Category Archives: Generation Procurement

How Do You Turn A Technical Expert Into A Leader Of The People?

How to turn technical staff into leaders

Procurious recently caught up with Karen Morley to discuss her upcoming presentation at the CIPS event in Melbourne, Australia. In the first part of our interview we learnt what separates good CPOs from great CPOs and discussed the impact truly great procurement leaders can have on their business. That article can be found <here>

Today, for the second part of our discussion with Karen, we’ll be covering the development of technical experts into leaders of people and pointing out what procurement professionals should be doing to continue their progression up the leadership ladder.

Procurious asks: In a recent LinkedIn Pulse article you published, you discussed the difficulties organisations face in transitioning technical experts into managers and leaders of people. Can you provide some commentary on that? 

Karen: I’m coaching a young woman at the moment who trained as an engineer. She was promoted into her first management role in 2011 but did her first leadership program in 2014. She has joking said that it would have been pretty handy if it had been done that the other way around.

It wasn’t until she got into the management program that she started to understand the concepts of leadership and the need to think differently when you are leading other people as opposed to when you are the functional expert or an individual contributor.

This sort of transitioning is something that I’m constantly working with people on.

When you are a functional expert, or an individual contributor, you are responsible only for yourself. But when you start managing other people or when you are moving to general management areas, you are the authorizer of the work that other people do. People are looking to you to be the authority figure and I think that is a very significant part of the transition.

Again, this is consistent with those leadership attributes we discussed earlier. People who are able to demonstrate all of those things, particularly presence, integrity and the professional advocacy are able to make a big difference.

Procurious: Do you feel that by moving technical experts into managerial positions we are promoting them towards failure rather than celebrating their specific expertise? 

Karen: I think this is an important point and I really wish we thought of career paths in quite different ways. I think that some people are great technical experts, who are vital to the success of an organization and perhaps we don’t see enough value in their technical expertise. In a sense, we run the risk of shutting down on their brilliance and technical capability by promoting them.

I would like to see organisations promoting and recognising people for their scientific, engineering or procurement expertise without necessarily having the need to move them into big leadership roles.

I think when you are in the front line leading, you still need to be across the functional areas in a very big way. You might even be doing some functional work as well as leading the team. When you get to a general management level, you lose the ability to have deep knowledge into the technicalities of the functional areas.

Promoting experts to managerial roles also presumes that everybody has the same level of ambition and everyone wants to move up the line as far as they can.

Some people just want to be really good at what they do. Some people want to be the best category manager out there. There are a lot of things you can do for these people to ultimately improve their performance and their value to your organisation. You can allow them to have a mentoring role with other category managers, perhaps outside of their own group. They can help to train or advise non-procurement people in category management and how they integrate into the business. It’s a huge opportunity not only for the employee but also for the business.

Procurious: Any final tips for procurement professionals out there looking to continue their progression up the procurement ladder?

Karen: Raise your game; raise your voice. I would highlight the importance of spending the time to focus on what I call the leadership narrative. So often people wander through their careers and things happen or don’t happen, maybe they set goals and maybe they don’t. But the idea with the leadership narrative is that you are thinking about where you want to end your career right now and being more focused on how to move towards that end goal.

Also, I would suggest, you need to understand your own identity, values and core purpose and you should look to create a link between those things and what you’re trying to achieve from a career perspective. These help your to retain your own authenticity and natural approach. Being able to talk about and articulate these things are critical steps for those trying to get ahead.

Read the first part of this article

To Make A Difference CPOs Must Have The X Factor

Do You Have The X Factor?

Ahead of the upcoming CIPS Australia event, Procurious caught up with Dr. Karen Morley, one of the event’s distinguished presenters. Karen has extensive experience working with organisations, teams and individuals to increase their leadership effectiveness.

Over her career Karen has led a broad range of leadership development, succession and talent management assignments. She emphasises evidence-based approaches tailored to suit the organisation/firm’s context.

Today Karen is talking about what makes great procurement leaders and how to successfully move technical procurement experts into managerial positions.

Procurious asks: At the upcoming CIPS Australia conference you will be discussing a piece of research you produced for The Faculty that looks to distinguish the very best CPOs from the rest. What would you say are the traits that separate the great CPO’s from good CPOs?

