All posts by Kelly (McCarthy) Barner

Have You Aligned Your SIM & CLM Systems?

Procurement teams with mature SIM and CLM systems can extract greater value from supplier relationships. How can the two be brought into better alignment?

This article was written by Kelly Barner for Determine

Procurement is so accustomed to aligning our technology and processes with the objectives of the business at large that we sometimes miss opportunities to align our own technologies and processes with each other.

Supplier Information Management (SIM) and Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) provide a perfect case example. Both bring together suppliers and internal touch points, extend beyond procurement’s peak involvement in managing spend categories, and play an important role in addressing (and mitigating) supply chain risk.

Procurement teams that have mature SIM and CLM programs in place reduce their risk, but they also create opportunities to extract greater value from each supplier relationship and reduce confusion within the enterprise.

When we stop and think about how SIM and CLM can be brought into better alignment, three critical shared issues come into focus: information integrity, ownership and actionability.

  1. Information Integrity Through Integration

Information is such an important component of SIM it is included in the name, whereas with CLM the devil is always in the details. An incorrect piece of information in a contract can easily become a legal liability. Both start with essential supplier contact information and metadata and extend to the details associated with supplier onboarding and contract terms. Although the following information is collected for separate reasons, it is critical that it be consistent across SIM and CLM:

Supplier Onboarding

 When a new supplier is on-boarded post award, a standard set of information is usually collected. This includes their contact information, location details, proof of certification, and details regarding the users who will represent the supplier in company systems during the term of the agreement. Making sure as quickly as possible that this information is complete and accurate lays the groundwork for an equally smooth implementation and on-going relationship. Beyond simple collection and centralisation, procurement must also validate supplier information at the time of onboarding – paying particular attention to documentation associated with certifications that were included in the award decision.

Contract Initiation

When creating a new contract, it is natural for procurement to focus on product/service specifications, prices, terms and SLAs, but capturing other more straightforward information is just as important. For instance, specifying a production location might seem like a minor detail — until the supplier makes the decision to outsource their production to another facility, or even another country. Having specified the location in the contract may not prevent the change from being made, but it does create an opening for discussion of the associated quality and oversight expectations. As contracts become an increasingly dynamic part of supplier management, more details need to be incorporated.

  1. Ownership

Since managing risk and increasing performance are at the heart of both SIM and CLM, establishing ownership early on is critical. Who will manage the relationship and who will be the documented owner of the contract? Should it be the same person? Why or why not? Alignment of goals can not be achieved if the individuals associated with each responsibility are not also aligned.

Supplier Relationship Management

Any supplier may have multiple relationships in an enterprise. Procurement is certainly a point of contact, but so are the budget owner and any functions that have a high volume of demand associated with that supplier. Many people may have contact with a supplier in the course of daily business, but information about performance reviews and contract updates should be managed in an organised fashion so that the supplier is kept informed and no one speaks out of turn.

Contract Ownership

 In addition to including a complete set of terms and signatures, each contract needs an owner from the outset. While captured as a simple name field in many CLM systems, a lot of consideration must be given when deciding who will own each contract. The primary value proposition of CLM is that it allows contracts (and the business deliverables they govern) to “leave the filing cabinet” in order to have a measurable impact on the business. Empowered by automated CLM notifications, someone in the enterprise needs to take action based on the information provided; and having an appropriate designated owner from the start provides accountability and ensures a prompt response.

  1. Alignment Actionability

Putting SIM and CLM in place is not about static documentation or information centralisation, but rather the actions each motivates. Unlike information integrity, where consistency is key to alignment, actionability requires each of these systems to “feed” information to each other. There are supplier performance considerations in both systems, and while they are different, it is in their combination that the best result is achieved.

Supplier Performance

SIM systems often include supplier performance details submitted by procurement, as well as the other individuals in the enterprise who come into contact with the supplier’s products or services. In some cases, determinations of performance will be based on buyer perceptions and expectations. This information should be recorded and communicated to suppliers on a regular basis.

Contract Compliance

When viewed through the lens of a contract, supplier performance is about following the “letter of the law.” Just as suppliers can have performance issues that do not rise to the level of legal non-compliance, a supplier can be in perfect standing based on the requirements of the contract and still not meet the expectations of the company. If performance measurement and contract terms are not both aligned and visible, it will be hard for procurement to know the difference and lead the appropriate response.

