Suppliers: Who And Where Are Your 1%?

You might think that your most strategic suppliers are the ones you spend the most with. But supply chain crises may shine a light on which suppliers are actually strategic.


Modern-day supply chains are truly global, highly complex and getting longer and longer. 20 years ago, most of a company’s suppliers were probably within a very short radius. Today they could be on the other side of the world.

The reality is that organisations have more difficulty than ever keeping track of their entire supply chain – from Tier 1 all the way down to the smallest supplier organisations. This poses enough challenges for organisations when it comes to issues like environmental performance or modern slavery, let alone with supply chain efficiency or continuity of supply.

With so many suppliers to keep track of, organisations have to make decisions about who their strategic suppliers really are. Traditionally, organisations (and their procurement departments) have fixated on the suppliers with the largest spend volumes. In reality, they should be most concerned about a supplier’s risk profile.

This risk profile is thrown into light at times of crisis in global supply chains. This may come from volcanic eruptions disrupting global flights and travel, or from a global pandemic, such as COVID-19.

What Does the 1% Look Like?

All suppliers are unique, bringing different things to an organisation beyond the goods and services they provide. When assessing which suppliers to manage as ‘strategic’, procurement departments have traditionally focused on their visible suppliers. This usually is defined by spend profile and determined using traditional methods such as the Pareto 80:20 principle.

However, it’s the less visible, hidden suppliers that are often the most strategic. These are the 1%.

This group is made up of the suppliers who are easiest to ignore as they supply something low-cost and apparently trivial to the organisation. In truth, this trivial component may be manufactured from an expensive or rare raw material, be a proprietary item, or come from a supplier who has a monopoly or dominance in the market. Despite this item costing very little, the likelihood is that it is difficult, if not impossible to replace. This makes the potential impact on the supply chain huge should the supplier fail to deliver.

Assessing these suppliers using another procurement favourite, the Kraljic Matrix, they would fall into the ‘non-critical’ or ‘bottleneck’ categories (see below).

Figure 1 – Kraljic Matrix via Forbes.com

However, in many cases, the risk aspect of supply is downplayed or removed entirely, leaving the focus solely on profitability. This is where the issues with your 1% lie.

The Role of Technology

In times of supply chain crises, every supplier – even your ‘transactional’ and ‘bottleneck’ suppliers – need the same attention in order to ensure you’re not missing something. What may have once seemed like an impossible and highly inefficient task has been aided considerably by the advancements in procurement solutions and technology.

Organisations have gone from a reliance on their transactional systems, such as their ERP, and the knowledge and experience of their procurement teams to manage their suppliers. This has left organisations exposed through a lack of data to define and manage strategic suppliers, as well as the loss of knowledge when people leave to join another organisation.

Procurement technology and solutions have developed to the extent that they can help provide the necessary foundation for tracking an entire supply base. This has moved the profession from a position of weakness, to a position of strategic responsibility. In the current climate, people are now actively talking about supply chains and procurement’s role now and in the future.

Therefore, the profession cannot undermine itself by failing to manage its 1% effectively. Even big organisations, with highly developed supply chains can be caught out, as we can see below.

Real World #1 – Keeping Supplies Zipped Up Tight

The fashion industry has taken some very public, very high-profile hits for its supply chain. Organisations have a uniquely complex situation to contend with – finding suppliers who are flexible, reactive and usually low cost on one hand, while on the other ensuring that the highest ethical standards are still achieved.

Suppliers can frequently be small, family-owned and geographically challenging too. However, you might consider an everyday item on many items of clothing a product of a 1% supplier – the zip.

You might overlook it, but a zip is a critical item for manufacturers and designers. The market is dominated by two major suppliers, YKK and SBS, but there are other players there too. However, the majority of these are geographically focused in Asia – specifically Japan and China. Switching supply is unlikely to be easy, so all it takes is a supply chain crisis in this region, say a lack of key raw materials or alloys for production, and supply could be disrupted, without viable alternatives.

Low value compared to other items in the fashion design process, but very high risk.

Real World #2 – Bearing the Risk

Manufacturing is another industry with highly complex and multi-layered supply chains to manage. In automotive manufacturing, supply chains have moved towards the ‘Just-in-Time’ method pioneered by Toyota, making continuity of supply and supplier reliability critical at all times. It’s no use having 99% of the parts available to use, when the 1% is stuck in its factory, two tiers down your supply chain.

As such, a greater focus on quality over price is required, but even this is not fool proof. Fiat Chrysler announced in February that it was halting production at one of its factories in Serbia as it couldn’t get parts from China. Manufacturers who would traditionally hold minimal stock to remain competitive and agile are faced with a situation where that very strategy could pose a huge risk to their organisation.

As the impact of COVID-19 related factories closures around the world continues to grow, even large manufacturers may actually stock out before there’s a chance to re-align. And these items could be as simple as ball bearings for wheels – very low value, but huge risk at this time.

De-risking the 1%

Is there a solution that overworked procurement professionals can take advantage of in the face of a supply chain crisis? When it comes to supplier risk, there are a number of actions that may be taken immediately in order to reduce this.

According to KPMG, these can include setting up a response team to manage the flow of information across key stakeholder groups, reviewing key contracts with customers and suppliers to understand liability in the event of shortages, and conducting a full risk assessment to provide a list of actions to take, which may include shortening supply chains and assessing alternative options.

In the long-term, however, the focus needs to be more on supplier management and the creation of truly ‘strategic’ relationships, built on risk profiles rather than value. This should be done across the entire supply chain and aim to go down through the various Tiers that exist in it. This is defined as ‘Holistic Supplier Management’, a concept explored in more detail by JAGGAER in their latest whitepaper.

JAGGAER’s research uses a similar model to the Kraljic Matrix for supplier positioning, but with the key difference that it focuses on risk and cost to the business (rather than cost of supply) in the event of supplier failure.

Figure 2 – JAGGAER Supplier Positioning Matrix

A concept is all very well but being able to deliver Holistic Supplier Management and manage suppliers on risk and cost requires being able to access data on current performance, the impact of an individual supplier on your organisation, as well as the value that they deliver. This is where technology comes to the aid of procurement and it’s what is offered within the JAGGAER Supplier Management solution.

