All posts by Tania Seary

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.

Hold On To Your Glass Balls

Hold On To Your Glass Balls #inspiration

I used to flake off and daydream in most corporate training programs, but I’ve never forgotten the lesson I learnt from one speaker who likened life to juggling balls.

Obviously, the trick is to keep all the balls in the air at one time – work, family, health etc. But the important point he made was that some balls were rubber, but others were glass. Work is a rubber ball, if you drop it, it will bounce back, but others – like your health and family – are glass. If you drop them, they are difficult to recover.

This week I have to drop the work ball – and I hope it will bounce back.

I am writing this en-route to London from Melbourne. I have called short a three-week business trip to go home to my Mum. No, not because I needed a cuddle, but because she has been hospitalised. I won’t share too much here, but it’s her heart, and it’s not good.

With three businesses (two of which are on the other side of the planet), two beautiful sons and a busy husband, my scheduling capability and mental bandwidth do get stretched… but I like it that way. The only catch is – when things come unstuck – they really come unstuck – and have a big ripple effect across my family and business – such is the case this week where I have to cancel and re-schedule around 15 meetings and presentations with some of Australia’s best and brightest procurement professionals.

Before I even left for this trip, I was fretting about leaving my already-sick mother and two boys for three weeks (especially during the school holidays). My husband went into coaching mode and basically told me to “man-up” and commit myself to the business trip. He would be fine. The boys would be fine. Mum would be fine. Just go.

So let me tell you how good things were going before they came unstuck.

I hit Singapore with a bang and was thoroughly inspired and energised by the debate around the first CPO Asia Roundtable. I had some great discussions with some long-term clients and Austrade. Unfortunately, meanwhile at home my husband inadvertently gave the whole family food poisoning by cooking some out-of-date sausages. Everyone was down for the count, including the babysitter, which meant that my husband had to take his first-ever sick day off work. Not good… but, then again, nobody was seriously injured.

Next stop was Brisbane – I met with some of our long-term clients, had dinner with the Brisbane Roundtable. Sydney was next – presentations to two procurement teams, fruitful discussions with clients. Tick. Meanwhile at home, a whole series of appointments (that had dutifully been put in my husband’s outlook calendar) had been missed… maths tutoring, dinner with friends, the list went on. Once again, not good, but, once again – nobody was seriously injured.

By now you’ve probably worked out that my husband is an absolute gem. And although I’ve just teased him here, and in my speeches on social media where I refer to him as the “pale stale male who doesn’t want to be poked or linked and doesn’t give a Tweet”, he is, in fact, the epitome of the ideal modern man.

He helps carry the domestic load and he is actively involved in our son’s lives.

Let’s face it – managing work-life balance is not an exact science – it’s a daily, weekly, monthly pursuit of excellence… well maybe in my case… definitely a case of juggling balls. And my husband is right there beside me.

So when the phone rang at the end of The Faculty’s two day strategy session and it was my husband telling me how he’d helped my mother when she thought she was having a heart attack and they were on their way to the hospital with my two boys in tow… I knew that I had to be with them.

I want to thank everyone who made time in his or her diaries to meet with me this week, quickly followed by an apology for any inconvenience I have caused by heading home to London.

I also want to thank Euan and Jordan in the Procurious team in Europe for their mastery in speech and PowerPoint, not to mention Marisa and Max for co-ordinating the visit. All your work will not be in vain!

It’s about an hour until we land at Heathrow. I can’t wait to see Mum. I want to be there to catch the glass ball before it hits the ground. I know I will.

Post-script – I’m home, she’s fine, procedure on Tuesday and hopefully she’ll be as good as new.

Watch Tania deliver the workshop she took to Australia on using Social Media to win the War on Talent:

6 things you need to know before taking a procurement job in Singapore

6 things you need to know before taking a procurement job in Singapore

The chance to live in Singapore as a CM within an IPO for a MNC (Category Manager in an International Procurement Office for a Multi-National Corporation) is flattering and could be the making of your career, but you need to consider the opportunity with your eyes wide open.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending The Faculty’s first Asia Roundtable Meeting in Singapore. The event was a huge success and a fantastic step in the development of our business in Asia.

Amongst the knowledge sharing and general camaraderie of the event, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the region’s leading procurement minds and understand what it’s like to work in procurement in this great city.

