5 Ways Procurement Is Building Better Communities

Based on our research, here are five ways that procurement professionals can generate more social value from their next construction project


Many governments around the world, including the UK, are focussing on construction-led recovery post-COVID. 

Here are 5 ways Procurement can play a key role in re-shaping not only our buildings and the way we live, but also our communities through the way we buy during the construction process.

1.     Have a clear social value strategy and framework

There needs to be a clear, transparent and needs-based social value strategy and framework for both procurers and bidders which is embedded at all stages. Procurement frameworks, with required levels of social value commitments, can bring efficiency and good practice application across public sector contracts. They can provide suppliers with more clarity on what is required for social value and how this will be recorded. Procurement services that guarantee work once suppliers are on the framework can incentivise well-considered social value commitments for both SMEs and larger organisations.

2.     Prioritise outcomes in monitoring and evaluation

There is fragmented market of tools and metrics used in both procurement and evaluation. Most do not take into account geographic disparities in their monetisation, nor include negative effects of development to arrive at the final value.  A focus on ‘tick box’ outputs like number of people trained, or number of apprenticeships started, can lead to more aware suppliers knowing how to score well on social value weightings in the tender process, as discussed previously. By procuring outcomes instead of outputs, the procurement profession can open up the doors for innovation and creativity in bid responses, and evaluate bidders on the impact they will achieve, rather than bums on seats.

3.     Consistency and holding to account

There are different procurement frameworks, regional models, and different sector frameworks, adding to the confusion in this area, and sometimes a ‘buy local’ requirement as well – there is no homogeneity in the procurement landscape. Given that Social Value typically accounts for anywhere between 2%-25% on tender scores, it is a key part of the procurement process. Having consistent, appropriate, clear goals at all stages, engaging in more pre-tender dialogue with bidders, and stating the evaluation methodology or tool to be used, will help achieve greater outcomes.  Most importantly, hold suppliers to account for their contractual outcomes.  Our research showed that rigorous monitoring and enforcement of contracted social value activities was very variable and inconsistent. With the high value of contracts in construction, ensuring that what may have secured a major win is actually delivered on the ground is imperative.

4.     Enable straightforward comparisons of value

We recommend that environmental components are separately weighted in procurement, and that ‘normal or good business practices’ e.g. internal diversity/inclusion initiatives, prompt payment codes, training of existing supply chains, modern slavery, managing noise or disruption, should be considered as a given. Social value has to go beyond ‘business as usual’. Activities which may be commercially beneficial to the supplier, such as apprenticeships and educational visits, could be considered as social value if they were supported by a robust needs analysis in the area that this is going to make a difference. Even so, focusing on apprenticeship completions rather than starts would be a step in the right direction.

5.     Guard against potential for disconnect

Our research suggests that a procurement framework approach may provide a further layer of disconnect between local beneficiaries and the provision of social value. The delivery of a locally responsive approach, which links to and utilises community groups and organisations, requires greater clarity. There could be an opportunity for procuring organisations to identify initiatives and local organisations in the tender documentation, embedding local knowledge and understanding of need into the brief, rather than leaving suppliers to try to work this out or to ‘reinvent the wheel’ during the process. Procurers could also consider requiring the upskilling of the voluntary and community sector, as well as the enabling of local businesses not in their supply chains to become fit to supply, which would leave a more enduring legacy.

The construction sector is the sixth largest source of employment in the UK, contributes nearly 7% of the UK’s GDP and is a major recipient of public spending – it is critical for placemaking, economic development and job creation, all of which highlight its importance to Boris Johnson’s ‘New Deal’ and post Covid-19 recovery.

With construction spend estimated to be £500 billion by the end of this decade there is also a need to make sure that every one of those pounds delivers additional tangible social impact, and makes a major contribution to addressing the significant inequalities faced by our most disadvantaged citizens and left-behind communities.

The Social Value Act, published in 2013, requires people who commission public services to think about how they can also secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits. Before they start the procurement process, commissioners must therefore determine how they can secure maximum benefits at all stages of the project for their local communities.

“No common definition of social value”

Given the significance of construction to our economy, we undertook research to support greater understanding of what ‘good practice’ social value looks like, and to find and share examples where innovative, replicable and impactful social value has been delivered at all levels of place-based interventions as a result.

Our final report, From the Ground Up – Improving the Delivery of Social Value in Construction, finds that we are a very long way from the social value nirvana we desire. The barriers are significant, and whilst social value plays an increasing part in the procurement process, there are some pretty hefty challenges running across procurement, definitions, activities, partnerships, monitoring and evaluation.

There is no common, comprehensive definition of what counts as social value, to frame understanding, benchmarking or reporting, and aid comparison of tenders and to determine best practice. This has given rise to significant disparities in what counts as social value activities, and no requirement to focus on improving the wellbeing of the most disadvantaged.

Current examples include attracting/retaining staff, prompt payment codes, internal equality and diversity programmes, fair pay, training of the supply chain, ethical/low carbon sourcing, managing risk/noise, and increasing awareness of the construction sector as a career for young people. So there is a high risk of social value lacking focus and becoming too diffuse.

We also found that projects spanning geographies have multiple project stakeholders often competing for social value outputs, different frameworks with differing social value requirements, and a real lack of alignment around desired benefits and outcomes. There was clear consensus on one of the biggest barriers – the lack of understanding of what social value is – and that substantial improvements need to be made in its monitoring and evaluation.

“Procurement must be a much more effective tool for change”

As covered previously, social value procurement must be a much more effective tool for change. This means putting people at the centre of place-based development, engaging and working with them to understand their needs and wants, so that the development happens with them, not to them. We need to change how we measure the value of our place interventions to take into account what matters to the stakeholders in them, and move from outputs to considering how we can achieve an improvement in wellbeing outcomes as an important deliverable.

In our report, you will see we have made five recommendations in response to our key findings. You can also view our report launch. To join us in the next phase of our discussions for driving change, please email me at [email protected].

Bev Hurley CBE is Chair of the Institute of Economic Development, the UK’s leading independent professional body representing economic development and regeneration practitioners working for local and regional communities.

5 Telltale Signs Your Tech Is Failing

In times like these, all systems need to be firing on all cylinders, so how can you tell if your system is beginning to show it’s in need of optimization or replacement?  There are 5 telltale signs that suggest your tech is failing. 


The digital age marches on and it’s rare to find an organization that has not automated some or all of their procurement operation.  The business case for going digital in S2P is compelling, so it is critical that it works. 

Yet many organizations have tech solutions in place that no longer fit their intended purposes. Worse still, many have just given up and are settling for an inferior system that is not meeting their needs.

The signs are there, but they are either going unnoticed or they are being ignored. Both situations are perilous and without swift action, the cost to an organization in time and resources – and the immediate need for a new solution or an optimization – can really mount up.

