Category Archives: Big Ideas Summit

Procurement’s Most Valuable Tool In An On-Demand World

Do you know who your non-employee workers are? Where they are? What facilities, networks, and data they have access to? If not, chances are very good that you need a Vendor Management System.

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For most organisations, human capital expenses constitute the largest single cost of doing business, often up to 70 per cent of operating expenses. Human capital is also a growing source of concern for executives who fear they don’t have – and can’t acquire – the top-tier talent they need to compete and succeed in an increasingly on-demand world.

Companies that have traditionally relied on internal workforces of direct employees are increasingly adopting a more flexible, extended workforce approach that lets them adapt quickly to market changes while effectively managing their fixed costs.

To manage this extended workforce, companies increasingly employ sophisticated vendor management systems (VMS). These VMS solutions can do much more than simply automate the contingent staffing process. They can source and manage all types of talent and deliver a wide range of insights to help organisations make better workforce decisions.

Where does VMS fit in your procurement picture?

Simply put, a VMS is the software that automates the hiring process of an organisation’s non-employee workforce. It is often a web-based application that helps manage and procure staffing services, from requisition through billing.

Most VMS tools are delivered through a Software-as-a-Service model. A VMS provides significant improvements in reporting and analytic capabilities that far outperform manual systems and processes. VMS tools are typically operated externally by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or self-managed by a program office within the organisation.

This structure enables a streamlined and automated process with real-time of all contingent labor: who they are, where they are, and what access they have to your facilities, networks, and data.  A VMS allows you to see all relevant job orders and accurately assess labor services spend and performance, often leading to significant cost reduction.

Should you implement a VMS?

Typically, large organisations, or companies who employ more than 100 contractors at a time will benefit greatly from a VMS solution. Companies with non- employee workers in multiple countries and varying labor classes can also streamline their hiring, management, and payment processes with a VMS.

Below are some of the top reasons to implement a VMS for your organisation:

  • Cost savings: A VMS helps eliminate rogue buying of labor and maverick spend. You can gain hard dollar savings by consolidating suppliers and benchmarking rates to gain negotiated savings or volume/early pay discounts, as well as soft dollar savings through process improvements like consolidated invoicing, reduced timecard and invoice errors, and compliance tracking.
  • Visibility: Cost savings from a VMS are driven by the analytics and reporting, which help reveal where and how you are spending money on contract and project-based labor in order to make better decisions for the future.
  • Compliance: Transparent analysis of all stages of the procurement lifecycle provides greater control and ability to enforce procurement strategy and policies. By implementing a VMS and gaining full visibility into your staffing spend and activity, you can ensure that all labor is properly categorized and mitigate risk of potential exposure to co-employment and tenure litigation.
  • Quality: A VMS allows you to measure and monitor the performance of your suppliers and non-employee workforce to ensure there is an efficient process in place for acquiring the best talent at the best rates (through self-sourcing or using staffing suppliers) and a strong program for sourcing and managing statement of work (SOW) contractors.
  • Operational efficiency: By implementing a VMS, you can automate many steps in the procurement process.

How to select a VMS provider

There are many VMS providers in the market today, ranging from software solutions offered by MSPs or ERP providers to independent contingent workforce specialists. Make sure you choose wisely.

Here are eight things you will want to consider when selecting your VMS provider:

  1. Trusted partner commitment: It is critical to find a partner that is willing to invest in a relationship with you, to work with you, and to support your program’s changes, including geographical or labor category expansions.
  2. Financial stability: Your VMS provider should be a viable choice for today, tomorrow, and over the next decade.
  3. Flexibility: VMS providers should understand trends, emerging talent acquisition models, and how best to facilitate sourcing talent.
  4. Expandability: The tool should have the ability to accommodate all labor categories and easily expand to include SOWs, not just contractors on a time and materials basis.
  5. Global reach: Select a provider who understands the tax and labor laws in all geographies where you do business.
  6. Visibility: Robust reporting and analytics capabilities are critical to maximising the value of your investment.
  7. Ease of use: The tool should be intuitive enough so that users can learn about 90 per cent of the functionality on their own. Training, online help, online tutorials, and help desk assistance should be available for the remaining 10 per cent.
  8. Technology compliance: The vendor you’re considering should be certified by an independent service auditor to ensure they have undergone the most rigorous data security assessments and compliance

Now more than ever, contingent workforce managers, procurement teams, and human resource professionals need a significantly enhanced toolkit to address business executives’ priorities. They need innovative solutions that can dramatically lower costs while boosting productivity. They need to find and engage the right people with the right skills – quickly – to deliver better customer value in an on-demand world.

