Category Archives: Career Management

4 Ways To Reduce Maverick Spend

The Hackett Group estimates that maverick spending can cost companies up to 2 per cent of all indirect spending, due to lost savings opportunities and inefficiencies. That amounts to millions of dollars wasted every year.

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Maverick spending, also known more formally as unmanaged spending, is a big problem for most companies. Maverick spending is when employees “buck the system” by going outside of contracts negotiated with preferred suppliers to purchase goods and services on their own, normally paying much higher rates. It occurs most often in areas of indirect spending, which includes large, diverse categories like MRO (maintenance, repairs, and operation), office supplies, professional services, and contract labor, to name a few. This diversity makes maverick spending behavior hard to spot and control. It’s not hard to spot the damage to the bottom line, though.

The ironic thing is that most negotiated supplier contracts are in place for the express purpose of governing tricky indirect spending categories. Yet studies have shown that a large percentage of indirect spending is still non-compliant.

What gives? Why do some employees still go off contract? Here are three eye-opening reasons:

  • Because they can – If there are no controls in place to enforce supplier contracts and negotiated rates, and no penalties for purchasing off-contract, it’s easier for employees to justify bypassing agreements when it suits them.
  • Because they don’t know any better – Especially in large companies, poor visibility is often blamed for maverick spending. If everyone in the buying chain is not aware of the contracts, or worse yet, contracts and catalogs are out-of-date, off-contract spending becomes more likely.
  • Because existing processes take too long – Slow ordering and approval processes are one of the leading causes of maverick spending. If approving a purchase and placing an order takes weeks, employees are going to go right around that process, especially in the case of time sensitive needs.

So how do you stop it? Put plain and simple, maverick spending will not stop until an organization does something about it. There’s a saying that goes, “Make the right way easy, and the wrong way hard.”

Here’s how to reduce maverick spending, so you can get better compliance, and realize some savings from your supplier contracts:

1.Put a system in place for better control

If you haven’t thought about this already, you should strongly consider implementing a purchasing system that automates all of your purchasing, regardless of commodity, approval process, or supplier. Purchasing systems make your entire purchasing process more efficient by governing requisition, approvals, buying, receipt, reconciliation, and reporting. They also serve as a “corral” for maverick spenders, by running all spend through a single platform, and providing only one way to do all purchasing.

2. Provide an intuitive and easy user interface

When putting a system in place, look for a best-in-class solution, known for being easy to use, and place where users can actually find goods or services they most commonly need. Usability and an intuitive shopping experience like consumer e-commerce sites will provide an inviting atmosphere that attracts off-contract purchasers back into the fold.

3. Simplify workflow procedures

World-class purchasing systems can streamline even the most complicated workflow procedures, making it much easier for employees to comply. Cumbersome purchasing processes that used to take weeks can be reduced to days or even hours. Even in cases where complicated ERP or accounting systems are gumming up the works, integration with cloud-based solutions are available to reduce traditional time, cost and resource hurdles and help simplify workflow for employees.

4. Take it seriously

It’s hard to believe, but maverick spenders still sometimes dodge even the easiest and most intuitive systems. The good news is, the spend analytics available in purchase-to-pay systems can tell you exactly where that rogue spend is coming from. Once it’s identified, it becomes much easier for management to enforce spending policies in those areas.

I Have Measured Out My Digital Transformation In Coffee Spoons…

Eager to lead your procurement team through a digital transformation?  We’ve got some advice from someone who knows the score… Grab a coffee and let illycaffè’s Procurement director talk you through the process… 

nazar_photo/ Shutterstock

Digital Transformation.

We assume that everyone is at it behind closed doors.

But how are they doing it? What’s the process? Are they doing a better job than us? Or is everyone simply floundering in the dark? Sometimes, you need the inside scoop from someone who knows the score!

Last month, at Jaggaer’s REVInternational 2018 event in Munich, Diego Pedroli, Procurement and Logistics Director – illycaffè gave us an overview of the organisation’s ongoing digital transformation and how he made it happen.

“What I’ve learnt over these two days” he began, “is that we are actually at the beginning of our [digital transformation] journey, and it’s one that will never end.  But at least we’ve started.”

illycaffè: A Brief History

illycaffè remains a family owned company with 1000+ employees,  100,000+ clients and B2B business in 140 countries.

Founded in Trieste, Italy, illycaffè prides itself on a century of innovation from launching the first high pressure espresso machine in 1935 to introducing the first single portion coffee pod in 1974.

Diego’s mission, as he sees it, is to uphold procurement excellence: continually advancing the procurement processes and supplier cycle management and managing the execution of the multi-year procurement programs.

The organisation’s digital transformation began back in December 2013 and has been evolving ever since.

