All posts by Procurious HQ

Three Reasons Why Procurement Has A Beautiful Future

Why should you be excited about procurement’s future? Three experts weigh in as we close out 2020 and look forward to a new year.


Now is the perfect time to be in procurement.

Think about it – when have we ever enjoyed so much trust, influence, and freedom to make changes?

We asked three experts why they’re excited about procurement’s future.

We can protect our companies 

Procurement is finally shedding its image as a support function. Now the c-suite is learning how much strategic value we can add.

Just ask Dr. Jonnie Penn, an artificial intelligence expert at the University of Cambridge and keynote speaker at the 2020 Big Ideas Summit.

He says the last 40 years of supply chain management were characterised by a push for efficiency.

“We see now that that’s too fragile a metric amid deglobalisation,” Penn says. 

“You need to start to incorporate other measures that give you security in the resilience of your system. 

“In the past you might have made a push for weekly or monthly planning. We’re now looking at a shift to continuous planning.” 

That puts supply chain management forward strategic leaders, able to prevent future disruption.

And the c-suite desperately needs that help.

Just look at one pharmaceutical CEO, who predicts the industry will move from global supply chains to more localised providers.

You have the opportunity to use data in a similar way to improve resilience.

But you might have to think about the way you see data, says Penn.

Great data meets three criteria:

  • Real-time
  • Structured in a way that’s easy to consolidate
  • Combines information from lots of different areas

Penn calls this ‘thick’ data, “which means that as opposed to just hiring let’s say a data scientist to crunch your numbers you’re also bringing in remote sensor engineers or ethnographers, sociologists.”

Those different perspectives are crucial to finding the best solutions.

We can drive innovation  

And that includes collaborating with your suppliers. 

Just look at Apple.

When Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, the screen was plastic.

Yet the next day, Jobs noticed the screen was covered in scratches and called his VP of Operations, Jeff Williams, demanding a glass screen for the official release.

Williams said it couldn’t be done in just six months. Every glass prototype they tried had smashed, and it would take years to create a shatter-resistant, thin glass.

But Jobs insisted.

So Williams worked with speciality manufacturing company Corning to create damage-resistant Gorilla Glass in time for the launch.

Now every smartphone in the world uses Gorilla Glass.

It’s interesting to note Williams joined Apple as Head of Worldwide Procurement. He’s now COO and tipped to replace CEO Tim Cook someday.

That proves procurement teams can meet specific business needs by working with suppliers to innovate, says Dr. Marcell Vollmer, Partner and Director at Boston Consulting Group

He says every procurement function of the future will drive supply innovations – including saving our environment.

Dr. Penn agrees. 

“To go it alone is just not sustainable,” Penn says. “You need to look at building common frameworks and using standardisation.”

And that includes sustainability.

We can save our environment

After all, Penn cites McKinsey research that 80% of greenhouse gas emissions and 90% of the impact on biodiversity come from the way supply chains are managed.

Depressing, right? It’s actually great news. It means we can have a huge influence on creating a sustainable supply chain – together.

Penn uses the example of the 240 million packages sent daily. Of that, 40% is dead space.

But new technology can scan each object and use optimal packaging. 

“That means that you can reduce the 40% air and ultimately all the derivative effects, down the supply chain of the plastic use and shipping and storage requirements.”

Another example is monitoring factory emissions in real time by combining satellite imagery with machine learning.

Clearly, there are countless ways supply chain professionals can make the planet better, says Supply Chain Revolution CEO Sheri Hinish.

“Supply chains are the conduit for building a better world; designing a better world,” Hinish says.

“We can come from different backgrounds, different parts of the world but at our core, we fundamentally want the same things. 

“So, it’s real and when you think about collaborating within a global context… this is what wakes me up every morning – to create a world that’s bearable, viable and equitable.”

Our beautiful future

That’s why all three of our experts say procurement has a beautiful future.

Combine your skills with technology advancements, and you’ll have endless opportunities to lead significant change.

And if that seems daunting, don’t worry; you’ve got experts on your side.

“Feel free to be in touch as you develop your data strategy and your AI strategy to accomplish your sustainability and resilience goals, says Dr. Penn.

Ace Your Next Negotiation – Uncover Your Suppliers’ Secrets

Ever been to a therapist and felt like they’ve read you like a book? Uncover their secrets in this article and harness your own superpowers. Got a big meeting or negotiation coming up? Learn how your adversaries and your team tick to make sure you stay in control.


My partner has a superpower. 

When he opens the front door to a stranger he can tell what kind of day they’ve had, how they feel about themselves and what they think of him. He’s a therapist, and honing these skills day after day through years of human interaction have saved him (and his clients)  hours of questions and warm up chit chat. 

He can cut straight to the chase and use their shared time in the most effective way that meets their needs. 

They often feel relieved, understood and grateful that they don’t have to take the first step of opening up and being vulnerable.

It gives him a steer on what tone he needs to take, what topics they may need to explore and what the weather is like in their emotional forecast.

A therapist has an arsenal of tools ready to deploy – this super quick scanning ability means he’s on the front foot and taking charge before he’s even said hello.

Master your own superpowers

The good news for procurement and supply chain pros around the world is that these skills can be learned. We’ve all seen the TedTalks and infographics reminding us of how much we communicate nonverbally through posture, eye contact and even vibes. A therapist’s superpower helps to demonstrate how much untapped potential there is in the way we hold ourselves and once you learn the signs, you can feel like a mind reader.

Imagine walking into a negotiation clocking every single person in the room  based on the seats they’ve chosen to sit in, the set of their jaw, their gaze (fixed, nervous, darting around) and the colours they’re wearing. This includes your own team as well, it can help show who might need a bit of support, who’s at risk of spilling the beans and who might be the over-sharer. 

Having the best negotiation plan in the history of procurement does not mitigate against the might of the ever unpredictable human being. We’re people, not machines and that means we can be unpredictable but paradoxically we will often have a billboard above our heads announcing our inner emotional state.  We just need to learn to read the signs.

