Category Archives: Career Management

International Supply Chain Risks: How U.S. Sanctions Can Kill Your Deal

U.S. sanctions are being applied more vigorously than ever to perceived foreign foes.  What risks do these sanctions pose to our supply chains and  what Mitigation Strategies Can be Used?

The United States (U.S.) had $2.21 trillion Dollars in exports in 2016 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce (D.O.C)i, and an estimated 10.7 million U.S. jobs supported by exports ii. Yet U.S. unilateral sanctions are being applied more vigorously than ever to perceived foreign foes, negatively affecting trade balances.

One of the most important and sensitive supply chain risks for private and public organisations is how to manage U.S. unilateral sanctions. The U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is responsible for administering U.S. sanctions. OFAC also distinguishes between primary and secondary sanctions, with the former prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging with sanctioned entities, and the latter targeting non-U.S. persons, outside U.S. jurisdiction, engaged in activities with the sanctioned entity either directly or in an ancillary fashion. Potentially affected businesses and individuals, therefore, must regularly consult the Department of Treasury’s online resources, or engage lawyers with OFAC compliance experience, to ensure they are not exposing themselves to significant penalties (or jail time) from U.S. authorities. For international or multi-lateral organisations, unilateral sanctions risks are particularly tricky because both the U.S. and the sanctioned country, or countries, may be among their members. This article will focus on U.S. unilateral sanctions risks affecting International Organisation deals.

Why Is This A Problem?

Nearly all international organisations have clauses prohibiting contracts, transfers of goods, or even technical cooperation engagements with vendors or countries subject to sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. However, these organisations are not required by international law to adhere to unilateral sanctions of any one member country against another, due to the privileges and immunities conveyed upon them by international conventions.iii In theory this means that if the U.S. imposes sanctions on Iran for example (both member countries of the U.N. since 1945), but the United Nations itself does not impose sanctions on Iran, then U.N. agencies and similarly, non-U.N. multi-lateral organisations, could continue doing business with Iran and not have to abide by the U.S.’s unilateral action. In practice however, multi-lateral agencies may find it difficult to ignore the U.S.’s persuasive sanctions arguments, despite the detriment unilateral sanctions may cause another member. Why? The United States is a major actor on the world stage, and it has considerable influence. It can wield its tremendous political and economic clout as a powerful member of nearly every international organisation in the world, to ensure its objectives are met, and that any transgressions by suppliers or international agencies, are swiftly discouraged.

What Are The Supply Chain Risks?

Supply interruption – U.S. unilateral sanctions can be applied overnight because the surprise element is very powerful in coercing the sanctioned party to comply with U.S. demands iv. Because sanctions may be implemented quickly and unexpectedly, their enactment can trigger immediate supply interruption of goods and services. All members of the supply chain can become subject to rigorous product or service inquiry to determine continued eligibility, and re-negotiation of terms is a real possibility. Suppliers may find themselves scrambling to ensure their contract doesn’t involve activities or persons that expose them to secondary sanctions.

Payment restrictions – Cash flow can also become a problem, especially if suppliers negotiate special payment terms in certain currencies. If an international agency engages a supplier to provide goods or services, and that supplier is somehow involved with a sanctioned entity, directly or indirectly, payments or advance cash transfers may get tied up by banks who suspect the transfer may reach an entity subject to U.S. unilateral sanctions. This can lead suppliers to struggle to meet contract targets or cease delivery altogether. It can also make repatriation of payments back to a payer more difficult.

Reputational Impact – Although the U.N., other multi-laterals, and their staff enjoy immunity from legal processv, suppliers do not enjoy the same protections. Sanctions can bring additional costs they hadn’t expected and they may attempt to secure compensation when things go awry. Even when the relevant law and jurisdiction for disputes is determined by the international agency, suppliers may still aggressively pursue disputes and the reputational risk for the agency if it does not comply or compensate for a presumed breach, is high. Diplomatic and political resources often prevail in settling such disputes away from the prying eyes of the press and public, however, coming to a satisfactory resolution involves time, money, and uncertainty.

What Mitigation Strategies Can be Used?

The answer is…. “It depends.” First, it’s important to understand that navigating unilateral sanctions can be a political minefield for an international organisation! Unlike private entities, there is no clear system in place to manage unilateral foreign policy objectives of one sovereign member state against another. Second, although international agencies monitor political developments of member countries, and no doubt try to avoid dealings that would disturb the delicate balance within these structures, it is not within their purview to implement unilateral sanctions against a member, unless there is consensus among all members to do so. Third, supply chain risks are inherently unpredictable. Supplier audits and screenings only show a snapshot of current relationships, not entanglements with sub-contractors or third party beneficiaries. Although parties can attempt strong due diligence and even stronger government compliance, knowing the rules to follow when caught in the web of unilateral sanctions actions is challenging.

To read the full article by Magda Theodate, please click here. 

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i U.S. International Trade Administration, Department of Commerce 2016 Exports Fact Sheet, https://ibc- static.broad.msu.edu/sites/DEC/images/resources/1159b5b1-8a59-47a1-b988-4bb1836c9904us-exports- factsheet.pdf

ii U.S. Office of Trade and Economic Analysis, Department of Commerce Jobs Supported by Exports 2016 https://www.trade.gov/mas/ian/build/groups/public/@tg_ian/documents/webcontent/tg_ian_005543.pdf

iii Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (the “Convention”), adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations February 13, 1946, and which set out specific privileges and immunities for the UN and its staff subject to waiver only by the Secretary General in certain situations.

iv U.S. implemented changes to Cuba sanctions rules announced officially November 8, 2017 and taking effect on November 9, 2017, see U.S. Treasury Press Release https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press- releases/Pages/sm0209.aspx

v See Supra note 3

Could You Do A TED Talk On Your Category?