Karen: That’s right, I will be presenting the findings of our X Factor research. The report addresses the importance of great leaders in the procurement function.

To answer your question, I would say the two things that make the great CPOs stand out from the rest are their interpersonal leadership attributes and the way they go about linking these relationships to the commercial direction of the organisation.

It is clear that the really outstanding CPOs nail commercial leadership. This stems from the fact that they possess an in-depth understanding of the whole business, not just procurement. They are engaged across the entire organisation and are speaking to other functional leaders on a strategic level. They are engaging with the board and CEO on what has greatest strategic value, and they interpret this through their procurement initiatives.

Once that strategic dialogue has been established, the next critical step is to ensure these messages are reaching staff further down the chain. It’s here that interpersonal skills become critical. Great CPOs have very close relationships with the people that report into them. They are able to align the goals and expectations of the business to activities of their staff.

Procurious: Can you provide any insight into what difference these ‘great CPOs’ can make for their organisation?

A lot of organisations are still focused solely on cost cutting. It’s a vital part of what procurement teams do and this will certainly continue to be the case. I think the difference that really great CPOs make is around moving discussions and activities to a more strategic level. They are not simply focusing on what can be cut out, but where savings can be made and value added at the same time.

I think that’s a pretty rare mindset. A lot of procurement leaders talk about value, but only a few can actually deliver it.

The costs cutting initiatives will always be there. It’s something that you can do successfully for a couple of years and come up with some impressive saving numbers. But, the challenge comes in finding what’s next. Once you’ve delivered those initial savings, then what are you going to do? The great CPOs realise they need to understand the business broadly and create close relationships across functions to see where procurement can best add value.

Procurious talks to Mark Lamb of CIPS Australasia

Procurious interviews the mastermind behind CIPS Australasia – Mark Lamb.

Mark Lamb CIPS Australasia

Ahead of the CIPS Australasia 2015 Conference on 17 Sept, Procurious posed some brain-teasers to Mark Lamb, General Manager – Australasia.

Are you attending? We’ve created a CIPS Australasia Group to gather all the discussion from the day and Awards.

This is what Mark had to say:

Procurious asks: This year CIPS is running with a common theme – ‘Raise your game, raise your voice’. What’s the idea behind this, what messages are you hoping to convey?

Mark Lamb: ‘Raise your game, raise your voice’ will cover the capabilities you need to get out of your comfort zone and face future challenges head-on. The world is changing at such a pace, this profession has to evolve with it. Individually we are challenging professionals to ensure they have the right set of skills to be fit for the future. In addition we want this profession to raise its collective voice and start shouting about our success, about the true value we bring and the real difference we make.

We recognise that people require many difference aspects from conference. It’s important we offer practical advice, as well as inspiration and insight to help advance the profession and for our delegates and members to achieve personal success. 

Procurious: Does more need to be done to promote, encourage and develop pathways into a procurement career?

Mark: CIPS has done a huge amount of work in this area – the Be a Buyer website has given us a great platform to help direct people and showcase the exciting opportunities this profession has to offer them. We also encourage members to do their bit and become advocates. We have packs and presentations available so volunteers can go and deliver their own workshops in their local schools and colleges. CIPS has also been involved in the UK to develop the current level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Procurement and there is work underway to extend that now to level 4.

Procurious: Have you noticed a change in the CIPS membership in recent years, are the skills being brought to the table different to those from 5, 10 years prior?

Mark: Skill sets are changing all the time – again this fits with the Conference theme. We have to stay relevant – react to the world around us or we will cease to be a success differentiator and have other functions move in to our space. So yes we do see skill sets change – hence the reason we regularly review our own syllabus.

Procurious: What do supply chains have to do to ensure they avoid another Nannas Berries scandal?

Mark: In order to avoid such scandals, we all need to look beyond the first tier of our supply chain and ensure we have clear visibility of the second tier and beyond. Many organisations report that they only have sight over the first tier – this clearly is no longer enough.

Procurious: Speaking of ‘raising your voice’ do you think social media can play an important role in (dare we say it) modernising the profession?

