All posts by Procurious HQ

Big Ideas From The Procurement Capital of the World

Procurious’ flagship event, the Big Ideas Summit, is landing in Chicago in September – and we want YOU to be involved!

The Big Ideas Summit is landing in the Windy City, and this is your chance to be a part of it! If you can’t join us in Chicago in person on Thursday 28th September (seating is strictly limited to 50 CPO-level attendees), don’t worry – now’s your chance to register as a Digital Delegate!

Why Chicago?

From McDonald’s to Walgreens, Boeing to Motorola, Greater Chicago is home to dozens of Fortune 500 brands. Because it’s the third-largest economy in the U.S., it’s no surprise that it’s also a major hub from American procurement activity. Chicago has more purchasing professionals than most American regions, and has proven to be a magnet for innovative CPOs.

That’s why we’ve chosen Chicago as the first U.S. location for our digitally led procurement think-tank, the Big Ideas Summit! After three successful years in London, the Summit is an interactive, online event where up to 50 senior executives, industry thought-leaders and CPOs come together to connect with digital delegates from across the globe via our social media platform to discuss and test strategies and solutions for real world change.

What’s on the agenda?

Big Ideas Chicago will debate the latest, game-changing issues: global economic and geopolitical shocks, Industry 4.0, harnessing innovation and cognitive technology.

“We are bringing together the top 1%, who are on the leading edge of the profession. We want to crowd-source ideas and push procurement and supply management from the past and into the future,” says Procurious Founder, Tania Seary.

Big Ideas Chicago will feature keynote presentations from:

  • Urbanist, futurist and Author Greg Lindsay will uncover why innovation today is fundamentally social and often the result of engineered serendipity.
  • ISM® CEO Tom Derry, will talk through the five traits you need to be a truly agile and forward-thinking digital CPO.
  • Sibylline CEO Justin Crump will build the case for procurement teams to transform into crack intelligence gatherers.
  • Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf will provide strategies for making complex decisions under great pressure and without a full data-set.
  • Basware Vice President Purchase-to-Pay Eric Wilson will discuss why data is the alpha and omega of Artificial Intelligence.

To quote Uncle Sam…

We want YOU! If you’re a CPO or equivalent and within hailing distance of Chicago, be sure to secure one of the 50 seats available at The Wit Hotel on Thursday 28th September by registering here.

If you’re not quite CPO-level (yet) or based on the other side of the globe, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Simply register for free as a digital delegate on Procurious, and we’ll bring all the Big Ideas from Chicago to you!

As a digital delegate, you’ll be able to access all of the content for free, and at your leisure; whether it’s from your desk, on the go, or in at home with a glass of wine.

By registering as a Digital Delegate, you can …

  • Gain access to insightful discussions via our Big Ideas Summit Chicago group
  • Connect with our influencers and ask questions live on the day of the events
  • Share big ideas for procurement with the Procurious community
  • Follow the day’s events live via our social media channels
  • Access video content from our speakers and attendees on-demand, after the event.

So, what are you waiting for? Register now free of charge as a digital delegate for Big Ideas Chicago!

Please Fire Me: I Just Can’t Quit!

Stuck in a miserable, but well-paid, job you can’t afford to quit? Don’t get yourself into that position in the first place!

Philip H. “hates his life”. Those are his exact words. Specifically, he hates his all-consuming job. The work bores him and he no longer believes in his firm’s mission. The gruelling hours he puts in cost him time with his family that he can never recover.

Here’s the kicker: Phillip earns several million dollars a year heading a major office of a top-tier advisory firm. So, you might ask, why doesn’t he quit?

He’s says he can’t afford to.

There’s a big mortgage on a luxury apartment, and another on the beautiful beach house he and his wife bought two years ago. (“The summer weekends we spend there are the only thing that keep me sane,” he says.) Then there are the three kids—all enrolled at a private school. The eldest will start college in a year; the others will follow soon. Tallying up his obligations, Philip envies his Wall Street friends who earn ten times as much as he does.

A couple of days ago I mentioned this story to a well-known financial columnist. “I hear this all the time,” he said. “Lots of people moan about how miserable they are at work but they can’t see a way out.”

“Boo, hoo,” you might say. “I’d trade places with Philip in a heartbeat.” But would a huge income really make up for feeling horrible about your life?

