Category Archives: Career Management

I Don’t Have Time To Do Market Price Research

We’ve all experienced it – a niggling feeling that we could have gotten a lower price for a product or service … if only we’d done our research. But who has that sort of time?

IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, is concerned that his peers around the globe aren’t getting a proper night’s rest.

“Chief Procurement Officers lose sleep at night worrying that their procurement teams are buying over market prices or that falling prices in a particular category of spending are not being rapidly achieved.”

Access to data on historical prices paid and current market conditions isn’t the problem. The data is out there, and readily available, but it takes time and resources to do the research, and it’s a never-ending task.

Monitoring the market is too big a job for a single person, which leaves our sleepless CPO with two options:

A) Carve out an entire team to do the research, or

B) Bring in Artificial Intelligence through a robot to augment the team capabilities.

And that’s what IBM has done. The procurement team collaborated with data scientists and developers to design a solution harnessing external data and analytics that provides users with market intelligence, historic IBM purchasing data, and market sentiment surrounding subcontractor services. IBM Watson Analytics partners with “PeopleTicker” to ingest real-time, external market intelligence providing a comprehensive view of global markets. By comparing historical data with current market information, buyers get an immediate view on the price difference that may be available, enabling new levels of cost competitiveness to be achieved.

The result is “Pricing IQ”, a product where millions of data points can be efficiently organised with interactive graphics and visually clear dashboards where useful trends and insights can be identified. This solution opens opportunities for live price negotiation via the use of advanced analytics – with significantly reduced manual workload for the buyer.

Alongside Watson Analytics, Watson’s Explorer and Alchemy software capture key words and provides sentiment analysis to indicate rising or falling markets. Additionally, PeopleTicker’s data is integrated within the “Pricing IQ” product enabling a seamless solution for our customers. “We have been using PeopleTicker internally now for over 2 years. As a client, they have provided us with over 10,000 global rates. What started as a client relationship has grown into a Watson Analytics partnership.”

Real time insights

If you’re hurtling down a freeway in a high-performance car, having a speedometer that only shows yesterday’s speed isn’t going to help you. That’s why access to genuinely real- time data is emerging as one of the key competitive advantages across procurement functions. The team that developed Pricing IQ recognised this, and have built in real-time alerts for action.

Take A Bow, Pricing IQ

You’ll be hearing a lot more about Pricing IQ, especially since the solution won the Most Innovative Use of Technology Award at the 2017 CIPS Supply Management Awards.

Like all good innovators, the IBM team identified a significant pain-point held in common by procurement teams across the globe, and came up with an idea that eases the burden.

So, the next time you’re manually wading through reams of pricing data and wondering to yourself if there’s a better way – be assured, there is.

3 Essential Ways to Motivate Staff and Improve Morale

Want to lead a happy and productive workforce? When it comes to improving staff morale, you need to focus on three key factors. 

As a leader, you have several concerns and major responsibilities that all need your attention. This means you must be able to focus on the big picture: if you constantly have to look over the shoulders of your employees, it is going to be difficult for you to manage the larger matters that can affect the success of your organisation.

You may worry that employees will have trouble staying on task and meeting goals if you are not there to supervise. While keeping your team motivated is important, you don’t have the resources to hand out huge bonuses and you don’t want to try to rule your business through fear.

The answer to this problem is to build a culture of accountability: express the value of accountability and integrity in the workplace, have time to communicate with your employees, and make sure that you are giving regular performance reviews to let your employees know that you value their contributions.

Trust is Better Than Fear

Fear can seem like an effective tool for getting more out of your employees. It is common for some leaders to believe that they need employees to fear the potential outcome of a mistake. The problem is that fear does not build authentic motivation. The person is not performing because they want to, but rather in order to avoid an unfavorable reaction.

If you want to inspire true motivation, you need to build trust with your employees. Much of this trust building comes from open communication. In a survey of 1,000 US workers, 91 per cent said that communication issues can negatively impact the effectiveness of a leader. This includes things like not giving clear directions and not having time to meet with employees.

As a leader, you need to make sure there is time to communicate with your employees. Make sure they understand their responsibilities, ask them questions about their work, and encourage them to talk about their successes.

Set an Example

You want your employees to be responsible and to act with integrity, but these values have to come from the top. If leadership does not demonstrate these values in their work, it is going to be difficult to get employees to accept them as their own.

Furthermore, as a leader, you have to be willing to admit when you made a mistake. If something fails on your end, you can’t pass the blame onto those who work for you. If employees see their leaders are unwilling to hold themselves accountable, they are not going to accept responsibility either.

Promote the Positives

Since fear is not a good motivator, you should look to the positive side of work as a source of inspiration for your employees. According to a study from the Boston Consulting Group, appreciation for the work done is the top factor that affects employee happiness.

