All posts by Procurious HQ

The challenges holding back true collaborative working in enterprise

There is a growing awareness in the enterprise that collaborative working could deliver business benefits such as greater agility and reduced time to market. But there are challenges that first need to be overcome, and the first concerns what we really mean by collaborative working…

Facebook inside your business is not the answer. And neither is Yammer or any other Enterprise Social Network. They have their place in certain use cases, but they were not built to change how we work; just offer an alternative communication channel. To change how we work in the enterprise today is a far more challenging subject to tackle.

Change Managers are hampered by the fact that for the last 25 years, workers have been conditioned to working on a desktop PC; a pre-internet invention. The desktop and its attendant file and folder based working approach actively prevent collaboration, as content authoring is done in a silo before the secondary act of sharing occurs.

The second big issue to consider concerns organisational structure and the relationship desktop working has with it.

Teams within an organisation are tasked with specific remits and outputs, but they are also part of the same common goal; the company output. Often referred to as the Critical Path, the process of coordinating different teams’ activities to deliver company output reliably and on time can be a fraught process as, too often, one team doesn’t know what another is doing. This lack of visibility, despite ongoing efforts to restructure team reporting, can be traced to a body of critical work being authored in silos, with no obvious way of sharing in real time changes in plans and processes that often occur in day to day business.

Start with selfishness

In order for the promise of “collaboration” to be delivered on, it needs to be clear what specific collaborative processes need to be introduced and for whom. How can we recreate a sense of ‘synchronicity’ for businesses that have teams in different offices, often spread across multiple sites, and maybe even different countries?

It is not enough for just one team to introduce a collaborative working platform; the whole business needs to be networked in order to work synchronously and deliver on an optimum Critical Path. In order to create this ‘network effect’ businesses need to appeal to their employees’ most selfish instincts.

Before they change their behaviour, most individuals will want to know what’s in it for them – so businesses need to promote the benefits of collaborative working not just for the group, but for each employee. Start by showing how these new tools can make each person’s workload easier, for example, and how it can support their learning and development. More effective collaboration will also make them more productive and showcase their personal successes more clearly.

Forget about the file

The modern workplace also needs to reflect the world it operates in. Internet connectivity and speed have improved significantly in recent years, paving the way for on-demand content services and cloud storage. Firms like Spotify and Netflix have already smashed Apple’s iTunes dominance of the music and film market by negating the need to download a file before playing it. You just stream it when you want it.

We have this reality in our personal lives, and as a result, employees are starting to expect an application to deliver their work directly to the audience that needs to see and interact with it. Imagine if you had to write a Facebook update, upload it, notify people that it is available and then send them a link to go and read it – who would bother? Today’s workers want to work within a ‘followable’ environment that enables seamless, real-time information sharing automatically.

Share actions, not words

Businesses need to appreciate that collaboration is a behaviour, but one that struggles to work well with the wrong tools. Teams working within the same business are completely dependent on each other, and ‘cc’ emails, file sharing and social network postings are all blunt tools for keeping everyone up to date on what has been done and, more importantly, what needs to be done.

These forms of communication can lead to information overload via cc’ing, version control confusion through file sharing and channel fatigue through another social network. As a result some employees are left out of the loop and others buried under a deluge of information they don’t actually need to see. The next step along this inefficient path is then the ‘team meeting’, which tends to focus on what teams have been doing, rather than what they are doing or need to do.

Effective collaborative working removes communication lag and enables teams to see what is happening right now. It also has the knock-on effect of making it much easier to measure performance of teams across the enterprise. After all, it’s nearly impossible to measure productivity and effectiveness accurately when work is only being shared after it is completed. By comparison, if work is being measured and evaluated in real-time, within a cloud-base working environment, it is very easy to gain useful and actionable business intelligence.

