All posts by Procurious HQ

Don’t Judge A Procurement Job By Its Cover

Ever been attracted to a new job because of the flashy brand? Graham Lucas warns that you should be looking at the people on the inside. 

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

Graham Lucas is Managing Director – Procurement & Supply Chain and Logistics at Michael Page. He’ll be speaking at this year’s Big Ideas Summit about procurement  recruitment.  We’ve picked his brain this week to find out what key skills procurement recruiters are fighting over in 2017 and what mistakes job applicants should avoid making.

Who are the best procurement candidates and why?

For me, the best procurement candidates are those that are highly commercial whilst having lots of emotional intelligence. We are also increasingly talking about bravery.

The requirement around influencing, communication skills, and category knowledge are well trodden boards and are still very valid. But the bravery and creativity it takes to innovate is underdone. This is something that we need to see much more of day-in and day-out if the procurement functions are going to end up as overall commercial custodians of their organisations.

What key skills are recruiters fighting over in 2017?

People who can demonstrate an ability to:

  • Deliver value to the bottom line in a dynamic manner and not just reduce costs
  • Unlock competitive advantage from the supply base through true partnership
  • Influence others, both internally and externally
  • Embrace technology that can help us move further, faster
  • Innovate by managing a supply base of experts to help their business compete

What are the biggest mistakes procurement professionals make throughout the recruitment process?

I think many people are keen to talk about the £30m saving they made.  This is great but I do think that, unless you are managing a huge spend, it’s easy to oversell your impact.

Talking about some of the more tangible things that you did, and how you delivered these, is more impressive. I met with a candidate last week who had identified a food material that was being cooled a further four degrees lower than was required before being packaged. He was able to explain the financial benefits across the utility and labour spend which amounted to a £400k saving. All whilst speeding up the manufacturing process, which supports their customer objectives. Evidently, the previous half-dozen people in his role didn’t identify this.

How has the recruitment industry changed during your time at Michael Page?

Fourteen years ago the market was fairly linear. The line manager or their personnel team recruited someone, or an agency did.

Now the market is much more varied, highly competitive and dynamic. Four thousand recruiters started up last year I believe and that’s just in 2016.

Add to that the advances of technology (job boards, linked in etc.) in-house recruitment teams, RPO’s, MSP’s, and we can see that many more commoditised markets have been eroded.

Whilst recruiters are having to evolve and embrace these challenges, I genuinely believe the right specialists, knowledge and strong relationships, have never been more required than they are now.

What two pieces of career advice would you give to any of procurement’s rising stars?

Don’t be blinkered. The more you can understand your broader business, the sector you are in, supplier challenges etc., the more likely you are to progress. Your ability to navigate organisations and departments outside of your own will be essential. That’s the secret to being  highly successful.

Don’t judge a job or organisation on the brand, or value of your category. A great career move tends to be based on the person you will work for, the people you will work with, and how those two things can personally develop you.

How do you identify innovation in candidates?

Someone should be able to clearly and positively explain what they have challenged, changed and most importantly, show what positive impact that has had on customers. For me, the best innovation has the customer at the heart of it, adding value to them even if at times it hasn’t directly benefited the bottom line.

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

 

It’s Not Your Father’s Procurement Organisation

Procurement organisations of today differs greatly from previous generations.  The Hackett Group’s Chris Sawchuk discusses changes he has witnessed in his seventeen years at the company. 

Predrag Popovski/Shutterstock.com

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

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.  We chatted to Chris this week to learn more about his career, The Hackett Group’s journey and how he energises his workforce.

What should procurement organisations be focusing on in 2017?

2017 is the year of digital transformation.  If you or your company isn’t yet focused on it, you will, and need to, be very soon.  Companies and procurement organisations are beginning to re-imagine themselves in a digital world.  They  ask themselves, if I had to build the business or function today from the ground up, would it look the same?

