Category Archives: Generation Procurement

How To Debrief Suppliers… And Why You Need To

Debriefing after a procurement process is an important chance for reflection and giving feedback to bidders. Follow these 5 tips to ensure you debrief efficiently.


Debriefing respondents after a procurement process can seem a thankless task – and provokes an audible sigh. 

This is not because there is no love for the market, it’s because you’ve just come out of a lengthy, action-packed process. A queue of the next million projects to do is staring right at you. 

Why should you debrief respondents? 

Debriefs are an easy way to add value to future projects. They develop market capability and the capacity of the market to understand you as a buyer. They offer you a chance for self-reflection and learning.

Read on for 5 tips on how to nail debriefs

1. Provide feedback in the outcome letter

The place to start in debriefing respondents is with a general statement of strengths and weakness in the outcome letter you send after the process. 

This is often enough for respondents to understand where they lost out. It can save you the time of having to engage with every company who participated in the process. Sometimes some simple, short feedback is all that is needed.

For example:

Thank you for submitting your response for [insert project name] opportunity. Your submission has been assessed by an evaluation panel and we are writing to inform you that you have not been successful on this occasion. The panel noted team composition and relevant experience as particular strengths in your response. However, the response lacked evidence in regards to methodology and project timelines. This is critical for us to assess how the outcomes will be achieved. 

2. Run a solid process

Following a solid process with structured evaluation and accompanying notes forms the basis of a good debrief. There is little point running around after the process trying to gather information. Good luck trying to get stakeholders engaged to have a conversation about something that is months old! 

Tip: when individual evaluators are marking the responses, make sure they are instructed to write statements of strengths and weakness as they go. Also, follow this up in a moderation meeting with the evaluation panel and ask them to summarise one positive and one weakness before moving on to discuss the next supplier. 

This will be captured in the minutes. Further down the track any member of your team can access the file and select enough information to create a debrief.

3. Don’t wing it

Have a template and complete it before speaking to a respondent. Two templates are helpful to fill out. 

One is a template that guides the conversation with the respondent and is for internal eyes only. The other is a stripped-down version of the same template that can be released to the respondent after the conversation. 

So, what should be in it?

  • An outline of the process undertaken
  • How many responses you received from the market and how many passed the first stage of compliance
  • A reminder that the purpose of the debrief is to provide feedback on their response, not an opportunity to relitigate the process that has been undertaken. Feedback provided is based on the respondent’s performance against other responses and not necessarily a direct criticism of them – rather, it’s a statement of how they performed against others 
  • Where they ranked and what the scores were (removing the names of any other suppliers)
  • (Optional) You can include a range of the pricing responses but I tend to just provide the ranking
  • How they performed against each evaluation criterion
  • The strength and weakness statements from the evaluation panel
  • Ask the respondent for feedback on the process and how your company performed
  • Remind them of how they can keep an eye out for future opportunities to work with your company

4. Involve the right people

Make sure you choose who to take into the debrief wisely. 

For example, the subject matter expert may not have the best social skills. Choose someone who has the right expertise and the right level of authority. 

Most respondents are happy to have feedback. It is very rare that I have had aggressive or angry suppliers. The mitigation strategy to combat this is to be prepared and restate that this is not a chance to relitigate the process. 

Save time and conduct debriefs over the phone.

5. Don’t forget the winner!

Debrief the successful respondent to ensure they understand what it was about their bid that made them stand out from the crowd. 

It helps to build the relationship before the contract is inked.

Recently I was involved in a project in which the financial breakdown with the response was so detailed that it helped to add weight to their response. It helped to evidence that they could back up their claims.

When delivering this news during contract negotiations, it was surprising to the successful company. They said it was extremely valuable for them to understand what we value and the reasons why. They stated it would help their future bids as it improves understanding of the buyer’s viewpoint.

So keep these 5 tips in mind to ensure you deliver swift and effective debriefs to suppliers.

Will They Still Want You, When You’re 64?

How can you make sure you’re not overlooked for jobs and other opportunities if you want to keep working in your 60s and 70s?


When Paul McCartney wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” as a teenager, he probably thought he would be retired in his mid-to-late 60s.

Instead he has continued to work well into his 70s and will be 78 when he takes to the stage at Glastonbury 2020.

McCartney is not alone: things have changed since 1967 when the Beatles released the hit on the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band.

Today more than 1 in 10 of those aged 65 is still working and the number is set to soar.

The scrapping of the default retirement age (which makes it harder to put us out to pasture) and an increase in the state pension age (which is set to rise to 67, and then 68), means growing numbers will be working until they are nearly 70.

There is only one problem: who will employ us?

Employment drops off from the age of 50, making the lyric ‘Will you still need me?’ take on a whole new meaning.