The full benefits of SIM and CLM alignment are realised over the term of the agreement, as long as 3-5 years in some cases. The sooner the enterprise can achieve alignment in terms of information integrity, ownership and actionability, the shorter the timeframe to evaluate and lower the overall risk.

This article was orginally pubished on Determine. 

Don’t let your career break become a career breakdown

We know the story; a promising career comes screeching to a halt! But how do you ensure your career break is the start of something brilliant and not the car-crash it, at first, appears to be!

The first part of my professional story sounds exactly like scores of other professional women’s: college, work, apartment, graduate school (nights), wedding, better job, travel, better job, and… family!

Suddenly, the career I had been working so hard to build came to a screeching halt. I went from being the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris to… well I didn’t know what. My newborn daughter was completely unimpressed with my title, my two graduate degrees, or my extensive knowledge of spend management principles. I honestly didn’t know if and when I would return to the workplace, in procurement or otherwise.

Then I received a completely unexpected, unsolicited invitation to join Buyers Meeting Point. Anna was 18 months old and her little brother Timmy was expected in a few months’ time. Could I juggle two small children and a fledgling business? I labored over the decision, but ultimately came to the realisation that I might never get such as opportunity again.

I am not a natural entrepreneur!

Here’s the funny thing about that: I am not a natural entrepreneur. I know a lot of entrepreneurs. They are a very unique and amazing group of people. They have vision. They have passion. They act with confidence even when they don’t particularly feel it. They have a tolerance for risk that I can hardly comprehend. In fact, I’m such a NON-trepreneur that when I was getting my MBA at Babson College (home of U.S. News and World Report’s #1 graduate program for entrepreneurship in the nation for over 2 decades) I did not take one class in entrepreneurship. Why? I was never going to own a business… doh!

I found myself at home with 2 children under the age of 2 and no schooling in entrepreneurship building a business. As I look back 8 years later, part of me is still shocked that I made it work. I think the key was my goal: to never, ever, ever, (ever!) return to a cube again.

My kids are now 9 (Anna), 7 (Timmy), and 4 (Joseph). They are healthy, active children, and since the kitchen table is also my executive conference room, my business life and personal life often collide. If your career break becomes a brand new beginning, here is my advice for balancing family and work from the joyful chaos of a home office.

Partner with your calendar and task list

When you have a lot of disconnected moving pieces in your head, your best bet is to communicate with yourself in writing. I am disciplined about keeping my calendar(s) up to date so that podcast interviews and new prospect calls do not collide with horseback riding lessons or meeting the school bus.

The same goes for managing tasks. I am not kidding about this piece of advice: if you do not write it down, it will not happen. Period. There are daily tasks, weekly and monthly recurring writing schedules, and one-off writing contracts. They all have to be kept in priority order so that deadlines are not missed. I find it helpful to work with a hard copy to do list each day, putting work tasks alongside family ones. That way, if the vet calls while I am finishing an article, or I see a request come in from a colleague to share something on social media while I am making lunches for the next day, I can jot it down without breaking off to find my phone.

Build a network

Something I know I share with procurement colleagues working in traditional positions is that feeling of dread that arises when someone at a party asks what I do for a living. “Procurement? What on earth is that?” Sigh.

It is even more important that non-traditional professionals have a strong network of peers to lean on. The major downside of working from home is that you can feel isolated without ever being alone (not even for a second). Using Skype and social media sites to build connections and invest in peer relationships is a must. Figure out who is really a ‘friend’ and who just wants another number in their connection statistics. Make sure you reach out to people and engage with their topics on a regular basis – not just when you need something.

And… most importantly, laugh!

For years, I have scheduled calls around nap schedules, archery lessons, half day preschool, and parent teacher conferences. In the summer (when book manuscripts are inevitably due for some reason…) I keep Italian ice in the freezer because it takes my kids so long to eat it. One of my final book manuscripts received a little additional editing from Anna – she drew a shark on page 137. I have presented webinars with Joseph driving Matchbox cars at my feet and once I tripped over a Minion toy during a podcast interview. Luckily, the sound was not picked up on my microphone!

