5 Of The Most Controversial (But Useful) Ideas To Come Out Of Big Ideas Summit

Big new ideas don’t always meet with universal approval – but sometimes the most controversial ideas are the most useful.


Last week Procurious had the pleasure of spending the day dreaming big with some of the brightest minds and expert thinkers from inside and outside our profession.

Yes, it was the time of year for Big Ideas London – and what a day it was!

Our speakers delivered keynotes across a huge range of topics, from social media and procurement technology to smart pills and why winning at IT tended to make you the winner in the long run. Each session brought its own insights into the current and future state of the procurement profession – providing, as ever, tangible ideas for our audience of senior procurement professionals to take back to their organisations.

Bu there wasn’t always agreement. Discussion abounded, both inside the room and outside on social media, as to what procurement needs to do to evolve and what the next 10 years will look like. 

Some ideas proved far more controversial than others. But every single one was useful for the audience.

We’ve picked out 5 of the most controversial, but still useful, ideas from the day. 

And you know we’ve had some great discussions when the use of smart pills to ‘hack’ your brain isn’t one of the most controversial concepts from the day!

1. If you’re going to be boring on social media, you might as well not bother!

Social media is disrupting everything it touches. And social selling lies at the very heart of the business model. This doesn’t mean everyone is selling a product, but social media platforms can be vital tools for procurement when it comes to finding what they are looking for.

According to Tim Hughes, CEO and Co-Founder at DLA Ignite, 92 per cent of B2B buyers start their search online. And by using social media 78 per cent of salespeople are outselling their peers. 

But the idea on which Tim focused was how people are perceived on social media when they appear in searches.

Social selling products is one thing. But social selling can also mean promoting yourself on social media as a professional, an expert thinker, an influencer – or even the next manager young professionals want to work with. 

For too many professionals and experts, the perception of them on social media isn’t good. You’ll find profiles lacking key information and not providing any evidence to back up claims of experience and knowledge. And, for many, profiles that are downright boring!

Tim’s view is that if your profile is boring then it’s not even worth your time getting involved. Tim used the example of two global experts in a niche market – one with a wealth of information across all of his profiles and the other with barely their name on the page. 

Who, as a user, are you going to approach for advice? Even if the person with no information is the global expert, you’re going to look elsewhere.

Social media is absolutely the way to go, but you need to commit to it and share all the right information in order to make an impact.

2. Technology solutions providers have failed procurement

Eighty-one per cent of firms who have invested in technology solutions for risk management aren’t satisfied with the results. What are we all doing and why would we accept this, asked Justin Sadler-Smith, General Manager at Basware.

But Justin wasn’t finished there. In what was a bold and controversial statement from the general manager of a major player in the technology solutions market, he argued that technology solutions providers have failed procurement. Failed in their software, failed in their support, failed to provide what was required beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.

But, according to Justin, this failure was a two-way street. Procurement teams had to share a measure of the blame because they had accepted these solutions (with a shrug) as ‘good enough’.

This led to a great opportunity for our first keynote hashtag of the day (#goodenoughisnolongergoodenough) and a healthy discussion on exactly what the profession needed to be doing in the future.

3. It’s time to rethink the Triple Bottom Line

You’ve heard of product recalls – Toyota; Samsung; Pfizer; Mattel – but how about recalling an idea? It might sound strange but that’s exactly what John Elkington, the founder of the concept of the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), has done.

The thinking behind the recall was outlined by Professor Omera Khan, a strategic supply chain risk expert and champion for sustainability in business. The concept of the TBL is still sound, according to Omera. But as sustainability becomes even more critical the TBL needs to be stronger to challenge existing concepts and really make supply chains sustainable.

Supply chains need exponential or fundamental, rather than incremental, change – and to stop marching to the drumbeat of old ideas and concepts. Omera talked about creating regenerative supply webs that will help prepare procurement for the future and the ‘green swans’ that are inevitably heading our way.

4. CPO to CVO

If there was one idea that lit the blue touchpaper in the room and on social media, it was this controversial suggestion by Diego De La Garza, Director, and Philippe de Grossouvre, Business Development Director, both at Corcentric.

The duo discussed what the procurement profession was going to look like in 20, 30, 40 and 50 years’ time. Even with this long-term view, Diego and Philippe emphasised the importance of procurement understanding where it came from in order to better understand its future. 

It was the idea that procurement will become recognised as a part of finance in the future that really got discussion going. The movement from CPO to CVO (Chief Value Officer) would give a wider-ranging strategic role, but could it also take procurement thinking back 20 years to when this idea was first espoused?

The audience was split on whether this was the correct approach. Does procurement need to go backwards to go forwards? You decide.

5. RIP the RFP?

The final controversial idea was one that had the most experienced professionals in the room recoiling in horror. OK, not really, but it was a theme that was brought up time and again over the rest of that day. 

Once again we return to Justin Sadler-Smith’s keynote and the idea that procurement is too wedded to traditional concepts to really evolve.

The biggest cause of this was the continuing use of RFP/RFQ/RFx in sourcing activities. Justin argued that in a world of big data that can be analysed almost instantly by technology and AI, why would businesses continue to use valuable time and resources on an RFP? 

Could the same answer not be found from stored supplier data, compared and reviewed as required?

Or could there be a balance? Rather than taking RFP/RFQ/RFx away altogether, organisations should be looking to use them in the appropriate settings. 

Think tenders for multiple millions or billions of pounds/dollars. Or follow Chris Fielden at Innocent, for whom going to market can help provide genuinely innovative solutions to problems that raw data analytics just couldn’t provide.

Whether you’re a traditionalist or a futurist, this debate is not going away any time soon.

Dream big – like a champion

So there you have it. We dreamed big and created some great, new, big ideas for you to take away to think about and discuss in your organisation. You may not agree with all of the ideas and you might not agree with our list, either. 

But the important thing, as our final speaker Sir Clive Woodward, England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning head coach, noted: ‘Do not underestimate where new ideas can come from, so always keep yourself open. Practice “Relentless Learning” and you too can develop the DNA of a champion.’

Disrupt – Or Be Disrupted

We have to try to engage proactively with a changing business world, no matter how impossible it seems to predict what is coming.


