All posts by Tania Seary

Procurement KPIs – Measuring the Unmeasurable

Is it time to develop new procurement KPIs? As the profession delivers more value, we need to consider measuring the ‘unmeasurable’.

Procurement KPIs

How on earth do you put a KPI against innovation in procurement? How about risk management? Or talent? It’s time for the profession to come together and quantify the value we deliver beyond cost savings.

For me, a revelation that came out of the discussion at The Beyond Group’s “Productivity in Pharma” (PiP) Think Tank in Basel last month, was that there is an urgent need to create procurement KPIs that fully reflect the broader value our profession delivers.

Unfortunately, we will never escape the requirement to track savings (and nor should we; we’re good at it!), but it’s time to define the value-addition areas of what we deliver – productivity, innovation and risk management – in hard dollar terms so that we can quantify our value delivery in these areas.

In my previous post, I shared five rules of thumb for good procurement KPIs. To recap, each KPI should be:

  • clearly linked to an overall business objective,
  • uncomplicated and measurable in hard-dollar terms,
  • based on outcomes, not inputs,
  • not too long nor too many (five to six KPIs at a maximum),
  • achievable and inspirational.

Taking these rules as a starting point, let’s look at five value-addition areas that every procurement professional should be measured against:

  1. Productivity

I know there are a lot of CPOs out there who are tired of the old ‘cost savings’ metric.  And I understand it. But the reality is that cost savings is at least ONE thing that clearly defines our contribution. If we walk away from this, then we have lost an important anchor.

However, we do need to ensure that the broader business audience understands procurement is about so much more than savings, and that we can clearly define value in other areas as well.

One important point I would make (an opinion also shared by ISM CEO Tom Derry at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit) is around cost avoidance. Don’t insult yourself, or your CFO, by reporting on this metric. Costs that have been avoided simply don’t count.

  1. Efficiency

There are so many ways CPOs can deliver efficiency gains that result in bottom-line value for their organisations. In the pharmaceutical world, I imagine this would be measured in terms of speed to market (or “speed to patient”, as one clever pharma Procurement Head put it), faster clinical trials or even the good old basics like reducing inventory.

There are so many ways that procurement can free up cash in the business, but the hard dollar value of this needs to be quantified – which is not impossible.

Business cases are always based on the time value of money. Net Present Value (NPV) is a fundamental financial measurement for businesses. So, before you embark on one of these efficiency projects, work with your finance team to agree on a calculation for the hard dollar value of the efficiency gain, then deliver it, and stick to the agreed value!

  1. Innovation

Procurement rock-star and former CPO of Deutsche Telecom, Eva Wimmers, talked last year about incentivising procurement-driven innovation by creating a suite of relevant KPIs, including cost and time savings achieved as a direct result of innovative improvements.

Innovation KPIs can be process-centric, behavioural or customer-focused (such as service and net promoter scores). What’s important is that every KPI is measurable in its own right and clearly connected to overall corporate objectives. 

  1. Risk management

This is a powerful measurement that will capture the attention of your CEO and other executives. You see, the challenge with risk management (like safety) is that the ultimate success is when nothing goes wrong!

Procurement and other parts of the organisation can spend a lot of time and energy securing supply relationships and carefully managing contingencies, which result in absolutely nothing happening (which is a good thing!). At the C-level it is, therefore, quite easy to take risk management for granted and be tempted to reduce funding and resources in this area.

Actually, safety is a very powerful metaphor for the role procurement plays in managing risk. Nothing captures an executive’s interest more than safety. The language and methodology of safety measurement is well known to executives, most of whom are rewarded on safety metrics.

So, rather than re-invent the wheel with a whole new set of measurements around risk, simply reframe risk in a safety context.  Work with your safety department to understand their metrics, explain what you are measuring and get their advice on how they would construct metrics for risk management in procurement.

When ‘selling in’ your risk management KPI to senior management, don’t underestimate the power of good storytelling. It is critical to illustrate your business case with rich examples of how much market share and stock market value has been lost by competitors and peers when supply chain risk is not properly managed.

Traditionally, we have valued this in terms of potential legal costs, but today it is so much more than that. Social media now ensures that your end customers (and the press) quickly become aware of supply chain issues, and these are amplified to such a point that they result in loss of market share and ultimately share price value.

Supply chain disruptions can have catastrophic impacts on corporate brand and equity value. Procurement, however, can play a huge part in protecting the company from this type of disaster, and I believe this is one of the most valuable roles we can play today. Risk management must therefore be highlighted and reported upon in our procurement KPIs.

As you will see at the close of this story, my bold recommended KPI for risk management is number of days supply chain disruption reported in media (with the objective of keeping this at zero!).

As a side point, research in the US has shown that companies who have invested in appropriate social procurement (projects that aligned and complement your brand) will bounce back faster after a market ‘shock’ event.

  1. People

Call people what you will – ‘assets’, ‘human capital’, or even ‘resources’ – but I prefer to use the word ‘talent’. People are frequently regarded as an enabler metric, but I think it should be much more than that.

We should position procurement as a source of leadership talent for the business, particularly if we believe what we say (and I do!) that procurement provides some of the best commercial training of any function.

Procurement offers its team members the opportunity to work across the business internally, as well as externally – so let’s put our money (and our KPIs) where our mouth is! Develop a metric that measures procurement’s contribution to developing leadership talent. Once again, this is something to which senior leadership is very committed in the best organisations. 