Mark: I’m not sure that I would say social media will ‘modernise’ the profession, I happen to think the profession is already moving forward at a lightening pace. However, social media is a crucial business tool that we can embrace and use to enhance our communications, our building of communities and contacts and sharing of information generally. As a profession, or world never stops – we work across continents and time zones, our suppliers can be based anywhere in the world – social media can connect us all.

Are you attending the CIPS conference on 17 Sept? Join the discussion and meet fellow delegates on our CIPS Australasia Group page.

Procurement: Is it a young person’s game?

We speak to 30 Under 30 Winner Nicholas Ammaturo on attracting Millennials to the profession.

Nicholas Ammaturo ISM 30 Under 30 Star

Procurious recently quizzed Nicholas Ammaturo on making his mark in the world of supply chain management and procurement.

Nicholas is one of procurement’s rising stars, as demonstrated by his entry into ISM’s 30 Under 30 Program.

Procurious asks: The challenges facing the Millennial workforce. Competition, the contract vs. perm debate etc.

Nicholas: I think the biggest challenge facing the millennial workforce in Procurement, is the misconception about us not working hard. In most examples, Millennials in this industry work much harder than they get credit. They are often generalized based on age and experience. There needs to be more of a sense of development, support as well as recognition.

Procurious: What [skillset] do today’s professionals bring to the table, that perhaps the CPOs of yesterday lack?

Nicholas: In some cases, today’s professionals have been acclimated with technology and are more comfortable with it. This is a mass generalisation, but there is a certain acceptance by younger generations and their approach to technology. Social Media is powerful and I have seen many masters as every age, but it’s more seamless for today’s professionals. A lot of things were previously built on relationships alone; today there are multitudes of tools from e-procurement to BI dashboards for KPI’s, in addition to the importance of relationships.

Procurious: What needs to be done to transform the profession, and bring it up-to-date?

Nicholas: Someone needs to address the Universities.

I made an attempt to connect with all the local schools and preach about Supply Chain/Procurement, but I got little traction.

I would like someone to back me and get more programs created, make this industry more relevant so we can build the bench. I think the industry is “sexy” and up-to-date; we just need to get the word out.

Procurious: Do you think it’s fair to say that most CPOs are running scared of social media?

Nicholas: Too funny, as I read this question and see my response above. I don’t think they are running. I see many of them embrace is. Some are fluent in LinkedIn and Twitter and put me to shame! I think they are the minority, so perhaps there needs to be more CPO’s out there who embrace it.

Procurious: How important is it to have a clearly defined brand today?

Nicholas: This is my goal every day. I am my own company. I happen to provide my services, but at the end of the day, you need to build your skills and advance your career.

Procurious: Let’s talk innovation – who/what is innovating in the procurement technology space right now?

Nicholas: Who isn’t playing in this space today? I can’t tell you how many cold calls I get. The most innovative thing I’ve seen is ScoutRFP. Smart guys who are going to shake the space up. I am looking forward to their success. I think Amazon innovation will drive innovation everywhere. They are continually re-paving some of the landscape in business and others are feeding off them, this will be no different than this industry.

Procurious: Is more innovation needed in the building and maintaining of supplier relationships?

Nicholas: No, I think more communication is needed. A simple phone call can solve everything; sometimes people are so keen to shoot of an email and are lose the personal connection. I think innovation and technology will keep people honest during the process, but communication and transparency are needed to make it more of a partnership than your traditional supplier/buyer arrangement.

Procurious: Would you recommend the ’30 Under 30 Program’ to those looking for a route into the profession?

ISM & ThomasNet’s 30 Under 30 Program is promising for young professionals. They have taken a stance to create awareness around the industry and have continued to make the investment. I was honored to receive the recognition. I think its motivating to see the others who share my passion and regardless of their education or role, they all love what they do. There was certainly a common theme when I reviewed all the winners and met them in person, most fell into the industry by chance and most will never leave it. We love it.

CEO of ISM on the Importance of Social Media in Procurement

Welcome back to the final instalment of our recent chat with ISM CEO, Tom Derry.

Social media is key to procurement's future

 

To wrap up our chat with Tom, we discussed the important role that social media plays in the development of the procurement and supply chains professions.