Great category management is like a killer TED Talk – it’s strategic, it’s well researched and it’s delivered with true passion.  Have you got what it takes?

Our webinar, Breaking the Groundhog Day Mentality: Enabling A True Category Management Mindset takes, takes place at 1pm GMT on 29th November 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here.   

There are over 2,500  TED talks available online, each dubbed with the organisation’s tagline “ideas worth spreading” or “talks to stir your curiosity”.

But, what makes these bitesize videos so universally appealing? What common traits do the talks share that piques the curiosity of the general public and guarantees thousands upon thousands of views?

We’ve delved in to the intricacies of a winning TED talk and, it turns out, some of the key qualities of a killer TED talk can also be applied to category management.

Christopher Eyerman, Senior Director, Denali – A WNS Company explains, “Category management is not just a process, it’s not just a set of tools. It takes on-going focus and the development of key skill-sets, just like any function or discipline within an organisation, in order to be the best that you can be.”

So, what are the things category managers need to do well as per the TED talk rulebook?

Keep It Snappy And Strategic

TED talks never, ever exceed 18 minutes of content, no matter what the subject matter, level of complexity, importance or fame of the person delivering the talk. By insisting speakers cut content from a talk they might normally deliver, TED guarantees audiences a level of discipline, focus and a clear thought process behind the key point delivered. The process encourages presenters to take a strategic approach.

Christophe Ysebaert, Partner, Transitive Management, explains, “Procurement organisations need to switch from being 20 per cent strategic to 80 per cent strategic. A key skill set for your team of category managers is to have a strategic mindset.”

Much like producing a TED talk on a complex subject, “To build strategy, you have to work from a huge amount of data,” Christophe continues. “You’re going to gather data from the market, your internal stakeholders, spend data etc. At some point, you need to analyse that data and come up with something that makes sense in terms of strategy.”

Tell Your Story

It goes without saying that communication and story-telling are key elements of any TED talk. Presenting key messages, an argument or a lecture in an accessible and insightful way to a diverse audience widens the appeal of topics that might have previously been alienating.

Christophe explains,  “When you do category management, you talk to internal customers, business people etc. and you have to be able to sell your case and your strategy.

“At my company, we’ve put together a package of information about how to tell a good story because that’s something you need to do all the time in this profession. ”

Category managers must be able to present their case to a wide range of stakeholders.

Find Your Passion

It’s rare to watch a TED talk and not get a sense of the speaker’s passion for their subject. They are the experts in their chosen topic, its greatest advocates and their extensive knowledge on the subject reflects this.

Chris explains why passion and curiosity are at the heart of category management, “Getting very deep with your category, getting deep with the data, deeply understanding the external market place, and having that sense of true curiosity [is important]. The best category managers never seem satisfied, they never think they know everything they need to know, they’re always pushing and trying to find additional information and additional ways to better understand their categories.”

Ask yourself, Chris says,  “Could you as a category manager give the TED talk on your category?”

Know Your Audience

When dealing with internal or external stakeholders in category management, you need to know what makes them tick or how to engage them, what you want to achieve from talking to them and what are you selling them!

“This doesn’t mean – ‘I know Joe we play basketball together!’ ” says Chris. “It’s about really understanding them. From their business, their needs, co-aligning with them in terms of their objectives and yours, developing a strategy, and sharing your vision with them.”

Just like in a TED talk, category managers need to leverage their sales skills.

Chris concludes “Selling your vision, building a strong business case and being able to influence stakeholders and align stakeholders to a strategy” are crucial to make it as a great category manager.

Want to hear more on this topic from Christopher Eyerman and Christophe Ysebaert? Tune in to today’s webinar, Breaking the Groundhog Day Mentality: Enabling A True Category Management Mindset at 1pm GMT. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

Debt as a Source of Risk in the Supply Chain

What debt conditions, putting pressure on our global economy , should procurement pros make themselves familiar with? And how can we mitigate supplier risk? 

This blog was written by William B. Danner

Two leading authorities on corporate financial health, Dr. Edward Altman, Professor of Finance, Emeritus, at New York University’s Stern School of Business and creator of the Altman Score, and CreditRiskMonitor Founder and CEO Jerry Flum, recently presented a webinar to hundreds of supply chain and credit professionals about today’s mammoth corporate debt problem.

As the primary point of contact between their company and suppliers – not to mention a first line of defense against third party risk – procurement and supply chain professionals should be concerned with the degree to which public companies are leveraged today.

Dr. Altman and Jerry Flum identified three unprecedented debt-related conditions, putting pressure on the global economy today that procurement should be aware of from a risk mitigation perspective:

1. Compare debt to GDP

One of the best ways to put debt levels into perspective is to compare debt to GDP. In the U.S., total debt is currently at a historically huge 3.5 times GDP. Of this total, corporate debt is large and growing. Overall debt levels are so large we must be concerned about the investors who own this debt, not just the borrowers. A 10% decline in value would destroy wealth equivalent to 35% of GDP, with a major effect on spending. Junk debt (high-yield bonds and leveraged loans) has soared to $2.5 – 3.0 trillion world-wide.

