Going To Market(place): The Future of Procurement

Are marketplaces the future of procurement? What are the pros and cons? We discuss in new Procurious webinar. 

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, B2B e-marketplaces were hyped up as the next big thing. For a while it seemed these were going to transform the lives of supply chain and procurement professionals forever. But they never quite took off perhaps because they were too far ahead of the technology and change-management requirements of the time. Indeed, most of the public and consortia marketplaces failed and of the 1,300 that were launched, fewer than 50 exist today.

Fast forward 20 years and, as consumers, we’re all enjoying, and heavily relying upon, the benefits of consumer companies with marketplace models such as Uber, Airbnb and Amazon.com. And whilst the B2B marketplace model might not be expanding with such speed, it is being applied to more diverse industries and with more success than previous models.

If you’re struggling to get a hold on your organisation’s maverick spending, concerned about disruption and risk mitigation within your supply chain or in serious need of a larger supplier pool, a marketplace might just be the answer to your prayers!

In our latest webinar, sponsored by Amazon Business, we explore the evolution of procurement marketplaces and their prevelance in organisations today, the pros and cons of using a marketplace and what the future holds for procurement if this trend continues.

Who is speaking on the webinar?

Molly Dobson, Head of Amazon Business Accounts – Amazon Business 

Molly Dobson is the Head of Enterprise Customer Success for Amazon Business UK. Prior to her role with Amazon Business, she was Head of Buying for European Business, Industrial, and Scientific Supplies and Category Leader for Amazon’s Luggage and Travel business. Molly has her MBA from London Business School and has also worked for Marks & Spencer, Coca-Cola, and Gap Inc.

Mary Hetherington, Director of UK Group Procurement – AXA

Mary Hetherington is the Group Procurement Director for AXA UK.  Mary has worked in the Insurance Industry for over 30 years managing a combination of Finance and Procurement functions. She has led several large multi-company third party programmes focusing on outsourcing, divestment and acquisition activity and GDPR. As part of a broader initiative to bring more agility to Procurement processes, Mary is currently focused on the Implementation of Coupa and an effective purchase to pay strategy.

What will be discussed in the webinar?

  • How can marketplaces help CPOs and their teams control maverick spend?
  • Are B2B marketplaces the future of procurement?
  • How can procurement teams incorporate marketplaces into their business strategy?
  • Why are some procurement professionals reluctant to adopt marketplaces?
  • The evolution of marketplaces and their prevalence in society today

How do I register for the webinar?

Registering for Going to Market (place): The Future of Procurement 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 takes place on 13th November at 11am GMT. Sign up or log in here and we’ll be in touch ahead of the event to provide details on how to join the webinar live.

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 during the webinar?

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.

Going to Market (Place) : The Future of Procurement goes live on 13th November. Sign up now. 

ALL the video content from #BigIdeas2018 Sydney!

Strap yourselves in – we have HOURS of fantastic video content from the Sydney Big Ideas Summit to share!

Missed out on the action at #BigIdeas2018 Sydney? Never fear: you can still catch videos, top speaker quotes and more right here on Procurious. Simply opt in to the Digital Delegate group here.

Here’s a taste of the video content captured on the day.

Live from the sidelines:

Interview with Influence Nation CEO Julie Masters:

Interview with innovation and disruption guru, Gus Balbontin:

Speaker keynotes

David Gillespie, author of Taming Toxic People:

SAP Ariba Regional VP, Henrik Smedberg

There are plenty more videos in the Digital Delegate group – be sure to check it out.

Procurement 2030: Would You Report To A Robot?

Can leadership be automated? Will AI soon take over procurement negotiations, communications and problem-solving? Once thing is for certain – no skill-set will remain uniquely human forever.

Click image to get your copy of Procurement 2030: Level 3.

What is your human advantage?

With 42% of the average workload in procurement expected to be automated by 2030, now is the time to take stock of our skill-sets and focus on what makes us uniquely human.

Today, the automation of core procurement skills such as data analysis and market research is well underway. Lines are being drawn between those skills that AI has already mastered, those that will be automated in the future, and – critically – the areas where humans still have the advantage over machines … and that’s where soft skills come in.

However, categorising procurement skill-sets into 1) core skills for AI and, 2) soft skills for humans oversimplifies the issue. It ignores the fact that the creeping wave of automation increasingly includes soft skills such as communication and problem-solving. 

Robotic leadership?

