Category Archives: Big Ideas Summit

Big Ideas Summit – A Review

“The overall standard of the speakers and content was very strong, and here are four points that stood out for me as positives.”

By Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

Yes, I was looking forward to the Procurious Big Ideas Summit last Thursday. But when I got up to see pouring rain and realised that the opening session was all about Brexit, my heart sank more than a little. Perhaps South Western Railways would come through with a handy 45-minute points failure? But no, all went well, and I was at the rather lovely Soho Hotel in good time for Professor Anand Menon, Kings College London and Director of think tank “UK in a Changing Europe”.  I sank back into the very comfy seat and prepared to be bored. 

And he was great. Probably the clearest description of where we are with Brexit that I’ve heard, and convincing ideas of where we go next. Why isn’t this man on the BBC more often, I wondered?  And guess what? When I got home that night, there he was, reviewing the papers at 10.30pm on the BBC News Channel!

So, what else was good about the Summit? The overall standard of the speakers and content was very strong, and here are four points that stood out for me as positives. 

1. Whether it was planned or not, almost all the speakers left plenty of time for questions and discussion. With the size of the group – around 50 – that meant we got into some genuinely interesting and engaging debates. For instance, Julie Brignac (from WNS Denali) gave an interesting viewpoint on why CPOs don’t make it to CEO very often. But because she only used half of her 35-minute slot for her formal presentation, we then had a really good interactive session with loads of comments and ideas flying around. A good lesson here for speakers and event organisers generally, I think. 

2. Although there were “sponsor speakers” from Ivalua, SAP Ariba, Barclaycard, and Icertis (plus WNS Denali), none of them simply promoted their product. Indeed, in the case of Justin Sadler-Smith of Ariba, someone asked him why he hadn’t focused more strongly on technology as an enabler for procurement transformation during his session! That showed admirable restraint from him in my book.  Vishal Patel from Ivalua was similar, talking about the hype and reality of AI, including the vital need for robust and accurate underpinning data, without pushing his own solutions too strongly. 

3. That size of audience – around 50 people – does help with networking.   You generally see and interact with people several times during the day, so particularly if you go along to the post-event drinks, you can make real personal connections through the event. That’s harder to do when there are 200 people at an event. 

4. The non-procurement “inspirational” speakers were very well chosen. Darren Swift lost both his legs when serving in the Army in Belfast, and has since become a champion sky-diver, a snowboarder, actor and motivational speaker. Just amazing and testament to the power of positive thinking. And David Gillespie is an actor and writer who told us about the power of stories, and how we can project our “status” and image in a way that will make us more respected and effective when working with others. It’s the sort of thing that initially sounds a bit fluffy and new age, but he was actually very down to earth and totally convincing in his messages. And perhaps he gave us some clues in terms of answering those questions I mentioned above about CPOs getting to CEO!


So, I assume the sessions will be available online at some point, and they are pretty much all worth checking out (there was only one during which I may have dozed off…!)  

If you’d like to attend Big Ideas Summit London 2020 on 12th March please contact Holly Nicholson [email protected]

New Goals for Procurement – Driving Revenue Growth Through Supplier Collaboration

Procurement professionals need to think in more innovative ways about how we can drive competitive advantage and shareholder value for our organisations.

By Greg Epperson / Shutterstock

In my recent article, I talked about “the Art of Procurement”, and suggested that the time is right for procurement to move beyond our traditional focus on transactional improvement and basic cost reduction. Whilst remembering those are still important aspects of the role, we need to think in more innovative ways about how we can drive competitive advantage and shareholder value for our organisations.

Revenue growth is one key factor that determines shareholder value and organisational health generally. While profit is of course important, and the procurement goal of cost reduction plays a key role here, “you cannot cut your way to growth” (or ultimate success), as the saying goes. Growth is vital, and stock markets arguably value growth more than absolute profit levels or even margins.

So, firms can grow revenue through a variety of activities, for instance;

  • Finding new customers for existing products
  • Improving existing products (so the firm sells more)
  • Introducing new products – either totally “new”, or line / range extensions and additions
  • Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of sales and marketing activity

In every case here, it’s clear that procurement has a potential role to play. Even in terms of the “improved sales / marketing” route, there are possibilities – maybe procurement can work with the marketing team to find innovative suppliers in areas such as digital marketing? 

For one European bank, the capability of their internal procurement team has become a customer benefit that is winning new revenue.  Potential business customers – particularly small and medium sized firms who may not have much internal capability – are offered access to a set of procurement tools, templates and good practice guidance developed by the bank’s procurement team, who are also available for telephone consultation if the clients want that too. In a market where the core banking service on offer from every competitor is very similar, this has proved to be a differentiator that has won new business for the firm.

