Category Archives: Career Management

Long Tail Spend 101: New School Approaches

Procurement ought to care a whole lot about long tail spend and lay out the best way to manage it in the “consumerisation of tech” era…

I have no doubt that agility, innovation, and adding value to the business should be of paramount focus to procurement teams evolving beyond cost-center status. Who wants to be in the back office pinching pennies while the rest of the business struggles to keep up with the new rules of the digital revolution? But as leaders keep one eye on those critical matters, the other must still cover the basics of the procurement practice to deliver the right experience and results. That means continuous tracking and improvement of spend influence, which includes long-tail spend management.

Long tail spend 101

Long tail spend is not strategically managed or under management. This means any spend without a contract framework agreement or negotiated work order. In organisations that have invested significant effort into strategic category management, managed spend tends to be around 80 per cent of all expenditures, leaving long tail spend at 20 per cent. It also includes a small, but significant amount of spend with managed suppliers, which is known as hidden tail. This spend includes purchases made from managed suppliers, but these purchases are outside existing contracts.

The remaining tail spend tends to come from roughly 80 per cent of the total number of suppliers. Often this will be fragmented: ad hoc purchases from multiple suppliers, low-value transactions at one-time vendors, non-purchase order spend, off-contract spend, etc. When all the long tail spend is added together it becomes the biggest overall supplier! This biggest supplier costs you a lot of effort and time, which is not clearly visible within the organisation.

What is the business value of tail spend management?

Until recently, the generally accepted figure for how much sourcing organisations can save through managed tail spend has been 1 – 5 per cent (the less mature the organisation, the more the saving). However, analysts at The Hackett Group, concluded that this figure might be higher: as much as 7.1 per cent. High-value maverick buying that should have been strategically sourced was cited as a factor in raising this figure (30 per cent of respondents estimated 10 per cent or more in savings). This underlines the importance of gaining visibility of tail spend.

Apart from up to 7 per cent  savings, what are the other benefits of managing long tail spend? First, by better managing long tail spend, you can significantly reduce the number of transactions and the related costs of procurement, and in other departments such as finance. This will help minimize the number of internal resources (sometimes senior) working with tail spend suppliers to further reduce procurement costs. These savings can be significant considering that the administrative cost of each pound spent can be as high as 35 per cent. Improving the visibility of low-value spend suppliers will create opportunities to identify sourcing savings and supplier consolidation.

Second, increasing strategically managed spend, and managing long tail spend, will result in increased contract compliance, leading to further savings. Added to this, suppliers are more likely to offer increased discounts when they are the sole providers for a specific category, or when a set volume of purchases is guaranteed.

Third, beyond cost savings, managing long tail spend helps eliminate noncompliant suppliers and consolidate larger suppliers, which leads to reduced business risk, and a reduced risk of fraud across the supply chain. This also increases the chance of your organization being compliant to external legislation.

The visibility challenge

One of the main difficulties with long tail spend management is poor data visibility, caused by factors such as complex supply chains; different IT systems and data sources; and, fragmented and disconnected business processes such as sourcing, contract management, and procurement. Also, the sheer number of suppliers, items, transactions, and the high number of business stakeholders can simply overwhelm some organizations.

There are often not enough available resources with the right skills to analyse the problem and set a corrective action plan. Unfortunately, neither strategic category managers nor operational procurement agents tend to have the knowledge or skills to handle the long tail. Organizations that don’t have clearly set policies or well-defined processes are more likely to lack effective control. Part of this process must be constant maintenance to prevent slippage. A good analogy for this aspect is that of keeping a garden. Just as a neat and orderly garden will become overgrown if neglected, maverick spend will creep into the spend cube. This results in a higher percentage of noncompliant purchases, often with low-value transactions and small-volume suppliers.

Finally, there is often a lack of adequate tools to help the organization analyze and manage long tail spend in an efficient manner. A purely manual approach to tail spend management quickly becomes cumbersome and error-prone without the right tool support. There is no quick fix for overcoming these obstacles, but the benefits of doing so are estimated by different sources to be between 15 – 20 per cent through reduced procurement cost, increased efficiency, supplier consolidation, additional sourcing savings, and decreased business risk.

The smart approach to long tail spend management

Organisations should first analyse their spend data with a thorough spend and supplier assessment. This type of spend analysis exercise helps gain an understanding of the current state and will serve as a foundation for a business case in readiness for the next step. The next step is to gain top management and stakeholder backing. To be successful with a long tail spend management initiative, it is necessary to have the buy-in of your C-suite, i.e., the CPO and CFO, by means of a solid business case and clear description of the savings outcome.

