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Maximising Scientists’ Most Precious Resource – Time

Latest Enterprise Reagent Manager (ERM) system streamlines procurement processes and user interface, freeing up scientists’ valuable time.

ERM - Scientist Time

In the pharmaceuticals and life sciences business, time is the most precious resource. The more time available to be spent on research, the more ability scientists have to innovate. To support this, procurement processes need to be accurate, swift and robust.

Mid-way through their Next Level 2016 event, SciQuest announced the release of the latest version of Enterprise Reagent Manager (ERM).

ERM is a chemical inventory management software module that gives researchers and scientists full control over research inventory, from sourcing and purchase, through tracking and disposal.

Differentiated by it’s offering as the first and only triple-federated search functionality, SciQuest’s ERM is used by 8 of the 10 top global pharmaceutical companies.

Dynamic & Responsive Interface

According to SciQuest, ERM allows users to check material availability from suppliers in real-time, and to search across all internal and external sources simultaneously.

“ERM 9 is up to 90 per cent faster than previous versions,” says Raj Aggarwal, SciQuest Product Marketing Manager. Aggarwal adds, “Users can only search chemicals not only by supplier, or text description but also by molecular structure.”

So what has customers excited about the new version? Raj explains it’s all about the new user interface, speed and the three-way search.

ERM’s speed comes via a more dynamic and responsive user interface. Raj explains, “One-click tiles speed up navigation to important tasks, while status icons display user actions, like items in a shopping cart, or requesting a container for use from inventory.”

Bruce Cherrin, Chief Procurement Officer at the University of New Mexico confirms this. He believes the new look and feel of the system will, “Drive higher adoption among users campus-wide and streamline our procurement processes.”

Fast, Real-Time Availability Checks

In addition to the search feature, the upgrade includes the following features:

  • Real-time material availability check from suppliers: Users can now search across all internal and external sources simultaneously.
  • Web service integration: External inventories and catalogues can now be incorporated into ERM’s search function.
  • To Do List: Researchers can checkout and manage items from labs or self-service areas, and conduct a transfer of ownership and update usage without a scanner.
  • Held Cart: Allows administrators to control purchases of high cost and/or hazardous materials from non-authorised personnel.

“Since ERM closely integrates with procurement, pharmaceutical manufacturers can control complex inventories with reduced general spend and disposal costs, optimised inventory use, and increased regulatory compliance while managing the risks associated with hazardous materials,” said Stephen Wiehe, President and CEO of SciQuest in their announcement.

SciQuest NL 16

Aligning ERM with Unlocking Value

It’s these sorts of enterprise wide business challenges that are driving SciQuest’s product strategy. We asked Raj how the new release of ERM aligns with this mission to unlock more value. Raj offered four reasons:

  • Expense Optimisation – The inventory system allows users to order from stock, rather than placing new orders for expensive reagents from scratch, and efficient, safe disposal.
  • Compliance – Scientists often deal with hazardous materials. Certification is required to purchase, store and use many of the reagents used. The system provides for more than just internal compliance. ERM also allows research institutes to ensure suppliers are meeting their certification and storage obligations
  • Safety – Maintaining safe labs is a paramount concern in the life sciences industry. With greater visibility, users can see what’s coming in before it arrives and make plans to safely store and manage their liability.
  • Compliance and Approvals – ERM has a robust permissions system which allows users to lock access to different levels by putting reagent requests into held carts. Approvals can then be granted based on spending limits that get put in workflow.

Regardless of the industry, leveraging information more effectively for the business is a clear mandate for the product team at SciQuest.

Raj concludes:  “ERM will help get inventory information out where users can see it, create ad hoc reports, and use this to anticipate, plan and mitigate. And most of all, it puts time back in researchers’ hands to innovate.”

For more information about Enterprise Reagent Manager, please visit SciQuest website or contact SciQuest.

Lisa Malone, General Manager Procurious, is reporting live from SciQuest Next Level 2016 this week.

The Big (and Alarming) Procurement Disconnect

Chris Sawchuk reveals an alarming disconnect between the most pressing issues for Procurement, and our ability to address them.

Big Disconnect

The number one priority for Procurement leaders this year? “Reducing Costs,” says Chris Sawchuk, Principal and Global Procurement Advisory Practice Director of The Hackett Group.

Before you stifle a yawn and declare this a no-brainer, it’s actually the first time since the depths of the Global Financial Crisis that Cost Reduction has been back at top of the heap in The Hackett Group’s annual Key Issues Survey.

“For some years now procurement’s top priorities have been about growing the top line, increasing influence and becoming a trusted advisor to the business,” explains Chris. He notes a clear shift in 2016. “It’s back to basics and the enterprise needs help to remain cost competitive in an ever volatile world.”

Speaking at SciQuest Next Level 2016, Chris doesn’t find it surprising to see Cost Reduction back at the top of the list. Particularly when more than half (55 per cent) of companies have a major enterprise cost reduction initiative planned this year.

However, Chris is quick to note the second highest priority for procurement leaders is driving top line growth. This is also consistent with the fact that nearly half of all enterprises have a major sales and marketing strategy optimisation initiative planned for the coming year.

Within The Hackett Group’s top priorities, the big mover is tapping supplier innovation. This has taken a significant leap up the list of ‘must-dos’ for procurement leaders this year.