So, to be provocative – here are six procurement KPIs that I would put forward as a CPO today:

  1. Cost savings – $ saved in financial year
  2. Productivity – $ released through working capital initiatives
  3. Innovation – Projected $ value delivered through procurement-negotiated supplier-led innovation.
  4. Risk management: Number of days supply chain disruption reported in media.
  5. Talent: Number of employees who have worked in procurement and are now on the enterprise leadership development program.

Procurement KPIs are a hot topic for everyone, and I’m sure you won’t agree with all my points. So…what are your thoughts?

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

Less is More – The Power of a Good KPI

It is not every day that procurement can learn from a fashion icon, but in my (and Coco Chanel’s) view – “less is definitely more” when it comes to a good KPI for procurement.

Think about your role in procurement. Think about the huge number of outcomes you work hard to deliver every day, from the repetitive (but necessary) daily tasks, to the huge projects with looming deadlines. Now, I want you to distil your entire, complex, multi-faceted role into just five KPIs.

That’s right – five KPIs only.

Passion for KPIs

I didn’t realise how passionate I was about KPIs until the conversation came up on the agenda at The Beyond Group’s “Productivity in Pharma” (PiP) Think Tank in Basel last month.

The room was full of heavy-hitters from the big pharmaceutical houses, including Novartis, Roche and Bristol Myers Squibb. Not necessarily CPOs, but heads of indirects, clinical research and engineering procurement. The facilitator, Sammy Rashed, led a spirited debate on what a good KPI should look like, how KPIs should work, and how they can benefit a business.

Wow! As the conversation evolved, I realised I had some strong views on how my beloved profession should be measured.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Just after I finished my MBA, I spent a couple of years working with Alcoa’s corporate finance team on how we should measure procurement’s value, and then educating the procurement team globally about how to report the calculations. I’m also married to the global CFO of a FTSE 10 company, so I know the kind of metrics that he deems as solid, and those that are “fluff”.

What Gets Measured…

On that point, let me tell you a little bit about what I know about the mind of a Finance Director. It goes without saying that they are absolute geniuses: kind, considerate, and definitely make the very best life partners.

BUT, as I am sure you have witnessed in your own organisations, the mind of a CFO is fairly mono-dimensional. Value has to be defined and quantified in hard terms.

I put in a quick trans-Atlantic call to my husband to ask his opinion on KPIs, and was rewarded with this gem: “You can’t improve what you can’t measure”. It’s actually a variation on a common saying of his, which is “what gets measured, gets done” – but there you go. CFOs are full of surprises.

KPIs can be lagging, leading, soft, or hard – but whatever you do (according to this CFO) they must be linked to the corporate objectives, which is where I will start with my five rules of thumb for a good KPI.

1. Each KPI needs to be clearly linked to an overall business objective.

This is one of the most important issues for procurement to consider. You see, if procurement KPIs aren’t linked to the business strategy, then your team’s activities will not be seen as relevant to getting the business to where it wants to go.

I think this is why I get fired up on this topic. We talk about a ‘seat at the table’ and ‘speaking the language of the business’ – well, in the c-suite, KPIs are the language of the business. As a procurement professional, the KPIs you choose actually define your role in the business. Don’t underestimate the power of a good KPI to secure your seat at the table.

We were all in agreement at the PiP Think Tank that for procurement to be relevant and valued, it must be aligned with the business strategy. Your KPIs are the ultimate reinforcement to senior management that your team “get it” and understand how they can contribute to the overall business success.

KPIs that deliver profit (through cost-downs), free up cash, contribute to top-line growth through innovation and protect the corporate reputation will resonate strongly with your senior leadership team.

There is another important reason for linking your KPIs to the corporate objectives. Shared objectives help create teamwork and a sense of connection for everybody and the greater organisation.

2. Your KPIs need to be uncomplicated and measurable (ideally in hard dollar terms)

Procurement receives a lot of “constructive feedback” (I’m trying to be positive here) for using too many unique terms and not speaking the language of the business. Make sure your KPIs can’t be criticised for the same reasons!

A good KPI can be measured relatively easily and understood by the business. There’s no problem with spending some time with Finance to make sure you are a little creative in defining how value is being delivered, but the end result must be something that is widely understood and helps build credibility rather than undermine it.

You will also open yourself up to criticism if your team, or other parts of the business, need to spend a lot of time on calculating KPIs, so be careful and keep it simple.

3. KPIs should measure outcomes, not inputs or internal processes

Number of meetings, number of ideas, strategies being developed – none of these count in my book. They are all measurements of the inputs your team will make with the objective of achieving an outcome.

Your KPIs should capture the value this type of activity will actually deliver to the business. They have to resonate with the senior level by measuring outcomes rather than cataloguing your own activity.

4. Don’t have too many KPIs

Going back to what I said at the beginning, this should be a maximum of 5 KPIs. It takes courage, real discipline (and a lot of debate), but try to get your KPIs down to a small handful of measurable outcomes. It will give everyone clarity and focus.

5. KPIs must be achievable

More than anything, your team will need to believe that they can actually deliver on their KPIs. In a way, they need to be inspirational. They should engage the team to focus on the results that will make their function truly valued!

What is your criteria for a good KPI?

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

How My Procurement Network Made 1 Million Dollars

Your procurement network could have massive benefits for you and your business. But only if you are growing and managing it effectively.

