All posts by Procurious HQ

5 Ways To Achieve Marginal Gains In Procurement

By Eugene Onischenko / Shutterstock

At the Big Ideas Summit 2019, Justin Sadler-Smith, Head of UK & Ireland, Procurement & Supply Chain at SAP Ariba shared his view of procurement in an insightful and thought-provoking presentation.

Among the issues that Justin talked about was an ever-decreasing time for procurement to react to the changing market environment and put actionable strategies in place. Because if procurement isn’t fit for purpose, not delivering against stakeholder expectations, then there is the potential for huge, negative impact from a brand and shareholder perspective.

There is a whole mix of uncertainties which are causing people to reassess how they are doing business and then ultimately doing it in a different way. Organisations, and procurement as part of them, need to be looking at what we are doing tomorrow and reinvent ourselves to become more competitive than they have been in the past.

As part of this Justin talked about an issue that is fast becoming a key for procurement to take account of and account for in its day-to-day operations. And that is leaving behind a positive legacy. Here is Justin explaining it in his own words:

Faster Reactions, Greater Purpose

When it comes to procuring with purpose, procurement professionals around the world need to be able to react quicker to changes in order to set the foundation for the legacy we should all be leaving behind.

Justin argued during his presentation that it’s almost as if procurement is in a race. In simple terms, those who are fastest to react, fastest to respond to changing demands are those who will win. It might not even be procurement who are the ones triumphing in the race, and that could spell the end for procurement as we know it.

The issue here is that many procurement professionals just haven’t been trained to do this. Without adequate training, much like an Olympic athlete, or Tour de France rider, there is no chance of being able to meet these demands and deliver what is required.

How do procurement professionals get trained up then? There’s no use knowing that there is a need to change unless there is willingness to do so, as well as more support to implement it.

Help is at hand, however, from an unexpected source. When Sir David Brailsford became Performance Director at British Cycling, he came up with the idea of breaking down the individual aspects of a race and then improving them one by one. The notion of ‘marginal gains’, was that a number of small, 1 per cent, improvements would collectively add up to a major competitive advantage.

It was this thinking that helped British Cycling dominate on the track at successive Olympic Games between 2004 and 2012, and then Team Sky/Ineos win seven of the last either Tours de France (not to mention other events and Grand Tours).

How then do we take this concept and apply it to procurement? Justin has shared his thoughts on this, helpfully broken down into five key areas.

Marginal Gains in Procurement

  1. Data – Where is data stored within your organisation and how easy is it for you to get it? How is HR data incorporated in your function? You need to look after people – those who own the data – as this is the life-blood of the organisation and you need to make the breadth and depth of your data valuable and usable.
  2. Productivity – procurement can drive this in an organisation by looking at different areas of automation that probably haven’t been looked at before. For example, how many people are really looking at AI as a way to change their organisation, without worrying about the spectre of job losses?
  3. Innovation – this is the concept of co-innovation by working in collaboration with suppliers to building differentiation. For this you need to get closer to your supplier base and remove any barriers to working closely with the right suppliers.
  4. Purpose – what do we mean by purpose? It’s the idea of driving social responsibility through supply chains at multiple levels. This is well beyond a tick box exercise now – it’s a must for good business as well as for making a better world. The idea runs beyond risk mitigation and focuses more on building value through sustainability.
  5. Well-being – people are living in a much more stressful period globally. However, by driving these needs and having a purpose, it can change the game when it comes to how people operate and feel. For procurement, this means attracting, retaining and caring for their top talent and nurturing their people.

Procure with Purpose

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Click here to enrol and gain access to  all future Procure with Purpose events including exclusive content, online events and regular webinars.

How Prepared Is Procurement For The Arrival Of The Tech Disruptors?

If A.I. can’t tell the difference between an apple and an owl, can it really take over our jobs?

By PandG/ Shutterstock

The future has arrived. Technology trends have moved from being forecasted, to disruptors to being, well…here! But how prepared is procurement to step up to the challenge? Will procurement evolve to incorporate and embrace these technologies or will we miss the opportunity to be the next Spotify or Uber.

In this article we take a look under the hood at some of the “it” crowd and see how tech disruptors can be repositioned to be enablers.

Automation

Automation has often been referenced as the reason for mass job losses and replacement of people in the workforce. Is this a realistic view of what automation is?

Automation refers to the systemisation of processes to create efficiencies. It is a programme that executes a particular task that is typically something that is repetitive and monotonous (as opposed to A.I. which is mimicking multiple tasks and is attempts to apply causation responses).

Automation can be used to replace menial tasks and ultimately release people to do other things that are more worthy of their time. Automation can help people to repurpose their time and spend it in other areas of their job that can add more value to the business, like stakeholder engagement for example. This repurposed time enables people to focus on the strategic aspects of their role rather than being purely reactive and task orientated.

Blockchain

Blockchain is effectively a filing cabinet in the cloud. It records transactions (a “block”) and each block forms part of a chain. The chain becomes a valuable information source and creates a collective environment where everyone can access everything. It is this network that can revolutionize how we experience things as it can connect previously unconnected parts of a supply chain.

Some examples include customers being able to trace coffee beans used in their morning brew from plantation to cup. Or the ability to trace the cacao plant to a single chocolate bar.  Procurement could utilise this technology to link supply chains like never before and provide true customer centric solutions (be it internal or external customers).

The applications are endless, but are we ready for it? What steps are procurement taking to ready themselves for potential new ways of working?

