Cybersecurity – What Does It Mean For Procurement In 2019?

How should procurement professionals be addressing cybersecurity within their organisations and addressing the weak links?

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Google and McAfee estimate there are 2,000 cyber- attacks every day around the world, costing the global economy about £300bn a year.  The widespread adoption of digital solutions for the management of big data is a threat that is making organizations vulnerable to security breaches.   The proliferation of new SaaS products on the market and the use of cloud-based solutions are focusing our minds on how to protect our data and intellectual property.  The growing use of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is adding to the complexity of defending organizations from attacks. 

Protection from data hackers has traditionally been the responsibility of the I.T. department where it should be taken seriously, although some companies have been inclined to put the issue on the back-burner.  Procurement’s interest in cyber-security is two-fold: 

a) it has to manage the myriad of potential security issues within the supplier community

and

b) it has to concern itself with data security issues within its own operations

Cybersecurity at suppliers  

Cyber-attacks do not always come in through the front door.  Many breaches come through weaknesses in the lower layers of the supply chain:   e.g. importers, agents and other service providers. Hackers, whose main objective seems to be to hold organisations to ransom, can infiltrate any of these layers. 

The weak links

  • Your suppliers’ suppliers are often targeted because they are more vulnerable.   They may have access to important information of yours and only have a very immature approach to data security.  It is estimated that over a third of corporate IT breaches are via third-party suppliers.
  • A lack of awareness among employees about how hackers gain access to systems.  The act of “phishing” which attempts to acquire usernames, passwords and credit card details via email for fraudulent purposes is a widespread activity that preys on peoples trust.   
  • The lax use of BYOD at suppliers can cause major security issues as malware protection and detection on these devices is often inadequate. 

 “Cybersecurity is never just a technology problem; it’s a people, processes and knowledge problem.”

US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

How to tackle the weak links

  • Due diligence.  Conducting risk assessments on each supplier before contracting will allow you to identify any areas of concern.  Firstly, potential suppliers should be vetted to ensure that they are not on any denied party or watch lists. On-boarding of new suppliers should include asking leading questions about their approach to data security and which protective systems they are using.  Many large organizations are adopting ISO 27001 which accredits them through an auditable security management system.               
  • Access control.   The level of access of each approved user to information needs to be monitored especially when there is any change in the relationship with a supplier.  This could be an organisational restructure or a takeover at the supplier which affects access to a shared system.  The aim is to prevent unauthorised access to data and procedures.
  • Education and training of staff Awareness programs and training staff about their responsibility for data security should be standard practice, both in-house and at suppliers.  Advice such as don’t click on unknown attachments, always use strong and unique passwords, and keep an up-to-date backup is a start. 
  • Notification about breaches   A contract clause that requires a supplier to inform the organisation regarding any security breach that may impact either business should be included in any supply agreement.

Cybersecurity within procurement

Large warehouses  of data are used by procurement professionals to identify cost-saving opportunities through spend analysis within their organisations.  Other files include supplier contracts, financial information and many P2P transactions.  We need to protect the confidentiality, availability and integrity of our information.   Cyber-attacks can be delivered through counterfeit hardware or software that is embedded with malware.  Outsourcing procurement functions with no due diligence or using unreliable and untested software packages can open the door to hackers.  Security gaps can arise due to the incompatibility of legacy systems with the outsourced solutions.  

Remember the data breach at TalkTalk in 2017?  The then CEO, Baroness Dido Harding said,

“There was the IT equivalent of an old shed in a field that was covered in brambles, all we saw was the brambles and not the open window.”

 She was referring to the weakness in their legacy systems.  The firm was fined £400 000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

What can we do today?

  • Collaborate with our IT department to regularly monitor systems, frequently update internal policies to create a security fence for the organization
  • Assist suppliers to build a robust cybersecurity plan to strengthen their IT infrastructure and cyber resilience
  • Stay updated on the latest innovations in data protection  
  • Work with suppliers to ensure that their IT systems and infrastructure are regularly updated. Ongoing reviews at regular intervals will help to identify emerging concerns
  • Develop a contingency disaster recovery and continuity plan to accommodate any potential supplier failure, including alternative suppliers. Always have a plan B.

Traditionally, procurement-specific risks just meant price fluctuations, delivery disruptions, supplier failure, fraud and non-compliance but no longer.   

Besides the reputational risks such as environmental crises, unfair treatment of staff and safety issues, the loss or corruption of corporate information can severely disadvantage a business.  The extent of the financial and reputational damage depends on the size of the breach, number and type of stakeholders affected and how quickly and effectively the company acted. 

5 Productivity Hacks You Should Be Using Now

When things are really hitting the fan you don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal.


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The panic is real. So many things to do, all of equal value and all due yesterday! How do you cut through the noise? Here are my proven hacks for achieving the impossible.

Mindset

The most important place to begin is your mind. Often in high pressure situations you begin to worry. You worry about the volume of tasks you need to do, the timeframes, the pressures put on you to deliver and the number of project responsibilities.

