All posts by Procurious HQ

Best of the Blog: Win The Web – Spin A Personal Brand That Will Get You Noticed

Think you don’t need to worry about how your personal brand appears online? Think again! 

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an article by Lisa Malone  who offers some advice on how to polish your online brand. 

There’s no escaping your online personal brand. Whether you like it or not, all your social media accounts are a direct reflection of you – and your organisation. The content you share, or lack thereof, will be under scrutiny from colleagues, employers, employees, suppliers and influencers.

It’s crucial to take ownership of your online presence by defining your own brand. Take charge of what your profile says about you and reap the professional benefits!

Why Does My Personal Brand Matter So Much?

Online connections are the new business currency.  We all prefer to do business with people that we like and deem trustworthy. In developing a stellar personal brand and building your network, you invite connections to get to know you, observe your integrity and build trust before you’ve even met them in person.

As a prospective employee you can bet that your interviewer/future employer will have already scoured your LinkedIn, Twitter and any other accounts they can access. All of these give an insight into who you are both personally and professionally. Make sure you stand out for the right reasons.

It’s just as important to have a killer online profile as a manager. People want to work for bosses who are well connected, and therefore influential. If your profile is underdeveloped, you appear ‘un-connected’ and risk deterring the best talent. People aspire to work for great bosses that can help grow their careers and they will make the first assessment of this by your online brand.

As a procurement professional, the impetus to have a strong online brand is even more important. Before any business development meeting or negotiation, you can be sure your supply-side counterpart will have looked at your profile, seeking information on what matters to you and your experience.

Where Do I Start?

If you know that your online presence could do with a bit of a revamp but aren’t sure where to begin, it’s self-auditing time!

Spend some time considering how you come across as a person. Are you consistent and authentic across different profiles? Would your network be interested in the things you are saying or sharing? What could you change to get yourself noticed by the right people?

Top Tips For Building Your Brand

Once your initial self-audit is complete, there are some key things to remember as you work on expanding your online presence.

1. Leverage Your Key Influencers

To be noticed online, you need a large network of followers. In the early stages of brand development, building an audience is easier said than done, no matter how brilliant your content is.

A more efficient approach is to leverage key influencers in your industry. Promote and share their work, cite them in tweets and reference them in your content to gain access to their audiences and encourage them to, eventually, return the favour. It takes time and commitment but your efforts will be noticed – just one retweet can make a big difference to your social media clout.

2. Don’t Be a Social Media Robot

You’re a real person so don’t shy away from showcasing the more interesting sides of your personality. If we were all to manage our online accounts with a strictly formal and robotic approach, the social media sphere would be a colourless and dreary place to hang out.

It’s the unique quirks of your personality that people are interested in so it’s unsurprising that the most individual posts with eye-catching photos on Procurious or Twitter are the ones which earn the most likes, shares and retweets.

3. Connect, connect, connect

Building a network is a never ending task so make it part of your daily routine.  Invite friends, colleagues and other connections you meet through events to join you.

On Procurious, we strongly recommend connecting with any and all of the members across our 140+ countries who interest you – perhaps they work in the same industry; manage the same category or perhaps you’d just like to know more about procurement practices in Fiji!

4. Don’t fool yourself – Worlds collide!

Particularly when it comes to Twitter, I’m often asked about whether it’s better to maintain separate personal and professional accounts, or opt for a single social media profile.

In my view, aside from the time management benefits of having just one account to feed, your personal brand is the sum of everything you do – or that is said about you – online.

Trust grows from authenticity. So regardless of how you structure your profiles online, both personal and professional will reflect your overall brand.

If in doubt when posting online, follow this checklist:

  • Does this add to the conversation?
  • Are there any spelling mistakes here? 
  • Does it make sense, would you really talk like that?
  • Would I care if my boss or, more importantly, my mum, read this?

5. Lose the Mask

 Unless you’re batman, you don’t want to keep your identity an online secret. Make yourself searchable on social media by using your full name and your current role. Add up to date photographs so people can put a face to a name.

And make sure your Twitter handle (or gmail account) isn’t some obscure, irrelevant gabble from your teenage years!

Who’s Getting It Right?

If you’re still in need of some further inspiration, look no further than Marie Forleo, entrepreneur, writer and creator of a socially conscious digital empire, enjoyed by millions. Whilst you don’t have to develop your online presence on quite such a large scale, Marie’s website might inspire and motivate you to better your brand!

Don’t Bore The Board

Struggling to get business leaders interested in procurement? You’re doing it wrong! 

The dashboard that Lara Nichols built in her first weeks as SVP of Procurement at NFP was, she thought, a masterpiece. It had everything a procurement professional could wish for – sourcing strategies, savings programs, vendor and risk management targets, governance plans – but it simply wasn’t getting the cut-through she expected outside of the procurement team.

“I’d find that people simply didn’t want to have procurement conversations with me – nobody cared about the typical procurement metrics I was focusing on. I realised that I needed to change my approach to my work to become less of a procurement professional, and more of a businessperson with procurement expertise.”

Now, Nichols’ dashboard is built around what she calls meaningful business drivers. “The underlying data is the same, but I’ve had to re-jig how I talked about it.”