The solution not only provides the data and analysis that is required by procurement for key decision-making, but also gives a deeper understanding of suppliers to help construct better contracts that deliver greater value to the organisation. By using technology like this, procurement can effectively and efficiently de-risk their supply chains, keeping them better prepared for managing crises when they inevitably hit.

Don’t Get Caught Out

The key message, as every procurement professional knows, is that good communication is key to maintaining a strong and stable supply chain. However, as supply chains grow more and more complex, geographically dispersed and multi-tiered, individual procurement professionals and departments need to make use of all the resources at their disposal.

Holistic Supplier Management can help procurement be better prepared, mitigate risks and start to understand what strategic procurement and strategic suppliers really are. You can find more information on the JAGGAER website, or by downloading their latest whitepaper, ‘How To Achieve Holistic Supplier Management: Orchestrating Supplier Management for Maximum Benefit’.

No matter how safe you think you are, how stable you believe your supply chain is and how strong your links are with your strategic suppliers, there is always an inherent risk within that 1%. By being better prepared and truly understanding your supply chain, you can avoid being caught out in time of crisis.

How To Get Your Suppliers On Board With Your New Tech

Careful planning and a willingness to adapt help ensure that your key suppliers stay with you when you’re implementing a new tech system


Implementing a new tech solution can be like a voyage into a new world. There is the promise of efficiency, the draw of increased margin, and the assurance of better working relationships.  But much like a voyage, reaping the benefits of process automation in procurement means that all parties must be fully on board – including suppliers.

Implementation is a complex process in itself, with many important steps to take before the new system is in place.  Even if companies implement the best available solutions for their processes, their biggest obstacle is often the resistance of their suppliers to implement the new cloud system. 

Visibility is important to any journey.  When it comes to supply-chain collaboration, companies don’t just need a supplier or vendor, they need a trusted partner to accompany them.  But how? Here are three steps to help you make sure your suppliers are on board with you on your voyage to new tech.

1. Get organised and build a strong message

You know your destination, but does your entire crew?  The success of your implementation will depend on how well you communicate the changes – and proper expectations – to your suppliers.

When building your case, you’ll need to consider which suppliers you want to get on board.  Don’t overwhelm your resources, have a manageable list of targeted suppliers and ensure that all of your supplier contact information is up to date.  While this process can be time-consuming, it’s crucial that you begin with an updated supplier database to ensure efficient and effective communication.

Once you have your crew accounted for, create a detailed communications plan that includes messaging before, during and after the implementation of your new cloud system. Your messages should build a sense of urgency and excitement about the implementation, as you’ll want suppliers to get on board in a timely fashion to not cause any delays.

Sharing the value proposition will help encourage suppliers to actively participate in the onboarding process.  Catering your communication to each specific population, you should focus on answering a few key questions:

  • What’s in it for them?
  • Which option is right for their organisation?
  • What steps do they need to take right now?

Build a supplier-facing portal where suppliers can get their questions answered quickly.  Realize that no matter the incentive to your suppliers, building a united front may mean burning some bridges  – you can’t start your campaign with offering a contingency plan for those that don’t adopt.  Enforce the mandate and don’t look back.

2. Take the helm…but first, delegate

One of the most common pitfalls in supplier onboarding is when a client takes on too much or do not properly define roles and responsibilities.  Not only is this bad optics for your project, but it discourages suppliers, making it more difficult to achieve your enablement goals.

Once you have a clear communications plan in place, it’s necessary that you determine who is responsible for what during your voyage.  Have a defined escalation process with clear roles and responsibilities.  Make sure buyers and category managers are on board with your plan and create a step-by-step process defining who will do what when a supplier declines to enroll.

This will hold all parties accountable, including your suppliers, and avoid unwelcome surprises or project launch delays.

3. Remain consistent, realistic, and optimistic

Once the voyage to the tech new world has started and implementation is underway, make sure you monitor progress. 

Stay consistent in your message but be open to the fact that some supplier populations may need more time and support than others – or may not reach your destination at all.  Offer incentives along the way to increase the perceived value of your system and encourage higher rates of adoption.

Keep in mind that when implementation ends, the process is not necessarily over.  To continue to ensure that suppliers are being added to the platform, you’ll need to develop a long-term plan and dedicate resources to manage the solution after it’s implemented.  Perhaps consider making the roles you have defined or the standard procedures you have created permanent.  Individuals that are responsible for enablement will be able to look at data regularly to identify changes in volume, follow-up with suppliers, and make adjustments as needed.

With these strategies in place, you can embark on your procurement tech voyage ensuring that you and your crew stay the course to success – and can reap the benefits promised at your destination.

Did you know that Matt has teamed up with Procurious to launch ‘Major Tech Fails’ – a series looking at everything from implementations to getting buy-in. Register here

Finding Your Voice: Writing Brilliant Blogs

When done right, creating content can be an amazing tool to grow your personal brand. So, what makes brilliant thought leadership content? Let’s take a look…


Do you dream of being the world’s number one procurement influencer or one of our profession’s Gamechangers.  Well, blogging is an important step in raising your profile.  Here’s how to find your voice…

On the internet, content is king. So wrote Microsoft founder Bill Gates in an influential and still oft-quoted essay in 1996. Content informs and entertains. It can move people to action, whether that’s visiting a different website, buying a product or service or changing their thinking and behaviour. It is enormously powerful, done right.

But with millions of pieces of content added to the internet daily (four million videos are uploaded to YouTube every day, to give just one example!) how can you as a procurement professional stand out?

Start with these top tips for finding your voice, building your personal brand and creating brilliant thought leadership content online…

Who are you?

You might think that’s an easy question to answer. But when you’re considering your online presence, it requires a bit more thinking to create a personal and professional brand that will help you stand out from the crowd and be seen as influential and credible. Ask yourself the following questions:

What do I want to be known for?

Who is my audience?

What is my unique selling point? Why should people listen to me?

Once you’ve answered those questions, you’ll have a clearer idea of the topics you should create content on, the style of content you want to create and also the kind of things you want to stay away from. You can’t do everything, so pick your niche and stick to it.

Know your angles

Any content you create needs to have an angle. If you’re writing a blog post or thought leadership article, your angle is the clear theme or point that you want your readers to take away from your piece. An article without an angle is unfocused, unclear and uninteresting.