Let your employees know that you appreciate the work they do. You should even give compliments for minor accomplishments–employees perform better when they know they are appreciated. The simple act of showing recognition can increase happiness, motivation, and productivity in the workplace.

You don’t need to give out extravagant perks to motivate your employees. By promoting the right values and communicating with employees in the right way, you can motivate people without having to resort to punitive measures or handing out bonuses that you can’t afford.

Read more on 15Five

This article was written by Rae Steinbach. Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. 

Procurement with Purpose: Beyond the Bottom Line

How can you embrace the notion of procurement with purpose authentically and in ways that are consistent with your core beliefs and ideals?

Sustainability improves the bottom line, and companies can do good while doing well.

In fact, research shows that purpose-driven companies with strong performance in environmental, social, and governance outperform the market by 4.8 per cent. But this is not “new” news.

So what is different now that makes purpose more vitally important? It comes down to transparency and trust.

In many segments of life, trust is at an all-time low. The swarm of misinformation, slanted stories and editorials, and paid reviews have continued to foster these low levels of trust. This presents a unique challenge to companies.

How do companies and we as leaders embrace the notion of purpose authentically?

How do we do so in ways that are consistent with our core beliefs and ideals?

How do we “walk the walk” and not just talk the talk?

In the past, business leaders might have defined their goals as “increasing profits for shareholders and owners.” Now leading companies are beginning to recognise that this is only part of the equation. They see the bigger picture and are taking on a higher mission to make the world a better place to live and work. They are finding new ways to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. Gaining (or regaining) trust will happen through transparent action that demonstrates a commitment to creating a more purpose driven business environment.

Purchasing with Purpose

Those of us in procurement have a unique opportunity to lead the way. With increasing frequency, companies are redefining their supply chains and buying from suppliers who support, for example, people with disabilities or are female led. Companies want to know that no forced labor is being used by their suppliers, and their supplier’s suppliers, and all the way back up the value stream. Procurement is in the unique position to address these issues and have an incredible impact.

Collectively, the Global 2000 spend $12 trillion on goods and services annually. By tying their purchases to purposes, these companies can take a stand and drive ethical behavior across the supply chain. And technology exists to make this possible. The key is to get started. Business networks, for instance, provide transparency and insights into supply chains that enable companies to ensure they are acting in responsible ways.

Take SAP Ariba, the world’s largest business network. Leveraging historical and real-time purchasing data, supplier intelligence, and network insights, along with data and services from third parties like Made in a Free World, procurement can shine a light on materials, regions, and suppliers to ensure they are meeting the organisation’s standards.

Through a link between SAP Ariba Discovery, a global business matching service, and the ConnXus Database, buyers can tap a wider pool of minority, woman, LGBT and veteran-owned businesses and enable global supply chains that are more responsible, sustainable and inclusive. Extending our network even more, we’ve partnered with Nicole Verkindt, founder of OMX, to help our customers analyse the economic impact of their spend in industries such as international defense, aerospace, oil & gas, mining, automotive and construction industries.

But it doesn’t stop there. SAP Ariba is a sponsor of the UN Global Compact’s Decent Work in Global Supply Chain Action Platform. The UN developed the Action Platforms to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Action Platforms offer a systematic solution to sustainable development challenges through new fostering innovation, developing new financial models, and identifying sustainable solutions across a range of issues. As a Platform Sponsor for the Decent Work and Global Supply Chain Action Platform, SAP Ariba has deepened our commitment to driving purpose across the global supply chain.

Procurement professionals will always be responsible for doing more with less and for delivering value to our organizations. And we can do even more than that.

There’s real power in purpose. It inspires us. It moves us. It enables us to reimagine and to reinvent what is possible and to achieve great things. It is also one of the greatest challenges issued to business leaders today. Join us in taking it up. Together, we can make a difference.

Sign up for #FeeltheLove on 14th February – the first Procurious and SAP Ariba Procure with Purpose webinar .

Procurement Agility in the Age of Digitalisation

How can your procurement team embrace the age of digitalisation  and develop an effective roadmap that ultimately puts you in the driver’s seat?

The digital enablement field is wide open, with no single right answer on how to proceed.

However, there are ways that can help organisations plot a way forward. CPOs must define a roadmap for change and align it with enterprise-level digital transformation initiatives.

Procurement think tank 2018

This year marks the fifth year that we have held our Procurement Think Tank. Throughout our work in the procurement field, we have strived to create an environment of real learning and interaction with business peers over topics that can be investigated in a deep way in an environment of open exchange through spaced-out gatherings to discuss a singular topic.

This blog is the summary of this year’s series and an excerpt of the article published in Procurement Leaders magazine. While many of the insights, and perspectives come from a small group of practitioners and may vary from company to company; nonetheless, the insights obtained can be applied across many organisations and industries. The complete article and related graphs can be read on Medium here.