We all need to mind the age gap

While a lucky few might have quit the ‘rat race’ because they can afford to retire comfortably, many of the 3 in 10 in the 50-64 age group who are not in employment are not out of work through choice – the majority might not be able to work due to ill health, disability or caring commitments while others may struggle to find work because of their age.

Even among those still in employment, many are working part-time or in jobs that do not reflect their expertise and experience.

So how can you remain relevant in a world of work that still does not always value the wisdom of age?

De-age – from an early age

Age discrimination is illegal. But it happens – even if it is not deliberate but a case of unconscious bias.

So it is important to appear younger than you are if you do not want to be written off.

As it is easy to search for information about you online (yes – nearly every employer now checks out candidates before inviting them for interview), start thinking about what information is being posted about you or that you are posting yourself well before you hit 50.

  • Never, ever put your age or date of birth on any job applications, CVs or social media profiles. Employers cannot ask your age, so don’t let them find out.
  • Get rid of anything on your CV and online professional profiles that screams ‘ancient’. Change your qualifications from O Levels to GCSEs. Change your polytechnic to its new university name. Delete jobs from the 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Clean up your social media profile and change your settings to private. A series of postings of you at your 55th or 60th birthday might inadvertently lead to a recruiter thinking you are ‘past it’.
  • Also change your mindset. If you ‘think’ you are no longer able to go for that new job or that promotion, other people will think the same, too. One in 4 professionals over the age of 55 believe it’s too late to change things according to research from Think Forward Consulting – they are wrong. You just need to overcome the fear of rejection that often comes with age.

Get your words right

Job adverts often specify that candidates need to be ‘hungry’, ‘ambitious’, ‘energetic’, ‘driven’, ‘innovative’, ‘dynamic’ or other words automatically associated with youth. Include a few of these in your job applications and your personal statement to reflect the fact that you still have the passion to succeed.

At the same time avoid descriptions that sound ‘ageing’. Stating that you have ‘decades’ of experience is unnecessary. It is far better to detail what you have achieved not how long it took you!

Emphasise your adaptability

In a world of constant change, adaptability is a key skill yet one that is not always associated with more mature members of the workforce.

So, make a point of highlighting ways in which you have adapted to – or perhaps anticipated – change. Managing a transformation project, changing career path to reflect a change in the market or demonstrating how you have been innovative, will all prove to potential employers that you can ‘move with the times’ and remain relevant.

Show you can learn new skills

Forget the saying that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and prove that you can learn new skills. Make a habit of doing courses in the latest technology, remain inquisitive about new developments in your sector and demonstrate that you have a curiosity about the future – it will show the enthusiasm that employers are looking for (and associate with younger members of staff).

Have a Plan B (for business) . . .

One of the most popular ways to remain in employment later in your career is to employ yourself.

In fact, the number of self-employed people aged 65 years and older more than doubled between 2009 and 2017.

You can start with a sideline (provided it does not conflict with your day job), grow your venture and then do it full-time if it’s a success – or enjoy it as a part-time role if you plan to flexi-retire.

. . . Or be a master of your own destiny

While employers are often reluctant to hire more mature staff as full-time permanent employees, the same does not apply to consultants, contractors, freelance project managers, interim managers and non-executive directors: they are hired for their expertise, so the longer they have been being doing the job the better. In fact, 2 in 3 interims are aged 50–70+.

While you will have to give up the day job to start in one of these roles, the pay can often more than compensate for the lack of job security. Interims, for example, earn £500 to £1,500 a day. See the Institute of Interim Managers for more information: https://www.iim.org.uk/knowledge/.

So if you’re planning to carry on working well past when you’re 64 and into your 70s, like Paul, follow these tips to get your plans in order and make your profile attractive.

The One Where Friends Taught Procurement How To Negotiate

The six main characters in Friends may have given us a lot of laughs over the years, but they can also teach procurement professionals a few things about the fine art of negotiation. 


In this article, we look back on seven episodes in which Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Monica showed procurement what to do and (more often than not) what not to do when negotiating with suppliers. 

1. Having a back-up plan (or two)

In The One With The Proposal, Phoebe reveals to Rachel that she has a pact with Joey to get married if they’re both still single at 40. When Rachel tries to secure Ross as her back-up, he reveals that he is also committed to Phoebe, who rightly points out ‘it’s good sense to back up your back-up!’

A single-source supply situation is a dangerous place for procurement professionals to find themselves. Firstly, it doesn’t account for any risk factors such as trade tariffs, political and economic instability or natural disasters that could gravely impact the efficiency of your supply chain. Secondly, no matter what your benchmarking data tells you about costing, having one supplier puts procurement in a vulnerable negotiating position, particularly when the time comes for contract renewals.