The best way to identify your angle is to think about the headline of your piece. How can you best sum up your idea into a short, compelling statement that will make people want to read the whole piece? Often a good idea is to answer a question that people might have or to offer a series of tips. For example: ‘How to build brilliant stakeholder relationships remotely.’ ‘Five creative ways to make cost savings in indirect procurement.’

Writing great copy

So you’ve got your angle, how do you write a great post? When it comes to online content, the best approach is to keep it short (fewer than 1,000 words unless you’ve designated it a ‘long read’), punchy and accessible. Our attention spans are getting shorter by the year – thanks internet! – and people do not have the patience to engage with overly long and complex material online. Break up your article with sub-heads, use bullet points or pull out a few top tips at the end.

If it’s getting too long and complicated, why not break it up into a series of pieces? This will also encourage people to keep coming back to you for insight.

And it might seem obvious, but remember to proofread your work. Your ideas might be fantastic but you’ll be far less credible if your pieces are riddled with spelling errors and misplaced apostrophes!

Keep it consistent

Consistency is a critical pillar of building trust, and you want to be a trusted voice and expert on your chosen topic. Being consistent means committing to putting out content regularly – not spamming people but making sure you are continuing to put out a regular stream of interesting and insightful pieces. If you are starting to blog, you can’t just post something every six months. Instead commit to at least once a month.

Consistency also relates to your voice and subject matter expertise. People should know what to expect from you. That doesn’t mean you can’t mix things up and be creative, but don’t just write about something for the sake of it or because everyone else is doing it. Being consistent means being genuine, authentic and true to yourself and what you stand for.

Know your channels

If a procurement professional writes a blog, but no one reads it, was it even worth writing? Think about the channels you can use to amplify your voice. Twitter and LinkedIn are great tools to publicise your work but also to ensure you are consistently sharing relevant content by others that relates to your interests and the personal brand you have created. Using a platform like Procurious is great because it has a readymade engaged audience eager for insightful content.

And think about format as well as channel. Is written content best for this message or could you get creative with video or audio? Should you embed infographics or imagery? Have fun with it and your audience will enjoy it as well.

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

5 Ways To Stay Connected During COVID-19

We all know networking and creating connections with the people around us is important, but how do we do at the moment? Here’s how. 


Any successful person will tell you that it isn’t what you know, but who you know that gets you ahead. Forging new connections and fostering existing connections can help you broaden your horizons, discover new opportunities, and even secure a much sought-after promotion. Often though, creating these important relationships happens in person. Whether it be via a kitchen chat at your workplace or at an industry-specific event, great connections often start with a personal conversation, a handshake and perhaps an impromptu coffee. 

Yet unfortunately, with the world the way it is at the moment, the face-to-face option is not appropriate and in many places in the world, not even possible. So does this mean that networking needs to stop? Certainly not. Here’s five creative ways to stay in touch with your connections, new and old, without ever having to shake a hand.

1. Check in people in your network 

Given that demand for mental health services have soared worldwide, from a care perspective, there’s every reason to check in on people within your network, and a number of ways you can engage with them. 

Connecting or reconnecting with people could be as simple as asking them how their pandemic experience has been, and whether they are, personally, doing ok. Doing so will help them feel supported, and could open up any manner of conversations about future plans or potential opportunities. Connecting certainly doesn’t need to happen in person, but instead should be done via industry-specific networking sites such as Procurious. 

Given the high amount of people who have lost their job or had their hours or pay reduced, it is also a great time to ask others whether you can introduce them to anyone in your network. Well-timed introductions can make all the difference right now, and could be the source of hope and inspiration a colleague needs to get back on their feet.

Finally, it’s been a tough year for everyone, and every extra endorsement can help boost not just someone’s profile, but their morale as well. If you get a chance, give a colleague a recommendation. It could just be the boost they need to secure an opportunity. 

2. Lend a hand – if you can 

The pandemic has been personally and professionally challenging for many of us, but on the flip side, has also brought out the best in people. From Captain Tom Moore raising 32 million pounds for the NHS charities to global fundraisers to buy healthcare workers coffees, many people have gone above and beyond to help those in need. And it’s something you can do, too. 

With the unprecedented number of people out of work at the moment, many may be looking for work for the first time, so offering to look over someone’s CV could be of real benefit. Alternatively, you could direct them to opportunities within your network, or even recommend online events or upskilling options that might help. Helping others in need is what networking is all about – you never know when you’ll need to call in a favour and your connections won’t forget that you helped them out. 

3. Give recognition and show as much appreciation as you can

When it comes to feeling appreciated by our colleagues and managers at work, people typically believe that money speaks louder than words. But research shows that isn’t true. In fact, simply saying thank you can go a long way – and can help deepen your connections with those around you. 

Research conducted by Gallup of over four million employees showed that recognition at work boosts not only someone’s morale, but their productivity and engagement with those around them. In other words, recognition makes us happy! But how do you do it in a sincere and meaningful way? 

One great way to do it is to give someone praise for something they individually contributed. Ideally, do this in a public forum, such as a procurement industry group discussion board. Giving someone praise publicly for their great work will help them amplify their impact. 

4. Recommend learning content 

While many of us in procurement have found ourselves busier than ever during the pandemic, some in certain industries may have found ourselves scratching our heads, wondering what to do. This might particularly be the case if we’ve been furloughed or worse, made redundant. 

But if we’ve found ourselves with spare time, there’s plenty we can do about that! When this pandemic is over, the procurement landscape will look a little (or entirely) different from what it did before. That’s why now is the time to focus on a number of different technical and soft skills, including resilience. Many courses that you might be interested in are inexpensive or even free, and recommending them to other people can help showcase your industry knowledge and give you a reason to get in touch with your connections.

5. Start a group chat (and talk about things besides work)

The point of creating connections is to broaden your network and potential opportunities. But in creating and fostering these connections, sometimes it’s important to talk about everything but work. Plus, having a casual chat and even sharing some humorous banter with colleagues can inject some fun into your day and help you feel less lonely and more connected. 

Whether it’s you sharing cat snap chats or talking about your children or the (limited) activities you’ve been able to undertake during lockdown, bringing your whole self into group conversations can help foster more authentic connections with those around you. 