Procurious asks: At Procurious we’re passionate about how social media and connecting a global network of procurement and supply chain professionals can improve the profile of our function, promote knowledge sharing and ultimately enable people be better at their jobs. Do you see a role for social media in the development of procurement and supply chain professionals?

Tom Derry: I honestly I don’t see how anybody could plan to be an effective professional in our field without using the social media tool kit. There are lots of reasons for this. Social media is a vital part of the way we work. The opportunities for procurement and supply chain professionals in social media are huge.

Social media is critical for connecting procurement professionals. It allows people to share information in a private and confidential manner and to leverage a global knowledge base to get answers to questions you just wouldn’t get otherwise.

Being connected through social media means people can understand and monitor the risks that are present in their markets. I’ve heard stories of our members getting procurement market information off Twitter, learning about labor unrest in their overseas supply chains and fires at supplier manufacturing facilities. All of this information is available in real-time through social media.

Twitter itself is becoming such an important source of data for the procurement and supply chain function.

More and more, we need to be able to contact people and pull on extended networks to gain reliable and current information.

I believe that social networks will continue to grow in importance over the coming years, particularly as younger people, who are more familiar with social media, move into managerial roles.

I really don’t see how you could be an effective procurement or supply chain professional without fully engaging in the social media space.

I think Procurious is right where it needs to be. By connecting procurement people across the globe, you are absolutely building on the right idea at the right time and adding greatly to the function. With the exception of possibly finance, I can’t think of a more globalised profession than procurement and supply chain. I certainly can’t see how procurement and supply professionals could even consider creating a successful career, without having an active presence on social media.

Want to read more from Tom?

Bridging the procurement talent gap with ISM CEO Tom Derry
Tom Derry on Innovating from your supply base

Bridging the Procurement Talent Gap with ISM CEO Tom Derry

Welcome back to the Second Part of our interview with the CEO of ISM, Tom Derry. In Part One Tom spoke about the changes occurring within our function and outlined the vast opportunities a career in procurement and supply chain presents.

Today we’re discussing talent, more precisely, the procurement talent gap.

How to bridge the procurement talent gap

Procurious asks: We hear a lot of talk about the procurement ‘talent gap’. ISM itself has called this out as a potential issue facing the function. As a representative industry body, do you feel that your organisation has a role to play in closing this gap?

Tom: Within the United States we’re witnessing a demographic shift. A huge number of people will be retiring within the next ten years. By 2025, the so-called millennial generation, people born from 1980 onwards, will constitute three quarters of the global work force. So clearly, there is a lot of knowledge that is about to leave the workforce. We need to ensure that knowledge is transferred across to the younger generation.

Also, the rate at which technologies and the markets move now, means we need to be constantly up-skilling just to stay up to speed.

The skills issue real, it’s a challenge that most companies are aware of.

ISM wants to be the facilitator that addresses this skills gap and allows procurement and supply chain teams to succeed well into the future. We’ve recently developed a model that enables us to effectively do this; it’s called the Mastery Model.

The Mastery Model provides a strategic approach that allows procurement and supply chain teams to deepen their expertise. The model is designed to drive organisational success through increasing staff capability.

Whether you are early in your career, just entering in the field, or a highly skilled supply chain professional, the Mastery Model can be used to make sure you continue to build up your experience and expertise.

The model defines 16 major competencies and 69 sub-competencies, tailored to four different career levels: essentials, experienced, leadership and executive. Users complete a self-assessment process; this is linked to their own personal aspirations. The Mastery Model then maps out a competency based learning and development program that will enable the user to develop the skills required for their desired role.

The Mastery Model takes the mystery out of understanding the steps you need to make the next jump in your career. 

Procurious: It sounds like a great way to open up a conversation between an employee and a manager around personal development planning.

Tom: Absolutely, staff members can determine the sort of role or position they are after, fill out the self assessment section and be provided with a run down of the areas they need to develop in order to be effective in their desired role. This can lead to very constructive conversation between employees and their managers.

I have to point it out that the tool is multidirectional. We’ve had employees approach managers after having completed the assessment. Managers too, have used the Mastery Model as means to set a development path for their staff and we’ve also seen managers and employees sitting down together to work through the assessment to create a personal development plan.

Procurious: Can you give us some insight and background into how the Mastery Model was developed?