How do you identify your organisation’s business drivers? For Nichols, she took a dual approach:

Connect with the team operating at the heart of the business: “This will be different in every industry, but in insurance brokerage and in many financial services companies, the top-line team is the lead force in our business. I made an effort to become tightly connected with the business development team. We have a huge sales force, so I’ve deliberately familiarised myself with their sales strategy and focused on finding ways to provide support for what they do.”

“My advice is to seek out the people that deliver on the heartbeat of the company’s success, and connect yourself with that team.”

Connect with the CFO: “There’s a reason the CFO is always in the top three roles of a company. Finance influences the whole organisation in so many ways”, says Nichols. “I’ve spent a lot of time with the entire finance team, including my CFO, which has helped me re-align procurement’s contribution in the context of NFP’s numbers, and not the other way around.”

Nichols says that strong financial know-how is therefore vital to any CPO’s success. “The ability to influence the numbers equates to company performance. Procurement and Finance should build a deep and mutually beneficial relationship to truly delivery value we all know is intrinsically there.”

Getting involved in ISM2017

Nichols is Chair of the ISM2017 Conference Leadership Committee, and co-leads the Bottom Line Learning Track.

“Personally, I’m excited to attend the Signature Session run by Amazon Business, called Is Your Tail Spend Putting You In A Tailspin. It’s an important topic. Another session I’m looking forward to will be run by Brooks Brothers, featuring a conversation between a CFO and CPO on How Does the P&L Work, Anyway. It will provide the grounding in Finance that’s so important for success in our profession.”

Nichols is proud of the fact that the Committee has built a program with a diverse range of speakers. “We challenge ourselves to recruit first-time speakers, people who have never had an opportunity to present. Brooks Brothers, for example, have never attended an ISM conference before, but we’re expecting some very valuable insights from their session. On the other end of the spectrum, you have your solid contributors who have been attending and supporting ISM for a long time. They bring an incredible level of insight, experience and wisdom to the conference.

Network, network, network

Two of Nichols’ last three appointments were made possible with the help of her personal network. “In both cases, friends of mine knew the hiring managers. There’d been a discussion at some point about what the business was looking for, and my connection has said ‘That sounds like something Lara would like to do – would you like me to introduce her?’ In both cases, I was hired into an exciting, newly-created role.”

Outside of moving roles, Nichols’ network is invaluable when dealing with what she describes as “wicked problems”. “I ask myself who can I talk to in my network who would have some insights into my problem. The network sustains me – usually it starts with an instant message, which leads to a phone call where we explore ideas and – eventually – the solution presents itself.”

Plan ahead to get the most out of ISM2017

There’s so much choice at ISM’s major event of the year that it can be overwhelming, particularly for first time attendees. Nichols says that this will be the case particularly for people who haven’t prepared.

“Chart a course through the sessions. Read ahead, and think about how to spend your time. Plan it out like you would do before going on vacation! If you’ve done some pre-planning, you’ll have filters in place to help you pick well when you’re presented with a choice.”

ISM has provided plenty of tips to guide attendees through the maze of session, including the Learning Tracks, information on how each session is aligned to certain competencies in the Mastery Model, and proficiencies based on years of experience.

“Be present” says Nichols. “Don’t skip the social activities such as the receptions and networking events. That’s where the real magic happens. Visit the Exhibit Hall – that’s where you can access new information and innovation that you can take back to your office.”

There’s still time to register for ISM2017, taking place in Orlando, Florida from May 21-24.

Planning to attend ISM2017? Don’t miss out on Procurious Founder and CEO Tania Seary’s tips on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm.

Are You Considering Chasing A Procurement Career…?

…according to most of the ThomasNet and ISM 30 Under 30 Rising Stars, going after a  procurement career is a cracking idea!

Last month, THOMASNET and ISM announced the 2016-2017 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role models who are sure to attract more Millennials to the supply management profession.

Procurious has been lucky enough to sit down with many of the winners to find out what the award means to them,  how they got into procurement in the first place and the key skills needed for a procurement and supply chain career.

We were interested to find out what advice the winners had for any students contemplating a career in supply management. Answers varied wildly, covering everything from “make sure you have fun” to “ask loads of questions” and  “do the things that scare you the most!”

There was one recurrent theme, however:  The 30 Under 30 Stars are all adamant that a career in procurement and supply chain is the way to go!

Opportunities Aplenty Await You In Your Procurement Career

Jon Futryk, Senior Sourcing Specialist Crown Equipment Corporation, advises young professionals to “get involved with a supply-chain organisation in order to gain exposure to the industry”.

Andrew Bagni, Procurement Manager at General Dynamics Mission Systems, concedes, asserting “it’s a great career path for anyone, because there are so many opportunities for growth. In the US, manufacturing companies are bringing their facilities back home, a move that needs to be supplemented with a strong supply-chain team.  This is a great opportunity for young people to be involved”.

Dan Kaskinen, Strategic Sourcing Manager, Sonic Automotive, Inc., is another strong advocate for the profession: “My advice to any young person getting ready to join the workforce is that supply-management could be a great fit – I would fully recommend it.”

Benefiting From Diverse Experiences

Several of the 30 Under 30 winners make mention of the varied experiences on offer within a supply management career and advise any young professionals to make the most of these opportunities.

Barbara Noseda, Global Sourcing Associate at Johnson & Johnson explains why this is a brilliant way to diversify your skills: “At JNJ people transition between finance, operations, marketing and supply-chain. Movement between functions helps you build your knowledge and helps you to better understand your counterparts.”

