All posts by Procurious HQ

2015 Rewind – Best of the Blog: Being at the Table – A CPO’s Tale of Woe

Our final rewind comes courtesy of one of our guest writers and friends of Procurious, Giles Breault. The article, originally shared on LinkedIn discusses what procurement needs to do to take its seat at the table.

Being at the Table – A CPO’s tale of woe

 

Some days ago while having a business lunch the topic of “being at the table” arose. It was our client’s fervent hope that as a newly appointed CPO, (a move that presumably underlined the importance of procurement) he one day would sit as a peer at the EXCOM table contributing to the strategy, growth and performance of the business. Well, thinks I, what a wonderful place to consider the notion of being at the table, while being at a luncheon table myself. It got me to thinking of the roles and responsibilities of those at and around the table.

The Options

Of course there are those whose knowledge, experience, and position, earn them a right to 1) be at the table and direct the actions of others, but there are also others at work in this community. There are those who 2) serve the table and whose unique knowledge and skills answer the call for action from those seated. Then, there is 3) the chef whose specialised skills provide the provender for consideration, and lastly there is that which is 4) to be eaten (a role that I vaguely felt myself as having held a few times).

I further reflected on how many times I heard this same refrain from many CPOs whose pre-dominant career objective was to be recognised for contributing to the business at the highest level and ultimately report as a board level peer.  Moreover, I thought back on the many organisations I have come across where the “vital” role of procurement was often tucked way neatly in the CFO shop or Business Services shop where the chance of ever getting a seat at the executive table was remote at best.

Given the fact that procurement is now recognised as a key stakeholder in organisational performance, what is holding it back from somehow being fully accepted into the community of senior leaders? While no answer is fully sufficient in a short blog, a couple of themes have emerged over the years in our work with organisations going through their own procurement transformation.

While business knowledge and acumen are the principle differentiators between those around the EXCOM table and those not, there is something more fundamental that is separating the procurement leader from the full approbation of their business colleagues. To put it back in the frame of my table metaphor,

“You don’t belong seated if you still sound like a waiter”.

And that is the essential point.

The Prerequisites

Two major things must occur that help propel procurement organisations to the senior level of strategy. Firstly, procurement must lose the connection to purchase orders. I hear some of you shouting “Heresy!”, but what I mean is that the procurement leader has an extraordinary difficulty of representing him/herself as a strategic player when the next topic of conversation is; “What is your order placement efficiency?“ Every effort should be made not to own any portion of the operative procurement cycle.

Secondly and most importantly, is the fact that procurement organisations often make a vital error by creating a separate strategy for themselves that does not altogether align with the strategy of the business. What is more, is that the strategy is often unclear how it contributes to the business in a way that satisfies more than just the finance manager.

We often find that procurement leaders speak a different language from that of other senior business leaders. While they speak of category strategies, the business is interested in how real projects bring value to their organisations. While they speak of vendor management and control the business is seeking out how external innovations can help fuel business growth.

The Solution

We advocate two distinct approaches to these dilemmas.

Firstly, develop a strategy that links to the business and directly connects benefits generated to your internal clients. We call these the pillars of successful strategic procurement and the steps are broadly as follows:

  1. Create a procurement strategy directly linked to the company’s goals
  2. Embed the annual procurement cycle into the company business cycle
  3. Drive “Lighthouse” projects directly supporting internal business clients
  4. Pull value through by having the ability to directly influence team actions
  5. Ensure that reporting is visible to your customer and ideally conducted by an organisation other than procurement

Secondly, develop an improved process of understanding the needed innovations required by your ultimate customer and significantly improve the way innovations are sought, collected, evaluated and ultimately adopted from the supplier base. We call this call the Trading Relationship Management process, and Procurement has a natural home at the heart of it.

While there is no guarantee that armed with these dual capabilities, there will be instant recognition of procurement as a future EXCOM member. However what is certain, is that Procurement will begin to demonstrate that it is not just generating business wide savings but can show where and how that value is generated and most importantly how such benefits accrue directly to internal stakeholders. Likewise other business leaders will also recognise procurement’s role as the conduit to supplier enabled innovation. Taken together, these elevate the strategic language of the function.

I explored these ideas with my lunch guest who understood and recognised how important it was for his team to strategically transform, but like so many such discussions it had to be cut short due to pressing issues at the client’s facility (I think he had to go check how many requisitions had been placed that day).

Procurious Big Ideas Keynote #6 – How People Create Alchemy in Organisations

Sarah Trota, founder of sarahtrotaalchemy and Personnel Today HR Director of the Year 2013, provided a different viewpoint in her keynote, that of procurement’s relationship with HR.