In most cases, the answer is no.  A great first step is to create awareness across the organization of the technologies that are available today and more importantly, emerging.  Ask yourselves, how can these improve and augment our abilities to collaborate, predict, be agile, extract new insights…and ultimately create an advantage in the market.

Can you name a particular accomplishment that has shaped your career?

I am not sure there was a specific accomplishment that shaped my career, but a series.  My career began in the highly technical and analytical field of electrical engineering at United Technologies and IBM. It shifted to more of a business focus as I completed my MBA and began a new phase of my career in marketing & sales.

This phase helped to shape and develop my people-focused skills.  After some time, I found myself desiring to combine the analytical skills in my early career with the people-focused skills I developed in marketing & sales and this led me to consulting.

Having worked in consulting and specifically on procurement & strategic sourcing for many years, The Hackett Group provided an opportunity to help augment their project focused benchmarking and consulting business.  This involved building a global member based advisory business that would provide an opportunity to develop unique intellectual property and research.

After more than 10 years, I am still engaged in that business; leading it’s sourcing & procurement efforts globally.

What skills/talents contribute to an all-round, great team?

  • Diversity in thinking and background
  • Willingness to collaborate and share
  • Similar levels of motivation and drive

How do you energise your millennial workforce?

Understanding that it can be challenging to energize your millennial workforce through traditional advancement opportunities. We need non-traditional methods, particularly in an environment of accelerated millennial expectations.  If you agree that millennials are energised by change and new opportunities, then we need to focus on ways to energise them in an environment where upward mobility may be more limited in an era of flatter organizations.

We challenge individuals with developing new client services, new process focus areas, etc.  The real difficulty is balancing.  We are in a global environment that expects consistent improvement in how we deliver value to clients whilst also delivering new value. Whilst this is difficult, it does provide the opportunity for change that energises millennial workforces…and beyond.

You’ve worked at the Hackett Group for seventeen years.  In what ways have you seen procurement organisations develop over this time?

Wow, great question.  As they say, it’s not your father’s procurement.  Today, we focus much more on business enablement.  As you see, I didn’t say “spend cost savings”.  Now, saying that, we still have a long road ahead of us.  I truly believe if we look at what we do through the business success lens, we will be successful.

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

Industry 4.0 Will Change the Very Nature of Procurement

Automation and digital technology will change supply chains. But, Industry 4.0 looks set to change the very nature of procurement.

Download your copy of ‘Procurement 4.0 – The Digitalisation of Procurement’ on the Fraunhofer IML website.

So far in this series we have looked at the concepts behind Industry and Procurement 4.0, and the start of procurement’s journey. Now, with the idea that digitalisation is inevitable, we look to explore how it will change the nature of procurement.

As the manual processes are removed, or made more efficient, procurement professionals will tackle a much-changed role.

Setting New Objectives?

The BME study looked at four key areas of procurement that will be impacted by Industry 4.0. These are: technologies and systems; organisations and processes; management and people; business models.

The study highlighted key procurement objectives for leaders within each area.

Technologies and Systems

  • Real-time and better data availability
  • Improved data quality
  • Data access from all locations
  • More transparency of data and across the supply chain
  • Quick response to market changes

Organisations and Processes

  • Standardisation of processes
  • Faster, more efficient processes
  • Increased efficiency
  • More flexibility
  • Better global networking

Management and People

  • Improved human resources planning
  • Strategic placement of procurement within the company
  • Bigger savings
  • Creating synergies
  • Tapping into strategic markets

Business Models

  • Preserving competitiveness
  • Easier communication with customers and suppliers
  • More customer-oriented business models
  • Stronger development into a service provider
  • Creation of new networks

The objectives range from the strategic, to the vague. They also fail to really provide a focus for what procurement needs to achieve. Additionally, the objectives could well have been set without a consideration of the impact of Industry 4.0.

And without due consideration of what the future will look like, procurement seems destined to stand still in a fast-moving world.

Changing Procurement’s Nature

Although it seems to be procurement’s nature to revisit ‘traditional’ objectives, there is a chance that change will be forced upon it. And as the role of procurement changes, so too will the role of the procurement professional.