Andrew Bagni agrees, explaining that “working in supply-chain offers a plethora of  opportunities. Over a lifetime of work you’ll switch between a variety of positions. Supply chain gives you the flexibility to learn about a lot of different things, very quickly, which builds a great foundation. There are so many different projects to work on and it’s possible, particularly for millennials, to move up the ladder but also to move laterally to widen your learning prospects.”

Nurturing Your Procurement Relationships

Of course, this wouldn’t be a piece about procurement careers without mentioning relationship management. In our previous article we revealed that the majority of the 30 under 30 stars hailed communication as the most important procurement skill. Now, they’re keen to remind aspiring procurement pros to make the most of their workplace relationships, whether it’s networking, managing supplier relations,  finding a mentor or doing the mentoring.

Barbara is particularly passionate about mentoring programs. “I’ve had multiple mentors. One was assigned to me at Johnson & Johnson and I was very lucky because we clicked; it just doesn’t make sense to have a mentor relationship if you don’t. I would strongly advise young professionals to find a mentor that they share the same values with. It’s always great to get an external opinion from an experienced person who went through the same thing 20 years ago”.

Barbara is now a mentee and a mentor for younger employees. “It’s great to be on the other side – I’ve also learned a lot, and got a lot, out of being a mentor.”

Jeff Novak places huge value on networking and the chance benefits it can bring: “Having the ability to meet people is so important because you never know when it’ll be someone who can help you and make a real impact. I completed an internship a while ago, and  one of my recruiters is now on an ISM regional board. I’ve been able to connect with him.”

Matthew Montana, Category Lead at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, warns young professionals to not get too caught up with technology or big data. “Don’t forget your suppliers are real people too! It’s important to develop relationships that are transparent and honest. This is the key to a successful partnership.”

More top tips for budding supply management stars

  • Develop your Cultural Intelligence (CQ)
  • Work hard and keep learning/ gaining new qualifications
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Be curious
  • Be resourceful
  • Have the patience to accept you don’t know everything, yet!

The 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars will meet for the first time as a group at ISM2017, where ISM and THOMASNET.com will roll out the red carpet to celebrate the winners’ achievements and broadcast their success stories to other young people considering a career in supply management. 

How To Increase ROI With Clear Communication To Business Stakeholders

The Hackett Group’s, Nic Walden, explains how to improve your ROI through engaging and clear communication. 

Most stakeholders say that consistent delivery of core services is the principal requirement to consider procurement as a trusted advisor. Although many organisations are capable of filling this role, most are still viewed by internal customers as sourcing experts (i.e., focused on negotiation and supplier selection), or worse, as gatekeepers or simply administrators. In fact, only 29 per cent of procurement organisations are viewed as valued business partners by key stakeholders.

Does It Matter? Absolutely!

Analysis of Hackett benchmarks shows as much as a 2.5X ROI can be achieved from elevating the role of procurement, and aligning the goals and expectations of procurement teams to that of the business. That’s a hefty bump in savings or broader value terms in anyone’s language.

At Hackett we measure ROI as total cost reduction and avoidance divided by the cost of the function. As an example, professional sourcing teams can deliver strong savings performance when looking at percentage terms only, but when compared to the level of resource investment (i.e., ROI), they come up short.

Why Leave Money On The Table?

Let’s assume we have the capabilities to operate at a higher level (closing the capability gap is itself another discussion). One reason for misalignment is that procurement teams struggle to communicate their capabilities. Ineffective communication with internal customers, suppliers, and colleagues also causes confusion, delay, or leads to incorrect assumptions of what procurement can and cannot offer. With this in mind, Procurement teams face three main challenges to elevate their role:

  • Perceptions on historical performance cause resistance to change.
  • Internal customers are unaware of what procurement can offer.
  • Undergoing a major transformation results in confusion and inconsistencies.

The result is that successful procurement teams go to great lengths to build a compelling brand image, supported by a well-defined vision, services that meet or exceed expectations, and a formal measurement program to ensure ongoing improvement. If these steps are not taken, procurement groups can plateau in operational efficiency and effectiveness despite having the capabilities to operate at a much higher level.

Launching a New Procurement Brand

Defining a brand is an important concept for procurement because it makes their purpose and identity more comprehensible for stakeholders. The Hackett Group has outlined four major activities (understand, define, create, engage) that make up a successful brand transformation, supported by ongoing internal input. Everyone has a role to play in communicating and utilizing procurement’s new brand for effect: leadership, sourcing, buying, and operational teams.

  1. Understand what is most important to internal customers and stakeholders

The brand should highlight procurement’s desire to support stakeholders and its ability to act as a valued business partner. This means having a solid understanding of what is important to stakeholders. For example, they might want more help defining requirements, to run credible and achievable projects, to manage difficult supplier conversations, to bring new products to market faster, or reporting. Most often, they just want procurement to excel at delivering core services.

  1. Define procurement’s brand-management strategy

This is the time to clearly develop a clear vision and simple set of guiding principles to communicate goals, followed by defining procurement’s roles and responsibilities, and to make this information easily accessible to procurement and its stakeholders.