‘It’s difficult to make predictions – especially about the future,’ as an old Danish proverb observes. 

The saying – sometimes attributed to physicist Niels Bohr – makes perfect sense. Predictions are hostages to fortune, and it’s not difficult to think of a number of well-known forecasts that turned out to be embarrassingly wide of the mark. 

Thomas Watson, then president of IBM, wrote in 1943 that he saw a world market for ‘maybe five computers’. Steve Ballmer, then the chief executive of Microsoft, said in 2007 that there was ‘no chance’ of the newly launched iPhone gaining any significant market share. Telephones were just a toy that would never catch on, wrote the president of Western Union, William Orton, in 1876, when inventor Alexander Graham Bell offered to sell him the patent. 

And so on, and so on. 

Nevertheless, not everyone has the luxury of being able to avoid being held to account. Especially those of us who run businesses or supply chains.

For us, we have to make predictions: it’s our job. And right now, we’re facing a choice – disrupt or be disrupted. Here’s why. 

Why do we need to make future predictions? 

A business or supply chain that is ill-prepared for the future is a business or supply chain that may not have much of a future. 

In the current business environment, we all need to make predictions about the future. But even so, making predictions about disruptive trends is excruciatingly difficult.

While it’s easy to laugh at how wrong predictions can be, at the time those predictions may well have appeared to be sober, hard-nosed assessments. 

All of which is worth bearing in mind as businesses and supply chains around the world begin figuring out what to do about 2 key disruptive trends that are competing for our attention. 

1. The sustainability agenda

From the fuel that powers our trucks, ships, trains, and aircraft, to the paper and plastics that make up our packaging, logistics is very much in the crosshairs of sustainability activists’ sights. 

We all need to have a strong sustainability agenda. Ignoring the issue is not an option. But right now it’s difficult to see what options we have. 

A few years ago, the focus was on ‘peak oil’ and running out of the stuff. Now investors are alarmed at the prospect of so-called ‘stranded energy assets’ – reserves of fossil fuels that may never be extracted because of their impact on climate change. 

2. Geopolitical uncertainty and the perils of a hyperconnected world

After sustainability, the next disruption that will affect all of us is ongoing geopolitical uncertainty. President Trump’s trade wars. Brexit. China and its ‘Belt and Road’ strategy. Seemingly perennial Middle East tensions. These are not comfortable times in which to be determining supply-chain strategies. 

Nor is it solely geopolitical uncertainty that impacts supply chains. From the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011 to the more recent coronavirus outbreak, again and again we see what an interconnected world we live in. 

Within days, an event on the other side of the world can disrupt supply chains thousands of miles away. Supposedly resilient, they turn out to be more fragile than anyone imagined. 

Roll it all together, and it is increasingly difficult to avoid the suspicion that present approaches to supply chain management aren’t as effective as we practitioners fondly imagine. 

What can we do? 

In short, we need something else – not least a change of mindset. Because transformation is only possible when we are willing and able to let go of our old patterns, old models – and old concepts of what constitutes supply chain management. 

Put another way, the biggest risk that businesses may face today is the risk of doing nothing at all. It is not an exaggeration to say that businesses can choose to disrupt, or to be disrupted. 

As I point out to my students, Uber is the world’s biggest taxi company, but doesn’t own a single taxi cab. Airbnb and Booking.com are the world’s largest hoteliers, but don’t possess any hotels. And after being in business for a quarter of a century, Amazon – the world’s biggest bookseller – is only now experimenting with physical book shops. 

It’s time for something more radical 

Even some of the world’s leading thinkers on business and supply chains believe we need something radical, and we need it now.

In late 2018, for instance, influential management thinker John Elkington took to the pages of the Harvard Business Review to officially ‘recall’ – i.e. take back – a concept that he had first launched 25 years ago: the Triple Bottom Line.

Simply put, he argued, the Triple Bottom Line was no longer enough. Something else was needed. Something bolder. 

To those in the know, Elkington’s admission was startling. The Triple Bottom Line had an enormous impact on businesses’ and supply chains’ approach to corporate and social responsibility. It replaced a single-minded focus on profitability with a broader focus on social, environmental and economic impact – the Triple Bottom Line. 

There’s no doubt that it’s made a big difference. But it isn’t enough, Elkington acknowledged. Too many businesses see it as a trade-off mechanism, rather than as an absolute test. 

Something else is required if businesses are to really ‘shift the needle’. Right now, though, we don’t yet know what that something else could be. 

But one thing seems certain: despite Donald Trump’s dismissive remarks at Davos this year, Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg won’t let up on the pressure to find it. 

Supply chains need a radical rethink, as well 

Another concept that may be ripe for re-evaluation is the very notion of the supply chain. Look at many real-world supply chains, and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that ‘chain’ is too mechanistic a description of fulfilment processes – too linear, too unidirectional, too evocative of inflexible conveyor belts. 

In industry after industry, real life doesn’t work like that any more, if indeed it ever did. 

What can we replace the term ‘supply chain’ with? I rather like the suggestion that ‘supply web’ would be a better term.

It is closer to what many of us deal with in practice. It brings with it values of flexibility and resilience, as well as facilitating two-way flows and multiple sourcing connections. 

Does such relabelling help? Shakespeare, after all, aptly observed that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. 

But with all due to respect to the Bard, I disagree. We need that mindset change. We need to let go of our old patterns and old models – and embrace new thinking.

As practitioners, ‘supply chains’ imprison our thinking, locking us into paradigms that constrain us. ‘Supply webs’ open us up to new possibilities, new paradigms and potentially new and different processes. 

And with the challenges the world faces, those new possibilities, paradigms and processes have never been more needed.

Disrupt – or be disrupted. Be an Uber, Airbnb or an Amazon. And not a moribund traditionalist. 

4 Tough Interview Questions First-Time Procurement Leaders Are Asked – And How To Answer Them

How can you make the most of your background and experience when interviewing for your first leadership role?


There are phases in your career that are both exciting and terrifying. Most would agree that none are so scary as your first leadership role. 

What do your team think of you? How on earth do you performance-manage someone? How do you manage the expectations of those above you if the members of your team aren’t performing? 

All these questions will most likely plague you on a daily basis. But they’re also the exact questions you need to answer if you’re interviewing for your first (official) leadership role. 