2. The importance of being realistic

In The One After Vegas, Rachel and Ross accidentally get married following a particularly big night out in Sin City. And Ross, desperate to avoid his third divorce in two years, embarks on a ludicrous campaign to convince Rachel to stay married to him. During their negotiation, he first points out the proximity of the ‘Mrs’ and ‘Miss’ checkboxes on forms, (‘How is this going to affect you? … It’s right next to it!’) and then proceeds to offer her all the gifts from the wedding registry.

Before entering into negotiations, procurement professionals must clearly define their strategy, be realistic about their expectations and treat their suppliers fairly. Pushing your suppliers too hard can be counterproductive and destroy the potential value to be gained in long-term strategic relationships.

3. Being flexible

In The One With Ross’s Denial, Monica and Chandler attempt to negotiate what to do with their spare bedroom. Monica dreams of a beautiful guest room whilst Chandler wants to create an old-school arcade. The discussion ultimately reveals Monica’s unwillingness to compromise on anything related to the apartment’s interior. 

Rigid supplier onboarding can be time-consuming and costly, particularly for SMEs. Similarly, inflexible payment terms might eliminate certain suppliers who depend on fast payments. For procurement to successfully engage with a diverse supplier base and drive innovation through their suppliers, processes need to be adaptable and accommodating.

4. Controlling your temper

In The One With Ross’s Wedding, Ross and Emily’s parents squabble over wedding costs, a conversation that eventually descends into a sparring match (‘I could kill you with my thumb’). Ross is forced to intervene and mediate the discussions, threatening both couples with ‘no grandchildren!’ if they cannot reach an understanding.

Focusing solely on costs during a negotiation is a recipe for conflict. In today’s world, procurement depends on long-lasting and meaningful relationships with suppliers to drive creativity, sustainability and efficiency. When tensions are running particularly high, it might be worth bringing in a mediator or involving senior leadership, but this is not a decision to be taken lightly by procurement – the basis of your supplier relationship will determine its future dynamic.

5. Doing your homework

In The One With The Embryos, Chandler and Joey agree to get rid of their pet chick and duck if they win the lightning round of Ross’s quiz. Rachel and Monica end up losing the game (and their apartment) simply because they don’t know Chandler’s job title (‘he’s a transponster!’)

It might be tempting to save yourself preparation time and come to a supplier meeting unprepared with the intention to ‘wing it’. But be warned, it will come back to bite you when you’re unable to answer key questions, stalling for time, and don’t have your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) prepared. 

To guarantee the best outcome, it’s important to do your homework and understand the supplier’s aspirations, weaknesses and objectives. Negotiation expert Erich Rifenburgh recommends that your preparation time should be at least three times longer than the time spent in the negotiation itself. 

6. Being efficient

In The One With The Jellyfish, Ross reveals he never finished reading a letter from Rachel that outlined her reconciliation terms. ‘I was tired, and you had rambled on for eighteen pages . . . front and back!’ The letter’s complexity and ambiguity results in the couple breaking up (yet again). 

If you’ve reached the end of a negotiation and the terms are unclear, or some of the participants are dissatisfied, something’s gone wrong.

Ideally, both parties will walk away with complete clarity on the agreement in terms of costings, deliverables and timelines, which should all be reconfirmed at the end of a negotiation. Procurement professionals must also question whether the final agreement has longevity and be certain that no value has been left on the table.

7. Knowing your limits

 In The One With The Ring, Chandler identifies the perfect engagement ring for Monica and is determined to secure it at all costs. When another shopper snaps the ring up first, Chandler and Phoebe go to huge lengths to negotiate its return, unwilling to compromise on an unsuitable alternative. 

Being flexible doesn’t mean being a pushover, and it certainly doesn’t mean giving in to pressure or abandoning your company’s values or protocols for the sake of a quick negotiation win. To deliver top-quality products and services, procurement professionals must know their limits and stick by them, without compromising on maintaining supplier relationships. It’s a fine line to walk, but the payoff is worth it. You’ll earn respect from your suppliers, maintain integrity and keep your internal stakeholders happy.

Get in touch with UNA to discuss how a Group Purchasing Organisation can leverage the power of bulk purchasing to negotiate on your behalf. 

Taking Culture to a New Dimension at Work

Now we have the tools to help us understand culture, how are we going to apply this learning? Are you ready to take cultural learning into your workplace?

taking culture to work
Photo by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash

Over the last 12 months we’ve been looking at an in-depth discussion of Culture, Cultural Intelligence (CQ), what it is, and the impact it can have when working across cultures. Given this is the last post in this series, I thought it would be a great chance to review some of the key areas we have covered.