Other activities include:

  • Delineate the services that procurement provides to internal customers; ensure these align to their needs and requirements. Take this opportunity to de-prioritize or reshape what is not valued.
  • Provide clear definitions of the activities and tasks performed for each support service, along with the service levels provided (e.g., meeting frequency, cycle time, error rates).
  • Determine which business segments and departments that procurement can support.
  • Match staff and skill sets to procurement’s services.
  1. Create marketing materials and share initial communications

Now we match the desired stakeholder experience with procurement’s future behaviors. Since people respond differently to various methods of communication, consider creating an “omnichannel”, personalized stakeholder experience to allow broad access to the procurement process and enable the ability to buy/pay from all locations and get real-time information. Common activities include:

  • Develop a new brand identity, including a name, mission statement, a set of values and goals, and even a logo if desired.
  • Determine the way communication with internal customers and stakeholders will be handled, such as email, phone, in-person support, chat or robotic tools.
  • Deploy an intranet portal that lets internal customers communicate with procurement and conduct self-service activities. Consider setting up a similar site for suppliers.
  • Develop marketing materials for various stakeholder groups, making certain that overall messaging is consistent.
  • Define and document any related changes to the organization, such as new employee titles.
  1. Engage and continually communicate with all stakeholders

Multiple channels of communication should always be open for both internal customers and suppliers to reach out, get questions answered, or further develop relationships. There are various ways to engage with stakeholders, not all of which make sense for every company. Some of these activities include:

  • Face-to-face road shows with business executives, such as ongoing conference calls or one-on-one calls
  • Face-to-face road shows with middle management / operations followed by regular calls to ensure procurement is meeting objectives
  • Regular emails that include policy updates and metrics showcasing procurement performance

Nic Walden, Director Procurement and P2P Advisor, The Hackett Group works continuously with senior executives of the world’s leading companies to provide top performance insight, research and networking.  Nic is a regular speaker at conference events and a regular contributor to social media and online blogs.

Learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program

Do CEOs Dream Of Robotic Sheep?

…Or are they kept awake at night worrying about how to adapt their business to a robotic-centred future? KPMG Australia Chairman Peter Nash reveals two concerns playing havoc with the sleep patterns of business leaders.

How can I adapt my business to a robotic future?

The thing about technological disruption – and machine intelligence in particular – is that people tend to regard it as a challenge to deal with at some point in the future. The key to understanding the scope of the challenge is to break it down into two categories – disruption that we’re already dealing with, and disruption that is yet to emerge.

Robotic process automation (RPA), for example, has been around for decades, with disembodied robot arms a common sight on production lines. Typically, they automate a series of existing processes that were once carried out by humans. We’re just starting to realise the full potential of RPA, with the emergence of bots that sit inside software to automate administrative labour becoming more common.

From his viewpoint into many of KPMG’s client organisations, Peter Nash has seen what an RPA bot is capable of. “If you go into any call centre, you’ll observe staff doing a series of processes as they engage with customers – typically around data capture and data entry. Through observation, you can create “process flows”, and then build software that can be inserted into the call centre and automate the data capture. That’s a classic example of robotic process automation, and it’s happening at pace.”

Interestingly, RPA is resulting in the reshoring of capability from overseas. Nash comments: “You can track the life cycle of offshoring and reshoring. 10 years ago you may have had 100 people doing a job in Australia for the cost of $5 million. Those 100 jobs were offshored to India, resulting in costs being reduced to $1 million. Today, with robotic help, you can have only 10 people doing the same work that 100 used to do – at a cost of $0.5 million. Yes, 90 jobs have disappeared, but there’s the exciting potential for completely new jobs to be created with each technological leap.”

“Artificial (or Cognitive) Intelligence, for example, is only just beginning to emerge. People are very excited about AI’s enormous potential, but at present it’s essentially a solution looking for a problem.”

How do I effectively harness innovation?

Nash comments that there are several models that have emerged in the ways corporations seek to harness innovation. “Many CPOs look for innovation to emerge from down the line, and encourage people, whether they’re in-house employees or suppliers, to bring ideas forward. Other organisations set up innovation capability ‘hubs’ or ‘accelerators’. Another approach is to acquire, or partner with, innovation capability outside of your organisation. Some business are doing a mix of all three.”

“What’s encouraging is that most businesses understand that today, it’s innovate or perish. A culture of innovation, partnered with a culture of flexibility where people have the ability to react and respond to disruptive technology, will ensure businesses are able to take advantage of anything that comes their way.”

KPMG Australia Chairman Peter Nash will deliver a keynote speech at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

 

Procurement Pay Gap Shock

The gender pay gap in procurement and supply management has INCREASED, according to US and UK survey results released this week. Have you sponsored your own internal gender salary gap analysis?

Ever considered how procurement salaries measure up with the rest of the working world?

Are you suspicious that your  procurement colleagues might be getting a better deal than you?

If you’re a woman working within procurement and supply chain, have you ever wondered how glaring the pay gap is within your industry or organisation?

This week, ISM’s Twelfth Annual Salary Survey in the US and the CIPS/Hays Salary Survey in the UK have shed some light on all of the above. Whilst there’s clearly still a very long way to go in terms of the  gender pay gap (predicted to take another 170 years to close), things are otherwise looking pretty comfortable for the procurement and supply chain profession….