Digital Transformation: The Beginning

Diego’s ultimate aim with leading illycaffè through this transformation was to streamline their processes organisation-wide, thus transitioning the procurement team from saving-hunters to value-hunters. “We wanted to try to digitalise the processes to add value and bring time for employees to actually look after the business.”

“At first it was all about developing and defining guidelines and procedures, changing the mindset of our people and the people working closely to us. We wanted to give procurement the responsibility to do procurement, not shopping!”

Between 2016 and 2017 Diego worked with illycaffè’s CEO and the board to approve the introduction of an SRM platform. After going through the bidding process and selecting Jaggaer they immediately kick-started the implementation.

Digital Transformation: The End Game

The hardest part of embarking on a digital transformation is often convincing key stakeholders, namely the CEO or CFO, of its necessity and potential value-add. Having a strong case to present and key objectives  is crucial. As Diego explained, “we were able to convince our CEO to implement the SRM system because of these factors:”

  1. Governance and Compliance
  • Allows for traceability of processes
  • Gives procurement professionals complete management of all suppliers, which greatly limits risk
  • Makes it easier to monitor suppliers and improve performance

2. Method

  • Implementation of a culture of shared method
  • Standardisation of procedures makes the business more streamlined
  • Increases the speed of response to internal and external stakeholders
  • Allows for continuous improvement, partly through sharing best practices

3. Transparency

  • Gives procurement greater accessibility and makes information easier to interpret
  • Having data in one place makes it simpler for everyone in the business to work and guarantees ethical practices and ethical processes

4. Economic Return

  • There are obvious economic benefits due to the workflow automation
  • Allows for a reduction of TCO in different purchasing categories

Diego’s parting words of advice? When it comes to digital transformation, “it is not enough to have the sponsorship of your CEO. And it is not enough to have a good tech partner. It’s important to have each and every person in your team on board.”

Learn more about Jaggaer and  REVInternational 2018 

Making the Case for ‘Libertarian’ Procurement

Can we start taking an approach to spend management and compliance that nods to the free will of buyers?  Kelly Barner discusses Libertarian procurement. 

Public sector procurement has always gotten a unique kind of attention. Not only is it the sector of our field most likely to get general media coverage, when it does, it is almost always spectacularly bad news. Trying to regulate procurement may be well-intentioned, but things have a way of going awry when buyer free will is denied.

Here’s a perfect example:

In 2013, the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission awarded a $5 Million contract for advertising services. They required that a portion of the work be sub-contracted out to a minority or woman-owned supplier. All proposals were evaluated on cost and presentation as well as the diversity requirement.

The contract was awarded to a firm that did not earn the highest score for cost or presentation but did commit to sub-contract $12,000 (0.24%) of the work to a woman-owned supplier. As a result, another firm involved in the bid, sued the lottery commission. Not only had they earned the highest score for cost and presentation, they were a certified woman-owned business. Had they been awarded the contract, 100% of the $5 Million would have been awarded to a diversity supplier and the state would have gotten better results for less money. They did not receive the award because they did not submit a plan to subcontract the work, believing their own status covered the intent (if not the letter) of the requirement.

Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

Public sector procurement may take the majority of the heat, but private sector procurement is just as guilty of using rules rather than sound judgement to drive desired results. Onerous governance and harsh mandates can have the opposite effect of what we intend with ‘strategic’ processes such as sourcing and supplier performance management.

Technology and consumer expectations have advanced to the point where we can consider the possibilities of ‘Libertarian’ procurement, an approach to spend management and compliance that nods to the free will of buyers whenever possible, even if it means giving up some of the ‘control’ traditionally associated with spend management. Libertarian procurement might include:

  • Allowing distributed buyers with strategic experience and category expertise to run their own sourcing projects.
  • Evaluating the suitability of a full sourcing project on a case by case basis (I.e. sometimes when a buyer requests to contract with a specific supplier, they have already done their homework and procurement should just support them).
  • Balancing supplier performance metrics with qualitative approaches to recognizing their total value contribution.

Sometimes internal colleagues want to work around procurement’s processes because they find them too slow or frustrating and just plan to push on principle. Other times, they really know what the right path forward is and can’t get started a minute too soon. The challenge is for procurement to tell the difference between the two. Understanding the motivations of stakeholders who want to exercise their free will is what separates spending mischief from spending vision. Procurement should be willing to take a chance when the conditions seem right, allowing vision to thrive even if the occasional mischief slips through.

Combining responsible spending principles with an increased level of trust for internal buyers will create challenges for procurement teams, but it will also create new opportunities and increased ownership on the part of internal stakeholders. Not being open to such change may actually be a risky move for procurement. After all, the more rigid and codified our role is, the more likely we are to be the target of automation initiatives. Any procurement team with their own healthy dose of free will should want to prevent that.