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)

This is perhaps the biggest tech taboo of all, the ultimate fear mongering scenario. The term A.I. can imply to some people that technology will be able to create its own intelligence and that the intelligence may keep on evolving – ruling humans obsolete. This is not correct! A.I. technology requires humans to tell it what the world is. Humans are required to create the codes, algorithms and software that make it work.

There are many things that A.I. automation algorithms can’t always get right, like the infamous owl vs apple fail. A.I. requires a human to tell it what is an owl and what is an apple but there are certain subtleties of being human that simply can’t be trained.

While this provides a hearty belly laugh at the expense of the technology, it helps to demonstrate the gulf that exists between A.I. being able to realistically replace humans. A.I. is not a threat to all people in the workforce.

A.I. can be used to enhance the customer experience for example chatbots. It can also be used to programme population of key contract information instead of someone having to manually type it out. The application for A.I. in procurement would create huge efficiencies to enable us to get on with the real work.

Cryptocurrency

The advent of bitcoin changed the basic concept of how we view money. It combined an old world concept with new wave technology. It didn’t burn out or fade away it is still going strong.

The advent of cryptocurrency helps to pose the question of what could be the bitcoin of the future?

Will procurement be able to trade online for goods and services? Why not! It was impossible to imagine bitcoin taking off many years ago and look where it is now. Will contracts for goods and services be required? If the divide between the supply and buyer side of the fence is dissolving then what purpose will contracts serve in the future.

Sore head?

If you have tech overwhelm, don’t worry. This is all you need to remember:

  1. Humans won’t be replaced any time soon
  2. Technology is here and if you haven’t noticed, you’re probably about to be bypassed
  3. Procurement needs to up its game with the incorporation of technology and see it as an enabler
  4. Creative thinking is the precursor to adopting and utilising technology effectively. Release people from menial tasks and engage them in different areas of the business

4 Steps For Sourcing Pros To Win The Hearts Of Marketers

There are four steps sourcing professionals can take to win the hearts and minds of their marketing colleagues…

By 4 PM production/ Shutterstock

“Once upon a time, Martians [men] and Venusians [women] met, fell in love, and had happy relationships together because they respected and accepted their differences. Then they came to Earth and amnesia set in: they forgot they were from different planets.” “And since that day men and women have been in conflict.” 

These passages from John Gray’s best-seller “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” could be applied to procurement and marketing. It can seem at times as if they are from different planets.  And the result is a relationship that is often tenuous at best. Marketers see procurement as an overbearing watchdog that must be kept on as tight a leash as possible. Meanwhile, many sourcing professionals view marketing as the poster child for undisciplined spending. This disconnect exists because of fundamental differences between the two functions. They have different goals and objectives, different mindsets and different business cultures.  So, is there a way to bridge the gap between procurement and marketing? Improving the relationship ultimately requires the commitment of both sourcing professionals and marketers, but there are four steps sourcing professionals can take to win the hearts and minds of their marketing colleagues.       

These passages from John Gray’s best-seller “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” could be applied to procurement and marketing. It can seem at times as if they are from different planets.  And the result is a relationship that is often tenuous at best. Marketers see procurement as an overbearing watchdog that must be kept on as tight a leash as possible. Meanwhile, many sourcing professionals view marketing as the poster child for undisciplined spending. This disconnect exists because of fundamental differences between the two functions. They have different goals and objectives, different mindsets and different business cultures.  So, is there a way to bridge the gap between procurement and marketing? Improving the relationship ultimately requires the commitment of both sourcing professionals and marketers, but there are four steps sourcing professionals can take to win the hearts and minds of their marketing colleagues.       

1. Make the Goals and Objectives of Marketing Job One  

The starting point for sourcing professionals is to recognize that marketing is all about revenue growth. Marketers live and breathe revenue growth and other growth-related objectives. As a result, they tend to value effectiveness over efficiency when thinking about marketing programs and investments. This creates a potential flashpoint with sourcing professionals, who are trained to focus on cost efficiency.  So it’s critical for sourcing professionals to position their role in the right way. They need to make it clear that they understand that marketing’s goals and objectives are paramount to the company’s survival, and that the role of procurement is to support marketers’ efforts to achieve those goals and objectives.  

2. Focus on “Optimizing the Budget”  

Marketers often believe that the primary objective of procurement is to cut costs, regardless of the consequences. In contrast, the objective of conscientious marketers is not to spend less, but to spend better. Therefore, it’s important for sourcing professionals to emphasize that their purpose is to help marketers optimize the marketing budget and obtain the greatest possible value from every marketing dollar that is spent.  In fact, it’s a good idea for sourcing professionals to drop the terms “cost cutting” and “cost savings” from their vocabulary entirely when dealing with marketers.  This approach is more than a communication tactic. Most marketing expenditures should be viewed as investments, not as “garden variety” operating expenses. Therefore, they should be evaluated by the return or value they produce, as well as their costs.      

