All posts by Hugo Britt

Don’t Argue With Footballer Daisy Pearce

The “Don’t Argue” is a classic move in the often-brutal game of Australian Rules Football. While we wouldn’t recommend shoving your colleagues in the office, there are plenty of lessons to be drawn from the world of elite sport.   

It’s always interesting interviewing sportspeople for a business-related publication. Before the interview, I usually have my doubts that I’ll be able to find something in their story that is relevant to the audience I’m writing for. Five minutes in, however, I’ve filled pages of notes about the many insights professionals can glean from elite performers.

This was the case with Daisy Pearce, AFLW star and captain of the Melbourne Team. In the space of 30 minutes, she provided links between her on-field performance and business agility, advice on how women can thrive in a male-dominated profession, and finished up with some leadership-related gems.

Daisy and the “Don’t Argue”

The theme of this year’s 10th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum (taking place on 17–18 May in Sydney) is “Pivot”. Why Pivot? Because in an era where flexibility and agility are seen as essential leadership attributes, the profession’s top practitioners must be able to pivot at a moment’s notice to gain commercial advantage from disruptive forces, including new technology. In essence, this means having the ability to rapidly and intelligently adjust short-term strategies to ensure you can achieve your organisation’s long-term objectives.

When I mentioned this term to Daisy, she immediately drew a comparison with the “Don’t Argue” move in football. “When you’ve got the ball and someone comes to tackle you, a “Don’t Argue” is when you send them off – push them away – and keep moving. Basically, you give them a shove with your arm, quickly change direction, and keep going.”

For non-Australian readers (and non-footy fans), here’s an explanatory video from the AFL:

So, what are the parallels between a “don’t argue” and a business attempting to PIVOT?

  • Your short-term strategy may change but the overall goal remains the same: although Pearce may suddenly need to run in a different direction to her original course, she’s still focused on the goal posts at the end of the field.
  • It happens fast, it’s immediate, and it’s often instinctive: CPOs often don’t have much time to plan and react to a disruptive force (an enormous footballer bearing down on you at high speed makes a great analogy). Decisions have to be made fast.
  • There’s no time to argue: Depending on the nature of the disruptive force, you won’t have time to initiate a long, internal debate about what to do. Instead, a fast decision could enable your company to mitigate the damage of a disruptive force, or even profit by it.

Thriving in a male-dominated profession

While the AFL (men’s football) has been around since the 1850s, women’s football in Australia has only officially existed since 2013.

“When I was 14, the rules were that I had to stop playing football with the boys in my hometown”, said Pearce. “I didn’t know back then that there was going to be a Women’s League, and thought my football career had finished. I turned to volleyball instead, before being drafted in the AFLW in 2013.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve had to overcome many barriers to become a footballer. Then main barrier, I’d say, would be that I simply didn’t consider football to be a career choice. The real barriers existed for talented women who wanted to play professionally before 2013.”

Pearce has more than one string to her bow – she’s entered the world of football commentary (also dominated by men), started a career on the speaker circuit, and has also worked as a professional midwife. “The opposite is true for midwifery”, she says. “There may be young men considering a career as a midwife, but are daunted by the female domination of the profession. My advice is to go for it – if you’re passionate about something, and it’s what you really want to do, there’s nothing stopping you.”  

Leadership on the field:

As captain of the Melbourne AFLW team, Pearce has plenty of leadership insights to share:

“My main piece of advice for leaders is to first, have a really good understanding of yourself and about how your behaviours impact others. Secondly, make an effort to understand the people on your team. Appreciate that everyone has different strengths, and will respond to different things.

“Invest in your relationships with team members and build rapport. In the long-term, it will help enormously when you need to have tough conversations. You can be both supportive and tough at the same time – people need to know you’re coming from a place of care rather than disinterest.”

Daisy Pearce will wrap up day two at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

Photo:  Getty Images

How To Survive a Social Media Storm

Media personality, author and columnist Bernard Salt weathered a social media storm last year after his provocative article about the spending habits of millennials went viral. Today, he shares his top tips for businesses under attack on social media.

Six months ago, Bernard Salt wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about what he called the “evils of hipster cafes”. The article lightheartedly poked fun at hipsters’ apparent preference for low chairs, hard-to-read fonts on menus and thumping music. But it was this paragraph that ignited a storm:

I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle-aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn’t they be economising by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.

What followed was nothing less than a nation-wide reaction. Inter-generational battle-lines were drawn between the over and under-40s, a flurry of rebuttal articles were published in competing newspapers, and the issue of housing affordability – a major problem in Australia’s capital cities – was thrust firmly into the spotlight.

“The smashed avocado article was written to highlight the division in cultures”, says Salt. “And certainly, it did that. Everyone over the age of 50 thought it was terrific, and everyone under the age of 40 thought it was terrible. It exposed divisions, and prompted a discussion that will hopefully lead to a better solution.”

But it was online that the brunt of the storm took place, with critics and trolls lining up to attack Salt in 140 characters or less. Having experienced it first-hand, Salt now has some advice for other individuals – and businesses – who find themselves getting smashed on social media.

