All posts by Tania Seary

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.

First with procurement news

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?

5 Ways to Beat the Procurement Blues

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“In a ditch calling for a shovel” is a favourite saying from my husband’s long repertoire of business expressions.

In my recent blog 6 sure-fire ways to become a CPO, I talked about the high levels of frustration people feel when roadblocks get in the way of their ambitions and career progression.

It started me thinking about the many times I felt frustrated as a category manager. Sometimes, there were genuine business delays or hiccups that de-railed my ‘perfect world’, but other times it was just the sameness, the daily grind, which left me feeling less than optimistic about my future in procurement.

Suspecting that some of you may face these challenges, I thought I would share five ideas to help you break the cycle, get out of that rut, and reset your career trajectory.

1. Get out of the office – Sorry, I’m not suggesting that you start working from home or have coffee with all your friends because you’re bored or frustrated with work.

If your contract negotiation or rollout has come to a standstill, why not try and re-ignite activity and the relationship by organising site visits to your supplier, their competitors and, ideally, their customers. Taking a different, and potentially more relaxed, approach to communicating with your suppliers or stakeholders will create a new atmosphere for collaboration.

You will also gain a lot of new ideas and information from these interactions, which will hopefully inspire you to take a new approach and alleviate the current stalemate.

2. Update your online profile and look at other jobs – Before you get excited and think I’m going to advise you to quit your job because you’re bored, I’m not.

My point here is that updating your profile is a great way to remind yourself all you’ve learned in your current job, and allows you to reflect on the progress you are making in your career. Even though you may be frustrated now, you need to see that you are building an impressive story with your career to date.

I’d also encourage you to just look at other jobs, although not to apply for them. I suggest this approach in order to help you realise two things. Firstly, that the grass is not necessarily greener; and the importance of continually developing your skills in order to be qualified for your next career opportunity.

So take some time to look the job you want (the aspirational one), understand what you need to develop to get that role and get to work aligning your skills. You’ll find this will spark your motivation back in the workplace.

3. Organise a team event – Many of our workplace frustrations are focussed on our interactions with our peers, direct reports, or bosses. Often the root cause of these frustrations are that neither side really understands where the other is coming from.

Social events are the ideal way to break down some of these barriers and better understand your peers. A team event could take many forms – a volunteering day, a fun learning exercise, an activity, a party. The important thing is that it is something that most of the group would be interested in and is appropriate for endorsement by the company.

4. Offer your services to your CPO – Hopefully you have a very open and positive line of communication with your boss. If so, you should broach the concept of you helping complete one of the many “team development” projects they have on their plate.

There is always some work to do on the performance management process, or the SRM framework, or some communication material that needs updating. I would be surprised if there wasn’t something that you could help with.

Your CPO should be delighted with your initiative and provide the opportunity for you to demonstrate how you handle this type of leadership project. Completing such an assignment is a brilliant way for you to ensure that your name stays on the radar as a high potential employee – so make sure if you volunteer for this, that you give it 100% and complete the project on time and to specification!

5. Get connected – The best people to consult when you are having a tough time are people who understand your role, but are not closely involved and can therefore act as an unbiased third party to talk through your challenges. If you have a mentor, this is the perfect time to be talking regularly with them to work your way out of your rut. If you don’t have a mentor, it’s time to get one!

Make sure you reach out to the right contacts in your network – either through your professional association (CIPS, ISM), the Roundtables or networking groups your company subscribes to (Faculty, Hackett, Procurement Leaders, PSC), or your on-line networks (Procurious, LinkedIn).

There will be a number of people within your broader network who can provide invaluable advice on how to get out of your current career gridlock. This is an invaluable, yet free, source of support for you and it’s only a click away!

Search for Ladders, Not Shovels

The suggestions above may be nothing more than temporary diversions away from your negative thought-trains and frustrations. Throughout my career I have found that by occupying my mind with another task, even for an hour or so, helps to reinvigorate my motivation and allows me to step back and see the big picture. This perspective means I can return to task at hand with a new drive.

It’s normal to get frustrated about your role from time to time, particularly if you are ambitious and have plans to succeed and progress. What’s important is that you look for ladders, rather than shovels, to get yourself out of these holes.

Good luck!

Injecting Social Media into Local Government’s New Commercial DNA

A good dose of social media activity could help local government make the most of the sweeping EU Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR2015).

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Local authorities have been advised by Crown Commercial Service (CCS) that these new regulations would require “a complete reversal of the commercial DNA in the public sector”. While attending the East England Local Government Association (EELGA) Procurement Masterclass in Cambridge last week, it became apparent that UK local government has a mighty task ahead of them.