3. Recognize that Marketing is Different 

As a sourcing professional, the second key to building an effective working relationship with marketing is to recognize that the marketing spend category is different from almost every other category that you encounter. Then you need to make sure that your marketing colleagues know that you know they’re different. What separates marketing from most other spend categories is the degree to which intangible and subjective factors play an important role in purchase decisions. When marketers are selecting an agency, for example, two of the most important factors in the selection process are how well each prospective agency understands their company’s brand and the quality of each prospective agency’s creative work. Both of these factors are intangible, and they must be evaluated subjectively. This is a case where proposal cost and the results on a vendor scorecard are less important than other factors in the ultimate purchase decision. There are also, however, some types of marketing purchases that are suitable for typical procurement processes. One example is the purchase of printed marketing materials. Advances in print production technologies have transformed printing from a craft to a manufacturing process. So it’s now possible to obtain work of comparable quality from several commercial printing firms. It addition, the specifications for printed products can be defined in detail, which makes it easy to compare proposals from multiple printing firms. Under these circumstances, obtaining competitive bids from a group of pre-vetted printing firms is just good practice and helps ensure that marketing is buying printed materials at competitive prices. The important point here is that sourcing professionals must recognize that many marketing purchase decisions will not follow typical procurement norms, and they must be prepared to adjust their expectations and processes accordingly.       

4. Land and Expand  

In any relationship, it takes time to develop trust and confidence, especially if some level of skepticism exists when the relationship begins. Therefore, when sourcing professionals first begin to work with marketing, it’s important to take a “land and expand” approach.  By land and expand, I mean that sourcing professionals should first seek to work with marketing on “low risk” purchases. Marketers may perceive purchases as low risk because of the dollars involved, or because the transactions don’t have major or long-term strategic importance. Once the working relationship is established – and once trust and confidence have developed – sourcing professionals will have a better chance to become involved with larger and/or more strategic purchases.  Sourcing professionals and marketers can build a productive working relationship if they make the effort to understand each other. If they are willing to respect each other’s legitimate goals and objectives, the four steps I’ve just described will enable sourcing professionals to jump start the relationship and build a successful joint outcome. 

This article was originally published on Future of Sourcing.

Procurement Experts Outlook 2019

An interview with the Senior Research Director at The Hackett Group, Jimmy LeFever.


By Billion Photos / Shutterstock

Welcome to Zycus Procurement Experts Outlook 2019. In this interview, we have Senior Research Director, Procurement Advisory Practice at The Hackett Group, Jimmy LeFever.

Zycus: What is the most prominent trend visible in 2019?

Jimmy LeFever: Digital transformation is the ruling trend which Procurement has to continue focusing on to develop strategic roadmaps. While some organizations have significantly outperformed others, some organizations have are fast gearing up for digital transformation.

Zycus: As you mentioned, digital transformation does give an organization an edge over others. What is it that best-in-class organizations do differently to stay ahead of the curve?

Jimmy: Best-in-class organisations have a focus on talent and skills. They are rethinking their approach to attract talent, invest in development, and plan better retention strategies. Some organizations are even beginning to create new roles, e.g., procurement-specific data scientists and digital specialists. Many organizations have implemented advanced data, analytics, and visualization tools. The focus on digital skills is as strong as the focus on storytelling and explaining complex concepts helping businesses find the right market solution.

Zycus:  Do you mean that along with attracting the right talent pool, organizations should also focus on talent retention to benefit in the long run?

Jimmy LeFever: Absolutely! I can see more and more companies focusing on stakeholder experience. This means Procurement is going beyond delivering primary responsibilities to the stakeholder and moving towards improving the stakeholder experience via streamlined processes and promoting the wellbeing of the business.

Zycus:  Most people consider procurement, tactical and technical. But when you talk about stakeholder experience, it is beyond technology and strategy. Do you think Procurement requires rebranding?

Jimmy LeFever: The brand perception that Procurement has is myopic around savings and savings alone. Such knowledge holds people back from seeing the strategic impact procurement can have in the organization’s overall objective. The function can play a massive part in making the organization more agile during times of unpredictable changes. However, to change this perception of a rigid, slow, and tactical function, Procurement needs to take a few steps in the direction of rebranding itself.

Zycus: Procurement’s scope of work is changing and expanding, but the image transition hasn’t been proportional to this. What are some things Procurement can do to rebrand or reinvent its image in an organization?

Jimmy LeFever: First and foremost, organizations should strive to build a strong brand identity, brand value, and brand goal. Then, all the teams should work in sync to deliver the goal. For example, many organizations are moving towards more sustainable ways of doing business. As supply-chain and procurement professionals, we can provide that brand value by adopting a sustainable procurement model. Such a change in behavior will significantly impact both the global economy as well as the environment.

Zycus: Since we are talking about sustainability, what suggestions do you have for procurement teams when they look into the market for a source-to-pay provider?

Jimmy LeFever: My suggestion will be that they should select a vendor who can make a difference by employing rigorous standards. They should look out for providers who can assess the way they operate and do business, and affect their local communities and the environment. Many organizations are also looking to grow their supplier diversity programs to be more inclusive of underrepresented groups within their supply base.

A provider with stringent practices and standards will be impactful when measured consistently. Benchmarking is another way, a systematic method of regular monitoring to discover best practices and improve continuously. As you’re probably aware, The Hackett Group is the leader when it comes to process and technology benchmarking. For Procurement, it is to critical benchmark and measure to identify problem areas, weak links, and modification and debugging of the current strategy.

Zycus: What are procurement benchmark metrics that a procurement leader should track to measure his team’s performance effectively?

Jimmy LeFever: The two primary measurements that have long been at the forefront are the cost of Procurement and the cost savings that Procurement can achieve. For procurement leaders, those should continue as great metrics.

Zycus: We often see Procurement Leaders focused on just savings as a holistic parameter to measure performance effectively. Do you think the result garnered would be the complete picture? What other things can we consider?