“Increasing spend influence is always fairly close to the top, but more and more innovation is being looked on as an enabler for driving top line growth – as well as cost competitiveness,” says Sawchuk.

The Big Disconnect

So far its been a compelling whirlwind of data points, but it’s Chris’ next slide that has me concerned. This is where the disconnect lies.

It shows those priorities Procurement leaders think are most important to address, mapped against those which we also think will be most difficult to do.

These are the priorities that alarmingly fall into Chris’ ‘Red Zone’ – that dangerous, “Important, but rather tricky to do” box:

  • Tap supplier innovation
  • Improve agility
  • Increase spend influence
  • Elevate role of procurement as trusted advisor

Undoubtedly these are tough issues to address, not only for their complexity, but because they require Procurement to look well beyond it’s traditional value lens. They demand more than the ‘bread and butter’ cost-analysis and sourcing skills for which procurement is renowned.

So with a deep breath and a can-do attitude, Chris walks us through how Procurement leaders can get a handle on these important ‘Red Zone’ priorities.

Chris Sawchuk
Chris Sawchuk

Enough buzz words! What does it take to be a Trusted Advisor?

First up, Chris addresses what it actually means to be a ‘trusted advisor’. According to The Hackett Group’s annual survey, the top criteria determining what makes a trusted advisor are:

  • Consistently deliver on the basics (77 per cent)
  • Hire and retain high caliber staff (64 per cent)
  • Increase agility (61 per cent)

The main point to note here is there has to be consistency to this. “Procurement needs to do what it says it’s going to do,” says Chris. “Building trust takes time.”

When it comes to identifying high calibre staff, Chris doesn’t so much see a problem with the depth of the talent pool, but more with how we engage and retain top talent.

Chris also linked back to a concept discussed during Sigi Osagie’s earlier SciQuest keynote. Putting people at the centre of your strategy, really engaging them and helping create an environment where people thrive, is the real challenge.

Improve Agility  

Next up, agility. This has been a key thought leadership theme for Chris and The Hackett team over the past 12 months. “Procurement can’t be a hammer going about looking for a nail, we need to listen to our customers. What do they need? And if what they need is outside our portfolio, find out what we can build to help them.”

Again, drawing on Sigi’s presentation, Chris reminds us it’s all about ‘delighting the customer’.

Undoubtedly future leaders must be able to deal with ambiguity, provide differentiating intelligence to the business, make and implement decisions quickly and forecast and plan continuously to mitigate future risks.

“We need to think about how we weave agility into every aspect of what we deliver back to the business,” challenges Chris.

Hear more from Chris about Making Agility Core to all procurement activities.

Increase Spend Influence

Chris keeps this point brief. “As Procurement leaders, we cannot continue to fish in the same pond,” he explains. “We need to find new ways to source of value.”

A classic case of diminishing returns, if you will. To this he adds that we also need to improve the quality of our influence, not just the quantity.

Tap Supplier Innovation

As the biggest mover on the list of procurement priorities, Chris believes that the best way to encourage innovation is to make it part of the job and reward contributions.

Finding ways to support and encourage intrapreneurs – those people inside your business who can drive innovation and lead change – is how the most successful businesses of the future will steal a march on their competition.

Naturally Chris also advises that Procurement leaders need to be aware and up-to-date with innovations and trends occurring in the market place. “Get knowledgeable about big data, robotics, cognitive computing, mobility, cloud and social media, if you want to get ahead.”

Like anything that’s new, it’s going to require courageous leaders to address this gap between procurement priorities and preparedness. Chris suggests a good place to start, “Ask yourself, are these things we’re focused on? Should they be? And if not, why not?”

SciQuest Next Level takes place from August 21 – 24 2016. For more information on agility and the big procurement disconnect, visit www.sciquest.com or Tweet SciQuest via @SciQuest.

Lisa Malone, General Manager Procurious, is reporting live from SciQuest Next Level 2016 this week.

Uber: The Great, Untold Procurement Story

Addressing 800+ delegates at SciQuest Next Level 2016, Stephen Wiehe’s enthusiasm for design, disruption and innovation is infectious.

Overcrowded Uber

Stephen Wiehe, CEO at SciQuest, is clearly a man who likes to ‘make stuff’. A tinkerer, a designer, an ideas-man, maybe a little bit of a tech-head.

Opening Next Level 2016 with a take on ‘Procurement’s Future in the Era of Disruption’, Stephen starts with some alarming, if increasingly familiar, facts and stats:

  • We are experiencing the fastest technological change the world has seen
  • Interest rates are at their lowest since records began
  • Market volatility has doubled
  • We are seeing unprecedented, rising geo-political instability
  • 40 per cent of companies will be extinct in 10 years

It’s not long, however, before he pivots towards his passion for design, innovation and customer connectivity.

Stephen points to GE’s First Build R&D facility as an example of how businesses are going straight to the customer for their next great innovation.

A darling of the corporate crowdsourcing movement, First Build aims to invent new home appliances by creating a community of home enthusiasts, designers, engineers, and makers who share ideas, try them out, and build real products.

“Once upon a time, R&D facilities were hidden and process driven,” says Stephen, “Today, GE have flung open their doors to anyone who has a good idea. Customers with an idea can quite literally walk-in, use the machines and GE will help you build it.”

No Industry is Immune to Disruption

As a London local and 4.8 star rated Uber user, it still comes as a surprise when I meet someone who has never used this global phenomenon before. For me, Uber has transformed the way I move about the city, track payments, and even the amount of cash I need for a night out.

