All posts by Procurious HQ

3 Ways to Build a Match Fit Procurement Team

You never know what’s on the horizon, so you need to be prepared for anything. For procurement that means staying agile and always being match fit.

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

Given the pace of change in the external environment, being agile means constantly changing, never standing still. It’s not about putting out fires, it’s about ensuring that fires never start in the first place.

For procurement, this means creating and maintaining agile teams, and staying match fit for what comes next. Staying ahead of the curve, be it change, risk or technology, is critical for the future of the profession.

Procurious are delighted to welcome back Chris Sawchuk, Principal and Global Procurement Advisory Practice Leader at The Hackett Group, to the Big Ideas Summit 2017. Chris spoke last year about why procurement needed to put agility at the centre of all its activities.

This year, Chris will be taking the conversation one step further, discussing ways to enable agility through digital transformation and creating an agile team. However, to do this procurement needs to ensure it’s thinking ahead, not just looking at the problems it needs to solve now.

Chris outlines three top tips below on how procurement can be prepared to handle any future issues.

  1. Be Match Fit

As we’ve said above, the key to being agile is ensuring flexibility. A quick way to lose agility is to create a rigid environment that doesn’t allow trying new things.

Define what procurement can and can’t control, and what activities it can drive. Make sure that your procurement team is aligned to the corporate strategies and objectives. It’s a good way of making sure that new ideas will be fully considered as part of the overall organisational strategy.

For example, if Procurement decides they want a diversity programme and the CEO isn’t behind it, it will never reach its full potential. The same goes for technology. If the CEO isn’t invested, the project will never get off the ground.

But even if your company isn’t focused on technology yet, you can be sure it will be in the future. It might be six months, or it might be five years, but it’s better not to be forced kicking and screaming into this new era.

Procurement needs to be ready to go when the business is. You don’t want to be asking for six more months of planning if your CEO wants a transition now. Be ready – have a list prepared of the top three initiatives for technologies, and how they will be implemented. That way you won’t be caught short.

  1. Educate Yourself

If you want to be prepared, you need to be in the know. Don’t be scared of new technology and bury your head in the sand – be aware of what’s out there. Have a list of the most relevant and best technology and know what it can do for you.

Part of that awareness is also preparing for new technology. Procurement teams need to know what’s happening in the market place, and how it impacts them. You don’t need to know everything, but you at least need to be cognizant of it.

That way, procurement can look at the big issues in organisations through the lens of how technology can help. Is there a technology out there that could help with this issue?

If global collaboration is a major issue, there are social platforms that could help connect all your teams to each other, and even their suppliers.

Maybe there’s a technology that could augment (not just automate) a procurement activity that you are performing today. You might finally have access to all kinds of data, but it’s about knowing what you can do with it to extract competitively differentiating insights.

  1. Create Agile Teams

If you aren’t agile then you can’t prepare for any of this. In fact, it’s unlikely you’re even in a position to be ready to start preparing.

To create agile teams you need to have the basics in place, get ahead of these issues, and aim to be predictive. If you knew what was going to happen (sadly crystal balls are in short supply), you would have the ultimate level of agility, and be able to get ahead of any issues.

However, it’s critical that procurement retains the ability to deliver against organisational objectives at the same time. There’s no use being agile if it means that procurement fails to deliver on the basic requirements.

If you can’t get the basics done, then there’s no point in even trying the ‘fancy’ stuff.

Reimagining What We’re Trying to Achieve 

The main problem at the moment is that we can’t even imagine what is going to be possible in the future. The pace of change is so fast that technologies are adapting and evolving in a matter of months, rather than taking years as it did in the past.

It is critical that procurement becomes more adaptable, and ensures that professionals are as informed as possible. Until you have this understanding of technology, you’re losing out. It’s not about the problems you want to solve, it’s also about the problems you’ve not even thought about yet.

The future is an ‘Unknown Unknown’, but with a match fit, agile procurement team, at least you’ll be prepared for what comes next.

 Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London.

Cognitive Technology Is A Bicycle Built For Two

By 2020, every important decision will be made with the assistance of cognitive technology but that doesn’t mean the  procurement function will be replaced altogether. instead, Man and Machine will work in tandem. 

Watch our free webinar, “Man and Machine: Redefining Procurement’s Role in the Digital Age”, here.

When someone like Ginni Rometty, the current CEO at IBM, says this, it’s worth paying close attention. As we have explored in the past, artificial intelligence and infinite data means endless opportunities, both personally and professionally.

Rometty also speaks from a position of authority and experience. IBM’s Cognitive Technology solution, Watson,  is already transforming fields like health care, finance, entertainment and retail.

The system has the potential to understand, learn and think through any procurement issue or question presented, offering detailed answers, analysis, or solutions, just as human can. But the difference is that Watson can do this on a scale and speed that outstrips the human brain.

Man and Machine – What’s Procurement’s Role?

This presents great opportunities for procurement, helping make faster, more informed decisions, with deeper insight and greater certainty.

However, as with any new technology, opportunities also come with uncertainty and challenges. Does procurement truly have the agility, and desire, to embrace this new technology and remain relevant?