Avoid the trap of thinking there are particular skills that AI will never be able to replicate. Surprising results in this research, for example, reveal that very “human” skills such as negotiation and even leadership are seen as likely to be automated. Robots are currently being trained to read and respond to the subtlest of human facial expressions.

With this in mind, our research identifies core procurement and soft skills where – for the foreseeable future – humans hold a unique advantage. The ability to influence others, build relationships and think creatively have emerged as stand-out skills that will enable us to future-proof our careers on the cusp of the robotic age.

Let’s recap.

Level One of this four-part series by Procurious and Michael Page UK examined the forecast for procurement and the threats and opportunities facing the profession. Level Two shifted the focus to the practicalities of procurement and supply chain management’s evolution against the backdrop of a technological revolution.

This report, Level Three, dives into the core procurement and soft skill-sets to understand exactly which parts of our roles are expected to be automated, and offers advice on the skills that top CPOs will be hiring for by the year 2030. 

AI and Core Procurement Skills

Determining customer needs, developing supply strategy and delivering stakeholder value are not only considered to be the most important core procurement skills, but also the least likely to be automated.

Procurement professionals who wish to develop their skills in determining customer needs (both internal and external) should work to improve their ability to build relationships, listen carefully, challenge assumptions, and always look for opportunities to connect the dots, help others and add value.

AI and Soft Skills in Procurement

Among the top four soft skills nominated as most likely to be effectively automated, problem-solving, leadership and negotiation have emerged as unexpected results. Robotic problem-solving is an entirely different concept to human creativity and innovation. AI has the superior ability to search and analyse data – for example, the answer to an engineering challenge may already exist in your files, but has been forgotten by human staff. Given the right search parameters,AI can identify the solution.

Would you feel comfortable reporting to a machine? Robotic leadership is a fascinating concept. Robots may very well have the ability to check your work and track your KPIs, but are not yet capable of motivating or inspiring others, or picking up on the human nuances that are a part of powerful decision making.

Negotiating robots already exist, and may soon be considered very useful for conducting low-level, emotionless negotiations that involve no ambiguity or complexity. For strategically important negotiations, however, human skills such as awareness, empathy and flexibility will always have the advantage.


Interested In Learning More?

This content-packed report also contains links to relevant thought-leadership from Procurious and Michael Page UK, including videos, blog articles, podcasts and webinars.

And don’t forget … part 4 of the Procurement 2030 report will be released before the end of the year!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PROCUREMENT 2030: LEVELS 1 to 3.

Four Ways To Cultivate Real Confidence And Supercharge Your Career

Often we think of confidence as something that the lucky few are born with and the rest are left wishing for. This simply is not true…

Aaron Amat/ Shutterstock

Think of someone who you say is confident – your boss, a colleague or a celebrity, perhaps. Chances are you’d describe them as poised, hopeful and positive. They know their strengths and they know their weaknesses, too.

Often we think of confidence as something that the lucky few are born with and the rest are left wishing for. This simply is not true. Confidence is not a personality trait or a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take. Confidence is learnable.

It also isn’t based on our actual ability to succeed at a task but on our belief in our ability to succeed. It is the expectation of a positive outcome – regardless of whether this relates to our belief in our ability to speak in front of a large audience, to learn new technology, to lead a team, to handle confrontation, to change jobs and careers, or to start a business.

With consistent effort, and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence and, with it, our capacity to build more of it. Here’s how to do that in four ways.

  1. Show up as the real you

Having the ability to show up with real confidence means you know yourself, you can be yourself and you show up as the best version of yourself. This is more than getting out of bed, splashing some water on your face and fronting up at your desk hoping you can cope with what the day throws at you.

You believe you can draw on what you are great at. You believe what you’re good at is important, and that it’s aligned with how you are working. You believe that you are valuable and valued.

Showing up as truly confident over a sustained period of time is something that needs to be built from the inside out. ‘Faking it until you make it’ only gets you so far and for so long. Trying to pretend you have the confidence needed to get the job done can be exhausting.

2. Stand up for yourself

At work, especially if you’re looking to get into a leadership position, you need to speak up when no-one else will. You need to be visible, make unpopular decisions and go slow in order to go fast. You must stand alone in a crowd and have the confidence to believe in yourself. You don’t need to be the Dalai Lama, but you do need to stand up for what you deem right, fair and important.