Mention the “n” word and most people cringe and break into a cold sweat. The problem with networking is that it has a really bad reputation.

The term evokes clichéd images of businessmen getting together for meetings with secret handshakes and weird hats, or of the “long lunch” at the club. Networking used to be elite and self-serving. You networked to get up the corporate ladder; you did not network to collaborate or share.

In today’s world networking is widely accepted as a critical element to career success. But I would also go as far as to say networking will improve all aspects of your life.

Getting started with networking can be tough. After all, old habits die hard. If you need some further encouragement, read my article on the ‘3 Steps to Becoming a Networking Guru’.

Inspiration and Information

Networking stretches way beyond finding your next job. Your network can be a source of inspiration. It can provide you with information and insight you would have never otherwise encountered.

Effective networking may help you find your next mentor, role model or, god forbid, a friend. Of course there are many definitions for networking, but to me networking is about creating and maintaining relationships.

So why should you bother with all this networking business?  I mean, if you just get on with your job and deliver on your promises, isn’t that enough to make you successful?

Well, of course it is, but you may be disappointed when you miss out on some lucrative benefits. Ultimately, the benefit of business networking is to create commercial value.

Leveraging Your Procurement Network

Procurement Network - 1 Million Dollars

To bring the power of an effective procurement network to life, I want to share a personal story to show the “multiplier” effect of building strong relationships.

It proves that just 1 connection can be worth millions of dollars to you and your network.

Let’s go back to Australia 10 years ago, where I met Nick Moen. He wasn’t a client, but a leading CPO, and a very smart guy, running procurement for BP in Australia and New Zealand. Nick and I really connected, we met regularly for coffee, and talked about leadership and shared ideas about improving the procurement profession.

Nick was one of the first CPOs to come to me and suggest the value he would derive if I established a CPO Roundtable. Eight years and more than 50 different companies later, that group is still going strong, benchmarking, sharing and collaborating.

In another of our meetings, Nick mentioned some fantastic should cost-model training he had undertaken from a company called Anklesaria, based in San Diego. We struck a deal which has provided hundreds of procurement professionals in Australia with a very valuable skill-set.

Connecting Connections

One year we were looking for a global speaker for our CPO Forum. Ankelsaria recommended Nokia’s outgoing CPO, Jean-Francois Baril. Many years later, his son, Matthieu helped build our eLearning platform on Procurious, and ended up living in my home in Melbourne for three months.

Jean-Francois also introduced us to the amazing former CPO of Deutsche Telekom, Eva Wimmers, who is now a personal friend and a real visionary on supplier-enabled innovation.

Nick and I also decided to start a Procurement Executive Program, which has now trained almost one hundred rising stars. Although the Deputy Dean of the Business School, Dr. Karen Morley, moved on before we started the program, she and I created a connection. This led to me asking her to develop an X-Factor Skills Assessment to identify CPO talent. She is also a regular judge on our CPO of the Year Award.

At one of our coffee mornings, Nick brought along one of his rising stars, Richard Allen. Richard would later become CPO at BP, and now is the CPO at Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, Telstra. Richard and I have continued to keep in touch.  Even three years after I left Australia we still talk at least once a month.

So – from one meeting – all this value has been generated.

Value for Others

Also worth pointing out is how much other people have gained from the partnerships created. Hundreds of people have received valuable training, my business partners have made money, I have had fun, and got a lot of joy and pride out of building my business. It hasn’t just been about networking.

And to think all this value, goodwill and good work was generated from one networking meeting. So what are you doing to leverage your procurement network? Isn’t it time that you took another look?

At Procurious, we want to create a truly global network of procurement professionals that are there to support each other to learn, grown and prosper.  We believe if you get involved, you will get ahead.

Procurement Needs More Positivity in an Online World

In our online world, where knowledge and information is at the touch of a button, it pays to share. And it’s time for procurement to share in order to demonstrate the value it brings to the organisation.

Sometimes the biggest and best ideas are the simplest ones. Whether it’s a new way of looking at an old problem, or just showing others how to take the first of many steps, the simplest ideas often have the power to cut through the noise and change the way people think.

This is my big, simple idea: the procurement profession needs to share.

Have you ever looked into how Google works? The search engine performs approximately 100 billion searches per month through over 60 trillion individual pages. Google navigates the web by ‘crawling’, or following links from page to page, sorting the pages and keeping track of it all in the 100-million-gigabyte ‘index’. As you search, algorithms work in the background to understand what you want and pull relevant documents from the index.

Results are then ranked using over 200 factors, including site quality, spam removal, freshness and user context – all in 1/8th of a second. Google is becoming incredibly sophisticated, taking keywords into account as part of a wider interpretation of the data on your website, to form its own conclusion about what your site actually delivers.

Language Matters

I found this out, predictably, through a Google search. My point is that as the amount of web content and chatter about procurement grows exponentially all over the world, we need to keep in mind that the language we use matters.

The profession has to optimise the picture that is being painted about procurement because the more positive words and imagery that are put out there, the more we will be discovered and our value understood.