Prof. Dr Michael Henke,  Head of Enterprise Logistics at TU Dortmund University believes that “Procurement professionals need to move away from old management structures. Procurement 4.0 requires rethinking and thus also a management 4.0.”

Even although there is an inevitability about this change, there is resistance to it. Could this resistance be mitigated, or even overcome, by improving education on benefits and advantages to organisations?

If digitalisation can help achieve proper efficiencies, and help procurement deliver on objectives, then the profession can continue to evolve. But even as procurement evolves, there will still be a place for people in the process.

People’s Place in Procurement

According to the survey, the general feeling is that much of procurement will be automated, and will therefore require fewer people to manage it. Companies may even outsource procurement in a way more commonly seen with services.

However, the smaller number of procurement professionals will be highly skilled, well-qualified, and much sought after. ‘Purchasers’ will work with complex data, and interact with departments more as consultants. But it’s the focus on people that will remain, regardless of other changes.

People will still be involved with negotiations, and in management of relationships. Irrespective of how processes are managed, strategic relationships will underpin procurement activities, and, because of this, will need human involvement.

Exactly how this will look is still unclear. And there is certainly discussion required in this area. Both the human factor, as well as resistance to change need to be considered as the first hurdle for procurement to overcome. That will ultimately give a much more solid platform to develop from.

We will consider the challenges for procurement in Industry 4.0 more closely in our next article.

The Association Supply Chain Management, Procurement and Logistics (BME), founded in 1954, is the leading professional association for supply chain managers, buyers and logisticians in Germany and Central Europe.

Fraunhofer IML, founded in 1981, is a global expert on all fields of internal and external logistics. The Institute also currently heads up the largest logistics research centre in Europe.

To download your copy of the report, visit the Fraunhofer IML website.

The procurement function must adapt and evolve to accommodate technology changes and be ready to embrace what we’re calling Procurement 4.0. The question is: Are We There Yet? Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for The Big Ideas 2017 in London. 

Standard, Express, or Flying? Why supply managers need to be ready for delivery drones

Flying delivery drones will soon take over the last mile of your supply chain. Have you started planning ahead for a drone-filled future? 

“Alexa, re-order Doritos from Prime Air.”

Blink, and you’d miss it. Amazon purchased 10 seconds of the year’s most expensive advertising space last week to introduce the U.S. Super Bowl audience to two of its latest tech products: Amazon Echo and Amazon Prime.

Disgusted by her partner’s finger-licking, a tech-savvy woman directs her request for a second bag of Doritos to the IoT-enabled smart speaker in front of her television. The speaker (“Alexa”) in turn places an order with Amazon Prime, resulting in a delivery drone making a graceful touchdown in the yard outside.

Meanwhile in the U.K., a Youtube clip featuring former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson explains the ordering and drone delivery process in much greater detail:

Drone delivery services are swiftly approaching the commercial market, with Amazon taking a clear lead in the development race. In December, Amazon made its first successful go-round in a rural corner of England, where it has been beta-testing. While there’s still a significant weight restriction, the benefits of drone delivery are clear:

  • The 30-minute delivery time is an enormous improvement from the standard 24-48 hour wait customers currently experience when ordering online.
  • Drones can reach a height of 400 feet and fly for 24 kilometres at a stretch. They  avoid traffic and potential obstacles using laser, sonar and other technology.
  • Environmentally, battery-operated drone delivery ticks a lot of boxes as they’ll eventually replace many fuel-burning delivery vehicles currently on the road.
  • Finally, the full autonomy of drone delivery will mean there’ll be very little need for human interference, leading to enormous efficiency gains for delivery companies.

After the successful beta-tests in England, drone confidence is rising in the US, although the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has been slow to react. A report from December 2016 claimed the FAA has yet to begin drafting rules around flying drones over populated areas.