When it comes to improving existing products (or services), suppliers are often better placed than the business itself to identify opportunities. Procurement can really come into its own by supporting that supplier-driven innovation and improvement. But in many cases, it is not simply about identifying the innovation or improvement – it may well be that the firm gains revenue and advantage through the speed to market compared to the competition.  

That was highlighted in a recent webinar I enjoyed, which featured my old friend and ex-colleague Jason Busch of Spend Matters as well as KPMG and Ivalua. But the highlight was hearing from Mark Gursky, Director of the Procurement Center of Excellence at Meritor (a $4 billion global manufacturer of automotive components). He explained how procurement in that business was contributing towards ambitious targets for growth via new product launches.

The key was (and is) enabling more effective working between Meritor and key suppliers, who are supporting the drive for growth. That change in the whole working relationship between buyer and suppliers, needed to support Meritor’s goals, has itself been supported by technology (that’s where procurement technology firm Ivalua comes into the picture).

It struck me that the technology achieves two goals. First of all, to really make the most of what your suppliers can offer, you need to manage the basics of supplier management well. That means supplier master data management; spend and contract analytics; risk management and so on. Putting it simply, if you don’t have a grip on who your suppliers are, what they’re doing with you, where in your organisation they are already working, and how they are performing, then impressive sounding “supplier innovation programmes” will be built on sand.

Then, having got the foundations in place, technology can support the actual collaborative development work. Gursky talked about using the Ivalua platform to manage all the work between the firm and key suppliers. Information is captured in one place rather than emails flying around between lots of different people. Complex requirements can be quickly translated into bills of material, then suppliers can respond rapidly to requests and questions. Projects can be tracked, data and information exchanged securely between the parties, and outputs tracked and monitored via the platform. Information is easily shared, but proper controls are managed too, important when we’re talking about potentially innovative new products.

You can still access the webinar here to find out more about the Meritor story; it’s a great example of procurement looking beyond the norm, and really contributing to those wider goals such as revenue growth.  And at the Ivalua Now “Art of Procurement” conference next month, I’m expecting to hear more examples like that of procurement moving beyond our traditional heartland of cost control and transactional management.

You can book for that here, and join the firm, key clients such as Total, Suez and Deutsche Telekom (and me) in Paris for what should be a stimulating couple of days – maybe see you there!   

Ivalua are sponsoring today’s Big Ideas Summit in London. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow all the action wherever you are in the world.  

Procurement Pros: You’ve Got A Friend In ROI

How does an organisation know that the procurement initiatives, projects, efforts really result in a quantifiable benefit to the business?

By Mercury Green / Shutterstock

As both a former CPO and consultant, I’m often asked about the strategies I have employed to grow, reach and deliver results. Yes, I can tell you stories from past lives of wooing reluctant stakeholders and setting savings records year over year. Actually, the secret to my success in procurement is much less glamorous, and I’d like to share that with you: 

Effectively planning and prioritising initiatives and meticulously tracking ROI through a rigorous project benefit validation process and governance framework are the best ways to increase your organisation’s credibility, dependability, and recognition.

Procurement plays a critical role in the cost management of an organisation.  This is why many organisations are quick to tout the cost savings and bottom line benefits generated by procurement’s efforts. Procurement’s maturity journey, when done right, can last months to years, and often requires significant investments – consultants, technology infrastructure, headcount, and support services. How does an organisation know that the procurement initiatives, projects, efforts really result in a quantifiable benefit to the business? Furthermore, how can the organisation fully appreciate procurement’s value? When the results are not tracked, reported, and kept as the focal point, procurement’s full impact can be overlooked, or underappreciated at best.

ROI is your friend

Procurement intersects across the business’ most strategic functions: operations, finance, legal, while managing critical external supplier and partner relationships. This broad exposure is combined with well-honed skills in cost control, analytics, process, research, contracting, and negotiation, as well as a deep knowledge of the business and company culture. Yet, we are often not given the respect we deserve as a key trusted business partner. Why is that?  Procurement teams tend to sell themselves short by not forecasting ROI and tracking quantifiable benefits for all value-add initiatives.