Tom: As an organisation, ISM has been certifying competency for a great number of years. Over this time, we’ve developed an amazing database detailing the evolution of peoples skills within a procurement and supply chain context. It’s at the core of what we do as an organisation.

Now what we’ve done, is build upon that knowledge base to develop a tool that can be actively put into practice in the supply chain and procurement community. An advisory committee that was comprised of procurement professional, practioners and internal staff here at ISM developed the tool. Working together with these great professionals, we’ve been able to develop a model that strategically maps and matches training materials to your career experience and aspirations.

Procurious: What sort of time commitment does an assessment on the ISM Mastery Model require?

Tom: Well, that really depends on individual company, but it’s not a long process. In one thirty-minute session most people would be be able to complete it. What we encourage, is for people to do it in stages; complete your own sections then take it to your manager and get their input and review.

At a conference back in June, I had three young professionals to come up in front of the audience I was addressing. I asked them specifically about their career goals “where are you headed?” I asked. As the conversation flowed, we did their assessments live on the website, we drove down into specific competencies and consulted their levels of experience in certain areas. At the end of the process, a series of resources popped up that showed them what they needed to do to get to where they wanted to go in their careers.

After that, they were in a position to go back to their bosses and say “here are some areas I can work on to get better at my job”. I think that’s pretty powerful.

Procurious: The Mastery Model sounds like a fantastic tool. How can people out there access it.

Tom: It’s simple, just go to the ISM website. If you’ve already got an account with us, just log in and away you go. If you don’t have an account yet, you can get one right there on the spot.

Stay tuned for part three of Tom Derry’s chat with Procurious where Tom will talk us through the importance of social media in the procurement and supply chain space.

If you would like more information on ISM’s Mastery Model you can find it here.

The Supply Chain Entrepreneurial Spirit is Alive and Well

The Supply Chain Entrepreneurial Spirit is alive and well

When analyzing my connections on Twitter, one of the biggest words in my tag cloud describing my followers, next to business, marketing and supply chain, is “entrepreneur.” I can understand the desire to associate oneself with this word as it is often linked to success-oriented character traits such as tenacity, optimism, passion and creativity. Luckily for supply chain processes, the boom in creative thinkers and doers has flooded into the industry, and new ways to achieve supply chain excellence are sprouting up all around us.

I partly credit the hit reality series Shark Tank (or Dragons Den for those in the UK) for the explosion of entrepreneurs out there today. During the show, businesspeople pitch their unique ideas to “shark” investors in hopes of receiving funds to help bring their new product or service ideas to the market. The majority of questions asked by the investors come back to supply chain processes (Where are you producing? What does your distribution network look like? How much stock do you have on hand?). In more recent episodes, people have been pitching their supply chain as a competitive advantage, including messages of transparency and promises of speedy delivery.

In recent weeks I have personally noticed the impact of the entrepreneurial spirit on the supply chain industry and want to share a few examples:

Procurious – Sharing is Caring

The final encouragement to write this article came after being asked by Procurious to contribute to the platform’s blog. This platform, designed exclusively for procurement and supply chain professionals, embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of next generation managers and encourages the sharing of information to increase collaboration and learning opportunities. Founding Chairman, Tania Seary, recognized a need (a fragmented industry in need of a makeover), gathered a small team of professionals, and created a platform that has now grown to over 6000 users worldwide in just over one year. The role of social media in supply chain processes will continue to grow, and Procurious has established itself as an early-mover.

Logistics: Who can deliver faster, and cheaper?

As consumer expectations grow, especially in the field of E-commerce, so too does the stress on logistics processes. Today’s “I want it now (and cheap)” culture has led to an influx of crowdsourced delivery service start-ups in the logistics industry. Basically, people bring items to other people while en route to a particular destination. This concept follows in the footsteps of car sharing, apartment sharing and other aspects of today’s sharing economy. The first company name that comes to mind when discussing this topic is Uber, which started as a ride-sharing service and has since expanded into a multi-faceted transportation company, with tests such as Uber Fresh (food order delivery) and Uber Rush (courier package delivery) under its belt.

Creative delivery solutions are however not just limited to startups. Back in April, Amazon and Audi announced their plans to develop a service that would allow for the delivery of a package directly to a car’s trunk.

