Category Archives: #firstmovers

Three Truths For Building Future-Proof Organisations

Automation, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies are changing our world and redefining the future of work. Organisations need to gear up to manage this transition wisely and understand the new rules of the game.

The fourth industrial revolution has the potential to disrupt every industry in every country through large-scale automation, adoption of emergent technologies, big data and artificial intelligence. There are many predictions and estimates on how this will affect labour markets, but one thing is certain – the jobs we do, and the skills we need to perform them, will change, and rapidly.

A McKinsey report estimated that by 2030 at least one-third of the activities of 60% of occupations could be automated. This means that globally up to 375 million people may need to change jobs or learn new skills. A World Economic Forum report predicted that current trends in a disruptive labour market could lead to a loss of 7.1 million jobs, two thirds of which are in administrative roles. And a study by Oxford University estimated that 47% of total employment in the United States is at risk due to computerisation, given that automation and computerisation are no longer confined to routine manufacturing tasks. Big data and artificial intelligence are allowing a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks to be performed by machines.

While this may sound catastrophic, the good news is that while large-scale automation may redefine the workplace it does not necessarily mean we will all be out of a job. Changes in technology also create new jobs and spawn new industries. The challenge is going to be ensuring that workers have the skills they need to transition to different jobs. The fourth industrial revolution poses a risk to job security only in the sense that not managing this transition can lead to greater unemployment and social inequality.

In approaching what lies ahead, managers and leaders should consider the following three truths.

1. Talent will be more important than capital

Klaus Schwab, Chairman of the World Economic Forum believes that “in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production”. To make sure they are ready for a future that is still emerging, organisations and people need to be adaptable, innovative and responsive. If up to 65% of the jobs of tomorrow don’t exist yet – it is impossible to “train” people in the conventional sense. Rather we need to invest in their essential capabilities.

To ensure we build talent that is capable of mastering change we need to invest in resilient leadership. Leadership skills are not tied to particular jobs or industries and solid leadership development provides the kind of transferable skills likely to be needed in the future. The WEF identified the top ten skills that will be most needed in 2020 as: complex problem solving; critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgement and decision making; service orientation; negotiation and cognitive flexibility. These essential skills have long been part of most good leadership development, MBA and executive education programmes – and they will need to be scaled up.

2. Education needs to be flexible too

The WEF report recommends that organisations embrace talent diversity, leverage flexible working arrangements and incentivise lifelong learning to best manage the changes ahead. Lifelong learning and executive education certainly have an important role to play in a rapidly changing job market, and these programmes also need to be flexible and adaptable to student’s and organisation’s needs.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) already offer flexible access to lifelong learning and the number of courses available is rapidly increasing to meet demand. Many perceive the downside of online learning to be the loss of face-to-face interaction, which is still regarded as critical to the quality of education – specifically when it comes to learning and practising the essential skills identified by the WEF. Educational institutions are looking to fix this by offering a mix of traditional and online learning to reskill and prepare for workplace transition. There are opportunities for combinations and blends of one-on-one and group interactions at all levels of learning.

3. The link between education and business is a two-way street

The format of what is being taught needs to be flexible but so does the content.

As the WEF report suggests, education systems need to be re-designed if we are going to tackle the transitions ahead. This entails businesses, governments and educational institutions working together to provide curricula that meet current and future needs. The McKinsey report suggests that governments have a role to play in maintaining economic growth, scaling job retraining and workforce skills development, and providing income and transition support to workers whilst retraining. But they cannot do this on their own.

Educators supply industry with critical skills, and industry has a hand in shaping the talent pool and informing educational institutions of the changes they foresee and the skills they wish to develop. Businesses that invest in long-term partnerships with educational institutions to develop skills and respond to changes in the environment will stand a better chance of building a workforce that is future proof: suitably skilled, adaptable and ready for the challenges that we collectively face. As the African proverb goes: If we want to go far, we need to go together.


Kumeshnee West is Director of Executive Education at the UCT Graduate School of Business. This article  was originally published on the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business blog. 

4 American CPOs Nailing Change

A group of the USA’s most influential procurement leaders gathered at ISM2018 to discuss digital transformation, the evolution of the CPO role, procurement’s influence and the gig economy.

Image: Shutterstock

In a press-only event at ISM2018, ISM CEO Tom Derry brought together four CPOs from some of the world’s leading organisations to debate the biggest issues facing supply management today.

Digital Transformation

The consensus around digital transformation among this group is to take a step back and consider carefully before taking the plunge. DowDuPont Ag Division CPO and Chair of the ISM Board of Directors, Craig Reed, observed that there’s so much technology out there that everyone’s hyper-focused on it. He warns: “Some companies have a culture and a rhythm that doesn’t necessarily work at the same speed that the technology is growing. [You need to consider] how you get it, where do you use it, and what’s the benefit for the company.” Reed reports that in his organisation they’re starting to see a slight evolution where Service and Operations are looking at how digital technology can bring efficiency: “We won’t need as many people doing routine tasks”.

Reed also makes the point that first-movers are sometimes at a disadvantage. “It’s like being the first person on your block with a landline phone”, he said. “If suppliers have to standardise technology specifically for you, it’s going to be difficult [because] the cost of trying to deploy becomes prohibitive to the supplier.”

MGM Resorts International SVP and CPO Stacey Taylor drew a parallel between digital evolution and the industrial revolution, where a lot of people were doing unnecessarily manual work. “We need to be super-disruptive to the market … with a vision of where we see our teams from a talent perspective.”