And what is the role left for procurement professionals, when the smartest guy in the room is Watson?

Procurious teamed up with experts in the cognitive field to help procurement professionals get to grips with this tricky topic. Joining us for the webinar were:

  • Nathalie Fekete – Worldwide Cognitive Procurement Subject Matter Expert at IBM
  • Manoj Saxena – Founding General Partner at The Entrepreneur’s Fund
  • Pascal d’Arc – General Manager at Cognitive Scale

Cognitive – Big Ideas and Significant Shifts

“This is one of the most significant shifts in human history.”

So what’s the Big Idea behind Watson? Well you may not be aware of it, but Watson has probably already touched your life, and the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

According to Nathalie Fekete the core concept driving Watson is its ability to interpret vast quantities of data, and think and reason like a human being. The machine is built to mirror the same cognitive learning process that humans have, even following the same “Observe; Interpret; Evaluate; Decide” process we use for decision making.

And it’s this adaptive nature, including the ability to augment human intelligence that makes Cognitive so important. Manoj Saxena believes that it’s the fourth biggest shift in human history, behind only the discovery of alphabets, and the inventions of the printing press and the Internet.

The Sky’s The Limit

“A little bit of AI can go a long way.”

According to Saxena, not only is AI already all around us, but we’ve also only just scratched the surface. What’s different now, and will be huge over the next 3-5 years, is the impact of AI on the enterprise.

AI and cognitive systems have already produced successful results in leading global companies across the financial services, retail, and healthcare sectors. And this innovation will only develop in years to come as we progress to super-intelligent computers.

However, Saxena was also quick to point out that the hype surrounding the topic might be unhelpful. To him, it’s about separating super-intelligence in computing from awareness and consciousness.

Hollywood and the media might have their own thoughts on this, but humans are yet to fully understand awareness and consciousness in themselves, let alone give this power to computers.

We also need to better understand the key terminology across this topic too. Saxena helpfully laid it out like this:

  • AI is the mega-term. It’s the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, particularly intelligent computer programmes.
  • Machine Learning is a sub-set of AI. This is a science involving the development of self-learning algorithms where the system learns from experience.
  • Cognitive systems are next-generation IT systems that emulate human cognitive functions and software. Cognitive systems are essentially the practical and applied applications of machine learning and AI into specific industries and business processes.

Got it now? Now you’re in a better position to understand the impact on procurement.

Cognitive and Procurement – Impact and Benefits

“Putting the person front and centre of how we apply this new technology.”

Cognitive systems, as well as AI, stand to overturn the norms for procurement, bringing a huge number of potential benefits. Nathalie Fekete stated that one of the primary benefits relates to the analysis of data.

Using vast amounts of structured and unstructured data will help procurement with supplier evaluation, risk management, and benchmarking. This data, and the systems, will also provide a new gateway for innovation. Procurement will be able to find new routes and ideas for savings and opportunities, using cognitive technology.

Pascal d’Arc built on these themes too, highlighting the growing excitement in procurement around cognitive technologies. d’Arc talked about three key themes developing in this area:

  1. Putting the person at the centre of the technology
  2. Delivering a more personalised experience of how employees interact with or run procurement
  3. How cognitive technology is delivering adaptive and agile processes, as well as reducing the time taken for traditional tasks.

Man and Machine in Tandem

“Start now, because it’s happening very quickly.”

Are you worried you might be replaced by a computer? You shouldn’t be. Cognitive technology can eliminate, automate, reduce and empower jobs roles, says Nathalie Fekete. But the good news is that what it’s removing is the hazardous, dangerous, repetitive and manually intensive parts of the role.

Within procurement, this means that time can be saved on some tasks, and better spent elsewhere. The key for procurement professionals is to ensure that they have the right skills to do the new role. And to understand this and start up-skilling now.

Fekete and Pascal d’Arc expanded on this, highlighting key skill areas future professionals will need:

  • Traditional procurement skills such as negotiation, Category Management and Supplier Relationship Management
  • Collaborative working
  • Project Management and Change Management

Learn More

What we’ve outlined above is just a small fraction of the great knowledge shared in the webinar. To access the full discussion, as well as other key insights from our experts, you can register here.

And the learning doesn’t stop there. If you have any questions, please let us know below, and we’ll make sure it gets passed along to the experts.

Watch the full webinar here. 

How To Inspire Creativity With The Three Fs!

To achieve creative cultures  within our organisations and inspire creativity in individuals, we need to Fund, Foster and Fill!

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

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius! firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. He’ll be speaking at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London on 23rd February but we’ve picked his brains ahead of the event to find out his top tips for inspiring creativity and his plans for the future..

What is a creative change agent?

A creative change agent is essentially a ‘lateral thinking’ specialist. It’s someone who combines creativity with psychology to help businesses innovate and perform more effectively in a rapidly-changing world.

What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

When I was younger I was a laid-back song-writer and did not fully appreciate how important it is, in business and life, to ‘make your own sunshine’. Over the years, however, and especially  when I wrote my books Genius! and Business Genius! I came to realise that books don’t write themselves; they ended up taking me far longer to write than I ever imagined, and involved far more hard work than I ever envisaged. However, fortunately the hard work paid-off – because they ended-up becoming best-sellers in the UK and then being translated into multiple languages from Chinese to Japanese, and Italian to Thai – and that taught me that ideas alone are not what makes the difference; it’s turning those ideas into reality that makes the difference.