2017 Focus On Driving Efficiency And Increasing Agility

As we wrapped up last year’s discussion, the group pressed us into looking at the area of procurement efficiency in context of the coming digital revolution. Most members conceded that their ability to learn about and master digital tools was inadequate, and they needed time to prepare.

The need to improve procurement efficiency (doing more with less) and at the same time master changes in technology (specifically the impact of digitalisation) are two very different objectives. They demand different resources, different thinking and different leadership, leaving procurement teams in an untenable bind; needing to contribute more but without the capability to assimilate new technology that might be a remedy for that problem.

The 2017 EU Think Tank Series theme was “Growing Digital And Agility Capabilities To Drive Efficiency In Procurement” to investigate the following issues:

  • What is the burning platform for Procurement Agility?
  • What are the major dimensions of growing agility?
  • Does growing a digital capability answer the issue of procurement agility?
  • Deep dive on key topics in the digital sphere:

1. How will Big Data and IoT technologies impact procurement activities?

2. What is AI and how can Procurement leverage the opportunity?

3. What is RPA and will it replace most procurement operational tasks?

  • Where is procurement now on the journey to a digitally enabled future?
  • Who are the leaders in procurement digital enablement?
  • How to assemble a digital roadmap?
  • What talent is needed to drive digital forward?

Agility – Making flexibility look like the plan

We probed the issue of Agility and the key elements must procurement teams master. The deep reflection on agility reveals that it is not just about flexibility, but rather a never-ending cycle of thinking-planning-action all in a devolved approval matrix (see my blog Agility – Making flexibility look like the plan).

The group recognised that while digitalisation might be a foundation, in and of itself, digitalisation is only an enabling tool of agility. When viewed in this context, the rush to become ‘digital’ is less of a frenetic all out race to do something ‘digital’ and more of a ‘pick-and-choose’ from a menu of enabling technologies that will most help achieve a business strategy.

However, while procurement is tasked with dealing with a broad range of new technologies, it also must deal with its traditional mandate. Bertrand Maltaverne, JAGGAER’s ‘Procurement Digitalist’, challenged the group with his perfect storm analogy. As procurement continues evolving toward digital mastery it still must manage increasingly complex supply chains, reduce risk, become more efficient, expand its influence and become a trusted business advisor. The enormity of these tasks has created a conundrum for procurement teams regarding which priority to tackle first.

Depressingly, procurement teams have not taken a leadership position with respect to digital technologies, opting instead for being a receiver of whatever mandates are forthcoming from broader implementation efforts. The data shows that most procurement organisations are either unprepared or have taken a ‘wait and see’ approach to digital technologies, often adopting them in a haphazard or uncoordinated way. The sheer number of available technologies that must be evaluated for their usefulness has stymied procurement organisations from building an effective path and being able to move forward.

The issue, of course, is two-fold. First, there must exist specific knowledge within the procurement teams about the technologies that are available, and secondly, leadership awareness of those technologies and how they fit together in the strategic landscape. Then and only then can a framework be developed that prioritises how and when to implement the chosen solutions. Today, most procurement organisations are not rising to the challenge in either of these areas.

While many new digital technologies are fast becoming standard, often, the solutions that promise the quickest way of making transactional processes more efficient are no longer within the purview of procurement. These activities have been subsumed into other, often larger, Business Services functions. While we have long been advocates of moving transactional activities to other functions, one can see the writing on the wall. The continued erosion of the procurement remit combined with automating technology, could easily foretell the doom of the function as we know it. The logical outflow of this, is that procurement is evolving towards a two-tier function; one where an enhanced set of operative activities is managed largely through digital technologies and another that is much more strategic, managing issues such as supply continuity, risk management, collaborative value creation and sourcing innovation.

How does a procurement team who is embracing the digital revolution develop an effective roadmap that ultimately puts (and keeps) them in the driver’s seat as to what technologies to adopt and at what rate to adopt them?  Our membership vigorously challenged us build a real-world model of how organisations must construct a digital path forward. A particularly useful insight was that no organisation can progress purely through a technological journey without fully understanding how that technology contributes to better strategy and insights. This relationship between new technology and better insights progresses through the entire digital journey. Thus, procurement teams must be in the decision chair as to which technologies get purchased.

So What Skills Are Required To Drive Digital?

Very few Procurement organisations have a digital strategy and roadmap, partially due to the broad range of technologies available. Simply put “there are too many digital options to know which to tackle first”. Even fewer organisations have talent and leadership to run their digital transformation. It is imperative that Procurement build its own digital roadmap that addresses specific technologies in a sequential format that is aligned with the company’s over digital strategy. We need to understand, recruit and develop specific digital skills at all levels recognising that the senior leadership is often most lacking. We grew fond of The Hackett Group’s conclusions in this area, pointing to four key attributes required to adequately embrace and drive the digital transformation:

· Intellectual curiosity: To deliver faster insight and build sophisticated models for business decisions.

· Technology savvy: Professionals don’t need to become data scientists or programmers, but they do need to be familiar with new technologies so they can have intelligent conversations with their IT peers and quickly adopt new tools.

·  Business Acumen: Staff needs to have a thorough understanding of the company, its operations, its value drivers and competitive environment. The imperative for the Business Partnering capability was amply covered in the output from last year’s Think Tank in this article.

·  Storytelling skills: Data is the mechanism that makes digital business possible, but the delivery mechanism is a “story.”

The Way Forward

1)  Define a digital roadmap and vision

Strategy needs to support organization’s overall approach to leveraging digital technologies to transform its business model and ensure that each investment in a digital capability must have beneficial business outcome. Favourable business benefits will help drive a new cycle of technological investments that in turn create greater benefit.

2)    Align with organisational strategy

On their own, big data, predictive analytics, or any of the other so-called ‘digital’ enablers are not valuable as stand-alone technologies. Outcomes need to help the business make decisions and drive actions that are consistent with the overall company objectives and digital plan. Any discrepancies between the two can create “technology islands” and put procurement at odds with corporate objectives.

3)    Build a Digital competency within procurement…

…to understand, master and lead the prioritised acquisition and implementation of digital tools.

We closed out this year’s series acknowledging that most organisations are at the very beginning of their digital journey, and it also left us with a strong impression that procurement teams have an intense desire to lead this effort in collaboration within the organisation’s overall digital strategy and not be a victim of it. Ceasing the leadership of this effort is the challenge.

Stay tuned for Think Tank 2018; we will drill down from the strategic level to one where we can examine how individuals and teams build knowledge and capability to bring digital insights to their organization and wider ecosystem.

This article was orginally published on LinkedIn.

Removing Obstacles to Competitiveness with CLM

Do you view CLM as an automated filing cabinet? You’re completely missing the point!

When you think about why a company would invest in a contract lifecycle management (CLM) solution, the first things that come to mind might include improved governance and agreement administration. But is that it? If the ROI of CLM is limited to better dotted I’s and more neatly crossed T’s, the effort to select and implement a solution hardly seems worth it.

Companies that view CLM as an automated filing cabinet are completely missing the point. They may even be at risk of having a constrained strategic vision for the future and for the place they want to hold in the market.

In order to create and defend a competitive advantage, a company must lean forward with every process, through every employee, and via every system they implement. There is no reason to do anything if it does not breakdown silos, overcome barriers and make them more competitive in some way, and contract management is no exception. CLM must eliminate obstacles to competitiveness and be as strategic as the company’s approaches to market segmentation and lead generation.

Competitiveness Requires Constant, Active Refinement

Even though the world is moving faster than ever before, contracts are still put in place for multiple years at a time. The chances of conditions being the same in the second or third year of a multi-year contract as they were during the bidding process are slim to none. As a result, companies – led by their procurement function – should expect to modify the contracts that govern supplier relationships. This is especially true for an actively engaged team that wants to drive maximum value through their contracts. CLM not only makes it easier to amend an agreement, it tracks the changes – even if there are hundreds of them – and makes clear which set of terms and conditions is the most current.

Are You Getting What You Contracted For?

There are two ways of looking at supplier obligation management. The first involves whether or not the company receives the goods, services, delivery, and outcomes outlined in the contract each time they make a purchase against the contract. The other is a bit more complex, and it forces procurement to look at demand management in a nonconventional way. Just like a world class athlete, a competitive organization has to be supplied with the appropriate fuel. If procurement estimated a certain level of demand by a predetermined point in the contract and actual purchases are falling short, there is a very good chance that other performance benchmarks will be missed as well. CLM can ensure that consumption is proceeding as planned, and if it isn’t, the system can alert procurement. Procurement’s insight becomes a leading indicator of potential performance – one that the executive team won’t want to be without.

Sleep with One Eye Open

In order to secure or defend a competitive advantage, procurement may be supporting decisions to take risks rather than just monitoring external risk from afar. If a company is going to engage in strategic risk taking, they must be able to constantly audit and review reports to ensure that performance benchmarks are achieved and compliance is maintained. This becomes even more important if procurement is taking advantage of appropriate opportunities to refine and amend the contract.

It is unrealistic to expect anyone working in a fast-paced environment to remember the latest terms and conditions; instead, CLM should bear the weight (and proactively report on) key contract data.  

Results matter above all else in a competitive enterprise. Leading companies are harnessing the capabilities of CLM to navigate (and eliminate) uncertainty and enable maximum performance at all times. If your company is looking to become more competitive, you’ll need to be prepared to do the same – an increase in performance that is not possible without leveraging the full capabilities of your supply base through contract management.

This article was originally written for Determine By Kelly Barner.

Do We Still Care About Professional Associations?

Do procurement professionals across the globe still see the value in professionals associations? And, if not, what can these associations do to regain their appeal?

When Procurious put out a call for procurement survey participants, we were delighted when 500+ professionals across more than 50 countries shared their insights and wisdom.

We’ve investigated the finding that 54 per cent of procurement professionals don’t trust their boss and interviewed a number of global CPOs to find out why this figure is so alarmingly high.

We also asked them why it is that procurement staff are moving on from their current roles so quickly and how leaders can cope with this erratic workplace dynamic.

And thirdly, we looked at the scepticism the profession still feels towards social media – 77 per cent of global procurement professionals have never crowd-sourced a solution to a business challenge on social media.

Our final deep-dive into the survey’s results looks at the stat that 55 per cent of procurement professionals either don’t hold memberships in professional associations or do not regard membership as benefiicial to their career development.

This result would suggest that professional bodies need to re-group and reform in order to stay relevant in today’s world…

The Results Explained By Global CPOs

At The Big Ideas Summits in Chicago and Melbourne earlier this year we revealed the results of the survey to our CPO delegates.

In this video we ask what professional associations can do to maintain relevance and membership growth. Is there still a place for these organisations?

Have today’s procurement leaders benefitted from professional association memberships?

Many of the people  we interviewed admitted to placing a lot of value in professional associations, citing them as one of the key secrets to their success.

Tony C. Astorga, Supply Chain Management Consultant described his career path and explained  “I set my goals upon  what do I need to learn to be more successful and provide greater contributions to my company. I think through certifications, memberships allow us to have those tools to be able to grow.

Josh Teperman, Senior Consultant, The Source Recruitment “A membership organisation is going to have value. It gives you access to a community of people who are all thinking about what does the future of procurement look like. If you want to stay relevant you want to be part of a reall good  membership organisation where people are talking about the future leaders in procurement, what the technologies are going to look like,  what the macro economic and politial trends are that are goint to affect procurement. So there’s certainly a lot of benefit to be had in being part of those organisations.”

So what should professional associations do to up their game…?

1. Communicate their value

“I think the challenge here for organisations is helping people understand how to maximise the benefits” argues Alan Paul, SourceIt CEO. Of course, if  prospective members, don’t see the potential benefits of a membership – they simply won’t join.

Michelle Varble, Procurement Director, United Airlines concedes stating “I do think they need to reinvent their service offerings. But having said that I think these organisations need to focus on how they market themselves. We need to move past the idea that we have an affiliation with them and move to an area where we see them as resources.”

2. Stay relevant

“I am a member of an organisation in Australia. I would have to say it has not been very relevant to me,” says Jane Falconer. ” The generations coming through universities now will have to find different ways of commuting and embrace social media in its most modern form. If we use existing means it’s not going to work.”

Anne Berens, Principal AMB ProCures LLC agrees stating  “Organisations need to remain relevant. There are so many things that organisations offer whether its education or networking or develoment or futurisitc thinking that it’s important to not try to be everything to everyone. I think then it gets spread a little bit thin- be very focussed on what your mission is and allow the customers be discerning and select what’s appropriate.”

3. Be “on topic”

John Foody General Manager Procurement, U.S Steel believes that “Organisations have to be topical. Sometimes at the local level the meetings, the challenges, the issues aren’t topical to our people so the ability to address issues that are relevant in the moment and tie it up with that membership is the challenge that any organisation faces”

Keith Bird, Managing Director, The Faculty  shares this view arguing that “As long as you invite a membsership that adds value to the CPO, the CPO’s direct reports and the team overall that can bring the global insights to you then I think it’s worthwhile.”

Request your copy of the Gen NEXT Report

The Gen NEXT report, exclusively available to Procurious members, is packed with data, insights, recommendations, and links to over 20+ Procurious articles that further explore many of the findings that are raised in the report. Email us to request your copy. 

My 5 Networking Goals For 2018

Given that she’s always “banging on” about #networking, it’s no surprise that Tania Seary’s 5 New Years Resolutions are all about growing – and nurturing – her professional network.  

This year I am going to:

  1. Find my fabulous five
  2. Dine (not eat)
  3. Keep watering the seeds of possibility
  4. Connect the dots, and
  5. Take more photos!

I guess this isn’t the typical list you would see for someone’s New Year’s resolutions … but I feel that it works, given that I’m always “banging on” (English for carrying on, talking, espousing) about the power of networking. In the past I’ve spoken about networking in a theoretical way, so for those who are interested in improving their networking skills and want to start NOW, I thought I would share my 5 networking goals with you and provide some examples to get you started.

Find my Fabulous 5

My first goal is to identify 5 new people who I would like to connect with in 2018 who could really help “shift the dial” for my businesses. My challenge is that there are so many amazing people out there who could really help, so it’s not going to be easy to get it down to 5. I have to be strategic and even ruthless in my selection.

Now the tough part – once I’ve found someone fabulous, how do I find a reason for them to connect with me? This is where so many people get stuck. They freeze at the thought of putting themselves “out there” and fear rejection.

