Category Archives: Career Management

Best Of The Procurious Blog – “Hey, Procurement…” The Rise of Chatbots in Supply Management

Procurement tech guru Bertrand Maltaverne explores the benefits, limitations and pitfalls of chatbots in procurement – with some animated examples!

“Hey, Siri,…”

“Alexa,…”

“OK Google,..”

Digital assistants are ubiquitous. We talk to them (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc.). We chat with them (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WeChat, etc.). They are in our phones, in our computers, and even in our homes. Now they are also making their way into our offices!

Procurement professionals need to start taking notice, because chatbots present a valuable and unique opportunity to provide better services and experiences for internal customers and suppliers. They can also support and assist procurement professionals with their daily activities, becoming virtual colleagues or consultants.

Of course, as with any new piece of technology, it is important not to succumb to the hype and to be aware of the technology’s limitations and constraints before deploying bots everywhere.

Value = Outcomes AND Experiences

The term “Conversational Commerce” was coined by Chris Messina in 2015. In his article, he focused on how messaging apps bring the point of sale to you. He first introduced the idea of assistants that people could interact with to buy things from a company. This is precisely what Amazon did and has popularized with Echo (the hardware) and Alexa (the AI-based assistant that “lives” inside Echo).

The idea of voice or text-based interactions with a bot can be extended to much more than B2C and to “buying things”. The value proposition of such technology is to digitise interactions and conversations while also making technology more accessible.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Gains in efficiency and effectiveness because of tailored and context-aware interactions. Chatbots remember everything, they know where you are, and can tap into data from all your other applications.
  • Less time and effort needed to learn how to use Procurement technology: conversations replace graphical user interfaces (everybody knows how to type or speak; no need to use explicit and codified instructions).
  • Interoperability and accessibility: users chat in the application or channel they prefer (SMS, Instant Messaging, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Alexa, Twitter, etc.). All bots leverage one common robust back-end system that processes and interprets natural language.

All in all, chatbots contribute to the creation of omni-channel and replicable but unique user experiences for stakeholders, suppliers, and for the Procurement teams themselves. Improving experiences is one of the pillars of the digital transformation of Procurement. In addition to delivering business benefits (savings, risk reduction, innovation, growth, etc.), it contributes to making procurement a supplier/customer/function of choice.

“Every time [customers] interact with a product, a service, a person, or an automated system, they judge how well the interaction helped them achieve their goals, how much effort they had to invest in the interaction, and how much they enjoyed the interaction.” Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning, Josh Bernoff, and Kerry Bodine

Use Case 1: Guided Buying (Chatbot as an Admin.)

This is a use case that is very close to B2C: a Procurement assistant is deployed to handle demands from the rest of the organisation in order to replace or “augment” traditional eProcurement solutions. Requesters interact with a bot that proposes solutions based on:

  • the needs identified during the conversation,
  • the Procurement strategy (preferred suppliers, preferred items, contracts in place),
  • other factors (purchasing history, real-time availability of products, context, etc.).

The approval process also happens via chat. If available, the chatbot adds the approver to the conversation, creating a group chat. Or, the Procurement Assistant opens a new one-to-one conversation with the relevant approver. Approvers can then ask the chatbot how much of the budget is left and then immediately approve/decline the request without leaving the chat. The same can happen for other process steps (order confirmations, goods receipts,etc.). The assistant initiates discussions to ensure the process is compliant and efficient.

Use Case 2: Operational Support (Chatbot As a Colleague/Consultant)

Chatbots can also be invaluable assistants in operational support. The most straightforward and immediate application: query management. A chatbot can become the single point of contact for internal and external queries about purchase orders, invoices, and much more. Several companies are already successfully using such capabilities in their Procurement portals to provide quick answers to a vast amount of queries, which leaves their teams with time to focus on  more complex requests and value-adding tasks.

It can even go further as the following scenario demonstrates:

Now, let’s compare what happened above with a scenario in the context of siloed organisations and where such technology wasn’t used. The purchaser would probably have learned about the earthquake on his way to work while checking the news on his smartphone. He would only have been able to assess the situation and prepare contingency plans once he arrived at work, losing valuable time. In may organisations this would take hours or even days because access to information is spread across multiple systems. This would result in a very different reaction time compared to the example above, where the cognitive agent reacted almost immediately after the event and prepared recommendations during the night.