How have you been staying connected with your colleagues and those in your broader network? Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.

What You Need To Know About Supplier Payments, Bankruptcies And The Financial Impact Of COVID-19

Considering this macro-economic turmoil, new research shows that most contracts and supplier partnerships held strong during the pandemic


The early days of COVID-19 were financially tumultuous and incredibly stressful. For most business executives, uncertainty ruled the day: Would my contracts hold? Will I get paid on time? And will I have enough funds to pay my team and suppliers?

The issue is exacerbated in the supply chain, where late payments and cancelled contracts in one part of the world create chaos for unrelated businesses located millions of miles away. Of course, these short-term concerns were ultimately trumped by even bigger issues relating to bankruptcies, business closures and unemployment.

Considering this macro-economic turmoil, Procurious’ latest research shows that most contracts and supplier partnerships held strong and stood up to the stress test – which is a major testament to procurement’s response and the strength of existing buyer-supplier relationships.

Our survey of 600-plus procurement and supply chain leaders found that nearly 60% of organisations (58%) are still operating and paying their suppliers per their contract. In fact, 14% of organisations are speeding up payments to suppliers and 6% are providing direct financial support. On the other end of the spectrum, 10% said they are delaying payment to all suppliers, and another 11% said they were delaying payments to non-strategic suppliers. Overall, this is positive news – for buyers, suppliers and the broader economy.

However, the longer the crisis plays out, the more financial strain it will cause. Despite the positive news on payments and contracts, there has already been substantial financial hardships and fallout among suppliers. Our research found that as of May 12, 2020:

  • 6% of organisations said they had a key supplier go out of business
  • 11% said they had multiple key suppliers go out of business
  • 20% said they had a supplier declare fore majeure on contract obligations

Our analysis shows that the companies hit the hardest by COVID-19 were more than 50% likely to have multiple key suppliers go out of business compared to other organisations.

The Economic Forecast: Cloudy with 100% Chance of Unpredictability

Predicting what’s next economically is difficult, and possibly even an exercise in futility. We’ve heard it all from the experts, with projections changing by the day: V-shaped recoveries, U-shaped recoveries… and even the swoosh.

What’s not hard to predict: regardless of how fast the economy recovers, the response from procurement teams will continue to play a critical role in ongoing business continuity and financial resiliency. During the pandemic, 65% of organisations had to source alternative supplies for affected categories. Procurement responded quickly and effectively – with 53% able to lock down new suppliers in less than three weeks, and 18% finding new suppliers in a week’s time.

Post-pandemic, it will be interesting to watch if and how contracts evolve, and the weight put behind different conditions and KPIs. We are already expecting macro supply chain strategy shifts , which will naturally impact sourcing decisions and contract negotiations. Expect to see even more emphasis put behind collaborative supplier relationships, and new investments in predictive analytics and supplier risk monitoring, specifically as it relates to financial viability.

The financial picture remains uncertain at best. How are procurement and supply chain leaders responding? Get the latest in our “Supply Chain Confidence and Recovery” Report.


5 Outdated Myths About Blockchain

Is there a compelling reason to use blockchain in the supply chain? We separate fact from fiction.


The supply chain profession is no stranger to blockchain. 

In fact, a survey this year of supply chain professionals showed 80% are familiar with blockchain – a whopping 21% increase on last year.

And almost half of respondents plan to invest in blockchain over the next two years.

Yet for all the ways blockchain is modernising the supply chain, some still view the technology with a healthy dose of scepticism. There’s still a great deal of room to establish what role blockchain plays. Its place in the supply chain toolkit still isn’t fully defined.  

And that leads to ongoing misconceptions.

It’s time to bust some of the myths surrounding one of the most coveted 4.0 technologies.

Fixing weaknesses

Widespread disruption highlighted issues that already existed in the supply chain.

One of the most apparent issues is paper documentation for important processes and transactions. 

Important documents like Bills of Lading and Certificates of Origin are still largely paper-based.

Yet, these documents are often late to the destination port, or even lost – costing businesses $200 billion each year (World Bank).

So why do we still use paper? Because we don’t trust each other, according to the University College London Centre for Blockchain Technologies (CBT).

“Despite…strikingly obvious inefficiencies of paper documentation for international trade, it is still considered to be the industry standard, largely due to lack of trust between different members of the international supply chain,” the CBT notes.

Luckily, blockchain technology could solve this and other trust issues that make it hard to do business internationally.

Blockchain allows companies to track products throughout the supply chain using digital, unchangeable records.

[Need a quick blockchain intro first? We’ve got you covered ]

“A panacea for our ailments”

It’s the logical solution, especially in today’s economy, says Professor Olinga Ta’eed from Birmingham City University.

“Covid-19 has highlighted a crisis of trust in countries, people, organisations, products, and processes,” he says.

“Blockchain has features that do not require trust to operate effectively. Decisions are automated and not dependent on personal relationships, politics, or bias.

“It is thus a panacea for our current ailments, both immediate, but also structurally in a future society.”

Enter blockchain

That might seem counterintuitive. After all, how can a system that doesn’t require trust actually improve trust?

The beauty of blockchain is everyone across the supply chain can access the same information at the same time. They can be confident the information is verified and unchangeable. Just what we all need in this brave new world.

Using blockchain technology lets you track in real time:

·  Where goods are

·  Their physical condition

·  Changes made during the transaction lifecycle

·  Who or what is causing a delay

·  The quality and authenticity 

·  Discrepancies in transaction documents

·  Contractual terms and conditions

That equal access to information fosters trust between business partners. And you can build a lot of great things from a base of trust.

Trust is something we sorely need. So, what’s keeping companies from adopting blockchain more widely?

There is still a lot of misinformation circulating about the technology.

That’s why it’s time to stamp out five of the most common blockchain myths:

Myth 1) Blockchain is bitcoin

One of the biggest scepticisms about blockchain is rooted in its links with bitcoin.

Bitcoin and blockchain are NOT the same thing. Bitcoin is a form of ‘cryptocurrency’. It was invented in 2009 as a way to store value without relying on a central authority (like the government).

But it couldn’t work on its own; it needed new technology to make it work, so blockchain was invented.

That’s how the two are related. Blockchain is the engine that makes the bitcoin car run, but just as you can use an engine in lots of things besides a car, blockchain has more applications than just bitcoin.