Testing, however, is taking place, with examples including UPS making a medical supply drop to an island off the coast of Massachusetts, while Alphabet’s drone delivery initiative (Project Wing) sent a hot dinner to students at Virginia Tech. Both the U.S. Postal Service and Britain’s Royal Mail have expressed keen interest in drone delivery as the cost of traditional delivery methods continue to rise. In Europe, DHL similarly completed a round of drone testing last year.

The process of delivery drones

Using a GPS system, delivery drones can quickly generate the most efficient route and even communicate with each other. Users can use communicate with delivery drones via smart phones, selecting delivery options such as: “Bring it to Me,” “Home,” “Work,” and “My Boat.” Additionally, if the customer relocates, the drones can redirect mid-route.

While apartment buildings are still too complicated for drone routes, doorstep delivery throughout rural and suburban neighbourhoods has been mastered.

Allison Crady, Marketing Specialist at CDF Distributors, has followed the rise of drone deliveries closely. She comments that drone delivery will only be applicable to a limited number of products at first: “Giant screen TVs will still require a typical truck delivery, but drone warehouses are currently ideal for light-weight purchases such as tech gadgets or snacks. As drone weight options increase through future development, their useful applications will extend far beyond simple convenience deliveries.”

What can supply managers do to prepare? 

Regulatory bodies such as the FAA move slowly to make drone deliveries a reality.  Supply managers can take advantage of this delay by planning ahead for a drone-based future. This means reviewing your current delivery arrangements (in-house or outsourced) and measuring:

  • the number of light-weight products currently delivered by truck that could be carried by drone
  • current delivery timeframes versus potential drone delivery speed
  • traditional price structures and operating costs against drone delivery
  • the human workforce required to run a delivery fleet versus autonomous drones
  • your current ability to deliver to difficult/remote locations
  • environmental benefits of taking fuel-burning cars off the road in favour of delivery drones.

In other  procurement news this week…

Huawei announces IoT Partnership with Deutsche Post DHL 

  • Huawei and Deutsche Post DHL Group will collaborate on innovation projects to develop a range of supply chain solutions for customers using industrial-grade Internet of Things hardware and infrastructure.
  • The group  is expected to make its IoT devices and network infrastructure accessible to DHL to assist in incorporating greater sensing and automation capabilities into warehousing, freight, and last-mile delivery services.
  • A  spokesperson from Huawei, Yan Lida, commented, “This partnership opens up an opportunity to improve the efficiency, safety and customer service offered by global supply chains in previously impossible ways, and defines how the Internet of Things will shape the fortunes of the logistics industry in the next few critical years of innovation.”

Read more at Logistics Magazine. 

Remote Australian supply chains cut by flooding

  • Floods in Western Australia closed major road transport routes for three days last week. Meanwhile, rail movement into Perth was delayed for five days.
  • The Newmont Mine in the Tanami desert has been closed for over a month due to the flooding. Delivery company Toll has been issued permits to use the flood-damaged roads to deliver fuel, food and emergency supplies to the community at the mine.
  • Parts of the Stuart Highway and Carpentaria Highway have also been closed. This is  impacting on the movement of heavy trucks in the region.

Read more at Fully Loaded. 

Back to School: Continuing Education Is Your Path to Success

Tired of being passed up for promotion? Want to further your career? Maybe it’s time for you to go back to school and continue your education.

So you spent your four years in university, got that business diploma, and got a job. Now what? Of course you can stay at the job you have and continue to improve your skills in the world of business. But as every aspect of business is constantly changing, many people with a bachelor’s degree may find themselves passed over for promotions because the ideal candidate has more education.

The simple fact is that the true path to success in any field is continuing education. Nowhere is this more true than in the business sector. Whether you’re working in finance or some other sector of the business realm, the importance of an MBA can’t be overlooked.

The good news is that getting that MBA is easier today than it’s ever been thanks to online courses from reputable universities with educators who know business administration inside and out. If you’d like to learn more about how working toward that MBA can improve your professional life read on to see just how impactful that degree can be.