Over the series we have explored the 4 components of CQ – Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action. We have explored the implications of using these components to work more effectively across culture, distance and time.

We have also looked at the attributes and behaviours that accompany each of the components to give further insight into the specific ways we can address and increase our CQ.

Here is a summary of the components and their attributes.

  1. CQ Drive – The interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. It consists of intrinsic (i.e. meaningful work) and extrinsic interests (ie financial rewards) and the drive to learn and understand cultures, their norms and behaviours.
  2. CQ Knowledge – Understanding cultural similarities and differences. This includes knowledge of the values, norms and practices in different cultural settings.
  3. CQ Strategy – Awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions. It incorporates how we apply our CQ Knowledge insights.
  4. CQ Action – The ability to appropriately adapt verbal and non-verbal communication in cross cultural situations, including how well we can adapt when things don’t go according to plan.

Looking into the Cultural Mirror

Another aspect that we have delved into is the 9 dimensions of culture which were discussed in relation to the cultural mirror below.

By investing time to understand some of the key characteristics and notice similarities and differences within cultures, it is possible to identify areas that we need to be aware of. Having that awareness can assist us in navigating relationships across culture and help us avoid tensions and misunderstandings which can undermine success.

So where does all this leave us??

Applying Culture in the Workplace

Here are some thoughts and suggestions on how we can best incorporate the learning topics and apply it in the workplace.

First, have some self-awareness and be mindful of our own preferences and behaviours and how this impacts our world view. Second, be open to receiving and giving feedback on our interactions so as to improve effectiveness.

Third, be willing to experiment, possibly fail,  learn from our experiences and try again thus fostering resilience. Fourth, trust your intuition to gauge a situation and have that guide your responses and actions.

Fifth, have a sense of humour and be able to laugh at yourself, this is an important aspect of developing maturity. Sixth, cultivate the mindset of a student so that you are constantly learning and re-learning lessons.

Seventh, be grateful for all the gifts and rich interactions you have in your life.

It is my hope that in sharing this information and some practical strategies, that you are able to glean some insight into ways you can maximise your effectiveness and engage in meaningful and fulfilling relationships with people coming from a different view points.

Go forth!

A Decade In Review: Procurement In 2020

Is procurement less, just as, or more important this decade than the last? Find out as we take a walk down memory lane…

It’s the dawn of a new decade in procurement, and goodness me, how things have changed. From the digitisation of just about everything, to the introduction of big data, 2020 looks vastly different than 2010 did. 

As a former CPO and now Principal Advisor at Procurious, I’ve been at the coalface at what I can only describe as seismic changes to our profession. 

But have all the changes we’ve seen been good changes? Are we now poised to deliver more value, or will we struggle to do more with less? And are we more relevant than ever, or is technology replacing us? Here are my key observations from the last decade – and what we need to do to stay valuable going forward:

We became captivated with compliance

The last decade started for me with a bang – I was promoted to a procurement leadership role and I was, for the first time in my career, excited to be able to effect real, lasting and meaningful change. I felt that procurement could achieve much more than pumping out stock-standard contracts and controlling third-party spend. 

Yet my excitement was short-lived. As I looked around me, I found that, as a function, the procurement community just didn’t seem interested in broader, value-adding gains. Their focus was still quite shortsighted; they seemed captivated by processes and fixated on compliance. Cost-savings, contracts and the financial bottom line seemed to be the only thing on their mind.

Data made us better advisors (but some of us are still catching up)

‘Don’t ever do a job a machine can do,’ said our grandparents, as they rejoiced at the invention of the calculator. Suddenly, this advice was ringing true in our profession – we had eProcurement, cloud computing, and AI to take away a lot of our administrative work. What came in its place was the ability to deliver new and intriguing insights to our stakeholders quickly, without having to spend hours on Excel.  

As emails replaced purchase order pads, eCatalogues replaced supplier brochures and the data started to flow through, we had the information to inform our strategies and priorities. As a result, our advice and cost savings rapidly improved. 

Not everyone was a fan, though. Many of us became concerned with job stability, and some believed that technology had created more issues than it solved.

From cost reduction to value creation

As the decade progressed, our relentless focus on cost reduction started to feel like a grind, not least for suppliers who, feeling bullied by our negotiation techniques, began to speak out and cry ‘no more.’ These changes meant that the expectations of our stakeholders started to move away from a focus purely on cost.

The good news was that our newly automated processes helped us to shift our attention from cost-savings to value creation. Before we knew it, we’d automated our entire P2P process, freeing us up to build strategic partnerships with both our suppliers and stakeholders. 

