Category Archives: Career Management

Become The Translator for Your Procurement Network

You may have thousands of contacts in your professional network, but how many of them are you actually influencing?  

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In the age of big data, “vanity metrics” are a plague that affect every profession. Anyone who has a website, for example, will know that page views and “likes” may make you feel good, but are very difficult to link with key business drivers.

Vanity metrics to watch out for in procurement might include measuring team activity, counting your total POs, your number of suppliers, or number of projects without actually measuring the value that they’re delivering. A team member who brags that they’ve had 100 meetings with key suppliers in the past six months is talking about a vanity metric, but if that same person provides numbers around the savings and other value flowing from those meetings, then we’re talking about real value. 

Online networking is another area rife with vanity metrics. No matter whether you have 500, 5000 or 10,000 connections across LinkedIn, Procurious and other platforms, your network risks being nothing more than a dormant asset unless you contribute. By “contribute”, I don’t mean that you “like” something they wrote or share photos of your holiday – I mean that you share your mastery, your insights and your experience. For the majority of us, it’s rare that we contribute meaningfully to our networks.    

Remove the collection addiction

I believe we have a collection addiction in the business world. In previous years we collected piles of business cards wrapped in rubber bands – which often (if you’re anything like me) ended up gathering dust on a forgotten corner of the desk. These days it’s about racking up the number of connections either online or within our databases.

Both these situations have the same outcome – a massive potential network and no influence. I would rather you have 50 people who are highly engaged in everything that you do – commenting, joining the conversation and sharing your insights among their own networks – than 5000 people on a list that have never been touched.

In other words, popularity is the wrong metric – focus instead on influence. Focus on having people engaged enough with what you’re doing – so much so that they would happily share your ideas, insights and achievements with everybody that they know. In other words influence is the ability to say ‘look over there’ and have people engaged enough to look. Your responsibility then becomes making sure that what you point them towards, what you contribute, is and valuable as possible.

Engage rather than collect

While collecting contacts is a vanity metric, engaging with contacts is a value-driving activity. The best way I know how to engage with others online is to become the ‘primary translator’ of your space.

A translator is someone who goes out into the areas where others don’t have the time, nor the bandwidth, nor the experience to go, and bring relevant information back for their network in a language they understand. If you want to stand out and build your influence, you need to become the translator of valuable information for your target audience. What does that look like? The best place to start is to make a list of the top questions the people you are wanting to influence are asking in relation to your area of expertise. If you’re not sure – ask! Then systematically go through that list and find the best way to contribute the answers. It might be in the form of articles, videos, internal presentations, checklists, how to guides, insight reports or even preparing in advance in order to contribute more actively in meetings.

Another good exercise is to take a moment to think about the translators that you follow. Whose work do you consistently follow or read? Now think about what they translate for you; the value they bring, and how they go about it – do they present the information in essay-length blog articles, or bite-sized posts? If you consistently give them your valuable attention – I guarantee you they effectively translate something important to your world.

Speak the language of the business

You’ll notice I mentioned that the first step in becoming the translator – is getting to know what questions are important to the people you’re trying to reach. For procurement professionals this means understanding what questions your business stakeholders are asking. What are their challenges? What are their opportunities? That they may or may not have seen? Then it’s up to you to access your own expertise and bring that information back to them – not in procurement technical language, but in their language – in the language they already speak.

Translators know that they need to be able to speak the language of the business, and also understand that a multitude of languages exist within every organisation. This is often referred to as ‘charismatic language’. Every group and community of people has one. Your finance function, for example, will speak a very different language – use very different and specific words – than your stakeholders in marketing. What they do have in common, however, is that neither group of stakeholders will want to hear you talk about RFPs, RFXs, or tenders.

Become the trusted authority

Take time to revisit your network of stakeholder (both online and in the office) and think about what subjects you can translate for them – within your area of expertise. Doing so will capture their attention and help build their perception of you as an influential subject matter expert. However – much larger than that. They will know that you care about – and have real value to share in relation to – the issues that are important to them.

It’s this decision – to become your organisations primary translator and contribute your mastery in a format that resonates – that will quickly accelerate you to the role of trusted authority.

Now that’s the metric of real influence.

Procurement Outsourcing – What To Watch Out For

The advantages of procurement outsourcing have been well-documented, the disadvantages – less so. In this article Elaine Porteous outlines how the trend has evolved and minimising the risks associated.

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The outsourcing of procurement tasks started off a couple of decades ago when companies found ways to process orders and invoices more efficiently. It grew and got labelled as procure-to-pay (P2P) and is still a popular solution for managing volumes of repetitive transactions. Tactical procurement, where low-cost/high volume commodities are being sourced is the next favourite area for outsourcing. Lately, procurement outsourcing has expanded into a wider range of activities, even moving into areas such as strategic category management, supplier selection and contract negotiation. Non-core services are the most likely candidates for outsourcing:  HR services, I.T. support, facilities management and logistics. 