Identifying project benefits and estimating an accurate return on investment (ROI) can be very challenging for organisations. There are several possible reasons why ROI often goes unmeasured:

Being satisfied too early

Some organisations are satisfied with the general improvement in their financial statements after formalising a procurement strategy, because now a methodology in which to quantify “savings” or “value” has been defined.  When this journey begins, controls are strengthened, initiatives are defined, “low hanging fruit” is addressed, resources are deployed, and as a result, the organisation performs better as a whole. 

Focusing on tactics

Some companies focus intensely on training resources and executing projects in the early stages of a procurement journey, and place secondary emphasis on measuring ROI, believing that the benefits will come.

Can’t find the right formula

Some companies attempt to measure ROI, yet they are unsure how to quantify project benefits generated from procurement, especially if there are multiple ways to measure a successful procurement effort. It is evident that, even considering how well-known or understood the procurement function is to the world, there is still a significant knowledge gap. How can procurement quantify project benefits and truly link them to a company’s financial performance?

The well-reported results of industry pioneers that are more mature in their procurement function, as well as the pressing need to reduce costs and improve productivity, have encouraged company leaders to push their teams to undertake even more procurement initiatives. Sometimes, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, these efforts languish over time, or procurement becomes less engaged than they once were. This can often be because benefits have not been accurately estimated or verified as impacting the bottom line. In some cases, benefits can be reconciled as tangible contributions to the income statement; but in others, benefits may not be so evident during a reconciliation process.  A critical key to success is to ensure that procurement does not miss an opportunity to bring true credibility to their efforts is to implement a process that directly reconciles project benefits to the company’s accounting and reporting systems.

The tools you need: project selection, benefit validation and governance

A strong project governance process is key to the successful project execution and results. A comprehensive project governance process encompasses how projects are identified, selected, executed and reported. However, in most project governance processes, a key element is often forgotten: benefit estimation and validation.

While most organisations recognise the value of properly vetting project ideas and opportunities prior to launching a project, many fail to follow the process religiously for every initiative. Some may launch projects before a proper prioritisation effort has taken place, or others may spend too much time in the idea generation phase. Often, organisations fail to estimate potential benefit prior to project chartering or prioritisation of projects.

Experience has shown that the pressure to get started, or to drive quick results, pushes teams to launch projects without taking the time to adequately plan or determine probable benefits. This ineffective approach to project selection and prioritisation means that projects are often executed without being fully linked to the organisation’s overall strategic goals, and as a result, too many projects are chartered, and few are completed to the company’s expectations.

Not only does a project benefit validation process help with initial benefit estimation during project selection, it adds rigor during project execution by defining project benefits with more accuracy and clarity. This facilitates credible benefit reporting, and establishes a foundation for post-project benefit reconciliation, where benefits can be reconciled to the organisation’s financial statements. Simply stated, the benefits driven by the procurement effort can now be fully understood as to their impact to the business.

A strong project benefit validation infrastructure can support the procurement function as it matures an evolves to take on more challenging value-add activities for the business. It provides not only the basis for identifying and approving projects, but also serves to maintain the momentum and retain ongoing management and stakeholder support to build the brand, extend your reach, and deliver better results year over year.

WNS is sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March 14th. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever you are in the world.  

How To Seize The Opportunities and Manage The Risks

Where supply chains are already complex, increased visibility throughout the supply chain and closer monitoring of risk are becoming more common…


By hybridimages/ Shutterstock

In 1992, Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama, the American political scientist and author, published the much-praised The End of History and the Last Man, which suggested that the spread of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism meant that the final and ideal form of human government was now clear and established. He foresaw “the end of history as such.”

It’s clear that 25 years on, life has not quite worked out like that.

The world continues to be as unpredictable as ever, with the rise of unexpected leaders such as President Trump, the emergence of China as a global superpower, Brexit, wars in the Middle East, and many other developments. All we can say about the future is there is still plenty of history left to be written, and anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen is a genius, crazy, or simply a liar.

Look for opportunities

But of course, times of change bring huge opportunities, too. The digital revolution has turned industries upside down, with disruptive market entrants seizing market share. Some incumbents adapt well and others don’t. Emerging markets hold great potential, too, which many western firms have been slow to pick up on. For instance, by 2050, Nigeria will be the third-most-populated country in the world, with more citizens than the United States.

It is also amazing how rapidly the politico-economic situation appears to change today; a few weeks ago, the press was reporting that the United States and Europe were about to enter a trade war. One meeting later, all seems well again, and the “U.S. and EU reach deal to calm trade war fears,” as The Guardian reported.

Where does this apparently ever-increasing pace of change leave the procurement professional and the organisations in which they work?