Jimmy LeFever: Yes, organizations overlook two other metrics. I have already discussed stakeholder experience, and the second one is ROI. ROI is an excellent performance measure because it looks at cost and cost savings holistically. Stakeholder experience is a little tricky because it isn’t easily quantifiable. What can drive value for the business is to acknowledge Procurement’s role aligned with business objectives. Focusing on cost savings alone will rarely line up to meet the broader goal.

Zycus: As we conclude, what are the three things procurement leaders should start/stop doing in 2019 to achieve the goals you have informed us?

Jimmy LeFever: First, stop pushing out information that nobody cares. Second, stop focusing on just savings and widen your scope. Third, for an organization to value Procurement’s efforts, staff should be aligned with the business objectives.


From this interview, we can conclude that if Procurement has any directive this year, it is to widen its horizon! And to do so, organizations need to-

  • Move from tactical to strategic, which is more value-based
  • Align goals with their brand value
  • Adopt sustainable Procurement

Following these three will not only rebrand Procurement’s image as a strategic partner but will also increase its impact and value within the organization.


Read our latest eBook “Procurement Experts Outlook 2019” to gain more insights into what eight other experts predict for the procurement future.

Procurement Can . . .

To focus on savings alone is to sell procurement short and miss out on its potentially game-changing capabilities.

A good procurement team can save your business money. This goes without saying. Savings are for procurement what risk mitigation is for legal, innovation is for R&D, and new business is for sales. They’re table stakes, just the very beginning of what a well-equipped and well-staffed function should offer the organisation. To focus on savings alone is to sell procurement short and miss out on its potentially game-changing capabilities.

While reducing costs remains the top priority for today’s procurement teams, it’s high time for the function to evolve its objectives and diversify its value proposition. With visibility across the global supply chain, procurement is perfectly equipped to address the monumental concerns that plague the business world. Labour violations, pollution, animal rights, and ethics – they’re all issues as relevant to procurement as cycle times and pricing.

Simply put, procurement is capable of more than saving money. It’s capable of saving lives and it might just help us save the planet.

Procurement Can . . . Save Lives

Stopping Forced Labor

It’s appalling that, in 2019, forced labor is still endemic across various global supply chains. What’s worse is that the United States imports more “at risk” products than any other country in the world. According to the Global Slavery Index, the U.S. brought in more than $144 billion of these products and commodities. They report that electronics, fish, cocoa, garments, and natural resources like gold and timber present an especially high risk.

On a more hopeful note, the nation’s score on the Government Response Index ranks behind just the Netherlands. Still, with as many as 400,000 modern slavery victims within its borders, it’s clear the United States must do more. The scope of the forced labor crisis is such that companies in nearly every industry are touched by it in some capacity. Due diligence has grown both increasingly imperative and increasingly challenging. Organizations like Rip Curl and Badger Sportswear present recent examples of what can happen when an American business fails to gain and sustain visibility across the globe.

Methods for assessing suppliers, monitoring their behavior, and addressing violations must all evolve. It’s more dangerous than ever to settle for a low price or select a provider based on an incomplete set of considerations.  Supplier capacity, for example, is a more nuanced issue than Procurement may have previously considered it. Under-resourced suppliers might partner with unscrupulous organizations if they’re faced with demand that outstrips expectations. The onus also falls on procurement to provide better, more accurate forecasts to avoid such a situation. Data won’t just provide the means to secure better pricing and anticipate consumer tastes, but to eliminate human rights violations.

Forced labor is a shared issue that requires a shared response. It’s up to organisations who purchase high-risk commodities or operate in high-risk regions to collaborate with their competitors. Joining groups like the garment industry’s Fair Labor Association or the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, they can elevate industry wide standards and recognize organizations for setting particularly excellent (or particularly poor) examples.

Supporting Disaster Relief

Few things keep supply chain managers up at night like the specter of extreme weather. As an increasingly volatile climate threatens shipping lanes, roads, and storage facilities, disaster preparedness has become a year-round concern – even for organizations that do not operate in “high risk” areas. In 2018, hurricanes alone caused more than $50 billion in damages throughout the Americas.

Crucially, it’s not just the business world that suffers when hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters strike. Damaged roads and lost power leave consumers without access to necessities like clean drinking water and medications. Sometimes they’re without these essentials for months at a time. Beyond repairing their own supply chains, well-prepared procurement teams can participate in a broader, more socially responsible form of disaster relief.

Accurate, proactive forecasting makes it possible for businesses to continue serving their communities even in the wake of natural disasters. In addition to avoiding disruptions of their own, they’ll ensure consumers experience minimal disruption. Remember, supply chain hiccups are often more deadly than natural disasters themselves. This was the case when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico back in 2017. Experts estimate the vast majority of deaths were caused by interruptions to the supply chain for health care and life-saving medicines. In a sense, disaster relief efforts failed because of “final mile” complications.

Evolving technologies will prove essential for extending these supply chains and mitigating the human cost of extreme weather. Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) promise to play an especially active role. While drone-based deliveries for food or Amazon packages tend to dominate the headlines, recent pilot tests suggests they may soon serve a higher purpose. In the aftermath of Maria, non-profit Direct Relief partnered with Merck, AT&T, and other providers to test the viability of medication delivery drones. The drones provide temperature-controlled storage for sensitive materials and come equipped with real-time monitoring to adjust their flight paths as necessary. With each party providing their own expertise and resources, the pilot tests provide a case study in socially responsible collaboration.