2. Benign credit cycle

Now in the 8th year of what is usually a 4-7 “benign credit cycle”, many executive teams have let their guard down, forgetting the lessons of the past. As Dr. Altman explained in the webinar, a ‘benign credit cycle’ has four characteristics:

  • Low default rates
  • High recovery rates when bonds default
  • Low interest rates, yields, and spreads
  • High liquidity

In other words, credit is cheap and easily available to publicly traded companies, which leads many companies to take on more debt. A great deal of debt has been issued to pay dividends and buy back stock, making corporations riskier.

3. Corporate valuations

Corporate valuations are inflated, with market values far higher than historical norms. Private equity firms are paying as much as 10 to 11 times cash flow for acquisitions. High stock prices make corporations less risky, but stock prices can fall.

Whether companies give in to the mania or make a disciplined choice to break free from the pack, procurement and supply chain professionals can take action to mitigate supplier risk and prepare their companies to handle the downturn when the next recession inevitably comes.

Suggested Steps for Supply Chain Professionals to Mitigate Supplier Risk :

1. Build in a monitoring process

Don’t stop with an initial vendor screening. Companies’ financial health can change and even a periodic review simply isn’t good enough. Avoid surprises and react quickly to change.

2. Get to know the vendors you do business with well

Ask questions such as:

  • “Who is the corporation we are paying? Is it under a different name?”
  • “Are they actually manufacturing the product or is someone else?”
  • “Where are their operations?”

Be cautious, especially if you are not getting clear answers.

3. Don’t over-do it

Not all your vendors will present a problem if they enter financial risk. Ask yourself:

  • “Is the commodity/product easy to replace? Is this a one-time contract?”
  • “Or, could this vendor create a major issue with our ability to ship on time, the quality of our product, or with our customer satisfaction?”

Only if you find that it’s a “yes” to the second question do you need extensive review.

4. Incorporate financial analysis in your key vendor review process

Be sure to include multiple periods of financial statements in your review to see trends. If you are finding it difficult to get financial information, be wary. 

5. Compare your vendors with the financial condition of their peers

You may find more secure sources of supply.

6. When appropriate, take a hard look at the financial stability of your vendor’s suppliers

They are part of your supply chain and could be a significant exposure.

7. Have an open and honest communications process

You’ll want to explore with your vendor the performance factors that directly impact you such as shipping reliability, product quality, etc. but also financial stability. Knowledge is power and knowing all the facts gives you the time to identify and prepare alternative source(s) of supply.

8. Look at more radical options if a vendor looks too weak

  • Make vs. buy decision
  • Engineer a stronger vendor into the supply chain
  • Buy the troubled vendor, or
  • Help arrange for a preferred vendor to purchase the troubled vendor.

The fact of the matter is that today’s debt situation is historically unprecedented. We can’t be certain of the timing of a change in the financial markets, or what will serve as the trigger, but a shift is coming – so now is the time to prepare and put your processes and procedures in place.

The full webinar can be viewed here.


William B. Danner has been president of CreditRiskMonitor since May 2007. Bill has more than 35 years of financial and information services experience. 

Prior to CreditRiskMonitor he worked in brand strategy and business development consulting for financial services clients at his own firm, Danner Marketing. Previously he was at Citigate Albert Frank, a marketing communications company in New York City, where he worked on a variety of leading financial services accounts including Reuters Instinet and the CFA Institute. From 1997 to 2001, Bill was Vice President of Market Development at MetLife’s employee-benefits business. Before joining MetLife, he was at Dun & Bradstreet, most recently as VP Strategic Planning. He spent the first decade of his career at GE Information Services and GE Capital.

Bill earned a BA in economics from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Why Don’t You Trust Your Procurement Boss?

Ever feel like you’re being stabbed in the back by your procurement boss? You’re definitely not alone and we have the stats to prove it!

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.

Amongst our most startling discoveries was that over half of those surveyed don’t trust their boss to be proactive about their career progression. This result indicates that professionals need to seize control of their own career advancement, while managers need to be incentivised to support and progress their direct reports.

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.

We were particularly interested in their thoughts on what procurement managers should be doing in order to regain the trust of their team members. The video below shows a compilation of their responses:

What’s the root cause of these  trust issues?

Why is trust so terribly lacking between procurement professionals and their leaders?  A number of  key factors arose from our research:

Rate of Change – David Henchliffe, Group Manager Procurement OZ Minerals attributes the lack of trust to the astounding rate of change in today’s organisations, “What people seen as firm and certain today, is gone tomorrow. That constant change erodes trust. And it erodes peoples’ view of your genuine-ness.”

My boss doesn’t want me to leave – Many of us can relate to the experience of having an overly protective boss, a boss who is keener to hold on to their talent at all costs rather than priortise career development. Alan Paul, CEO Sourceit, takes his responsibility in this area very seriously, “As a manager I need to demonstrate to my staff that I’m not afraid of them leaving the organisation. I want to develop them I want them to improve themselves.” If employees feel like they are missing out on opportunities because of an unsupportive boss, it’s likely they’ll leave anyway!