Most of all, you need solutions that will help your companies turn your workforce into a competitive advantage, differentiate your business, and set up your organisations to win. A VMS is that kind of a solution.

For information about the value a VMS can offer your business and how to build a winning business case for a VMS in six easy steps, click here.

Doug Leeby will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. To follow the action live from wherever you are in the world, register as a digital delegate.

Now, More Than Ever, It’s Time For Procurement To Go Digital

At a time when technology is transforming nearly every aspect of the enterprise and its approach to buying and selling, the role of the procurement professional — already central to any organisation — has become even more strategic, more consequential, and more indispensable.

By linking together vast troves of data across enterprises and unlocking meaningful insights, cloud-based applications have freed up procurement professionals from the tangle of day-to-day tactical activities so that they can focus on strategic responsibilities such as supply chain resilience and flexibility, brand protection, and new sources of innovation.

Key Accelerators for Digital Transformation

The transformation is just beginning. As emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things and blockchain begin to take hold, procurement will become even smarter, faster and more connected. And beyond savings and efficiencies, it will open the door to innovations that improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately, impact revenue generation.

Another accelerator in digital transformation in procurement are business networks. They are driving totally new way of interacting and expanding the value that procurement can deliver across the enterprise.  Just like their social counterparts, they bring together millions of buyers and sellers and provide a community in which they can shop, share and consume. On a true many to many platform, trust and transparency are the benefits the network participants find.

Managing Supplier Risk and Corporate Responsibilities

More than ever, customers, regulators and investors hold companies accountable not only for their own ethical conduct, but for that of their suppliers and their suppliers’ suppliers. Companies with strong supply chain practices invest to mitigate any risk and respond to adverse events and recover from the any disruption faster. With business networks, companies can gain the transparency needed to ensure that they are not only in compliance with laws in every locale they operate in, but that they are upholding and advancing their own corporate social responsibility goals.

Leveraging real-time and historical purchasing data, supplier intelligence and business network content, procurement can shine a light on the materials, regions, and suppliers that are most likely to have issues or challenges with unexpected natural disaster, forced labor or conflict minerals. To drive a positive impact, companies may launch campaigns to connect diverse suppliers on the business networks in underdeveloped markets where a little assistance goes a long way.

Supplier Insights for Innovation

Take product design. Suppliers can be rich providers of design ideas, providing insights on new technologies and innovation while improving costs given their technical knowledge of manufacturing processes. Adopting the Design to Value approach, companies involve procurement organisations in the product development process far earlier.

Through business networks, procurement gain significant supplier insights quickly and potentially open the door to new, more innovative and cost-effective ways of producing products and components.  With a better collaboration with suppliers on the networks, the companies can even invent a new product or services and create a new business model. Finding new sources of supply in a global operating environment is exponentially easier with a business network.

Procurement Leading the Digital Transformation

This enhanced visibility and insights in supply chain through data may have once seemed a luxury, but business networks and the technology underlying them make it easier to achieve today. Procurement organisations that embrace these ideas can continue their digital transformation journey and lead their companies to new worlds of operational and performance excellence.

Pat McCarthy will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. For more information and to request an invitation to this leading CPO event, click here.  

Six Steps To Optimise Your Procurement Workforce

To become more agile, companies are re-evaluating their workforce strategies. Although strategists often talk about “total workforce management,” what their companies need most is something much simpler: total workforce optimisation.

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For most businesses, human capital is both the organisation’s most important asset and its largest single operating expense. It is also a constant concern for executives who fear they don’t have, and can’t acquire, the right mix of top-tier talent to compete and succeed.

Total Workforce Optimisation is the process of determining the right mix of employee and non-employee talent to meet operational requirements. It ensures that the organisation has the skills it needs as well as the flexibility to anticipate and respond to market changes.

What it is, and what it’s not

Total Workforce Optimisation is sometimes confused with Total Workforce Management (TWM), also called Total Talent Management (TTM), which is a much larger and more comprehensive process. TWM/TTM not only incorporates the engagement and management of employee and non-employee labor, but also issues such as training and succession planning, which are outside the scope of Total Workforce Optimisation.

Total Workforce Optimisation is also different from Total Talent Acquisition (TTA), which is a subset of TWM/TTM. However, Total Talent Acquisition is compatible with, and can be incorporated into a Total Workforce Optimisation program.

Total Workforce Optimisation is actually very simple. It is nothing more than looking at your organisation’s entire employee base and your non-employee base, putting them together, and determining the right mix to achieve your desired business outcome.

