All posts by Procurious HQ

Sustainable Procurement: Reversing The Race To The Bottom

Don’t dismiss the importance of supply chain sustainability! Learn from the mistakes of others and count yourself out of the race to the bottom! 

A short-sighted focus on cutting costs and speeding products to market is resulting in a race to the bottom that will cost companies more in the long-run. Top performers in sustainable sourcing will emerge with stronger supply chains, higher margins, more trusted brands and happier customers.

Consumers are increasingly putting their money behind sustainability, with Nielsen reporting 66 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies they perceive as sustainable. This is forcing every industry to innovate in a way that makes transparency and sustainability permeate throughout the entire supply chain. Companies are often stuck in a race to the bottom, focusing on offering the lowest possible prices to compete with retail giants like Amazon and Walmart. Manufacturers who sell through these giants are also competing with each other, facing immense pressure from their customers to have the lowest price each week. Although price may seem like the best factor to emphasize, quality and sustainability considerations are often sacrificed in favor of cutting costs and speeding time to market. Even companies that have made sustainability promises often retreat after the initial pressure wears off due to perceived higher costs, but the long-term impact of irresponsible sourcing will impact their bottom line even more in the end. In fact, a recent BCG study found that gross margins were 4.8 percent higher for companies that were top performers in sustainable sourcing compared to those who were median performers.

In the long-run, participating in the race to the bottom is bad for business as it results in cheaply made, low-quality products and services that undermine the viability of the companies they are sourced from. This will all eventually be discovered by consumers and other stakeholders, and will open companies up to varying kinds of risk, including economic and financial, reputational and quality control consequences. Because these risks can impact a company’s bottom line, it is crucial to consider how sustainability can mitigate risk before it happens.

Unfortunately, hesitation and fear around competition (antitrust) laws are deterring businesses from working together to promote sustainability. A new report from the Fairtrade Foundation found that businesses are wary of working with rivals to improve the quality and security of their supply chain, but with fluctuating trade fees and climate change they have no choice but to collaborate. Instead of competing with peers to be fastest and cheapest to market, companies should be working together to promote sustainable procurement. When companies within an industry work together, it sends a much clearer signal to suppliers about the importance of responsible practices. With the right indicators and tools, those buying organizations can help suppliers advance in maturity and improve their practices – not only in sustainably issues but across all business operations. Companies should be working with other industry players – instead of against them – to ensure efficient and effective sustainable practices.

Learn from the mistakes of others

Nike, Asics and Puma saw the consequences a lack of sustainable and ethical practices could bring when more than 500 workers in four factories were hospitalised after fainting on the job. Outsourcing factory jobs to Cambodia may have saved the company some money on labor and wages, but unethical work conditions including long days and soaring temperatures canceled out any small benefit the retailers may have seen. The reputational and operational consequences turn out much worse than the small cost reduction initially intended. Improving ventilation and adding air conditioning, although good intentions, only put a band aid on the problem – these retailers and other companies should be working together to implement ethical and sustainable procurement practices as part of a long-term solution.

Geopolitical considerations

The turbulent political and trade climate in recent months is also challenging. Companies in almost every industry in the U.K. are facing a difficult choice between joining the race to the bottom to secure post-Brexit deals in terms of purchasing cheaper products from other countries and promoting high-quality, ethical and sustainable practices. Unfortunately, lower standards mean lower quality products and services, which will not just limit the emphasis placed on tackling issues like climate change and modern slavery, but also impact business revenues in the long run. NAFTA is having a similar effect on North American companies, making the consequences of the race to the bottom a universal concern. Instead of panicking about the effects of eminent trade deals, companies should be focused on working together to pursue sustainable procurement and mitigate risk before it happens.

Fortunately, many local and global governments are encouraging businesses to get on board and combat modern slavery, environmental sustainability and other risks in the supply chain. California recently signed the “Buy Clean California” act, which will clamp down on imported carbon emissions by creating rules for the procurement of infrastructure materials purchased with state funds. The U.K. just pledged $53 million to combat modern slavery with a focus on improving the apparel supply chain, joining the U.K. Modern Slavery Act in attempting to ensure business compliance. Australia may follow suit and introduce its own laws designed to root out forced labor and compensate potential victims.