Here are some thoughts you should consider before taking a role in the Lion City: 

  1. This is where it’s all happening. Singapore has long been dubbed the gateway to Asia and when you’re here, you get the distinct feeling that you are on the frontier of global sourcing. Some of the most exciting and experienced procurement professionals in the world are based here. A lot of the future growth and innovation in our profession will pass through this city. 
  1. You’re going to need cash. This is an expensive city, especially if you are chasing the 5 C’s of Singapore – Cash, Credit Card, Condo, Country Club and Car. Cars are expensive, but what’s more expensive is the license/tax to drive it. All up, a 3 Series BMW with an open market value of $32,000 USD will set you back a cool $160,000 USD in Singapore. If you have children, beware… Tuition fees at private international schools can cost up to $35,000 USD a year. Most CPOs I spoke to were not on “ex-pat” packages so these costs were not included as part their salaries. We were also told on this trip that procurement roles in other countries within the region, such as Indonesia or China, are paying 2 to 3 times what the global companies are paying in Singapore… This is certainly something to be considered and negotiated before accepting your new role.
  1. You’re going to need energy. The old adage of work hard, play hard is alive and kicking in Singapore. These professionals are in truly global roles. Working in a global sourcing hub, you’ll be connecting with colleagues and suppliers in all time zones. This means early mornings and late nights on teleconferences. It also means you will be travelling a lot. Which brings me to my next point…
  1. You’re going to need to understand this isn’t a region. Asia-Pac is a diverse group of countries with more than a dozen different cultures many with their own language, beliefs and practices. When you are being “sold” the job from Global HQ, they probably won’t understand the complexity and geographical spread of this ‘region’ – so make sure you do! One CPO today told me it takes 5 hours for him to fly into China or Japan and 12 hours to get to his team in New Zealand – those flight times are like flying between Greenland, Ghana, and Guatemala for a London based CPO. In fact, it takes less time to fly from London to Beijing than it does to fly from Singapore to Auckland.
  1. You’re going to have to learn to keep quiet. One of the things we learnt in our cultural awareness workshop with Dr Tom Verghese, was how people from some Asian cultures have a tendency to be very quiet in meetings/business interactions. This means, those procurement leaders from western cultures need to ensure they actively create an environment of trust and encourage people into the conversation to share their views. One of our Roundtable members highlighted how this presented a real challenge when trying to foster a culture of innovation and experimentation. It was suggested that certain cultures in the region are hesitant to try something new if it may lead to a loss of face.
  1. Have an open mind and learn! Singapore presents a fantastic opportunity to learn how to work with and manage just about every culture in the world – a brilliant training ground for future leaders. The CPOs at the Asia Roundtable were a truly multinational bunch with representation from France, Canada, Britain, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Italy. They had lived in just about every country in the world and had managed people from all over Asia and the around globe. What a great opportunity to learn about the nuances and needs of all these cultures!

If you are interested in learning more about The Faculty Asia Roundtable Meetings held in Singapore, get in touch with Max Goonan at The Faculty. [email protected]

Tania Seary’s Big Ideas on shockproof procurement

Tania was talking at the Big Ideas Summit, the world’s first digitally-led procurement event. Join the Big Ideas Group to see how 40 influential thought-leaders aired their ‘Big Ideas’ on cost, risk, technology and people management.

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If procurement is to “shockproof” the profession, we need to move out of our silos and work together to solve potential supply chain disruption issues.

Most of these issues – slavery, child labour, unsafe work practices, exploitation and neglect for the environment, copyright – are too big for any one person – or even any one company – to solve alone.

The procurement community can build muscle, by continuously flexing and responding to each other’s calls for support.

Procurious, in particular, could support the development of the procurement community’s muscle by providing the forum for solving some of the biggest problems we face today –

  • Mitigating potential supply chain disruptions
  • Driving innovation
  • Winning the war for talent

Mitigating potential supply chain disruptions

Supply chain risk is now regularly quoted as the number one concern for many CEOs.

We also know from recent history that unethical practices can permanently impact corporate reputations and brand equity.

It is interesting to consider the powerful role of social media in both exposing, and educating, everyone in the supply chain about inappropriate practices. Consumers are very fast to share their discoveries through social media, but procurement and other supply chain professionals have been slow to leverage social media in their due diligence and reporting processes.

Alarmingly, many organisations cannot see past their first tier supplier and are unable to readily investigate the supply chain that lurks behind them, resulting in product recalls, disruption and, in some cases, death. As my colleague Gordon Donovan likes to say “we need to pull back the supply chain curtain

So Gordon has proposed a Big Idea on how we could use social media to solve one of our biggest threats – by creating a Global Supply Chain Tree.

As we all know, Wikipedia has used thousands of volunteers to create a free encyclopedia with a million and a half articles in two hundred languages in just a couple of years. This is the opportunity for procurement too!

Why couldn’t we use Procurious to build a detailed map of our supply chains? We could –

  • Record ownership structures
  • Detail parent/child supplier relationships
  • Rate supplier performances and compliance

This information tree could be fully built and self-governed by supply chain professionals as they uncover each layer in their supply chain.

