Category Archives: Career Management

When the Data Strategies Align….

There is a growing need for consuming data almost at the same time as the data gets generated – but how do you get your procurement data strategy straight, and align it with the corporate strategy?

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument…

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra!

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony.

On Day 5 of Conducting A Cognitive Symphony Peter discusses the importance of having a single data strategy across procurement, how to align this with the corporate strategy and the value in creating a Chief Data Officer role.

A single data strategy

“It’s very important in today’s world [to have a single data strategy]” begins Peter “because there is a growing need for consuming data almost at the same time as the data gets generated.”

“New potential data sources arise every day. This requires a strategy in place that can be applied quickly and efficiently which covers the entire life cycle of the data from acquiring the data, through curation to consumption.

“And without having the right data strategy or a comprehensive data strategy in place that covers the anterior life cycle of the data, businesses may face some issues very quickly.

“They will not have an understanding of what data they acquire, what that data is and what business that data provides to them.

What about the importance of having a single point-of-contact, a Chief Data Officer, for smaller organisations? Is it still important that, even the role isn’t an individual job in itself, that there’s  a single person who has accountability, and responsibility for data?

“Ideally, yes” says Peter.  “A dedicated person, not necessarily a full-time person.

“And the data officer can be supported by data stewards, data management, data engineers. It’s really up to the organisation – how they want to set about a process for those right now.”

Procurement data vs Corporate data

Does procurement’s data strategy typically feed into a corporate data strategy of which procurement just becomes a subset?

“Corporate data strategy, if it exists,  is likely addressing a good portion of what a procurement specific data strategy would address,” explains Peter.

“If that’s the case then the implementation and the execution of the data strategy in Procurement will require less efforts and also gives the opportunity to put more focus on the procurement specific elements of a data strategy like implementing the right business process for capturing data in better quality from suppliers.

“There are lots of things that are significant between procurement data strategy and corporate data strategy. Likely if a corporate data strategy exists then it covers a significant portion of what the procurement data strategy would need to cover because in the end it’s just data. But with some specifics for procurement.

“Procurement does not need to invent new things that’s likely covered by the corporate data strategy.”

“What procurement teams can do better, is start focussing on specific things- the most crucial things. For example, buyers don’t always consider the importance of off-loading data from suppliers.

“Procurement can do a lot. But it just has to get the right data.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series runs throughout this week and will have your orchestrating cognitive success in no time! Register here.

Procurement Leaders: Stop Talking About Headcount Reduction!

If you want your procurement teams to be more open to adopting cognitive solutions and less scared of them, stop talking about headcount!

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 4 of Conducting A Cognitive Symphony Marco Romano – Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM talks on the common pitfalls in the adoption of cognitive solutions, the most impactful actions procurement pros can take to increase the speed of adoption and how to overcome the fear factor!

The Fear Factor

“How the leadership works with the teams to remove barriers (operational, physical and psychological) will ultimately have a huge influence on the rate and pace of adoption of cognitive and analytics solutions” explains Marco in his white paper. 

When it comes to the fear factor, “there is no doubt that there is a concern that rich insightful analytics will show opportunities that imply the practitioners have historically failed in teir jobs.

“There is also no doubt that there is fear that cognitive solutions could replace some of the activities currently carried out by practitioners.”

One factor that causes this fear is the “poor messaging on why you want to commit these tools, and what the desired outcome is which creates fear and resistance, to adoption and change.”

How can organisations manage their employees fear to ensure the adoption of cognitive solutions isn’t impeded?

Stop talking about head count!

When procurement professionals look at something that brings new information and insights that haven’t been available before, it leads them to question a number of things:

Is it a challenge to what I’ve done before?

Is it a challenge to the accuracy of what I’ve done before?

and, ultimately

Is this technology going to make what I do now redundant?

“fear is something that we see. CPOs are constantly talking about robotics, automation, right?”

“And very often, I hear head count being brought into the discussion, Head count reduction being brought into the same discussion with cognitive analytics, and whilst that might be the eventual outcome, I think it’s a dangerous way to enter into the dialogue”

“If that is the primary driver, to reduce head count in the organisation, I find that very often that’s reflected in your metrics. It’s reflected in the behaviours. And in turn, it’s reflected in poor adoption, and resistance by practitioners.”