The good news is that influential advocates for the profession are doing exactly that – in the past 48 hours we’ve had positive keywords and phrases used to describe procurement (here on Procurious and elsewhere) including:

  • Avenger
  • Rock-star
  • Thinking the unthinkable
  • Millennial-led disruption
  • Leadership in the digital age
  • Unleash the superhero
  • Procurement evolution
  • Changing the business model
  • Collaborating to inspire

Think about what would mean when a newly-minted CEO, who wants to understand what we do, takes the time to Google ‘Procurement’ and sees overwhelmingly positive language like this in their search results. That CEO can’t help but be inspired and energised by the hype and positivity around procurement.

Forget re-branding – focus on reinforcing the value of procurement

There’s been some discussion recently about re-branding procurement, abandoning the title of CPO and adopting language such as ‘Commercial Operations Director’, or even ‘Chief Relationship Officer’. Further down the chain, only one-third of 99 different job titles used by procurement professionals include the term “procurement”.

In my opinion, re-branding procurement is a distraction, especially since we’ve made enormous progress in educating businesses about what procurement does. Rather than having to re-educate the C-Suite about what a Commercial Director or Chief Relationship Officer does, that energy could be better spent actually showing people what we have and can achieve.

In line with why we created Procurious to begin with, we know that the procurement and supply chain profession has struggled to overcome outdated stereotypes, so it’s time we join forces to become collectively valued. By empowering future procurement leaders, we can change the face of the profession from the inside out, rather than worrying about the label itself.

Share, share, SHARE!

Procurious Founder Tania Seary shares her Big Idea for 2016

Modern wisdom has it that if you don’t exist on Google, you don’t exist at all. If we can’t collectively raise our voice and optimise procurement through positivity, then there is a real danger that the CPO role will become increasingly irrelevant and, eventually, forgotten.

So, how do we go about it? Through constant positive reinforcement. The more positive stories, photographs and other uplifting imagery out there, the more it will help us. Specifically, you can:

  • Share your social media profile, your business photo and broadcast your everyday successes.
  • Ask questions and share what you don’t know – without sharing the things we’re concerned about, there can be no action built and no moving forward.
  • Give knowledge back to enrich the wider community – everyone has something valuable to share.
  • Share your vision for the profession, and most importantly, your big ideas.

Let’s stick with the label we’ve got and continue to build upon it, because the momentum is with us as a profession. Remember, the more we flex our collective muscle, the stronger we become. My call to action to all you avengers, rock-stars and superheroes out there is to get behind one word – and that word is “procurement”.

Even although the event itself is over, there’s still time for you to get involved with the Big Ideas Summit 2016. Visit the Big Ideas Summit website, join our Procurious Group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing exclusive and unique thought leadership, Big Ideas, and discussion that will shape the future of procurement. Don’t miss out – get involved, register today.

3 Easy Steps to Become a Procurement Networking Guru

Take these three easy steps to become a procurement networking guru and realise the benefits of networking in a global community.

The benefits of networking are many. However, many people still struggle with the concept and the motivation to get going.

At Procurious, we want to create one huge, global network of procurement professionals, all of whom have the opportunity to learn from one another. We want everyone to realise the benefits of networking, so I thought I would share my three easy steps to becoming a networking guru to help everyone get started.

1. Network from the heart

Why from the heart? Because networking has to be authentic, and you need to have the other person’s interest as your priority.

Firstly, your networking has to be based on absolute authenticity – that is, a real friendship or genuine interest in what someone else is doing.

As a networking guru, if you want to form a relationship with another person, you first need to show them how they’ll benefit. If you focus on how you can help others, more than how they can help you, you’ll always be approaching people with the best motivation.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that workers who help others feel happier about their work than those who decide not to help. By asking someone for help, you give them the opportunity to display their skills and knowledge, and, at the same time, give their self-esteem a boost.

If the person asking the question wins, and the person answering the question wins, what’s stopping us from asking more questions. Despite all these  benefits, perhaps the fear of reaching out to someone and being rejected, is greater than the potential benefit.

When we face the fear of reaching out to someone else, we need to remember that networking is very much a two way street. Whether you’re at a face-to-face event, or on a social media platform, everyone is there for the same purpose – to network. So don’t be too self-conscious!

2. Be both social and formal

In the ‘old world’ getting to know someone and understand whether you had anything in common took a long time. You would meet someone at an event, follow-up via email and then organise a series of catch-ups to get to know them. You might have had to meet them quite a few times before you discovered the cross-over points.

In the world of social networking, the ‘getting to know you’ process is accelerated because you can see all this information on their profile. This fast-tracks the expansion of your network, because you can pre-qualify those people who you would like to join your network based on their experience.

Effective networking really involves a commitment of time, energy, and resources to produce meaningful results. Also remember that face-to-face meetings still play an important role in expanding your network.

You must also care for the network you’ve established (or are establishing). This includes personal contact through e-mails, telephone calls, scheduled meetings, or even a business lunch.

It’s only when we get to really know people through face-to-face contact, that we can understand both their motivations and their aspirations. You can then work out how you and other members of your network can help them achieve their goals. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

When you’re thinking about face-to-face networking, don’t just think formal meetings, corporate cocktail parties and conferences. A networking guru knows that you can literally network around the clock!

Just because you are “off duty”, doesn’t mean that you aren’t networking. Every interface you have is an opportunity to connect with interesting people who you can help, just as they can help you.

I once won a $1M contract from a wonderful woman I met at my son’s kindergarten parents’ evening. A few weeks back, I was at an Indian Ayurvedic Medicine discussion, and met a senior Facebook executive who has agreed to speak at one of our major events.