Experiment in your everyday life

Start practicing in your daily life by observing people around you. Look at how people hold themselves, their posture, their eyes, their energy levels, their expression when they’re talking to someone else. You can do this in the lift, on the bus, in conversation with a loved one and when you’re walking down the street. Observing people is not the same as judging, don’t make this mistake. It’s important that you are approaching this exercise from a place of detachment, objectivity and kindness.

David Attenborough ain’t got nothing on you

Once you’ve narrated your own nature documentary about humans you’ve stared at on the bus, then progress to unpack what they’re telling you nonverbally. Start to think about what the expressions might mean, what they could be communicating and what this means for you.

ActionMeaningStrategy
Posture: slouching, or intensely concentrating – furrowed brow, arms crossedLook at the symbol beneath the gestures. Slouching conveys being relaxed but too relaxed comes across as unreliable. Concentrating can come across as angry which can put you in the box of “unapproachable” Arms crossed means the person is not buying in to what you’re saying or they feel defensiveThe slouchy person can’t be relied on to win people over when the razzle dazzle is needed but would be good to talk to before you do a presentation to make sure you’re feeling relaxed

Speech
Fast talking and being overly friendly may indicate someone that feels the need to have everyone like them.A people pleaser can be great for assisting with establishing connections and winning people over but they may not be best placed to head to head on the details or key issues.

The ultimate survival guide (we got you)

Follow these neutral gestures and postures to ensure you’re the cool, calm and collected procurement pro at all times.

  1. Always sit up straight.
  1. Relax your face and voice. A tip is to take a big breath, smile, put your tongue behind your top two teeth (and keeping your mouth closed) exhale gently but firmly, it’s a great way to calm yourself down on the spot.
  1. If you’re a fidgeter, then restrict yourself to only one item on the table.
  1. Maintain direct, but relaxed eye contact. If you smile it will soften your gaze.
  1. Be comfortable in silence and don’t feel the need to fill the space.

Level up and feel the power!

Got a huge presentation or meeting to nail? Then lock in these two strategies from Forbes:

  1. Power priming. Think of a past event where you were successful, recall this event and spend time in that feeling. Soaking yourself in this feeling means you can recall it when you need to.
  1. Power pose. There is a lot of research that shows if you strike a particular pose like standing with your legs and arms wide open for 2 minutes, it will stimulate the hormone linked to power and dominance (testosterone).

Follow our body language hacks to ensure your negotiation or big event goes down as a winner.

Do you have any tried-and-true strategies? Comment below!

5 Ways To Separate The Successful Supply Chains From The Rest

New computers can analyse a million rows of data in minutes. So why not let the computer do the heavy lifting? As a supply chain professional of the future, you won’t be manually processing data.  You will have data you can trust at your fingertips, as well as meaningful insights.  The rest will be up to you! IBM’s Takshay Aggarwal explains.


In the future, what will separate the successful supply chains from the rest? 

Procurious Founder Tania Seary sat down with Takshay Aggarwal from IBM to get his take on where we are, and where we are going.



Everything has changed

In 20 years of supply chain experience, Takshay has never seen a supply and demand shock at the same time.

“It’s completely changed how supply chain planning is done,” Takshay says.

Before, people used historical data to project demand – usually with a 5-10% variability or 1-2% percent for really mature organisations.  

But even with a high level of accuracy, too many companies were unsure which supplies were coming when. 

“Processes were so monthly and weekly orientated,” Takshay adds. “There was no sense of response; it was all about, ‘We’re used to this stepwise process and will get to it when we get to it.”

The result? Slow response time and lost sales. And reaction time was seriously hampered by years of cost cutting.

“An easy analogy is that you can cut and cut the fat to the bone, but when you need to run, where is the muscle?” Takshay says.

Sensing the market

That’s not true for all organisations, of course. Some companies invested in the right technology to detect changes in the market, which enabled them to respond quickly.

Takshay uses the example of two big retailers during the early days of the pandemic.  

“One retailer had sensing and response capabilities,” Takshay explains. “They secured all the available supplies in the market. Their shelves were stocked and their sales were booming.”

On the other hand, the second retailer’s supply chain officer was slow to respond. “They had traditional ways of doing stuff and their shelves were empty.” 

The difference between the two? “One supply chain officer is now promoted to the board and the other is finding a new job.” 

That’s why it’s so crucial to have the tools in place to detect market fluctuation and respond.

Looking at data differently

Going forward, how will you prepare for disruption – not only for your suppliers, but your suppliers’ suppliers?

The solution is incorporating non-traditional data for demand planning, Takshay says.

“Let’s say a discretionary spend category like electronics or fashion; you need to understand how unemployment is panning out in certain areas because that determines the footfall in your store,” Takshay says.

Non-traditional data includes areas of demographics like looking at unemployment or how a disease is spreading.

“You will start seeing a lot of what we call demand sensing in the near term, and driver-based forecasting which is trying to understand larger drivers in terms of promotions, in terms of macroeconomic factors,” Takshay explains.

“I think that’s where we’ll see demand sensing capabilities, like trying to understand the near term impact of weather or demographics and how they affect demand.”

Spreadsheets won’t cut it

Technology will also change how you use that non-traditional data, Takshay says.

That’s because higher computational power creates the ability to process data at lightning speed.

“The basic math hasn’t changed, but what has changed is how fast you can ingest that data,” Takshay says.

Think of it this way. How long would it take you to analyse a million rows in an Excel spreadsheet? Yet for some of these new models, a million rows is nothing.

Artificial intelligence can quickly process large amounts of data, making it easier to extract meaningful data. 

It will also be easier to bring in different sources of data – as and when –  they’re relevant.

For example, data about the pandemic spread might be a big consideration now, but six months from now it might not be relevant (fingers crossed!)

Instead, you may be more interested to ingest data at scale about economic recovery. AI can help you make sense of a huge amount of data and understand correlations – something that used to take an army of data scientists to uncover.

Welcome to efficiency

That ability to analyse vast quantities of data will also make demand planning a lot easier.

“If you ask any demand planners, 60 to 70% of their work today is about cleansing and harmonising data, and 20-30% is figuring out what it’s saying,” says Takshay.

Now, technology can eliminate much of that manual processing. In fact, Takshay says IBM estimates around 40 to 60% of that work will be covered.