This would dramatically increase our supply chain visibility and hopefully verify its purity – which would mitigate some huge risks we have in our supply chains today.

Leveraging growth and innovation opportunities

The second challenge we face is to deliver growth and innovation from our supply base. Today’s procurement professional is as much about contributing to the top line, as the bottom line.

Being able to actively seek out information is part of social’s beauty – and crafting a network of thought-leaders, influencers, and experts around you is an unquestionably valuable thing in identifying and developing growth opportunities.

One of our team members, Jordan Early, has put Barcelona-based Citymart forward as a great example of turning traditional procurement on its head. See what he has to say.

Citymart enables citizens to choose which city problems need solving and to provide less traditional suppliers with an opportunity to win the contracts to solve them.

This is an inspiring example of how we could use our global online networks to collaborate and deliver better outcomes for ourselves and our communities.

Winning the war for talent 

I have written previously that if procurement is going to win the war for procurement talent, we need to engage with Millennials on the platform they 
use the most: social networks.

Unfortunately most of the online images of procurement are outdated and uninspiring. We need to encourage all CPOs and vested parties in the profession to quickly upgrade their online presence to make the whole profession more attractive.

By creating and
maintaining fresh and dynamic Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
company profiles, we can open the door to new recruits to our profession.

In addition to conducting a “social media audit” on our online presence and positioning, we should also consider online projects that appeal to Millennials such as PACE – Procurement Advice for Charitable Enterprises – which was developed by a group of participants in The Faculty’s Procurement Executive Program.

The PACE concept is to connect sourcing professionals with charitable enterprises to provide volunteer professional procurement advice.

Via a social media platform, procurement professionals, either independently or via their employer, register their interest, specific skills and availability. Not-for-profits then access the register and find a ‘match’ that provides timely advice and assistance to solve their procurement problems.

This is a great example of using our community muscle to ensure everyone wins:

  • For not for profits, it provides real, targeted assistance via ready access to procurement expertise on demand and an extra level of accountability and transparency, without spending a fortune on consultants.
  • For procurement professionals, it facilitates an opportunity to undertake meaningful work in manageable chunks of time, networking and a development opportunity of using existing skills in a different setting.
  • For employers, it can easily be incorporated into an existing Community Relations or Corporate Social Responsibility program, and offers a means of broadening community relationships and increasing good corporate citizenship beyond the traditional photo opportunities of planting trees or painting fences.

Whilst still in the conceptual stage, it shows the power of procurement working together and plays to the need of the Millennials to do something “meaningful” in their careers.

The opportunities for procurement to collaborate on-line to shockproof and enhance the profession are boundless. What is your BIG IDEA for our first collaboration project?

Why Procurement Should Flex Its Muscle

Tania Seary

Tania Seary is the founder of Procurious – she is talking today at the Big Ideas Summit, the world’s first digitally-led procurement event. Join the Big Ideas Group to hear 40 of the most influential thought-leaders air their ‘Big Ideas’ on cost, risk, technology and people management.

Late last year, I was fascinated to see images taken from a low-flying aircraft in the far western Brazilian state of Acre (AH-cray), the images depict frightened tribal warriors brandishing spears and arrows as they peer up from palm-thatched huts in the middle of the jungle.

Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, has confirmed the presence of 27 indigenous groups living in extreme isolation in Brazil’s vast Amazon region, making it the home of the largest number of uncontacted tribes in the world.

The exact meaning of “uncontacted” is a matter of debate, but experts agree that such communities have extremely limited contact with the outside world and that they survive in nearly complete isolation from the global economy.

Sometimes I worry that large portions of the procurement profession are “uncontacted”.

That is, working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge available, to help them do their jobs better and learn.

Today we are faced with complex supply chain challenges. In fact, it is hard to think about an area of business that modern procurement doesn’t touch – employment law, climate change, human rights…and now social media.

Social media is at the epicentre of a storm created by the exploding digital landscape and the rise of ecommerce, which is causing many industries to pivot.

We are witnesses to a “social” force that is disrupting and enabling just about every type of business on the planet – recruitment, retail, banking, communications and entertainment… and we are now finding out what it means for supply chain.

As the complexity of our supply chains have increased – so too have the number of issues we need to deal with.

Most of these issues – child labour, unsafe work practices, exploitation and neglect for the environment, copyright – are too big for any one person – or even any one company – to solve alone.

We need to overcome our silo-thinking and competitive mindset and start focusing on what we can achieve for mutual benefit.

Harvard Professor Linda Hill says it’s a mistake to think that creativity is a solo pursuit (or perhaps more so, that innovations are usually a flash of individual genius).

When many of us think about innovation, though, we think about an Einstein having an ‘Aha!’ moment. But we all know that’s a myth.

