Category Archives: Big Ideas Summit

Four Ways To Ensure You Still Have A Job In 2020

Futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson warns that unless we act now, there’s a good chance we’ll find ourselves unemployed as early as 2020. 

Sorman-Nilsson spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

Futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson wants procurement professionals to ask themselves two crucial questions.

  1. Firstly, think about your future career, your employability, or your entrepreneurial plans for the future. Given the kind of work you’re doing today, can a computer, an algorithm or artificial intelligence do it faster, cheaper, and more efficiently in the future?
  2. Imagine jumping into a time machine and travelling to 2020. You step out of the machine, expecting to find yourself further up the career ladder, successful and wealthy. Instead, you discover yourself lying on the couch, watching daytime television, and no longer employable. What happened?

Roll up your sleeves and conduct a pre-mortem

Business are familiar with conducting post=mortems, particularly after a project or initiative has failed. Sorman-Nilsson advocates for “pre-mortems” instead: “Imagine that in 2020, your personal employment brand is now defunct. You’re no longer employable. What were the trends that you missed? What were the signals you chose to ignore? And what were the education investment decisions that you chose to delay that led to your personal brand’s demise?”

“Finally, ask yourself what change will you make today to prevent that outcome from happening?”

Job-stealing robots are already here

It’s notable that when Sorman-Nilsson talks about time-travel to the future, he doesn’t pick a far-off date decades down the track. He chose 2020, less than three years away. That’s because the AI disruption is happening already. Self-driving cars are a reality, machines have automated a lot of blue-collar work and AI is already impacting white-collar work. “In Japan recently, 34 humans in complex insurance claims processing were made redundant in favour of an insurance firms’ investment in IBM Watson to do those claims instead. We’re really just scratching the surface of what’s possible with artificial intelligence and computing power.”

Four actions to take today to save your career in the future

  1. Examine your skill set and focus on where you, as a human being, might still have some kind of competitive advantage over a robot. Where can your emotional intelligence (EI) compete with, or complement, artificial intelligence (AI)? In a world where everything that can be digitised eventually will become digitised, what are the fundamental human skills that you add to a profession that’s largely about numbers?
  2. Learn to speak digital: “You don’t need to speak Java or know the intimate details of cloud computing and data science, but you need to be comfortable in speaking digital. Digital really is the global language of business for the future.”
  3. Embrace the gig economy: As corporates start opting for robots instead of humans, it’s time to take matters into your own hands and offer your personal brand through increasing entrepreneurship.
  4. Invest in your education: “While we’re already experiencing fundamental shifts, we do have some time to prepare ourselves, but this means we need to really invest in our own learning, and our own agility in the way we position our skills. Aim to invest in at least one new skill every year.”

Anders Sorman-Nilsson is the founder of Thinque – a strategy think tank that helps executives and leaders convert these disruptive questions into proactive, future strategies. His latest book is titled Digilogue: How to win the digital minds and analogue hearts of tomorrow’s customer. 

Are you a CPO in the Asia-Pacific region? Don’t miss out on seeing Sorman-Nilsson’s keynote at PIVOT: The 10th Annual Asia-Pacific CPO Forum in May 2017.

Intrapreneurs: How Do You Know When Your Idea’s Got Legs

Creating an encouraging environment for intrapreneurs in the biggest organisations can be tough. Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, offers advice on fostering innovation and some top tips on how to assess when an idea has legs!

Chris Lynch spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

What exactly constitutes a big idea? Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, believes that a big idea is defined as something that challenges the status quo. It’s got to be an idea that forces people within your organisation to think differently. Of course, this will only come about if the organisation and its employees are thinking differently in the first place and in a work environment that encourages it. The right big ideas can lead to enormous differences in company output.

But how do you know when it’s worth investing time, and money, into someone’s idea and what can the biggest companies do to encourage and motivate their employees to think big.