What are the key signs that your tech solution is failing?

And how do you recognize them before it’s too late?

Here are some of the most common.

1.     User adoption is on the decline

Your tech may have been heralded as the solution to all your organization’s ills. And for a while it was exactly that. But now even the staunchest champions of the solution are withdrawing their support and end-users are finding ways to avoid using the system altogether.

End users are reverting back to picking up the phone to place orders or finding other ways to go around the system.  This will result in more spend going through P-Cards without prior approval and/or more invoices showing up that are not tied to a PO. 

Decreasing adoption is one of the key signs that your tech is failing, and that action needs to be taken. Once users are working around the system, any efficiencies the solution offered are being lost. And it’s probably costing you more to keep things running.

Close communication with end-users is a good way to track ongoing performance and opportunities for optimization. 

2.     High end-user support rate

Your end-users will also be able to tell you when the solution is failing when it comes to usability. A clear sign will be when the rate of users seeking system support begins to increase and where tasks become increasingly difficult to perform.  Especially with your more infrequent users of the platform. 

When this happens support tickets will increase and if they are not resolved quickly, end users will lose confidence.  When that happens, tickets may decline, but not for reasons that are good.  as end users will typically turn to work arounds. 

The most common work around is sending requests via Free Form requests to the buyers to complete for them.  If your buyers are spending more than half of their day chasing down requisitions, you have a problem that needs to be corrected. 

The second most common work around is the use of a “Power User.”  This is when departments or locations turn to one person to complete all of their requests on their behalf.  This was common in the days of ERP requisitioning systems, but not today.  Especially when P2P systems of today have user interfaces that resemble what they have at home. 

If any of these work arounds are happening, your tech may have seen better days and has become dated and too cumbersome to work with.

Communication with end-users is key again here. You want to be able to have a continuous feedback cycle to raise issues before they start impacting operations. It will help to identify any bugs to be fixed and create a forum for new feature requests.  What you learn may surprise you. 

Which brings us to the next telltale sign.

3.     Lack of New Innovation

You’d expect your tech solution provider to be leading the pack in new features and improving your overall user experience to create even more value for your organization. 

If you’re not seeing these, it is time to start asking questions of both your system administrator and your software provider.

Being a system administrator can be hard work, especially when there are 3 new releases per year to keep up with.  If you are not seeing new features/functionality it may be that your system administrator is overwhelmed. Since new features come to you in the off position, you may have new features that have never been turned on. 

If that is not the case, and your solution is not keeping up with other S2P providers, then it’s a clear sign that your provider’s focus is elsewhere or they built their platform on a system architecture that is difficult to develop new functionality.

Both situations should be a red flag to your organization. You should set the wheels in motion to optimize what you have or determine if it is time to test the market for a new tech solution.

4.     ROI less than expected

Before you started out on this journey with your chosen provider, you created a detailed business case of what you expected in terms of outcomes from your new tech solution. You probably broke out the soft costs from the hard costs and knew what processes the tech would help to improve and how it would increase efficiencies in your organization.

These expected benefits – hard dollar savings, employee time, resources and removal of unnecessary or duplicated processes – could be quantified with a monetary value. This, in turn, allowed you to calculate your ROI. 

However, as time has gone on, it’s become clear that the level of expected benefits isn’t being delivered. The ROI for the solution isn’t being met and it’s time to understand why. There could be a number of factors (including the items on this list). But all of this is a further sign that your tech solution is no longer fit for purpose.

5.     Wandering solution roadmap

Even The Beatles had a ‘long and winding road’, but they at least knew the destination that awaited at the end.

Your technology journey may not have an end point by its very nature, but it should at least have clear direction. This would have been identified at the outset of your selection process, complete with clear goals and initiatives, helping to determine which technology solution would be selected.

Years later you may find that what was once their focus is no longer.  Maybe you selected your tech provider due to their commitment to your industry or their commitment to a certain product road map.  It is not uncommon for plans to change and for tech companies to change their focus for a variety of reasons.  Is this enough reason to leave and start looking elsewhere?  If it were up to me, that would depend on how many other items are on this list that are currently plaguing your operation as these issues may be related.  If they have changed direction and are focusing on industries and organizations that don’t resemble you, it may be time to start looking elsewhere before things start getting worse. 

Now you’ve seen the list, do you have any signs of your own to add? Anything in your organization that might now seem like a warning sign? These signs may not be immediately obvious which is why it is so important to know your KPI’s and be measuring what matters. If you don’t have anything in place, your solutions provider should be helping with this with a strong roadmap and support.

So keep these signs of a failing tech system in mind. You should then be able to avoid being encumbered with an ailing solution and instead remain as close to the cutting edge as you can.

Is Now The Right Time To Ask For A Pay Rise?

Should you ask for a raise during a pandemic? It depends on how well you perform, and how your company is doing.


You consistently deliver, you always exceed your targets, and your boss is thrilled. 

Does that mean now the right time to ask for a raise – despite everything going on in the world? 

Actually, now could be the perfect time. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but economic downturns often mean steady wages, says Dr Michael Gravier, Professor of Marketing and Global Supply Chain Management at Bryant University.

“Layoffs and workforce reductions are done partly to preserve the salaries of remaining workers, and companies know that they must keep up the morale of remaining workers,” Professor Gravier says. 

Since recessions don’t last forever, businesses have an incentive to make sure their best employees stick around to ride out the economic storm.

“Companies that are most well prepared tend to come out of economic downturns stronger than competitors,” adds Gravier. 

“This means that workers who haven’t been furloughed are, on average, well-positioned to request reasonable pay raises, especially if they’ve shown a talent for doing more with less or improving operations or succeeding despite the odds during these difficult times.”

Where to start

Are you a high performer? Then it sounds like you’re ideally placed to ask for a raise.

Start by understanding how well your company is doing, and its priorities for the next several months.

And don’t be put off by reports that overall wage growth is weaker now. Professor Gravier points out that supply chain industry wages have remained fairly robust. 

Bottom line: go get that raise.

Build your case

Start by assembling proof that you deserve a raise. Remember, the topic of your paycheck might be deeply personal and sensitive to you, but it isn’t to your boss. All they want are hard facts that prove you meet and exceed expectations.

For that reason, it’s smart to get in the habit of jotting down this evidence regularly. For example, Professor Gravier set aside time every Friday to write about what had happened during the week, and how key performance metrics were going. 

‘“You must first know thyself,” as the old saying goes,” Gravier says. “If workers cannot justify their performance, clearly there is not much need to entertain their request [for a raise].”

So what sort of accomplishments should you record? Anything that proves how valuable you are, says Scott Dance, Director of Hays Procurement & Supply Chain.