The main benefit of this approach, however, is that more work actually gets done, instead of just being talked about. By having immediate access to different teams’ knowledge, work and progress, it is possible to create a truly dynamic working environment on a global scale. Businesses that are ready, willing and able to adopt this enlightened approach to collaboration will therefore continue to grow and flourish in the years ahead. Alternatively, you could just post an update about this article to your Enterprise Social Network.

The article was written exclusively for Procurious by Tristan Rogers, CEO of Concrete, the global enterprise collaboration platform used by retailers including J Crew, Gap, Kate Spade, Tesco F&F, George and Marks & Spencer.

YOUR Big Ideas: Procurement Will Be Dead By 2030

Jonathan Betts from Science Warehouse makes a startling statement in his Big Ideas video.

Controversial? Jonathan doesn’t think so, as he reminds us that in the past 15 years we’ve seen successive waves of technology disruption.

Want to add your voice to the conversation? We want you to share your point of view and ideas with the community by creating a video no more than 60 seconds long. What’s your Big Idea?

Will consumers punish companies involved in supplier-driven scandals?

Survey finds that 74 per cent of respondents would be unlikely to buy products or services from a company involved in controversial supplier practices.

Chaliya/Shutterstock.com

A newly published survey suggests that companies who are not actively monitoring the business practices of their suppliers, or who are engaged in questionable supplier practices themselves, are placing their reputations and their balance sheets in harm’s way.

The study of typical American consumers, commissioned by sourcing and procurement specialist Proxima, reveals that 74 per cent of respondents stated they would be unlikely to buy products or services from a company involved in controversial supplier practices. Furthermore, nearly 66 per cent would stop giving such a company their business even if that company was the most convenient and cheapest option.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a tremendous shift as companies are relying more heavily on suppliers for everything from their core offering to the market to back office services,” said Jonathan Cooper-Bagnall, EVP & Commercial Director of Proxima. “With this increased reliance comes increased risk and a requirement to engage suppliers with ethical and responsible track records. The results of this study suggest that companies who fail to appreciably vet and monitor their suppliers are at risk for significant commercial consequences.”

The survey, commissioned by Proxima and executed by Kelton Global, gauged the views of more than 1,000 American consumers over the age of 18 in March of this year. Other key findings of note include:

  • Even among financially-strained consumers (respondents with less than $35,000 a year in income), one in three would spend more money elsewhere to avoid patronizing a scandal-ridden company
  • Nearly a third of respondents indicated that they would proactively tell friends and family to stop spending their money with a company involved in controversial supplier practices

Cooper-Bagnall continued, “In recent years, supplier driven scandals have tainted the reputations and bottom lines of a number of well-known companies around the world. Yet, when these scandals arise, consumers are not drawing a distinction between company and supplier and are placing as much blame, if not more, squarely at the feet of the company. It is, therefore, critically necessary that companies not only vet suppliers properly before engaging them, but create a monitoring program to catch and address any improprieties before they result in public scandals.”

Walmart cops criticism over sourcing practices

WALMART criticised for sourcing water from California

Retail giant Walmart has come under fire in the US over claims the firm is sourcing water used for its bottled water products from drought stricken regions in California.

A report, compiled by a CBS affiliate in Sacramento, suggests that Walmart is sourcing bottled water stocks from Sacramento’s municipal water supply. The world’s largest retailer has drawn stern criticism for this practice given the region is in midst of a crippling four year drought that is devastating crops and forcing residents to face water restrictions.

Similar complaints have been made of coffee chain Starbucks, who were called out in a report in the Mother Jones magazine for sourcing bottled water stocks in parts of California the government has deemed as being in areas of “exceptional drought”. Since the report’s release, Starbucks has announced it will cease sourcing water from the troubled Californian regions, a commitment that Walmart is yet to have made. This lack of commitment was highlighted in the following email statement from Walmart spokesman John Forrest Ales, who outlined the company’s concerns over the drought, but stopped short of altering sourcing practices.