I’ve previously compared Brexit to the over-hyped “millennium bug” (Y2K) and related challenges stating that unlike Y2K, where there was a defined risk and problem to solve, Brexit poses significantly more uncertainty and therefore perhaps a wider range of risks to review.

That uncertainty is central to the challenge for organisations. We know there will be issues to be faced; tax, customs, and trade complexities, for example. But it is impossible to know yet exactly how Brexit will affect the business environment at the national, sector, or individual company level. So although it might seem tempting, this is not the time for procurement executives (or indeed anyone in business) to pull the blankets over our heads and ignore the situation – the “wake me up when it’s all over” approach, we might call it. The UK was, after all, an independent nation for many, many years before it joined the EU. 

We know life will go on after March 31, 2019!

 Be prepared

Indeed, fortune favors the prepared. Scenario planning, looking at the “what if” questions, is essential for organisations that can see their business being potentially impacted by Brexit. And whatever happens, procurement or supply chain leaders, with their focus on the external world, have a particularly important role to play.

Where supply chains are already complex, increased visibility throughout the supply chain and closer monitoring of risk are becoming more common with the help of leading edge technology including blockchain and “cobots”.  Increased deployment of blockchain solutions, for example, enhances frictionless, secure transactions and smart contracts, minimising paperwork and effort to manage compliance with increased regulations. While it’s early days for blockchain adoption outside of financial services, almost all major manufacturing organisations have ongoing work in this area.

But let’s finish with two key takeaways for procurement leaders based very much on currently available technology. Both relate to areas where digitalisation should continue or even be accelerated to position the organisation well for Brexit and a period of change.

First, make sure your procurement “fundamentals” are in good shape.Digital technology provides the means to do this more effectively than ever: robust vendor master data; visibility on spend and suppliers; and accurate, relevant, timely data about spend and spending plans, suppliers, and contracts. Understanding the supply situation in its widest sense is essential if the organisation wants to be well positioned to handle future change, shocks, and opportunities.

Second, consider the specific need for supply chain risk management to be robust, effective, and dynamic. That covers not just political risks, of course, but also financial risk, reputational risk, “man-made” risk (e.g., labor disputes at supplier plants), or natural disasters. It also needs to consider multi-tier supply chain risk, not just immediate suppliers. Technology is a key enabler here, as well, but organisations need to consider skills and mindset too when it comes to effective risk management.

To sum up, while no one would pretend that there won’t be issues, problems, and costs associated with Brexit, for the UK and indeed other countries, there will be opportunities, too.

SAP Ariba are sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March 14th. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever you are in the world. 

Forget Procure-to-pay – The Future Is Procure-AND-pay

How can virtual card payments improve the procurement experience?

By Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

Traditional card-based solutions link one card to one individual. Virtual card solutions, on the other hand, link one ‘virtual card’ to one transaction. It’s a technology that has the potential to add real value to corporate payments – especially as controls on credit limit and dates of use can be set per transaction – but it’s one that is yet to be implemented across the entire corporate environment.

Integrating for efficiencies

The key to unlocking the full potential of virtual card solutions is about partnerships with existing procurement systems, especially in meeting the needs of multinationals.

“In B2B payments, we’ve had good traction for [our solution] in mid to large corporates, but utilisation for the very largest multinationals has been limited, and that’s because of their significant investments in sophisticated procure-to-pay (P2P) software,” says David Price, Managing Director of Client Coverage at Barclaycard .

Those systems allow businesses to procure in a compliant and cost-effective way, and provide a good experience for the user, except when it comes to payments.

The impact on buyer experience

Previously, procurement teams had to step outside the P2P environment to complete payment through a separate portal. Now virtual card platforms are being integrated into procurement systems including Coupa, adding ease of use and another option for users within a technology that is already trusted and familiar.

“From procure-to-pay to procure-and-pay”

“As soon as transactions are authorised, virtual card payments are triggered automatically so there’s no need to leave the environment or to process payment manually,” says David. “The common terminology is procure-to-pay; through integrations, it’s a move towards procure-and-pay.”

Integrated solutions have the potential to improve the buyer experience further, bringing additional benefits to the business such as greater efficiencies, control, data insights and cash flow flexibility.

Onboarding efficiencies

End-to-end procurement costs are often high because of bureaucracy and paperwork, with efficiency gains made elsewhere in the process lost at the point of payment. That’s especially the case in the tail-end spend of large volumes of small-value transactions. When suppliers are paid using a virtual card platform, there’s no need for a business to run lengthy due diligence checks or set them up on internal finance systems – typically saving them 3-5 hours per transaction for a new supplier.