“[W]rite down all the things that you’ve achieved individually or contributed to significantly as part of a team, [and] back up these achievements with real, measurable evidence,” Dance says.

“Your fundamental objective is to prove that you’re an asset to the business and that you have made a significant contribution during what has been a particularly challenging time for many organisations.”

Know your market value

The next piece of evidence you need is your market value, says Jacqui Paterson, Director of Supply Chain and Procurement at UK recruitment agency Drummond Bridge.

“I would advise [employees] to look at all of the factors associated with their current role, [like] ease of location, job satisfaction, working conditions and then research what the current market rate would equate to for the role they deliver,” Paterson says.

A good way to benchmark your salary is using a guide, like the one recently published by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. That way, you can see averages for your experience level and geographical region.

Paterson also recommends asking yourself questions like:

  • How long ago was my last pay rise given?
  • Can my company accommodate a rise right now? 
  • Are my skills in high demand?

It’s all about doing your homework first so you’re prepared, professional, and ready to make a strong case.

Choose your timing

People often ask for a raise during a performance review. But that’s a mistake because many other employees are asking for a raise then too, Paterson says.

When is a better time, then? Paterson advises to “time the conversation strategically – perhaps after a series of successful, valuable contributions have been delivered.”

And don’t forget to approach your discussion diplomatically. “A confrontational or “expectant” pay rise conversation doesn’t usually end positively,” Paterson warns.

What if they say no?

Even if you make a convincing case, you might still get rejected. 

What should you do next? Find out why you were turned down, says Paterson. “No to a pay rise just now does not mean never.”

“If the [employee] is generally happy where they are, this can be the trigger to initiate conversations in writing that if certain savings, KPIs etc are met that the raise will be reviewed after a three-month period.” 

After all, “[n]ot all businesses can afford to consider a salary rise in the current market conditions, or they may want to review how business is moving when the economy shows signs of improving before committing to any salary rises,” Paterson adds.

Another possibility is your boss can’t give you a raise, but they can sweeten the deal by giving you other benefits. 

These could include a job title change, extra time off, or the ability to work from home permanently.

So before your conversation, you should consider if you’ll only accept more money, or if you could be satisfied with recognition in other ways.

Is it time to leave?

Only you can decide if you’re happy sticking around without a pay raise. If your top priority is a bigger salary, leaving may be your only route.

“If your current employer can’t meet your requirements in terms of salary or otherwise, it’s certainly worth testing the waters and seeing what you could be getting elsewhere,” says Scott Dance from Hays.

“Despite ongoing uncertainty, there’s no reason why you should hold off looking to the future and considering how you can make your professional ambitions a reality.” 

Dance advises updating your CV/ resume with any new skills or expertise you might have learned over the last few months of lockdown.

“Refreshing your CV might open up new avenues which you thought weren’t possible before,” Dance says. That’s why you should be open to trying something new.

“The long-term reality of the Covid-19 crisis may mean that we see surges in demand, industry shifts and emerging trends that impact the jobs market,” Dance adds.

“Being flexible and open-minded about your career may help you secure that pay rise you’re after and take your career in an exciting new direction.”

Do you have any tried-and-true advice? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Procurement’s Time To Lead Is Now. Here’s How to Take Advantage.

A new survey of 500+ professionals reveals where procurement must focus to establish leadership and earn executive trust.


Procurement: it’s your time to lead. New research from Procurious and Coupa, released today, reveals that nearly two thirds of professionals have seen trust increase with the c-suite over the past three months. Similarly, more procurement leaders report having a seat at the executive table today compared to May, when we asked the same question as part of our Supply Chain Confidence Index.

“Procurement leaders continue to step up and executives are taking notice,” said Tania Seary, Founding Chairman of Procurious. “Procurement plays a critical role in navigating the uncertainty we face today. The function’s stellar performance opens the door for more – more recognition, trust, and opportunities to lead. It’s time to take advantage.”

Procurious and Coupa surveyed over 500 procurement and supply chain professionals in July to assess the state of the function and what’s on tap for the second half of 2020. Reflecting on procurement’s strategic position within the organisation, just one-fifth (21%) report that they are still being viewed tactically internally. While that number is still higher than we’d like, most would agree that for a function that’s historically struggled to stand out and get the recognition it deserves, we’re moving in the right direction – in a big way. Consider that over the past three months, only 7% said they did not see trust increase between procurement and the c-suite.

“Procurement today has a clear opportunity to capture our seat at the table. The findings of this survey highlight how important it is for us to think strategically and ensure our objectives are aligned to the board and our peers in the c-suite,” said Michael Van-Keulen, CPO, Coupa. “We must step up to help our organizations not only control costs, but also mitigate risk, maximize value, and increase the agility needed in today’s business environment.”

These results build off Procurious’ research findings from earlier this year. “In June, we uncovered clear indicators that the c-suite was paying more attention to procurement and supply chain. This trend is accelerating as executives recognise procurement’s unique and essential position in the ongoing recovery,” said Seary.

Procurement leaders looking to capitalise on this newfound opportunity should focus on delivering results that increase resiliency and continuity, and improve the bottom line. According to our research, the top three areas the c-suite wants procurement to contribute to are mitigating supply risk (70%), containing costs (69%) and driving business continuity (64%).

“At first glance, we’re seeing a back-to-the-basics approach for procurement teams, with a laser focus on savings, spend visibility, resilience and risk mitigation. However, when you step back you quickly realise this approach is anything but traditional. The desired outcomes may be similar, but companies are investing more strategically, aggressively and intentionally,” commented Seary.

Second Half Procurement Priorities: Controlling Costs and Risk 

Procurement’s top three priorities for the second half of 2020 are similar to what we referenced above: containing costs, mitigating supply chain risk, and supplying the products and services needed to maintain operations.

Naturally, managing supply chain risk remains front and center for organisations across the world. But risk takes on many different forms. What are executive teams most concerned about right now? The top five areas, in order of concern, are:

·       Operational risk

·       Supplier Risk

·       Business environment risk

·       Reputational risk

·       Cyber risk

Interestingly, the most prominent risk differs geographically. In North America and Asia Pacific, executives are most concerned about cyber. In Europe, the primary concern is operational risk. Either way, stronger investments in supply chain risk management will undoubtedly become one of the lasting marks of COVID-19. Mature procurement teams will never take supplier health, collaboration and risk lightly again.

When it comes to business risk, there’s often more than meets the eye. The survey also found that more than 80% of organisations have significant gaps in spend visibility, which is its own risk. This finding poses an important question: How can procurement teams lead and control supplier risk if they lack full visibility into where money is being spent?