Hold fast, don’t panic, and wait one week

“It’s all about getting through the first week”, Salt says. When something happens – whether through misadventure or entirely by accident – and there’s a reaction on social media, my advice to businesses is to hold fast, don’t panic, and wait.”

Salt has broken down the lifecycle of a social media storm:

Day 1: The first day will be quite impactful, as the issue – whatever it may be – begins to trend on social media. This is when the storm front is approaching.

Days 2 to 4: The worst part of the storm. “From days 2 to 4, people will come out of the woodwork to throw petrol on the fire. The trolls, the haters, and any enemies you may have will jump at the chance to further their own interests at your expense. Hold fast! The thing to remember is that this is NOT the mainstream community – these are fanatics and social media warriors. Don’t mistake their opinions for the common sense of the majority.”

Days 5 to 7: At this stage, the main storm will have passed, and more reasoned voices begin to come to the fore. People who are more qualified to comment on the issue don’t put their hands up to contribute to the debate immediately – they generally wait, and take some time to produce a well thought-out response, either in support or otherwise.

Six months later, Salt’s smashed avocado article has been warmly embraced and is frequently referred to in discussions around housing affordability. It may have even influenced federal policy. The article has also, undeniably, helped Salt’s own career and propelled him into the role of one of Australia’s leading social commentators.

Consider starting your own storm in procurement

What can CPOs learn from Salt’s experience?

The lack of attention paid to procurement and supply management across many organisations is an ongoing frustration, illustrated every time we have to explain to people what procurement actually does. There are some lessons to be drawn, therefore, from Salt’s very successful method of grabbing attention and getting noticed.

A savvy CPO could consider putting out a deliberately provocative statement within the business that will force their colleagues to pay attention, kick-start the conversation about a particular issue, and put procurement onto peoples’ radar.

If there’s an issue that’s troubling procurement but isn’t a priority in the wider business, Salt’s advice is to “expose it, and bring it onto the agenda”.

Bernard Salt will deliver a keynote speech at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

5 Ways to Avoid Spreading Fake News in Procurement

Have you ever been guilty of presenting fake news or “alternative facts” to your CFO? Integrity is a cornerstone of the procurement profession, but benefits realisation is one area where supply managers sometimes play fast and loose with the facts.  

It seems everyone is talking about fake news at the moment. The term came to the fore after the U.S. election, when Hilary Clinton called out fake news as a contributing factor to the Democrats’ defeat. Since then, President Trump’s team have wholeheartedly embraced the term, regularly branding unfavourable reports as “fake news” and even describing selected media outlets (such as CNN and Buzzfeed) “fake news organisations”.

After Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer’s first press conference contained provable falsehoods about the size of the inauguration crowd, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway came to his defence by saying that Spicer was simply presenting “alternative facts”, much to the delight of Twitter users who immediately converted the term into a hashtag.

Fake news can be dangerous – putting aside whether or not it influenced the U.S. election, the phenomenon has inflamed racial tensions, led to at least one shooting (the “Pizzagate” gunman), while more recently the two nuclear powers Israel and Pakistan exchanged tense words over a news report that proved to have no verifiable source.

The good news is that solutions are popping up all over the globe. The BBC is setting up a “fake news” team, Italy plans to establish commissions of experts to rule on the veracity of news, while Germany has threatened to fine social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook for spreading fake stories.

How does fake news apply to procurement? Let’s look at two examples – firstly, the CPO’s role as the organisation’s trusted advisor and arbiter of facts, and secondly, the risk of feeding “fake news” about cost savings upwards to the CFO.

 The trusted advisor in times of crisis

When a disruptive event takes place, procurement needs to be known as the calm centre of the storm. Let’s take Brexit as an example. After the shock result in June last year, a rising sense of panic took hold of markets while business leaders worldwide were rattled. Media organisations began to speculative on the potential fallout of the Brexit vote, leading to the danger of knee-jerk reactions from CEOs and other decision-makers.

It was gratifying to see that one week later, the CEOs of the world’s two biggest professional bodies for procurement and supply management released statements that contained essentially the same message of reassurance. Importantly, both statements emphasised the procurement professional’s role as the suppressor of speculation and the guardian of facts.

ISM’s Tom Derry spoke to Procurious about his organisations’ decision to release a supplementary Report on Business revealing that the impact of Brexit on US CPOs’ buying decisions was negligible. “There has been an enormous amount of speculation about the impact of Brexit, fed by a sense of unease and uncertainty”, said Derry. “ISM was in a position to gather real data and put the information out there so businesses can make informed decisions based on facts, rather than fear, concern or emotion.”

Similarly, the late CIPS CEO David Noble urged procurement and supply professionals to “act as the suppressor of panic, not the creator”. Noble said that how supply managers behave “is fundamental to how the business manages these coming weeks and months. Supply chains can emphasise or exaggerate concern, which can then be magnified all the way down the chain.”

Benefits realisation – procurement’s very own “fake news”

While the Brexit example demonstrates how procurement can either supress or endorse speculation originating in the media, there’s one area where CPOs are guilty of generating fake news themselves – the realisation of negotiated savings and other benefits.