Companies are taking advantage of the proven strength of blockchain in solving new challenges beyond financial.

In fact, one of the most celebrated uses of blockchain technology is in supply chain management.

Take the retail giant Walmart, which uses blockchain technology through the IBM Food Trust to track produce from farm to shelf.

The retailer can now trace the provenance of produce in seconds, instead of days. And Walmart certainly isn’t the only one interested in traceability.

Gartner predicts that by 2025, 20% of the world’s top grocers will use blockchain to track food safety.

Pharmaceuticals is also a key area for blockchain technology.

The United States Food and Drug Administration recently finished a pilot programme tracing the full supply chain of prescription drugs using blockchain. The results? It now takes two seconds to track a drug instead of 16 weeks.

And quick thinking during the pandemic led to creation of IBM Rapid Supplier Connect.

It uses IBM’s blockchain network to help government agencies and healthcare organisations source reputable equipment from new, non-traditional suppliers.

As Jason Kelley, General Manager of IBM Blockchain Services, put it: “Finding, vetting and then securing new suppliers takes time, more time than the public authorities and private sector can afford.”

The system allows new vendors to be onboarded in as little as 30 minutes.

“[We] help members of these essential supply chains continue to find the vendors, materials and tools they need so that time and attention can be focused on addressing the current and ongoing requirements as a result of this pandemic,” Kelley says.

Myth 2) Blockchain is only useful for projects that are massive in size and scale

Blockchain makes obvious sense for global retailers with thousands of suppliers.

But what about for smaller companies?

Yes, and it’s a lot easier than you might think to get set up on a blockchain network.

The bulk of supply chains rely on point-to-point communications. Blockchain makes it simple to collaborate using many-to-many communications – giving you a single version of the truth.

That’s something that companies of all sizes need.

And it’s even more practical now that there are blockchains built specifically for enterprise use.

Like IBM’s blockchain network Trust Your Supplier, created in partnership with consultancy Chainyard. This private network delivers the ultimate in supply chain transparency, as buyers and sellers can all access the same end-to-end data in real time.

It eliminates time-consuming admin, like trying to verify supplier identities and track documentation.

Through Trust Your Supplier, businesses of all sizes can validate and onboard suppliers in a secure and efficient way.

Myth 3) It takes a long time to get suppliers set up

Many companies like the idea of blockchain, but they worry about the time and effort of getting suppliers set up.

The reality is it can actually be quite fast.

For example, IBM lets you onboard suppliers in hours versus days or weeks to a permissioned blockchain relationship.

And as we all know too well after recent disruption, speed is everything.

Once set up, companies see quick returns on investment through visible deliveries, reconciled invoices, and better return management.

And not to worry – no advanced computer programming degree needed. Your enterprise blockchain supplier can walk you through the entire process of getting on the network.

Myth 4) You have to abandon systems you already have

Another common belief is you need to throw out all your existing supply chain management systems if you use blockchain technology.

Not necessarily. As IBM puts it, “We believe that traditional methods like EDI, when complemented and extended by emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain, will be the fastest path to realizing a new era of B2B transaction efficiency gains.”

It’s possible through technology like IBM Sterling Transaction Intelligence Multi-Enterprise Edition. It helps companies leverage EDI investments by bringing important documents into a shared blockchain, giving different parties the same visibility. 

So it’s totally possible to see a fast return on investment without scrapping your current processes.

That said, you may want to consider if your legacy systems are really serving your needs, advises Jack Shaw, a technology futurist and leadership speaker.

“I think most business professionals are far too concerned with trying to use their existing tools, technologies, and processes to solve their immediate, short-term problems to think about how blockchain…could actually help them do their jobs much better both now and in the long-term,” he says.

“This is really a strategic shortcoming as they should be thinking about how the current pandemic necessity could be the mother of innovation, leveraging emerging technologies for strategic benefit.”

Myth 5) There is only one blockchain network

There isn’t one central blockchain network that everyone uses.

There are actually several different types of technology that go by the name ‘blockchain’, and there are public and private blockchain networks.

In public blockchain networks, like the ones used by bitcoin, the data is open for anyone to access. The transactions are still unchangeable, but they are visible for scrutiny.

On the other hand, there are private blockchain networks, like the ones used by IBM enterprise clients. You can place restrictions on who is allowed to participate, and anyone who wants to join needs your permission.

That gives you tighter control on who can see what, while still maintaining transparent records.

Is it time for blockchain?

For all its benefits, blockchain will not magically solve all supply chain issues overnight.

But the ability to strengthen, connect, and improve the resilience of supply chains will be key to recovering from the pandemic, according to Mariam Obaid AlMuhairi of the Dubai Future Foundation.

“If there were any lingering doubts over the value of blockchain platforms to improve the transparency of businesses that depend on the seamless integration of disparate networks, COVID-19 has all but wiped them away,” she said in an article for the World Economic Forum.

“We should look at this healthcare crisis as a vital learning curve that can show us how to build transparent, inter-operable and connective networks.”

For more Industry 4.0 talk, join the conversation in our Supply Chain Pros group

From The Backroom To The Boardroom: Procurement & Supply Chain Leaders Step Up

Procurement and supply chain leaders are experiencing newfound appreciation and opportunity following their response to COVID-19.


COVID-19 hit supply networks hard. So hard, in fact, that 97% of organisations experienced a related disruption. Still, there’s more to the story than disruption and chaos.  

Insights shared by over 600 procurement and supply chain professionals actually paints a positive and inspiring picture: supply chain and procurement leaders were prepared – and responded brilliantly – when faced with a global pandemic that literally brought the whole world to a sudden halt. Now they have an opportunity to reset the procurement agenda.

A Look Beneath the Surface

Consider the data beyond headlines. While nearly every organisation was impacted, only 17% said the supply chain disruption was severe. On the other hand, almost half agreed the impact was minimal or moderate.

Similarly, despite the macro economic turmoil, the impact on supplier payments has been relatively modest. Most contracts and supplier relationships survived the chaos, showing the strength of existing relationships and strategies. According to our research:

  • 58% of organisations are still operating and paying their suppliers per contract,
  • 14% are speeding up payments to suppliers,
  • 6% are providing direct financial support.