Sarah discussed her own model for how to create ‘alchemy’ within organisations – the focus of the idea is on properly engaging with employees, ensuring they are satisfied and as a result, producing better outcomes for the business.

Watch the full keynote here.

See all the keynotes and panel discussions from the Big Ideas Summit, plus Big Ideas from our 40+ Influencers.

Like this? Join Procurious for FREE and meet like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

2015 Rewind – Best of the Blog: Social Media – Breaking News and Misinformation

Our third revisit comes from later in the year, in the wake of the terrible events in Paris in November. Social media played a huge role in the development of the story, and we looked at the power of these platforms for good and bad reasons.

paris-peace

Social media was awash this weekend with information, news and an overwhelming outpouring of sympathy in the wake of the atrocities in Paris on Friday night.

The Procurious team would like to take this opportunity to offer our most sincere condolences and sympathies to people of Paris, and all those affected by this horrendous act of terrorism. We would also offer the same sympathies to the people of Beirut, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, who have all suffered similar attacks in recent days and weeks.

Social media has changed how the world sees events such as the ones in Paris. Breaking news, information and pictures all appear on the Internet during the events, with people uploading their first-hand accounts on the ground.

But, while social media can be a force for good, and a fantastic tool to help victims and their families, there is also a darker side, with misinformation, vitriol and rhetoric all spread in equal measure, often taking the focus away from the real story.

The Good

As the attacks in Paris unfolded on Friday night, many people turned to their phones to get an understanding of what was going on. With the news cycles taking time to unfold, social media was able to fill that gap with the headlines as they broke.

As well as providing access to the breaking news, social media accounts were being used to communicate with families and friends, to let others know that people were safe. Facebook immediately launched its “I’m Safe” button, which was first used during the Nepalese earthquake earlier this year, allowing a simple way to notify hundreds of people at once.

Not for the first time, a Twitter hashtag trended in the wake of the attacks. The #porteouverte hashtag offered a place to stay for those affected by the events, similar to the #illridewithyou hashtag, which trended in December last year following terror attacks in Sydney.

A sign of sympathy, a sign of solidarity, showcasing all the good that social media can accomplish in these situations.

The Bad

For all the good that social media can do, there is a dark side to the power that is wielded by its users. Giving everyone a voice allows for the support and sympathy, but also gives a voice to misinformation and ignorance.

For the most part, the misinformed stories that appear in the aftermath of such events are not malicious. A small story or throwaway quote can be exaggerated out of all proportion, taking on a ring of ‘truth’ as it spreads across social media.

Stories of the Eiffel Tower lights being turned off as a mark of respect (the lights are always turned off at a certain time of night) and of fires at the Calais refugee camp due to an act of retaliation (the cause is still unknown, but pictures were from a fire in November), are just some of the ‘facts’ that grew legs thanks to the virality of social media.

Where the misinformation is malicious, it can lead to hatred and prejudice being spread, and innocent people being targeted as a result. Already there have been arrests in the UK as a result of social media posts over the weekend.

Unifying Force

The power for good of social media outweighs the power for bad in most cases. The volume of news and information we all have access to means we can be better informed and more up to date on all the breaking stories. It would be a shame to see a tool that has the potential for being a conduit for social good be lost to the many, as a result of the actions of the few.

We have the responsibility to use this wealth of information appropriately, and keep our posts factual, especially when it comes to breaking news and events like Friday night (please still have your own opinions – this is part of the beauty of social media too!).

Let’s ensure that we use social media as a unifying force across the world, share quality information (and the occasional cat video…), shine a light in dark corners and allow us to create a global community. Are you in?

2015 Rewind – Best of Learning: How to Use Social Media to Win the War for Talent

We’re looking back at 2015 and the eLearning content that was added to the site during the year. 

In our second rewind, we take a look at the role of social media in the war for procurement talent. The ‘War for Talent’ has been a major topic in 2015, with organisations looking at the ways they can attract and retain the best talent.

In this video, Tania Seary talks about how procurement can leverage social media in order to reach the right audiences and attract the right people.

Although the focus here is on millennial talent, it’s sure to be useful for recruitment for any person in or new to the procurement profession.

Like this? Join Procurious for FREE and meet like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

2015 Rewind – Best of the Blog: 3D Printing – The End of Outsourcing?

Our second blog rewind looks at the idea that 3D Printing will have a major impact on the way organisations manufacture their products and ultimately how their supply chains are set up for outsourcing.

3D Printing - The End of Outsourcing?