“Now imagine if you’re a demand planner and you don’t have to go through those daily tasks to get the data cleansed,” Takshay says. 

Making it personal

So what does the future hold for supply chain?

Takshay predicts consumer demand is moving toward mass personalisation. The challenge for procurement teams will be supporting that personalisation in production, without losing efficiency or driving up costs.

“Ten years from now, we will be talking more about how we can better understand the consumer,” Takshay says.

“Everything will be done by machine. Supply chain may become irrelevant. It all becomes about mass personalisation so that’s where we start putting our efforts.”

That’s why human empathy will be an even more essential skill. Quantum computing could eliminate 80% of today’s procurement tasks, so our greater contribution is using human emotion to meet customer needs.

Hear Takshay’s full talk with Tania Seary in our exclusive webcast series The Future of Supply Chain Now.

What Will The 4 Hot Topics In Procurement Be In 2030?

Look at your latest supplier contract. Does it specifically mention Zoom catch-ups? If not, why not? Sally Guyer from World Commerce & Contracting talks with Procurious about getting the most from suppliers and technology.

Have a look at your latest supplier contract. Does it specifically mention communication like regular Zoom catch-ups or phone calls? If not, you’re missing a trick.

Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently spoke with Sally Guyer, Global CEO of World Commerce & Contracting on getting the most out of supplier relationships and predictions about the future of procurement. 



Hide or take action

It’s been a wild year, but disruption isn’t unique to 2020. 

“I think it’s really interesting because there have been numerous supply chain upheavals inflicted by disaster in the last decade,” Sally says.

“You’ve got things like the volcanic eruption in Iceland, Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Thailand floods, numerous hurricanes, not to mention the global financial crisis which also needs to sit on that list; yet we don’t seem to have learned very much,” Sally explains. 

“Most companies still found themselves totally unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

After this crisis is over, companies will fall into two categories: those that don’t do anything and hope that a disruption like this never happens again, and those that map their supply networks.

Supply networks

You should know how your suppliers (and your suppliers’ suppliers) fit together, which is why mapping out your network is so useful.

Companies who already made the effort to document their network acted quickly when the pandemic spread. Other companies were floundering and reactive. 

“We know from our research that many organisations typically don’t see beyond the first tier of suppliers, or possibly tier two,” Sally says.

“If we ever doubted the importance of visibility, the pandemic has provided a dramatic example of why it’s absolutely essential to have insight into sources of supply.”

Sally is seeing leading organisations require suppliers to participate in supply chain mapping efforts as part of their contract.

And it serves an important part of rebuilding.

“[We’re] moving away from the linear and much more to a recognition that supply networks’ supply ecosystems are a huge number of organisations all interacting with one another where there needs to be fluidity amongst them all. 

“And that’s essential to accelerate and support recovery.”

Sustainable cashmere

Companies are also investing more heavily in technology to help them gain end-to-end visibility.

Blockchain technology is particularly noteworthy.

Sally gives the example of tracing Mongolian cashmere production. The country is famous for its luxurious fibres – producing nearly a fifth of the world’s raw cashmere

And even though cashmere is considered natural and sustainable, soaring consumer demand is fueling overgrazing and damaging the land. 

So Toronto-based Convergence.tech and the UN teamed up to create an app for Mongolian farmers, backed by blockchain technology. 

Now the UN is able to interact with over 70 different herders and eight cooperatives through a simple app.

Farmers use the Android app to register and tag their cashmere. Then their location is pinned on a map to allow for end-to-end tracking. The UN works with the farmers and other producers along the supply chain to improve sustainability.

“Farmers are willing to have their goods marked in return for training on better practises, and then open markets pay fair prices for truly sustainable and high-quality cashmere,” Sally explains.

“Everybody benefits. Everybody wins.”

Better contracts, better relationships

Another way technology is transforming the supplier/client relationship is through communication.

Sally advises all clients to include communication obligations in supplier contracts.  

“It comes down to simple things like if we want to do video conferencing does your organisation support Zoom or not, because if I do and you don’t then [that’s an issue],” Sally says.

It’s not rocket science. All good relationships hinge on good communication, says Sally.

“Fundamentally, partnerships are founded on robust and clear communication, and you know I always talk about professional relationships in the same context as I talk about personal relationships,” Sally says.

“If you don’t have clear communication with your friends, with your partner, with whomever is around you, then you are not going to have a very successful relationship.”

While you can’t provide for every eventuality in your contracts, you need a robust framework to support the relationship which means communication needs to be at the top of the agenda.

Predicting the future

The year is 2030. What are the hot topics in procurement? Here are Sally’s predictions:

1) Sustainability

“We’re still a long way from creating our sustainable planet and it has to be something that we all continue to champion,” Sally says.

“We need to be promoting best practises to reach the next level where we’re actually starting to give back. Not just to seek neutrality but actually give back.”

2) Social inclusion

“I can’t imagine that social inclusion wouldn’t be important in 2030,” Sally says. “Perhaps a scorecard of corporate performance on social inclusion and social value.”

3) Technology

“Numbers suggest we’re only using 30% of the data that we are producing,” Sally says. 

“And if organisations are genuinely on a journey of continuous improvement then they need to be using data and the likes of artificial intelligence natural language processing if they’re going to continue to advance.”

4) Integration

“We need to organise for integration,” Sally adds. “We need to break down the internal barriers that exist.

“We all operate in silos. We’ve got organisations who have a buy side and sell side and they have no idea what’s going on on either side of the organisation. So those companies are starting to look at how they create an integrated trading relationships function.”

Sally Guyer can be seen in our exclusive series The Future of Supply Chain Now.

“I Want To Break Free” – Is This Procurement & Supply Chain’s 2020 Theme Song/Anthem?

We asked our LinkedIn community for their top pandemic anthems, and the result was an awesome playlist!


Owing to the myriad Supply Chain disruptions this year, many of us suddenly found that the world was no longer our oyster – or if it was, it clamped shut and trapped us inside. On top of Supply Chain chaos, we had to deal with our own incarceration.

Were you Happy like Pharrel or, despite all your rage, still just a Rat in a Cage like Smashing Pumpkins? Did you Always Look On the Bright Side of Life a la Monty Python, or did you swing from Sia’s Chandelier?