Pitfalls and limitations

Relying on conversations instead of graphical  user interfaces has many benefits, especially for the mobile worker or casual user. However, there are limitations and challenges.

Voice-based conversations are the most natural ones and are also the most challenging from a technological perspective, especially in a B2B context. This is due, in part, to the international nature of business. For example, names of people or companies are not familiar words that a chatbot can quickly recognise, and to make things worse, they are often not in the same language as the one used to converse with the bot.

In addition to technical challenges like these that will likely be solved someday, there is a more human challenge: the conversational paradox. It explains why chatbots are still not widely used.  The paradox is that something very natural (a conversation) is done with another unusual counterpart (a machine), which turns the experience into a very unnatural one. So, when asking a chatbot something, the first questions people are confronted with are:

  • what instructions can “it” understand?
  • what words should I use to make sure I will be understood?

This represents  both a significant barrier to usage and a risk for adoption. It is therefore important to design and deploy chatbots with that in mind and:

  • not to use them as the only communication channel (it should be one among many others),
  • not to oversell the technology as being human-like (it inflates expectations and is a guarantee for failure),
  • to provide cues and guidance (like the menus/lists in the examples above)
  • to have a smooth and almost transparent hand-over to a real person if the machine fails to understand a user.

Conclusion

“By 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.” –Gartner

Conversational user interfaces are still a novelty, especially in B2B. However, they will become more widely used as technology makes further progress and people get more used to it. So, for Procurement, now is the time to investigate their potential as an additional way to provide a streamlined and personalized user experience both inside and outside of the function.

In addition to  delivering the right outcomes, experiences are also a crucial component of the value that the rest of the organisation gets from Procurement. Customer satisfaction is at stake.

The implementation of chatbots, like any other technology, has to be pragmatic, defined by clear use cases, and should not be viewed as a solution in itself. Chatbots will not solve all of an organisation’s problems, , but they can be used as a means to an end!

Time to learn how to say: “Hey, Procurement…”

Best of the Procurious Blog – Procurement In 7 Memes

They say a picture tells a thousand words. How about a procurement meme?

Okay, millennials. Strap yourselves in, because I’m going to attempt to meme. Is meme even a verb? Perhaps not, but that isn’t going to stop me.

For older readers who don’t really know (or care) what memes are, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. Whether it’s Bad Luck Brian, Kermit Sipping Tea, or King Leonidas screaming “SPARTA”, I’ll attempt to add a bit of context around the meme before applying a Procurement gripe to each.

1. Boromir Demurs

Rivendell; Middle Earth. The mood is tense. Gandalf has brought together a motley crew of humans, elves, dwarves and hobbits to discuss how best to destroy the One Ring, which has to that point proven impervious to both magical and physical force. A solution is put forward – take the ring to the enemy realm of Mordor and throw it into the volcanic fires of Mount Doom. At this point, the human warrior Boromir makes his most famous speech of the film, beginning with the words “One does not simply walk into Mordor…”

Since The Fellowship of the Ring, Boromir (Sean Bean) has become a meme, trotted out as a retort whenever someone suggests something that’s impractical, unrealistic, or simply a bad idea.

Here’s my procurement take:

Amirite? (Am I right?) This is Procurement 101 stuff – a company that selects its suppliers based solely on the cheapest quote will inevitably run into risk and quality issues. And besides, if that’s the strategy, then you might as well set up an e-auction system that automatically selects the cheapest bidder, then dispense with the procurement function altogether. Which brings us to…

2. Bad Luck Brian

Poor Brian. This high-schooler in his plaid vest and braces never gets a break. The meme generally follows the formula “[Brian does something positive … something terrible happens”]. For example:

“Spends all night studying … sleeps through exam”

“Only Facebook friend is mum …. cyberbullied”

“Wins a free cruise … on the Titanic”

From a procurement viewpoint:

Procurement professionals LOVE robotic process automation. Think of all those humans doing repetitive tasks at your organisation that could just as well be done by a robot. It’s a cost-saving no-brainer, right? Bring in the bots! Great idea – until it happens to you.

3. American Chopper Argument

Stills of row between father and son from the reality show American Chopper have recently become internet hits. The meme format lends itself well to any internet argument – whether it’s a discussion about the best pizza toppings, or a protracted “debate” in an academic journal.

