Category Archives: Generation Procurement

The 4 Most Common Blockchain Criticisms – Busted

Blockchain technology is often criticised for its perceived limitations. But how much truth is there behind the accusations? 

We’re told that Blockchain is overhyped, it’s no big deal, it has some serious limitations and, whilst it might be a pretty cool piece of technology, it’s certainly not the procurement disruptor that it’s hailed to be…

But Jack Shaw, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the American Blockchain Council disagrees…

“Blockchain technology is currently criticised for several different limitations:

1. Security 

One of the questions I most commonly get is ‘If blockchain is un-hackable, how is it that there are all these stories of people having their bitcoin stolen?’

The reason for this is that bitcoin and many other digital currencies are typically still stored online and not on blockchain itself. In nine years  there has never been a successful hack of the oldest blockchain implementation, which is the bitcoin blockchain.

But people have lost money because they have stored there currencies on a more traditional centralised database.

2. Sustainability

A lot of criticism is aimed at the bitcoin blockchain and it’s important that people understand there are many different blockchains out there and there are many different ways of implementing these blockchains technically.

The Bitcoin blockchain is not only the oldest; it is the largest but also the slowest and the most unsustainable of the blockchains from an energy perspective. Figures indicate that supporting bitcoin blockchain requires approximately as much energy as the country of Peru. That is not something that is going to be scalable to many thousands of use cases across millions of organisations around the world.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the bitcoin blockchain to keep up with the processing of transactions. Currently it processes 7 per second. by comparison visa processes something in excess of 50,000 per second. Clearly new approaches will be needed.

3. Transparency 

The same transparency that makes it easy to share information among authorised participants in the blockchain could, if not properly implemented, make it easy for those who are not authorised to view transactions to do so.

For example, if you’re participating in a supply chain ecosystem , the suppliers are not going to want their competitors to see the prices that they have quoted to you if they are offering you a significant discount.

How do you prevent that? By leveraging encryption technology and using blockchain to manage exchange of private keys to access that data.

4. Interoperability

How do we have multiple, different blockchains and how can those blockchains talk with each other? IBM have taken a strong leadership role in this area through their support of the open source hyper ledger platform for implementing blockchain. This is commonly used for permission blockchains, where only a limited and defined set of people and organisations can participate in the blockchain.

One of things that hyper ledger and a number of other blockchain inititiatves are actively working on is the issue of interoperability.

Procurement and Blockchain

This all seems very scary.  And there is a tendency for procurement pros to think ‘Oh my gosh. We still have to work out all kinds of technical problems surrounding blockchain, maybe we should put this on the back burner for a while’

But that would be a serious mistake.

I had a fellow come up me after a presentation I did about 20 years ago on the World Wide Web and e-commerce. He explained to me  ‘we don’t have the processing power, we don’t have the bandwidth and we certainly won’t ever have the security. This crazy notion you’re having of people being able to do electronic banking –  it will never happen it just can’t be done.’

At that particular point in time, he was right –  it couldn’t be done. But within 18 -24 months every major bank was rolling out online banking because the technical problems had been solved.

None of these problems are going to require us to violate the fundamental laws of physics in order to solve them.

They can all be solved as long as there is an economic incentive to do so.

A major IT services company identified that the three most common hurdles to blockchain adoption are

  • Understanding blockhain in use cases
  • Communicating blockchain to key decision makers
  • Evaluating cost benefits of use cases

None of these have to do with technical constraints. they are to do building awareness and understanding.

The purpose of the American Blockchain Council is to help senior level executives understand the strategic business implications of blockchain.   

Jack Shaw will be speaking on our latest webinar Blockchain: The Technology, the Myth, the… Legend? which goes live on 7th August at 11am EDT/ 4pm BST. Sign up here.   

Digital Transformation: The Bigger Picture

The Hackett Group’s research shows that addressing the impact of digital transformation on business has become the most critical imperative for enterprises in every industry.

Montenegro / Shutterstock

What exactly is digital transformation?

 The Hackett Group defines enterprise digital transformation as: “the creation of business value by improving customer experiences, operational efficiency and agility by fundamentally changing the way organisations innovate, operate, deliver products and services, engage with stakeholders and execute work, using digital technologies as the enabler of holistic transformation.”

While implementing technology has always been a part of business strategy, adoption of emerging technologies in procurement is critical in a rapidly changing business environment marked by intensifying competition and disruptive innovation.

As the world of big data, robots, automation, and artificial intelligence takes shape, procurement is expected to provide more profound insights into supply relationships, including conventional cost structures, supply availability, lead times, and quality. Moreover, in this new digital landscape, business technology users are demanding consumer-like e-commerce interfaces from e-procurement systems to find the products or services they need quickly. Procurement in the digital age requires operational agility to prioritise customer service delivery while anticipating or even predicting new supply opportunities despite volatile market conditions.

How can we use digital transformation to drive new value in procurement?

Historically, The Hackett Group viewed valued creation in terms of the two “E”s: Efficiency and Effectiveness. However, with the changing technology landscape and increased importance of stakeholder satisfaction, it is time to expand how we define value. And that means the addition of a third “E”: Experience. This broader view of procurement-enabled value allows procurement organisations to capture their minimization of cost (Efficiency), maximisation of business value (Effectiveness), and now, optimisation of relationship and engagement value (Experience)

Procurement-enabled value

Measuring value in procurement is not just changing the way we define value, but also how we measure it. Metrics should be reinvented to focus on predictive qualities and customer-centricity. For example, instead of successful risk mitigation, true value comes from risk prevention. Or in terms of efficiency, procurement should be measuring time to serve customers, instead of total cycle time (Fig. 3). Successful value measurement in procurement is no longer solely focused on cost savings. Now, the key is in understanding the mindset of stakeholders and using complex data to measure value created for businesses and customers.