At this point, we shouldn’t be thinking of it as “sustainability for sustainability’s sake,” but sustainability for risk mitigation and improved business operations. Technology is evolving to help companies better trace suppliers and other parties and improve transparency throughout the supply chain. Regulations around the world are banning or limiting unethical practices. The movement towards sustainability has changed in the last decade, placing the burden directly on companies to ensure responsible practices – both within their own operations and those of their partners. It may seem daunting to invest in sustainability while competitors are continuing to race to the bottom in pursuit of producing the cheapest products fastest, but companies that go above the standard will find it truly improves their bottom line and creates more value throughout their supply chain.

Pierre-Francois Thaler is co-founder and co-CEO of EcoVadis, a supplier rating company that helps organisations institute corporate social responsibility (CSR) and various sustainability programs. Pierre brings 15 years of experience in procurement and developing innovative sourcing solutions. Prior to starting EcoVadis, Pierre was CEO of B2Build SA, the first B2B marketplace for the European construction industry, and also served as a director of Ariba’s Procurement BPO business.

Taking The Heat Out Of The Resolution Room

If you can’t take the heat get out of the resolution room! Or invite Watson! 

We’ve all been there. Something’s gone terribly wrong with a major customer delivery. Emails are flying around and there are rumours from HQ that “heads are going to roll”.  Everyone concerned has been summoned to “THE meeting” in order to resolve the supply chain issue.

We know what happens next; fists slamming, red faces, an embarrassing lack of data and a lot of verbal ping, pong. Eventually, a resolution is found.

But what happens when Watson is in the resolution room? Could this take the heat out of your supply chain disputes?

 What is a Resolution Room?

A Resolution Room provides the organisation the ability to collaborate quickly to resolve supply disruptions. Users can discuss and resolve issues with other colleagues, business partners, or their suppliers. What distinguishes Resolution Rooms from all other collaboration platforms is Watson.

What does it mean to have Watson in the resolution room?

The big benefit of Watson being in the resolution room is that it recommends experts, provides insight from all data and actionable advice based on learned best practices.  Over time, it leverages Watson’s capability to develop a body of knowledge by learning how issues were best addressed in the past.  This enables greater speed and accuracy in responding to future events.

“Watson provides the opportunity to deliver business value and insights from all of these data insights – structured and unstructured, data from weather patterns, news, D&B and supplier IQ,” explains Joanne Wright, Chief Supply Chain Officer, IBM.

“It does this with speed and accuracy. No more are we saying ‘OK…let’s get the data and meet again tomorrow’ because Watson takes my team’s input and incorporates that into the next iteration as we go.”

Watson In The Resolution Room: A Case Study

IBM Watson is always a room participant, so you can draw on Watson’s expertise using natural language to ask a question, for example: @Watson what is the status of order ABC123?

Imagine the following scenario; A Late Shipment alert in the Ops Center reveals that orders of your most popular drone are in jeopardy because the shortage of the entire supply of a critical part, a lithium battery, has been delayed. You create a Resolution Room to manage the incident collectively.

Watson is in the room.

Whilst your team discusses how best to manage the problem you have the ease of asking Watson questions such as:

  • Which customer has the most sales dollars that will be late?
  • What are the financial impacts of any late orders?
  • Have we experienced this problem before? Who are the experts who have worked on these similar issues in the past?
  • Are there any alternate suppliers for part number 46001?
  • Why is there a shortage of lithium batteries?

Watson can provide answers to questions such as these based on the data available in the data model and in other Resolution Rooms. Learning over time, it becomes smarter and able to provide better insights about your supply chain.

Click here to try a Resolution Room demo. 

Got a big idea you want to push through a big company or simply want to learn more about Watson and the Resolution Room?

Sign up for next week’s procurement webinar, How IBM Built the Cognitive Supply Chain of the Future. hosted by Tania Seary and featuring IBM’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Joanne Wright. 

Welcome to the Most Miserable Day of the Year

Feeling down? You’re not alone! Today is Blue Monday, a date widely claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.

The concept of the most miserable day of the year was first publicised back in 2005, dreamt up by a public relations agency on behalf of holiday company Sky Travel.

Put simply, the “equation” used to calculate when Blue Monday falls is nonsensical pseudoscience (i.e. absolute baloney), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. 

W=weather, D=debt, d=monthly salary, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since failing our new year’s resolutions, M= motivational levels, and Na=the feeling of a need to take action.