In order to unravel the mystery of what a good interview for a first-time leadership role might look like, we chatted with Tony Megally, highly experienced recruiter and General Manager of The Source

Tony gave us insights into how common it is to be interviewing for a first-time leadership role, what you’ll most likely get asked and how to answer. 

You want to become a leader. Should you change organisations to do so? 

Meet Praveen. She’s a Category Manager at a large bank. She’s been in the position for 4 years, and she’s ready to step up and take on a new challenge. She sees a team lead role at another large bank. Should she apply?

‘There’s definitely a few things I’d recommend for Praveen – or anyone in this situation – to consider before applying,’ says Tony.

But what are these things? Tony recommends that before you apply externally to become a leader, you should all explore all opportunities within your own organisation to do so: 

‘If leadership is in your sights, you should have put that into your career development plan and be actively working towards it with your manager.’ 

But what if there simply aren’t any leadership opportunities? Should you apply externally then? 

‘It depends,’ says Tony. 

‘Most often, the business that is looking externally for leadership talent will be doing so because internal capability is either lacking or requires development. So you’ll most likely need to have proven leadership experience to be able to bring value.’ 

How NOT to answer leadership interview questions 

When it comes to how you answer leadership interview questions, Tony says that if you haven’t formally been recognised as a leader or you don’t have a great deal of experience, there are still many great ways to quantify what you’ve achieved. 

But there’s one thing you should never do when talking about your leadership experience and that is: not be honest. 

Tony says: ‘To be able to position yourself for success, you need to be totally transparent about your experience.

‘It becomes obvious [that you’re not being honest] when you’re being asked about the experience you claim and you’re unable to support it by providing thorough and relevant examples.’ 

Question 1: ‘Talk me through your team leadership experience.

If you’re interviewing for a leadership position, one of the first questions you’ll be asked is about your leadership experience. But even if you haven’t had a leadership position in title, there are a number of ways you can answer this, says Tony. 

He says you should talk about how you’re developing the required skills through things you’re already doing in your job.

For example: ‘You might be a senior member of your team and have taken on the “unofficial” role as the 2IC. 

‘Or perhaps you’re actively coaching and developing peers or other junior team members, or you’re leading a project or a change initiative. These are all great examples that support your leadership ability and should be discussed as part of your experience suite.’ 

Question 2: ‘Can you give an example of how you’ve led people through change and achieved a positive outcome?

In the current business environment, managing change is an essential skill for a leader – more so than ever. But as change can be inherently challenging, businesses want to know their leaders can not only manage change but also do it in a way that gets a positive outcome.

When you’re asked this question, Tony says, you need to emphasise two things: 

  • How you have led people?
  • How did that leadership lead to a positive outcome for the business?

But the example you give doesn’t have to be from an ‘official’ leadership role: 

‘Say, for example, you volunteered to lead a high-profile project. You’d talk about the scope of that project, your role as the leader and how you influenced, engaged and managed others, even if those people are not your “official” reports and were instead business stakeholders or individuals allocated as resources as part of the project team for which you were accountable. 

‘You’d then talk about how your negotiations or perhaps great communications with stakeholders resulted in the project saving X dollars, reducing risk, etc. Whatever the outcome was, you’d make the link between your leadership skills and that.’ 

Tony also says that when you’re leading in this capacity, it’s great to validate the outcome you’re discussing by talking about how the project was received by the business’s executive leadership team: 

‘Ideally, the project you’ve led will have been noticed by senior people in the business. Being able to validate your great results by saying “XYZ executive gave this feedback” is instrumental for highlighting your ability to both manage people and results but also your ability to manage up.’ 

Question 3: ‘Tell me about a time when you performance-managed someone.’ 

One of the most challenging questions first-time leaders get asked is about performance management. It’s challenging because if you haven’t had an official leadership position, it’s hard to quantify this. 

But there are ways around this, says Tony. He recommends drawing on other experiences you’ve had, even if they’re outside of work: 

‘I’ve met countless people who in their professional careers are not formally in leadership roles, but they might be leaders through their own side-hustle, or through other paid or voluntary employment.

‘This leadership experience is relevant. As long as you’re able to provide thorough examples of how you performance-counselled an individual and the process you went through, it’s OK to discuss this in an interview.’ 

Question 4: ‘Talk to me about what techniques you use to motivate a team.’

One of the big transitions we all need to make when moving from an individual contributor role to a leadership role is to begin to think more about our team and less about ourselves. This new way of thinking, Tony says, is something that most organisations want to see in their first-time leaders:

‘Leadership, at its core, is about people and what comes with that is having a general concern for the needs of others. The quicker first-time leaders recognise this, the better they will be at their job.’ 

Tony believes that for this question, you can use outside-of-work examples if you need to: 

‘At an interview, detail how you’ve motivated groups of people – for example, perhaps you’ve coordinated social or sporting activities, or helped to identify capability gaps and then provided training as a motivational tool.’ 

Tony says that if you can provide an example of a time when you motivated people in challenging times, you’ll be doing particularly well: 

‘One of my favourite [examples to hear] is where people have boosted morale in times of significant change.’ 

Interviewing for your first leadership role will most likely be tough. But preparation is key so ensure you have quantifiable answers to all of the above questions. 

Have you interviewed for a leadership role for the first time? Was there anything else you were asked? Do you have any other recommendations? Let us know in the comments below. 

Lessons For Procurement Teams: We Should Be Serving Our Customers, Not Our Processes

How can procurement teams serve their organisations better?


Being a procurement professional can be challenging. The role requires individuals to vet contracts, pricing and supplier relationships. But the bigger picture is that procurement should be the eyes and the ears of the organisation when it comes to how much money is being spent. 

Procurement teams need to ask themselves the questions – what value can be added here, what problems are we trying to solve?

In an ideal world anyone working in procurement should be adding shareholder value, making an impact on the business’s return on investment, increasing social responsibility, driving innovation, enhancing the organisation’s reputation and mitigating risks.

As professionals, we want to enhance our company’s reputation and manage risk

While I have been in the industry for more than 25 years and I assume that this is what drives CPOs, I’m not the only one. Recent research conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services confirms it, with 55% of respondents saying that ethical and commercial considerations are equally important when evaluating suppliers.

