All posts by Patrick McCarthy

Procurement with Purpose – Not All Rainbows and Fairytales

Procurement with purpose is often perceived as rainbows and fairytales. But it only sounds that way when we fail to connect purpose with real business results.

Most procurement and supply chain professionals initially gravitated towards their profession because they like to understand how things work; they like to figure out how to make things work better and because they like taking the complex and making it simpler.

Perhaps comparatively few professionals embarked on these careers thinking that they would change the world.

But times have changed. As digital technologies reshape the world around us procurement has brand new opportunities to make the world a better place and many procurement teams are seizing these opportunities.

Indeed, procurement and supply chain pros are starting to ask more of their suppliers:

  • Does my supplier have the governance structures in place necessary to root out forced labour from the supply chain?
  • Does my supplier follow an ethical, sustainable approach to the environment? Is it a good neighbour? Is it responsible in its stewardship of natural resources?
  • Can my supplier verify the provenance of conflict-free minerals?
  • What steps does my supplier take to embrace diversity and inclusion in its workforce and supply chain?

These questions, and hundreds more like them, are now so much easier to answer thanks to digital networks, transparency and accountability. And this is important because shareholders, analysts and customers are increasingly demanding that the brands they support, and invest in, actually stand for something.

How Technology Can Democratise Procurement

Digital networks offer the breadth and scale necessary to monitor these things adequately, helping us to get our arms around ethical business practices from all the organisations that we do business with.

For most organisations, keeping track of the first-line suppliers is difficult enough. Tracking the full supply chain of their suppliers, and their suppliers’ suppliers,  would naturally seem impossible. But technology has changed all this.

Take the following example scenario as an example. Imagine you’re a category manager and you want to know if there is a high risk of forced labor anywhere in your supply chain. You log into your dashboard and can see all of your suppliers globally and where you might be exposed.

If you wanted to look specifically at North America you might zoom in and see that Carbo Ceramics, a critical supplier, has risk exposure.

Further investigation would reveal that two of the categories you source are indeed at high risk for forced labour: electronic fuse and electronic display unit. The proximity of forced labor to your source of supply is high, and there is also a high likelihood of exposure to the supplier you source them from.

So now you’ve got the insights and the transparency you need to take action. You can ask further questions of the supplier, make a site visits and even consider finding an alternative partner.

In less than two minutes, you’ve gained all the information you need to detect and mitigate slavery in your supply chain and make a major impact; not only in your supply chain and business, but to the lives of others. There’s incredible peace of mind in that.

Digital procurement also extends opportunity to historical underrepresented groups of business owners. On a network, you size up a supplier based on the data, based on the value it can lend your supply chain, not based on gender, race, national origin or sexual preference.

Technology can be incredibly democratising. It democratises opportunity and extends it outward from the few to the many.

Journey from Chief Procurement Officer to Chief Purpose Officer

It used to be that CPOs who embraced purpose-led procurement as a core part of their job description were the exception. Now we’re seeing the role of the Chief Procurement Officer evolving into the role of the Chief Purpose Officer.

Procurement with purpose is often perceived as rainbows and fairytales. But it only sounds that way when we fail to connect purpose with real business results. It happens when we neglect to point out the measurable outcomes for our customers.

We need to do a better job of explaining procurement with purpose, of spreading awareness that, through transparency and accountability, supply chains can meaningfully improve people’s lives. Procurement professionals can markedly improve people’s lives.

Thanks to digital networks, procurement professionals are spending less time chasing down data, and more time acting on it. We can let go of the traditional tactical tasks to focus instead on creating value for our organisations and propelling them forward.

That reality, that authenticity, aided by AI, blockchain and other emerging cloud based technologies reinforces what an organisation stands for. It deepens an organisation’s positioning and it widens an organisation’s visibility and sharpens its competitive advantage.

This is what digital procurement is capable of.

Pat McCarthy will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. To  hear more from him and to follow the action LIVE from wherever you are in the world, register as a digital delegate (it’s free!)

Now, More Than Ever, It’s Time For Procurement To Go Digital

At a time when technology is transforming nearly every aspect of the enterprise and its approach to buying and selling, the role of the procurement professional — already central to any organisation — has become even more strategic, more consequential, and more indispensable.

By linking together vast troves of data across enterprises and unlocking meaningful insights, cloud-based applications have freed up procurement professionals from the tangle of day-to-day tactical activities so that they can focus on strategic responsibilities such as supply chain resilience and flexibility, brand protection, and new sources of innovation.

Key Accelerators for Digital Transformation

The transformation is just beginning. As emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things and blockchain begin to take hold, procurement will become even smarter, faster and more connected. And beyond savings and efficiencies, it will open the door to innovations that improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately, impact revenue generation.