In other words, the horrible weather (in the northern hemisphere), the realisation that you’ve overspent in December and that your salary isn’t going to cover it, and failing your new year’s resolutions outweighs your flagging motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action to start the year with a bang.

 

Two factors missing from the equation

  1. Keeping up with the online Joneses!

For those of us who spend a lot of time on social media, there’s another theory emerging about why this time of the year can be so painful: social media envy. How many posts have you seen on LinkedIn along the lines of… “I’m SO EXCITED ABOUT 2018! I’ve already secured 15 new clients, I’ve met my future spouse, and I’m running a half-marathon every morning before a super-healthy breakfast! Go ME!”

If you’re exposed to enough of this, it really can make you feel inadequate. “Why aren’t I feeling this motivated?” “Why do I just want to crawl back into bed?” “Where’s MY future spouse?”

  1. Are people really brimming with joy about being back at their desk?

Yes, there is a chance that some of your co-workers are genuinely chuffed to be back at the grindstone, and best of luck to them. But for the rest of us, the end of long, pleasant holiday is really no reason to celebrate. It’s hard to get back into the swing of things and regain your work-week mojo – and until then, it’s easy to fall into a bit of a slump. After all, have you ever seen your kids’ reaction when a “back to school” ad comes on the telly?

Take heart, though, from the likelihood that many of your (apparently) highly-motivated, back-to-work-loving colleagues on social media are in fact putting on a front. Whether it’s for the benefit of their bosses, their co-workers or their clients, the super-positive post may not reflect the mood of the person glumly typing it out.

So – wishing you a miserable Blue Monday. Try not to eat too much chocolate.


In Procurement and Supply Chain News This Week:

Fiat Chrysler Reshoring Production

  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is investing $1 billion to move production of Ram Heavy Duty pickup trucks from Mexico to Michigan.
  • The move will lower the automaker’s exposure to potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  • Approximately 2500 jobs will be moved to the company’s factory in Warren, Michigan.

Read more: http://fortune.com/2018/01/12/fiat-chrysler-michigan-mexico-nafta/

 Iranian and Chinese Tankers Collide

  • Thirty-two sailors are presumed dead after Iranian tanker “Sanchi” collided with Chinese freighter “CF Crystal” 257 km off the coast of Shanghai. The casualties are from the Iranian vessel, while the 21-member crew of CF Crystal have all been reported safe.
  • The Sanchi was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of ultra-light oil, bound for South Korea. After listing for nearly a week, a large explosion sank the vessel on Sunday.
  • The cause of the collision is unknown. Thirteen ships were employed in the rescue effort, which has been hampered by poor weather.

Read more: http://time.com/5102663/iranian-tanker-collision/

 Maccas Is Finally Ditching Foam Cups

  • McDonald’s has announced a plan to use recycled and certified sources for its fibre-based packaging by 2020, while foam packaging will be eliminated by the end of 2018.
  • Polystyrene drink containers are known to be eco-unfriendly and very difficult to recycle. The restaurant chain eliminated polystyrene packaging for hamburgers nearly 27 years ago.

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2018/01/13/mcdonalds-will-get-rid-foam-packaging-2019-7226373/

You Will Be Assimilated: The Collective Intelligence Of Procurement

For those who remember “The Borg” from Star Trek, you’ll remember the notion of a dispassionate alien mind-being that would suck up your individual mind to subsume into the collective intelligence.  Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Crazy stuff, right?  Or maybe not.

Flash forward to today.  For most people, your every move is being tracked by your smartphone, social media apps, web browsing, and credit card transactions.  Ever wonder why Google and Amazon are basically giving away their helpful devices and AI assistants?  You are being watched.  You are the product (not the customer).  You are the raw materials of a collective intelligence being built upon your individual experiences and desires.  In other words, the proverbial machine is watching and learning from you (in order to sell to you, er, rather, to “better meet your needs”).

But, this is all consumer stuff, right?  B2B is different, right?

Sort of – but it’s not THAT different.  And with all the regulatory pressures coming on consumer data privacy, as compared to much of the privacy that you sign away your rights to when you enter an employment contract, the tables may actually turn here. If you’re using a popular cloud-based Procurement system, you are also being watched (many providers analyse your system behaviour to figure out how you navigate the system and how to help you… yes, the chatbots are coming). If you use a procurement “business network” or eMarketplace (e.g., Amazon Business), your suppliers are signing away some of their intellectual property – whether they know it or not.  And smart companies are trying to gain a market intelligence advantage through digital business strategies in the supply chain. There’s a reason why GE created Predix; why Flex funded Elementum; why DHL sells supply chain risk technology; and so on.  Adoption creates insight and intelligence… and advantage.

