Procurement Across Borders: Do You Have The Drive?

Do you have the drive, interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation?


By El Nariz/ Shutterstock

In the last article in this series we discussed what cultural intelligence (CQ) is and how it is an important tool in working effectively across distance, culture and time. I described the four main components of CQ, which are CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ strategy and CQ Action. In this article I will be focusing on CQ Drive.

CQ Drive is the interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. There are three main areas of CQ Drive, these being:  

  • Intrinsic drive which is what motivates some people to have interactions with other cultures.  People with intrinsic drive have a deep, personal interest in different cultures and want to understand or experience the different foods, languages and cultural practices of others
  • Extrinsic drive describes those people that may want to gain experience interacting across cultures to improve their credentials, gain experience or gain a promotion in their organisation. People with extrinsic drive are more motivated by the ways in which having interactions with other cultures can benefit them
  • Self efficacy refers to having the confidence to deal with intercultural situations should they arise, especially when you are not in a position to know the best course of action. Often this entails navigating the cues you are receiving and interpreting them to the best of your ability

To further exemplify CQ drive in action I would like to share a story about a client. I was engaged recently to work with a scientist who is on a one year assignment in Australia from Germany. He works for a Biopharmaceutical organisation that has operations in both Australia and Germany. Apart from the technical side of his role, his brief is also to help bridge the different operational styles in the laboratory between the two countries.

 In terms of his intrinsic motivation, he really wants his assignment to be a successful one, has an interest in being of service and helping the organisation to grow through gaining experience in Australia and understanding how the business can operate optimally in a different context.

His extrinsic motivation is through knowing that having this experience will help him further his career and gain recognition and promotion in the future. This international exposure will be an essential component of his ambition to become a global leader.

He has also shown a high degree of self efficacy. Upon arriving in Australia, the organisation provided him with an apartment in a high rise development located in downtown Melbourne. He found over the first few weeks that he was quite lonely and had few people to talk to. Having had previous experience travelling through Europe, he decided to register himself at a Youth Hostel to enable him to meet other travellers and increase his friendship circle.

So, this is an example of someone with high CQ drive in all aspects. I encourage you to reflect on your own levels of CQ Drive in terms of intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. In my article next month, I will share some tips and techniques on how you can improve your CQ Drive and the kind of outcomes this can bring.

World’s Deadliest Supply Routes: Antarctica

Are you responsible for sending your people into danger? In a new Procurious blog series, The World’s Deadliest Supply Chains, we investigate the most high-risk supply chains out there…

By Thelma Amaro Vidales / Shutterstock 

The sight of 1900 rolls of toilet paper would not usually excite your typical urban dweller, but when the consignment supplies a remote Antarctica camp of 350 people for the whole winter it’s a case of unfettered joy and – of course – relief.

The most essential of household essentials was among the 3000 tonnes of provisions and equipment delivered by the chartered US vessel MV Ocean Giant to New Zealand’s Scott Base in January.

The supply drop – which can take up to nine days to unload – included 200 kilograms of coffee beans, 100 cans of peaches, a Toyota Landcruiser, two rowing machines and a triple-glazed window.

According to Antarctica New Zealand logistics manager Paul Woodgate, organisers need to think of everything the isolated community might need, including spare parts for water plants and heaters.

“We need supplies to keep the base clean, everyone fed and warm, and the water flowing,” he told Maori Television.

While routine, MV Ocean Giant’s delivery trip reflects the enormous task of supplying myriad human needs to the frozen wilderness.

While Antarctica might be known as the Lonely Continent, human activity abounds with no fewer than 36 permanent scientific and research bases operating there. In the summer months, many smaller facilities spring up too, all needing to be supplied by the mother camp.

Dangers lurks underneath every crevasse and ice flow, in an environment in which temperatures can fall to minus 90 degrees and winds can howl at more than 300 kilometres an hour.

As with Mt Everest, dozens of people have died on Antarctica’s icy expanses over the years – not just derring-do explorers but workers charged with ensuring the bases are supplied with thousands of items that city folk take for granted.

In 1976, 11 Argentinean airmen were killed when their plane crashed on a reconnaissance mission over Drakes Passage. In a tragic postscript, a helicopter dispatched to recover the bodies also crashed.

In 1971, a Hercules C-130 made a forced landing on a re-supply run to McMurdo Station (the US base on Ross Island that hosts Antarctica’s largest community).

No-one was injured. But the overseers of the US Antarctica program did their sums and realised that salvaging the aircraft would cost $US10m, compared with the $US38m replacement cost.

Seventeen years after it went down, the Hercules was fitted with skis, flown out and pressed into service once again. A testament, indeed, to the durability of the so-called ‘workhorse of the skies’.

As with the Argentinean incident a decade previously, the mission did not have a happy ending: in December 1987 two US sailors died when a different Hercules crashed, while conveying spare parts to the refurbished plane.

These days, the supply chain is made safer with technological advances such as GPS positioning, powerful ice breakers, carbon-fibre skis, freeze-proof laptops, satellite phones and sealed, all-weather runways.

But ‘safer’ is by no means ‘safe’, with many mishaps happening in more recent years.

In January 2016, helicopter pilot David Wood stepped from his aircraft and straight in a crevasse on the Western Ice Shelf, while on a routine mission to re-supply a fuel cache. He was rescued after four lonely hours, but subsequently died from hypothermia.