Another accelerator in digital transformation in procurement are business networks. They are driving totally new way of interacting and expanding the value that procurement can deliver across the enterprise.  Just like their social counterparts, they bring together millions of buyers and sellers and provide a community in which they can shop, share and consume. On a true many to many platform, trust and transparency are the benefits the network participants find.

Managing Supplier Risk and Corporate Responsibilities

More than ever, customers, regulators and investors hold companies accountable not only for their own ethical conduct, but for that of their suppliers and their suppliers’ suppliers. Companies with strong supply chain practices invest to mitigate any risk and respond to adverse events and recover from the any disruption faster. With business networks, companies can gain the transparency needed to ensure that they are not only in compliance with laws in every locale they operate in, but that they are upholding and advancing their own corporate social responsibility goals.

Leveraging real-time and historical purchasing data, supplier intelligence and business network content, procurement can shine a light on the materials, regions, and suppliers that are most likely to have issues or challenges with unexpected natural disaster, forced labor or conflict minerals. To drive a positive impact, companies may launch campaigns to connect diverse suppliers on the business networks in underdeveloped markets where a little assistance goes a long way.

Supplier Insights for Innovation

Take product design. Suppliers can be rich providers of design ideas, providing insights on new technologies and innovation while improving costs given their technical knowledge of manufacturing processes. Adopting the Design to Value approach, companies involve procurement organisations in the product development process far earlier.

Through business networks, procurement gain significant supplier insights quickly and potentially open the door to new, more innovative and cost-effective ways of producing products and components.  With a better collaboration with suppliers on the networks, the companies can even invent a new product or services and create a new business model. Finding new sources of supply in a global operating environment is exponentially easier with a business network.

Procurement Leading the Digital Transformation

This enhanced visibility and insights in supply chain through data may have once seemed a luxury, but business networks and the technology underlying them make it easier to achieve today. Procurement organisations that embrace these ideas can continue their digital transformation journey and lead their companies to new worlds of operational and performance excellence.

Pat McCarthy will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. For more information and to request an invitation to this leading CPO event, click here.  

To Appreciate the Value of Digital Networks, Look to the Skies…

How are digital networks providing greater visibility and helping to achieve savings by making risk more manageable? 

On route to a recent conference on how procurement networks are reshaping the aviation industry, I realised how amazing it was to be arriving in the historic city of Athens, the cradle of Western civilisation. My enthusiasm owes not only to the city’s timeless beauty, though that’s reason enough to visit. Athens, it turns out, is ideally suited for such a gathering because it holds a unique place in the imagination for all of us who’ve ever wanted to fly.

When you’re fortunate enough to have as many Greek family members as I do, you learn about the ancient legends. So the fable of Icarus is well known to me.

Icarus, of course, was an early aviator. He looked to the birds and thought, “Why not me?” So he constructed a set of wings using wax and feathers. But his father warned him not to fly too close to the sun as the wax would not tolerate the heat. As we all know, Icarus declined to follow his dad’s advice — and, as he soared skyward, his wings began to melt. Icarus crashed back down to Earth.

What’s the moral of the story? Some people say Icarus was too ambitious, too proud, too single-minded. They say he flew too high.

But I believe Icarus had a different problem. Now, I may not be an expert on classical antiquity. Yet I believe Icarus could have been much more successful — he could have built much stronger, sturdier wings — if he’d only had a better supply chain!

In all seriousness, when it comes to aviation in our own time, there’s no mythology about it: The industry faces immense opportunities but also enduring challenges. High demand and low interest rates have fueled significant growth in recent years. Air transport has doubled in volume every fifteen years, with no end in sight. Aircraft keeps getting more reliable, more efficient, more technologically advanced. But high fixed costs and fierce competition are facts of life for airlines.

That’s why controlling costs spells the difference between success and failure, in every economic climate. To control costs, airlines are turning to technology to improve operations and the customer experience in four main ways: increasing real-time visibility and control, optimising efficiencies across business functions, enhancing service offerings, and deepening customer loyalty through personalisation and rewards programs.

In aviation, we’ve moved from wax and feathers to variable-intake turbofan engines and intelligent avionics. Yet in other respects, the industry remains largely unchanged. After all, the very same factors drive profits year after year:

  • Revenue per passenger kilometer flown. How do airlines engage with customers to generate revenue premiums? Data, of course, plays a key role. What do they know about the passenger in seat 11C?
  • Load factor. How do airlines optimise their routes, aircraft and services to ensure maximum lift per weight? Here again, data proves essential.
  • Unit cost per available seat kilometer. How do airlines maximize efficiency and minimise costs? As with the other factors, the right data leads to the right outcome — for passengers, shareholders, and the environment.