Within this context (the brow furrowing worry), the brain becomes overwhelmed. Research has proven that ability of working memory to direct attention to what’s relevant is incredibly compromised, the brain is effectively running lots of programmes at once and everything slows down. In terms of how the brain processes information, we know that the brain dedicates capacity to verbal information and some capacity to spatial information. When people are worried it is common that they talk to themselves in their head – worries tend to be verbal and therefore compete for the limited pool of capacity.

Psychologist Sian Beilock found that when students are presented with a mathematical problem presented horizontally “32 – 17 = x” it demands more of the brain’s verbal resources than when the same problem is presented vertically.

The brain processes vertical information visually and therefore accesses the spatial capacity which has less demand for its resources.

This is often why making lists can feel better!

Taking back control

Understanding how the brain works is one thing but if things are really hitting the fan then don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal! Here are my top five productivity hacks to help you take back control.

1. Eisenhower Matrix

President Eisenhower was on to something when he shared this technique of decision making and prioritisation. It is a four box quadrant that helps you organise tasks in order of urgency and importance. My on-the-ground approach is to draw up four large boxes in my notebook and head them up according to what I need e.g. Urgent / Do now, Do next, Monitor, Delegate then I simply put each task under these headings and focus on one thing at a time.

2. Find an organisational app like Trello

Once you have identified the individual tasks and organised them into an Eisenhower, it can be helpful to transfer them to an electronic platform where you can easily access and update them. I am a huge fan of Trello, it is a free “to do list” app that I use for all of my projects. Having your to do list in an electronic platform gives you the opportunity to share your to do list and collaborate with other people as well as update things when you’re on the go.

3. Pomodoro Technique

This is a time management technique that dates back to the 1980’s, it was created by Francesco Cirillo and is based on the principle of short, sharp, concentrated bursts of activity. If you’re curious, the technique is named after the Pomodoro (tomato) timer that Cirillo used when he was at university.

Once you have your Eisenhower Matrix completed and your life uploaded into Trello, take the most urgent tasks and block out your calendar accordingly. You may need to play with the time period that suits you, some people can do a full hour but I prefer no more than 30 minutes – that’s a long time concentrating on one task!

4. Technology lock down

It’s so simple to do and yet most people do not apply this last trick, shut down the emails! Close your emails and any other system that can notify or distract you.  Do not assume that you are superior to the temptation of technology and distractions. If you see an email pop up, you will be tempted to answer it. Just say no!

5. Change your environment

If possible, work away from your usual spot. Either work from home, a different desk, a café, a meeting room. It can be anywhere just as long as you can concentrate. Breaking away from your usual work spot should reinforce the objective you are trying to achieve, and most importantly it can keep you from being interrupted.

If you implement all of these tools and combine them into a new way of working, you will be sure to come out the other side winning. What are your proven hacks? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear about them.

Three Technical Terms Procurement Pros Should Stop Using Now

Do these technical procurement terms have a place in today’s organisation?


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Technical procurement terms. Whether you love ’em or loathe ’em you’ll probably have experienced definition disagreements and C-suite confusions. And that begs the question, do they have a place in today’s organisation?

For Nick Dobney, Former Global Head of Procurement – Puma Energy, procurement terms is the one thing that really gets under is skin. “There are terms that my C-suite won’t understand, my stakeholders won’t understand and, frankly, in procurement we spend a lot of time debating them as well.”

Nick believes that all the time and effort spent defining and redefining technical procurement terms is distracting procurement professionals away from delivering on behalf of the business. At Big Ideas Zurich last year, he outlined three of the terms causing him the most grief.

1. Tender

“My team know full well to never come to me and talk about tenders,” Nick jokes. He argues that “tender” is such a broad word, open to so much interpretation, that it has actually become meaningless.

“What do you want to do?” he asks. “Are you selecting a supplier? Are you exploring the market? Are you benchmarking your costs? If those are the things you’re doing, let’s say them. Let’s not wrap them up or hide it into the word “tender.”

2. Direct/Indirect

In procurement we constantly talk about direct and indirect spend.

“I’ve been in procurement for 25 years and I’ve never worked in a manufacturing company.” In a manufacturing company it might make total sense to use these terms and easy to understand the difference between direct and indirect spend. But the same can not be said for service companies.

Nick worked for an airline, where the distinction is unclear. “We bought aircraft, we bought fuel, we bought engineering services, we bought food and drink, we bought ticketing systems, we bought call centre operations. What’s direct and indirect?”

“In my world when I talk to the C-suite I need to talk about impacting operating expenditure, capital expenditure or the cost of goods sold.” Whilst it might be ok to reference indirect and direct spend amongst procurement professionals Nick advises not to waste energies trying to explain the terms to the wider business.

3. SRM

Some call it Strategic Relationship Management. Others say Supplier Relationship Management. “I don’t think [a room full of procurement professionals] could come together with a single definition,” says Nick.