This is definitely a sector to keep an eye on in the coming months.

BlueBlox & Coke Life

Back in June, I had the privilege of meeting two supply chain entrepreneurs at the European Supply Chain and Logistics Summit in Barcelona. It was great participating in an event that encouraged innovative thinking and included industry entrepreneurs.

The first encounter was with Dorothy Diedericks, founder and CEO of BlueBlox. Dorothy recognized a need in the supply chain industry, namely the closure of the gap between the potential in emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe – and multinationals that want to conduct business there, but can’t due to numerous challenges. BlueBlox takes a modular approach to addressing these cross-border challenges, creating more visibility and increasing compliance.

Secondly, I sat-in on a presentation by Simon Berry from ColaLife. Back in 2008, Simon Berry and his wife Jane started an online “movement” which turned into an official charity in the UK in 2011. Essentially, Simon found it hard to believe that Coca-Cola was available in the majority of developing countries, but access to basic medicines was scarce. He had the idea of tapping into private sector supply chains to distribute anti-diarrhoea kits in Zambia, where 1 in 9 children die before their 5th birthday due to preventable causes such as dehydration from diarrhoea. After years of progress and innovation, it is safe to say that the entrepreneurial spirit of Simon and his small team has saved many lives.

WalMart Buyers meet “made in the USA” suppliers

In an attempt to improve its image and product assortment, Wal-Mart recently set-up a “shark-tank-like” pitch process that connected entrepreneurs with company buyers. Obtaining shelf-space at retail is not easy, let alone getting face-to-face time to pitch a product, so many businesses took advantage of this opportunity.

The pursuit of U.S. suppliers helps Wal-Mart gain some transparency in its supply chain and gives consumers more options both online and in U.S. retail locations. After all, according to Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart’s head of global customer insights, where a product is manufactured serves as a major deciding factor in purchasing decisions, second only to price. This forward thinking buyer-supplier set-up truly embraced the entrepreneurial spirit.

Closing Words

It is great to see the entrepreneurial spirit take over an industry that can use some more excitement and positive press coverage. It is safe to say that the supply chain industry has come a long way thanks to the tenacity, optimism, passion and creativity of industry professionals. The emergence and proliferation of connected devices, smart factories, and the sharing economy are sure to set the stage for more exciting times in supply chain and logistics.

Have you recently come across some exciting new projects? What are some examples of entrepreneurship you have seen in the industry?

How To Get Ahead: 5 More Key Skills For Generation Y

5 more skills for Generation Y

If you are part of Generation Y (born between the mid-1980s and 2000) and have ambitions to get ahead in procurement, you can expect great opportunities ahead. In Part 1 of this article we suggested five critical skills you can acquire through training and experience.

This time we look at other important abilities that are concerned more with communication, and your approach and attitude to your job. Success in procurement is not only about systems and processes; it’s about how we handle people.

Recently, a leading chief procurement officer said that up to 80 per cent of his time is spent influencing internal stakeholders. What does that mean for the ambitious young procurement professional? It means, besides having top class technical skills and experience, to get ahead you need to be a sales person as well.

1. Listen more, talk less

Sales training includes advice on how to be an active listener. In addition to giving your full attention to the speaker, it is important that you are also seen to be listening. You can convey interest to a speaker by maintaining eye contact, nodding or uttering regular words of encouragement to continue (such as “uh-huh”, “yes”, and “go on”), even if you do not fully agree. By giving this verbal and non-verbal ‘feedback”, the person speaking will communicate more easily and openly with you.

Inter-personal relationships with internal customers and stakeholders can always be improved. You can develop a reputation for being approachable and for solving your users’ routine problems. Ultimately, attitude speaks volumes.

2. The power of persuasion

It is important to position yourself as a credible, trustworthy and knowledgeable person if you want people to follow your way of thinking. Understanding human nature and the principles of persuasion and influence can help create better working relationships.

Persuasion means presenting your case so that you can sway opinions or motivate a decision, usually by appealing to people’s emotions and sense of logic. Dr Robert Cialdini, the author of the popular book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, talks about reciprocity. Your internal customers are more likely to be persuaded if you can give them something personalised or unexpected in return. Remember the old adage: under promise and over deliver.