When it comes to building your confidence in standing strong, ask yourself:

  • What do you VALUE? To speak out, you have to know what to speak about. To stand up for your beliefs, you have to know what you stand for.
  • What is your PURPOSE? Steve Jobs once said, ‘Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.’ That’s a clear sense of purpose. He was clear about what he stood for and why, and you need to be too.
  • How RESILIENT are you? Inevitably, when we stand up, we are putting ourselves at risk of rejection. Building your capacity to get back up again is important in maintaining your confidence during adversity and setbacks.

3. Speak up and have a voice

A sure way to fail in today’s demanding business environment is to keep quiet when you should be speaking up!

People often tell me that they don’t speak up because they are not confident and they fear being judged. My response is, ‘So you would rather be judged on just sitting there and saying nothing instead of taking the opportunity to have a voice and potentially getting it wrong?’ The likelihood is that we are going to be judged one way or another.

Many of us also back away from speaking up to avoid conflict. We see conflict as bad, rather than being able to reframe it as healthy debate. As a result, we keep our opinions to ourselves – thinking that if we just keep doing our job and delivering the outcomes, we will get ahead.

Yet we must be willing to speak up, even when it is hard or unpopular or you feel like it will cause conflict. As Martin Luther King Jr put it, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter’. So, use your voice!

4. Step up your performance

You need to have the confidence and skills, and the ability to take on an element of risk, no matter what role or industry you work in. To step up confidently, you need to master your mindset, build your personal brand and have great sponsors.

Reflecting on your current behaviours and stepping up as required is critical. You often need to do things differently tomorrow from how you are today. You need to take yourself out of your comfort zone – and be confident enough to do this – and be aware of your context and what the environment requires of you because this is always changing.

If you’ve got your ‘head down and bum up’ all day long, knocking off your to-do list, how will you be able to assess what you need to do to influence and ensure the work makes real progress?

Continue to challenge yourself and ask, ‘If what got me here won’t get me there, what do I need to be doing now to step up?’

When you do this in line with all the other confidence skills, then you start to cultivate your confidence and supercharge your career.

Michelle Sales is the author of ‘The Power of Real Confidence’ (Major Street Publishing) www.michellesales.com.au

6 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Procurement Career

Should you stay in procurement for your whole career? What skills should you focus on developing? How can you find a work/life balance? Check out these top tips from one of Australia’s leading CPOs, Thomai Veginis.

“The beauty of working in procurement is you can turn your role into anything”, says Telstra CPO Thomai Veginis. “You only limit yourself – people who want to keep the role small can do that, or you can push into other things. If you want to be an administrator who supports the business, that’s okay – or you can be a lot more proactive about how you drive the commercial agenda. Procurement professionals can create the vision for themselves.”

With 20 years’ experience in procurement, a team of nearly 300 people and a total spend of $14 billion, Thomai knows a thing or two about procurement careers. We asked her advice for ambitious professionals who want to get the most out of their current and future roles.   

  1. Move in and out of the profession

One of the reasons Thomai has been so successful is due to the skills she’s learnt outside of the profession. “You can – and should – move in and out of the profession. The skills are absolutely transferrable and personally, I’ve appreciated the profession more when I’ve been out of it.”

“A trait you sometimes see in procurement teams is a lack of empathy for people who don’t follow the process. If you want to develop empathy, go and do a front-line, customer-facing role, and you’ll understand how hard it can be. One of the compliments I receive is that people want to work with me because I understand the sense of urgency for the people in front-line sales. Gaining experience in that kind of role will help you be a better procurement professional.” 

  1. Develop awareness

Anyone going into a negotiation should know what motivates the supplier they are dealing with. “That’s the basis of your negotiation strategy”, says Thomai. “Ask yourself why something happened – what were the motivators? It’s important to be commercial, but you also need to become aware; both of your own reactions and how you influence the people around you. Awareness will help you read the play better for yourself, and your team.”

“There’s no such thing as a deal that’s 100% perfect – people are often too critical of themselves. Do that review at the end of the negotiation, but don’t be too critical on yourself. Everything is a learning opportunity.”

  1. Get Commercial

“Procurement is a great place to build up your confidence in a very commercial role”, Thomai says. “You’re dealing in the millions of dollars very early in your career – very few professions allow you to go into the deep end like that. You’re doing senior things that you’d expect senior people to be doing, which is why your confidence grows fast.”

Thomai also points out that not many other roles will give a junior professional the opportunity to interact with (supplier) CEOs and other C-levels so frequently. But you need to think commercially.