Organisations must foster an intrapreneurial environment

Chris believes that “good businesses, good leaders, good organisations, good companies and good departments all want to get better.  They want to ensure they’re making progress and delivering better returns. When their employees lose the desire to improve it’s a sign that they’ve lost all their energy. Everyday, people should come to work motivated to try to make a difference and that’s why big ideas are important.”

It’s crucial that people have opportunities to make a difference, feel confident that they are indeed making a difference and are acknowledged for this. It’s unlikely that any intrapreneurs will continue to flourish within huge organisations if they aren’t rewarded and supported in their efforts and contributions.

Chris was keen to remind us that big companies have got to be very very careful in this area. It’s easy to deter enthusiastic intrapreneurs before they’ve even started innovating.

“There must be a culture that’s open, honest and diverse. But, it’s pointless being diverse unless it’s inclusive.  People must feel confident to speak up and take risks without the fear of having their idea criticised.”

How do you when a big idea has legs?

Organisations need the foresight to be able to recognise a brilliant idea and the confidence to roll with it.  Chris reminded us of an old business saying:  “‘You don’t get fired for hiring McKinsey and taking McKinsey’s advice.’ But it’s a bit of a cop-out to have that sort of attitude.”

“A lot of large corporate organisations are risk-averse. They’ll  have 27 ways to say no and 1 or 2 ways to say yes. We need to get companies to recognise their own people’s contributions, ideas and their energy and enthusiasm. This to me is the key factor about intrepreneurship. Companies must be able to recognise the best ideas and follow through on them.

How do you know when an employee’s idea has legs?  It’s going to be something that makes you stop in your tracks and say ‘hey this is something that could really make a difference.’ It might spark reactions with other team members who can think ways to expand the idea.

How to make your big idea a reality

Chris had some final nuggets of advice for any budding intrapreneurs out there:

  • Commit yourself. Once you’ve decided that it’s worth putting in the effort; give it everything and don’t give up
  • Find someone with whom you’re comfortable sharing and testing your idea. Have a conversation about where your idea could lead and what it could do for your organisation
  • Do your homework. If there’s data that you need, get the data. If there’s things that you can do to prove a point, do them. Take it as far as you can on your own
  • If you need a sponsor, pick your mark carefully. Think about who would be the best sponsor for this idea
  • Have the courage to take a risk– It’s important to have the confidence behind your idea to say  I’m prepared to put my credibility on the line behind this idea and stand up for it at all costs

Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Be Bold But Nice

The role of procurement is changing and evolving. Professionals have more influence than ever before and Deb Stanton wants them to use their position to be bold but nice!

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

Procurement has elevated within organisations

Deb Stanton, Executive Managing Director at CAPS Research, believes that the procurement function has really elevated within our organisatons.  Data collected by CAPS research shows that 82 per cent of CPOs now report directly to their CEO or one level down.

Under these new circumstances, professionals will have to work differently with their business partners and in their procurement teams.

This is why, Deb believes,  being Bold But Nice, is a valuable mantra. Procurement needs to ask the challenging questions, go in search of new solutions and embrace ideas. Of course, professionals  need their organisation to to work with them, which is why it’s important to be amenable whilst driving new value to our companies. .

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoyed this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today ( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

Digitalisation – Making Procurement 4.0 a Reality

Procurement is dead, long live Procurement 4.0! Digitalisation represents a fundamental, but inevitable shift for the profession.

Download your copy of ‘Procurement 4.0 – The Digitalisation of Procurement’ on the Fraunhofer IML website.

Throughout this series of articles, we have discussed the evolution of Procurement to Procurement 4.0. From trying to establish a single definition, to outlining the challenges the profession faces, the journey promises to be difficult.

However, the benefits and advantages that at the end make this particular journey worthwhile. Using the findings in BME’s survey, we’ll look at how digitalisation will help to shape the profession.

Digitalisation of Procurement

According to BME, the digitalisation of procurement is key for the profession to maximise the value it delivers to the organisation. Procurement needs to digitise all its manual processes and focus on the strategic ones.