His death resulted in criminal charges being laid against Australia’s environment departments and a helicopter contractor.

To mitigate the ever-present dangers of Antarctica, governments are constantly stretching the envelope to make the complex logistics requirements that much safer.

In a breakthrough flight, a Royal Australian Air Force Flight C-17A in September 2017 supplied Davis Station from Hobart and then returned to the Tasmanian capital without landing at the base. The 10,000km round trip was made possible by a difficult mid-air refuelling exercise.

The plane air dropped nine tonnes of supplies – including fresh produce – to the base, which is inaccessible by sea from April to October.

Within the next decade, Antarctica’s logistics needs will only expand as more nations establish a presence there, if only to ‘fly the flag’ or with a view to claiming dibs on potential large oil and gas reserves in the future.

Most notably, China has established three bases and three airfields, reportedly spending more on its Antarctic program than any other country.

Six countries have territorial claims to Antarctica: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the UK.

But the Antarctic Treaty actually covers 53 countries, 29 having “consultative status”, which allows them to carry out research.

With 20 airports dotted around Antarctica, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are playing an increasingly prominent role – especially during winter months when sea access isn’t possible and roads on the continent are out of action.

“With more time and advancing technology, carrying goods to remote locations in Antarctica will only get easier,” says the Dubai-based Gulf Worldwide Logistics.

“The logistics industry is preparing for advancement in this continent over the next few years.” But again, ‘easier’ does not imply ‘safer’ and logistics operators perennially need to be alert to the dangers. Like the Emperor penguins, Antarctica is not the type of wild environment that can ever truly be tamed.

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 need


4 Reasons To Get Your Whole Business Doing Procurement

How do you achieve effective procurement by giving all departments the possibility to purchase directly, what the risks of such an approach and how can you reduce them?

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Most mid-sized and big businesses already have a dedicated department responsible for providing a company with everything from paper to spare parts for production line repairs. Why would we offer to involve other employees in the procurement process?  

Let us explain how you may benefit from this approach, what the risks are and how they can be mitigated.

Why involve you non-procurement employees?

When you allow non-procurement employees to take a direct part in the ordering process, here are the gains you get:

1. Enhanced efficiency of the procurement department

Procurement teams frequently get ‘attacked’ with questions from other departments on order status, delivery dates as well as requests to change an order and so on. The involvement of non-procurement employees can help professionals to reduce time spent on low-value, repetitive tasks. And, even in cases when an order still requires approval from the procurement staff, this still decreases the time spent on order processing. It spares procurement professionals from multiple clarifications of order contents and duplication of effort as they don’t have to re-enter the info received from other departments via email or into an internal system to fill in the order documentation.

2. Smarter purchases  

When orders are made by people who need these products and services directly to use in their work, it’s more likely they’ll make smart choices. End users are more likely to know what product model or brand will serve longer and better and won’t require costly rework.

3. Reduced misinterpretations and errors

Misinterpretation and errors may appear when the order info comes through several departments before finally reaching its destination – a vendor. Moreover, procurement professionals often have difficulty understanding the characteristics of specific goods and materials. Allowing non-procurement employees to complete orders on their own, greatly increases the chances that their accuracy won’t be damaged and the requesters will get exactly what they expected.

4. Informed vendors  

Collaborative procurement allows for direct communication between non-procurement employees and suppliers, so it becomes much easier for the latter to get constant feedback from end users and understand what can be improved and how.  

Fears about purchasing directly

However appealing, the idea about involving other departments in purchasing activities may provoke rather disturbing thoughts, such as:  

1. It can result in maverick buying

The more people that are engaged in the procurement process, the easier it is to lose control and face violation of company guidelines and policies, budget exceeds, etc. 

2. It can distract other departments from their job

Employees from other departments may get distracted from their core responsibilities spending their time and effort on the extra procurement activities.  

Fortunately, these are not reasons enough to abandon the idea and forget to acknowledge the benefits that involving non-procurement staff can bring. There are ways to safely mitigate the associated problems with the right software choices.

How you can win with a procurement portal

One of the options worth considering is a procurement portal. A portal provides a possibility to enjoy the benefits while mitigating the relevant pain points you may face. It combines the functionality of a vendor portal and internal procurement software to allow smooth and controlled ‘extended’ procurement.

Controlled buying

To prevent maverick buying, an eProcurement portal uses various mechanisms that ensure a centralised, manageable, and efficient purchasing process. It allows procurement departments to configure the workflows to the specific guidelines and rules of the business, thereby preventing the non-procurement staff from their violation while making orders directly, for example:

  • The portal lets employees access only selected/recommended suppliers approved by the purchasing team.
  • The portal allows employees to purchase only according to the agreed terms.
  • The portal introduces access control with different rights for different employees, departments, and locations.
  • The portal sets up an approval process for either all purchases or specific situations (e.g., budget exceeds) and departments.
  • The portal lets vendors see only approved orders.
  • The portal allows setting up spending limits and sending notifications about all budget exceeds to the procurement and financial departments, etc. 

Intuitive user-centered environment

Easy-to-follow interfaces of modern procurement portals won’t require much effort, time or training to get accustomed.

Final Thoughts

It may be a good step to allow employees to take a direct part in a company’s purchasing activities in order to achieve more effective procurement and supply chain management.