ISM Salary Survey Results

Now would be a great time to convince your boss you deserve that pay rise, because the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Twelfth Annual Salary Survey has been released. The results are based on data from 3808 supply management professionals who were surveyed throughout February and March 2017 to determine these average salaries:

Average Salary: $115,440

Median Salary: $90,000

Average for Men: $126, 710

Average for Women $96,990

In the US, a person working in professional, management or related occupations earns an average of $63,076 annually, which means these results are pretty good news for the supply management profession.

The figures show a 5 per cent increase in average compensation since 2015. Men’s salaries have risen by 8.2 per cent and women’s by 3 per cent.

The super bad news is that procurement appears to be taking a step backwards with regards to equal pay. In 2015 women earned 24 per cent less than men, compared with 31 per cent this year.

Download a summary of the report here.

UK Pay Gaps Revealed

It’s not just ISM’s figures proving to be disappointing in terms of gender equality.

As of last month, UK organisations employing more than 250 people are obliged to publish their gender pay gap figures.

Virgin Money disclosed that men who work at the bank earn, on average, 36 per cent more than women, asset manager, Schroders, reported a  31 per cent gap and Utility SSE a 24 per cent gap.

Some are against the new legislation arguing that the numbers don’t give a full picture and place all the blame in the hands of the employers. Others are in favour of the full disclosure and think it will spur organisations and governments to crack down harder on gender inequality.

McKinsey’s Global Institute report found that $12 trillion could be added to the Global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality, which is as good a reason as any to close the gap, pronto!

UK Procurement Salaries Outstrip Average

The CIPS/Hays Salary Guide and Insights 2017 has surveyed over 4,000 procurement employers and employees to learn everything from key trends in salaries to challenges faced by employers and the top benefits desired by procurement professionals at all levels of seniority.

Whilst the average annual UK pay increase is 2.2 per cent, procurement professionals in the UK are receiving an average of 5.3 per cent more! Jacki Buist, writing on Supply Management, believes the results show a “continuing enthusiasm for the profession in all regions.”

Unpredictably,  the cause for concern falls once again in the region of gender disparity. Overall, the pay gap is reducing but at the advanced professional level, men receive an average  of £82,000, compared with a woman’s £65,700.

Registrations are open for the CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide and Insights 2017 Webinar, which takes place on Thursday, 11 May 2017 13:00 GMT.

Are you surprised by the figures released in these two surveys? How do you think the UK’s new legalisation will impact the fight for equal pay? Let us know in the comments below.

In other  news this week….

Google Customers Subject to Phishing Attack

  • Google customers have been targeted with a scam that gave hackers access to the contents of emails, contact lists and online documents of victims
  • On opening a given link, Google’s login and permissions page asked users to grant the fake Docs app the ability to “read, send, delete and manage your email”
  • Google has now shut down the attack but have asked customers who received such an email to flag it to them.
  • Victims have been advised to change the passwords to their online accounts

Read more on The Telegraph

Amazon to Expand in the UK

  • Amazon is adding 400 staff to a new research and development centre focused on machine learning, in a move that reinforces the retail group’s long-term investment in the UK
  • The lab will develop  the voice-activated Echo speaker and Prime Air drones
  • By the end of this year, Amazon plans to add another 5,000 British employees to its payroll, open a new 600,000 sq ft headquarters in central London, and operate three new fulfilment centres around the country

Read more on the Financial Times

The future of Blockchain

  • Put simply,  blockchains take out the middle man (banks) and make the transfer of funds more streamlined and safe
  • The United Nations (UN) used one particular blockchain, Ethereum, to distribute funds from the World Food Program (WFP) in a pilot program earlier this year. The experiment successfully, distributed aid to 100 people in Pakistan
  • The system will now be used in Jordan to distribute funds to more than 10,000 people. It’s expected to help support 500,000 recipients by 2018

Read more on Futurism 

Transparency: Is Your Supply-Chain Crystal Clear?

Organisations are under increasing pressure to improve on supply-chain transparency but meeting these demands is easier said than done…

Improving supply chain transparency is a high priority for companies, especially in industries such as foodservice where consumers and regulators are pushing for more publicly available information on how products are made and delivered. Increasing product complexity—growing demand for organic and gluten-free foods, for example—as well as food safety and security concerns, continues to drive the demand for more transparency.

How Can Organisations Meet These Demands?

Responding to these demands is no easy task. The fragmented nature of the supply chain can make it difficult to achieve the kind of consensus that is needed to create efficient, end-to-end monitoring systems. However, as the industry responds to the need for more transparency, there is a huge opportunity to take a leadership position. Key to developing the level of transparency that is now expected is changing the behavior of stakeholders and harnessing the power of data visualization technology to present abundant data in easily understood and actionable formats. With these changes in place the industry can open the way to innovations that could take supply chain performance to a new level. Moreover, the journey provides some valuable lessons for other industries that are striving to meet market demand for increased supply chain transparency.

Companies in the foodservice industry sell food that is prepared and served in venues outside the home (the most familiar outlet is restaurants). A complex supply chain that stretches from agricultural growers across the globe to end consumers supports each restaurant. The supply chain also includes manufacturers, freight carriers, forward warehouses, distribution centers (DCs) and third-party logistics providers (3PLs). Many of these players tend to operate in silos that can impede the end-to-end flow of information.

What Challenges Does Data Present?

Data latency represents one of the most difficult hurdles. For example, some trading partners share daily inventory and sales information in single, large batches; by the time the data is uploaded into supply chain visibility tools, it may be too old in “food time.”