So when Stephen flicked up a slide of yellow taxi cabs, I must admit my first thought was, “Ok, here we go, Uber. Heard this before.”

But Stephen takes the analogy much further: “Uber is not a technology story, it’s a procurement story.

“The whole process of getting an Uber is really a procurement process. First you request an Uber – not dissimilar to filling out a requisition form. Next, there’s a sourcing event – Uber drivers, armed with your passenger rating, your location and destination, bid to win the job.

“Then, the passenger accepts the job, confirming they are happy with the driver’s rating and location. A contract is formed – we accept the job and the mode of payment is agreed. And finally the AP process occurs seamlessly and conveniently with your stored credit card details.”

Uber in a Traditional Procurement Lens?

Uber even provides a handy Spend Management Tool allowing the user to see their complete driving, payment and ‘performance’ history. Particularly handy for parents of teenagers, as Stephen points out!

The penny drops. I’ve not thought of Uber in this way before – a fully automated Source-to-Settle process.

But Stephen pushes us to go one step further. “Imagine if Uber had approached their business from a traditional procurement lens.  We’d have the lowest vehicles, more passengers per vehicle and cheaper drivers.”

True – Uber’s open network has flipped the transport industry on its head. Stephen explains that Uber looked at the cab industry from the customers’ perspective and wondered what total transparency, real time data, and an open and connected network could deliver.

And I for one am thankful they did.

disruption
Stephen Wiehe – CEO, SciQuest

The Disappearance of the Back-Office

Just like Uber, which has automated the entire administration process of booking and paying for cabs, Stephen predicts the concept of procurement administration will disappear in coming years.

The issue for most businesses is that they are trying to do the same things over and over, and (not surprisingly) seeing only incremental value delivery.

Stephen told delegates that businesses will only see a step change when they start to simultaneously use procurement automation, collaboration and insights to drive decision making.

When it comes to procurement, our customers want a simple, straight forward way to connect with suppliers, get what they need, and make a payment. Fairly or not, Procurement is all too often accused of being slow, cumbersome and hard to deal with. Not the ideal adjectives for a ‘Business Partner’.

Maybe Stephen is right. Maybe the key to unlocking innovation and value will come from the customer. Just like Uber and GE, is it time to put sourcing in the hands of the customers and people who need the products? It’s certainly time to think differently.

SciQuest Next Level takes place from August 21 – 24 2016. For more information on procurement and disruption please visit www.sciquest.com or Tweet SciQuest via @SciQuest.

Lisa Malone, General Manager Procurious, is reporting live from SciQuest Next Level 2016 this week.

Has Procurement Dehumanised The Sourcing Process?

It’s only a matter of time before the procurement profession realises that it’s dehumanised the sourcing process, a move that will negatively impact the industry.

Sourcing Process Relationships

Procurement needs a new measure of success that reflects its impact, not its output. This is according to a Melbourne-based procurement coach, and self-proclaimed procurement disrupter, Matt Perfect.

Procurement with Purpose

Just as conscious businesses are learning that profit is a by-product of business with purpose, so too savings will be a by-product of procurement with purpose.

Perfect argues, “What have we really ‘saved’ if we drive down our suppliers’ pricing to unsustainable levels?

“Levels where they are forced to compromise on service and quality, or worse, safety and ethics? Procurement needs a metric that reflects the exponential impact of its decisions throughout the supply chain.

“The impact on suppliers and their employees…and suppliers’ suppliers and so on. This metric must measure real human value. Not just economic value,” Perfect says.

Cost at Any Cost

The Melburnian has carved an enviable niche in the Australian procurement landscape. Perfect has worked in numerous procurement roles, including for FreeMarkets, National Australia Bank, Toll and The Faculty.

Now as an independent coach and facilitator, he advocates the importance of supplier relations, and feels that major disruptive change within the procurement industry is only a matter of time.

Perfect writes about the disruption of the procurement sector in white papers. One, titled Supplier Love and Why You Need More of It, published in July last year, explains that as much as 70 per cent of revenue now goes to third parties (according to Proxima Group). Never before have suppliers been more important stakeholders in an organisation’s success.

Yet, despite significant investment in procurement capability and strategic focus over the last few decades, many supplier relationships remain transactional at best and at worst, adversarial.

Businesses continue to prioritise shareholder value above all else, sometimes even at the expense of customers, employees and the environment, but almost always ahead of suppliers’ interests.

One might be forgiven for thinking that ‘cost at any cost’ is the primary operating model for these businesses.

Conscious Business

Conscious businesses understand that this is not sustainable. Fortunately, there is a better way, but it requires a fundamental shift in the way we define stakeholders and value.

“We need to be looking at ways to win the hearts and minds of suppliers, rather than purely relying on negotiation tactics. When you look at the mindsets of procurement professionals, relationships just aren’t playing a big enough part at the moment,” Perfect says.

“You need to look at supplier relationships and help improve those relationships to get better outcomes. I work to improve that level of trust in a relationship, with the view of generating greater impact. I also look at the broader impact of relationships, which comes down to how it affects the lives of people.”

Perfect says that procurement is ripe for disruption, and is in fact on the cusp of a major shift. Part of this shift should include the consideration of whether procurement accurately sums up the role – supplier relations could be closer.