She says, “Innovation is not about solo genius, it’s about collective genius”.

Pixar is used as an example of ‘innovation’ in the movie space.   But let’s think for a minute about what it takes to make a Pixar movie: No solo genius, no flash of inspiration produces one of those movies. On the contrary, it takes about 250 people four to five years, to make one of those movies.

To come up with the best ideas we need many, diverse perspectives. By involving more views, life and career experiences, demographics, cultures etc… we increase the pool of talent and therefore ideas that are working to solve problems.

Robin Chase (co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, an innovative car sharing service) has some great thoughts on the benefits of building community resilience or community reflex.

She believes – the more community resilience we can build into things, the better.

She believes – we need to exercise our 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.

So… let’s just say there is a typhoon in your South East Asian supply chain, you don’t have luxury of days/weeks to travel there, talk to people and figure things out.

Why not go straight to your procurement community on Procurious and alert them for help?

You will be amazed how the community responds with alternate suppliers, solutions and on the ground contacts.

If we start, and maintain, this level of support, it will become an instant reaction – a community reflex – and if we keep repeating that action, then we will build community muscle. How powerful would that be?

It is very exciting to think of what the global procurement community could achieve if it started to flex its muscle… literally!

We need to achieve positive interdependence where every person in the profession perceives that they are linked with each other in such a way that one cannot succeed unless everyone succeeds.

We need to realise that each person’s efforts benefit not only him – or herself, but all other group members as well.

So, rather than being isolated, we could connect with other professionals and work together to use our collective commercial power to take procurement to “the next level” at the minimum, or to do something great for the world at the maximum.

Imagine if we could all work together for the collective good? But a call to action for the procurement profession…

Given all the benefits of collaboration that I have outlined here today, I think the procurement profession should take on the open source programmers’ mantra… or code of conduct if you like.

We need professionals who will be:

Egoless – The only way we can improve is to be open to feedback and give honest, non-judgemental feedback to others.

Team players – Share information that everyone can benefit from. We need to give back to the profession as it gives to you.

Learners – What’s relevant today didn’t even exist 5 years ago. We have to constantly learn new things.

T-shaped – It’s OK to specialise in one narrow field, but we need to have a general understanding of a broader range of business issues.

Relentlessly resourceful – You don’t have to be able to solve every problem yourself, but you should know where to go to find the answer.

Once we start to flex our muscle as a global community, the opportunities for procurement to make a difference are boundless. What is your BIG IDEA for our first collaboration project?

Winning the War for Procurement Talent with Social Media

How do we go about attracting the next generation of commercial leaders? That’s the question I have been asking myself recently – and today I wish to put forward social media as the magic solution to our waning talent pool.

How to use social media to attract new talent

Procurement needs to be brave; it’s in dire need of a bold, disruptive force to take us into a rich, exciting and prosperous future. I believe that social media is this disruptor, yet it’s still a blind spot for procurement and very much an under-utilised channel for attracting the best talent. As such it is imperative that we view social media as something we need to take very seriously.

With the exceptions of maybe Google+ and fad networks like Ello – the germ of social media is not going to go away anytime soon. Instead we must view it as a new way of doing business – an opportunity that we not only need to embrace, but one to be mastered. We’ll be touching on this particular issue at our very own Big Ideas Summit physically in London on 30 April, and digitally via Procurious.com. 

To be the most successful CPOs, we need to have the most talented teams. So how can we best use social media to do that?

A new generation with new tools

Procurement is not only one of the fastest growing professions in the world, but we’ve entered an age where “the face” of procurement looks markedly different to before.

The next generation of procurement professionals are intelligent, possess a broad range of interests, have an appetite to learn, and driven when it comes to plotting long-term career goals.

This next generation already possess an affinity to technology and the digital world. They have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media being the norm and expect instant access to information. This is the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of a key business tool than more senior workers.

Be where the talent is 

Whether you want to call them Generation Y, or the oft-coined term ‘Millennials’, the same techniques apply.

Once you’ve set out your store, it’s time to ‘go fish’ and build meaningful connections with your new audience. Use social media to identify the rising (and most-active) stars in the procurement and supply chain world – this new tool will very quickly provide you with an insight into the person and their knowledge.

How?

Look towards LinkedIn for an up-to-date career history – you’ll be able to identify gaps before inviting them in for an interview, and reduce the risk of skeletons in the closet.

Scour Twitter and Facebook posts for cultural fit – will this person be a good fit based on their online profile and persona? You don’t want to associate your business with a candidate of questionable morals, or who rubs people up the wrong way.

Who are they connecting with and having interactions with? The company people keep can be telling… Ask yourself if they are representative of your business and brand.