You always need to keep your mind and attitude open to these opportunities.

And once you have an established network, keep it active by using social media. The benefit to having an online network is that you can better maintain your network by keeping in touch much more easily. By posting updates and information on your social media profiles, you are reminding people that you are still out there. Your posts also act as a prompt for them to reach out to you and connect. Or, even better, remind them to recommend you for a job!

3. Connect the dots

Once you have an established network, you need to understand the power of connecting the dots.

As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Many people equate having a good network with having a large database of contacts, or attending high-profile professional conferences and events. But they falter at the next step – actually doing something to make the connection real.

In other words, to create commercial advantage from your network, there’s no point in just being ‘connected’ with all these amazing people. You need to know what to do with the relationship.

Your network will live and thrive only when it is used. A good way to begin is to make a simple request, or take the initiative to connect two people who would benefit from meeting each other. Doing something, anything, gets the ball rolling and builds confidence that you do, in fact, have something to contribute.

Other actions to cement your network can include sending through articles or other things that might be relevant or of interest to a contact. Or, drill down even further and remember birthdays, acknowledge important achievements, or determine a contact’s favourite hobby or sports team, and use this information to build the relationship. The fact that you’re thinking about a new contact can, and will, pay huge dividends.

Unfortunately many people don’t reach out to their network until they need something badly. A networking guru does exactly the opposite. They take every opportunity to give to, and receive from, the network, whether they need help or not.

For these reasons, and many more, I believe in the power of networking – for yourself, your contacts and the profession. That’s why we founded Procurious.

Apparently there are more than 2.5M procurement professionals in the world. But there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily identify.

Many procurement professionals are working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge and professionals available to help them do their jobs better, and learn more effectively.

There are so many problems we can solve together if we use the power of connection and leverage our network. If each and every procurement professional becomes a networking guru, there is very little that we can’t achieve!

The Early Bird Catches the Procurement News Worm

In a fast-paced world, being first with the procurement news can mean the difference between being in the know and being left behind.

Read Tania’s first article on the importance of networking and your personal brand here.

Too many procurement professionals spend their careers in closed networks. They stay in the same profession, peer group, company, or industry, associating with people they already know. In these safe, closed networks, it’s easier to get things done because we’ve built up trust, and know all the shorthand terms and unspoken rules. It’s comfortable because the group converges on the same ways of seeing the world that confirm our own.

Life in a closed network is easy.  It’s safe.  It’s comfortable.

But unfortunately these gentle words are not synonymous with career advancement. If you want to keep growing and get ahead in your career, you need to be challenged, and be a challenger, within your ‘tribe’. You need to be first with the procurement news, be able to quickly digest the information, and interpret what it means for your organisation.

Open or Closed Case

When we were designing Procurious, the team had a lot of heated debates over whether we should have an open or closed network. That is, should it be closed exclusively to highly pre-qualified procurement professionals, or open for the whole world (aka. recruiters, consultants, sales professionals) to join.

Luckily my team convinced me to keep our network open, and it’s been an important part of our success story.

When you become part of an open network, you are exposed to multiple groups. Unlike your peers in closed networks, you gain access to unique relationships, experiences, and knowledge. You get to hear from thought leaders and industry experts, and learn about their diverse opinions on the hot topics in procurement.

As a result of being exposed to thinking outside your ‘tribe’, you gain a more accurate view of the world. In fact, some research shows that people with open networks are better forecasters than people with closed networks.

Leverage Your Networks

While Procurious members may not be the first to hear new information, they can be the first to introduce information to their network. As a result, they can leverage the first mover advantage.

For example, as a member of Procurious you may be the first in your company to become aware of a major supply chain disruption. Although the whole Procurious community is aware of this event, you could be the first person in your company to share the procurement news and start planning your response.

What’s more, you could use your network to gain further information on the disruption, and leverage their expertise to help solve the problem. You will be amazed how the community responds with alternate suppliers, solutions, on the ground contacts! In our Discussions section you will see there has already been hundreds of questions asked, and thousands of answers provided by procurement professionals all around the globe.

Let’s face it – procurement issues are now global business issues. The nature and complexity of procurement and supply chain challenges mean that they are too big for one person alone to solve.

To come up with the best ideas we need many, diverse perspectives.  By involving more views, life and career experiences, demographics, and cultures, we can access these perspectives. Through our Procurious network, we increase the pool of talent and therefore ideas that are working to solve problems.  Let’s call it collective problem-solving.

Collective Muscle

If our procurement network on Procurious gets into the habit of collective problem solving by supporting each other by sharing the procurement news, and with information and advice, it will soon become an instant reaction – a community reflex. And if we keep repeating that action, then we will build community muscle.

So when bad things happen, or when we’re looking for solutions to big problems, we turn first towards thinking that we’re going to solve it in a community way, through our network!

Apparently there are more than 3,500,000 procurement professionals in the world. But there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily identify.

Many procurement professionals are working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge and professionals available, to help them do their jobs better and learn more effectively.

There are so many problems we can solve together, so much we can do to promote our own careers and the profession – if only we use the power of connection and leverage our network – there is very little that we can’t achieve!

This blog is part of a speech Tania made at the eWorld Procurement and Supply Conference in London on 2 March 2016. Stay tuned for further insights from Tania and the Procurious team from eWorld.

Is Your Personal Brand Picture Perfect?