A procurement portal provides good assistance for such an approach. It allows guided buying to prevent violations of the company’s policies and easy-to-follow workflows that don’t require much time and effort to get used to. Moreover, it helps to keep a clear picture of the needs of each department and avoid confusion with future redistribution.   

Yet, in no way do we mean that eProcurement should replace the procurement department. Procurement employees organise and control the procurement process using the portal as a tool for that and get more time to focus on more important activities (for example, strategic sourcing) as well as avoid mechanical and time-consuming work of gathering multiple orders, combining them, seeing to their relevance and working as a service desk for employees afterwards.

Three Ways To Hit 100% Pre-approved Spend

In a perfect business spend management scenario, all spend is digitised. You know what your organisation has committed to spend before a single dollar goes out the door…


By Roman Samborskyi/ Shutterstock

In a perfect business spend management scenario, all spend is digitised. You know what your organisation has committed to spend before a single dollar goes out the door. Pre-approved spend is a critical facet of a digital business spend management strategy because when spending is pre-approved, it means employees are buying from contracted vendors, realising negotiated savings, and complying with internal controls. With high percentages of pre-approved spend, everyone has visibility into spending against budgets and the organisation reduces risk and fraud.

So, what does this look like? In practice, the pre-approved spend process starts when employees submit a requisition and get an approved purchase order for anything they spend money on (besides recurring items such as utilities and leases). Downstream, when an electronic invoice comes in, it matches up with the PO automatically and goes into the queue for payment without anyone having to touch it.

It’s a totally digital process, which should be the ultimate goal of any company’s technology transformation. That’s why pre-approved spend is one of the key metrics we track in the Coupa Benchmark Report, our annual report that looks at performance metrics based on aggregated, anonymised data from our business spend management platform. Our 2019 findings indicate that in top-performing customer companies, 99.8 per cent of spend is pre-approved.

The long-term, positive impact of hitting that key metric goes beyond process efficiency.

It changes the way people can spend their time. Buyers can shift to managing vendors and commodities, not transactions. Accounts Payable can spend time on more strategic activities than chasing invoices. Finance has real-time visibility and control. Compliance is automated. In summary, your company can grow, without adding people to handle paper.

Eventually, your goal is get to a point where every invoice that comes in is backed by a purchase order. It’s a long-term maturity goal, and you need a plan to get both employees and suppliers on board. Here’s what that usually looks like.

1.Corralling “mavericks” by making it easy to follow the rules

Employees don’t necessarily want to be “maverick” spenders. They just want to get what they need quickly and get back to their job. If they search your system and find the right catalog and item, or they can easily find the policy that tells them where to go and what process to follow, they’ll follow the rules. It’s when they can’t find what they need, or the approval process takes too long, that they go outside the process and non-PO backed invoices start showing up.

So, the first thing you need to do is set up your system so that it’s easy for employees to follow the rules. To lay the groundwork for that easy employee experience, you’ll need to consolidate your suppliers and figure out which ones you’ll offer as preferred providers. Since some companies can have tens of thousands of suppliers, most organisations approach this project in tiers, focusing on suppliers with the highest numbers of transactions in the most common spending categories.

Next, you have to configure your policies in the system and set up your contracts and your catalogs. Catalogs go a long way toward providing a consumer-like e-commerce experience that makes it easy for people to find what they want and requisition it.

Finally, make sure that getting a requisition approved and turned into an PO is quick. This cycle time is critical to employee satisfaction and adoption of the system, which is why we also have a benchmark for requisition to PO time: 14.8 hours for best in class companies. Long approval chains are one of the biggest reasons for delays, so as you automate, take a look at your approval chains. Automation helps you increase visibility.

2. Encourage suppliers to adopt your new system

Once employees are reliably going through the purchase order process, you can shift your focus to getting more of your suppliers to submit their invoices electronically. Their participation is critical, because the more suppliers you have enabled, the closer you are to fully automating the invoice process.

Your major suppliers should be enabled in the system when you launch, but over time you will want to review the long tail of the supplier base, working through it in categories and starting with those that are submitting the most invoices in each. How deep into the supplier base you can go is usually a matter of resources. As we grow the Coupa Supplier Network and improve our Community Intelligence capabilities, our supplier enablement team is increasingly able to speed that effort by matching your current suppliers with suppliers already transacting with other Coupa customers via cXML or portal.

It’s pretty fast to set a supplier up; what really takes time is reaching out, following up, and providing any training that your hundreds or thousands of suppliers need. This change management piece is essential to obtaining supplier buy-in. You may want to bring in a partner to help you develop a communication plan around what you’re doing and why.

Explain the options your suppliers have for submitting their invoices, whether that’s by cXML or EDI, supplier portal, or supplier actionable email notification. Also make sure they understand the benefits, which are usually faster payment cycles and the ability to track the invoice status in your system without having to call anyone.

3. Benefits of Pre-Approved Spend Go Beyond AP

There’s a lot of benefit to AP from getting suppliers on board and spend pre-approved, but the best way to look at your digitisation effort is as an interconnected process that benefits procurement, finance, and the rest of the business.

You have to give users to right environment to be able to follow the policy. If the content is not there, and the system is too hard to use, you’re still going to have the same difficulty with people going around the systems, POs going to the wrong suppliers and cycle times remaining lengthy. Invoices still have to be coded and routed by AP, and you don’t get visibility into spending until after the fact.