“The drought in California is very concerning for many of our customers and our associates. We share those concerns and are tracking it closely. Our commitment to sustainability includes efforts to minimize water use in our facilities. We have and continue to work with our suppliers to act responsibly while meeting the needs of customers who count on us across California.”

While the public outcry over this issue has been significant (a petition demanding Walmart take its activities elsewhere has garnered over 11,000 signatures), the International Bottled Water Association has been quick to stifle the issue, pointing out that bottled water accounts for less than 0.01 per cent of all water used in the US each year.

Greenpeace report urges improved transparency from Amazon

Apple, Facebook, Google progress toward a Green Internet, but coal-heavy utilities stand in the way.

A recently published Greenpeace report urges improved transparency from Amazon, and more engagement from all major internet companies to overcome resistance to renewable energy from monopoly utilities.

Greenpeace’s research states that major internet companies including Apple, Facebook and Google continue to lead efforts to build an internet that is renewably powered, but an uncooperative utility sector and rapid energy demand growth for the internet places those ambitions under threat. Continued resistance to renewable investments from coal-heavy monopoly utilities in data centre hot spots such as Virginia, North Carolina, and Taiwan is causing the rapid growth in the digital world to increase the demand for dirty energy.

“Tech companies are increasingly turning to the smart choice of renewable energy to power the internet, but they’re hitting a wall of stubborn monopoly power companies that refuse to switch to 21st century sources of energy. Internet companies need to work together to push utilities and policymakers to provide them with 100 per cent renewable energy and avoid the creation of a dirty internet.” said Gary Cook, Senior IT Analyst for Greenpeace USA.

The report, “Clicking Clean: A Guide to Building the Green Internet,” also highlights the continued lack of transparency by cloud giant Amazon Web Services (AWS).  AWS has taken some significant steps over the last year, including committing to power its operations with 100 per cent renewable energy, but the lack of basic transparency about its energy use is a growing concern for its customers.  Although AWS did announce plans to purchase over 100 MW of wind energy this past year, Greenpeace discovered that AWS continues to rapidly expand in Virginia. Based on an analysis of permit applications by Amazon subsidiary Vadata, AWS made investments in new data center capacity in 2014 that would increase its energy demand by 200 MW in that state, where the utility Dominion powers the grid with only 2 per cent renewable energy.

The report found that Apple continues to be the most aggressive in powering its data center operations with renewable energy. Despite continued rapid growth, Apple appears to have kept pace with its supply of renewable energy, maintaining its claim of a 100 per cent renewably powered cloud for another year, followed by Yahoo, Facebook and Google with 73 per cent, 49 per cent and 46 per cent clean energy respectively. Greenpeace found that Amazon’s current investments would deliver an energy mix of 23 per cent renewable energy for its operations.

“Amazon needs to provide more information about its data center footprint and how it will move toward 100 per cent renewable energy, as Apple, Google, and Facebook have done – its rapid expansion in coal dependent Virginia should be a concern to its customers like Netflix and Pinterest who are fully dependent on Amazon for their online operations. Increased transparency will allow AWS customers to know where they and AWS stand on their journey to 100 per cent renewable energy,” said Cook.

The energy use of our digital infrastructure, which would have ranked sixth in the world among countries in 2011, continues to rapidly increase, and is largely being driven by the dramatic growth of streaming video services like Youtube, Netflix, and Hulu. Video streaming is estimated to account for more than 60 per cent of consumer internet traffic today, and is expected to grow to 76 per cent by 2018.

Apple continues to lead the way toward a green internet with several major renewable energy investments announced in the last year, including an $850 million deal to power its operations in California – the largest ever non-utility solar deal. Google’s march toward 100 per cent renewable energy is threatened by monopoly utilities like Duke Energy in North Carolina, a major hub for data centers.

Currently, customers are not allowed to buy power from anyone other than Duke, which gets only 2 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, but North Carolina legislators are trying to increase the options for consumers to buy renewable energy from parties other than Duke Energy.