1.Focus on business outcomes

The focus on business outcomes is one reason Total Workforce Optimisation is more specific and easier to achieve than Total Talent Management. While Total Talent Management has the potential to offer great long-term benefits, which are often somewhat abstract, Total Workforce Optimisation is concerned with finding the most cost-effective, highest-quality way to accomplish specific tasks and achieve specific outcomes.

Total Workforce Optimisation is the process of modeling and sourcing the right mix of employees, contractors, freelancers, and consultants—all viable labor options—to achieve the outcomes that are important to your business.

To get there, there are six key steps you need to take.

Step 1: Get the data in one place

To implement Total Workforce Optimisation successfully, you must start by getting all of your workforce data in one place. It is all about visibility.

Most organisations are already doing a great job in terms of employee visibility. You probably have human resource platforms containing all relevant employee data. So, the missing link tends to be non-employee data.

With the advent of vendor management systems (VMS) about 15 years ago, we started collecting data addressing the contractor population. And, about 7 years ago, organisations started managing statement of work (SOW) based activity and putting that data into their systems as well.

With the advent of the gig economy, freelancers represent another large labor pool whose data must be gathered and put in one place where it can provide visibility.

This can be accomplished using your VMS or possibly another system, but the important thing is to gather this non-employee data and make it visible.

Step 2: Risk-proof the workforce

The second step is to risk-proof this workforce, both employees and non-employees. This means ensuring proper classification of every individual worker. Every organisation has a governance model in place to protect against co-employment and statutory compliance risks. To risk-proof your workforce, you must ensure that every worker is in the proper employment bucket.

You start by putting them in the right classification bucket and then ensure that they’re in the right sub-buckets—temporary staff or contractors, W-2 or 1099, outsourced labor, freelancers, interns, or retirees. Then you can confidently put them to work and not worry about what the legal, compliance, or security consequences are going to be.

Step 3: Ascribe quality to all workers

The third step is very important, and for some reason, it appears to be very elusive for many companies. It is simply the process of ascribing quality to all workers and all work efforts.

Organisations do that already when it comes to full-time employees. Virtually all organizations require periodic performance appraisals, as well as quarterly KPIs or similar processes.

So, the concept isn’t foreign, and implementing it is not a challenge. The challenge is to extend this process to contractors, to consultants, and even to freelancers. Sometimes clients tell us that they’re afraid measuring non-employee quality due to co-employment risks. We believe that is only an excuse because there are ways we can assign quality measurements to the work effort and even to individuals without getting into co-employment trouble.

So, organisations must correct this misconception internally. Once you become comfortable with ascribing quality to all workers and all work assignments, you can rate the work and tie the cost equation to the quality equation.

For years, organisations have been so focused on costs and the lowest bill rate. While this is valuable, it is also short-sighted. To optimize the workforce, it is absolutely essential to factor quality into the mix.

Step 4: Merge the data

If your organisation has good employee data, and make a serious effort to bolster your non-employee data, what is next? The next step is to merge those two together.

It does not necessarily have to be one database. Organizations have separate Applicant Tracking Systems and Vendor Management Systems. Analytics programs available today can consume data from both sides with ease. By analyzing and comparing this data, organizations can get to what is really interesting and fun, which is the modeling. Modeling leads to predictions, forecasting, and what-if scenarios. That is the next step.

Step 5: Analyse the data for decision-making

Once the employee and non-employee data is merged, the next step is to analyze and apply the data. Artificial intelligence and the spectrum of the analytics available today allow organizations to use visualisations to discern where changes in the workforce mix will produce the most benefit.

For example, you may traditionally be working with 80 percent employees and 20 per cent contractors. On a specific task that will deliver a specific outcome, what would happen if you changed the mix to 50 per cent full-time staff and 30 per cent consultants, 10 per cent freelancers, and 10 per cent contractors, based on skills? How would that compare to other possible blends of resources.

Modeling also allows you to factor in scarcity of talent, core and non-core positions, and other considerations. Once you start to bring these factors into play, you can engage in a variety of what-if scenarios to determine what would best fit your business strategy.

Step 6: Take action

Of course, the last step is to do it—simply execute a workforce optimisation program. Create a model and try it.

You are probably closer to Total Workforce Optimisation than you imagined. You already have a tremendous amount of data. What you lack—probably the performance quality data from certain elements of your extended workforce—can be obtained with a little effort and the right technology.

Of course, implementing Total Workforce Optimisation cannot be accomplished by snapping your fingers. It will take resources and commitment. But your workforce mix is critical to your organisation’s agility and competitiveness.

So, now is the time to begin to make progress toward the goal. And, frankly, the technology is there to enable you to reach it. To find out more, click here.

Doug Leeby will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. For more information and to request an invitation to this leading CPO event, click here.  