If you get all of your employees going through the pre-approval process but you don’t have suppliers on board to submit invoices electronically, you’re still going to have a lot of manual work in AP.

When you can pull it all together from both sides, you can institute a “No PO, No Pay” policy. This is the best practice, the ultimate goal, and the reason you’re investing in an automated system in the first place. It’s a process transformation that takes time, but once it is complete it has the power to transform the way the whole company does business.

Learn more about how you can increase pre-approved spend and other KPIs you should be tracking in the 2019 Coupa Benchmark Report.

Out Of Savings Ideas? Here’s How To Unlock A New Level Of Buying Power

If you feel like you’ve exhausted every avenue for finding cost savings, a Group Purchasing Organization could be the answer to your challenge.

By Andrew Paul Deer /Shutterstock

There’s a gripping scene in the last chapters of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days where the ever-dapper hero, Phileas Fogg, finds himself on a steamboat from New York to Ireland. Going full steam against hurricane winds, the vessel runs out of coal after a few days but Fogg, desperate to get to London in time to win a wager, buys the steamer from the captain and launches a desperate plan.

He instructs the crew to feed the furnace with all the wooden parts of the ship – the cabins, bunks, masts, rafts, spars were all burned, followed by the decking itself in a “perfect rage for demolition”. By the time they reach Queenstown the steamship has been reduced to an iron hull and an engine.

Procurement and supply management professionals on the never-ending hunt for cost savings can face a similar situation. Through the identification of efficiencies, negotiations with suppliers and more drastic cost-cutting initiatives, the wooden decking of the steamship (your organization) can be rapidly stripped away until suddenly you’re left with nothing but the hull.

In an immature procurement function, it’s very easy for procurement professionals to look good by posting impressive savings figures month after month. But as your function matures and savings opportunities become harder to find, your track record suddenly doesn’t look so hot.

Where to from here? Well, that’s where innovative thinking comes in. Finding further savings after all of the obvious avenues have been exhausted takes creativity and out-of-the-box solutions. If you do plan on going back to your supplier base to negotiate lower prices, you’ll need to offer them something in return for a better deal.

Volume, volume, volume

If you’re in a situation where you need further costs savings, but your suppliers genuinely cannot budge on price, there’s one sure-fire lever to reach for – volume.

Most businesses end up paying more than they need to because they only spend a modest amount in a particular category and will never unlock the power of bulk discounts. But not every organization has the resources – or warehouse space – to ramp up their purchase volume on their own. But what if there was a way to get the discounts of “bulk” without having to buy more?

Joining a Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) gives members access to savings you would never be able to negotiate on your own. Your organization joins a group of others buying the same thing, meaning you can leverage your collective purchase and buy in bulk as a group to create buying power.

GPOs help businesses of all sizes save on indirect and direct spend. The savings are found not just through bulk discounts, but through efficiencies (such as cutting down on search time and issuing RFPs) and administrative cost savings.

Collective buying decreases suppliers’ overheads, which drives further savings for the purchasing organization. Imagine, for example, a cashier who takes five minutes to process an order. 1000 single-item orders would require 5000 minutes of labor, whereas a single order of 1000 items requires five minutes of labor.

Looking for some facts and figures?

We get it – you’re a procurement pro, and procurement pros want to see hard numbers rather than fluffy promises of savings. We can’t speak for every GPO out there, but we can prove the value of GPO membership with our own figures.

UNA is a GPO with a combined $100 billion in buying power. We help procurement professionals:

  • Boost their bottom line with deep discounts we negotiate to save an average of 22% on direct and indirect spend.
  • Gain access to steeply discounted agreements (better contracts) that would typically be out of reach.
  • Unlock exclusive savings on products and services including 80% off office supplies, 26% off hotels, 20% off parcel shipping, and more.
  • Save time through pre-negotiated contracts to get started with new suppliers in 30 days or less.
  • Keep prices stable with agreements to ensure rates don’t increase.
  • We provide a free cost analysis across your highest categories of spend and offer procurement tips and support.

OK, but how much does GPO membership cost?

Every GPO is structured differently. Some GPOs charge members a fee for their services, while other GPOs, like UNA, are paid by the suppliers themselves. We, in turn, use that fee to fund our program, so that it’s always free for our members.

Membership with a GPO creates an advantage for the member that they couldn’t get on their own. If you’re running out of cost savings ideas and want to unlock the buying power driven by bulk pricing, a GPO could be the solution needed to keep your steamship sailing along.

Interested in learning more? Contact UNA to discuss the benefits of Group Purchasing.  

Golfing for a Spectrum of Opportunity

We’re seeing people on the spectrum unleash their intellect, experience and creativity across the company and around the world.

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Recently I was invited to participate in a golf tournament. Golf is more than a game to me: it’s social; it’s outdoors; and it’s competitive. I’m always up for some good competition! Unfortunately, I just don’t get out there as much as I’d like, but in this situation, it’s not just about competing in a beautiful setting with friends and colleagues.

This tournament has a purpose that is meaningful, powerful and valuable: Els for Autism Golf Challenge. Not only do I get to play golf and feel good about supporting a great cause, but this helps people, communities and businesses. It’s a trifecta!