Colocation companies, the internet landlords that rent out data center space, continue to lag far behind consumer-facing data center operators in seeking renewable energy to power their operations, but Equinix’s adoption of a 100 per cent renewable energy commitment and offering of renewably hosted facilities is an important step forward and puts the company at the front of the colocation pack.

Greenpeace contacted every company assessed in the report to request data on their energy use. When companies did not respond, as was the case with Amazon, Greenpeace estimated their energy consumption using conservative assumptions and publicly available information.

Greenpeace is calling on all major internet companies to:  

  • Make a long-term commitment to become 100 per cent renewably powered.  
  • Commit to transparency on IT performance and consumption of resources, including the sources of electricity, to enable customers, investors, and stakeholders to measure progress toward that goal.
  • Develop a strategy for increasing their supply of renewable energy, through a mixture of procurement, investment, and corporate advocacy to both electricity suppliers and government decision-makers.

YOUR Big Ideas: Big Data In Procurement

David Hulsen is co-founder of RFP365 – a dynamic software application that makes the entire RFP (request for proposal) process collaborative and streamlined.

 

David’s Big Idea for procurement is leveraging 21st century technology for vendor selection.

Blink and you’ll miss it as David’s video lasts a mere 39 seconds – happily conforming to our 1 minute challenge. It just shows you don’t need to agonise over a lengthy speech. Well done David!

Want to add your voice to the conversation? We want you to share your point of view and ideas with the community by creating a video no more than 60 seconds long. What’s your Big Idea?

Chris Lynch: Big Ideas In Big Companies

“The lemon’s been well and truly squeezed… but how do we break through the next layer of cost paradigms?”

Watch our second Big Ideas Summit keynote (part 1 of 4)

Watch Chris’ keynote in FULL here

Keynote speaker Chris Lynch (CFO, Rio Tinto) spoke about fostering a culture of “intrapreneurship” within large organisations and understanding that the bigger your idea is, the more resistance it will face.

However he went on to state that by persisting with your idea, taking ideas from other sources, including suppliers, and showing the outcomes, you are more likely to succeed.

Procurious members can find Chris’ full keynote here. Not a member yet? Register for free.

Watch: See more Big Ideas from our 40 influencers

CIPS David Noble shifts a few paradigms

CIPS David Noble speaking at Procurious Big Ideas Summit

David Noble, Group Chief Executive of The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) took the stage at the Big Ideas Summit to shift a few paradigms.

Every organisation relies on buying things to run their business and as buyer you’re in an extremely powerful position. But because buyers often operate behind the scenes, many people aren’t aware of procurement and supply as a career choice.

CIPS is not just UK-based. The membership spans the globe. You can find Institute members in 150 different countries. It brings everyone together to share news and ideas through member events, networking opportunities and discussion forums.

The profession is not just all male. Half of the 114,000-strong community worldwide  is female. At a student level Singapore now has more of a female skew than male.

At CIPS nearly half the senior staff and board is female.

The membership was primarily seen as kindergarten – now this may have been true maybe 20 years prior, but things have changed.

We are in a sea change.

David says that we are in a sea change, therefore we must understand our business environment and what the Institute is doing about it.

Only 1/3 of CEO’s believe P&S professionals are ready for the strategic challenges ahead.

CIPS has set about doing work to define the future profession. And it is clear from the results of its survey that the profession has come-of age. Now it’s time to ‘raise your game and raise your voice,’ to ensure that procurement becomes pivotal to organisational success and value delivery, with a key role to play at the highest levels.

Let’s start selling this profession better by becoming the story tellers of our success.

Top buyers are in huge demand around the world and can achieve extremely high positions within companies.

Driving value is like driving change. To drive change is never easy so you need to persevere, and have dogged determination. You are able to add value not just from cost reductions, but also from the innovation and creativity you can bring to the role. And because of procurement’s involvement across the whole value chain, you could not find any function with such a unique position in any organisation.