For my text, I’ve taken an excellent debate from the Procurious Discussion section about reporting on Cost Avoidance. Check it out:


4. More American Chopper

I could do this all day … here’s another debate from the Discussion section, this time on Decentralised vs Centre-Led Procurement:


5. Distracted Boyfriend

This has to be my favourite meme of all due to its simplicity. A man walking down the street turns to leer after a woman walking past while his girlfriend stares at him with an appalled look on her face.

In procurement land:

We’re about more than cost savings!! Really!

I’ve heard this sad story again and again. Procurement professionals are eager to show their organisations that they’re more than a one-trick pony. We talk about how we can improve operational efficiency, bring in CSR & social procurement initiatives such as fighting modern slavery, and even generate top-line growth, but it’s incredibly disheartening when the boss (usually a CFO) only cares about one thing… cost savings.

6. Leonidas Goes Nuts

The film 300, a retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae in the Persian Wars, contains a gem of a scene where the Spartan King Leonidas loses his patience after being threatened and insulted by a Persian envoy. The envoy, suddenly in fear of his life, says “This is madness” before Leonidas responds with: “This is SPARTA” – and kicks him down a well. It’s an intense moment, as the Spartans know that the murder of the envoy makes war inevitable.

I’m really not advocating the murder of suppliers, but there are moments when you do have to remind them of the terms of a contract.

 

7. Kermit The Frog looks smug

This meme is particularly useful if you want to be facetious. Kermit the frog, calmly sipping a glass of Lipton tea, has lent himself to many a captioned meme ending with the phrase “… but that’s none of my business”.

As procurement professionals continue to wage their endless struggle against maverick spend, we inevitably have a lot of “I told you so” moments when an unapproved supplier turns out to be a disaster. Along comes Kermit…

Risky Business in Procurement and Supply Management

What sort of fallout can you expect to see from a supply chain scandal? What should you do when a risky event takes place? Tune in to today’s podcast on risk in procurement and supply chain, featuring ISM CEO Tom Derry and Procurious Founder Tania Seary.

Today we’re faced with complex supply chain challenges. In fact, it’s hard to think of an area of the business that modern procurement doesn’t touch, ranging from employment law, to climate change, to human rights.

As the complexity of supply chains continues to increase, so too does the number of issues we need to deal with, which is why supply chain disruption is often quoted as the number one concern of CEOs. They know that supply chain failures can have a dramatic impact on their public reputation – and their company share price.

ISM CEO Tom Derry joined Procurious to discuss how a supply chain disruption can damage an organisation, and what can be done to mitigate the risk.

What kind of fallout is a company likely to see as a result of a supply chain scandal?

Tom: From a Board and CEO point of view, there was an academic study written by a professor out of Georgia Tech a few years back that revealed that if there’s a publicly announced supply chain disruption, that company will experience a lower stock price for at least five years after the event. We’re talking about a catastrophic destruction of market cap and value for companies that experience disruption.

The other fallout is a permanent loss of sales. My 21-year-old daughter makes decisions about the products she buys based on what she knows about the company’s social and sustainability practices. If she hears something about a company that she doesn’t agree with, that company has lost her business for the rest of her life – that could be as much as 80 years of lost sales!

On the other hand, companies that have built up good social equity because of their CSR and sustainability practices don’t tend to suffer the same kind of heavy damage.

What are the common-sense steps to take to ensure your risk management is in order?

Tom: The first thing to understand is this doesn’t require an expensive consultant to run 10,000 Monte-Carlo simulations, give you a probability assessment or sell you a 2×2 matrix.

For procurement and supply management professionals, it’s important to look beyond the first tier of suppliers to where your organisation is really vulnerable – three or four levels down.

You should know every single-source supplier in your supply base, and you should have plans in place for immediately dealing with an issue with one of those sources.

You need to beware of geopolitical risk. If something changes – if an industry gets nationalised or if someone unexpectedly wins an election or referendum – what will your answer be if a scenario like that develops?

Look at the other side of the company. What are the products and services you’re selling, and what in your supply base could put that at risk? We should understand how the activities we are performing help support the business in making its money, and look there for risks that could really disrupt the business. 

How do you minimise fallout from a risk event taking place?