Employers are increasingly using social media to hunt down their next employee. So what’s your personal brand saying about you?

Your Personal Brand

Today, a staggering 90 per cent of UK employers use social media to find employees. As we all know, a large proportion of roles are never formally advertised, with employers preferring to rely on references and people they “know” to fill important roles.

An important secret you need to know from the recruitment industry is about ‘passive’ candidates. These are people who are not actually applying for jobs, but are seemingly happily engaged in their current roles, as opposed to those who have actively applied for the role. These passive candidates are actually the most valued candidates.

So, the question is how will these silent employers “know” you, if you aren’t out networking, connecting and promoting yourself on social media?

The Importance of Networking

I had the perfect example just this week when a headhunter called me for some recommendations for the Head of a Digital Procurement Marketplace. It was a very senior job, paying in the high $200,000s.

I have worked in this profession for more than 15 years and am very committed to networking. I am fortunate to have met thousands of procurement professionals, have more than 5,000 connections on LinkedIn, and am an active participant in the 12,000 strong Procurious community.

Now, when I was asked for recommendations, who do you think came to mind first? Someone I met ten years ago when eMarketplaces were all the rage? Or someone I saw sharing information on LinkedIn or Procurious earlier in the day? The latter, of course.

In order to help you understand the importance of your network and online profile in helping you get that next job, let me share how my mind worked when trying to think of some suitable candidates.

Standing Out

I started thinking through the thousands of events and meetings I had attended and personalities that had stood out – I came up with a few names.

Next, I started reviewing my online social networks. First I found people who had the right skill set and experience, then I started looking at people’s profiles in depth. This was quite a lengthy process, so I used some filters. This is who didn’t make the list:

  • People without a photo on their profile.
  • People with limited connections (sorry, to me, its hard to think how anyone in procurement could have fewer than 500+ connections).
  • People whose work history hadn’t been updated or was very scant.
  • People who, when I googled them, weren’t mentioned anywhere, hadn’t published anything, or spoken at an event.

If people met any of these filters, I wasn’t going to recommend them. I would imagine many other senior people like me would use the same process. I know recruiters definitely would…

Why? Because my personal brand is on the line when I recommend someone. I only want to recommend people who are “in the loop” and up to date with what is happening in the world. And those are the people who are building and using their networks.

‘Picture Perfect’ Personal Brand

For this reason, all your work history, successes and contact details are important to include on your social media profile. But I want to particularly stress the importance of an impressive profile picture.

Our mission at Procurious is to change the face of procurement. So many images of procurement out there today reinforce a very old, brown cardigan-clad image. We want to replace those images with fresh, global images of being “the smartest guys in the room”.

Make sure your headshot is just that, a headshot where people can clearly identify you as you. Make sure your attire and demeanour are professional and represent how you would look turning up for a job interview – no selfies, no wedding photos, no hazy screens, favourite cars, or children. You laugh, but we see a lot of crazy things on Procurious, which is why I’m making this point.

Personally, I think of a shot of you speaking or in action in a professional setting can be powerful to promote you as a thought leader. These are tough photos to get, so a plain vanilla corporate headshot will also serve you well. Using the same photo across all social media can be powerful as your ‘personal brand’ is consistent and is reinforced each time someone sees you.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

This blog is part of a speech Tania made at the eWorld Procurement and Supply Conference in London on 2 March 2016. In her next instalment, she will share why being first with the news will help you be a first mover.

Passion from the Podium – 7 Speaking Tips for Procurement Pros

Apparently, the old underwear trick doesn’t work anymore.

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Last year my son confided in me his nervousness about making a speech at his school assembly. I shared the old tip “pretend they’re all wearing just their underwear”. He replied, “Mum, that’s even scarier!”

And he’s probably right!

Public speaking is one of the most terrifying prospects we mortals face.

In my experience, there are just a few essential ingredients to becoming a screaming success on the stage. Here are my top public speaking tips for procurement professionals.

1. Talk about what you love – A lesson I learnt very early in my career was to only talk on topics you really know well, are comfortable with, and – ideally -passionate about.

Let me return to my (then) 8-year-old son’s school assembly presentation. He insisted that his topic was “Piranhaconda” (which, in case you missed it, is the sequel to the much better known “Sharktopus”). Both are B-grade (at best) movies that involve a lot of terribly clichéd, semi-clad, screaming women and tough guys with guns/missiles. Get the picture?

At the risk of being personally embarrassed at his selected topic for this highly competitive, academic audience, I encouraged him to talk about what he loved…(a movie about crazy hybrid animals) and he did a sterling job. Barely referring to his notes, he spoke with passion and was rewarded with a glowing review in the weekly newsletter (phew!).

My point here is, that no matter what your topic, if you talk about something you know and love, you are going to do a much better job. Your audience will be so much more appreciative if they feel passion coming from the podium.

So, spare the time to really think about your topic. Uncover and share where your real enjoyment is generated from. It may not be the technical details of your new eProcurement system or contract management process, but more about how you managed your team, and managed the change.

2. Also talk about the BAD stuff – A stalwart of my inner-circle procurement community is Santos’ CPO, David Henchliffe. He’s always encouraging The Faculty’s Roundtable members to share “when things go wrong”.