Procurement Can . . . Do More                                                                                                                            

In the past, organisations may have neglected to invest in sustainable and responsible initiatives. The fear of higher costs and harder work likely stayed their hands. Businesses need to stop asking whether or not they can afford to behave ethically. They should ask, instead, how much longer they can afford not to. More and more, consumers are growing tired of inaction. They’ve also grown increasingly wary of inauthenticity. Where simple greenwashing might have sufficed in the past, new generations of consumer are increasingly skeptical and unforgiving when it comes to corporate behavior. The most recent Deloitte Millennial survey found that a quarter of young consumers don’t consider business leaders trustworthy, less than half consider them ethical. They’re not the only ones. Across every generation, the desire for ethical, responsible business practices has evolved into a demand.

In my next blog, I’ll look at how procurement teams across the globe can (and already do) lead the way on sustainability. Eliminating plastic, identifying sustainable alternatives, and reducing emissions, the function is equipped to set and enforce a new environmental standard.

In the meantime, why not register as a Digital Delegate for this year’s Big Ideas Summit Chicago? You’ll enjoy the chance to sit in on thought leadership presentations from some of the Supply Chain’s most thoughtful, innovative, and successful professionals – all without leaving your desk. 

Human Rights Falter In Grey Areas Of Procurement Policy

Workers are often the victims when there are gaps in legal procurement and ethical procurement, but businesses nowadays have a lot to lose as the lines between profit and social conscience are no longer so easily defined… 

Back in 2010, rotten Apple stories started flashing up on smartphones everywhere. Forget tales of environmental unsustainability, these concerned social injustice: poor pay, unhealthy conditions and worryingly low levels of worker welfare. Then came the shocking news of staff suicides.

Attention focused on a prime link in the Apple supply chain: a vast 1.4-square-mile megafactory complex owned and run by Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese multinational contract-manufacturing company, specialising in electronics.

Dubbed ‘Foxconn City’, the mini metropolis housed almost half a million workers on a giant industrial park in Shenzhen, China.

Fast forward to 2019 and Apple is still sourcing from Foxconn, across various sites. The roll-call of Foxconn manufacturing, present and past, still reads like a who’s who of the tech world, and includes other monster brands such as Google, Huawei, Microsoft and Sony, to name but a few.

So, given that Apple was soon to become the first public company on the planet worth $1 trillion, how did it get embroiled in such a dubious ethical sourcing saga in the first place, plus seemingly fail to crisis-manage its public relations effectively when the story broke?

The simple, grim fact is that Apple and the tech community are by no means alone in this. The recent history of procurement by global consumer brands is littered with the reputational detritus of bad ethics and selective legality.

Fast fashion, in particular, has struggled to keep its name out of incriminating headlines, with ethical procurement issues ranging from ongoing stories around ‘dirty’ cotton, through ‘cry for help’ labels sewn into high street clothes, to the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, where 1,134 lost their lives.

Sourcing scandals also continue to flood out of food and agriculture. Ethical issues served up for public consumption range from TV exposés of supermarket chicken suppliers tampering with ‘kill dates’, to the abuse of water rights by industrial-scale avocado farmers in Chile.

Across all sectors and societies, employment remains the most mapped, but least navigable, legal and ethical intersection.

Figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO), released most recently in 2017, revealed that more than 40 million people worldwide were in modern slavery in 2016, including around 25 million in forced labour. Of those in forced labour, some 16 million were being exploited in the private sector. Furthermore, there were more than 152 million estimated victims of child labour, almost half of whom were aged between 5 and 11.

Ethical procurement is essentially a people business, affecting lives and livelihoods, for good or ill, says group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), Cath Hill.

“Applying rigorous ethical standards to your supply chain is not just about compliance or completing necessary paperwork, but implementing good governance and preventing exploitation of human beings across the globe for the sake of profit,” she says.

In international waters, though, standardisation is a slippery fish.

If not a definitive and demonstrable difference, often at least, there exists a commercial and cultural tension between the norms of legal and ethical procurement. Discrepancies abound in a grey area between the two disciplines and, if unchecked and unpoliced, carve out a policy gap where human rights fall down.

Legal standards can lag behind best practice, especially in relation to global companies with complex supply chains, explains Martin Buttle, strategic lead for general merchandise at the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).

“A company that meets local labour laws in one country could still breach international minimum standards. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights make it clear that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights even in countries where national law is weak, or poorly enforced,” he says.

Based on ILO conventions, the internationally recognised ETI Base Code of labour standards has been designed to tackle exactly this kind of cross-border inconsistency and jumble of jurisdictions, representing a commitment to ensure all workers are free from exploitation and discrimination, paid a living wage and enjoy conditions of safety, security and equity.

Stepping out of the moral maze for a moment, there are also many bottom-line business-case benefits to be gained by adopting such an ethical approach, suggests Mr Buttle: “It can maintain the supply of goods, increase productivity and quality, and enhance a company’s reputation with its customer base, which is increasingly expected by consumers.”

However, it is often the pressure of competitive marketplaces and overly aggressive procurement practices or pricing policies that result in damaging knock-on effects, he says.

“Brands should understand how their actions impact on their suppliers’ ability to uphold labour rights. For example, a company with poor purchasing practices, such as unrealistic deadlines or unit prices, can cause challenges for its suppliers, leading to increased risk of poor wages and excessive working hours. This is particularly the case if a supplier feels forced to accept orders below the cost of production to win contracts.”