In a report commissioned by members of The Faculty Roundtable entitled Making it Stick, researchers found that 50% of contracted savings are not making their way to the bottom line in leading Australian organisations. Without effective contract management to realise the full value of savings and other benefits, procurement professionals risk damaging the integrity of the function. Eventually, the falsehood will catch up with them when the CFO calls them into their office and demands: “Where’s the money?”

That’s why, to avoid being a purveyor of false data, CPOs must address the fundamental shortfalls that are costing organisations hundreds of millions in unrealised savings.

Five ways to turn “fake news” into real, bankable savings

Procurement teams are adept at finding the money, but it takes a whole organisation to keep the money. Given the uncertain business climate facing organisations internationally, driving savings and other value to the bottom line is an absolute priority facing the C-level today.

  1. Encourage enterprise-wide ownership and alignment with Procurement’s targets (shared targets).
  2. Bust silos through true cross-functional collaboration, particularly between procurement and finance.
  3. Work to eliminate maverick spend and other non-compliance that undermines procurement’s gains and damages supplier relationships.
  4. Establish crystal-clear benefits definitions, measurements and validation processes, agreed upon across the organisation.
  5. Create a cost-conscious culture to enable CPO-level efforts to expand the value that procurement contributes.

In short, as a CPO you’ll need integrity to win the trust and respect of your team, your peers, and your suppliers. Your willingness to accept or even endorse fake news, such as panic-driven speculation or unrealised savings, will very quickly erode this respect and lose the confidence required to run an effective procurement function.

Are You Ready For The Gig Economy? Some Of Us Have Already Taken The Leap

Kishwar Rahman, guest speaker at the upcoming Women in Procurement conference in Melbourne, Australia, shares her thoughts on the upcoming shift to a gig economy, the need for digital transformation, and the importance of networks for women in procurement.

Thriving in the gig economy

Rahman, a digital transformation lawyer, has recently completed a project as policy lead for the digital marketplace in the Australian Federal Government’s Digital Transformation Agency. She has now progressed to a lead role working for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to assist in setting up an e-Marketplace for the organisation.

“I’m a classic example of the gig-economy professional”, says Rahman. “I’ve moved from project to project, offering my professional skills. Businesses are increasingly looking to hire the right people at the right time for project-based employment.”

According to Rahman, the whole notion of the permanent role is becoming less appropriate as businesses transition towards a consultancy model where experts move between businesses or different projects within a large organisation. “It’s very different to the concept of the ‘job for life’ that existed in our parents’ generation, and still an expectation of employment in the public service.”

So, what can organisations and individuals do to prepare for the gig economy? From the organisational side, it pays to be prepared for an upcoming transformation. A gig-economy office, for example, will look very different to workplaces of the past. They will be structured around a fluid and ever-changing group of professionals coming into the business, working with others on specific projects, then departing for different roles when they have completed their projects.  One obvious symptom of this is the disappearing concept of the employees work station which is now being replaced by lockers for personal belongings and individual desks in quiet areas and larger tables for collaborative work.

Businesses also need to future-proof their customer-facing policies that currently favour clients with permanent roles. “Take banks, for example” says Rahman. “If you’ve ever applied for a home loan, you’ll know that they prefer to lend money to people with permanent roles. Unless they reassess their lending criteria, they’ll soon find that they won’t have enough clients as permanent roles become a thing of the past.”

Individuals, on the other hand, can prepare themselves for the gig economy by examining which of their skills could be put to use across multiple businesses, honing their expertise in those areas and becoming a member of a multi-disciplinary and multi-forming teams that move from one project to the next once they have achieved their outcomes and completed their deliverables.

Digital transformation – getting stakeholders on board

Rahman’s experience in driving digital transformation has led her to pick up essential change-management and implementation skills. “Getting people on board with a technological or process transformation is always one of the biggest challenges”, she says. “The most effective means of persuasion is to show them the efficiency in terms of speed and cost benefits. We live in a culture that expects extreme responsiveness and near-instant results, so simply highlighting speed gains will always be more effective than going into detail about improved workflows and processes.” Similarly, organisation want to find cost savings by digitising manual processes.

Another effective way to win stakeholders over to your transformation improvement is to find some common language on the benefits of the change. “Look for a benefit that everyone can relate to. A digital transformation, for example, will almost always lead to the automation of administrative tasks, which will free people up to do more creative and meaningful work. Reskilling and retraining will also be critical to this gig-economy.   Education and training will also have to change in form and shape of delivery with consumers demanding the option to shape a course and its mode of delivery and study at their own time and pace to fit it around paid work and personal commitments”.

Networking with women in procurement

One of the reasons Rahman is attending Women in Procurement 2017 is out of curiosity. “Before last year I didn’t know there was a separate forum for women in the profession. I’m interested in seeing who’s going to be there, who’s participating, and who are the female leaders in the field. Additionally, the procurement profession, just when it has started to be recognised as a profession, is also being reshaped by the gig-economy. What will procurement look like in the future and what are the skill set that young women will need to participate in this profession in the future”.

The networking opportunity is also crucial. “Historically, women have had a lack of access to networks. Events like this can connect you with a pool of expertise – peers who you can ring up and share ideas with and problem solve.”