What are your three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations?

My three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations would be what I call The 3 Fs: Fund, Foster, Fill.

Fund (i.e. invest in) ‘Creative Thinking’ training

Upskill people by teaching them ‘how’ to be more creative. Evidence suggests, for example, that virtually all of us were incredibly creative up until the age of about 5, but then this natural creativity was ‘schooled’ out of us by the double whammy of criticism and conformity. Effective ‘Creativity Thinking’ training can help to redress this situation by inspiring people to re-become creative.

Foster an atmosphere of Psychological Safety

Einstein once said that ‘a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ With this in mind, if an organisation genuinely wants to inspire creativity, it needs to provide employees with enough ‘wriggle room’ to make the occasional ‘excusable’ mistake – rather than ‘inexcusable’ mistake (which is a very different matter).

Fill the well 

I’ve long believed that in order to inspire others we need to feel inspired ourselves. Psychologists refer to this as ‘mood contagion’. So, if an organisation wants to inspire creativity, it needs to keep ‘Filling the Well’ (as the author Sheila Davis describes it) by encouraging people to branch out and watch new films, read interesting books, travel to different places etc… After all, bang in the middle of the word ‘Innovation’ we find the word ‘Nova’ – which meant ‘new’ in Roman times – so a constant inpouring of fresh stimulus is likely to inspire a culture that goes beyond ‘what is’ to explore ‘what could be’.  

You’ve composed hit pop songs, written best-selling books and work as an innovation consultant. What’s next?

I’m currently working on a wide range of projects – linked to ‘Lateral Thinking’ in business and academia. However, longer-term, I’d love to take my Business Genius and ‘Lateral Thinking’ work to whole new level, and develop Lateral Thinking TV, movies, and animations etc…

How do latest technology developments influence the way you consult with organisations and drive innovation?

To be honest, although technology developments have influenced the way I consult with organisations and drive innovation – eg. by making it far easier for me to communicate with clients around the world without always having to ‘be there’ in person – technology itself does not influence me as much as it helps other innovation consultants I know.  I tend to focus more on ‘innovativeness’ than ‘innovation.’ In other words, I focus more on the people-side of innovation – the psychology side.

It’s easy to think that our modern age is infinitely more ‘innovative’ than any other with its amazing advances in technology. Without a doubt the ‘pace’ of change does keep getting faster and faster, which academics label ‘accelerated evolution.’ However, just look at the Edwardian Age. Within ten years along came the Car, the Plane, the Radio and the TV. Each one of them radically transformed the world we live in, far more than the latest XI78 or X189, that will soon end up somewhere in a design museum like the DVD or the first Blackberry.

I work with the ESA,  European Space Agency, who are putting 3-D printers on Space Stations. In fact, there are even 3-D printers now that can make 3-D printers ! We must not lose sight, however, of how technology is driven by ‘people’, and inspired by ‘people’.  The human factors that make innovation happen can also ‘stop’ innovation from happening if they are not addressed and resolved.

Do you ever get tired of thinking up ideas?

Yes and no. I personally get a buzz from ‘divergent thinking’ – i.e. thinking outwards towards multiple possibilities – more than ‘convergent thinking’ – i.e. analysing and dissecting data.

However, when I’m working with groups on Idea Generation, I fully appreciate that ‘thinking up ideas’ can be deceptively tiring for some people. Especially those who have a strong preference for sequence and structure.

Tony Buzan,  the inventor of mind-maps, is a great inspiration of mine. I spoke with him a few years ago and  was struck by how well he manages to fuse the two. Mind-maps, for example, can energise people by stimulating ‘radiant thinking’. They also make it easier for them to think up new ideas, yet at the same its ‘systematic’ approach can also give people a flexible structure to prevent them feeling overwhelmed and swamped by imaginative solutions.

It’s important to remember that everybody has an imagination. We continually ‘think up ideas’ whether we see ourselves as creative or not. In fact, one of the biggest buzzes I get in business is helping people to realise that they are a lot more creative than they give themselves credit for…

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London. 

Just When You Thought Our Ideas Couldn’t Get Any Bigger…

Spend 15 Minutes with five procurement power-players in our podcast series, Even Bigger Ideas, presented by State of Flux.

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

As a Big Ideas Summit 2017 digital delegate, you’ll gain access to insightful discussions, connect with our procurement influencers, access video content from the event and have the chance to share your own big ideas with the Procurious community.

And, if that wasn’t enough, your digital experience just got that little bit richer and more intimate as we announce Even Bigger Ideas!, a 5-Part Podcast Series, which will be available exclusively to our Digital Delegates on Procurious.

Over five, bite-sized podcasts you will hear from some of the most intriguing thought-leaders on the trends disrupting business and the Big Ideas to benefit from them.

Without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to the stars of the show who’ll be helping you to think the unthinkable, nurture your big ideas in the biggest companies and unleash your creative genius.