“The best way to get commercial is just finding someone who IS commercial and sitting in on some of the discussions they have with stakeholders. Be aware that sometimes the people with commercial skills don’t necessarily sit within procurement teams. Watch the preparation they do with suppliers and how they leverage relationships to get the outcomes. Observe, then participate.”

Thomai advises her team to draw learnings from the purchases they make in their private lives. “If you have to buy something for yourself (such as a car), what do you think about? What do you challenge? What’s the pressure that the salesperson is under? Try to understand what’s actually going on and take a 360-degree view, not just your side of things.” 

  1. Find a buddy who thinks differently

“It’s a good idea to buddy up with someone in your organisation who may not be your natural type”, says Thomai. “It’s important to have some affinity with a mentor, but a buddy should be someone who does things differently to you. They’ll teach you the lay of the land and show you different ways of doing things you may not have considered.”

  1. Get out there and meet your stakeholders

One of Thomai’s key pieces of advice for professionals starting a new role is to get out there and see your stakeholders as soon as possible. “Make time. Go out there, identify the contracts you’re managing, and understand the key players. It’s hard because we drown in work quickly, but you need to understand what your stakeholders’ imperatives and priorities are.” 

  1. Find a balance

“Over my career I’ve tried to manage my work-life balance. In procurement roles you can balance it better than people in a sales role who need to fit in with their customers’ schedules.” Thomai has worked in project roles focused on delivering to a customer which saw her working in the office from 8.00am until 8.00pm. “As a result of that work I had the opportunity to be promoted but realised I didn’t want to be in that career path because I couldn’t spend the time I needed with my children.”

“Procurement is an ideal career for parents returning to work. Not that you work less – it’s more about the opportunity to work flexibly in ways that work for you. Often leaders are seen as people who will take on anything and be invincible, but I’ve let my team know that I am human, too. They know that it’s possible to do the role and have a family.”


Are you based in Australia? Telstra CPO Thomai Veginis will share her leadership tips in a live interview with Procurious founder Tania Seary at the Sydney Big Ideas Summit on Tuesday 30th October. Reserve your seat now.  

Can’t make it to Sydney? Catch all the action online! Become a digital delegate.

Better Procurement – Learning from the Private Sector

Who does procurement better – the public or private sector? Is there any reason we all can’t do better together through sharing knowledge and experience? Much depends on the professionals involved.

You could argue that an uneasy relationship exists between procurement in the public and private sectors. On one side, there is full accountability and audit trails, scrutiny over every penny/cent spent and the need for what is, from the outside at least, an almost impenetrable set of regulations and documents that have to be completed.

On the other side, it’s just as accountable and auditable, but there’s more freedom in the process, things happen quicker and there’s more time for the good stuff like contract management. I think it’s fairly obvious which is which…

Accept What We Cannot Change

To stop this becoming a lengthy piece on which is ‘better’, public or private sector procurement, it’s important to separate what could be done better from what we cannot change.

  • Regulation and Legislation

Yes, the public sector is highly constrained by regulations, leaving it more inflexible and giving less freedom in the process to procurement professionals. But beyond getting better at working within the regulations, there’s not much to be done about it. Even post-Brexit, there will still be substantial regulation governing procurement and procurement process, even if it looks slightly different to what it is now.

  • Budgets

Yes, budgets in the public sector are being squeezed. Hard. But no, this is not going to change any time soon. What both the public and private sectors need to do is be savvier with how the available money is spent and how they can maximise what they get from a contract with less money to spend.

  • Transparency

Let’s knock this one on the head straight away. Public sector procurement receives the level of scrutiny it does as it is spending the general public’s money. To ensure everything is above board and audited this needs to continue. And the private sector will only face increased scrutiny in the coming years, so there’s no escaping on either side of the fence.

Lend a Helping Hand

However, there’s nothing to say that the public-private relationship can’t be better. Both sides could teach each other a thing or two about the procurement process and how to make it better or more efficient. After all, at a time of squeezed budgets and regulatory pressure (not to mention Brexit and trade wars), why wouldn’t we all want to work together to make our lives and jobs easier?!

In this article, we’ll be looking at three key areas in which the private sector can help the public sector and at some point in the near future, we’ll look at this from the other side.

Some of this is based on what has been written about both sectors in the press and in thought leadership papers. The rest of my advice, to paraphrase Mary Schmich and Baz Luhrmann, has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now…

  • Negotiation

In the private sector, procurement professionals have the opportunity to negotiate at any stage in the process. Indeed, they may even choose to negotiate at multiple stages in order to get the best deal. Opportunities are more limited in the public sector, meaning more contracts are awarded without negotiation, or negotiation at a stage where the deal is almost done.