But how could procurement professionals know it all?

Procurement leaders are not soothsayers. Nor are they mind readers. The only way they can possibly serve our organisations effectively is if they know what’s happening – the answer lies in having greater transparency of spend. Again, the HBR survey agrees: 90% of executives surveyed indicated that increased business transparency leads to better-informed decision-making across the entire organisation.

What’s stopping procurement from serving the business quickly and efficiently?

Something is holding procurement teams back. That something is a combination of outdated processes and siloed technology that prevents procurement from seeing the bigger picture.

In some instances, manual processes are providing incomplete data or data that is woefully out of date. In others, a lack of support from top management, finance or legal teams is hampering procurement. And sometimes the technology is there, it’s just too siloed to be valuable.

In short: the lack of connectivity between those responsible for sourcing, procuring, paying and reporting on an organisation’s financial transactions is preventing procurement leaders from being able to do what we know they should do, what they want to do and what they believe it is vitally important for them to do.

So how do they move from a situation where, at best, procurement professionals are seen as the naysayers of the business towards an ideal world in which procurement is proactively managing supplier risk, driving innovation and improving shareholder value?

Change the way businesses connect, and the way they buy

It’s time to reimagine the buying ecosystem. Imagine if, instead of having an adversarial, competitive relationship with suppliers, procurement could actually build strong emotional connections for the benefit of both parties? It’s possible.

And, if it works, the entire procurement-supplier relationship will change to provide better results, for more impact, greater transparency and increased shareholder value. And it can all happen faster, more efficiently.

It’s time for change

Quite frankly, the world has changed. Procurement teams who simply think their role is to reduce costs or ‘drive a hard bargain’ in a way that compromises supplier relationships may very well no longer have a job in 10 years’ time. Changing the very nature of the procurement function and its business impact isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s a ‘must-have’.

But it’s not just up to procurement teams to change this.

Procurement does not operate in a silo. As the impact of the coronavirus expands across the world it becomes increasingly obvious that managing suppliers in isolation will not solve bigger problems. As those who buy and procure goods and services, procurement doesn’t just have a responsibility to our organisations: it has a responsibility to know about every touchpoint along the supply chain.

The answer lies in collaboration

There are already pockets of people who do it right: who share information willingly, who build supplier relationships for the benefit of all parties and who understand the data behind the data. 

They deserve to be supported in this change.

It’s time for suppliers and technology providers, for vendors and innovators to join forces and make procurement of the future a business unit to be proud of.

Technology providers need to come in with a collaboration-first mindset and then make a commitment. Vendors should be saying, ‘This is what we think you need, this is how we’re going to solve that problem, and this is the ROI this solution can deliver.’

To improve connectivity within organisations and between procurement and suppliers we need to put collaboration first.

Design Thinking Applied To Procurement

Don’t reinvent the wheel, apply design thinking tools to help you plan your next procurement.


Agile processes and design thinking are not fads, they are here to stay. During a three day design sprint that I participated in recently. I was bombarded with many different models designed to stimulate creativity. The result was a continual stripping down of our ideas until they were polished and on target.

Using these tools to break down our assumptions and continually test and probe ourselves for new answers was both exhausting and inspiring. Tools to aid design thinking don’t have to be high tech, new or complex to be effective. They are simple and freely available, so why aren’t we utlising them more in procurement?

Design thinking in action

Here are some of the design thinking exercises that I have used recently in my work:

  • Lightning Demos: before a workshop set the attendees homework to discover relevant tools or examples of either how your problem has been dealt with elsewhere, and/or things you’ve interacted with in your daily life that you find easy to use e.g. pay wave credit card for ease of transacting, a website you’ve used, etc.
  • ‘How Might We…’: takes challenges and poses them as questions.
  • User Journey Maps: These help to build empathy and understanding. Start with how your user first encounters your business / product and map out their experience end to end.
  • Crazy Eights: You fold your A4 piece of paper into eight sections and set the timer for eight minutes. Try and think of any solution possible, no matter how out there.
  • Game theory: Using cards to stimulate combinations of thinking differently e.g. event cards, theme cards, product idea cards. Draw one each from the pile and see what ideas it generates.
  • The Five Whys: the idea is to keep interrogating the cause of the problem to ensure any solution has dug to the actual root cause. In the example below often the response would end at fixing the leak.
  • Personas: Another empathy building tool. Build up a detailed persona of the core or target user and use them when designing ideas.
  • SCAMPER: The acronym represents seven techniques for idea generation: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate and Reverse
  • Dot voting: With an overwhelming amount of post it notes and ideas, each person gets two dot stickers to place on the post it note that they feel is the most important and contributes to addressing the problem statement.
  • Decision matrix: Because everyone loves a four box diagram in procurement. This Is a great way to clear on priorities, especially if there are a lot of dot stickers!

Want to find out more? Google has made their design sprint kit free, its open source and available for anyone to use. You can find further information about each design thinking tool cited above by visiting their website.

How can you apply these to your procurement project?

Many internal customers come with pre-formed solutions and ideas of how to solve the problem or opportunity they wish to approach the market about. The design thinking exercises are quick ways to ensure that the right solution is being reached for. If the customer is not willing to participate, you can do these by yourself.Test for new ways to solve the issue and test that the problem or opportunity has been correctly identified in the first place.

Ditch the 400 page strategy

The Lean Canvas is where we can start to bring all the creative thinking together on one page. It should be clear, concise and make a convincing case for change. There are many free examples online. The lean canvas can be used to replace the traditional procurement plan document for low risk procurements. It can also cut down a category management paper to it’s essence, making the perfect executive summary for others to digest at a glance.

This sounds bonkers

Are people really doing this? Yes! My current workplace is central government agency and we are using the lean canvas approach in the place of traditional procurement plans.The co-design process can replace tenders effectively. The theory of change model is the perfect framework to accelerate an idea and unlock its true impact.

Get inspired and start thinking outside of the procurement box!

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

5 Unhelpful Gender Stereotypes We Wish Would Die … And What You Can Do About Them

There’s no doubt that stereotypes can be limiting. But there’s also a lot that all of us can do to help overcome them. 