Hang on to a good thing

When it comes to retention – social media plays just as an important role. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s a one-way street…

Just as you’re putting these social powers to good use, Millennials are just as likely to choose their next job based on how they rate their boss, over the company they are going to work for.  They will base their opinion not on your title, but on word of mouth, social groups, strong connections, and online presence.

And its not just Millennials; stakeholders, peers, customers, suppliers are all there. Potential employees will track you (and your organisation) down on social media before an interview. Negative impressions can be formed if you cannot be found online…

Procurement gets a bad rap for being decidedly behind the times and tragically uncool. But by putting the profession out there and appearing instead as a progressive individual/business – someone who’s starting the discussions and making the connections – you’ll be forcing change from the inside out and refreshing the status quo for a new audience.

It should come as no surprise that your company policy on social media is also equally as important. You should be accommodating when it comes to social media use in the workplace – in the first instance it might help you to draw up a social media policy, providing guidance on what it’s OK to communicate.  You should be encouraging employees to take advantage of all the resources at their disposal in order to gain competitive advantage (e.g. Using Twitter for market research/identifying trends; Procurious for eLearning and accessing best practice; YouTube for learning

These are just a few examples of how social media can help you win the war for procurement talent – now I want to hear about your experience. What are you doing as a CPO (or as an organisation) to recruit and retain new procurement talent in this progressively digital world? Come 30 April you’ll be able to hear what 40 of the most influential thought leaders make of it too. Find out more and get involved here.

4 Big Ideas That Transformed Procurement Technology

The Big Ideas that will shape the future of procurement technology will be one of the hot topics at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit in London on April 30.

4 Big Ideas in Technology that will transform supply chains

That’s why we’ve invited leading technology influencers like Tim Hughes, Lance Younger, Peter Smith, and Mark Perera to be “in the room”, and provide their views on which technologies procurement professionals should keep in their cross hairs.

I think it was Machiavelli said, “whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past.” My belief is also that it sometimes helps to look in the rear view mirror, to understand what is coming up on the road ahead.

In this article I look back in time and share four of the Big Ideas in technology that I believe have helped shape the procurement profession as we know it today – common protocols, online catalogues, reverse auctions and barcodes.

From the outset, let me stress that I am no technology expert and that my list of Big Ideas in Procurement Technology was conceived under the palm trees of an island in the Indian Ocean. Some may say this provided me with perspective, others may say I’m deluded. Let’s see what you think!

Common protocols – EDI & cXML

Establishing common protocols for the exchange of business transaction data (such as purchase orders, invoices, shipping notices, and many others) provided the basis for the globalization of procurement and the demise of the paper and fax era.

Electronic data interchange (EDI) emerged in the late 60’s and focused on machine-to-machine transactions, but it proved cumbersome for the internet. In light of this, in 1999, Ariba created Commerce XML (cXML), which subsequently became the primary universal protocol for B2B interactions over the Internet.

Electronic catalogues

eProcurement came about as a way to conduct all sorts of purchasing transactions over the Internet, and marked a significant turning point in the use of technology for procurement.

Sometimes I wonder whether all the major eProcurement developments happened at the same time in the late ‘90s and we’ve just spent the last twenty years working out how best to use them, with the software companies refining the offerings in line with our demands.

Electronic catalogues were one of the first of the applications to be developed in the eProcurement suite.

It is easy today to think of this as a pretty basic development, but if you put it in context, consumer online shopping sites such as Amazon and eBay were only launched in 1995. Less than five years later, the corporate world was introducing its own, business-appropriate, form of online shopping.

The subsequent difficulties with managing in-house catalogues gave rise to the outsourcing of catalogue management, the creation of eMarketplaces and a whole new category of eProcurement applications and software providers that have flourished ever since.

Online reverse auctions

I LOVE a great reverse auction. Always have.

What I love most about reverse auctions is the need to follow a disciplined sourcing process in preparation for the event. I think this is one of the great, unsung benefits of this tool for the profession. Don’t worry, I have also heard all the downsides to online auctions. I know they have their place and that’s another reason why I love them – they are a weapon to be used selectively with great effect.

I love the story behind the creation of the online reverse auction – the Glen Meakem story. I was lucky enough to be both living in Pittsburgh when FreeMarkets was it its height, and also to be one of their customers. They were an impressive organisation.

Legend has it that Meakem conceived the idea when he was at a supplier negotiation day with GE. At that time, suppliers were marched into individual rooms Wal-mart style, interrogated, sent outside, then brought back in after their competitors had finished the same meeting. Flip charts were used to track pricing as it trended downwards.