“There will be a shift to a new age. A human age, which is a process that procurement doesn’t have its head around yet as a profession. We need to be more engaged with vision and purpose moving forward as a profession.”

Perfect believes the younger generation will drive the changes as they strive for a more human-centred career.

Remembering the Human Element in Sourcing Process

A focus on supply chain issues, and the human elements within supply chains, is another driver for change.

Other industries embrace change more readily than procurement has to date. Marketing, for example, understands that to be really effective and cut-through, it has to touch the lives of people.

The human relations industry has also moved away from seeing staff as a number and has improved the way it operates within the business environment by focusing on the people. Procurement hasn’t made this leap yet, he says.

“We’ve also got to be thinking about how to appeal to the hearts and minds of consumers. We need to head into this space as a broader industry if we’re ever going to survive. I urge my clients to be the change they want to see in the world.”

At the moment, the industry is narrowly focused on shareholder value, rather than a broader stakeholder orientation, which is drawn from the realm of conscious capitalism.

“There needs to be an interdependence that creates value without trading off one another,” he says.

People Over Process

Matt Perfect
Matt Perfect

Perfect has an undergraduate degree in economics from Cardiff in the UK, and pursued a consulting career before landing an analyst position, specialising in e-sourcing and online technology. This kick-started a procurement career spanning multiple consulting and management roles in a variety of industries.

He left The Faculty a couple of years ago to focus on coaching. He works to help his clients create better and more conscious relationships with their internal and external stakeholders.

“This is where I focus my energy now. Looking at all spending in procurement and how that impacts on people. I believe we all need to have a greater focus on people than process.

Since working as a procurement coach, Perfect has worked with Social Traders, CPA Australia and The Trusted Negotiator, among others.

You can follow Matt at mattperfect.com or on Twitter at @m8ttperfect.

Construction Supply Chain Skills Shortage at Breaking Point

An acute skills shortage in the construction supply chain is impacting both budgets and the quality of projects. 

Construction Skills Shortage

A new survey from the Scape Group has highlighted the impact of the skills shortage in the UK construction industry.

The ‘Sustainability in the Supply Chain’ report surveyed over 150 contractors, subcontractors and senior managers at public sector organisations. It also examined supply chain stability, the tendering process and reliance on the public sector.

The report suggests that the skills shortage has impacted quality and budgeting of projects across the UK.

Skills Shortage at “Breaking Point”

One of the key concerns raised in the report was in the quality of the workmanship being seen projects. 58 per cent of contractors and suppliers cited a negative impact on quality.

However, when assessed in the public sector, a staggering 85 per cent of managers said they had seen a drop in quality in their projects.

Beyond quality, many respondents also saw the skills shortage as having a negative impact on budgets. Both public sector (80 per cent) and contractors (40 per cent) highlighted the difficulty of keeping within budget. The shortage of skilled workers has led to many bricklayers earning up to £1,000 per week.

Mark Robinson, Chief Executive at Scape Group, commented that although the impacts of the skills shortage were clear, there were basic steps that could be put in place to mitigate it. This could include the introduction of apprenticeships schemes, something that many contractors in the construction industry still do not have.  

The Private/Public Juxtaposition

The report also highlighted the huge division between public and private sector definitions of a “healthy” supply chain. Private sector organisations stated that long-term operational stability was their core aim (72 per cent), as well as with minimising waste and recycling (63 per cent) and supporting local economies (58 per cent).

However, only 63 per cent cited stable employment patterns as key to having a healthy supply chain.

This is in stark contrast to public sector organisations, where 70 per cent felt that long-term benefits for the local economy needed to be the highest priority. Furthermore, 67 per cent believed that local skills and suppliers were core to a healthy supply chain too.

Another key finding in the report was the challenge of communication between the public and private sectors. Both sides (75 per cent of suppliers; 80 per cent of public sector managers) believed that the public sector needed to do more to engage with its supply chain.

This included giving greater visibility of upcoming projects, and enabling contractors to start bidding up to 18 months in advance of contracts starting. SMEs in particular felt they needed to be more informed about projects. It was felt that this could be addressed by using digital platforms, and setting up regular forums for communication.

Report Recommendations

The report concluded by making some recommendations on what needed to be done in the construction supply chain.

1. Addressing the Skills Shortage

The skills shortage was seen by the vast majority of respondents as the most serious barrier to growth and efficiency within the industry. While there has been a drive to increase apprenticeships, it was agreed that more needs to be done.

Diversity and the gender gap was also highlighted as a barrier. Many felt that more needed to be done to ensure that more opportunities were made available to young men and women, from a range of backgrounds. These could be communicated via education programmes, support by social media.

2. Forward Visibility of Projects

SMEs face a challenging environment in the construction industry. It was felt that this could be helped by making tenders public more than 18 months in advance. This would allow SMEs to plan ahead, form relationships, and would ultimately allow for more stable employment patterns.

3. Greater Collaboration

Greater public sector engagement with suppliers, especially SMEs, will create a stronger supply chain and support efficient delivery. However, there is a mismatch between what the public sector believes to be important, and what the industry believes is necessary.

Consistent and forward looking digital communications, driven by government, would make it easier for the public sector to engage with SMEs. It would also help to make information about opportunities more accessible.

4. Local Spend & Social Value 

The public sector, by its very nature, must deliver greater social value through its supply chain. This is balanced alongside the increasing pressure to deliver savings and achieve more with less.