According to CIPS’ definition of procurement outsourcing, it can also include “the provision of procurement services and processes within an operation which may involve the transfer of people and/or assets to another company.  Procurement service providers (PSPs) may have a full-service offering taking over the entire procurement function of an organisation.  Other smaller PSPs may manage only one element of a procurement function such as spend analysis or contract management.

According to McKinsey, to make strategic procurement outsourcing a success, companies need to take a highly systematic approach with three basic steps:

  1. They outsource strategic buying only in categories where doing so offers clear value.
  2. They have a precise understanding of the sources of that value and how to unlock it.  
  3. They choose outsourcing partners that have the capabilities to address those sources of value, then define and implement agreements that maximise the chance of capturing potential savings

The choice of a PSP depends on its capabilities, the size and complexity of the supply market and the buying organisation’s relative influence in that market; the expertise and availability of resources will affect the decision.   Outsourcing works best when the ability to manage a strategic category in-house is low.

Trends in outsourcing

There is a growing interest within procurement about outsourcing data-heavy activities such as spend analysis, supplier performance management and tender evaluations.  Tracking of realised savings has always been a headache and a topic of disagreement due to varying methods of calculation – by outsourcing this to specialists there is less room for debate. 

Governance, regulation and compliance is an area that is increasingly becoming onerous for companies, especially in the banking and healthcare sectors and is, therefore, a candidate for outsourcing.  

The outsourcing agreement 

When a decision has been made on what can be successfully outsourced a PSP must be selected in line with in-house procurement policy. This should include normal supplier due diligence to establish the company’s capabilities, including reviewing the supplier’s financial statements to ensure that the business is profitable and the supplier is not at risk of failure.  Next, the basis on which the partnership will work must be negotiated and confirmed.  The relationship needs to be formalised in a comprehensive contract with an enforceable service level agreement (SLA) that defines the rules of the game. Key performance indicators (KPIs) need to be clearly defined. These are the metrics used to measure performance and the calculation of bonuses.   

In the SLA, risks can be minimised by defining:  

  • Minimum acceptable service levels with penalties/incentives  
  • What happens when the PSP fails to deliver? Contingency plans
  • Who owns the data?
  • The PSPs responsibility for data security and confidentiality
  • Who owns the work developed during the contract?
  • What happens when there is a change in ownership of the PSP?

Managing the outsource partner

You have a contract in place and an SLA, what next?   The PSP is like all other key suppliers, it needs to be managed through the entire contract period.  Implementation is often the stage at which the outsourcing project fails. Stakeholders, if not consulted, can be obstructive and delay the process.  The manager’s role is to deliver the service to users, monitor the PSP’s performance, ensuring delivery against the pre-set KPIs.

Advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing

The advantages have been well-documented by the PSPs themselves, the disadvantages, less so.  Among the leading full-service PSPs are Accenture, Capgemini, Infosys and IBM.  The advantages are

  • Lower costs due to PSPs’ economies of scale by aggregating customers’ requirements  
  • Outsourcing low value/high volume purchases frees up internal expensive resources
  • Access to global expertise and market knowledge in categories where there is little in-house capacity or experience
  • Time-consuming negotiations and contracting are managed by specialists

Because outsourcing involves handing over direct control to a third-party it comes with challenges.  These may be service delivery issues, a lack of flexibility and unforeseen management crises at the PSP.  Open lines of communication at all levels are vital to the success of the contract.  Whatever the function being outsourced, the aim is to create a long term partnership that is designed to achieve more than just cost-cutting.  

3 KPIs for Digitally Transforming Your Business Spend: How Do You Measure Up?

If CEO predictions are any indicator of what’s to come in the business world, buckle up, because we may be in for a bumpy ride. Here are three of the most influential KPIs for purchasing, invoicing, and expenses. 

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If CEO predictions are any indicator of what’s to come in the business world, buckle up, because we may be in for a bumpy ride. According to PwC’s annual CEO Survey, there’s been a 436 per cent increase in the number of CEOs saying they expect global economic growth to decline this year. Just 35 per cent said they are “very confident” about revenue prospects for the next year.

So, what’s a business leader to do? The most popular answer seems to be “look inside-out for profitability and growth.” Faced with economic uncertainty, finance and procurement executives are increasingly challenged to not only uncover and deliver savings opportunities, but also to reduce risk, support innovation agendas, and create levers for growth.

3 Digitisation KPIs to Measure Your Procurement and Expense Process Maturity

It’s important to set measurable goals to assess the maturity of your procurement and expenses processes. By analysing the largest accessible source of business spend data (the nearly US$1 trillion that flows through the Coupa platform), Coupa Business Spend Management (BSM) experts have identified 12 Key Performance Indicators to help you gain insight into and advance your organisation’s maturity across the spectrum of BSM processes, from sourcing to procurement to payments.