You might think that you could put up with a few years of misery for the freedom it would buy you. You’d put a lot of money in the bank, and then walk away to do whatever you like: launch a small company, or spend the rest of your days lolling on the beach. Maybe you’d devote the rest of your life to doing good in the world. Whatever your goal, you’d collect your last paycheck and say, “Adios.”

It’s not that easy, though. You wouldn’t make a bundle starting out. You’d have to put in your time first. And when serious money began to come in, it would be tempting to reward yourself creature comforts for all the stresses you endure. The higher you climb the ladder, the harder it will be to leave. Then one day you’d turn around and find yourself in Philip’s unhappy shoes.

It might seem that I’m writing about a problem that affects only a small set of people. But I think Philip’s case illustrates issues that apply wherever you are now in the organisational hierarchy, and whether you love your job or loathe it.

Most work choices aren’t either/or

It’s late in the game for Philip, but assuming a different role in his firm might be rejuvenating. Going on sabbatical might set a great example for other colleagues. By framing his decision as stay-or-go, he’s missing other opportunities.

If you’re unhappy at the office, other people know it

Philip’s negativity must come out sideways. If he hates his own job, how can he be enthusiastic when a colleague lobbies for a new project? A big part of his job is evaluating other people’s performance. His attitude is bound to warp his judgement. (I also worry about what he’s like at home.)

Toughing things out is not a career plan

Somehow Philip drags himself to work every day. Maybe he takes pride in his perseverance. As they say, however, “persisting in the same behavior expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” The way things are headed, he risks getting pushed out by his peers. Maybe that’s his subconscious agenda, but it would be an ugly way to go.

Plan your end game

When you take on a job, set a date when it will be time to move on to something else. You can always revise it one way or another, but it’s usually better to leave a year early than a year too late.

The most important lesson of Philip’s story is not getting into his situation in the first place. If Philip had kept these precepts in mind, he would have been alert to his growing feelings of frustration. At an earlier point, a lateral move to another firm or an entirely different field might have been easier. And if he had allowed for the possibility that the job might get stale, he might not have saddled himself with so much debt. But by the time he realised he was on a treadmill, he had gone so far he felt he couldn’t step off.

Sunk cost traps aren’t just financial. They can also be social, emotional, and deeply personal. Philip may have trapped himself with worries about what others will think about his walking away from what most regard as a dream job. I’d remind him of Samuel Johnson’s advice – that we’d worry less about what others think of us if we realised how seldom they do.

In the end, Philip’s self-respect is what counts. Walking away might feel as if he’s repudiating how he’s spent his recent years. But to me, belatedly changing an unhappy life sounds a lot better than doubling down.

This article was written by Professor Michael Wheeler and was orginally published on LinkedIn.

Professor Michael Wheeler’s Negotiation Mastery course on Harvard Business School’s HBX launched earlier this year. Applications for the next wave of students, starting in September, are now being accepted. Version 1.4 of his Negotiation 360 self-assessment/best practice app is available for both Apple and Android devices. It includes coaching videos and a tactics exercise.

Want to win a XK-X300 Quadcopter Drone? Take our survey!

With world-class talent and unlimited potential, a career in procurement can be brilliant … but you’ll need a plan to make it happen. That’s why we’ve launched our “My (Brilliant) Procurement Career” survey to understand how YOU will manage your own career into the future. 

Ten minutes is all it will take to put yourself in the running to win this quadcopter!

We need your input to discover:

  • In what ways are our peers across the globe seizing control of their own career management?
  • Do procurement professionals expect the profession to thrive, or to disappear by 2030?
  • Is crowdsourcing answers on social media an effective way to get the solution you need?
  • Do individuals in procurement feel isolated, or well-connected with the wider profession?

We’ve kept the survey to under 10 minutes – we know you’re busy!

Want to know more about the quadcopter? Check out this video review:

Cool, right? But you’ve got to be in it to win it! My Online Career is only open until Thursday 31st August. You’ll also receive a copy of the report summarising the findings of the survey.

CLICK HERE to take the survey now!

Attention All Employees: Report For Microchipping

Does the idea of a corporate microchip implanted into your body make you squirm, or are you fascinated by the possibilities?  

“Hold your breath – one … two … [stab].”

A Wisconsin-based marketing company (Three Square Market) recently hired a piercing professional to inject microchips into 50 of its staff. The radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are encased in glass capsules about the size of a large grain of rice. They were injected into the fleshy part of participants’ hands, between the forefinger and thumb.

Sounds like something from a corporate dystopia, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, all of the microchipped individuals were entirely voluntary – along with a handful of journalists who were eager to see what it was like.