Equipping Procurement to Lead and Thrive

Looking at the next 6 – 12 months, economic uncertainty was the number one concern for survey respondents, followed by cash and risk. Given the stakes – and procurement’s proven ability to add value in business-critical areas, including risk, resiliency, and cost containment – the majority of organisations (93%) are investing big to propel procurement forward. The top three investments organisations are making in procurement leadership are:

·       Data and analytics

·       Talent development

·       Technology

“COVID-19 continues to act as an accelerant for procurement transformation. The business case is right in front of us, and organisations are investing accordingly.” said Seary. 

While organisations are finally stepping up to fund procurement initiatives, the function still has an important role to play to shape the future. 

“We need to ensure the investments are strategic, and not tactical. We need to set the agenda, and ensure the c-suite’s vision for procurement is aligned with what we know is possible. It’s our time to lead, and we need to do it right,” said Seary.For more insights – including details on procurement priorities, operational gaps, investment strategy, supply chain risk and more, join Procurious and get the full report: Procurement’s Time to Lead.

Virtually Connected: How To Network Your Face Off

Online networking can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Approach it with generosity, and watch your network grow.


Picture yourself at a business networking event – the room buzzing with people. Where would we find you?

Are you working the room, having interesting conversations? Or maybe you’re lurking in the corner, hoping people will come to you.

In any case, there won’t be in-person events for a while – which means it’s time to step up your virtual networking.

You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Your network determines your net worth.” The right people can have a huge influence on your future.

But a great network won’t just come to you. So if you’re a digital wallflower, it’s time to leave the corner and join the party. 

Build your personal brand

The best way to build a strong network is being helpful.

If you post useful, interesting information, you can positively influence the way you’re perceived.

To put it another way, it allows you to build your personal brand. 

But what does that actually mean? Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is credited with saying: “Personal branding is the story people tell about you when you’re not in the room.”

Why is it important to build your personal brand? In short, future opportunities, says Andy Moore, Digital Marketing Manager at Procurious.

“Social media has become a staple in society,” Moore says. “And in the world of getting hired, having an online profile has become essential in the last few years.  

“So it’s important for professionals to first understand the ‘why’ of building their personal brand – it can help with future connections and can generate better leads.”

Get involved

But where do you start, especially if you haven’t done much networking online?

It’s as easy as posting an article you find interesting. Or sharing your opinion on an industry hot topic. Or asking your network’s opinions.

The important thing is to show up consistently and make a contribution, Moore adds.

“People want to hang out with the ‘life of the party,’” says Moore. “This is the same for social media. People want to be connected with those who have a voice and get involved.”

That includes liking, sharing, and commenting on other people’s posts. Everyone loves a bit of validation, and your network will appreciate your support.

Keep in mind that a strong digital network won’t happen overnight, especially if you don’t have much of an online presence right now.

Like any other relationship, networks require consistency over time.

But it’s worth the effort, says Mark Holyoake, Managing Director of supply chain recruitment firm Holyoake Search.

“I’ve long been a proponent of personal branding,” Holyoake says. “Technology has made this easier than ever, and with conferences and networking opportunities still all virtual for the time being, it has never been more important.”

You get what you put in

Your success at building your online network will largely depend on your attitude.

After all, few things kill a relationship quicker than self-centredness. So don’t view your network as a group of people who only exist to get you a job.

Instead, approach them as a worthwhile group of your colleagues and peers. What would they like to know from you? What is interesting to them? What can you share that will make their lives better or easier?

Likewise, think of people in your network that you could introduce to each other, knowing that both will benefit from the connection.

There are lots of ways to add value to your network.

Where to network

There are plenty of social platforms to choose from. Where should you invest your time? The simple answer is where your professional associations hang out. 

And you don’t need to be on every platform. Why put time into building an Instagram profile when your network spends all their time on LinkedIn?

You should also join and contribute to online groups that are specific to your professional interests.

Procurious is a great example of this, where you can find groups dedicated to any aspect of procurement.

CPOs in Scotland, supply chain sustainability, and Indian procurement professionals – you name it. And don’t worry if you can’t find your tribe. Just start your own group! 

There are 40,000 procurement professionals from all over the world on Procurious, and they want to build their networks too.

So get involved in the groups and the discussion boards. You’ve got answers and experience that people are looking for right now.

For example, can you help out this Procurious member? They want advice on getting internal stakeholders to bring procurement in earlier during the IT purchasing process.

Who knows where your connections could lead? If you come ready to give, you’ll be surprised how much you receive over time.

You can do this

It doesn’t matter if you usually lurk in the corner at networking events. Or if the word ‘networking’ makes you break out in hives.

You were built to network.

That’s because you’re already a natural at creating partnerships across supply chains and stakeholders, says Tania Seary, Founder of Procurious.

“Procurement professionals are united by the need to be agile, to be savvy, to be bold,” Seary says. “We can do that alone, but we can do it even better by reaching out to colleagues and contacts to fill the gaps.”

Networking is about watering the seeds of possibility, nurturing existing relationships, and growing the best you can from each encounter, Seary adds.

Need more encouragement? Check out Tania Seary’s two-minute pep talk on networking in procurement

How To Be A Supernormal Leader

Collaboration is imperative for your organisation to progress! And it can be achieved through “silo busting” (encouraging inter-departmental sharing of knowledge), building and valuing trust, attenuating body language to communicate openness, promoting diversity, cultivating self-awareness and fostering empathy, and creating a safe environment for sharing ideas and practices.


Collaboration is more important than ever before. In fact, an organisation’s survival may depend on how well it can combine the potential of its people as well as its suppliers. By connecting the external market with their own organisation and its customers, Procurement has the opportunity to facilitate and deliver significant shared value. Collaboration matters like never before.

I’ve read many surveys on leadership and collaboration, particularly of recency. Deloitte’s Future of Work research found that 65% of the C-Level executives surveyed have a strategic objective to transform their organisation’s culture, with a focus on connectivity, communication and collaboration.

When one gets underneath the surface of these surveys, six crucial leadership behavioural themes leap out. I’m referring to leadership at all levels, call it strategic leadership if you so choose. Whether you’re the Chief Procurement Officer, the Head of Category Management or the Buyer, when you think about building and embracing a collaborative culture, you already realise that your job has changed. I really don’t think and hope you’ll ever look back. So, this is absolutely not about old-school leadership and hierarchical thinking. This is also not a new leadership philosophy. This is about embracing the fact that we are better together. A single, collaborative eco-system. To make the impact required and to inspire others, requires collaborative leadership. It’s about self-awareness and its about emotional intelligence too.

Here are the six leadership behaviours:

1. Silo ‘busting’

I really struggle with the word ‘silo’. It is why wastebaskets were created. Silo’s are sizeable organisational blockers, built to last by those whom create them. The collaborative environment we seek is kept from forming. The creativity, innovation and growth potential is essentially being silo distanced. ‘Silo’ is a term that has been passed around and discussed in boardrooms for at least 30 years. They remain a growing pain in the organisational backside.