3. Change management

Much of a procurement professional’s time is spent in managing change, sometimes without realising it, Conventional wisdom says 20 per cent of people will embrace change, 60 per cent will go along with it, but 20 per cent will outright reject it. Knowing how to handle the bottom 20 per cent can save you time, money and stress.

The implications of ignoring stakeholders that have a vested interest in a given solution cause extra work, aggravation and a poor result. Remind yourself that they are always thinking of this acronym: WIIFM – what’s in it for me?

Knowing how to approach people and make them feel important is a skill that will work for you forever. Stakeholder management is developing into a core competency. Dale Carnegie wrote a classic in 1937 called How to Win Friends and Influence People which is still completely relevant today. He teaches the principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated. He also emphasises fundamental techniques for handling people without making them feel manipulated.

4. Networking

Networking is about creating sustainable relationships over time, and the best ones involve considerable up-front investment. It helps to see your network as a living organism that needs food and nurturing to sustain it. You need to be proactive in helping it flourish. Technology can help in this, but ultimately it is a human process. Making time in the canteen, corridor or coffee break to grow your network will be time well spent.

Learn to help others with contacts, experience and knowledge before helping yourself. Many people fail at networking because it’s obvious they are only after what they can get out of it.

Networking is a two-way street. The potential rewards are high. We all know how our work grinds to a halt when the ‘network is down’, so make sure yours is up 100 per cent of the time.

5. Be a Team Player

Working in teams is a fact of life in procurement. It can be rewarding but at times, it can also be difficult and downright frustrating. Whether you are the leader or just an active participant, you can improve the experience for both yourself and other team members by expressing your thoughts clearly and directly in a positive, confident, and respectful manner.

Good team players, despite their differences, figure out ways to work together to solve problems.

Much of the communication within teams takes place informally. Keep other team members in the loop with information and expertise, this helps get the job done and prevents surprises.

Elaine Porteous is a B2B freelance writer with specific focus on careers in procurement and supply chain.

Read part 1: Five key skills for Generation Y

ISM CEO Tom Derry on Innovating From Your Supply Base

ISM CEO Tom Derry speaks to Procurious
ISM CEO Tom Derry speaks to Procurious

Last week Procurious was fortunate enough to catch up with Tom Derry, the CEO of the Institute for Supply Management. In this, the first-part of our three-part interview, Tom discusses the changes he’s witnessed in the function over recent years and highlights the unique opportunities that make procurement and supply chain such great fields to work in.

Procurious asks: For those of us that aren’t familiar with ISM, perhaps you could provide some background to the organisation and its goals.

Tom Derry: ISM is the world’s first and largest procurement and supply chain network. We’ve recently celebrated our 100th anniversary. We specialise in providing training and development for the procurement and supply chain community.

We provide customised training to organisations to guide them through their procurement and supply chain strategies.

While we’re based in the US, we are a truly global organisation. The second largest group of ISM certifications holders are in China, followed closely by South Korea. Our global growth is impressive with more than 50 per cent of certification now coming from outside of the United States.

Procurious: You’ve held the role of CEO at ISM for three years now, how have you seen the profession progress over that time?

Tom: There are a couple of obvious themes here. The first is that, it’s true that the role of procurement and supply chain professionals has become more strategic. Companies are competing more and more on the basis of how well they run their supply chains. I think it’s fair to say that the 20th century was the century in which marketing was the driving force behind organisational success. More recently, we’ve seen the ability to outcompete in the supply chain space as the critical factor for achieving business success. This is particularly true in our increasingly globalised economy.

Another shift I’ve witnessed is a move away from our focus on pure cost reduction. Over the last 30 years, as global economies have developed, manufacturing has become more globally distributed. The clear motivation for this was to find lower cost producers, lower labour costs, labour inputs and lower cost of materials. It was obvious that, for a time, we were all focussed on cost reduction. We’ve done a great job of capturing that opportunity but now it’s time to shift our focus.

Now, we need to focus on how procurement and supply chain can impact the top line. The answer appears to be through the innovation that lies within our supply bases.

A major change in the way that companies are doing business today is in the way they are organised. Today’s firms aren’t vertically integrated any more. If you’re going to get innovation in a modern business, it’s going to come from your supply base.