Here’s my advice. Take a deep breath, raise your head high and move forward in the confidence of knowing the most important rule of networking – and that is to Network From The Heart. Why from the heart? Because networking is about giving, not receiving. It has to be authentic. You need to have the other person’s interest as your priority … so, in my case, once I have my list I’ll immediately try to work out how I can help each of the 5!

Keep watering the seeds of possibility

The Fabulous 5 are not currently in my network; rather, they are game-changing people I would like to know. Equally important are my current connections who are the lifeblood of information about the profession. Of course, I’m following all these people online and can see what is top-of-mind for them, but to understand their concerns, strategies and aspirations, I really need to have a conversation.

This year, I have decided to become a bit more structured and conscientiously catch up with these people each quarter. I am going to schedule calls. There are probably up to a dozen people in this “inner circle” – they are a combination of CPOs, management consultants, media, and influencers who really have their finger on the pulse. They are the hubs of their own large networks.

Who are the hubs within YOUR network who can help keep you connected?  Write down their names – potential future employers, smart people whose opinions you trust, people who would recommend you to others. Now, what can you do to help them in 2018?

Don’t eat, dine

I am not sure who made the famous quote “why eat when you can dine?”… but it’s one of my favourites. Even though I write so often about the importance of online networking, I am also a huge believer in the importance of meeting people face-to-face. It’s only through face-to-face contact that we really get to know people and begin to understand both their motivations and their aspirations. You can then work out how you and other members of your network can help them achieve their goals. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

I love food and eating … so for me, sharing a meal is a great way to get to know people. “Breaking bread” with your network can lead to all sorts of mouth-watering business opportunities.

My 2018 resolution is to host some small dinner parties at home to get to know my key business partners (and their partners!). It may not be practical, feasible, or even of interest for you to entertain at home, but there are plenty of other options such as catching up for coffee or inviting them to be your guest at an event where other people are hosting. Get creative! The dividend of knowing someone well will always pay off – a pleasant meal, a new learning, a business lead, the creation of a new friendship … the business opportunities are endless!

Connect the Dots

As well as keeping in touch with my network online, high on my agenda for this year is to attend as many face-to-face networking events as possible. For me, this includes Procurious’ Big Ideas Summits in London, Sydney, Chicago & Munich, The Faculty’s CPO Forum in Melbourne, IBM’s Think event in Las Vegas and ISM 2018 in Nashville.

It’s going to be a busy year, but I am so energised by the opportunity to meet and connect with thousands of procurement and supply chain professionals around the world and help “connect the dots” within the Procurious network.

Many people equate having a good network with having a large database of contacts, or attending high-profile conferences and events. But they falter at the next step – actually doing something to make the connection meaningful.

It’s impossible for anyone holding down a day job to attend all these events, so my advice is to be strategic. Choose your events wisely and have a strategy to achieve your ROI!

Take and post more photos!

I don’t know about you, but I love seeing photos of real people in my professional social media feeds! I am so tired of those generic stock photos that are branded on too many social media posts. This year I am going to be talking a lot about being human (look out for #behuman and #beatthebots hashtags) because I believe authenticity is a vital part of being a great leader. There is also a huge opportunity for us all to carve out a new future for ourselves in Industry 4.0 by leveraging our own very human unique personalities and capabilities that robots won’t possess (in our lifetime, anyway). Procurement can also “procure with purpose” to make a big difference in the communities in which we operate. So many possibilities!

We all have to work on promoting our profession to the world and make sure procurement & supply chain are well represented in the Googlesphere! Photos capturing real moments, with real people, like me here with some procurement professionals from Costa Rica I met at ISM 2017 shows what an interesting, diverse and optimistic future we have for our global profession. #BRAVO!

All the very best for 2018.  Stay in touch 🙂

Data. Tech. Talent. Giving Procurement The Edge

Today’s challenging business environment is marked by social and economic uncertainty, weakness and volatility in emerging markets, and increasing geopolitical risk. How can  procurement teams ensure they have the edge?

Dramatic changes in the role of the procurement function over recent years have meant a remit that exceeds traditional operational responsibilities, often having a critical impact on shaping business models. The challenge is to continue adding value – addressing new opportunities and risks, and becoming a strategic business function – without increasing overall cost.

CPOs need to think differently about three key assets – data, technology and people – and how to bring them together to deliver for their stakeholders.

Data deluge

Today’s procurement teams face a deluge of data from internal and external sources, and in the digital age, new data streams are emerging every day. Many companies have yet to overcome the problems of poor quality data, held on disjointed legacy systems. Historical spend data is often uncategorised and needs significant cleansing before it can form the basis of a forward-facing outlook.

So, while procurement teams can access an immense amount of information, it’s a challenge to deliver valuable, actionable insights. Used wisely and effectively data can deliver robust insights to underpin every decision and tackle today’s challenges head on. Mismanage it, and it can swamp internal teams and lead to indecision and paralysis.