“I know I’ve never used the words SRM in conversations with the CEO. The fundament of SRM means getting the best performance I can out of the suppliers I choose. So let’s talk about it as performance. Let’s talk about it as a means by which I get the performance I require in my business from my supply base and from my suppliers.”

Speaking in these accessible terms makes the procurement function accessible to business leaders and that’s what procurement professionals should be striving for. “We want to break those doors down. There’s lots of talk about getting procurement a seat at the top table and the first thing we have to do is make sure these terms we’re talking about – we only use amongst ourselves!”

Impacting the business

“The terms we use with our business leaders has got to be the terms that they understand,” Nick explains. “Can you explain simply and straightforwardly the impact you are having on the business?”

Leaders in your business want to know:

  • Are you taking assets of our balance sheet so we can free up resources to invest in product development?
  • Are you improving our margins?
  • Are you getting a better return on our investments?
  • Are you reducing our net debt?

And as Nick says, “the language we use is fundamental to how we can move away from being seen as a very technical function into being a function that really does contribute to the business.”

Nick Dobney speaking at Big Ideas Zurich 2018


Good Hire Or Bad Hire? How To Know You’ve Hired The Right Person

So much is written about how to hire great people and what to look for when hiring. But that is merely the start of the journey…


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Good hire or bad hire?

You’ve done the hard work, you’ve made the decision and your shiny new hire has finally joined the team.

Great, now what?

So much is written about how to hire great people and what to look for when hiring. But that is merely the start of the journey.

After the hiring decision is made, the work begins. Your team has grown and, at some stage, you’ll need to decide whether the person you recently hired is adding value. If not, it might be time to make some hard decisions, or even revisit your hiring methods.

Here are five powerful indicators that you’ve made the right choice.

1. Dedication

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

– Abraham Lincoln

There is a lot of talk about hustling in the startup community. It’s a badge of honor. But hustling is not a skill, it’s a behavior. It is therefore a choice.

Every startup hopes its team members will make that choice every day.

You can encourage hustling by communicating your company’s vision and values, as well as creating a collaborative and fun work environment.

Without those things, even the best hustler may run out of steam.

When people buy into your company’s vision, they are more likely to become dedicated to your team. A dedicated team member is an excellent outcome, but it takes both sides to make that happen.

Making the right hiring decision isn’t just about hiring someone who is great in isolation. Rather, it’s about hiring someone who is great for your team. In other words, a great hire is someone who will eventually become dedicated to your team.

Dedication looks pretty much like hustling, but it’s sustainable. So look for sustained and purposeful effort. It’s a good indicator of both performance and engagement.

2. Initiative

“Initiative is doing the right things without being told.”

– Elbert Hubbard

Having people who can do things well without being told is a gift.

In his article, One Behavior Separates The Successful From The Average, Benjamin P. Hardy describes people who take initiative as follows:

“They don’t need to be managed in all things. They don’t just do the job, they do it right and complete. They also influence the direction for how certain ideas and projects go.”

But it’s not enough to just do things well. After all, that’s what is expected. It’s about doing the right things well. Knowing which things to prioritize requires good judgment. Initiative coupled with bad judgment can be counterproductive.

When people take initiative, productivity increases and the confidence goes up. Team members know they can rely on each other to get things done.

3. Cultural Stretch

“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.”

– Bruce Lee

In his article, Hire for Cultural Fitness, Not Just Cultural Fit, Gustavo Razzetti argues that good hires should make the culture stretch, not just adapt to it.

That’s a great perspective.

When new hires form independent relationships with other team members, and impact them in a positive way, you can be sure that your culture is stretching. It’s evidence that they are adding something, not just assimilating.

It’s a beautiful thing to see the team growing. Not just in numbers, but in intellectual firepower and curiosity.

Any new hire that makes a contribution to the team’s growth is a leader in the making, if not a leader today.

4. Improvement

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

– Benjamin Franklin

There is always room for improvement, no matter who you are.

It’s a wonderful feeling to see people improve over time and, for high performers, improvement is not an option, it’s an irresistible desire.

In his article, 76% of high-performance employees say trade mastery, not money, most important in career decisions, William Belk argues that “corporate culture and directive”should encourage team members to develop their skills in the pursuit of mastery. This will result in high levels of engagement and sustained innovation.

Improvement is therefore a strong indicator of performance. Assuming people are set up for success, strong team members will look for opportunities to hone their craft. An ethos of continuous improvement needs to be encouraged and, sometimes, leaders may even need to get out of the way to give the team space.

People with a capacity and willingness to improve their skills become more valuable over time. Rather than having their careers developed for them, improvers create opportunities for themselves. For companies who believe in empowering their teams, constantly-improving team members are obvious assets.

5. Surprise

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.”

– Boris Pasternak

Trying to hire people who will surprise us is a contradiction in terms. We hire people to perform certain tasks and we expect them to perform those tasks very well. High performers may exceed our expectations in the quality of their work, but that’s not what I’m referring to here.

Every so often, people do things that catch us off guard. These acts of wonder cannot be found in a job description, they require skills that we don’t necessarily associate with the person who surprised us, and they are not things we would have thought to do ourselves.