Taylor notes that technology can drive process optimisation. “What can you fully optimise and automate [to function] without human intervention? The AI could do data, write the RFP, send out the RFP … right up to negotiating the contact. But at the end of the day, we’re not going to have a bot award a contract to a bot, and AI isn’t going to manage the supplier relationship.” For Taylor, human talent will also be needed to find creative, innovative ideas that shift the game.

Camille Batiste, VP Global Procurement at Archer-Daniels Midland, has seen how energised young people in her organisation are by technology opportunities. “If we bring an opportunity to automate and eliminate tactical work, they get excited about that. Then there are employees who don’t yet understand what that tech does – that’s where you get the fear. I feel we have leaders who just don’t understand the value of what this technology can bring and are very concerned about the risks. Our responsibility then is to make that clearer.” Batiste comments that we need to consider what concepts like the digital revolution, robotics and AI would mean to your average plant manager. “A lot of companies say they’re doing digital transformation, but … don’t really have an idea of what it is.”

Reed comments: “My fear is that all the great technology that’s coming out today [won’t survive] because we can’t communicate the opportunities to our organisations properly. I think the technology firms we’re dealing with [need to] help us better communicate that. How do you translate that cost reduction into operating margin and improvement?” Reed is looking at iterations of technology that can drive value for his organisation. “Look at Salesforce – it’s driving tremendous opportunity. That’s the [kind of] stuff we want to do in procurement, but it’s difficult to have that conversation and get the organisation to understand the value.”

The evolution of the CPO Role

LG Electronics VP Global Procurement Strategy, Chae-Ung Um, notes that every organisation has different levels of maturity. “We [currently] consider the CPO as the top, but whoever will become the Chief Value Officer will take the lead. I’ve been on a lot of transformation projects, and everything crosses procurement”.

Reed also talks about maturity. “How mature is your company in understanding the role of the procurement function? In some companies it can be seen as strictly commercial negotiations. In others, it’s broader – looking at things collectively to drive integrated value. But what you’re starting to see more of is that one function can’t do it by themselves – there’s a lot more collaboration.”

But who is best positioned to lead this transformation of the role? Reed says it needs to be someone business-focused, not procurement focused; someone who can look at the business strategy and demonstrate how your suppliers can provide solutions.

Tom Derry talks about meeting a professional at ISM2018 who, to him, epitomised the evolution of the CPO. “She was not only the CPO, but the CFO of IT and head of the business transformation office in her organisation. That’s the leading-edge conception of the CPO role.”

Growing Influence

“From the time I joined procurement 17 years ago, one thing I’ve thought we’ve never done well is marketing ourselves”, said Batiste. “It’s so critical … [I’m considering] hiring a marketing person to drive the internal communication of our value to the organisation.” Batiste also reiterates that support from your organisation’s leadership team is paramount. “The CEO must be talking about what procurement is doing to drive the purpose of the company. Procurement needs to be vocal, not humble, and share … all the good things we’re doing.” She recommends partnering with a strong writer (such as someone from marketing). “It’s good for influence, and for attracting talent.”

Chae has a different approach to this challenge: “If I don’t have influence, I ask our customers – who have the leverage – to help us get there. We bring in a dealmaker.”

Gig economy

Batiste predicts that by 2023 she’ll be seeing a much smaller organisation, with transactional work completely embedded within the business. “What the name for this is, I don’t know. Right now it’s P2P solutions. What’s it going to be in 2020?”

How much will CPOs want to invest in talent in the future? Chae warns that any major transformation will require a lot of people, but two to three years later you won’t need all those professionals. “You need to balance optimising value for the company and minimising future headaches. Having the right people makes a difference.”

Taylor says that in regard to the gig economy, it really depends on your organisation. “There are areas of my business that I just can’t get to, so I’m augmenting it by getting in consultants. Do we train and scale up everyone, or get some blackbelts and move them around key areas as projects come up? Over time, through attrition, we’re scaling back and building powerful little teams.”

5 Reasons Business Partnering is Procurement’s Secret Weapon

Unlocking the benefits of business partnering won’t happen overnight, but if you can get it right, partnering can supercharge relationships between procurement, your stakeholders – and your suppliers.

“For me, business partnering is about building trust,” says Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty. “It’s also a marker of the maturity of your procurement function.”

Bird is speaking at the Asia-Pacific CPO Forum in Melbourne, where he is facilitating a panel of procurement leaders from some of the region’s biggest organisations. They’re talking about how procurement can reap the benefits of business partnering, and the challenges therein. The panel raises five key reasons that business partnering is an incredibly effective way to uncover a new level of value in your organisation.

1. Business partnering is a sign of procurement maturity

We often discuss where organisations sit on the procurement maturity curve. Markers include how the function is organised (decentralised, centralised or centre-led), a focus beyond cost, and the existence of programs such as supplier relationship management (SRM) and the deployment of advanced tech including AI and cognitive procurement.

Business partnering is another such marker. Its existence suggests that the procurement team has moved beyond the traditional stakeholder engagement model to extract further value from customer relationships. Panelist Zelda Pretorius-Kovacs, Head of Category Management at Woolworths Ltd, says that business partnering is an essential part of moving from cost reduction to value creation. “It’s a way of securing the future of procurement in your organisation”, she says. “We looked at our relationships with fresh eyes. Anybody can map internal stakeholder relationships, but we wanted to take a new approach to how we partnered with the business.” Pretorius-Kovacs comments that while her wider organisation was focusing on winning the trust of external customers (shoppers), the procurement team mirrored this journey with a parallel focus on winning the trust of internal customers.