My boss doesn’t engage or communicate with me – The value in talking and listening can never be underestimated.  Imelda Walsh, Recruitment Consultant, The Source believes that “fantastic leaders encourage honest and open conversation. If procurement managers can take that step, you’ll naturally build trust”

My boss isn’t helping my career development – If it appears that your boss doesn’t care about helping you to advance your career, of course you’re not going to trust them! Michelle Varble, Procurement Director, United Airlines, asserts that  “we need to take a geuine interest in [our employees] success- we need to take on the roll of mentor even if we havent recieved a specific invitation to be a mentor.”

My boss isn’t ethical – Employees will hold a leader in high regard who both demonstrates good ethics  and demonstrates that they genuinely care about good ethics. People want to work for companies that are not soley motivated by savings and profit, that aren’t covering up immoral behaviour and where they aren’t suspicious of the goings on at the top of the company.

A lack of ethical behaviour at the top sets a terrible example to the rest of the organisation and destroys trust.

What can procurement leaders do to regain trust?

Encourage development – Anna O’Dea, Director and Founder of Agency Iceberg, believes that “a  good employer should encourage the development of their employees. If your employer isn’t investing in your training or opportunities, you could be in a one-way relationship.”

Spend time with your talent – David Henchliffe advises leaders to regain trust by devoting more quality time with employees, “spend time with them, get to know them, admit your mistakes and praise them when they do well.”

Put clear career progression procedures in place – Implementing clear structures within an organisation reassures employees that their progress is being monitored and the value they contribute is recognised.  John Foody General Manager Procurement, U.S Steel explain how his organisation “We’ve put in place some tools that we call Career Ladders, that evaluates and gives feedback to our people. It provides them with feedback on their skills, their capabilities, areas to continue to work on. It gives them a sense of progress as they continue to move through our organisation.”

Take the fear away – Don’t let your employees worry about your lack of commitment to them. Reassure them that you  have their best interests at heart, and not your own!  Alan Paul asserts that “for a manager, a true leader, it’s about taking away the fear that your people are going to leave and trust that they’re going to stay. But also accept the fact that eventually they are going to move on.

How can you advance your career without the help of your untrustworthy boss?

As Procurious founder Tania Seary asserts, “It’s all too easy to find excuses for why your career is not panning out the way you intended. Soft targets for blame include your employer, your peers, your organisation or even your own personal life- challenges for blocking your charge to the top.

“We know there are some significant problems with procurement bosses around the world but…as I have always said, and will continue to say, the only common denominator in your career is YOU.”

So join that professional network, start updating your online CV, enroll on an eLearning course, listen to that podcast series you keep forgetting about  and start connecting with influential peers and thought leaders! The procurement world is your oyster…

Request your copy of the Gen NEXT Report

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

Three Imperatives Of Every Successful Category Manager

Every leadership role in every business comes with its own set of imperatives, a set of tasks that must be focussed on to guarantee success. But what imperative should a great category manager follow?This article was written by  Lynn Rideout – Director Procurement Services, Denali – A WNS Company.

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Fred Wilson once described the three tasks that every CEO should focus on, whilst all other tasks should be delegated to their team.

These three things, the CEO imperatives, must include:

  • Setting the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicating it to all stakeholders
  • Recruiting, hiring and retaining the very best talent for the company
  • Ensuring there is always enough cash in the bank

If your CEO can’t excel at all three, the chances are you’ve got some fairly big problems within your organisation.

What if we were to take the concept of the three imperatives, and apply it to category management?

What should you do well to be successful?

What are your imperatives?

And, furthermore, how do you take the basic understanding of category management and enable it across your organisation?

At Denali, we believe the greatest category managers follow these three imperatives.

1. Know Your Stakeholders

First and foremost, successful category managers understand the importance of stakeholder alignment and building positive relationships. Follow these tips to enhance your stakeholder relationships through your category plan:

  • Be with your stakeholders – Spend time (both real and mental) with them every day
  • Intimately know their business objectives – use a consistent framework to correctly identify true requirements, the key enablers, and barriers to those objectives; where value is created?
  • Establish true alignment – establish shared goals and earn trusted advisor relationship
  • Sell YOUR vision – “if not now, then when?”, be aligned and integrated with stakeholders
  • Bring new opportunities to the table vs. react to requests or issues
  • Plant seeds with stakeholders – start one project at a time; build reputation and trust

Remember, to effectively persuade and engage your stakeholders, you must tailor the content for each discussion. Tell your story and help build the business case. Building successful relationships is an evolution. Your stakeholder relationships will grow with time – and so will your credibility with stakeholders!

2. Understand Your Categories

Understanding the internal and external dynamics of your categories drives idea generation and stakeholder engagement. Follow these tips to better understand your categories:

  • Get dirty with the data – become intimate with your category details, but get to true insights – the “so what’s”
  • Be curious – ask why, seek innovation, and develop new strategies
  • Be intentional regardless of the depth and category maturity
  • Be “in the market” – study market drivers/trends, talk to suppliers, participate in market events, read broadly
  • Network with category peers in other industries/organisations
  • Understand your suppliers – capabilities, performance, why you use them, and leverage them

Establish a plan to refresh and maintain category knowledge as part of building your story. Knowledge will grow with time, but it should not delay execution.

3. Deliver Results

Now that you know your stakeholders and understand your categories – it’s time to execute. Use this newfound alignment and knowledge to drive deliberate consideration of a prioritised portfolio rather than executing on strategic sourcing project at a time. After all, category management is MUCH more than simply executing sourcing projects.