James Bannerman – 15 Minutes to Unleash Your Creative Genius – Tuesday 21st February

Tuesday 21st February

Our podcast series kicks of with James Bannerman, Creative Change Agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter. James believes that in a world where innovation is the new currency, procurement teams that fail to execute their ideas with originality just won’t cut it. He’ll be offering some top tips on how to unlock creativity in order to help us all achieve additional moments of pure genius.

Linda Yueh – Should Procurement Pros Be Concerned About Global Trade?

Wednesday 22nd February

Linda is a renowned economist and Adjunct Professor of Economics for London Business School. She was the BBC’s Chief Business Correspondent and host of “Talking Business with Linda Yueh”, as well as Economics Editor at Bloomberg TV.  She’s the go-to expert on issues relating to global trade, Brexit and Trump’s presidency. Concerned that a rise in protectionism might have a negative impact on your global supply chains? Linda’s  on hand to quell your fears and put your mind at ease.

Chris Lynch – Nurturing Big Ideas through Big Companies

Thursday 23rd February  

Chris Lynch, Chief Financial Officer at Rio Tinto, has had nearly 30 years’ experience in the mining and metals industry. He joined the Rio Tinto boards as a non-executive director in September 2011, and was appointed chief financial officer-elect, an executive board director and a member of the Executive Committee in March 2013. Chris has spoken extensively about the importance in fostering a culture of “intrapreneurship” within large organisations. He’ll explain how individuals will face more resistance, the bigger their idea is but, with the right nurturing and persistence, their is a chance of success!

Nik Gowing -Thinking the Unthinkable – The Update

Thursday 23th February

2016 Big Ideas Summit speaker, Nik Gowing is back to give us his latest update on Thinking the Unthinkable. Nik is a visiting Professor at King’s College & former BBC-Broadcaster with over 35 years analytical expertise in diplomacy, defence, international security. Last year, Nik explained that executive leaders are experiencing the very human sensations of feeling overwhelmed,  under pressure and unable to think unthinkables. What, if anything, has changed in the last 12 months?

Anders Sorman-Nilsson Seamless – Digital Adaptation and Human Transformation

Friday 24th February 

Anders is a Futurist and the Founder and Creative Director of Thinque, a strategy think tank that helps executives and leaders convert disruptive questions into proactive, future strategies. He’s an active member of TEDGlobal, has keynoted at TEDx and guest lectured at Sydney University and University of Technology Sydney Business School. Anders will help you prepare for a digital future lead you to question if your procurement team suffers from change fatigue!

Even Bigger Ideas is presented by State of Flux.  

No budget, no problem! Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!

The Samsung Smartphone Debacle: Suppliers Pushed Too Far, Too Fast?

Samsung has apportioned some of the blame for its exploding Note 7 phones to two of its battery suppliers. But who is ultimately responsible? Is the pressure to innovate at all costs leading to unsafe development and testing time-frames?

What Went Wrong?

Samsung  has begun the long task of rebuilding consumer trust in its smartphones. But questions remain.   Why didn’t Samsung pick up design and manufacturing faults before they sold 1 million unsafe devices to customers? The cause appears to lie in Samsung’s rush to beat its arch-rival Apple to market. This led to a failure to properly test lithium-ion batteries in the Note 7 phone.

The pressure to innovate that tech giants such as Samsung place on their suppliers is immense. Particularly when competitors such as Apple are constantly upping the ante. Every new release on a phone must be demonstrably better than the last.  This means delivering ever-smaller and lighter batteries that customers can charge rapidly and use for a full day and evening.

Battery manufacturers responded to the challenge by using a thin “club sandwich” design. In this battery positive and negative electrodes are stacked and kept apart using layers of separators. Unfortunately, the pressure for an ever-thinner battery meant that the separators were too thin, leading to shorts and subsequent over-heating. A second, unrelated design fault lay in an abnormal welding process. This led to contact between a positive terminal and a negative electrode.

Spreading the blame

The fallout for the exploding smartphones follows a familiar pattern where, although the technical fault lies with a supplier of products and services, the big-name parent company takes the lion’s share of the blame. Even when the parent organisation attempts to publicly offset some of the blame onto its suppliers, consumers typically assign responsibility to the most recognisable brand.

An example of this famously occurred in April 2010 with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  The owner of the well, BP, took most of the responsibility (and $54 billion in associated costs), whilst the contracting operators came under considerably less scrutiny. Tellingly, a U.S. District Judge apportioned 67% of the blame for the spill to BP, 30% to Transocean and 3% to Halliburton.

Samsung, to its credit, did accept overall responsibility for the $6.9 billion mistake even while it pointed the finger at battery manufacturers. Samsung Electronics America senior vice president Justin Denison told a press conference: “Ultimately we take responsibility for this. It’s our product, we set the specifications, and it’s up to us to catch the problem before it leaves in one of our devices.”

The long road to brand recovery

Youtube users may have noticed Samsung’s brand-repair efforts have gotten underway, with ads such as the following appearing online:

The South Korean company has invested $170 million into safety.  It is assertively broadcasting its new 8-point safety check which includes a durability test, visual inspection, x-ray test and others. Samsung’s investigation into the Note 7 failures included over 700 R&D engineers. These engineers tried to replicate the issue by testing 200,000 phones and 30,000 standalone batteries.

