Category Archives: Career Management

6 Ways Procurement Pros Can Dominate Their Data Strategy

Building a nimble process, speaking the right language and gathering your data from the right sources will have you nailing a flawless data strategy in no time!

When most procurement professionals think about data they imagine a darkened back-office room and a huddled group of silently-working number crunchers.

But it’s data that gives your organisation’s senior leaders the most important insights, helping them to win new business.

Data can help procurement climb up the value chain and earn you a seat at the table.

If could only change the time we spend gathering data and the time spent actually using it  from a 80/20 split to a 20/80 split, its potential is limitless.

And this is a mistake procurement makes too often.

Ahead of today’s webinar Basic Instinct: Are You a Data Hunter or Gatherer, we’ve outlined some top advice from data experts; Marco Romano, Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology – IBM and Edward D. O’Donnell, Chief Data Officer for Procurement – IBM, on how to dominate your data!

1.Build a nimble process

Ed has, in his own words, enjoyed ten years working in transformation but admits he has made plenty of mistakes along the way! His advice? “If you’re going to fail. Fail early.”

As he points out, making mistakes is not the problem, it’s the way it’s done that makes all the difference, “The most significant challenge [for procurement pros] is managing data of all size and scale.”

In the past, IBM have approached this challenge with the old-school  waterfall methodology; the development team is engaged and a plan is might be made and executed with care over the course of a year.

“It’s smarter if you can do it in more agile chunks,” explains Ed.  “The drops are not quarterly or annually for the big bang but rather maybe in weeks we’ll run sprints.”

“This allows smaller, more manageable content.” Which, of course makes a lot of sense. Why spend a whole load of money to wait for the last two months of the year to realise the value?  “Can’t we build a process thats more more iterative, more nimble, more flexible more agile?”

“Then, of course, if the client doesn’t like it we can get immediate feedback and correct it straight away.”

2. Use your time more wisely

Procurement pros have, for too long, been gathering data from too many sources because that’s what they think they should be doing. It’s time consuming and, often, it’s also futile.

“So much time spent is spent gathering data. Procurement pros need to start at the end and work backwards. First and foremost you need to ask what’s the outcome or insight you’re trying to achieve and what are the business behaviours you’re trying to change.”

Develop a joint understanding of business requirements. From that you work backwards to determine three things:

1. What data you need

2. How you acquire  it

3. What enrichment that data needs

In doing this “you’re not only gathering data that’s fit for purpose, you’re also considering business process that drives that data and building improvements into this process to ensure data quality and data consistency.”

“Of course it doesn’t stop there our role is to automate that takes gathering filtering, sorting data away from practitioners

Ideally we don’t want our practitioners spending time analysing or shipping raw data rather looking at results or process insights. but spending time

So what drives this behaviour off trying to get all sorts of data?

It’s driven by wrong metrics or misunderstanding of those metrics.

“You absolutely have to make sure you measure what really matters, such that you drive the right behaviours in data acquisition and move away from concept where people are just acquiring a whole lot of data and not able to put it to good use or understand why they’re acquiring in the first place.”

3. Gather your data from the right sources

IBM source their data from a wide variety of sources.

“We look at RFX data, procurement and customer contracts, internal client demand and pipeline data,” explains Marco.  “Internally it’s a very broad base of data which includes procurement and our clients.”

They use “market intelligence from MI providers as well as MI from structured and unstructured public data sources, social media and various other sources.”

“The data we get from suppliers  is really important and includes things like machine failure rates, product life-cycles [and ]configuration options.”

“It’s a broad base but it’s not about gathering all of that data but rather targeted to achieve a specific objective.”

Do IBM have a particularly ‘hot’ data source? “Not so much the hot data source” says Ed. “It’s the way you use that data!”

“assembling the data in a coherent way where the buyers can have it at their fingertips – assembling quickly, linking the data and then presenting it to the buyer in a new user experience is where the power comes from.”

4. Listen to your client

“Listen to the voice of the client” says Marco.