Silo mentality describes the mindset present when departments don’t share information. Wherever it’s spotted, silo mentality becomes synonymous with power struggles and fear of exposure or failure. Silo mentality cause organisations to waste time, resources and money. They wreck collaboration.

Silos get busted by leaders, not by technology or processes. Procurement has privileged access to typically all parts of an organisation and its supplier base too. Get on the front foot and create unifying goals and objectives. Build ‘silo-busting’ into your balance scorecard and set the pace for collaboration, both internally and externally.

2. Trust matters

A collaborative team isn’t a group of people working together. It’s a group of people working together who trust each other. They also understand their own and each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Trust is the key binding agent for collaboration. It is where procurement and the supplier base can also unite, like never before.

As a leader, you need people to trust you. But how do you show that you trust them? The way sharing of information is communicated determines whether it becomes an obstacle to or an enabler of collaboration. Perhaps a cynical view, though some leaders I have observed who profess to value collaboration, undermine their effectiveness by withholding information or sharing it on a ‘needs to know’ basis. This makes them feel important.

Leaders build trust through honest, consistent and transparent communication – easy to say, often trickier in reality than it sounds. Procurement leaders take note. Put the ego to one side and build trust with your colleagues, customers and suppliers. It’s hard work and unanswerably essential to achieve true collaboration leadership. What one finds is that when you take the time to get to know your colleagues and suppliers, trust builds faster. Embrace all feedback, not just positive, and always have your learning and listening chips switched on. Build joint goals. Create the time to celebrate successes. Adapt, learn and grow, together.

3. Body language tells its own story

Negotiators are taught how to assess body language. Not just negotiators I hasten to add. In its most simplistic form, there are two sets of body language. One set that projects sincerity, authenticity and warmth. The other send signals of status and influence. For collaboration to flourish, focus your energy on the former. Authenticity is key. Be yourself.

4. Promoting diversity

Diverse thinking is an essential ingredient for collaborative leadership. It reinforces my point about leadership at al levels. Team members at the same level, and with a similar background, are found to perform worse than those with varying skills and knowledge. There’s a tendency for similarly minded individuals at the same level in an organisation to seek affirmation from one another i.e. they tend to reinforce each others predisposition. Innovation is triggered by cross-functional working. Creative breakthroughs occur most often when ideas collide and then combine. Collaboration enables innovation.

5. Self-awareness

Development Dimensions International (DDI) has studied leadership for almost fifty years. In their latest research, with over 15,000 leaders from more than 300 organisations, DDI looked at leaders’ conversational skills that had the highest impact on overall performance. At the very top of the list was empathy – specifically, the ability to listen and respond empathetically. Learn to understand before be understood. So, for great collaborative leadership, if you recognise this as a development need, then work hard on developing it.

6. Primal instincts

Human beings have two primitive instincts that guide a willingness to collaborate — or not — and they are triggered under very different circumstance. The first instinct is to hoard and has been traced back to early humans hoarding vital supplies, like food, out of fear of not having enough. The more they put away, the safer they felt. We’ve all observed this instinct and many experienced it of recency. In the workplace, when people feel ignored or threatened, they retreat and hold on to knowledge. The second instinct, on the other hand, is that humans are also a learning, teaching, knowledge-sharing species. According to evolutional psychologists, this trait is also hard-wired, linking back to when humans first started gathering in clans. Leaders trigger the ‘sharing instinct’ when they create psychologically safe workplace environments in which people feel secure, valued and trusted.

In a world of arguably unprecedented uncertainty and disruption, collaborative leadership behaviours are so important to organisation survival, recovery and growth. Collaboration as a skill set is no longer a ‘nice to have’. There are tools and techniques to help develop your collaborative skill set further, whether you are a buyer or seller. Successful supplier and procurement collaboration will make a transformational difference.

This article was originally published by Procurement Potential on July 12 2020 and is republished here with permission.

How to Set a Procurement Strategy Part 2: What You Should Be Doing

How do you set a strategy for your procurement function? Discover what to actually do.


How many times have you heard the word ‘procurement strategy’ throughout your career? Hundreds, if not thousands? And how many times have you seen one created and executed brilliantly?

Hmm. 

In 2020, especially after this year’s crisis, we all know that a procurement and supply chain strategy is more important than ever. But it’s also more challenging than ever to create the right one, as we posited in our last article Procurement Strategy: What You’re Currently Doing Wrong

So with all the challenges and complexities that a procurement strategy brings, is it possible to create an ideal one? One that goes beyond a ‘your wish is my command’ strategy, yet doesn’t make the mistakes inherent in a ‘market leader’ strategy?

It most certainly is. And here is how you do it.

Step 1: Assess and define

The first step in setting a strategy is assessing the one that you already have. Think you don’t have one? Think again. As we showed in our last article, all procurement functions have a strategy – whether they like it or not. 

If you’re struggling to define your strategy, or it seems like it’s nonexistent, have a look at the choices and activities you undertake every single day. Are you constantly behind, putting out fires left, right and centre and at the mercy of your stakeholders? If so, you’re probably pursuing a ‘your wish is my command’ strategy. Or alternatively, are you rocketing towards an idyllic vision of ‘procurement best practice,’ focusing more on the doing side rather than consultation with your stakeholders? If this is the case, you’re pursuing a market leader strategy which, although it may seem ideal now, will soon lead you astray. 

Assessing your current strategy will force you to confront the truth about what you’re doing but more importantly, what is and isn’t working. Understanding your mistakes here will help set you up to create a strategy that does work. 

After you’ve discovered your strategy, the next critical step is understanding the strategic priorities of the organisation. For example, perhaps you’ve always been focused on costs, yet your business is more focused on quality? When undertaking this step, as procurement professionals, it’s tempting to pour our everything into it, meticulously researching our business, their competitors, and so on and so forth. Yet with all things strategy, the solution is more important than the problem, so ensure that you spend no longer than a few hours figuring out both your own strategy and that of your business. 

Step 2: Identify stakeholders and laser-focus 

From a stakeholder analysis perspective, the problem with the ‘market leader’ strategy is that, quite simply, the firm’s internal stakeholders aren’t consulted in its creation. Conversely, the problem with the ‘your wish is my command’ strategy is that stakeholders aren’t consulted here either – they are just left to make demands. 

The obvious solution for procurement, then, is to identify your primary stakeholders within the firm, figure out your core offering to them, and define what you will be able to deliver, and what may need to be outsourced. 

Dave Pastore, Senior Director, Sourcing Operations, at Corcentric, believes that identifying key stakeholders is absolutely essential to secure buy-in across the organisation: 

‘You’ll find that some stakeholders are more inclined champions of procurement than others, identifying them early and collaborating with them will lead to a snowball effect on procurement’s successful collaboration across the organisation.’