But, in a further unfortunate setback for the brand, one of the affiliates responsible for manufacturing the faculty batteries – Samsung SDI – experienced a factory fire last week in Tianjin, China, with 110 firefighters and 19 trucks responding to the blaze.

Senior executives from Samsung have commented that they’ve learnt an enormous amount about crisis management in the past few months. Observers, too, can draw some valuable lessons around the dangers of rushing new innovations to market and the ineffectiveness of attempting to apportion blame to suppliers.

Read more about Samsung’s smartphone battery issues.

In other procurement news this week…

Boeing’s Space Taxi to include 3D printed components

  • Boeing has commissioned 600 3D printed components from Oxford Performance Materials for use in its Starliner space taxi.
  • Boeing expects the spacecraft to fly unmanned in June 2018. and will have a first crewed test flight in August 2018. It will ferry two astronauts to the International Space Station for the first fully operational flight in December 2018.
  • The inclusion of 3D components marks a first for 3D technology usage in spacefaring technology, with increasing recognition that printed plastics perform well under the pressure of launch and in a temperature of absolute zero.

Read more at Supply Chain Dive.

New research reveals CEOs still don’t “get” procurement

  • Consultancy firm 4c Associates released the findings of a poll of 521 CPOs, managers and procurement personnel to understand how procurement is perceived by the C-Level.
  • 48% of participants claimed their boss “doesn’t get what the procurement team does, or can do”. 55% said the C-Level regards procurement as a support function. It exists to cut costs, rather than add strategic value to the organisation.
  • Mark Ellis, senior partner at 4c Associates, commented that procurement needs to proactively highlight the services they can provide beyond cost cutting. “If all the function does is speak in terms of savings, then that’s how it will be perceived: as a cost cutter”, Ellis said.

The Procurement Love Triangle

Love the idea of software solving all your procurement problems? You’d better make sure it’s working in harmony with your people and your processes. 

Paul Blake,  Senior Manager, Technology Product Marketing at GEP Worldwide is a keynote speaker at Big Ideas Summit 2017.  He’ll be talking about digital procurement transformation and why it’s so important for procurement to  adopt  digital-first models. We chatted to Paul ahead of the event to get his take on procurement’s current position.

Describe a perfect client for GEP?

The perfect GEP client is a large company with a lot of complexity in its spend but with a desire to do things better and drive more value into the business.

Do you think cognitive tech signals the end for the procurement profession in the near future?

I don’t.  Procurement has always been driven through human innovation and creativity, but that has often been constrained by the necessities of labour intensive transactional processing and data analysis.  Emerging technologies have the capacity to free the procurement profession from the bounds of document processing to focus more on driving new sources of value.

You’ve been at GEP for five years. What’s changed for the procurement function in this time?

Three major things:

  1. The cloud has come of age for procurement.  The industry can now conduct its entire operations completely independent of any infrastructure considerations.

2.  The unification of procurement and order processing.  Procurement’s remit used to end at the contract, with value realisation outside of their purview.  A single overview of “source-to-pay” gives a much greater ROI

3. The trend toward global harmonization of the supply chain is under threat.  That means increased risk, volatility and uncertainty.  Today, procurement teams need greater reserves of agility and responsiveness to remain successful.

What should we expect from the most successful procurement leaders of the future?

A recognition that procurement has a much broader, collaborative role to play across the entire business.  Reflecting changes in technology, the isolation of business functions into silos is retrograde thinking and a changing world will need a broad-minded approach to procurement operations

What 3 attributes make a great leader?

Education, education, education!

When is software not the answer?

When the question involves people and/or processes!  The three are so deeply interdependent that software itself is never the whole answer.

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017

Cognitive Technology – One Giant Leap for Procurement?

Technology has helped to define the human race, from the invention of the car to the moon landings. Cognitive technology is one small step on the journey into the future.

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

In 1961, US President John F. Kennedy said, “We chose to go to the moon.” People marvelled at the ambition of pushing the boundaries of human capabilities. After all, the technology to do this didn’t exist at the time.

Kennedy never lived to see his prediction come true, and watch as humans took that giant leap forward. Now, in the 21st Century, we come to the next advancement – cognitive technology.

It’s easy to compare the cognitive technology journey to the space programme and moon landing journeys of last century. For IBM, developing and deploying Watson is like the moonshot in the 1960s where IBM technology helped NASA make the lunar landings possible..

Cognitive technology is merely in its infancy in terms of where it can go. This journey will mostly likely take 50 years or more to be fully realised. And at the moment, we’re just in Year 1.

Millennials Will Help Take This Step

Procurement is starting its own cognitive technology journey and Millennials have the chance to be there at the outset. They will see cognitive technology evolving and developing throughout their whole career.

But first they need to know how to get on board and enjoy the journey.

At the same time, procurement professionals, and the wider workforce, are wondering what cognitive technology means for them. What’s left for procurement when cognitive systems like IBM’s Watson is the smartest guy in the room?