“You’re creating that fear of job security. And invariably, I find practitioners push back, and they’ll find they spend their time trying to justify why a tool won’t work for them.”

“To overcome this you need the right methods, but secondly, and very importantly, I think you need to provide practitioners with the road map on how to change, and sharpen their skills in this changing environment.

Educate your teams

Procurement professionals need to have an understanding of the strategy and impacts new solutions will have.

You need to be able “to show the practitioners how the change benefits them, not just the enterprise” Marco explains.

“And this sounds really basic, but it is so important. [You need to be able to show them]  I’m going to help you spend less time on those lower value, tedious, time-consuming tasks, allowing you to focus on the higher value activities.  Most professional practitioners that I know, prefer to spend their time on those higher valued tasks -negotiating with suppliers, rather than crunching numbers”

That’s the first thing. But the second thing  is, providing them education and training, on this new data skill set. I think you very quickly erode that resistance. They see a path for them, within the enterprise, within the organisation, but you’ve given them a marketable skill, which in turn removes resistance and fear.

“I’m not talking here about turning practitioners into data scientists. I’m talking about arming them with knowledge about how they impact data, teaching them the art of the possible, with regards to how technology can help them to be more effective consumers of that data, and insights.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series runs throughout this week and will have your orchestrating cognitive success in no time! Register here.

Is Your Taxonomy Flexible and Multidimensional?

For a taxonomy to be effective, and feed a cognitive engine, it needs to be multidimensional, flexible, and situation based…

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 2 of the series, Anna Madarasz, Analytics & Cognitive Lead , IBM Global Procurement discusses how procurement pros are using taxonomy today, assesses homegrown taxonomy versus industry standards and explains why an effective taxonomy needs to be flexible, multidimensional and situation based.

What is taxonomy?

Marco Romano, Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM defines taxonomy in his white paper, as follows “Simply put, taxonomy is a hierarchical representation of data, products and services into logical groupings through the application of an alphanumeric scheme of sorts.

“Sometimes, these are industry standards and sometimes, they are locally-devised schemes to meet individual needs. These conventions are useful for purposes of reporting spend or segregating categories into lower-level components.

“However, the world in which we operate is not hierarchical; it is more like a network of many disparate parts of an ecosystem that is constantly interacting and evolving, and that it needs to be intertwined together to drive value

“for a taxonomy to be effective, and to feed a cognitive engine, the taxonomy actually needs to be multidimensional, flexible, and situation based.”

What does this mean?

1. Flexible

“There’s a level of flexibility you have to have, and usually if you do have a homegrown taxonomy, then it is there by nature” explains Anna.

Problems can arise within organisations when there is no global standard and different regions adopt different practices. “Let’s say one of your geographies breaks down their software license spend into accounting software or project management software. Whilst another geography chooses to break down their software spend into whether that software license is delivered electronically or non-electronically.”

Of course, you can’t take much global insight from this. So it is important to enforce some level of standard taxonomy. “But, depending on the industry, depending on the geography, you have to allow a little bit of flexibility.”

2. Multidimensional

There are many dimensions of taxonomy. And, multidimensional means that you really have to define what you need that taxonomy for.  Sometimes it will be sufficient to have your homegrown taxonomy, other times it might be preferable to have an industry standard such as UNSPSC. If, for example, you want to monitor the price trend of a certain product, then you will definitely need an OEM part number.”

“Multidimensional means that you really have to define what you need that taxonomy for.”

An OEM part number, for example, clearly defines a certain product or a certain service. If you have a notebook in front of you, and you type the OEM part number into a browser, your search will return exactly the same notebook.

You might however,  want to go down to the component level and ask what characterises that notebook?

“Is it the screen size, it is the memory, and so on, and so on? If you want to look for a comparable product in your catalog then  you need ontology.”

“If your business challenge is to note which supplier is providing a certain model of notebook cheaper then it won’t be enough for you to have an eight-digit UNSPSC code defining the notebook.”

3. Situations-based

In his white paper Marco states “It is not about how you buy, but rather what you buy. I would argue that an appropriate taxonomy is about identifying how you resolve a business problem through products or services.”