What can the microchips do?

At present, not much. It’s entirely internal to Three Square Market’s office, where microchipped staff can wave their hand to open doors, unlock computers and pay for items in the kiosk, provided the systems have the software installed and a contactless chip reader.

But in the future, the possibilities of human microchips are only limited by the scale of the technology’s implementation. Scannable items such as passports, drivers’ licenses and credit cards would no longer be necessary. Car keys could become a thing of the past, and of course home automation systems would be operable with a wave of the hand.

There’s a good example of microchips in play in Sweden, where a company named BioHax has implanted nearly 3000 customers with chips that enable them to ride the national rail system without having the show the conductor a ticket.

For data analysts, the potential flood of information from microchip use within a company is alluring – data could be collected every time an employee makes a purchase, enters the building, or uses a photocopier.

Can microchipped people be tracked remotely?

Not yet. The microchips aren’t a GPS device, but are entirely passive until they come within a few centimetres of a compatible reader, just like a bank card. Pet owners familiar with the technology know that microchipped pets can’t be located remotely if they go missing – instead, owners must wait until their pets are handed into a vet with a chip scanner.

Will employee microchips one day be compulsory?

At Three Square, over 60% of the company volunteered to be microchipped. The remaining 40% had a range of reasons for demurring, including a dislike of needles, a fear of having foreign objects in their bodies, and privacy concerns.

The concern is that if this technology becomes mainstream, a refusal to allow your company to embed you may lead to losing out on a promotion, raise, or simply being seen as “not a team player”. Forward thinking legislators in Pennsylvania have already introduced a bill to outlaw mandatory chip embedding, with a spokesperson saying: “If the tech is out there, what’s to stop an employer from saying either you do this, or you can’t work here anymore?”

Another issue is that with an increasingly mobile workforce, a chip that only works within the walls of a single organisation would become useless once that person leaves. One day, perhaps you would simply have your chip deactivated upon your exit interview and re-calibrated by your next employer, but this isn’t yet the case. Of those 50 volunteers at Three Square Market, it’s likely that a handful will move on to other roles within the next few months, but what becomes of their chips? The company won’t be happy with non-employees being able to open doors with a wave of their hands, so will the chips be (painfully) removed? Perhaps they will simply be deactivated, meaning users are left with a useless piece of “abandonware” technology embedded in their hands.


In other procurement news this week:

Are emerging professionals being paid more than experienced hands in procurement?

  • Based on 3808 responses across the United States, ISM’s 2017 Salary Survey revealed that emerging professionals (with under 9 years’ experience) are earning nearly $5000 more per annum than experienced professionals (with 9+ years).
  • This suggests that organisations are having to offer higher salaries to attract new talent.
  • The survey also revealed the following average salaries: CPOs – $259,340, VPs – $135,757, Directors – $153,347, Managers – $109,401.

Coupa appoints new Chief Marketing Officer

  • Cloud-based spend management company, Coupa Software, has announced that digital marketing executive and veteran software industry marketer Chandar Pattabhiram has joined the company as its chief marketing officer (CMO).
  • Named one of five CMOs to follow this year by LinkedIn, Pattabhiram has more than 23 years of experience in both fast-paced and large technology companies including Marketo, IBM, Badgeville, Cast Iron Systems, Jamcracker, and Anderson Consulting (now Accenture).

Intel to build a fleet of self-driving cars

  • Intel announced last week that it will build 100 high-automated cars to test self-driving technology.
  • The project will showcase Intel’s $15 billion acquisition of Mobileye, which closed this week. Israel-based Mobileye makes technology that helps vehicles “see”; collecting, analysing and transmitting data about the outside world.

5 Ways Employers Can Appeal To Talent On Career Breaks

Prospective employees returning from career breaks have a pretty good idea of  their priorities. Want your organisation to appeal to them? Follow these steps…

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

When I returned from maternity leave I realised just how important it is to have policies and benefits in place to support people returning to work after a career break. Although mat leave for female talent is not the only type of career break businesses should consider, women returning to the workforce offer a valuable resource to employers, plugging skills gaps and boosting diversity.

So what do they look for when re-entering the workplace, and how can your company catch their eye?

After surveying 1,000 female professionals, the Robert Walters Group discovered that a strong salary and company benefits (90 per cent), career progression (88 per cent) and well-being initiatives (82 per cent) are top of women’s priority lists when returning to the workplace.