Meakem had the idea to take this practice online and allow the negotiations to take place real time. Surprisingly, GE didn’t want to invest in the idea, so Meakem went out on his own, hiring McKinsey colleague Sam Kinney, and founding FreeMarkets with the purpose of facilitating the online tender process and running global auctions.

Reverse auctions proved to be a turning point for procurement, as they reinforced to company-wide suppliers the importance, and power, of a centralised purchasing team.

However, what I think makes reverse auctions most significant for the development of our profession is that not only did they really capture the attention of the C-suite, but also the rest of the organisation.

I remember hosting boardroom parties where colleagues from all parts of the business could come and cheer as they watched the prices being bid plummet. It’s not every day your colleagues get excited and stand up and cheer for procurement. It was a nice moment, and provided a great opportunity for procurement to demonstrate its value.

The Codes – The Bar… becomes the QR

I am certainly no barcode expert, but it is quite conceivable, as one story put it, that “no event in the history of modern logistics was more important” than the invention of the barcode.

Apparently, the first retail product sold with a barcode was a single pack of chewing gum at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio on June 26, 1974.

Forty years later, the latest incarnation of the bar code is the QR code (Quick Response Code) which is the trademark for a type of matrix, or two-dimensional, barcode.

The QR code has quickly become popular due to its fast readability and greater storage capacity compared to standard barcodes.

Where this development becomes very interesting is in today’s world of supply chain disruptions, where the QR can assist with product and time tracking, item identification and more efficient document management.

Given the procurement profession’s increasing need to guarantee supply chain transparency, the QR code could help provide some of the answers we need to protect our brands in the future.

The Big Ideas that will shape the future of procurement technology will be in the spotlight on 30 April at the Big Ideas Summit.

Procurement professionals around the world can get involved, and join Procurious’ 5000 members, as digital delegates by going to the Big Ideas Summit website and tweeting your Big Idea using #BigIdeas2015

You can also share your views on the ideas you believe disrupted procurement technology in the Procurious group.

7 ways to inject love back into your supplier relationship

As part of a Valentine’s Day special, our founder, Tania Seary (who has a long-standing love affair with all things procurement), is exploring ways that procurement professionals can ensure everyone they touch can “feel the love”. So far we’ve covered community and stakeholders…. now to focus our attentions on our favourite audience of all – our suppliers.

7 ways to inject love back into your supplier relationship

Given that Valentine’s Day is only hours away (and I’m encouraging procurement professionals around the world to make sure everyone they touch “feels the love”), I thought you might like some tips to inject the love back into your supplier relationships.

In supplier relationships, as with romantic relationships, there unfortunately comes a time when the romance fades away…

While the relationship with your beloved strategic supplier may have grown stronger (and more co-dependent each year spent contracted to each other), the romance, the sparkle, the mojo, that desire to impress, often dissipates into a very boring business-as-usual patter.

As leading best-practice procurement practitioners, we all know this is a bad thing – because theoretically we need to be continually improving the value delivered from our strategic suppliers. And unfortunately when the sparkle starts to disappear, or one partner starts to feel neglected, then the cracks start to appear. The bond may break and you are in the law courts with your separation clauses under the microscope. On the other hand, a healthy supplier relationship is productive – it drives out costs, inefficiencies and spawns love children in the form of innovation.

Let’s face it; maintaining a strong working relationship (whatever the setting) requires effort. As we say at Procurious, you have to give to receive.

While researching (well, let’s face it, Googling) this topic, I stumbled across a very practical set of advice from one Ms Monika Mundell: 7 ways to inject romance back into your relationship.

I realised that there were some amazingly scary parallels for we procurement folk. So, I’ve reworked Ms Mundell’s 7 tips to provide you with some shine to put sparkle back into those all-important strategic supply relationships.