To Appreciate the Value of Digital Networks, Look to the Skies…

How are digital networks providing greater visibility and helping to achieve savings by making risk more manageable? 

On route to a recent conference on how procurement networks are reshaping the aviation industry, I realised how amazing it was to be arriving in the historic city of Athens, the cradle of Western civilisation. My enthusiasm owes not only to the city’s timeless beauty, though that’s reason enough to visit. Athens, it turns out, is ideally suited for such a gathering because it holds a unique place in the imagination for all of us who’ve ever wanted to fly.

When you’re fortunate enough to have as many Greek family members as I do, you learn about the ancient legends. So the fable of Icarus is well known to me.

Icarus, of course, was an early aviator. He looked to the birds and thought, “Why not me?” So he constructed a set of wings using wax and feathers. But his father warned him not to fly too close to the sun as the wax would not tolerate the heat. As we all know, Icarus declined to follow his dad’s advice — and, as he soared skyward, his wings began to melt. Icarus crashed back down to Earth.

What’s the moral of the story? Some people say Icarus was too ambitious, too proud, too single-minded. They say he flew too high.

But I believe Icarus had a different problem. Now, I may not be an expert on classical antiquity. Yet I believe Icarus could have been much more successful — he could have built much stronger, sturdier wings — if he’d only had a better supply chain!

In all seriousness, when it comes to aviation in our own time, there’s no mythology about it: The industry faces immense opportunities but also enduring challenges. High demand and low interest rates have fueled significant growth in recent years. Air transport has doubled in volume every fifteen years, with no end in sight. Aircraft keeps getting more reliable, more efficient, more technologically advanced. But high fixed costs and fierce competition are facts of life for airlines.

That’s why controlling costs spells the difference between success and failure, in every economic climate. To control costs, airlines are turning to technology to improve operations and the customer experience in four main ways: increasing real-time visibility and control, optimising efficiencies across business functions, enhancing service offerings, and deepening customer loyalty through personalisation and rewards programs.

In aviation, we’ve moved from wax and feathers to variable-intake turbofan engines and intelligent avionics. Yet in other respects, the industry remains largely unchanged. After all, the very same factors drive profits year after year:

  • Revenue per passenger kilometer flown. How do airlines engage with customers to generate revenue premiums? Data, of course, plays a key role. What do they know about the passenger in seat 11C?
  • Load factor. How do airlines optimise their routes, aircraft and services to ensure maximum lift per weight? Here again, data proves essential.
  • Unit cost per available seat kilometer. How do airlines maximize efficiency and minimise costs? As with the other factors, the right data leads to the right outcome — for passengers, shareholders, and the environment.

Meanwhile, as airlines seek to optimise value, safety and support while improving the passenger experience, they need to be able to track and manage every part and every piece of equipment. Naturally, it helps to do so when airlines can also track and manage the suppliers of those parts and equipment.

In an industry like aviation, where risk management is so crucial — risks ranging from weather to regulation to commodity prices to exchange rates — savings become essential. Digital networks achieve savings by making risk more manageable. By providing visibility into the interconnected operations of airlines and their suppliers, cloud-based procurement platforms help to identify and resolve issues before they arise, aided by machine learning and artificial intelligence applications.

In addition, digital networks enable trading partners to collaborate on product design and service delivery, thus creating mutual value, extending competitive advantage for their organisations, and empowering them to reimagine not only the airline industry’s future but procurement’s role in shaping it. In the aviation business, real-time collaboration with one’s suppliers unleashes innovation and spurs growth. More often than not, success arises through partnership.

Seldom do we succeed when flying solo.

Continue reading To Appreciate the Value of Digital Networks, Look to the Skies…

Agile Procurement Through the Ages…

Agile principles are all about the decision-making process. What changes should you implement to drive greater value at higher speed?

At IBM, we understand agile as a set of principles and values that when thoughtfully considered across the business, enable quality decision making, empower teams, and delight customers.

In procurement, the Category Manager’s role is to enable their internal customers by eliminating any disruption or friction within the business while also managing cost using their category knowledge and procurement skillset. The key here is the category managers’ ability to have deep category knowledge paired with a breadth of understanding for all internal customer profiles and needs.

As a category manager, team members must build a consultative skill set that allows them to identify pain points, use time wisely, and seek feedback. The result is a category manager who works towards customer needs rather than contract expiration dates and the latest price benchmarks. As a guide, we should seek to digitise and automate as much as possible regarding benchmarking, negotiations, RFx process’, contracting, etc., allowing us to give the appropriate attention to discovering internal customer needs including service levels, pain points, and demand.

What we did before vs. what we do now!