When the pandemic affected supply chains directly, procurement responded quickly and effectively. The majority of organisations (65%) were forced to source alternative suppliers for affected categories. As of early June, 79% of those surveyed had already found alternative suppliers for affected categories, with 53% locking down new suppliers in less than three weeks. Amazingly, 18% were able to find new suppliers in only a weeks’ time. This response has not gone unnoticed.

The Spotlight Shines Bright

The agility shown by procurement and supply chain leaders, along with their ongoing criticality in managing the crisis, has been a boon for the function with executives and board members. 

“The crisis has put procurement in the spotlight,” commented Ian Thompson, Regional Director, UK and Nordics at Ivalua, a source-to-pay technology provider. “There are a lot of talented executives now getting the attention of the c-suite for the first time.”

When we asked how leadership leveraged procurement and supply chains teams during the crisis, only 16% of survey respondents said they were still being viewed tactically. On the other hand, 40% said their recommendations are solicited more than usual and 22% said they now have a seat at the executive table with input on key decisions.

“For as long as I remember, the question has always been how do we make the C in CPO a real part of the c-suite?” said Thompson. “It’s finally happening, and procurement needs to capitalise.”

According to Thompson, the key is taking advantage of the new platform. “Now that you have the attention of the c-suite, you need to have an agenda, and use the platform to properly set the record straight for what procurement is all about, and what’s possible. When called upon, you can fix the problem, or, you can fix the problem and reframe the conversation internally.”

The heightened attention has also led to renewed interest in procurement and supply chain careers. As a result of the crisis, nearly 62% of all respondents and 71% of millennials said their interest in procurement and supply chain has increased.

“The interest is very high. Procurement has become an essential function during the crisis, especially on the direct side. We have procurement teams that are fueling the food supply chain, sanitising the country and ensuring the flow of essential services across the globe. More people are recognising the importance of procurement and supply chain,” said Thompson.

The current dynamic should lead to fresh career opportunities for Generation Next. The function’s performance during the crisis sets the stage for increased investments in talent development and technology, a bigger seat at the executive table, and new opportunities for ambitious practitioners to make their mark.

Storm Warning: Where Is Supply Chain Risk Management On Your Radar?

If there’s one thing this crisis has taught us, it’s how quickly things can change overnight. Don’t think we are out of the woods, just because supply chain risk has declined. Our community has never been more vulnerable.


After spending half of 2020 fighting off the virus in more ways than one, it seems as though we’re becoming immune to its detriments. Yet, as our Supply Chain Confidence and Recovery Index revealed, there’s still a great amount of looming uncertainty. Despite the recent universal decline in supply chain risk, our community has never been more vulnerable.

Publication of our Supply Chain Confidence Index, quickly followed by riskmethod’s Risk Report has created a “perfect storm” of data to show that now, more than ever, we need to be vigilant and proactively address supply chain risk.

Aside from the obvious pandemic outbreak risk increase, which riskmethods reports is 34.7 times that of 2019, changes are impacting virtually every aspect of business. Some of which include:

  • A major increase in cyber security risk-related warnings, stemming from the transition to working from home
  • Substantial growth in risk associated with labor practices and human rights, as well as employee stability
  • A 26% increase in natural hazard risk

And with lack of visibility into supplier and geographic risk topping the list of lessons learned from COVID-19, it’s clear our job here is not done.

Putting out the fire  

The lack of visibility, data and agility acted as an accelerant, enabling the disruption to spread like wildfire from supplier to supplier. Procurious found that:

  • The hardest-hit companies were more than 50% likely to have multiple key suppliers go out of business due to COVID-19  
  • 30% of CEOs had a supplier declare Force Majeure
  • 65% of organisations were forced to source alternative suppliers for affected categories

Consider all the ‘prepare for the second wave’ and ‘the worst is yet to come’ talk a storm warning. The weatherman may not be 100% accurate, but it’s almost always a matter of when and to what extent, then whether it will happen at all. We need to keep supply chain risk on our radar.

Not only did our research indicate supply chain and procurement leaders are still bracing for peak impact, the riskmethods 2020 Risk Report predicts more damage to come, as supplier financial distress risk was 105% higher in May than the beginning of the crisis.

Most economists expect a second wave of bankruptcies – with one recognised expert predicting the amount of large bankruptcies (at least $100 million) will challenge the record set after the 2008 financial crisis.

So, how do we avoid another disaster? This year, riskmethods reported a 34% increase in early supply chain disruption warnings compared to the same time period in 2019, including: 

  • A 151% increase in disasters at partner sites
  • A 100% increase in disasters at location
  • A 45% increase in instability in key employee positions

This urgency placed around supply chain risk management should not be viewed as negative. The newfound spotlight gives our profession the spotlight we need to expedite critical decision making and drive real change.

While the extent of the impact of COVID on our supply chains is no longer surprising, the disruption offers a clear and urgent call-to-action for global organisations to rethink and rebuild supply chain risk management strategies from the ground floor.

Our Index showed that failing to invest in SCRM was the No. 1 technology regret during COVID-19. The majority of respondents (73%) are planning significant procurement and supply chain strategy shifts. For many, this means increased investments in supply chain and procurement technology. The emerging and Industry 4.0 technologies that show the most promise for mitigating future supply disruptions include:

  • Predictive analytics
  • Machine learning
  • Robotic process automation
  •  Internet of Things
  • Additive manufacturing and 3D printing
  • Blockchain

We still have a long way to go before we even determine what ‘business-as-usual’ will look like—never mind reach it again. And when that happens, remember: the worst thing to do when it comes to supply chain risk management is nothing at all.

Join us and riskmethods on Tuesday, July 28 as we reflect on lessons learned and continue crowdsourcing confidence with fresh data from the frontlines. Register now.

Need Or Want A New Job? Here’s How To Find One Right Now

Job hunting? Here’s how to find a job right now


2020 is the year of things that seemed easy suddenly being oh so hard. Take going out for dinner, for example, which many of us took for granted until restaurants worldwide were shut. Or from a work perspective, ease of logistics. Closed borders in every continent has certainly presented way more issues than any of us ever thought possible. 