Increased Salary

The most impactful reason to pursue an MBA is the simple fact that you’ll be more desirable to employers, and you can ask for and get an increase in salary. Depending on your chosen field, this can be in the range of 25-50 per cent more than you’re currently making.

Following the initial increase in salary, you can also expect to earn more over your lifetime with an MBA than if you stopped after earning a bachelor’s degree. It just makes good financial sense, especially if you plan to start a family.

More Opportunities Abroad

The business world isn’t limited to the United States. Business and financial hubs around the world like Hong Kong, Dubai, London, and Taipei are filled with companies eager to hire intelligent, dedicated employees. But there is a caveat. Most of these international companies all but require a master’s degree to even get a foot in the door.

Working abroad not benefits you culturally, it adds an impressive column to your CV. Additionally, in some countries, taking a job there can mean significant tax breaks. It’s for this reason that many people with advanced degrees now choose to work and live abroad.

You’re Not Limited to the Business Sector

Another great aspect of an MBA is that you’re not limited one particular industry. Finance, health care, education, and government are all eager to hire people with advanced degrees for a number of positions.

One of the key factors of the degree itself is that you’ll have the chance to choose sub-specialities. These areas of focus can put you in a better position to move toward other job opportunities. For many graduates this means they’ll be in a position to branch out and explore more varied job opportunities.

Increased Networking Opportunities

Many people say that, in the business world, it’s all about who you know and, in many ways, it’s true. An undergraduate degree in business and the process behind it doesn’t give you access to true business experts in the way that an MBA programme does. The connections that you’ll make during your MBA courses could prove to be very valuable.

Many educators who teach MBA courses do so in addition to regular jobs in the business world. If you’re a standout student and make the effort to meet and talk with your professors and their colleagues, you can find yourself in a great position when it comes time to ask for references and update your CV.

Taking the time to further one’s career through continuing education can seem like a daunting and time consuming task. However, many people who have taken the MBA plunge have found the hard work pays off in a big way.

There are so many types of MBA programme available, so do some research, decide which one is right for you, and start cracking books again. The rewards can be better than you expect.

Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her strong ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable.

The Big ideas Summit 2017: Join The Ride

If you’re bursting with questions for our Big Ideas 2017 speakers, now’s your chance to put them to the test and have your voice heard.

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

There’s less than a week to go until the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 but, there’s still time for you to make your voice heard as a digital delegate. Wherever you are in the world, you can help us to shape the event’s agenda by driving discussions and debate from the comfort of your own office, home or on the go.

Helen Mackenzie attended the event last year and particularly enjoyed the opportunities for meaningful discussion:

The Big Ideas Summit offers a chance to take stock of where things are both in the world we’re operating in and also within the profession itself.  The chance to discuss and debate some of the biggest issues of the day with a fantastic group of senior procurement people is an opportunity not to be missed.

Among our key themes underpinning the 2017 event are:

  • Industry 4.0 and how it’s reshaping procurement
  • Rebuilding your workforce for  Workforce 4.0
  • Procurement in the digital age
  • Authentic Leadership – Inspiring Trust and Driving Change in Uncertain Times

But we need your input too!

Why should I get involved?

Everyone in our 20,000 strong Procurious community has a unique opportunity to put our speakers to the test by asking them the toughest questions. In the Big Ideas Summit 2017 group, the conversation has already begun . Participants are reading exclusive, advance insights from the event’s presenters and contributing to topical discussions.

Your contributions needn’t stop ahead of the event, either. On the day we would love your input on the day’s  key themes and topics, and further questions based on what you’ve been hearing.

If there’s anything you’re burning  to ask one of our procurement thought leaders, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  This is your chance to connect with our speakers, senior executives, thought leaders and CPOs, thus gaining insights into the future of procurement.

We’ll be monitoring and updating the group and our twitter account throughout the day to feedback your questions.

Who’s answering my questions?

We’ve secured a stella line up for this year’s event and they’re ready and eager to answer the toughest questions you can put to them.