Where Are All The Great Procurement Jobs? Broaden Your Vision

Looking for a new procurement job? The good news is that there are a whole load available that are yours for the taking… you just need to broaden your vision!

Do you have your eye on an exciting opportunity in international category management, predictive data analytics, or do you have a passion to make sourcing more sustainable?  The good news is that new job roles like these are emerging in procurement and they are waiting for you.  Conventional manual processes are disappearing as we automate routine tasks, even contract management is deemed at risk: artificial intelligence and algorithms are already being used to draw up “smart” contracts.

Where are all the great jobs?

Corporate companies

Traditionally the most desirable careers were to be found in the big multinationals that have mature procurement organizations; this still holds quite true.  Some of the companies in the fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) sector are leading the way in strategic procurement.  Unilever, P&G, Amazon and Coca-Cola are listed in Gartner’s Top 25 companies in supply chain.  Any one of these companies may be a good place to get a foot in the door and gain solid early experience.

Procurement solutions providers and consultancies

With the development of software solutions for procurement functions such as strategic sourcing, contracting and supplier management, many companies are outsourcing some functions to technically proficient service providers.  These problem solvers service a range of industries, locations and functions. Spend Matters publishes a list of the top 50 solutions providers To Know and another top 50 to Watch.   This list includes some consulting firms, both big and small.  Phil Ideson of the Art of Procurement says that this type of experience can be valuable if you want to go back into a corporate leadership role.  He says “I am a believer that procurement is a service provider to our stakeholders and not a function. Being with a solutions provider really helps you experience the need for customer centricity.”

Not-for-profit and Public Procurement 

Public sector procurement is a real job option.  Don’t disregard the experience that you can get from working on big-ticket items and major projects that positively affect your region or your city. It may not seem as cool as working for Apple Inc. but it may be more rewarding.  There is some perception that working for a non-profit organization means a drop in pay, not so.  Love to travel?  Opportunities to work abroad abound in the many divisions of the United Nations, the World Bank and the Red Cross, at market-related salaries.

Should you get certified or get a degree?

Unlike in finance and legal, there isn’t a license to practice in procurement. However, most employers prefer candidates with a least a bachelor’s degree in business or a professional certification in supply chain or procurement. Which one depends on whether your targeted employer has a preference for certification over a formal degree and what your desired end-game is.

1. Getting certified

Many of my colleagues without a professional certification have never felt that that impeded their career growth or work opportunities.  However, in the early stages of a career, it may be useful especially in locations where professional certifications are held in high esteem. CIPS, CAPM, IACCM and ISM are examples of certifications and affiliations that you could follow. In the UK and in Australia the push for certification and affiliation is stronger than in some other parts of the world.

2. Educational qualifications

Formal degrees in procurement are actually quite rare but there are lots of possibilities in supply chain management (SCM), of which procurement is a key element.  Leading employers source their talent from the best-ranked colleges internationally that offer supply chain advanced education and from the top UK universities with registered supply chain degrees.  If you are thinking it is too late to start, it really isn’t.  Many of these degrees are available online. Always take advantage of an offer of financial or other educational assistance from your employer.

Sometimes it’s all about the piece of paper, sometimes it’s about the affiliation.

“If I knew then what I know now”

I asked some mature and experienced colleagues what they would tell their 21-year old self and this is what they said:

  1. Be curious

Soak up everything. Read widely to stay on top of new trends, changes in regulations and advances in technology.   Don’t always accept commonly held positions, beliefs or strategies as absolute truths.  Question what you see and what you hear. You can look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes.

  1. Get wide exposure

Take advantage of any job rotation that you are offered,  opportunities to get exposure to many industries and many categories don’t come along every day.  Be open to change and chances to diversify your skills. Transitioning between functions helps you build your knowledge and helps you to better understand your stakeholders.

  1. Find a mentor

It may be useful to get guidance from someone who has been through a similar experience.  A well-chosen mentor provides advice and helps navigate you through the trials and tribulations of your career.  Gordon Donovan (FCIPS), of Epworth Healthcare, says a mentor can come from anywhere, even another industry.

  1. Ask for feedback (and act on it!)

Actively seek feedback on the things that you do well and things that need improvement. Sometimes it’s hard to take criticism but it can help develop both your technical and behavioural skills.

  1. Network

Networking does not come naturally to everyone but it is worth developing some skills in this area.  Meeting new people is so important because you never know when it’ll be someone who can help you to open doors or change your direction. Tanya Seary is a champion of networking, you can follow her example here. 