To give an example of, let’s say that a business has recognised that their rate of returning customers is low, due to substandard product quality.  The primary stakeholders who are concerned by this trend are the executive, customer service team and marketing team – and they are exactly who, from a strategic perspective, you’d need to prioritise. As a procurement function, then, your focus may be on sourcing new, higher-quality suppliers, while also carefully balancing cost considerations, as undoubtedly the finance team would still be a key stakeholder for you.  With the focus on product quality, you may then choose to outsource quality assurance or administrative tasks, so you can laser-focus on what will add the most strategic value. 

When considering the overall corporate strategy, and which stakeholders to prioritise, you’ll inevitably need to choose the parts of the strategy that you can influence the most. 

Step 3: Consider your competitive advantage

When it comes time to decide which strategy to pursue, your decision-making process should be similar to the way that any business decides their own strategy: by figuring out your competitive advantage. 

Think about it. How does Starbucks get ahead? By providing better value coffee than Dunkin’ Donuts. And McDonalds? They need to find their unique value proposition and deliver on it, vis-a-vis Burger King. As strange as it may seem, this is no different from you and your procurement strategy. 

Diego De la Garza, Senior Director, Global Services, at Corcentric, believes that your competitive advantage may not be just one thing, but rather it should evolve over time: 

‘Your competitive advantage should evolve as the environment of the organisation changes, one day the organisation is ripe to capture savings and the next is prioritising process automation. 

‘Procurement competitive advantage is predicated on its ability to deliver value to what the organisation needs most.’ 

Even if your competitive advantage is something that evolves, it still can be challenging to discover. For example, it clearly doesn’t make sense for procurement as a function to compare themselves against other internal functions, such as finance. It also doesn’t make sense for procurement to compare their own function to procurement in another organisation, as that business may have a totally different strategy. Procurement, as with all other internal functions, has an effective monopoly within each individual organisation, so comparison is hard. Often, the most effective comparison is an outsourced provider. 

This can often be a useful starting point to define your competitive advantage, though. All things considered, what value can you deliver that an outsourced provider cannot? 

Step 4: Play to win 

Once you start to understand what value you might be able to offer your organisation, and your stakeholders in particular, create several different strategies with different focuses, and then decide on the one you believe will have the highest chance of success. For example, with the situation described above, you may decide to focus on procuring higher-quality suppliers, or alternatively, technology that can guarantee better quality assurance. 

You won’t know which strategy will be the most successful, of course, but ensure that you’ve comprehensively consulted your stakeholders to maximise the best outcome. Then, throughout your implementation, make sure everyone is continually consulted, and informed, especially if requests akin to the ‘your wish is my command’ strategy start creeping in. 

Stakeholders are well and truly key to a successful strategy, says Dave Pastore: 

‘A key to ensuring the successful adoption of your procurement strategy is to collaborate with those who will be most impacted by it: your stakeholders.’  

We all know that strategy is important – but equally, that it’s hard. But by understanding your company’s strategy, then figuring out your competitive advantage as a function and, finally, consulting with your stakeholders, you’ll have the best chance of creating and implementing a strategy that will add the value you know you can bring. 

What challenges have you had in setting your procurement strategy? Let us know in the comments below. 

5 Ways To Amplify The Impact Of Your Personal Brand

How do you make a serious impact with your personal brand? Here’s five essential things you need to be doing.


Recently, a journalist on LinkedIn asked ‘Who is making waves in procurement and supply chain?’ and we were so incredibly chuffed that a number of our incredible members tagged Procurious! We loved the compliment, but it really got us thinking – how is it that someone can make an impact in this industry that we love so much? And what tactics/techniques can we all use to help amplify our own personal brand and increase our chances of being successful? 

If you’re a procurement professional, here are five things you can do to help boost your personal brand and get noticed by those who matter.

1. Have a killer profile picture

If you’re using professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn or Procurious, you may very well meet someone online before you do so in person. This means that you’ll want to put your best digital face forward. But what should this look like? 

Firstly, you’ll need to select (or take) a photo of you that looks professional. In order for it to be so, make sure that it’s taken in soft, natural light – bright lights aren’t that flattering, no matter how good looking you might be! Beyond this, make sure that you’re the only one in the photo, and that you’re wearing what you would wear to work to amplify your professionalism (or even better, dress for the job you want, not the one you have!). 

When taking your photo, make sure that your face takes up the majority of the frame, and choose the right expression (a smile usually works well!). In order to look as professional as possible, make sure that you have someone else take the photo and avoid any distracting backgrounds.  

Remember, profile pictures really matter. Research has shown that on online networks, your profile is up to 14 times more likely to be visited if you have a good profile picture.

2. Develop thought-leadership content 

When it comes to marketing yourself – which, in essence, is what personal branding is all about – there’s nothing better than creating content. But do you need to be a design extraordinaire or trained journalist to do this? Absolutely not! There’s lots of different ways you can share your valued opinion and expertise online. 

One way is simply asking questions and commenting on discussions and blogs, which you can do easily online, including right here on Procurious. 

And there are multiple other ways, as well. If you’re wanting to share your expertise with others, you can volunteer to appear on an industry podcast, create a vlog (which are becoming increasingly popular on LinkedIn and other online platforms), or write long-form content, which you can post on your LinkedIn profile or alternatively, volunteer to guest blog on other industry sites.

3. Regularly put yourself out there (including at events) 

When it comes to influence and personal branding, a lot of it comes down to presence. Are they aware of the impacting you’re making? Are you getting noticed? Do people remember you and will they think of you next time? 

Developing and nurturing a personal brand is a lot like trying to get a new job. You might get lucky the first time you try, but more than likely, you’ll have to keep trying and trying to get where you need to be. Your personal brand is no different. Whether you’re publishing thought leadership content, participating in discussions or speaking on panels, you’ll need to do so regularly so you’re more likely to be noticed – and remembered. 

A great way to continually put yourself out there is to attend industry events and conferences, many of which are currently happening online. Check out the ones Procurious are currently hosting.

4. Create a standalone website

When it comes to personal branding, authenticity is important. But appearing authoritative is just as important, and one way to do so is through a standalone website about you, personally. The website can feature your blog, conferences you’ve spoken at, and any other awards or accolades you’ve received. A great example of a personal branding website within our industry is that of Sheri Hinish, Supply Chain Queen.  Procurious founder, Tania Seary, also has her own excellent personal website. 

Not sure how to create a website? It’s easy, requires no coding skills and can be completed in just a few hours. Try creating one with Wix or Squarespace.

5. Be a little controversial 

You may not find this advice in many other personal branding articles, but here at Procurious we know it to be true: you can put yourself out there regularly, but if you’re saying that same thing as everyone else you won’t get noticed. You’ve got to say something unique. 