  • James Bannerman, Creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter
  • Chris Sawchuk, Principal and Global Procurement Advisory Practice Leader at The Hackett Group
  • Linda Yueh, fellow in economics, Oxford university and Adjunct Professor, London Business School.
  • Mark Stevenson, Futurist, entrepreneur, and author of global best-seller, ‘An Optimist’s Tour of the Future‘.
  • Paul Blake, Senior Manager, Technology Product Marketing at GEP Worldwide
  • Barry Ward,  Procurement Brand Manager, Global Business Services at IBM
  • Graham Lucas, Managing Director – Procurement & Supply Chain and Logistics at Michael Page
  • Deb Stanton, Executive Managing Director, CAPS Research.

How do I submit a question?

It couldn’t be easier to submit your questions and you’ve got couple options to do so:

You can also stay up to date, and get involved in real time via LinkedIn or Facebook  using the hashtag #BigIdeas2017.

Not yet registered as a digital delegate?

It’s as easy as pie to register as a digital delegate, simply join the group on Procurious and get stuck in.

And, in case you needed any more persuasion, here’s what Chris Cliffe, Director – CJC Procurement Ltd, had to say about last year’s event:

It goes without saying that this is a no brainer event to follow for everyone working, aspiring, thinking about procurement.  The quality, breadth and variety of the content was exceptional.

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

Procurement Leaders: Be Bold, But Nice!

According to Deb Stanton, procurement leaders should be bold enough to challenge but amicable enough that people will still want to work with them…

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

Deb Stanton is Executive Managing Director at CAPS Research and a keynote speaker at Big Ideas Summit 2017. She’ll be speaking about why, and how, procurement teams must focus on the now whilst keeping one eye on the horizon. We caught up with Deb ahead of the event in order to find out what she thinks constitutes a great leader and the importance of research and collaboration.

What 3 attributes make a great leader?

My “attributes” are not the typical leadership attributes.

“Be bold, but be nice” is my favorite motto and advice that I offer all supply chain professionals and procurement leaders.  We need to be bold enough to challenge, ask the right questions, and bring new ideas forward; yet do it in a way that people still want to work with you.  It’s a balance of driving advancements that we, as supply management leaders, recognise as game changers and also taking the time to know and understand the priorities of your internal business partners.

Another important attribute for procurement leaders is the ability to educate and be great storytellers.  Every day that we walk the halls of our companies we are in the role to educate, educate, educate.  We need to create the awareness and tell the story of the great value that supply management brings.

Third is to be passionate.  There is so many great advancements in the programs and processes within supply management.  No matter what company or industry, drive to a level that no one thought possible.

What are you most excited about in 2017 in terms of the procurement and supply chain profession?

There is tremendous advancements in the profession.  Five years ago we were not talking much about big data, data scientists, nexus suppliers, supply chain finance, 3D printing or blockchain.  The role of the buyer has expanded into many strategic roles which means it is a very exciting time for those in the profession.  What an impact SC professionals can make!

Do procurement pros use research enough?

There are two significant types of research.  The research that introduces new thinking and drives great thought leadership for supply management executives to contemplate.  Research helps drive new initiatives and stretch the boundaries of supply management.

Then there is the research that is applied at the commodity management level.  This type of research ensures we are developing the correct strategies for the commodities that we manage.  Both types of research are extremely important and could be leveraged more by procurement pros.

Do you think CPOS collaborate well?

It is interesting to see the different levels of maturity that exist with CPOs and their organizations.  There is a wide spectrum on the supply management maturity curve.  For example, some companies are just beginning to develop the discipline of commodity management. Other companies are pushing the edge on artificial intelligence and robotics.  As CPOs come together and collaborate there is still much to share and learn.

How can procurement encourage more women to join the profession (and stay with it)?

One of my favorite studies by CAPS Research that was completed in 2014 showed that women CPO’s made more in base salary than their male counterparts!  I feel that women executive procurement leaders are highly recruited, so let’s build a big pipeline of talent.