Some companies still do it the old fashioned way, but the new model is – we are a marketing company – we’ve got a brand and we don’t manufacture anything – we outsource manufacturing.

In this model, innovation really does have to come from the supply base. To that end, there needs to be a shift away from beating-up suppliers on cost – towards working with them on generating innovation and growth.

Procurious: Now looking to the future, what is it that most excites you about the procurement and supply chain profession? Where do you think our opportunities lie?

Tom: If I was 25 again, I couldn’t think of a field that I would personally find more fascinating than a corporate career in procurement and supply chain.

Here’s an opportunity to be based in almost any region you choose. You’ll learn new cultures and dramatically impact the success of the business that you work for. You’ll be working on some of the most interesting and creative projects your firm is involved in.

In other professions, like accounting, you have a strong understanding of what you’ll be doing every day. In supply chain, one day you’re going to be making the business case for locating a manufacturing facility in a new location. The next day, you may be dealing with political risk and its impact on operations in a given geography or getting an opportunity to talk to a prospective new supplier with some amazing new technology. So you’re really on the forefront of the business, both in its current positioning and also in the way it plans for the future.

This means that new skills need to be deployed. The level of business acumen has to be much higher than it was historically. You have to understand how markets are moving and what is happening with the commodities you source and the services you buy in a global context. You have to understand the trends of foreign exchange. You have to understand where your company is headed, and what markets you want to compete in in the future and position your company to be able to do that in three to five years.

In the past, procurement and supply chain have been seen as backward looking functions. It was our job to get the most effective pricing put in place to support the existing legacy business processes. Now we are thinking about and acting on the future of our businesses. Business acumen, understanding and strategic planning are three skills that I believe are critical for successful procurement professionals.

Look out for Part 2 of our interview with Tom Derry next week.

The War for Talent – Battleground Asia

The Faculty Roundtable lands in Singapore

The Faculty Roundtable lands in Singapore

The Faculty was in Singapore this week for the launch of its Asian Roundtable Meetings. This series of events brings together a carefully selected group of elite procurement leaders to share experiences and insights within the specific context of the Asian procurement environment.

Wednesday’s inaugural event focused primarily on talent attraction and retention, an area of great debate across the region.

Attendees stressed that competition for talent not only occurs between firms but also within the functions of your own business. “Procurement isn’t always the first choice” said one CPO.

Also addressed, was the need for a shift in the competencies of procurement staff. It’s time to move away from traditional purchasing practices and take a more strategic commercial perspective on our business challenges. The assembled procurement leaders agreed that now the function is being seen as a source of ongoing revenue, there is a requirement to shift our competencies in order to fully realise this opportunity.

Attracting top procurement in Asia

One of the key challenges outlined when it comes to attracting top procurement talent in Asia was the need to appeal to a very broad spectrum of employees. One CPO detailed that his team comprised of ten different nationalities, from Chinese Singaporean nationals through to European expats and that each of the groups present in the workplace had a different set of factors that motivated and drove them to succeed at work. There simply isn’t a single management technique that can be effectively applied to all members of such multinational teams.

Another interesting point raised throughout the day was the reluctance of employees to accept failure. One CPO pointed out that “if innovation and growth are the goal, you have to experiment and experimenting involves failing”. This is not something that sits easily within the context of some Asian cultures.

Guest speaker Tom Verghese, who has contributed to the Procurious blog in the past, went into great detail highlighting the importance of cultural sensitivities within the diverse workplaces of Asia.

Tom stressed that procurement bosses need to be cognisant of the affinity bias (selecting employees from a similar background to one’s self) when constructing teams. Operating in a culturally diverse market requires forming opinions based on the inputs of a culturally diverse team.

Mentoring too was highlighted as an area of critical importance for the development of talent within the Asian procurement space. The Faculty has committed to work with the attendees of the Asian Roundtable to establish a mentoring network that will ensure the development of the next generations of Asian procurement leaders.

The Faculty Asian Roundtable will be returning to Singapore in September to kick off its mentoring program and once again connect the region’s brightest procurement minds. To find out how your organisation can get involved get in touch with Max Goonan or Chris Roe at The Faculty.