When work and home life share the same headquarters, your best case scenario is two-way immersion. I like to think that I show my children that the only thing that can hold you back in life is the limitation of your own imagination. They have been at my side (cheering!) as I brought each of my final book manuscripts to FedEx to overnight to the publisher. My husband (a hardware engineer) has been called upon more than once to work ‘IT magic’ for some accessibility or conversion effort. I get to continue working in an industry I love without being tied to a desk.

With today’s connectivity and open-mindedness about contract labor, there are very few things that you can’t turn into a career from home. If you have the determination and discipline, there is no reason that you, too, can’t say good-bye to a ‘cube dwelling’ life forever.

Three Economic Indices You Can’t Ignore In Procurement

Procurement professionals need the ability to understand – and react to – changes in inflation, employment and optimism.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

The interesting thing about procurement’s typical line of sight is that it very closely aligns with the terms of the sourcing projects we run and the contracts – and therefore supplier relationships – we manage. This might be 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, or 5 years long, but regardless of the exact length of time, you can be assured it is far longer than the changes being seen in global and local economies.

Since the summer of 2016, I have been the Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. It has been an amazing learning opportunity, and I am fortunate to be working with a career economist to learn to decipher and draw meaning from the data. There are two pieces to the report: 1. the indices (some seasonally adjusted and some not) which provide a monthly trend up or down as the economy contracts or expands, and 2. the narrative, which highlights some of the key figures and milestones and adds some context to the numbers.

You don’t have to be a professor to see the connections between procurement and economics, but it is easy for us to become overly focused on information that is internally available or provided by suppliers. Based on what I’ve learned, the following categories of information tie directly to procurement’s efforts and objectives. And although they may not often come up in internal conversations, they need to be present in procurement’s thinking and strategy development.

Inflation

Investopedia defines inflation as “the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising and, consequently, the purchasing power of currency is falling.” Most of what procurement buys tends to be based on pre-negotiated contracts, so we’re unlikely to see annual changes in prices based on inflation. What we might see, however, is a difference in the prices we are able to negotiate every three years. This will be especially true of anything we buy internationally or that has significant foreign-sourced materials in it because the relative purchasing power of the U.S. Dollar in global markets will be affected by inflation. But it’s not just an international issue – for any procurement team that reports into finance, keeping an eye on inflation will give you a benchmark for the minimum project-level ROI, as the alternative might be to just hold onto the cash if the project is expected to return less than 3% (the average rate of inflation) per year.

Employment

Higher levels of employment are usually considered a good indicator or economic growth and stability. From a procurement perspective, however, employment also tells us what to expect about trends in services-category spend. With an increasing portion of organizational demand being met ‘as-a-Service’, employment rates (and therefore costs) are critical to our cost to operate. For some industries, services are so important that even the factors driving alternate economic measures like ‘Prices Paid’ are services too – the New York Metro area is a perfect example of this, as are many other major cities. It’s why you must know the product/service mix in your spend before trying to figure out what approach to take. The other consideration relative to employment is talent availability. Higher employment means lower UNemployment (see how I did that?) and therefore less candidates available to compete for open positions. Luckily for procurement, we have a wide array of talent options at our disposal through contingent workforce programs. Striking an optimal mix of employment models presents an opportunity to maximize both costs and capabilities.

Optimism

The final economic index I’ve learned to appreciate is optimism – in the ISM-New York Report on Business we call this the Six-Month Outlook. In other words, as of today, how much better or worse do you expect things to be going six months from now. It would be unrealistic to expect the outlook to be more specific than a trend up or down, but even this insight provides important information for others watching the economy. The fact that this question is even asked is an indication of how special procurement’s perspective on the economy and business activity is. This perspective is due in part to our understanding of the organization’s anticipated demand levels and the prices we are paying, but also the conversations we have with suppliers about the conditions they are doing business in. Competition drives prices down, differentiation drives margins up, increases in demand drive prices up, and large increases in price may push buyers and suppliers to innovate together to come up with alternatives, and procurement has a front row seat for it all.

Many people in the business world watch the monthly reports on business, whether the ISM national reports or regional reports, like ISM-New York. If they value procurement’s perspective on the economy enough to wait for the numbers to be released each month and report on the findings, then we should have a greater appreciate for our own insight and do everything we can to deepen it.