The supply chain is the vehicle through which the public sector can deliver this extra value, and there are greater opportunities for those who understand this key aspiration.

Do you work in the UK construction industry? What needs to be done to alleviate the skills shortage? Let us know in the comments below.

Need a conversation starter for Monday’s tea break? Here are the top headlines from procurement and supply chain this week.

Californian Wildfire Cuts Off Key Freight Corridors
  • A fast-moving wildfire has engulfed 30,000 acres in a single day across the state of California.
  • The “Blue Cut” fire has closed the main highway connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and shut key freight rail routes.
  • Road and rail shippers moving goods through the area have experienced disruptions and forced detours, with delays of 36 to 48 hours.
  • More than 80,000 people have been ordered to evacuate the region, and 34,000 homes are threatened by the fire.

Read more at JOC.com

Spotlight on the Seafood Industry
  • A study of seafood served across 700 stores and restaurants in the US has found that one out of three fish are mislabelled, with unethical suppliers substituting lower-cost fish for pricier ones.
  • Once filleted, it is extremely difficult to tell different species of fish apart, meaning customers can easily be misled.
  • Federal regulators in the US have launched the Seafood Compliance and Labelling Enforcement program in response, using a genetic database to test imported fish.
  • The seafood supply chain is acknowledged to be one of the most complex and opaque supply chains in the world, with very little visibility of illegal fishing, country of origin or even species of fish.

Read more at The Daily Meal 

Nike Alliance Purchases Apparel Suppliers
  • Nike Inc. has formed a supply-chain partnership with private-equity firm Apollo Global Management.
  • The partnership comes in response to ongoing logistics issues that have seen product delays for Nike.
  • The alliance has purchased existing Nike apparel suppliers operating in the USA and Central America to create more “vertical integration” in the supply chain.
  • Last year Nike opened a distribution centre in Memphis, and the new alliance has purchased the warehousing and logistics business ArtFX.  

Read more at Market Watch 

Patagonia Rebuilds Wool Supply Chain
  • Apparel company Patagonia is rebuilding its supply chain to ensure the highest animal welfare standards.
  • The company has spent a year with suppliers and experts writing its own supply chain standards, in order to ensure that suppliers follow them.
  • Meeting with farmers and suppliers helped to ensure that the standards were both robust, but relevant too.
  • The company is expecting to ensure both quality and welfare standards in light of increasing public scrutiny of supply chains.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #10 – Procurement as a Change Catalyst

Dirk Van De Putte argues that procurement should embrace its role as a change catalyst in organisations, helping to break down organisational silos.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Procurement – A Change Catalyst

Global CPO, Dirk Van De Putte’s Big Idea discussed how procurement could act as a catalyst for change in organisations, due to its unique position at the crossroads of internal and external stakeholders.

Dirk gave his thoughts on how to successfully achieve this, with procurement breaking down organisational silos, as well as building a diverse function.

Catch up with all the delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016? And maybe what we have planned for 2017? You can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today. Get connected with over 16,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

What Procurement Needs to Know About Robotic Process Automation

Just what is Robotic Process Automation? And what should procurement know about it before putting anything in place?

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) vendors emphasise their product’s capacity to replace human operators, using phrases like “digital workforce.” In simple terms, RPA is a software application that runs on an end user’s computer, laptop or other device, emulating tasks executed by human operators.

Its purpose is to integrate or automate the execution of repetitive, rule-based tasks or activities. RPA does not require development of code, nor does it necessitate direct access to the code or database of the applications.

Current Robotic Process Automation Use

Most current RPA implementations are in industry-specific processes such as claims processing in insurance, and risk management in financial services. These processes, and their associated tasks, are usually high-volume, structured, repetitive and implemented on old technology.

Normally, the processes are extremely stable. There is no technology migration or modernisation roadmap involved, and IT-led integration would be difficult and expensive.

At present, the leading non-industry-specific RPA application is the financial close and consolidation process. According to our purchase-to-pay research, 23 per cent of companies are at the earliest stages of adoption, i.e., either in a pilot or with the technology partially rolled out (Fig. 1).

Robotic Process Automation
Fig. 1 – Robotic Process Automation Trends in Purchase-to-Pay

The remaining 77 per cent have no immediate plans for Robotic Process Automation adoption. Despite the low take-up level today, 45 per cent of purchase-to-pay organisations believe RPA will be one of the areas with the greatest impact on the way their work gets done in the next decade.

The Best Processes for RPA

It is not the type of business process that makes for a good candidate for RPA, but rather the characteristics of the process, such as the need for data extraction, enrichment and validation.

Activities requiring integration of multiple screens, as well as self-service inquiry resolution, are also ripe for RPA. The key is that RPA is best deployed in a stable environment where no changes to the systems are on the horizon.

Other possible choices include processes requiring multiple software applications to execute different, but repeatable, activities and tasks.

RPA Pricing Trends

The pricing model for RPA is still evolving. Today, vendors are pricing RPA based on the cost of the full time equivalent (FTE) staff member it is replacing. For example, an RPA vendor may quote a price per robot that is one-third the cost of an offshore resource doing the work.

Onshore FTE pricing is being quoted closer to one-ninth, or 11 per cent, of the cost. This pricing model, developed to compare the cost of outsourcing a process versus automating it with RPA, essentially positions Robotic Process Automation as a service, not a software solution.