Flexibility (79 per cent) is also a main preference, with over half of respondents keen to move into a more family-friendly sector once their career break comes to an end.

However, there seems to be a disparity between the attitudes of employees and employers towards flexible working. While 84 per cent of female professionals want the option to work from home, it’s offered by just 39 per cent of employers. And although two-thirds of women would welcome the chance to work part-time, only 35 per cent of businesses provide this opportunity.

With all this in mind, it seems employers will only attract the brightest talent if they’re open to the idea of flexible working.

Top 5 tips when recruiting those on a career break

Of course, flexible working isn’t the only thing your business needs to consider when recruiting people after a career break. The following points are also key:

1. Understand what women want from their jobs

Flexibility, competitive salaries and career progression all remain important issues. Since only 24% of female professionals go back to their previous employer after a career break, it’s worth delving deeper to understand what they’re after.

2. Don’t make your recruitment messages too restrictive

Many women returning to work are looking to move into a new area within their sector, or to embark on a career that’s connected with, but different from, what they did before. So ensure your job ads and interviewing make it clear that you’re open to good people with transferable skill-sets and experience.

3. Learn more about flexible working

As we’ve mentioned, try to embrace flexible working – but avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Flexible working covers everything from job sharing and home-working through to part-time work. Further information is available from the Government

4. Provide childcare support

Half of professionals consider financial support for childcare to be important. This gives employers the chance to stand out from the crowd by offering family-friendly policies.

5. Make it easy for women to come back

Avoid the loss of talented staff members by keeping in touch with them during career breaks. Office visits, newsletters and social channels can all help. Some 79% of women say they’d find a mentor helpful during their transition back to working life. Mentoring schemes could ultimately give women a better idea of their future career options.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

This article, by Deborah Keogh, was originally published on LinkedIn. Deborah is Associate Director – Strategic Client Development at Resource Solutions.

Facebook AI Research Team Shuts Down Negotiating Robots

Facebook has shut down two robots after they abruptly stopped using English and invented their own language while conducting a negotiation exercise.

There have been a flurry of reports over the past week about Facebook’s decision to shut down two chatbots – named Bob and Alice – after they developed a coded language that was incomprehensible to humans.

The initial experiment involved a simple conversation between one human and one chatbot where they negotiated the sharing out of some items – books, hats and balls. This conversation was conducted in English, along the lines of “give me one ball, and I’ll give you the hats”.

So far, so good. But when the human was removed from the conversation and two chatbots were directed at each other, the way they communicated immediately became difficult for humans to understand.

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Some media commentators have labelled the development “sinister”, with frequent references to Terminator, Skynet and – of course – Frankenstein appearing in related coverage. But Facebook researcher Dhruv Batra told Fastco that there was simply no guidance set for the robots to stick to the English language. “Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves.” Essentially, the bots found a more efficient way of communicating with each other.

Setting parameters

The topic of negotiation and AI came under discussion at a recent Negotiation Roundtable organised by CABL (Conti Advanced Business Learning). The attendees agreed that if a robot is going to run a negotiation, it requires very clear guidance around the parameters and objectives.

Another concern about AI being involved in commercial negotiation is that at present, they are unable to understand emotional intelligence. Thierry Blomet, Senior VP of Global Sourcing at Kemira, says that “Until we completely remove the emotional aspect, AI cannot run negotiations. Body language and emotional reactions are intangible, and are most unlikely to be modelled by programmers.” In the case of Facebook’s Alice and Bob, the human factor was removed.

Blomet points out that AI can play a valuable role in complex scenario modelling, which would be “much more complex than even the smartest procurement brain could manage. Whatever might happen in the negotiation would be included in that model, with the answers already pre-empted.”

Laurence Pérot, Head of Global Supply Chain Procurement at Logitech, agrees. “Big Data and AI will lead to much more efficient scenario modelling, particularly with supply chain, logistics and transportation bids.”

Orestes Peristeris, Supply Chain Expert at Yale, comments that ultimately, it’s about quantification and sophistication of statistics. “Do you have the data in the same place and in one system? What can be quantified and what cannot be quantified objectively? There are some things that can be used, some things we know will happen with some certainty, and some things that can’t be quantified. Finally, we’ll always need humans to take the outcomes of Big Data and apply it to the business context.”

As for the future of procurement negotiation, perhaps one day we’ll see buyers and suppliers lining up their chatbots against each other and letting them negotiate in rapid, complex code.

May the best bot win.