Kishwar Rahman and other leaders in the profession will be speaking at Quest’s Women in Procurement 2017 event in Melbourne on 26-27 April. Visit Quest Events to download a brochure and find out more. 

Attention Roosters: Don’t Cock Things Up In 2017

HELP! 2017 is going to be an unlucky year for me – the Chinese Zodiac says I’m going to cock things up. 

As a rooster, I’m in deep trouble for 2017. It’s taken me almost 36 years to grasp the fact that in popular Chinese belief your birth sign year is considered unlucky, rather than lucky. Looking back on my last two Rooster years, this makes a sad kind of sense.

If I could, I’d go back in time to visit the pubescent, socially awkward 12-year-old blundering from one disaster to another in 1993. “It’s not your fault!” I’d yell. “It’s all due to the ancient Chinese Zodiac – events are way beyond your ability to control!” I don’t even want to talk about 2005, where I was essentially the same socially-awkward child in a 24-year-old’s body. Again – not the best year for me, but now that I’m aware of it, I can happily lay the blame at the feet of long-dead Han-era astrologers.

Looking into the characteristics of Roosters, and the wider Chinese Zodiac, has been enlightening – firstly because it’s all way more complex than I thought, and secondly because I’m now aware of my own cultural ignorance in this area – but more on that later. First, let’s look at the attributes of a Rooster.

Rooster characteristics

I was hoping to find a quick list of characteristics for Roosters, but the real story is much more complicated than I assumed. It depends not only on your zodiac sign, but the element associated with your year. Here’s a handy guide from www.chinahights.com:

Type of Rooster Year of Birth Characteristics
Wood Rooster 1945, 2005 Energetic, overconfident, tender, and unstable
Fire Rooster 1957, 2017 Trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work
Earth Rooster 1909, 1969 Lovely, generous, trustworthy, and popular with their friends
Gold Rooster 1921, 1981 Determined, brave, persevering, and hardworking
Water Rooster 1933, 1993 Smart, quick-witted, tender-hearted, and compassionate

I was born in ’81, which means I’m a Gold Rooster – determined (kind-of), brave (sometimes), persevering (I’m finishing this article, aren’t I?), hardworking (yes boss), and good-looking (I may have slipped that one in). Interestingly, only Wood Roosters have the characteristic I’d most associate with actual roosters, which is (pardon the pun) “cockiness”.

To complicate things further, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals), by day (called true animals) and hours (called secret animals). Which means that as well as being a Gold Rooster, I’m also a Rat internally, a Goat truly, and a Tiger secretly. Confused? Blame the astrologers.

Should Roosters ask for a promotion in 2017?

Well, at a macro level, it’s an unlucky year for you overall, but perhaps if you get the details right using the list below, you’ll be fine. In short, when you meet your boss to have that all-important career discussion, make sure you pick the month and day carefully with reference to the Chinese lunar calendar. Ensure you’re wearing gold, brown or yellow (NOT red!), pin a gladiola to your top before the meeting, and try to manoeuvre yourself so you face south or southeast during the conversation.

Lucky stuff for Roosters

  • Lucky numbers: 5, 7, and 8
  • Lucky days: the 4th and 26th of any Chinese lunar month
  • Lucky colours: gold, brown, and yellow
  • Lucky flowers: gladiola, cockscomb
  • Lucky directions: south, southeast
  • Lucky months: the 2nd, 5th, and 11th Chinese lunar months.

Stuff Roosters should avoid

  • Unlucky colour: red
  • Unlucky numbers: 1, 3, and 9
  • Unlucky direction: east
  • Unlucky months: the 3rd, 9th, and 12th Chinese lunar months

On a serious note – I’m culturally ignorant

How did it take me this long to find out that Chinese birth-sign years are unlucky rather than lucky? I’m ashamed to admit it, but what I’ve displayed is a lack of cultural curiosity. According to Cultural Synergist Dr Tom Verghese, curiosity is one of the attributes that makes for a culturally intelligent leader. Leaders without this attribute lack the motivation to find out more about the cultures they’re working with by asking lots of questions to develop their CQ, or cultural intelligence.

Dr Tom writes, “I believe curiosity should drive each of us in our own inter-cultural explorations. Understanding the values of other cultures and what their celebrations represent is certainly an important step we can all take towards representing and appreciating diversity and inclusion in our communities.”

Lesson learned. This year I’m going to do two things:

  • Make an effort to display more curiosity as I seek to improve my cultural intelligence, and
  • Tread carefully in what may be an unlucky year.

In short, I’ll try not to make a cock of myself in 2017.

Following the eISM Yellow Brick Road – A Guide to Guided Learning

We’re at the beginning of the yellow brick road, folks. This course is the foundation of all ISM’s educational offerings.

yellow brick road

Time zones can make things difficult. When I first signed up for ISM’s Fundamentals of Purchasing Guided Learning, I was resigned to the fact that I’d probably need to get up in the middle of the night here in Australia to join a series of four live webinars, broadcast from ISM’s head office in Arizona.