Previously, IBM, like most large companies, hosted a heavily layered procurement organisation requiring multiple sign offs and complex processes in order for decisions to be made. Agile principles are all about the decision-making process. Our leadership knew we needed to make some major changes resulting in fewer layers of management, accountable teams with decision making authority, and greater collaboration across the business, allowing them to drive value for our customers at the speeds they expect.

In a traditional procurement organisation, the category manager’s role is to identify where the savings opportunity is and act accordingly. They do this while following age old processes and having little to no interaction with internal customers. Many organisations seek to use poorly participated customer surveys to get a sense of how well category managers are serving their customers.

Yet, the best way is to open the channels of communication and collaborate with the business, whether it be face-to-face or virtually, allowing category managers to make the right decisions.

While cost reductions are still a priority for nearly all organisations, we found that when we work closely and listen to customers, we can eliminate the costs associated with under and over delivering across the business, which in turn, results in lasting cost savings.

The journey

To achieve this transformation, it takes strong displays from leadership of all the principles and values agile organisations are known for, establishing a belief system across the business encouraging category managers to ask ‘why’ when performing a task their internal customers do not care for or need to be successful. Implementing an agile belief system into a large organisation requires a major cultural change that takes time and patience from all parties.

In this new space, the role of a category manager has quickly evolved from contract and cost management to a crucial role that links business needs to the external marketplace for a specific category of goods. To achieve success in this role, category managers must interact daily with internal customers and evaluate each moment of their time spent not serving their customer’s needs.

Even so, many procurement organisations are too deep into spreadsheets and other manual processes to be ready for such an agile way of working. These manual processes make it impossible for category managers to have the time capacity to be a true advocate and trusted advisor for the business. To lift category managers’ heads from the clutter, organisations must invest in digitising their procurement processes where possible and identify the areas where they are not ready and get ready!

This article was written by Shawn Busby, Global Category Lead- IBM and Norman Braddock, Sourcing Consultant – IBM. 

6 Top Tips From 6 Procurement Influencers

We interviewed some of procurement’s most influential leaders to hear their advice for the global procurement community. Here are there 6 top tips…

Are we running out of humans who can get the procurement job done?

Is the future office-free?

Should every procurement team have a Chief Data Officer?

How do you sell yourself, your team and the profession to the stakeholders that really matter?

Can procurement teams make themselves indispensable?

These are some of the questions that we addressed at last week’s Big Ideas Summit in London, where we brought together the top procurement minds to connect, collaborate and innovate.

Couldn’t join us on the day? Not a problem! We’ve documented all of the highlights for our digital delegates and pulled together this list of 6 top tips for procurement pros from some of the function’s most influential leaders.

1.Become an essential partner to the business – Bob Murphy CPO, IBM

IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, believes that while procurement leaders “need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge, their focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ, and their ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. Listening is critical – When we’re talking, we’re not learning.”

“Project management, empathy, innovative thinking and an agile mind-set are also critical skills at IBM.

“You hear a lot of people talk about procurement leaders becoming “trusted advisors” to their businesses, but I think we need to take it to the next level and become ‘essential partners.’

“We should enhance everything that we touch.”

Read more from Bob Murphy in this article.

2. Procure with Purpose – James Marland Vice President, SAP Ariba

James Marland, Vice President – SAP Ariba argued that it is an exciting time to be part of procurement an professionals should seize this opportunity. Procurement professionals are often told that they’re the ones who save the money, deal with suppliers and cut purchase orders.

But now procurement can have a new agenda; bringing to the table initiatives that achieve crucial social goals such as eradicating slave labour, improving sustainability and creating an inclusive and diverse workforce.

Take that opportunity and procure with purpose!

Read more from James Marland in this article. 

3.  Engineer Serendipity –  Greg Lindsay, Urbanist and Futurist

Greg Lindsay, Futurist, Urbanist, Journalist and Author, is a firm believer in the fact that innovation is fundamentally social. Indeed, case study after case study has demonstrated that the best ideas are more likely to arise from a casual chat around the water fountain than in any scheduled meeting.

They are the result of serendipity – a chance encounter at the right time by the right people, regardless of their rank, affiliation, and department or whether they even work for the same company.

The most innovative companies in the world are busy engineering serendipity and harnessing social networks and new ways of working designed to cultivate the discovery of new ideas. And that’s exactly what procurement should be doing!

Read more from Greg Lindsay in this article. 

4. Take More Risks – Professional Poker Player Caspar Berry

Professional poker player Caspar Berry believes “People are broadly hard wired to be risk-averse. It keeps them alive. Its kept our species alive for however many thousands of years.”