From golf clubs to firearms, pharmaceuticals to trainers, 3D Printing is disrupting the manufacturing process of an increasing number of products. But what are the long-term implications for the supply chain as a whole?

It’s a common misconception that 3D printing is something new. Although the processes and thinking for it have been around for a number of years, it’s taken a while for the technology to catch up and allow wider functionality and usage.

As a procurement and supply chain professional, this opens up a world of possibilities – a world of potential cost savings as a result of lower manufacturing costs and a centralised supply chain. Of course this isn’t going to happen overnight, but organisations can start to think differently.

The End Outsourced Manufacturing?

Manufacturing in particular has the potential to see a big change. The advances in 3D Printing can allow certain products to be made in house, instead of being outsourced to ‘low cost’ countries. While good news for organisations bringing more jobs back home, it doesn’t provide a rosy outlook for countries like Mexico and China, traditionally strongholds for low-cost manufacturing.

By bringing manufacturing closer to home, it also gives organisations an opportunity to reduce risk in their logistics, reduce lead-times and make savings on transportation costs. Plus, there’s the lower carbon footprint of global activities as an added bonus. This is all illustrated in this neat infographic.

3d printing supply chain infographic

In the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturers are using 3D Printing to improve medicines delivery systems for patients. Printers are being used to produce pyramid-shaped pills, which provide a more rapid drug release than cylindrical pills, and layered tablets that dissolve quicker and more efficiently.

While these processes are still in their infancy, manufacturers are hopeful that technology and science will work hand in hand, lowering production costs, enabling local production and, in the long run, reducing the end cost for patients.

Changes in the Supply Chain

Beyond enabling organisations to bring manufacturing back to a local setting, lowering logistics and transportation risks and costs and even maybe reducing globalisation as a whole, there are other impacts in the supply chain to think about.

Organisations will be able to produce prototypes of designs much faster than before and facilitate testing by being able to print on site. Organisations will also be able to print packaging materials, more tailored to certain products, as well as tools, jigs and other aids for manufacturing.

Finally, the requirement to hold inventory can be reduced by having designs for applicable products and other parts held on a hard drive, ready to be printed on demand, rather than physically stored in a warehouse.

Beware the Magic Bullet

A word of warning, though. As great as all this sounds, there are still risks and issues that need to be considered with 3D Printing.

Protection of copyright and security of patents is a big deal when all the designs are held on a hard drive that could be hacked from outside the organisation. Some organisations have taken steps to protect their intellectual property, but can you be 100 per cent sure you’re safe from cyber attack?

On the environmental side, although footprints are lowered for transportation, the need for printers to run continuously to be cost-effective means increased energy usage and costs. This would lead also to increased carbon footprints for local factories.

Finally, with greater efficiencies in the supply chain, reduced transportation requirements and potentially fewer warehouses, where does that leave the supply chain manager? If parts are going to be printed on site as required, there isn’t going to be the need for someone to manage an end-to-end process.

Best learn how to use the printers then!

Do you work in an industry that’s seen an increase in 3D Printing? Do you work with printers – have we missed any big benefits? Let us know and get involved in the discussion! 

2015 Rewind – Best of Learning: Where are Procurement’s Blind Spots?

We’re looking back at 2015 and the best of the eLearning videos, podcasts and interviews new to the site during the year. 

In our first revisited video, we take you back to the Big Ideas Summit, where we hosted a fantastic panel discussion on the subject of risk, and where procurement’s blind spots are.

The panel included procurement influencers and thought leaders including Tim Hughes, Olinga Ta’eed, Chris Lynch, Giles Breault, Nic Walden, Jason Busch and Lance Younger, who all gave their opinions on the risks the profession will face in the coming years.

With hot topics like social value, procurement transformation, procurement moving away from Finance and leveraging external innovation, the conversation got a little heated… But suffice to say this is one discussion you don’t want to miss out on!

See all the keynotes and panel discussions from the Big Ideas Summit, plus Big Ideas from our 40+ Influencers.

Like this? Join Procurious for FREE and meet like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

2015 Rewind – Best of the Blog: 6 Sure-Fire Ways to Become a CPO

Our first blast from the past from the blog in 2015 is to revisit our most popular article this year. Our founder Tania Seary talks through her top tips for becoming a CPO.

6 Sure-Fire Ways To Become A CPO

I have worked in Procurement for twenty years now (a scary thought). During that time, I have had the immense pleasure of watching a number of trailblazing procurement professionals ascend through the ranks of their companies to take the coveted position of CPO (Chief Procurement Officer).

