor’s products and services, including core pieces of purchase-to-pay functionality such as e-procurement, catalog management, e-invoicing, and accounts payable invoice automation. Another key piece of execution is customer experience, which takes into account feedback gathered via online surveys, inquiries into Gartner, and calls between Gartner and purchase-to-pay customers.

‘Completeness of Vision’ is an appraisal of the vendor’s ability to map the direction of the market and outflank competitors, as well as innovate to meet customer needs. Vendors are evaluated around vertical/industry strategy and the speed with which they can bring innovation to their offering (e.g. robotic process automation, advanced analytics and machine learning).

Gartner’s evaluation of vendors is supported by inquiry calls, face-to-face meetings, survey tools, product demos, and briefings. We feel they are looking to understand how solution providers appeal to CPOs, CFOs, and CIOs and how the product meets the needs of those key stakeholders. Gartner first issues an online survey and then talks to two different customers verbally for each provider.

How are solutions evaluated?

Gartner uses surveys, customer interviews, and extensive solution demos, to evaluate the provider’s vision and their ability to execute on that vision by bringing innovation to life within the product.

Through our experience with the process, we believe that the following capabilities are being assessed:

  • Core procure-to-pay functionality from e-procurement through ok-to-pay
  • Global deployment suitability to maximize the value across the world
  • Platform capabilities like mobile features
  • AI & machine learning and smart technology applications
  • Integration to ERPs and other back-office systems
  • e-Invoicing sophistication and network reach
  • Customer support and implementation aspects
  • Packaged analytics
  • Supplier information management tools
  • Source-to-settle solution integrations
  • Personal consumable workstream support for configuring complex workflows
  • Requisition MRO workstream support to automate more processes
  • Contingent work force procurement to automate the requesting of labor
  • SOW services governance and procurement
  • Direct order support
  • Travel & expense capabilities to capture more enterprise spending
  • Supply chain finance to support cash flow management

What factors make Basware a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites?

Based on the information contained in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites, we believe our 30+ years of industry expertise, strategic vertical approach, market-leading products and obsession with customer success landed us in the Leaders’ quadrant for the third time.

Our number one goal as a company is customer success. We empower customers to simplify operations and spend smarter to reach competitive agility by getting 100 per cent spend visibility through on-boarding 100 per cent of suppliers, capturing 100 per cent of invoices and achieving 100 per cent user adoption of e-procurement.

So, I think it’s important to call out four areas that Gartner commented on in the report that best demonstrate our 100 per cent promise:

  • Global deployment suitability to connect, streamline and strengthen operations with ease for enterprises across the world, helping them collect 100 per cent of financial data from all locations
  • World-class products that enable organizations to capture 100 per cent of invoices and achieve 100 per cent user adoption of e-procurement to leverage the power of their financial data and create a competitive advantage
  • Ease of integration using standard APIs and tools so companies can easily connect the solutions they already have for more visibility and value
  • An extensive global e-invoicing network that connects small and large businesses world-wide to on-board 100 per cent of suppliers.

Read more here 

Gartner Inc., Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites, Desere Edwards, William McNeill, Magnus Bergfors, Patrick M Connaughton, Kaitlynn N. Sommers, May 29, 2018.

One Year On: Has Grenfell Changed Procurement?

How can procurement professionals learn from the tragic events at Grenfell tower in June 2017? 

Sasa Wick / Shutterstock.com

It’s just over a year on from the Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people and marked the UK’s worst residential fire since World War Two.

With the Grenfell Tower Inquiry ongoing; there are still so many unanswered questions regarding the circumstances of the fire. And for those directly impacted by the events, the trauma experienced is still very present.

As several victims and commentators have pointed out; those who lost their lives should not be allowed to die in vain. There are opportunities to learn, to improve policies and to ensure that the mistakes that were made will never be made again. Procurement should be at the forefront of these changes.

Last month, Claire Curtis-Thomas, British Board of Agrément chief executive, spoke at a select committee hearing on Dame Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations. She labelled the procurement process a “fundamental problem” that has led companies to become “complicit in poor outcomes”.