“What we call risk aversion is essentially a desire to succeed in the short term. And a desire to succeed is another way of describing a fear or aversion to loss and risk.

“I don’t judge anyone negatively for not being able to push the latitude and risk level but it’s important to engage in a conversation in order to try.

“Its our own results we’re sabotaging, sometimes inadvertently, if we don’t!”

Read more from Caspar Berry in this article. 

5. Gather data and do something with it- Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group

Top procurement teams achieve their superior performance because they have higher-caliber people who apply their skills to effectively harness digital technologies and capabilities.

Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group discussed the need for procurement professionals to develop two fundamental skills:

  1. Procurement has to get better at gathering and creating big data in order to provide meaningful insights for the business and go beyond the data that we have access to today.
  2. Procurement needs to improve their advanced analytics capabilities, to be able to look at data and draw out the opportunities it offers.

The future of procurement is not about the way we execute processes. It’s really about the insights and intelligence we provide to our organisations to give them an advantage.

Read more from The Hackett Group in this article.

6.  Prepare for the worst – Nick Ford, Co-Founder Odesma

Nick Ford, Co-founder – Odesma discussed how procurement professionals can help turn Brexit into an opportunity for their organisation.

It’s an uncertain time for procurement professionals; who must consider how the function will be impacted by an increase in the cost of imported goods, freedom of movement (or lack thereof!) and a potentially depleted talent pool.

As businesses prepare, the role for procurement teams is increasing dramatically and it’s a real opportunity to put procurement at the front and centre of organisations. We just need to prepare!

Read more from Nick Ford in this article. 

Want to explore more content and video footage from Big Ideas London 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to register as a digital delegate and gain access. 

5 Ways Procurement Can Make Brexit A Breeze

So much about Brexit is still a mystery. But one thing’s for sure – procurement pros can help their organisation turn a negative into a positive!

It’s impossible to say precisely what the role of procurement will be in the post-Brexit world; the future is simply too uncertain.

And it’s easy to infer this sense of overwhelming uncertainty in the procurement world if the results of Odesma’s new Brexit survey are anything to go by.

Despite having conducted two surveys several months apart, very little appears to have changed in procurement teams with regards to their action and response plans.

As Nick Ford, Co-founder – Odesma,  admits “the interesting thing coming out of these surveys is that this is without a doubt the biggest negotiation our country is going through in terms of procurement. But it’s still a very uncertain picture. And we’re right in the middle of it.”

Indeed, over 63 per cent of respondents admitted that they have no risk register or contingency plan in place within their procurement teams post-Brexit.

And a whopping 82 per cent of professionals feel that they are under more pressure than before to reduce the cost of third party goods and services.

It’s a complex time for procurement professionals; who must consider how the function will be impacted by an increase in the cost of imported goods, freedom of movement (or lack thereof!) and a potentially depleted talent pool.

On a positive note, 73 per cent of procurement professionals believe their organisation sees procurement as an important part of its post-Brexit preparation process.

At our London Big Ideas Summit, Nick Ford discussed how procurement can help turn Brexit into an opportunity for their organisation. As businesses prepare, the role for procurement teams is increasing dramatically and it’s “a real opportunity to put procurement at the front and centre of your organisation.”

Here a just a few ways that procurement teams can add value:

1.New Negotiations

Worryingly, according to a couple of the delegates at Big Ideas Summit, some suppliers have already started adding a “Brexit Tax” into their pricing, as well as Brexit clauses within their contracts.

Rather than seeing this as a negative, however, procurement can use this as an opportunity to open negotiations with these suppliers and ensure that value is still being delivered post-Brexit and beyond.

2. Enhance procurement position in the organisation

The survey made it clear that Brexit will put procurement front and centre in organisations.

Procurement functions that show more innovative approaches and see this as an opportunity, rather than a risk, to help companies get their act together can steal the spotlight and use it to their great advantage.

3. Focus on Supplier Risk Positions

According to Helen Mackenzie, Head of Procurement in Scottish Local Government, some suppliers have started to “self-select” for contracts and not bid for overseas work in case risks prove too high post-Brexit.

In knowing this, procurement can understand the risk positions of suppliers and account for this in their tenders. This could mean more local business.

4. Re-engage Stakeholders

According to Nick, one of the biggest opportunities for procurement is re-engaging with stakeholders. Linked to enhancing procurement’s position, the profession needs to gather information from all sides and help to drag heads from the sand throughout the organisation.

5. Drives position of supplier portfolios

Brexit is an opportunity to do some supplier clean up and, as part of that clean up, get some leverage to drive costs down. Spreading the risk for procurement by having a diverse portfolio of suppliers (including local, SME and social enterprises) could give a greater foundation in the future.