In the software industry, the network effect occurs when new participants join a digital platform, and the entire collective reaps the benefits — the more inclusive the network, the richer the experience and the greater the value. The same can be said for inclusivity in the workplace. Both serve as opportunity multipliers enhancing the experience and value for all.

I aspire to create a corporate culture that is welcoming to and respectful of all. For me, this aspiration is modeled through SAP’s Autism at Work program, one of our many great diversity and inclusion programs at SAP.

We’re seeing people on the spectrum unleash their intellect, experience and creativity across the company and around the world. People with autism are realising more than gainful employment; they’re forging professional careers. Here’s an amazing feature highlighting the program:

Of course, in the procurement business, where matching supply with demand is our specialty, we know a mismatch when we see one. There is upwards of eighty-five per cent unemployment rates for adults on the spectrum — people with skills and ambitions and dreams — which indicates that our colleagues, customers and communities are missing out on a huge untapped pool of talent. It’s also an opportunity denied to people with a tremendous amount to offer.

When I think about these people with skills, ambitions and dreams, I think of Dennis, a quality assurance specialist at SAP Ariba. Dennis has muscular dystrophy and struggled to fit in. He always assumed it was because of his wheelchair.

A diagnosis of autism after college gave him better insight into why making friends was so challenging, but it didn’t change the fact he couldn’t land a job. Lucky for us, Dennis found his way to SAP through the Autism at Work program. He has said, “I’m sad to have lost the ability to walk, but I’m an optimist and don’t let it get me down. Now, I live life without thinking too much about my physical disabilities… Autism is neither a disability or an ability. It just makes a person like me different.”

Now that is the caliber of colleague that I want on my team — someone who spends more time thinking about what he can do than what he cannot. Not to mention that as a quality assurance specialist, Dennis is an expert at catching issues way before customers experience them!

Dennis, in foreground, with colleagues

At SAP, we hire people like Dennis because we’re better for it. We develop the best products because we hire the best people. It’s as simple as that.

Though I am looking forward to a great day of golf, it’s really not about the game. It’s about providing opportunities and presenting the realm of possibility. American writer and lecturer Dale Carnegie once said, “We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.” Dennis is doing his thing, and I’m doing mine. We can all do something. The Els for Autism Foundation is a valuable resource to educate ourselves on autism, to donate and to volunteer. Each of us can play a role in helping our communities and companies be better. The possibilities are simply waiting to be seized.

Procure with Purpose

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Click here to enroll and gain access to  all future Procure with Purpose events including exclusive content, online events and regular webinars.  

When Did Podcasting Become So Cool?

50 per cent of the population can’t be wrong, right? But just why is podcasting so popular and why do we keep listening?

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In 2017, when I received a call from Colin Beattie, one of the best leadership and cultural transformation architects I know, I had no idea at all about podcasts. So when Colin told me that he had an idea for an innovative podcast format exploring leadership dilemmas, and asked if I wanted to be one of his executive speakers, it was more my enthusiasm at having a chance to work with Colin again that had me saying yes. Two great conversations facilitated by Colin with the wonderful Simone Carroll, some improvisation from the talented Rik Brown and Amanda Buckley, and two more episodes of the podcast series LeaderShip of Fools were created. From my end, I was a convert.

With the advent of digital technology, the way we work, socialise and engage has changed dramatically. So it’s no surprise therefore that the way we consume information, listen and learn has also changed. What may however be a surprise is that what we now commonly refer to as podcasting, has its origins in the 1980s. For those of us who were around at the time, we may remember it referred to as audioblogging (among other names). For its time, it was a ground-breaking way of recording and communicating information and messages. It wasn’t until the early 2000s and the introduction of the Apple iPod however, that momentum started to build around this digital platform. With a diverse library of 000’s of recordings being made available via the iPod, digital recordings became that much easier to access and started being more consistently being referred to as podcasts.

In this age of digital where only some things really stick and embed, and others join a cycle of hype before finding oblivion, what is it about podcasting that has not only endured but thrived? Nielsen estimates that in 2017, 44 per cent of Americans have listened to a podcast, with 80 per cent or more listening to one podcast each week.  If you think that sounds only vaguely interesting, and it’s simply a US-inspired phenomena, think again. According to Statista The State of Podcasting, would you have guessed that South Korea is firmly at the top of list of countries? With 58 per cent of people having listened to podcast in the last month, they are followed by Spain with 40 per cent. We Australians aren’t doing too poorly at 33 per cent, matching the US in percentage, if not in population numbers.  So irrespective of the range and location of listeners, it seems that podcasts are global and they are here to stay. Which raises the question of why exactly are we listening?