Moving forward, the public sector will need to place far greater effort into pre-tender activities (identifying needs, market research, supplier engagement) and into post-tender activities (contract management, continuous improvement, negotiation), instead of focusing as much on the tender itself.

‘Bolder and More Collaborative’

In the UK, local government procurement spend is estimated to be approximately £57 billion annually. EELGA, an association created by the 52 local councils in the East of England, is a catalyst for collaborative working – bringing together groups of councils to harness their collective expertise, strength and knowledge.

According to the EELGA Procurement Lead, Eddie Gibson, the new regulations will requireprocurement professionals to become bolder and more collaborative”.

Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry City Council and National Procurement Champion for Local Government, told the Society of Procurement Officers National Conference in February 2015 that, “although the procurement profession had an excellent reputation for compliance, procurers needed to be innovative, risk-taking, adventurous and even disruptive.”

Maybe that’s why I was called in to speak at their Masterclass!

Bringing Procurement Together

I always love to see professionals getting together.

Why? Because as many of you know, one of the reasons why we started Procurious is that I worry that large portions of the procurement profession are ‘uncontacted’, that much of our ‘tribe’ is working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge available to help them do their jobs better and learn. 

Apparently, there are more than 3.5 million procurement professionals in the world, but there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily connect with.

So where are the other 3 million procurement professionals? What are they doing? How are they surviving/thriving/developing?

 We know that in the case of EELGA, there are at least 100 procurement professionals connected through that group.

Before I started Procurious, I was a member of a regional community, similar to EELGA, on the remote content of Australia. Our community has a Procurement Roundtable of 30 leading Australian companies at its core, and has shown me the benefits and growth achieved by collaborating, learning and working face to face.

Procurious encapsulates all those learnings in an online environment that helps connect procurement communities around the world. Nobody need work in isolation any more. In fact, I hope that Procurious is showing that there are indeed significant opportunities in us all working together.

The Power of Social Media

Social media presents a great opportunity for any group to expand their influence, get noticed for their activities across the board, attract talent, expand their supplier markets and market intelligence gathering opportunities and, with Procurious, potentially work collaboratively across borders and certainly with other public sector professionals in the UK.

To provide a bit of context prior to speaking at the conference, we had a look at the Top 10 suppliers (by value) to UK Local Government.

The Top 10 suppliers had an average of 40,000 followers on LinkedIn and 16,000 followers on Twitter. Admittedly these suppliers exist on a national, and often international, scale, but their social media presence allows them to be part of the conversation and be instantly recognisable when people search for them.

The benefit for procurement here is that these suppliers’ social media accounts are often a valuable source of information about their businesses. From press releases to new products offerings and beyond, these accounts represent a great, public source of information for procurement to access.

Procurement Stepping Up

At the conference, I threw out five challenges to the attendees at the Masterclass that you may also like to take up:

  1. Connect with Peers

Think about your LinkedIn or other social media accounts. Are you missing any important connections? Are you connected to everyone in your regional peer group? Take 5 minutes now to find out.

  1. Connect with Suppliers

Are you connected to your key suppliers on social media? How could you be using social media to connect with other suppliers, or gather market intelligence or widen sourcing possibilities?

  1. Tracking the External Environment

What tools are you using to keep track of the external environment and your extended supply chain? Consider what social media platforms you could use for this and what information you might be able to access.

  1. Personal and Organisational Brand

What does your profile say about you as an individual? How about your organisation’s profile? Take the next 10-15 minutes you have free to have a critical look at your own profile. Make sure your information is up to date, you have a good profile picture and you are calling out interesting, shareable and compelling information and content for people to see. 

  1. Share Your Best Practice

Could you contribute to an ‘open-source’ project for procurement? Is there any good/best practice from your organisation that you think people would benefit from? Get on to social media and make this available – it will promote your organisation as a thought leader, but also raise your profile.

There you go, five quick challenges that will help inject social media into your DNA and help build your profile and the image of the procurement profession.

Good luck!

Procurement Makeovers – Tales from the CIPS UK Conference

We all need a makeover from time to time, and I am sure that we’re all in agreement that procurement’s image (like anyone’s!) can always do with some fine-tuning. Makeover-or-Transformation-Dressing-Your-Truth

‘Procurement Makeovers’ sounds more like the name of a cheesy TV documentary you would watch on a Sunday afternoon while the roast dinner is bubbling away in the cooker, than what it actually was – the discussion topic for a panel I participated in at the CIPS UK Annual Conference in London last week. 

The panel was hosted by the esteemed CIPS economist, Dr John Glen, from the Cranfield School of Management. My co-panelists were the charming Mr. Miguel Caulliez, Head of Global Procurement, Nokia Networks and Simon Harnett from National Grid.