Perhaps it wasn’t The End of the World as We Know It but Lord knows you wanted to break free.

Music can either placate your mood or provoke it; it can augment your voice or do all the talking for you. In whichever case, certain songs will already be part of your daily COVID-19 landscape.

We asked our LinkedIn community for their Supply Chain anthems – and here’s the top 10:

Highway to Hell – AC/DC

– Peter Rand, Mastercard

No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me around

When confronted with a crisis, do you let your hair down, throw your glass in the fireplace and yell “game on!”? You crank this rockin’ classic and take on the world!

Then you realise (as some of us did) these are problems we’ve never faced from a catastrophe we never imagined:

Help! – The Beatles

– Peter Rand, Mastercard

97% percent of organisations we surveyed reported a supply chain disruption – and few of us had ever seen anything like it. So if you found yourself thinking:

Help! I need somebody!
Help! Not just anybody!
Help! I need someone!
Help!

… You weren’t the only one!

One – U2

– Gale Daikoku, SAP

It wasn’t one single person or organisation who saved the world: the COVID-19 Pandemic was a textbook case of Procurement and Supply Chains working together:

We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other

But with the huge pressures of work and the stifling restrictions on freedom, you could be forgiven for not basking in solidarity.

So Sick – Ne-Yo

– Tim Elliott, McLaren Automotive

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG2U2sjshTM

(It’s ridiculous) It’s been months, and for some reason I just
(Can’t get over us) And I’m stronger than this
(Enough is enough) No more walkin ’round with my head down
I’m so over bein’ blue

While working from home may be an introvert’s dream come true, for the rest of us the novelty is wearing thin. We all know this feeling of being locked up – especially Melburnians! Speaking of …

Locked Up – Akon

Warning: contains strong language

– Tim Elliott, McLaren Automotive

I’m locked up, they won’t let me out
No, they won’t let me out

There may not be grey walls and orange clothes, but isolation can still give off those incarceration vibes. Of course we can do most things from home, but … 

I Want To Break Free – Queen

– Rhylee Nowell, The Faculty

While our Supply Chains may be more resilient than ever, we can only take so much:

But life still goes on
I can’t get used to living without, living without
Living without you by my side
I don’t want to live alone, hey
God knows, got to make it on my own 

Or do you?

Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel

– Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious; Stephanie Shrader, Pridesports

when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Just as one Supply Chain helped another, all sorts of people put their hands up to help.

With A Little Help From My Friends – The Beatles

– Imelda Walsh, Manager, The Source

https://youtu.be/0C58ttB2-Qg

What do I do when my love is away?
Does it worry you to be alone?
How do I feel by the end of the day?
Are you sad because you’re on your own?
No, I get by with a little help from my friends

When your personal network is as strong as your business network, its support takes on inertia of its own.

Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

– Greg Parkinson, Director, Turner & Towsend

The right frame of mind is the key to success: a little mindfulness, coupled with an Attitude of Gratitude a la Nicky Abdinor, goes a long way.

Thus set up for success, soon we’ll be poised to take on the world again:

I Want To Be A Billionaire – Bruno Mars

– Matthew Hadgraft, The Faculty

(Clean Version)

Oh every time I close my eyes
I see my name in shining lights
A different city every night oh right
I swear the world better prepare
For when I’m a billionaire

Keep your dreams, goals, ambitions and plans intact because all this will change. Every Procurement and Supply Chain executive knows the importance of a Business Continuity Plan – make sure your own plans are articulated, because who knows what opportunities the future will bring?

Do you have any suggestions for additional songs? Comment below.

6 Ways To Keep Supply Chain On The Executive Agenda

Supply chain is firmly on the executive agenda (at last!). But how can we keep our seat at the table? Procurious talks to Kearney partner Kate Hart about the burning issues in supply chain – from attracting new talent to co-creating with suppliers.


Supply chain is firmly on the executive agenda (at last!). But how can we keep our seat at the table? 

Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently sat down with Kate Hart, Partner at consulting firm Kearney, to talk about the state of supply chain and what’s coming.



Change, pivot, attract

Supply chain management is increasingly about dealing with disruption, says Kate.

“Recent events have highlighted how susceptible our global supply chains are to disruption, from the pandemic to ransomware attacks to global trade wars,” Kate explains.

So how do we cope? It all comes down to two critical capabilities.

The first is the ability to sense the changing environment and pivot. And the second is the ability to attract and retain core talent. 

That need hasn’t changed for a decade, says Kate. So why is it worth mentioning now? 

“What it means today is very different to what it meant 10 years ago in regards to the importance of being able to sense a change environment and pivot,” Kate says.

That’s because the demands on supply chain professionals have changed dramatically – and certain industries adapt quicker than others.

“Some global geographies are a lot more mature than others so far as their uptake of e-commerce and some geographies have really been lagging,” Kate says. 

Why technology means survival

If retailers were hesitant to adopt new technology, they have an extra incentive now. It’s their key to survival.  

“Amazon has been a trigger for some of those geographies to uptake, but obviously the pandemic has just increased the proliferation of retailers offering e-commerce platforms,” says Kate.

Companies are also becoming more innovative in the way they handle the actual distribution of their supply chains, particularly in the business-to-consumer route.  

“We’ve seen a proliferation of sort of rideshare ‘uberisation’ of that last mile,” Kate says.

“What we’re seeing is those companies that invested in the technology and got ahead of the game really have thrived during this. Now it’s going to be a matter of, you know, catch up or who survives, so it’s going to be quite interesting.”

Understanding the risk

So what are smart companies doing now to avoid future disruption? Supply chain network mapping.

Kate has seen a huge influx of companies not just looking at supplier risk, but looking at suppliers’ suppliers risk and building that information through their supply chains.

Interestingly, this is largely driven by senior executive interest. Never before has supply chain resilience enjoyed such a prominent position on the c-suite agenda.

“It’s beyond just enterprise risk. There is reputational risk, there is financial risk, there are lots of different risks that are inherent in the supply chain and that is very much front and centre in many of our board conversations at the moment,” Kate says.