And yet another area of life that always presented its own challenges, and now even more so, is looking for a job. Whether you’ve been made redundant or stood down, or you’re starting to feel as if the pandemic isn’t bringing out the best in your employer, the prospect of job hunting right now seems a little scary. What’s even out there? Will I ever find something? And how do I manage my emotions in such an unstable time? 

To help guide you through your job search, we spoke to two highly experienced recruiters, Imelda Walsh, Manager of The Source, an boutique procurement recruitment agency based in Australia, and Christina Langley, Consultant at Langley Search and Interim in the UK. Both enlightened us on not only the nuts and bolts of how to manage your job search at the moment, but also how to best manage and talk about your experiences if you have found yourself unemployed. 

I’m not feeling that confident at the moment. Is that ok? 

At the best of times, job searching can feel a little daunting. But right now, job searching can feel downright terrifying. With job listings in some sectors in the UK down by up to 59%, and job listings in Australia following a similar trend (latest reports show listings are down 54%), many people are feeling overwhelmed by the competition out there, but at the same time underwhelmed by their ability to break back into the market, especially if they’re unemployed. But is the situation so dire when it comes to procurement? 

Christina certainly doesn’t think so, as many of her clients are actively hiring for roles. Yet at the same time, she understands that procurement professionals may be feeling a range of emotions right now: 

‘How people feel right now depends on their coping strategies. Some will feel empowered and organised; confident in their skillset and pragmatic about what they will consider.’ 

‘Others may be in denial, unable to view themselves in the context of what has happened. They may be feeling angry, or even struggling with home obligations so it might be difficult to devote the time needed to find another role.’ 

I’m unemployed right now. How should I be looking for a job?  

There’s no doubt that looking for a job right now can be stressful. So how do you ensure that you don’t get caught up in it all, and spend hours and hours obsessively looking for anything and everything? 

When it comes to job searching, Imelda says that you need to make a plan and stick to it: 

‘Start your job search by defining what roles you want. And at this time especially, I’d also recommend having a plan b. Be clear on what you want but also what you’d accept if you don’t get what you’re looking for in a certain amount of time.’ 

But what about if you’re really keen to get back to work? Should you apply for anything just in case?

‘No.’ Imelda says. 

‘Be strategic about what you apply for, and don’t apply for something that doesn’t genuinely interest you, as this will dilute your profile and make you look desperate.’ 

Throughout the job search process, Christina says it’s critical to keep balance in your life, and to make sure you’re exercising, eating and sleeping well. Beyond that though, Christina says that like anything, in your job search you need to create achievable goals:  

‘Give yourself goals, such as, this week I’m going to network by contacting ten former bosses or colleagues, next week I’m going to write my CV.’ 

‘Completing these actions will make you feel like you are making progress.’ 

How do I network effectively at the moment? 

Right now, it’s fair to say that most people have a lot going on, with many still working through the pandemic and what it means for their jobs and lives. Thinking about careers and networking might not be at the top of everyone’s mind, so it may feel awkward or inappropriate to network.

Christina believes, though, that we don’t need to feel embarrassed about networking right now. It’s all about mindset, she says, and thinks that we need to change the fundamental question we ask: 

‘It’s not “please do you have a job?” but instead “please let me know if you hear of anything.”’

Imelda and Christina both believe that if you are networking, you need to be systematic and targeted in how you do so. Specifically, Imelda recommends: 

‘Start by researching the market. What industries are hiring right now? In many parts of the world, that might be healthcare, government, FMCG, tech and a few others.’ 

‘After you’ve done your research, figure out, ideally, what industry, company and leader you’d like to work for.’ 

‘Then specifically connect with them or ask to be introduced on platforms such as Procurious and LinkedIn.’ 

Actually connecting with people should only form part of this process though, Imelda says. The other part is giving back to the community and growing your personal brand and presence. The best way to do this is to be proactive online, through sharing your opinion via commenting on what others are doing and saying in your industry, and publishing your own thought-leadership articles. 

How do I interview confidently?

Interviews are nerve-wracking at the best of times. But especially if you’re unemployed, and especially during a pandemic, they can be particularly nerve-wracking. 

Fortunately, Imelda and Christina both believe there are many things we can do to calm our nerves before an interview, and especially one with a hiring manager.

Imelda believes the key to good interview performance is preparation. Prior to any interview, she says that it’s imperative that you know your resume: 

‘Before an interview, ensure that you can explain all of your roles and your amazing achievements. To do this, reflect on your career and the value you’ve delivered.’ 

‘And make sure you’ve done your research. Practice storytelling and have answers prepared to common questions.’ 

Preparation, in and of itself, can make you feel more calm. But if it hasn’t completely taken away the nerves, do whatever you need to just prior to the interview to get yourself ready: 

‘Whatever it takes to make you feel better. Meditate, listen to your favourite song, practice your answers in the mirror. If it works for you, ensure you do it!’ 

As someone who interviews hundreds of people in any given year, Imelda does acknowledge that interviews can be harder than they seem. But at the same time, she thinks that we need not be too hard on ourselves. Hiring managers and recruiters alike know that it’s a difficult market, and that many people have been stood down. The key, she thinks, is to be able to effectively explain your time off: 

‘The pandemic is global – everyone knows what is happening. So if you’ve found yourself with a resume gap, people will generally understand.’ 

‘But still, a good explanation of what you’ve been doing will help. For example, if you say you’ve been doing “nothing” managers might be a little concerned. But if you say you’ve used the time to upskill, or even to progress a personal hobby or project, that will suffice.’ 

Recruiters can also be a big help if you’re nervous, Christina says. Specifically, she encourages all candidates to ask questions in order to understand the big picture of any job they may be going for: 

‘Always ask your recruitment consultant for the real story and requirements beneath the job description.’ 

‘And also try and find out about the hiring managers who will be interviewing you. What is their background? Where have they worked? Etc.’ 

How do I know if I’m nervous in an interview?  

Try as we might, sometimes it’s just not possible to get rid of interview jitters. But how do you know if you’ve successfully squashed your nerves or not? There’s a few things that give you away, Imelda says … and they may not be what you think. 

‘Fumbling over words, sweating, nervous twitches like shaking a leg, a lack of eye contact, or even talking too fast and rambling are common signs you’re nervous.’ 

Christina agrees, adding that your voice volume can also give you away: 

‘If someone’s nervous, they often talk too loudly or even too quietly.’ 