All this isn’t necessarily bad for you though.  It serves up price benchmarking, risk intelligence and improved system usability.  It also signals how the world is moving away from “empty apps” that push documents around in workflows and move towards systems that are building intelligence to make your apps “smarter”.  This intelligence is typically built using machine learning fed by large data sets that help improve repetitive tasks like spend classification. Of course, AI is a bigger topic, and there are 23 distinct areas in AI for procurement and supply chain that we’re following that I can’t cover in a single blog post!  For example, contract management is a great example where AI is already having an impact and this will be very disruptive in the Legal services (e.g., Legal BPO) area.

Still, building your collective intelligence for your firm doesn’t necessarily require AI.  You can avail yourself to some good old-fashioned knowledge management built up from the various collectives that are all around you:

  • The internal corporate collective. Learn from consulting companies and build presentation storyboards of your procurement projects that created change and value – and use them to win over skeptical stakeholders.
  • Your supplier collective. Your current supply suppliers, previous suppliers, “almost suppliers” (who bid on your business), and potential suppliers via crowdsourcing are a wealth of knowledge – if you know how to tap them through supplier innovation programs and proper supplier management processes.
  • Your customer collective. This includes not just internal stakeholders, but external customers as well.  For example, Lenovo uses its social customer mining tools to identify key customer/demand information that can be passed upstream to suppliers.  On the flip side, many similar intelligence tools are being deployed on the supply side with varying results (that’s a whole topic for another day).
  • The installed base collective. Your procurement app providers, consulting providers, and managed service providers are likely working hard to extract and productize your individual intelligence into a re-saleable collective intelligence. Choose a provider that is working on building collective intelligence into its overall platform strategy.
  • Your peer/community collective. There are lots of communities out there right now where you can learn from your peers – and many of them are free. You’re learning right now by reading this on Procurious, so you’re already well on your way!

We even practice what we preach at Spend Matters when we tap into this collective intelligence of procurement technology users by capturing end user satisfaction (think Net Promoter Score on steroids) and using it as an entire axis of our “SolutionMap” vendor scoring model/methodology.  And, yes, there’s a freemium version (it has eight procurement technology areas mapped out based on five different buyer personas from which you can select)!

The bottom line is that although we all start with a certain amount of individual intelligence, it’s the collective supply market of intelligence that is all around us if we can learn how to tap it, build it, and wisely bring the right intelligence back to our individual selves (and we’ll even be able to augment that individual intelligence into our own personal bots and ‘digital twins’).  And since procurement should be enabling stakeholders to also tap that collective intelligence of supply, it couldn’t be a more important competency to build right now.

So, go bravely into that supply market and assimilate yourself into the collective intelligence of procurement and be smarter and better from that experience.  It’s really what life is all about, isn’t it?

This article was contributed by guest author Pierre Mitchell, Chief Research Officer and Managing Director at Azul Partners.

7 Procurement Trends To Watch Out For In 2018

Which hot topics and trends will everyone in procurement be talking about in 2018…?What’s the buzz in 2018? We’ve done a spot of investigating to identify all the hot topics the procurement world is excited (and concerned!) about in the coming year…

1. Technology Hype Won’t Let Up

Steve Banker, writing for Forbes, concurs stating that “emerging technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, autonomous mobile robots, IoT, machine learning, and related technologies continue to get a tremendous of amount of publicity.

According to Supply Chain Digital, “The pace of innovation is picking up steam at an exponential rate.

“Robots, self-driving vehicles, electric trucks, blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and new mobile-enabled categories are all poised to explode onto the scene in one form or another.

“It’s hard to predict what’s real and what will fade away, but expect 2018 to become a year of heavy innovation for supply chain leaders, even if it’s experimental.”

Vivek Soneja, writing for EBN online  asserts that “Blockchain capabilities have transformed collaboration across trading partner networks”. He believes Blockchain will “enable much tighter collaboration across supply chain planning and execution decisions. ”

Read our latest articles on Blockchain by Basware’s Paul Clayton and  InstaSupply’s Simona Pop.