Has Grenfell changed procurement?

Alan Heron, director of procurement at Places for People (PfP), is one who believes the landscape has now changed for procurement. “It took something as horrible as Grenfell for people to realise there’s a consequence to looking for the lowest price,” he asserts. “It’s refocused everyone away from ticket price and back to value, which is where it should have been all along.”

A recent report conducted by Fusion21 investigates how procurement professionals working in the housing sector are reacting and adapting to the tragedy.

Throughout April and May 2018  Fusion21 surveyed 80 procurement professionals working for organisations that
collectively own more than a million homes.

The results suggest that social landlords are placing a much greater emphasis on quality when making procurement decisions following the fire.

  • 50 per cent of respondents said the Grenfell Tower fire has meant their organisation now places greater emphasis on quality when making procurement decisions. Among those who said Grenfell had not affected their organisation’s approach, were many who stated that quality was already vital
  • These professionals stated that there is now a greater focus on quality especially in relation to fire safety, and ensuring contractors had completely up-to-date information
  •  75 per cent of procurement professionals described compliance as “extremely important” when achieving value for money

Sarah Rothwell, Head of Member Engagement at Fusion21 explained “we conducted our Procurement Trends research in order to find out what was most important to procurement professionals after a hugely challenging couple of years for everyone in the housing sector.

“It will surprise no-one that, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the work of procurement teams around compliance hasbeen the focus of renewed scrutiny. The research findings [confirm this].”
Concerningly, 55 per cent of respondents admitted to feeling  some pressure to procure at the lowest price and one respondent, wished Grenfell had altered the emphasis their organisation placed on quality.
In other procurement news this week…

EU warns the US and China against a trade war

  • US president Donald Trump, Russian president Vladimir Putin and China have been urged to work with Europe to avoid trade wars and prevent “conflict and chaos”
  • Last week, European Council president, Donald Tusk, lambasted the US president’s constant criticism of European allies and urged him to remember who his friends are when he meets Mr Putin
  • He said that Europe, China, the US and Russia had a “common duty” not to destroy the global order but to improve it by reforming international trade rules

Read more on The Independent

Could automation increase modern slavery?

  • In its annual Human Rights Outlook, Verisk Maplecroft warned “drastic” job losses caused by robot manufacturing were predicted to cause “a spike in slavery and labour abuses” over the next 20 years
  • It said more than half of jobs across the ASEAN-5 countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand could be lost to automation, which could push already at-risk supply chain workers into forced labour
  • Women are likely to be disproportionately affected because of their high representation in the garment, textile and footwear industry, an area that is particularly at risk of automation, the report said

Read more on Supply Management 

Brexit puts food supply chains at risk

  • Perishable goods are particularly at risk when supply chains are delayed, and U.K. and EU food producers are on edge as the clock ticks down toward March 29, 2019
  • Earlier this year, food suppliers and manufacturers signed onto a manifesto advocating for frictionless trade and innovation-focused regulation
  • If, post-Brexit, enhanced border controls and regulatory checks are implemented between  nations, delays and even failed deliveries could result
  • With negotiations in flux, many U.K. and EU businesses have taken matters into their own hands. Several European companies are planning to relocate parts of their supply chain out of the U.K. About one-third of U.K. businesses with EU suppliers plan to replace them with British vendors

Read more on Supply Chain Dive

4 Ways To Reduce Maverick Spend

The Hackett Group estimates that maverick spending can cost companies up to 2 per cent of all indirect spending, due to lost savings opportunities and inefficiencies. That amounts to millions of dollars wasted every year.

Dean Drobot/ Shutterstock

Maverick spending, also known more formally as unmanaged spending, is a big problem for most companies. Maverick spending is when employees “buck the system” by going outside of contracts negotiated with preferred suppliers to purchase goods and services on their own, normally paying much higher rates. It occurs most often in areas of indirect spending, which includes large, diverse categories like MRO (maintenance, repairs, and operation), office supplies, professional services, and contract labor, to name a few. This diversity makes maverick spending behavior hard to spot and control. It’s not hard to spot the damage to the bottom line, though.