2. Business partnering builds relationships

Andre Harvey, General Manager of Procurement and Supply at Stanwell, says that the way you approach internal customers in your organisation is crucial. “We walk in with curiosity”, he says. “We look for problems that stakeholders have that we can help solve. Fundamentally, procurement has to be like water – it has to find the cracks; find the crevices, and fill them.” This means that when Harvey built up his procurement team, he’s sought to hire a group of problem-solvers and entrepreneurs that will embrace this challenge.

Pretorius-Kovacs adds that an unexpected benefit of business partnering was that the procurement team broke down its own internal silos and began working together more effectively. The team undertook the Game Changer Index to discover their unique attributes before being partnered with the right people to get the best outcomes. Her team has also improved engagement with partners by shifting the conversation to business targets, rather than procurement targets.

3. Business partnering builds trust

Stephen Jhangiani, Senior VP and Head of Supplier Relationship Management at Singapore’s DBS Bank, comments that procurement has worked hard to get internal business partners to work with them and trust procurement. “We’ve focused on being accountable back to the business”, he said. Similarly, Pretorius-Kovacs notes that business partnering is not only an opportunity to develop trust, it’s a chance to mend some bridges along the way.

4. Business partnering enables procurement to connect the dots

Through business partnering, procurement is granted access to a new level of information and visibility of the issues facing their internal customers, which often reveals ways that we can help. Pretorius-Kovacs notes that partnering is an ideal way to build a bridge between the procurement function, the business and its suppliers. “It’s a way to connect all the dots and bring innovation to our organisation in a way that other departments simply cannot.”

5. Internal business partnering will help you rethink your supplier partnerships

“If you can’t have a conversation with internal business customers, without the skepticism, how on earth are you going to have a conversation with the external market?” asks Bird. Getting your internal relationships into the best-possible shape is an important step to take before undertaking effective external supplier engagement. McSweeney notes that open and transparent conversations with customers and suppliers are key. “We want to know where we rank with them, why they’re interested in working with us – we need that level of transparency and candour.”

Delegates at the CPO Forum were polled on the concerns that their organisations had about external business partnering, with the following results.

Interested in learning more about how your organisation can unlock the benefits of business partnering? Contact The Faculty Managing Director Keith Bird via [email protected] to discuss our tailored workshops and training solutions.  

“Hey, Procurement…” The Rise of Chatbots in Supply Management

Procurement tech guru Bertrand Maltaverne explores the benefits, limitations and pitfalls of chatbots in procurement – with some animated examples!

“Hey, Siri,…”

“Alexa,…”

“OK Google,..”

Digital assistants are ubiquitous. We talk to them (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc.). We chat with them (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WeChat, etc.). They are in our phones, in our computers, and even in our homes. Now they are also making their way into our offices!

Procurement professionals need to start taking notice, because chatbots present a valuable and unique opportunity to provide better services and experiences for internal customers and suppliers. They can also support and assist procurement professionals with their daily activities, becoming virtual colleagues or consultants.

Of course, as with any new piece of technology, it is important not to succumb to the hype and to be aware of the technology’s limitations and constraints before deploying bots everywhere.

Value = Outcomes AND Experiences

The term “Conversational Commerce” was coined by Chris Messina in 2015. In his article, he focused on how messaging apps bring the point of sale to you. He first introduced the idea of assistants that people could interact with to buy things from a company. This is precisely what Amazon did and has popularized with Echo (the hardware) and Alexa (the AI-based assistant that “lives” inside Echo).

The idea of voice or text-based interactions with a bot can be extended to much more than B2C and to “buying things”. The value proposition of such technology is to digitise interactions and conversations while also making technology more accessible.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Gains in efficiency and effectiveness because of tailored and context-aware interactions. Chatbots remember everything, they know where you are, and can tap into data from all your other applications.
  • Less time and effort needed to learn how to use Procurement technology: conversations replace graphical user interfaces (everybody knows how to type or speak; no need to use explicit and codified instructions).
  • Interoperability and accessibility: users chat in the application or channel they prefer (SMS, Instant Messaging, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Alexa, Twitter, etc.). All bots leverage one common robust back-end system that processes and interprets natural language.

All in all, chatbots contribute to the creation of omni-channel and replicable but unique user experiences for stakeholders, suppliers, and for the Procurement teams themselves. Improving experiences is one of the pillars of the digital transformation of Procurement. In addition to delivering business benefits (savings, risk reduction, innovation, growth, etc.), it contributes to making procurement a supplier/customer/function of choice.

“Every time [customers] interact with a product, a service, a person, or an automated system, they judge how well the interaction helped them achieve their goals, how much effort they had to invest in the interaction, and how much they enjoyed the interaction.” Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning, Josh Bernoff, and Kerry Bodine

Use Case 1: Guided Buying (Chatbot as an Admin.)

This is a use case that is very close to B2C: a Procurement assistant is deployed to handle demands from the rest of the organisation in order to replace or “augment” traditional eProcurement solutions. Requesters interact with a bot that proposes solutions based on:

  • the needs identified during the conversation,
  • the Procurement strategy (preferred suppliers, preferred items, contracts in place),
  • other factors (purchasing history, real-time availability of products, context, etc.).

The approval process also happens via chat. If available, the chatbot adds the approver to the conversation, creating a group chat. Or, the Procurement Assistant opens a new one-to-one conversation with the relevant approver. Approvers can then ask the chatbot how much of the budget is left and then immediately approve/decline the request without leaving the chat. The same can happen for other process steps (order confirmations, goods receipts,etc.). The assistant initiates discussions to ensure the process is compliant and efficient.

Use Case 2: Operational Support (Chatbot As a Colleague/Consultant)

Chatbots can also be invaluable assistants in operational support. The most straightforward and immediate application: query management. A chatbot can become the single point of contact for internal and external queries about purchase orders, invoices, and much more. Several companies are already successfully using such capabilities in their Procurement portals to provide quick answers to a vast amount of queries, which leaves their teams with time to focus on  more complex requests and value-adding tasks.