  1. Our need for connection. There does seem to be an irony here that I am very aware of. Does that really make sense? How can podcasting, a digital format helps us connect?  With over 600,000 podcasts out there, there are many topics and formats, as a well as a diversity of content. Done well, a podcast captures a conversation and invites us to be part of it. It can allow us to feel that we are listening and learning as active participants, even though we have not been there at the time. The authenticity of an open conversation, different perspectives from what we may otherwise be exposed to, and discussion that could confirm or challenge what we think we know, is a unique experience. Importantly, the challenge is non-confrontational and we give speakers a chance to explain themselves (unless we decide to pause them, or even more drastically, delete them from our library). They provoke our curiosity, and hopefully our admiration. Many times, and this has happened to me, they also provoke disbelief and ire. What? or Are you kidding me? is something I know I have said out loud while listening to more than one podcast.
  2. Interested in politics, starting a business, functional expertise, marketing, popular culture, music, crime, gardening, a discussion of your favourite TV show (yes, even if it is from the 90s and a guilty pleasure and therefore destined to remain unnamed)?  Well, you get the idea. Almost every, and any topic is likely to have a podcast associated with it. Note to readers: I have included “almost” to qualify my comment given that I am sure there will be someone out there who will be able to find a gap in the podcast market for a subject of interest. Applying a digital lens, podcasts have become a highly personalised way for us to choose what we want to consume, and how we want to consume it.  The breadth of content is extraordinary and the access to expertise so great. As someone navigating the business world whether in your own start up or in a large organisation, where else would you be able to hear about the challenges of entrepreneurship, digital transformation, leadership and customer engagement from those who have innovated, succeeded, and failed at scale? Similarly, where else would you be able to access the breadth of experiences and insights of people who are influencing the agenda on science, social justice, politics, economics and the environment be it locally, nationally or globally?
  3. If digital is redefining the idea of anywhere, anytime, then podcasting exemplifies this. Just as the options for content are endless, as a listener, I have the choice as to when and how, I listen. There are a multiplicity of listening platforms and devices; desktop, smartphone via iTunes, Spotify, Podbean. Something to suit everyone. Choices can be based on location, the time that is available and what is of interest at that particular day, week, or even moment. You can choose to be educated, entertained, moved, or inspired. Sometimes, a great podcast can achieve all of those things. There are many times that I have found myself laughing out loud as I listen to a podcast while I am walking. So a note to those who are new to podcasting; it does take a special type of confidence to walk down the street and not be disturbed by the curious looks of other pedestrians as you smile or laugh out loud. If you aren’t quite there yet, there are many other locations and time options for you to think about and get started with.

My podcast library is highly versatile depending on what I am interested in learning more about. A few current favourites from me that I am talking to friends about: npr’s Hidden Brain, Freakonomics Radio, HBR Ideacast, and of course, LeaderShip of Fools.

Great things happen when we seize the opportunity to be curious. If you haven’t become a podcast listener yet, it’s not too late to make a start. And if you have and lost some momentum, tune in to one on a topic of interest and reignite your learning and inspiration.

New Goals for Procurement – Driving Revenue Growth Through Supplier Collaboration

Procurement professionals need to think in more innovative ways about how we can drive competitive advantage and shareholder value for our organisations.

By Greg Epperson / Shutterstock

In my recent article, I talked about “the Art of Procurement”, and suggested that the time is right for procurement to move beyond our traditional focus on transactional improvement and basic cost reduction. Whilst remembering those are still important aspects of the role, we need to think in more innovative ways about how we can drive competitive advantage and shareholder value for our organisations.

Revenue growth is one key factor that determines shareholder value and organisational health generally. While profit is of course important, and the procurement goal of cost reduction plays a key role here, “you cannot cut your way to growth” (or ultimate success), as the saying goes. Growth is vital, and stock markets arguably value growth more than absolute profit levels or even margins.

So, firms can grow revenue through a variety of activities, for instance;

  • Finding new customers for existing products
  • Improving existing products (so the firm sells more)
  • Introducing new products – either totally “new”, or line / range extensions and additions
  • Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of sales and marketing activity

In every case here, it’s clear that procurement has a potential role to play. Even in terms of the “improved sales / marketing” route, there are possibilities – maybe procurement can work with the marketing team to find innovative suppliers in areas such as digital marketing? 

For one European bank, the capability of their internal procurement team has become a customer benefit that is winning new revenue.  Potential business customers – particularly small and medium sized firms who may not have much internal capability – are offered access to a set of procurement tools, templates and good practice guidance developed by the bank’s procurement team, who are also available for telephone consultation if the clients want that too. In a market where the core banking service on offer from every competitor is very similar, this has proved to be a differentiator that has won new business for the firm.

When it comes to improving existing products (or services), suppliers are often better placed than the business itself to identify opportunities. Procurement can really come into its own by supporting that supplier-driven innovation and improvement. But in many cases, it is not simply about identifying the innovation or improvement – it may well be that the firm gains revenue and advantage through the speed to market compared to the competition.  

That was highlighted in a recent webinar I enjoyed, which featured my old friend and ex-colleague Jason Busch of Spend Matters as well as KPMG and Ivalua. But the highlight was hearing from Mark Gursky, Director of the Procurement Center of Excellence at Meritor (a $4 billion global manufacturer of automotive components). He explained how procurement in that business was contributing towards ambitious targets for growth via new product launches.

The key was (and is) enabling more effective working between Meritor and key suppliers, who are supporting the drive for growth. That change in the whole working relationship between buyer and suppliers, needed to support Meritor’s goals, has itself been supported by technology (that’s where procurement technology firm Ivalua comes into the picture).

It struck me that the technology achieves two goals. First of all, to really make the most of what your suppliers can offer, you need to manage the basics of supplier management well. That means supplier master data management; spend and contract analytics; risk management and so on. Putting it simply, if you don’t have a grip on who your suppliers are, what they’re doing with you, where in your organisation they are already working, and how they are performing, then impressive sounding “supplier innovation programmes” will be built on sand.