International Women’s Day (IWD) is all about celebrating women’s progress, and today, women in procurement have a lot to celebrate. A recent Oliver Wyman report found that 20 percent of the top 60 listed companies in the United States and Western Europe have female chief procurement officers (CPOs). In even better news, a lot have been promoted recently: in France alone, more than 30 women have been elevated to the top procurement role within the past 17 months, representing a 30 percent increase from four years ago. We may not be close to 50-50 just yet, but a stride this big in the right direction is certainly noteworthy. 

But what’s holding us back? 

While we know that it’s likely a myriad of factors, one thing’s for sure: as women, we definitely don’t need to blame ourselves. In fact, one of the most frustrating reasons that women have not yet reached equality in leadership in procurement (and most other professions) is that unhelpful gender stereotypes continue to persist in the workplace. These stereotypes mean that managers and colleagues often unconsciously make incorrect assumptions about a woman’s competence and commitment to her role, which in turn hurts her career. 

Here are five of the most unhelpful stereotypes that linger in procurement offices worldwide … and what you can do to help overcome them. 

Stereotype 1: Activities that involve caregiving are considered feminine 

Ever gone into your office kitchen to see that the women are the ones packing the dishwasher? Or if there’s a birthday, is it a woman who is asked to find a card or a cake? While these activities might seem harmless, they only exacerbate unhelpful stereotypes that women are better ‘suited’ to caring activities and men need to get on with the more ‘important’ work. 

Owing to lingering gender stereotypes, women often feel like they need to be the ones to do this type of organising and caring work. A recent study by Harvard Business Review found that women are, on average, 48 percent more likely to volunteer for these types of ‘non-promotable’ tasks, and equally likely to be asked to complete them. 

So how do we overcome this unequal division of labour in the office? Simple: a roster system. 

At the beginning of the year, create a list of what needs to be done, and then allocate it evenly among team members. This way, everyone understands that when there’s work to be done, everyone needs to share equally in doing it. 

Stereotype 2: Risk-taking or decision making is considered a masculine strength 

Procurement, as a profession, is about mitigating risk for the organisation. But in doing so, procurement professionals have to take a lot of risks. We’re constantly asking ourselves questions such as: Is this supplier really the one for us? How well do I really understand our supply chain? Can we afford to make this decision? 

In doing so, we inherently need to take risks. So it follows that if we assume our female team members are less competent in doing so, we might subconsciously assign them tasks that are of lesser consequence. Doing so can hurt their career. 

But this stereotype is something that women can help overcome on their own, thinks Sylvie Noël, Chief Procurement Officer at Covea Group. Sylvie believes that speaking up can be the first step to ensuring you’re not overlooked for riskier, higher-value tasks or assignments: 

“[My advice to women is to] ask to be challenged in what you do and exchange ideas regularly with peers in other sectors. Make the decision to reinvent!”

Stereotype 3: Rationality is considered largely a masculine trait 

According to social researcher Jenna Baddeley, the idea that men are more ‘rational’ and that women are more ‘emotional’ and hence ‘irrational’ is one of the most frustrating examples of modern sexism. Baddeley believes that this unhelpful stereotype is often used, albeit often unconsciously, to not involve women in important decision making, or to discount decisions they’ve made. 

Behind the stereotype, though, is a false assumption, especially in today’s technology-driven world. The idea that emotions are ‘bad’ in decision making, and rationality is ‘good’ is simply not true. In fact, according to Baddeley: 

‘Emotion in decision-making is essential. Positive emotions tell us what’s working well, whereas negative emotions show us what might be amiss.’ 

This is certainly true of decisions involving suppliers. As the success of our supplier relationships are often based on the relationships themselves, emotion can actually be an asset in helping to best mitigate risks and create positive outcomes.

Yet still, how do we overcome the stereotype? 

Dr. Theresa Hudson, who studies men and women’s decision-making, says that we can all overcome the ‘rationality vs. emotional’ stereotype by simply using a more collaborative decision-making style, and having men and women equally ‘sign off’ on the most important decisions: 

“Where ever possible, get everyone to agree on a decision,’ Says Hudson. ‘This applies for both men and women.”

Stereotype 4: Men are more successful at negotiating than women 

There are many skills which are essential in procurement, but one of the most essential is negotiating. After all, we all need this skill to ensure the best outcomes for our company when it comes to our suppliers. 

So it follows that the stereotype that ‘men are more successful than negotiating then women’ can significantly hurt women’s procurement careers in more ways than one. And evidence shows that the assumption not only hurts us when negotiating with suppliers, but also on a broader level, in terms of how we negotiate for our careers. This is especially true when it comes to roles, promotions, and our salaries. 

Although negotiating for ourselves can be terrifying, with this particular stereotype, the best way to overcome it is by simply doing it – and then practicing and practicing, until it becomes second nature. Prior to any negotiation, especially one that involves your career, ensure you follow these four steps to secure the best outcome.  

Stereotype 5: Working longer hours is considered a masculine attribute, whereas flexibility is key for women

It’s a stereotype that has heralded from way back in the industrial era: the idea that hours equals productivity. Yet when women started flooding into offices in the 70s, 80s and beyond, they were forced to expect something different. How could they reconcile the never-ending working hours when they were also the primary carer of children and a household? 

These unfortunate stereotypes paved the way for even more unhelpful stereotypes: the idea that women needed flexibility so they could also manage things at home (and were, as a result, mommy-tracked from a career perspective), whereas men could continue working unabated. 

This stereotype is not one that is as easily addressed, as it does require men to take equal responsibility at home, given that women still do the lion’s share of unpaid childcare and domestic work. But at work, to move past the notion that flexibility is for working mums, simply offer flexibility to everyone (or even mandate it). Research shows that flexibility is the number one benefit employees (regardless of gender) want anyway, so giving it to all employees not only helps women, but it helps everyone to be more engaged at work.

There’s no doubt that stereotypes can be limiting. But there’s also a lot that all of us can do to help overcome them. 

Are there any other stereotypes that you feel hold women back? How, as a leader or manager in procurement, do you help your people overcome them? Let us know in the comments below. 

Gender Equality: From One Small Step at Work . . . To A (Hopeful) Giant Leap Forward

This IWD, I’m more motivated than ever to go beyond the hashtags and to start making meaningful change. Will you join me? 