You’ve got to say something different. And oftentimes, different means controversial. 

As we all know though, we have professional reputations to maintain, and controversial need not be too controversial, especially if what you want to say is a little negative. But at the same time, it’s only be challenging the status quo and daring to say things that others may not that you’ll stoke discussion, and get noticed. 

One shining example of this is Procurious member and founder of Procurement Excellence, Peter Smith. Peter has become well-known for his unique and controversial opinions, and has even authored a book based on his opinion that organisations waste billions through avoidable failures and fraud. 

Your personal brand is a career-long investment 

Your personal brand, just like your career, requires constant effort and investment to pay off. But once it does, the result is truly priceless. An effective personal brand can open doors and opportunities you never would otherwise have imagined, and be the key to you getting where you want to be. 

What are you doing to grow your personal brand? Tell us in the comments below.

Will Autonomous Procurement Cost Me My Job?

Autonomous procurement is no science fiction. It will happen. How can you expect it to change the nature of procurement as a discipline and a career path?


Nottingham, England, 1811: at a time when wages were being depressed to starvation levels and skilled artisans put out of work by the introduction of machinery operated by unskilled labor, weavers led by the mythical General Ned Ludd organised a campaign of smashing machinery. They became known as the Luddites. Ever since, the term Luddism has come to mean opposition to industrialisation, automation, computerisation, or new technologies in general.

More than two centuries of technological advances later, nobody smashes up machines. Because, unlike in 1811, automation is not destroying a way of life. Sophisticated levels of automation are accepted as the norm in manufacturing industry and other sectors as diverse as agriculture and finance. Generally speaking, the higher the level of automation, the higher the level of salaries. Manufacturing and process plants that use robots or other technology to automate routine tasks tend to have a highly skilled and well-educated workforce. And in future, many tasks will be performed, in part or in whole, autonomously.

Nevertheless, people are uneasy about rapid change and the insecurity it causes. And since the start of the first industrial revolution, the rate of change has accelerated. For the first 200 years, progress was mainly focused on gradual improvements in engineering and mechanisation and the harnessing of different sources of energy. Then came computers, then the Internet, and with them, digitisation. A whole new era. Even so, until now digitization has mainly involved the transfer of manual processes onto computers. Even now automation such as it exists is mainly limited to extremely low-level routine tasks where human activity is replaced by rules-driven robotic process automation.

Further acceleration is on its way with Industry 4.0, because of the sheer volume of data that can drive machine learning and the steadily increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence.

Autonomous production will rely on the harnessing of data and software to move from reactive artificial intelligence to prescriptive. For example, with reactive manufacturing, defects are discovered at the end of the line and the production team responds to correct the observed error. Until then, the factory keeps turning out defective goods. A prescriptive AI system, by contrast, identifies potential errors in advance and makes small changes to avoid future quality failures. These small corrective actions are made autonomously, in anticipation of defects, and thereby reduce the cost of non-quality.

We are now poised to see similar developments in procurement.

From automated procurement to autonomous procurement

How will this progress unfold? Spend Matters has identified four levels in a journey “that starts with technology that that assists buyers in completing tasks and ends with a platform that applies knowledge that is collected from buyers to do the tedious parts of their jobs for them”.

The four levels are:

Level One – Automation built on assistive intelligence

Level Two – Augmented procurement built on augmented intelligence

Level Three – Intelligent procurement built on cognitive intelligence

Level Four – Autonomous procurement built on autonomous intelligence

A truly autonomous procurement solution will not only have cognitive capabilities embedded throughout the platform but will build on those capabilities to automate entire sourcing and procurement processes without any buyer interference whatsoever, when the opportunity arises. Such a scenario is not imminent, but nor is it science fiction. It is something that we are moving towards gradually; our view of the destination is still rather hazy, but we can see it. With this ultimate state, systems will not only learn from humans and adapt their behaviour using cognitive abilities but also learn and adapt to new tasks and situations like an expert would, without always having to surface exceptions for human review.

 Let’s put things in perspective

But even if it does not happen overnight, does this mean procurement professionals will ultimately lose their jobs? There is no short answer, but it is certain that many tedious human tasks and activities will be displaced. There are some tasks that robots and other technology are good at, and others that only humans can do. But let’s put things in perspective. According to a report published by the McKinsey Global Institute in 2017, only 5% of human occupations can be fully automated, although approximately 60% of occupations have at least 30% of technically automatable activities. The activities that it identified as most susceptible to automation are physical ones in highly structured and predictable environments, as well as data collection and processing.

Thus, up to two-thirds of jobs will change to a significant extent. Some jobs will disappear, but will be replaced by growth in other, more interesting activities. Check out this website. Enter “Procurement Clerk” and it will return a 98% probability that the job will eventually be replaced by what it calls “robots”, i.e. digital technology. But enter “Purchasing Manager” and the risk sinks to a virtually negligible 3%: the risk level is “totally safe”. With “Logistician” the risk is even lower, at 1.2%. It is easy to detect the pattern here: the more your job depends on human intellect and the less it depends on routine, the safer you are, even if aspects of your job can and will be automated.

In short, fewer boring activities, more value-adding and strategic activities.

I think there is a recognition that we cannot hold back technological progress, even if we want to, and that technological progress is an imperative in a dynamic, competitive environment. Nevertheless, fears persist. Some have expressed the fear that autonomous procurement will rob procurement professionals of critical activities such as sourcing, contracting, managing, and executing purchases with the suppliers of goods and services. But in my opinion, these are precisely the activities that cannot be handled by technology alone, with the exception of execution, and even here, there will be need for human intervention.

Autonomous procurement will use prescriptive AI to anticipate and correct small “quality defects” in execution before they happen. While each of these corrections is small in itself, they will add up to big benefits in terms of cost savings and performance improvements. But this will not replace the bigger decisions that will still depend on the ability of procurement professionals to make decisions based on a combination of data analysis and experience. In other words, procurement professionals will be freed up to focus on things like identifying new opportunities through category rationalisation. Once these activities are done, autonomous procurement will take care of formerly labour-intensive tasks such as setting up and executing an entire sourcing event from start to finish.

It is worth mentioning that increasing levels of automation in procurement will play a decisive role in attracting talent into the profession in future. Young talent and tedious, routine work do not mix well! As David McBride, Transformation & Strategy Director at real estate professional services company JLL put it, “Younger procurement professionals entering large organisations now expect to use cutting edge technology.”

In which areas of your role would you find autonomous procurement capabilities most useful?  Let us know in the comments below.

How Can You Protect Your Procurement Career For The Future?

The pandemic has many people worried about job security. But you can take steps today to prepare for your future.