“Virtual card platforms can help to streamline a business’ payment system.” They can also be used to make payments directly into suppliers’ bank accounts meaning they can be paid using the platform even if they don’t accept card payments.

“That’s the through the card piece in procure-to-pay that we are addressing,” notes David. “Precisionpay, [Barclays virtual card platform] helps to streamline a business’ payment system and also allows payments to be automatically reconciled to invoices and purchase orders, creating further efficiencies.

Flexible controls

Authorisations and controls are fundamental to the procurement department, as it looks to avoid uncontrolled or rogue spend. The result can be over-engineered and over-complex control policies, with a bias towards the buyer rather than supplier benefit. Such an imbalance can make it challenging for procurement to negotiate the best deal.

“Objective advice to create sustainable long-term relationships.”

“Therefore, what we suggest is adjusting your policy so that your authorisation and control strategy is reflective not just of a desire to create control but is also proportionate to the supplier you’re working with. As procurement functions start to implement appropriate, supplier centric payment strategies, that’s when some of a virtual card platform’s capability becomes even more valuable.”

Moreover, by using a virtual card solution, companies can flex cash flow, much as a consumer equipped with a credit card could. Payments made today, for instance, can be repaid as per the billing cycle, plus an additional 28 days after the equivalent of a credit card statement has arrived.

Building a strategic partnership

It’s unlikely a virtual card platform would be the right payment vehicle for all suppliers. It’s important to figure out where best to deploy virtual card technology. By analysing a client’s account payable file and understanding their business strategy, it can provide recommendations for different categories of spend and which result in the greatest benefit for the buyers, such as where to quickly drive efficiencies through volume.

Barclaycard are sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March 14th. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever you are in the world.  

4 Factors To Consider When Upgrading your Procurement OS

An upgraded operating system (OS) takes the procurement function out of the traditional back-office role, and into that of a valued strategic business partner.  

By Preechar Bowonkitwanchai /Shutterstock

That little flag in the corner of your laptop screen, the red exclamation mark on your phone, the middle-of-night system message. You know what it means- it’s time to upgrade your operating system.

Yes, it’s painful to exit your programs, save your work, and sadly close all 35 of your vacation-planning web browser tabs.  You sit, you wait, then you reboot and possibly even get reacquainted with your digital systems again. No one wants to do it, but in the end, we all are all thankful to those glowing, pulsing indicators for pushing us and guiding us through the process for that much-needed refresh.

Things run so smoothly now, don’t they?

What if we received the same upgrade reminders in real life?  What would your red exclamation mark tell you about your procurement operating system? Is it time for an upgrade?  Almost definitely! An upgraded operating system takes the procurement function out of the traditional back-office role, and into that of a valued strategic business partner.  

The transformation, however, can neither happen overnight nor without setting the right goals and planning.  You’ll need to close some browser windows and maybe lose a few saved files in the process. In our decade-long process of co-creating this operating model with leading global companies, we have identified four key enablers required to help you upgrade. Read on and trust me, it will all run so much more smoothly in the end.

Structure of Upgraded Procurement OS

1. Strategic Category Management

At the heart of the transformation is the shift that procurement has to make from being reactive problem solvers to proactive solution providers. This is not possible without category managers or business-aligned spend managers aligning with the business, understanding strategic priorities and building relationships with stakeholders. When category managers proactively reach out to the business, they begin to demonstrate value and finding a place at the table will become easier.

Building a centralised Center of Excellence (CoE) can help category managers develop the required skills. The CoE can provide the necessary support such as tools, methodologies, templates, market intelligence and coaching.

2. Centralised Procurement Help Desk

On any given day, procurement functions are inundated with queries and work requests. As procurement transitions to operate more strategically, it is critical to find an effective way to service internal and external stakeholders.

Setting up a centralised procurement desk can help channelise the requests to various specialist teams such as:

  • Strategic support team that can be responsible for services such as market research, category strategy development, stakeholder workshops and portfolio development
  • Source to manage execution team thatcan manage the execution of activities such as creation of request for proposals, supplier management and contract authoring
  • Transactional execution team thatcan manage back-office operations such as purchase order management and invoice-to-pay processing

3. Technology Accelerators

The digitisation of transactional and repetitive procurement activities is a low-hanging fruit for organizations as it will release the bandwidth of resources for more proactive, strategic planning. Further, digitisation can help identify patterns, norms and trends leading to a procurement playbook.