All too often, there is little communication and accountability, says Alex Saric, smart procurement expert at Ivalua: “Cost is the only discussion point and data isn’t shared effectively, while risk and CSR assessments can be a ‘tick-box’ exercise, meaning transparency initiatives end up half-baked.”

Weaknesses notwithstanding, big brands can still set a positive agenda for supplier behaviour, beyond compliance. “If suppliers see that being responsible is more likely to win them a contract, ethical practices change from a minimum requirement to a valuable key differentiator. They must operate sustainably, or face losing out to more ethical competitors,” Mr Saric says.

While any ethical shift is relatively slow and undoubtedly late, legislative momentum is only pushing in one direction and businesses would do well to watch this space closely, suggests Lee Rubin, counsel and global sourcing expert at international law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

“When it comes to lawmaking, legal and ethical considerations are merging, typified by the Modern Slavery Act. While not all sections of the Act are directly applicable to business, the provision around ‘transparency in supply chains’ impacts the largest brands and companies.”

Serious money is also flowing more towards the good and the green, adds Mr Buttle: “Many investors understand that poor human rights practices in the supply chain can put their investment at risk. With a growing interest in social impact, we are starting to see the investment community influencing business decisions.”

All in all, this collective chorus calling for ethical procurement is simply becoming too important to ignore, says Ms Hill: “It is not only the right thing to do, but also the lines between profit and social conscience are no longer so easily defined. News travels fast and bad news travels at lightning speed.”

The heat is most definitely on, says Shaun McCarthy, director at leaders in sustainable procurement Action Sustainability: “These days the court of public opinion is an unforgiving place and brands need to be aware they are playing with fire when it comes to ethical procurement.”

Ultimately, therefore, brands that muddy transparency, frustrate traceability and neglect communications get burned, concludes retail expert and consumer champion Martin Newman: “Consumers will shop with their feet and their mouse. If you pay this lip service or they think you’re being disingenuous, they will not only not buy now, they’ll never come back; and they’ll tell all their friends and family about it.”

This article, edited by Jim McClelland, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times. 

4 Terms We Should Ban In Procurement

We asked a number of procurement leaders to reveal the procurement term they would most like to ban, for good!

Every procurement professional has a different opinion on the terms that should and shouldn’t be used in their day-to-day working lives. Some terms are loathed because they undervalue the huge contributions procurement make to the organisation. Others are just downright confusing to anyone unfamiliar with procurement lingo.

Because we quite like a healthy debate, we asked a number of procurement leaders to reveal the procurement term they would most like to ban, for good!

1. Cost-cutters

“This is something I really feel is doing a discredit to the profession – it’s very important we are being seen as value-adding procurement people.”

Amelle Mestari, Head of Procurement – Bouygues Energies & Services

“We’ve been spending a lot of time reeducating the business around the extra value we bring so it’s not simply about getting a better unit price it’s about the wider value we can bring to the organisation.”

Gemma Bell, Head of Purchasing – L’Oreal

2. Savings Targets

“Sure, Procurement has to reduce costs and be financially motivated but you don’t see many organisations mission statements being to save money. Nowadays it’s crucial that procurement is measured on its contribution to delivering organisational goals and not just on savings.”

Chris Cliffe, Director – CJC Procurement



3. RFP

“I think there is still a lot of confusion around RFP as silly as it sounds. It’s something we band about and we know exactly what it means but when you speak to stakeholders it’s always the first thing they ask ‘what is an RFP and what does it mean’ and it actually means different things to different people. So I would there must be a different term we could use or a different way we could articulate what that particular process is.”

Chris Emberton, CPO – Clifford Chance

“If I’m going to speak to one of my stakeholders, if they don’t understand the language I’m speaking, how on earth is that going to help me in the business.”

Lucy Bunting, Head of Procurement

4. Negotiation

“It’s what everyone assumes we do and I think it comes to a point where you always get the hospital pass at the end of the day when someone says ‘I need you to negotiate this’ – so it means you’ve done something wrong.

Matt Beddoe, Head of Procurement – Nestle

These responses were obtained from attendees at Big Ideas Summit London earlier this year. If you’re a procurement leader and you’d like to get involved with similar discussions and networking at Big Ideas Chicago on 18th September, we’d love to have you there!

Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019

It’s never too late to take control of your procurement career. And what better way to do so than spending a day with the profession’s best and brightest minds. 

At Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019 we’ll be joined by 50 thought leaders to discuss how to set yourself apart from the pack, the neuroscience of decision-making, the evolving relationship between human and machine and procurement with purpose. 

By enrolling as a digital delegate, no matter where you are in the word, you’ll be able to…

  • Follow the day’s action from the comfort of your sofa
  • Submit questions to our speakers and the 50 CPOs who will be in attendance on the day
  • Gain an insight into the future of procurement
  • Watch video footage from the event including exclusive interviews with our speakers and live-streams of the day in action!

How Public Sector Procurement Can Have Social Value

With public sector organisations becoming increasingly aware that their procurement decisions have an impact on local communities, some are rethinking how they award contracts.

By Jacob_09/ Shutterstock

Both private and public sector entities are becoming more interested in how their organisations impact society. Whether it’s in contributing to the community or managing the impact on the environment, organisations recognise they can change their local communities through who they pick to deliver goods or services.

Traditionally, it had been assumed that choosing a supplier that added social value may mean compromising for a sub-standard quality product or service, but views are slowly starting to change.