The quote “we learn from our mistakes” could not be truer. A mistake shared is a community lesson learnt. Everyone benefits. Sharing your failures also supports your authenticity as a leader. If you can show your vulnerability and humility you become a lot more accessible to people. Plus, let’s face it – nobody’s ever going to believe that your project/learning process was as perfect as some presenter would have us believe.

Tell your audience you overcame adversity – tell them how your number one supporter stabbed you in the back, tell them how your funding floundered, complain about moving goal posts, how your supplier stalled at the gate – your audience will love it! Why? Because (of course) this is their world too!

3. Write it down. That’s right – commit the whole darn thing to paper or screen! Why? Because it’s the only way you can guarantee you have really worked through your thinking. Many years ago, I remember hopping onto the stage with my dot points, confident in my subject matter, only to make a less than optimum impression when I ‘um-ed’ and ‘ah-ed’, circled back on previous points, and then took 200 words to say what I could have said in 20.

Writing out your whole speech gives you the opportunity to really think through your structure and how you want to effectively make your points. You can make your dot points from there and throw all the detail away once you’re clear about your speech.

Of course, the other MAJOR advantage of committing your thoughts to paper is that you can then fashion it into a blog, post it immediately on the day of your speech (ideally – exclusively on Procurious!), and encourage people who connect with or follow you to read and reflect on your thoughts. In this way, not only are you communicating to those in the audience, but you are also ‘amplifying’ your views through social media. A very nice ROI on your time!

4. Jettison the Jargon – Like you, I have sat through way too many procurement presentations that are strikingly similar in both their content and delivery. If we are going to individually and collectively ‘spice it up’ and enthuse our profession, we need to create a bit of a stir with our language and choice of vocabulary.

Why?

Because people stop listening when they hear repetition. You need to keep them listening by using different words and terms that make them think about what you are saying.

5. Make it Visual – Story-telling is now a well-accepted formula for successfully communicating a message. Use it! Kill the PowerPoint – it sends your audience into a semi-comatose state where they are more focussed on the timing of your next slide change, than what you’re actually saying. Use emotive and unusual photographs and infographics (that people can read from the back of the room).

6. Practice, Practice, Practice – I was surprised to read in the book “Talk like Ted” that the best Ted Talkers have rehearsed their speeches up to 200 times. They practise with friends, colleagues, anyone who will listen. And it’s not just about delivery, it’s about fine-tuning the words they use and simplifying them as much as possible to gain clarity. They write and re-write their presentations to ensure they are communicating what they really mean.

7. Make it quick – “Talk like Ted” also insists that speeches should be specifically 18 minutes only! Apparently that’s the magic number for giving your audience enough, but not too much, information! Audiences today are growing more and more used to the sound bite. Leave your audience wanting more, rather than being bored and switching off.

So there it is! Good luck with your next speaking engagement – I look forward to feeling the passion coming from the podium!

10 Career Influencing Women in Procurement – Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the ProcureCon Europe ‘Women in Procurement’ Breakfast in Berlin.

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The conversation over breakfast got me thinking about the women who have supported and influenced my career. In my previous article, I talked about the first half of my career, pre-children. This week, I’m focusing on the influencers I have met since I had my children.

Once I had children, managing my career became a lot trickier. For me, work simply couldn’t be my number one focus anymore – I had some other major commitments that were consuming my heart and my head (they still do!).

As I didn’t have any relevant role models for my situation at the time, I found my own path for managing my career (which could be the topic of another story…maybe even book!).

The Value of Mentoring

I believe there are some real strategies to mentoring, which I captured in this blog. I have always reminded people you don’t need just one mentor, you can learn from a whole array of people. It’s not only learning about what you want to do, but the kind of leader you don’t want to be as well. You can learn both ways.

Becoming an entrepreneur meant I chose a very lonely path full of second-guessing and self-doubt. For me, the women around me have provided me with the “courage to change” and have given me the confidence and self-belief to stay committed to my goals.

There are of course many fantastic women in Procurement – many of which I haven’t had the fortune to meet yet. The women profiled here have had an influence on my career and professional development.

Here are just five more who have left a lasting impression on me.

1. Eva Wimmers

Eva is the closest thing I have met to a procurement rock star! She has enjoyed an extremely successful procurement career at Deutsche Telekom, including being on the Supervisory Board for T-Systems International, and a Board member for both BME and Procurement Leaders.

She is an inspiring speaker on supplier collaboration and innovation. Most importantly, she has relentless energy, direction and is always forward thinking – all things I think are exactly what the profession needs.

2. Dapo Ajayi

Dapo’s enthusiasm for procurement, and her commitment to ensuring her leadership team embraces social media to win the war for talent, makes her an inspiration to me right now. Mostly because I am hoping all CPOs will soon start to understand the power of social media for the profession.

I am also a fan because Dapo comes from a non-procurement background, and has fallen in love with our awesome profession! I love it when others see the scope and opportunity for procurement.

3. Georgia Brandi

Georgia was recently named the CIPS Australasia Young Procurement and Supply Chain Management Professional of the Year 2015, and, less than two weeks later, was then awarded her Juris Doctorate in Law (that is, of course, on top of her Bachelor of Arts AND Business).

Georgia’s energy and commitment to her career and professional development is a huge inspiration to me (and I hope many others). She is investing in herself, learning what she can and kicking goals at work. She is absolutely one to watch in the future!