Luckily, it didn’t turn out that way at all. ISM ran their webinars after work hours in the US, which meant I could join them at the very civilised time of 9.30am. So, with headphones in and a cup of coffee within reach, I started my first foray into guided eLearning.

The Yellow Brick Road

When Dr. Wade C. Ferguson, (President, Erv Lewis Associates, LLC) compared the course to the beginning of the yellow brick road, he was referring to ISM’s comprehensive Mastery Model, a set of competency-based standards for the profession.

At first glance, the model is dauntingly large, with 16 main competencies and over 70 sub-competencies to choose from. However, once you break it down to essentials that are relevant to you, and chart out the competencies you wish to specialise in, it all begins to make sense.

Every competency in the Mastery Model is linked to one or more ISM Training (or eLearning) offerings. In addition, this particular course sits across a whole suite of introductory-level sub-competencies.

Access Anywhere, Any Time

Essentially, Guided Learning is self-paced eLearning with an instructor. The course ran over four weeks, with 16 modules, four of which were live webinars facilitated by the procurement and supply management veteran, Dr Ferguson.

The remaining 12 modules were homework, to be completed between the webinars. Each of the “homework” modules delivered information in an engaging mixture of multimedia, including ISM’s micro-learning videos, voice recordings or plain reading. The modules then always ended with a quiz to check knowledge and comprehension.

The main benefit of guided learning would have to be that you can take the course without leaving your home or office. This is vital for professionals who don’t have the time, or travel budget, necessary to attend training in-person. It also means that people like me can join from over 13,000 kilometres away.

The flexibility this offers is fantastic. One of the four live webinars caused a clash in my schedule, but this wasn’t a problem at all. I simply accessed the recording from the learning portal to watch later in the day.

The Guided Experience

Dr Ferguson drew upon his 40 years of industry experience to pepper his instruction with illustrations from his own career in supply management and education. The course covered, as expected: fundamentals of supply management; legal considerations; category management; contract formation and management; and finally, negotiation skills.

Here are some gems from Dr Ferguson’s webinar commentary:

  • Future-oriented procurement: “We have to be proactive, anticipatory, and not just react to a buy signal. It’s about the identification of what is needed, both now and in the future.”
  • Changing business priorities: “You know, flexibility has got to part of what we do every day. At some point you’re going to have a new CEO coming and totally upsetting the apple cart. What are you going to do?”
  • Vision statements: “When organisations express their cultural aspirations, they typically flow down through the organisation and find a home in the supply function.”
  • Social responsibility: “Find some small areas where your function can really make a difference”.
  • Strategy: “A roadmap without a destination isn’t very useful – it’s just spinning your wheels.”

The only thing I felt I was missing out on in the eLearning experience was getting to know my classmates. It’s like sitting in a movie theatre full of invisible people all watching the same thing. You know they’re there, but there’s no way to see them, or talk to them.

The instructor had a great deal to get through, but I would have appreciated him pausing for a moment to talk about who was online, where they’re from, what they do and the companies they represent. That being said, there was a discussion board available in the learning portal where you could introduce yourself.

On My Way

To circle back to Dr Ferguson’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ analogy, I feel I’ve taken some significant steps along the Yellow Brick Road of ISM Mastery over the past four weeks. There was a huge amount of information compressed into the course’s 16 modules, but the self-paced aspect made the workload feel very manageable.

Find out more about eISM here. Registrations are also now open for ISM2017 – click here for more information.

Measuring Value – All That Glitters Isn’t Necessarily Gold

The Five Gold Rings might be the most expensive of the gifts listed in the carol, but does that mean they’re the most valuable? Not necessarily. It depends on how you measure value.

five gold rings

The traditional 12 days of Christmas might not start until the 26th of December. But this festive season, we’ll be bringing you the 12 days of procurement Christmas in the run up to the big day. Catch up with the story so far on the Procurious Blog.

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…five golden rings.”

In 1982, the late, great Irish actor and singer Frank Kelly released a hit single called “Christmas Countdown”. The song is a parody of the 12 Days of Christmas, where the hapless narrator writes a series of thank-you letters to his over-indulgent true love, getting increasingly frantic as each day passes.

As his small home fills up with various aggressive birds (doves and geese in the living room, swans in the bathtub), he and his elderly mother become overwhelmed with the noise, the smell, and the veterinary bills.

By the time the maids-a-milking, drummers drumming and lords-a-leaping add to the pandemonium, the singer’s letters have turned from thanks to abuse, and his mother has been taken to a home for the bewildered.

But, amongst all the inappropriate gifts of birds and musicians, there’s one gift that makes him pause.

“Your generosity knows no bounds! Five gold rings! When the parcel arrived I was scared stiff that it might be more birds, because the smell in the living-room is atrocious. However, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the beautiful rings.” 

Finding Gold Among Feathers

As procurement professionals, we often need to take a step back and look at the true value of the product or services we’re procuring. Below we’ll take three different approaches to the measurement of value – according to price, utility, and cultural value. 

Value Based on Price

To be clear, judging the value of an item based on price alone is not good procurement practice. It’s a gross oversimplification of the concept of value. But sadly, it’s still an ingrained way of thinking for many practitioners.