Big Data plays a major role in this, and procurement can use existing knowledge to drive activities in this area. However, to fully realise this, organisations need to understand the role their staff will play. This is not only in how their roles will look, but also how they will need to be trained to carry them out.

“Existing fears based on the changes expected seem to be resulting in a passive approach. Even the very consideration of the immense changes that we may face as a result of Industry 4.0 is creating a sense of paralysis.”

Management of the cultural change, and setting of a concrete roadmap will help these activities. And once this is complete, procurement’s work can begin in earnest.

Digital Procurement Portfolio

The digitalisation of the procurement portfolio will have a key impact on the value the profession brings. The changes to the portfolio will be impacted both by digital technology, and changes to the supply chain in Industry 4.0.

New raw materials, assets such as 3D Printers, and new tools will all fall into a much-changed procurement portfolio. This will require both newly adapted process, and new skills for the professionals running them.

  • Respondents to the BME survey highlighted the following areas as key in Procurement 4.0:
  • Procurement will need to improve internal (vertical) networking with other departments.
  • Procurement will then use external (horizontal) networking with suppliers in order to source the correct products.
  • Further qualifications are essential to build knowledge of products and technology. This will enable procurement to act as an equal in vertical and horizontal networking.
  • An expanding supplier portfolio will make horizontal networking more critical than ever.
  • Procurement need to source innovation from suppliers. This will reduce time to market, access state-of-the-art technology, and overcome any missing skills in-house.

Developing Organisation 4.0?

In order for all of this to succeed, organisations as a whole must recognise the need to change. Functional working and silos will stand in the way of development and knowledge sharing, both fundamental to successful working in Industry 4.0.

Digitalisation is only possible if procurement can then forge strong, lasting relationships with internal and external stakeholders. People are critical to this, and organisations must provide up-skilling opportunities in line with this.

“The successful implementation of Procurement 4.0 stands and falls with its employees. Employees must be involved in times of upheaval and appropriately qualified. If this is ignored, it can be assumed that the company will fail.”

While this may take time to come to full fruition, there’s little argument among experts that this is necessary. The future lies before procurement, but it’s down to the people in the profession to help it walk this path.

The Association Supply Chain Management, Procurement and Logistics (BME), founded in 1954, is the leading professional association for supply chain managers, buyers and logisticians in Germany and Central Europe.

Fraunhofer IML, founded in 1981, is a global expert on all fields of internal and external logistics. The Institute also currently heads up the largest logistics research centre in Europe.

To download your copy of the report, visit the Fraunhofer IML website.

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Pay Your Bills

It’s not about the money, money, money… except that it kinda is. Barclays Chairman, John McFarlane, reminds us that we need to pay our supplier bills on time!

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

If You’ve Got Bills You Gotta Pay – Pay Them!

Barclays Chairman, John McFarlane, has a simple but utterly  fundamental Big Idea to share for 2017:  Procurement pros must pay their bills on time!

John acknowledges that  it’s a  great time for people working within procurement. There are now global marketplaces, the online arena continues to grow exponentially and power has transferred into the hands of consumers. This is a truly unparalleled period for the function.

But despite all the changes  that are occurring, John was keen to remind procurement professionals that suppliers really matter and the importance of paying bills on time should never be underestimated. If you don’t pay  when you should,  you’re accountable for endangering a perfectly good customer.

Looking after your  long-term interests and nurturing your relationships is more valuable than always thinking in the short-term.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoyed this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today ( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

The Unpalatable Update On Thinking The Unthinkable

It’s all too easy to avoid thinking the unthinkable when the unthinkables concerned are so unpalatable. 

Nik Gowing, BBC Broadcaster and Visiting Professor at King’s College spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

Nik Gowing introduced Procurious to the concept of thinking the unthinkable at last year’s Big Ideas Summit. Unthinkables are critical events that are not being considered or prepared for by organisations or by our governments around the world.

From Brexit to the election of President Trump;  from Putin’s invasion of Crimea to the upcoming European elections, unthinkables have been occurring frequently over the last few years.