“They recognise the benefits of working with social enterprises, but are ruled by the need to mitigate risk and deliver efficient and economic services,” says Beth Pilgrim, co-founder of Supply Change.

“Often companies will just go to suppliers they know. What we are trying to explain to the public sector is that adding social value into your supply chain doesn’t have to be difficult or require extra work.”

Ms Pilgrim established Supply Change in 2018 with colleagues Aoise Keogan-Nooshabadi and Verena Wimmer after the trio conducted a series of research studies on the public sector procurement process. They found that while public sector bodies were keen to award contracts to social enterprises, they struggled to do so.

“One of the key themes that came out of our research was that social enterprises struggle to navigate public sector procurement processes,” Ms Pilgrim says. “The existing portals are not really tailored towards them, so they don’t get good visibility.”

In 2013, the UK government’s Social Value Act came into force, obligating public sector bodies to look at the social and environmental benefits of awarding a contract to a supplier, as well as the economic ones.

Heralded as a game-changer by the then-government, the Act has nudged public bodies to look more closely at the attributes of companies bidding to win work.

Despite this, some experts say that the legislation doesn’t go far enough, with a company’s social and environmental points score only accounting for a very small percentage of the overall total, and the outcome weighted towards other factors such as quality and cost.

“A number of leading authorities have recognised this and increased the social value element of their contracts,” says Ed Cross, executive director at procurement advisory group Odesma.

Mr Cross says that upping consideration of social value attributes could be good news for smaller businesses competing for contracts, but adds that the public sector still has some way to go.

“There seems to be a lack of trust in smaller enterprises, particularly social enterprises, from the public sector,” he explains.

“Part of this is down to the false assumption that social enterprises working with volunteers or part-time employees aren’t as reliable as larger organisations with full-time, paid employees.”

Mr Cross’s sentiments are shared by many, who feel that smaller enterprises can often face a real battle just to get an initial foot in the door.

“One of the biggest challenges smaller businesses face when it comes to gaining access to contracts that offer social benefits is the tick-box process of tenders for contracts, as well as how public sector guidelines are inflexible,” says Craig Knowles, marketing manager at procurement software group Market Dojo.

“The tick-box approach often means small businesses that might not fit specific criteria are left at the door before they’ve even been given the chance to prove themselves.

“There needs to be a change in attitude on taking “risks” on small business as many, often wrongly, believe they don’t have resources to work through big tenders when in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Despite widespread concerns that social enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are still missing out on contacts from the public sector, there is evidence of innovation.

Supply Change’s Ms Pilgrim says initiatives at some local authorities show how awarding contracts to smaller, local businesses can be transformative for the local community. She cites Preston in Lancashire as an example.

In 2013, the council brought in external consultants to evaluate whether it would be possible to redirect some of its annual contract-award budget to local businesses which had clear social impact objectives. Since doing so it has stimulated the local economy, putting money into local firms and increasing employment.

“We have seen how that can be a real success story,” says Ms Pilgrim. “Preston has a strategy of spending money within their local economy to build up SMEs, social enterprises and the voluntary sector as much as possible. It has resulted in a turnaround in the local economy.”

Similar projects are now underway across the UK, with Manchester City Council and Birmingham City Council among the larger authorities to consider how they can alter their approaches.

For SMEs and social enterprises looking to get a piece of the action, Malcolm Harrison, group chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, says small firms should play to their strengths.

“SMEs and social enterprises need to work hard to showcase the flexibility, innovation and financial rigour they can provide,” he says.

“To help SMEs, government should do more. Simpler language, less jargon and the chance for an open dialogue all help SMEs to compete with large companies. SMEs can themselves take charge and become more visible to potential contractors, and websites such as Contracts Finder and Compete For can be a great way of finding opportunities.”

One of the biggest challenges smaller businesses face is the tick-box process of tenders for contracts, as well as how public sector guidelines are inflexible.

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times. 

5 Common Interview Mistakes Recruiters Should Overlook

It’s up to the person recruiting to decide whether a mistake is due to anxiety or a sign that the candidate is a bad match for the organisation. Here’s five mistakes you should overlook…

By Esenin Studio/Shutterstock

Nightmares focusing on poor performance at work, especially job interviews, are common among adults in the US – and it’s easy to see why. Job interviews are stressful. Horror stories of interviews gone wrong are all over the internet. While they may be fun to read, it’s not easy to get through a job interview without making at least one mistake. 

What does a “perfect” interview really mean anyway? Interviews have disqualified candidates for everything from being late to “being too attractive.” Candidate error is just one factor in the overall equation; and it’s all too common to make a mistake under pressure. At the end of the day, it’s up to the recruiter to decide whether a mistake is due to anxiety or a sign that the candidate is a bad match for the organization. 

Here are some of the most common, but forgivable, job interview mistakes that recruiters should overlook. 

A candidate sounds rehearsed

Many candidates don’t make it through the first-round interview because they sound too stiff.Recruiters lose interest when a candidate sounds like they’ve memorized their answers. It’s hard to get a good sense of who that person is when they answer questions robotically. 

However, recruiters should consider that the problem isn’t the candidate’s presentation. It’s the questions they’re asking. Candidates apply to dozens of jobs during their search. Eventually, all the interview questions start to sound the same. Recruiters should avoid asking outdated, all too common interview questions that applicants answer at nearly every job interview. 

There’s a certain script that’s easy to fall into. If you find your candidate sounds a bit canned, try a different approach in the next round. 