The ironic thing is that most negotiated supplier contracts are in place for the express purpose of governing tricky indirect spending categories. Yet studies have shown that a large percentage of indirect spending is still non-compliant.

What gives? Why do some employees still go off contract? Here are three eye-opening reasons:

  • Because they can – If there are no controls in place to enforce supplier contracts and negotiated rates, and no penalties for purchasing off-contract, it’s easier for employees to justify bypassing agreements when it suits them.
  • Because they don’t know any better – Especially in large companies, poor visibility is often blamed for maverick spending. If everyone in the buying chain is not aware of the contracts, or worse yet, contracts and catalogs are out-of-date, off-contract spending becomes more likely.
  • Because existing processes take too long – Slow ordering and approval processes are one of the leading causes of maverick spending. If approving a purchase and placing an order takes weeks, employees are going to go right around that process, especially in the case of time sensitive needs.

So how do you stop it? Put plain and simple, maverick spending will not stop until an organization does something about it. There’s a saying that goes, “Make the right way easy, and the wrong way hard.”

Here’s how to reduce maverick spending, so you can get better compliance, and realize some savings from your supplier contracts:

1.Put a system in place for better control

If you haven’t thought about this already, you should strongly consider implementing a purchasing system that automates all of your purchasing, regardless of commodity, approval process, or supplier. Purchasing systems make your entire purchasing process more efficient by governing requisition, approvals, buying, receipt, reconciliation, and reporting. They also serve as a “corral” for maverick spenders, by running all spend through a single platform, and providing only one way to do all purchasing.

2. Provide an intuitive and easy user interface

When putting a system in place, look for a best-in-class solution, known for being easy to use, and place where users can actually find goods or services they most commonly need. Usability and an intuitive shopping experience like consumer e-commerce sites will provide an inviting atmosphere that attracts off-contract purchasers back into the fold.

3. Simplify workflow procedures

World-class purchasing systems can streamline even the most complicated workflow procedures, making it much easier for employees to comply. Cumbersome purchasing processes that used to take weeks can be reduced to days or even hours. Even in cases where complicated ERP or accounting systems are gumming up the works, integration with cloud-based solutions are available to reduce traditional time, cost and resource hurdles and help simplify workflow for employees.

4. Take it seriously

It’s hard to believe, but maverick spenders still sometimes dodge even the easiest and most intuitive systems. The good news is, the spend analytics available in purchase-to-pay systems can tell you exactly where that rogue spend is coming from. Once it’s identified, it becomes much easier for management to enforce spending policies in those areas.

Not 100% Your Type? Look again…

60 per cent of businesses rule out recruiting someone if they have no industry-specific experience. If you think a potential procurement hire is not your type on paper… you need to think again! 

The wrong number

When Procurious first approached The Drive Project about taking part in their webinar on procurement unicorns, I thought they’d got the wrong number. “Unicorns? Sorry, not us… maybe check next door?” I suggested.

But they persevered. Raising the issue of restrictive hiring criteria, Procurious Founder Tania Seary explained about the “perfect” procurement candidate that businesses seem to be searching for, these mythical creatures who have all the right grades, qualifications, skills and experience. Candidates who are, on paper, 100 per cent perfect. But that employers were struggling to fill their teams with them as they were no-where to be found! “This narrow approach to recruitment just doesn’t work,” said Tania, “employers run the risk of missing out on extraordinary talents.”

Well, this was music to my ears.

Meeting Swifty

Darren Swift, Inspirational speaker with Alice Driver, Founder of The Drive Project

I first met Darren Swift (Swifty) back in 2011 whilst working at the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust as a Creative Producer. Driven by the belief that theatre can empower the individual, I developed a theatre recovery programme (‘Bravo 22 Company’) for wounded, injured and sick service personnel that was designed to not only improve the confidence, self-esteem and motivation of those on their recovery pathway, but to give them a platform to use their voice. Their debut performance ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie F,’ opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in January 2012 earning 5-star reviews, the Amnesty Award for Freedom of Expression, patron support from Ray Winstone, partnership with the Ministry of Defence and a documentary called ‘Theatre of War’ was created about it for BBC1’s Imagine series. Most importantly, it helped to change the lives of the soldiers taking part, taking them from their “dark place” to restoring their pride, confidence and motivation. One of these soldiers was Swifty.