Unthinkables such as these disrupt everything that we presume to be stable and constant, they create an unthinkable environment and, unfortunately, they’re not letting up in 2017.

Nik Gowing returned to Procurious this year to speak in our podcast series, Even Bigger Ideas, and to give us an update on the current state of affairs. Why is the world struggling  to prepare for unthinkables and what can be done to change that?

The New Normal

In recent years we’ve endured one unthinkable after another and, more often than not, several at once. Nik firmly believes that this is to be the new normal. Leaders, whether they admit it or not, are worried about what’s coming next and what the future holds for their organisations.

“If  organisations don’t handle or recognise [unthinkables] then it could lead to them going out of business very quickly. Consumers and customers feel alienated by what a lot of companies are doing; what a lot of governments are doing.

A lot of the next generation, the millennials, don’t like what they see in companies or governments and of course this means that they don’t want to go into those companies. Therefore, there’s a succession problem as well.

We haven’t seen anything yet with AI and the internet of things coming down the track. What many thought would be unthinkable in twenty years, will probably be unthinkable in twenty months.”

Why are we failing at thinking the unthinkable?

Executive leaders are often  overwhelmed, under pressure and unable to think about unthinkables.

The latest Thinking The Unthinkable Report reveals nine conclusions as to why leaders have, so far, struggled to respond to unthinkables. Nine key words and conclusions were mentioned repeatedly by survey participants.

“One of [these conclusions] is denial, and another one is willful dissidence. There’s a hope that, ‘Well, this is only a blip. It isn’t going be like this indefinitely.’

Those who have made it to the top whether it be C-suite, CPOs or as chief risk officers are constrained in their way of thinking. As Nik points out “the conformity, which gets you the promotion and gets you to the top, in many ways, disqualifies you from understanding the enormity of the changes that are taking place.”

“In reality,  leaders must use every kind of idea that’s out there; coming from inside the company, outside the company, in order to actually understand, appreciate, mitigate and confront head on the enormity of changes coming”

It’s Time to Start Thinking the Unpalatable

Nik asserts that unthinkable events are often apparent but we choose to ignore the available evidence because it is so unsavoury.

“Thinking the Unthinkable is the title, but actually it should be thinking the unpalatable. In almost every aspect, there is  clear evidence out there [of what’s to come].”

“Before the migration crisis in Europe there was two years of warnings from the UN and the International Organisation of Migration. But companies, and certainly governments, did not want to listen to it or take notice.

“The unpalatable is this stuff that’s out there.  Organisations say to themselves ‘Surely, that’s not going to affect us. Surely, it’s not going to be that bad. Surely, we can ignore it.’ And, actually, they should be saying, ‘We’ve got to embrace this.’ ”

What can be done?

“Chief risk officers and procurement officers have got to think far more broadly. There’s probably an unpalatable, small incident or issue out there that is going to turn into something much bigger. We are too often seeing the attitude of ‘We’ll rule that out. We don’t want to know about that.’ Instead, unpalatables should be right at the top of the risk registry. ”

“Events that were once viewed as outlandish unthinkables would not even been considered as likely in the risk registry. It’s a bit like dealing with alcoholics. No one wans to admit they’ve got an alcohol problem until they get in the same room with a lot of people suffering from the very same problem. At this point they’ll say ‘My goodness, that’s me. We’ve got to do something about it.’ ”

“So what we’re in the process of doing at the moment is creating a community of leaders in government and corporates around the world who’re saying we’ve now got to change the way we do business. It’s about changing culture, mindset, and behavior. It’s not about spending money. It’s changing what’s in the human software up there.”

Procurious Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

“I’m Just Not Very Creative!” Three Ways To Unleash Creative Potential

According to Creative Change Agent James Bannerman, there’s no such thing as a lost cause when it comes to unharnessing creativity.