Nick’s parting words? “The most positive viewpoints on Brexit are coming from companies that are actually getting their acts together!”

“It’s going to be an interesting time over the next couple of years. And we’ll see procurement rising through the organisation.”

Nick Ford spoke at Big Ideas Summit London 2018. Register as a digital delegate to hear more from him catch up on the day’s action. 

A Little Less Hesitation, A Little More Risk Taking

As human beings, we are naturally averse to risk and uncertainty. But our lives are little more certain than a game of poker – and we’d do well to embrace that! 

Caspar Berry, professional poker player extraordinaire,  knows exactly what it means to take risks. But he admits that it can be a scary business.

“People are broadly hard wired to be risk-averse and that’s not a bad thing per se. It keeps them alive. Its kept our species alive for however many thousands of years.”

“What we call risk aversion is essentially a desire to succeed in the short term. And a desire to succeed is another way of describing a fear or aversion to loss and risk.

“It’s a legacy of a period when we were, like almost every other animal, driven by only short term goals; eating, sleeping and procreation. It’s only a problem when we couple this with a desire to achieve long term goals like sales figures.  In this scenario our desire to succeed in the short term, to close every sale we try and make for example, conflicts with this long term goal and it becomes a problem.”

Life is like a game of poker…

Caspar was first introduced to Poker by a friend when holidaying in Las Vegas in the summer of 1999.  “With my background in, and love for, economics, I got it immediately. Poker is just a game of resource allocation on a terrain of uncertainty which, when you think about it, at a fundamental level is all that we ever do in business and life every day!”

And that’s Caspar’s philosophy in a nutshell. He equates the uncertainty of our everyday, working lives to  game of poker to explain our inherent risk aversion whilst encouraging us to challenge that natural instinct to flee from risk. “I try to show in my work how and why the world is more uncertain than we like to think a lot of the time and why we create that illusion – in order to be able to get through the average day.

“We need certainty and we need the illusion of control in order to be able to function. we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves… it’s in our genes!”

The benefits of risk

If it’s in our genes why on earth fight it? Is there any real benefit to injecting a little extra uncertainty if it pains us so very much to do so?

Apparently, yes! According to Caspar studies show that the more we acknowledge and embrace uncertainty the better our judgement and decision-making apparatus.

“There’s not a lot we can do about most uncertainty: manage risk where we can; mitigate it where possible. But the economics of risk and reward say that resource allocation is most efficient where we can embrace uncertainty, think probabilistically and stop looking for the outcome most likely to succeed.

“By riding the volatility to some extent we can get better ROI as a result.

“Certainty is nice but efficiency and the bottom line is what is important. Take a long term view, accept greater ‘negative’ outcomes’ and ‘negative metrics’ and focus on the metrics that matter.”

Does Caspar believe we should take more risks in our working lives?

“We should. But it’s easy to say. In order to be able to do so we need to be aligned both with our own expectations and those of our organisations.

“It’s no good one person saying they’re going to accept greater volatility for greater long term returns: the person who judges them whether it’s themselves a colleague or boss, also needs to be on the same journey. I don’t judge anyone negatively for not being able to push the latitude and risk level but it’s important to engage in a conversation in order to try.

“Its our own results we’re sabotaging, sometimes inadvertently, if we don’t!”

Caspar Berry spoke at Big Ideas Summit London. Register as a digital delegate to hear more from him and catch up on the day’s action. 

What Is IBM’s CPO Looking For In New Hires?

IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, talks soft skills, AI and what he’s looking for in his leadership team at IBM…

This Article was written by IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy.

Procurement professionals should be excited about Artificial Intelligence and robotic automation.

We’re looking to these technologies to handle the repetitive tasks, the more mundane pieces of work, so that humans are freed up for higher value activities.

Cognitive technologies will also act as advisors enabling procurement professionals with the insights to quickly adapt to changing market conditions.

I learned a long time ago that the key to success is having a great team. And there is a very human element to procurement. There will always be a need for people to handle the relationship management side of the function, with both suppliers and stakeholders and make the strategic decisions.

The acceptance and the excitement around cognitive have grown at IBM as we have educated our employees on the major opportunity that it represents and developed them in preparation for the digital age.

The importance of soft skills in the digital age

As we continue down the digitisation path in the Procurement industry, with more of our transactional functions being automated, there is a greater need for our procurement professionals to increase their soft skills.

When we think of the soft skills necessary for future success in the procurement industry, we focus on building closer stakeholder and supplier relationships. Broadening our communications skills, including active listening is a key enabler to both visibility to value proposition, but also in understanding our stakeholder requirements from their point of view.