Tackling technology

Technology is frequently seen as being the answer. We heard an enormous amount about digitalisation, and the promises of AI and ML in 2017, yet few organisations are ready to adopt these new digital technologies. Many procurement operation teams recognise they have yet to make the most of existing technology, and tackling the problems that come with legacy systems, so their focus is on getting the basics right.

The first task is to understand which technologies are applicable to organisational challenges and maturity, and this assessment is important to create a digital roadmap for the future. Technology is only an enabler – not the complete solution – and needs to be fine-tuned to match individual business contexts.

People power

In theory, putting data and tech together creates intelligence, but all too often the process fails to produce relevant insights. It is the third asset – people – which can have a major impact on the potential to generate valuable business information.

There are plenty of talented individuals in existing procurement teams, yet many CPO’s believe their teams lack the skills required to turn strategy into results. They recognise that unless they have greater visibility and insight, it’s difficult to make the right decisions. For category and contract managers, the largest skill gap is in analytics, where teams struggle to use levers including external market intelligence, supplier portfolio optimisation and actionable spend analysis to best effect.

As procurement’s influence in the organisation grows, innovative technology gets introduced, and new data streams become available, roles of procurement professionals also evolve. This necessitates continuous review and addition of new skills and capabilities which may not exist in the current team.

Helping hand

We have launched a white paper looking at what solutions can be used to overcome the data challenge, decode technology, and plan how the skills gap can be resolved, to help procurement teams become more active influencers and respected decision makers in 2018.

You Will Be Assimilated: The Collective Intelligence Of Procurement

For those who remember “The Borg” from Star Trek, you’ll remember the notion of a dispassionate alien mind-being that would suck up your individual mind to subsume into the collective intelligence.  Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Crazy stuff, right?  Or maybe not.

Flash forward to today.  For most people, your every move is being tracked by your smartphone, social media apps, web browsing, and credit card transactions.  Ever wonder why Google and Amazon are basically giving away their helpful devices and AI assistants?  You are being watched.  You are the product (not the customer).  You are the raw materials of a collective intelligence being built upon your individual experiences and desires.  In other words, the proverbial machine is watching and learning from you (in order to sell to you, er, rather, to “better meet your needs”).

But, this is all consumer stuff, right?  B2B is different, right?

Sort of – but it’s not THAT different.  And with all the regulatory pressures coming on consumer data privacy, as compared to much of the privacy that you sign away your rights to when you enter an employment contract, the tables may actually turn here. If you’re using a popular cloud-based Procurement system, you are also being watched (many providers analyse your system behaviour to figure out how you navigate the system and how to help you… yes, the chatbots are coming). If you use a procurement “business network” or eMarketplace (e.g., Amazon Business), your suppliers are signing away some of their intellectual property – whether they know it or not.  And smart companies are trying to gain a market intelligence advantage through digital business strategies in the supply chain. There’s a reason why GE created Predix; why Flex funded Elementum; why DHL sells supply chain risk technology; and so on.  Adoption creates insight and intelligence… and advantage.

All this isn’t necessarily bad for you though.  It serves up price benchmarking, risk intelligence and improved system usability.  It also signals how the world is moving away from “empty apps” that push documents around in workflows and move towards systems that are building intelligence to make your apps “smarter”.  This intelligence is typically built using machine learning fed by large data sets that help improve repetitive tasks like spend classification. Of course, AI is a bigger topic, and there are 23 distinct areas in AI for procurement and supply chain that we’re following that I can’t cover in a single blog post!  For example, contract management is a great example where AI is already having an impact and this will be very disruptive in the Legal services (e.g., Legal BPO) area.

Still, building your collective intelligence for your firm doesn’t necessarily require AI.  You can avail yourself to some good old-fashioned knowledge management built up from the various collectives that are all around you:

  • The internal corporate collective. Learn from consulting companies and build presentation storyboards of your procurement projects that created change and value – and use them to win over skeptical stakeholders.
  • Your supplier collective. Your current supply suppliers, previous suppliers, “almost suppliers” (who bid on your business), and potential suppliers via crowdsourcing are a wealth of knowledge – if you know how to tap them through supplier innovation programs and proper supplier management processes.
  • Your customer collective. This includes not just internal stakeholders, but external customers as well.  For example, Lenovo uses its social customer mining tools to identify key customer/demand information that can be passed upstream to suppliers.  On the flip side, many similar intelligence tools are being deployed on the supply side with varying results (that’s a whole topic for another day).
  • The installed base collective. Your procurement app providers, consulting providers, and managed service providers are likely working hard to extract and productize your individual intelligence into a re-saleable collective intelligence. Choose a provider that is working on building collective intelligence into its overall platform strategy.
  • Your peer/community collective. There are lots of communities out there right now where you can learn from your peers – and many of them are free. You’re learning right now by reading this on Procurious, so you’re already well on your way!