Many of us, including me, have spent recent weeks transfixed by what can only be described as horrifying news. A beautiful woman, Hannah Clarke, and her three young children, Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey, were savagely murdered in Brisbane, Australia, by their estranged father, Rowan Baxter.

In 2020, after so much progress on women’s rights and equality – after #Metoo, #TimesUp and #WhyIStayed – the fact that an atrocity of this nature can happen in the first place is evidence that we haven’t come far enough. Not even close. 

There’s no doubt that we need a complete overhaul of how we work to prevent domestic violence. But beyond that, for all of the progress we’ve made, women are still at a distinct disadvantage throughout their entire lives. 

From the ongoing gender pay gap, to women’s decreased pension funds, to discrimination as we age, it seems to me that all of us – men and women – need to go beyond hashtags and endeavour to make meaningful change, as often as we can. 

Many commentators have said that progress is slow because it requires gargantuan mindset and structural shifts. But I don’t agree.

What we need is to start small, and from small things, big things will grow. Just as it’s possible to upskill your staff in less than half an hour with a $0 training budget, so, too, it must be possible for us all to make small changes to our behaviour so we can achieve gender equality – where, after all, we’ll all be better off.

The behaviour I believe we all need to start with is respect. Research shows that inequality often begins with one party not respecting the other, and I’ve certainly seen that, from business functions I’ve attended to boardrooms I’ve found myself in.

Respect isn’t hard to give, but it can be a challenging one. Often you may not even be aware that you’re subconsciously not giving it. So this IWD, let’s all change that. 

Will you join me in giving more women the respect they deserve? Here’s 5 tips for doing just that. 

1. Give eye contact 

It sounds so simple, but it’s important – research shows that we give more eye contact to people we respect.

Giving eye contact is a form of empowerment. It shows the person we’re listening to that we recognise their authority and expertise. And that we believe what they’re saying is worth listening to. 

Yet in work situations, women receive less eye contact than men. Researchers found that this was because people often unconsciously trust the opinions of men more.

Put this right by giving your female colleagues sustained eye contact. 

2. Listen 

If we want to show respect to female colleagues at work, another great way to do this is to listen. 

Studies show that, in general, women are interrupted far more often when speaking than men – on average, three times as much.This has led to the popular-cultural notion of ‘mansplaining’ – the idea that men interrupt women to explain things to them that they already understand. 

The thing about interrupting others is that we’re often not conscious we’re doing it. So next time you’re in a meeting, make sure you actively listen to the women on your team. 

3. Mention women’s job titles, not their parenting or work status 

How we describe others at work does matter, especially if it’s to people one of us meeting for the first time. And when we do this, we often default to more stereotypical descriptions of people. Men are more likely to be referred to by their role names only, whereas women are often referred to by their parenting and working status. 

For example, Lydia, the Communications Manager, might be referred to as Lydia, the working mum. Or Lydia, who works part-time. Referring to someone in this way can activate unhelpful stereotypes. 

To show more respect to women you work with, simply introduce them by their job title and leave it there. 

4. Emphasize that family leave is for women – and men 

One of the ongoing causes of inequality in the workplace is the fact that mothers typically take maternity leave – and less than 1 in 20 fathers do.  

This compounds inequality over the course of women’s lives. Women sometimes return to lower-paid roles, are mommy-tracked in their careersand ultimately end up with fewer retirement savings. 

And it isn’t only women who miss out. Research shows that the majority of dads would like to take more paternity leave if it was available to them and they felt comfortable doing so.

Taking action on this and giving mothers – as well as fathers – more respect when it comes to paternity leave can be as simple as not making assumptions when a colleague is expecting a baby. 

Instead of asking a prospective mum ‘How much time will you be having off?’ simply enquire as to the family’s plans. 

Similarly, if you know a prospective dad, let him know that taking family leave is an acceptable, and indeed great, thing to do if he can. 

5. Talk up women’s achievements 

Gender stereotypes proliferate in the workplace, and as a result of this women are less inclined to celebrate their achievements – and less likely to benefit when they do.

This often means their achievements are less likely to be noticed, affecting their ability to get recognition. And, ultimately, a promotion.

But there’s a strikingly simple action you can take today to help women you know get the respect and recognition they deserve. Talk up their achievements for them! 

Whether you do this in a meeting, via email or on LinkedIn, you could be the pivotal link that helps the women you know get the recognition they deserve.

So remember these 5 simple ways to show women respect this International Women’s Day – and do your bit towards boosting equality in your workplace.

To give more women respect and recognition this IWD, Procurious is asking you to tag your procurement and supply chain #HERo on LinkedIn – and tell us why she’s so great. Here’s our inspiring post on LinkedIn, to which you can add your nominations.

Feeling Unlucky In Your Career? Here’s How To Change That.

How do you make good fortune come your way?


This year, many of us may have had cause to feel unlucky already. Perhaps the Australian bushfires have given us the opportunity to shine at work – or perhaps they’ve left us feeling overwhelmed. 

The coronavirus might be wreaking havoc on our supply chains. Or more personally, maybe we’ve already missed out on a job or promotion we really thought should be ours. 

When we think of bad luck and its inverse, good luck, we often think about being in either the right or wrong place, at the right or wrong time. We think of it as something that just happens; an act of good or bad random chance. 

But it turns out, luck isn’t as random as we’d like to believe. A number of renowned psychologists studied ‘luck’ for decades, and discovered that it’s about so much more than chance. 

You can, in fact, create your own good luck. And you can do so by employing 4 basic principles that will rapidly increase the amount of good fortune that comes your way. 

Here’s what the 4 principles are and how you can employ them at work.

1. Maximise chance opportunities 

The first principle that psychologists found increases your luck is to maximise your chance opportunities. It makes sense, of course – the more opportunities you expose yourself to, the more likely you’ll be to succeed. 

But maximising your chance opportunities isn’t just about exposing yourself to them. You also need to take advantage of them when they come your way. 

A great way to do this is to be open to meeting new people and having new experiences, and then seeing the positive in everything. You simply never know what might lead to your next big break. 

It’s easy to see how this principle applies at work. Is there a new project you could put your hand up for? Could you go to a not-strictly-necessary meeting and strike up a conversation with a leader you’ve never met? 