 2017 could be a pivotal year for the procurement profession. The Big Ideas Summit in London will help lay the ground work for all of  the changes ahead. Our London event takes place on 23rd February and you can now register as a digital delegate now! 

Is Generation X The Forgotten Generation?

Is Generation X the equivalent of the middle child? Is it the forgotten generation? Unsurprisingly there’s more to the generation than that.

generation x

“In general, middle children tend to possess the following characteristics: people-pleasers, somewhat rebellious, thrives on friendships, has large social circle, peacemaker.” (Parent Magazine)

Generation X includes adults in their mid thirties up through age 50. They – or I should say WE – are younger than baby boomers and older than Millennials. There you go! I’ve now summed up everything most people know about Generation X!

But there is so much more to our generation – especially when you look our potential for career development. Baby boomers are retiring and Millennials are just getting started, while Gen X is transitioning into the vast majority of leadership positions.

Even though Gen X’ers are an up and coming group, we don’t get much attention. We are the forgotten middle children in a crowded professional landscape. And yet, we are also the answer to many of the professional challenges being faced by our older and younger peers.

An Inter-Generational Bridge

A 2014 article from The Pew Research Center stated, “…in most of the ways we take stock of generations – racial and ethnic makeup; political, social and religious values; economic and educational circumstances; technology usage – Gen X’ers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths.”

If you look at most of the writing about the generations in the workplace today, commentary that isn’t about Boomers or Millennials, is about how they struggle to work together. Clearly a bridge is exactly what they need.

By combining the traits of people in Generation X with the characteristics of middle children, we are given a unique opportunity to help ourselves, our peers, and our companies by being independent peacemakers who are ready to blaze new trails and leverage the power of our networks to make change happen.

Dear Baby Boomers, Share your wisdom and we will make your legacy soar

While not all you baby boomers are on your way out, the vast majority of you have gone as far as you are going to go professionally. Making sure that your career experience is not lost to retirement requires it to be passed down to someone who can understand it.

You lament that you have little in common with Millennials, making it hard to connect and communicate with them. Gen X, on the other hand, shares quite a bit with the Boomers, and we are in line to fill your positions next.

By passing along your wealth of knowledge to Gen X, you ensure that your legacy lives on and that the organisation achieves a kind of continuity. This also takes advantage of a whole new range of opportunities, and helps translate the lessons of the past to the conditions of the future.

Dear Millennials, We can help you make your revolutionary ideas a reality

Despite the fact that we seem just slightly less old than everyone else you report up through, we aren’t as established as you might think. We have seen a lot of change come to the workplace – we’ve driven some of it.

We’re (almost) as tech savvy as you are, and we have a lot of experience with change management. We also know a thing or two about how to work the room, and have the connections that will help us sell your ideas in a way that respects their spirit while making them seem achievable.

By working together with Gen X, you can take some of those wild new ideas you’re so famous for and make them possible – without having to wait until you are in their thirties.

Take it from an X’er that was in her 20’s about 15 minutes ago – you are going to be 35 in a flash.

From One Gen X’er to Another

Baby Boomers and Millennials have an edge in that they are getting a lot more coverage than we are, but we must accept some level of responsibility for that as well. The advantage of being – well – ignored, is that we have lots of extra time to prepare ourselves for the professional roles still to come.

Get an MBA, earn a certification, take a class, build a diverse network of colleagues, and do it in a way that is uniquely ‘X’.

We want to be connected to our colleagues, which is made easier by the fact that (unlike the Millennials) a lot of us will pick a general area of professional focus and stick to it over the course of our career.

Many Gen X’ers have families, which means we have an incentive to commit to a company for a few years at a time – simultaneously increasing our impact at that organisation and boosting our earning potential.

On the other hand, we aren’t bound by geography, which might otherwise see us spending our precious networking time in Flinstone-esque ‘Lodge’ meetings with local procurement professionals.

We are fortunate to have at our disposal sites for virtual networking that allow us to form new relationships quickly and easily, not to mention all over the world. With this power, we can leverage ideas across industries and continents in a way that our predecessors could only dream of.

The biggest challenge for Generation X is defining our own identity. The best way to do that is by leaning on each other. Not to the exclusion of the other generations, but in a way that allows us to leverage and amplify the power of our own generation.

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