2. Brexit Will Continue To Cause Disruption 

“While 2017 was the year of Brexit uncertainty, 2018 will be the year where things start to change,” asserts Francis Churchill on Supply Management.

Last year CIPS revealed that 63 per cent of EU companies planned to move some of their supply chain out of the UK as a result of the decision to leave the single market and customs union.

“The slower-than-expected progression of Brexit negotiations has put off business investments in current or new UK operations,” explains Gary Barraco on Global Trade Mag. Recent readings on economic growth showed investment by companies to be flat in the second quarter.

“Supply chain executives are voicing concerns about tariff and quota changes, hoping to keep trade open and flowing as it does today. For manufacturing to remain strong, the raw material imports from Asia need to remain duty and tariff free, as they are currently in the customs union. Costs could go up without the trade advantages, leading to higher export costs from the UK.”

We discuss the implications of Brexit for procurement in this Procurious blog. 

3. Cognitive will reign supreme

Global Trade Magazine predicts that “by the end of 2020, one-third of all manufacturing supply chains will be using analytics-driven cognitive capabilities, thus increasing cost efficiency by 10 per cent and service performance by 5 per cent.”

And IBM predict that, by this point, all of our important procurement decisions will be made with the assistance of artificial intelligence. We know that our teams must “transform or die” if we don’t want the function reduced to the back office,  facing extinction.

But if you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed by the magnitude and potential of cognitive technology or simply wondering how to get started, this Procurious article has some great advice.

4. Transparency

Paul Martyn , writing for Forbes, spoke to Sue Welch, CEO, Bamboo Rose, on her supply chain predictions for 2018, discussing why “transparency and sustainability will be practiced with more vigor in 2018.”  She said ” ‘There’s been an explosion of demand from consumers to know where their products are originating and the required information is extremely granular. For example, with a package of carrots, consumers want to know not only the farm where they were harvested, but also the row and lot number where the carrots were planted.’

“Welch, whose company, Bamboo Rose, works with a number of top retailers and apparel companies, expects traceability demands to not only shape how consumers buy, but how companies will source and market their services.

“Smart retailers will begin to market their products from an information/sustainability-first standpoint and to be credible about it, they’ll need to invest in integrating technology that makes this level of transparency possible at every level of the supply chain.’ ”

5. Cybersecurity

Global Trade Magazine predict that by the end of 2019, cybersecurity will have surpassed physical security as a top concern for one-half of all manufacturers, and in the transition to digitally enabled, cognitive supply chains, cybersecurity will have become a top investment priority.

“High-profile hacking cases that compromise sensitive information for millions of people will continue in the coming year.” states Soneja, “With the proliferation of data and connected endpoints, companies will need to step up their security and privacy protection protocols in 2018.”

Earlier this year, we spoke to Craig Hancock, cybersecurity expert and Executive Director of Telstra Service Operations on the dangers of cyber crime. Read the full article here. 

6. Back to basics

“While a number of new trends are giving procurement leaders directions to explore in 2018, many supply chain professionals are still aiming for easy-to-understand goals” explains The Strategic Sourceror.

“According to Deloitte’s latest research on chief procurement officers, cost advantages and cash flow improvements are still the bread and butter of the supply chain. Traditional efforts to improve contracts and advanced, tech-driven strategies can deliver favorable costs to companies.”

7. Big data is a big deal

“In the context of the supply chain for most businesses, big data and predictive analytics are still an untapped resource that can potentially provide insights which help anticipate or respond to events or disruptions,” explains Raanan Cohen on Supply Chain Management review. 

“Unpredictable consumer behaviour, traffic or weather patterns, and labour unrest are all external events that can disrupt a supply chain and lead to increased costs and customer service challenges. Big data can help organisations become better trading partners to their customers and suppliers. But before insights and analytics can be leveraged for a better supply chain, there’s a huge task at hand for the many organisations that need to first collate data points from all sources and align them to their business operations.”

Let’s Get Internet of Things (IoT) Ready for Procurement!

What can the the Internet of Things (IoT) do for you and your procurement team? 

IoT is a big buzzword these days. From industry experts to academia to specialised thought leaders, everyone is talking about how IoT as a technology has the potential to disrupt not only the day-to-day workings of our companies, but also the lives of the individual.