Supply chain management is experiencing a quantum shift because of emerging technologies such as internet of things, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. Adoption of these technologies, is critical to upgrading procurement’s operating model, but it should be planned well. It is necessary to define the overarching vision and strategy, and to then evaluate how technology fits into the roadmap.

4. Implementation Approach

The final piece of the puzzle is the actual re-organization of the procurement function into the new operating model. It is a myth that technology by itself will be enough to integrate all processes. Putting together the right team, getting executive sponsorship, ensuring alignment with the vision and finding collaborative external partners are all critical success factors in upgrading to the optimal OS for your organisation.

This is where the smart phone operating system analogy falls a bit short- unfortunately, we, as the procurement team, can’t expect to wake up to a fully-restored bug-free system- good results take time. It is necessary to plan for adequate time required for the new model to mature and assimilate into the organisation’s new way of working.  If this is done correctly, your stakeholders will certainly experience the thrill of a significantly improved experience. 

Now is the time to upgrade your framework and develop the future infrastructure for procurement operations.

Are you ready to push the upgrade button? Learn more by reading WNS’ Next Generation Procurement Model Whitepaper.   

WNS are sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March 14th. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever you are in the world.  

Why Quick Decision-Making is the Name of the Procurement Game

ISM CEO Tom Derry urges procurement leaders not to let perfect be the enemy of good – make decisions and move on!

When Tom Derry, CEO – ISM attended Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit in Sydney this week he came armed with a stark warning for the procurement professionals in attendance. “If you’re the steward of a process, then your job will inevitably be automated.”

Concerned? You should be. Because, as Tom points out, there are an awful lot of procurement roles that fit this bracket. In the very near future, for example, every sourcing event is likely to be automated.

This article is a compilation of Tom Derry’s comments from his appearances at both the London and Sydney Big Ideas Summits in 2018.

Adapting to the pace of change

Procurement has changed dramatically in the past decade, and will change even more so as we move into the robotic era. Tom believes that we’re facing more disruption and a faster pace of change than ever before. “Most of us operate within a context or a framework that we’re familiar with – the established rules of the game. But when the rules get thrown out, how do we operate?

“Being comfortable with ambiguity is a rare skill, especially amongst executives,” he argues. But he reminds procurement leaders not to let perfect be the enemy of good, urging them to: “Make decisions and move on. If we don’t, our competitors will. Being able to move on and know that there are going to be times we don’t win is important. Accepting that as the cost of being in the game and having the opportunity to win is the reality we are in.”

“We can’t anticipate every possible scenario but what we can do is be ready for multiple scenarios and recognise that when we face an unfamiliar scenario we’ve built up some skills and reflexes that we can put into play.”

Of course, as Tom admits, it’s human nature to react in fear to such rapid change. But “there’s always opportunity when there is inherent change and risk.” The skill is in recognising where that opportunity lies. And that, according to Tom, “comes from a deep understanding of what creates value. The source of value might shift but it is still there somewhere.”

Making procurement indispensable

What key skills should aspiring procurement professionals be developing in order to make themselves indispensable?

“The CPO of the future possesses an openness to change, an openness to developing and an openness to sharing.” says Tom.

To improve business-wide understanding of procurement’s value offering it’s vital that procurement leaders allow their people to reach their full potential and move on. “Maybe it’s within your company, and now you’ve got evangelists in other functions who understand the importance of procurement, or maybe it’s outside the four walls of your company. There’s no better reputation to have than being seen as a cultivator of talent, both inside and outside the company”

Tom also highlights the following three skills as critical attributes for procurement professionals.

1. Understanding Markets
“This is about more than just the price,” asserts Tom. “Procurement professionals must understand the dynamics that drive the price whether it’s short supply or supply disruption, new technology that disinter-mediates an old technology.”

2. Strategic Acumen
Procurement leaders must ask of themselves “where am I going as a business? What’s important to my business in the next two to-three years?”

3. Financial Savviness
Procurement teams must accept that they really are driving financial results for their firm. “Sometimes we are a bit too afraid to engage with financial metrics and the traditional income statement or balance sheet. But we must embrace engaging with that income statement and balance sheet in order to understand how what we’re doing in procurement is driving financial metrics such as earning per share and driving revenue growth . We must not focus on metrics that are largely discredited like cost avoidance.”
The future of professional associations
[ISM has] been around for over 102 years and so future-proofing professional associations really matters to Tom. “For 102 years we’ve been very successful but you can’t continue to execute that playbook and expect to still be around.”