“Try to use taxonomy for future transactions. Trying to predict what your prices will be, trying to evaluate whether the quotations, whether the bill of material in front of you is competitive enough. Or use it for risk evaluation. There are endless opportunities, but it really all depends on setting up the proper categories.”

“What you should keep in your mind” advises Anna “is that you have to come up with a powerful combination of these taxonomy characteristics.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series runs throughout this week and will have your orchestrating cognitive success in no time! Register here. 

Is Your Procurement Data Fit For Purpose?

How do you know when your data is fit for purpose? Start by putting the why before the what!

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 1 of the series, Marco Romano – Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM, talks about the development of data strategy, how to determine if a data source is fit for purpose and understanding the data that you want to see.

“To me the cognitive and analytic strategy really starts with the data strategy” explains Marco, “how we acquire, enrich, store and curate our data. Then it really becomes about what you do to that data to bring business value and actionable insights.

“I’d argue anything’s possible quite honestly, limited only by our imagination and one very important point, which is the quality and quantity of the data that’s available to us.”

The orchestra analogy

So where did the orchestra analogy come from?

“When you sit there at the start of a performance invariably you’re hearing these individual members tuning their instruments – warming up.

“It’s very melodic and you really get to hear the class of the instrument and the performer. But it’s really when the conductor walks on stage and all of those instruments are played together in harmony, that’s when it really becomes incredible.

That’s when the goosebumps come in and you hear the power of the sound.”

So how does this translate into data and insights? “One good piece of data is absolutely valuable and can really help you make better business decisions” says Marco. “But like an orchestra, a collection of this transformed data, properly orchestrated to provide these varied and powerful insights at the right time and in the right format for the intended audience really gives you that competitive advantage and operational efficiency.”

“You really need everyone playing from the same sheet of music, or the same hymn sheet!”

Putting the why before the what!

If the foundation to cognitive strategy is the acquisition of data, what kind of data should we be seeking to acquire? It’s easy to think about it in a one dimensional way, only considering one or two sources of data. But in reality data is coming from multiple sources. So where should we be looking for it?

“I think before you even answer the question of what data is it that you need, you really need to address the question of why you need it” explains Marco.

“What is the business outcome that you’re trying to drive? What is it that you want to achieve by acquiring this data? Then I think you can start to determine what data you need, and how you go about acquiring it and enriching it.

“I’ve seen an awful lot of effort go into acquiring data that never results in a business action. Not because it was bad data but it was just not fit for purpose. I think the importance here is that it is fit for purpose at the time that it’s needed and of course for the intended recipient.”

How do you know when your data is fit for purpose?

What are some of the things that you do to determine if a data source or a potential data source is fit for purpose, before you go down the road of actually trying to acquire and cleanse and build it into your models?

Marco firmly believes that you have to start with establishing what the intended outcome is that you want.

Secondly, “there is a point, which we of course have to consider, and that’s ROI. We can’t afford to throw manual resources off to fully invested activities. Some data is extremely difficult to come by, or extremely difficult to get to the level of quality that we need.

“I think you need to have a clear line of sight, of how these insights are going to allow you to change business course or alter business strategy and effect an outcome. Then you can start to also establish to what degree this data will help you achieve that?”

Ask yourself “how much impact is that data going to have, and in turn you can start to then make sensible decisions about ROI and the type of data that you need.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series starts today! Register here.

For Procurement to Fly, You Need The Right Team Onboard

Digital Transformation is critical to the future performance of any procurement department… But you need the right team on board to truly fly!

In case you hadn’t noticed, the old approach to Procurement no longer works. Following a strict sourcing process, beating suppliers for extra margin and imposing strict controls on employees is simply not a viable strategy to meeting Procurement’s new objectives. Procurement today is expected to still manage costs, but also manage risk, drive innovation and revenue, improve cash flow and increasingly consumerise the experience for employees. That much is broadly acknowledged. But how?

A new model for Procurement

To meet the growing risk of objectives and enable companies to thrive in today’s highly uncertain market, Procurement leaders are actively evolving their organisations. They are becoming smarter, freeing capacity for more strategic work, leveraging information better to make more informed and timely decisions, and better measuring Procurement’s performance and value contribution. They are becoming more agile, driving digital transformation initiatives and ensuring they can adjust to a rapidly evolving market. And they are becoming more collaborative, working with diverse groups of internal and external stakeholders in very different yet scalable ways. A tall order indeed. Even the best admit a long way to go.