The veracity of data is another challenge. There are many reasons why inaccuracies creep into supply chain data streams. An overarching problem is a lack of widely adopted, consistent standards for exchanging data. There are also various operational issues to contend with. An example is the reuse of product numbers and warehouse identifiers without alerting trading partners to such changes.

Untimely or inaccurate data is always an issue, but particularly in today’s highly variable consumer environment. Demand for food products can be unusually volatile because shifting consumer preferences influences it. Some peaks in demand—for example, when a restaurant dish suddenly becomes popular because a celebrity tweets about it—are almost impossible to anticipate.

Industry Fragmentation

The industry fragmentation described above compounds such problems. In a fragmented environment, trading partners tend to optimize locally. For example, a DC might build safety stock of a critical product for a favored restaurant chain that is not visible to other players. Unseen inventories scattered across a supply chain cause significant inefficiencies.

Add the dramatic increase in the volume of data to the mix, and it becomes clear that operational models have opportunities to improve before the industry can deliver the levels of supply chain transparency that are expected in today’s world. These changes are within reach—and many are being implemented.

Changing behaviours to tackle supply chain transparency

One of the first steps to overcoming these problems is to change the behaviors that cause data errors and latency.

For example, Armada, a Pittsburgh-based fourth-party logistics provider (4PL) to the foodservice and retail industries, is working with DCs and other entities to make sure that the inventory and shipment data they provide is as near to real-time as possible. Huge improvements are possible by simply rethinking the way data is managed and shared, and by breaking down operational silos.

Changing stakeholder behavior lays the foundation for the new technology that drives greater supply chain transparency. At Armada, this emerging technological base has two key elements.

First, an integrated platform allows the company to receive data in multiple formats such as EDI. Second, Armada is working to fundamentally change the way this data is stored and accessed for clients and their network stakeholders. For example, the practice of generating reports from data stored on applications is no longer sufficient. Data warehousing and extraction as well as business intelligence capabilities are being built to support the high-volume information management systems that are now needed.

This is not cutting edge—but harnessing these capabilities to develop tailored visual displays of complex data represents new territory for foodservice supply chain practitioners.

Why traditional methods won’t do

Traditional methods of displaying and analyzing operational data through columns and rows aren’t enough if the goal is to redefine supply chain transparency. In addition, practitioners need faster, more effective ways to consume and use the large volumes of data now available. And it is likely that the flood of data will increase over the next few years.

Importantly, much of this data needs to be configured for mobile technology platforms that are growing in importance. An example of an innovative display format is an “items at risk” dashboard that shows when items in specific DCs are reaching stock-out levels based on lead times.

These are exciting innovations, and the industry is only at the beginning of this journey. For instance, there is huge potential for developing more advanced analytics. The ultimate analytical goal is to develop systems that automatically identify potential problems and trigger remedial action.

Consider, for example, a case where the “items at risk” screen shows that an item is nearing an out-of-stock situation. The system automatically initiates a transfer order from a DC that it identified as a source of additional stock. The DC is notified, and the order approved without having to engage unwieldy manual procedures. Moreover, the system issues alerts and updates to designated managers via their mobile devices.

This article was originally published on Supply Chain MIT  via the ThomasNet Blog

Best of the Blog: Overcoming Gender Bias In Procurement

Jackie Aggett, Regional Commercial Manager at Laing O’Rourke, discusses the gender bias she has come up against in procurement, and how she has overcome it to get to where she is today.

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an interview with Jackie Aggett who explains the gender discrimination she’s endured and her advice on how to overcome it. 

Jackie Aggett hadn’t been in procurement long when she needed to spend weeks preparing a major annual report about the procurement of earth moving tyres.

She handed it over to the site manager and watched him hurl the report angrily across the room. It hit the wall and fell apart.

“What would you know about earth moving tyres?,” he bellowed?
The 28-year-old calmly walked over and picked up the report, and told him again that there were going to be changes. Like it, or not.

“Every part of me wanted to turn around and run out the door, but I’ve always found ways to overcome challenges in the workplace and turn them into opportunities,” Aggett says.

Finding a Voice

The experience did nothing to dampen her conviction. She has worked in male dominated roles for 25 years. She started out in a supply cadetship at BHP Billiton and then went on to work in rail, construction, marine services and a seawater desalination plant.

“I learned a lot in that cadetship. My boss at the time gave me the cadetship because he saw me as being very courageous, which was part of my upbringing. He sent me straight to Port Headland, where I was the only female.”

Her colleagues weren’t used to working with women. The only uniform available to her was the men’s trousers and shirts. “They were ill-fitting and very uncomfortable. Procuring some clothes to wear to work was high on the list in those early days,” Aggett says.

If anything, her presence among the male workforce was seen perhaps only as a novelty. But that all changed once she began finding her voice in the business, and began offering new solutions to old problems.

“I had a good work ethic and believed in what I was doing, and hit the ground running. But the team weren’t engaged when I started to suggest change, and that was a difficult process to go through. However, I didn’t give up. I continued to speak up and stand up for myself.”

Creating Trusted Advisors

Aggett’s depth of experience covers roles in commercial, contractual and financial management from project start-up through to close-out. This includes all facets of tender preparation, negotiation, contract award and subsequent on-site contract administration, claims, project controls, forecasting, financial reporting and risk management as the client asset owner or contractor.