The pandemic has a lot of us on edge, especially about work.

In fact, 30% of us are feeling less secure in their job than a month ago, shows research from YouGov.

It’s hard not to feel stressed when employment decisions seem out of your control.

But you actually have more power over your next career move than you might think. 

We asked top procurement recruitment experts on preparing for a bright future, no matter what goes on in the world.

Here’s their advice on being proactive and influencing your procurement destiny.

Currently looking for a new job? You should check out this helpful advice.

Step 1. Take heart

First of all, take courage in the procurement profession’s future.

That’s the advice of Mark Holyoake, Managing Director of New York-based Holyoake Search.

“It’s never a nice feeling to have to worry about your job security, and my heart obviously goes out to those who have already been laid off, or furloughed, as a result of this pandemic,” Holyoake says.

“That all being said, my message for supply management professionals who are in the market for a new job right now is actually a positive one. Procurement hasn’t been nearly as badly hit as other areas within the business; and over the past few months, it’s actually taken on a more important role than ever at many companies.”

Holyoake says a shift in procurement strategy means companies will seek to reduce cost, increase working capital, better manage unpredictable supply & demand patterns, and protect against supplier risk. 

“That is going to require them to hire new talent into the company,” Holyoake says. “While some are undoubtedly still under a hiring freeze, our observation is that the job market is starting to turn a corner and job confidence over the next twelve months is relatively high.”

So if you haven’t found the right role yet, or even if you’re happy in your job for now but you’re concerned about the future, there are new opportunities on the horizon.

Step 2. Beef up your online reputation

You can’t control if your CV or resume lands on top of the recruiting pile. 

But you can stay top of mind with an active online presence – boosting your credibility.

Are you the kind of person that rarely engages with your online network? You’re missing out.

“Online presence is vital to get noticed in today’s digital world,” says Imelda Walsh, Manager at The Source – a boutique procurement recruitment firm in Melbourne.

So jump in and join the ranks of those who offer meaningful, regular contributions on social platforms. In return, you’ll build your network, keep up with industry developments, and you could even get headhunted.

Take LinkedIn for example.

“HR, hiring managers and recruiters are using LinkedIn to search for talent at all levels and have been for the past few years,” Walsh says.

That’s why Walsh suggests these steps:

  • Develop content and share it on LinkedIn to show you are a thought leader in your area. This will help you build a community, get noticed, and assist with building your personal brand.
  •  Contribute to your network by liking, sharing and posting relevant content.
  •  Be specific about the value you can bring to a role or organisation in your LinkedIn Profile.
  •  Treat your LinkedIn like an online resume; include your responsibilities and achievements on each recent role on your LinkedIn profile.

And the best time to start is now, says recruiter Mark Holyoake. 

“Just by being more active on LinkedIn, sharing relevant articles, and participating in discussions with others from the wider procurement community, candidates are raising their visibility among prospective employers and those who already work for them, long before they go to submit a resume,” Holyoake says. “This is the edge you will need to stand out among your competition.”

But LinkedIn is only one platform, of course. You should be active wherever your potential employers are, says Naseem Malik, Managing Partner at MRA Global Sourcing, a specialist procurement and logistics recruitment firm in Illinois, USA.

On top of that, Malik suggests starting a blog to demonstrate your area of expertise, or even finding relevant volunteering opportunities with non-profits or charities.

Likewise, you might consider taking leadership roles in professional associations, and seeking out speaking engagements. You never know where your next opportunity will come from. 

Step 3. Acquire in-demand ‘hard’ skills

Impressing potential employers and recruiters online is only one part of the equation, of course. You also need the practical skills to land a new gig or get promoted.

What skills do employers want right now? Risk management, says Malik.

“We have observed a keen focus from procurement executives on risk, both in regards to response and mitigation.”

These skills include:

Supply Chain Mapping

Many companies were caught off-guard when China went into lockdown, Malik explains.

“Procurement groups that had previously invested in obtaining deeper transparency across their supply chain, down to lower-tier suppliers, were able to quickly adapt and identify which suppliers, commodities, and facilities were affected early into the outbreak,” Malik says. 

“This skill is of critical importance, lest we encounter another unprecedented event in the future.”

Contract Management

During the pandemic, thousands of suppliers have claimed “force majeure” declarations as their businesses have grappled with crippling circumstances, says Malik. 

“Being able to collaborate with legal teams to build in contractual protections to mitigate future risk, and understanding nuances between different governing laws across the globe is the desired skill set for procurement employers moving forward,” Malik explains.

Supplier Risk Technology Aptitude

“As Deloitte’s 2019 CPO Survey reveals, “most CPOs are often not satisfied with the results of their digital technologies, especially when managing supply chain risk and supplier relationships,’” says Malik.

“This gap has surely been amplified in 2020, and additional investment in supplier risk technology is a certainty since companies need to have their hands on the pulse of the risk factors for their key vendors, especially from a business continuity and financial solvency perspective. Professionals who familiarise themselves with this technology will separate themselves from the pack.”

4. Keep learning

Malik also advises procurement professionals to learn about rapidly changing technologies that affect the industry, like AI, Blockchain, and big data.

Tech know-how also includes communication tools that are firmly part of office life – Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc.

You likely won’t get any training on how to use these tools if you join a new company. You’ll be expected to know and use them, so now’s the time to practise.

Additionally, Malik says it’s wise to pursue industry certification and take the opportunity to continue your education.

“There are tonnes of free webinars to learn and hone skills, stay sharp, and develop new areas of expertise,” says Malik.

5. Sharpen your ‘soft’ skills

Right along those ‘hard’ skills, you should take the opportunity to work on your ‘soft’ skills, says recruiter Mark Holyoake.

Of course, your ability to negotiate a killer contract should not be dismissed, but having the soft skills needed to gauge a situation and read behavioural clues to determine your course of action, as well as communicate your ideas and strategies, is arguably more vital to success in the modern procurement function,” Holyoake says.

Some soft skills that naturally fit procurement are:

  • trading skills or street smarts
  • self-awareness 
  • empathy
  • self-confidence 
  • resilience 
  • appreciation of simplicity
  • boldness

And don’t worry if these don’t come naturally to you. With enough practise, you can master any of them. Google even has a free online course in soft skills, if you fancy it.

Despite the name ‘soft’, these skills are more important than you might realise.

85% of your job success comes from soft skills, with only 15% from hard skills, according to 2016 research from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center.

6. Take care of you

Finally, take time to look after yourself, says Holyoake. And that’s doubly true in these strange times.

“Ensure you make time for your physical and mental health while you’re engaged in your job search,” Holyoake says. 

“Don’t forget to give time to your relationships and the people who are supporting you like family and friends, too. It might sound counterproductive, but by taking some time for yourself, you’ll have more energy and focus.”

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