Whilst serving in the Army in 1991, Swifty was seriously injured by a bomb. He lost both his legs, a number of his fingers and damaged his arms along with various other injuries. An intense 18 months of recovery at Woolwich Hospital and DMRC Headley Court followed whilst Swifty slowly came to terms with what had happened and began to look forward. In the years that followed he adopted the mentality to keep his ‘chin up,’ never let his new disability hold him back and completed more challenges than you and I put together( I expect)! He cycled solo across Iceland, took a gold medal in the British skydiving championships and was the world’s first double above the knee amputee snowboarder. He says of his recovery journey: “After years of being told no, I learned to ask ‘why not?’”

Seven years on and Swifty continues to live by this motto, championing individuality, pushing the boundaries of life as a double amputee and creating his own path. So when a unique opportunity to challenge the negative perceptions of veterans came our way last year, we knew Swifty would be a perfect fit. 

A waste of talent

In March of last year, Deloitte UK, the Officers’ Association and Business in the Community approached The Drive Project about their research report Veterans Work which details some of the challenges faced by U.K veterans entering employment. Findings included:

  • 3 in 10 businesses admit they have not even considered employing veterans.
  • While the majority claim to be more open minded, 60% of businesses rule out recruiting someone if they have no industry specific experience.
  • There are roughly 700,000 veterans currently in employment, over half find themselves in routine, low-skilled or low-paid jobs.

It is an alarming waste of talent.

Darren Swift, ambassador for Veterans Work

On the roof with Joanna Lumley

We were asked to bring the Veterans Work report to life using the arts. In doing so, our goal was to ensure that employers across the U.K became aware of the commercial benefits veterans can bring to their businesses whilst enabling veterans to fulfill their employment potential. This important message needed to be accessible to all employers regardless of size or industry.

Well, this was going to be no easy feat but in the words of Swifty… why not!

Recognising the importance of easily digestible content, together with award-winning filmmaker Jacob Perlmutter, we produced a series of short films so that these key messages would be communicated clearly and with impact:

4 months, 3 film scripts, 9 veterans (Swifty included!), 4 CEOs, 13 celebrities, 42 crew members and a lot of coffee later, we found ourselves on the rooftop of the BT Centre in London giggling with Joanna Lumley about the ‘hot talent’ starring in the films! It was surreal… but totally amazing.

Open your mind to diversity and difference!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing a common misconception about a group of people. Or to overlook a particular skill or quality that you don’t feel is totally relevant to the role you’re hiring for. But these veterans, like Swifty, despite not having particular university degrees or perhaps the right experience in a corporate environment, are unrivalled when it comes to real life skills in high-pressure environments. They are tenacious in their drive to success, unflappable in stressful situations, cool, calm and collected leaders… I could go on.

So next time you feel that perhaps someone doesn’t quite fit the mould of the position you’re recruiting for, I would encourage you to take a closer look. They could just be your perfect candidate.

Darren Swift at a Veterans Work event

Swifty  features in our upcoming #ProcurewithPurpose webinar Don’t Go Chasing Unicorns. Sign up to hear more of his incredible story and learn how to build truly diverse procurement teams. 

 If you would like to book Swifty as an inspirational speaker, please contact [email protected]

To watch the Veterans Work films and to find out more about hiring a veteran, please visit: www.VeteransWork.org.uk

Bravo 22 Company’s production of ‘Unspoken’ is touring the U.K (Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool & London) from August this year – to find out more and buy tickets, please visit: www.UnspokenPlay.com

I Have Measured Out My Digital Transformation In Coffee Spoons…

Eager to lead your procurement team through a digital transformation?  We’ve got some advice from someone who knows the score… Grab a coffee and let illycaffè’s Procurement director talk you through the process… 

nazar_photo/ Shutterstock

Digital Transformation.

We assume that everyone is at it behind closed doors.