It was really inspiring to chat with both Simon and Miguel prior to, and during, the panel discussion and learn about their respective procurement change management journeys.

Miguel’s LinkedIn profile reveals an impressive blue-chip pedigree working high-profile organisations all around the world. All this great experience was channeled into some very powerful leadership insights around staying laser-focused on the end-goal.

It was interesting to be reminded of Nokia’s amazing ability to move in and out of businesses and continually transform, adapt and thrive. National Grid’s contract management overhaul reinforced the value of a well-planned and well-executed process for change.

The panel was in violent agreement about some of the fundamentals of a successful change program:

  • Having a vision
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Getting some quick wins (this wasn’t unanimous).

The two thoughts I would like to share are, that during change you need to make sure people understand the why, and to remember that change is very much a political campaign.

Understanding the Why

The most important element of a change program is for people to understand why they need to change. We get these questions every day – Why should Procurement get involved in social media? Why should we collaborate globally on-line?

  • Procurement needs to be “the smartest guy in the room” – our profession needs to be up to date with the latest news, eLearning and be able to ask questions in a trusted environment
  • Respond to disruptions – an online community provides the profession with a vehicle to create global information streams and collaborate together to respond to crises
  • Adapt Quickly – Jack Welch stated – “If the rate of change on the inside is slower than what it is on the outside, the end is near”. With the Internet of Things upon us, the procurement profession needs to be moving ahead of the technological curve if we are to thrive in the digital economy
  • Promoting the profession – I learned early in my career that, in managing any change, it was important to shine a light on the work that others were doing to progress the cause forward.

If we are going to fight back against the out-dated stereotypes of our profession, we need to individually and collectively do more to “make ourselves famous”. We need to make sure the global business community knows the role that procurement plays.

Interesting stories amplified through social media will get our profession noticed and help you build your influence too.

Don’t just stick to talking about the serious stuff either. Procurement has great stories and content to share, and often the best stories in the organisation – from buying gulf-stream jets in the first week on the job, to buying a plane ticket for a rattlesnake.

Change is a Political Campaign

The second point I would like to make on change is to address that time-old question on whether you need support from the top.

Yes, of course you need support from the top, but, if you are going to be successful, grassroots campaigning is also critical – because you can’t make change without support from the bottom.

Be ready – your biggest dissenters may come from left field and may actually be your peers, or worse, your own team!

Consider the Netflix series, “House of Cards”. The protagonist, Frank Underwood, successfully navigates the halls of power in the Capital, keeps his campaign sponsors happy, all while dealing with powerful external stakeholders, his peers and his own grassroots – his electorate in Gaffney, Georgia.

In managing change, you need to work in all directions, both inside and outside your organisation, to be effective. Don’t underestimate the effort required to win the campaign!

And you need to use the full artillery of communication vehicles to deliver a consistent message, delivered in an interesting package, across every format available.

Transforming Procurement

Procurious is leading a major global procurement transformation. The community spans 125 countries, has 7,500 stakeholders and impacts up to 2.5 million professionals.

The goal is to change the image of procurement. Like many of you, our team is tired of talking about the outdated perceptions of procurement and wants to do something about it.

Our transformation effort here at Procurious aims to take the procurement profession from being a disconnected group of individuals, to a continent-straddling network, comprising the great and the good of the procurement world.

We are using social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) as our delivery channel, but at the same time, running social media workshops, meeting individuals and speaking at conferences, in order to champion the benefits of social networking and encourage the ‘uncontactable’ to poke their heads above the parapet and truly become part of the conversation.

The transformation has definitely begun, but we have a long way to go in connecting the entire global procurement community to collaborate online.

So, help us complete the procurement makeover! Join Procurious www.procurious.com today and help make the change a reality.

6 Sure-Fire Ways To Become A CPO

6 Sure-Fire Ways To Become A CPO

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

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

  1. Build your trophy cabinet

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

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

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

I can’t stress these last two points enough.

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

  1. Don’t burn your bridges… EVER

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

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

But it is critically important that you do.

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

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

  1. Be squeaky clean – a beacon of integrity

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

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

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

  1. Raise your voice, raise your profile

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Build a reputation for developing others

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

  1. Work for blue-chip companies

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

Why? Because it’s safer.

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

How To Quit Your Job In Style

Breakin’ up is hard to do…

How to quit your job in style

The crooning Neil Sedaka lyric rings in my ears as I think of the last time someone gave me the news of their resignation.

Let’s face it – it’s never a pleasant situation, and it can, in the worst case, literally end in tears for the employee or the employer – or both.