“Start with an understanding of what you’re trying to solve, really understand what the practitioners needs are and work backwards from there to figure out what you really need”

Set up engagement meetings, engage with the client regularly and continuously share and showcase your work with your internal team.

5. Focus on data quality

“Focus on data quality and ensure that your procurement processes enable the acquisition and enrichment of good quality data,” says Marco

“It sounds very obvious but it is so often overlooked and it causes tremendous frustration in the system.”

6. Speak the same language

Spending more time in front of our customers or clients and less time behind closed doors, simply gathering and analysing data, is crucial.

When procurement teams start a program it’s important that everyone is on the same page; speaking the same language and communicating regularly with all the key stakeholders.

“One of the things historically that the procurement practitioner hasn’t done so well is being completely transparent with the data,” explains Ed.

It’s important to present it in a way that “it’s clear and simple to understand [and so] that the outcomes are obvious. The best chart is one you don’t have to try to understand, where the messages are clear.”

If you’re referring to units per hour, what do you mean by units?

If you use the term FTE, does everyone know what exactly that represents? Is it a 40 hour week at x cost or a 35 hour week at y cost?

Our webinar,  Basic Instinct: Are You a Data Hunter or Gatherer takes place at 1pm BST TODAY . Register your attendance for FREE here. 

3 Ways To Win The Internet (You Don’t Have To Be Justin Bieber…)

The social media world is a scary place and unfortunately it’s scaring away the professionals and organisations who need it the most. How do you embrace today’s internet culture and use it to your advantage? 

The Procurious London CPO Roundtable was sponsored by Basware

Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined YouTube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for YouTube, in order to understand the social media space.

It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs.

A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms, connecting with huge audiences across the globe and finding fame.

Perhaps the most successful YouTuber in this space was Justin Bieber, who’s YouTube performances were discovered  by chance by record label manager, Scooter Braun.

Others, to this day, rack up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in, or had the chance to be!

Take 7-year-old Ryan as an example of this in action. His YouTube channel “Ryan ToysReview” where he (you guessed it!) reviews the latest and greatest in children’s toys has seen him become one of the richest YouTubers ever and a multimillionaire.

Or there’s Lindsey Stirling, an American violinist, dancer, and composer…

Youtube ultimately offers us the opportunity to be heard, and some people have seized the opportunity with both hands.

Building trust on the internet

Elizabeth Linder is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust.

Clearly  “The People” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out.

The problem is that so many of the worlds experts; that is the professionals, the politicians, the press, have really struggled to figure out exactly where they fit in. And that’s why so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust.

All too often, as Elizabeth points out, we focus on the sinister corners of the internet, only promoting the negative effects social media is having on our society.

When governments, the press and businesses perpetuate this idea they fail to acknowledge the value and importance that online conversations can bring, and the huge impact they can have.

The public’s use of social media is way more sophisticated than what we see in most professional bodies and businesses across the globe.

That means, as professionals, we’re on the back foot.

And it’s time to change!

At last month’s Procurious roundtable, sponsored by Basware, Elizabeth Linder provided three key pieces of advice to procurement pros who want to start, and win, conversations online.

1. Go at your own pace

Leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture.

You don’t.

Elizabeth stressed that it’s crucial to take things at your own pace as long as you let people into your thought processes.

A politician in the throws of a disaster situation can’t be expected to have all the answers or all the solutions. But what they can do is keep the public posted on the events as they unfold, maintain a constant dialogue and reassure people that they are doing everything they can.

As a business leader, it’s ok to communicate that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!

You don’t have to speed up because the internet is speedy. It’s just a different kind of dialogue.

When United Airlines hit the headlines for forcibly dragging a passenger off one of their planes, it took them so long to figure out their communications strategy, that they made things a whole lot worse.

They didn’t need a strategy.

They just needed to say something!

2. Believe in the power of primary

We need to believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do.

Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication.

If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say. And that’s because you don’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!

The opportunity to speak directly to your audience is an amazing opportunity for leaders and professionals but it’s taken, particularly western, leaders a long time to grab this space and run with it. Perhaps this is because it demands a greater bravery and vulnerability compared with hiding behind a newspaper column or official statements from your organisation. But the pay off is worth it.