The Internet of Things: A History

Let’s go back a bit and see how it all began. In 1999, Kevin Ashton, a British technology pioneer and cofounder of the Auto-ID Center at MIT, proposed the Internet of Things (IoT). It refers to gadgets and applications with built-in wireless connectivity that can harness great amounts of data from their surroundings and help monitor, control and organise things better. From home appliances to fitness gadgets to technology helping industries automate their processes, IoT can do it all!

And two decades later, IoT is the live wire. Smart homes, smart gadgets and smart cars- IoT has already given us a glimpse how is future going to be. But what does it hold for procurement?

Procurement and the Internet of Things

For Procurement particularly, IoT works as an enabler, empowering companies to gain visibility into their spend analysis and keep a vigilant eye on their consumers consumption pattern. The supply chain data generated is monitored continuously and analysed for behavioral sets to make better-informed decisions. Having a proactive overview helps companies to estimate the demand and supply statistics, as they are aware of the needs and usage pattern of their consumers. This empowers them to negotiate with supplier side in a more streamlined manner as they know in advance what material and what quality and quantity is required. All these factors combined contributes to cost savings and brings value for the procurement function.

Another area where Procurement can benefit significantly is in the tracking and monitoring of the movement of goods within supply chains. Deploying the right set of sensors, which are tracked remotely with an IoT-enabled device can identify equipment faults, stoppages and leakages in real time allowing service and maintenance teams to respond to issues more promptly and accurately. This also ensures diagnostic data is obtained in order to deploy the right set of technicians.

These factors directly impact the maintenance costs incurred by a company, contributing positively to the overall cost savings.

There is more that IoT can bring to the table for Procurement function. But to realise the utmost advantages, companies must ensure that they are investing in the right kind of technology, processes and people. They need to invest in setting up the infrastructure that will unleash the possibilities IoT has to offer. In short they need to be ‘IoT ready’.

If you are curious to learn more about how IoT will impact procurement, do join our upcoming webinar where our expert group of panelists will examine the practical impact of IoT on how our supply chains will work and what you will need to do to become IoT ready.

Webinar Speakers

  • Jon Hansen – Editor and Lead writer at Procurement Insights
  • Robert Handfield – Executive Director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative
  • Mark Hubbard – Managing Director at Smart Brown Dog Ltd

Webinar on ‘Getting Internet of Things (IoT) Ready for Procurement’ is on January 18, 2018 | Thursday. Register here for free to reserve your seat.

2017 Rewind- The Impact Of Blockchain On Procurement

As part of our 2017 Procurious rewind, we’re taking a look at the top blogs of the year. Blockchain was one of the hottest topics on the site this year. It’s time to brush up on your knowledge and understanding right here, right now! 

Blockchain technology will not only impact procurement and procurement professionals but is expected to be more pervasive in our business and personal lives than the internet itself. To put the enormity of impact on procurement and procurement professionals in perspective picture yourself twenty years ago trying to explain how the Internet is going to change things. Where would you even begin?

Like the Internet the Blockchain is a network. In the case of Blockchain comprised of decentralized “ ledgers”, many are referring to it as Internet 2 or more commonly the Internet of Value or Internet of Trust.

The benefits

The most important thing to understand is that Blockchain addresses many of the most critical problems we’ve encountered doing business on the internet.

1)  Security: Practically speaking the Blockchain is unhackable.

2)  Transactions are verified by network participants (consensus), eliminating the need for third-party intermediaries’ (banks) costly, time-consuming and predominantly manual settlement processes. In addition to slowing down our supply chains banks alone have estimated these processes are costing them more than $20 billion annually.

3)  Eliminating high transaction processing costs for high volume/low margin retailers who accept credit cards could significantly add to their bottom line.

4)  Once transactions are verified they are secure and immutable. (unchangeable)

5)  The immutability of the Blockchain means that supply chain provenance can be assured. This is particularly important for conflict minerals, pharmaceuticals, food and many other supply categories where provable chain of custody is critical.

6)  Payments can be made directly from buying entity to selling entity “ledgers” by-passing intermediaries (banks, brokerage, clearing houses, title companies, etc.)

7)  Payments can be automatically triggered based on the codified terms of “ Smart Contracts” stored in transaction blocks.

8)  Blockchain capabilities will change, if not eliminate the role of accounts payable and accounts receivable departments.

9)  Blockchain enables the concept of micro-units and micro-payments. It is estimated that approximately one -third of the world’s economic opportunity exists for products and services such as energy or digital rights where backend settlement costs currently constrain those markets.