If you want a chuckle in the lead-up to Christmas, check out PNC Wealth Management’s “Christmas Price Index. The Index totals up the cost of the 364 gifts (including all the repetitions) listed in the carol. The total cost is a staggering $156,506.88 for 2016, which is a rise of 0.7 per cent over last year.

The tongue-in-cheek economic indicator pulls its prices from a range of local sources, including a Philadelphia nursery for the pear tree, a local jeweller for the golden rings, and the Pennsylvania musicians’ union for the drummers’ wages.

Value Based on Utility

The 18th-century mathematician and physicist Daniel Bernoulli hit the nail on the head with this memorable quote: “The value of an item must not be based on its price, but rather on the utility it yields.”

Apart from the potential egg yield of the three French hens and six geese a-laying, the only other material return to be had from this gift bonanza would be quite a lot of milk from the eight maids a-milking and, possibly, a few pears. All the other gifts have little to zero utility, but do have significant cultural value. 

Cultural Value

This carol is packed with cultural value. There’s atheistic value in the ornamental birds, sentimental value in the golden rings, and artistic value in the performing musicians.

Think about some of the goods and services you’ve procured for your organisation. Which ones have had cultural value? Cultural value tends to attract a price premium, but often pays off in raising customer perception of your brand. 

From the Value Experts

According to the experts, organisations are also increasingly using the concept of value to define their strategies. Alex Kleiner, General Manager, EMEA at Coupa, explained more at Big Ideas Summit 2016:

Different companies will view value in different ways. This concept of Value-as-a-Service takes in everything from usability, to lives saved, and everything in between. It’s down to each individual organisation to decide how to measure this.

From a procurement point of view, it’s also good to remember that we shouldn’t be constrained by one particular definition. All that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. The profession just needs to define the stakeholder needs, and go from there.

While value might be difficult to define as one concept, we like to think procurement is worth its weight in gold. But can the profession survive in its current form? Or will the golden goose meet its end? Find out tomorrow.

Do Labels Matter? The Debate That Just Won’t Go Away

Purchasing? Procurement? Strategic Sourcing? Supply Management? As the profession continues to evolve, old labels tend to come unstuck and peel away.

chrysalis labels

Getting Out of the Back Room

It started in the 1990s. Like drab caterpillars transforming into magnificent butterflies, purchasing professionals left their brown cardigans draped over the backs of their uncomfortable chairs in dimly-lit back offices and emerged, blinking, into the bright hub of the business.

No longer a service department, we were suddenly business partners. We talked strategically rather than tactically, proactively seeking to understand what the organisation was trying to accomplish, and find ways to contribute to its competitive advantage.

But, what did we decide to call ourselves?

Almost thirty years later, the only thing that has really been agreed upon is to leave the term “purchasing” behind. Perhaps if there was one global, all-encompassing professional body, the decision would have been made for us, but unfortunately this isn’t the case.

In the U.S., the National Association of Purchasing Agents (founded 1915) changed its name to the National Association of Purchasing Management (1968). It finally became the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) in 2002.

In the UK, CIPS changed its name from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply to The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply as late as 2014.

Across private businesses and government departments there’s a bewildering array of labels and job titles. This, of course, makes the standardisation of job descriptions and salary levels unnecessarily difficult.

Getting Out of the Box

I’m half-way through ISM’s “Fundamentals of Purchasing” guided learning (e-learning) course under the tutelage of Dr Wade C. Ferguson, President, Erv Lewis Associates, LLC. The course begins with some of ISM’s definitions around Supply Management and what the profession actually entails. It led to one of the class (me, actually) asking Wade’s opinion on the term procurement versus supply management.

His reply: “Changing definitions represent the evolution that the profession has gone through. In the company I worked at for over 30 years, we changed our name from “purchasing” to “procurement”, but it didn’t really change anything, as procurement is basically a subset of supply management.

“It’s a necessary and important subset, but if you want to be more encompassing, we prefer the term ‘supply management’. It underscores the recognised breadth of the modern supply chain and the need for coordination and value optimisation.”

Wade argued that the reason for dropping the old label was a profession-wide effort to, “Get out of the box. Out of the myopic purchasing view, to understand what the organisation is really trying to accomplish. When we can do that, we’re perceived as being strategic, not just a tactical cost centre.”

Pigeon-Holed by Labels?

This argument makes sense when you look at ISM’s definition of responsibilities under the Supply Management umbrella:

  • Purchasing/Procurement
  • Strategic sourcing
  • Logistics
  • Quality
  • Materials management
  • Warehousing/stores
  • Transportation/traffic/shipping
  • Disposition/investment recovery
  • Distribution
  • Receiving
  • Packaging
  • Product/service development
  • Manufacturing supervision.

If you wanted to keep things in separate boxes, then I’d estimate that roughly half of the components above belong to Procurement, while the other half belong to Supply Chain.

This separation of responsibility might work in a company where, say, you have a Chief Procurement Officer working closely with a Chief Supply Chain Officer. But why not combine those two roles into one? It’s all interconnected, and it makes sense. And Head of Supply Management could be the label that encompasses the whole picture.