In our view, this model is inconsistent with industry standards governing the way software is typically priced. Therefore, we encourage buyers to seek an alternative gainsharing model where possible. This will both mitigate the risks of early adoption, and provide a strong incentive to the supplier to deliver results.

Patrick Connaughton is the Senior Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Programme at the Hackett Group. He has published groundbreaking research in areas like spend analysis, contract life cycle management, supplier risk assessments and services procurement. You can contact him via email or on Procurious.

You can also learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program here.

Throwback Thursday – Eat the Frog…and 6 More Tips for Boosting Personal Effectiveness

How have you found your personal effectiveness in 2016? Why eating the frog might be able to help revolutionise your daily routine.

Eat the Frog

We all struggle sometime with our personal effectiveness. We start the week with grand plans for our time, but by Monday lunchtime, the plans are in disarray.

If you’re still struggling with your personal effectiveness (or want to boost it after the summer holidays!), we have the Throwback Thursday article for you, from our own Lisa Malone.

Start Right, End Right

You’ve survived your first day back in the office! You’ve cleared your inbox, written an alarmingly long To-Do list and even written your name and phone number (neatly) in a brand new Moleskin notebook. You’re practically smug with a sense of organisation and readiness.

Fast-forward one week: 213 unread emails, endless meetings, doing ‘real work’ after 5pm, and back to scribbling on loose-leaf.

Many years ago, I sat next to the Executive Assistant for the Chief Marketing Officer at a very large bank. To me, a person calm in the face of 1,352 unread emails, Ali was something of a mystery. Alarmingly organised, a spreadsheet navigator-extraordinaire, and always ready with colour-coded sticky notes, Ali’s idea of heaven was a Scandinavian Container Store.

Although I can’t pretend that proximity to Ali transformed me into a Type-A Goddess, she did share some great, practical tips for increasing personal effectiveness. I now bequeath these to all fellow Type Bs today.

Eat the Frog

Most of us have a limited amount of willpower that decreases steadily throughout the day. Anyone who has ever planned to go to the gym after work, only to never actually get there, will be able to attest!

For this reason, professional coaches like Brian Tracy recommend getting the hardest, most important task done first.

According to Tracy, your ‘frog’ should be the most difficult item on your to-do list; that ugly, distasteful, difficult job that you’re most likely to procrastinate about.

Rather than delaying, dreading and allowing your frog to sit there, staring at you while you do other less important things, eat it up first and feel energised for the rest of the day.

You probably already know what your frog is, but if you are in any doubt, look through your list of tasks and rate each one according to:

  1. Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.
  2. Things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
  3. Things you want to do and actually need to do.
  4. Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.

Your frog will fall into Category 2. The best way to ensure it doesn’t fall victim to procrastination is to subordinate it to habit.

Eating your frog at the start of the day is just such a habit and will leave you free to do things you’ll actually enjoy.

Meeting 101: Spend less time in Meetings

Getting out and meeting stakeholders and suppliers is a critical part of any procurement professional’s job. But what about the myriad meetings that go round in circles, without any clear outcomes, sucking energy and time from your day?

In this world of instant messaging tools (we have a fondness for Slack at Procurious) that make file-sharing, getting answers quickly, and making introductions easier, it should be possible to cut back on a lot of those meetings.

Where only a meeting will suffice, here are some hints for improving their effectiveness:

  • Only accept meetings where the organiser has sent through a clear agenda. Even then, think about halving the allotted time to create a sense of urgency.
  • With 10 minutes of the meeting to go, review the objectives and clearly agree what action items have come out of the meeting and who will be responsible for completing these. Set a clear date for completion of next steps.
  • If appropriate, try scheduling a walking meeting. A change of scenery and the action of moving in the fresh air can help clear the head, stimulate creativity and can be particularly effective when having conversations that you don’t want to.

Don’t Skip Lunch

The 80s might be long gone, but Gordon Gekko’s “Lunch is for wimps!” philosophy still is alive and well in some firms.

While its possible to mistake ‘busy-ness’ for importance, evidence shows there are significant cognitive benefits of allowing our fatigued brains regular downtime.

So what’s the perfect work/rest ratio?

DeskTime App monitored employees’ computer use and found that the most productive 10 per cent of employees tend to work hard for 52 minutes, then take a break for 17. If this seems short, it is – our brains can in fact focus for up to 90 minutes, but then need roughly 20 minutes rest.

Strategic breaks equal more efficient work. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your 17 minutes should be spent online shopping – there are a multitude of more valuable (and less costly!) things you can do to refresh and reset:

  • Most gyms offer express classes at lunchtime. Consider taking a 45-minute yoga class to reset your brain and energise you for the afternoon.
  • Watch a 2-minute eLearning video or stretch your mind with a Big Ideas video or Ted Talk.
  • Prepare a list of easy 2-minute tasks. These are things that won’t stress your grey matter but need to get done, and you can tick off in your down time.
  • Embrace a creative pursuit. Stimulate your brain by doing small creative exercise daily. This might be a little sketch, writing a blog, or making a video. Share your habit daily on Twitter or Instagram – it builds accountability. Check out #yearofcreativehabits for inspiration!

Silence

Silence!!

The constant stream of chimes, pings, flashes and emails, Whatsapp and Facebook alerts is impossible to ignore – it’s designed to be that way!

Schedule at least 3 x 30 minute sessions into your day where you close Outlook, shut all your browser tabs and turn off your mobile phone.