“An association used to function as the place where people felt obliged to belong,” says Tom. But nowadays he doesn’t believe procurement professionals feel such a sense of needing to belong to an association just for the sake of belonging. What people need and demand from associations like ISM is “value for money and the provision of tools and skills that enable them to be successful at a critical moment in their career.”

Another key evolving role for associations, according to Tom, is their role as data brokers. “We’re able to reflect back to the profession everything we learn about the profession because we deal with all industries and all geographies, we have a broad view of what’s happening.”

ALL the video content from #BigIdeas2018 Sydney!

Strap yourselves in – we have HOURS of fantastic video content from the Sydney Big Ideas Summit to share!

Missed out on the action at #BigIdeas2018 Sydney? Never fear: you can still catch videos, top speaker quotes and more right here on Procurious. Simply opt in to the Digital Delegate group here.

Here’s a taste of the video content captured on the day.

Live from the sidelines:

Interview with Influence Nation CEO Julie Masters:

Interview with innovation and disruption guru, Gus Balbontin:

Speaker keynotes

David Gillespie, author of Taming Toxic People:

SAP Ariba Regional VP, Henrik Smedberg

There are plenty more videos in the Digital Delegate group – be sure to check it out.

Are YOU The Office Psychopath?

Just how certain are you that you’re not the office psychopath? Perhaps you should review the psychopath checklist.

Image: Rudall30/Shutterstock

The office psychopath is not the bloke found inconveniently near every unexplained axe-murder in your office.  He or she is just a normal person, who just happens to have no empathy whatsoever.  This little deficit means that they are completely incapable of co-operating with others for a common good.

And since modern business depends on groups of people doing exactly that, having them in your office can be seriously wealth endangering.  But are you certain that you aren’t the office psychopath?

Psychopaths are not all the same. Just like the rest of us, they vary in lots of important ways. Some are very intelligent and some are not. Some are good-looking and some are not. Some are men and some are women. Psychopaths are no more immune to cancer than we are and they are no better at football than I am. Well, all right, most of them probably are, but that’s not because they are psychopaths, it’s because I am uncoordinated.

But one handy thing about psychopaths is that their behaviour is predictable.  It’s so predictable that psychologists have developed a checklist which they use to determine whether someone is a psychopath.

The checklist is made up of twenty personality traits. Each of these twenty traits is scored by a psychologist, after a face-to-face interview and review of records, as a 0 (not present), 1 (present but not dominant) or 2 (dominant). The maximum score is obviously 40.

The average person scores between 3 and 6. Non-psychopathic criminals score between 16 and 22. A total score of 30 or over in the United States (or 25 or over in the United Kingdom) is regarded as a positive diagnosis of psychopathy.

Just to give us a sense of how these criteria might be applied, I’ve used my non-existent training in psychology to score James Bond on these criteria and now you can use your non-existent training in psychology (unless you are a psychologist of course) to score yourself.

Case study: James Bond
PCL-R James Bond
Facet 1: Interpersonal
  • Glibness or superficial charm
2 – Is it possible to be more charming than James Bond?
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
2 – A ‘secret’ agent who uses his own name all the time? – yup.
  • Pathological lying
2 – Aside from his name, he does seem to lie an awful lot.
  • Cunning or manipulative
2 – Obviously part of the job.
Facet 2: Affective
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
2 – James has killed over 350 people on screen so far and it never seems to trouble him in the slightest.
  • Emotionally shallow
2 – I’m sure he really does love all those women he sleeps with.
  • Callous or lack of empathy
2 – Has he ever seemed to experience another person’s emotions? There was that one time when he cried in the shower with Vesper Lynd . . .
  • Failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
1 – Every now and then he does take the blame for stuffing up.
Facet 3: Lifestyle
  • Need for stimulation (easily bored)
2 – We never see him sitting around much, do we?
  • Parasitic lifestyle
2 – Everything seems to be on the expense account.
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
2 – Does he have any long-term goals?
  • Impulsivity
2 – He certainly struggles to contain his impulses when it comes to killing and seducing women
  • Irresponsibility
1 – Occasionally he does things for king and country
Facet 4: Antisocial
·       Poor behavioural controls 0 – He is in control most of the time.
·       Early behavioural problems 0 – We don’t know so let’s go with 0.
·       Juvenile delinquency 0 – Once again, we don’t know.
·       A history having conditional release from prison revoked 0 – We don’t know.
·       Criminal versatility 0 – His crimes are sanctioned by his 00 status.
Other Items
·       Many short-term marital relationships 1 – He’s never been married but he has had many relationships that might have ended that way (had the other half not been killed off).
·       Promiscuous sexual behaviour 2 – Is it possible to give more than 2?
Total 27

People who score highly in Facets 3 and 4 are more likely to be found on the wrong side of a prison wall. People who score highly on Facets 1 and 2 are more likely to be your workmate, your partner, a family member or, apparently, a secret agent.