  • Eye gazing: Even though I’m obviously a true-believer in social media, I am also a true-believer in the good old face-to-face meeting and telephone call to build understanding relationships. Too much gets lost in translation when we are emailing, texting and tweeting. If we are to keep the relationship alive, we must meet with our strategic suppliers regularly to ensure we fully understand the status and nuances of the relationship.
  • Book a romantic surprise getaway: OK… not really appropriate – but think about it… When was the last time you and your supplier got your leadership teams together to think of ways of both getting more value out of the relationship? You could have a “staycation” and have a one or two-day conference in your offices, or book a mutually convenient off-site location to help facilitate bonding at all levels. A getaway could really identify some fresh ways to invigorate the relationship and add more bottom line value for your shareholders.
  • Touch your partner more often: OK, now you’ll be thinking I’ve really crossed the line here… but think about it. How many touch points do you have with your supplier, and are you using all the different communication mediums available to connect with them at all the appropriate levels in their organization?
  • Write a love letter: Seriously, when was the last time you wrote an email, a letter, a card, showing appreciation for something your supplier did for you? In a day and age where people are running around crazily ticking items off their to do list, a considered, well-penned note means a lot more than it ever did. Take some time out – formally thank your supplier – and I am sure you will feel the love reciprocated in some way or form into the future.
  • Surprise your partner with a romantic dinner: I was really touched when a long-term client and his wife took me to a five star restaurant last year – and paid on their personal credit card. As my clients know, I am very dedicated to them all and I was really touched that this couple took time out of their busy diary and budget to treat me to a special meal. Think about it…
  • Spend more time together: According to Ms Mundell, a common cause for drudgery in a relationship is the fact that we disconnect. All of the points above provide you with opportunities to spend more time with your suppliers. But remember, it doesn’t always have to be elaborate, or premeditated, just spending simple time together on-site, on the job, in the warehouse or with your joint customers is all very important time invested in building that all-important relationship.
  • See a counsellor – OK there’s a reason why this is obviously my last point – because it’s kind of a last resort if all else is failing. At my procurement management consultancy, The Faculty, we’ve often considered developing a “strategic alliance counselling” service… not unlike a marriage counsellor! When thinking about how to re-ignite the spark in your supplier relationship, don’t underestimate the value of getting a third party involved to take an objective view of how your partnership is performing. While you probably won’t need to recline on the chaise lounge, a healthy review could offer some fresh insights into how both sides of the partnership could potentially change their behaviours for the greater good.

Are you making sure your suppliers “feel the love”?

Hey! Procurement – make your customers “feel the love”!

Important lessons from Gustave H and the Grand Budapest Hotel

What can we learn from The Grand Budapest Hotel?

A quick office survey revealed that no matter how much the boss likes it, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is not exactly everyone’s idea of a great movie.

However, the adventures of Gustave H; a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars – provides a lot of great (quirky, yes) insights into what constitutes exceptional customer service.

In the procurement world we often refer to those we serve to please as ‘stakeholders’… but let’s face it, they are our customers and all the old-fashioned principles such as “the customer is always right” apply.

Of course we want to do more than serve – we want to become a trusted advisor. But time and time again, ‘stakeholder engagement’ and the ‘soft skills’ re-appear as the number one skill that CPOs need their team to develop, in order to achieve that ‘trusted advisor’ status.

So in the spirit of ‘sharing the love’ this Valentine’s Day, here are some of my customer service learnings from working with clients, customers, stakeholders and alike during the last two and a half decades.

5 ways for procurement to make sure communities “feel the love”

Know your RFQs from your Ps and Qs

Nothing sells like credibility.  If you are going to put yourself forward as an advisor, you need to know about both about the professional service you are offering (procurement) and your customer’s business.  Knowing neither or only one or the other, is not going to build enough confidence for your customer to engage with you.  You need to ensure you have adequate procurement skills, as well as understand the business you are in to make the grade.

Make sure you get through to the second round

The analogy here to a boxing match is not accidental.  I have had some very tough first meetings with my customers. Let’s face it, not everyone always wants procurement’s ‘help’. A large part of our profession’s heritage has been about convincing our stakeholders about the value we can deliver.

From my chilly desk in Pittsburgh over a decade ago, I can still clearly remember being yelled at down the phone from my business unit customers in Iowa and Texas.  One CPO screamed, “If you want my team to spend their precious time on some corporate scorekeeping folly, then get your a** down here on a plane and explain it.”

Gustave H provided a light bulb moment for me about these aggressive experiences:

“Rudeness is merely an expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.”

I can’t say that any of my customers have ever “opened up like a flower”, but they have definitely mellowed from their initial opposition.  Once you prove you can deliver, they’re putty in your hands.  But you have to be resilient and work through this initial push back – get them to the point where they really start to engage and invest in you as a professional who can help them on their journey.

Know what they want; know what they don’t want

When my best practice procurement company, The Faculty, is helping procurement teams to become more customer-focused, we talk about the five false assumptions about customers:

  1. Customers know exactly what they need
  2. Customers will tell you what they need without being asked
  3. If you ask, customers will tell you everything they need
  4. If customers tell you everything they need, you will understand completely
  5. Just because you know what your customer needs, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to convince others in your team

Procurious blogger, Jordan Early, shared with me some really interesting research from Deloitte’s Ajit Kambil, who researched how new finance chiefs often undertake listening tours to understand what their key stakeholders want.

He observed that what stakeholders say they want “may not express their entire universe of so-called wants”. For example in our world, a business-unit leader may say he needs better information and support from procurement. But his true want may be “to be really listened to” by the procurement organization; or he may want procurement to “help support the personal initiatives he believes will advance his career.”