It might sound scary at first, but it will help you power through those difficult tasks without interruption and at the end of the day, you’ll feel real satisfaction knowing what you’ve completed.

Harness the Power of Habit

We know that social media can eat up hours in the day. How often have you kicked off with a valid Google search, but end up aimlessly clicking through old school-friends’ baby photos, or reading click-bait articles like 21 Life-Changing Lessons From The Dalai Lama’s Twitter Account”. 

At Procurious, we talk about establishing a ‘social media daily habit’. This isn’t only to limit the time you spend online, but to ensure you spend it wisely.

We suggest you dedicate approximately 20 minutes every day to ticking off value-adding tasks:

  1. Build your network: Expand your global contact network by connecting with stakeholders or peers you’ve met at conferences. Or find colleagues who look after similar categories in other geographies or industries.
  2. Scan the news: Using Google Alerts or Twitter hashtags, find out if your company, your category, your suppliers, or even your competitors, have been in the headlines. Login to Procurious and check out what’s happening.
  3. Share the intelligence: If you find something interesting, chances are someone else will too. Share the URL on Twitter, Procurious and/or LinkedIn.
  4. Ask a question: Scan the Discussion Board on Procurious and share your knowledge. If you’ve got a burning question, post it and make the most of this global brains trust!
  5. Learn something: Brush up on your skills and challenge your thinking by watching a 5-minute eLearning video, or listening to a Podcast,

And Before You Go…

Rather than working frantically right up until the last minute of the day, slamming your laptop shut and dashing for the train, stop working 30 min before you need to leave.

Use your last half an hour to review your day’s plan, transferring items that are still relevant, and adding any new priorities that have emerged during the day.

Categorise these tasks according to the Eat the Frog principles so that your first task tomorrow is ready and waiting to go.

And, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a Personal Assistant, review your calendar and print out any documents that you may need to review ahead of meetings. Spending the first 30 minutes of your morning fighting with a printer is not the way to productivity!

Brexit Presents Export Opportunities for UK Business

Could an increase in export opportunities be a silver lining among the Brexit clouds for UK businesses?

UK Export Market

Much of the reporting in the business world on the Brexit has focused on the potential negative impacts. However, there could be benefits for British businesses, including SMEs, in an increase in exports opportunities.

The weakening of the pound is believed to be a contributing factor to this growth. This has made British products and services cheaper overseas. As a result it’s provided British manufacturing with an opportunity to compete in foreign markets.

UK “Needs to Improve” in Export Market

The Flash UK Purchase Managers Index (PMI) has revealed export business rose for the second straight month, and to the greatest extent in two years.

Additionally, a recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses suggested that the number of small businesses exporting could double, due to the drop in sterling value. This could potentially help to cushion the economy from the uncertainty of leaving the EU.

However, it’s not all positive. Despite the potential boost for exports from the drop in the value of sterling, Britain is still significantly behind the government target of £1 trillion of exports by 2020.

The recently appointed Trade and Investment Minister, Lord Price CVO, stressed: “The UK punches well below its weight in the export market and badly needs to improve.”

Increasing Overseas Tenders

Procurious caught up with Stuart Brocklehurst, CEO of Applegate, to ask him what the key factors are in export decisions. Since the result of the EU referendum, Applegate PRO, has experienced a 20 percent increase in overseas tender requests.

Brocklehurst commented, “With concerns over domestic demand, exports offer a great diversification of revenue for UK businesses. The decline in sterling means our goods and services are around a tenth cheaper for overseas buyers. This presents a significant opportunity for UK businesses.”

It’s worth looking at the situation from 2 sides when it comes to procurement – UK and non-UK based. For non-UK based procurement, the UK has become a lower-cost manufacturing option. There is a significant opportunity to make savings, as the goods and services in the UK are now 10 per cent cheaper.

Inside the UK, however, it’s a different story for procurement. As the prices fall in the UK, many procurement organisations will be faced with a tricky decision. Should they re-shore their supply chain or not. For example, manufacturing businesses currently planning to make capital investment priced in US dollars have seen the real-cost price increase by 10 per cent.

There’s also a question of currency stability. The pound may drop further in the coming months, so what can procurement do? Brocklehurst stated, “Companies can either mitigate this risk by purchasing derivatives, or purchase locally in order to avoid the volatility altogether.”

SMEs Uncertain on Exports

One interesting point that Stuart Brocklehurst makes comes in contrast to the positive note sounded by the Federation of Small Businesses. Brocklehurst argues that, although there has been a strong increase in overseas orders and export opportunities, many SMEs still don’t want to get involved in exports.

“When it comes to SMEs and exports, nothing is guaranteed. Some SMEs don’t want to get involved in exports, particularly where there are concerns about red tape. They’re hesitant to proceed where there are administration overheads, as they’re worried about getting it wrong,” says Brocklehurst.

Brocklehurst also believes that if there is a UK slowdown, this will be a benefit for businesses exploring export opportunities. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be taken as a certainty that exports will completely offset the effect of falling currencies on purchases, and a potential economic slowdown.

In 2008, at the height of the Global Financial Crisis, many believed that the export market would help the UK economy. However, due to recessions in many other countries, demand for UK exports actually weakened, and the recovery took longer than expected.

Realising the Opportunities

Whatever the UK economy looks like in the coming months, it’s clear that the Brexit isn’t all bad. It’s also undeniable that it has presented clear export opportunities for UK businesses.