A candidate talks too much

The opposite of a candidate who sounds rehearsed is a candidate who is too chatty. Anxiety or under-preparation is usually the driver behind a candidate who talks at length. Talking too much is usually seen by recruiters as a red flag – what if a candidate talks too much in a client presentation? Will this person be a distraction when working in teams? 

It’s not necessarily fair to assume that chattiness is a sign of weakness. It could be a sign of under preparation, or it could be a lack of experience: two factors that job training can address. But for recruiters who don’t have time to spend all day in an interview, using a one-way video interview can help. Generally, we’re against putting restrictive timers on pre-recorded videos. What if the candidate has technical difficulties? But, you can set the time to be long enough to account for technical glitches while still cutting down on nervous chatter. 

A candidate immediately responds to an interview request

Some recruiters consider replying to an interview request right away to be a red flag. Likewise, following up “too much” can make a candidate seem needy or desperate. In today’s hyper-connected society, expecting a candidate to wait an appropriate amount of time is a little too selective. 

It could be that a candidate follows up because so few companies are transparent about their process. While talking to your job interviewee, make sure to be upfront about your timeline and next steps. Managing expectations can help prevent any lingering confusion or excessive follow up from your potential new hires. 

A candidate is asking questions “on the fly”

It has become almost cliche for hiring experts to recommend candidates prepare their own questions. Recruiters disqualify candidates who ask questions “on the fly” – but why? Asking questions that are not pre-rehearsed can show genuine interest. A candidate who comes upwith questions on the spot is engaged, paying attention, and quick on their feet. Recruiters should prefer that over a candidate who simply pays lip service to the interview script. 

A candidate doesn’t bring a hard copy of their resume

It’s time to go green! If recruiters want a hard copy of the candidate’s resume, they are capable of printing it out themselves. Some recruiters see this as a sign that the candidate is under-prepared or careless. In reality, many people don’t have access to a printer. It’s an arbitrary ask that recruiters use to disqualify a candidate from making it to the next round. Wouldn’t you rather see an employee show their real-world skills rather than their ability to press print?

This article was written by Emily Heaslip was originally published on vervoe.

3 Ways Procurement Can Make A Lasting Impact On The Organisation

Advanced procurement functions, and the CPOs that lead them, can make a significant and lasting impact on the success of their companies, but only by focusing on the real value and innovation that suppliers can bring…

By Jacob Lund/ Shutterstock

There’s no doubt that procurement enjoys a privileged position in a company’s value chain. Sitting between a network of thousands of suppliers and the business, it has clear visibility of customer need, company strategy and the capabilities that exist in the supply base

From such a position, advanced procurement functions, and the chief procurement officers (CPOs) that lead them, can make a significant and lasting impact on the success of their companies, but only by focusing on the real value and innovation that suppliers can bring and how this can support the organisation’s ultimate value proposition.

To do so, procurement must drive change in three broad areas. Firstly, CPOs must address the procurement operating model so it is better aligned with company strategy and end-customer value. Historically, procurement has segmented third-party spend into categories, from raw materials to office furniture to semiconductors and so on, with the ultimate goal of leveraging scale to reduce price, while also managing risk and quality.

Smart chief executives, however, will be far more interested in how suppliers can enhance the product portfolio to maximise the company’s competitive position in the market. Aligning the supply base around that portfolio will enable supplier innovations to feed more successfully into that goal and ensure collaboration with suppliers is more productive and more focused on value creation.

Of course, this isn’t feasible for every last drop of third-party spending so CPOs must differentiate between core and non-core spend, so 100 per cent of the procurement function’s energy can be applied to those suppliers that really matter.

Secondly, for this to be feasible, CPOs must ensure procurement is a frictionless experience for those in the business who buy as part of their role. Every effort should be made to automate through digital technologies and platforms, so the actual buying process is seamless and efficient.

Robust governance and a sophisticated suite of digital technologies that have been designed with the end-user in mind must underpin such an environment. And the ultimate goal must be to reduce the time and resource spent on non-core products and services, without sacrificing low cost, impacting quality or introducing risk.

This laser-guided focus on execution must be a cross-functional effort, so the right specifications are secured and any savings go straight to the bottom line and are locked into the profit and loss.

Thirdly, the very fundamentals of supply markets continue to evolve. It’s clear an increasing volume of the world’s innovation is being developed outside the walls of large corporates and big, traditional suppliers, with smaller, niche companies and startups working on new technologies and approaches that regularly disrupt traditional, incumbent markets.

Further, these non-traditional players work differently, are more agile, less process led, more open to collaboration and come with large amounts of risk. But despite this, corporates cannot afford to close their doors to the innovation taking place within them.

CPOs must develop the capability to engage with these outliers and engineer how the intellectual property they produce can be introduced into their organisation’s value chain, whether through traditional onboarding as suppliers, technology licensing, collaboration with other suppliers in the network or myriad other potential approaches.

In essence, CPOs must build and exploit supply networks, or ecosystems, capturing value during the collaboration that takes place between third parties at all points in the value chain.

None of this is straightforward and few organisations are even close to making it a reality. To be successful, it demands the support of a visionary chief executive who understands the dynamics at play in the supply base and beyond, as well as a procurement team full of intellectually curious, entrepreneurial and collaborative personalities.

But if done well, procurement will evolve from a position of controller to one of value architect, and one of the most critical functions in any modern corporation able to positively impact revenue, sustainability and profit targets.

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.