It can even go further as the following scenario demonstrates:

Now, let’s compare what happened above with a scenario in the context of siloed organisations and where such technology wasn’t used. The purchaser would probably have learned about the earthquake on his way to work while checking the news on his smartphone. He would only have been able to assess the situation and prepare contingency plans once he arrived at work, losing valuable time. In may organisations this would take hours or even days because access to information is spread across multiple systems. This would result in a very different reaction time compared to the example above, where the cognitive agent reacted almost immediately after the event and prepared recommendations during the night.

Pitfalls and limitations

Relying on conversations instead of graphical  user interfaces has many benefits, especially for the mobile worker or casual user. However, there are limitations and challenges.

Voice-based conversations are the most natural ones and are also the most challenging from a technological perspective, especially in a B2B context. This is due, in part, to the international nature of business. For example, names of people or companies are not familiar words that a chatbot can quickly recognise, and to make things worse, they are often not in the same language as the one used to converse with the bot.

In addition to technical challenges like these that will likely be solved someday, there is a more human challenge: the conversational paradox. It explains why chatbots are still not widely used.  The paradox is that something very natural (a conversation) is done with another unusual counterpart (a machine), which turns the experience into a very unnatural one. So, when asking a chatbot something, the first questions people are confronted with are:

  • what instructions can “it” understand?
  • what words should I use to make sure I will be understood?

This represents  both a significant barrier to usage and a risk for adoption. It is therefore important to design and deploy chatbots with that in mind and:

  • not to use them as the only communication channel (it should be one among many others),
  • not to oversell the technology as being human-like (it inflates expectations and is a guarantee for failure),
  • to provide cues and guidance (like the menus/lists in the examples above)
  • to have a smooth and almost transparent hand-over to a real person if the machine fails to understand a user.

Conclusion

“By 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.” –Gartner

Conversational user interfaces are still a novelty, especially in B2B. However, they will become more widely used as technology makes further progress and people get more used to it. So, for Procurement, now is the time to investigate their potential as an additional way to provide a streamlined and personalized user experience both inside and outside of the function.

In addition to  delivering the right outcomes, experiences are also a crucial component of the value that the rest of the organisation gets from Procurement. Customer satisfaction is at stake.

The implementation of chatbots, like any other technology, has to be pragmatic, defined by clear use cases, and should not be viewed as a solution in itself. Chatbots will not solve all of an organisation’s problems, , but they can be used as a means to an end!

Time to learn how to say: “Hey, Procurement…”

“Wat the?” 5 things I learnt about Watson Supply Chain in Vegas

Rather than adopting the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mantra, I wanted to share some new insights into Watson that I gleaned at IBM’s mega thought leadership event – Think 2018.

1. Watson needs education – but it’s a fast learner!

When you think of Watson, you probably think of a computer that can win Jeopardy and has a PhD in a whole lot of things…but in reality, when Watson enters a new profession, it is like a child that needs to learn.

As humans, we learn from birth and can only pass on that knowledge to someone who in turn spends time learning.  AI, like Watson, is similar. It learns by gathering information (i.e. data) and interacting with humans.

You could liken Watson Supply Chain today to a  5th-grader, but its rate of growth is so exponential that it will have a Master’s Degree in Supply Chain within the next three months.

How? Because IBM’s own supply chain practitioners are training it daily by feeding their US$30Bn spend through Watson, pushing through millions of documents, data elements and hundreds of real life supply chain challenges that are resolved each day in the Watson Resolution room. Last year, Watson supported $71.7 billion in revenue, managed 150,000 contracts, and supported 20,000 professionals and 11,000 suppliers to ensure 5,000,000 deliveries were made.

With every insightful response and interaction, Watson is getting smarter. The more Watson is used, the more knowledgeable and insightful it becomes.

I first met Watson at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive conference in London last year. Catching up six months later at Think 2018 in Vegas… even I could see the growth.  Watson is now answering supply chain questions in natural language (plain English), and can curate what is most critical for you to pay attention to – alerting you to an impending disruption, immediately assessing the financial impact of the disruption and will help you drill down effectively to understanding what the issues are that you want your team to resolve, and quickly. Watson does this through opening a resolution room, quickly providing answers that typically reside in different system which reducing the time needed to write emails, make phone calls and follow-ups.

The team at IBM told me that their own implementation of Watson has seen disruption mitigation time reduced from days down to hours – or even minutes in some cases – which is critical when you’re moving inventory in the millions of dollars.

“Watson is brand new every day.  Every time you go away, it grows and becomes more interesting, because it is constantly learning.  You come into the office and there will be a new API. Watson doesn’t take a day off, it is adding knowledge and features 24/7/365.”

Watson Supply Chain Program Director, Rob Allan.

2. Watson Supply Chain is helping save lives

… literally. One of the first user test cases for Watson is a global philanthropic organisation working to improve vaccine distribution in Kenya. Local African pharmacies battle constant low stock of critical medical supplies due to lack of inventory and poor visibility across the supply chain.

It is still early days, but the IBM team is really motivated and engaged with this important humanitarian project. I caught up with IBM Watson Supply Chain’s Program Director Rob Allan, who was energised after a recent visit to Kenya. “It’s great to be putting Watson to work on such a worthwhile project. In Africa, it’s not uncommon for a mother to walk half a day to get medicines, with no guarantee that she will be able to secure what she needs. Our program will deliver vaccines and supplies to more than 4,000 delivery points in Africa. This should make a huge difference to access much needed healthcare. We really hope we can make an impact.”

3. The proof is in the pudding.

 Leading companies, like Lenovo, have started mapping their thinking supply chain journey with Watson…but the biggest proof of concept is IBM itself who has been using Watson to manage its multi-billion dollar global supply chain for the last 18 months.

We all know that necessity is the mother of invention and this was certainly the case for the creation of this product. You may not know that it was actually IBM’s internal supply chain team that created Watson Supply Chain Insights.

If you listen to this webinar, you will learn that IBM’s VP Supply Chain at that time, Joanne Wright, had an “aha” moment back in 2011. A series of unthinkable events prompted Joanne to look for a solution. The Japanese Tsunami had wiped out components globally, volcanic eruptions in Iceland disrupted Nordic freight lines and floods in Thailand destroyed disc drive head production.

Joanne’s team struggled to get the right data and she dreamt of a day where she could get a smartphone alert prioritising supply chain failures, present the relevant data and even suggest solutions.

It wasn’t perfect at first. The team had to find and clean the data and learned that you must train Watson … that can’t be underestimated. They consulted the Watson Health cancer team and understood how to train Watson to talk supply chain.

It would seem that it was worth the effort, as it helped IBM’s Supply Chain save millions in inventory and freight costs, not to mention IBM reduced their supply chain data retrieval times by 75% using Watson – and helped build the technology that will drive supply chain into Industry 4.0.

4. It’s not a big a deal as you think!

From everything I have learned in the last 12 months, implementing Watson Supply Chain may not be as onerous as you think. In terms of time to implement, from London, Raleigh to Vegas I have asked numerous executives and they’re all convinced that they can overlay Watson on existing clients’ systems and have a meaningful dashboard up and running within a month.

5. Blockchain … coming soon.

Having been a Queen B2B in the late 90’s, I have long known the value of having common language and data for taking friction out of business transactions. That’s why I’m excited about blockchain. There’s certainly been a lot of hype, and, of course, the bitcoin currency part is totally out of control… but the idea of having a common ledger or “one version of the truth” for all B2B transactions, with the ability for business partners to get in and view the same information, is very appealing.

Watch this space! IBM previewed a new, blockchain-based offering called “Shared Ledgers” at Think.

Taking the plunge…

There’s definitely been a lot of hype about Watson, but there are some real reasons to start your thinking supply chain journey, powered by AI.

In explaining why Lenovo took the plunge with Watson, Bobby Bernard said, “This space is evolving quickly.  We want to be an influencer about these new supply chain technologies.”

With most technology introductions, most organisations have been able to wait out the early adopters and jump on-board when the technology is mature and in widespread use.

But IBM is warning that this is not the case with AI. According to Watson Customer Engagement GM, Richard Hearn, “Everyday you’re not using AI is another day your competitor or upstart might be leveraging AI to learn, adapt and disrupt your market and you!”

Procurious Founder Tania Seary is an IBM Watson Customer Engagement Futurist and attended #think2018 as an #IBMPartner.

Would You Order A Tesla Electric Semi?

Elon Musk promised that the Tesla Semi reveal would “blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension”. The truck is certainly a game-changer for the logistics industry, but Tesla faces some steep challenges if it plans to win over the commercial market.

We can’t wait to see these trucks on the road. The sleek, bullet-train shaped cab of the Tesla Semis will be instantly recognisable once they hit the freeways in 2020 – if Tesla can overcome the production delays which are increasingly plaguing the organisation.

What can the Tesla Semi actually do?

Equipped with a battery instead of a diesel tank, the Tesla Semi is capable of travelling 804km (500 miles) on a single electric charge – even with a full 36,000kg load. Its autopilot system will go a long way towards eliminating human error in truck accidents, with the ability to automatically:

  • detect instability and adjust each wheel individually to make jack-knifing “impossible”
  • maintain a set speed and slow down in traffic
  • keep the vehicle in its lane with lane detection and lane departure warnings, and
  • lock onto other Tesla Semis to travel in a convoy.

Charging will take place via a planned, worldwide network of solar-powered “Megachargers”, which will be added to Tesla’s existing network of 2000 Supercharger stations which are in place to power Model S sedans. For drivers in a hurry, a 30-minute charge will enable 640km (nearly 400 miles).

Inside the cab, the driver’s seat is positioned in the centre of the space (which has full standing room), allowing better visibility. The seat is flanked on both sides by touch screens that provide blind spot monitoring and navigation. The truck also comes with tracking features to be used by a fleet manager for routing, monitoring and scheduling.

What’s the cost?

Unknown – Musk didn’t reveal the unit price on stage, but claimed the Tesla Semi would cost 20% less per mile than a diesel-powered truck. Whatever the price is, it’s only likely to fall in the future as regulations on diesel continue to tighten, charging infrastructure improves and the costs of batteries fall.

Despite the unknown price, pre-orders have started flowing in from companies including Wal-Mart (15 trucks), Meijer (4 trucks), and J.B. Hunt (“multiple trucks”).

Will we see these trucks on the road in 2020?

“If you order now, you get your truck in two years”, Musk said at the reveal. The company, however, has been known to over-promise and under-deliver when it comes to production deadlines. The Model 3 sedan, for example, has been beset by 18-month delays. While the company’s consumer fans are apparently willing to tolerate delays, commercial trucking companies are likely to be less patient. The Tesla Semi notably represents the company’s first foray into the commercial vehicle market.


In other news this week:

NAFTA Negotiations Struggle Onward

  • Reports from the NAFTA negotiations reveal that little progress has been made on U.S. demands that could potentially sink the 1994 trade pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
  • Officials are currently meeting in Mexico City for the fifth of seven planned rounds of talks. Upcoming presidential elections in Mexico mean that a deal needs to be reached by late March 2018.
  • New U.S. demands include a five-year sunset clause, and tightening of rules of origin to boost the North American content of autos. Other issues discussed include labour, gender, intellectual property, energy, and telecommunications.
  • While Mexican officials have said “the work is moving forward”, Canadian negotiators complained on Friday about inflexibility by the United States.

Read more: CBC News   

Calvin Klein Bypasses Retailers For Holiday Shopping

  • Calvin Klein is offering an exclusive line on Amazon only for Black Friday sales, in a move that reflects the increasing shift away from traditional stores.
  • The company has announced a holiday retail experience called “Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion”, with underwear and denim available exclusively in an online Amazon brand store and in Amazon pop-up shops in New York and Los Angeles through to December 31st.
  • Amazon’s pop-up stores pose another threat to brick-and-mortar retailers, in additional to the sales shift to online retail.

Read more: Wall Street Journal

New Procurement Benchmarking Report Released

  • APEX Analytix has released its “Procurement Leaders’ Benchmarking Report”, with best-in-class performance data from global organisations with a combined revenue of $2.3 trillion. The report reveals:
  • Only 10% of organisations have a combined P2P organization under common leadership
  • 65% of businesses don’t authenticate vendors against public domain data sources prior to payment
  • Only 14% capture verifiable details of a vendor’s CEO, CFO or principals.

Get the report here.

Take the Positive Procurement Pledge

Eight months after its launch, the International Standard for Sustainable Procurement (ISO 20400) has the potential to help procurement professionals stamp out the worst aspects of supply chains worldwide. But what can be done to create a groundswell of support for this voluntary Standard?   

ISO 20400 creates a standard that will enable every organisation in the world, regardless of size, industry, and location, to have a flexible guidance framework on sustainable procurement. The Standard includes seven core subjects, including the environment, fair operating practices, labour issues and human rights, with a range of subtopics under those such as discrimination and gender inequality.

While some businesses have jumped at the opportunity since its launch in April, the voluntary nature of the Standard has meant that many organisations are yet to do so.

Take the Pledge

Kim Andrews, Sustainability Advisor at Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), says that the earliest movers regarding ISO 20400 are the ones that will get ahead.

“The conversation has moved well beyond sustainability simply being the right thing to do”, Andrews says. “Business leaders now understand that there’s a whole spectrum of concrete benefits, ranging from building resilience, future-proofing your organisation, managing sustainability risks and getting ahead of future regulatory requirements.”

GECA has recognised the need to jump-start the conversation and education around ISO 20400. To do so, the organisation has launched a challenge for businesses, government agencies, industry groups and non-governmental organisations around the world to take the Positive Procurement Pledge. By taking the pledge, organisations agree to develop, document and implement a sustainable procurement policy to govern all purchasing decisions by 31 December 2020.

“This is a chance to differentiate yourself from the competition and demonstrate leadership and innovation within your sector”, says Andrews. “It makes a lot of sense from a risk-management perspective. Here in Australia, we’re dealing with gas supply problems, water shortages, rising temperatures in summer, and climate change directly affecting resources. Companies need to start looking at these factors, identifying their own risks and planning to build capacity against that, and the ISO 20400 provides the framework to do so.”

GECA provides certifications and ecolabels across a range of standards by working with organisations to ensure they comply across multiple criteria including environmental and social aspects.

“The ecolabels do the hard work for procurement”, says Andrews. “When you see our logo, it means that yes, you can trust that all of the compliance with legal aspects and international trade laws has been addressed. The global nature of supply chains means that having an internationally recognised label is crucial, which is why we’re part of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) that includes 27 members spread across 57 countries and territories.”

With so many certified products available, there has never been a better time for organisations to start their positive procurement journey.

A sustainability roadmap

Complying with ISO 20400 will take time and commitment, which is why Andrews recommends that companies follow a three-year plan to do so:

Year one: Understanding ISO 20400 and how it currently aligns with your own policies. Identifying the risks in the Standard that apply most to your organisation, and how ISO 20400 can be integrated into your ways of working.

Year two: Using the tools and resources available for companies to help build new policies aligning with ISO 20400, and strengthening policies already in existence. Identifying roadblocks such as contracts, trade agreements or a lack of understanding among suppliers.

Year three: Refinement of your organisations’ policies and seeing how far you’ve come in increasing resilience and purchasing certified products.

“Sustainable products are now a $3 trillion business”, Andrews says. “Taking the Pledge gives organisations the opportunity not only to do the right thing but to get ahead of the competition as the sustainability mandate grows.”

Interested in taking the Pledge? Learn more here. Kim Andrews will introduce the Positive Procurement Pledge to attendees at GovProcure2017 in Sydney on 6 December. Click here to learn more and download an event brochure.

How to Make Sure You’re Not Being Sold Smoke And Mirrors

Can you spot the difference between theoretical and real ROI? Basware’s Eric Wilson gives the run-down on preventing value leakage in Purchase-to Pay. 

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Buying enterprise software is no easy undertaking – there’s a lot of factors to consider, multiple stakeholders to please and a lot of due diligence that must happen to ensure you can get the ROI that is being promised. Unfortunately, in the world of Purchase to Pay (P2P), most systems available today cannot truly deliver the ROI that is being touted across marketing channels and promised by sales reps because of inherent limitations in the solution.

So, how can you be sure that you are looking at real numbers when comparing P2P solutions and not some fabricated figure that is only attainable on paper?

Ask these two questions

There are two primary questions you should ask when reviewing solutions and providers:

  1. Is the ROI real, or is it fabricated?

Often what happens in the solution seeking process is that a business case is written, either by an internal person, or a consultant, or a solution provider.  The business case includes all kinds of detail about the cost savings and efficiencies the company will achieve by implementing the solution. In the case of P2P, these cost savings are in things like reducing off-contract spend, negotiating better pricing, taking advantage of terms discounts, eliminating paper from the process, reducing or redeploying accounts payable (AP) processing headcount, and similar cost efficiencies. But there are real obstacles to achieving the level of savings being promised, and organisations need to choose a provider that can meet those challenges with real answers (more on overcoming these obstacles later).

2. Will the solution continue providing value in the future, or will it be a short-term win that sends you searching for a replacement system in a few short years?

Too often we are only looking five inches in front of our face when making a technology investment decision. The organisation is only looking at the current problem, not the long-term value. Little functional enhancements in P2P may offer some incremental value, but are not what the future of P2P is about. The future of P2P is all about deriving more value from centrally capturing and leveraging all that transactional data, all those POs and invoices, across millions of organisations. The future of P2P (and even today to a large extent) is about using applications sitting on top of that transactional data to create a competitive advantage. Apps like these will empower you to answer questions like: How am I doing against industry benchmarks? Are there opportunities for better leveraging spend in buying groups to get better pricing? Can I fund company growth initiatives through working capital optimization solutions?

Find out if the solution can process 100% of your transactions

Back to the obstacles we mention above – where do those come from and how can you overcome these challenges? Obstacles arise because of one simple factor: all the cost efficiencies in the business plan are assuming you get 100% of your purchasing and accounts payable (AP) transactions running through the system, and most P2P systems cannot accomplish that level of automation.

You must choose a provider that can help you achieve:

  • 100% Supplier On-Boarding

First, you have to get all of your suppliers connected to your P2P system.  If you don’t, you can’t access all available terms discounts; you can’t truly eliminate paper; you can’t achieve all of the supply chain efficiencies from the business case. Most P2P systems are only designed to connect to the sophisticated suppliers, who can send XML or EDI transactions. What about that long tail of mid-size and small suppliers, who aren’t that technologically advanced? What about those suppliers that still send paper invoices? You must have a solution for connecting them to your P2P system, and it has to be easy for them to do so.

  • 100% User Adoption

Secondly, all your procurement must be processed through the P2P solution, which means the end users have to use it – not just some of the end users, or most of the end users, but truly all of your end users have to be putting 100% of their purchasing through the system. You can’t achieve that status by mandating it, and you can’t even achieve it by having a procurement system that is “user friendly.” The P2P system has to actually be designed to fit seamlessly into the way that end user is already doing their job. In other words, employees use the procurement system because it is truly the easiest way to get the stuff they need, not because it’s been mandated by the procurement department.

  • 100% Spend Visibility

Lastly, all your invoices – for both direct and indirect spend – must be running through the P2P system. This is very rare in the reality of most P2P systems. Most P2P systems are only good at automating the invoices that originated from the indirect procurement solution. What about all your direct invoices? What about all your non-PO invoices, facilities invoices, invoices generated from manufacturing? If the P2P system can’t effectively handle 100% of your invoicing transactions, your ROI just got reduced tremendously, or perhaps even eliminated. The AP side of the P2P system must be a true AP transaction hub for all your invoices, regardless of type of invoice.

So, what does all of this culminate to in the end? One word: data. If the system you choose can deliver real ROI, you begin building a critical asset – a data set of all your financial data in one single location. Then, you can begin using innovative add-ons, like predictive/prescriptive analytics, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc. and see that ROI multiply.

Interested in getting started with Basware? Register for our weekly demo to see how Basware can help you build the business case for real ROI.

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Attention All Employees: Report For Microchipping

Does the idea of a corporate microchip implanted into your body make you squirm, or are you fascinated by the possibilities?  

andriano.cz/Shutterstock.com

“Hold your breath – one … two … [stab].”

A Wisconsin-based marketing company (Three Square Market) recently hired a piercing professional to inject microchips into 50 of its staff. The radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are encased in glass capsules about the size of a large grain of rice. They were injected into the fleshy part of participants’ hands, between the forefinger and thumb.

Sounds like something from a corporate dystopia, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, all of the microchipped individuals were entirely voluntary – along with a handful of journalists who were eager to see what it was like.

What can the microchips do?

At present, not much. It’s entirely internal to Three Square Market’s office, where microchipped staff can wave their hand to open doors, unlock computers and pay for items in the kiosk, provided the systems have the software installed and a contactless chip reader.

But in the future, the possibilities of human microchips are only limited by the scale of the technology’s implementation. Scannable items such as passports, drivers’ licenses and credit cards would no longer be necessary. Car keys could become a thing of the past, and of course home automation systems would be operable with a wave of the hand.

There’s a good example of microchips in play in Sweden, where a company named BioHax has implanted nearly 3000 customers with chips that enable them to ride the national rail system without having the show the conductor a ticket.

For data analysts, the potential flood of information from microchip use within a company is alluring – data could be collected every time an employee makes a purchase, enters the building, or uses a photocopier.

Can microchipped people be tracked remotely?

Not yet. The microchips aren’t a GPS device, but are entirely passive until they come within a few centimetres of a compatible reader, just like a bank card. Pet owners familiar with the technology know that microchipped pets can’t be located remotely if they go missing – instead, owners must wait until their pets are handed into a vet with a chip scanner.

Will employee microchips one day be compulsory?

At Three Square, over 60% of the company volunteered to be microchipped. The remaining 40% had a range of reasons for demurring, including a dislike of needles, a fear of having foreign objects in their bodies, and privacy concerns.

The concern is that if this technology becomes mainstream, a refusal to allow your company to embed you may lead to losing out on a promotion, raise, or simply being seen as “not a team player”. Forward thinking legislators in Pennsylvania have already introduced a bill to outlaw mandatory chip embedding, with a spokesperson saying: “If the tech is out there, what’s to stop an employer from saying either you do this, or you can’t work here anymore?”

Another issue is that with an increasingly mobile workforce, a chip that only works within the walls of a single organisation would become useless once that person leaves. One day, perhaps you would simply have your chip deactivated upon your exit interview and re-calibrated by your next employer, but this isn’t yet the case. Of those 50 volunteers at Three Square Market, it’s likely that a handful will move on to other roles within the next few months, but what becomes of their chips? The company won’t be happy with non-employees being able to open doors with a wave of their hands, so will the chips be (painfully) removed? Perhaps they will simply be deactivated, meaning users are left with a useless piece of “abandonware” technology embedded in their hands.


In other procurement news this week:

Are emerging professionals being paid more than experienced hands in procurement?

  • Based on 3808 responses across the United States, ISM’s 2017 Salary Survey revealed that emerging professionals (with under 9 years’ experience) are earning nearly $5000 more per annum than experienced professionals (with 9+ years).
  • This suggests that organisations are having to offer higher salaries to attract new talent.
  • The survey also revealed the following average salaries: CPOs – $259,340, VPs – $135,757, Directors – $153,347, Managers – $109,401.

Coupa appoints new Chief Marketing Officer

  • Cloud-based spend management company, Coupa Software, has announced that digital marketing executive and veteran software industry marketer Chandar Pattabhiram has joined the company as its chief marketing officer (CMO).
  • Named one of five CMOs to follow this year by LinkedIn, Pattabhiram has more than 23 years of experience in both fast-paced and large technology companies including Marketo, IBM, Badgeville, Cast Iron Systems, Jamcracker, and Anderson Consulting (now Accenture).

Intel to build a fleet of self-driving cars

  • Intel announced last week that it will build 100 high-automated cars to test self-driving technology.
  • The project will showcase Intel’s $15 billion acquisition of Mobileye, which closed this week. Israel-based Mobileye makes technology that helps vehicles “see”; collecting, analysing and transmitting data about the outside world.

Think Big, Think Business, Think People

“I’d rather regret the things I did, than the things I didn’t do.” Insights and wisdom from the career of Hans Melotte, Starbucks EVP Supply Chain and ISM Chair. 

Hans Melotte is less than one year into his “wonderful new adventure” leading Starbucks’ global supply chain. At the same time, he is nearing the end of his tenure as Chair of the ISM Board of Directors. We caught up with Melotte at #ISM2017 to discuss topics close to his heart, including the importance of intellectual curiosity for procurement and supply managers.

Melotte’s Mantra

“There’s a personal mantra I’ve always tried to adhere to,” says Melotte. “Think business, think big, think people.”

Think business: “Let’s not just daydream here – as a supply management professional, you’re not the centre of the world. Your role is all about enabling profitable growth for your company, and the only way to do that is for you to think in terms of business or customer centricity.”

Think big: “Starbucks’ aspiration is very bold, and very ambitious. If we agree our role is to help the company achieve its aspirations, then it’s up to us to be equally bold, or there will be asymmetry between the company agenda and our agenda.”

Melotte makes the point that thinking big should be inherent in any leadership position: “I don’t think any company would say it’s okay to be a mediocre leader.”

Think people:No matter what your agenda may be, everything starts and ends with people.” Melotte is delighted to see so many young professionals filling the halls of the #ISM2017 conference: “I’m so impressed by young professionals – their ambition, their resumes and their enthusiasm. It’s incredibly energising, and humbling as well.”

Moving between industries

Last year, Melotte took a significant cross-industry leap when he moved from Johnson & Johnson to Starbucks. His advice is that professionals – particularly those with high learning agility – should have confidence about moving between industries.

“There’s no right or wrong career. People have a tendency to stack-rank careers and give advice – ‘do this, don’t do that’. I believe you just have to follow your own passion and keep the fire in your belly lit. For me, this was all about starting a new adventure and seizing an opportunity that allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and grow. Life’s too short to not experiment by stepping off the proven path. I’d rather regret the things I did, than the things I didn’t do.”

The ISM Chairmanship

We asked Melotte why he took on the demanding role of ISM Chair, particularly during a time when he was transitioning his own career from J&J to Starbucks. “There was a pyramid of motives”, he replied. “I’d always recommend that people take on an outside-of-industry role. For me, one reason was that I felt grateful, and obligated to give back to the discipline. If the discipline has been good to you, be good to the discipline. Secondly, it has enabled me to access a lens to the world which allows an incredible amount of learning. The board itself is a wonderful network to be part of. Finally, there’s no denying that trying to be a worthy Chairman grows you as a person.”

What contribution is Melotte most proud of in his tenure as ISM Chair? “ISM is a well-known brand and institution, so it doesn’t need extra polish on the logo. What it does need is constant change and evolution – I took it as a great compliment from CEO Tom Derry when he told me over the phone that I’ve helped ISM think more strategically, and think more about the future.”

Intellectual curiosity

“You really owe it to yourself to constantly invest in yourself through continuous learning and continuous education,” says Melotte. “Learn from others, grow and develop. One of the pitfalls that companies step into is when they make statements like ‘we’re different, we’re unique, this doesn’t apply to us’. No matter how good you are as a company, you can always learn from other industries.”

“Intellectual curiosity means being on a learning journey that never ends. It should have no pause button.”

Image: Starbucks.com