It’s something intangible, and there is no point looking for it. But when it happens, we know that we have someone special on our hands. We got more than we bargained for.

Then, You Know It’s Real

“To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.”

– Oscar Wilde

When I reflect on the five indicators of a sound hiring decision – dedication, initiative, cultural stretch, improvement and surprise – what stands out is just how human they are. They are, more or less, what Seth Godin would call “real skills”.

That doesn’t mean that technical skills, which Godin calls “functional skills”, aren’t valuable. Of course they are. They are the baseline, the minimum standard.

But it’s the “real skills” that make a new hire stand out. They influence how the work is done, the impact on the rest of the team and the propensity for growth.

When the time comes to assess a hiring decision, it is helpful to look beyond how individual tasks are performed and see each new hire through through a “real skills” lens. In addition to an assessment of performance right now, you’ll get a strong indication of what you’re likely to see in the future.

This article, written by Omer Molad, was originally published on Vervoe.

Thanks Gillette. Why Men Should Aim To Be The Best They Can Be

The recent Gillette ad caused a massive response for a 1:47 minute film. Is it the close shave we had to have, or one that’s just too close for comfort?

The ad actively highlights the importance of rejecting toxic behaviour, showing men intervening when others are harassed or bullied, and helping to protect children from the same behaviour. Promoting civility, care and protection can’t be bad. Can it?

Alignment with the #metoo movement may be enough to raise the red flag to some. But even, so, just why is the ad’s message so controversial? Gillette’s strapline change from ‘the best a man can get’ to ‘the best a man can be’ seems nothing short of genius. Why is it not universally inspiring?

Unfortunately, diversity initiatives are now well known to backfire and cause backlash. Any attempt to change people’s attitudes and beliefs will almost certainly do this. The history of Civil Rights in the US is an unfortunately good example.

Whether this initiative does or doesn’t result in unintended negative consequences for Gillette, there are lessons that can be learned from the response. At the heart of the contention is the portrayal of the toxicity of hyper-masculine cultures.  

The key characteristics of a toxic masculine culture are:

  • Show no weakness – don’t admit you don’t know, don’t express doubt;
  • Show strength and stamina – stronger, longer, and bigger are better;
  • Put work first – work hard, don’t let family interfere;
  • ‘Dog eat dog’ – watch your back, you’re in or out.

These characteristics are traditionally associated with men’s work, and with leadership. They are prevalent in many industries and occupations, not just dangerous or physical strength-related ones, such as the military or emergency services. They also characterise engineering, construction, and white collar industries like finance, procurement and law. Many mainstream organisations conflate the demonstration of masculine traits with effective performance.

It’s not the characteristics themselves that are the problem. And it isn’t men either.

The problem with these characteristics is when they are the majority characteristics of an organisation’s culture.

An interesting feature of masculinity is that it isn’t ever settled, it always needs to be contested. The problem is not in the behaviour of individual men, but in workplace cultures that reward survival-of-the-fittest and dog-eat-dog competitiveness.

The expectations are neither inevitable nor are they universal. The nature of teams, the structure of work and the core tasks associated with specific occupations all moderate how cultures form and are experienced in male-dominated occupations. For example, where firefighting crews were encouraged to express camaraderie and work with good humour, they were much less likely to engage in high risk behaviour. They were faster to coordinate, had fewer accidents, and caused less property damage.

In one study of leadership climate, 56 per cent of people considered that the managers they interact with every day displayed toxic leadership to some degree. Masculine contest cultures are less inclusive, and there is a lower level of psychological safety. Higher employee stress, work-life conflict and turnover intentions result. Organisational commitment is low, as is wellbeing. The more toxic the culture, the worse performance becomes over time.

When men who strongly identify with masculine characteristics experience threats to their superiority, they also tend to reduce support for gender equality. If they see programs for gender equality (such as this ad) as a zero-sum game, ie, any gains to be made by women will be losses to them, they withdraw their interest, don’t get involved, or oppose the programs.

Moves towards equal pay, for example, are seen as reducing opportunities for men and placing downward pressure on men’s pay. In a contest culture where men are competing against other men, women’s access into the competition is seen as disrupting the advantage that men have.  Attempts to increase the representation of women will be difficult.

It is when men who identify strongly with masculine characteristics perceive threats to their masculinity that they are more likely to sexually harass others. And they may harass either female or male colleagues.

Where men believe that gender roles are fixed, they tend to rationalise the social system. They are more likely to justify the system and its inequities. On the other hand, where men are primed to see gender roles as socially ascribed, their identification with ‘male’ decreases as does their defence of gender inequities. Their views align more with women’s.

A real part of the problem for change is that working in a masculine culture is associated with greater work engagement and job meaning for some men. Some men find the prospect of winning masculine status so seductive that they will sacrifice their wellbeing for opportunities to be in the contest.

Finally, a major challenge is that those organisations that need training the most are the least likely to benefit from it. Organisations that promote masculinity context cultures won’t change through traditional diversity and sexual harassment training. In such cultures, conventional approaches have not been effective and in some cases have backfired.