In uncertain business and economic times, the focus on value creation was exactly what our profession needed. It lifted us from a ‘necessary evil’ in some people’s eyes to a strategic partner. On the whole, though, that transformation is far from complete, and many of us still have some work to do in this regard.

It’s more about the people than ever

Behind the analysis, behind the processes, and behind the cost-savings, procurement has always been a people profession. And perhaps the best news of the decade is that with all the change, with all the uncertainty and with the new and heightened expectations, procurement professionals have shown themselves to be resilient, optimistic and future-focused. 

We’ve embraced digital disruption. We’ve welcomed, with open arms, technology that makes us more efficient, and we’ve also onboarded stakeholders and suppliers to use that technology, meaning we’re adding even more value. 

But we’ve also realised where technology stops and that is, sometimes, with communication. We now understand how critical our ‘soft skills’ are at work, and that technology can’t replace the influential conversations we need to have to convince an operational manager to change suppliers, or make a case to buy more sustainably. Technology is transformative, but then again, so is our ability to negotiate.

As for 2020 and beyond?

With digitisation and automation now happening at breakneck speed, many of us have embraced the change but fear what’s coming next. Soon, virtual assistants will abound, collaborative marketplaces will proliferate. What value will we add, then? 

The answer is plenty. One thing we’ve learnt from the last decade is that in uncertain times, human relationships prevail, and that’s where our strength and expertise shine through. Armed with our best people skills, the sky is really the limit for procurement. As a function, 2020 and beyond could see us having more strategic influence than ever before. 

What other changes have you seen in the last decade? Do you think that procurement is less, just as, or more important this decade than last? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Helen Mackenzie is a Principal Advisor at Procurious and a former senior leader in UK public procurement. Connect with her on LinkedIn and join Procurious to hear more of her unique insights.

Why Buying From Social Enterprises Is As Easy As A, B, C

If you’re looking to boost the sustainability of your category plan, try seeking out social-enterprise suppliers. While we all know change can be challenging, and some buyers are reluctant to shift from tried and tested suppliers, this simple A, B, C approach empowers you to make things happen – and support social enterprise with buying power.

Do you want a quick and easy way to get more sustainability into your category plan?

How about an approach that’s focused on suppliers rather than the scope of what you buy? The answer is to ‘buy social’ – purchase from a supplier that is also a social enterprise.

B2B social enterprises are increasing in number both here in the UK and globally. They’re a great way to promote sustainability because:

  • Social enterprises have a positive social or environmental impact at the heart of their business model.
  • Their scale is significant – they make a contribution of £60 billion to the United Kingdom’s GDP.
  • Social enterprises are more diverse in their leadership and workforce, and we all know that diversity is proven to help businesses succeed and grow.
  • Building social value into your supply chain can help your business attract and retain talent, enhance your brand and access new sources of innovation.

And the good news is that buying social is as easy as A, B, C!

A: Analyse Your Spend

Given that there are more than 100,000 social enterprise suppliers in the UK alone, there’s every chance you’ve already got them in your spend. Make sure you analyse spend before you start to source new suppliers – and get your Buy Social KPIs off to a flying start.

Once you have identified that existing spend, why not amplify the impact by highlighting these suppliers to your buyers and getting even more spend with them if you can?

Sometimes you will find them in unusual areas. One of my teams identified that we already used a local social enterprise for kettles and other household goods. We decided to direct more of our buyers to that cause, which meant increased revenues for that supplier – and all it took was an email from our procurement team.

B: Baby-Steps Approach Gets Quick Wins On The Board

Sometimes changing suppliers is a difficult thing to do. People can be reluctant to shift their spend away from suppliers they’ve used for years. So a baby-steps approach could help by giving your team an early success story to build momentum. Try starting with a low-risk category of spending.

Janette Evans-Turner, Head of Sourcing & Procurement at Zurich Insurance, quite literally took a ‘baby-steps approach’ when engaging with the social enterprise From Babies With Love. Members of her team identified a social enterprise they could use in a low-risk category of spend to ensure that there was a minimum of fuss – and they were able to redirect their spend from a mainstream retailer to a social enterprise.

‘It was easy to approach the buying department as the change didn’t seem that big,’ Janette reports. ‘When we explained to our colleagues in human resources the double whammy of benefits that the change to buying social with From Babies with Love could bring, they were chomping at the bit to get started!’

C: Commit To A Challenge

The final step in the process is a commitment to a target that you want to achieve. Companies such as Amey have put in place ambitious targets to increase their spend with social enterprise and the results have been impressive.