But how are they doing it? What’s the process? Are they doing a better job than us? Or is everyone simply floundering in the dark? Sometimes, you need the inside scoop from someone who knows the score!

Last month, at Jaggaer’s REVInternational 2018 event in Munich, Diego Pedroli, Procurement and Logistics Director – illycaffè gave us an overview of the organisation’s ongoing digital transformation and how he made it happen.

“What I’ve learnt over these two days” he began, “is that we are actually at the beginning of our [digital transformation] journey, and it’s one that will never end.  But at least we’ve started.”

illycaffè: A Brief History

illycaffè remains a family owned company with 1000+ employees,  100,000+ clients and B2B business in 140 countries.

Founded in Trieste, Italy, illycaffè prides itself on a century of innovation from launching the first high pressure espresso machine in 1935 to introducing the first single portion coffee pod in 1974.

Diego’s mission, as he sees it, is to uphold procurement excellence: continually advancing the procurement processes and supplier cycle management and managing the execution of the multi-year procurement programs.

The organisation’s digital transformation began back in December 2013 and has been evolving ever since.

Digital Transformation: The Beginning

Diego’s ultimate aim with leading illycaffè through this transformation was to streamline their processes organisation-wide, thus transitioning the procurement team from saving-hunters to value-hunters. “We wanted to try to digitalise the processes to add value and bring time for employees to actually look after the business.”

“At first it was all about developing and defining guidelines and procedures, changing the mindset of our people and the people working closely to us. We wanted to give procurement the responsibility to do procurement, not shopping!”

Between 2016 and 2017 Diego worked with illycaffè’s CEO and the board to approve the introduction of an SRM platform. After going through the bidding process and selecting Jaggaer they immediately kick-started the implementation.

Digital Transformation: The End Game

The hardest part of embarking on a digital transformation is often convincing key stakeholders, namely the CEO or CFO, of its necessity and potential value-add. Having a strong case to present and key objectives  is crucial. As Diego explained, “we were able to convince our CEO to implement the SRM system because of these factors:”

  1. Governance and Compliance
  • Allows for traceability of processes
  • Gives procurement professionals complete management of all suppliers, which greatly limits risk
  • Makes it easier to monitor suppliers and improve performance

2. Method

  • Implementation of a culture of shared method
  • Standardisation of procedures makes the business more streamlined
  • Increases the speed of response to internal and external stakeholders
  • Allows for continuous improvement, partly through sharing best practices

3. Transparency

  • Gives procurement greater accessibility and makes information easier to interpret
  • Having data in one place makes it simpler for everyone in the business to work and guarantees ethical practices and ethical processes

4. Economic Return

  • There are obvious economic benefits due to the workflow automation
  • Allows for a reduction of TCO in different purchasing categories

Diego’s parting words of advice? When it comes to digital transformation, “it is not enough to have the sponsorship of your CEO. And it is not enough to have a good tech partner. It’s important to have each and every person in your team on board.”

Learn more about Jaggaer and  REVInternational 2018 

Making the Case for ‘Libertarian’ Procurement

Can we start taking an approach to spend management and compliance that nods to the free will of buyers?  Kelly Barner discusses Libertarian procurement. 

Public sector procurement has always gotten a unique kind of attention. Not only is it the sector of our field most likely to get general media coverage, when it does, it is almost always spectacularly bad news. Trying to regulate procurement may be well-intentioned, but things have a way of going awry when buyer free will is denied.

Here’s a perfect example:

In 2013, the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission awarded a $5 Million contract for advertising services. They required that a portion of the work be sub-contracted out to a minority or woman-owned supplier. All proposals were evaluated on cost and presentation as well as the diversity requirement.

The contract was awarded to a firm that did not earn the highest score for cost or presentation but did commit to sub-contract $12,000 (0.24%) of the work to a woman-owned supplier. As a result, another firm involved in the bid, sued the lottery commission. Not only had they earned the highest score for cost and presentation, they were a certified woman-owned business. Had they been awarded the contract, 100% of the $5 Million would have been awarded to a diversity supplier and the state would have gotten better results for less money. They did not receive the award because they did not submit a plan to subcontract the work, believing their own status covered the intent (if not the letter) of the requirement.

Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

Public sector procurement may take the majority of the heat, but private sector procurement is just as guilty of using rules rather than sound judgement to drive desired results. Onerous governance and harsh mandates can have the opposite effect of what we intend with ‘strategic’ processes such as sourcing and supplier performance management.

Technology and consumer expectations have advanced to the point where we can consider the possibilities of ‘Libertarian’ procurement, an approach to spend management and compliance that nods to the free will of buyers whenever possible, even if it means giving up some of the ‘control’ traditionally associated with spend management. Libertarian procurement might include:

  • Allowing distributed buyers with strategic experience and category expertise to run their own sourcing projects.
  • Evaluating the suitability of a full sourcing project on a case by case basis (I.e. sometimes when a buyer requests to contract with a specific supplier, they have already done their homework and procurement should just support them).
  • Balancing supplier performance metrics with qualitative approaches to recognizing their total value contribution.

Sometimes internal colleagues want to work around procurement’s processes because they find them too slow or frustrating and just plan to push on principle. Other times, they really know what the right path forward is and can’t get started a minute too soon. The challenge is for procurement to tell the difference between the two. Understanding the motivations of stakeholders who want to exercise their free will is what separates spending mischief from spending vision. Procurement should be willing to take a chance when the conditions seem right, allowing vision to thrive even if the occasional mischief slips through.

Combining responsible spending principles with an increased level of trust for internal buyers will create challenges for procurement teams, but it will also create new opportunities and increased ownership on the part of internal stakeholders. Not being open to such change may actually be a risky move for procurement. After all, the more rigid and codified our role is, the more likely we are to be the target of automation initiatives. Any procurement team with their own healthy dose of free will should want to prevent that.

Is Australia’s Proposed Modern Slavery Bill Well Below Par?

Australia’s new modern slavery bill is a welcome development in the fight to end slavery worldwide. But is the proposed legislation up to standard? 

In April 2016 the UK passed  new legislation, the first of its kind, making it compulsory for all businesses with a turnover of over £36 million to prove they have taken steps to remove slave and child labour from their supply chains.

Legislation like this, which also exists in France the Netherlands and the US,  forces big organisations to fully audit their supply chains and has consequently put pressure on smaller businesses to eradicate the practice too.

This week, Australia announced it would be following suit, proposing a Modern Slavery Bill, which uses the UK’s act as a model.

The bill, introduced by Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Alex Hawke, “seeks to stamp out the sale of any product in Australia that involves non-voluntary labor” and will require Australia’s organisations with an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100m (around 3000 businesses) to publish annual statements on the efforts they are making  to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains. These statements will have to be signed off at board level and published within six months of the publication of their annual reports.”

The Department of Home Affairs will also start publishing an annual statement on possible modern slavery risks in commonwealth procurement.

The proposed bill follows the Federal Government’s announcement in May that $3.6 million would be provided to the Department of Home Affairs for a new Anti-Slavery Business Engagement Unit to manage Modern Slavery Reporting Requirements by large businesses.

Part of this task will be overseeing a publicly accessible central repository of businesses’ Modern Slavery Statements, as well as providing support and advice to businesses on modern slavery risks.

The announcement was well received by anti-slavery charity walk Free Foundation. “The Australian Government’s commitment to support an Australian Modern Slavery Act with a new, well-funded unit is clear progress towards the Act’s effective implementation” said Jenn Morris,  Chief Executive.

Is the proposed modern slavery bill up to scratch?

Australia’s proposed Modern Slavery Bill has sparked some controversy amongst charities and human rights campaigners for a number of reasons.