Diversity and sexual harassment training is only effective in those organisations that support its purpose and content. When there is misalignment, when training is done to meet external reporting or is tokenistic, training is at best a waste of time.

These issues highlight some of the reasons behind the strong, negative reactions to the Gillette ad.

If you are someone who sees the Gillette ad as a breath of fresh air, and you want to reduce the degree of masculine contest in your culture, keep these three key things in focus:

  • Let people control their own solutions to inequities, by engaging them in the problem, make sure they are volunteers, and use curiosity as a key hook. This makes it rewarding
  • Increase contact and connection between under-represented groups, and ensure they work together as this minimises status differences and focuses on work and learning;
  • Make responsibilities transparent, and make people accountable for their actions, which taps into their desire to look good to others

Three Key Mindset Shifts To Lead In The Digital Age

The wonder of digital is the array of choice and opportunity it brings. To drive a successful digital agenda and succeed in the digital age however, mindsets need to build on leadership fundamentals while also shifting to respond to the new environment.

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Digital, the awe and the promise, filling us with inspiration and fear at the same time. Initially, the digital discussion was all about technology. After all, technology is cool, and we all want the cool factor. It demonstrates that we are at the forefront, leading the way, innovating. All great things when organisations and individuals are in a highly competitive environment and looking for a point of differentiation.

The wonder of digital is the array of choice and opportunity it brings. RPA? A great place to start. Mobility? It’s all about anytime, anywhere. AI? Not quite sure what it means, but let’s go with it anyway.

As many organisations sought to implement technology and transform themselves, the promised utopia did not quite eventuate. Technology moves fast and the innovation of today is tomorrow’s nostalgia (Any 80’s movie featuring a brick cleverly masquerading as a mobile phone will make this point all too well for those of us who were there to remember it the first time). That’s because digital requires a reinvention in how an organisation operates from business models, to systems and processes, through to engaging with the market and customers. It turns out that without a mindset and cultural shift, the full benefits of the technology are never realised or sustained. And so, for leaders this poses an interesting question. What does leadership look like in this digital age?

There is a multitude of research, writing and discussions on leadership in general. It is no surprise therefore that the conversation around digital mindset is met with cynicism, or fatigue. Don’t throw out those books yet (unless you received a kindle for Christmas). The fundamentals of what we know to be great leadership endure; humility, curiosity, emotional intelligence among others are key call outs and are as relevant today as when they were first identified. To drive a successful digital agenda and succeed in the digital landscape however, mindsets need to build on leadership fundamentals while also shifting to respond to the new environment. So where can you start to make a shift like this?

1. Experiment and embrace learning, not failure

Everybody knows about this one. In the strive to be innovative, there is a focus on experimentation. Experimentation is a call out for me because it brings together a number of attributes that differentiate digital leaders; challenging the status quo, creativity in seeing something the rest of us do not, courage to advocate for it, curiosity and determination to pursue it.

Interestingly enough, this also requires what might be considered a high tolerance for risk (which is why I mentioned courage). The default position for many leaders and organisations is to say “no” in a variety of ways.  I am not sure how many times I have heard “that’s not been done before”, “that won’t work here” or “we tried it and it didn’t work”. And there were times when I listened, and others when I thought there was something worth pursuing and did, demonstrating probably more hope and naivety , than courage.

The real issue of risk in experimentation arises because we need to be comfortable with  failure. Failure here is not an aspiration, it is simply highly likely when trying something new or doing something for the first time, even if it has worked somewhere else. Failure is problematic because it makes us susceptible to self-doubt, and the critique of others. Both are tough. And the idea that we celebrate failure in the digital world is a confusing and honestly, a little ridiculous to many. So, let’s be clear, that with experimentation, it’s the learning that needs to be celebrated, not the failure. Gary Pisano makes this point clearly in his book “Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation”.  Try something new, take what worked, evolve it and get it right. Or work out whether it is even worth pursuing further, or call it quits and move on.

2. Understand skills, cultivate expertise

There is no shortage of dystopian views of the end of the human workforce as the result of automation and AI. If failure incites fear, there is no doubt that human redundancy as a result of technology amps up the anxiety level. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that workforce transitions due to automation will impact approximately 14 per cent of the world’s workforce, so the scale of the impact is significant. My first implementation of digital analytics was in 2011, long before we were even having the conversation so I have seen the potential and the limitations. Developing an executive dashboard of key business metrics including daily sales, was a great start to automating analytics and producing actionable insights. So much more would be possible today. I am optimistic about the future of humanity and the ability of the man + machine interchange.

There is no doubt that many tasks will be automated. Many routine ones in fact already have been. At the same time, demand for new skills is emerging. And these skills present an opportunity to generate value in ways that may not have been possible previously. Digital savvy leaders adopt a mindset that see this threat as an opportunity. They understand the impact for themselves, their teams and the organisation. Anticipating what is coming, they identify the skills and behaviours that are needed and develop them, positioning themselves at the forefront through different ways of learning. With so much being so new to so many, expertise and differentiation comes to those who are willing to learn, try, and apply. Equally important, they cultivate this mindset with their employees and enable them with the skills and attributes needed.