Six months ago, she was tapped on the shoulder and offered the role of procurement head with international engineering enterprise Laing O’Rourke, which took her across the country from Perth to Sydney. She jumped at the chance.

Her focus in her role has been creating a vision – working to transform the procurement function from spend managers to trusted advisers, firstly among her team of 35 people.

“It is imperative we move beyond being seen and acting as a governance compliance function. We need to understand the business strategy and align our objectives to deliver sustainable value,” she says.

Challenging the Norm

Aggett has implemented a supply relationship management programme among other initiatives, which has been a big step forward for the procurement function within the business.

“A key part of this has been challenging the way in which we engage with the supply chain. The supply chain has a wealth of knowledge and capability which, if tapped into, can provide value creating solutions for our clients, ourselves and our supply chain partners.

“Unfortunately, the construction industry does not often afford the supply chain the opportunity to bring their knowledge and capabilities to the table. Our supplier relationship management program seeks to change this.”

Aggett wasn’t specifically chasing roles in such large corporate organisations, saying one thing just led to another.

“It certainly wasn’t planned that I’d work in male-dominated industries. I had four brothers and a working mother, and was raised to believe that girls can do anything.”

Overcoming Roadblocks

She admits that early on in her career, she came up against road blocks, but didn’t for a moment consider that had anything to do with gender bias.

“I definitely came up against a lot of unconscious bias in my early roles, and at times doing my job took some courage and self-belief. Being female has definitely been a challenge in the roles I’ve held.

“I’d wonder why someone wouldn’t listen to me, or how I could better showcase my skills. I’d work very hard to win someone over, and go through the problem solving process to try and work out why I wasn’t getting the result I wanted. The fact that I was a woman was always at the bottom of the list. Now, after 25 years working in the industry, I arrive at that conclusion a lot quicker and obviously have a lot more confidence in the role.”

Aggett hopes times have changed and that young women entering the procurement industry don’t come up against the gender bias she experienced.

“Saying that, I have been fortunate to work with individuals and organisations that have encouraged me to take opportunities, to believe in my abilities and to reward me for my efforts. I have experienced many organisations that have allowed flexibility in my working week, as I’ve raised two daughters as a single parent.”

While there are no requirements to do so, she advocates the importance of having a degree behind you for anyone working in procurement. Her law and finance degree has stood her in good stead, she says.

“It has absolutely served me well to have the formal qualifications behind me. When people are passionate about procurement and they’ve got the formal education, it gives them a seat at the board table in any situation they’re in.”

Procurious launched Bravo, a group to celebrate and promote women working in procurement. Get involved by joining here. 

Rising Stars: I Fell Into Procurement (With Style!)

Did the ISM and ThomasNet 30 Under 30 Rising Stars always have a burning desire to embark on a procurement career or were they late converts? Procurious investigates….

Last month, THOMASNET and ISM announced the 2016-2017 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role models who are sure to attract more Millennials to the supply management profession.

Procurious has been lucky enough to sit down with many of the winners to find out what the award means to them, what it takes to be one of the  30 Under 30 Rising Stars and the key skills needed for a procurement and supply chain career.

But how did these rising stars first embark on their careers? Were they passionate about procurement from the offset or did a chance encounter or inspiring internship inspire them to “fall into” procurement later down the line?

Andrew Bagni, Procurement Manager at General Dynamics Mission Systems recalls that “ten years ago supply chain wasn’t as hot a topic as it is today. Specific supply chain degrees weren’t offered at my college at the time but this is now an option for students.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that 66 per cent of this year’s 30 Under 30 Stars didn’t plan a career in procurement.

The Slow Burners

Bagni applied for an internship with General Dynamics “in the hope of gaining some of the business experience l was lacking at 18 years old! I  worked the internship for the summer, which went really well and carried on throughout college whilst I was studying business management. It’s not been a lengthy career so far but the whole of my career has been spent working in supply-chain despite having fallen into it completely by chance.”

Nick Imison, Subcontract Administrator at Northrop Grumman Systems Corp, had a similar experience to Bagni: “I fell into it sideways. I was a finance major. I went to job trade fairs, interviews, and just wasn’t passionate about finance. One day I stumbled on a supply-specific career fair, which was put on by the University of San Diego who push undergrads and postgrads to the supply chain field. They were very convincing and introduced me to the many sides of the business, giving me a holistic view. That piqued my interest and, from there, I enrolled in a few supply-chain courses.

Corey Gustafson, Senior Buyer at Deluxe Corporation initially attended school in Wisconsin to train in engineering, ” I went on a programme  that focused on the printing industry including graphics and communication management and eventually  started taking a procurement and supply-chain management course. The instructor happened to be the program director for the supply-chain programme and it was the best course I’ve ever taken. I was interested in the way the function  impacts the business and wanted to continue with to focus on that.

The Die-Hard Procurement Pros

Not all of the 30 Under 30 winners came to procurement by accident, however.  Barbara Noseda, Global Sourcing Associate at Johnson & Johnson, has a particularly notable passion for, you guessed it,  shipping containers! “I know it might sound random” she says, “but I swear it’s the truth! I did my bachelors degree agree around shipping and logistics in Hong Kong and  then went into supply chain.  Even  today, every time I can get on a project about shipping containers I jump on it.”