  • Take a portfolio approach – Know your targets and have a plan to get there, get many projects teed up, and leverage available resources
  • Eliminate extraneous work – Get comfortable with not doing it all
  •  Press sourcing strategies for greater value (go to auction, demand management, standardisation, supplier innovation, etc.)
  • But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – you must start somewhere
  • Leverage all available resources to reach your objectives
  • Sustain the value by managing supplier relationships and performance

The best way to deliver results is to have a sense of urgency with a bias toward execution.

To learn more about how to a successful category manager and enable a true category management plan, register for our upcoming webinar.

Our webinar, Breaking the Groundhog Day Mentality: Enabling a TRUE Category Management Mind, takes place at 1pm GMT / 8 am EST on 29th November 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here.

Breaking the Groundhog Day Mentality: Enabling A True Category Management Mindset

Does your category management journey ever remind you of the movie Groundhog Day?  Our latest webinar will advise you on how to break that repetitive cycle!Our webinar, Breaking the Groundhog Day Mentality: Enabling A True Category Management Mindset takes, takes place at 1pm GMT on 29th November 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

The life of a procurement professional can easily descend into a vicious cycle. You’re asked to do more and more, in order to drive bottom line results for the business, but you’re without the time to approach these challenges innovatively.

It’s often something straight out of the movie “Groundhog Day,” where procurement is given bigger and bigger targets, and has to scramble to execute on more projects, touch more spend, react to more stakeholders and more issues, and then simply do it all over again….and again!

The problem is, if our category managers can’t find a way to break the reactive cycle and start taking different approaches, they can’t add value and deliver the best results.

Successful organisations have embraced the request to do more, and have turned it into an opportunity for the function; to increase the strategic role of procurement and make it a destination role within the business.

How do successful organisations navigate this journey? What are the keys to success? And what is imperative for individuals and organisations to do when on this journey to ensure they become closer than ever before to the business?

What content can I expect from the webinar?

We’ll be discussing:

  • What does it mean to have a category management mindset?
  • What key competencies or skills should category managers be developing?
  • How will category management needs continue to evolve over time?
  • How can procurement leaders change the game for category management?
  • What mistakes are category managers repeatedly making?

Who are the guest speakers?

Tania Seary – Founder, Procurious

A true procurement entrepreneur, Tania is the Founding Chairman of Procurious, The Faculty and The Source. Throughout her career, Tania has been wholly committed to raising the profile of the procurement profession and connecting its leaders.

After finishing her MBA at Pennsylvania State University, Tania became one of Alcoa’s first global commodity managers.

In 2016, Tania was recognised by IBM as a #NewWaytoEngage Futurist and named “Influencer of the Year” by Supply Chain Dive. She hosts regular procurement webinars, and presents at high-profile events around the world.

Christophe Ysebaert – Partner, Transitive Management

Christophe Ysebaert is a Partner with Transitive Management with expertise in purchasing strategies, strategic sourcing and project management. He is also a Part Time Teacher at Skema Business School in Lille (France) teaching category management and strategic sourcing.

Prior to joining Transitive Management, Christophe worked during close to 30 years for Dow Corning as a global manager in Supply Chain and Purchasing jobs. He served roles in Global Planning and more recently in Purchasing as part of the Procurement Leadership Team responsible for strategic sourcing and for a global augmentation program with a third party provider. He has also managed a global portfolio of commodities as well as led the European Direct Procurement Group.

Christophe holds a Master of Science in Business Engineering from Mons University and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management from Penn State University.

Alpar Kamber,  Executive Vice President, Denali – A WNS Company 

Alpar Kamber is Executive Vice President at WNS and the BU Leader for Procurement Services. He was the Founder and CEO of Denali Sourcing Services, a next-generation procurement services provider that enables procurement organizations to influence more spend and execute more effectively and efficiently.

In January 2017, WNS, a global business process management leader, acquired Denali Sourcing Services. Prior to joining Denali, Alpar held management positions at Ariba, FreeMarkets, Diamond Technology Partners and E&Y. Alpar leads WNS clients in building scalable sourcing programs and operationalizing their procurement function that drive consistency, repeatable outcomes, and bottom-line value across the organization.

Alpar’s expertise is in procurement value chain, organizational design, change management and global program execution. Alpar holds an MBA degree from Tepper Business School of Carnegie Mellon University. Alpar Kamber was named a 2011 Pros to Know by Supply & Demand Chain Executive. Read more about Alpar Kamber in the HfS Research interview, Meet the sultan of strategic sourcing.

Christopher Eyerman, Senior Director,  Denali – A WNS Company 

Chris Eyerman is the Senior Director for WNS-Denali. Chris leads WNS-Denali’s Solutions and Capabilities group to design, deliver and continuously improve procurement programs that provide real, lasting value and creates permanent change in how our customers conduct procurement business.

He is a senior supply chain and program management executive with more than 30 years of technical and business experience, including 18 years of leading category management, source-to-contract, procure-to-pay and supply chain transformation programs. Prior to joining WNS-Denali, he served roles in program management, business development, product management and operations at FreeMarkets, Ariba and Exostar.

Chris holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Penn State, an MS degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT, and an MBA degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

How do I register for the webinar?

Registering for our webinar couldn’t be easier (and, of course, it’s FREE!)

Click here to enter your details and confirm your attendance. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

I’m already a member of Procurious, do I still need to register?

Yes! If you are already a member of Procurious you must still register to access the webinar via this platform. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

When is it taking place?