Kambil also suggested that knowing what key stakeholders do not want is as important as knowing what they want. When I was working in procurement within a large organisation, I used to present three potential contract award scenarios before we kicked off a sourcing project. This quickly revealed how the customer would react to different award decisions and helped bring on the conversation about what they didn’t want early on in the process.  It saved a few (but not all) tears at the end of the project.

Knowing what customers truly do or do not want begins by asking questions. However, it is often difficult for stakeholders to clearly articulate what they do and do not want. This is where you really need to call on all your business experience (and hopefully your supportive boss and/or mentor) to help you truly understand your customers’ needs.

Oh, and then you need to deliver. That’s the easy part… right?

5 ways for procurement to make sure communities “feel the love”

5 ways for procurement to make sure communities “feel the love”

The words “love” + “procurement” aren’t often seen together, but here at Procurious we’re hard at work changing the face of procurement.

As part of a Valentine’s Day special, our founder, Tania Seary (who has a long-standing love affair with all things procurement), is exploring ways that procurement professionals can ensure everyone they touch can “feel the love”.

5 ways for procurement to make sure communities “feel the love”

At Procurious, we’re very social (both on and off the field). You usually hear us talking about the benefits of social media, but this time we’re talking about the benefits of getting involved in social procurement… that is – using your corporate spend power to award contracts, to social enterprises and local businesses to generate social benefits beyond the products and services required.

Feel the power

There is enormous untapped potential for social procurement to act an agent for social change – our profession can make a huge impact!

Social procurement creates jobs and opportunities for people who may have struggled to find work and can also reinvigorate depressed or marginalised communities.

Not only are we helping our communities “feel the love”- but we’re also helping our own company. Spending money with community groups and social enterprises improves our own company’s staff engagement, brand equity and enables us to do something that is truly socially good without compromising financial return to shareholders.

So now it’s not only the corporate sponsorships and social responsibility teams who get to help those in need – procurement can also make a huge contribution to the community.

Choose your weapon

Embedding social procurement into your existing procurement framework will require some changes.  And, as we know, change isn’t always easy, so you’ll need to be both creative and patient. According to Dr Ingrid Burkett from the Centre for Social Impact in Sydney, you have four options (“weapons”) for initiating social procurement within your organisation:

    1. Contract – The most obvious approach is to incorporate social impact requirements into tenders, new or existing contracts, or evaluation criteria.
    2. Policy – You may choose to use policy to ensure you meet your social procurement objectives – these can include requirements such as percentage of spend for social impact, meeting statutory or regulatory requirements and local supplier spend commitments.  For example, many mining companies use a policy approach that mandates each of its mines must have a documented strategy for local procurement that is endorsed by the senior leadership team.
    3. Supplier – Directly engaging with suppliers who have a mission to deliver social value is one of the most common approaches to social procurement.  Many social enterprises have independently integrated themselves into corporate supply chains by winning tenders without specific consideration to social value.  In fact, without being deliberate about it – you are probably already procuring from social enterprises.
    4. Market (supplier) development – If you want to work with social enterprises but there are none operating in the category required, you will need to innovate.  For example, in planning the establishment of the Diavik Mine in Canada, Rio Tinto developed local suppliers capable of meeting their expected future business requirements through training, local employment initiatives and by stimulating contracts for these businesses.

Be credible and creative

Once you have worked out the “how”, the next step is obviously to choose the most credible social procurement options to suit your company’s business objectives, profile and culture.  Try to be creative about the “best fit” for your organization.  The best example I have heard of was a major retailer, who sponsored a bike maintenance service at their national headquarters.  Unemployed youths were engaged to learn how to fix bikes and earned their way to a trade certificate, while employees were encouraged to get fit and ride to work and help reduce carbon emissions!  How many boxes can be ticked with one initiative?

Get your CEO into the picture

Literally… if the category and social enterprise you have selected ticks all the boxes for your organization (strategy, mission, other initiatives etc.), then use your marketing nous to convince your corporate affairs and media executives that the CEO should do a site visit and understand the company’s commitment to the selected social enterprise.  Make sure there’s a photographer there (mind you, I’m sure your company’s PR gurus will have this covered) as this is exactly the type of material that gets featured in annual reports.  Perfect.

Persevere

Social procurement is not “business as usual” – it presents unique challenges and opportunities for both the buyer and the seller.  Successfully introducing anything new into a large organization is difficult.  The greatest challenges to introducing social procurement is having enough people and time, identifying appropriate categories of spend and gaining organizational commitment.

For social procurement to be effective there needs to be a truly enabling environment:  this includes senior management support, the right tools and infrastructure to support it, establishment of effective supplier networks and increased community and government recognition of its importance.

So, do you know how to “show the love” to your communities?  What’s your story?