Then, having got the foundations in place, technology can support the actual collaborative development work. Gursky talked about using the Ivalua platform to manage all the work between the firm and key suppliers. Information is captured in one place rather than emails flying around between lots of different people. Complex requirements can be quickly translated into bills of material, then suppliers can respond rapidly to requests and questions. Projects can be tracked, data and information exchanged securely between the parties, and outputs tracked and monitored via the platform. Information is easily shared, but proper controls are managed too, important when we’re talking about potentially innovative new products.

You can still access the webinar here to find out more about the Meritor story; it’s a great example of procurement looking beyond the norm, and really contributing to those wider goals such as revenue growth.  And at the Ivalua Now “Art of Procurement” conference next month, I’m expecting to hear more examples like that of procurement moving beyond our traditional heartland of cost control and transactional management.

You can book for that here, and join the firm, key clients such as Total, Suez and Deutsche Telekom (and me) in Paris for what should be a stimulating couple of days – maybe see you there!   

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Make 2019 The Year Your Stakeholders #loveprocurement!

If procurement stays in its traditional role within the organisation, I believe will not achieve its potential growth.

By gpointstudio/ Shutterstock

Last year we asked a group of our customers why they ‘#loveprocurement’, and the answers were really a great testament to the evolving role of procurement. Ivalua is a company that was founded to serve the needs of procurement departments. We are very passionate about what we do, but even we were astonished at the wave of procurement love which came our way when we asked the question “Why do you #loveprocurement?” Here are some of the highlights:

A business function in the midst of a huge evolution, moving from optimising costs to becoming the creator of value and growth

Most procurement leaders have focused on some element of cost reduction and this remains an important area of focus. However, we are now at a point where procurement needs to, and can, look beyond cost savings and move to planning for a seismic change. No-one wins the race by just being good enough. In business being as good as your competitors will not ensure your future success. If you do not innovate you will fade away. We asked professionals why they love their jobs so much, and many called out procurement as being a highly innovative and dynamic department, full of creative people adding huge value to their organisations. Does this sound like you?

Last year we worked extensively with The Hackett Group and they published two excellent reports,

State of Procurement Digital Transformation, Part 1: Value Drivers and Expectations and L​essons Learned by Early Adopters, Part 2.​ In these reports they talk about getting the basics right and procurement getting its house in order ie building a data centre of excellence, getting stakeholders onboard, The latest report from The Hackett Group, ​Procurement Key Issues 2019,​ shows how things are moving on this year. Procurement organisations can move beyond best in class, and clearly the will of procurement teams is there to do this. However there needs to be better alignment between procurement and its business goals. If there is a focus on analytical capabilities (which there is), there must also be teams and individuals brought in with the skills to make this happen, that is when procurement will move to the stage of offering competitive advantage, rather than just as good as the competition.

The future of our profession is not written in stone. It is because of this that it is a passionate adventure for creative people

In a recent blog, Ivalua CMO Alex Saric talks recruitment as being one of the top issues for CPOs and their Senior Directors. What is clear from the comment above, is that the procurement industry is attracting top talent. The comment was repeated by many professionals, and what comes across is that people working in procurement are going above and beyond what might have traditionally expected from this sector. Wolfgang Groening, Head of Procurement Sourcing & Vendor Management at Deutsche Telekom talks in this ​short video​ about the fact that he loves to innovate. Wolfgang in particular calls out digital innovation and how this is allowing organisations like Deutsche Telekom to proactively look for ways to bring more innovation, rather than sticking with the transactional elements of procurement alone.

Fannie Mae, like many other organisations, are recruiting procurement experts that can bring industry knowledge and market insight. These experts are addressing their organisations’ needs to know what are the key trends in the marketplace, who are the movers and shakers in the market and where is innovation coming into play. This is so far from the traditional role of procurement as we could get. Sylvie Noel, CPO of French insurance giant Covéa speaks plainly when she says that has modernised her organisation’s procurement function and that now internal stakeholders or customers now have all the information they need from procurement and they either go for it or they don’t (her words). In Covéa, people can no longer moan about the ‘procurement black tunnel’, because Sylvie has brought in a tool which enables highly skilled procurement professionals to interact seamlessly with their customers, cutting out precious time which can be spend on new product innovations.

A function which has a significant impact on the bottom line AND on the TOP line of an organisation. It is a window of innovation from the outside

If procurement stays in its traditional role, the organisation, I believe will not achieve its potential growth. If procurement is just there to be the police and control cost, then that’s not good enough. Each department in any organisation of a reasonable size is making decisions every day which cost the company money. I’ve worked in marketing for 20 years, and some of the decisions I’ve seen made, and no doubt have made myself, have not always been 100 per cent well thought out! Marketing people are creative, last minute merchants, and this can mean that you do not always dot the Ts and cross the Rs. ​Procurement’s stakeholders, like marketing, need help as they too are going through a massive digital growth curve. I should know – I am a procurement stakeholder. As my department, marketing, steps into the great digital unknown, in a market that is constantly evolving we need skilled procurement professionals to help us make decisions which will be strategic to the company, and we are looking for that expertise and partnership. We need help to look at the innovations in our sector, and strong leadership in both marketing and procurement to make sure we are embracing new technologies, spending the company’s money wisely and driving growth. In addition, marketing and procurement departments need to be recruiting the sorts of individuals who collaborate by nature, who see the bigger picture, who are able to dream big, and also keep the end goal in mind.