Here are three of the most influential KPIs for Purchasing, Invoicing, and Expenses and how companies with digitally mature processes are performing in these areas:

1. Purchasing KPI: Percentage of Electronic PO Processing: 89.7 per cent

What it is: The percentage of POs processed digitally measures the success of eProcurement initiatives designed to reduce PO processing time and employee and supplier frustration.

Why it matters: A high rate of digital POs often means that procurement teams have time to focus on strategic initiatives, like lowering risk and optimising productivity, instead of chasing lost orders.

2. Invoicing KPI: Invoice Approval Cycle Time: 30.7 hours

What it is: The average time, in hours, from the time of invoice submission to the time of final approval measures the efficiency of the entire approvals process.

Why it matters: A short invoice approval cycle time assures that there are no unnecessary project delays due to payment delays. It also enables early payment discounts and fewer status inquiries while decreasing the risk of late payment penalties.

3. Expenses KPI: Percentage of Manual Expense Audit: 6 per cent

What it is: The percentage of expense reports that go through human audit reflects the precision and accuracy of existing controls and compliance throughout the expenses management processes.

Why it matters: A low percentage of manual auditing implies that expense policies and automated audits are effectively ensuring compliance. Large numbers of manual audits place a costly administrative burden on AP teams.

Learn More About How to Use Benchmarking Data to Drive Success

Want to find out what the other nine KPIs are and find out how your organisation measures up? Read Coupa’s 2019 Benchmark Report to learn more about how focusing on improving these critical KPIs can help you improve profitability, streamline operations, and achieve efficient growth.

For extra credit, join us at Coupa’s next webinar! We’d love to see you at our discussion about Building A Strategic Procurement & Finance Alliance to Enable Growth with Levvel Research and Coupa CFO Todd Ford to explore how business leaders can use KPIs and benchmark data to reduce silos in the back office. We’ll also take a look at:

  • New data on the state of procurement and finance collaboration
  • Procurement and finance efficiency benchmarks of high-performing organisations
  • Strategies for reducing departmental silos and creating spend management visibility

Reserve your spot today. We can’t wait to see you!

Procurement Across Borders: Do You Have The Drive?

Do you have the drive, interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation?


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In the last article in this series we discussed what cultural intelligence (CQ) is and how it is an important tool in working effectively across distance, culture and time. I described the four main components of CQ, which are CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ strategy and CQ Action. In this article I will be focusing on CQ Drive.

CQ Drive is the interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. There are three main areas of CQ Drive, these being:  

  • Intrinsic drive which is what motivates some people to have interactions with other cultures.  People with intrinsic drive have a deep, personal interest in different cultures and want to understand or experience the different foods, languages and cultural practices of others
  • Extrinsic drive describes those people that may want to gain experience interacting across cultures to improve their credentials, gain experience or gain a promotion in their organisation. People with extrinsic drive are more motivated by the ways in which having interactions with other cultures can benefit them
  • Self efficacy refers to having the confidence to deal with intercultural situations should they arise, especially when you are not in a position to know the best course of action. Often this entails navigating the cues you are receiving and interpreting them to the best of your ability

To further exemplify CQ drive in action I would like to share a story about a client. I was engaged recently to work with a scientist who is on a one year assignment in Australia from Germany. He works for a Biopharmaceutical organisation that has operations in both Australia and Germany. Apart from the technical side of his role, his brief is also to help bridge the different operational styles in the laboratory between the two countries.

 In terms of his intrinsic motivation, he really wants his assignment to be a successful one, has an interest in being of service and helping the organisation to grow through gaining experience in Australia and understanding how the business can operate optimally in a different context.

His extrinsic motivation is through knowing that having this experience will help him further his career and gain recognition and promotion in the future. This international exposure will be an essential component of his ambition to become a global leader.

He has also shown a high degree of self efficacy. Upon arriving in Australia, the organisation provided him with an apartment in a high rise development located in downtown Melbourne. He found over the first few weeks that he was quite lonely and had few people to talk to. Having had previous experience travelling through Europe, he decided to register himself at a Youth Hostel to enable him to meet other travellers and increase his friendship circle.

So, this is an example of someone with high CQ drive in all aspects. I encourage you to reflect on your own levels of CQ Drive in terms of intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. In my article next month, I will share some tips and techniques on how you can improve your CQ Drive and the kind of outcomes this can bring.

When Did Podcasting Become So Cool?

50 per cent of the population can’t be wrong, right? But just why is podcasting so popular and why do we keep listening?

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In 2017, when I received a call from Colin Beattie, one of the best leadership and cultural transformation architects I know, I had no idea at all about podcasts. So when Colin told me that he had an idea for an innovative podcast format exploring leadership dilemmas, and asked if I wanted to be one of his executive speakers, it was more my enthusiasm at having a chance to work with Colin again that had me saying yes. Two great conversations facilitated by Colin with the wonderful Simone Carroll, some improvisation from the talented Rik Brown and Amanda Buckley, and two more episodes of the podcast series LeaderShip of Fools were created. From my end, I was a convert.

With the advent of digital technology, the way we work, socialise and engage has changed dramatically. So it’s no surprise therefore that the way we consume information, listen and learn has also changed. What may however be a surprise is that what we now commonly refer to as podcasting, has its origins in the 1980s. For those of us who were around at the time, we may remember it referred to as audioblogging (among other names). For its time, it was a ground-breaking way of recording and communicating information and messages. It wasn’t until the early 2000s and the introduction of the Apple iPod however, that momentum started to build around this digital platform. With a diverse library of 000’s of recordings being made available via the iPod, digital recordings became that much easier to access and started being more consistently being referred to as podcasts.

In this age of digital where only some things really stick and embed, and others join a cycle of hype before finding oblivion, what is it about podcasting that has not only endured but thrived? Nielsen estimates that in 2017, 44 per cent of Americans have listened to a podcast, with 80 per cent or more listening to one podcast each week.  If you think that sounds only vaguely interesting, and it’s simply a US-inspired phenomena, think again. According to Statista The State of Podcasting, would you have guessed that South Korea is firmly at the top of list of countries? With 58 per cent of people having listened to podcast in the last month, they are followed by Spain with 40 per cent. We Australians aren’t doing too poorly at 33 per cent, matching the US in percentage, if not in population numbers.  So irrespective of the range and location of listeners, it seems that podcasts are global and they are here to stay. Which raises the question of why exactly are we listening?

  1. Our need for connection. There does seem to be an irony here that I am very aware of. Does that really make sense? How can podcasting, a digital format helps us connect?  With over 600,000 podcasts out there, there are many topics and formats, as a well as a diversity of content. Done well, a podcast captures a conversation and invites us to be part of it. It can allow us to feel that we are listening and learning as active participants, even though we have not been there at the time. The authenticity of an open conversation, different perspectives from what we may otherwise be exposed to, and discussion that could confirm or challenge what we think we know, is a unique experience. Importantly, the challenge is non-confrontational and we give speakers a chance to explain themselves (unless we decide to pause them, or even more drastically, delete them from our library). They provoke our curiosity, and hopefully our admiration. Many times, and this has happened to me, they also provoke disbelief and ire. What? or Are you kidding me? is something I know I have said out loud while listening to more than one podcast.
  2. Interested in politics, starting a business, functional expertise, marketing, popular culture, music, crime, gardening, a discussion of your favourite TV show (yes, even if it is from the 90s and a guilty pleasure and therefore destined to remain unnamed)?  Well, you get the idea. Almost every, and any topic is likely to have a podcast associated with it. Note to readers: I have included “almost” to qualify my comment given that I am sure there will be someone out there who will be able to find a gap in the podcast market for a subject of interest. Applying a digital lens, podcasts have become a highly personalised way for us to choose what we want to consume, and how we want to consume it.  The breadth of content is extraordinary and the access to expertise so great. As someone navigating the business world whether in your own start up or in a large organisation, where else would you be able to hear about the challenges of entrepreneurship, digital transformation, leadership and customer engagement from those who have innovated, succeeded, and failed at scale? Similarly, where else would you be able to access the breadth of experiences and insights of people who are influencing the agenda on science, social justice, politics, economics and the environment be it locally, nationally or globally?
  3. If digital is redefining the idea of anywhere, anytime, then podcasting exemplifies this. Just as the options for content are endless, as a listener, I have the choice as to when and how, I listen. There are a multiplicity of listening platforms and devices; desktop, smartphone via iTunes, Spotify, Podbean. Something to suit everyone. Choices can be based on location, the time that is available and what is of interest at that particular day, week, or even moment. You can choose to be educated, entertained, moved, or inspired. Sometimes, a great podcast can achieve all of those things. There are many times that I have found myself laughing out loud as I listen to a podcast while I am walking. So a note to those who are new to podcasting; it does take a special type of confidence to walk down the street and not be disturbed by the curious looks of other pedestrians as you smile or laugh out loud. If you aren’t quite there yet, there are many other locations and time options for you to think about and get started with.

My podcast library is highly versatile depending on what I am interested in learning more about. A few current favourites from me that I am talking to friends about: npr’s Hidden Brain, Freakonomics Radio, HBR Ideacast, and of course, LeaderShip of Fools.

Great things happen when we seize the opportunity to be curious. If you haven’t become a podcast listener yet, it’s not too late to make a start. And if you have and lost some momentum, tune in to one on a topic of interest and reignite your learning and inspiration.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Like the Breakfast Club banding together to overcome Assistant Principal Vernon, life is much easier when we collaborate. And procurement should be no different.

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This year will be the year of collaboration in public sector procurement – you heard it here first! In the past, collaboration may have proved to be a step too far for some for various reasons. However, the challenge the public sector now faces is the need to use collaboration and collaborative procurement to share resources and find new, more efficient ways of working.

Procurement professionals are stretched thin. On one hand, we’re trying to keep a handle on all the transactional tasks required to facilitate procurement. On the other, we’re trying to influence and input to strategic decisions that could shape the professions future. So it’s critical that we are using our time wisely and using all the tools at our disposal.

Collaboration can take many forms, but one thing is for sure – the public sector could be much better at it! Go back and look at your projects, tenders and contracts from 2018. How many of them did you start from scratch? Did you have, and maybe reject, the opportunity to work with other procurement teams? Did you approach other authorities or public sector institutions to see if you could get a copy of their documents?

The Breakfast Club started out the same way. They all considered that they were too different to get along, that they had nothing in common. They all approached the detention task as something to be done in isolation (or not done at all). It wasn’t until they started talking (collaborating) that they realised that they could work better together. And in the end produced one assignment for all of them that did the same job.

Let’s Get Collaborating

Collaboration should be both an internal and external activity. From the outset of any project or procurement exercise, procurement should be involved and working closely with their internal stakeholders to define requirements. Once these requirements are known, it’s time to open up the field to the wider audience and see who has done this already.

Public sector procurement, as we have already said, spends a lot of valuable time and resources creating new documents that someone may, and probably has, created in the past. This is where the real benefit of a framework lies. Frameworks, Dynamic Purchasing Systems and other collaborative procurement opportunities can help reduce the time spent on administrative (read: non-strategic) tasks, saving money and freeing up resources.

This is the same even if you happen to be the Authority or public sector body setting up the framework itself. As with many of these things, putting the time and work in at the start can help to create savings and benefits further down the line.

Time vs. Inflexibility

A framework provides a list of pre-qualified suppliers, usually against a Lot with a specific scope of requirements, from which procurement can run mini competitions, create call off contracts or even direct award business.

From a buyer’s point of view, there’s no requirement to advertise opportunities under the framework, even if they are above OJEU values, on top of potential economies of scale and less time spent between identifying a need and fulfilling it. For suppliers it reduces the burden and costs of applying for tenders and potentially increases the possibility of winning business by focusing in on a smaller market.

However, this is not to say that frameworks aren’t without their drawbacks. For buyers, the main issue is that once the framework is in place, it’s not flexible in response to changes in the market. Neither new suppliers to the market nor previously unsuccessful supplier can access the framework and tender opportunities. This means buyers could be missing out on new solutions or have a framework whose scope is lagging behind new developments.

Suppliers face the possibility of spending significant time and money getting on the framework to not get any returns. Although they are on the framework, contracts may be awarded without competition, or not placed through the framework at all.

The Players

None of these drawbacks should put you off looking at using frameworks if your procurement needs can be met with them. There are a few big players in the public sector when it comes to collaborative frameworks all of whom are worth a look at.

  • Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – essentially the procurement arm of the Cabinet Office, helping UK-wide authorities and public sector bodies procure a huge range of requirements. With spend of £13 billion in FY2017-18, CCS states that its frameworks have delivered over £600 million worth of savings for its users.
  • Scotland Excel – owned and funding by the 32 Local Authorities in Scotland, Scotland Excel has the same aims as CCS, but works to focus on the requirements of Scottish members and public sector institutions. However, they work increasingly with CCS to ensure access for all public sector to the widest range of frameworks available.
  • Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO) – owned by 13 English Local Authorities, YPO has around 100 frameworks and 30,000 products, covering everything from Utilities to furniture.
  • Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) – jointly owned by 6 English Local Authorities, ESPO offers a range of UK and EU compliant frameworks (worth £1.7 billion spend in 2017-18), as well as an extensive product catalogue.

These are just a few of the names you will inevitably come across when looking for a public sector collaborative procurement framework. The beauty of these organisations is that, despite crossover in the types of frameworks, they collectively cover pretty much anything you might want to buy. All the frameworks are easily accessible and open up a corner of the supply market for whatever your requirement is.

Shop around, see which framework suits you and your organisation the best and go from there. And if all else fails, look and see if you can set up something yourself. You may even be able to help your fellow public sector professionals (or work with them) to collectively meet your requirements.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

How To Make Your Company More Honest (And Why It Matters)

It’s a fact that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. So how do you motivate your teams to perform with greater integrity?

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There is ample evidence that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. And while almost every company says they are honest, many do not create and support a culture of honesty.  The research tells us there is one key thing any company can do to ensure we are honest at work. 

According to annual research conducted by global accounting firm EY, 97 per cent of businesses say it is important that they operate with integrity. Businesses want to be honest for one very simple reason.  Their reputation is on the line.  Almost all of them rate customer perception as the most important reason to behave honestly, with public and shareholder perception coming a close second and third. 

They believe that honesty, or at least having your customers, shareholders and the public believe you are, is key to successful business performance.  Obviously, acting with integrity makes it easier for organisations to operate by reducing scrutiny and fines,  but there are other much more important ways that honesty improves business performance.  Dishonesty also has a direct impact on the bottom line.  A recent study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that about 5 per cent of a business’s annual revenue is lost when that business is struck by dishonest acts such as asset misappropriation (theft and skimming), corruption (bribes and conflicts of interest) and financial statement fraud (misreporting sales and expenses).

Besides those direct impacts, honest organisations attract the best employees and customers. We would all prefer to do business with an honest seller or buyer and we would all prefer to work in a place that has a reputation for integrity.  While the impact of better customers and employees is difficult to measure, there is little doubt both improve the bottom line. Every year Ethisphere ranks the World’s Most Ethical Companies and compares their performance to their competitors.  Their research shows that over the five years to 2018, the World’s Most Ethical Companies outperformed the US large cap sector by 10.72 per cent.

So, the benefits are clear.  But according to the EY report one in six companies still undertake fraudulent and corrupt behavior. Its not for lack of policy.  Almost all organisations have implemented anti-fraud and corruption programs and 95 per cent say their senior leaders set examples of good ethical behavior. 

The problem isn’t lack of desire for honesty.  The problem is getting everyone to actually behave honestly.  There is however one key thing every organisation can do to drive a culture of honesty, remind us we are honest.

The research on cheating and lying tells us that it doesn’t take much to remind us that we are all, at base, honest people who are happier if we behave morally. Once we remember that, we generally behave that way. The most effective method to remind people of this is to prompt honesty at key moments. Usually these little prompts are cheap and easy to implement, and most important when we are tempted to fudge things a bit. Professor Dan Ariely from Duke University has spent more than a decade putting people in situations where they could lie and seeing if they do.  His research demonstrates that people don’t lie more just because the reward for lying is bigger and they don’t lie less just because the chance of getting caught is greater.

When people don’t have to lie to a person face to face in return for the reward, they cheat a lot more.  Making us deal with people face to face halves the chance of dishonesty.  And we are also more likely to be dishonest if we think everyone else is being dishonest and conversely more likely to be honest if we think everyone else is honest.

But the real kicker, was the one thing that stopped almost all the lying.  It was simply reminding us that our workplace has code of honesty before we are put in a situation where we might be tempted to be dishonest. Bizarrely the studies showed that even something as simple as getting people to sign the top of the test (before they lie) killed the cheating. If they signed the bottom, after they lied, they cheated as normal.

When this was implemented in a large-scale trial of insurance applications, the results were even more impressive. Researchers from the Harvard Business School decided to see if signature placement on insurance forms changed the level of honesty in disclosure. The results showed that customers self-reported 10.25 per cent more miles when they were asked to sign the declaration of honesty before they filled in the form. This would amount to an insurance premium being on average $97 more costly per car depending on whether the form was signed at the top or the bottom. Even at a significant personal cost, people were more inclined to be honest if they declared honesty before they filled in the form.

Of course, the other way to stop people lying is to do what they did in the control state of the study – check everybody and everything all the time. But who really wants to work in a police-state? Life is so much easier if you can trust people to be honest. 

Why You Need To Hyper-Specialise

The days of the generalist are over. Today, the most influential people in your organisation are those with the ability to hyper-specialise.

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When I first started working in the world of influence and influencers, it was possible to own a massive space; whether it was leadership, real estate, finance, money or health. There were very few “gurus” who had access to a platform from to talk about their wide area of expertise.

Today, however, everybody has a platform. The internet is crowded with blogs, podcasts, Youtube channels and social media influencers, with the result that there’s way too much noise to own a huge space anymore. Now, the future belongs to micro-influencers; micro-authorities who hyper-specialise.

When stakeholders need help from a procurement professional, they need to be able to find you fast. They want to know – straight away – whether the space that you own aligns exactly with their situation and needs. An IT professional, for example, doesn’t want advice from a procurement generalist. They want to talk to an IT purchasing specialist – someone who understands the challenges involved and is well-known as an expert in that space.

Do you own your space on Google?

When was the last time you Googled yourself? Take a minute to do so now. What did you find out – do the search results make it clear what space you own?

According to Harvard University, over 50% of decisions are now made before we ever making contact i.e via what I would call “Google stalking”. When you first make contact with a talent prospect, a supplier or a potential consultant, one of the first things they will do (I guarantee it) is Google stalk you. If what they find is irrelevant, not specific to their needs or if they can’t find it fast enough, then you’ve lost that race.

To become an influencer, you have to own your space – but you can’t own a space unless you are clear on what space it is that you want to own.

Influence Intersections

But how do you find out the niche that you want to own? How do you discover the hyper-specialisation that will set you apart from everybody else?

Let me introduce a concept that I call Influence Intersections. Picture a Venn diagram: the first of the two circles is a world in which you have mastery, insights or experience. Then you overlay this with another world where you have mastery, insights or experience. The intersecting space in the middle is the space that only you can own. The space where your expertise will stand out.

Two celebrity influencers who hyper-specialised

Take Jamie Oliver – when he first started out there were many celebrity chefs from six-star hotels and restaurants. Then Jamie came along, and what did he have? He had mastery, experience, and insights into the high-end world of cooking, but he also had personality. The personality he brought to the front was that he understood families and what it’s like to cook for your children on a budget quickly in a healthy way. The place in the middle between those two spaces was a place that only Jamie could own.

Steve Jobs is another famous example. He took the world of engineering and computers and overlayed this with another world he knew – the world of the creative innovator. That space in the middle then became the key Apple needed to dominate the marketplace.  

Why should a procurement professional hyper-specialise?

One word – influence. Procurement professionals are typically frustrated by their lack of influence (or “seat at the table”) within their organisations, but building up your profile and becoming known as the go-to expert in your space will lift your influence and cause others to seek out your advice. Imagine, then, a whole team of hyper-specialised procurement professionals, each one famous in the organisation for owning their space. How influential would that department become?

It’s also a great tool to keep in mind for your next career move. If you begin hyper-specialising today with the aim of becoming known as the guru in your particular space, you might just be in a job interview situation one day where the interviewer says, “I’ve heard of you – your expertise is a perfect fit for this opportunity”.

Remember, the days of the generalist are over. Generalists rarely become voices of authority. In addition to not being renumerated as well as perceived ‘experts’ they also receive less engagement and fewer opportunities. Specialists, on the other hand, receive more credibility, more respect, more opportunities and more influence. 

What are the two worlds you can overlay to find – and own – your space?

5 Productivity Hacks You Should Be Using Now

When things are really hitting the fan you don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal.


By Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock

The panic is real. So many things to do, all of equal value and all due yesterday! How do you cut through the noise? Here are my proven hacks for achieving the impossible.

Mindset

The most important place to begin is your mind. Often in high pressure situations you begin to worry. You worry about the volume of tasks you need to do, the timeframes, the pressures put on you to deliver and the number of project responsibilities.

Within this context (the brow furrowing worry), the brain becomes overwhelmed. Research has proven that ability of working memory to direct attention to what’s relevant is incredibly compromised, the brain is effectively running lots of programmes at once and everything slows down. In terms of how the brain processes information, we know that the brain dedicates capacity to verbal information and some capacity to spatial information. When people are worried it is common that they talk to themselves in their head – worries tend to be verbal and therefore compete for the limited pool of capacity.

Psychologist Sian Beilock found that when students are presented with a mathematical problem presented horizontally “32 – 17 = x” it demands more of the brain’s verbal resources than when the same problem is presented vertically.

The brain processes vertical information visually and therefore accesses the spatial capacity which has less demand for its resources.

This is often why making lists can feel better!

Taking back control

Understanding how the brain works is one thing but if things are really hitting the fan then don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal! Here are my top five productivity hacks to help you take back control.

1. Eisenhower Matrix

President Eisenhower was on to something when he shared this technique of decision making and prioritisation. It is a four box quadrant that helps you organise tasks in order of urgency and importance. My on-the-ground approach is to draw up four large boxes in my notebook and head them up according to what I need e.g. Urgent / Do now, Do next, Monitor, Delegate then I simply put each task under these headings and focus on one thing at a time.

2. Find an organisational app like Trello

Once you have identified the individual tasks and organised them into an Eisenhower, it can be helpful to transfer them to an electronic platform where you can easily access and update them. I am a huge fan of Trello, it is a free “to do list” app that I use for all of my projects. Having your to do list in an electronic platform gives you the opportunity to share your to do list and collaborate with other people as well as update things when you’re on the go.

3. Pomodoro Technique

This is a time management technique that dates back to the 1980’s, it was created by Francesco Cirillo and is based on the principle of short, sharp, concentrated bursts of activity. If you’re curious, the technique is named after the Pomodoro (tomato) timer that Cirillo used when he was at university.

Once you have your Eisenhower Matrix completed and your life uploaded into Trello, take the most urgent tasks and block out your calendar accordingly. You may need to play with the time period that suits you, some people can do a full hour but I prefer no more than 30 minutes – that’s a long time concentrating on one task!

4. Technology lock down

It’s so simple to do and yet most people do not apply this last trick, shut down the emails! Close your emails and any other system that can notify or distract you.  Do not assume that you are superior to the temptation of technology and distractions. If you see an email pop up, you will be tempted to answer it. Just say no!

5. Change your environment

If possible, work away from your usual spot. Either work from home, a different desk, a café, a meeting room. It can be anywhere just as long as you can concentrate. Breaking away from your usual work spot should reinforce the objective you are trying to achieve, and most importantly it can keep you from being interrupted.

If you implement all of these tools and combine them into a new way of working, you will be sure to come out the other side winning. What are your proven hacks? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear about them.

Stakeholders Are Your Customers. Ignore Them At Your Peril

If you fail to meet the expectations of key influencers, projects will be delayed, will only be partially workable or at worst, doomed.

Stakeholders can and will influence the outcome of your project, especially if they are likely to be directly affected by it. If we fail to meet the expectations of key influencers, projects will be delayed, will only be partially workable or at worst, doomed.  

Who are your stakeholders?

Stakeholders are any of those individuals that can impact your activities by:

  • removing obstacles and championing  your goals
  • by slowing down or blocking your activities  
  • influencing others about your project –positively or negatively

Many of your stakeholders may not initially be obvious.   They can be:

  • End-users of the product or service
  • Line managers, executives and support staff
  • Procurement team members and co-opted subject matter experts 
  • Suppliers and their subcontractors
  • Government agencies and the media
  • Customers and society at large

Why is stakeholder management so difficult?

Stakeholders have conflicting priorities and often are not working towards the same goal. Personal ambitions may trump the company vision.  You may be the messenger bearing bad news or saying no to their proposals. Seasoned procurement people use their persuasive skills to win support from stakeholders.  This can be the difference between success and failure.

Because stakeholders will change over time, we need a systematic approach to identify and prioritize those influencers.  A stakeholder map is a simple analysis tool we can use to identify which key people have to be won over.

A simple shareholder map

This map provides a guideline on how to manage stakeholders based on their interest and their influence:

Figure 1   The stakeholder analysis grid

The Greens

Stakeholders with a high level of influence in your specific project and who also have a high level of commitment and support must attract the most focus.   They are usually easily identified and are easy to engage. They usually include line managers and end-users.  Ensure you continue to maintain their support through good communication and monitoring their needs. These people can be used to influence others.

The Oranges

This is an important group to manage and may include senior management, e.g. CEO or GM. Keep them satisfied.   Increasing their interest or commitment to your project through regular updates can be very helpful.

The Browns

These customers are your supporters. Keep them informed, their enthusiasm may be infectious and they may have more influence in the future.  Less time is needed to maintain this group. 

The Purples

External stakeholders such as the media and government may fall into this group so it is not necessary to spend too much time there. But keep them in the loop and monitor them as they may move into another group!

Identify all key stakeholders and plot them in the grid in Figure 1. 

Steps to follow to ensure success of any initiative:

  • Concentrate your time on working with key stakeholders who can make or break the initiative. Make sure every stakeholder has an appropriate way to participate and offer input.
  • Understand and manage their expectations. Identify any potential adversaries early in the process and manage them directly by allocating key tasks to them. Persuade those people who may not be immediately supportive. 
  • Under-promise and over-deliver.  Think like a salesperson.
  • Keep everyone well-informed and build strong relationships with the people who support the project.  Recognise and reward positive behaviours to preserve the relationship and buy continued support. 

Dealing with difficult stakeholders

The first step is to clearly identify those stakeholders and work out what motivates them and what is causing their resistance. Ignoring difficult stakeholder behaviour is not recommended; take time to immediately identify the cause of their objections and the underlying issues. People want to feel understood and feel that their opinions matter.

Engage directly with the person directly without others present. This leads to more clear and calm conversations. Actively listen to what they have to say and don’t close communication channels because you don’t like what you hear.   Remain fair, objective, and professional, and remember to keep the project objectives within focus. Try to find common ground by asking open-ended questions.  

Why projects fail: communication is the key

Lack of frequent and accurate communication to and from stakeholders is probably one of the main reasons for the failure of projects.   Another is not listening to the needs and concerns of the key stakeholders, both internal and external. 

When to communicate with stakeholders

  • before the launch of a project to get buy-in. Early engagement is important.
  • at regular progress meetings held to keep everyone updated. Report back on progress (or lack of it) and milestones achieved.
  • before implementation to ensure alignment with the process and the proposed solution
  • at the end of a project to establish lessons learned

Stakeholder management is the process that we use to identify key stakeholders and win their support.  We use the analysis grid to prioritize them by influence and commitment. Understanding what motivates them is the first step to getting them on board.