The webinar will take place at 1pm GMT on 29th November 2017.

Help! I can’t make it to the live-stream

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask a question?

If you’re listening live, our speakers would love to hear your questions and we’d love for you to pick their brains . Questions can be submitted throughout the live stream via the webinar platform, or via @Procurious_ on Twitter.

If you think of a brilliant question after the event, feel free to submit your question via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Our webinar, Breaking the Groundhog Day Mentality: Enabling A True Category Management Mindset, takes place at 1pm GMT on 29th November 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

How Do You Get Your Biggest Idea Through a Big Company?

Think you know what it takes to drive a big idea through an even bigger company? Watson Supply Chain was built on one big idea…On 24th January 2018 3.30pm EST Procurious founder, Tania Seary, will be speaking with Joanne Wright in IBM’s webinar: How IBM Built the Cognitive Supply Chain of the Future. Register here.

Five years ago, Joanne Wright had a sizeable problem…a $30 USD billion supply chain problem to be precise!

Joanne was fortunate enough to be working with a company that could actually do something about it. Working with IBM’s engineers to design and implement a tailor-made solution to her supply chain challenges, she has now benefitted the entire global supply chain profession as a result of her intrapreneurship and ingenuity.

This is her story.

That “AHA” moment

Joanne had hers in 2011 following a series of unfortunate events.

The devastating earthquake, and subsequent Tsunami, off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku Japan in the early months of this year resulted in $360 billion USD of damage and wiped out componenets globally. It was frustrating and time consuming to even attempt an analysis with incomplete information.

Then, there were the volcanic eruptions in Iceland, which meant that freight couldn’t be moved in the same way it had been before.

Finally, the extreme floods in Thailand, triggered by the landfall of Tropical Storm Nock-ten, wiped out disc drive head production and heavily impacted the storage side of the business.

In each of these instances, Joanne considered how she might leverage the right data to make better decisions.

The need for faster, better intelligence

Given the speed at which circumstances can change in our world, the only way for procurement organisations to be successful is to achieve faster, better intelligence.

When Joanne reflected on how her team had managed the crises of 2011, it was clear that the situations could each have been tackled faster, more intelligently, and with a higher level of accuracy- if they could only utilize the right cognitive solution.

Getting the idea through a BIG company

Introducing and executing a new idea is no small feat in a company the size of IBM. How did Joanne get senior management support for her venture?

It was a long process of trial and error, during which her team learned a lot about how to best manage their data. It took nine months to get started, and furthermore, eighteen months to get to implementation. They needed coders; they ran design workshops where they spent time identifying data sources and emphasizing the importance of data to their clients.

Once you’ve identified the data, it has to be cleaned; and then you have to train Watson. A task that, according to Joanne, can’t be underestimated.

Joanne’s team quickly discovered that they weren’t just the early adapters, but they were the creators of Watson Supply Chain, which added a level of drive and passion to the project; needless to say, it took on a much bigger purpose.

How does the IBM Transparent Supply Chain operate today?

  1. Resolution Room

Resolution Rooms with Ask Watson capability provides cognitive-enabled insights, recommends experts and provides actionable advice based on learned best practices. This helps drive automation and collaboration in responding to disruptions and events. Resolution Rooms leverage Watson’s capability to develop a body of knowledge by learning about how issues were best addressed in the past. This enables greater speed and accuracy in responding to future events.

“My team gets to collaborate in one place.” Joanne explains. ” A demand spike in our new Z14 mainframe, planning of the new product introduction, what the new demand is, what the client order patterns will be and which countries will we be shipping to. Logistics, materials, suppliers, engineering, transportation and providers can all be in one place, with total transparency working with the best data you have available. We’re truly able to use our best experts (wherever they are in the world!) and Watson as your trusted advisor.”

And what does Watson bring to this resolution room?

“Watson provides the opportunity to deliver business value and insights from all of these data insights – structured (SAP) and unstructured, data from weather patterns, news, D&B and supplier IQ. And it does this with speed and accuracy. No more are we saying ‘OK…let’s get the data and meet again tomorrow’ because Watson takes my team’s input and incorporates that into the next iteration as we go.

  1. Operations Center

Operations Center with Smart-Alerts proactively monitors and governs operations with speed and agility, predicts disruptions, and provides configurable, intuitive alerts cutting through data overload. Supply chain practitioners can prioritize actions based on instant analysis of the financial impact of impending risks and disruptions.

This capability helps reduce number of expedites, reduce inventory and be more predictive on what we need to do for clients.

Joanne’s final words of advice to her peers “You can’t afford not to be engaged with these technologies. It’s a game-changer. You need to the winning recipes!”

On 24th January 2018 3.30pm EST Procurious founder, Tania Seary, will be speaking with Joanne Wright in IBM’s webinar: How IBM Built the Cognitive Supply Chain of the Future. Register here.

The CPO’s Guide To Persuasion

What’s the number one skill required by the CPO of the future? According to award-winning Australian CPO Kevin McCafferty, you won’t get far without mastering the art of persuasion.

Broadspectrum Executive General Manager and 2017 Asia-Pacific CPO of the Year Kevin McCafferty will deliver a keynote session at the upcoming GovProcure2017 conference, running from 5th-7th December in Sydney, Australia. Procurious caught up with Kevin to ask him about top skills required by the CPO of the future. 

Kevin, you’ll be talking about procurement in 2018 and beyond at GovProcure2017. How can CPOs equip themselves to meet the coming challenges?  

“In my opinion, the number one skill for the CPO of the future is what I’d call the ‘art of persuasion’. Procurement is a profession that a lot of organisations see as a tactical solution to some of the issues that they have. Most organisations spend about 50 per cent of their revenue on 3rd-party suppliers and service providers. If your business spends that much money externally, they need to become more strategic in doing so – and that’s where the need for persuasion arises.”

Which parts of the business generally require the most persuasion from CPOs?

“A CPO’s job is firstly to persuade the organisation when to be strategic in the way they spend it, and secondly, to invest in the profession so they get the best value-for-money outcomes every time they spend money. It doesn’t matter whether they’re buying pens and pencils, or if there’s a $10 million project your organisation wants to invest in; there’s an art involved in being able to persuade your board, your executive team, and your chief executive that investing in procurement to get those outcomes is absolutely critical to the profession.”

In your view, how important is networking for procurement professionals?

“The power of your network is absolutely critical to your career. In this profession, being able to talk to your peers and understand what’s happening in their organisations will help you work through your own strategies and goals.”

Kevin McCafferty will deliver the opening keynote at GovProcure2017 in Sydney on 5th December, where he’ll focus on:

  • an overview of procurement trends for 2018 and beyond
  • the age of commercialisation and digitisation, and how it’s impacting the profession, and
  • common challenges facing procurement and how to tackle the solutions.

Click here to learn more and download an event brochure.

5 Soft Skills Procurement Pros Should Be Developing…NOW!

If you want to hold on to your procurement career  in the long term, you ought to be worrying about mastering your soft skills!Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.

We got wind of the fact that IBM, arguably the world’s most robotically advanced procurement team,  is focussing on its employees’ soft skills.

As Justin Mcbryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM, explained,  why would IBM need a high volume of data scientists in their midst when they have Watson!?

Technological advancements will soon permit the automation of our processes; handling the sourcing and the market intelligence. In this environment, it’s the softer skills procurement professionals must master to ensure a long-term career.  That’s the real skills gap procurement should be worried about!

Ahead of next week’s webinar Beat The Bots – How Being Human Will Win The Day,  we outline the specific skills procurement pros should be mastering to prepare for the post-cognitive age, with the help of Justin and our second webinar speaker John Viner Smith, Principal-Mercer.

1. Design Thinking

There are some “incredible and transformative technologies that offer solutions to problems that were unimaginable just a few years ago ,but they’re just half of the puzzle.” begins John.

“Subject matter experts will have a role to play in framing  [these problems] in the most efficient way.”  It’s important that the solutions aren’t simply “sticking plasters but fundamental root cause fixes”.

This is a role for procurement’s best and brightest, and the skill needed to fulfil this role is Design Thinking; “the process of being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to bear on business problems.”

2. Thinking at the speed of digital!

Joh asserted that procurement must recognise that “thinking of digital solutions requires some understanding of new processes and ways of thinking.”

“Procurement people should be learning about methodologies like Google’s Design Sprint or Eric Ries’ concept of Intrapreneurship as defined in the Lean Startup that are used in other types of digital business.

“Too often procurement thinking is slow, bound in process and incredibly risk averse. Technology problem solving is experimental, iterative and views failures as key to learning. The idea of developing hypotheses, testing them, failing fast and iterating or pivoting in the course of a week, as per Google’s Sprint methods, would be alien to many Procurement people.”

Procurement has worked at a certain pace,  thus far. And it’s going to  have to get faster!

3. Active questioning and listening

This wouldn’t be a piece about soft skills without a mention of communication! We already know how important this skill is for procurement people but it’s going to be all the more valuable in a post-cognivite age.

Justin reminded us that communication is vital for everything “from presentation skills to phone etiquette and how to ask probing questions to your suppliers.”

In a post cognitive world you’re “going to become more of an owner and less of a process facilitator” asserts Justin, which is where active listening comes in.

When it comes to managing negotiations with suppliers, clients and colleagues, “We all have scripts e.g. How many widgets do you need, when do you need them by etc.”

“Every now  and then, you’ll have  been in a situation where a client has given a little bit more than you asked for. This is where the active [and critical] listening comes in.” How do you use that information to do the best job possible?

4. Negotiation

“We rely on the threat of competitive pressure to do our negotiating for us” says John.

“We source the spec and don’t always listen to challenges from Suppliers. When we’re engaging them to help solve complex problems, we will need to be more commercially empowered and highly skilled negotiators; able to get the best from our suppliers by offering the best of ourselves while optimising value.”

5. Imagination

“The future role of procurement can be solved in one phrase: problem solving” says John.

But procurement’s problem solving needs to take on a more innovative and imaginative approach.

“Not every situation is going to call for an RFX” explains Justin. “That speaks directly to the change we’re looking for [at IBM].” Too often “we see a need and our reaction from a process point is let’s go and do the RFX.”  Instead professionals “should take a deep breath and start understanding the client and exactly what they need,” and approach the problem in alternate ways.

John concedes, arguing that “running tender might be the solution (increasingly rarely!) but collaborative innovation with the suppliers we have is important.”

Procurement peoples’ jobs will largely focus on bringing innovation to the supply chain in the first place and really helping the business to understand their demand.

In short, Procurement needs to have a relationship with the organisation that is much more strategic and puts the function in a partnering and consultative role.  As Justin sums up, ‘ [at IBM] We’re still looking for the procurement experts, we’re still looking for people who can do the job. But we’re adding to the soft skills portfolio.”

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Eyes on the prize: 5 ways soft skills can help you focus on the big-ticket projects

From guest contributor Shaun Hughes, Chief Procurement Officer, Telstra.

In a complex and hyper-connected world, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to juggle every demand on your time without losing sight of important projects. The solution doesn’t lie in downloading the latest time-management app, or introducing the latest project management methodology, but in the development of five key soft skills. 

I’ve always been impressed by jugglers. Otherwise known as multi-taskers, the best jugglers are seemingly able to keep an unbelievable number of projects and tasks in the air at once. But underneath the whirl of frenetic activity, impressive as it might look, is it really effective?

Firstly, trying to juggle too many projects at once often leads to short-termism. Rather than make hard prioritisation decisions on what really matters, we often fall into the trap of focusing on the most urgent task at hand.  Meanwhile, the big-ticket projects that really make a difference are lost in the swirl of activity.  Busy-ness leaves no room for effectiveness.

You may be able to get every task done on your list, but does it really add value?  We all know what our best work looks like, but are we setting ourselves up for success?  Creating the time to think and to prioritise is essential, but how do we know that we’re working on the right things?

Soft skills remove ambiguity.

Modern procurement is about driving a change agenda.  Great organisations have great talent and great talent doesn’t always agree.

I used to think getting things done was about getting everyone to yes, now I believe it’s about getting the “NOs” to neutral and maintaining enough momentum in the “YES camp” to move things forward.

But the task of converting all those NOs to neutrals can sometimes seem overwhelming. If you don’t have existing relationships in place, you’ve simply got no idea why individuals (or entire functions) are resisting your change agenda. Confronted with so much ambiguity and complexity, it can be hard to know where to start.

What I’ve found is if you simply roll up your sleeves, start talking to people and understand their perspectives it’s amazing what you learn about what is important to them and why.  Understanding this takes a bit more time sometimes, but change is much more likely to stick.

Five soft skills that will help you win back your time

1. Make the effort to really connect – see the person, not the task. Take the time to understand those around you, what is important to them, their fears and aspirations, what motivates them.  While the degree of connection each of us want at work will vary, when we connect as people in a real and authentic way the whole human dynamic of that relationship changes.  When our focus is only on the task, it’s much harder to see the person and the impact your agenda might have on them.

2. Ask not tell – start with a question, and then keep asking questions. Even if you want to talk about your agenda, when we ask permission to do so, something changes.  We are now being invited into the conversation. The dynamic shifts from one of pushing our own agenda and position, to a pull dynamic where we are being asked to explain it.

When the conversation pauses, inquire with curiosity.  It never ceases to amaze me how different things can be in reality to how they appear on the surface.  When we simply listen with a view to finding space to talk ourselves, I wonder do we always hear what is being said to us?

When a really important idea that I just don’t want to forget hijacks my ability to listen, one thing that works for me is the simple act of writing that thought down. This seems to remove the need to keep trying to remember it, or the urgency to blurt it out, and allows me to listen. 

3. Reasonable people acting illogically – most people in business are smart, pragmatic and reasonably rational. Admittedly, we all have moments when we lapse a little, but corporate norms of behaviour tend to reinforce pragmatic rationalism.  So, when we see behaviour that doesn’t quite make sense to us, it’s often because we don’t fully understand what’s important to those around us.  What should we do?  Start back at point 1 and build a relationship.

Throughout my career I’ve taken many opportunities to do many different things in many different parts of the businesses I’ve worked in. Different roles in different industries, but always coming back to my core skill in commercial / financial management. Breadth through rotation provides a wider perspective on the world around us and I’ve certainly benefited from this. It’s amazing how much you can enjoy learning something new; the broader our own experiences, the easier it is to understand the perspectives of others. 

4. Learn to let go – for many overworked jugglers, the problem can be of our own making. If your leadership style means controlling every decision and rewriting everything your team produces, you will always have too much on your plate. Learn to recognise talent, enable it, establish a set of principles to work by and communicate these clearly. Then, simply get out of the way and let talent be talent.

You may be surprised to find that the quality of work goes up as people feel more empowered and valued.  Do any of us do our best work when we know the boss is going to get out the red pen and rewrite the whole thing?

5. Know when to call in the umpire – we have umpires in sport for a reason. Sometimes in the heat of the moment the desire to win distorts the player’s perspective of what’s really happening.  Imagine a tennis game without an umpire ….
                In            out!
               In!          Out!!
               IN!!        OUT!!! 

Nothing can stall a project quite so much as an unresolved disagreement.  So, rather than let the relationship falter, or prosecute the same issue repeatedly, be pragmatic about when to find an umpire.  Make your respective cases, accept the decision and move on.

Is there anything wrong with acknowledging where you are and saying “Hey, we’re not going to agree on this, how about we get a third party to be an umpire?

Good communication, transparency and investment in relationships may seem like a counter-intuitive way to lesson your workload, but your soft skills are the most effective method you have of bringing those multiple projects under control, focusing on the big-ticket items that will really move your business and your career in the right direction, and driving lasting sustainable change.

Telstra is a leading Australian telecommunications and technology company, offering a full range of communications services and competing in all telecommunications markets. Hear more thought-leadership from Telstra at Procurious Big Ideas Summit Melbourne on Monday 30th October.