It’s still about the people

Digital Transformation is critical to the future performance of any Procurement department. Technology plays a key and growing role, as innovations leveraging AI and other advanced technologies come to market to empower such transformation. Procurement leaders must stay abreast of the innovations that are truly creating value, but the people are the real heroes. As Ivalua CMO, Alex Saric puts it, “let’s not become so enamoured by technology that we discount the human contribution (and effort) involved.” Innovation won’t start until the right people are in place, with the right teams. That is when technology can truly empower these teams so that they can start to bring about change, often starting at getting the basics right.

Swissport takes off with help from Procurement

An example of this is the work Ivalua’s customer Swissport is doing. You can read about this in Supply Chain World Magazine. As the world’s largest provider of ground and cargo handling services in the aviation industry, Swissport provides services on behalf of some 835 client-companies, handles around 230 million passengers and 4.1 million flights (movements) per year.

When Marianna Zangrillo, SVP and Group CPO at Swissport, took over, she had to build everything from scratch. Under her leadership her team has grown and, as she says “we need talents to improve every one of those business areas and therefore work closely with our HR departments to get the right people onboard, (…) Recent studies show that 70 percent of the current procurement resources won’t be able to do what procurement will need to do as the world moves forward.”

Renier Orth has led the team that has centralised all Procurement for nearly everything the company buys – including cargo-handling equipment, food and drinks for airport lounges and office supplies. We are proud to also say that Swissport brought in Ivalua to digitise the source-to-pay process and optimise performance. Ivalua has brought efficiency to the different stages of the source-to-pay workflow in a single tool, which is a new, but very welcome change to Swissport.

Swissport’s Procurement team has built a Procurement organisation from scratch and earned a seat at the board level to be part of the future conversation of the business direction of Swissport. “We think of procurement as integrated into the business organisation,” Zangrillo says. “We are going to support many important decisions using the talents of a still too often underestimated department.”

Continue your Journey with Ivalua

If you’d like to hear directly from Reiner Orth, CPO at Swissport, and other leaders transforming Procurement, join us at Ivalua’s first conference in London, Ivalua NOW LondonThe event will take place on the 13th March, at Kings Place, near King’s Cross. The theme is “the Voice of Procurement” as we intend to look at innovation through the lens of the leaders truly driving change. How are they upskilling their teams to lead a digital transformation? What unique factors must leaders in manufacturing, retail, logistics and other industries consider? What technological innovations in areas such as AI are empowering them today and what is coming to accelerate their transformations? What basics must be addressed to ensure your company can benefit from the latest innovations? The event will look at the Future of Procurement, focusing on what can and should be done today. Other keynote speakers will include Peter Smith, Managing Director – Spend Matters UK/Europe, Francesco Cortini, Group Director of Strategic Sourcing at Smiths Group and Hemant Gupta, CFO at Blackberrys Menswear. We hope to see you there.

I Don’t Have Time To Do Market Price Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real time insights

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

Take A Bow, Pricing IQ

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

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

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

3 Essential Ways to Motivate Staff and Improve Morale

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

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

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

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

Trust is Better Than Fear

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

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

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

Set an Example

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

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

Promote the Positives

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

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

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

Read more on 15Five

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

Procurement Agility in the Age of Digitalisation

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

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

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

Procurement think tank 2018

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

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

2017 Focus On Driving Efficiency And Increasing Agility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agility – Making flexibility look like the plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So What Skills Are Required To Drive Digital?

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

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

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

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

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

The Way Forward

1)  Define a digital roadmap and vision

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

2)    Align with organisational strategy

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

3)    Build a Digital competency within procurement…

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

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

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

This article was orginally published on LinkedIn.

Removing Obstacles to Competitiveness with CLM

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

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

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

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

Competitiveness Requires Constant, Active Refinement

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

Are You Getting What You Contracted For?

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

Sleep with One Eye Open

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

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

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

This article was originally written for Determine By Kelly Barner.

Do We Still Care About Professional Associations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Results Explained By Global CPOs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Communicate their value

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

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

2. Stay relevant

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

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

3. Be “on topic”

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

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

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