But that doesn’t need to be the case if you, the employee, take a measured approach to resigning.

Just like an employer generally has to give two or three formal warnings before they can fire someone, I think it’s good practice for an employee to also give two or three warnings on their journey to resignation.

Following a structured process could increase your chance of turning around your existing job situation, perhaps even leading you to stay put. It could also maximise your chance of a civilised and potentially positive departure from your employer, with a glowing reference in hand.

OK, so you’ve decided to quit your job. That’s it, you’re out of there. Now what?

Wait two weeks.

You are probably thinking, ‘what do you mean? I want to go straight in and tell them what I think of them!’ That might be the case, but that wouldn’t be very strategic, would it?

The most important thing to remember is that you’re trying to build your career, not stick it to your boss. People often quit in anger as a result of something their boss or company has (or has not) done.

A dramatic departure typically ends up causing more trouble for the employee than the employer. It may sound harsh, but your company will replace you faster than you think. As one of my mentors says: “Leaving a company is like taking your hand out of a bucket of water … it may make a small ripple, but within seconds it’s like you were never there.” So don’t think ‘I’m going to show them’, because your departure won’t make a huge difference to the company, but it will make a huge difference to you. That’s why you need to be strategic in resigning.

If your career is important to you, take control and manage the outcomes. That same wise mentor of mine says: “The only common denominator in your career is you.” So ensure every boss you have had, no matter how bad you think they are, is an advocate of yours in some way. To be successful, you need as many people as possible in your corner, promoting you and your skills.

That’s why I recommend resigning in five smooth, strategic and stylish steps:

1.   The ‘I need more’ meeting

This is the first shot across the bow, where you put forward your personal business case for change. This is where you highlight the skills you have that you feel should be further leveraged by the company, or the experience you need the company to provide you with, in order to advance your career. You and your manager should agree on goals and a timeframe for this to happen. This is more than likely part of your regular performance review.

Now … this is where it’s important that you really reconsider whether you still want to resign. One of the big mistakes many employees make is that they assume just because their boss isn’t talking specifically about their development, that they aren’t thinking about it. There are often discussions and planning taking place behind the scenes about high potential talent – your employer may not make it obvious. Give your boss and employer the benefit of the doubt. Give them the opportunity to share their thoughts, or at least get motivated on an action plan for your development.

2.   The ‘it’s not happening’ meeting

This is when you meet with your boss to explain that the support or guidance offered in the ‘I need more’ review meeting is insufficient. This should spell out what you need, and by when. You should also ask what else you could or should be doing to help the company help you. There is a fine line you need to walk here … you need to be the squeaky wheel who needs growth, not the high-maintenance employee who needs to be placated.

3.   The ‘you need to know I’m looking’ meeting

This is the reciprocal to what an employer would call a final warning meeting. This is when you explain that you appreciate the efforts the company is making to help facilitate your professional growth, but the efforts are not hitting the mark. Importantly, your language should not be threatening and should focus on the facts about what was agreed and delivered or not delivered following previous meetings.

4.   The ‘I’ve accepted another offer’ meeting

This is the big one – the meeting when you resign. If you have done your job well in the first three meetings, this meeting will be relatively painless. You have been really open with your boss and given them every opportunity to respond to your professional development needs, so the resignation should come as no surprise. You may need to be prepared for a less-than-professional response. Hold your own and take the high ground. Remember, your goal is to be the most professional person in the room. You have followed a really transparent, structured process and given the company every opportunity to retain you. Now’s the time to stand proud.

5.   The ‘Let’s shake hands and be friends’ moment

I might be slightly optimistic about this one, but at least you should finish this meeting on the grounds of mutual respect. In the weeks that follow you will have numerous opportunities to do the right thing – getting your handover notes in order, briefing others in your team, sending the right messages to external and internal audiences about the reasons you are leaving, and the list goes on. This is your opportunity to ensure you leave on good terms, and you and your boss could be either advocates, or at least referees for each other.

In my experience, my worst bosses have been the ones that I have learnt the most from. So, if your boss was Mr Last Minute and his tardiness drove you clinically insane, you will be able to say: “In this job I learnt the importance of punctuality.” If your boss never met, called or emailed his team, you could say: “In this job I learnt the importance of communication in building employee engagement.”

Do these five steps all sound tedious and time consuming? They should, because if you do this properly, it could take up to six months. The reality is that you probably started applying for jobs at meeting number two, and even if you were outrageously lucky and expedient in the job application process, filling the role from start to finish will be three months anyway.

By following these five steps, you will have provided your employer with every opportunity to compel you to stay so you can feel comfortable that you’re making your next career move for all the right reasons.