6. Job descriptions are not cast in stone

Many advertised jobs that you come across may be cut-and-pasted from descriptions used in previous recruitment activities.  Too many times employers and recruiters look for what they looked for last time, not what they need now.  If you think you would fit their needs, go for it, there’s nothing lost.

What the under 30’s say

Most under 30’s surveyed agreed with the boomers talking to their 21-year-old selves.  They suggested working hard to keep learning and gaining new qualifications and ask lots of questions.  As Christina Gill, one of the “30 under 30” stars with over a decade of experience in supply chain, said, “This is an exciting time in your career. Be open, be adventurous, be a sponge, listen, learn, and take risks in your career.”

A final thought: organisations that focus on supplier collaboration, unlocking innovation and making the best use of their precious data make attractive employers.

Hold The Phone! Procurement Pay Increase Smashing The Average Salary

Both ISM and CIPS have released their annual salary surveys. Read on for a short summary of the similarities and differences in salaries across the Atlantic.

Salary surveys make for interesting reading. They reveal much about the perceived value of procurement and supply management, and provide a very helpful data set to have at your disposal the next time you ask for a raise.

If you haven’t seen them already, the two most comprehensive salary surveys for 2018 are available here:

Let’s look at 5 of the most interesting findings across the two surveys:

  1. Average salaries for the profession

  • ISM has announced that the average overall compensation for participating supply management professionals was US$117,425, while CPOs earnt an average of US$263,578.
  • CIPS reported an average salary of £46,422 for procurement and supply professionals, with CPOs earning an average salary of £124,000.
  1. Salary increase smashing the national average

  • In the U.S., ISM reported that supply management salaries rose an average of 4.1% over 2016 salaries, versus 3% for U.S. professionals generally.
  • CIPS found that 68% of procurement professionals received an average 5.1% increase in salary, versus a 2.2% increase for the UK national average.

Paul Lee, Director of ISM Research & Publications, offered the following explanation:

“In today’s global economy, excellence in supply management improves both top- and bottom-line performance, and advances companies’ leadership on the worldwide stage. Supply management professionals’ higher-than-average wage growth reflects the significant value they add every day”.

  1. Certifications DO boost salaries:

  • ISM: Those with the ISM Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) certification averaged 14.7% higher salaries than those without any certification.
  • CIPS: The data reveals that MCIPS and FCIPS professionals have increased earning power, with an average 12% salary disparity between MCIPS and non-MCIPS, and an average of 11% disparity between FCIPS and non-FCIPS across all job levels.
  1. Most important factors when considering a new job

We’re a mercenary bunch. “Salary” has once again come out at the top of both ISM and CIPS’ research into what people consider when evaluating job opportunities. Beyond the money, however, are some other factors that employers should note:

ISM top 6 factors:

  • Salary: 85%
  • Job satisfaction: 81%
  • Improved work/life balance: 80%
  • Benefits package (medical/dental/vision): 79%
  • Pension/retirement plan/401(k) or similar: 78%
  • Organisational culture/work environment: 75% percent

CIPS top 6 factors:

  • Salary: 74%
  • Location: 71%
  • Content of the work: 65%
  • Career progression opportunities: 62%
  • Company reputation: 59%
  • Company commitment to training and development: 58%
  1. Gender gap disappointment

  • ISM’s data reveals women are paid less than men across every level in U.S. supply management, with male CPOs earning 26% more than female counterparts, male VPs earning 52% more than women, and male Emerging Professionals earning 13% more than women.

CIPS reports that the most striking pay disparity exists at the Advanced Professional level, where men earned 33% more than women, a pay gap that has widened since the previous year’s (25%). Pay disparity at the Professional and Managerial levels is also considerable, at 14% and 11% respectively

How To Tell You’re Working For A Psychopath

Psychopaths are present in every workplace. And the higher you go in the organisation, the more likely you are to encounter one.

Working for a psychopath is no holiday. Here’s how to tell if your boss is one, or just a garden variety bully.

A human resources manager is more likely to know them as sociopaths, micromanagers or workplace bullies. I call them psychopaths, not to insult them or even to suggest that they might be chopping people up for fun, but because they share a common set of character traits with all those personality types and also with criminal psychopaths.

1. They are two-faced

A workplace psychopath has a two-faced nature. One face oozes charm and charisma, while the other is viciously mean. They work very hard at flattering those that have power over them, but present a very different face to the people that work for them. To most of their team they are manipulative and controlling. People who work for a psychopath see this face most of the time.

2. They have a pawn

Psychopaths will also recruit a pawn or two. These are people who the psychopath won’t attack, so long as they do their bidding. Frequently it is the pawn delivering the latest piece of manipulation rather than the psychopath themselves. This allows them to put distance between them and their victims and build in automatic plausible deniability if it goes pear-shaped. “No, Terry-The-Pawn was acting on his own initiative, it was nothing to do with me.”