Here’s the thing – maybe, just maybe, the narrowing effect of “Procurement” labels is one of the contributing factors holding Chief Procurement Officers back from that coveted spot at the boardroom table.

Even for those CPOs out there who do in fact have responsibility for the supply chain as well. It’s possible that their very title means that this vast part of their role isn’t actually recognised by the people that matter.

Don’t Abandon the Progress We’ve Made

In a previous article, Procurious founder Tania Seary also called upon the profession to stop worrying about what we call ourselves:

“In my opinion, re-branding procurement is a distraction, especially since we’ve made enormous progress in educating businesses about what procurement does. Rather than having to re-educate the C-Suite about what a Commercial Director or Chief Relationship Officer does, that energy could be better spent actually showing people what we have and can achieve.

In line with why we created Procurious to begin with, we know that the procurement and supply chain profession has struggled to overcome outdated stereotypes, so it’s time we join forces to become collectively valued. By empowering future procurement leaders, we can change the face of the profession from the inside out, rather than worrying about the label itself.”

Things Certain to Change Again

“The only constant in life is change.”

…just as the only quote that the Greek philosopher Heraclitus will be remembered for is the one above.

The Procurement/Supply Management/Whatever-you-want-to-call-it profession has changed so much in the past thirty years that there’s no reason why it shouldn’t change again. By the time we’ve settled our current labels debate, it may already be outdated.

5 Reasons Why Your Organisation Needs to Offer Sabbaticals

Sabbaticals were once confined to a few professions such as academia and the clergy, but are increasingly working their way into the HR policies of businesses across every sector.

quitting-job sabbaticals

You’ve just lost one of the most valuable members of your team because your organisation’s inflexible HR policies meant she couldn’t take six months off to travel with her family. Offering a sabbatical would have saved you the time and expense needed to recruit and train a replacement.

Does this sound familiar? How many of your best workers have quit for this reason? Where once sabbaticals were only offered to a select group of people, more and more organisations are offering them as part of their employment strategy.

Here are five reasons you need to offer sabbaticals to your team. 

  1. Retention

Let’s face it. Businesses across the board are struggling with retention, with millennial staff generally jumping ship every 2.5 years.

A sabbatical policy might just be the magic bullet you’ve been looking for to increase retention and longevity of employment. For example, you could offer a short sabbatical (paid or unpaid) after 5 years’ employment, a longer sabbatical after 10 years, and so on.

Remember, the alternative is having the employee quit to pursue their dreams, while you’re left with the expense and trouble of finding a replacement.

  1. Rejuvenation

There are so many reasons employees may want to take a sabbatical: study, travel, volunteering, health, family and so on.

But one of the underlying motives for people to take a career break is that we’re not machines – after a few years in the same role it’s natural to start feeling burnt out or stuck in a rut.

That’s why sabbaticals are essential for revitalisation, giving employees an opportunity to rediscover their mojo, rebuild their enthusiasm for their career and come up with new ideas.

  1. New ideas

As mentioned above, sabbaticals are traditionally associated with academia, wherein researchers take a paid break to spend time on activities related to their career or research, usually in a different geographic location.

The reasoning behind this is that people can’t be expected to come up with new ideas or creative thinking by simply sitting in their office – they need to find inspiration in other parts of the world and meet colleagues who are approaching shared challenges differently.

There’s no reason why this same concept shouldn’t apply outside of academia. A sabbatical will give your employees the opportunity to bring new thinking and creative ideas back to your organisation, even if they didn’t engage in any strictly career-related activities on their break.

  1. Expect career breaks to become increasingly popular

According to Elizabeth Pagano, cofounder of YourSabbatical.com, “the concept of working for 40 years and then retiring is outdated. People should be able to inject bursts of time off into their career paths.”

Putting off the pursuit of dreams such as travel or studying until you’ve retired (and over 60 years of age) can mean that you run the risk of no longer having the health or energy necessary to do those dreams justice.

Another reason sabbaticals will become increasingly popular is the security they offer for people taking a career break. Knowing that your job is being held for you is immensely reassuring.

The alternative is to quit your role, which could mean you’ll worry about your financial future during your precious time off and spend the last three months of your break on the phone to recruiters.

  1. Win the war for talent with attractive sabbatical offering

As sabbaticals become more widely accepted, expect job-seekers to ask about your sabbatical policy as they consider if your company is right for them. I

f a star candidate is choosing between your company and a competitor, a generous sabbatical policy might just be the factor that gets them over the line.

Remember, sabbaticals will not only help you attract talent, but retain people for years longer than the rapidly shrinking average term of employment.

Five tips for HR when building an offering for sabbaticals

1. Create a policy

A sabbatical policy will help you attract and retain talent, give employees a goal to work towards, and lay out a clear framework about how sabbaticals work.

It’s important to be absolutely clear on what activities would constitute a paid sabbatical, but keep in mind that for unpaid sabbaticals, the reason for the employee requesting the career break isn’t relevant.

2. Be flexible

A sabbatical could be your best way to retain a valued team member who was otherwise likely to quit.

Flexibility is key – even if that person hasn’t met the criteria such as the minimum period of employment, offering a sabbatical may still be a better alternative than letting them go.