However, even these could be maximised to produce a better deal and this is where private sector professionals could help. Who better to assist with a negotiation than someone who is practised, skilled and used to carrying out the process? Swapping notes on good negotiation techniques and where savings have been found in contracts for similar goods or services could provide some much needed wins.

  • Longer Contracts and Relationship Management

You know the score – you spend months painstakingly putting a contract together and awarding it, only to come back to the same contract 18 months later to tender again. The limiting factor here is the length of public sector contracts in many cases, but could this be a valuable knowledge sharing opportunity?

Crafting long-term contracts, aimed at longer than 5 years (for the right goods, services or works), is a skill. Maintaining the right balance between getting a good deal on both sides, opening up avenues for innovation, while at the same time knowing that come year 5 any prices are still competitive, is something that the private sector has greater experience with. By putting heads together, this could also be passed into the public sector.

  • A Strategic, Value-Adding Profession

Are you in a senior management or executive level role in procurement? What do you think your organisation views procurement as – a tender machine for purchasing or a strategic partner for adding value? Some argue that in the public sector, the former is much more common. When there are savings to be made, procurement is the one tasked with delivering, but is left out of the loop when it comes to bringing the value to the top line.

Leaders can help drive a change in this view. If private sector procurement leaders have been able to make this leap already, then using a tried and tested approach may help gain the necessary traction in the public sector.

Share Your Thoughts

These are my thoughts on what the private sector has to offer the public sector in the overall procurement process. None of them represents a quick fix in terms of greater efficiency or costs savings, but done properly, could provide these benefits in the long run.

It would be interesting to hear from professionals on both sides of the fence on this too. Would you be willing to work closely with the public/private sector? How would you facilitate this? Are there other areas you think you could help with, or have greater priority? Let’s get the conversation started – you never know where it’s going to take you and the profession.

Are YOU The Office Psychopath?

Just how certain are you that you’re not the office psychopath? Perhaps you should review the psychopath checklist.

Image: Rudall30/Shutterstock

The office psychopath is not the bloke found inconveniently near every unexplained axe-murder in your office.  He or she is just a normal person, who just happens to have no empathy whatsoever.  This little deficit means that they are completely incapable of co-operating with others for a common good.

And since modern business depends on groups of people doing exactly that, having them in your office can be seriously wealth endangering.  But are you certain that you aren’t the office psychopath?

Psychopaths are not all the same. Just like the rest of us, they vary in lots of important ways. Some are very intelligent and some are not. Some are good-looking and some are not. Some are men and some are women. Psychopaths are no more immune to cancer than we are and they are no better at football than I am. Well, all right, most of them probably are, but that’s not because they are psychopaths, it’s because I am uncoordinated.

But one handy thing about psychopaths is that their behaviour is predictable.  It’s so predictable that psychologists have developed a checklist which they use to determine whether someone is a psychopath.

The checklist is made up of twenty personality traits. Each of these twenty traits is scored by a psychologist, after a face-to-face interview and review of records, as a 0 (not present), 1 (present but not dominant) or 2 (dominant). The maximum score is obviously 40.

The average person scores between 3 and 6. Non-psychopathic criminals score between 16 and 22. A total score of 30 or over in the United States (or 25 or over in the United Kingdom) is regarded as a positive diagnosis of psychopathy.

Just to give us a sense of how these criteria might be applied, I’ve used my non-existent training in psychology to score James Bond on these criteria and now you can use your non-existent training in psychology (unless you are a psychologist of course) to score yourself.