Tom: Wait. In the heat of the moment, it’s a natural human feeling to get defensive when you’re being criticised. An immediate instinct might be to get out there and say that the fault lies with someone else, but that would be a mistake. Don’t give into that instinct to blame, deny and defend. Instead, take a measured view of what’s going on, then accept ownership and responsibility. People will give you a lot of credit for being open, straightforward and transparent about a mistake. If you try to dodge it, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Part Five of Tuesdays with Tom is available now. Click here to sign up and hear ISM CEO Tom Derry discuss what sort of fallout you can expect to see from a supply chain scandal and what should you do when a risky event takes place? 

3 Steps To Building A Future-Proof Organisation

Automation, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies are changing our world and redefining the future of work. Organisations need to gear up to manage this transition wisely and understand the new rules of the game.

This article was written by Kumeshnee West

The fourth industrial revolution has the potential to disrupt every industry in every country through large-scale automation, adoption of emergent technologies, big data and artificial intelligence. There are many predictions and estimates on how this will affect labour markets, but one thing is certain – the jobs we do, and the skills we need to perform them, will change, and rapidly.

A McKinsey report estimated that by 2030 at least one-third of the activities of 60 per cent of occupations could be automated. This means that globally up to 375 million people may need to change jobs or learn new skills. A World Economic Forum report predicted that current trends in a disruptive labour market could lead to a loss of 7.1 million jobs, two thirds of which are in administrative roles. And a study by Oxford Universityestimated that 47 per cent of total employment in the United States is at risk due to computerisation, given that automation and computerisation are no longer confined to routine manufacturing tasks. Big data and artificial intelligence are allowing a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks to be performed by machines.

While this may sound catastrophic, the good news is that while large-scale automation may redefine the workplace it does not necessarily mean we will all be out of a job. Changes in technology also create new jobs and spawn new industries. The challenge is going to be ensuring that workers have the skills they need to transition to different jobs. The fourth industrial revolution poses a risk to job security only in the sense that not managing this transition can lead to greater unemployment and social inequality.

In approaching what lies ahead, managers and leaders should consider the following three truths.

1. Talent will be more important than capital

Klaus Schwab, Chairman of the World Economic Forum believes that “in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production”. To make sure they are ready for a future that is still emerging, organisations and people need to be adaptable, innovative and responsive. If up to 65 per cent of the jobs of tomorrow don’t exist yet – it is impossible to “train” people in the conventional sense. Rather we need to invest in their essential capabilities.

To ensure we build talent that is capable of mastering change we need to invest in resilient leadership. Leadership skills are not tied to particular jobs or industries and solid leadership development provides the kind of transferable skills likely to be needed in the future. The WEFidentified the top ten skills that will be most needed in 2020 as: complex problem solving; critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgement and decision making; service orientation; negotiation and cognitive flexibility. These essential skills have long been part of most good leadership development, MBA and executive education programmes – and they will need to be scaled up.

2. Education needs to be flexible too

The WEF report recommends that organisations embrace talent diversity, leverage flexible working arrangements and incentivise lifelong learning to best manage the changes ahead. Lifelong learning and executive education certainly have an important role to play in a rapidly changing job market, and these programmes also need to be flexible and adaptable to student’s and organisation’s needs.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) already offer flexible access to lifelong learning and the number of courses available is rapidly increasing to meet demand. Many perceive the downside of online learning to be the loss of face-to-face interaction, which is still regarded as critical to the quality of education – specifically when it comes to learning and practising the essential skills identified by the WEF. Educational institutions are looking to fix this by offering a mix of traditional and online learning to reskill and prepare for workplace transition. There are opportunities for combinations and blends of one-on-one and group interactions at all levels of learning.

3. The link between education and business is a two-way street

The format of what is being taught needs to be flexible but so does the content.

As the WEF report suggests, education systems need to be re-designed if we are going to tackle the transitions ahead. This entails businesses, governments and educational institutions working together to provide curricula that meet current and future needs. The McKinsey report suggests that governments have a role to play in maintaining economic growth, scaling job retraining and workforce skills development, and providing income and transition support to workers whilst retraining. But they cannot do this on their own.

Educators supply industry with critical skills, and industry has a hand in shaping the talent pool and informing educational institutions of the changes they foresee and the skills they wish to develop. Businesses that invest in long-term partnerships with educational institutions to develop skills and respond to changes in the environment will stand a better chance of building a workforce that is future proof: suitably skilled, adaptable and ready for the challenges that we collectively face. As the African proverb goes: If we want to go far, we need to go together.