3. They are excellent liars

They are convincing liars and they lie compulsively, often for no apparent reason. The truth to them is whatever needs to be said at that moment. It is whatever they judge their audience wants to hear. And they will have no compunction aggressively assuring you something happened which you know didn’t, often to the point where you will doubt your own memory.

4. They treat employees as dispensable livestock

They treat most people who work for them as dispensable livestock. And this usually causes the cattle (that would be you) unprecedented levels of stress, frustration and fear. When one victim burns out or leaves, they just move on to the next. They damage the health of individuals and the reputation of the organisation without any regret or shame. The workplace under a psychopath is in constant turmoil. Factions are rife, sick leave sky-rockets, staff turnover becomes endemic and productivity drops like a stone.

5. They can’t take criticism

They react to any criticism with aggressive denial or retaliation. If those aren’t options, usually because the critic has more power than them, they will feign victimhood or blame the victims of their actions. Punishment and threats have absolutely no effect on them. They will keep doing things their way, regardless.

In short, they are the classic malevolent workplace bully. This is not to say that all bullying in the workplace is done by psychopaths. Bosses can be mean but it is the frequency of bullying-type behavior that sets psychopaths apart from an everyday horrible boss.
In 2008, UK researcher Clive Boddy from Middlesex University set out to determine exactly how much workplace bullying was caused by psychopaths.

Boddy took a psychopathic checklist and embedded it in a management survey of Australian middle and senior managers. Almost six per cent of the respondents were working with a corporate psychopath as their current manager and thirty-two percent had worked for a psychopath at some time.

A further eleven per cent of respondents were working with managers who showed some psychopathic traits but were not rated at maximum in all categories.

The respondents also revealed how many times they had experienced bullying. Under normal managers, employees encountered bullying less than once a month (nine times a year), but the moderately psychopathic managers bullied employees more than twice a month (on average twenty-nine times a year), accounting for a twenty-one percent of all bullying. If that manager was a psychopath, the employee experienced bullying more than five times a month on average (64.4 times a year) and this accounted for twenty-six percent of all reported cases of bullying.

This means that, as an employee, you can, and probably will, be bullied in the workplace. If your boss is normal, bullying will happen once every six weeks or so. If you are working for a psychopath it will happen once or twice a week, or more. If the behavior described above is happening all the time then your boss is a psychopath. The bad news is that there are not many good options for solving it.

The exit beckons, but while you wait for the right opportunity, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and improve your position. Those strategies are the subject of the next part of this series.

3 Ways To Increase Your Procurement Salary

Another day in your procurement job, another day moaning about your unsatisfactory salary… If you want things to change here’s how you take control!

I’ve always said that I’m extremely happy working in Procurement, and there’s no question that it’s great to be doing a job that I’m passionate about.

But no matter how much enjoyment we get from our work – money is always important and a key contributor to our chosen career path.

Of course, you and I would both be happy to double our monthly income; so I thought I’d outline three pieces of advice to help you get there!

  1. Get paid for your value, not your time

Do you have a clear understanding of how your current salary was calculated? Is your employer buying your time or buying your skills?

Many procurement professionals make the mistake of thinking they are paid per working hour. But the main consideration for your employer shouldn’t be  “how hard is this person working?” but rather  “how much value is the person generating for the company?”

So my first piece of advice to you is this: Start thinking about what value you are creating for the company – start measuring it! If you measure your results and your ambitions you have a much stronger argument when it comes to salary negotiations.

Take a look at these two scenarios. If you were to approach your manager to discuss a pay increase, which one sounds more authoritative?

A) I have worked overtime and several weekends during the past six months. I don’t give enough attention to my partner and family. So I think I deserve a salary increase of +20 per cent.

B) I have finalised three major RFQ’s within our category during the past 6 months and  I have reduced prices by 12 per cent per year for our company! I think this performance justifies a salary increase of 20 per cent.

Try to use the employer’s language as in scenario B. Find the arguments and KPI’s which you know they will value the most and think about how you can add influence in these areas. Then all you have to do is impress them with your results!

2. Take more responsibility

Do you enjoy responsibility  or do you avoid it at all costs – letting others make key business decisions for you?

Both behaviors are quite natural. After all, people are different. But ask yourself, what is the main difference between you and your manager at work? Why do they earn a significantly higher salary than you? Many managers have less knowledge and skills than their co-workers and employees, but they are still respected more by the top-executives. How does that always happen?!

The simple answer is that your manager has the responsibility for a much bigger area of the work.

The rule:  greater responsibility = greater salary.