We even practice what we preach at Spend Matters when we tap into this collective intelligence of procurement technology users by capturing end user satisfaction (think Net Promoter Score on steroids) and using it as an entire axis of our “SolutionMap” vendor scoring model/methodology.  And, yes, there’s a freemium version (it has eight procurement technology areas mapped out based on five different buyer personas from which you can select)!

The bottom line is that although we all start with a certain amount of individual intelligence, it’s the collective supply market of intelligence that is all around us if we can learn how to tap it, build it, and wisely bring the right intelligence back to our individual selves (and we’ll even be able to augment that individual intelligence into our own personal bots and ‘digital twins’).  And since procurement should be enabling stakeholders to also tap that collective intelligence of supply, it couldn’t be a more important competency to build right now.

So, go bravely into that supply market and assimilate yourself into the collective intelligence of procurement and be smarter and better from that experience.  It’s really what life is all about, isn’t it?

This article was contributed by guest author Pierre Mitchell, Chief Research Officer and Managing Director at Azul Partners.

Team Approach: How Procurement Pros Can Procure Talent Better

What’s harder than finding top talent for your procurement team? Finding the RIGHT talent!

The only thing harder than finding top talent in the current candidate driven market is to find the right talent. Especially those individuals that have the technical and collaborative skill-set required to be successful with today’s ever-growing list of expectations from Procurement practitioners.

In our recent experience with several clients we have witnessed organisations building teams from scratch due to newly undertaken Procurement Transformation initiative. There are many cases of leaders bringing along a key player or two with them, or sometimes executives will hire consultants or a trusted managed service provider (MSP) to help supplement their efforts. This got us thinking a bit more broadly about whether companies should consider hiring teams instead of individuals as they are undergoing transformations. Based on our experience, we would say yes to this option. The three main benefits we see to this approach are immediate impact, decreased conflict and increased collaboration.

Team Players

Companies increasingly want skills that are difficult to assess in job interviews but can be easily seen in a team setting environment. According to the World Economic Forum, following are the 10 skills most sought after by companies in 2020:

  1.  Complex problem solving
  2.  Critical thinking
  3.  Creativity
  4.  People management
  5.  Coordinating with others
  6.  Emotional intelligence
  7.  Judgment/decision making
  8.  Service orientation
  9.  Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

Subjective and biased candidate selection process

One of the many pitfalls for hiring managers is the subjective and biased candidate selection process. There is still a tendency to over-rely on the tough interview questioning and ultimately hire candidates that either look like us or come from similar schools and backgrounds. So, think of the impact if a Director or VP was hired that could bring on a team of people he or she knew well. Imagine a leader who knew exactly where to deploy resources to maximize their benefits, such as specific commodity expertise or management of key supplier relationships. This hiring manager would leverage the hard data they have on these preformed teams and position them to hit the ground running.

Conflict amongst team members

Another scourge facing employers today is that of conflict amongst team members. These conflicts are the leading cause for employee disengagement, burnout, turnover, lower productivity and creativity, etc. By hiring teams that have a history of successfully functioning at a high level, organizations increase the odds that their new hires will have the reservoir of rapport and goodwill to accelerate positive results. It’s analogous to why Procurement prefers early involvement when it comes to advanced engineering of products/services, so they can help stakeholders engage with the best suppliers. It’s a lot more difficult to select and negotiate when you have built your product specs around a specific supplier’s capabilities and technologies rather than vice versa.

Superior collaboration

And finally, there is the benefit of superior collaboration that comes from being part of a high performing team. Imagine how an empowered team would feel knowing that they have been hired en masse as the “A-Team” when it comes to the mission critical nature of their jobs. It would be an intense, yet collegial environment where they would almost be joining as insiders and delivering tangible value. Just this past year we have witnessed a couple of examples that are in stark contrast as it relates to hiring and building out groups. Company A was a CPG leader in the Midwest US and brought on a Head of Sourcing that, in less than two months, created and filled several roles. These were all filled with former direct reports and colleagues from her past two companies. Not only did the team come in firing on all cylinders in a new environment and deliver immediate results, this hiring manager was promoted to a newly created senior level position within 7 months of joining the company. Company B hired a leader that had the perfect experience on paper, but in his transformation journey he’s been a lot less successful. This was partly because he didn’t assimilate into the company culture and insisted on getting rid of most of the current employees on his team. Even though he had over 20 years’ experience with good companies, he failed to bring over a single person he has worked with in the past. His leadership style and reputation became a barrier to his and ultimately his department’s success.

While every company will have its own unique set of challenges surrounding types of candidates and expertise being sought, this team-hiring approach is certainly not a panache for all companies. But the ones that take the risk and try a novel approach to combat the challenges of procuring talent just may gain an advantage over their competitors that have not yet confronted the new reality in sourcing for the best.