Case study: James Bond
PCL-R James Bond
Facet 1: Interpersonal
  • Glibness or superficial charm
2 – Is it possible to be more charming than James Bond?
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
2 – A ‘secret’ agent who uses his own name all the time? – yup.
  • Pathological lying
2 – Aside from his name, he does seem to lie an awful lot.
  • Cunning or manipulative
2 – Obviously part of the job.
Facet 2: Affective
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
2 – James has killed over 350 people on screen so far and it never seems to trouble him in the slightest.
  • Emotionally shallow
2 – I’m sure he really does love all those women he sleeps with.
  • Callous or lack of empathy
2 – Has he ever seemed to experience another person’s emotions? There was that one time when he cried in the shower with Vesper Lynd . . .
  • Failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
1 – Every now and then he does take the blame for stuffing up.
Facet 3: Lifestyle
  • Need for stimulation (easily bored)
2 – We never see him sitting around much, do we?
  • Parasitic lifestyle
2 – Everything seems to be on the expense account.
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
2 – Does he have any long-term goals?
  • Impulsivity
2 – He certainly struggles to contain his impulses when it comes to killing and seducing women
  • Irresponsibility
1 – Occasionally he does things for king and country
Facet 4: Antisocial
·       Poor behavioural controls 0 – He is in control most of the time.
·       Early behavioural problems 0 – We don’t know so let’s go with 0.
·       Juvenile delinquency 0 – Once again, we don’t know.
·       A history having conditional release from prison revoked 0 – We don’t know.
·       Criminal versatility 0 – His crimes are sanctioned by his 00 status.
Other Items
·       Many short-term marital relationships 1 – He’s never been married but he has had many relationships that might have ended that way (had the other half not been killed off).
·       Promiscuous sexual behaviour 2 – Is it possible to give more than 2?
Total 27

People who score highly in Facets 3 and 4 are more likely to be found on the wrong side of a prison wall. People who score highly on Facets 1 and 2 are more likely to be your workmate, your partner, a family member or, apparently, a secret agent.

Mr Bond managed a score that makes him a psychopath in the UK but not quite one in the US. The unflappable, focused, but erudite and charming killer that Bond represents is not a million miles from what I would describe as an office psychopath (without quite so much killing).

How did you go?


David Gillespie will present a session on Taming Toxic People at the Sydney Big Ideas Summit on Tuesday 30th October.

If you’d like to join us at the event in Sydney, reserve your seat here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

If you can’t make it to Sydney but would like to follow the action as a Digital Delegate, sign up here: https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-sydney

4 Negotiation Lessons From A Kidnap Response Consultant

What do you do when disengagement is not an option? Alexandru Butiri shares four learnings from high-stakes kidnap negotiations that can be applied in any procurement function.

Image: G-StockStudio/Shutterstock

As far as negotiations go, nothing could be more high-stakes than a kidnap negotiation. How on earth do you put a price on a human life?

Sometimes a procurement negotiation can feel like a kidnapping or hostage situation. Think about the times you’ve had to negotiate with ruthless, uncompromising parties. They maximise all of the perceived or real advantages that they have.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with a kidnap response consultant in a kidnap simulation exercise. We were given a case that involved sea pirates and the kidnap of a crew from a container ship. This training stayed with me long afterwards because I found it so relevant to the day-to-day negotiations we undertake in our procurement roles.

Here are four negotiation tips that I’ve learned from the experience:

1. Set up a response team

The first thing that organisations do in a kidnap situation is to set up a crisis response team of experts, which may contain negotiators, experts in the field of operations, psychologists and others.

When preparing for a critical upcoming negotiation, procurement can take the lead in setting up a dedicated team of cross-functional experts within the organisation. Everything should be coordinated through this lean, agile team. Two key tips to remember are:

  • Leave it to experts to negotiate. People with a stake in the game are poor negotiators. Would you let you CEO negotiate directly with your top suppliers who may subject her or him to pressure tactics?
  • Each team member should have a clearly defined role. Not everyone is the lead – and never underestimate the importance of the note-taker.

2. Build resilience to pressure tactics

It’s vital to be aware of pressure tactics, and (more importantly) to be aware of how you react in pressured situations. Sometimes kidnappers will ask for a big payment in a very short timeframe to “solve the issue rapidly”. But it if you give in and pay, this becomes only the first instalment in long line of payments.

In the corporate world, pressure tactics may refer to tight, unrealistic expectations, timeline pressures to make a “quick” decision. Sound familiar? Avoid an amygdala hijack by planning ahead and putting a process in place that will help you avoid making a mistake under pressure.

3. Understand the game and develop a plan around it

Kidnappers’ demands can seem arbitrary, out of control and very unpredictable, which is why kidnap negotiators make it a priority to understand their motivations and hence predict their behaviour and develop a strategy around it.

In procurement negotiations, take the time to research the other parties’ motivations and their commercial construct. Spend more time in planning and less in negotiating for a better outcome. Game theory-based tools can help in modelling various scenarios. This will help to minimise the quick “think on your feet” risk by anticipating various outcomes and knowing your best position in each scenario. Cost analysis and clean sheets will help you understand not only your commercial model, but also that of the other party. 

4. Learn to influence without a mandate

We’re constantly influencing (and being influenced by) others without being aware of it. Expert negotiators know how to use influencing principles to reach their objective.