3. Plan ahead to fill gaps

Ask the employee for a detailed handover plan well ahead of their career break, and consider involving them in the hiring process if a replacement is needed to fill the gap while they are away.

4. Discuss contact during the sabbatical

Many sabbatical-takers would choose to have zero contact with their workplace while away, and that’s fine.

Others, however, may want to retain a level of contact through regular emailed updates, or simply through social media.

5. Organise a return-to-work interview

Bring the employee up to date on organisational developments, projects, and new goals and targets that have occurred while they were away. A return-to-work interview will also enable you to capture any new ideas they will bring back to the team.

Does your organisation offer sabbaticals? If not, how would you convince your boss to offer one? Leave a comment below!

Would You Couchsurf to Make Business Travel Savings?

Splitting travel savings with employees may be the best way to encourage travellers to treat every dollar of company money as their own.

Couchsurfing - Travel Savings

A New-York based consultant, Geoff, has to visit a client in Seattle. He logs onto his organisation’s travel management system to book his flight and hotels.

The app recommends a flight that’s within budget and suits his timeframe. However, Geoff ignores this, scrolls through a list of other options, and selects a flight leaving later for a cheaper price.

Similarly, he chooses not to go with the 4-star hotel recommended by the system. He instead chooses a slightly cheaper hotel that’s still convenient to his destination.

Upon arrival in Seattle, Geoff walks past the cab rank to the bus stop. He’s thinking about where he can get a cheap but healthy meal to avoid ordering room service.

As he makes each travel-related purchase, he’s scanning receipts into his travel app, which subtracts the costs from his total travel budget.

Geoff is behaving like he’s spending his own money rather than his organisation’s travel budget. Why? Because in essence, it is his own money. His company has an arrangement in place where employees are allocated 50 per cent of the savings if they come in under their allocated travel budget.

It’s entirely automated. At the end of his trip, the travel management system takes the difference between the budget and Geoff’s actual costs, splits the savings, and adds half to Geoff’s next pay check.

Sharing travel savings encourages a cost-conscious culture

Why aren’t more organisations sharing travel savings? Possibly, it’s due to a myopic attitude where travel managers are reluctant to part with any savings whatsoever, preferring to allocate every dollar straight back to the bottom line.

However, there’s a much bigger prize at stake. Building a cost-conscious culture and creating that critical mind-shift where employees start treating company money as their own.

Shared travel savings might also fix the multi-billion dollar “open booking” problem. In the US, for example, 50 per cent of hotel bookings and 24 per cent of airline bookings occur outside corporate travel programs. This presents a significant compliance challenge and visibility problem.

Creating a policy wherein shared savings can only be claimed when bookings are made through the approved system would provide a major incentive for employees to comply.

Where can employees save on travel costs?

Here are a few ideas for frugal travel across transport, meals and accommodation:

Flights

Even if your organisation allows you to fly business class, do you really need to? What about flying at a different time of day to get a cheaper fare? A common reason employees go outside approved travel management systems is a belief they can find a better deal themselves.

The TripScanner start-up (acquired last year by Coupa) provides a clever way around this issue. Employees can book travel options via any website they like, so long as they sync their purchases with TripScanner. The software then automatically checks each booking against the company’s travel policy.

Ground transport

Can you take the train or a bus rather than a taxi? How about Uber? There’s always going to be a trade-off between the convenience of being taken directly to your destination and having to walk from the bus stop. However, with the prospect of an extra $25 in your pocket, employees might just choose the bus.

Meals

Consider grabbing a cheap meal rather than paying inflated prices for room service. Keep in mind that “cheap” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “unhealthy”. Eating well and affordably takes planning, as room service is most often ordered when busy travellers run out of time.

Accommodation

This is where your company’s travel policy need to be absolutely clear, because accommodation (and to a lesser extent, transport) involves a safety factor.

Having an approved list of hotels will stop truly frugal employees from trying to save drastically by booking hotels in undesirable parts of town. Or even (in extreme cases) going for an unconventional option such as Couchsurfing.

Setting it up

There are some things to bear in mind when setting up a system such as this.

  • Better planning: Saving money when travelling takes planning, because needlessly expensive flights, taxis and meals are usually chosen due to tight schedules.
  • Get the budget right: Travel managers need to do their research to get the travel budget right for their organisation, as setting it too high will mean losing money unnecessarily. Fortunately, there’s software available to help with this task. A sophisticated travel management system will allocate a unique budget to each trip, rather than a blanket dollar figure for all travel.
  • Make sure your travel policy suits your risk appetite: Travel policies can vary wildly, from tightly-controlled lists of accommodation options, to a free system where employees can do as they like. Again, encouraging frugality may cause some employees to select unsafe options, which is why couchsurfing or ridesharing may need to be excluded from the system.
  • Frugal travelling isn’t for everyone: For some, saving money when travelling might not be a priority. Having a comfortable flight or good night’s sleep in a nice hotel might be much more important than winning back a few hundred dollars extra per month, and that’s fine. Again, it’s important to set the budget as accurately as possible, and be clear in your travel policy about what happens if employees go over budget.

Does your company share travel savings? What are your tips for beating the travel budget?