The more open you are and the more chances you take, the more likely that one of these opportunities will come to fruition. 

If you’re looking for more chance opportunities in procurement, join Procurious. You’ll gain instant access to more than 37,000 of your peers. 

2. Listen to your intuition 

Opening yourself to more opportunities means you’ll invite both the good – and inevitably, the bad – in. In doing so, you’ll need to learn to listen to your intuition, to ensure you make better decisions about what’s right for you.

Think of your intuition as effectively a filtering system. With more opportunities, you need to take advantage of the best ones to increase your luck (success).

Intuition can be tricky to describe, but we’ve all felt it. Whether it’s a job we’ve gone for only to doubt whether we’ll like the manager, or a supplier we’re unsure of, we all sometimes feel things aren’t quite right. But we may not trust our judgement. From a luck perspective, we should. 

Honing our intuition can be difficult, though. In order to do so, psychologists recommend taking time to consider our decisions, avoiding stress and meditating so we can better connect with how we’re feeling.

3. Expect good fortune

A little over a decade ago, a book by a little-known author, Rhonda Byrne, went viral. That book was called The Secret and it promised that all readers needed to do was ‘invite’ good things to happen to them, and such things would come about. 

The book was soon widely rubbished by sceptics. It became the subject of countless hilarious memes. But as it turns out there was an element of truth in Byrne’s observations. 

Creating good luck in your career isn’t just a matter of inviting it. But research does show the lucky people do have a positive outlook, insomuch as they expect their future to be a success.

This often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lucky people will persist when trying to achieve their goals (even if the chance of succeeding are slim). And they’ll positively interact with others on the journey, opening up ever more opportunities. 

This is another example in which it’s easy to draw parallels to the workplace. If you’ve missed out on a promotion this time, keep your manager on side, stay positive and keep trying. This will exponentially increase your chances of success. 

No one is going to want to promote you if you’re bitter and negative all the time, regardless of your performance or how hard you work. 

4. Turn bad luck into good luck 

Are you stewing on that time when a co-worker made you look bad or stole your idea? While it’s normal to do so, lucky people have special ways of dealing with the inevitable bad fortune we all experience.

Practising their techniques can help you literally turn bad luck into good luck. 

Here’s what researchers found they do:

  • Lucky people often imagine how things could have been worse –this helps them see the positive in any situation. 
  • Ultimately, lucky people believe it will all work out in the end. Sure, your co-worker might have stolen your idea, but you’ve got plenty more to offer, right? 
  • Lucky people don’t dwell on bad things that have happened to them. This enables them to focus on their next big opportunity. 
  • Lucky people take control of situations and take constructive steps to prevent bad situations from happening again. If your co-worker has made you look bad, let them know! 

Go out and get that luck

French leader Napoleon Bonaparte said: ‘ability is of little account without opportunity’. And that has never been more true, especially when it comes to your career.

So go out there and make your own luck. And when you succeed, know this – your success is the result of your effort, not chance. 

How have you made your own luck? Tell us in the comments below. 

Building A Team This Year? Talent Alone Isn’t Enough . . . And Here’s Why

What are Sir Clive Woodward’s 3 essential qualities that go beyond talent and will build a great team?


With the war on talent alive and well, especially in procurement, if you’re hiring you should be more than satisfied with finding the most talented employee, right? 

Wrong.

While most of us would be thrilled to secure top talent, Sir Clive Woodward, England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning head coach and keynote speaker at Procurious’s Big Ideas Summit, thinks that talent is simply a starting point. 

In his latest book How to Win: Talent Alone Is Not Enough he explores this theme in detail. He describes how beyond talent, there’s a myriad other qualities that are required for true success. 

And if anyone would know, it would be Sir Clive. Not only did he lead his rugby team to a history-making victory against Australia in 2003, but he’s also held many high-ranking corporate leadership positions. He now runs his own software company, Hive Learning – the peer learning platform for building culture-critical skills at scale.

But if talent is only a starting point, where do you go from there? Ahead of his address at this year’s Procurious Big Ideas Summit, we sat down with Sir Clive and discovered what he considers are the essential qualities of a great team.

1. A sponge, not a rock 

‘I always want to hire the most talented people into my teams, but this to me is the starting point and not the finish,’ says Sir Clive. 

‘I will never underestimate the importance of teamwork. But I have this saying that “Great Teams are Made of Great Individuals”. If you have great individuals in your teams, the team stuff becomes a lot easier because you have motivated people, giving their all and are dedicated to the overall goal.’

But what makes people great? It’s certainly more than talent, as Sir Clive points out.

One critical quality, he says, is that people on your team need to be open to continually learning and developing. They need to have a perpetual growth mindset, and be ‘sponges’, not ‘rocks’: 

‘I see a lot of individuals that start out as sponges when they join an organisation but sometimes the longer they have been with an organisation, they can drift into being a rock.’ In coaching language these people are unteachable, uncoachable.

Sir Clive thinks that from an individual and leadership perspective, once you’ve become a ‘rock’ you cease to be able to reach your potential. 

Yet equally, if your team are ‘sponges’ you must be willing to metaphorically give them something to absorb, says Sir Clive.

It’s your role as the leader but also each person’s as a team player to be continually pushing: ‘Many people hire very talented people, as I do. But you have to keep investing in mentoring and leading these people to harness their talent – but this must be a two-way thing.’ 

2. Working well under pressure

This year so far, we’ve had the Australian bushfires, the coronavirus and Brexit . . . and that’s just the external pressures procurement is facing. 

Stress and pressure is all around us, especially in the increasingly complex business environment. 

To combat this, a great team needs to work exceptionally well under pressure, Sir Clive asserts, which, again, comes down to the individual’s ability to work under pressure. 

‘In the military, there’s a saying that in a crisis, people fall back to their lowest level of training. The message here is: train hard and train well. You’ll need it.’ 

Many leaders who believe their people have never had to work under pressure have trouble understanding how this is a quality that can be ‘trained’.

Yet it’s absolutely possible, says Sir Clive, who is a fundamental believer in the brain’s ability to do just about anything it wants to: ‘You would be amazed at what’s possible, you really would. Even if you haven’t worked under pressure before, you can retrain your brain; your people’s brain. It’s amazing what you can do.’ 