So don’t allow yourself to hesitate when it comes to taking on responsibility. Don’t just wait to be asked, be proactive.

“I heard that our Procurement department plans to run the value stream mapping for Category XYZ. Can I lead this project as I know the processes and steps for VSM?”

“Can I take the responsibility for mapping new suppliers in South Asia, as I already have many business connections there?”

This approach to your work will stand you in good stead to get a significant salary increase when the time comes to negotiate.

Generate profit  for the company

In my experience most organisations consider their procurement department to be the cost centre of the business. Others regard it as a support or service function and,  in the worst cases, they dismiss procurement pros simply as buyers.

But you and I both know that procurement  has an enormous impact on an organisation’s profit.

Whatever your savings are – they contribute to the gross profits of the company. As we say at Future Procurement organisations: “one dollar saved is one dollar earned!”

So how can this knowledge help your salary?

Senior management in your organisation may not understand the value procurement brings to the business and they certainly won’t be familiar with your individual responsibilities and deliverables. They even may not understand the role of Procurement organisation…

But top management of any company cares about profit, this is the language they understand.  So modify your messaging and communicate the extra business profits that are connected to your procurement role.

To sum up; if you want your salary to increase you need to add value to the company, take more responsibility and concentrate on proving the profit you contribute to the company.

Remember; your employer will never care about you more than you care about yourself – it’s sad but it’s true!  Throughout my corporate career, the  biggest salary increases were never initiated by my boss.

Your salary is your own responsibility and if you don’t like it – it’s your problem to fix.

So get out there and fix it!

Gaining Entrepreneurial Experiences In An Enterprise Environment

Look out ‘blockchain’ and ‘transformation’, there’s a new hyped word quickly rising through the ranks – and it may soon eclipse you both: ‘intrepreneurship’.

Intrepreneurship is a philosophy or set of experiences that allow a professional to combine the authority and accountability of entrepreneurship with the (relative) safety and job security of a corporate gig.

There is nothing easy about being an entrepreneur, despite the glamor assigned to meteoric success stories like Apple, Tesla, Uber, and Facebook. The high point and low point of entrepreneurship are actually the same: at the end of the day you are responsible for everything that happens – good or bad – even if it seems beyond your control. This accountability drives healthy risk-taking and builds a sense of ownership that is often missing in corporate roles that provide a soft landing.

Being an entrepreneur sounds like a great idea, but what if it were possible to get that experience without taking on the risk of leaving a position with a guaranteed salary and benefits? That’s where intrepreneurship comes in. Functions like marketing, sales, and operations seem like a natural fit for the intrapreneurial movement, but so is procurement! We just have to be prepared to either seize the opportunity or create one of our own.

Build a better mousetrap…

“…and the world will beat a path to your door” as the aphorism attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson goes. No one has built more ‘mousetraps’ than procurement, nor have they contracted for mousetrap maintenance services or optimized relationships with mousetrap manufacturers. This knowledge and perspective is priceless to a company trying to create something new that they can introduce to market. The right incremental improvements can turn whole markets upside down. Procurement should have a voice on every corporate innovation council or ‘lab’ and should participate in those experiences as an absolute equal – not a courtesy invite. Realizing how valuable our perspective is, and putting that into words, becomes a ‘business’ plan that procurement can use to drive top line growth.

Identify unaddressed needs

“Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” Procurement spends so much time trying to fulfill defined business requirements that we can often spot unaddressed needs before the company and its suppliers do. Many times, these needs are just to the right or left of current supplier offerings. An intrepreneurial procurement professional will seize this opportunity and partner with a supplier to make it happen – taking on both risk and vision definition and seeing the R&D process through. Procurement’s company is then the first to benefit from the new offering, and may have a stake in the associated intellectual property.

Look, learn, and listen

Procurement’s mandate – in the broadest conceivable sense – is to ensure that the company derives the greatest amount of value, and assumes the lowest level of risk, from every dollar they spend. The projects that might fall under that sort of an umbrella are far more expansive than traditional spend analysis and strategic sourcing. Anything unique going on at the company should include strong representation from procurement.

That includes mergers and acquisitions, new product development, strategy planning, etc. Depending on the project type, there may be an ‘organic’ beginning. Procurement should always be on the lookout for opportunities to take on more responsibility and join in on unique projects – without waiting for a formal invitation. After all, very few people are ‘invited’ to become entrepreneurs. Most chart that path forward on their own.

Once you’ve walked a mile in an entrepreneur’s shoes, it is hard to imagine ever going back and working in a traditional enterprise setting again. And who knows? Maybe the next round of wildly successful, disruptively innovative startups will be founded by former procurement professionals.