Another critical element is having better agility skills; think flexibility, adaptability and speed.

Our requesters who run the IBM business have tremendous demands that can be fluid based upon the market environment. Our procurement professionals need to be able to react in-kind and continue to provide the IBM corporation with the best value and innovation from our suppliers.

Digital credentials have a curriculum of eLearning and experiential training for our procurement professionals to follow as they build their soft skill profile within the procurement context.

Key skills for IBM’s leadership team

In potential members of our leadership team, there are two crucial skills, that we look for.

1) Digital literacy 

Leaders who want to thrive in the procurement profession need to develop an understanding of:

  • Data analytics –we can gather data but how do you use that data to gain insights?
  • Robotic processes – how can you automate tactical processes so human capital is used to the greatest effect?
  • Cognitive computing – understanding how to digitise a process end-to-end so it is interconnected and insightful.

2) Relationship building

While leaders need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge, their focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ, and their ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. Listening is critical – When we’re talking, we’re not learning.

Project management, empathy, innovative thinking and an agile mind-set are also critical skills at IBM.

You hear a lot of people talk about procurement leaders becoming “trusted advisors” to their businesses, but I think we need to take it to the next level and become “essential partners.”

We should enhance everything that we touch.

This Article was written by IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy.

Bob Murphy will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit London 26th April 2018. Register as a digital delegate to hear more from him and follow the day’s action live. 

Could The 21st Century Wilberforce Please Stand Up?

The world is in dire need of a 21st century William Wilberforce to realign the corporate moral compass on this increasingly pressing issue of modern-day slavery

In the early 1800s, the politician and social reformer William Wilberforce famously spearheaded the movement to abolish slavery. His campaign was long and hard-fought, beginning in 1787 with the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and culminating in 1833 when the House of Commons passed the Slavery Abolition Act.

Wilberforce, by this stage, was in poor health and died just three days after seeing his life’s work pay off. But he had achieved what he set out to – slavery was effectively wiped out across most of the British Empire.

Modern Slavery Today

There are more than 30 million forced labourers around the world today.

Now, nearly 200 years later, I can imagine Wilberforce turning in his grave at the prevalence of modern slavery in today’s supply chains and the thought of all he worked for being undone.

According to the International Labour Organisation, there are more than 30 million forced labourers around the, with recent high-profile cases uncovered in almost every industry – from indentured servitude in commercial fishing near New Zealand to child labourers in the cocoa and coffee industries in Latin America and Africa.

Closely analysing suppliers and, perhaps even more importantly – where businesses tend to source their components or raw materials, can reveal alarming and eye-opening results.

A construction company, for example, might discover it is using iron from China, where the industry is poorly regulated and there is a high probability of forced labour.

A search for women’s shirts in Malaysia could reveal cotton sourced from Mali, another potentially problematic region in terms of labour practices.

As with so many areas of modern life, it feels like we’re forgetting the lessons we should have learned from history – to the point that we’re in dire need of a 21st century Wilberforce to realign the corporate moral compass on this increasingly pressing issue.

Procurement pros should take center stage on tackling modern slavery

Procurement has a crucial role to play in the fight against modern slavery. These issues allow procurement to move away from the “back office” and take centre stage.

Previously mundane tasks such as supplier screening actually turn out to be critical in helping a company stamp out the scourge of poor labour practices, indentured workforce and poor working conditions, whether in Bangladesh or the UK – where recently arrived immigrants are working for less than a minimum wage.

More than a third of UK businesses are still failing to combat modern slavery, according to the latest CIPS survey.

The EU recorded the largest increase in slavery of any region worldwide (according to research by British analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft) with 20 of its 28 states reporting higher levels of slavery than they did in 2016.

There is clearly still more work to be done.

Who should step forward and become the new William Wilberforce?

Another Parliamentarian?

A leader with deep religious beliefs?

NGOs?

Pressure groups who can organise boycotts?

Brand attacks might ignite fleeting moments of righteous social media outrage, but society needs to dig a lot deeper to effect lasting change. You can boycott your local shop but that won’t impact a large buyer of steel or soybeans.

You have to persuade companies that it’s not just the right thing to do but that it’s also better business.

My view is the CPOs of the largest companies are best placed to start solving this problem. Collectively, the Global 2000 spend $12 trillion on goods and services annually so by tying their purchases to purposes, these companies can ensure they provide fair labour practices across their supply chain.

Now is the time for a coalition of well-intentioned and influential businesses to come together and become a modern-day Wilberforce that can stamp slavery out for good.

SAP Ariba’s James Marland will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit on 26th April 2018. To find out more information and register to attend in person or as a digital delegate visit our dedicated site.