However, many companies remain uninterested in exporting, even with the potential revenue and business growth opportunities. It’s down to business leaders to help drive this strategy through.

Equally, for procurement, it’s time to decide how sourcing will look in the coming months, and ultimately when the UK leaves the EU.

Applegate PRO is the UK’s foremost sourcing database, helping to link buyers and suppliers, and streamline the eProcurement process.

The platform is being utilised by a wide range of companies across the world, including Airbus, SpaceX, General Dynamics, NATO headquarters and The White House.

US Intelligence to Aid Supply Chains Against Cyber Attacks

A new US Intelligence campaign is set to help supply chains defend themselves against cyber attacks.

Cyber attacks

As businesses and supply chains grow increasingly more global, inevitably risk increases at the same rate. One of the most high profile risks for supply chains currently is are cyber attacks and hacking.

With each passing year, the cyber attacks get bigger. In June, the Democratic National Committee was breached by Russian hackers, and 20,000 e-mails, linked to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, were posted online.

In March, the Bangladesh Federal Reserve lost $100 million to hackers, with only $20 million recovered so far. Over 4,700 cyber attacks have been reported in the US alone since 2005, impacting hundreds of millions of people.

However, organisations with cross-border supply chains are about to get a helping hand in the fight against cyber attacks.

Cyber Attacks & Vulnerable Supply Chains

The National Counterintelligence and Security Centre will provide sensitive information, including classified threat reports, to companies about the risks of hacking in their supply chains.

The move is part of an effort to increase responsibility and education for organisations for supply chain security. It has previously been highlighted that there is a lack of understanding in US companies that having international suppliers makes supply chains vulnerable to cyber attacks.

“The supply chain threat is one that’s the least talked about but is the easiest to manipulate for all aspects of our daily lives,” said NCSC Director, William Evanina.

Domestic & Foreign Threats

The NCSC campaign will initially focus on supply chains linked to both China and Russia, the alleged sources of previous hacks. However, it will also be aimed at domestic hackers, criminal enterprises, and even disaffected former employees.

The campaign will prioritise telecommunications, energy and financial services corporations first. This is in part due to the nature of the business, but also their strategic importance to US national security.

And as well as cyber attacks, the NSCS will also be providing information and advice on so-called “hands on” crimes, such as stealing of classified information, or destruction of sensitive equipment.

Procurement Must “Play Full Part”

As part of the efforts to reduce cyber attacks, the key role of procurement has been highlighted. Evanina emphasised that procurement need to be fully integrated with other areas of the organisation to help mitigate risk.

He highlighted the role of ongoing due diligence to support initial investment in cyber security software and programmes. This would be carried out by procurement, but in partnership with the other areas of the business.

Evanina expands on the role of procurement in this video. He states that research into suppliers, and their own supply chains is critical in mitigating the risk.

Wider World

Although the work to be carried out as part of the campaign is primarily aimed at US companies, the applicability is there for all global supply chains.

Many US-based companies will purchase goods from overseas suppliers, and at the same time there will be companies purchasing from US suppliers. The inter-connected nature of the supply chain, as well as increased connectivity across technological platforms, increases the risk to organisations.

Carrying out due diligence on suppliers, knowing the full supply chain, and, perhaps most importantly, ensuring procurement plays a full part in organisational security, is a way to help mitigate this risk.

Will your organisation be taking advantage of the advice from the NCSC? Will you be impacted by any changes that take place? Let us know in the comments below.

Want to know what’s happening in the world of procurement and supply chain? Well, we’ve picked out the key headlines from the past week to keep you up to date…

Verisk Maplecroft Releases Modern Slavery Index
  • Global Risk Analysts, Verisk Maplecroft, have released their latest supply chain modern slavery index.
  • According to the Index, modern slavery constitutes a ‘high’ or ‘extreme risk’ in 115 countries worldwide.
  • Major exporters China and India fall again into the extreme risk category. The UK is one of only four countries seen as ‘low risk’
  • The report notes that most countries have some form of anti-slavery legislation or framework in place, but lack the resources to enforce these laws.

Read more at Forbes

African Countries Ban Secondhand Clothing Imports
  • A ban on imports of secondhand clothing is to be implemented by the Governments of the East African Community.
  • The group, including Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, proposed the ban in order to stimulate the apparel industry in their countries.
  • It is hoped that the measure will also create jobs and bolster the countries’ economies.
  • The rise of ‘fast fashion’ has led to a dramatic increase in the region’s secondhand clothing imports over the past decade.

Read more at Sustainable Brands

Scotland Launches Brexit Stimulus Fund
  • The Scottish Government has announced plans to create a stimulus fund following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
  • The fund will add an additional £100 million to capital spending to support Scottish businesses.
  • Funds will be allocated to projects based on jobs creation and impact on the overall supply chain.
  • The Government also announced the creation of Business Information Service to support businesses affected by vote.

Read more at Supply Management

Shipping Industry Struggles Continue
  • As the results for the first half of 2016 are released, the struggles in the shipping industry look set to continue.
  • Hapag-Lloyd and Orient Overseas have both reported first half losses for 2016, with Maersk expected to do likewise this week.
  • Decreasing freight rates and over capacity have been blamed for the current plight in the industry.
  • Hapag-Lloyd plans on acquiring United Arab Shopping Co., a deal that could deliver $400 million in savings annually.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal