Category Archives: Career Management

Contingent Workforce: Why Procurement Still Hasn’t Found What It’s Looking For

In some ways the procurement profession is in a stronger position than ever before. But in others, in the words of great philosopher Bono, we “still haven’t found what we’re looking for” when it comes to the contingent workforce.  

Different Categories, Different Organisations, Different Value

Is our role really about cost reduction when it comes down to it? Or are we moving into a brave new world where the small, but perfectly formed, procurement function is focused on extracting innovation and competitive advantage from key supply markets?

Clearly, “value” is a word that has to feature, but saying procurement is about value is a bit of a truism;  of course it is! And so is everything else that an organisation does.

This in itself doesn’t help us to progress very far in the debate but one useful thought might be this: Every spend category within our organisation contributes value to the organisation in a different way; and for any given spend category, that value will differ from organisation to organisation too.

The Evolution of Procurement and What it Means for Managing Contingent Labour

In our new paper, The Evolution of Procurement and What it Means for Managing Contingent Labour, written in conjunction with Spend Matters, we look at this issue and also touch on other aspects around where procurement might be heading, including the fashionable idea of “procurement as a service”.

Using contingent labour as an example it is possible to illustrate how procurement has evolved and how a category can create value in various ways.

In some organisations, obtaining the right contingent labour, such as highly skilled technicians, creative folk or IT experts, might be a direct source of innovation and, as such, competitive advantage. In other cases, cost reduction and operational efficiency through a super-slick engagement processes for contingent workers might be the key factor.

The key point, however,  is that every procurement professional needs to understand the contribution for their categories in their organisation.

Procurement Must Take A Multi-Pronged Approach To Contingent Labour

(An Excerpt from The Evolution of Procurement and What it Means for Managing Contingent Labour

Any analysis will immediately confirm that procurement must follow different approaches depending on both the category of spend being addressed, and the nature of the business and the drivers of success.

Are the ingredients for a food product important to its success, or is it enough that they are safe to eat? If we spent more on a better quality purchase, would we sell more or be able to charge a higher price?

Considering services spend categories, how important, for instance, is marketing to the success of the firm? If innovation and new products are key drivers, then supporting that by identifying and working successfully with the very best external marketing services providers will be more important than haggling over their margins.

Contingent labour spend may simply be a case of minimising cost at an acceptable level of risk, or it may be much more strategic, with access to hard-to-find talent, and speed of engagement critical to the business.

That was reflected in our roundtable last year when we heard several excellent examples of how the use of contingent labour was truly linked to organisational strategies. “We are looking at scenario planning and resourcing models to help predict blue collar contingent labour requirements.” And the days of the contingent workforce being purely low-level blue-collar or administrative staff are long gone.

“Some of our contingent workforce are key to how we win business from our own customers; they are a strategically important and also scarce resource”.

You can download the full white paper for free here.

Subscribe to our mailing list and get access to more complimentary content from Comensura.

Want That Job? 7 Pitfalls To Avoid On Your CV

This seasoned recruiter skim-reads CVs for an average of two to three seconds before deciding whether to read them in their entirety. How can you make sure your CV doesn’t end up in the bin? 

Even with the digital revolution changing the world, CVs are still the Number 1 way to showcase your skills and achievements to a new employer or recruiter.

Before a prospective employer reads a CV they may well have supporting information in the form of a referral,  LinkedIn profile or a cover letter. But however good any supporting information might be, the CV is still the deciding factor when it comes to getting you a face-to-face meeting.

Recruiters have to place even more credibility on the CV than line managers. I have read over 250,000 CVs in my recruitment career and can skim read a CV in two to three seconds to decide if I want to read it in its entirety. If you are reading 100-400 CVs a day, can you really spare the time to read a cover letter as well? The CV is still king!

My goal whenever I am coaching CV writing is:

To make it as easy as possible for the reader to find the information they are looking for.

Worst case scenario: you have two to three seconds to get someone’s attention, so you need to give them the information they need as easily and accessibly as possible. When you think about your CV from this perspective you will need to make sure you identify your audience correctly to ensure it’s hitting their criteria.

Make sure you don’t fall into these traps:

1. Not Making The Most Of Your Success

Most people avoid talking about success like the plague. But if you’re writing a list of your responsibilities, the very least you need to demonstrate is that you have completed those tasks. Ask yourself:

  • Is it obvious I am successful?
  • Did I deliver this bullet point/responsibility?
  • Could a cynic read this and interpret it as failure?

You spent a whole lot of effort and time doing these things. At least take credit for what you delivered.

2. Inducing Claustrophobia

The majority of CVs look cluttered. Not “easy for the reader to find the information they are looking for”. Make it an appealing document to look at:

  • Decrease your margin widths (1” – 1.5” margins are fine)
  • Use white space

-90% of bullet points should be two lines maximum. If most of your bullet points are longer than that, look at splitting them into two points.

-Don’t have massive blocks of bullet points together. Four to five bullet points is enough. If you have any more than that, split them into sensible headings (Responsibilities and Achievements; Categories and Savings; Projects and Delivery etc).

-Have a small space between roles.

  • Font

-Make it an easy-to-read font (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Garamond)

-Don’t worry about size too much. People read CV’s on a screen so can zoom in if they need to. (10 – 12 pt is fine)

3. Contact Details Taking Up Your Prime Real Estate

Geoff Molloy BSc (Hons)

132 Partridge Way, Bishops Stortford, Essex, CM23 3XY

Tel 01279 333 444

Mob 07788 111 222

E-mail [email protected]

Most people have their contact details at the top of their CV. You have two seconds to get their attention and you want them to read your phone number? It doesn’t make sense when you think about it unless you think your phone number, address or e-mail address is the single factor that will get them to give you a call!

Move them down to the footer and reduce your address down to town and postcode.

4. Information Above Your Career History/Experience

The problem with adding information above your career history is that it’s hard to make it contextual. Context is the only difference in impact between meeting an

IT Director

or

IT Director for Google

The difference between these two people would probably be significant and, but for a tiny change, you wouldn’t know it.

Try and keep the information above your career history to a minimum. It’s useful to be able to summarise your skills/experience/achievements etc but be aware that it loses impact if it’s not contextualised by the role you were in when you delivered it.

5. Proof-Read, Spell Check

Make sure it’s perfect. Spelling, grammar or punctuation are all indications to the employer. Some people get really irritated by mistakes so make sure you don’t put them off immediately!

  • Your/you’re
  • Were/we’re/where
  • Its/it’s

Get a friend/colleague/pedant to read your CV after you have checked it, and checked it, and checked it.

6. Squeezing Your CV Onto 2 Pages

If your CV is well written, relevant, articulate, demonstrates success and is easy to get the information the reader is looking for, it doesn’t matter how long it is (within reason). “Two pages” is a myth. But, if you’re going over the page make sure you use the next page fully.

If you’re not convinced, look at it the other way. If it’s awful they won’t get to the end of the first page! Make sure your CV is giving them the information they want in an accessible way. They will read it if you are relevant.

7. References

“References available on request” or “Reference Details”. Once you have risen above “School Leaver”, everyone assumes you have references so it adds no value and takes up space. In fact, it probably impacts negatively as it raises some doubt in the reader’s mind. If they want references they will ask you.

About the Author

I set up The Chameleon Career Consultancy to coach CV Writing, Interview Technique and Linkedin Profile writing building on over a decade of corporate recruitment specialising in Procurement and Supply Chain Professionals. During that 11 year period I read in the region of 250,000 CVs (100 a day for 11 years as a conservative estimate!). I made the decision to take a sideways step out of recruitment to help the candidates get the roles they really deserve.

If you would like any advice on any of these areas or more help on your CV feel free to get in touch at [email protected] or www.thechameleon.org or our Linkedin page.

Best Of The Blog: Can We Agree To Stop Calling Them Soft Skills?

How did soft skills come to be known as this? And does calling them this underplay their importance in the modern procurement world?

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an article by Hugo Britt  in which he explains why soft skills are anything but!

The English language is full of misnomers. Just ask the killer whale (actually a dolphin), or the horny toad (actually a lizard). Once a word or phrase has entered common usage, it’s near-impossible to change it, even if the population generally understands that the term is misleading.

Which brings me to “soft skills”. I work for an organisation that provides training for procurement and supply chain professionals. As such this is one of the terms that I hear bandied about many times a week.

My argument is that defining this skill-set as “soft” actually devalues an essential part of every procurement professional’s toolkit.

To quickly summarise, soft skills are those used in dealing with other people. These include skills such as communication abilities, language skills, influencing skills, emotional empathy, and leadership traits. In contrast, “hard” skills – such as tendering or IT competencies – are readily measurable and (importantly) easier to train.

How Did They Come to be Called Soft Skills?

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has been able to pinpoint the first usage of this term.

The concept has been applied to business environments since at least 1936, when Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People was published. Carnegie’s work, which has sold a phenomenal 30 million copies to date, is essentially the definitive guide to soft skills. However, it stops short of actually using these words.

Recently, there seems to have been an explosion of articles and training courses focusing on soft skills, particularly in procurement. My theory is that procurement – having moved from back-office to business-partnership status only a decade or so ago – is, in effect, late to the soft skills party, and is currently playing catch-up.

It’s possible that the term “soft skills” simply came about as an antonym to hard skills. Perhaps it reflects the “softly-softly” approach, where managers choose to influence, rather than confront, and to make suggestions, rather than issuing orders. Whatever the reason, I believe it’s a misleading term due to the other connotations of “soft”.

These Skills are Anything But Soft

To my ear, “soft” means easy, pliable, or yielding readily to pressure. Yet a procurement professional with excellent communication abilities, who is adept at reading people, will be a “harder” opponent in negotiations, than a colleague lacking these skills.

Similarly, the connotation with “ease” is deceptive when it comes to trying to train for skills like change management or leadership. And quantifying the results of that training is more difficult still. Hence we’re hearing more and more that employers are hiring people based on their attributes (cultural fit, communication skills, willingness to change), recognising that hard skills can be easily picked up later on.

This has changed the approach recruiters are taking in job interviews. There is now less emphasis on hard skills, and more behavioural questions about how you would react in certain situations.

It’s worth considering whether, in the future, soft skills will become so vital, they’ll become a requirement for procurement roles. That situation already exists in some professions. Look at Medicine, where aspiring doctors are interviewed for qualities including maturity, communication, the ability to empathise and collaborate. Hugh Laurie’s Dr House, with his acerbic bed-side manner, would in reality never have gained entry into medical school, no matter how brilliant he was.

There’s a school of thought that when it comes to soft skills, you’ve either got it, or you don’t. Soft-skills training, therefore, is ineffective because you can’t change someone’s personality. Personally, I disagree because I’ve witnessed colleagues who have worked hard to develop skills like effective listening. There’ll always be hard cases, but the days of people dismissing these skills as “fluffy” or otherwise useless are over.

Three Alternative Names for Soft Skills

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, it’s nigh-impossible to change a term once it’s in common usage. However, if professional organisations, training providers, and the like, were to phase out the words “soft skills”, and call them something more accurate instead, we might see this phrase begin to disappear.

Here are three suggestions for a more accurate description of “soft” skills.

1. Essential skills: I’ve borrowed this one from ISM CEO Tom Derry, who also isn’t a fan of the term “soft skills”. Tom used the term “essential skills” when launching ISM’s Mastery Model to describe the many interpersonal attributes required on the journey to achieving accreditation.

2. EQ: “Emotional intelligence quotient” is the technical term for soft skills. I like this term simply because it contains the word “emotional”, which pretty much sums up what soft skills entail. Calling it a “quotient”, however, raises the argument that EQ, like IQ, is something you’re born with, and can’t be improved upon.

3. People skills: The simplest, and possibly the most accurate, alternative for soft skills is “people skills”. After all, every one of these skills involves dealing with people, while hard skills can generally be put to use sitting alone at your computer.

If you have other suggestions, or already use a different terminology in your workplace, please add a comment below!

Procurement Needs People: How To Nurture Your Top Talent

As the global marketplace changes exponentially, the need for both personal and professional development becomes ever more crucial for procurement pros. Jim Baehr explains why  organisations need to invest in their people.

Category Management. Risk Management. Contract Management. Supplier Relationship Management. All are part of the Supply Management vernacular in 2017. They represent best practices. Those who have mastered these competencies are sought by companies wanting to take their Supply Management to the next level and beyond. Yet, step back and look at the big picture. How many Supply Management professionals have the time, the skill or the support to pursue these best practices?

Applying the 80/20 Rule In Procurement

Continuing to look at the big picture, let’s apply the 80/20 principle to this question. Considering all the spend of all companies – large, medium and small – it’s reasonable to believe that 20 per cent of the professionals in Supply Management are managing 80 per cent of spend. (This number may be even more acute based on benchmarking articles found elsewhere at My Purchasing Center.)

Bigger companies have more spend and are more likely to have invested in their organisation as led by a Chief Procurement Officer. The professionals in these organisations are expected to be proficient in these higher-end responsibilities – the Managements (Category, Contract, Risk, Sourcing, Supplier Relationship, etc.). These professionals can practice and hone their competencies daily. This is a good thing. This means that in many ways the profession has taken the lead set by the Peter Kraljic “Purchasing Must Become Supply Management” article found in the September 1983 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

Flipping the principle would make it logical to believe that 80 per cent of Supply Management professionals are handling 20 per cent of the spend. Here’s the challenging part: It is likely that these are the same professionals who are handling 80 per cent of the purchasing churn – dealing with requisitions, purchase orders out the door, tracking delivery, invoice reconciliation, etc.  The result is they don’t have the same opportunity to apply best practices like their counterparts in bigger companies. Not because they don’t want to. They simply don’t have the time. Or, more frustratingly, the ability. But, seeing the articles and blogs – all the attention given to “the Managements” they want to do the same.

Purchasing Vs Procurement

While the terms Purchasing and Procurement tend to be used interchangeably, there is a big difference; moreover, the responsibilities of a Purchasing and Procurement professional are not the same.

Purchasing is operational, process driven,  ordering, receiving and paying for goods or services. Procurement is more tactical, more purposeful. Procurement calls for establishing requirements, performing market research, evaluating/selecting suppliers, and negotiating contracts or purchase orders. (Yes, POs can be negotiated.)

For the purpose of the remainder of this article Purchasing is used as the title for the group that handles  buying, procurement and, in some cases, sourcing.

It’s understood that technology is automating many of these routine functions. It’s agreed that that the developers of these systems are doing their best to “democratise” the technology – making it available, applicable and affordable to all companies – regardless of size. While the technologies are making inroads, there’s still a long way to go. And, when we get there one of two things will happen – positions will be eliminated or, companies will direct their Purchasing professionals to become more Procurement-like. Hopefully, it will be the latter.

Do we need to wait until technologies and automation address operational needs to free up the time for (paraphrasing Kraljic) Purchasing to become Procurement? The answer is “no.” Good Procurement, efficient and effective,  for the foreseeable future, is a people matter.

Is Purchasing Only About Getting The Lowest Price?

Before offering any recommendations, we first must recognise the realities. Purchasing, in many cases, is still viewed as “getting the lowest price”. This perception impacts relationships internally with business units and externally with suppliers. It creates a misunderstanding of purpose. The Purchasing professional is relegated to coordination of buying activities instead of having the opportunity to collaborate with internal clients, and suppliers, to produce value.

If we go back to the 80/20 rule the negative perceptions of Purchasing are conceivably based on the interaction of internal business groups and suppliers with the 80 per cent group. They are the majority population and they drive a perception that Purchasing “gets in the way” rather than adds value. Again, flipping the numbers, 80 per cent of the expectations for Purchasing come from what senior leadership reads or hears about the state-of-the-art techniques that the (upper) 20 per cent apply to the “Managements.” The result is that many businesses think their Purchasing group is not effective.

Research shows that staff and talent constraints inhibit Purchasing professionals from being all they can be and, more importantly, all they want to be. The abilities of these professionals are, and may continue to be, underdeveloped. But, there is an opportunity to build on what they already know and have experienced. We can reinforce what they know and make them comfortable with the basics and then introduce them to the “Managements.”

Personal and Professional Development Is Crucial- So What’s The Solution?

As Purchasing becomes more sophisticated, as business becomes more demanding and as the global marketplace changes exponentially, the need for both personal and professional development becomes proportionately as important. Let’s accept that not all the next generation of Purchasing professionals will come with MBAs from universities with Supply Management programs.-

So, now that the problem has been stated, what’s the solution? Keeping it simple – consider the following:

  • Recognize that the 80 per cent is underdeveloped but able and wants to do more.
  • Accept that this same 80 per cent  is under-appreciated and underserved.
  • Acknowledge that talent management requires talent development.
  • Commit. Business leadership, as well as professional associations, must step up and do more for the 80 per cent.
  • Invest in developing the 80 per cent as the cost pales, in comparison, to the potential return in value.

Here’s the good news: There are companies that already recognise this need. They are making the commitment to invest in their people. But, there must be more – many more. Quoting Eleanor Roosevelt – “Nothing has been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.’”

Jim Baehr is the Lead for the Sourcing Strategies Group LLC (SSG).  Currently he is the President of the ISM – Pittsburgh Affiliate, a member of the Board of Governors of the Joint Chemical Group of Pittsburgh and a member of the Visionary Council of Coupa Software Incorporated based in San Mateo, Calif. This article was first published on My Purchasing Center

5 Core Supply Chain Capabilities Everyone Needs

What are the supply chain capabilities that everyone needs? Dave Food gets to the core of the issue…

What are some of the key capabilities for supply chain professionals?  When it comes to acing decision-making, cost effectiveness, forecasting, and productivity you can’t go wrong if you’ve nailed these five things.

1. Capacity Planning

CP is essential to determine the optimum utilisation of resources, and plays an important role in the decision-making process. It is a technique used to identify and measure the overall capacity of production. CP is utilised for capital intensive resource like plant, machinery and labour. Capacity planning also helps meet the future requirements of the organisation; it ensures that operating costs are maintained at the minimum-possible level without affecting the quality, and ensures the organisation remains competitive and can achieve its long-term growth plan.

2. Inventory Management & Optimisation

IMO is a top investment priority for manufacturers. It is driven by a set of values which are typically service level and inventory investment. IO is widely known as a way to free-up working capital or cost-effectively increase service levels. IO can:

  • identify all the stages of inventory
  • point out exactly which stock is excess inventory and where it is stored in the supply chain
  • understand which warehouse space can be freed up (and which shouldn’t be)
  • create a series of “what-if” scenarios based on the organisation’s improvement ideas and alternative configurations.

An IO solution should offer opportunities for supply chain professionals to understand the causes of inventory, accept or reject recommendations, and build trust in fact-based decision-making.

3. Demand Management

Demand Management is a planning methodology used to forecast, plan for and manage the demand for products and services. DM has a defined set of processes, capabilities and recommended behaviours for companies that produce all manner of goods and services. DM outcomes are a reflection of policies and programs to influence demand as well as competition and options available to users and consumers.

4. Master Production Scheduling

Scheduling is the process of arranging, controlling and optimising work and workloads in a production process or manufacturing process. Scheduling is used to allocate plant and machinery resources, plan human resources, plan production processes and purchase materials. It is an important tool for manufacturing and engineering, where it can have a major impact on the productivity of a process. In manufacturing, the purpose of scheduling is to minimise the production time and costs by telling a production facility when to make, with which staff, and on which equipment. Production scheduling aims to maximise the efficiency of the operation and reduce costs.

5. Materials Replenishment Planning

Most MRP systems are software-based, but it is possible to conduct MRP by hand as well. In almost all supply chains, materials need to be stored or buffered. This competency involves different steps, considering aspects of the planning environment/conditions about the product and the supplier. The importance of the companies’ goals/motives for materials supply must also be assessed.

MRP uses global demand plans to create a pull-driven replenishment process; this prevents ordering from the supplier when there is excess stock elsewhere in the supply chain.

Dave Food is a supply chain innovator, a passionate educator, a futurist, a trend-watcher, an insightful consultant and a marketing strategist. This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Recruitment Insider: Demand For Temporary Workers Fast Outstripping Supply

Demand for workers is accelerating so fast that it’s outstripping supply. How can organisations find the employees they need without racking up a whole load of extra cost?  Jon Milton explains  the elephant in the recruitment room.

A cursory look at REC jobs market figures show that turnover in the recruitment industry for 2014/2015 was £31.5bn, the highest since records began in 2001/2002.

Permanent recruitment revenues have increased by 58.4 per cent from the recessionary lows of 2010/2011. Temporary or contract revenues are up by 60.1 per cent over the same period. Unemployment is exceptionally low.

What this means is;

  • Demand for workers is accelerating
  • Organisations are turning to recruitment agencies to help them meet it
  • The pool from which to draw workers from is receding

Any situation where demand outstrips supply should result in higher costs. These costs may be reflected in margin, pay rate, expenses or even resource commitment as your organisation searches to find the right worker fit. We have, however, gotten used to paying workers at a certain level and it’s possible to secure low margins from agencies.

How do you deal with this challenge without racking up a whole load of extra cost? Not as you perhaps think – and it’s probably worth addressing that particular elephant in the room first.

The Urban Myth: Exchanging volume with a single agency supplier will solve all my problems.

There are c24000 recruitment agencies operating in the UK, employing about 102,000 recruitment consultants. It’s a massively fragmented supply market that has never responded well when customers with diverse needs have attempted to exchange volume with a single supplier.

In the managed service world, some providers have responded to the challenge of keeping margins low with brute force, transferring workers supplied by incumbent agencies to their own books at implementation, and attempting to fill every requirement that comes along. In the long term this approach inevitably drives off contract buying and significantly reduces quality. This will obviously impact organisational output and competitiveness.

Keeping rates sustainable – making it worthwhile for the agency

The rate paid to an agency is sustainable if it covers their cost of sale and generates a reasonable profit. Cost of sale is important here; agencies typically pay their temporary workers at the end of the previous week worked and get paid by the customer in arrears. As such, prompt and efficient payment is crucial; agencies only get paid once they have filled a role successfully. Providing a decent level of opportunity on a level playing field is extremely important; and they are a vital component in delivering the temporary workforce so it is important to allow them to be heard (and not just through email) and responded to.

In terms of return, it’s important to pitch rates at the right level. Instinctively you may distrust agencies if you have stung by high spot fees in the past, but there are boundaries beyond which margins simply don’t work and render the fee payable non-profitable. Clearly it’s important to push these boundaries where the market dictates, but you will need to develop a strong understanding of the market to do so.

In our own managed service model suppler relationship management is a key component of our service and one that has helped us to address these issues. If you’re considering the managed service route, do talk to your agencies and ask them to give their views on different managed service providers – it will be an interesting conversation and one that should form part of your market approach.

Keeping rates sustainable – making it worthwhile for the worker

Whilst demand for skilled workers is currently outstripping supply it’s easy to think that the amount that you pay for those workers will have to go up, but this is not necessarily the case. Whilst pay rate is of course important, a workers decision on where to work is also led by a number of other factors. The includes the work itself, length of assignment, departmental profile and culture, amenities and work-life balance.

Keeping rates sustainable – managing expectations

Over the last 24 months we have been regularly canvassing the views of our agency suppliers to understand market dynamics, and one consistent theme has been of expectations. In an uncertain economic market where there is an abundant supply of skilled workers, the chances of recruiting someone who meets all your criteria are relatively high, so conversely with the market going full circle, expecting the same now can lead to disappointment.

The best way to address this is to allow agencies to manage the expectations of your line managers for you. This will help your managers to focus on their required outcomes rather than their perception of what they need. It will enable them to benefit from the recruiters’ knowledge of the market and what skills are available.

Whether you allow a managed service provider to manage this on your behalf or not, what is of paramount importance is that these relationships are strictly governed.

Subscribe to our mailing list and get access to more complimentary content from Comensura.

Best of the Blog: Beware The Scary Old Word CPO

Is your career in the grips of a scary, old-world CPO? How do you recognise if your boss is one, and what can you do about it?

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting Tania Seary’s top advice on how to avoid the scary old world CPO!

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! 

– Lewis Carroll, 1871

You’ll know a scary, old-world CPO when you see one.I had almost forgotten about them until I found myself in a meeting with one last week. Somehow in recent times I have escaped the horror of hearing such old-world, closed network thinking like:

  • “I don’t want my team on social media, someone may poach them”
  • “We’re too busy working to be looking at what’s happening in the rest of the world”
  • “We know our business best”
  • “What if my team spends all day on social media?”

To the team at Procurious, these comments are like blasphemy. We’re on a mission to change the face of procurement, and give the images associated with the profession a makeover. We want to replace the old brown cardigan-clad stereotype, with fresh images of procurement as the “smartest guys in the room”.My meeting with this archetypal nemesis reminded me of all the reasons why we founded Procurious. It gave me increased motivation to continue our mission, and gave rise to an overwhelming urge to protect all the amazing rising stars in procurement from the soul-crushing dictatorship of a scary, old-world CPO.

The Old-World CPO

Let’s face it, if your personal characteristics and actions portray an image that you’re living in the past, the chances are good you are. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.As such, we want to reward the great bosses, those leading by example, keeping their teams energised, investing in individuals’ careers, and continuously pushing procurement to excel.What are the tell-tale signs of a scary, old-world CPO? The next time you’re going for an interview, or looking at your current boss, don’t fall for the flashy suit, big title, or even the big brand name they represent.If the person opposite you falls into one of these categories, the chances are your career development will come to a screeching halt under such a draconian regime.  

The (Digitally) Invisible Man…or Woman

Check whether this CPO has any sort of online presence. Tell-tale signs of invisibility include profiles with no photos, or inappropriate photos, scant, or no, information, and no visible mentions in a Google search.There may have been a freak internet-cleansing event, wiping out all references to this person, but the reality is that they probably haven’t spoken at any events, written anything interesting, taken the time or effort to understand social media, or understand the fact that you will be researching them online.Also, beware those CPOs who have fewer than 500 connections in their network. Some CPOs do make the case of quality vs quantity. But, if you’re working in a large company, have a large team, and work with an extensive supply base, shouldn’t 500 quality connections be expected?You (and the majority of your peers) want to work for someone who is an influencer. You want a leader with a wide range of connection they can introduce you to, and broaden your horizons. Working with someone with a limited network can be a road to nowhere for your career prospects.

Robinson Crusoe – the Loner 

This CPO really is an island.They don’t believe in networking, collaborating, or outside knowledge flow, and believe information is for their own personal advantage to build their power base. The Robinson Crusoe profile can physically manifest itself as an executive sitting in a corner by themselves, with their back to the team.This information block exists not only within their psyche, but extends to the procurement team itself. This old-world CPO has particularly old-world views, and creates a knowledge hierarchy, where they take all the great (and politically advantageous) ideas as their own.Another problem with this approach is that it encourages working in a closed network as part of the norm. These scary old world CPOs end up staying in the same profession, peer group, company, or industry, invariably associating with people they already know. This peer group continues to reinforce their outdated approach to management, and their thinking is never challenged.The new world CPO is collaborative, a “true influencer” and shares their knowledge freely and widely.My view is that a CPO’s main job is to not only drive change and innovation (and make a couple of deals on the side), but to give their team the opportunity to access tools and discuss ideas with other professionals, thought leaders and experts from around the globe.Yet I still see CPOs encouraging teams to work in isolation, unaware that there is whole universe of knowledge to help them grow and excel in their jobs.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Career Crusher

Their desk calendar reads 2016, but their attitude towards employees is stuck in the 1950s.Yes, your boss should have an overall plan for how their team is delivering against the overall business strategy. But they should also have a plan for you – both for what you need to deliver, and how you need to develop in the future.They should be committed to diversity and promoting young talent, to making sure their team reflects this commitment and is generating opportunities for the next generation of talent.The best CPOs are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop. They send their people out to be trained in the skills they need, expose them to new opportunities, and build peer networks that will develop leadership skills.The worst CPOs keep their category managers locked away from the rest of the world in fear that their people will be poached. A great CPO doesn’t need to worry about this. They know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged and retained.

Reverse Mentoring

Let’s not be too hard on these talented Heads of Procurement. They can’t all be cut from the same cloth.Why not get on the front foot and try and initiate some reverse mentoring. With a few polite, and well-placed pointers, I am sure you could help turn your scary, old-world CPO into a procurement rock star.Sharing your skills and knowledge could help your CPO become increasingly tech savvy and an advocate for technology, including social media, for procurement. And just in case you need some more points, you can find a 5-point checklist on being a great procurement boss right here.We look forward to seeing you both on Procurious soon!

5 Ways to Avoid Spreading Fake News in Procurement

Have you ever been guilty of presenting fake news or “alternative facts” to your CFO? Integrity is a cornerstone of the procurement profession, but benefits realisation is one area where supply managers sometimes play fast and loose with the facts.  

 

It seems everyone is talking about fake news at the moment. The term came to the fore after the U.S. election, when Hilary Clinton called out fake news as a contributing factor to the Democrats’ defeat. Since then, President Trump’s team have wholeheartedly embraced the term, regularly branding unfavourable reports as “fake news” and even describing selected media outlets (such as CNN and Buzzfeed) “fake news organisations”.

 

After Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer’s first press conference contained provable falsehoods about the size of the inauguration crowd, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway came to his defence by saying that Spicer was simply presenting “alternative facts”, much to the delight of Twitter users who immediately converted the term into a hashtag.

Fake news can be dangerous – putting aside whether or not it influenced the U.S. election, the phenomenon has inflamed racial tensions, led to at least one shooting (the “Pizzagate” gunman), while more recently the two nuclear powers Israel and Pakistan exchanged tense words over a news report that proved to have no verifiable source.

The good news is that solutions are popping up all over the globe. The BBC is setting up a “fake news” team, Italy plans to establish commissions of experts to rule on the veracity of news, while Germany has threatened to fine social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook for spreading fake stories.

How does fake news apply to procurement? Let’s look at two examples – firstly, the CPO’s role as the organisation’s trusted advisor and arbiter of facts, and secondly, the risk of feeding “fake news” about cost savings upwards to the CFO.

 The trusted advisor in times of crisis

When a disruptive event takes place, procurement needs to be known as the calm centre of the storm. Let’s take Brexit as an example. After the shock result in June last year, a rising sense of panic took hold of markets while business leaders worldwide were rattled. Media organisations began to speculative on the potential fallout of the Brexit vote, leading to the danger of knee-jerk reactions from CEOs and other decision-makers.

It was gratifying to see that one week later, the CEOs of the world’s two biggest professional bodies for procurement and supply management released statements that contained essentially the same message of reassurance. Importantly, both statements emphasised the procurement professional’s role as the suppressor of speculation and the guardian of facts.

ISM’s Tom Derry spoke to Procurious about his organisations’ decision to release a supplementary Report on Business revealing that the impact of Brexit on US CPOs’ buying decisions was negligible. “There has been an enormous amount of speculation about the impact of Brexit, fed by a sense of unease and uncertainty”, said Derry. “ISM was in a position to gather real data and put the information out there so businesses can make informed decisions based on facts, rather than fear, concern or emotion.”

Similarly, the late CIPS CEO David Noble urged procurement and supply professionals to “act as the suppressor of panic, not the creator”. Noble said that how supply managers behave “is fundamental to how the business manages these coming weeks and months. Supply chains can emphasise or exaggerate concern, which can then be magnified all the way down the chain.”

Benefits realisation – procurement’s very own “fake news”

While the Brexit example demonstrates how procurement can either supress or endorse speculation originating in the media, there’s one area where CPOs are guilty of generating fake news themselves – the realisation of negotiated savings and other benefits.

In a report commissioned by members of The Faculty Roundtable entitled Making it Stick, researchers found that 50% of contracted savings are not making their way to the bottom line in leading Australian organisations. Without effective contract management to realise the full value of savings and other benefits, procurement professionals risk damaging the integrity of the function. Eventually, the falsehood will catch up with them when the CFO calls them into their office and demands: “Where’s the money?”

That’s why, to avoid being a purveyor of false data, CPOs must address the fundamental shortfalls that are costing organisations hundreds of millions in unrealised savings.

Five ways to turn “fake news” into real, bankable savings

Procurement teams are adept at finding the money, but it takes a whole organisation to keep the money. Given the uncertain business climate facing organisations internationally, driving savings and other value to the bottom line is an absolute priority facing the C-level today.

  1. Encourage enterprise-wide ownership and alignment with Procurement’s targets (shared targets).
  2. Bust silos through true cross-functional collaboration, particularly between procurement and finance.
  3. Work to eliminate maverick spend and other non-compliance that undermines procurement’s gains and damages supplier relationships.
  4. Establish crystal-clear benefits definitions, measurements and validation processes, agreed upon across the organisation.
  5. Create a cost-conscious culture to enable CPO-level efforts to expand the value that procurement contributes.

In short, as a CPO you’ll need integrity to win the trust and respect of your team, your peers, and your suppliers. Your willingness to accept or even endorse fake news, such as panic-driven speculation or unrealised savings, will very quickly erode this respect and lose the confidence required to run an effective procurement function.

9 Tips For Negotiating A Pay Increase

The end of the financial year is approaching, which means many companies are preparing for performance reviews. Is this a good time to ask for a pay rise? 

Denise LeBlanc/Shutterstock.com

If you’ve been thinking about asking management for a pay rise, you’re probably not alone. The end of the financial year provides the ideal forum to talk about your achievements and can also be an opportune time to raise the issue of a pay rise. However, your performance is only one of the considerations influencing a pay rise. The economy, your employer’s financial performance and what your department has contributed to the organisation’s bottom line will also all play a part in the decision-making.

According to a survey by Salary.com, more companies are planning for larger salary budgets in 2017 than smaller ones. In fact, more than twice as many survey respondents on average are planning to offer larger increases in 2017 than 2016. So you could be in with a shot.

However, bringing up the topic isn’t something most people are comfortable with. To help you prepare, consider these things.

  1. Verbalise your worth

Some people assume their manager is already aware of their achievements, so they shouldn’t really need to ask for a pay rise. But this isn’t necessarily the case.

Your boss will be looking to award a pay increase to staff who can demonstrate that they have gone above and beyond. So, in your meeting, give clear examples to demonstrate how you’ve delivered beyond what is expected of you. Structure this just like a CV and focus on actual outputs and achievements, rather than general statements about how hard you work.

This could include times when you’ve taken initiative or financially or tangibly contributed to the business. Be sure to also give details about any additional tasks or responsibilities you’ve taken on. Having a written pitch supporting your assertion for a pay rise could also help the negotiation.

  1. Demonstrate your value

Take the time to research what similar roles to yours pay in other companies, which can help you set realistic expectations of yourself and your employer. Take some time to look through online jobs platforms, the newspaper and perhaps even recruitment companies in your field might have some related pay information they could share.

Generally, if you’re asking for a higher salary, you’re not in a position of power. In face-to-face negotiations, research finds that the more powerful person will usually win out. So, if you’re negotiating with your boss, you might like to at least start the negotiations over email or phone before sitting down and discussing it together. 