Establishing the support of top management will also help with the third step, which is to set-up clear policies and processes to drive the long tail management initiative. This includes compliance policies, preferred vendor lists, no purchase order–no pay policies, etc. The processes should also include automated procurement, with catalog suppliers, as well as spot buy, and free text orders channeled through a tactical and operational procurement team. The next step involves, selecting and implementing the right tool to the complete solution for long tail spend management. Consider an easy-to-use eProcurement system with a good search engine featuring rich content, efficient buying channels, and support for spot buy and tactical eSourcing.

Finally, setting up a dedicated team to monitor long tail spend suppliers is key to a complete solution for long tail spend. Spot buying and operational-free text orders at preferred suppliers will run more efficiently with a dedicated group managing the process. It is also possible to outsource this work to an external team.

In closing, it is important to realise that there is no silver bullet to managing long tail spend. Without clear policies or processes to guide an organisation on what to do and who needs to do it, there’s little that can be done to optimise and manage tail spend. By combining the right tools with the right approach, you can gain an additional level of visibility and savings, and, in turn, greater spend influence.

This post was adapted from the IBX Business Network white paper, Using Long Tail Spend Management to Achieve Savings, published in 2016. Tradeshift acquired IBX in early 2017.

Don’t Be Afraid To Kick A Colleague When Negotiating

In a major negotiation, procurement needs to deal not only with the supplier representative on the other side of the table, but with the internal stakeholder sitting next to you. If that person deviates from the script – as they so often do – then don’t be afraid to kick them in the shins. It’s your job!  

Procurious was invited to attend a Negotiation Roundtable organised by CABL (Conti Advanced Business Learning) and facilitated by its Founder, Giuseppe Conti.

Conti introduced the subject by pointing out that in many negotiations, it isn’t enough to negotiate with the suppliers. Usually, there’s a minefield of internal negotiation to get through first.

Don’t enter the maze without a map

Håkan Rubin refers to his company (IKEA) as a “matrix organisation”, and therefore sees stakeholder mapping and management as crucial before any sourcing activity. In his role as Supply Chain Operations Leader (Group Sustainability Innovations), Rubin says that identifying who the key players are internally isn’t always that obvious. “We try to get everyone on board, to make sure that resources are available and that everyone feels they are involved.”

Paul André, Emerging Products & Commercial Supply Director at JTI, built upon Rubin’s point: “I find that even though you’ve carried out your stakeholder mapping and have a joint meeting with key people involved, a lot of discussion happens outside of that meeting. What happens between the meetings is often more important, where people agree on things in one-to-one discussions.”

Overcoming resistance

Kemira’s Senior VP of Global Sourcing, Thierry Blomet, examined some of the typical resistance that procurement faces from internal stakeholders. “They have restrictive time constraints, heavy specifications, and often want to select suppliers based on past history and how comfortable they are with using them. It’s often challenging for procurement to convince stakeholders that there’s a better option against so much resistance, especially in a conservative industry not willing to take on the adventure of new technology or new suppliers.”

Xinjian Carlier (Strategic Sourcing Commodity Manager -Honeywell) shared an example of how she overcame resistance to a request for extra resources to deal with a major issue with significant financial impacts. “The reaction was ‘we don’t have time – I can’t give you the resource.’ I explained that the reason I came to them was that the company including both procurement and engineering would suffer an impact of hundreds of million in sales. Basically, I converted the issue into facts and put both of us in the same boat. This helped the senior leader in engineering understand, and reprioritise his resources.”

Resolving conflicting objectives

Laurence Pérot, Head of Global Supply Chain & Procurement at Logitech, comments that particularly in larger organisations, it’s procurement’s responsibility (and challenge) to juggle differing objectives and agendas from varied teams. “When you’re dealing with different functions, it sometimes isn’t clear what the company actually wants out of the negotiation. It means we [procurement] are unsure what we’re going to ask for. I had an experience where we had to make the decision on our own about the objectives on behalf of the rest of the community, because we couldn’t get alignment between the functions.”

Procter and Gamble’s Global Capability Purchasing Leader, Tamara Taubert, adds that procurement owns the discipline to be able to turn around complex, multiparty negotiation effectively. “To do that, our stakeholders need to get educated on what a negotiation is, the do’s and don’ts, and their role in the negotiation itself. The procurement representative might be the only person sitting at the table across from the supplier, but there are others involved in the negotiation, whether they like it or not. Procurement can lead by connecting all parties together and help them come to a value agreement.”

Staying in control

Blomet has found that engineers are generally happy to be guided by procurement as they’re often less experienced in negotiations and sourcing events. But when senior business stakeholders step in, it’s often more challenging for procurement to keep control of the process. “Business stakeholders are more likely to say that they know how the negotiation should be handled. Procurement may be tempted to back off at this point, but my advice is don’t back off. It’s even more important to help set the scene, do the roleplay, and keep them under control both during the preparation phase and during the meeting itself. And yes, this means it might be necessary to kick someone under the table if they deviate from the script.”

Alessandra Silvano, Global Category Director Capex and MRO at Carlsberg Group, says this has happened to her. “I had to ask someone who was not keeping to the script to leave the room. This person was becoming emotional and I could see we would be left in a bad position. I called a time-out, we took a break, left the room, and the supplier stayed behind. Eventually, we went back into the meeting and said we’d like to continue in a smaller group – leaving out the person who was not playing according to the script.”

Francesco Lucchetta, Director of Strategic Supply at Pentair, noted that although emotion can cause people to leave the script, it’s part of the negotiator’s toolset. “There’s a difference between playing with emotions and keeping negotiations under control. In a supplier negotiation, you’re the customer, so you can be much more emotional than they are. In an internal negotiation, you’re more likely to change a stakeholder’s mind by pointing out the emotional/risk side of the issue, rather than presenting facts around savings.”

Interested in attending a CABL Negotiation workshop? Visit http://www.cabl.ch/ to find out more. The founder, Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience with leading multinationals and over 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

The Importance of Strategic Thinking

“It is not enough to be busy… the question is: what are we busy about?” How do you find the time for valuable strategic thinking?

Last month, I ran a one-day workshop for senior leaders at a multinational organisation. One of the common themes that came up when we were establishing the ground rules for the session was the sense of “busyness” in the group. Many participants mentioned how “busy” they were and how it was not an ideal time for a full day workshop. Nevertheless, the workshop went very well and the level of input and engagement from the participants was high.

As a follow-up, I was debriefing the workshop with the participants yesterday. Their feedback about the session and its impact has been very insightful.

The Benefits of Strategic Thinking

One participant said she appreciated the time and space the session provided in order for her to slow down, think and reflect. She was able to move out of her “tactics” mindset and think more strategically. Another participant mentioned that he was able to step into a more strategic mindset and use the time to think about frameworks that will find alignment with everyone in his team. Others shared similar experiences. Participants realised that they were actually being busy for “busyness” sake, whereas what they were missing was the necessary time and space for valuable strategic thinking and consequently future planning. This is a key aspect of leadership.

As Henry David Thoreau wisely stated, “It is not enough to be busy… the question is: what are we busy about?” Strategic thinking examines and challenges the assumptions that exist around an organisation’s value proposition. It focuses on finding and developing unique opportunities to create value for an organisation. Being a strategic thinker can be difficult, but allocating time for the process is a crucial first step.

Strategic thinking is not only reserved for senior executives, it can, and should, happen at every level of an organisation. The important step is to accept that strategic thinking is part of your job and begin to focus on developing your abilities. Here are a few techniques to help you become a better strategic thinker:

Reflect

Make a commitment to slow down and do some focused thinking. One easy way to do this is to schedule a time every day or week to simply spend time thinking. It doesn’t have to be at work; it could be driving to work or going for a walk at lunch.

Broaden your horizons

Strategic thinking and curiosity are intrinsically linked. The more ideas and experiences you have, the more insights and connections you can make. Try to read about new ideas or new opinions, or explore new places to help stimulate the mind.

Step into others’ shoes

Discuss your ideas with other people. This is valuable because most likely the people around you think differently from you and can provide alternative perspectives to your ideas. Clients and customers also serve as a good source of inspiration for new ways of thinking.

Encourage others 

The more strategic minds generating ideas in an organisation, the better. One effective way to encourage staff to think strategically is to incorporate strategic thinking into their training and/or performance development plans.

Make decisions 

Strategy is not just about thinking, it is also about executing. Generating ideas is valuable, but it can go to waste if a decision is not make about what to do with them. This is where budgeting, time, money, resources, and prioritising come into focus.

Strategic thinking will make you a better leader. However, the ultimate value of strategic thinking is that it is looking out for the future of your organisation and its long-term success.

This article was oringally published on Cultural Synergies.

Infographic: Want To Get Ahead In The Gig Economy?

By 2020 43 per cent of workers are expected to be freelancers, embracing the gig economy  – How can you be sure to make it work for you?

There is a lot of upside to being your own boss, and more and more people are finding this out by taking the plunge. Today 34 per cent of workers in the U.S. are freelancers, and this figure is projected to reach 43 per cent by 2020.

What’s making this lifestyle so attractive? When you are your own boss you can choose which projects to work on and reject any projects you don’t want to do. You can choose what hours to work, where to work, and how to work. You can even take your work with you to the beach and enjoy a vacation without getting too far behind.

But there are some drawbacks- you are responsible for getting clients, paying taxes, and health insurance and retirement. In order to keep ahead:

  • Market yourself like a company
  • Keep your portfolio up to date
  • Maintain your website and social media presence
  • Network with previous clients so you can get repeat business and referrals.

Brian Wallace,Infogrpahic Expert, is the founder of NowSourcing, the U.S.’s premier infographic design agency.  This infographic was originally published on JobVine and LinkedIn

The Elephant in the Room: Aligning the Executive Team for Change

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” ― William Faulkner. Lora Cecere considers how to align the executive team for change.

Take a hard look at this lonely elephant. In my travels, in most corporations, this is the picture I see. My goal for this blog is to connect with you. We have an insular thinking problem in supply chain. What do I mean? Let me explain.

Each week, I travel and visit companies and speak at conferences to talk about the future of supply chain management. When I speak, my definition of supply chain is the process of aligning process flows from the customer’s customer to the supplier’s supplier. Many companies define supply chain more narrowly as a silo within operations focused on logistics or customer service. This limited view is a mistake.

There is also a false belief that efficient organizational silos make effective supply chains. In the automation of business processes, over the last decade, we automated the vertical silos of sales, marketing, customer service, logistics, manufacturing and procurement, but have not aligned to serve the customer. (The deployment of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Advanced Planning (APS), Supplier Relationship (SRM), Warehouse Management (WMS), and Transportation Management (TMS) created efficient silos, but not effective cross-functional flows.)

Efficient silos are a barrier to driving value. As a result, only 10 per cent of manufacturing companies are making progress on a balanced portfolio of metrics including growth, operating margin, inventory turns and Return on Invested Capital. Why? Many business executives have a functional business leader mindset. The use of new technologies to build outside-in, and cross-functional processes requires the redefinition of business processes and architectures. It is more than a project or a single change management initiative. It also requires process innovation. This is difficult because most companies are on a forced march for Information Technology (IT) and process standardization. In this traditional journey, there is no room for process innovation.

Some Background

Last week, I spoke four times. The first was at a S&P 500 company contemplating a digital transformation. The second was at a cognitive computing conference. The third stop was a network design conference, and the fourth presentation was at an industry consortia. At each session, when I finished my speech, I asked for questions. The common question was, “I hear your message. I agree and believe that my organization is stuck in driving improvement and defining a balanced portfolio. How do I educate the executive team on the basics of supply chain and gain leadership support on defining a vision for the future of supply chain?”

This is a great question, but the answer is not simple. My recommendation is to take five steps

1. Force a Discussion on a Balanced Metrics Portfolio Against a Strategy.

Define the mission of the supply chain as a balanced portfolio based on balance sheet and income statement metrics. In the process, avoid supply chain speak. (Throw away your three and four letter acronyms and speak the language of business.)

2. Politely Question the Status Quo. If Only 10 Per Cent of Companies Are Making Progress, Do We Have Best Practices?

I like the quote by Faulkner at the start of this blog. “We cannot swim to new horizons if we hug the shore.” Self-fund process innovation to test new technologies and drive process innovation. This break through thinking happens with small and scrappy teams in the business. (These are groups of diverse people aligned to question the current state and improve an outcome against a business goal.) When you drive break through thinking, market the achievements using language of the balance sheet. By self-funding these initiatives, do not limit the boundaries of the testing by a fixed ROI. Test when you do not know the ROI.

3. Educate

Use network design technologies and discrete event simulation tools to help executives visualize the supply chain as a complex system with finite trade-offs. Through these discussions help them to understand what is possible and feasible.

4. Benchmark and Align the Goals to Business Potential

I often see teams set unrealistic goals. Use our recent Supply Chains to Admire report to understand what is possible by industry and use this to benchmark your current capabilities. Use the data to set realistic goals.

5. Build a Guiding Coalition for Change

In your efforts, of education, sharing and testing, build a guiding coalition for change. As shown in Figure 1, the issues of executive understanding and change management are large gaps when companies with supply chains working well are compared to those that struggle

 

Figure 1. Difference in Capabilities of Companies with Supply Chains Working Well and Those with Room for Improvement

The market is full of consultants today touting easy answers. This is not easy work. Side-step the hype and focus on driving business results. Address the elephant in the room and give him a name. His name is insular thinking. In doing this, help your executive team to swim towards new horizons. Feel free to share your stories with others in the comment section of this blog.

This article was written by Lora Cecere, Founder and CEO of Supply Chain Insights and was orginally published on 21st June 2017 on LinkedIn.

Buzzwords, Jargon and other LinkedIn Problems

One person’s Head of Procurement is another person’s Procurement Executive and another person’s Vice President of Procurement and Supply Chain. How do you ensure your LinkedIn profile isn’t confusing employers and holding back your career?

LinkedIn currently boasts over 460 million users and two new signups per second. If that makes you feel like a very tiny fish in a very large pond, don’t worry, you’re not alone! But that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to stand out from the crowd.

Some members are scouting for jobs, others are scouting for new hires, and some would like to consider themselves passive users, not placing much importance in their online CV. But, whatever your motivations or opinions, a vast amount of people will have their LinkedIn profile vetted by a prospective employer; it could be the make or break to getting that job. So you really ought to get it right!

How are people finding me on LinkedIn? 

Recruiters, headhunters and employers will visit your profile for a number of reasons. You might have been recommended or referred to them by a colleague or friend. Perhaps they searched for someone with your skillset or career history and stumbled across you by chance or maybe you’ve already applied for a role and they’re performing a final suitability check.

Whether you’re looking for a new role today or in five years time you need a LinkedIn profile that’s ready to go. Don’t take the risk of missing out on a dream role you didn’t know you wanted because a recruiter landed on your empty shell of profile.

Here are my top tips for making your profile shine.

Profile Summary

The latest LinkedIn update gives a huge amount of weighting to the top 2 lines in the summary field of your profile. This is the first thing anyone will see when they view a preview of your profile, which makes them the most critical. Keep it as engaging and informative as possible.

Keywords

LinkedIn searches work by users highlighting keywords. If you want to be found by the relevant people, you need to use the right buzzwords. Do some research into the market you want to be employed in; what sort of job titles and job descriptions are used? Which key words are used over and over again? What words would your dream employer use to try and find someone like you?

Job Title/Headline

Job Titles are an independently searchable field. You have 100 characters, make sure you use them wisely.

What would someone searching for you look for? Somewhere, somehow that’s what your job title needs to have in it.

Instead of having one searchable string, you can have more than one title in your profile:

The second example would result in the profile coming up in significantly more searches.

Company

It might sound obvious but make sure you are listed as working for the right company. Your company might have 30 or 40 subsidiaries, countries, brands associated with it. GSK, for example, has 514 results (and that’s ignoring GlaxoSmithKline which has another 350)!

But again, this is a searchable field so make sure you are on the one with the largest population or the most obvious one.

If you are a recruiter searching for a specific brand you might not take the time to make sure you’ve got exactly the right company. Don’t take the risk – get yourself on the biggest and the best (or most relevant).

Role

If you’ve been promoted within a business make sure you represent that explicitly on your profile. Adding a new position gives you the opportunity to tick the majority of these boxes again:

  • Successful
  • New summary box: more keywords and success
  • New job title: more job title keywords

Jargon

If keywords are the No.1 thing you are searching for, jargon is exactly the opposite. If your company calls it one thing but everyone else calls it something different your current boss is going to be the only person that will find you!

Be aware, too, you might not be aware just how jargon-filled your job title is if you’ve worked in the same business for a while. So take some time to find that out. Search for someone similar to you and see what they call it. And then such for some more for verification!

9 Signs You’re Undervalued At Work

Feeling undervalued at work? If you can’t remember the last time you got a pay rise , haven’t received any formal training since your role commenced and are consistently working unpaid overtime, you probably are!

This article was written by Anna O’Dea, Director and Founder of Agency Iceberg. 

We all have a sense of our personal worth in the workplace, and sometimes it can feel as if our valuable experience, strong commitment and innovative ideas are being taken for granted.

At Agency Iceberg, I meet a lot of people facing this situation. They suspect they aren’t being supported by their managers, they’re being underpaid for their knowledge and input, or are being overlooked for well-deserved promotions.

From my experience working for eight years in the recruitment industry, my team and I have found there are nine key signs that suggest you could be being undervalued by your employer. If they sound familiar, it could be time to speak up or move on!

1) The numbers aren’t stacking up

In the current economic climate, pay rises aren’t vast. But if you’re constantly stuck with getting just the minimum cost of living rise, while your peers get bumped up for a similar job, you might not be getting the financial reward that you should be. With the internet, it’s not hard to compare your earnings with what others in the same role are getting. Do the research and you’ll have tangible evidence to back your case.

Another one to watch is bonuses. Did your colleagues get a flash of cash that you missed? If there’s no logical reason why you were skipped over, there could be unfairness at play.

2) Your performance and pay reviews are constantly postponed

If your annual performance and remuneration review keeps getting put off another week, month, or a few months, with lots of excuses from management (and no guarantee of back pay) you’re being taken for a ride. The longer you don’t get a pay rise, the more you’re working at a higher skill for the company’s benefit.

3) You have to ‘act’ in a higher role before you’re promoted

It’s common to get told you need to step up your responsibilities to ‘prove your worth’. But if ‘acting’ in the next role goes on for too long, the advantage can again pass from you gaining experience, to your employer getting excellent skills for less pay.

4) People are promoted around you

If you’ve got the credentials and factual evidence to deserve a promotion, yet continually miss out, they may not be seeing your true worth. More worrying, and harder to fix, could be signs of favouritism, sexism or ageism.

5) You’re not trusted to be autonomous

If you have to run every move by your manager, or aren’t trusted to manage your schedule or clients your own way, your abilities may not be recognised. In extreme situations, you could be being micro-managed, which can be quite destructive to growth.

6) Your input is curtailed

When you show your talent, such as sharing innovative ideas in meetings, or suggesting positive ways to improve processes, and it’s clear they’re not welcome, it’s a concerning sign. In some cases, insecure managers won’t let you shine, which is not only letting you down, but also the business.

7) Overtime is expected, and you aren’t given time in lieu

We’ve all read that clause in contracts that says ‘extra hours may be necessary’. However when overtime is systemic and with no lieu time offered, the business has you in its claws. We see this when people travel for work – enduring overnight flights or early morning trips with no time off.

8) You can’t be sick on sick days

Sick used to mean staying at home and sweating out the bug. However technology has shifted the expectations of many bosses to be on 24-7. If your boss insists you stay online when you should be recovering, or text messages and countless emails on the weekend from your boss doesn’t sound out of place, it’s a sign you’re being overworked.

9) You’re not getting trained for growth

Every 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.

If some of these signs ring true, take time to consider the next phase of your career. Your professional pride, mental health, sense of purpose and financial future are too important.

Anna O’Dea is a recruitment expert, LinkedIn Top Voice 2016 and Founder and Director of Agency Iceberg. This article was originally published on LinkedIn

The Struggle is Real: Building Effective Procurement Teams

The struggle might be real but, according to VSP’s CPO, the solutions are many when it comes to building the most effective procurement teams! 

The conversation around talent shortages in the procurement space has been going on for five or ten years now. I’ve come to realize that the real problem is not the lack of ready-to-go procurement talent, it is hiring managers’ inability to see a future procurement pro in a law student, a finance professional, an engineer or yes even a sales person.

An investment is required to grow non-traditional sources of talent into procurement professionals, but the end result is often a better rounded team. A procurement team should be comprised of diverse talent by design in order to speak the language of the business.   A homogeneous team will have its own inherent challenges – one being that innovation is harder.

How you build your team depends on the market conditions you are in and the skills or talent profile you are hiring for. Depending on the availability of qualified candidates, you may allow someone to work virtually or look to other disciplines to bring a new resource in and then round them out. But to simply say ‘there’s a talent shortage’ and do nothing about it is a naysayer’s approach. Get creative.

Cross-Functional Procurement Talent

At my prior company, I had an engineer playing a procurement role. I had somebody in finance on the team. I had attorneys on the team. If you restrict yourself to an artificially small portion of the talent pool by insisting upon a fixed skill set you’re naturally going to have hiring challenges. Just keep an open mind.

My philosophy, regardless of the skill set in question, is to hire the best resource you can find, train them, and invest in them. If they stay, they will become successful procurement professionals and if they leave they will be well informed enough to serve as advocates for procurement.

But thinking differently is not just about where we source talent, it affects the skills we are focused on. Procurement will quickly loose relevance if we don’t proactively prioritize soft skills in our hiring practices. Look at the traditional competencies for a procurement professional: the ability to negotiate successful outcomes, the ability to read and redline a contract, the ability to build relationships. In my opinion, soft skills are now more important in procurement than some of the technical skills we have emphasized in the past.

Taking Risks to Incorporate High Performers

All good managers want to put people into roles that will challenge them in a healthy way. I’ve put people in roles that I knew would be hard for them, and I was authentic enough to say, ‘This is going to be a make it or break it situation for you. Grab the opportunity, and I’ll invest in you. If you are successful, wonderful, if not I’ll be your best reference.’ The reality of the situation is that you have to release people if they aren’t a good fit, even when it is a tough decision. But that is not a reason not to make an effort to bring non-traditional backgrounds and approaches into procurement.

In my experience, there is more than one kind of high performing professional. Some lack engagement and become a challenge, but that is not hard to handle. Complacency is a bigger problem. Having a pep talk with people that are no longer motivated is challenging. You have to educate people on what the opportunities are for them. By understanding what’s important to them (work life balance, career development, etc.) you can sort out what motivates them.

The same approach works for building relationships with internal stakeholders. Sit with the business, understand what their challenges are, look at the opportunity from their perspective. I think demonstrating that appreciation makes you more effective. Each of us needs to appreciate the culture we are in and operate within that culture: the culture of procurement, of the company, and of the industry as a whole.

Human behavior is interesting. If somebody has confidence in their ability to do something they’ll gravitate towards it. A lot of individuals are focused on transactions; they are tactical. You can’t just go in and anoint somebody and say, ‘Now you’re strategic.’ You must develop their capabilities and create the expectation that they are no longer in their former role. Otherwise, a week, a year, two years into the process they will gravitate back towards those transactional responsibilities. Being a leader in the procurement space requires us to adapt and be flexible.

What’s Next for Procurement?

I’ve watched procurement gradually shift away from a focus on tactical or technical capabilities to more strategic responsibilities and the development of soft skills. I’ve seen it, and I’ve lived it. The organizations that have not gotten on that bandwagon of their own accord are no longer relevant. That shift has occurred, and technology has been a key enabler in making that happen. When people talk about applying robotic process automation (RPA) or AI within the procurement space, the first steps have already been taken, and we’re trying to figure out how we can further leverage it. Perhaps, through sourcing tools and decentralized buying, procurement’s next incarnation will be as an overseer of technology and broad business outcomes.  Procurement’s role will be centered on value creation in a consultative, advisory role and less about compliance and transactions.

Greg Tennyson is the CPO at VSP Global.  This article was originally published on The Art of Procurement. 

The Value of Social Media Voices in Supply Chain

Social media: It’s vast, it’s unstructured, and it’s overwhelming. But the value for supply chain is there to be extracted!

According to Business Insider, social media sharing outpaces some of the most data intensive B2B activities: Facebook processes 500 times more data each day than the New York Stock Exchange and Twitter exceeds NYSE’s daily data storage by 12 times.

Social media gives voice to anyone looking for a platform: consumers and corporates, individuals and organisations. By enabling the democratisation of instant worldwide communications, services such as Twitter and Facebook have created an overwhelming volume of unstructured data in a short period of time.

While the development of social media voices is dynamic and continues to evolve without pause, businesses have yet to tap into its true power. What happens to these spontaneously created bits of data? Who is listening? Is there actionable value in the voices?

Social media voices are the sum total of all the unstructured data shared around the world.

Social media data may be unstructured, but the voices within it have a perceptible tone. By establishing a baseline and monitoring changes up or down, it is possible to detect shifts in tone and frequency and leverage them as a kind of early warning system. By tracking all of the mentions of compliance and sustainability over a period of time, unstructured data forms a workable trend. With this carefully built intelligence legacy in hand, changes are easier to identify and respond to in near real time.

The challenge of extracting value in social media

The challenge associated with trying to extract value from social media voices is enormous – but so is the associated opportunity. Traditional methods of monitoring company news and developments may work for a limited number of key strategic suppliers, but the scale associated with tracking the entire supply base is prohibitive, let alone looking beyond the first tier. In the absence of a new, technologically enabled approach, it would be impossible to proactively manage risk from a fully-informed position.

Monitoring social media voices makes it possible to remotely audit the majority of a company’s suppliers in a scalable and automated way, requiring limited human resources while still providing constant ’uptime’. For companies competing on a global stage, there is perhaps no greater use case for social media voices than managing the compliance and sustainability of their supply chain.

Compliance incidents among first tier suppliers (and elsewhere in the supply chain) can lead to significant reputational damage and a loss of revenue or company value. IntegrityNext’s Social Media Compliance Intelligence Engine provides the capabilities required to examine thousands of suppliers in real time. The IntegrityNext platform uncovers a wealth of publicly available data on suppliers to better inform the business by crawling approximately 500 million messages per day, revealing key insights by tracking relevant voices and the topics trending among your suppliers.

The power of social media voices is not just for increasing the visibility of decision makers, it enables leaders to draw actionable insights using real-time analytics to manage the compliance and sustainability of the entire supply chain.

The IntegrityNext platform covers all major aspects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability requirements, allowing companies to instantly monitor thousands of suppliers and their entire supply chain 24/7 with minimal administration. IntegrityNext brings together pre-built supplier compliance assessments, blacklist and sanction checks, and real-time social media insights in a user-experience driven platform that covers international standards and extends multiple tiers into the supply chain. For more information, click here.  

This article was originally published on LinkedIn

Is Marketing A Procurement Blind Spot?

If your marketing expertise is a little below par, don’t despair! Marketers need your help and luckily there’s a lot procurement can do…

How much do you know about ATL, BTL and TTL? Learning marketing speak is the first step in gaining support of your colleagues over the fence and establishing your credibility.

The marketing services category has always been complex one and a bit of a blind spot for procurement. The learning curve is not only steep, it’s also a moving target. We have to invest considerable time in understanding their issues and concerns before we can provide any meaningful assistance. Category managers need to continuously build and refresh internal relationships at all levels; this requires perseverance, patience and stamina. Procurement veterans are fully aware of stakeholder expectations and the importance of having rock-solid relationships with marketing professionals before launching any sourcing projects.

Problems in sourcing marketing services

  • The decision makers may have entrenched relationships with advertising agencies and media houses, with or without formal contracts
  • There are often too many suppliers for the same or similar services and purchasing outside contracts is commonplace.
  • There may be little focus on achieving value for money or measuring effectiveness of the use of their limited budget.
  • Negotiation skills may be in short supply
  • Pricing models are less than transparent. Traditional agencies have pricing structures that would test the analytical skills of the best procurement professional.   

Some good news

On the upside, there is increased pressure on marketing departments to do more with less budget and they need procurement’s help, especially getting better value for money and formalising supply arrangements.

CMOs are becoming increasingly aware of the need to competitively source suppliers periodically, even if their main objective is to generate new and innovative ideas, rather than make cost savings.

Advertising agencies in their traditional form are disappearing; integrated marketing agencies are offering full-service solutions for all marketing requirements including strategy, brand management, advertising, media buying and the full range of digital and social media services. This is a real opportunity for procurement.

Where procurement can add value

Procurement is advised to pick its battles carefully, working from a firm factual base. The basic principles of spend analysis apply: collect and analyse all the data and know the landscape before tackling your target areas

Benchmarking

  • Develop a skills benchmark for each type of service. Establish what sets of skills are needed and determine fair rates for each
  • Apply supply market intelligence to determine the financial competitiveness of existing suppliers. Evaluate their rate cards and pricing against the market. Are they competitive?

Review existing supplier relationships

  • Identify incentives to improve relationships with incumbent marketing suppliers, and consolidate the supply base
  • Negotiate and improve unsuitable contractual terms and conditions, adjust pricing models and rates in line with benchmarks

Pricing of services

Many agencies use the tried-and-tested approach of consultants: billing is based on time-plus-expenses also erroneously called cost-plus. This is an open-ended billing system based on rate cards that apply hourly or daily rates per each skill level. Problems occur when lower skills are applied to the job while higher rates are billed. Where the scope of work is unclear or subject to change it can work but a cap should be set with only a small percentage  overrun of the budget allowed. Beware scope creep.

It is crucial to gain an understanding of other fees and mark-ups such as media commissions, margins on production costs and printing costs.   Where do rebates end up?

Measuring supplier performance

Managing supplier relationships with marketing firms needs to be focused on minimising bad behaviours and rewarding and incentivising those who deliver as per pre-defined requirements. Marketing departments may not necessarily have targets for upholding quality, reducing costs and measuring process improvements, procurement teams certainly do.

5 Top tips for getting along with marketing

  1. Understand important marketing concepts and terminology and recognize how marketing decisions support the company’s objectives.
  2. Invest time in building relationships and understanding the day-to-day challenges. Category managers should reassure marketing teams that they understand the value of strong relationships with creative agencies.
  3. Pick your battles. Identify areas that procurement can really influence
  4. Know your stuff – drill down into the data and understand the detail so that you can discuss issues intelligently
  5. Procurement should share stories of how they helped other functions in the business in ways that Marketing can relate to. Find ways to translate sourcing ideas into their language.

The ability to tactfully handle supplier/marketing/procurement relationships is the key to success. There are no secret tricks, just applying sourcing and contracting best practices will pay off provided that you prioritise service and performance standards over cost savings.

Do you want to be embraced warmly by marketing?   Know your numbers, respect their skills and ideas and work together to develop solutions that will work for both functions. Many marketing functions trundle along with little or no support from procurement.

Whose fault is that?