Category Archives: Career Management

10 Questions to Ask in a Purchase-to-Pay Demo

$1 million is wasted every 20 seconds collectively by organisations around the globe. So, here are some areas to dig into and questions to ask during a purchase-to-pay demo. 

$1 million is wasted every 20 seconds collectively by organisations around the globe.

Yes; you read that correctly – organisations are losing money to the tune of $1 million every 20 seconds due to poor project management practices, according to a recent survey from Project Management Institute (PMI).

This same survey also reported that 52 per cent of projects in the last year experienced scope creep, with one of the main reasons being erroneous requirements gathering.

Seeing these stats and given my profession, I immediately thought of purchase-to-pay projects and how procurement and finance professionals can ensure they have what they need when evaluating purchase-to-pay solutions against their requirements document.

With over 7 years in the business, I’ve seen prospective customers led astray by solution providers making them unsure of exactly what they’re looking for in terms of functionality, and more importantly what they need to solve their business challenges.

Sometimes cleverly crafted demos can gloss over important nuances or mask inadequacies, which can cause major problems later during implementation – and the dreaded scope creep. So, here are some areas that I recommend digging into and questions to ask during a purchase-to-pay demo.

10 questions to ask in a purchase-to-pay demo:

  1. Does the e-procurement solution do line item requisition approval workflow? 

That’s a mouthful, so let’s break it down. Imagine you have a user that wants to buy three items requiring three separate approvers in the e-procurement solution. This person fills the virtual shopping cart with these items, just like on Amazon.

But unlike Amazon, these items need to be approved and POs issued before ordering happens. And because you want your users to get the items they need quickly, you want to make sure the e-procurement solution automatically issues POs and places orders as each individual request is approved without waiting for the other approvals – this is line item requisition approval workflow. The alternative is a linear approval workflow where each step is dependent on the previous step, meaning all the POs are held up until that approval workflow is complete.

This means all POs are reliant on the final approval in the linear chain and the entire process slows way down. Ultimately what happens in the latter scenario is your users get fed up with the slowness of the system and start purchasing outside the system – often referred to as maverick spending – so they can get what they need faster and more easily.

  1. Will I be able to create complex workflows? 

Related to the first question is the ability to create complex approval workflows. While the goal should always be to streamline approval processes, certain business scenarios and regulations call for more complexity, and you should not forgo that requirement because the system isn’t sophisticated enough to accommodate. Don’t let the solution provider try to oversimplify matters or sway you with a sharp user interface – what you need is flexibility. The tool should give you the flexibility to create comprehensive workflows that address all your needs – not create multiple work-arounds that you must maintain. You also should be able to configure the workflow once and leave it mostly intact – which is better from a compliance standpoint – instead of having to constantly adjust to meet business needs.

  1. Will I get budget visibility during the requisition or approval process? 

This is a biggie. Perhaps the greatest advantage of automating your procurement and accounts payable (AP) processes is the visibility you get across the entire buying process. But here’s the key – you need that visibility proactively, not reactively with month-end reports. A proactive approach gives managers the visibility to see how purchase requests impact budgets as the requests are being made in real-time, so they can make informed decisions as to whether to approve or deny the requests based on their budget amounts. If managers can only see how purchases impacted budgets at month-end after the money has been spent and budgets used up, that’s a reactive approach and it’s not good enough.

  1. Is the sourcing tool easy to use?

Most purchase-to-pay solutions now offer sourcing as part of the full suite. In terms of value, this helps streamline more of Procurement’s job so they can focus on suppliers and other strategic procurement initiatives. If you’re adding on this functionality to make someone’s day-to-day tasks easier, it should be user-friendly and not more cumbersome than manual sourcing activities.

  1. Can the system perform partial returns?

Say you get a shipment of 10 laptops and one is broken. You want to be able to acknowledge receipt of ten laptops in the system and note the return of the one broken computer. And, you want to be able to track that broken item through the return process. Returns and tracking returns should not be an all-or-nothing process.

  1. Can the invoice automation solution truly process ALL invoice formats?

Remember those cleverly crafted demoes and nuances I was talking about earlier – invoice automation is a landmine for hidden inadequacies. I often hear of solution providers try to mask solution shortcomings by harping on getting more PO-backed invoices, when in reality driving a higher PO percentage is not going to solve your problems. So, let’s be clear about a few things here: you will always have a certain percentage of non-PO invoices and paper/email invoices are not going away just yet, but there’s no reason you can’t automate the processing of those invoice types anyway.

Therefore, you should choose a solution that can truly ingest and process any invoice type automatically (paper, electronic, EDI/XML, PDF, etc. – covering direct, indirect, PO, Non-PO spending) and convert these documents into true e-invoices (i.e. – invoices with structured data formatting for machine reading without human intervention). Your suppliers don’t need to change how they operate today – if they send paper invoices, they can continue doing that – but you can still get an electronic invoice. Automation of this process is key. Leveraging automation should eliminate the need for your AP staff to key invoices into the solution. It should also automate approvals, handle exceptions like extra costs, create all book-keeping information automatically and map the spend accurately to correct categories, regardless of invoice quality and with zero change management for suppliers. This means there is no disruption in the supply chain and you can get 100 per cent of your supplier on-board.

This was a lengthy section of highlighting nuances, but it’s key to understand why this is so important. The point of achieving this level of automation and sophistication in your accounts payable department is to capture 100% of your enterprise spending data by automating all invoices – not just some – so ultimately you get 100% spend visibility.

  1. Can the invoice automation solution do split coding on invoices at the line and header level?

Let’s say you have a trade show coming up. The event is an investment for three departments: marketing, sales and pre-sales. When you’re coding invoices for the event, you want to have the capability to take the sum amount and split it between the three departments. If you can only split at the line level, you will have to split-code each line three ways and that gets to be time-consuming and inefficient.