4. Visna Lampasi

Visna is one of the most successful procurement professionals in Australia. She is on the CIPS Global Board of Trustees and has been recognised as CPO of the Year. Her success has been built on an uncompromising focus on process and results.

I meet with Visna as often as I can, to talk about developing the profession and how to win the war for talent.

5. Lisa Malone

Lisa and I have worked together for almost 7 years and are now focussing on building the Procurious community together. Lisa encouraged me to start blogging and is now working on convincing me to write a book. Once again, having someone in your corner pushing you on is absolutely invaluable.

In my presentations on social media, I recommend that every executive find himself or herself at least one ‘millennial mentor’. Lisa is my millennial social media mentor and has been the single biggest influence on me “getting out there” and sharing my thoughts for (hopefully) the benefit of the procurement universe!

One Final Challenge

And finally, another challenge for you. Who are you looking to for cues on how to best manage your career? If you don’t already have a mentor, why not start looking today?

To close, a quote from Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”:

“The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves. Acting like a coalition truly does produce results.”

10 Career Influencing Women in Procurement – Part 1

As a woman in procurement – what would you do if you weren’t afraid? Would you ask for more from yourself, your partner, your boss, your colleagues, your suppliers?

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Probably. So, why don’t you? Is it down to a lack of confidence?

Confidence is “in alarmingly short supply” for women.

According to the book ‘The Confidence Code’, the main reason women have lower confidence is because they tend to lack self-belief. The book’s authors, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, found that women need to stop worrying about failure, stop second-guessing themselves, and put less emphasis on how others might perceive them.

Women need to stop worrying that they cannot succeed but instead start taking action and risking failure. By not believing that you can succeed, you are less likely to even try.

Embracing Your Ambition

This week I was a guest at the ProcureCon Europe ‘Women in Procurement’ Breakfast in Berlin. The very impressive Melani Wilson Smith chaired the breakfast, pushing the attendees to share their experience and get the most out of our short time together.

Melani is a perfect example of a successful woman in procurement. Currently Chief Procurement Officer for North America & Global Biscuits at Mondelez International, Melani has worked globally for other big names such as Pfizer and Proctor & Gamble, while still being an active member of her community in New Jersey.

The conversation over breakfast touched on the common challenges of influence and engagement. One of the key messages that resonated for me was that women in procurement needed to “create the courage to embrace your ambition”.

Women are ambitious and work hard, but they need the confidence and courage to follow through and create the career they deserve.

My Influencers

While I listened to the dialogue, I couldn’t help thinking about and reflecting on the women who have supported and influenced me during my career.

I see my career in two distinct halves – before and after I became a mother. This week, my focus is on the first half of my career

Before I had children managing my career was pretty straightforward. I got a great education, worked hard, kept my bosses happy (well, most of the time) and was focussed on continually presenting new ideas and ways to get things done.

These are some of the women who made a big impression on me, as well as having a major impact on my future.

1. Christie Breves

Christie was my first female boss in procurement. She had a demanding focus on detail, which was a very important learning point for me – the devil is in the detail and your numbers need to be indisputable.

Her formula is evidenced by her successful career – more than eight years as CPO at Alcoa, and now more than two years at US Steel. Christie had a young family when I worked for her, but – of course (as you do pre-children) – I didn’t even think about this at the time.

Christie is a legendary woman in procurement – and anyone who gets the chance to meet her should take the opportunity.

2. Charmayne Rose

Charmayne may be surprised to make this list, but if it wasn’t for her telling me (in no uncertain terms) over lunch when I was 33, that I had better get started on having children, I would probably not have considered this for another decade!

I was too focused on my new company, and having too much fun to focus on something so serious. But her conversation prompted me to research the ageing process and its impact on fertility. I got the message and two years later had my first son.

While many of you might be thinking “too much information…”, this is a very important timeline for career women to keep their eye on. It is too easy for time to slip by!

3. Cindy Dunham

Cindy naturally assumes the leadership role wherever she is operating. She listens and respects the debate, then provides the ‘mile high’ strategic view, and considers solutions that will benefit the community.

I have always admired the way Cindy delegates and empowers her team. This allows her to manage her calendar to focus on the things only she could do. As women, in particular, I think we try to take on too much, and that then often means that we are over-stretched and under-resourced.

Cindy travelled the world with her role with Rio Tinto and still managed to keep the home fires burning.

4. Sue Steele

Sue is the most ‘statesman-like’ female leader I have met. Sue has succeeded in a very male-dominated field – engineering services – running the Operations team before moving into Procurement.

She reports to the CFO and is on the governance board for Jacobs’ major global clients. She now has two grown children – the stories of which have always given me great perspective!

Whenever I meet or speak with Sue she has an amazing way of making me feel very empowered, which is always much appreciated!

5. Antoinette Brandi

Antoinette is currently a Member of the Victorian Government Procurement Board, and has held some very senior procurement roles in tough male-dominated industries – defence, mining, contracting, and railways.

She was also CEO of the IPMM, before CIPS came to Australia. As well as being Georgia Brandi’s Number 1 mentor (aka mum), Antoinette has always supported me.

It is hard to think of something I have done that hasn’t in some way been acknowledged by Antoinette via an email, a call or a LinkedIn message. Priceless.

My Challenge to You

I’ll leave you with a challenge for the coming week, before the second half of my list is published.

Have a think about the people who have influenced your career – think about why that is, and what you have done to act on their advice. Can you offer this advice to someone you know?