If your professional goal is to become a CPO, there are some very simple tips I can share for how to successfully climb the career ladder leading to the ivory towers of procurement. 

  1. Build your trophy cabinet

“Make sure you have successes you can point to,” is one of the best pieces of career advice I have ever received. You need to be able to clearly and convincingly explain projects that you have personally been accountable for and how they have delivered value. Your successfully completed projects with defined benefits are your career trophies.

Put another way – to get promoted, you first need to excel in the job you have today. Ok, this seems rather elementary, but I hear from CPOs around the world that many category managers today are so focussed on where they want to be tomorrow, that they aren’t delivering on the job they are meant to be doing today!

I cannot emphasise how important the basics of professionalism are for making positive impressions on those who will promote you. Do your homework before every meeting, be on time, have an agenda, be well presented, be composed, write and distribute notes following the meeting and, most importantly, do what you said you would do and notify everyone that you have done what you said.

I can’t stress these last two points enough.

Doing what you say you will do and confirming that you have done it may be the two biggest contributors to people getting promoted. Leaders like to have people working for them who actually get things done. Leaders also need to know that the job has been completed. It’s not enough just to do what you said you would do. You need to make sure everyone knows you’ve done it, so they can get it off their to-do-list and put a mental tick beside your name as someone who delivers. 

  1. Don’t burn your bridges… EVER

No matter how old or experienced you are, if you are ambitious, you will find yourself getting frustrated. This will come in many forms. You’ll get frustrated with the lack of progress on projects; you’ll get agitated with certain decisions and actions, and you most likely get frustrated with the people who work below you, beside you and above you. It’s understandable.

In these stressful situations it is often difficult to contain yourself and maintain harmonious, productive relationships with those around you.

But it is critically important that you do.

As I shared in my blog How to Quit your Job with Style, everyone you work with, whether they are inside or outside you organisation, are invaluable long-term supporters of you and your career. As you progress up the ladder (or across your portfolio career!), you will be amazed how every person you have worked with plays a role in helping “buoy” your promotion. You need as many people as you can to endorse your capability and to recommend you for promotion. Getting ahead is hard enough – you certainly don’t need any detractors.

With this is mind, it’s clear that an invaluable skill for future leaders to develop is patience. Great leaders have an uncanny ability to pick the right time to hold back and when to push. As America’s founding father, Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that can have patience can have what he will.”

  1. Be squeaky clean – a beacon of integrity

When The Faculty developed its X Factor assessment for future CPOs, it became obvious that a key differentiator for our profession was its role in clarifying the ethical “true north” for our organisations. Procurement’s competitive advantage is that it can provide rock solid guidance on the most ethical commercial processes and decisions our businesses are involved in. Few other functions can boast these credentials.

As sustainable sourcing and the ethical responsibility of our businesses continues to draw an increased (and warranted!) interest, future procurement leaders must have an unblemished track record in conducting business and leading teams with the greatest integrity.

One of my favourite sayings is, “Know you’re right, rather than hope you’re not wrong”. With this mantra in mind, I would suggest you and your team complete the CIPS Ethical Procurement and Supply Course. Completing this e-learning program will help identify areas of ethical and social risk and will suggest how to best respond to these situations. It just might save you from a crisis. 

  1. Raise your voice, raise your profile

If you want to be promoted you first need to be noticed. As we all know, this is easier said than done. To be viewed as a leader today, you need to be seen as an influencer… someone with something to say… someone with a unique and informed opinion.

Future leaders need to constantly nurture and nourish their personal brand. In order to succeed, you need to position yourself for success. Often, this will mean stepping out of your comfort zone. Holding knowledge sharing events in your office, speaking and conferences and actively maintaining your social media presence are all great ways to get noticed and position yourself as a thought leader. It may appear difficult at first, but its vital training for your development as a leader.

The most challenging element of raising your profile is finding your audience and in this endeavour, social media is your friend. The online procurement community is enormous, active and hungry for information. By connecting into this community, you amplify your opportunities to learn and to teach.

There are procurement groups on LinkedIn with over 300,000 members. Twitter is awash with market information that can enable procurement professionals to do their jobs better and Procurious, the social media network we established to connect procurement peers across the globe and facilitate knowledge sharing.

The social media world is waiting to hear your story; it’s your job to get out there and tell it.