Bannerman spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

The stifling of creativity is a slow but inexorable process. Evidence suggests that humans are incredibly creative as children.  By the time we reach adulthood, however, we have often lost the ability to connect with our innate creativity due to a combination of upbringing, education, fear of criticism, the need for conformity and the boundaries of the corporate environment.

The good news is that innovation is now firmly on the agenda for businesses worldwide. Managers are pushing their teams to be more creative which,  for some individuals,  can be quite daunting, especially when you believe you’re simply “not a creative type”.

According to Bannerman, though, everyone has innate creativity. It’s simply a matter of re-educating ourselves and learning some tips and tricks to unlock your creative potential. “Our minds become so full of ‘you can’t do this’ and ‘you can’t do that’, and ‘that won’t work’, and ‘that’s been done before’, that a lot of our innate creativity gets squashed and stifled.”

Here are three tips on unleashing creativity from Bannermann’s interview with Philip Ideson. 

  1. Stop labelling yourself

There’s no such thing as a lost cause. Bannerman has worked across multiple sectors, unleashing creativity in teams including Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, and some space agencies. But you don’t have to work in a “creative” profession to be creative. “It doesn’t matter if people are nuclear physicists,  or accountants, or if they work in the world of marketing. The point is that creativity can manifest itself in many different ways.”

“I haven’t yet seen a completely lost cause. In fact, some of the best ideas I’ve ever come across have been from the people working in professions where you’d least expect to see creativity. The TV companies and the advertising agencies aren’t always the most innovative and creative because often they’re just regurgitating what they’ve done before. It’s in other groups, like accountants, where people generate ideas that make you think: ‘Wow’.”

  1. Stop trying too hard

“Trying to be creative is like trying to go to sleep. If you’re too busy focusing on going to sleep, you’ll stay awake because there’s all sorts of brainwave activity linked to beta waves that will keep you from falling asleep.”

Bannerman explains that there’s a sweet-spot that allows creativity to flourish. “We tend to be most creative when we’re focused but not over-focused, and relaxed but not too relaxed. You’re more likely to think creatively when you step away from your desk, and do something like go for a run, or go for a drive, or simply look out the window. If you say to yourself ‘I must come up with the best procurement idea ever right now’, chances are that you’ll become stressed and nothing will come to mind. It’s about finding that optimum state.”

  1. Make room to be creative

Bannerman has observed that creativity is often hamstrung by legislation, regulations and an atmosphere unconducive to lateral thinking. “There has to be wriggle room in a team’s dynamic. If people are too afraid of getting things wrong, or if they continually feel that everything has to be 100 per cent perfect straight away, then they’ll fall into a practical mindset. They’ll only do what they know will work, what has been done before, and will endlessly repeat old patterns rather than contemplating new patterns.”

“Any part of an organisation can be creative by looking at how it can improve itself, solve problems and imagine where it wants to be in two to five years’ time. Creativity can manifest itself in many different ways, depending on the context – it could just be about improving processes, systems or structures. It doesn’t have to be about inventing the next iPhone.”

Procurious Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Understand Your World

Every procurement pro needs somebody to tell them the world weather forecast so they can figure out when they’re going to need an umbrella! 

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

Be Sure To Understand Your World Weather Forecast

Justin Crump, CEO at Sibylline thinks that procurement organisations need to become more worldly wise in order to better manage future risk.

At present, larger organisations might be competent at managing risk but often this is very much in silos. This makes it very hard to fully understand what they are facing as a result of global events.

Given the rate at which technology is evolving and how global events are impacting the world, it is increasingly difficult for companies to keep up without considering risk in real-time.

Intelligence about the world we live in drives business operations and the better informed we are the easier it is to drive progress.

Justin urges us to gain a clear view of the world to measure against so the we can focus  our resources on what world means to us.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoy this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

The Art of Self-Mastery In Indirect Procurement

Self-mastery is a critical skill in indirect procurement but you might have to endure a few steep learning curves before you nail it. 

Join The Big Ideas Summit 2017 group to access all of last week’s discussions and exclusive video content.