Kumeshnee West is Director of Executive Education at the UCT Graduate School of Business. This article was originally published here.

3 Mistakes That Will Destroy Trust Between Procurement And Suppliers

As you’ll  know from your personal life, the most loyal friendships are earned through  experiences, challenges, and good times. So why should be any different with your suppliers?

If you have a vendor who constantly demonstrates great performance and continues to deliver and deliver and deliver…reward them! Give them extra projects or new developments and more business. Don’t continue to pressure them and penalise them, because this relationship might erode over time. Perhaps it could still functional and transactions will happen, but the relationship will be affected as a result.

Here I have collected three typical mistakes that will destroy trust between a procurement organisation and its suppliers.

1. Empty Threats

“Be constructive in your arguments and honest in your feedback…”

This was one of the first lessons I learned from a mentor when I asked about contract negotiations. It’s simple but powerful and it genuinely creates trust.

If you are bluffing –a professional partner will recognise it. And you want to work with professionals, right?

Walk the talk. If you’re claiming that a supplier is offering a better price – be able to prove it.

Making empty threats is either the result of a lack of preparation  or a lack of any decent arguments full stop.

Remember that trust is the base for a good partnership. And fake promises can easily destroy trust.

2.  Continue negotiations after contracts are signed

I have to confess that I’ve done this many times in my procurement career so I understand how harmful it can be.

There is an unwritten rule for sales people that states you should stop selling after the client has agreed to a deal.

The very same  rule should be applied to procurement professionals. We should have the ambition to reach the best deal within our budget and time limits, we should consider risks and potential threats but all of this should happen before we agree the final contract. After the two parties agree prices, terms and conditions of contract, everyone should concentrate on execution.

Normally we set certain deadlines for the supplier selection process and close to these deadlines we can become more and more stressed, losing focus and failing to mention  important details or opportunities. As a result we often finalise the agreement not because we are sure that this is the best deal, but because we are short of time.  And then, after the documents are signed, we attempt to save costs further with the vendor.

Procurement professionals must act professionally in such situations. Simply opening up new negotiations with the vendor will destroy trust, sending the signal that the agreement means nothing to you and that you’ll happily switch to a better alternative whenever you get the chance. As a result, they will also de-prioritise you as a customer and not invest the time and efforts into developing your products.

If you see an opportunity to decrease prices after the contract is signed,  be open and transparent to your vendor. Explain your reasons set the arena for a new discussion and listen carefully. With any luck you can find a solution that suits you both.

3.  Focusing only on price reductions

I like to explore competition in Procurement! Preparing a good RFQ/RFP process and making suppliers fight for your business is great isn’t it?

Doing this process a number of times within the same product group will definitely lead you to a dead end. You’ll reach a threshold where quotation will not bring more savings.  It’s a frustrating moment when there is no more low hanging fruit, no more chances to cut the prices by reverse auction or bidding processes. So now what?

In most cases the extra revenue can be gained in more ways than simply cutting your suppliers’ margin or increasing purchase volumes.

Look into the business relationship, the supply stream and the infrastructure of the business and investigate where we can save costs and do things better, faster and smarter. More often than not, if we really find this momentum and use it to reduce costs, we will get bigger volumes into this business. New projects will come and more development will happen if the relationship is strong and there is trust. This will also result in more revenue coming to both sides – it’s a win-win.

Procurement 2030: Time Enough At Last?

With 41 per cent of procurement professionals expecting there to be fewer procurement and supply jobs available in the year 2030, career longevity will be held only by those with the right skills.

Fans of The Twilight Zone will remember the Time Enough At Last episode, where it takes a nuclear apocalypse before a frustrated bank clerk finally has the time to indulge his passion.

For procurementand supply professionals standing on the brink of the robotic era, the coming wave of automation presents an unprecedented opportunity to spend time on strategic and value-adding activities that are often pushed aside in favour of the tactical workload.

Procurious and Michael Page UK’s survey of nearly 600 global procurement professionals revealed the top three activities that people would spend time on if tactical elements of their role were automated:

1. Increasing procurement’s influence in the organisation

2. Developing team and talent

3. Seeking opportunities to contribute to top-linegrowth.

This result begs the question: Why wait? If these are the three key activities that procurement professionals would like to spend more time on, they should be prioritised today.