  1. Don’t give an ultimatum

You might have kicked some goals for your company and feel confident about your place in the food chain, but giving them an ultimatum might get you want in the short term, but it could also damage your relationship or career in the long term. A good negotiation tool can be to find out your replacement cost to the company, particularly if you’re working on projects with tangible deliverables, and mention this during the meeting.

  1. Watch your body language

Pay attention to what your body language says during the meeting. Stay relaxed, speak slowly and have open body language during the meeting (no crossed arms). Avoid getting defensive and be confident and convincing by coming to the meeting prepared.

  1. Be a learner

Demonstrating your ability to learn will demonstrate dedication. Whether you attend courses to improve your skills a few times a year or develop a lifelong habit of daily learning or micro-learning (such as reading about a new topic related to your job description on the commute to work or in your lunch break), this is something that management will look upon favourably.

  1. Don’t name your price

Don’t be the first person to say how much you’re expecting in a pay rise. For all you know, your boss could be thinking of a figure far higher than you’re predicting, so let them speak first. If your efforts to ask them to name a number isn’t working, give a narrow range that you’d be happy with. 

  1. Be realistic about timeframes

Don’t raise the possibility of a pay rise and expect it to be introduced the following week. While your company should have money in the budget to financially reward key staff, it’s rare that a pay rise will be approved and implemented immediately.

  1. Make sure you listen

Choosing the right phrases and making sure you say enough but not too much is paramount. Making sure you’re not suggesting that you’re underpaid and that there’s no aggression in your meeting is vital. Once you’ve presented your thoughts, make sure you let your manager respond, and listen with an open mind. If your manager decides not to increase your salary, ask for feedback and for ways you can improve your performance over the next year. 

  1. Discuss more than just pay 

If you’ve been turned for financial remuneration for your hard work, consider alternatives to an increase, such as asking for more workplace flexibility or additional training. Have this idea ready so that if your initial request is rejected, you can ask for an alternative.

No More Guessing Games! Time To Use Innovative Data Leveraging

There’s no longer a need for guessing games when it comes to  driving value! Innovative data leveraging is possible in any environment and can help to lead organisations towards an analytics enabled procurement.  

 

Join BravoSolution’s webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, which takes place on 28th March.

Many purchasing executives are looking to drive procurement transformation but this is reliant on three major factors:

  1. Level of stakeholder engagement
  2. Ability to align with the overall business strategy
  3. Use of advanced tools and technologies

My research suggests there exists a noticeable gap between procurement executives’ explicit intentions of driving value for the business, and documented results in these three areas.

These gaps can be attributed to a lack of critical data and analytical insight that can support a truly meaningful conversation with the business about spend, supply base, and supplier performance.

Annual budgeting becomes a guessing game, with little input solicited or provided by procurement. It might be due to a lack of data. Or, it could be procurement’s inability to take the lead in order to anticipate and gather the data required. This disconnect is causing significant challenges for businesses.tech

BravoSolution is running a  webinar on the 28th of March, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis.  I will be  discussing a common process that every executive we met with cited as critical for engaging stakeholders and building analytical insight. We call it “innovative data leveraging” (IDL).

Innovative Data Leveraging (IDL)

Innovative data leveraging is a fact-based, data-driven approach to driving change and influencing stakeholders to create procurement value for the business.

The IDL process was described in different contexts, but the common thread was that cross-functional engagement was powered by stakeholder influence through analysis and presentation of data. Of course, leveraging analytics is difficult without some prior investment in procurement systems such as transactional spend analytics, contract management, and supplier performance measurement. However, our analysis also showed that innovative data leveraging is possible in any procurement environment.

The process starts with procurement executives conducting working sessions with business stakeholders to develop a deep understanding of their business strategy, the challenges they face in executing this strategy, and the role that procurement can play in helping to shape and support this strategy. Successful procurement leaders are the ones who can effectively articulate the questions that need to be answered and pursue the data requirements to provide analysis, insight and advice in order to address stakeholders’ business concerns.

Several additional insights emphasize the importance of innovative data leveraging.

  1. IDL was found to be important during any stage of procurement transformation maturity.
  1. The development of IDL capabilities depends on successful initial business engagements, especially when reliable procurement systems and data are lacking.
  1. Advanced analytics in the form of predictive capability is the most highly evolved form of IDL.

What are the benefits of IDL?

At the earliest stages, preliminary insights on spend may provide opportunities for deeper involvement in functional sourcing initiatives, creating a platform for further engagement and integration. In emerging stages, organisations can drive significant insights into total cost of ownership and working capital improvements that go above and beyond simple price leveraging capabilities. In advanced stages, predictive analytics (using both structured and unstructured data) that produce insights into revenue forecasts, supplier risks, emerging market opportunities, and other value drivers begin to emerge.

The innovative data leveraging approach can help organisations at all maturity levels to build a solid path towards an analytics-enabled procurement, in their pursuit of value and excellence. This does more than bridge the gap between procurement’s goals and the overall business strategy.

When you start by leveraging data analytics, no matter what stage your organisation is in, you can build a foundation for innovative capabilities for procurement excellence, like predictive analytics and cognitive computing.

You’ll  learn more about all of these issues in BravoSolution’s  upcoming webinar!

Sign up to join BravoSolution’s webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, on 28th March