In other procurement news this week:

Hackett research reveals dramatic savings from digital transformation

  • New research from The Hackett Group has shown that the potential cost take-out opportunity through digital transformation is up to 24%, through the implementation of robotic process automation, advanced analytics, cloud-based applications and other approaches.
  • The research has also revealed that world-class procurement organisation now operate at 22% lower labour costs, have 29% fewer staff, and generate more than twice the ROI of typical organisations, with over $10 in savings for every $1 of procurement operating costs.
  • The Hackett Group’s Christopher Sawchuck commented that procurement technology has reached an inflection point: “World-class organisations can continue to reduce costs by embracing digital technology, and typical procurement organisations can leverage the same technology to catch up faster at less cost.”

Download the research here: http://www.thehackettgroup.com/research/2017/wcpapr17/SalesForce-World-Class-Advantage-17Q2-PR.html

Collaborative Robots to Boost Warehouse Productivity

  • In a shift away from the apparent race to replace humans with robotic workers, firms are designing robots to work alongside people in warehouses and boost productivity.
  • “Collaborative” robots can have a variety of uses, including leading human workers to the exact location of a product, or carrying goods from one part of the warehouse to another. DHL, Bonobos and Zara are known to be experimenting with the technology.
  • The robots – costing tens of thousands of dollars – are relatively cheap when compared with the vast amount of conveyor belts and automation systems included in a typical warehouse.

Read more: The Wall Street Journal

Interested in attending a CABL Negotiation workshop? Visit http://www.cabl.ch/ to find out more. The founder, Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience with leading multinationals and over 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

IBM Global Procurement’s Radical Transformation

Transformation has become the new norm as organisations respond to an onslaught of shocks. But is there a best-practice way to go about transforming a procurement function? We interviewed Procurious Partner, IBM Global Procurement, to discover why they’ve been recognised on the global stage for their approach to the challenge.

If you were to stop any procurement professional on the street and ask what their function is currently up to, you’re unlikely to hear the reply, “Oh, you know – business as usual”. Instead, you can expect to hear a description of some sort of transformation. Whether it’s enterprise-wide or procurement-led, everybody’s doing it. In fact, you could argue that the process of transformation itself has become business as usual, especially if you’ve ever worked in a company where one transformation follows another, ad nauseum.

Where once your organisation may have needed to reinvent itself every few decades, today, an onslaught of shocks – technological, cultural, economic, and regulatory – is forcing companies to transform every few years. Five to ten years ago, your CEO might have become a business icon through a single transformation. The minimum requirement now is being able to execute multiple transformations, while success today is measured in your ability to foster a culture of continuous reinvention.

Showing how it’s done

IBM Global Procurement recognised the need to transform as market dynamics put increased pressure on its customers, which consist of internal IBM business units and external clients. Graham Wright, Vice President, Global Procurement and IBM Procurement Services, described some of these pressures. “We realised that our internal and external clients needed less complexity, more transparency, consistent processes executed with speed, and new solutions. The challenge was to find new ways to stay relevant and be successful – that’s why we launched a radical transformation not only to address the needs of the business but to keep pace with smaller, more agile competition and remain an industry leader”.

The team went about this by ramping up activity across three key areas:

1.Innovation: Leveraging strategic partnerships and key relationships to drive innovation.

The team unlocked the value of supplier innovation by implementing a state-of-the-art Supplier Enabled Innovation (SEI) program and using new, engaging tools, including cognition. The SEI initiative included 3rd-party ‘Voice of the Supplier’ surveys, supplier incentives including annual awards, and clear performance metrics.

2. Engagement: Delivering simple, engaging user experiences.

After identifying key client pain points around complexity, slow execution and delayed problem resolution, IBM Global Procurement followed a mantra of speed and simplicity to improve visibility, enhance workflows and reduce cycle times. Innovative engagement solutions, such as an “Ask Procurement” chat function for clients, have contributed to an impressive improvement in client satisfaction. The chat application is highly intuitive – it suggests self-service solutions for users, and provides direct access to live agents who can answer questions simply and quickly.

3. Analytics & Cognitive: Capitalising on foundational analytics and cognitive solutions.

No mention of IBM Global Procurement would be complete without a reference to its not-so-secret weapon – the Watson Cognitive Platform. Through catalog data enrichment and cognitive procurement solutions which provide users with refined real-time data for risk mitigation, market and supplier insights, pricing information and recommendations, the team realised significant efficiencies including hand-free POs and greatly improved process compliance.