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

Are You A Procurement Starter Or A Finisher?

Are you a starter or a finisher? According to IBM’s Barry Ward, you’d better be both! Barry discusses the key skills most critical to procurement in the coming years.

Anton Brand/Shutterstock.com

Barry Ward, Procurement Brand Manager, Global Business Services at IBM is a keynote speaker at Big Ideas Summit 2017.  He’ll be explaining the big ideas behind Watson and the opportunities that cognitive tech presents to procurement. When we spoke to Barry ahead of the event he was keen to remind us that, despite rapid tech developments, traditional procurement skills are far from being made redundant.

How do you stay productive and current in a world of fast-paced innovation?

  • Collaborating with colleagues
  • Networking with others – using social media and other channels
  • Building and nurturing an ecosystem of organisations that are leading or developing solutions that may have or will have an impact in your function

What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

We will always need traditional procurement skills such as the ability to be a strong negotiator, to communicate well internally and externally, to be a starter and a finisher. But, on top of this I think the importance of an open mind and curiosity in terms of the role that technology can play in the future is going to be more important than ever.

There will be an increasing need for project management skills, change management, relationship management skills. This is on top of the usual and still critical traditional procurement skills such as category expertise or negotiation skills. I can also say that there is a growing importance in soft skills: communication, teamwork and collaboration and problem solving.

How has technology, the Internet of Things and e-Procurement affected IBM?

Technology has placed a key role in IBM’s transformation over the past 20 years or so. Its importance is perhaps more critical in the the current phase of our procurement transformation. Understanding how digital technology can transform the supply chain and our source to pay activities is critical in terms both driving our efficiency and effectiveness but also to showcase how procurement can drive value throughout our organisation.

This positions Procurement in a much more strategic role than ever before. Procurement data is much more visible than ever before.  Insights through combining unstructured and structured information augment our knowledge, with alerts being posted to mobile devices instantaneously means that buyers can have much better assurance of supply continuity, of being able to understand price opportunities and to focus their time and energies on higher value activities than ever before. Lower value work will become automated or systems-driven. This is all good news for Procurement.

One clear impact of this transformation is that our key stakeholders now have very high expectations of high performance from Procurement personnel, perhaps more so than ever before, but the rewards are clearly evident in terms of the value that individuals can bring as well as the procurement organisation as a whole.

How valuable have mentors been in your career?

Mentoring is a highly personal thing. Some people need to have guidance and direction particularly in an organisation that may be widely spread and fast-moving, and if you are looking to move around different functions. Similarly for those who are in a smaller organization, mentors can bring an external, broader perspective.

Others are confident of their own abilities in charting a course for their own development and progression. I have had mentors in the past, particularly when I was in the early stages of my career. The more confident you are of your attributes and ambitions the less I have found that I needed mentoring. I spend time mentoring others mainly from within IBM and mainly from other geographies.

How did you first become interested in procurement?

I didn’t know very much about Procurement in my time as an undergraduate. It was not a profession that had much coverage when I was at University, unlike Finance or Engineering.

My first job as a business graduate was as a Purchasing Analyst running Bill of Material queries in a MRP system for a large manufacturer. This brought me into contact with many parts of the organisation including procurement. The procurement manager at the time was quite an intellectual and gave me a broad view of the role that procurement can play in an organisation.

Clearly he influenced me as I have spent my subsequent career in procurement and supply chain roles!

How will cognitive technology impact procurement professionals?

Cognitive technology will transform the role of the procurement professional and the impact that he or she can make for their organisation. It will be able to remove some of the more prosaic parts of the procurement role, such as data gathering and analysis, together with augmenting a buyer’s knowledge thus enabling them to spend more time on higher value tasks and ultimately make better decisions and be more effective.

Procurement professionals will need to understand how cognitive technology works – so they can be alert to potential mistakes that can happen from cognitive solutions, so that data input from these solutions is relevant and accurate.  It will eventually help, and force, them with their career progression as well as developing their expertise.

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

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.

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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.