  1. Does the analytics solution offer out-of-the-box reporting and customisable reports?

You don’t want to reach out to a customer service representative every time you want to see your own financial data in a certain way – that’s time-consuming, annoying and can be costly depending on your service agreement. Make sure the analytics tool offers configurable dashboards and reports that have standard views to provide a starting point for your analysis, allowing you to drill into the details when necessary, and also gives you the ability to easily create, configure and export your data in the format you need.

Analytics should make your life easier – not more complex.

  1. How are upgrades handled?

The advantages of using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology are plenty, but to reap those benefits you have to be receiving upgrades regularly. Ideally, you want to be on a multi-tenant SaaS environment (if you want the real techy stuff, ask the head of your IT department – this person will know exactly what that means). But in short, this enables every customer in the environment to upgrade at the same time to the newest version.

Other environments stagger upgrades for customers, meaning that not everyone has access to the latest functionality and bug fixes (including features that ensure compliance) and worse, they fall behind on their upgrades. This begins to pose real problems due to fragmented support across various versions, some customers opting to skip upgrades and falling further behind and challenges maintaining the solution.

  1. What happens to custom fields during upgrades?

The custom fields you create and the data associated with those fields should remain intact when upgrades occur. You spend a lot of time and energy defining custom fields during implementation; there is no reason your solution administrator should have to go back in and do re-work every time an upgrade happens. This is a waste of time and you risk loss of data capture if those fields are not re-activated in a timely manner.

30 Under 30 Stars Prove This Enduring Stigma Is Disappearing From the Profession

Procurious uncovers the five factors in common across this year’s inspirational group of 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars.

Delivering over $20 million in cost savings, building a new procurement function from scratch and creating a cutting-edge suite of analytical tools are among the outstanding personal achievements of 30 young professionals named winners in the ThomasNet and Institute for Supply Management (ISM) 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Program.

This award shines the spotlight on a trend that is taking place in companies large and small all over the globe, where Millennials are being asked to step into senior roles earlier than expected in order to fill the vacuum created as an entire generation of Baby Boomers retires.

The generations in the middle, X and Y, are also moving into executive roles, but the problem is that there simply aren’t enough of them to do so. That’s why Millennials are leap-frogging through the ranks in nearly every profession – including procurement and supply management.

This year’s 30 Under 30 winners have been chosen for unique achievements that are particularly impressive so early in their Supply Chain careers. There are, however, five factors that are held in common across the group.

  1. They’re not afraid to change roles and companies

This year’s group of 30 Under 30 winners provides further proof that any remaining stigma around frequently changing roles (or to use the disparaging term, “job-hopping”) is rapidly dissipating in the profession. Rather than being seen as damaging to procurement or supply career prospects, working across different organisations or varying roles within the same organisation is now recognised as an enriching experience that brings crucial diversity to any team.

Flex’s Elizabeth Richter, for example, completed internships at MeadWestvacso, Kohl’s and Cisco before landing a plum role as chief of staff for the CPO at Flex, a company that she calls “supply chain heaven”.

Examples abound among the 30 winners, with similar stories of experience across multiple companies, while a small handful have remained at a single organisation from graduation to the present day.

  1. They’ve all had experience on strategic projects

In general, the 30 Under 30 have rocketed beyond the role of purchasing officers impressively early in their careers. These winners are all strategic procurement and supply professionals, and are being recognised for more than just achieving cost savings but for driving truly game-changing projects. Megawatt Winner Charlotte de Brabandt, for example, successfully coordinated a global team at Johnson & Johnson to find a single global service provider to assist with global energy procurement for 920 sites across three continents. Google’s Neta Berger managed the daily war room meetings that focused on resolving immediate supply shortages after the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami while she was at Cisco.

At Google, Berger has managed materials for international expansion into seven countries of the Google Home and Google Wifi products and was tasked with mitigating risk for the Google Home Mini.

  1. BUT… they still generate significant cost savings

If someone were to total up all the cost savings these young professionals have won for their companies, the figure would prove once and for all the true dollar value of a top-performing procurement professional. For example, United States Steel Corporation’s Chelsey Graham (age 27) drove $20 million in cost improvements with a single high-visibility project with manufacturing stakeholders, while Madeline Martin (Mars Petcare) has saved an estimated $14 million in her short time with the company.

Every one of the 30 Under 30 winners has a similarly impressive cost savings achievement under their belts, demonstrating that while a strategic lens is important, it’s also vital to retain focus on the bottom line.

  1. Falling into the profession is no barrier to success

Is the fact that many people move sideways into supply management the profession’s greatest strength, or weakness? ThomasNet reports that 60 per cent  of the 30 winners planned on a career in supply chain. The winners include a former attorney, a mechanical engineer, a civil engineer, a technology entrepreneur and even a former chef.

Backgrounds like these can only serve to enrich procurement and supply management team skill-sets, especially when combined with the skills of professionals who have a “pure” professional and educational background in supply management.

Megawatt Winner Charlotte de Brabandt, for example, did not originally plan on pursuing a career in supply chain, but soon discovered the opportunities that the profession could offer. “It quickly became a clear career choice for me [after I’d] led a few supply chain projects in different fields of strategic procurement, project procurement, logistics and quality,” she told ThomasNet.

  1. Some organisations are producing 30 Under 30 winners every year

For those of us who have observed the 30 Under 30 program since its inception, a pattern is beginning to emerge where certain organisations have produced supply chain stars nearly every year for the past four years. These companies, including USSC, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont, Dell and the United States Postal Service, are not only talent magnets in the profession but are gaining a reputation for being fantastic supporters and promoters of their top performers in supply management.

In a previous interview with Procurious, ISM CEO Tom Derry talked about the importance of coaching trees in the procurement and supply management profession.