  1. The bill proposes that only businesses with a revenue of over $100m must audit their supply chains. The Law Council has argued that the revenue threshold should be much lower – no higher than $60m to demand compliance from more organisations
  2. The bill doesn’t demand that there will be a public list of who must report. Without this information, if companies fail to act, this fact will remain hidden
  3. The bill does not propose any penalties for organisations that fail to report their findings or report incorrect or misleading information on the steps they have taken to combat modern slavery. Clare O’Neil, the shadow minister for justice said “we shouldn’t be leaving it to business to police themselves on slavery”
  4. The government have not established an anti-slavery commissioner to enforce the legislation nor vowed to provide access to a national redress scheme for victims of modern slavery

Keren Adams, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said “It’s absolutely the right step for the government to be introducing legislation to help flush out abuse, but today’s bill is missing some vital ingredients that would make it effective in doing so.”

Modern slavery: know the signs

Procurement and supply chain professionals are uniquely positioned to identify and tackle modern slavery in their supply chains. But you need to know the signs…

Firstly, it’s important to understand and look for the red flags, which might be extremely subtle. The likelihood of modern slavery is increased in conflict zones and unregulated sectors, particularly if the jobs are low-income and do not require education or specific skills. Migrant workers, women and children are among the most vulnerable.

Circumstances when passports or identification documents have been removed, excessive recruitment fees are subjected upon migrant workers or subcontractors further outsource work without prior consent are all indicators of exploitation.

Encountering one of these situations may not in and of itself amount to modern slavery but your organisation mustn’t assess anything  in isolation. It’s important to look for the series of signals in order to  decipher whether they paint a clear picture of modern slavery.

“Procurement teams are on the frontline,” Fiona David, former Executive Director Global Research  – Walk Free Foundation asserts. “They manage supplier relationships, they understand the business, the risks and the regions in which they operate. The indicators of modern slavery, being a grievous crime, is actually quite easy to identify, when you know what you are looking for.”

But advocacy groups and investigative reporters mustn’t be the sole figures doing the digging to reveal incidents of modern slavery.

“CSR and Procurement teams should work together across the sectors on these issues, as addressing modern slavery is a “pre-competitive” issue.  Companies can’t compete on sub-standard ethical and criminal practices.”

Have a listen to our recent webinar on modern slavery, Procurement Unchained. 


Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) warns of mega Brexit costs 

  • JLR has become the latest firm to warn of the costs of losing frictionless trade between the UK and EU.
  • JLR said more than 40% of parts going into cars built in the UK were imported from Europe and it spent £5.37bn with EU suppliers in 2017-18.
  • “A bad Brexit deal would cost Jaguar Land Rover more than £1.2bn profit each year. As a result, we would have to drastically adjust our spending profile; we have spent around £50bn in the UK in the past five years – with plans for a further £80bn more in the next five. This would be in jeopardy should we be faced with the wrong outcome” said Ralf Speth, CEO of JLR.

Read more on Supply Management  

Donald Trump imposes first tariffs on China

  • Punishing American tariffs on Chinese imports took effect early on Friday, marking the start of President Donald Trump’s trade war with the largest US trading partner and intensifying the anxieties of global industry.
  • The arrival of the long-threatened tariffs marked the failure of months of dialogue between the world’s two largest economies
  • An industrial survey confirmed that companies were white-knuckling their way through Trump’s intensifying, multi-front trade assault.

Read more on the Telegraph

Grenfell: Inspectors label procurement a ‘fundamental problem’

  • A leading industry certification and inspection body has labelled the procurement process a “fundamental problem” that has led companies to become “complicit in poor outcomes”.
  • Speaking yesterday at a select committee hearing on Dame Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations, British Board of Agrément chief executive Claire Curtis-Thomas said the procurement process for main contractors represented a “real problem”.
  • In Dame Hackitt’s post-Grenfell review of Building Regulations, it was suggested the industry should take the lead and decide for itself how to improve building quality and standards.

Read more on Procurious 

Disabled Does Not Mean Disqualified: Challenge Your Perceptions of Ability

How can procurement professionals make disability work in the workplace? 

This blog was written by Julie Gerdeman, General Manager, SAP Ariba. 


One of the greatest joys of my work at SAP Ariba is the opportunity to wear more than one hat; not only heading up our payments business but also serving as the executive sponsor of our diversity and inclusion efforts. At the core of our D&I strategy is an aspiration to build an inclusive culture around the customer, innovation, and employee experience to enable us to become the most diverse company in the cloud.