10) It is also estimated that 25 per cent of the global population does not participate in the global economy because they have no bank accounts and/or credit cards. Without these tools they cannot participate in the Internet economy. The primary reason they do not have these economic tools is because they cannot prove their identities. Immutability of the Blockchain can enable these people.

What do I need to understand?

The capabilities I’ve outlined just scratch the surface on how Blockchain impact all of us. Aside from the aforementioned, as a procurement professional are several important things to understand.

1)  Blockchain is a much wider and more pervasive concept than Advanced Cognitive Systems, Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Robotics, 3-D Printing or even the Internet of Things. In fact these technologies will become infinitely more practical and secure because of Blockchain.

2)  Do not think of Blockchain and BitCoin, FinTech or Crypto Currencies as synonymous. They are not.

3)  Do not think that it will take 20 years to mature and be mainstream. The estimate is 5-7 years for full maturity.

4)  Do not assess progress by the US/Euro FinTech Community. While they were the first to recognise Blockchain’s inherent value and arguably have the most to gain by adopting it, they also have the biggest hurdles to overcome and could very well be last to cross the finish line.

5)  Don’t make the mistake of waiting to become knowledgeable about Blockchain; it is the most highly disruptive technology we’ve seen since the Internet and it won’t wait until you are ready for it.

Michael Shaw is CPO and Executive Board Member of Sourcing and Procurement Executives (ACSPE) and Chief Information Officer at Blockchain Executive.  This article was originally published on LinkedIn

2017 Rewind – IBM CPO: You’re Finished If You Think You’ve Finished

As part of our 2017 Procurious rewind, we’re taking a look at the top blogs of the year. This article features our interview with IBM’s CPO Bob Murphy, who believes there is nothing so important as professional development and human relationships.

The numbers are eye-watering. IBM CPO Bob Murphy looks after a $70 billion spend – $25 billion internally and $45 billion 3rd-party. The company has around 150,000 contracts across 17,000 suppliers, with its flagship cognitive technology, Watson, reading 900 million pages in multiple languages per second.

As we prepared for our interview with Murphy, it’s understandable, then, that we expected to find him entirely focused on data analytics, automation, AI and the other tech that’s rapidly impacting so many professions. We were wrong – what comes across loud and clear is that this is a charismatic, engaging leader where people and relationships matter.

Think 40 and other professional development

Talking to Bob, it becomes immediately clear that his personal commitment to professional development is enormous. “If you want to be a leader, you have to stay current and replenish your IQ through learning and new knowledge. Ultimately, talent development is about making sure you have excellent people to replace outgoing leadership – it’s also vital for driving innovation.”

IBM’s Think 40 program mandates a minimum of 40 hours per year of self-initiated professional development. For the procurement team, this means having the option to select from a range of internal and external courses (often online), including offerings from Six Sigma, Procurement Leaders and ISM. For Bob, it comes down to inquisitiveness and a love of continual learning.

“We look for logical, friendly, humble, smart and inquisitive people. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of supply management can be trained to become outstanding procurement leaders. Making people aware of what is possible is absolutely critical – most successful people around the world put aside time to regularly read and educate themselves. They’re inquisitive; they enquire after things.”

Two critical skills for future leaders in procurement

  1. Digital literacy

“Data”, says Murphy, “is omnipresent and omnipotent.” He stresses that leaders who want to thrive in the procurement profession need to develop an understanding of:

  • Data analytics – we can gather data but how do you use that data to gain insights?
  • Robotic processes – how can you automate tactical processes so human capital is used to the greatest effect?
  • Cognitive computing – understanding how to digitise a process end-to-end so it is interconnected and insightful.
  1. Relationship building

Murphy tells Procurious that while leaders need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge they need, their main focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ. “You need to have the ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. We have one mouth and two ears, and that’s how we ought to apportion our time in any discussion. When we’re talking, we’re not learning.”

How can you train someone to be adept at building relationships? “It’s about attitude, not aptitude”, says Murphy. Whether leadership is innate or taught, the results are the same. You need to be able to work collaboratively with your suppliers, show them what’s important to you and understand what’s important to them. “Your relationship-building skills will ultimately enable your suppliers to drive innovation. For example, we have 17,000 suppliers at IBM. I want each one to wake up every morning and think: ‘How can I make IBM better’?”

Have you got a cognitive journey map?