Mr Bond managed a score that makes him a psychopath in the UK but not quite one in the US. The unflappable, focused, but erudite and charming killer that Bond represents is not a million miles from what I would describe as an office psychopath (without quite so much killing).

How did you go?


David Gillespie will present a session on Taming Toxic People at the Sydney Big Ideas Summit on Tuesday 30th October.

If you’d like to join us at the event in Sydney, reserve your seat here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

If you can’t make it to Sydney but would like to follow the action as a Digital Delegate, sign up here: https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-sydney

4 Negotiation Lessons From A Kidnap Response Consultant

What do you do when disengagement is not an option? Alexandru Butiri shares four learnings from high-stakes kidnap negotiations that can be applied in any procurement function.

Image: G-StockStudio/Shutterstock

As far as negotiations go, nothing could be more high-stakes than a kidnap negotiation. How on earth do you put a price on a human life?

Sometimes a procurement negotiation can feel like a kidnapping or hostage situation. Think about the times you’ve had to negotiate with ruthless, uncompromising parties. They maximise all of the perceived or real advantages that they have.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with a kidnap response consultant in a kidnap simulation exercise. We were given a case that involved sea pirates and the kidnap of a crew from a container ship. This training stayed with me long afterwards because I found it so relevant to the day-to-day negotiations we undertake in our procurement roles.

Here are four negotiation tips that I’ve learned from the experience:

1. Set up a response team

The first thing that organisations do in a kidnap situation is to set up a crisis response team of experts, which may contain negotiators, experts in the field of operations, psychologists and others.

When preparing for a critical upcoming negotiation, procurement can take the lead in setting up a dedicated team of cross-functional experts within the organisation. Everything should be coordinated through this lean, agile team. Two key tips to remember are:

  • Leave it to experts to negotiate. People with a stake in the game are poor negotiators. Would you let you CEO negotiate directly with your top suppliers who may subject her or him to pressure tactics?
  • Each team member should have a clearly defined role. Not everyone is the lead – and never underestimate the importance of the note-taker.

2. Build resilience to pressure tactics

It’s vital to be aware of pressure tactics, and (more importantly) to be aware of how you react in pressured situations. Sometimes kidnappers will ask for a big payment in a very short timeframe to “solve the issue rapidly”. But it if you give in and pay, this becomes only the first instalment in long line of payments.

In the corporate world, pressure tactics may refer to tight, unrealistic expectations, timeline pressures to make a “quick” decision. Sound familiar? Avoid an amygdala hijack by planning ahead and putting a process in place that will help you avoid making a mistake under pressure.

3. Understand the game and develop a plan around it

Kidnappers’ demands can seem arbitrary, out of control and very unpredictable, which is why kidnap negotiators make it a priority to understand their motivations and hence predict their behaviour and develop a strategy around it.

In procurement negotiations, take the time to research the other parties’ motivations and their commercial construct. Spend more time in planning and less in negotiating for a better outcome. Game theory-based tools can help in modelling various scenarios. This will help to minimise the quick “think on your feet” risk by anticipating various outcomes and knowing your best position in each scenario. Cost analysis and clean sheets will help you understand not only your commercial model, but also that of the other party. 

4. Learn to influence without a mandate

We’re constantly influencing (and being influenced by) others without being aware of it. Expert negotiators know how to use influencing principles to reach their objective.

How do you influence without a mandate? There are a set of influencing principles valid in all cultures and societies that can get you closer to your objective. Notice that I’m using the word “influencing”, not “manipulating”. Here are some of them to get familiar with:

  • Reciprocity
  • Scarcity
  • Peer pressure
  • Authority.

One classic influencing technique is to make a small concession (typically of very little cost to yourself) to put the other party in your debt. A kidnapper, for example, might extend a payment time-frame, or agree on a communication schedule. In a procurement negotiation, learn to recognise when the other party gives away something menial to make you feel obliged.

Procurement professionals can put these learnings to use not only in negotiating with suppliers, but in their day-to-day dealings with stakeholders in their own organisations.

What do you think? Leave a comment below, or get in touch with me if you’re interested in finding out more details.


Are you based in Australia? Join Alexandru Butiri at the upcoming Big Ideas Summit in Sydney on Tuesday 30th October!