“The key question that we’re getting asked by boards is how they get visibility in their end-to-end supply chain risk and how they manage that resilience.”

Making it automatic

Companies are also investing more heavily in automation to improve resilience.

‘It’s been quite extraordinary. Some global areas, particularly in the US and in the UK, are seeing a lot of advantage from automation,” Kate says.

“But the investment in automation needs to be deliberate, with a very sound business case, otherwise organisations are investing but not necessarily seeing returns in some areas.”

Technology, like automation, is providing supply chain teams with new levels of influence, Kate says. 

“We’re seeing supply chain organisations use digital tools to create a triage process with a front door to supply chain – a self-service functionality,” Kate explains.

“[It] enables their internal talent team to then work with their business stakeholders to drive extraordinary value.

“So, supply chain is really being impacted positively by digitisation and automation. It’s all part of a focus on resilience which elevates the conversations and, in turn, the value that supply chain can deliver.”

Working as partners

That’s why Kate says the future will be all about human decisions facilitated by technology.

“What does that mean for partnerships across your supply chain?” Kate asks. “It means that the problems that need to be solved are increasingly complex. It requires a very strategic view of your supplier base.”

The strategic view increasingly means changing the relationship to a close partnership.

“In some of the scenarios that we’re working on at the moment, the clients don’t know what the solution is and actually need to engage the suppliers to co-create solutions for problems that are new to both of them,” Kate says. 

That means seeing suppliers as extensions of your own organisation, which is positive.

But as Kate points out, companies still need to maintain “control and visibility so you are not anchored to them in perpetuity. So getting that balance of control versus collaboration right is going to be really, really important.”

The right people

As Kate puts it, the bright future of procurement isn’t possible without the right people.

“All of that is very contingent on the ability to attract, retain, and grow talent – the conundrum of supply chain management for aeons,” Kate says.

“But never is it more important than now. For supply chain management to have a seat at the table it needs to be attracting the core talent that we’re seeing coming out of the universities.

“There needs to be a very strong talent pool that’s feeding into the industry.”

Kate Hart – Partner at consulting firm Kearney, overseeing the supply chain practise within Asia Pacific – can be heard in the webcast series The Future Of Supply Chain Now.

Supply chains are changing. Here are 5 things we know now.

How to Be Super Normal: 5 Must-Have Traits to Get Ahead in 2021

What does it take to be Super Normal? Here are the 5 must-have traits to get ahead in 2021 without driving yourself crazy.


There’s no turning back. There’s only the here and now. And whatever you call it – the new normal, now normal, the end of the world, or as we’re labeling it, the Super Normal – it no longer matters. What matters is how you adapt, move forward and make a difference.

There’s a lot of difference-making that still needs to happen. Procurement and supply chain must lead the way, just as we’ve done in the past. According to McKinsey, “in the five years immediately following the 2008 financial crisis, total return to shareholders for companies with top-quartile procurement capabilities was 42% higher than for companies whose procurement operations were in the bottom quartile.”

That’s a significant impact. Clearly, we have what it takes to succeed. But this is not the same environment as the global financial crisis. The game has fundamentally changed and we need a new playbook to win, manage stress and get ahead.

The Super Normal: Start by Owning Your Vulnerability  

Resilience is core to the Super Normal. We’ve been talking about it since March, which begs a deep discussion: What actually makes us resilient?

It has nothing to do with our age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. Instead, according to a Harvard Business Review study, there are two driving factors. The first is exposure. The more exposed you are to the suffering or event, the higher your resilience levels are. As HBR puts it, “this strongly suggests that we discover our resilience only when we are forced to meet unavoidable suffering full in the face. It’s when we face that reality, and see ourselves and how we respond to it, that we find the basis for resilience.”

The second factor is the extent of the threat. The more tangible, the more resilient we become.

An HBR survey asked how many people had experienced workforce changes as a result of COVID-19. There were 11 possible changes to select, such as sheltering in place, layoffs and furloughs, and changing use of technology. Ninety-six percent of respondents globally said they’d experienced at least one issue. This is similar to our business study, which found that 97% of organisations experienced a supply chain disruption related to COVID-19.

This isn’t surprising – so why does it matter? Because as leaders, we need to own our vulnerabilities. Our Super Normal requires us to be open, transparent and direct. You can’t force a return to normal just to calm anxiety and stress. We have all suffered to some extent and glossing over the potential implications – whether it be layoffs, longer work hours, hard conversations with suppliers and customers, a demand for new skills, or changes at home – is counter-intuitive.

Instead, own the vulnerability, be clear about your team’s exposure and communicate what needs to change. When people understand what’s at stake, they are remarkably resilient.

The Super Normal Playbook: Heart, Brain and Vision

Resilience amidst chaos requires evolution. We need to change and adapt, even if we don’t know what the future holds. While there’s no easy button or universal blueprint, we’ve learned a lot in 2020 about how to be Super Normal.  

1.       Super Normal Professionals Think the Unthinkable

If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that anything can happen. Pandemic, trade wars, recessions, natural disasters… the list goes on.

Being Super Normal requires us to come to terms with an inherent truth: Uncertainty is certain.

We need to engrain this mindset into our team, decisions and actions. Once we see that the big picture is cloudy and unpredictable, we can better prepare ourselves for success, and quickly overcome the shock factor when everything abruptly changes. Being ready for sudden change – and having a plan of action – puts you ahead of nearly everyone. 

2.       Super Normal Professional See Limitless Opportunity

Don’t let the state of our world get you down. Instead, get up, make a plan and get going. Be positive.

Changemakers see opportunity in crisis. They understand that the dynamics have completely changed, and there are limitless opportunities to improve your reputation, get noticed, move up and make an impact.

We know that procurement and supply chain operations are intrinsically linked to organisational survival and success. Whether you are at the beginning of your career or leading operations for a Fortune 100, there’s a greenfield opportunity in front of you. Thriving in the Super Normal requires you to see it and take advantage.

3.       Super Normal Professionals Invest in Themselves

Warren Buffet put it best. “By far the best investment you can make is in yourself.” 

