All posts by Amanda Prochaska

Procurement Will: My Takeaways from the Big Ideas Summit

The best insights in the world are no good if nobody acts on them. Time for procurement to follow through with some great, Big Ideas.

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting a room full of some of the top procurement professionals in the country. This wasn’t just any old networking event though, it was the Chicago Big Ideas Summit. Not only were we inundated with interesting speakers and lively discussions that inspired us to keep pushing the boundaries of what procurement can do, but we were able to make new connections and let our hair down with our peers.

While we expected to be challenged and excited by the ideas shared, nothing could have prepared us for how much fun the day turned out to be.

As procurement professionals, we have an important role in driving change in the world around us – both locally and globally – and these changes are about so much more than saving money.

While I have enough notes from the day to fill a book, here are three of my biggest takeaways from the Chicago Big Ideas Summit:

Procurement must become the knowledge centre of an organisation

With the reach of procurement growing every year, defining where it sits within an organisation can be a challenge. Strong cases can be made for both operations and finance, but as risk management rises as a crucial pillar for the profession, procurement is increasingly becoming known as the knowledge centre of an organisation. As Justin Crump, CEO of Sibylline said, “The best insight in the world is no good, if nobody acts on it.”

With unique insight into potential and emerging threats including environmental, political and social issues, it’s the procurement professional’s responsibility to not only understand how to navigate these risks, but to share them with the rest of their organisation to ensure swift action can be taken.

Pat McCarthy, SVP & GM for SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass, agreed that harnessing this information network is crucial to the future of procurement. “Information and insights light the way for procurement to add value.”

With oversight of risk, slavery and cost to data and solutions, we need to be able to share and integrate this knowledge into our organisations to truly demonstrate the value of effective procurement.

How do we invest in the future of procurement?

The war for talent is underway and with many coming to the profession through alternative channels, we need to be constantly thinking about how we can attract and retain the right type of talent. As Professor Moran Cerf told us, “We might be the last versions of humans that will train the brain to think differently due to technology.”

That means that not only do we need to ensure we’re hiring people who understand and can develop alongside the evolving technologies, but we need to be conscious of emerging soft skills and emotional intelligence to help the next generation of procurement professionals succeed.

We have top talent in the United States, but we need to help unleash them from “inside the box” thinking to ensure we’re working together to innovate and solve emerging issues of the future.

Our panel discussion lead by Dawn Tiura, President and CEO, Sourcing Industry Group, discussed how the procurement professionals who prefer the ‘beat up and buy’ sourcing mentality have become irrelevant, and we’re now more interested in talent who can demonstrate their Adaptability Quotient (AQ). The ability to demonstrate agility, be naturally curious and respond to change will all be crucial going forward.

Supplier and Stakeholder Partnerships are Key

This might not be the most mind-blowing concept in procurement, given that maintaining relationships with stakeholders is at the core of what we do, but how we work with our suppliers in the future is going to be the key to success.

Diego de la Garza, Director of Source One, said, “We need to know the problem we are trying to solve, then facilitate the process between stakeholders and suppliers to create ideas that will solve that problem.” That means that we must let go of the idea that contract negotiations and supplier relationships are about beating down the price and embrace the partnership style of working.

“Reliable supply chains give you control over the unknown,” said Bradley Paster, VP North American Sales, riskmethods during his presentation. The most effective way you can ensure you have a reliable supply chain is by working with your suppliers and stakeholders to add value, solve problems and innovate to find a better way forward.

Value will always drive buying decisions, but the true value of procurement can be measured beyond cost and working with our stakeholders can ensure we’re adding value not just to our bottom line, but to the improvement of our global community.

As Jamila Gordon reminded us in her closing speech of the day, there is hope. The future is bright and procurement is the key for driving great changes in our world.

Feel like you’re late to the party? Or did you just get swamped and weren’t able to tune in on the day? Well, fear not, you can still access all the great content, videos, keynotes, presentations and all the discussion in the Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019 Group! By clicking here, you can join the group and catch up when it suits you.

Suppliers: Partners not Punching Bags

If suppliers are treated as part of the team, rather than punching bags, it can actually help to accelerate procurement’s ability to add value.

Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash

When you are hiring employees, do you focus just on the salary negotiations?  With the only goal being to get the lowest cost talent?  No, because we know the value we are going to receive from that individual is through many years of ideas, quality work and the leadership they provide to others.   

The price negotiation is a point in time, while the relationship is the multiplier.   

The same holds true with suppliers.   

As you look across our supply base, procurement has a range of suppliers from “high potential” to “needs improvement”.  As we do with top performing teams, procurement has the opportunity to cultivate high potential suppliers through exposure, stretch assignments, and trust. 

There is also an opportunity to manage up or out the “needs improvement” suppliers by developing their capabilities and giving them the opportunity to improve.  Through this approach, procurement now has the ability to discuss with their new-found talent how to creatively reduce total cost of ownership, to solve problems, and to provide innovative solutions.  

When trusted are offered development opportunities, suppliers will go above and beyond for the customer.  They assign their best people on the account.  They look for ways to improve the relationship, reduce costs, and proactively call out risks.  And, in times of short supply, will serve their preferred customer of choice first.   

Through one change in perspective, one change in a relationship, procurement achieves lower TCO, lower risk, more innovation, and a reliable supply chain – this is the key to delivering value.   

The Next Big Idea in Procurement  

Procurement is on the brink of significant change, as are many more areas of our lives.  There will be many big ideas that brilliant procurement professionals implement into their organisations to support the advancements in technology, the new expectations of talent, and techniques to add value well beyond cost.  These are exciting times to lead, inspire, and create within procurement.   

Each year a small group of influential procurement thought leaders gather in Chicago for the Procurious Big Ideas Summit.  Participants are inspired and take back many big ideas for their personal growth as well for their organisations.    

While technology advancements often receive a lot of focus, perhaps the biggest shift within procurement is the expectation to move beyond cost to becoming value providers.  Procurement is being challenged to find new ways to reduce risk, increase sustainability, to help solve complex business problems, to increase revenue, to generate new innovations, to become an internal consultant to their stakeholders to obtain the best out of every investment. 

This expectation is becoming more pronounced and will allow procurement to analyse how they measure success, the skills their talent need, and even what technology they might need to deploy.   

Those organisations who make this change exceptionally well will also realise that their suppliers offer a limitless capability to accelerate procurements’ ability to add value.  When suppliers are treated as an extension of the supply chain, as part of the team, the relationship with suppliers also moves beyond cost.  In fact, one could argue that becoming a customer of choice to suppliers is the key to unleashing value, reducing risk, increasing innovation, and achieving agility within the supply chain.    

Leading the Supply Base 

An idea is just an idea until it is implemented, so how do procurement organisations get started with this change?  Below are some low investment ways to start this journey. 

  • Toss out outdated segmentations – Start looking at the supply base like one would talent.  Understand high potential suppliers, remain in role, and need improvement suppliers.  This does not need to be complicated nor does this need to be scientific.  Without putting much effort into this, the top performers and the lowest performers could be listed.  Start there.   
  • Offer development programmes – As one would with their internal talent, offer programmes that will help suppliers operate with excellence.  These programmes can even be supplier funded, but it shows suppliers that procurement cares about their success.  It develops a relationship where it is understood that procurement is only as good as their suppliers.  When suppliers perform at their best, procurement, suppliers, and the communities around them all benefit. 
  • Think differently about procurement’s role – When procurement starts thinking about their role as a hiring manager to suppliers, it creates a change within every interaction.  Set the expectation that a procurement manager’s role is to lead their team of suppliers to success.  This will have downstream impacts around measurements and skills needed but starting here will start the cultural change needed for success.   

Procurement is on the move.  These are indeed exciting times to renew the spirit of what procurement is all about.  Let’s not be overwhelmed and paralysed by the amount of opportunity.  The best thing to do now is to start.  Start taking the small steps that will create big change and the next big ideas.   

As the Big Ideas Summit Chicago facilitator, Amanda Prochaska will be harnessing the biggest and brightest ideas presented. You don’t need to be “in the room where it happens” – you can register as a digital delegate and get up-skilled and uplifted from the comfort of your own desk.  Register now by clicking here.