Matthew Montana, Category Lead at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, was also interested in supply-chain at the offset, “supply-chain really caught my attention. I liked the analytical aspect and qualitative aspect. There’s a good balance between creative thinking and working with numbers. It’s the balance of quantitative and qualitative that really drew me to supply chain.

And Matthew has another reason to be passionate about procurement. His father also works for Pacific Gas and Electric. “He’s been in supply chain for several years now. Growing up and seeing him work there and seeing how good the company has been to him and his good career influenced me. It’s a good company and a good industry. I had inside info and insight from him so he was one of my mentors early on.”

Amanda DeCook, Sourcing Associate A.T. Kearney, knew exactly where her career was headed, “I knew which University I was going to and I knew I wanted to pursue a Business Major. Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business has the best supply chain program in the USA, and I loved the tangible,  practical skills involved in the course.”

Indeed, several of the 30 Under 30 stars credit their colleges for propelling their careers. Jeff Novak believes his “college had a lot to do with [his career choices]. I went to Penn State Uni,  which is one of the top supply-chain schools in the states, if not the world. It seems that however your procurement or supply-chain journey starts out, you could have a vibrant and successful career ahead of you- take it from the 30 Under 30’s!

The 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars will meet for the first time as a group at ISM2017, where ISM and THOMASNET.com will roll out the red carpet to celebrate the winners’ achievements and broadcast their success stories to other young people considering a career in supply management. 

Executive Recruiter: 4 Must-Have Attributes For Aspiring CPOs

Procurious caught up with Naseem Malik, Managing Partner at the Chicago-based supply management executive search firm MRA Global Sourcing, to find out what attributes recruiters are looking for in the next generation of top CPOs.

Naseem Malik has gone from sourcing goods to sourcing talent. After gaining 15 years’ experience as a procurement practitioner, Naseem turned his full attention to something he enjoys most – leveraging his network, connecting the dots and finding the best talent in the profession. Naseem is also a member of the ISM2017 Conference Leadership Committee, and has some excellent tips for getting the most out of ISM’s biggest event of the year. But first, Procurious asked Naseem for his views on what makes a candidate ideal for a CPO-level role.

Naseem, as a specialist in supply management executive search, what are the top attributes you look for in aspiring CPOs?

Based on the trends we’re seeing and what our clients have typically asked for, there are four stand-out attributes that we look for in a CPO-level candidate.

First, and foremost, they need to have a broad perspective. Companies are asking specifically for candidates from different industries to their own, as this brings about fresh, disruptive and innovate thinking.

Secondly, the candidate should be someone who can earn themselves a seat at the table with the CFO and CEO. They can do this by talking confidently about what they can bring to the business in terms of supply and market intelligence, data analytics, and leverage their own broad perspective. They should focus on the things that matter most to the C-Level – risk, compliance, and technological trends.

Operational know-how is also important, particularly change-management skills. Does the candidate have the emotional intelligence (EQ) to truly collaborate? Are they able to engage, influence, persuade and lead people in a global environment, including those that don’t report to them?

I’d like to add a fourth attribute here that ties the other three together, and that’s humility. Yes, you need to be able to talk confidently about your accomplishments, but this has to be balanced with humility and an awareness of your place in the corporate pecking-order. Humility will lead to credibility, which will pay off down the road.

 You mentioned that you got into executive search because of your love of networking. Can you share any tips for effective networking?

Everyone now needs to have a social presence, and continually build upon that presence online. However, without some sort of face-to-face follow-up, your online connections can be specious. To truly leverage the power of your online network, you need to meet people face-to-face at conferences, make phone calls and gather referrals. Face-to-face networking will help you grow you online network, and vice-versa.

Another piece of advice is to embrace the concept of “pay it forward”. Always see if there’s something you can do to help people in your network – for example, see if there’s someone who you can connect them with to help solve a challenge they may be facing. Again, it will pay off in the long-term.

What are you most excited about seeing at ISM2017?

Besides attending Procurious’ “Network Your Way To The Top” session, you mean?

As a member of the Conference Leadership Committee, I’m really excited about ISM2017 because every year we’re seeing the conference gaining incrementally in attraction. There are more people attending than ever, and I don’t think that’s only due to the prospect of meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World – it’s about the quality of the speakers, the excellent content and the companies attending (Apple, Google, Salesforce and others). The keynotes, including David Cameron and Colin Powell, are also fantastic. Personally, I’ve been involved in helping ISM find good speakers, great topics and promoting the event.

What are your top 3 tips for getting the most out of a procurement conference?

Network – take every opportunity you can to build your network at the event. After the event, follow up with all the people you’ve met, and also be sure to connect with the speakers or presenters you were most impressed by. Consider writing a blog article to share your thoughts and to keep the momentum going.

Have a plan before you go to the conference. There are a lot of learning tracks, lots of great presentations, but there’s only a finite number of sessions you can attend. It pays to have an attack plan before you go. You can target a specific learning track, or mix and match.

ISM’s Learning Tracks are designed to help guide delegates through the maze of options available. As a committee member, I have joint responsibility for the “Outside” track. Outside sessions are all about learning new and effective ways of improving your skills and establishing your relevance, including career-building, building your professional presence, honing your networking skills and building high-value relationships.

There’s still time to register for ISM2017, taking place in Orlando, Florida from May 21-24.

Planning to attend ISM2017? Don’t miss out on Procurious Founder and CEO Tania Seary’s top tips on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm.