Category Archives: Career Management

6 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Procurement Career

Should you stay in procurement for your whole career? What skills should you focus on developing? How can you find a work/life balance? Check out these top tips from one of Australia’s leading CPOs, Thomai Veginis.

“The beauty of working in procurement is you can turn your role into anything”, says Telstra CPO Thomai Veginis. “You only limit yourself – people who want to keep the role small can do that, or you can push into other things. If you want to be an administrator who supports the business, that’s okay – or you can be a lot more proactive about how you drive the commercial agenda. Procurement professionals can create the vision for themselves.”

With 20 years’ experience in procurement, a team of nearly 300 people and a total spend of $14 billion, Thomai knows a thing or two about procurement careers. We asked her advice for ambitious professionals who want to get the most out of their current and future roles.   

  1. Move in and out of the profession

One of the reasons Thomai has been so successful is due to the skills she’s learnt outside of the profession. “You can – and should – move in and out of the profession. The skills are absolutely transferrable and personally, I’ve appreciated the profession more when I’ve been out of it.”

“A trait you sometimes see in procurement teams is a lack of empathy for people who don’t follow the process. If you want to develop empathy, go and do a front-line, customer-facing role, and you’ll understand how hard it can be. One of the compliments I receive is that people want to work with me because I understand the sense of urgency for the people in front-line sales. Gaining experience in that kind of role will help you be a better procurement professional.” 

  1. Develop awareness

Anyone going into a negotiation should know what motivates the supplier they are dealing with. “That’s the basis of your negotiation strategy”, says Thomai. “Ask yourself why something happened – what were the motivators? It’s important to be commercial, but you also need to become aware; both of your own reactions and how you influence the people around you. Awareness will help you read the play better for yourself, and your team.”

“There’s no such thing as a deal that’s 100% perfect – people are often too critical of themselves. Do that review at the end of the negotiation, but don’t be too critical on yourself. Everything is a learning opportunity.”

  1. Get Commercial

“Procurement is a great place to build up your confidence in a very commercial role”, Thomai says. “You’re dealing in the millions of dollars very early in your career – very few professions allow you to go into the deep end like that. You’re doing senior things that you’d expect senior people to be doing, which is why your confidence grows fast.”

Thomai also points out that not many other roles will give a junior professional the opportunity to interact with (supplier) CEOs and other C-levels so frequently. But you need to think commercially.

“The best way to get commercial is just finding someone who IS commercial and sitting in on some of the discussions they have with stakeholders. Be aware that sometimes the people with commercial skills don’t necessarily sit within procurement teams. Watch the preparation they do with suppliers and how they leverage relationships to get the outcomes. Observe, then participate.”

Thomai advises her team to draw learnings from the purchases they make in their private lives. “If you have to buy something for yourself (such as a car), what do you think about? What do you challenge? What’s the pressure that the salesperson is under? Try to understand what’s actually going on and take a 360-degree view, not just your side of things.” 

  1. Find a buddy who thinks differently

“It’s a good idea to buddy up with someone in your organisation who may not be your natural type”, says Thomai. “It’s important to have some affinity with a mentor, but a buddy should be someone who does things differently to you. They’ll teach you the lay of the land and show you different ways of doing things you may not have considered.”

  1. Get out there and meet your stakeholders

One of Thomai’s key pieces of advice for professionals starting a new role is to get out there and see your stakeholders as soon as possible. “Make time. Go out there, identify the contracts you’re managing, and understand the key players. It’s hard because we drown in work quickly, but you need to understand what your stakeholders’ imperatives and priorities are.” 

  1. Find a balance

“Over my career I’ve tried to manage my work-life balance. In procurement roles you can balance it better than people in a sales role who need to fit in with their customers’ schedules.” Thomai has worked in project roles focused on delivering to a customer which saw her working in the office from 8.00am until 8.00pm. “As a result of that work I had the opportunity to be promoted but realised I didn’t want to be in that career path because I couldn’t spend the time I needed with my children.”

“Procurement is an ideal career for parents returning to work. Not that you work less – it’s more about the opportunity to work flexibly in ways that work for you. Often leaders are seen as people who will take on anything and be invincible, but I’ve let my team know that I am human, too. They know that it’s possible to do the role and have a family.”


Are you based in Australia? Telstra CPO Thomai Veginis will share her leadership tips in a live interview with Procurious founder Tania Seary at the Sydney Big Ideas Summit on Tuesday 30th October. Reserve your seat now.  

Can’t make it to Sydney? Catch all the action online! Become a digital delegate.

Are YOU The Office Psychopath?

Just how certain are you that you’re not the office psychopath? Perhaps you should review the psychopath checklist.

Image: Rudall30/Shutterstock

The office psychopath is not the bloke found inconveniently near every unexplained axe-murder in your office.  He or she is just a normal person, who just happens to have no empathy whatsoever.  This little deficit means that they are completely incapable of co-operating with others for a common good.

And since modern business depends on groups of people doing exactly that, having them in your office can be seriously wealth endangering.  But are you certain that you aren’t the office psychopath?

Psychopaths are not all the same. Just like the rest of us, they vary in lots of important ways. Some are very intelligent and some are not. Some are good-looking and some are not. Some are men and some are women. Psychopaths are no more immune to cancer than we are and they are no better at football than I am. Well, all right, most of them probably are, but that’s not because they are psychopaths, it’s because I am uncoordinated.

But one handy thing about psychopaths is that their behaviour is predictable.  It’s so predictable that psychologists have developed a checklist which they use to determine whether someone is a psychopath.

The checklist is made up of twenty personality traits. Each of these twenty traits is scored by a psychologist, after a face-to-face interview and review of records, as a 0 (not present), 1 (present but not dominant) or 2 (dominant). The maximum score is obviously 40.

The average person scores between 3 and 6. Non-psychopathic criminals score between 16 and 22. A total score of 30 or over in the United States (or 25 or over in the United Kingdom) is regarded as a positive diagnosis of psychopathy.

Just to give us a sense of how these criteria might be applied, I’ve used my non-existent training in psychology to score James Bond on these criteria and now you can use your non-existent training in psychology (unless you are a psychologist of course) to score yourself.

Case study: James Bond
PCL-R James Bond
Facet 1: Interpersonal
  • Glibness or superficial charm
2 – Is it possible to be more charming than James Bond?
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
2 – A ‘secret’ agent who uses his own name all the time? – yup.
  • Pathological lying
2 – Aside from his name, he does seem to lie an awful lot.
  • Cunning or manipulative
2 – Obviously part of the job.
Facet 2: Affective
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
2 – James has killed over 350 people on screen so far and it never seems to trouble him in the slightest.
  • Emotionally shallow
2 – I’m sure he really does love all those women he sleeps with.
  • Callous or lack of empathy
2 – Has he ever seemed to experience another person’s emotions? There was that one time when he cried in the shower with Vesper Lynd . . .
  • Failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
1 – Every now and then he does take the blame for stuffing up.
Facet 3: Lifestyle
  • Need for stimulation (easily bored)
2 – We never see him sitting around much, do we?
  • Parasitic lifestyle
2 – Everything seems to be on the expense account.
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
2 – Does he have any long-term goals?
  • Impulsivity
2 – He certainly struggles to contain his impulses when it comes to killing and seducing women
  • Irresponsibility
1 – Occasionally he does things for king and country
Facet 4: Antisocial
·       Poor behavioural controls 0 – He is in control most of the time.
·       Early behavioural problems 0 – We don’t know so let’s go with 0.
·       Juvenile delinquency 0 – Once again, we don’t know.
·       A history having conditional release from prison revoked 0 – We don’t know.
·       Criminal versatility 0 – His crimes are sanctioned by his 00 status.
Other Items
·       Many short-term marital relationships 1 – He’s never been married but he has had many relationships that might have ended that way (had the other half not been killed off).
·       Promiscuous sexual behaviour 2 – Is it possible to give more than 2?
Total 27

People who score highly in Facets 3 and 4 are more likely to be found on the wrong side of a prison wall. People who score highly on Facets 1 and 2 are more likely to be your workmate, your partner, a family member or, apparently, a secret agent.

Mr Bond managed a score that makes him a psychopath in the UK but not quite one in the US. The unflappable, focused, but erudite and charming killer that Bond represents is not a million miles from what I would describe as an office psychopath (without quite so much killing).

How did you go?


David Gillespie will present a session on Taming Toxic People at the Sydney Big Ideas Summit on Tuesday 30th October.

If you’d like to join us at the event in Sydney, reserve your seat here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

If you can’t make it to Sydney but would like to follow the action as a Digital Delegate, sign up here: https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-sydney

4 Reasons Supply Chain Professionals Should Embrace AI

Embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI) will re-invent the way supply chain professionals work and help them to add enormous value to their organisations.  

In our hyper-connected global economy, where customers have endless options and high expectations, supply chain leaders are increasingly under pressure to fundamentally transform their operations in order to deliver on their brand promise and stay nimble in the face of rapid changes.

This is a significant endeavor. Supply chain professionals oversee complex, multi-enterprise ecosystems. They must ensure the quality, delivery, and availability of supplies, all while reducing costs.

Every day is an exercise in mitigating ordinary and extraordinary disruptions, too many of which they never see coming such as delivery delays, quality defects, political unrest, and natural disasters.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous power to reinvent the way supply chains do business and deliver an incredible competitive advantage for practitioners.

1. Find the Right Data

 The skyrocketing amount of data scattered across supply chain operations is overwhelming and runs the risk of leading to greater inefficiencies as it inhibits access to real, relevant insights.

Supply chain leaders need end-to-end visibility with real-time, contextual insights that reduces the amount of effort required to see what’s happening across their network. Advanced AI can improve the ability for companies to combine and correlate vast amounts of external data like weather, customs clearance, and traffic with their own corporate and client data to get a complete picture.

AI means that supply chain leaders can see what they didn’t before and they don’t have to stitch together information from various data sources and transactions.

2. Act Faster to Mitigate Risks

AI gives supply chain leaders the confidence to act faster as they can now proactively predict and quickly assess aspects of their operation, such as responding to customer inquiries and adapting to changes in their business environment.

This is no small feat. Increased visibility and insights mean that manufacturers can drill down to any event and quickly understand the potential financial and customer service implications in real-time and receive recommendations on how to respond. The learning nature of AI enables greatly increased response times to future events as the system learns from each past mitigation.

Today, most manufacturers are reactive to supply chain disruptions – socio-political events, natural disasters or even daily occurrences like power outages and harsh weather. All disruptions force leaders to make last-minute decisions with little-to-no data, which can greatly affect the brand.

AI can comb the digital universe for indicators that those activities are presenting a supply chain risk. Not only can AI alert practitioners of the growing risk, it can also generate impact notifications and a playbook on what steps to take to mitigate the risk.

3. Uncover Opportunities to Drive Cost Savings

Finally, AI’s ability to identify opportunities to streamline supply chain operations allows for greater efficiency – often uncovering hidden opportunities to drive down operational costs.

One such example is helping supply chain leaders and their IT counterparts save crucial time by getting immediate answers to questions that matter most to their jobs, which in turn optimizes their decisions and actions.

Today, when a customer asks a simple question about the status of an order, a customer service representative has to pause and enter an IT request, a process that can take days. The IT Department then has to spend more time searching across multiple systems to piece the information together. The information is not searchable or readable to the business person.

AI uses natural language search to allow an employee to inquire about the order, without a go between in IT and get the answers faster.

4. The Smarter Supply Chain

A smarter supply chain is designed with disruption in mind. It connects disparate systems and events both in and outside of a partner network. It taps all the right data – even unstructured – and extracts actionable insights from it, in context, at astonishing speeds.

Practitioners can proactively identify, assess, and mitigate disruptions and risks today – and have confidence that they’ll do it all faster and more effectively tomorrow. AI provides the technology, tools and real-time, actionable insights to extend collaboration and achieve unprecedented visibility, while driving new levels of transparency and trust. The result? A supply chain architected for advantage now and well into the future.

Continue reading 4 Reasons Supply Chain Professionals Should Embrace AI

Deep-Dive: Where To Find The Best-Paid Jobs in Procurement

Want the best-paid job in procurement? The upshot from two key reports: be prepared to move, think strategically and develop your soft skills.

At a time of supply chain globalisation and the frenetic adoption of e-commerce, procurement professionals are emerging from dusty back rooms and warehouses to claim their rightful place as key facilitators of doing business.

The advent of online giants such as Amazon is placing an increased emphasis on moving goods swiftly into consumers’ hands – often on the same day. At the same time, borders are becoming increasingly irrelevant as multinationals seek to source goods and services in ever-efficient ways.

Given the seismic changes, it’s a great time to work in procurement.

But be warned!

The increased demand for skilled professionals does not necessarily translate into greater monetary rewards, let alone more perks, with some sectors (or geographies) offering better conditions than others.

Two recent major salary surveys highlight the remuneration trends – and discrepancies – across the key English-speaking jurisdictions of the UK and the US.

Australian and Irish surveys also support the overall picture of excellent demand outstripping supply in most markets.

In some cases, employers are battling to find the right candidates. But the surveys also show the environment is fast evolving and practitioners need to upgrade their skills constantly.

On a disappointing note, the surveys also show the empowerment movement that emerged from Hollywood’s “Me Too” push is yet to translate into equal salaries and opportunities for women.

Some employers also bemoan a dearth of soft skills. In other words, job candidates may be technically proficient but are poor communicators or lack emotional intelligence.

The bottom line – UK salaries

Brexit is increasing demand for procurement professionals in the British market, according to the annual survey undertaken by the UK Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), in league with the recruitment firm Hays.

As CIPS explains, Brexit (Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union) is already creating supply-chain upheaval, with one in seven EU businesses with UK suppliers already sourcing these goods and services elsewhere.

The spectre of protectionism and tariffs promises even more upheaval.

“Professionals will need strategic skills, data management and a steady disposition to help businesses find their way through the particular challenges faced by their organisations,” CIPS says in its 2018 Procurement Salary Guide and Insights.

Overall, 68 per cent of the 4000 survey respondents earned a pay rise in 2017, averaging 5.1 per cent. That’s 4 per cent more than the previous year and well above the 2.2 per cent increase for British toilers overall.

At the top of the tree, Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) earned an average £124,000, 11 per cent higher than the previous year’s £112,000.

Experience, overall, is being rewarded: of respondents with more than two decades’ experience, 72 per cent received a pay rise compared with 53 per cent for those with fewer than two years’ experience. However, the latter received an average 6 per cent rise compared with 4 per cent for the veterans.

The bottom line – US salaries

Naseem Malik, managing partner of Virginia-based recruiter TYGES Elite describes the US market for procurement staff as being at an all-time high. Latest reports suggest there are 650,000 more openings than there are qualified workers.

“The procurement market has been tightening for the past couple of years and is definitely showing no signs of abating,” Malik says.

The US Institute for Supply Management’s 13th Annual Salary Survey presents a more cautious picture, showing overall compensation (pay) grew 1.7 per cent in 2017, to $US117,425 from $US115,440 previously.

This was less than the 5 per cent increase recorded in 2016. However, median compensation rose 4.2 per cent to $US100,000 ($US96,000 previously).

At the rarefied end, average pay for the top 5 per cent of earners fell by 4.5 per cent to $US368,505.

Emerging practitioners – those with less than four years’ experience – could expect $US77,996 on average.

Of the respondents – 2979 in all – 85 per cent saw their base salary increase, with only 5 per cent taking a salary haircut.

Of the former, the average increase was 5.3 per cent, while those who missed out saw their pay packet decline 7.6 per cent.

Malik says that US entry level to mid-management level salaries have steadily increased by 8-10 per cent annually since 2016.

“When it comes to senior levels, we are finding their total compensation packages have stayed competitive, with a focus on enhanced long term incentives as a reward.”

Mind the (gender) gap

Sisters might be doing it for themselves, but it looks like they will need some help at a structural level to reach pay parity with their male peers.

“Across all industries there’s a gender pay gap; it’s talked about daily,” says Tony Megally, general manager of specialist Australian procurement recruiter The Source. “That’s an ongoing challenge and a conversation we need to have.”

The firm surveyed 1000 industry professionals and found 59 per cent were male and 41 per cent were female. At leadership level, the imbalance rises further – to 62 per cent male and 38 per cent female.

Megally finds that men are far more willing to nominate an ambitious salary, “whereas females feel they need to be an expert and have all the knowledge in order to ask.”

As a result, the firm is consistently coaching female candidates to push for what they think they deserve and to back themselves.

The UK report revealed slippage in progress, however, with 71 per cent of men and 64 per cent of women receiving a pay rise in 2018.

This compared with a 65-63 per cent split in 2017 and marks a regression to 2016 levels.

But of the women who did win an increase, they did better than men: a 5.3 per cent rise as opposed to 4.9 per cent.

“The most striking pay disparity remains at advanced professional level, where men earned 33 per cent more than women (£85,398 compared with £63,986), a pay gap that is even larger than last year’s 25 per cent,” the CIPS report says.

However, women earned more than men in a number of operational and tactical roles, including as procurement officers, contract officers, assistant buyers and purchasing assistants.

The US study shows a similar disparity at all seniority levels.

Male chief procurement officers earned an average $US279,413 compared with $US221,137 for their female counterparts, a 26 per cent disparity.

At procurement manager/sourcing manager levels, men earned an average $US119,492 compared with $US103,903 for women, a 15 per cent difference.

There’s always a ‘but’: average salaries for females increased 1.8 per cent to an average $US98,780, pipping the average male increase of 0.9 per cent. Then again, the average male salary of $US127,908 was that much higher in the first place.

TYGES Elite’s Malik says the US gender gap is shrinking, with the trend likely to continue because of new laws in several US states that ban employers asking candidates what their current salary is.

“Companies now have to put a competitive offer on the table to ensure they close the candidate,” he says. “Otherwise, they lose out to companies that have a better handle on the marketplace.”

In Australia, Jigsaw Talent Management reports an average salary of $A172,730 for males placed this year, compared with $A153,139 for females. That’s a difference of 13 per cent, compared with 11 per cent four years earlier. But the story is nuanced, with females out-earning males in the highest category ($A200,000 and above) and the lowest category ($A100,000 and below).

According to Nikki Bell, the chair of the CIPS Congress, the profession does not appear to be bucking the “ever present” gender pay gap despite its reputation as enablers and innovators.

“We simply must do more to enable skills and career opportunities and eradicate any diversity-related road blocks,” she says.

Where to find the best (and worst) positions

The ISM survey shows that taking a global approach helps bolster the pay packet: international sourcing operatives topped the scale at $US140,565 overall.

There also appears to be industry appetite for aspiring James Bonds, with ‘market intelligence’ professionals earning an average $US139,472.

For a market intelligence chief – the industry equivalent of ‘M’ in the Bond movies – the average pay was a chart-busting $US337,132. (Keep that confidential, of course.)

While candidates might not rate social responsibility highly on their list of imperatives, it pays – literally – to take on those roles. A sustainability/social responsibility officer earns an average $US135,300, while a chief supply chain sustainability officer (or equivalent) earns $US325,992.

In the UK, the best industry sub-sectors for getting a raise were defence (88 per cent of staff), pharmaceuticals and life sciences (85 per cent), hotels and catering (83 per cent) and fast moving consumer goods (81 per cent). But the best pay rises in quantum terms went to workers in the telco and marketing/advertising/PR sectors, with increases of 8 per cent and 7.4 per cent respectively.

The ISM survey reveals a vast disparity between salaries depending on industry sector.

The best sector to be in is healthcare, which would appear to be generally impervious to economic conditions. With ageing western populations, it’s also a natural growth sector.

Healthcare procurement professionals earned an average $US148,360. Also faring well were those in fuel and utilities ($US136,578) and telecommunications ($US138,863).

The worst paid were those in manufacturing ($US117,636), metals ($US120,255) and electronics ($US121,316).

Hot demand Down Under

Thanks partly to billions of dollars of infrastructure projects, including massive rail network expansions in Melbourne, Australia can’t get enough of the right procurement people.

“It’s been a really hot market this year,” says The Source’s Tony Megally. “The Australian economy is growing generally so it’s really tight finding the right people across all industries.”

On the services side, candidates with deep knowledge of the telco and I.T. sectors are also in huge demand, especially at mid-to-senior levels such as sourcing or category manager.

Megally says more mid-tier corporates are investing in procurement functions, often the result of bringing in management consultants to review the supply chain.

“Traditionally, they have not had a centralised procurement function and bring on a leader to create the pathways and processes on how to better spend their money on goods and services.”

At the periphery, talent supply has been constrained by the Australian government’s crackdown on 457 visas – temporary working permits for foreigners – with procurement removed from the list of eligible professions.

Irish eyes are also smiling

Irish-based recruitment firm Morgan McKinley says supply chain management has become one of Ireland’s fastest growing sectors, partly because the country will remain a member of the European Union. This means that many companies prefer Ireland over the UK for their procurement activities and shared service functions.

That is being reflected in remuneration, with average salaries increasing by 3-5 per cent year on year.

Employees in highly skilled senior roles are enjoying salary packages that are 15-20 per cent higher.

“Those planning to secure a new career opportunity can expect an increase of between 8-12 per cent. With an increase in opportunities and a continuing skills shortage, we expect this trend to continue next year,” the firm says.

“We equally expect there to be an increase in the number of supply chain professionals choosing Ireland as their desired work location in the coming years, therefore increasing the talent on offer and potentially suppressing continued salary growth.”

More than money?

Most professionals would likely volunteer that job satisfaction factors outweigh the amount that lands in their bank account every month.

But don’t be fooled: money is important.

The US ISM survey asked respondents to rank 14 factors when considering a job. The result? Eighty-five per cent cited the hip pocket, followed by job satisfaction (81 per cent).

An improved work-life balance (80 per cent), pension plans (78 per cent) and medical and dental benefits (79 per cent) also ranked highly.

Respondents were less enamored with health and wellness schemes, with only 60 per cent considering morning calisthenics or a free gym an influential factor.

Only 58 per cent considered sustainability or social responsibility programs to be important, while 58 per cent were attracted by mentorship programs.

Also ranking lowly were childcare and elder care benefits. Given the ageing population, we might expect the latter to become a more elevated consideration in coming years.

Education counts

For procurement professionals, the embossed paper on the wall does count when it comes to salary and – presumably – job satisfaction.

The ISM survey shows the average industry salary for a high-school graduate is $US83,283 – above that overall for those starting out ($US77,996).

For those with a bachelor’s degree, the stipend increases to $US106,909 and then to $US137,670 for a master’s. For doctorate holders – only 2 per cent of procurement professionals have them – the average salary rises further to $US175,827.

Industry-specific qualifications are even more crucial: practitioners holding one or more ISM certifications earned an average 12.8 per cent more than those without: $US123,041 versus $US109,087.

Holders of the Certified Professional in Supply Management qualification boosted pay by 14 per cent to $US125,158, relative to peers without the paperwork.

Similarly, holders of a Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity pulled in $US124,337 – 14 per cent more.

In the UK, CIPS members (MCIPS) earned an average 16 per cent more, with the disparity increasing according to seniority. Senior buyers who are MCIPS earn an eye watering 23 per cent more than non-MCIPS.

“But we must not rest on our laurels,” says CIPS CEO Gerry Walsh. “Continuing professional development should be high on everyone’s agenda to always improve and find the right level of achievement.

“So, I hope this year our professionals will read more and do more to up their game and increase their usefulness so boards and CEOs sit up and take notice of how fundamental good procurement is for their business.” 

Soft skills give a hard edge

The UK survey shows that employers highly value so-called ‘soft’ skills such as effective communication, active listening, empathy and emotional intelligence.

It’s instructive that 67 per cent of total respondents said they had never received formal training in these skills, while less than one quarter (23 per cent) thought that academic institutions instilled the right skills.

The Source’s Megally says, traditionally, procurement has been perceived as a technical function, “but soft skills are front of mind.”

“Rather than talking about processes, it’s about building relationships and being a sales person, really,” he says.

“You can train someone in the technical elements, but those with a strong emotional intelligence are able to connect.”

TYGES Elite’s Malik says: “Soft skills have absolutely become just as important, if not more important, than merely technical skills when it comes to landing A players in the procurement world.

“Employers assume that the technical know-how will be there and they can assess that in their interviewing process. But they are just as concerned on the EQ side as well. They want candidates who understand stakeholder engagement and can build relationships both internally and externally.”

Meeting the industry’s challenges

As with any profession, procurement professionals must take the initiative in enhancing their worth to an organization. To borrow from John F Kennedy, ask not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for the company.

CIPS Congress chair Nikki Bell says the solution lies with individuals taking an active approach to learning and development, with an emphasis on the soft skills such as communication.

“As senior professionals and employers, we should not only be using our honed influencing and negotiating skills to address the matter directly within our hiring, reward and recognition policies,” she says.

“We should also be looking at what we can do individually and collectively to actively encourage, enable, mentor or support diversity in all its forms within our procurement communities, from entry level through to senior and executive leadership positions.”

She adds the profession must also seize the opportunity to ensure ethical and fair work practices across all supply chains.

A key message from the surveys is that the biggest pay rises are being awarded to those who can rebrand themselves as ‘analysts’: think of big data specialists, predictive analytics, e-procurement, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

As in so many walks of life, presentation is paramount in procurement.

As You Sip Your Delicious Morning Cup Of Suppliers’ Blood…

Is supply management really full of psychopaths? Why do members of Gen Next want to change jobs so frequently? How can managers retain top procurement talent? We put all these questions and more to ISM CEO Tom Derry.

Psychopaths in the profession?

A few years back, a researcher approached ISM CEO Tom Derry and wanted to survey the ISM membership to build a psychological profile of people who go into supply management. A few months later, Tom opened the newspaper and was appalled to find a headline stating “The majority of procurement professionals are psychopaths!”

“That was then,” says Tom. “In those days, there was an expectation that your job was to sit across the negotiating table from your supplier, have zero empathy with that person, demand cost reductions, and extract the pound of flesh. Sure, I can see how those could be seen as psychopathic tendencies. But you’re never going to succeed in supply management [these days] with that kind of approach. The emphasis on supplier relationship management in particular is so critical. That [old] profile is never going to be successful in the profession today.”

The days of the blood-sucking, empathy lacking hardball negotiator are over, but we still have work to do to reinvent the profession’s image – and that’s where fresh, new talent is going to help.

Time to Jump?

Last year, Procurious’ “Gen Next” survey revealed that just under 50% of supply management professionals intend to change roles within the next two years, and 34% intend to leave their current organisation entirely within the next 2 – 5 years. We asked Tom if it’s unrealistic these days for employers to expect their employees to stay anywhere for more than five years.

“Not at all. I think it’s realistic for them to expect longer tenure, but there are a few key things that matter”, says Tom. These include:

  • Training on the job – people really value skill acquisition.
  • Challenging and new assignments giving people a chance to grow.
  • Giving them exposure to other functions in the business via a rotation program.

Retaining Top Talent

But how can a head of supply management retain their top talent? In Tom’s view, we need to be realistic. “Don’t be too defensive about talent”, he says. “It’s a wonderful thing for a leader to be known as a discoverer and developer of great talent, which inevitably means that some people are going to move on, but that’s attractive. If I’m looking for a place to work and I know someone who has a reputation for identifying and developing people who want great new opportunities, I’m going to want to work there. Develop a reputation that will work to your advantage.”

Tom also stresses the importance of making people feel valued. “You can’t overvalue how important it is for a manager to just walk around and talk to people. Take an active interest in what they’re doing. They’ll be happy to know that you know what they’re working on, and that you find it exciting and interesting, and that means a hell of a lot to anybody when a leader comes around and shows interest. It drives results for the company.”

“As a leader, you have to be aware of the profile and external reputation of your team, within the company and externally in the industry. You need to be forward-looking as a leader in creating an environment that’s always compelling and interesting. The best CPOs that I know are focused on where the business is headed in the next 3-5 years, and what kind of team they need to build to optimise the business that we’re going to become. If you’re looking backwards and focused on efficiency, you’re missing the point. You need to be thinking about where you need to take the procurement team to deliver on the future vision – and that is what will make you an attractive leader to any talent.”

In our 10-part “Tuesdays With Tom” podcast series, Tom Derry discusses a broad range of critically important topics that every supply management professional should be across.

Listen to the full podcast here.

When The Going Gets Tough… Keep Running!

On the fifth and final day of Career Boot Camp we chat to not one but two Ultra-marathon runners!

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Australian ultra-marathon runner Samantha Gash is a true inspiration. She’s run 3253km in 76 days across India, completed a 1968km expedition run along South Africa’s Freedom Trail and undertaken no less than four 250km desert ultramarathons.

But she can still recall the fear she felt when she ran her very first marathon.

“When you train for a marathon you only train to 32km. When I got to that point in the race I absolutely freaked out and wanted to quit because I was terrified. I realised I needed to keep pushing myself into those situations that scared me because running marathons and ultra marathons,  although impressive on some level,  are no where near like the real life challenges you’re going to face.”

Sprinting outside of your comfort zone

For Samantha, who was a “physically dormant” individual during her childhood and adolescence, took up running as a personal challenge “I really believe that we get such personal and professional development and an understanding of who we are when we choose to go into that unknown so I connected to the thing that scared me the most. Running for me became a way of me becoming mentally stronger and then I got the bug!”

Tom Evans , UK ultra-marathon runner, stumbled into the sport after challenging himself to complete the Marathon des Sables (a six day, 251km run across the Sahara Desert) in a faster time than his two friends.  He seems as surprised as anyone that he managed to complete the race in 3rd place, the highest ever ranking for a European entry.

Since then, he says, “lots of amazing opportunities [have arisen] to race all around the world, from Costa Rica to the French Alps. The performance side of things for me is important but what I really thrive on is that mental and physical challenge, you don’t know what’s going to happen. There are so many external factors that can change along the race or during a training session especially in these more arduous environments. For me it’s really humbling and I’ve fallen in love with the sport over the last year.”

Running – it’s (mostly) all in the mind…

Both athletes place huge importance in mental preparation ahead of a big race, “It’s definitely not seen as that important” says Tom. “But it plays a huge part. I try to focus on the process not the outcome.  Some days [of a race] it will not go great and sometimes it will – but if you focus on getting the small things done it will all add up. I’m big on setting goals and have high, but very realistic goals, that i am able to achieve.”

“It also helps to have a strong purpose so you know that when things get hard that you have an underlying purpose and know why you’re doing what you’re doing. ”

Samantha also credits mental perseverance as a key contributor to her running success “The mental component of ultra running really dictates how your physical body tends to flow and respond.

“If you can find ways of being calm when your body is stressed, when conditions are hard you just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore – mental is underrated by many people.”

That’s not to say physical preparation isn’t important too, ultra marathons are pretty far, and that’s an understatement, and often take place in unfamiliar conditions that require a lot of forward preparation.

Samantha has run races in the most extreme conditions, temperatures and altitudes and endeavours to simulate those conditions in her training schedule.  “When I can’t simulate the challenging component of a race I’ll replace it with something else equally challenging or something that pushes me.”

“In 2016 I ran from the West to the East of India,  which was going to be at a high altitude and in really intense heat. I couldn’t be constantly running in the heat throughout Melbourne’s winter so I put a treadmill in a hot yoga studio. I hate treadmill running, which is why I’m a trail runner but I went into a yoga studio late at night when classes were over, cranked the temperature up to 36-40 degrees and then ran on it for hours.  It wasn’t just physical training it was mental training.”

Tom cites similar challenges in his training regime “I’ve just finished [a race] running in the mountains. In the UK there are no mountains so sometimes you have to think outside the box in your physical training.

“Physically there’s only a certain amount of things you can control – the way i describe it is controlling the controllables. Any stone I can overturn and carry out detailed planning for is worth doing – I’ll train really specifically for each race.”

When the going gets tough…

Enduring the seemingly unendurable is part and parcel of ultra-marthon running  life. “You know it’s going to happen” explain Samantha, “and knowing that you’re going to go into a rough place can equip you for dealing with it.

“There is always a very clunky period when you move beyond training, you move beyond adrenaline and the excitement of early phases of something and it becomes really challenging as your mind and body is learning to adjust.” When Samantha ran across India it was tricky to adjust to the extreme heat. “We were running on a road where there was a lot of traffic and a lot of pollution so we were very burdened. And my body started to break down [to the point that] I was struggling to even walk.”

“When you can’t do what you think you could have done it’s natural to freak out and get a bit disillusioned.”

But in that moment it’s important to take control and embrace the unexpected circumstance you’ve been faced with – “that’s the exciting part!”

“Sometimes you have to walk or listen to music or change your pacer – you have to explore and experiment.  We are quite quick to be harsh on ourselves when things don’t go to plan – we need to move away from what we consider to be failure and redefine it as an opportunity.”

Tom agrees with Samantha stating that “things will go wrong but how you deal with these things will make the difference between a good and bad performance.”

Tom maintains his composure and determination by looking both forwards and backwards in time.

“What is the goal I set and how much do I want what I set out to do? I try to think about the outcome – knowing that if I really want this it’s going to be possible and my mind will conquer my body.”

“I also think backwards, thinking about all the process, everything I’ve put into training, all those workouts, the sacrifices I’ve made to get to where  I am.”

That attitude can “pull you out of any hardship to get you to the finish and achieve your goals.”

Samantha Gash and Tom Evans are speaking on Day Five of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.

How To Get Supply Chain A Seat At The Table

If supply chain pros can secure a seat at the table, it becomes easier to to share insights, challenge processes, support the business and be part of strategy creation – ultimately delivering value.

Laura Faulkner, CPO and Director Supply Chain Management for Nationwide Building Society, is truly passionate about developing the profession in order to raise its value and reputation within the business.

“As a fellow of CIPS I really am very keen to take on an active role in working across all industries; sharing best-practice and learning from the best of who’s out there.”

Laura is a firm believer that  Supply Chain functions act as an extension of the organisation as a whole and in her role at Nationwide Building Society she has led by example, “leading a team that supports the delivery of our business strategy but doing so in a really collaborative way with stakeholders and suppliers. Our suppliers and partners are simply an extension of our own firm . We have the ultimate responsibility and the actions of our suppliers reflect on us.”

Recent events have truly tested this mentality.  The collapse of Carillion, one of Nationwide’s biggest suppliers, in January 2018 hit particularly hard.

“When [Carillion] collapsed on 15th January we really did have only two areas of focus. One was to secure the services which was everything from security, reception, data centers and maintenance.

“But we also had to do the right thing by all of the Carillion staff that had served Nationwide for a number of years. Within six days of the collapse we in-sourced all 300 members of staff and directly contracted with the 160 sub contractors.

“To me sharing this kind of story shows how we can add value not only to our own organisation but also in sharing it across other industries. We’ve all got things we can learn from each other and it’s very key that we play a pivotal role within our organisation. We are that link to the supply chain, we do not outsource the risk that the supply chain brings and we have to take full responsibility.”

Getting (and keeping!) supply chain’s seat at the table

We were really interested to hear Laura’s thoughts on how supply chain professionals can secure a seat at the table.

“Well it’s easier said than done ,” she admits, “and at all the firms I’ve worked with it’s been something we’ve pushed for. We really do need a seat at every relevant table whether that be the investment boards or the strategy committees – you need to be part of the discussion not someone brought in and brought up to speed outside of the meeting.

“It’s easier when you’re sitting round the table to give your insights, to challenge, to support and really be part of either the decision making or the strategy creation.”

But, as Laura points out,  it’s always easier to get that first invite to a meeting.  It’s keeping the seat at the table that’s really challenging. “If you want to be kept at the table,” she suggests “you need to be able to add something and bring some unique, different types of thinking. [Supply chain management teams] are one of the strongest links to the outside world. Use it and you can bring insights and innovation.”

“We’ve just announced at nationwide that we’ll be investing a further £1.3 billion of investment into our new strategy and we are fully engaged in making that happen.

“I’ve been working with the CTO  – we’ve been holding meetings and strategy sessions with all of our key partners and investigating new possible supply chain partners and it’s that engagement and listening to what our suppliers have to say that will really help us develop the strategy further and ultimately deliver it.”

Laura Faulkner is speaking on Day Three of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.

Transactional Supply Chain Activities: Your Days Are Numbered

The days of transactional activities in supply chain management are numbered and look set to exit our organisations very rapidly…

Chris Crozier, Chief Digital Officer – Orica International has seen first-hand how the perception of supply chain management has changed over the years.

As little as thirty years ago he can remember there being “very little recognition [of the profession] and the nuances around the skillsets required. In fact, most people talked about the smartest people in the room being in marketing and I saw that there was plenty of opportunity around skillset affirmation around supply chain.”

On Day Three of Career Boot Camp we speak to Chris about the evolution of the supply chain management profession, the importance of embracing new technology and implementing digital transformation.

Supply chain management across company borders

As someone whose, very impressive, career has criss-crossed several industries, Chris is a keen advocate for supply chain professionals working across functions.

“Supply chain is such a beautiful function where you do get that end to end view of an organisation,” he explains.  “We need to make sure that we leverage that and the relationships we have with other functions [including] any career opportunities  – not just for ourselves but for our teams.”

He warns against leaders becoming too defensive of their supply chain talent; “I think that’s a real blind spot in some of the supply chain functions as they stand today. So share the talent and surround yourself with highly capable people but be prepared to move them in and out of supply chain.”

In seizing any opportunities to move talent in and out of teams supply chain pros are facilitating the creation of “a really virtuous cycle of understanding” and ensuring that there are “supply chain evangelists in other functions.”

Indeed, working in both tech and supply chain has proved to be the perfect balance for Chris, “one of the things you get from working in supply chain is a broad analysis and encompassing oversight of the organisation and I think that’s what technology also requires. So there was a lovely fit between the technology understanding that was necessary in a CIO role and that broad business perspective you get from [working in] supply chain.

“Having that very broad business understanding meant I could provide that bridge between business requirements and a technology outcome.” 

The impact of technology on supply chain  

As is the case with every single function in every single organisation, supply chain professionals will be significantly disrupted as a result of incoming technologies.

And Chris, a self-proclaimed advocate and evangelist for the technologies coming through his door believes it is imperative for supply chain professionals to have a decent understanding of the latest technology in order to be successful in the long term.

Professionals need to know “how to apply it, where to apply it, how to leverage it most effectively and, most importantly, what’s coming in in the future that can help you to be even better in your role and therefore have a more productive organisation and ultimately underpin the broader company that you work for.”

Chris believes that the days of transactional activities in supply chain are numbered and will exit the organisation very rapidly, which is, of course, bad news for the supply chain professionals who are doing these transactional activities! “We will move to the world of the seamless end-to-end supply chain, which we were talking about in 1998-1999! We were all talking at that stage about real-time supply and demand activity.”

And Chris believes we’re fast approaching that point today with “the compute power that we have available, the network capacity we have available and the technology we have available.”

“People will talk about blockchain and other technologies and, yes, that’s all part and parcel of the way forward. But ultimately supply chain professionals now need to continue to go up the value curve.

“A lot of the things we do around competitor intelligence, around negotiation strategy and so on will be superceded by the technologies coming through the door.”

“Those things are just going to become endemic as tools for professionals in supply chain so we need to be on top of that, prepared for that and able to leverage that because it’s going to hit us very soon.”

Chris Crozier is speaking on Day Three of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.

The Making of a Supply Chain Leader

What are the key skills  supply chain professionals should be developing in an AI-enabled future?

Ekaterina_Minaeva / Shutterstock

“I’m a great believer in great passion,” says Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain. And it’s just as well given that Ron is responsible for all strategy, execution, and transformation of IBM’s US$70Bn global end-to-end supply chain, delivering to clients across more than 170 countries.

“Always be as bold and as fast as you can,” he says. “I’ve never looked back in a transformation and thought ‘Darn it! I wish I had gone slower.’ There’s always room to be bolder and to go faster.”

On Day Two of Career Boot Camp, Ron speaks to us about the greatest challenges and complexities of his role, the importance of leadership, and the key skills that supply chain professionals should be developing in an AI-enabled future.

Building a cognitive supply chain

“We’re at a point when new technologies are truly enabling us to take advantage of all kinds of data and giving us actionable insights close to real time,” Ron says.

“In our case, it all started several years ago when we built our transparent supply chain across [all] processes and systems, which gave us an excellent platform to apply advanced analytics and manage our business by exceptions. We set a very clear goal to become the first cognitive supply chain. This is based on our strong belief that with machine and human interaction we can truly augment supply chain professionals’ daily decision-making,” he says.

Ron points to several emerging technologies that provide incredible opportunity – AI (Watson, in IBM’s case), machine learning, blockchain, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, and 3D printing.

“Humans and machines always get a better answer than machine alone or human alone. With that principal we’re training Watson with our best supply chain experts [and] letting it observe our decision-making in digital resolution rooms,” Ron says. “Watson is learning in real time with us so it can help us to identify risks, predict issues and, as a trusted advisor, suggest our best course of action. How were similar problems tackled in the past? What are the risks or alternatives? Who should be involved or advise us on what actions we should be taking to manage the situation better and faster?”

“As we map the future of our supply chain it is crystal clear that we are getting the most value of our capabilities as we start to stack technologies together,” he says.

The challenge that’s keeping supply chain leaders up at night

“I have the pleasure of leading one of the most talented supply chain teams in the world,” Ron says. “I really love the adrenaline and all the variables that you need to be able to optimise it and the challenge of ensuring the right balance between demand and supply while [delivering] the highest quality and [focusing] on managing revenue cost.

“We are sensing and responding fast in the most intelligent way to any changes in the supply and demand equation, whether it be the introduction of new products, reacting to a natural disaster, geopolitical issues or supplier constraints,” he says.

But Ron also acknowledges that the tech industry is changing by the minute.

“[T]he challenge that keeps me up at night is are we transforming, are we moving fast enough and, more importantly, are we giving our team the tools they need to be successful?” he asks. “At the end of the day [are we building] an organisational culture that’s primed to leverage new technologies, unleash innovation, and challenge the status quo? Do we truly have the skills for the future?”

The making of a supply chain leader

 Ron always sees the need for strong leaders. “Some of the fundamentals [of leadership] don’t change; passion, perseverance, global and holistic thinking, collaboration and the value of diversity, [and] building a culture of feedback and continuous improvement,” he says.

Ron believes all these factors, indicative of a high-performance culture, will become even more critical in an AI-enabled future.

“We need leaders that take risks and drive a clear vision around digital supply chain and the need to be innovators; leaders that value experimentation over perfection [and] are willing to try new things and correct fast as needed,” he says.

Ron believes that leaders need a deep understanding of technology and where the trends are heading.“Disruptions are coming and they will hit us faster than ever so the ability to react becomes essential,” he says.

Ron advises aspiring supply chain professionals to take a step back and ensure that they are holistic, global, and horizontal thinkers. He encourages them to embrace new ways of working and collaborating with one another in order to become agile thinkers.

“In this new world the basics of supply chain are still critical so you can optimise a supply chain holistically from an end-to-end perspective. But you also need to be technically savvy,” he says. “The machine-human interaction will continue to increase and all these technologies will continue to become even more critical in supply chain.”

Data scientists will also be highly valuable, Ron says, as the ability to gather insights and ask the right questions will become critical for supply chain professionals.

Ron Castro is speaking on Day Two of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.

Supply Chain Management – Much More Than Just The Wire Between Switch And Light…

Sometimes supply chain is viewed as an abstract part of the business – we’re the wire between switch and the light. But that wire is not always fully understood…

Career Boot Camp 2018 kicks off this week! And this year’s series, Your Supply Chain Career: Accelerated, has been designed to help you sprint outside of your comfort zone and get into the best career shape of your life!

On Day 1, we catch up with Rick Blasgen President and CEO of CSCMP who has a lot of hope for the future of the supply chain profession.

“I think our professions have come such a long way already and have such a long way to go. Procurement and supply chain management will be an embedded feature of every competive global company around the world because they see so much of what goes on.

“[At CSCMP] we see it really growing into the fabric of successful companies. There is so much opportunity before us as our global economies kick in and we use technology and productivity processes to improve our ability to serve customers in markets that are yet to be conquered.”

The value in professional certifications

The debate rages on over the true value in professional supply chain certifications. But Rick is pretty sure they’re here to stay!

“This profession changes so rapidly –  think about risk management or about deliveries by drones or autonomous vehicles. These types of systems or technologies were not even part of our lexicon ten years ago and so certifications allow us to keep fresh, allow us to continue to demonstrate that we have a mastery of the supply chain and procurement professions by being on the forefront of what’s coming down the line that we might be able to use in our professions.

“One of the things important to CSCMP is to advance the logistics, supply chain and procurement professions and the careers of those working in them. The only way we do that is by being thought leaders and thinking about using the new technologies and tools that have never before existed. Our certifications will educate you on these things and then test that you have the understanding and can utilise the complexity within them.

“So I think [professional certifications] are a normal course of continuing to educate yourself and continuing to be knowledgeable about such a dynamic and ever-changing field.”

Upskilling your supply chain team

How does Rick feel about experienced hires versus the value in up-skilling talented professionals from diverse backgrounds?

“There is no reason that someone with a lot of experience in a different field can’t be very successful working in supply chain. If you have the ability to analyse data or if you’re an engineer – those types of talents and skills play a very important role within the supply chain world.

“Sometimes supply chain is viewed as an abstract part [of the business] – we’re the wire between switch and the light. You flick the  switch and the light goes on you don’t call your power company and thank them because you expect the light to go on.

“Well that wire is sometimes not truly understood – supply chain and procurement professions struggle a little bit with awareness.

“But there’s so much opportunity and different types of jobs that folks can come into. If you have a set of skills like great interpersonal skills or great managerial and leadership skills you’re going to do just fine in a supply chain position as long as you can analyse data and think logically about this flow of inventory and information.

“We’ve seen folks come from the medical industry, consumer products, consumer electronics or even different types of functions such as English or History majors who have come and done a wonderful job.

“Is it great to get supply chain education? Sure it is!  Universities these days are doing a great job of explaining modern day supply chain theory. But you can certainly be successful as you fly into this profession with a set of skills that really make a difference.”

Rick’s parting words to any aspiring supply chain professionals?

“Young folks have a great opportunity – I have never seen a hiring market like it is now. If youre looking for a job on another continent I can’t think of another field where you can go ahead move to another part of the world If you so desire and have a very fruitful experience. If you have a global experience or a global mindset  you’ll do very well in supply chain because it is such a global field.”

Rick Blasgen is speaking on Day 1 of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen now!