Without adapting and preparing adequately, procurement could easily be marginalised. But if CPOs lead from the front, identify the activities that only procurement can do, then procurement’s road will be much less rocky.

Now is not the time to be overwhelmed by cognitive technology, but to be educated. And to do this, we need to understand the key skills procurement professionals need to focus on to start preparing for the cognitive technology revolution.

Barry Ward, Procurement Brand Manager, Global Business Services at IBM, talks about five key skills below.

1. Watson Awareness

First things first, procurement professionals need to be aware of cognitive technology, and Watson, and what it can do for them.

The reality is that technology can change a job in four ways – eliminate, automate, empower, create. Far from being fearful for their jobs, procurement needs to embrace the change, and use it to enable the profession.

Traditional procurement processes such as cost optimisation, spend management and contracts can be empowered by Watson. Things that used to take days will now be done in a matter of minutes.

Watson can enhance these processes by analysing vast quantities of data, helping to improve the decision-making process. Through this, financial benefits can also be realised in this outcome focused structure.

Ward advises that professionals start with the categories that they manage, and understand how AI can be introduced (IBM refer to AI as Augmented Intelligence, using technology to enhance human knowledge and capability). Then it’s a case of learning as you go, and sharing knowledge with others to work collaboratively and to fully exploit the capabilities that the technology can bring

2. Relationships 

Cognitive technology may make computers super-intelligent, but it doesn’t mean consciousness or awareness. There will always be a need for the human touch in management of stakeholders.

In fact, as technology helps free up time for procurement to focus on strategic tasks, building relationships will become more critical than ever. For example, good supplier relationships will help procurement be more agile, ensuring they stay ahead of stakeholder needs.

Data can only take procurement so far. The rest is down to procurement doing the relationship work we always have done. Only now we’ll have more time to do it, and more information to help enhance the relationship.

3. Negotiation

As with relationship management, traditional procurement skills such as negotiation will also still be key. Watson can give recommendations for how to proceed, but ultimately it can’t make decisions for you. And you’ll always have the ability to correct it too.

However, Watson can help with providing data to enhance the negotiation itself. The system can give details on the person you are negotiating with, and help cut down the preparation time.

For example, if you were negotiating with Barry Ward, and you had done so in the past, Watson would be able to tell you what these previous experiences were like. Like what Barry does in certain circumstances, for example.

There’s less dancing around, you can get straight to the point, all of which saves you time. Plus, you’ll probably get a better deal out of it too!

4. Understand your organisation’s cognitive technology journey 

Find out what your CIO or CTO is doing, and what their plans are for the organisation in terms of cognitive technology. You can ask what the digital transformation will look like, and then think about how to prepare, or even influence, it.

Professionals can assess their own category, and establish what cognitive solutions are available in the market place. The key is learning how cognitive technology might specifically benefit your area.

For example, if you are travelling and your plans change, cognitive technology can assist. All you do is put the details into your phone, and the technology will assess the change, look at your airline and hotel preferences, and then present a plan, complete with cost, for your approval. All without lifting a finger. In truth, these systems are probably a couple of years away yet, but they will fundamentally change the way some categories are managed.

5.  Be Data Savvy

Finally, professionals need to be savvy in terms of knowing what cognitive technology can do for them in terms of data. As we have said, Watson is capable of handling structured and unstructured data, photos, contracts, documents, and even audio files.

The system can make sense of the data, and provide solutions based on combinations of data you’ve never even thought of. The quality of decision-making is improved, and previously unattainable insights are freely available.

We are only just discovering the possibilities that technological advances will bring but it is clear that digital transformation will open up huge opportunities for us all. This will be an exciting time to be in Procurement !

Barry will be  explaining the big ideas behind Watson and the opportunities that cognitive tech presents to procurement at  Big Ideas 2017. Register as a digital delegate.  

Stand By Your Women (…in Procurement)

You might not have to look far to find women who inspire, support and influence you throughout your procurement career.

Procurious recently launched Bravo, a new group seeking to address gender disparity in the workplace, and celebrate and empower women working within procurement.

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be interviewing a number of high profile procurement leaders and seeking their advice on how we can help other women to get ahead in their procurement careers.

Kelly Sissons is a category lead for connected home and accessories wearables consumer products.

In this interview Kelly discusses the issues that affect her as a woman in procurement, explains why procurement is the perfect career for her and lists a whole host of inspirational women!

What has been your most rewarding experience and greatest accomplishment to date?

I worked as the procurement category lead to support the launch of Telstra Smart Home, a new consumer technology offering that is revolutionising the homes of Australians. This was both a rewarding and great accomplishment. I was involved in developing the procurement strategy, conducting RFIs to source new suppliers, products and services and establishing contractual and commercial arrangements. It was really exciting to see the impact of my work when the category launched in market.

It’s also extremely rewarding to achieve  positive business outcomes when working through complex negotiations. This includes conducting dispute resolution activities to improve relationships amongst stakeholders

What issues currently affect you as a woman in procurement?

Procurement is doing well to address the barriers woman face in the workplace such as sexism and discrimination. In saying that, I believe that there needs to be further initiatives to increase the number of women in middle and senior management positions. Organisations and procurement must ensure that they adopt and embrace flexible working cultures to allow women with family and caring responsibilities to choose to remain at work.