Sir Clive is certainly the expert on working under pressure. Back in 2003, the English team were level with Australia in extra time in the Rugby World Cup Final. They ended up being the ultimate example of performing under pressure when star player Jonny Wilkinson moved the game from a draw to a victory by kicking a drop goal in the final minute of extra time. 

3. Attitude is everything 

Ever had a brilliant employee who tries to undermine you at every opportunity? Or a know-it-all who understands procurement back-to-front, but whom your team hates? 

If you’ve experienced the dreaded ‘attitude’ in your team, you’ll relate to Sir Clive’s final advice when it comes to your people and your team: Attitude is everything. 

Being a sponge is important and performing under pressure equally so. But attitude can be everything when it comes to performance, says Sir Clive: ‘Everyone in your team needs to have a good attitude. It’s the absolute cornerstone when it comes to performing at your best.’ 

Other pearls of wisdom 

Did you know that Sir Clive thinks that you can tell a lot about a person from their tardiness? And that you need a checklist, not a to-do list, to help bring a vision to life? 

Hear more of Sir Clive’s game-changing advice at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit, due to be held in London on 11 March. Not in London or can’t make it? Attend online for free by registering here for your complimentary Digital Delegates pass.

Rise Of The Procurement Ecosystem

Why is an ecosystem approach better than an end-to-end source-to-settle (S2S) suite in procurement and buying?


Digitisation of procurement and sourcing is in full swing. And the applications that provide these services are booming.

But these vendors typically offer full end-to-end source-to-settle (S2S) suites, with only part of their solution dedicated to procurement and sourcing. 

In the latest ‘2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites’, only 59 per cent of respondents indicated that they used a sole solution for their P2P processes. 

But times are changing. And the days of an end-to-end S2S suite are coming to an end.

According to Gartner’s report, Don’t Assume You Have to Use an S2S Suite to Digitalise Procurement and Sourcing, ‘By 2021, the major source-to-settle providers will all offer extensive APIs and rearchitect their solutions to provide “unifying platforms” rather than one-size-fits-all solutions.’ 

There may be some organisations in which a sole S2S suite works just fine for their sourcing and procurement needs. But for the majority of larger organisations, and especially those operating on a global scale, that’s not the case.

Change your view of integration

According to the Gartner report Don’t Assume You Have to Use an S2S Suite to Digitalise Procurement and Sourcing, ‘One of the main reasons that buying organisations are attracted to the full suites is to minimise integrations. While this is understandable, it can’t be prioritised over having the right solutions.’

More advanced applications, like Basware’s, are built with integration in mind. In the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites report, Basware won awards for our strong integration capabilities. 

We received positive feedback from customers as to our integration abilities with back-end ERP systems, especially.

Basware solutions come with certified ERP intelligence, enabling seamless interoperability with the world’s leading ERP systems, including SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics. 

But our network of plug-ins also allows customers to pick and choose, then plug in, the applications and solutions that best fit their needs.

And while we’re proud of our history of innovation and P2P solutions, we’re also aware that in order to remain a leader in our field we’ve got to adapt and understand how we fit into the larger landscape of the future of S2S.

Gartner supports this sort of ecosystem of preconnected partners. And though this may cause a conflict for many S2S vendors, that’s not the case with Basware. 

We agree that ERP omnisuites have failed customers and believe that S2S suites will, too. Instead, we’re offering customers Networked P2P with a strong API framework and 100 per cent spend capture. 

Using this as the core solution, customers can build category-specific strategies to use the latest innovations such as cognitive sourcing, services governance or contingent workforce management, while capturing all spend into a single platform.

Consider a specialist

A ‘one size fits all’ approach might seem like an easy solution to your S2S problems. But this sort of blanket approach isn’t practical. It’s clear that no vendor offers a full S2S suite that is best in class across all modules. 

By going with a full S2S suite, customers are locking themselves into suites of uneven quality that will often take years to roll out.

This can lead to low and slow adoption rates.

And in order to achieve user adoption, Gartner says you ‘should focus on finding solutions that fits your buying organisation’s needs as closely as possible. This means that, in many areas, it makes sense to consider alternative specialist solutions to replace or — in some cases complement — the suite offerings.’

At Basware, we firmly believe in a future in which a microservices architecture will enable customers to manage vendors and spend in a core spend management platform like ours but also allow them to capitalise on the latest in specialist services. 

This could include:

  • Solutions for complex sourcing categories, like packaging and logistics
  • Linkages via API to data sources addressing sustainability, supplier diversity and other dimensions of supplier risk
  • Procurement savings forecasting.

Out of 13 vendors, Basware was awarded many top placings in ‘Gartner’s “Critical Capabilities for Procure-to-Pay Suites 2019”’.

These placings include the following, among others: 

  • #1 for AP Automation (Critical Capability)
  • #1 in Partner Ecosystem (Critical Capability)
  • #1 for Supply Chain Financing (Critical Capability) 
  • Tied for #1 in Integration (Critical Capability).

Next steps in your S2S ecosystem journey

As organisations become more comfortable with an ecosystem approach to procurement and sourcing technologies, they can also begin to understand their vendor’s partner ecosystem and how it aligns their roadmap.

Leading procure-to-pay vendors have established ecosystems with many preconnected and verified partners across various application markets. This includes partners such as ERP vendors, tax engines, supplier data providers and strategic sourcing application vendors.

To understand the value you can derive from a vendor’s product ecosystems, and to evaluate the effectiveness of its community, Gartner recommends requesting the following:

  • Data from the vendor outlining the number of ecosystem participants, the trajectory at which the ecosystem is growing and insight into those that use it regularly.
  • Metrics that disclose the number and frequency of documents, components or templates being uploaded by the vendor to the community (often called an online library).
  • A summary of the past three years of product updates originating from, or inspired by, suggestions from ecosystem partners.
  • Customer references that you can contact directly for an assessment of the vendor’s product ecosystems, and any user groups that they may participate in.

Ready to learn more? Read more about Basware’s rankings in the Gartner “Critical Capabilities for Procure-to-Pay Suites 2019” report. Download now.

Questions? Contact us! We’re here to help as you navigate the changes of P2P ecosystems.