“Sometimes it’s companies, sometimes it’s individuals”, he said. “Certain CPOs have gained a reputation for coaching and developing people who have subsequently left, and gone on to make their mark.” Their organisations benefit by being seen as an employer of choice for top procurement talent, and the CPOs themselves benefit from the dynamism and vitality of a team made up of the brightest the profession has to offer.

Learn more about ThomasNet and ISM’s 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars program here.

Procurious will catch up with the 30 Under 30 winners at the Institute For Supply Management’s flagship event, ISM2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn more about the ISM 2018 Emerging Professions Experience: http://ism2018.org/2018events/emerging-professionals/

4 Realities of a Cloud Spend Management Implementation

Implementing new tools and systems is enough to make the bravest of procurement pros shudder with dread. So what are the four biggest risks associated with cloud spend management implementation…

With a wide array of cloud-based applications on the market, many organisations are saying goodbye to out-dated, legacy systems and adopting new Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. These tools are changing the game in spend management, providing companies with increased visibility across all areas of spending and identifying new opportunities to drive cost savings.

However, despite all of the obvious benefits associated with these cloud systems, implementing a new tool across an enterprise can still be very challenging. For example, change resistance is often problematic when it comes to encouraging end users to utilise new systems. Without proper planning, you risk running into multiple issues that could derail the process and prevent a successful implementation.

Below are the top four risks associated with implementing cloud-based spend management solution:

  1. Getting Suppliers On Board

To successfully implement a new spend management solution, supplier enablement is imperative. The amount of work that’s necessary to get all of your suppliers on board with the implementation is commonly underestimated. In order to get it right, you should develop a supplier enablement strategy that carefully outlines each step of the process. Make sure you clearly communicate all of the changes that will take place, what your expectations are for suppliers, and how implementing the new tool will improve day-to-day workflows.

  1. Navigating the Integration

Don’t believe all the hype that you hear during sales demo—take everything with a grain of salt and follow up with questions about the integration process. Even if the integration sounds simple, remember that somebody has to do the work. There are several things to address regarding integration: Who is doing the mapping and file transformation? Which Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system will be used? Whose standard is being adopted?. You will also want to learn the integration method and inquire about any limitations per integration object. Make sure the vendor spells out all of these details before you sign a contract. This will guarantee you aren’t met with any unwelcome surprises down the road.

  1. Achieving End-User Adoption

Although it has become much easier with SaaS-based source-to-pay (S2P) and procure-to-pay (P2P) systems, achieving end-user adoption is still one of the biggest challenges that organisations face when implementing a new tool. The resistance to adoption typically begins when specific use cases are overlooked or not addressed appropriately. Lack of support from senior leadership, poor communication, and inadequate training can also be roadblocks to end-user adoption. You can avoid these roadblocks by considering all applicable use cases and crafting a detailed communications plan that includes all key stakeholders.

  1. Addressing All Use Cases

To avoid resistance and ensure your new spend management tool is meeting your needs, make sure you have selected a solution that will address each unique use case. Ask yourself: Who will be using the tool and for what purpose? Simply having an assortment of features and functions isn’t enough. In order for the implementation to be a success, you need to make sure you understand how the tool’s features and functions specifically address all of the use cases to ensure the solution meets your business needs.

Although it’s certainly important to keep these major risk factors in mind, don’t let these challenges get in the way of implementing a cloud-based SaaS solution at your organisation. Creating a carefully outlined implementation plan will help mitigate risks and ensure the process goes smoothly for everyone involved.

Are you having trouble selecting a new spend management system or navigating a complex integration? Contact RiseNow today for a free supply chain consultation to help get you started.

This article, written by Matt Stewart, was originally published on Rise Now 

3 Ways To Keep Up with the Social Media ‘Joneses’

What do you mean you had time to read The Economist cover to cover – don’t you have a job to do??! Kelly Barner advises how you can keep up with the Social Media ‘Joneses’.

We all know one… that person in your network that not only mysteriously has the time to think, read, discuss and be oh-so-intellectual about the day’s leading topics, they also broadcast that fact everywhere. Here are some sample ‘shares’ to give you an idea:

“Really enjoyed this article the third time I read it in this week’s issue of the Economist”

“Back from our week-long innovation retreat / chakra cleansing with a revised vision for procurement”

“Pleased to share volume 4 of my treatise: ‘Reflections on the Meaning of Corporate Procurement’”

Honestly. Don’t these people have real jobs? After reading status updates like these, it’s hard not to feel horribly overwhelmed. Let’s face it – the rest of us are scrambling from top priority to top priority. We’re trying to cover the fundamentals while also finding the time to look for opportunities to create additional value.

Here’s the thing: just as people gild their personal experiences on social media to make it look like they have the ‘perfect’ life, they are tempted to do the same at work. Although you may feel a combination of stress and envy in response to their abundant discretionary time, you can convert that energy into something that is not only productive, but realistic to achieve.

Procurement has long been hesitant to engage on social media (eek! a supplier might be looking!!), but the tide is beginning to turn. Here are some suggestions for how to keep up with the ‘Joneses’ without actually becoming them.

Read One New Thing Every Day (Max investment: 15 minutes)

There is so much content published on a daily basis that it may seem just as easy to let it all float by as to pick something to read. And yet… not reading anything is a huge mistake. Don’t think too hard about your selection – it is wasted time. You’re better off reading something mediocre and moving on than making it an hour long task. There is something to be gained from every piece of content – even if it is so complex or boring that your mind wanders to other topics. Let it go! Stepping away from project-related tasks and phone calls may be just the distance you need to foster a great idea.

Post a Comment (Max investment: 30 minutes)

Not everyone is a writer – and not everyone who writes should. That said, there is just as much value to be realised in commenting on or challenging other people’s work as there is in publishing your own thoughts. If you’ve already invested the time to read something, why not make a comment? We are all made better when we are challenged, and sometimes all it takes to get the conversation going is the first comment. You’ll find that articulating your point of view helps you formalise your thoughts in a way that just reacting in your mind doesn’t.

Host a Lunch & Learn

One of the things we have to give procurement credit for is the abundance of high quality – free access – webinars and podcasts. If you come across one that is relevant to your team, reserve a conference room and invite others to join you. If it is during lunch, encourage people to bring something to eat. If not, grab coffee or see if the company will spring for bagels (people love bagels…) The resulting conversation will move everyone forward and add to the shared knowledge base of the team.

The key thing to keep in mind is that you can learn and grow without shoving it in other people’s faces. If you’re focused on using that investment of time to put yourself above other people, you’re missing the whole point of building virtual community and advancing professional development. Plus, we all know the unspoken reality… the more showy people are about their own accomplishments, the more likely they are to be updating their status from their parents’ basement. 

5 Tips On What To Do When Things Go Wrong In Procurement

We share 5 tips on how to manage procurement difficulties when the policies and guidelines fall short and things start going wrong…

Over the course of the last decade, a lot has changed in public procurement. Among other developments, international organisations have gotten more involved in public procurement policy, creating toolkits (think O.E.C.D in Paris), and standardising how procurement is integrated in national strategic plans and development projects (e.g., World Bank programs, and that of other regional and international financial institutions).

There’s also been a big push for procurement legislation to be implemented in evolving and emerging markets, ensuring greater transparency of government spending. In addition, the private sector has found itself more involved in public-private partnerships, and procurement rules have evolved to accommodate this growing trend.

Despite these efforts, one area still lacks sufficient guidance: what to do when things go wrong in procurement!

This article will share 5 tips on how to manage public procurement difficulties when the policies and guidelines fall short. The objective is to avoid or limit potential occurrences that may adversely affect the execution of procurement processes, while maintaining that the expected result must be in conformity with applicable laws, regulations and procedures.

1. Classify problems based impact

Begin by consulting the internal policies and procedures for procurement, and take note of language related to complaints, protests, challenges or errors. Once you identify whether a principle of procurement or an organizational policy has been violated, you must attempt to classify the impact of the problem.
Procurement problems can have either a high, medium, or low impact on the outcome of the process. High impact problems typically affect mandatory aspects of a procurement process and often lead to cancellation. Medium impact errors, may result in a high risk of failure of some aspect of the procurement and can lead to a flawed or failed procurement process. Low impact problems, may be signalled by a disgruntled bidder through a written complaint, or even a formal bid protest, but often lack evidence.

Low impact issues frequently result in “paused” procurement proceedings, reputational damage, or reluctance of potential bidders to respond to future opportunities. You should have a pulse on your organisation’s risk tolerance thresholds. If your organisation is comfortable managing risks, then there may already be a plan in place outlining the resources to assist you in managing procurement difficulties. However, if the organization is risk-adverse, then you will need to develop your own plan, pooling all available resources.

But, before you pull out all the stops, assessing the impact helps to categorise the problem by understanding the procurement risk, then applying practical measures to mitigate.

2. Separate ethical issues from operational ones

Literature on integrity in public procurement tends to focus on conflict of interest, fraud and corruption. Other than advice on disclosure, recusal, or reporting on these incidences, little additional guidance is provided to procurement professionals, unless they’ve received specialized training.

Certainly society has a vested interest in ensuring that public funds are used for their intended purpose, not only because we all benefit when the funds are used for the public good, but also because those funds come from us; the tax-paying public. It is therefore critical that ethical concerns in public procurement be managed apart from operational challenges.

When the principles of fairness, equal treatment, and due process are violated, they can taint the credibility of the entire process, and that of involved public procurement officials to a degree resulting in termination of employment. Worse yet, integrity matters can lead to criminal liability.

Fortunately, there are tools and mechanisms specifically designed to address ethical dilemmas including: ethics codes; declaration and waiver forms; internal and accounting controls; segregation of duties; and access to ethics officers, among other options.

All of the above should be implemented vigorously from the top to bottom of the public procurement hierarchy to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

3. Keep and follow a procurement audit trail

An audit trail is documentary evidence of the sequence of activities that have affected, at any given time, a specific procurement procedure. It ensures there is an internal control environment that supports a transparent procurement process.

In procurement, the audit trail consists of two main categories:

A. Information about the actual data generated; it’s the who, what, where, what kind, and how many documentation of the procurement process; and

B. Information about how data was analysed (e.g., notes kept by evaluators, information flows in committee, identifying who will be responsible for what, etc.).

Procurement professionals should be informed of the scope of the audit, which would provide a window on the risk areas requiring special attention in any procurement organization. Procurement errors tend to revolve around completeness, timeliness, and accuracy of processes. Resulting recommendations often point to areas for improvement in procurement planning, tools, training, monitoring and reporting, and staffing resources. Pay particular attention to those.

4. Integrate other resources across your organisation

Procurement challenges whether in the form of bid protests, professional error in the process, failure to adhere to the terms of the solicitation, or the like, should not be managed in a silo by the procurement department. Going it alone is not an option!

Team effort is particularly necessary when managing public procurement spend. A good team scenario would involve four to five staff, including:

i)  the manager of the affected department;

ii)  the procurement professional in charge of the process in question;

iii)  a legal procurement expert who can explain the legal implications for the organization and enforce the organisation’s legalstrategy, including who can bring a challenge, under what rules, in what forum, and potential legal consequences;

iv)  a subject matter expert (on call) who can provide specific information on the product or service being procured, including market conditions; and

v)  a financial or accounting member who understands the budget lines of the organisation and keeps tabs on potential expenditure linked to the procurement error or challenge.

5. Seek external expert guidance

Best efforts should be made to resolve the matter internally, however, sometimes, the internal resources are insufficient. If your organisation permits seeking external assistance, and there are no available in-house “experts” with the experience to assist, then external resources may be the best option.

In addition to international agency guidelines, other tools to explore include:

i) national laws, with associated guidelines on how to manage procurement issues;

ii) specialty firms for procurement professionals, offering on-line consultations; and

iii) local, national, and international trade associations which offer case studies, “thought” pieces, and news-setting precedent from procurement experiences gathered from global sources. Many professional associations also offer webinars and chats with other procurement professionals, which allow anonymity, while offering a chance to share experiences and seek guidance to facilitate answers to the most difficult of procurement problems.

In the end, whether in procurement or any other field, experience is your most important ally. The more experience we gain, the more we develop the competencies necessary to manage procurement challenges, along with the confidence to do so with ease. Each challenge brings important lessons, and each lesson will help you overcome new obstacles the next time things go wrong in procurement.

Public Sector Procurement Talent: Fact V Fiction

The search is on for top talent to fill an increasing number of procurement roles. But is the public sector being beaten to the finish line by its private sector counterparts?

In the first in a series of articles charting the key issues facing public sector procurement, we examine the facts and fictions of the public and private sector battle for talent.

Talent and recruitment – just two of the key issues for CPOs and Heads of Procurement around the world. As the role of procurement expands, managers need to know their teams have the right skills for the job. For many, this means searching for the profession’s top talent, the high achievers. The superstars.

But identification is only half the battle. Actually attracting these stars to your team is another challenge entirely. And this is where many believe that the public sector loses out to its private sector counterpart. But how much truth is there in this?

The Facts

According to the CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide 2017, 70 per cent of managers said they were planning to recruit within the next 12 months. However, 51 per cent also admitted that they faced challenges in finding the right talent in the face of a skills shortage and budget constraints.

Let’s set budgets aside for a moment. There is a distinct set of skills required for success in public sector procurement. Sure basic skills are all transferrable, but public sector professionals need to adapt to a very different, highly political, environment.

Add in the requirement to drive new ideas, use specific IT systems, and operate within the bounds of EU Procurement Regulations and you’re starting to look at quite a bespoke skill set.

Speaking from experience, the majority of these skills can be learned or trained. But with budgets (that word again!) tight and time short, training is becoming an increasingly unaffordable luxury for many in the public sector.

This means public sector hiring managers are chasing the white rabbit – those professionals with all these skills, able to hit the ground running on Day 1.

But in a sellers’ market where there are an increasing number of procurement jobs to be filled, professionals with these skills are in demand. And this comes at a price.

All About the Money, Money?

Money isn’t everything and it can’t buy you happiness (according to Rousseau at least), but it is a key driver for procurement professionals when they look for new roles.

According to the CIPS/Hays Guide, 72 per cent of respondents highlighted salary as the key factor for a new role. This is compared to 41 per cent and 36 per cent for flexible working and non-salary benefits respectively.

The money argument seems to be borne out by the average salaries across the sectors in the UK:

  • Private Sector – £46,825
  • Public Sector – £40,915
  • Charity Sector – £40,379

And the trend continues when the average salaries are broken down by seniority within the public and privates sectors (see below):

The picture doesn’t get any better for the public sector when bonuses are taken into account either. In 2017, an average of 50 per cent of professionals received a bonus in the private sector, versus only 13 per cent in the public sector.

However, the public sector may have the beating of the private sector in one facet – non-financial benefits. Over two-thirds (67 per cent) of public sector professionals have access to flexible working (versus 36 per cent of the private sector), along with greater provision for support for study and career development.

The Permanent vs. Temporary Debate

The other option open to hiring managers is bringing in interim or contract workers. This has proven to be a good way of providing additional resources in a flexible manner for specific projects or time periods. The CIPS/Hays Guide states that 61 per cent of public sector organisations will recruit in this way.

While this suggests that there is an attraction for some professionals in contracting, many looking for new roles want the security and safety of a permanent contract. So how much truth is there in the belief that the public sector isn’t able to offer this type of contract?

While it was certainly more fact than fiction when it came to salaries, there is certainly less evidence for the permanent-temporary contract question. A search across UK job sites for public sector procurement roles shows that actually there are almost twice as many permanent roles advertised as temporary, contractor or interim roles.

So taking this factor out of the equation, what solutions are available to the public sector to meet the recruitment challenge?

Redressing the Balance

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Budget restraints make it nearly impossible to compete on salaries, bonuses and other financial benefits. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There is plenty to offer besides salaries that make jobs attractive.

The CIPS/Hays Guide shows that the majority of public sector organisations are making flexible working available to their employees. Having contracts that are as flexible as possible only increases their attractiveness at a time where people (and many organisations) are looking to step away from the traditional desk-bound, 9-5 roles.

Flexible working hours, flexi-time, working from home and contracts allowing greater work-life balance are just some of the non-financial benefits job seekers will look for.

The second area is the attractiveness of the roles. This might seem like a counter-intuitive argument given what’s been said before, but this doesn’t relate to money, contracts, or working hours.

A common (mis)conception of the public sector is that it isn’t as interesting. The truth is far removed from this. From roles that allow procurement professionals to directly impact their cities for the better, to working on major, one-off projects – think the European Championships in Glasgow in 2018, or the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.

And these are just a couple of highlights in the vast array of fascinating projects in the areas of sustainability, technology and services only available in the public sector.

Raising the profile of these roles or projects and their interesting, challenging and diverse nature can only help to attract the superstars.

So here’s my challenge to you in the public sector. What are you going to do to help?

6 Ways Procurement Pros Can Be More Effective

87 per cent of organisations have faced a disruptive incident with suppliers in the last 2-3 years. How can we work in more effective ways?

Transforming into a strategic procurement organisation is not an easy journey. But there are a few obstacles that procurement teams should address sooner rather than later when thinking about how to be more effective in procurement. Here are 6 challenges to tackle today for success in the future:

1. Unproductive business relationships

The majority of CPOs rate their current business partnering effectiveness at less than 70 per cent with hopes of greater than 90 per cent in the future.  How can procurement become a better business partner? By creating a purchasing process that is the easiest, fastest and most affordable way for business partners to do their jobs. Users need what they need to do their jobs and they need those items quickly – and that’s all they care about. If you roll-out an e-procurement solution that is truly the easiest way for employees to request those goods and services within the natural course of their daily work, they’ll use the system and they will see the value that procurement is delivering. And when managers see how this process streamlines approvals and helps them better manage their budgets with real-time tracking, they’ll become champions of procurement as well.

2. Slow, inflexible approval workflows

Speaking over approvals, we’ve seen hundreds of approval workflows, each unique based on business maturity, locations, department structures and technologies. But a consistent challenge among many companies is that approval workflows often make purchasing more difficult for the requester. If requesters could make their purchases without needing to understand approvals or the inner workings of the procurement department, imagine how much easier it will be to get them spending in the preferred manner. Procurement professionals should look at ways to minimize the impact of approvals on the end-user. One way to do this is what we call “line item requisitioning.” This is when the approval workflow is configured so a single requisition/shopping cart can be split and sent through separate approval paths at the line item level. This means that items on the requisition that require fewer approvals get approved and POs are submitted, without being held up by other items that may take longer to get approved or require more reviews. And, the approvers only see the items on the request that pertain to them, making it quick and easy for them to sign-off on the items.

3. Supplier risk & fraud potential

87 per cent of organisations faced a disruptive incident with suppliers in the last 2-3 years. Risk inside of the supply chain remains a focus for procurement leaders. So, what’s the key to reducing risk? Transparency. The more transparency you have with suppliers, the more you can build up those relationships and better understand your suppliers’ needs. Perhaps you find out you have a key supplier that is struggling with cash flow needs – work with this business partner to understand their position and look at strategic payment programs that benefit both parties to mitigate that risk upfront. You can also leverage the wealth of data at your fingertips to pinpoint issues like this early on and better manage supplier data to prevent fraud.

4. Lack of spend visibility

If you want to know how to be more effective in procurement, I have two words for you:  spend visibility.

Every strategic procurement initiative starts with knowing how 100 per cent of the company money is being spent – not “some” of the money, all of it. 40 per cent of CPOs are focused on consolidating spend, but if they’re not seeing the full picture, those efforts will prove futile. Spend visibility – from both direct and indirect spending – allows CPOs to do what they do best, including: consolidating spend, rationalising the supply base, leveraging volume buying, negotiating better contracts, sourcing strategic suppliers and more. The data needed to support all of these activities is in the company spend data.

5. Manual reporting and analytics

65 per cent of organisations are accelerating investment in procurement-related analytics. But you really need to accomplish 2 things before making this investment: 1) Capture 100 per cent of financial data 2) Focus on data science within the procurement department. If you aren’t capturing 100 per cent of your data by on-boarding all your suppliers, achieving 100 per cent user adoption and processing 100 per cent of your invoices through the purchase-to-pay solution, your analytics tool won’t have the data needed to give you the right insight. And, once you have that data, you need someone who understands how to turn actionable insight into results – so make sure your procurement team is thinking about the skills they need for the future.

6. The talent gap related to technology

Related to the skills needed for the future is the talent gap procurement is experiencing, especially when it comes to technology. 87 per cent of CPOs believe talent is the single greatest driver of procurement performance, and yet organisations spend less than 1 per cent of their budget on equipping and training their procurement teams. Think about the tools, technology and training your procurement team needs to keep up with organisational transformation and deliver value, then start developing skills in those areas now – procurement is only going to get more digital. Check out my recent post on bridging the talent gap in procurement for other tips on attracting, hiring and developing new talent for this function.

If you’re questioning how to be more effective in procurement, overcoming these challenges will put you on the course for success. At Basware, we have a heritage in helping companies transform, so you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out– we’re here to help.

These stats are taken from Deloitte’s Global CPO Survey

PLEASE FIRE ME: I JUST CAN’T QUIT!

Stuck in a miserable, but well-paid, job you can’t afford to quit? Don’t get yourself into that position in the first place!

Philip H. “hates his life”. Those are his exact words. Specifically, he hates his all-consuming job. The work bores him and he no longer believes in his firm’s mission. The gruelling hours he puts in cost him time with his family that he can never recover.

Here’s the kicker: Phillip earns several million dollars a year heading a major office of a top-tier advisory firm. So, you might ask, why doesn’t he quit?

He’s says he can’t afford to.

There’s a big mortgage on a luxury apartment, and another on the beautiful beach house he and his wife bought two years ago. (“The summer weekends we spend there are the only thing that keep me sane,” he says.) Then there are the three kids—all enrolled at a private school. The eldest will start college in a year; the others will follow soon. Tallying up his obligations, Philip envies his Wall Street friends who earn ten times as much as he does.

A couple of days ago I mentioned this story to a well-known financial columnist. “I hear this all the time,” he said. “Lots of people moan about how miserable they are at work but they can’t see a way out.”
“Boo, hoo,” you might say. “I’d trade places with Philip in a heartbeat.” But would a huge income really make up for feeling horrible about your life?

You might think that you could put up with a few years of misery for the freedom it would buy you. You’d put a lot of money in the bank, and then walk away to do whatever you like: launch a small company, or spend the rest of your days lolling on the beach. Maybe you’d devote the rest of your life to doing good in the world. Whatever your goal, you’d collect your last paycheck and say, “Adios.”

It’s not that easy, though. You wouldn’t make a bundle starting out. You’d have to put in your time first. And when serious money began to come in, it would be tempting to reward yourself creature comforts for all the stresses you endure. The higher you climb the ladder, the harder it will be to leave. Then one day you’d turn around and find yourself in Philip’s unhappy shoes.

It might seem that I’m writing about a problem that affects only a small set of people. But I think Philip’s case illustrates issues that apply wherever you are now in the organisational hierarchy, and whether you love your job or loathe it.

Most work choices aren’t either/or

It’s late in the game for Philip, but assuming a different role in his firm might be rejuvenating. Going on sabbatical might set a great example for other colleagues. By framing his decision as stay-or-go, he’s missing other opportunities.

If you’re unhappy at the office, other people know it

Philip’s negativity must come out sideways. If he hates his own job, how can he be enthusiastic when a colleague lobbies for a new project? A big part of his job is evaluating other people’s performance. His attitude is bound to warp his judgement. (I also worry about what he’s like at home.)

Toughing things out is not a career plan

Somehow Philip drags himself to work every day. Maybe he takes pride in his perseverance. As they say, however, “persisting in the same behavior expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” The way things are headed, he risks getting pushed out by his peers. Maybe that’s his subconscious agenda, but it would be an ugly way to go.

Plan your end game

When you take on a job, set a date when it will be time to move on to something else. You can always revise it one way or another, but it’s usually better to leave a year early than a year too late.

The most important lesson of Philip’s story is not getting into his situation in the first place. If Philip had kept these precepts in mind, he would have been alert to his growing feelings of frustration. At an earlier point, a lateral move to another firm or an entirely different field might have been easier. And if he had allowed for the possibility that the job might get stale, he might not have saddled himself with so much debt. But by the time he realised he was on a treadmill, he had gone so far he felt he couldn’t step off.

Sunk cost traps aren’t just financial. They can also be social, emotional, and deeply personal. Philip may have trapped himself with worries about what others will think about his walking away from what most regard as a dream job. I’d remind him of Samuel Johnson’s advice – that we’d worry less about what others think of us if we realised how seldom they do.

In the end, Philip’s self-respect is what counts. Walking away might feel as if he’s repudiating how he’s spent his recent years. But to me, belatedly changing an unhappy life sounds a lot better than doubling down.

This article was written by Professor Michael Wheeler and was originally published on LinkedIn. 

It was first published on Procurious in August 2017.

Professor Michael Wheeler’s Negotiation Mastery course on Harvard Business School’s HBX launched earlier this year. Applications for the next wave of students, starting in September, are now being accepted. Version 1.4 of his Negotiation 360 self-assessment/best practice app is available for both Apple and Android devices. It includes coaching videos and a tactics exercise.

5 SOFT SKILLS PROCUREMENT PROS SHOULD BE DEVELOPING…NOW!

If you want to hold on to your procurement career  in the long term, you ought to be worrying about mastering your soft skills!

We got wind of the fact that IBM, arguably the world’s most robotically advanced procurement team,  is focussing on its employees’ soft skills.

As Justin Mcbryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM, explained,  why would IBM need a high volume of data scientists in their midst when they have Watson!?

Technological advancements will soon permit the automation of our processes; handling the sourcing and the market intelligence. In this environment, it’s the softer skills procurement professionals must master to ensure a long-term career.  That’s the real skills gap procurement should be worried about!

In this blog we outline the specific skills procurement pros should be mastering to prepare for the post-cognitive age, with the help of Justin and John Viner Smith, Principal-Mercer.

1. Design Thinking

There are some “incredible and transformative technologies that offer solutions to problems that were unimaginable just a few years ago ,but they’re just half of the puzzle.” begins John.

“Subject matter experts will have a role to play in framing  [these problems] in the most efficient way.”  It’s important that the solutions aren’t simply “sticking plasters but fundamental root cause fixes”.

This is a role for procurement’s best and brightest, and the skill needed to fulfil this role is Design Thinking; “the process of being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to bear on business problems.”

2. Thinking at the speed of digital!

Joh asserted that procurement must recognise that “thinking of digital solutions requires some understanding of new processes and ways of thinking.”

“Procurement people should be learning about methodologies like Google’s Design Sprint or Eric Ries’ concept of Intrapreneurship as defined in the Lean Startup that are used in other types of digital business.

“Too often procurement thinking is slow, bound in process and incredibly risk averse. Technology problem solving is experimental, iterative and views failures as key to learning. The idea of developing hypotheses, testing them, failing fast and iterating or pivoting in the course of a week, as per Google’s Sprint methods, would be alien to many Procurement people.”

Procurement has worked at a certain pace,  thus far. And it’s going to  have to get faster!

3. Active questioning and listening

This wouldn’t be a piece about soft skills without a mention of communication! We already know how important this skill is for procurement people but it’s going to be all the more valuable in a post-cognivite age.

Justin reminded us that communication is vital for everything “from presentation skills to phone etiquette and how to ask probing questions to your suppliers.”

In a post cognitive world you’re “going to become more of an owner and less of a process facilitator” asserts Justin, which is where active listening comes in.

When it comes to managing negotiations with suppliers, clients and colleagues, “We all have scripts e.g. How many widgets do you need, when do you need them by etc.”

“Every now  and then, you’ll have  been in a situation where a client has given a little bit more than you asked for. This is where the active [and critical] listening comes in.” How do you use that information to do the best job possible?

4. Negotiation

“We rely on the threat of competitive pressure to do our negotiating for us” says John.

“We source the spec and don’t always listen to challenges from Suppliers. When we’re engaging them to help solve complex problems, we will need to be more commercially empowered and highly skilled negotiators; able to get the best from our suppliers by offering the best of ourselves while optimising value.”

5. Imagination

“The future role of procurement can be solved in one phrase: problem solving” says John.

But procurement’s problem solving needs to take on a more innovative and imaginative approach.

“Not every situation is going to call for an RFX” explains Justin. “That speaks directly to the change we’re looking for [at IBM].” Too often “we see a need and our reaction from a process point is let’s go and do the RFX.”  Instead professionals “should take a deep breath and start understanding the client and exactly what they need,” and approach the problem in alternate ways.

John concedes, arguing that “running tender might be the solution (increasingly rarely!) but collaborative innovation with the suppliers we have is important.”

Procurement peoples’ jobs will largely focus on bringing innovation to the supply chain in the first place and really helping the business to understand their demand.

In short, Procurement needs to have a relationship with the organisation that is much more strategic and puts the function in a partnering and consultative role.  As Justin sums up, ‘ [at IBM] We’re still looking for the procurement experts, we’re still looking for people who can do the job. But we’re adding to the soft skills portfolio.”

This blog was first published in October 2017. 

Exploding The 4 Social Enterprise Myths

Social enterprises require a LOT of extra procurement work and handholding. So it’s totally fine to avoid them…right?

We love busting the most common myths in procurement.

And there’s no myth more satisfying to bust than one that can benefit everyone.

There’s a lot of misinformation going around about the pros and cons of social enterprises. So we decided to find out the actual facts from an expert.

We spoke to Mark Daniels, Head of Market & Sector Development -Social Traders and asked him to clarify a few of the most common misconceptions about social enterprises.

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises (SEs) are businesses that trade to intentionally tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people access to employment and training, or help the environment.

Using the power of the marketplace to solve the most pressing societal problems, SEs are commercially viable businesses existing to benefit the public and the community, rather than shareholders and owners.

Social Traders, Australia’s leading SE development organisation, define a SE by the following three factors:

  1. They are driven by a public or community cause, be it social, environmental, cultural or economic
  2. They derive most of their income from trade, not donations or grants
  3. They use the majority (at least 50 per cent) of their profits to work towards their social mission

We asked Mark Daniels, Head of Market & Sector Development at Social Traders, to bust some of the most common myths associated with SEs.

Myth 1: SEs are less capable

The idea that SEs are limited in terms of capability are generally not founded, explains Mark.

“But many are limited in terms of scale. There are very few SEs that can be a major tier 1 supplier, which is mostly what procurement teams are looking for.”

Procurement teams, instead, “have to become more creative and look to tiers 2 and 3 to buy from or work with organisations like ours to work out new and different ways to buy from them.”

Another option is to encourage tier one suppliers to buy from tier 2 SEs.

Myth 2: SEs are a risky business

“To date, we haven’t seen any examples where SE have failed during contracts,” asserts Mark.

“Delivery is comparable to private sector suppliers.”

Myth 3: SEs are expensive

“Just like any other supplier; some [SEs] can be expensive, or the same, or cheaper.”

“We run a SE audit of any new buyer members. Coca Cola Amatil, for example, was spending over one million dollars on SEs and didn’t even know it!”

“There are 20,000 SEs turning over 3 per cent of the Australian economy. They’re already winning work without preferential treatment!”

“In some cases corporates do assist SEs with capacity building. This might involve paying more now but they know that in three to four years they’ll achieve scale and prices will drop.”

Myth 4: SEs require a lot of handholding

A lot of the time, SEs won’t require any more support than their private counterparts. “Coca Cola discovered that they had four or five SEs that didn’t require any hand-holding – they simply won the tender processes.”

On some occasions, however, “procurement may realise that these suppliers need help.”

“Social Traders has shifted to invest heavily in capability building for SEs. Some SEs need help to transition from a $1m to a $5m business. That’s the sort of assistance we’re giving – strategic support, accessing capital and so forth.”

“We’re also seeing things like 90-day payment terms being an issue.” Which is something procurement teams can work to change.

“The industry is starting to change the way they do payment terms – Broadspectrum, for example, has moved to 14 day payment terms for SEs and indigenous businesses.

“Suddenly more suppliers can work with Broadspectrum.”

Social enterprise policy

As we explored in last week’s blog , countries around the world are taking different approaches to improving their supplier diversity.

Buying from SEs is a great way to start.

In Australia, the opportunity around SEs came off the back of indigenous procurement proactive policies, which set targets and created social procurement systems in government to enable targets to be met.

“Level Crossing Removal Authority requires that 3 per cent of the supply chain must be indigenous-owned or SE businesses, or SE.

This has been quite powerful in changing behaviour in the infrastructure industry. We will see hopefully something to the tune of $300 million spent with SE or indigenous businesses.”

“France, Germany, Austria have requirement that around 6 per cent of your workforce and supply chain have to be people with disabilities. If that isn’t the case you have to pay a higher tax rate.”

“That tax was used to create more SEs to help people with disability. It’s an impressive policy.”

About Social Traders 

Social Traders is an Australian organisation that works to put social enterprise into business and government supply chains. They do this in order to create employment for the most disadvantaged by increasing the trading activity of social enterprises and to create new value streams for buyers.

It emerged over time was that there was a new marketplace starting to establish, which was corporate and government buyers interested in delivering social value through their procurement processes.

Social traders enable more organisations to buy from SEs, certifying them to give buyers the assurance that they aren’t being deceived. Because, as soon as social enterprise becomes a competitive advantage in a tender process, people will claim they are when they’re not

The impact of Social Traders work is impressive. In 2017 they enabled approximately $20 million in deals, which translated roughly to 300 jobs for disadvantaged people.

Their target in 2021 is $105 million in deals, creating 1500 jobs.

“We can see a market where hundreds of millions will be going to SEs every year.”

This can start to make a real dent in the unemployment of disadvantaged people.  Social procurement is a real lever for addressing social inequality.

Procure with Purpose – Join the movement

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Enrol here to join the Procure with Purpose group and gain instant access to our exclusive online events.