3. Operate within new models, divest old paradigms

Welcome to the new world of work. Expertise exists in unlikely places; traditional reporting structures don’t always work and teams operate with autonomy and accountability. It takes a distinct mindset shift to relinquish decision making and control. The more important the initiative, the greater the risk, the harder it becomes. Yet the digital world values and rewards expertise, speed and adaptability. That means setting the agenda and outcome, defining parameters and empowering the team with expertise to execute. It does not mean abdicating accountability for progress and delivery, nor does it mean micro-managing the team because things aren’t being done as you would do them.

For many leaders, the paradigm shift to new models of leadership is challenging. The results however are inspiring. When I was tasked with working on the National Emergency Warning Project with the amazing Joe Buffone who was leading the Government’s Emergency Services response, we both knew that we needed to assemble an A-team, give them guidance and clear direction, and then let them do their thing while we did ours. The result? A first-of-a-kind initiative, with media attention, up and running (and more importantly working) on time and within budget, which is practically unheard of in either public or private sector, was the result.

There is no doubt that the digital landscape presents challenges that many may find uncomfortable at best. Embracing new ways of thinking and applying mindset shifts is a tremendous opportunity for leaders to transform themselves, their teams and their organisations. Time to be inspired by the potential of what is possible.

Streamlining Your Supply Chain With AI

How can AI help supply chain professionals streamline their processes and improve visibility?

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Did you ever manage to find out what happened when one of your shipping containers went missing? Are you able to recover your products in time?

Many global companies are struggling with this in an ever-changing, digitised world where there is an increasing demand for transparency and visibility. Consumer satisfaction is being tested by speed of delivery, and as a result, accuracy in your supply chain is essential. Supply chain professionals must find ways to deconstruct the barriers in their organisation’s communications, improving visibility, for example, between a supplier in the North and customers in the West.

AI (artificial or augmented intelligence) technology can keep a constant overwatch on your supply chain looking for signs of trouble and alerting you early granting extra time to solve the really damaging issues, such as an impending weather event likely to close a vital port.

In supply chain management, people often work in silos: detached, isolated, and often far removed from the decisions being made in the C-suite or within other functions of the business. This leads to an unnecessarily complex chain of communication that is difficult to untangle when something goes wrong. Imagine if, in the future, all the elements making up your supply chain could be connected into a fully transparent process where internal barriers are broken down.

When you improve visibility across your network you can gain wider insights into your customer demand and be better prepared if things fail to go to plan. For example, if the demand for your product is outselling your current supply you need to communicate with the supplier to increase the stock in order to maintain your profit margins. Instead of an arduous trawl through past invoices, imagine a service that simplifies this, increasing your customer satisfaction by offering accurate and guaranteed product and shipping information.

In addition, by using AI-enabled orchestration your analysis of total costs and value is more precise and time effective, allowing you more time to concentrate your energy on satisfying customer engagement. This ensures the greatest level of accuracy giving you an overview of your products’ end-to-end supply chain journey.  Supply chain professionals will be able to look beyond their network itself and review potential impacts from other areas, such as weather, news, and transport conditions. As your process evolves and becomes more efficient real-time product guarantees, such as same-day delivery, become the norm instead of an anomaly.

As your supply chain becomes more transparent, it furthers the opportunity to increase business results as the time previously spent on administrative tasks can be refocused.

A real-world example that could benefit from this style of operation is the supply chain in the run up to a major sporting event, such as the Rugby World Cup later this year. Supplier A of miniature replica rugby balls needs to ensure these products are well stocked in their customers’ stores two months prior to the start of the tournament. Unfortunately, due to the extreme weather conditions currently hitting America, Supplier A’s usual plastic provider cannot deliver on this order. By making the supply chain more transparent and with the help of AI, this blocker is flagged early in the system before any time delay arises and Supplier A opts for a European plastic provider instead. The issue is managed successfully and in good time. As a result, the quick response enables Supplier A to meet their quota with their retailers, guaranteeing delivery in time before the start of the event, at a lower cost than if they’d spotted the issue later. Supplier A and their retail customers will not be pipped-to-the-post by competitors.

Now let’s consider the situation when Supplier A’s sellers have spotted that the market for their miniature replica rugby balls is projected to be a lot smaller than at first thought. In many organisations, the supply chain team might go to extreme efforts to get the product’s problem sorted, while the sales department is shifting away from selling the product: an exemplar of common miscommunication resulting in delays and increased costs. Up-to-the-minute communication and feedback from the supply chain right the way through to the consumer provides the correct knowledge to facilitate informed decisions. This enables flagship products to be given first priority, as opposed to products that can get away with a delay of a few weeks.