Unleashing the Real Power of your Supply Chain

The human element will make or break your supply chain career. Procurious Founder Tania Seary reveals the human strengths that AI will never replace and how to leverage that competitive advantage.

There comes a time when you forget why you ever started.

I’ll never forget my first meeting as a procurement executive with a supplier. For me, it was one of those moments of illumination. I can still remember the desk, the room, (funnily enough, not the particular supplier) and how I felt. I must say, the one word that continually comes to mind to describe what I felt was … power.

Not in a newly-minted supervillain kind of way, but “power” in the sense that for the first time I really felt the tangible ability to make an impact. To tell the truth, I’d had a lot of fancy jobs up to that point – marketing for Walt Disney in London, PR for the Mexican beer company Corona, hosting trade missions for LAX, launching listed companies. But moving from one side of the table from the role of seller to being the buyer … that was a buzz. 

There’s procurement gold in them there hills!

You see, procurement 20 years ago, was – for the first time – sexy. It was on a new trajectory – its very own moonshot. It was a time for firsts.

B2B was all the rage. CEOs and Boards were ponying up millions of dollars to build fancy eProcurement solutions and invest in procurement exchanges. Procurement was coming in from the wild west and being tamed and urbanised through leveraged buying, reverse auctions and blanket contracts. Everything was a first.

MBA graduates were like blurry-eyed prospectors, rushing for the gold fields to claim their stake on their ambitious careers by making their employers a fortune. I distinctly remember asking one of my fellow Penn State classmates, “Why are you going into procurement?” He answered, “Because you can save your company millions and be a corporate superstar overnight. It’s the fastest way to the top.” In other words, “There’s gold in them there hills!”

This is where my passion for procurement started and has continued. Like the chief cheerleader, I have been singing procurement’s praises ever since.

A lot has happened in the last 20 years, but we need to ask ourselves if we’re getting today’s graduates and future leaders excited enough to join our ranks in the search for exponential value? Do they see a bright future in our profession? Because now is certainly the time!

Procurement’s new moonshot opportunity

For the first time in more than two decades, a new moonshot opportunity has emerged for our profession. Cognitive procurement is upon us.

AI and cognitive give us the opportunity to provide a quantum leap in delivered savings. The opportunity to move away from all those back-office administrative tasks that have been holding us back.

Cognitive is going to take away everything we’ve been whining about, launching us out of the transactional malaise and into the strategic stratosphere. Our role in Industry 4.0 will be to orchestrate, collaborate, and negotiate within a complex, technology-enabled global supply network.

Our future will be e-enabled, but humanity most definitely still has a place in procurement. At the odd times when Watson, other robots, and the data seems to be at cross-purposes and pointing us in different directions, we are going to have to step in and use our uniquely human skills to untangle the gridlock of competing interests to find a resolution to the supply challenge.

You see, the secret to our success in Industry 4.0 lies in something that no AI being can match – relationships, along with our ability to leave people with the feeling that they are special, important, and of real value.

As you can see, I’m so excited about the “moonshot” opportunities currently available for procurement. I’m personally energised by my work with IBM on Watson, partnering with SAP Ariba to promote Procure with Purpose and with Procurious itself growing at 25% per year with nearly 30,000 members today and on track to have 50,000 members by 2020.

But of course, in life, nothing is ever perfect.

The human element

My mother is only 71 and has advanced dementia. Many of you will relate to this story. There are lots of things my Mum can’t remember, including most people’s names, what year it is, and how old she is.

But, surprisingly, she can still remember her feelings at different points in her life. She may not remember someone’s name, but she can definitively (and accurately) describe the emotions she associates with that person.

It reminds me of that important leadership lesson: “People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel”.

Playing to our human strengths

For me, the human element is what makes business:

  • interesting
  • challenging
  • innovative
  • rule-breaking
  • risk-taking, and
  • friend-making.

For me, the joy of procurement is the personal. It’s the unique relationships I create with people: the deals, the secrets, the preferential options. My relationships are my competitive advantage.

Up, down, and across the supply chain, it will be interactions between people that will be the real determinants of success and failure. To prosper in this next Industrial Revolution, we need to play to our human strengths – collaboration, connection, innovation, influence – the things only we humans can do.

We need to embrace our human-ness, our humane-ness, and really get connected with our stakeholders, our suppliers, our teams and our communities.

We have developed Procurious for current and future generations of “Procurers”. We want to empower our future procurement and supply chain leaders to change the face of the profession from the inside out. We’re on a mission to enthuse a new generation, putting new moonshot opportunities through the power of conversation, collaboration, and connections.

Let’s stop worrying about the future and start creating the future we want to live in.

Let’s embrace cognitive and all that Industry 4.0 has to offer. Let’s equip ourselves and our teams to really make a difference with the advanced skills AI cannot – namely the power we have as human beings – or the power to connect.