This advice isn’t relatively new or unique, but it’s a game-changer for those that take advantage. What skills do you need to thrive in our Super Normal? What about the Next Normal? How will your day-to-day job change in the next 5 years?

Our recent survey found that the majority of organisations (93%) are investing big to propel procurement forward. The top three investments they are making in procurement are in data and analytics, talent development and technology.

Soft skills matter as well. According to LinkedIn, the top five most in-demand skills in 2020 are “creativity, collaboration, persuasion, adaptability, and emotional intelligence—all skills that demonstrate how we work with others and bring new ideas to the table.” 

If your organisation isn’t providing the necessary training or experience you need, make the time to get it yourself. The pandemic has accelerated the global tech transformation and heightened the need for modern skills, expertise and experiences, like analytics, digitisation, emerging technology, emotional intelligence and leadership. Super Normal leaders see where the world is going and stay ahead of the transformation by investing in themselves and their teams. 

4.       Supper Normal Leaders See the Big Picture and Know How to Focus

Where is your organisation going and what does it need right now? Super Normal leaders are always in the know, and when they aren’t, they are confident and proactive enough to request an immediate alignment meeting with leadership.

We only have so much time and resources and need to spend them where it counts. Today, for most procurement and supply chain teams, that means cost savings, supply chain risk and business continuity. But your actual goals and priorities may be different and could change suddenly. Going above and beyond your day-to-day supply chain and procurement operations to stay fresh on the strategic priorities of your organisation is paramount to success. Similarly, bringing modern and fresh thinking to the table that breaks through traditional results and delivers compounding value on key projects, like cost containment and savings, will make C-suite stop and take notice. 

5.       Super Normal Leaders Have a Heart

They put people first – and recognise that success starts with teamwork and human connection. They recognise that vulnerability – financial, mental, physical and social – is very real, and that people need time, space and support during difficult times. They know that talent wins 100% of the time.

While putting people first may sound simple, that’s not always the case, especially amidst the chaotic nature of our world today. Super Normal leaders are intentional about it every single day, with their decisions, actions, engagements and relationships. People are core to what they do – and why they succeed. 

You Have What It Takes: Embrace the Super Normal 

Life is chaotic and stressful. And you have everything you need to be successful now and in the future. Everyone’s Super Normal will look a little different – but if we continue to learn from each other, share our successes and look ahead, we’ll all be more than alright.

And finally, wherever this Super Normal takes us, always remember to make time for yourself and your family. Find something you love and embrace it. We are all tired, stressed and anxious. Happiness helps solve all three. If you are looking for more inspiration, check out what your peers say it means to be Super Normal.

8 Ideas To Have In Your Procurement And Supply Chain Tool Kit

Supply chains are under intense scrutiny right now. That increases pressure on supply chain leaders, but also creates new opportunities to do things better for everyone: companies, customers, and the planet. Top influencer Rob O’Byrne gives his take on where we’re at and what’s coming next.


Procurious founder Tania Seary recently talked with Rob O’Byrne, CEO of Logistics Bureau, and a top 10 supply chain social media influencer.

Here’s his take on where we are, how we got here, and what’s next.  



“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from factory to store.”

Not long ago, many of us struggled to explain supply chain management to our friends and family.

Now? The pandemic hit and suddenly everyone’s a supply chain expert, says Rob.

“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from the factory to the store, and it’s really put supply chain in the spotlight,” Rob says.

With that extra awareness comes an expectation that supply chains should work more efficiently — and that will change the way we all operate.

“We lost touch with local markets.”

Before we can make impactful changes, we need to understand how we got here.

Rob says the two biggest trends that shaped the pre-Covid era are centralisation and rationalisation.

Increasingly, large global players were centralising their supply chains through regional or global hubs.

Why? To improve management, visibility, and consistency — all of which are important for optimizing supply chain operations. But centralisation comes at a cost.

“The challenge is [these companies] are a lot more remote from their markets and sometimes you actually need to have a finger on the pulse,” Rob says.

“[You have] headquarters in one part of the world trying to dictate what happens in a supply chain in another part of the world. Sometimes they lose touch a little bit.”

Rationalisation led to similar challenges.

For all of the cost savings and visibility benefits, rationalising led to less contact with markets.

“[Companies] are tending to rely a lot more now on AI-based communication systems to talk with customers,” Rob explains.

Great for the bottom line, but frustrating for customers who often want to speak to an actual human instead of a bot.

“We can be in danger of alienating our market.”

“Companies still don’t understand the ‘cost to serve’ in their supply chain”

One of the greatest challenges right now in supply chain management is managing costs, says Rob.

And it’s more than “total cost of ownership.” It’s about knowing the end-to-end costs.

“So many companies still don’t understand the cost to serve across all the different channels in their supply chain. And that’s become even more critical during the pandemic because our distribution channels have changed,” Rob says.

“In the current climate, it’s really challenging because there’s so much expediting going on. We’re having to use different transport modes than perhaps we would normally.” 

Visibility is also a struggle.

“That really came to the fore during the pandemic because everything was moving so much more rapidly,” says Rob.

“Supply and demand peaks and troughs have been so much more severe. The visibility of that real demand was so important, so there’s a much greater need for improved demand planning and inventory management.”

“Forecasts are always wrong”

To illustrate that need, Rob points to the huge demand for one specific medication during the pandemic. 

Patients who used the drug to treat symptoms of a specific disease,  were stocking up, while other people were buying it because they thought it might fight the virus. Hospitals also stocked up because people who needed the drugs would need more if they caught the virus. Demand skyrocketed.  

“So I think that’s part of the challenge in terms of inventory visibility,” Rob points out. “It’s separating the true demand from the noise…that’s where we’re going to see much more sophisticated inventory management tools coming in the future.”

Although some companies still use spreadsheets for forecasting, “on the other end of the scale, there’s some really, really advanced tools being used and all of that is giving us much greater visibility of our supply chains.

“We can use the weather to predict food sales.”

One example is creating demand forecasts based on weather, not previous sales.

Companies can actually predict food requirements at a shopping mall food court by analysing parking spaces and the weather.

They harness data on parking space occupancy, (from those red and green lights) combine it with the weather forecast, and predict how many people will turn up at the shopping centre.