Indirect procurement is a function with high requirements for stakeholder management.  Cultivating excellent stakeholder management skills means developing self-mastery – a key part of authentic leadership.

In the workplace, ‘Just being yourself’ doesn’t  mean  letting it all hang out, unfiltered. It requires a self-mastery founded in self-awareness. It means building on this to calibrate ones own reaction to and interaction with colleagues. I’ve had experiences from good and bad bosses along the way and I’ve made mistakes that have helped me learn to be a more authentic leader.

The blind spot of conviction

Early on in my career I was lucky to be part of a small, young team developing the, then new, idea of strategic sourcing in indirect procurement for a large bank.

We had an innovative boss, Harry, who inspired us with his passion for the new concept. And, with just 10 of us, and a supportive CPO, we were starting to make a big impact.

However, there was a new CFO who  didn’t understand what we were doing. He simply didn’t care about the hundreds of millions of savings the team was generating.  As you can probably guess, this was before the banking crisis!

Harry had a choice to make. He could have decided to keep a low profile and deliver value in other ways. After all, there were plenty of projects to work on that didn’t require massive change management and senior sponsorship.

Instead, he made an ultimatum to the new CFO, so convinced that he was right and that his arguments would be compelling.

It didn’t turn out the way he had planned. The team closed and disbanded one month later. Unfortunately, Harry’s lack of self-awareness made him naively unaware of the politics of the business and the consequences he might face.

Leading a team through change

The procurement management team I was working on at a large Swiss company was about to go through a major transition with the retirement of our charismatic CPO. He  had many great qualities but led by command and control.

His manager, Peter, knew we needed to evolve to be capable of running the business independently. The stakes were high for him due to a high level of outsourcing in direct procurement and high savings commitments in indirect procurement.

The first shake-up was a reduction of the team. Peter joined the meeting with the new smaller group. I didn’t know him well, and was nervous about what his expectations were.

He told us that we had to be ready to lead procurement differently as our new boss was not a procurement person. He admitted that our new team wasn’t yet ready for the challenges ahead but that we would be supported to grow and develop.

Over the next year, Peter joined our meetings regularly to give us input and encouragement. He didn’t discuss the pressure for us to become an independent team. He backed up the risks we were taking with new high change projects. He also gave his personal support with one to one time.

Much later, I asked him about that time and how much pressure there had really been. He told me he hadn’t been sure the team would make it and that the pressure from the CEO had been intense.

His self-mastery at that moment allowed us to have space to grow and successfully step up to the plate.

Not filtering and scaring my team

It was the end of summer and we were in the second year of our indirect transformation. The team had delivered the first year, but our credibility was far from cemented.

One of my team leads, Mary, revealed that her team’s numbers were not sure for the year. Worse still, we had recently submitted an updated forecast to senior management.

Mary and I reviewed her project details. She couldn’t answer all of the questions to the level I needed in order to be able to revise the numbers.

I was surprised at this; she was highly capable, but she hadn’t yet fully learned how to measure savings in financial terms or to appreciate the importance of forecast accuracy.

We were under a lot of pressure and I panicked.  Having scrutinised the details with Mary I understood the situation,  but the cost was high and I was unsuccessful in shielding my stress from the team.

Fortunately Mary followed up with me. She explained what the effect of my unfiltered actions had on her and the team. She felt undermined and made to feel foolish in front of her team and her team members themselves were frightened.

I had failed my team by allowing high pressure from upwards to go unfiltered downwards.

After apologising to Mary, we talked frankly about what had happened. She got more insight into what she needed to do and I agreed to never behave in that way again.

It was a deep learning experience in the importance of maintaining self-mastery, especially in high-stress moments.

Want to catch up on all of last week’s Big Ideas Summit activity? Join the group here

Transparency is the Key to Overcoming Hurdles to Industry 4.0

Procurement’s journey to Industry 4.0 will be far from smooth, with numerous hurdles to leap. But transparency could hold the key to making this jump.

Download your copy of ‘Procurement 4.0 – The Digitalisation of Procurement’ on the Fraunhofer IML website.