  1. Build a reputation for developing others

One of the most important attributes HR will be looking for in a CPO (or any leader) is their ability to develop people and build a high-performance team. No matter how junior you are in an organisation, there are always opportunities for you to demonstrate that you are focussed on others’ professional development. You can mentor someone looking to get into procurement, you can share your ways of working openly with your peers, you can suggest bringing in some training or speakers to talk to the team on a topic of mutual interest, you could even be a “millennial mentor” for one of your bosses. There are a myriad of opportunities to demonstrate that you understand the power of people continually learning and developing. 

  1. Work for blue-chip companies

Firstly, let’s remember that the CPO role itself only exists in larger companies. Secondly, larger companies prefer to hire people who have already worked at other large companies.

Why? Because it’s safer.

Great companies (on the whole) invest in developing their people, they have great values systems that, by osmosis, influence the performance and behaviour of their people. This means that you become both a technical and ethical “output” of the companies you work for. This may seem a bit weird, or scary, but it’s true; “The company you keep defines your character and your character defines your success.”

Procurious Big Ideas Keynote #5 – The Business Case for Creating a Procurement Network

Procurious’ founder Tania Seary rounded the day off at the Big Ideas Summit with a keynote focusing on why procurement networks are an incredibly valuable tool for the profession.

Tania started off with a statistic that there are 27 indigenous tribes in the Amazon region that are entirely disconnected from the rest of the world, comparing that to the often isolated procurement profession.

She then looked at the impact of social media on the profession, and how it can help to create the community for procurement to allow us to work together, solve problems and ultimately create value for businesses. One of these platforms is Procurious.

Watch the full keynote here.

See all the keynotes and panel discussions from the Big Ideas Summit, plus Big Ideas from our 40+ Influencers.

Like this? Join Procurious for FREE and meet like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Supply Chain Best Practice – What We Can Learn from Santa

With just over a day to go before Father Christmas needs to leave the North Pole to start his annual delivery run, we look at why Santa’s Supply Chain is the best of the lot.

Santa Claus

Frequently overlooked when it comes to the annual awards, Santa has been running his supply chain with precision and incredible efficiency for as long as we can remember. And with 2016 planning not far around the corner, there is plenty that we can learn from Saint Nick!

Communication

Communication across the supply chain is critical for success, and Santa manages to keep a two-way flow of communication both inside and outside his organisation.

Children’s letters to the North Pole are requested to arrive in time to allow for any last minute alterations to the loading list for the sleigh. In the UK, the Royal Mail help to facilitate this particular part of the supply chain, with all letters required to be mailed by the 6th of December.

Inside the organisation, in order to meet the tight deadlines and short timescales for production, Santa is sure to be in constant contact with his direct reports in order to ensure that all the products will be ready. How do we know his communication is good? Well, you never see mistakes being made, do you?

Stakeholder Management

Santa is also an expert at stakeholder management. He always know which children are on the nice list, and which are on the naughty list, and always works to ensure that his customers are satisfied with the end product.

He has clearly fostered strong relationships with the various suppliers he needs for raw materials, as they are able to keep him stocked with what he needs. Santa also works well with external agencies, such as the Royal Mail, in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Demand Planning

How can you manage supply vs. demand when the trends and demands are likely to change over the course of 12 months? Not only does Santa keep track of the trends, but he can also predict the overall demand for all these items and make sure he has enough of the most popular toys.

Delivery

Which other organisations can boast a record of 100 per cent success in delivering the right product, to the right person, at the right time? There are few, if any, who can rival Santa for his ability to make on time deliveries.

Logistics

Santa is a one-man logistics operation, taking on all the delivery duties himself, along with his team of trusty reindeer. His routes are clearly planned in advance to minimise the potential for getting lost and to make sure that the right deliveries go to the right house.

Additionally, all the presents are loaded in exactly the order they are to be delivered in. Without any spare time to root around in the sleigh for a missing toy, Santa’s logistics and warehousing operations must be second to none to pull this off.

Inventory

Finally, along with the demand planning, Santa is clearly a fantastic inventory planner. There is no question of holding excess stock when the trends and demands change from one year to the next, and nothing gets delivered for another twelve months.

So Santa must ensure that he has exactly what he needs before he leaves on Christmas Eve, as he knows that anything that is left over is likely to be left in stock for a year, without any planned demand for it.

Track Santa

There is a serious side to this piece. All the elements mentioned above are key to having a successful supply chain. In 2016, take a look at what you could be doing differently, and how you can make those improvements to your supply chain.

The bar is set very high, and it’s highly unlikely that any one organisations will be able to equal the record of Father Christmas.

And, if you find yourself with a bit of spare time, and you (and your children!) want to keep track of Santa’s progress around the world on Christmas Eve, check out NORAD’s tracker (now in its 60th year!) right here.