How do you influence without a mandate? There are a set of influencing principles valid in all cultures and societies that can get you closer to your objective. Notice that I’m using the word “influencing”, not “manipulating”. Here are some of them to get familiar with:

  • Reciprocity
  • Scarcity
  • Peer pressure
  • Authority.

One classic influencing technique is to make a small concession (typically of very little cost to yourself) to put the other party in your debt. A kidnapper, for example, might extend a payment time-frame, or agree on a communication schedule. In a procurement negotiation, learn to recognise when the other party gives away something menial to make you feel obliged.

Procurement professionals can put these learnings to use not only in negotiating with suppliers, but in their day-to-day dealings with stakeholders in their own organisations.

What do you think? Leave a comment below, or get in touch with me if you’re interested in finding out more details.


Are you based in Australia? Join Alexandru Butiri at the upcoming Big Ideas Summit in Sydney on Tuesday 30th October!

4 Reasons Supply Chain Professionals Should Embrace AI

Embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI) will re-invent the way supply chain professionals work and help them to add enormous value to their organisations.  

In our hyper-connected global economy, where customers have endless options and high expectations, supply chain leaders are increasingly under pressure to fundamentally transform their operations in order to deliver on their brand promise and stay nimble in the face of rapid changes.

This is a significant endeavor. Supply chain professionals oversee complex, multi-enterprise ecosystems. They must ensure the quality, delivery, and availability of supplies, all while reducing costs.

Every day is an exercise in mitigating ordinary and extraordinary disruptions, too many of which they never see coming such as delivery delays, quality defects, political unrest, and natural disasters.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous power to reinvent the way supply chains do business and deliver an incredible competitive advantage for practitioners.

1. Find the Right Data

 The skyrocketing amount of data scattered across supply chain operations is overwhelming and runs the risk of leading to greater inefficiencies as it inhibits access to real, relevant insights.

Supply chain leaders need end-to-end visibility with real-time, contextual insights that reduces the amount of effort required to see what’s happening across their network. Advanced AI can improve the ability for companies to combine and correlate vast amounts of external data like weather, customs clearance, and traffic with their own corporate and client data to get a complete picture.

AI means that supply chain leaders can see what they didn’t before and they don’t have to stitch together information from various data sources and transactions.

2. Act Faster to Mitigate Risks

AI gives supply chain leaders the confidence to act faster as they can now proactively predict and quickly assess aspects of their operation, such as responding to customer inquiries and adapting to changes in their business environment.

This is no small feat. Increased visibility and insights mean that manufacturers can drill down to any event and quickly understand the potential financial and customer service implications in real-time and receive recommendations on how to respond. The learning nature of AI enables greatly increased response times to future events as the system learns from each past mitigation.

Today, most manufacturers are reactive to supply chain disruptions – socio-political events, natural disasters or even daily occurrences like power outages and harsh weather. All disruptions force leaders to make last-minute decisions with little-to-no data, which can greatly affect the brand.

AI can comb the digital universe for indicators that those activities are presenting a supply chain risk. Not only can AI alert practitioners of the growing risk, it can also generate impact notifications and a playbook on what steps to take to mitigate the risk.

3. Uncover Opportunities to Drive Cost Savings

Finally, AI’s ability to identify opportunities to streamline supply chain operations allows for greater efficiency – often uncovering hidden opportunities to drive down operational costs.

One such example is helping supply chain leaders and their IT counterparts save crucial time by getting immediate answers to questions that matter most to their jobs, which in turn optimizes their decisions and actions.

Today, when a customer asks a simple question about the status of an order, a customer service representative has to pause and enter an IT request, a process that can take days. The IT Department then has to spend more time searching across multiple systems to piece the information together. The information is not searchable or readable to the business person.

AI uses natural language search to allow an employee to inquire about the order, without a go between in IT and get the answers faster.

4. The Smarter Supply Chain

A smarter supply chain is designed with disruption in mind. It connects disparate systems and events both in and outside of a partner network. It taps all the right data – even unstructured – and extracts actionable insights from it, in context, at astonishing speeds.

Practitioners can proactively identify, assess, and mitigate disruptions and risks today – and have confidence that they’ll do it all faster and more effectively tomorrow. AI provides the technology, tools and real-time, actionable insights to extend collaboration and achieve unprecedented visibility, while driving new levels of transparency and trust. The result? A supply chain architected for advantage now and well into the future.