Where is your organisation headed with cognitive procurement technology? Where do you want to be? How will you use people, processes and technology to get there? What can we automate?

Murphy recommends that every procurement team should have a roadmap that lays out the strategy for its data, analytics and cognitive journey. “All CEOs need a vision for their cognitive journey, and every function needs one too.”

According to The Hackett Group’s 2017 Procurement Key Issues research, only 32 percent of procurement organisations currently have a formal digital strategy in place, and only 25 percent have the needed resources and competencies in place today.

In reality, we can’t all be first-movers. But even if your company isn’t yet ready to act on cognitive technology, CPOs will be rewarded for raising the question, thinking through the issues and putting the challenge on the Board’s agenda. Most importantly, there needs to be milestones and deliverables, as Murphy warns: “Strategy without execution is a daydream”.

To end on a gem of a quote from Murphy, he spoke about how the constantly evolving nature of technology means a never-ending journey. “’Journey’ is a good description, because it is never finished. Anyone who thinks it is finished, is finished.”

2017 Rewind – Help! A Potential Employer Asked For My Facebook Password

As part of our 2017 Procurious rewind, we’re taking a look at the top blogs of the year. Today’s article advises what to do when a recruiter asks for your Facebook password! 

Have you ever been asked to hand over your social media details in a job interview? Don’t panic – it’s probably just a stress test.

Stress tests are designed to put you under pressure and see how you handle it. They range from grilling you about your weaknesses, to subjecting you to a barrage of quick-fire questions to try to fluster or catch you off-guard.

Heineken took this to the extreme in their viral recruitment video where interviewees are subjected to a range of stressful situations, including a creepy hand-holding interviewer who later feigns a heart attack. While it’s fun to watch, there’s a lesson here – in an age where candidates often give text-book answers to text-book interview questions, recruiters are looking for ways to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“We need your Facebook login details”

Your three potential reactions:

A) Meekly handing over your password: Wrong answer. This shows that firstly, you’re desperate for this job and secondly, you’re a pushover. Is this how you would behave when representing the company in a tough negotiation?

B) Anger: You’ve fallen into the trap. Even though it’s an outrageous demand, getting angry only demonstrates that you won’t be able to remain calm in the face of on-the-job pressure.

C) Politely but firmly refuse: Correct! You were on the lookout for a stress test, and you’ve identified this one as such. This takes the pressure off, allowing you to present a calm and logical response.

Unfortunately, that’s easy to say and hard to do!

How to say “no” politely 

  1. Call them out

If you’ve read the situation correctly, then you could simply respond by saying, “This is one of those stress-tests, right?”, and then launch into a detailed explanation of how you’re able to stay calm under pressure, with examples.

If they still insist, and genuinely appear to be demanding your Facebook login (and you still want this job), then you’ll need an excuse beyond the bare fact that you don’t want them seeing your drunken photos from the big party last weekend.

  1. Privacy

“I have an obligation to protect my friends’ privacy. They have their own privacy policies set on their accounts to safeguard themselves and their loved ones and that’s their right. If I start sharing their information with potential employers then I’ll have broken my trust with them.”

  1. Work/life

“For me, work and home are two separate things. I’m careful to keep work-related posts off my Facebook page, so it’s in no way relevant to any potential employers.”

  1. Direct to LinkedIn

“I think you mean LinkedIn? While I wouldn’t hand over my login details, I’d be happy to connect with you on LinkedIn so you can see how I present myself professionally on social media.”

  1. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine

This one’s a bit more provocative! “Absolutely fine – I think this is a great idea. I’d also like to see the type of team I’m joining, so if you can share your log-in details, along with your director’s and all the team members’ Facebook passwords, then I’d be happy to share mine.”

  1. Throw the question back at them

Whatever you decide to say, it’s vital you do so in a professional, calm and reasonable way. In a stress test, how you say it is more important than what you say. The interviewer will be judging your response, attitude and manner, but you can turn the tables by asking them to put themselves in your shoes.

For example:

  • “I’m sure you would agree …”
  • “I’m sure that if you were in my position…”
  • “From a privacy perspective, my friends wouldn’t be comfortable with me showing their information to people. I’m sure your friends and family would agree.”

Asking someone to put themselves in your position makes it almost impossible to be offended by a calm and rational argument.

In the end, keep in mind that there is no right answer to a stress-test question. It’s designed to judge how you react, so be confident in whichever answer you choose.