The efficiency illustrated in the example above highlights how supply chain isolation no longer needs to have a detrimental effect on business results because the internal organisational silos have been broken down. Instead, a more transparent system acts as the catalyst for even greater customer satisfaction. Not only does this positively influence Supplier A and their retailers but, most importantly, the fans’ experience of the Rugby World Cup will be that little bit brighter.

In summary, by increasing visibility across communication channels it furthers delivery accuracy, time efficiency, and business results. All of which can contribute to providing your customer with the very best service you can offer.

IBM Watson are sponsoring Procurious’ London CPO roundtable on 13th February. To request an invitation contact Olga Luscombe. 

If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain needs.



Do You Have The Leadership X Factor?

What are the common traits shared by the top CPOs around the world and how can you demonstrate leadership within procurement and supply chain even if you don’t have a team?

CThe best leaders in procurement and supply chain know all too well that you don’t get results without the support and hard work from a killer team. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are at your job, you can’t do it all yourself and having the best people around you will result in a huge multiplier effect on your overall output.

ISM’s CEO Tom Derry truly believes in this ideology. “The best leaders see the whole business, which most frequently manifests itself as a real concern for their people.” These types of leaders, who we all admire, understand that they got to where they are today based on the strength of their teams. “And so they’re always focussed on their team. How they’re building them , what roles are evolving, what skills they need now. They understand the bigger picture.”

Advice for a first-time procurement and supply chain leader

Tom believes that there is one important thing people need to understand before they set their sights on a leadership role. “The opportunity to lead people flows from you. You’re not a leader if you don’t have followers.” By followers, Tom means gaining support from colleagues within the organisation, to have people gravitate towards you as a natural leader.

“We all know people [like this] in our workplaces who aren’t formally leaders of the people [follow them] but they’re respected, they’re prepared they’ve done their homework. They have data to support their arguments, they’re affable and friendly and people like being with them because they’re seen as authentic. It’s those people who get the opportunity to manage teams in my experience.”

And whats the most important thing to remember once you’ve bagged that leadership role?

“The key to first time management is listening,” argues Tom. “I spend the first period of time doing one on ones and face to face interviews with my team. I ask them in an unguided way: What’s going on? What do you like about what you’re doing? What issues are you facing? What opportunities do you have?” And once you get all of this information on the table it’s so important to take action and respond. “If you ask for input you have to show that you reacted to it and show people your plan in a visual way.” What is the outcome from all of this listening and learning you’ve done and what is the future measure of success within this team going to be?

Part Seven of Tuesdays with Tom is available now. Click here to sign up and hear ISM CEO Tom Derry discuss common traits shared by top CPOs around the world, top tips for first time team leaders in supply management and how to demonstrate leadership even if you don’t have a team.

Procurement Across Borders – Understanding CQ

In the first of a series of articles, Tom Verghese introduces Cultural Intelligence (CQ), what it means and why it is so important in business today.

By StepanPopov / Shutterstock

Last year, one of my clients returned from a holiday to India. She expressed to me her dismay at the different entrance prices at various monuments and tourist site sites that she had visited. She believed that the different pricing structures for locals and tourists was unfair. and that there should be one price for all entrants, regardless of their status.

I reminded her that she was a visitor and that what she considered to be fair pricing was reflective of what she was familiar with. For example, in countries like the US and UK the pricing structure tends to objective, and having one price for all is considered to be fair and equitable. However, in many parts of the world pricing is subjective with many variables influencing price such as how well I know you, the relationship we have, the company that you represent, the links and connections that you have, and even what time of day it is.

This example serves to demonstrate how ‘culture’ can play a part in even the simplest everyday situations at both a personal and professional level. In this story, the conflict of one set of cultural norms over another highlights how cultural differences can create conflict and misunderstandings.

Let’s take a look at some of the defining features of culture so as to better understand how we interact with culture. Culture is the lens through which we view the world.

  • Culture is subjective. That means we use our own culture as a reference point. The practices in our culture are what we use as norms and we use these to compare other cultures
  • Culture is deep. Culture is mostly transmitted through stories, which provide a history of that culture. When we look at tensions or animosity and hatred that passes from one generation to another, it’s because those stories are passed on and perpetuate a view that may no longer be accurate
  • Culture is biased. This means that each one of us interprets and makes judgements by the standards inherent to our own culture
  • Culture is tacit. That is we never really consider or think about our culture until we are outside of it. Culture is important because it essentially impacts the way we think and behave and impacts our worldview.

Most people believe that they have some degree of cultural awareness. This may mean they can identify the languages, foods or traditional dress of certain countries, or other defining characteristics.

However, in our increasingly interconnected and globalised world, as organisations are being required to source talent and conduct business across multiple countries with people from a diverse range of backgrounds, a broader understanding of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is necessary. Having an understanding of what CQ is and how to practically apply it can make it easier to navigate different cultures. For specialists in procurement, the ability to use CQ is particularly relevant. One of the biggest challenges when working across cultures is that we have expectations that people are similar to us and operate according to the same rules. This is a grave error.

What is CQ?