In our previous article, we touched upon the challenges procurement will face in its Industry 4.0 journey. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges will come from the people side, and assurances of roles in the digital era.

However, as with many challenges and roadblocks, communication is crucial to overcoming resistance. And, according to BME, for Industry 4.0 and procurement, transparency and knowledge sharing could be the key the profession is looking for.

“The key to success is to provide companies with the knowledge about opportunities and benefits by Industry 4.0 and to underline these with appropriate use case.” says Prof. Dr Michael Henke,  Head of Enterprise Logistics at TU Dortmund University.

Lack of Transparency Major Hurdle

Within the ‘Management and People’ area, four major hurdles to procurement’s Industry 4.0 journey were highlighted. They were:

  • A lack of transparency and knowledge;
  • No active attempts to explore Industry 4.0;
  • The shaping of cultural change and the involvement and qualification of staff are already a burden in the minds of those responsible;
  • A lack of willingness to take risks or to invest.

These hurdles were seen as the key reason procurement was holding back on Industry 4.0. There were also concerns that if they weren’t tackled effectively and quickly, it could hinder procurement’s strategic journey too.

However, this is not necessarily a hurdle that organisations can easily overcome. The lack of clear definition of both Industry 4.0 and Procurement 4.0 present a major problem. This has a knock-on effect in terms of building a knowledge base for organisations, and then passing this information to employees.

And in turn, it also stops organisations being fully aware of the benefits and advantages available within Industry 4.0. Improving transparency in this respect, and gathering greater levels of information can aid procurement overcoming this hurdle.

Investment in Data

One other hurdle facing procurement can be linked to both management and technology. Big Data is frequently cited as one of the key aspects of procurement’s future, particularly in line with new technology. However, organisations as a whole are yet to fully establish how to collect data effectively, and then put it to good use.

Current systems used in procurement are capable of handling certain levels of data, but nowhere near those levels needed in Industry 4.0. Procurement need to invest in new systems, but overall investment has slowed in this area.

There are three possible reasons outlined by the respondents to the survey. Firstly, many companies lack the funds to actively invest in new systems. Secondly, organisations are already unsure about the return on investment on new systems, as cost-effectiveness has yet to be proved.

Finally, there is a lack of clarity and transparency in the procurement technology supply market. The array of systems available can be confusing, and leave organisations in the dark about which supplier will best meet their needs and requirements.

Prof.  Dr Henke believes that “If procurement wants to lift its role to another level in the future, it can be characterized by agility and speed. But procurement can only do this if he is able to interpret data from different systems correctly,”

Leading Not Following

Procurement definitely needs to be a driving force, otherwise it will be forced back into its old performing role.

Overcoming these hurdles is, of course, vital to procurement playing its part in Industry 4.0. The profession cannot afford to be a follower, or risk remaining a transactional function, with little strategic influence, and probably a short shelf-life.

Within the survey, the majority of respondents stated that procurement needed to be an active influencer, and provide innovation to the organisation.

However, at the same time, it was felt that procurement wouldn’t take the lead on these strategies. Responsibility, it would seem, would lie with a management team, but with procurement acting as an enabler.

The journey to Industry 4.0 will require procurement to make changes, but also step forward and grab its opportunity. How Procurement 4.0 will come into being will be the topic of the final article in this series.

The Association Supply Chain Management, Procurement and Logistics (BME), founded in 1954, is the leading professional association for supply chain managers, buyers and logisticians in Germany and Central Europe.

Fraunhofer IML, founded in 1981, is a global expert on all fields of internal and external logistics. The Institute also currently heads up the largest logistics research centre in Europe.

To download your copy of the report, visit the Fraunhofer IML website.

The procurement function must adapt and evolve to accommodate technology changes and be ready to embrace what we’re calling Procurement 4.0. The question is: Are We There Yet?

Join the conversation on our Big Ideas Summit 2017 group to find out everything that went on at last week’s event.