As an extremely positive side-effect of this transformational effort, Wright reports that the team’s efforts are being recognised within the wider organisation. “The transformation has helped change the perception of procurement evolving from a cost centre to a value centre.”

While internal recognition of the procurement team’s value is gratifying, the Global Procurement Team was even more delighted to see their efforts celebrated at Procurement Leader’s World Procurement Awards, where the team won the award for “Transforming External Partnerships (Pioneering Business Impact)”. The team’s submission went through a rigorous 3-stage judging process including online judging, peer review and a face-to-face regional debate.

And that’s not all – amongst 350 submissions across 15 categories, IBM Procurement was short-listed for each of the 6 entries it entered a submission for, and picked up 2 major awards – the Transformation award, and another for Risk Mitigation.

Procurious is working with our Knowledge Partner, IBM, over the next 12 months to promote cognitive procurement to our global community. To learn more about IBM Global Procurement, click here.

Four Work-Life Questions To Ponder On Vacation This Summer

Going on vacation this summer? Print this out and take it someplace without any Wi-Fi….

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

You packed your favorite journal and a couple of pens. You planned some time on the beach, or left an afternoon empty to find a table at an outdoor cafe where you can grab an ice-cold drink and just think. This vacation, you’ve told yourself, you’re finally going to be able to take a break and get some clarity.

But clarity about what, exactly?

It’s true that vacationing can hold some unexpected career benefits, in addition to letting you recharge your batteries and do some self-reflection about your working life, your personal life, and your overall goals. But musing on these big-ticket themes isn’t something many of us have a lot of practice doing. When you finally get a chance to do it, you might find your thoughts a little unfocused. That’s fine—mind-wandering is sort of the point here. But in case you need a little more structure, these are four questions to let your mind wander over.

1. Stresses and worries aside, am I happy at work?

One question worth asking is whether you’re happy with your job on a day-to-day or week-by-week basis. You may find some workdays pretty stressful, and that’s normal, but do you generally find your job fulfilling to do?

Vacation is a great time to really step back and consider that, because it’s one of those rare occasions when you can step back to monitor your own reaction to being away from work. A change of pace is always nice, but at the end of your vacation, are you excited to get back to the projects you’ve been working on? If you totally dread the end of vacation, it might be time to start looking for something else.

When you’re away from the office, you can also think about which aspects of your job are most rewarding. By identifying the tasks that excite you, you can lay the groundwork to pursue opportunities that let you do them more often.

2. Where am I headed?

One of the most aggravating questions hiring managers like to ask on job interviews is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Lots of people find that hard to answer, in part because a lot of the time they don’t honestly know.

That’s understandable. It can also be difficult to do long-range planning when you’re buried in the daily grind, when your goals are changing, when your industry is evolving at a breakneck pace, or all of the above. Taking some time off lets you think about whether your career is headed in a direction you’re generally happy with. To get a handle on a big-ticket question like this, try to think specifically about the skills you feel you still need to acquire to succeed.

In other words, you may not be able to see the future, but you can still think like a futurist when it comes to your own career planning. Are there people who might be good mentors (including of the unofficial kind) to help you fill in those skill gaps? Maybe it’s time for some more education. Going back to school for another degree may be daunting, but you can always start by taking a couple of professional development courses. Or maybe you just need to do a little more networking to brush up on the latest goings-on in your field.

Many companies have some form of educational benefits that lots of employees don’t know much about, let alone actually use. Maybe this vacation is the time to figure out which opportunities you can ask your HR team about once you’re back in the office. In fact, even companies that don’t offer a standing set of training resources may be willing to cover some of the cost of professional development you pursue on your own.

This is one of those items that way too few employees actually negotiate for, beyond compensation. Use a few spare hours this vacation to come up with some training options you’d like your company to help you go after.

3. Who don’t I know

You have more colleagues than just the ones who work for the same company as you. There’s a whole community out there of professionals who do much the same kind of work, but most of us don’t spend enough time getting to know them. After all, networking is a tedious chore and often completely fruitless.

And sure, sometimes that’s true. But there are a few things you can do to expand your connections in ways that don’t feel like networking. One of them is pretty old-school: Join a professional society. They’re often a great source for the latest developments in your field, sparing you the need to scroll LinkedIn for industry news. And they often have local meetings where you can meet people dealing with the same issues you are, rather than blindly scouring a random mixer for them.