“That’s real forecasting,” says Rob. “It’s not looking at what we sold last month or the month before.”

“Less lean and more fat.”

Along with smarter forecasting, what does the future hold?

Rob says a rapid retreat from lean management might be on the cards for many businesses.

“Lean was all the fashion for the last 10 years or so,” Rob recalls. “And at the time it was probably the right thing to do for the right businesses and the right products.”

But that’s all changed now.

“I just wonder for a lot of supply chains whether it was a step too far when we’ve seen the fragility of our supply chains over the last six months or so,” Rob says.

Where you have the traditional supply chain like an automotive factory, lean and ‘just in time’ works really well, but where you’ve got volatile markets we’re starting to see the cracks appear.”

“I think we’re going to see a little bit more fat, certainly in terms of inventory, just to buffer for uncertainties.”  Because it will be a long time before market demand becomes anywhere near normal, and it may never look like pre Covid demand again, as alternative distribution channels become more popular.

Rob also says we can expect the decline of ‘traditional’ third-party logistics. 

“There are a lot of companies around that ‘uberised logistics’ – whether it be transport or storage, and I think we’re going to see third party logistics particularly moving much more towards the gig economy. There’s no reason why not.”

“There are people delivering to my home at the moment who are doing it a few hours a day, and that’s where third-party logistics is going.”

“Let’s not waste packaging.”

Rob also predicts swelling interest in circular supply chains.

“We’ve got to wake up and start making our supply chains much more sustainable in every element of the supply chain,” Rob says.

“We’ve paid lip service to it and there are companies around the world that we hold up and say, ‘Look what they’re doing; they’re amazing.’

“But I think generally as an industry we’re just not really very good at it. People think it’s about reverse logistics but it’s not. It’s about removing waste in our products too.” 

“Let’s not waste transport; let’s not waste packaging.”

“Supply chains aren’t competing against each other.”

Finally, Rob says supply chains have the opportunity to work together.

“We’ve been very slow in collaboration,” Rob says.

“I think in supply chain, a lot of companies have been fearful of sharing warehousing sharing transport – that physical end of the supply chain – because their competitors are going to see what they are doing.”

“We’ve had that mantra for years that supply chains compete, not companies. I don’t know that they do anymore.

“I think it’s more about brands and it’s about service. I really don’t see a reason why we can’t see a lot more collaboration in our supply chains.”

Rob O’Byrne is CEO of Logistics Bureau and one of the top 10 supply chain influencers on social media.

This interview is part of “The Future of Supply Chain Now” – a week of webcasts with the fresh opinions from the most influential people in supply chain. Brought to you by IBM Sterling Supply Chain and Procurious. Read more on Digitally Perfecting the Supply Chain and How Inventory Visibility will Drastically Effect the Customer Experience.

4 Reasons You Can’t Miss The Big Ideas Summit This Year

At the end of a year when all our plans fell through, the Big Ideas Summit sets the tone, agenda and cements the possibilities for 2021. Here’s how.


Back in 2010, when you were making your ten year plan, what did you say your end game was? Multiple promotions? An overseas secondment? Perhaps a holiday home? Whatever you put on your plan, we’re pretty sure it didn’t include a pandemic, and we’re almost 100% sure that if asked if the last decade prepared you for this, you’d say a loud and clear no. 

But that’s exactly why our Big Ideas Summit is more important than ever. Back in February, we knew that COVID-19 would represent a watershed moment for procurement professionals everywhere when 94% of the world’s supply chains were interrupted. And what we predicted (if you could even call it that!) has come true: procurement and supply chain management has irrevocably changed, and so has our world. This year’s Big Ideas Summit is dedicated to that very transformation, so here’s four reasons you simply can’t miss it: 

  1. We’ll learn to think the unthinkable 

The global pandemic has been described as ‘unthinkable’ by many, but the truth is that world leaders had, in fact, planned for a pandemic, even if their response in reality was  a little different. So this begs the question, was COVID really as unthinkable as we all initially thought? 

While the jury is out on the answer to that, it’s clear that we’re living in increasingly uncertain and volatile times which require a vastly different set of skills than before. One person that knows this better than anyone is Nik Gowing, TV presenter and journalist. He recently completed an in-depth study into global leadership, and he has some truly fascinating insights into what attributes are now required to lead businesses into the future. 

  1. We’ll decipher today’s risk landscape 

This year, new risks have emerged so fast that many of us have barely been able to update our management plan before we’ve had to throw it out the window and start again. In 2020 (and likely, in the years to come), risk management is going to look vastly different to what it does today. 

Increasingly, change is happening more quickly than ever and there are more larger-scale risks that we all need to consider. These, perhaps unbelievably, may pose even larger challenges than the pandemic, in fact, The Economist implores us all to consider ‘What is the worst that could happen?’ and plan accordingly. Scary, right?

At this year’s Big Ideas, we’ll hear from prominent CEO Dawn Tiura on how we should approach risk, especially from a third-party relationship perspective. 

  1. We’ll ask the important questions about business continuity

When it comes to global business, we always thought where there was a will, there was a way. And thankfully, in the face of harsh lockdowns and enormous supply chain disruptions, many of the world’s industries have found a way to continue in some form, even if everything is done virtually. 

Yet not all industries have fared equally as well, with the aviation industry losing more than $84 billion dollars this year, and the tourism industry losing an equally eye-watering $24 billion.

For businesses like this, how does business continuity work? And does it even apply? One thing that the inspirational Kelly Barner, MD of Buyer’s Meeting Point, knows is that you need to be prepared for surprises. We’ll delve into exactly how we can all do that from a business continuity perspective plus much more. 

  1. We’ll discuss how we can all protect our careers 

While many of our colleagues may have been furloughed or laid off altogether, procurement and supply chain professionals have fared increasingly well career-wise throughout the pandemic. But while we may still have our jobs, how are our careers going in this increasingly uncertain landscape? It’s fair to say that while there may have been many opportunities, there may also have been various reasons why we couldn’t or didn’t take them. 