Procurious Founder Tania Seary delivered this message to inspire audiences at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit in London, SAP Ariba Live in Amsterdam, The Faculty CPO Forum 2018 in Melbourne and ISM2018 Nashville.

4 Ways Procurement Could Better Manage Risk

Procurement pros need to get better at managing risk. Because supply chain disruption can come from any angle, whether it’s caused by a supplier site failure, environmental or geopolitical factors, or even adverse weather… 

If it’s not already, risk management should be a top priority for businesses. The consequences from not actively identifying, managing and mitigating supply chain risk can significantly impact an organisation’s profitability, not to mention brand reputation and potentially, its sheer existence.

riskmethods set out to determine the current “state of risk management and mitigation” in today’s global business ecosystem by surveying more than 250 senior procurement executives from across the globe. The study unveiled important findings around how prepared procurement leaders are to tackle rapidly evolving business environments brought on by new, more complex threats, and the current methodologies employed to manage risk in the supply chain. Here are four areas the survey explored, which indicate where procurement teams are failing in terms of risk management.

  1. Preventing disruption

All senior procurement professionals identify ‘avoiding significant disruption to the supply chain’ as a top priority, but when survey respondents were asked whether their organisation had a significant disruption in the past 12 months, more than 47 per cent indicated that they had experienced between one and five.

Additionally, a surprisingly high 13 percent indicated that they had 20 or more significant disruptions in the past year. Arguably the most alarming statistic – 12 per cent of respondents did not even know whether there were any serious disruptions to their supply chain during this time.

This is a testament to the 12 per cent’s minimal visibility into their operations. According to this data, nearly all organisations faced a disruption in the past year, speaking to the prevalence and nature of supply chain threats at they continue to increase. 

  1. Improve ability to uncover risks

The current landscape has made it critical for procurement professionals to have real-time, thorough views into potential risk and their impacts to make well-informed purchasing decisions. Many organisations have implemented some form of tracking mechanism for risks, but how often the data is updated is another issue.

When we asked respondents about the frequency in which data is refreshed, less than one third of respondents answered continuously. This is an alarming percentage.

Risk monitoring in today’s digital business environment needs to be a 24/7/365 task. Organisations that aren’t receiving continuous updates are falling behind and can’t possibly be making the best decisions for their business.

The underlying cause of this lack of complete information is usually associated with traditionally highly manual processes. Not only is the manual approach an extremely tedious and time-consuming task, it also takes away resources from other critical objectives. Most importantly, it severely limits big-picture insights and increases the chances of a serious supply chain disruption. When survey respondents were asked what level of automation their organisation employed to refresh critical information, less than one per cent of respondents indicated that it is completely automated.

An additional 39 per cent indicated that they were in the low to moderate rage of automation, relying heavily on manual tools such as Excel in conjunction with some outside sources. A full quarter of respondents indicated that they have no automation capabilities at all and are completely reliant upon manual search.

  1. Supplier risk impact assessments are key

Understanding a supplier’s potential impact on the business is key for procurement teams when it comes making purchasing decisions. For example, if a major supplier gets hit by a severe weather event which causes a delay in shipping, that could cause a ripple effect that halts production and eventually leads to a loss in revenue.

When survey participants were asked if their organisation had a mechanism in place for measuring the impact a supplier has on the business, almost half said that their organisation had no structured assessment of supplier criticality or impact.

Having no such assessment means organisations are at times putting their fate in the control of someone’s best guess. Organisations must have clear visibility into their supply chain, including which suppliers have the greatest potential impact, so they can refocus resources on reducing risk and preparing for a crisis.

  1. Organisations must be better equipped to mitigate emerging threats

While being able to identify potential risk is a crucial procurement workflow, having the ability to act on that information and mitigate evolving threats is equally, if not more, important.

Only slightly more than 20 per cent of study respondents indicated they have plans in place. An additional 27 per cent indicated that no such plans exist and 53 per cent indicated that there were only partial plans in place. These numbers demonstrate how difficult it is to evolve into a mature organisation when it comes to prioritising risk because businesses lack the necessary level of stakeholder collaboration.

Supply chains will never be free of risks, but an organisation’s ability to prepare for, identify and mitigate emerging threats will set them apart from the competition. Procurement teams can’t possibly make well-informed business decisions without a risk management strategy in place. As the number of risks continues to increase in this environment, the need for accurate, actionable insights will only become more critical.

When it comes to risk management, companies need to consistently be moving forward as the current threats will only continue to evolve.

Download the report: Procuring Risk: The State of Risk Management and Mitigation in Today’s Global Supply Chain to read riskmethods’ full findings.