Time for a brand makeover

As the profession continues to transform and evolve, the procurement ‘brand’ is a recurring topic of debate at conferences around the globe. Is it still relevant today, and does it encompass the many value-adding activitiesundertaken besides sourcing? Results from thissurvey reveal that nearly 72 per cent of professionals believe ‘procurement’ will still be an appropriate term in 2030, despite the expectation that the rate of change will increase over the next decade.

Re-skill to survive

With 41 per cent of surveyed professionals expecting there to be fewer procurement and supply jobs available in the future, career longevity will be held only by those with the right skills.

Critical thinking, problem-solving and relationship-building have been nominated as the key skills for the year 2030.

What would you do with 42 per cent more time?

Level 1 of this four-part series revealed that procurement professionals spend, on average, 49 per cent of their time on tactical tasks. Survey respondents expect 42 per cent of their overall workload to be automated, which raises the question: what will people do with their new-found time by the year 2030?

The top three responses indicate that procurement professionals would spend more time on tasks that generate value for their organisation

.• Increase procurement’s influence through stronger alignment with the business and better communication to enable engagement in strategic decisions.

• Do not rush the development and recruitment of top talent, even if there is a pressing business need to do so. Spending more time (not necessarily more budget) on talent will allow the development of highly-skilled teams that can drive value for the organisation.

• Seek opportunities to contribute to top-line growth. This often requires creative thinking and a thorough review of end-to-end processes, particularly in mature functions where further savings opportunities are becoming difficult to find.

The automation of tactical procurement tasks in your organisation will not take place all at once, but piecemeal automation is already happening. Be ready to seize the opportunity to drive true value as tactical tasks are incrementally automated.

Automate to humanise

Overwhelmingly, procurement professionals believe automation will enable a greater focus on building strategic relationships. While tactical transactions with the bulk of suppliers in the spend tail may well be 100 per cent automated, productive engagement with strategic suppliers will increase with technology.

  • Apps or web-apps will drive collaborative processes through event triggers and notifications.
  • Less time will be spent arguing about data, with trusted data allowing more time to spend on collaboratively finding ways to build value.
  • Expect to see more personal interaction but shorter meetings, as the tactical discussion and low-level relationship management will already have been taken care of.

Interested In Learning More?

This content-packed report also contains links to relevant thought-leadership from Procurious and Michael Page UK, including videos, blog articles, podcasts and webinars.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PROCUREMENT 2030: LEVELS 1 to 4

3 Attributes Of The Future CPO

Why are organisations appointing CPOs from outside of the profession, what’s the no. one category that will produce future CPOs and should there be a new label for the role of CPO. 

The modern day CPO is vastly different to the CPO of a decade ago – both in terms of management style and the expectations put upon them by the organisation.

And so we can only assume that CPOs in 10-15 years will be similarly unrecognisable.

Who will get the top job in the future , what sort of professional background will they have ?

Tom Derry, CEO – ISM discusses why companies are appointing CPOs from outside of the profession, the no. one category that will produce future CPOs and a new label for the role of CPO

It doesn’t take a procurement professional to be CPO

There’s been a real trend in recent years of CPOs being appointed from outside traditional backgrounds. A savvy marketing professional or a cost-conscious operations manager could make a very attractive candidate for the role.  Similarly, IT professionals – the innovation scouts who know how to drive change and understand key threats to the business like cyber security – could be chasing the CPO role.

“Requirements of the job and the definition of the job have to evolve over time and in the not too distance future,” explains Tom.

Tom outlines some of the key qualities of the CPO of the future.

Customer-facing expertise

“Customer-facing expertise, the ability to interact with, understand and even anticipate customer needs, is a critical skill”

One of the key themes in a recent CAPS research survey emphasised the importance of a demand-driven supply chain.          “[This] means an orientation toward, and a sensitivity to, the needs and requirements of the customer, flexing to meet the customers requirements and configuring your supply chain and your procurement activities to meeting those requirements.”

Market expertise

It’s so important for future procurement leaders to have clear vision and strategy – a strategy that your team can implement based on what you’ve identified.

“Another way of saying that is market expertise” explains Tom.  “Understanding where your company is, what markets you’re going after and the characteristics of those markets in terms of customer and suppliers [is really important]. [Someone with an understanding] of where markets are today and where they’re headed would be ideally suited to lead the supply chains and procurement activities of the future.”