Another issue I have noticed, which is a reflection of society as a whole, is that when working with stakeholders (men and women) from other departments or organisations there are still gender biases to overcome.

Who are the most influential women in your life?

Sheryl Sandberg is a great influential world leader who placed a focus on some important issues that women face in the workplace. Her book Lean In helped me to understand that self-doubt is a common fear women face and one that I need to contest. I’ve learnt to have confidence in my abilities and to put my hand up for opportunities.

Recently I worked with a great leader, Deanna Lomas, who challenged me to dream big and to consider opportunities beyond what I know. She taught me the importance of establishing a personal brand and taking charge of your career.

My mother inspires me to be strong and empathetic and my friends help me to be brave, to laugh and to stay focused.

Aside from these women, I regularly encounter incredible women that inspire me in many different ways.

Why is procurement the perfect career for you? 

Procurement is a profession that offers a lot of variety. I am continuously being challenged and always learning, which I love.

I have enjoyed countless opportunities including working with world leading organisations and with people at all levels across the business, gaining exposure to new technologies and working on a diverse range of projects.

Early in my career I have accountability, the ability to influence business decisions and am making recognisable impacts.

In procurement I am able to work on initiatives that address human rights issues that I am passionate about. This includes increasing the use of indigenous companies in corporate procurement and ensuring that corporations are only engaging with suppliers that follow ethical practices in their supply chains.

If you could offer your younger self two pieces of advice, what would they be? 

  • Surround yourself with the right people

Always surround yourself with people that enrich your life, inspire you to be a better person, challenge you, empower you to grow and who will help you find success. When considering whether or not to take a job, ensure that your manager and the team culture embody these characteristics. When a job no longer provides these things, consider moving onto something new. Seek out mentors and a support network of people that want to unlock your potential and to help you find your success. Once you find these people ensure that you put in the effort to sustain relationships.

  • Seek out challenging opportunities wherever possible and don’t be afraid of failing

Never let yourself become too comfortable and always seek opportunities to challenge yourself. Stepping outside of you comfort zone means you’re entering a new learning opportunity and will experience growth. Don’t say no to opportunities or hold back because you’re scared to fail. Accept that failure is a part of life. If you plan and put in your best effort regardless of the outcome you will feel better for trying.

At Procurious, we want to make it easier for women to get into, stay in, and thrive in the procurement profession. This is why we are launching Bravo – a Procurious Group celebrating and promoting women in Procurement. Join the conversation here.

Procurement Leaders: Don’t Be A Creativity Killer

Everyone is born with a lot of creative potential. So what’s been holding us back all this time from releasing our inner creative genius?

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

Last week, we introduced James Bannerman as one of our Big Ideas speakers.  A creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter, James  firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative.

To start unlocking creative genius within our procurement teams it’s important to first understand the reasons that creativity is often so lacking. What happens between childhood and adulthood that means the average person is so deterred from expressing their creative genius in the workplace? James has a good idea about what’s holding us all back and it often comes down to three things…

Labels

It’s all too easy to get categorized by managers, colleagues and even our own self-doubt. Perhaps someone has identified you as having a particular type of creative talent but written you off in other aspects. Maybe you’ve been discounted as a creative genius altogether! Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses and areas to which they are more suited but in pigeon holing people, we are also limiting them. James believes that by labeling ourselves we are stifling our imaginations and he points out that often the best ideas come when we least expect them and from the people we least expect them from!

Organisational Structures

We’ve all had that one boss who greets every new idea with a perplexed look, a raised eyebrow or complete disinterest. Sometimes, it’s the age-old story of senior management wanting to keep things simple, avoid too much risk and a reluctance to alter the status quo.

Even within organisations who are sincere about wanting to innovate, it’s easy to discourage employees without even realising it, leaving a team of budding intrapreneurs fearful of getting it wrong or what their colleagues might say and too embarrassed to express their best and wackiest ideas. Organisations must create an environment of psychological safety that allows employees to feel comfortable to be creative even in the highly regulated environment of a workplace.

Time

Bannerman is keen to affirm that miraculous and fully-formed ideas won’t simply land at your feet. Instead, he recommends a technique called deliberate creativity:

“ If people had all the time in the world they could patiently wait for genius ideas to fall from the sky. In the real world of business, however, most people are time-poor and don’t have that luxury. That is why Edward de Bono – the author of Lateral Thinking – championed ‘deliberate creativity’.

De Bono showed us how we can use provocative mindtools to jolt the patterns of the mind, as and when required. Look at the highly-innovative organisation Pixar, for example, who appear to make great use of the Oppositions tool. If the rules of superheroes are that they have to be ‘young, fit and athletic’, for example, what do they do? They create ‘The Incredibles’.

Or if the rules are that ‘children are afraid of monsters’, what do they do ? They create ‘Monsters Inc’ where it is the monsters who are afraid of the children. Or if the last thing a chef wants in their kitchen is a rat, what do they do ? They make the rat the chef and create ‘Ratatouille’.