What is clear from our #loveprocurement campaign and the answers that you gave us is that many of you love your jobs and are really passionate about the direction in which procurement is going. You are also clear that procurement can make a huge contribution to the bottomline and growth of your organisations. Now you need to make sure that your stakeholders feel this passion and begin to feel your influence on the direction your organisations are going.

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Procurement Pros: You’ve Got A Friend In ROI

How does an organisation know that the procurement initiatives, projects, efforts really result in a quantifiable benefit to the business?

By Mercury Green / Shutterstock

As both a former CPO and consultant, I’m often asked about the strategies I have employed to grow, reach and deliver results. Yes, I can tell you stories from past lives of wooing reluctant stakeholders and setting savings records year over year. Actually, the secret to my success in procurement is much less glamorous, and I’d like to share that with you: 

Effectively planning and prioritising initiatives and meticulously tracking ROI through a rigorous project benefit validation process and governance framework are the best ways to increase your organisation’s credibility, dependability, and recognition.

Procurement plays a critical role in the cost management of an organisation.  This is why many organisations are quick to tout the cost savings and bottom line benefits generated by procurement’s efforts. Procurement’s maturity journey, when done right, can last months to years, and often requires significant investments – consultants, technology infrastructure, headcount, and support services. How does an organisation know that the procurement initiatives, projects, efforts really result in a quantifiable benefit to the business? Furthermore, how can the organisation fully appreciate procurement’s value? When the results are not tracked, reported, and kept as the focal point, procurement’s full impact can be overlooked, or underappreciated at best.

ROI is your friend

Procurement intersects across the business’ most strategic functions: operations, finance, legal, while managing critical external supplier and partner relationships. This broad exposure is combined with well-honed skills in cost control, analytics, process, research, contracting, and negotiation, as well as a deep knowledge of the business and company culture. Yet, we are often not given the respect we deserve as a key trusted business partner. Why is that?  Procurement teams tend to sell themselves short by not forecasting ROI and tracking quantifiable benefits for all value-add initiatives.

Identifying project benefits and estimating an accurate return on investment (ROI) can be very challenging for organisations. There are several possible reasons why ROI often goes unmeasured:

Being satisfied too early

Some organisations are satisfied with the general improvement in their financial statements after formalising a procurement strategy, because now a methodology in which to quantify “savings” or “value” has been defined.  When this journey begins, controls are strengthened, initiatives are defined, “low hanging fruit” is addressed, resources are deployed, and as a result, the organisation performs better as a whole. 

Focusing on tactics

Some companies focus intensely on training resources and executing projects in the early stages of a procurement journey, and place secondary emphasis on measuring ROI, believing that the benefits will come.

Can’t find the right formula

Some companies attempt to measure ROI, yet they are unsure how to quantify project benefits generated from procurement, especially if there are multiple ways to measure a successful procurement effort. It is evident that, even considering how well-known or understood the procurement function is to the world, there is still a significant knowledge gap. How can procurement quantify project benefits and truly link them to a company’s financial performance?

The well-reported results of industry pioneers that are more mature in their procurement function, as well as the pressing need to reduce costs and improve productivity, have encouraged company leaders to push their teams to undertake even more procurement initiatives. Sometimes, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, these efforts languish over time, or procurement becomes less engaged than they once were. This can often be because benefits have not been accurately estimated or verified as impacting the bottom line. In some cases, benefits can be reconciled as tangible contributions to the income statement; but in others, benefits may not be so evident during a reconciliation process.  A critical key to success is to ensure that procurement does not miss an opportunity to bring true credibility to their efforts is to implement a process that directly reconciles project benefits to the company’s accounting and reporting systems.

The tools you need: project selection, benefit validation and governance

A strong project governance process is key to the successful project execution and results. A comprehensive project governance process encompasses how projects are identified, selected, executed and reported. However, in most project governance processes, a key element is often forgotten: benefit estimation and validation.

While most organisations recognise the value of properly vetting project ideas and opportunities prior to launching a project, many fail to follow the process religiously for every initiative. Some may launch projects before a proper prioritisation effort has taken place, or others may spend too much time in the idea generation phase. Often, organisations fail to estimate potential benefit prior to project chartering or prioritisation of projects.

Experience has shown that the pressure to get started, or to drive quick results, pushes teams to launch projects without taking the time to adequately plan or determine probable benefits. This ineffective approach to project selection and prioritisation means that projects are often executed without being fully linked to the organisation’s overall strategic goals, and as a result, too many projects are chartered, and few are completed to the company’s expectations.

Not only does a project benefit validation process help with initial benefit estimation during project selection, it adds rigor during project execution by defining project benefits with more accuracy and clarity. This facilitates credible benefit reporting, and establishes a foundation for post-project benefit reconciliation, where benefits can be reconciled to the organisation’s financial statements. Simply stated, the benefits driven by the procurement effort can now be fully understood as to their impact to the business.

A strong project benefit validation infrastructure can support the procurement function as it matures an evolves to take on more challenging value-add activities for the business. It provides not only the basis for identifying and approving projects, but also serves to maintain the momentum and retain ongoing management and stakeholder support to build the brand, extend your reach, and deliver better results year over year.

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