Leadership

Tom stresses CPOs of the future do not need to be process experts. “We don’t need someone who has grown up in the ranks of procurement and has become very good at RF processes, scouting new suppliers, or understanding supply markets.  These are key skills but they are not the leadership skills that are required to lead the entire companies  effort-  they’re just necessary functional skills.”

So where does Tom think CPOs will come from in the future? “Some will become category managers and then move laterally into different positions, and then move into the top job. But it won’t be a straight-line path. You won’t be climbing a ladder within the function to get to the CPO job. You’ll have to leave the function and come back, or come from outside the function because you’ve got the vision and strategic skills to lead.”

Part Three of Tuesdays with Tom is available now. Click here to sign up and hear ISM CEO Tom Derry discuss CPOs of the future and how we might label the profession going forward. 

Big Ideas Zurich: 3…2…1… ACTION!

Big Ideas Zurich is now available to watch on demand. Sign up as a digital delegate to watch the event in full! 

We’re so excited to finally share Big Ideas Zurich with you. This truly digital event addresses what skills you need to perfect in order to drive peak performance in your career; what’s the latest intel on blockchain and how to close the gender pay gap in procurement.

The entire event is now available to stream on-demand via the digital delegates group on Procurious.

Check out the agenda below to see what tickles your pickle and watch some highlight videos from the event:

Tania Seary on Driving Peak Performance

Joelle Payom on Diversity and Inclusion

What is your favourite job interview question?

Big Ideas Zurich is now available to watch on demand. Sign up as a digital delegate to watch the event in full! 

Category Management – What’s The State of Play?

Do you know how to measure the performance of category management in your organisation? It might be a top three priority for 85 per cent of leading procurement teams, but only 5 per cent of teams have fully optimised their category management…

Category management, and in particular cross-functional category strategy development, is a central feature within procurement organisations – particularly where there is a desire to transform from a sourcing and price management focus.  This allows teams to work more closely with business stakeholders and co-create visionary category strategies that access the full range of value levers available. This maximises and broadens the range of value delivered in terms of total cost reduction, risk reduction and revenue increases.

Although category management was first introduced 30 years ago in procurement, there has been no playbook for implementing it. Approaches used vary from organisation to organisation and category to category.

Since 2012, over 1,100 professionals from 40 countries have taken part in our three previous global surveys in collaboration with Henley Business School.

Since we began doing this survey, our objective has been to develop this playbook, by identifying what causes that inconsistency and identify which practices are most effective, which are least well used, and how the delivery of results links to these areas. The comprehensive report we produce, is an invaluable guide to procurement teams wherever they are on their category management journey.

What is the survey?

A mobile-friendly 10-15 minute survey with multiple choice questions in five different sections. You can share your views on the current state of category management in your organisation. Your individual responses are collated and drive the report but are not shared with any third parties.

The insights coming out of the analytics will again be developed into a comprehensive actionable report, available early next year and published to participants in advance. You will also receive an immediate benchmark assessment at the end of the survey – comparing your organisation’s category management performance with the other participants.

Why do we do it?

We wish to provide insights that will allow participants to improve their organisation’s category management capability and build a business case for investment if needed. This includes:

  • Identifying the most powerful practices being used by leaders to make category management successful
  • Providing practical recommendations on how to implement the powerful practices identified
  • Quantifying the extra value and savings that category management leaders achieve versus followers

How does the 2018-19 survey and report help procurement leadership teams?

For leadership teams, the survey questions provide a checklist of topics that they should consider as a team when designing their operating model for category management. Topics include:

  • Providing category management awareness training for stakeholders
  • Aligning the category management process with related business processes
  • Prioritising projects to work on jointly with budget holders on an annual basis
  • Securing senior stakeholders as sponsors for key categories

Our experience is that many leadership teams do not formally plan their operating model for category management. The impact of this is that category managers can feel that they are operating in an ambiguous environment that limits their efficiency and effectiveness. Examples include extensive time being required to persuade business stakeholders to participate in cross-functional category teams and category managers being excluded from sessions where fundamental components of category strategies are being worked on by stakeholders.