Recently, I had the honor of hosting SAP Ariba’s popular Diversity and Inclusion luncheon at Ariba Live Amsterdam. This year’s theme, Rising Above the Impossible, focused on the importance of disability inclusion and leveraging accessible technology for better business outcomes because SAP Ariba recognizes them as important to the future of the workplace. For the event we assembled disability inclusion experts from different parts of the globe, and I had the great pleasure to get to know a group of phenomenal and courageous women, including our keynote speaker Nicky Abdinor (Nicky’s Drive) and panelists Lesa Bradshaw (Bradshaw LeRoux), Tania Seary (Procurious), Susan Scott-Parker (BDI), and Stefanie Nennstiel (SAP). I’d like to share with you three nuggets of wisdom from my discussion with them that has left a lasting impression:

1. “If You’ve Got the Drive, the Destination Is Up to You.”

I will never forget Nicky Abdinor, a clinical psychologist, who touched our hearts and minds as she challenged all perceptions around ability with her core message to focus on what you can do versus what’s you can’t. She graciously shared her personal story of overcoming her disability by focusing on her ability to create sustainable change in her attitude, beliefs, and emotions to achieve the possible. She shared her mantra with the audience: “If you’ve got the drive, the destination is up to you.” I thought this was a great takeaway we can all relate to and apply in our lives because no matter if the disability is visible or invisible, we all have the power within us to choose to achieve the possible.

2. “Make Disability Work in the Workplace”

The talent pipeline and impact on the future of procurement is top-of-mind for our Procurement professionals. I see now more than ever that a diverse workforce is imperative for a business to survive in the digital era and is a topic that all our audiences want to discuss.

Our panelists were candid and offered some practical advice for all to use when they returned to their businesses, particularly around “making disability work in the workplace.” Companies must commit to building an inclusive culture that allows all employees, not just the perceived majority, to thrive at work. This begins with recruiting and retaining diverse talent.

At SAP Ariba, we are building our strong foundation by empowering employees to uncover their unconscious biases, which we all carry as human beings, and learning to eliminate bias from decision-making for better outcomes with our Business Beyond Bias training program. In addition, the panelists encouraged the audience to ensure their companies develop a disability and inclusion strategy to empower managers to make intentional decisions around reasonable accommodations that allow everyone the same opportunity to perform their job responsibilities. For example, SAP Ariba has made the intentional decision to participate in the Autism at Work Program because we value neurodiversity and are seeking a specific set of skills to enhance our workforce to widen our perspective on the business. Our disability and inclusion strategy enables our managers to go beyond traditional sources of talent, and this has made a positive impact in our overall employee morale.

From experience, we know that innovations often originate from unlikely sources.

3. Accessible Technology Can Make a Real Difference

Another critical component that enhances the success of disability and inclusion efforts is accessible technologies. The benefits extend from the home to the workplace, as accessible technologies transform the way people with disabilities contribute and thrive. They serve as a tremendous equalizer leading to retention, development and advancement. At SAP Ariba, we are deeply committed to ensuring that accessible technologies are integrated into our business.  We are amplifying this approach by promoting the importance of accessible technologies among buyers and suppliers and buyers on the Ariba Network.

The Important Role of Procurement

Procurement leaders play an important role in bringing visibility to the value of a supplier diversity strategy that can increase competitive advantage through an inclusive supply chain, offering opportunities to underrepresented suppliers. By now, we are all familiar with the research that shows companies that embrace diversity are more profitable. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading The 2018 Delivery Through Diversity Report by McKinsey for the latest data and insights.

As I reflect on my wonderful experience learning from our knowledgeable disability and inclusion experts, I feel hopeful and encouraged with the opportunities available to procurement professionals to make a positive contribution toward building an inclusive workforce and a diverse supply chain. Ultimately, as we embrace business with a purpose, the ability to contribute toward the greater good of society fuels my passion for leading and implementing diversity and inclusion within procurement.

Julie Gerdeman is GM and Global Head of Payments & Financing at SAP Ariba.