So if you’re looking for innovative solutions for your Procurement team or your organisational Supply Chain Management, ask yourself what might happen if you creatively questioned the habitual ‘rules’ ? The rules of cereal, for example, used to be that they were always eaten in a bowl with milk and a spoon. Questioning these rules, however, helped to inspire the invention of the ‘cereal bar’. Similarly, as Kelley of IDEO points out, for years high-jumpers used to jump forwards, but then – at the 1968 Mexico Olympics – Fosbury wondered what might happen if he deliberately jolted this pattern and jumped backwards, and now the ‘Fosbury Flop’ has become adopted around the globe.”

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!

Should Procurement Pros Be Concerned About Global Trade?

Renowned economist and Big Ideas Speaker Dr Linda Yueh explains why CPOs needn’t panic about the President Trump administration but there are causes of concern. 

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

Donald Trump made good on a campaign promise on the first day of his presidency by signing an executive order indicating the United States won’t ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Though expected, the move caused a media storm and a flurry of responses from politicians and businesses all around the globe. But what does this mean for supply managers?

Many CPOs are understandably nervous about the Trump administration’s policies with regards to global trade. The resurgence of protectionism in the U.S., coupled with the continuing fallout and trade effects of Brexit, has left many procurement professionals wondering which region of the world they should plan to source from in the future.

The TPP was a massive free-trade agreement advocated by the Obama administration, aimed at deepening economic ties between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, cutting taxes, and fostering trade to boost economic growth in the process. Trump argued on the campaign trail that the agreement would be harmful to the U.S. manufacturing sector. As he signed the withdrawal order, he called it “a great thing for the American worker”.

Economist, broadcaster, author and Big Ideas Summit guest speaker Dr. Linda Yueh’s message to CPOs is one of caution but it’s not time to panic.

Don’t panic

According to Linda, there are three reasons not to panic about what Trump’s protectionist tendencies will mean for procurement, trade, and global supply chains.

  • We need to keep in mind that trade takes place under WTO rules. China is the U.S.’s biggest trading partner, despite no free trade agreement being in place. Of course, if Trump were to pull out of the WTO, then that would be a game changer. But, globalisation, especially e-commerce and the Internet linking markets and people, will mean that trade is likely to continue across borders as it’s hard to see a significant roll-back Costs of trade, of course, are another issue to be focused on.
  • Luckily, the Trump administration hasn’t honed in on e-commerce, which is good news for procurement and supply chains. Currently, one in ten transactions are already undertaken via e-commerce, and this figure will continue to grow.
  • Trump may have moved quickly to sign the TPP withdrawal order on his first day in office, but that wasn’t a formal agreement. Extricating the United States from NAFTA for instance will require renegotiation time and then a period of notice before that free trade agreement would end. Even then, most trade agreements include implementation periods, so a “cliff edge” is unlikely which gives businesses time to plan. Therefore, there’s no need to panic or overhaul your supply chain immediately. But, of course, forward planning and following economic policies would be wise. Also, take Brexit as an example – if Britain succeeds in triggering Article 50 in March 2017, then the UK is scheduled to leave the EU by the end of March 2019 – almost three full years after the people’s vote. And even there, the Prime Minister has indicated that there may be an implementation period to allow more time for businesses to adjust to leaving the Single Market.

Things to watch

So, Linda warns that supply managers should keep an eye on certain factors as global trade adjusts to these seismic political shifts.

1) U.S. border taxes – recently, Trump threatened BMW with a 35 per cent border tax on foreign-built cars imported to the U.S. market. This isn’t an isolated incident and American companies are under even more pressure to produce in the U.S.. Congress is also considering a similar tax, so that is worth bearing in mind as that would have the force of legislation.

2) U.K. Tariffs – one of the consequences of a “hard” Brexit where the UK leaves the EU without any preferential trade deal, which would include no agreement on the Single Market, Customs Union, is the re-emergence of customs for EU trade. Right now, significant customs procedures only apply to non-EU shipments. But, with around half of UK exports going to the EU, taking leave of Britain’s membership in the EU with no deal would means the end of free movement of goods. More customs declarations and duties would raise costs, slow down supply chains and certainly add time at border checks. A potential ‘hard border’ would be a particular issue for Ireland.

3) Resourcing Brexit – the UK Government also needs to think about the resourcing challenges involved in ramping up staff as well as IT systems to cope with the doubling of customs checks on the UK border.

4) NAFTA – As mentioned earlier, Trump has also flagged that the North American Free Trade Agreement (between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.) is up for renegotiation. If you’re a U.S. company, you need to start making plans now about how these changes will affect you. The same applies to any other of America’s free trade deals with 20 countries that Trump would have the authority to re-examine.

What about China?

Globalisation has helped China become a manufacturing powerhouse, but with numerous closed markets.

However, there are very good reasons to continue to do business with China. Wages may be rising but that helps businesses to think about China as a market as well as one production locale in a supply chain. Plus, with growing protectionism in America, China’s President has signalled that China may take more of a lead in globalisation. There’s a lot to watch for.

In short, Linda’s advice to CPOs around the world is keep calm, but keep an eye on the details as the globalisation landscape is shifting significantly. Global trade won’t end tomorrow but it will likely look rather different in the coming years.

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London.