Meanwhile, as airlines seek to optimise value, safety and support while improving the passenger experience, they need to be able to track and manage every part and every piece of equipment. Naturally, it helps to do so when airlines can also track and manage the suppliers of those parts and equipment.

In an industry like aviation, where risk management is so crucial — risks ranging from weather to regulation to commodity prices to exchange rates — savings become essential. Digital networks achieve savings by making risk more manageable. By providing visibility into the interconnected operations of airlines and their suppliers, cloud-based procurement platforms help to identify and resolve issues before they arise, aided by machine learning and artificial intelligence applications.

In addition, digital networks enable trading partners to collaborate on product design and service delivery, thus creating mutual value, extending competitive advantage for their organisations, and empowering them to reimagine not only the airline industry’s future but procurement’s role in shaping it. In the aviation business, real-time collaboration with one’s suppliers unleashes innovation and spurs growth. More often than not, success arises through partnership.

Seldom do we succeed when flying solo.

Continue reading To Appreciate the Value of Digital Networks, Look to the Skies…

Procurement with Purpose: Beyond the Bottom Line

How can you embrace the notion of procurement with purpose authentically and in ways that are consistent with your core beliefs and ideals?

Sustainability improves the bottom line, and companies can do good while doing well.

In fact, research shows that purpose-driven companies with strong performance in environmental, social, and governance outperform the market by 4.8 per cent. But this is not “new” news.

So what is different now that makes purpose more vitally important? It comes down to transparency and trust.

In many segments of life, trust is at an all-time low. The swarm of misinformation, slanted stories and editorials, and paid reviews have continued to foster these low levels of trust. This presents a unique challenge to companies.

How do companies and we as leaders embrace the notion of purpose authentically?

How do we do so in ways that are consistent with our core beliefs and ideals?

How do we “walk the walk” and not just talk the talk?

In the past, business leaders might have defined their goals as “increasing profits for shareholders and owners.” Now leading companies are beginning to recognise that this is only part of the equation. They see the bigger picture and are taking on a higher mission to make the world a better place to live and work. They are finding new ways to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. Gaining (or regaining) trust will happen through transparent action that demonstrates a commitment to creating a more purpose driven business environment.

Purchasing with Purpose

Those of us in procurement have a unique opportunity to lead the way. With increasing frequency, companies are redefining their supply chains and buying from suppliers who support, for example, people with disabilities or are female led. Companies want to know that no forced labor is being used by their suppliers, and their supplier’s suppliers, and all the way back up the value stream. Procurement is in the unique position to address these issues and have an incredible impact.

Collectively, the Global 2000 spend $12 trillion on goods and services annually. By tying their purchases to purposes, these companies can take a stand and drive ethical behavior across the supply chain. And technology exists to make this possible. The key is to get started. Business networks, for instance, provide transparency and insights into supply chains that enable companies to ensure they are acting in responsible ways.

Take SAP Ariba, the world’s largest business network. Leveraging historical and real-time purchasing data, supplier intelligence, and network insights, along with data and services from third parties like Made in a Free World, procurement can shine a light on materials, regions, and suppliers to ensure they are meeting the organisation’s standards.

Through a link between SAP Ariba Discovery, a global business matching service, and the ConnXus Database, buyers can tap a wider pool of minority, woman, LGBT and veteran-owned businesses and enable global supply chains that are more responsible, sustainable and inclusive. Extending our network even more, we’ve partnered with Nicole Verkindt, founder of OMX, to help our customers analyse the economic impact of their spend in industries such as international defense, aerospace, oil & gas, mining, automotive and construction industries.

But it doesn’t stop there. SAP Ariba is a sponsor of the UN Global Compact’s Decent Work in Global Supply Chain Action Platform. The UN developed the Action Platforms to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Action Platforms offer a systematic solution to sustainable development challenges through new fostering innovation, developing new financial models, and identifying sustainable solutions across a range of issues. As a Platform Sponsor for the Decent Work and Global Supply Chain Action Platform, SAP Ariba has deepened our commitment to driving purpose across the global supply chain.

Procurement professionals will always be responsible for doing more with less and for delivering value to our organizations. And we can do even more than that.

There’s real power in purpose. It inspires us. It moves us. It enables us to reimagine and to reinvent what is possible and to achieve great things. It is also one of the greatest challenges issued to business leaders today. Join us in taking it up. Together, we can make a difference.

Sign up for #FeeltheLove on 14th February – the first Procurious and SAP Ariba Procure with Purpose webinar .