But in good news, 2020 isn’t finished yet. There is ample time to analyse the year that has been, and decide how to best protect – and grow – your career. We’ll discuss this at length in a panel at Big Ideas with four of the globe’s best procurement and supply chain recruiters. 
The catch phrase of the year is staying apart keeps us together. Now, it’s time to get together for real (virtually!), learn from those who have managed best, and plan for whatever 2021 may hold. Join us at The Big Ideas Summit here.

3 Ways to Improve Your Supply Chain Risk Management Strategy

We can’t just get our own house in order. We need to help our suppliers’ suppliers if we want a truly resilient supply chain. Procurious gets expert advice from riskmethods’ Bill DeMartino


How can companies of any size manage the huge number of risks in any supply chain?

Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently sat down with Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America at riskmethods, to find out about risk and the future of procurement.



Become resilient or lose credibility

The word of the moment is definitely resilience. But where do you start?

Bill says it’s a process. Not long ago, most organisations were hunting for better information to react faster as threats emerged.

“So this is what I would really categorise as being reactive,” Bill explains. “We want to get better at reacting to events (which is a fantastic place to start by the way) and what I would think of as the journey to resilience.”

The pandemic obviously changed many companies’ perceptions of their own resilience.

Yet he points to data that we’ve seen a 300% increase in disruptions of all kinds over the past three years.

“That means that for organisations who weren’t before acting the mandate is clear; this is the responsibility of supply chain leaders,” says Bill.

“If they are unable to deliver on this responsibility, they’re going to be losing credibility within the organisation.”

The good news is senior management is recognising the importance of proactive supply chain risk management, which will likely lead to more funding.

Treat suppliers better

So we’re all after resilience. But what does that actually look like?

It starts with a shift in the way companies treat and manage suppliers, Bill explains.

“I think we’re on the precipice of moving into what I would call the era of collaboration,” Bill says. 

“Traditionally, we’ve seen working with most of our suppliers in kind of a generic manner and we treat a few of them very specially. 

“But I think that collaboration needs to extend to a broader set of enterprises and so that continuum will continue to be a major transformation element.”

From reactive to transformative

Changing the way we see supplier relationships is a good step, but it’s only the start. 

Once an organisation can react quickly and be more resilient, it’s time to transform. That’s why the most mature and forward-looking organisations are overhauling their processes right now.

“Transformation is not just enough for me to figure out how to be reactive, but I really need to think more proactively on how I can change the elements and the way that I think about the category,” says Bill. 

These advanced organisations are asking how well they understand category risk exposure. And how they can incentivise people to act on the risks they uncover.  

“So it’s really more of a holistic approach to risk resilience,” says Bill.

Automation frees up resources

The other hot topic is automation. Bill says it’s incredible how much of our supply chain can be automated. 

“Supply chain folks are just automating everything that they can and it’s crazy,” says Bill.

“We’re trying to automate all the AP functions, we’re trying to automate all the contract functions, and now we’re actually moving up into the next level and trying to automate the analysis in the diagnosis of the data and the information and insights in those systems.”

“[W]ith this automation we’re able to free up the scarce resources and get our folks to focus on some of the proactive resilience and collaboration efforts they really need for the organisation to thrive,” says Bill.

Risk management in today’s environment

What does great risk management look like today? 

Bill narrows it down to three priorities:

1) Change jobs descriptions and incentives. You need to think about culture change. 

2) Put in place technology that can standardise processes, then measure them.

3) Manage your people well. Ensure that staff are actually following those processes in the way you expect.

“That’s the shift in the maturation that we’re seeing from our customers.  Before, they would just get the information.  Now they are working out how to best utilise that information and become proactive in their risk approach,” says Bill.

Minimise risk, no matter company size

You might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but I work for an SME. How does that work for a smaller company like mine?”

And it’s true. You may not have the resources or capability at the moment with everything going on, says Bill.

“A lot of smaller organisations are so busy just keeping the business going, no one is taking the time to take a look back and actually think about what it’s going to be in three to five years out,” says Bill.

“They’re  just worrying about survival today.” 

Even if your organisation is small, you’ll likely notice a rising interest in risk management – whether it’s from your customers and executive team. 

“Customers are asking them, potentially assessing them and looking to measure them in terms of their risk preparedness so that’s definitely helping [put risk management on the agenda],” Bill says.

“We are also starting to see a really strong sense of awakening from [senior leaders] and with the idea of a supply network.

“[They’re] thinking it’s not just enough for me to take care of my house, but I need my suppliers to also do the same for theirs.”

What can you do?

So whether risk management is at the top of your agenda already, or it’s just starting to gain importance, Bill suggests three key areas to get your house in order.

1) Using technology to manage risk: “There is an enormous amount of information that’s out there and the largest challenge that organisations have is how to filter through that information and uncover specific and relevant insights.” 

2) Make risk information visible: Can people in your organisation easily find information about risk? 

“We’ve seen a lot of folks who create risk scorecards or risk audits, and that information gets locked away somewhere,” says Bill. 

Instead, he suggests putting that information on your employees’ phones and laptops so they can easily access it when they’re talking to suppliers.

3) Integrate: The final step is to embed all of that risk information and data into other company systems.

As a supply chain professional, Bill says you should ask, “How can I integrate the technology and make it something that really impacts the way that we work?”

Going forward

Now that risk management is firmly on the agenda, you can use it to get ahead in your career. 

Bill predicts the most valuable procurement professionals in the future will be able to manage risk in two ways.

The first is artificial intelligence. Companies will need people who can use AI to spot patterns in suppliers to predict future events. 

“For example, if a supplier shutters a plant and fires the CFO, I could predict a bankruptcy is coming and reorganise my supplier geography to avoid disruption,” says Bill. 

“We can utilise artificial intelligence techniques to start doing pattern recognition and help folks better predict – never with 100% accuracy – but better predict what may be coming down the pipe for them.”

The second is to make suggestions on the best way to react if a threat actually comes to fruition. 

“There’s a number of different approaches that we’ve seen utilised to respond to an event, so we can bring all that information together and present to the individual in a way that allows them to very quickly assess their options, make decisions, and run.”

Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America for riskmethods, can be heard in the webcast series The Future Of Supply Chain Now.

How can you limit supply chain disruption and proactively plan for market shifts? Check out this IBM report to find out.