While these might be common signs of nervousness, Imelda has also seen a couple of other less common signs of nervousness that we should all be aware of: 

‘Often, candidates are told to use “power poses” before the interview to calm nerves. But a couple of times, I’ve seen the overuse of power posing, for example, sitting back in a chair with a leg up on your knee, in interviews.’ 

‘Although this may feel commanding, it is often a compensation for nerves.’ 

Note to all: keep the power posing to before the interview! 

What should I talk about in an interview? 

The world of procurement has most certainly undergone a shake up since the pandemic. So does this mean that employers are looking for certain traits and experiences now that may not have been as important before? 

Imelda certainly thinks so. 

She’s seen the following shift in what employers are looking for: 

‘We’re seeing an even bigger focus than ever on supplier relationships. Organisations are wanting procurement to have a genuine strategic relationship with vendors, meaning they can lean on them in times of need.’ 

Beyond supplier relationships, Imelda believes that the soft skills that were always considered important in procurement are considered even more important now: 

‘Your ability to influence, engage and be customer-focused is even more critical right now.’ 

‘Beyond that, businesses want savvy procurement professionals who know that now is no time to waste a crisis. Instead, now is the time to step up and show the importance of procurement.’ 

‘Innovate, be open to change and take advantage of this opportunity to make a positive difference.’ 

How is job search going at the moment? Are you having to do anything differently? Let us know in the comments below.

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

What Are The Most Valuable Tech Skills In Procurement Right Now?

The future of procurement is digital. Experts share the tech skills you need to thrive in that future.


The future of procurement is digital. How can you make sure you’re part of that future? By understanding what your company needs from procurement, then using the right digital tools to meet those needs.

Here are the most valuable tech skills in procurement:

Supplier risk management

Companies want better supplier risk management, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Our recent Supply Chain Confidence Index showed 27% of respondents didn’t have the tools they needed to act quickly in the crisis.

That’s why supplier risk management technology is top of procurement leaders’ list of digital priorities.

Employers now expect procurement teams to move faster and mitigate risk long before another crisis hits.

End-to-end supply chain visibility

A by-product of proper supplier risk management is increased visibility, according to Hau Lee, Professor of Operations, Information and Technology at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“You need end-to-end visibility about your supply network (capacity, inventory, disruptions, production yields, lead time, bottlenecks, social and environmental performances, their financial conditions, etc.), and your demand network (orders, demand forecasts, backlogs, channel inventory, promotion plans, and disruptions),” Lee says. 

There are a host of tools out there to improve visibility. One is IBM Sterling Inventory Visibility, which is a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS). It compiles all of your inventory information from different platforms so you can see available product in real-time.

That’s just one example. Lee recommends educating yourself about other available tools that improve visibility. These harness technology like the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and deep data analytics.

Reduce complexity in global sourcing

Professor Lee says understanding the intricacies of global trade, and how technology can reduce complexity, can make you an extremely valuable asset.  

“Today, you need to be aware of the tens of thousands of bilateral trade agreements that exist between some key trading countries for products and components that may affect you,” Lee says. 

And not just for minimising disruption. Where and how you source products can have a major impact on your bottom line.

Lee uses the example of breaking up a product and sourcing parts from different countries, like sourcing frames from Cambodia while the other parts from China. That way, you can use Cambodia as the country of origin instead of China, which can save you a great deal in taxes and custom duties. 

“As countries start to gradually recover from COVID-19, attention will be shifted back (it has already started) to trade wars, tariff frictions, and protectionism,” Lee says. “Databases from WTO, for example, should be useful. Some experts call this “tariff engineering,” and there can be big differences.”

Conduct due diligence on suppliers for complete transparency

Ethical sourcing is already a hot topic, and it’s even more scrutinised now. Your company’s reputation is on the line, and you are held accountable for how and where you source materials.

It’s certainly a top concern for your company’s executives. They desperately want assurance that suppliers are reputable. Luckily there are digital tools that help you do your due diligence for potential suppliers, Professor Lee says.

“For example, many big brands have already been using IPE, the Chinese website that captures environmental violations in China, as a source of data to do due diligence of their prospective suppliers,” Lee says.

In fact, companies like Nike use apps to connect with the factory workers and educate them, Lee says. “[That] allows them to have better visibility of the conditions of the factories (instead of just relying on imperfect factory audits to monitor), and at the same time help to improve productivity there.”

Interpret data in a meaningful way

Being able to understand and interpret data is sorely needed in procurement.

This is especially true before you bring in new tech systems, says Susan Walsh, Founder of The Classification Guru.

“An area that’s often neglected is data preparation or cleansing before the implementation of any new software or systems,” Walsh wrote in a recent blog. “By the time it’s discovered there are errors in the data, staff have lost faith in using the software and are disengaged, claiming it doesn’t work, or they don’t trust it because it’s wrong.” 

Research from Deloitte shows CPOs struggle with an organisation’s data complexity. If you can untangle data and whip it into something meaningful, you’ll have a job for life.

Step away from the admin

The beauty of procurement technology is cutting out admin and simplifying processes.

The ugly side of that same technology is displacing people who currently handle that admin. That’s why you need to gain useful skills beyond manual data processing if you want a future in procurement.

But where do you start, especially if new technology seems overwhelming?

Craig Carter, Professor of Supply Chain Management in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, says start with the basics.

“Supply management professionals need to have a general understanding of all of the technologies that are being adopted or are on the horizon – AI, blockchain, descriptive analytics, and predictive analytics,” Carter says.

But don’t panic, as Carter adds that understanding does not mean mastery. You don’t need to become an expert overnight.

Technology is coming

Don’t be surprised if this future tech is on your desk a lot sooner than you think. The pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of technology, as shown by our Supply Chain Confidence Index.

When asked which technologies show the most promise for helping to mitigate future pandemics and supply disruptions, 49% said predictive analytics and 38% said AI/ machine learning.

Ultimately, companies will do anything they can to minimise risk. Which is why procurement is so perfectly placed to contribute.

All you need to do is prove you have the answers they need, says Professor Carter.

“What is necessary is a demonstration of a procurement professional’s strategic value,” Carter says. 

“Procurement professionals who can critically analyse, think strategically, and build relationships will continue to be in demand.”

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more.