Continue reading 4 Reasons Supply Chain Professionals Should Embrace AI

Data: You Complete Me

AI has the potential to shoulder a vast amount of the #procurement workload. But machines can only do the work for you if you capture all the data in the first place.
Last month Procurious hosted the very first Procurement Thought Leadership Forum in Chicago to discuss the evolution of procurement; what the future holds for the profession; how we can effectively determine the size of the global market; the importance of professional associations and maturity levels across the globe. 
The event, sponsored by Basware and attended by a number of the world’s leading procurement consultants, sparked some fascinating discussion and debate.

Dealing with Data

Remember that Tom Cruise movie – Minority Report? Eric Wilson, SVP Basware North America, certainly does. “In the movie Tom Cruise swipes things on a giant screen, he then predicts a crime and the team prevents it before it happens. It was pretty cool. Especially, back in 2002 when we didn’t even have touch screens on our cell phones and artificial intelligence (AI) was in the realm of science fiction.”

Of course, today we all use AI in our daily lives, whether we realise it or not. As Eric asserts “AI is the new electricity. When we replaced steam powered machines with those using electricity, we transformed transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and so on; increasing efficiency tremendously.  AI has the same, huge potential, but nobody truly knows yet how it will change the world.”

Indeed, as  Eric pointed out it’s difficult to think of an industry that is not being impacted by AI;  IT, FinTech and Healthcare, to name just a few, are all being totally transformed. Self driving vehicles is an industry that is built entirely on AI.

But holding the right data is critical in order to harness the benefits of new technologies. If an organisation can turn all the data they hold into tangible customer value by leveraging machine learning and AI they can actually begin to benefit from these technological advances in the market. But to do so relies on having the right volume, quality and completeness of data .

“If you don’t have a view to the future when you are evaluating automation options, not only will you not achieve your business case for today, but three years from now, your system will be obsolete,” states Eric.  “It will be obsolete because it did not capture all of the data in the first place.”

In Eric’s mind there are no two ways about it: you can’t use AI if you don’t have the centralised data for those machines to learn from. “And so, my key takeaway now and always is: when you are putting together your RFPs for systems, data better be first and foremost on your mind!”

The conversation century

Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined Youtube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for Youtube, in order to understand the social media space.

It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs. A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms or racking  up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in. Youtube ultimately offered them the opportunity to be heard.

Elizabeth is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust. “The people” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out. But the reason so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust is that our leaders are still so far from getting it right! We simply don’t have leaders at a political level that have invested in a voice on social media.

Some key things to remember when trying to start conversations online:

  • Most leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture. You don’t. Go at your own pace but keep people informed as you do it. It’s ok to communicate to people that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!
  • Believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do. Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication. If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say because youdon’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!
  • Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key. EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making. Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter.

Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”

The value of professional certifications

Rick Blasgen, CEO – Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Tom Derry, CEO – Institute of Supply Management ISM led a session on the evolution of procurement  and supply chain and the value of professional certifications.

Both leaders are very optimistic about what the future holds for procurement and supply chain professionals . “I think [these professions]  will be an embedded feature of every competitive global company around the world because they see so much of what goes on,” argues Rick. “We see it really growing into the fabric of successful companies.”

And Rick believes professional certifications “are a normal part of continuing to educate yourself and continuing to be knowledgeable about such a dynamic and ever-changing field.”

“One of the things important to CSCMP is to advance the logistics, supply chain and procurement professions and the careers of those working in them. The only way we do that is by being thought leaders and thinking about using the new technologies and tools that have never before existed.

“Our certifications will educate you on these things and then test that you have the understanding and can utilise the complexity within them.”
“An association used to function as the place where people felt obliged to belong,” says Tom. But nowadays he doesn’t believe professionals feel such a sense of needing to belong to an association  just for the sake of belonging  “They need value for money and they expect a professional body to provide tools and skills that enable them to be successful at a critical moment in their career.”
Sizing up the procurement market
Braden Baseley, ProcurementIQ Analyst discussed the size and maturity of the global procurement market, revealing preliminary  insights from their specially commissioned research report.
The research reveals…
  •  There are 554, 560 procurement pros working in the US, which make up 0.4 per cent of the workforce
  • The average salary for a US procurement professional is $72,199, which is pretty good considering the average US salary is approximately $55, 000
  • California, Texas and New York employ the largest number of procurement professionals
The report will also explore how procurement skills are changing and evolving and the skills that are most desirable in procurement teams.
The Procurement Thought Leadership Forum was sponsored by Basware.