There are also “networking” opportunities that might be lurking in your average workday—chances to connect with valuable people you haven’t had a chance (or a non-awkward pretext) for to strike up a conversation with yet.

You’re on vacation, though, so all this will have to wait, right? Technically, yes. But one of the reasons so many people procrastinate on (or just downright avoid) networking is because they haven’t given much thought to who’s missing from their contact lists, let alone what the best strategy might be for filling those gaps. Your vacation is a great chance to consider that. Based on where you are in your career and where you’d like to be before long (see above), think about the ideal connections you’ll need to make. Here’s a handy guide for figuring out who’s most important to you at the moment and where can you find them.

4. What’s Missing?

Work is great, but there’s more to life than the things you do to make your company money. In high school and college, you might’ve spent a lot more time doing things you were passionate about—or things that helped you discover what you’re passionate about. After hitting the workforce, most of us start to shed extracurriculars. If you look back, you may see a graveyard of discarded instruments, sports, clubs, and volunteer work stretching out in your wake.

It’s great to draw a sense of purpose and fulfillment from your full-time job, but those outside activities can also be powerful sources of energy. What’s more, they can be the steam valves that give you much-needed emotional release when the pressure at work builds up. Vacation is a good time to re-engage with old hobbies and pursuits you’ve left behind. Pull that old French horn out of the closet. Brush off your tennis racquet. Find a local dog shelter that needs another pair of hands. (Puppies are always a great cure for whatever ails you.)

Don’t feel guilty about carving out a little more time away from your work to pick up these side gigs and activities. Not only will they give you a chance to develop your other interests, they’ll also give you people to hang out with who aren’t all focused on the same set of work issues that you are.

And hey, you never know; over winter vacation about 16 years ago, I started taking saxophone lessons. Not only has it been great fun, I’m now in a band!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

This article, written by Art Markman was originally published on Fast Company.

Art Markman, PhD is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organisations. Art is the author of Smart Thinking and Habits of Leadership, Smart Change, and most recently, Brain Briefs, co-authored with his “Two Guys on Your Head”co-host Bob Duke, which focuses on how you can use the science of motivation to change your behavior at work and at home.

Out Of Office: Your Career Break (Through)

Sick to death of the daily grind? A well-earned career break might be just the ticket!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm BST on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

It was once considered a career kamikaze but taking time out mid-career is a growing trend. Nowadays, it is often supported, and  even encouraged, by employers to help retain, refocus and re-inspire their employees.

In 2010, 4 million people in the UK took a career break in one form or another, a number that continues to increase. One in four employees work for companies that offer sabbaticals and these companies represent 34 per cent of the “Best Places to Work in Europe”.

Turn a mid-career break into a career break through!

Do you ever wish that you had the guts to bite the bullet and embark on the adventure of a lifetime? Or perhaps you’re on a career break that wasn’t self-imposed and you’re desperate for it to end.  Maybe you’re coming to the end of a life-changing sabbatical, currently on parental leave or stuck betwen jobs…

The future is uncertain; you don’t know what your options will be when you return to work or how you’ll explain a stonking great gap in your CV to the recruitment agency.

But help is at hand! Whatever the scenario, we’ve got a solution. Whether you’re considering a complete career make-over or simply taking a few weeks to hang out in a hammock this summer, Procurious’ latest webinar Out of Office: Career Break (Through) will help you make the most of your precious time out and prepare you for when it’s all over!

What can I expect from the webinar?

Some of our discussion topics will include:

  • How will a career break help or hinder your career in the long run?
  • Once you’ve decided to take a career break, how do you decided where to spend it, what to do and how do you stay sharp?
  • Is there a right or wrong time to take a career break?
  • How to use your career break wisely – advice from the experts!
  • What are some of the unexpected benefits of taking a career break?
  • How do you prepare for your eventual return to work?
  • How employers can support career breaks and retain top talent

Who are the guest speakers?

Ruji Mahmud, Vice President, Sourcing- DSM

Ruji is one of procurement’s  brightest young stars with experience across chemicals, agro-chemicals, and pharma. Ruji put her booming career on hold to take stock during an eight month career break which she credits for making her focused, balanced and, in her own words, invincible!

Ruji is currently working in a project team at DNS to look at how the business can better support and retain women who want to take time out to have a family.

Anne Berens, Principal – AMB ProCures LLC

Previously Senior Director for Global Sourcing and Procurement at McDonald’s Corporation, Anne Berens left corporate life for a career break and to start her own business, AMB ProCures LLC.