The 2011 London riots  were a big wake up moment for the London Police force, who had to figure out how to communicate directly, and effectively with the general public.

And in the UK county of Staffordshire, the police have invested in real authenticity and conversation on social media, building a strong community relationship.

3. Embrace the hacker culture

Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key.

EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making.

Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter, and create as they go.

In the early days of Facebook your profile photo was meant to be one photo of yourself.  The idea was that you uploaded it and you kept it.

But Facebook engineers watched a trend emerging of members rapidly changing their profile picture; every time they went to a party, every time they went on holiday. They realised that users wanted to ability to share their photo albums on Facebook and so built in the functionality to do that. Simply by following the patterns of behaviour.

travel business is struggling with this right now – they used to be able to invite critics to review a hotel/ stay somewhere and write up a review – now all it takes is one guest to write a terrible review about crappy plumbing and it can go around the world- feeling of being out of control is prevalent in leadership circles.

Top tips for getting started online

  • Involve people, whether it’s colleagues, clients, customers or the wider community  in the early building stages of your online presence.  What do they want to hear from you? What’s useful and what’s not?
  • Keep a consistency and truthful tone to anything you post online. Post things that represent you or you organisation because it’s so much better to be yourself rather than a contrived version of yourself. If you’re not funny don’t try to be. If you’re earnest be earnest!
  • Don’t let your voice become part of the PR machinery. The UK lost count of the number of times they heard  Theresa May’s Brexit was going to be Strong and Stable – it was a meaningless consultant’s phrase.
  • Be honest! If you don’t know, say you don’t know! It’s much easier to do this online than it is live on TV.

Pick the right people to communicate with your audience. Your business might have a clear hierarchy but it’s important to consider who should be the spokesperson vs who will be the best spokesperson. The Estonian parliament Facebook page asked their maintenance man to run the page, and he’s become a local celebrity, and great PR for the government.

Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”

Procurious are hosting CPO roundtables on 30th May, 19th September and 14th November. If you’re a CPO and would like to attend one of our roundtables in person please contact Olga Luscombe via [email protected] to request an invitation.

Procurement Pros: Make Like Lady Gaga

If your procurement job is making you feel like you’re stuck in a Bad Romance you need to make like Lady Gaga! Embracing collaboration will have you on The Edge of Glory in no time!

Matteo Chinellato/Shutterstock.com

When you think of great, inspiring role models for the procurement profession, pop-music superstar Lady Gaga might not be the first person who springs to mind. But just hear us out… (if you can get the tune to Poker Face out of your head!)

At last week’s Ivalua NOW conference in London, Peter Smith, Managing Director – Spend Matters UK/Europe argued that Lady Gaga is the perfect model for CPOs and procurement leaders across the globe, and not just because of her wildly catchy tunes!

Rolling Stones vs Lady Gaga

Flashback to the 1960s/70s and imagine you’re Mick Jagger going out on tour with the rest of the Rolling Stones, Peter proposes. You’re part of a pretty small team. You might be playing the biggest venues and drawing in the biggest crowds but you’re out there on stage with only your bandmates and perhaps a small supporting crew.

Fast forward to the noughties and Lady Gaga is ruling the music scene, and under very different circumstances. A global Lady Gaga tour might recruit hundreds of people. There’ll be choreographers, dancers, backing singers, caterers, tech team, musicians, management, merchandise sellers…the list is endless.

A one-woman show is actually a team effort, a collaboration, with the star herself at its helm. She’s the leader, the strategist who must pull everyone together, in true gig economy style, to deliver the spectacular that’s expected of her.

If we look at the American music charts today, over 50 per cent of the top ten entries are collaborations and, in the UK Top 10, 7 entries are collaborations.

Artists have realised that 2 + 2 can equal 5.

Procurement needs to start thinking this way. Think about how Lady Gaga puts on her show. Think about how collaboration can deliver real value for your team and the wider organisation. By bringing together the suppliers, the engineers, the solution providers and the data experts, procurement can deliver a whole lot more.

Every industry is being shaped by digitisation and the rapid change in today’s world. Given that new sources of risk and competition are emerging all the time procurement needs every hand on deck!

Improving the bottom line with collaboration

Hemant Gupta, CFO & Head Commercial, Legal & Secretarial Blackberrys knows a thing or two about the benefits of collaboration.

Blackberrys, now a leading menswear brand in India has endured its fair share of supply chain struggles in recent years.

Hemant admits, during his keynote at Ivalua Now, that sourcing has been “a very tricky subject for Blackberrys” and their efforts to drive margin improvement and competitive advantage has been a journey.

Only a few years ago, Blackberrys still employed very traditional methods of sourcing. They had no visibility, no transparency and no way of maintaining a centralised system for their data. “Searching the vendor database for sourcing to look at our historic pricing was not possible.”

“The consumer is not brand-loyal any more. They just want the best price, which is increasing demands on the retailer – our discounting has increased by 25 per cent. As CFO I need to improve the bottom line and improve our sourcing process.”

“cost cutting is no longer the solution to sustainable profitability, the key to success is finding creative ways to optimize it” he asserted.

With the help of Ivalua, Blackberrys were able to start their transformation journey, which did face some resistance from employees at first. “People are always skeptical about new processes so collaboration is key,” Hemant explained.

But within a couple of years Blackberrys data started to improve with the involvement of internal customers and they began to automate some processes. They had improved control and transparency and benefited from lower risk and increased efficiency.

4 tips to make your sourcing transformation a success

Hemant shared his key learnings from Blackberrys’ sourcing transformation journey.

1. Challenge status quo

It’s human nature to think whatever we are doing, we are doing it right. You have to train yourself to change that.

2. Collaboration is key

Resistance to change is normal but you need 100 per cent commitment from leadership and strong champion. You also need to ensure you’re pulling all of your procurement resources – teamwork is dream work!

3. Identified -> Realised savings!

It’s imperative to follow through post sourcing processes.

4. Make it a lifestyle

eSourcing is not just about saving cost but cost avoidance and transparency – compliance.

Ivalua Now, The Voice of Procurement is coming to Paris on 29th March and New York on 17th May. Find out more here. 

How To Deal With The Office Timewaster In 4 Videos

There are few thing more frustrating in life than a workplace timewaster. And the worst thing? They come in all different shapes and sizes, which makes them harder to spot!

ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

Colleague: “Hey there buddy, did you have a good weekend?”

Me: “Sure did! But I’ll have to tell you about it later because I’ve got such a busy …”

Colleague: [Sits on the desk] “Great, great… let me tell you about my weekend. Let’s see, now. It all started to kick off on Friday, just after our last conversation…”

Sound familiar? We’ve all encountered chronic timewasters at work, which is why I’ve created this quick and easy video guide on how to shut them down so you can Get Sh#t Done.

Let’s start by working out what type of timewaster you’re dealing with.

1. The Chatter

Some of us like to keep our work life and social life separate. For others, their work life is their social life. Of course there should be a fun, chatty environment at work, but again, there’s always one person who doesn’t understand the limits. So, next time you find yourself making sympathetic noises while your colleague is telling you about their various cats’ medical histories, consider the fact that it will be your neck on the line when a deadline is missed.

How to shut down a chatter: Put a cap on their time – tell them before they begin that you’ve literally only got two minutes to spare. If you really want to drive home the point, get your phone out and set a countdown timer and place it on the table between you.

2.The Delegator

I’ve worked in the past for line managers who are guilty of this, although you’ll often come across colleagues working at the same level who think it’s okay to handball mundane tasks your way.  Specifically, my beef is with people who basically treat you like a search engine. For example:

“Mate, would you mind telling me the time difference between here and Beijing?”

“How much is that converted into Euros?”

“How long will it take me to drive to head office?”

Here’s why it’s frustrating – firstly, they’re really undervaluing your skill set. You were hired for your education, your experience and your intelligence, not your ability to type words into a box. Secondly, they’re just being lazy! I’ve rolled my eyes in the past when I’ve received an emailed question (like the above) which would have been answered straight away if my boss had simply typed it into Google instead of sending it to me.

But luckily, there’s a handy tool for just this situation.

How to shut down a Delegator: Six words: Let Me Google That For You. This tool is a brilliant way to answer a question that should have been googled. It generates a short, tongue-in-cheek tutorial about how to use a search engine (starting with “This is the internet”) and finishes with the answer to the original question. Check it out.

3. The sounding-boarder

Extrovert: “Man, I LOVE open-plan offices! They’re so great for bouncing ideas off people!”

Me: “Yes. Every single idea you’ve ever had.”

Okay, it’s true. Open plan offices, and even collaborative online workspaces like Slack, are ideal for airing and sharing ideas. But some people take the concept of the “sounding board” too far. This might involve a colleague regularly reading aloud emails that they’ve crafted before hitting send, or running stuff past you that really doesn’t require your input or opinion.

How to shut down a Sounding-Boarder:

  • Invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and pretend you’re on an important call whenever your colleague gets that “sounding-board” look in their eye.
  • Give them a very short list of high-level areas where you feel you can add value.
  • Give them a taste of their own medicine by sitting them down and reading aloud the longest, dullest report you can find.

4. The Meeter

Me: “Oh, hey, just a reminder that we’ve got that client meeting tomorrow. Everything is under control, and I’ve sent you all the information you’ll need.”

Colleague: “Let’s have a meeting about that.”

Me: “Why? WHY?”

How much time and resources will corporates keep pouring into unnecessary meetings before they see the light?  Unnecessary meetings are so despised that they’ve become a meme. They’re a regular feature in Dilbert, and you can even buy a coffee mug that says “I survived another meeting that should have been an email”.

How to shut Meeters down: Insist that the person gives you some good reasons for the meeting. This includes a stated purpose, a start and end time, and a valid reason for each person to be there.

Do you know any other types of timewasters in the office? Leave a comment below!

Are You A Data Hunter Or A Gatherer?

Are you trying to stay afloat  in a huge “data lake”?  Trust us, there are better ways to manage and manipulate your data to make an impact. Are you a data hunter or a gatherer?

ArtMari/Shutterstock.com

There’s a whole lot more to data than simply having it…

If you’re one of those procurement professionals who’s anxiously sitting on an ever-growing mountain of data, wondering how on earth to make sense of it all; it’s time to shift your mind-set and your approach from gatherer to hunter….

Data on its own means very little unless it’s actually actionable.

But procurement professionals are so used to a deluge of data that it often ends up discarded in someone’s top drawer, never to be seen again! Perhaps it’s not fit for purpose but one thing’s for sure – nothing useful is done with it!

Can procurement teams do a better job in ensuring they get a decent ROI on their data?

Our latest webinar with IBM, which takes place on 28th March, will teach you how to become an astute data hunter!

We’ll be discussing…

  • Why every procurement team needs a Chief Data Officer
  • Unstructured data – How do you make sense of it all?
  • How to make sure your data is fit for purpose and get an ROI on your data investments
  • The biggest mistakes Procurement teams make when it comes to data and analytics?

Webinar Speakers

 Edward D. O’Donnell, Chief Data Officer for Procurement – IBM

Edward is IBM’s Global Procurement Data Officer and charged with the mission to advance Business, Intelligence, Deep Analytics, and Cognitive functionality across the procurement portfolio.

Marco Romano, Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology – IBM

Marco applies more than 15 years of experience as a procurement practitioner and project manager to understand complex environments that separate the noise from real issues and determine near-term and strategic solutions in realising business value. He leads a team that has saved IBM Procurement a significant amount in third-party costs and efficiencies through analytics data solutions and innovative sourcing strategies over the past three years. His team is also developing commercial analytics and cognitive procurement offerings leveraging data and technology for IBM clients’ competitive advantage.

 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.

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 BST on 28th March 2018

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.

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,  Basic Instinct: Are You a Data Hunter or Gatherer takes place at 1pm BST on 28th March 2018. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

7 Steps To Thinking Like A Freak

The best thing you can do to improve your productivity, your rationality and your creativity is learn how to Think Like a Freak. 

Sergey_T/Shutterstock.com

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner, The New York Times bestselling authors of Freakonomics plainly see the world like no one else.

In their book series, which includes Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, Think Like a Freak and When to Rob a Bank, the two mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else, whether investigating a solution to global warming or explaining why the price of oral sex has fallen so drastically. By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is—good, bad, ugly, and ultimately…super freaky.

Freak up your thinking

“The fact is that solving problems is hard. If a given problem still exists, you can bet that a lot of people have already come along and failed to solve it. Easy problems evaporate; it is the hard ones that linger. Furthermore, it takes a lot of time to track down, organize and analyze the data to answer even one small question well.

So rather than trying and probably failing to answer most of the questions sent our way, we wondered if it might be better to write a book that can teach anyone to think like a Freak. ” Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Think Like a Freak 

Levitt and Dubner want to teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.

Thinking like a freak offers a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor life-hacks or major global reforms. They cover topics ranging from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, from the wild to the wacky (the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeri) all with the goal of retraining your brain.

How to think like a freak

  1. Put away your moral compass

It’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it.

2. Learn to say “I don’t know”

Until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to.

3. Think like a child

You’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions.

4. Find the root cause of a problem

Attacking the symptoms, as often happens, rarely fixes the underlying issue.

5. Take a master class in incentives

For better or worse, incentives rule our world.

6. Persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded

Being right is rarely enough to carry the day.

7. Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting

You can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.

There is nothing magical about this way of thinking. It usually traffics in the obvious and places a huge premium on common sense.

But there’s good news too: thinking like a Freak is simple enough that anyone can do it. What’s perplexing is that so few do Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Think Like a Freak

Go on…give it a go!

Stephen J. Dubner, journalist, radio and TV personality and co-author of the critically acclaimed “Freakonomics” books will keynote at JAGGAER’s REV2018. The event takes place in Las Vegas on 24th- 26th April and there’s still time to register!

Bridging the Talent Gap in Procurement: Attracting New Hires in a Digital World

Want procurement teams to attract the best talent? Show us your stuff!

oatawa/Shutterstock.com

According to The Deloitte Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey 2017, 87 per cent of the respondents agree that talent is the single greatest factor in driving procurement performance. But the rates of new hires and recent graduates pursuing a career in procurement is decreasing.

That translates into a problem for the future of this function – a talent gap in procurement. But why?

Procurement is More than Cost Savings and Compliance

There are several reasons we can speculate as to why the workforce is pursuing careers outside of procurement, but in my opinion the overarching problem is that procurement is not seen as a ‘sexy’ career path. In the world of tech startups, innovative products, self-made social media sensations, and more, the idea of focusing on corporate cost-savings and spend compliance just doesn’t appeal – especially to the up-and-coming millennial workforce.

But the truth is, procurement is more than policing the organisation and saving company money. It’s about building relationships with internal stakeholders and external suppliers, drawing strategic insights from data to help others and using unique talent to solve problems.

Confession time: I’m also a millennial, and I think we have an opportunity here to fill the talent gap with eager new hires by showing what the new world of procurement is all about.

Show Us Your Stuff, Procurement

As employers and providers in the world of procurement, it’s up to us to make procurement a strategic and desirable field to enter. Hiding in the back office has made many of us modest, but it’s time for us to show off a bit to demonstrate the true strategic value procurement brings to the party. In reading The Deloitte Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey 2017, there were clear trends on how CPOs feel about the state of procurement, which led me to think about how we can apply those insights to address the talent gap.

Here are 5 ways to bring procurement careers into the modern world…

1.Create a digital culture

I’ll admit, I stole this one right from Deloitte’s recommendations because it’s spot on. 75 per cent of the survey respondents agreed – “procurement’s role in delivering digital strategy will increase in the future and are also clear that technology will impact all procurement processes to some degree.” And you know who grew up with technology from day 1 and is perfect for navigating a digital procurement world? You guessed it – millennials. Demonstrate to this up-and-coming workforce that your procurement department is committed to leveraging technology to automate and outsource the repetitive tasks, expedite the pace of business and enable them to focus on strategic initiatives. Invest in digital procurement today and think about how emerging technologies like AI, machine learning and robotics influence the procurement world. And best yet – involve your entry level procurement team members in these discussions. Give them the opportunity to shape and influence the path of technology at your organisation and make recommendations on your digital future.

2. Invest in employee development

According to the survey, 60 per cent of CPOs do not believe their teams have the skills to deliver their procurement strategy, yet investment in on-going training and employee development remains low. Demonstrate to your current staff and those entering the workforce that you recognise that people are key to procurement success and invest in their future with procurement and non-procurement training programs.

3. Dial-in on data

Data is the alpha and omega of the future and 60 per cent of the Deloitte survey respondents regard analytics as the most impactful technology for the function over the coming two years. So, this is a two-part recommendation: 1) Make sure to capture 100 per cent  of your financial data, and 2) Properly train current and future procurement professionals on data analysis. Analytics and technologies like AI and machine learning are only as good as the data that feeds them, so it’s imperative to build a complete data set for your employees to leverage. Gartner also says that data science and analytical skills are required in procurement to leverage a future with AI. Many professionals enter procurement to be hands-on in solving problems across the business – this could be saving money; negotiating better contracts; optimising the supplier base; helping other departments create and track budgets; reducing risk; finding funds to support new product innovation or growth, etc. Give these professionals reliable data and training to properly analyse it to extract actionable insights so they can act quickly and effectively on strategic initiatives.

4. Provide opportunities to influence innovation

Long gone are the days when procurement meant squeezing every penny out of suppliers and business partners. Now it’s about building strategic partnerships that can take your business to the next level and procurement is at the forefront of that effort. Young procurement professionals are going to be excited and eager to make their mark on something – let them help lead the charge in sourcing and nurturing relationships with key suppliers. Product innovation comes not only from finding the money to explore and test but also from finding the right partners that bring you the elements you need to build that innovation. Create collaboration between your procurement and product departments, as well as other departments for that matter, so that procurement becomes a true business partner and is actively involved in core business functions.

5. Build rapport with internal stakeholders

Another reason that procurement might not be seen as ‘sexy’ is the simple fact that people in other functions just don’t know what exactly it is that they do. If you’re a procurement leader, be a champion for your team. Help others understand what procurement truly is and communicate and celebrate your wins. Also look for opportunities for collaboration between your team and other business functions. Become an advisor during critical times like budget planning and showcase the talent you have in your team. When budgets remain flat, offer up procurement expertise to help other departments produce cost savings and new money from their existing spending habits. As the Deloitte survey eloquently says, “Procurement professionals should challenge themselves to understand functional stakeholders in the same way they do their suppliers.”

At the end of the day, many people are motivated by the idea of being a hero at work. What profession enables employees to swoop in and save the day better than procurement? There are not many. With the required people skills, analytical approach and desire to focus energy internally and externally, the procurement profession is a truly unique career path that doesn’t receive the credit it deserves. Look on to the future of procurement at your organisation and build the culture that attracts your next generation of hires.

To learn more about Basware’s approach to collaborative procurement, download the eBook: WeProcurementTM: Putting the “We” in e-Procurement and contact us to learn more about rolling out a digital procurement solution.

When the Data Strategies Align….

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

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

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

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

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

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

A single data strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Procurement data vs Corporate data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Procurement Leaders: Stop Talking About Headcount Reduction!

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

BUTENKOV ALEKSEI/Shutterstock.com

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

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

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

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

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

The Fear Factor

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

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

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

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

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

Stop talking about head count!

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

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

and, ultimately:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Educate your teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Your Taxonomy Flexible and Multidimensional?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is taxonomy?

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

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

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

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

What does this mean?

1. Flexible

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

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

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

2. Multidimensional

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Situations-based

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

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

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

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