Procurement leadership teams that invest the time to pro-actively design their operating model create an opportunity to consider the numerous and often interdependent moving parts that impact category management success. They remove ambiguity and address the design issues that often cause category management to operate sub-optimally. They provide a clear structure and defined environment for category managers to operate within. The team become clear on “what good looks like” and performance across the group is more consistent and reliable. Ultimately, they deliver better results than their peers – they are the category management Leaders. The report identifies which are the most important elements of a category management operating model to consider – derived from the survey results and detailed analysis conducted by Professor Marc Day from Henley Business School.

How does the 2018-19 survey and report help category managers?

The results from the last survey clearly demonstrated that category managers need to excel in two dimensions:

  • Behavioural skills: to develop excellent stakeholder relationships.
  • Technical skills: to build excellent category strategies.

The challenges of building excellence in behavioural skills such as building trust with stakeholders, communicating effectively and understanding needs is commonly understood by procurement teams, but the direct linkage to benefits delivered has only recently been evidenced from the analysis of 320+ respondents in our 2016-17 survey.

In the 2018-19 survey we have responded to feedback and have introduced questions that explore the specific attitudes and behavioural skills associated with stakeholder engagement. Our intention is to see which of these capabilities have most impact on business results created through category management.

We have also extended the questions about the technical skills required to create and implement category strategies. These include business requirements development, mapping technology changes, identifying market dynamics and understanding how to apply a range of relevant value levers.

For category managers, the survey and report provides a summary of the key skills that they will require as go-to-market activities get automated and the focus on category strategies intensifies.

Immediate Benchmarking

A new feature in this year’s survey is the ability to give participants instant feedback of their own performance against the other results submitted. For larger organisations, there is also the possibility to create reports focused just on that organisation – from a variety of respondents.

We believe that this survey gives a lot of value back to the category management community, and we’re hoping that a record number of people will support this edition. If you’ve any questions or comments please let me know. Also, please forward this blog to any members of your network that would benefit from participation and the benchmarking assessment.

Procurement Isn’t Lighting Up The World…Yet

“Procurement itself – let’s face it – isn’t going to light the world currently, but I believe it will be the new instrument in 2030 to change the world.” – Olinga Taeed, Visiting Professor in Blockchain at Birmingham City University

As we hurtle towards the new year, you might be starting to look ahead and reflect on your personal and professional development goals.

But why wait until January 1st to put your plans into action?

Next week, we’ll be addressing a huge range of critical areas for procurement and supply chain professionals at Big Ideas Zurich.

And, for the first time ever, we’ll be filming and streaming the entire day’s event via the Digital Delegates group on Procurious.

If there was ever a time to register for one of our summits, it’s now. Featuring presentations and interviews from some of Europe’s top procurement leaders, we’ll be discussing procurement and supply management towards 2030, the future of talent, automation, blockchain, diversity and so much more.

Check out our teaser trailers below for a little sneak peak of what’s to come.

Procurement isn’t lighting up the world

“Procurement itself – let’s face it – isn’t going to light the world currently, but I believe it will be the new instrument in 2030 to change the world.”

Olinga Taeed, the world’s first Professor in Blockchain and Social Enterprise, reveals how blockchain can be used for social good, why procurement isn’t currently lighting up the world and when that’s set to change. 

On December 10th discover…

  • What skills you need to perfect to drive peak performance in your career
  • The latest intel on blockchain 
  • How procurement can close the gender pay gap 
  • The latest updates on game-changing technology 
  • How to develop strategic partnerships 
  • Why supplier diversity is best for business
  • What procurement and supply chain will look like in 2030
  • How to stand on your supplier’s shoulders 
  • How to make your key business stakeholders love you
  • The ways to shift your procurement mindset 
  • The importance of having a digital endgame

Win a Parrot Bebop drone worth £450

We know that everyone loves a prize. And believe us when we say we’ve got prizes falling from the tops of the Swiss Alps.

As a registered digital delegate you’re in with a chance of winning one of eight amazing giveaways including the big-ticket item – a Parrot Bebop drone worth £450.

Plus, we’ve got Patagonia t-shirts, a Fjallraven backpack, stashes of Swiss chocolate and Herschel beanies up for grabs.

We’ll be doing eight prize giveaways throughout today with winners selected every half an hour. To put yourself in the running you simply need to get involved on the digital delegates group – posting your comments, insights and questions.

Sign up as  a digital delegate for Big Ideas Zurich (it’s free)