AMB ProCures LLC is a consultancy targeting organisations that want improved effectiveness in their procurement function.

Tony Megally, General Manager – The Source

Tony has enjoyed a  long standing consulting career and has had the benefit of working with some of Australia’s most admired recruitment and search firms in the sector.  At The Source, Tony is responsible for leading the overall business into its next phase of growth and future success.

How do I register for the webinar?

Registering for our webinar is as easy as pie, and it’s FREE! Click here to enter your details and confirm your attendence. We’ll send you a reminder email with a link to the webinar page shortly before it goes live!

I’m already a member of Procurious, do I still need to register?

Yes! If you are already a member of Procurious you must still register to access the webinar.  Make sure you are logged into you Procurious account first and then Click here to enrol. We’ll send you a reminder email with a link to the webinar page shortly before it goes live!

When is it taking place?

The webinar will take place at 1pm BST on 10th August 2017

I can’t make it, am I able to listen  to the webinar at a later time?

Absolutely! The webinar will be made available in the Learning area of Procurious shortly after our live broadcasting. If you aren’t able to make it on 10th August, we’ll send you a link to this so you can listen at your lesiure.

Can I ask a question?

If you’re listening live, our speakers would love to hear your questions. Questions can be submitted via the webinar platform, or via Twitter by tagging #OutOfOffice @procurious_ If you think of a question after the event, feel free to submit your question via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll ensure it gets answered for you.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm BST on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

The Procurement Tipping Point

At what point should a growing business bite the bullet and professionalise procurement? New research from Wax Digital has found that the right time is surprisingly early in a businesses’ growth, but it’s usually done on the back foot. 

As professionals in the sector we tend to think that procurement is the sole domain of large organisations spending millions of pounds on thousands of suppliers. However, new research has found that many smaller and more formative businesses also turn to procurement.

We recently surveyed 260 UK business and procurement experts and asked them at what point organisations needed to professionalise procurement to get a firmer grip on spend, suppliers, sourcing and so on. We were surprised by how many thought the ‘tipping point’ for procurement was relatively early on in a business’ growth. The results were as follows:

  • 75% said procurement was required once a company reaches £50M turnover
  • 77% claimed to need procurement by the time a business has 100 supplier contracts
  • 72% said once 500 invoices per month are being processed, procurement was essential.

Clearly, it seems that many smaller organisations are adopting procurement, so why is this? When asked why they introduced procurement, 68% said that it was due to rising costs, while 45% said that it was due to inefficient and labour intensive processes. Being a successful, up-and-coming business means experiencing rapid growth and significant change in these areas – more so than a larger, more established business.

For example, an organisation may be undergoing a merger or be highly acquisitive, bringing in more complex supplier portfolios or increasing spend overnight. These types of events can force a business to rethink processes like procurement. The very foundations of the organisation could adjust dramatically, and existing resources may simply not be adequate enough to support it.

Quick, someone build us a procurement function

Another interesting discovery in our research was that procurement is often introduced ‘on the back foot’ as opposed to being part of a pre-planned vision. We found that procurement is implemented as a reaction to a negative situation 48% of the time, compared to 31% of the time when it’s rolled out as a proactive and positive step forward. So few businesses planning ahead with procurement suggests that it’s (wrongly) an afterthought for many. Many businesses are ‘reactively’ using procurement, suggesting that they are already experiencing issues such as a lack of spend control or inefficient processes. But pre-planning with procurement could help businesses evolve more efficiently to try and reduce these problems.

That said, rolling out procurement isn’t always plain sailing, and smaller businesses with limited resources may particularly struggle to establish this new function successfully. Gaining senior management buy-in is the most common barrier to adopting formal purchasing processes, cited by 35%. Managing cultural change and a lack of internal knowledge followed, scoring 27% and 19% respectively. Given that they work for a smaller business – perhaps with a less rigid structure – the need for a procurement function might simply not occur to some SME employees, and it may take some time to win the support of colleagues. Those in the business being hindered by the lack of procurement shouldn’t be afraid to make a case for it to senior management.

Make sure the time is right

No two businesses are the same and each will feel the need for procurement at different stages. It’s not right to see procurement as something that should only be introduced when you reach a specific size or stage in the business cycle. Instead, consider when the businesses is feeling a strain that formalised procurement could help with.

It’s time for the procurement community to help strip its perception as a function for the larger business. This way more businesses can realise its effects.

Contributed by Paul Ellis, Managing Director at Wax Digital.