They signed up to the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, developed and delivered by Social Enterprise UK, to support this:

  • The Buy Social Corporate Challenge programme, launched in April 2016, is designed to make it as easy as possible to buy from social enterprise suppliers.
  • There are 24 high-profile businesses signed up to the Buy Social Corporate Challenge representing a broad range of industries – including built environment, financial services, technology and communications.
  • More than £65 million was spent with social enterprise suppliers by Buy Social Corporate Challenge partners in the first three years of the programme.
  • 100% of Buy Social Corporate Challenge partners in the UK rated the quality of their social enterprise suppliers as comparable or better than existing suppliers.

So why not follow this A, B, C process and see if you can start buying from a social enterprise or increase your spend with one today? Find out more about the Buy Social Corporate Challenge here.

5 Reasons Why Santa is the Ultimate Procurement Professional

Think you’re at the peak of the procurement and supply chain profession? Think again – Santa is the ultimate procurement professional (festively speaking…).

santa
Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

We’re fast approaching the end of 2019. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and consider what we have all achieved. We can look at all our successes, the lessons we have learned and everything that we will do in 2020. Perhaps there’s even a plan for how to take the next big step to that coveted leadership role in the profession.

But at this time of year, we all need to remember that our efforts pale in comparison to one individual. As we start thinking about the office party season, holidays and general festivities, this individual is only just revving up into top gear. Their whole year is driving towards this moment, but they are as prepared as they ever are.

And, while displaying all the skills we seek as a top procurement professional, they’ll deliver on all the wishes and promises that have been made. We are, of course, talking about…Santa. Father Christmas. Pére Noël. Svaty Mikolas. Kris Kringle.

Of course, there are other brilliant procurement professionals out there. But, at least in a festive setting, there’s none like Santa Claus for getting the job done. Here are my 5 reasons why:

1. Santa always has the right specification

Working tirelessly with his external (children, parents) and internal (elves, Mrs. Claus) stakeholders, he makes sure the specification is right. It can’t be a coincidence that children get exactly what they ask for, year after year. It all comes down to knowing your customers and then passing on the full specification to your manufacturing department/elves.

2. His Logistics operation is second to none

The global population is currently 7.7 billion people. Of this, an estimated 1.9 billion are children. Let’s assume then that the average household contains 4 people – this means Santa will visit 1.9 billion homes.

If there are 2 presents per child, this is a whopping 3.8 billion presents, delivered at a rate of 158.3 million per hour, 2.6 million present per minute. All of this with a team of 9 reindeer and one sleigh. Without the best logistics division and the latest technology, there’s no way all the presents are delivered to the correct child!

3. Belief, Influence, Leadership

Santa wields influence that most procurement leaders can only dream of. A following of magical, semi-magical and mortal people and creatures all follow him willingly. They work for the entire year to prepare for one day, then start again for the following year almost immediately.

Forming part of this leadership is belief. As we all know well (or at least we should) Santa’s sleigh and reindeer don’t fly without the belief in him and the Christmas spirit. And given he’s not missing deliveries to your house, it’s safe to assume this belief is still going strong!

4. Santa can always get the right price

Short of being some form of crazy, benevolent trillionaire (with superlative investments), Santa needs to be a dynamite negotiator or run the best RFQs. How else could he source all the toys or raw materials without bankrupting himself each year?

And like the best procurement professional, he doesn’t pass any cost increases on to his customers but works out the best deals to keep costs down so his end customers (the parents, of course!) don’t have to foot the bill.

5. He’s got the Nice-Naughty List on blockchain

How else do you create a fully traceable, immutable record of who has been naughty and nice in any given year? Santa needs to be able to trust the information he has on all behaviours, without the possibility that it has been compromised. Plus, it’s also handy for making sure that all the sourcing he does is ethical and sustainable…

So, if you have ambitions for a higher office in 2020, you’d do worse than looking at Santa as a good example to follow. And if all else fails, at least you’ll have a sunnier outlook on life! Ho, ho, ho!

Closing the Procurement Talent Gap, One GPO at a Time

How do you recruit and retain top talent in procurement? You need to go beyond what’s possible for any one person and leverage the power of communities and technology.

talent gap
Photo from Pixabay on Pexels

If you ask a classroom of children what they want to be when they grow up, you may get answers like “astronaut,” “football player,” “doctor,” or “ballerina,” but it’s rare you’ll hear “procurement professional.” 

Let’s face it, procurement and indirect sourcing are not exactly sexy areas, at least not from the eyes of an outsider. There are few people who know exactly how much value procurement generates for a business and want to invest further in the organisation.

From strategic sourcing and supplier risk management, to contract negotiations and risk mitigation, procurement plays an essential role in any large business.

Talent Shortages Threaten Procurement’s Function

Despite this incredibly important function that procurement fulfils, consultancy firm KPMG reports that the procurement talent shortage is real and only getting worse. Though it might be enlightening to dive into the question of why such a shortage exists, the reality is that it does and this is impacting businesses today.

Ultimately, we need to figure out how to work around it. 

If hiring more procurement professionals is not an option, one obvious procurement strategy for growth is to scale your existing procurement team’s reach as much as possible given the limited resources. There are several ways to do this, from outsourcing work to procurement consulting firms to implementing supplier consolidation strategies.

As an example, Group Purchasing Organisations, also known as GPOs, are gaining popularity as a way to increase the impact of procurement without adding headcount. 

GPOs Are Low-Cost, Low-Effort Alternatives to Adding Headcount

A GPO is an organisation built to leverage the purchasing power of several businesses to take advantage of high-volume discounts from suppliers. The idea being that utilising the collective buying power of its members creates benefits for both vendors who can grow their business and buying organisations that want to get better deals.

In consumer terms, this strategic buying is like purchasing at Costco or a similar bulk discount store. 

GPOs are a great way to centralise procurement functions and scale the impact that procurement can create without the headache of reorganising departments within a company. They allow companies to prevent spend leakage, get better terms and discounting, and outsource the risk and time associated with contract negotiation, not to mention the time saved when employees no longer have to run RFPs for all good and services.

Members of GPOs report significant savings of up to 25, 30, or even 40 per cent of their previously best-negotiated pricing agreements. 

Becoming a GPO Member May Even Help with Recruiting

An added bonus and secondary reason to add a GPO membership to your procurement solutions strategy is that it can help you attract new procurement talent. When potential candidates learn the business is a member, it tells them that cost savings, strategic buying, and risk management are high priorities for your business. A

t a bare minimum, this helps inspire confidence in the business because company leaders are prioritising ways to protect the company and better manage its spend.

It also tells a potential employee that when they come to work in your procurement organisation, they won’t be stuck in the dark ages hunting down RFPs or the latest version of a contract.

Ultimately, an investment in a GPO gives your business a competitive advantage over similar companies looking to hire that may not have considered procurement innovation a priority. And if procurement experts are in such short supply, this could be a serious leg-up. 

The Future of Talent in Procurement Is Uncharted

Even if you don’t opt to go with a group purchasing organisation, there are several ways to make your procurement organisation more attractive to potential new recruits. Investing in new procurement technology, professional training initiatives, innovative recruitment marketing, and more are all ways you can up the business’ desirability as a career driver for future candidates. 

That said, GPOs are a highly manageable and attractive way to both drive savings and efficiency in the short term while signalling to candidates in the longer term that procurement is a priority.

If you’re looking for an efficient and practical way to get the most out of every dollar while scaling your procurement organisation, a GPO is definitely worth a second look. 

Could Group Purchasing Organisations be Procurement’s Endgame?

Procurement’s fight for strategic recognition could be seen as a fight for its very survival. Could it be time to assemble around a collective idea before the endgame starts?

Photo by JESHOOTS.com from Pexels

Have you heard the one about procurement being outsourced as a function? Where organisations finally tired of not getting the value they need and hand over the reins to an external third-party to run the show? If that sounded like the lead in to a joke, it wasn’t intended as one.

Procurement needs to face up to the reality that if it can’t add value as it promises, then organisations may choose another route for the function. But where there is adversity, there are heroes to stand up. And with Group Purchasing Organisations (GPOs), these heroes are closer than you think!

Outsourcing Procurement

At the turn of the decade there was an increasing number of organisations picking this as their procurement strategy. More recently, and famously, in 2015, PepsiCo took the decision to outsource its marketing procurement function to much fanfare and no small amount of worry for the global profession.

It’s hard to argue against the benefits of this approach too, with cost reduction, increased leverage for discounts and economies of scale just 3 from a wide list. But don’t polish your CVs to find new career just yet. What if there was a way to get the benefits above, but retain control on your procurement and even free up time to allow for more strategic input.

The Avengers and Procurement?

Let’s look at this through a lens the majority of people will be familiar with. The meteoric success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is based around the ability to tell a variety of different, diverse stories, but then tie up all of these strands into one, larger story.

The collective vision is why the first film in the series, Iron Man (2008) took $585 million at the box office, while the latest, Avengers: Endgame (2019) has taken in $2.796 billion. And counting.

From a procurement point of view, this collective vision comes in the form of Group Purchasing Organisations (GPO). There are numerous similarities between the Avengers and GPOs (bear with me!), but here are the top 3:

1. Leadership

The Avengers is a collection of larger-than-life superheroes, all with their own agendas, quirks and egos. What allows them to be an effective force in the fight against evil is that they have great leadership. Step forward Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America.

What makes “Cap” a born leader is that he sets aside his own feelings and agenda for the greater good. He makes sure that every member of the team has a voice, even down to the smallest or newest ones.

And that is one of the key aspects of a GPO. It enables every procurement organisation to have access to the network, facilitating benefits that wouldn’t have been possible on their own.  These benefits, such as cost optimisation and savings via economies of scale go on to a different sort of leadership – cost leadership.

2. The Power of the Collective

Individually the Avengers were all quite stellar.  As Tony Stark himself puts it in The Avengers (2012), “a demi-god; a super-soldier, a living legend who actually lives up to the legend, a man with breathtaking anger-management issues, a couple of master assassins”, not forgetting Iron Man himself.

Individually, they were heroes, but none of them strong enough to defeat a larger enemy. Only by working together, and in Endgame having a second shot at it, did they possess sufficient power to be victorious.

A GPO ties together the varied procurement strategies of its member organisations, increasing the buying power of the collective.  The centralised procurement would provide great benefits without giving up any of the control.

3. Data & Analysis

Where would the Avengers be without the technology of Stark Industries, the nation of Wakanda or the power of Hulk? Just as important is the data provided by SHIELD and analysis that they rely on for running missions, frequently broken down for them by Vision.

A GPO has access to all the data that a procurement organisation would require for strategic buying, in the form of procurement solutions. Analytics organisations, like Sourcing Insights, provide all the back up required for successful sourcing, while ensuring that everything is managed against real-time, accurate data.

Procurement – Assemble!

It might not be the most obvious of matches, but there’s no doubt that for many organisations this could be a huge win. Far from ceding control of their procurement, they can pass over the transactional and highly resource-intensive aspects to someone else, meaning their procurement team can be strategic, like SHIELD.

So maybe it’s time for us all to embrace our inner superhero and take a step towards a collective vision of the future. Who knows, we might all together be able to save our great profession before the Endgame arrives!

If you would like to learn more about the super benefits of Group Purchasing Organisations and how they could assist with your savings agenda, please visit UNA.com today!

Three Reasons I’m Excited About Blockchain

Blockchain – is it the answer to procurement and supply chain’s prayers?  Or is it over hyped, another ‘technological innovation’ that promises much and delivers little?

blockchain
Photo by Mert Guller on Unsplash

I must admit I was leaning towards the pessimistic camp – when were those great use cases really going to happen?  I signed up for the Procurious webinar to find out more about how this new technology is impacting supply chains – and what I learned was very exciting:

Blockchain Lets You Focus on What Is Important

One of the pieces of work we all wish would disappear from the day job is the time-consuming process of supplier onboarding. 

Webinar guest IBM Sterling’s Shari Diaz told us about a blockchain-enabled onboarding process that would “give the procurement professional all that time back”. 

Describing immutable records that the supplier would update themselves and third-party validation of accreditation, Shari encouraged us to think of a world where master data management had transferred from the buyer to the supplier.

Imagine what you could do if you didn’t have to worry about more mundane tasks within your role and could instead give more focus and energy to strategic projects!

A New Way of Measuring Value

One way that Professor Olinga Ta’eed is taking forward the development of a blockchain is through the not for profit Transnational Transaction Procurement Foundation.  Since its launch earlier in 2019 the TPP foundation has grown to over 165,000 members, impressive numbers! 

Olinga set out the goals of the TPP as being practical – to “fathom out” use cases like how we can capture and report things like intangible assets using blockchain to give a broader picture of an organisation’s true value.  

Olinga thinks this new reporting will be liberating for procurement professionals allowing a more strategic focus to the role. 

How much more value could we demonstrate if we could capture and record it?

A Re-Alignment of Values for the 21st Century

Both webinar guests thought that the greatest potential for blockchain will be the ability to articulate the alignment of values.  As we move into a world where values are becoming more important, blockchain is going to provide the traceability and trackability that consumers demand. 

As Shari observed “there’s a huge trend for supply chain to be able to demonstrate their values and consumers are starting to speak with their dollar”.

Shari also stressed that blockchain can enable our eco systems to work together.  “Enterprises [typically] depend on partners for 65 per cent of the value they deliver to their customers.  The more collaborative and connected we are – the more efficient and effective we’re going to be”.

So, blockchain technology is ready to give us time back, new ways of measuring value and for our values to be realigned. 

Our webinar guests have given procurement and supply cause to remain optimistic and in fact licence to dare to dream big.

I’ll leave the last words to Professor Ta’eed,

“Blockchain will light up the path for procurement to align with mankind – making procurement and supply chain the single greatest instrument to change the world”.

A recording of the Procurious-IBM Webinar – Blockchain Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer – with panel members Shari Diaz, IBM Sterling, Professor Olinga Ta’eed and host Tania Seary, Procurious is available here