CQ is the capability to work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It goes beyond existing notions of cultural sensitivity and awareness to highlight a theoretically-based set of capabilities needed to successfully and respectfully accomplish your objectives in culturally diverse settings either locally or globally.

CQ can be broken into four components. These components can be both inherent and developed. These four components are:

  1. CQ Drive – The interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. It consists of intrinsic (i.e. meaningful work) and extrinsic interests (i.e. financial rewards) and the drive to learn and understand cultures, their norms and behaviours
  2. CQ Knowledge – Understanding cultural similarities and differences. This includes knowledge of the values, norms and practices in different cultural settings
  3. CQ Strategy – Awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions. It incorporates how we apply our CQ Knowledge insights
  4. CQ Action – The ability to appropriately adapt verbal and non-verbal communication in cross cultural situations, including how well we can adapt when things don’t go according to plan

Over the next 12 months we will be discussing each of these components, what they are and the ways in which you can further develop your own CQ and make improvements on your performance when interacting in cross cultural situations to obtain better outcomes.

Stakeholders Are Your Customers. Ignore Them At Your Peril

If you fail to meet the expectations of key influencers, projects will be delayed, will only be partially workable or at worst, doomed.

Stakeholders can and will influence the outcome of your project, especially if they are likely to be directly affected by it. If we fail to meet the expectations of key influencers, projects will be delayed, will only be partially workable or at worst, doomed.  

Who are your stakeholders?

Stakeholders are any of those individuals that can impact your activities by:

  • removing obstacles and championing  your goals
  • by slowing down or blocking your activities  
  • influencing others about your project –positively or negatively

Many of your stakeholders may not initially be obvious.   They can be:

  • End-users of the product or service
  • Line managers, executives and support staff
  • Procurement team members and co-opted subject matter experts 
  • Suppliers and their subcontractors
  • Government agencies and the media
  • Customers and society at large

Why is stakeholder management so difficult?

Stakeholders have conflicting priorities and often are not working towards the same goal. Personal ambitions may trump the company vision.  You may be the messenger bearing bad news or saying no to their proposals. Seasoned procurement people use their persuasive skills to win support from stakeholders.  This can be the difference between success and failure.

Because stakeholders will change over time, we need a systematic approach to identify and prioritize those influencers.  A stakeholder map is a simple analysis tool we can use to identify which key people have to be won over.

A simple shareholder map

This map provides a guideline on how to manage stakeholders based on their interest and their influence:

Figure 1   The stakeholder analysis grid

The Greens

Stakeholders with a high level of influence in your specific project and who also have a high level of commitment and support must attract the most focus.   They are usually easily identified and are easy to engage. They usually include line managers and end-users.  Ensure you continue to maintain their support through good communication and monitoring their needs. These people can be used to influence others.

The Oranges

This is an important group to manage and may include senior management, e.g. CEO or GM. Keep them satisfied.   Increasing their interest or commitment to your project through regular updates can be very helpful.

The Browns

These customers are your supporters. Keep them informed, their enthusiasm may be infectious and they may have more influence in the future.  Less time is needed to maintain this group. 

The Purples

External stakeholders such as the media and government may fall into this group so it is not necessary to spend too much time there. But keep them in the loop and monitor them as they may move into another group!

Identify all key stakeholders and plot them in the grid in Figure 1. 

Steps to follow to ensure success of any initiative:

  • Concentrate your time on working with key stakeholders who can make or break the initiative. Make sure every stakeholder has an appropriate way to participate and offer input.
  • Understand and manage their expectations. Identify any potential adversaries early in the process and manage them directly by allocating key tasks to them. Persuade those people who may not be immediately supportive. 
  • Under-promise and over-deliver.  Think like a salesperson.
  • Keep everyone well-informed and build strong relationships with the people who support the project.  Recognise and reward positive behaviours to preserve the relationship and buy continued support. 

Dealing with difficult stakeholders

The first step is to clearly identify those stakeholders and work out what motivates them and what is causing their resistance. Ignoring difficult stakeholder behaviour is not recommended; take time to immediately identify the cause of their objections and the underlying issues. People want to feel understood and feel that their opinions matter.

Engage directly with the person directly without others present. This leads to more clear and calm conversations. Actively listen to what they have to say and don’t close communication channels because you don’t like what you hear.   Remain fair, objective, and professional, and remember to keep the project objectives within focus. Try to find common ground by asking open-ended questions.  

Why projects fail: communication is the key

Lack of frequent and accurate communication to and from stakeholders is probably one of the main reasons for the failure of projects.   Another is not listening to the needs and concerns of the key stakeholders, both internal and external. 

When to communicate with stakeholders

  • before the launch of a project to get buy-in. Early engagement is important.
  • at regular progress meetings held to keep everyone updated. Report back on progress (or lack of it) and milestones achieved.
  • before implementation to ensure alignment with the process and the proposed solution
  • at the end of a project to establish lessons learned

Stakeholder management is the process that we use to identify key stakeholders and win their support.  We use the analysis grid to prioritize them by influence and commitment. Understanding what motivates them is the first step to getting them on board.