Defining and measuring procurement value in the digital age

In this complex landscape, where should I start in thinking about digital value?

While we consider procurement’s digital evolution, and which steps to take next, it is important to understand more broadly which standards procurement will be measured by. Here, we evaluate how the most common strategic value drivers for digital transformation currently align with the digital technologies that can address them.

Strategic value driver #1: Improve procurement’s business value contribution

Increasing procurement’s value contribution is the top-ranked strategic value driver among procurement organisations. Although procurement organisations successfully increased the amount of spend under management through first-generation e-sourcing and e-procurement technology, reduced resources and exponential growth in data make it difficult to achieve (or even measure) savings and efficiency targets. While emerging technologies promise unprecedented levels of automation to help with this challenge, many organisations want to consolidate their procurement solutions in cloud-based suites as a first phase of digital transformation before diving into new technologies that are not yet widely deployed. Adoption and accelerated rollout of cloud-based solutions has become a critical part of the digital transformation agenda. In fact, 88 per cent of respondents to The Hackett Group’s 2018 Key Issues Study expect to adopt one or more cloud-based/SaaS applications within the next two to three years.

Strategic value driver #2: Improve policy compliance and alignment with sourcing strategy

Organisations are using digital transformation to improve compliance and alignment with sourcing strategies. For example, procurement might leverage machine learning to refine methods for contract and compliance management. Given the amount of data held in unstructured contract documents that are often stored in disparate locations, managing against contracts may hold high degrees of risk and exposure associated with non-compliance. Many organisations have already established a contract repository, but today cannot link policy and compliance with broader sourcing, spend and supplier risk management efforts.

Strategic value driver #3: Improving speed and quality of procurement business decisions

Making the best choices depends on having suitable data and information on supplier, item and product masters. However, data availability and quality remain significant challenges for many organisations that want to improve the speed and reliability of decisions. Therefore, it is necessary to develop fit-for-purpose information architectures that adhere to data standards and align with enterprise needs. Master data management (MDM) is emerging as the solution for improving governance of structured data, but as part of digital transformation efforts, MDM should also be applied to unstructured data. While 73 per cent of respondents in the Digital Transformation Performance Study already have an MDM initiative underway, advances in MDM are driving renewed interest in the technology.

With digital technologies comes endless opportunities to improve how procurement operates, but it also brings a new level of complexity. The most successful organisations will start by looking at the big picture, developing a strategy, and then using digital technologies to support those objectives.

For more information on digital transformation, check out our 
upcoming webinar about unlocking digital value in procurement.

Delivery Failure Notification: Your Spend Analysis Tools Could Not Deliver On Their Promise Of Good Data

When spend analysis solutions have failed to solve the problem they were designed to fix, they leave their users wanting more. But there are always ways to salvage your investment….

At a high level, companies utilising spend analysis solutions are leveraging spend data for the purpose of gaining visibility into cost reduction, performance improvement, supply risk, compliance, and other value generation opportunities. Simply put, spend analysis, and the resulting spend visibility, are considered “table stakes” for any procurement organisation. No procurement function can make a claim to world-class status or even average performance if it lacks this entry-level capability. It should be the first and last step of the strategic sourcing process that both identifies the opportunity and measures the organisation’s achievement thereof.

While these solutions have existed for decades, many companies that utilise them continue to suffer from poor procurement data, if not downright unusable data. They are undone by noncompliance, data entry errors, fragmentation of data across multiple systems and general poor data discipline.

Many of these solutions encompass complex organisational schemas such as UNSPSC, which was designed for other purposes and applies a categorisation structure that reflects the way supply markets are organised. Furthermore, general ledger (GL) codes are simply not a trustworthy substitute for a true procurement and sourcing taxonomy, and were designed for people who write the checks.

Certainly some companies must have great procurement data, because so much money has been spent on these systems specially intended to solve this challenge. But in cases where those technologies fail to deliver on the promise of good data, they are typically suffering from a host of data issues due to:

  1. Accounting-oriented data not aligned with procurement categorisation
  1. Maverick and unmanaged spend not captured in the solution
  1. Poor input discipline, or procurement-related data being entered by non-procurement resources

When these solutions have failed to solve the problem they were designed to fix, they leave their users wanting more. User adoption is low and many find that additional data manipulation is required, with many organisations dedicating internal resources to spend analytics, despite paying at third party to perform this for them. These tools are often clunky and difficult to use and fail to deliver the key insights procurement professionals need to drive value and impact the bottom line.

The market is calling for an end to this systemic problem impacting most procurement functions. After all, having access to quality data will always ensure procurement a seat at the table. Organisations should be able to rely on solution providers to provide them at a minimum with:

  • Highly accurate categorisation
  • Actionable, data-driven, procurement-focused insights
  • Fingertip access to ‘good” or even “great” data through a simple, easy to use interface

If you find you are not experiencing this with your solution provider, there are still ways to salvage your investment. Identify the desired changes and develop strategies with your vendor to overcome the visibility challenges. They should be ready and willing to restructure the underlying data/taxonomy to ensure you reap the benefits of the solution you implemented. Today, procurement professionals should be focusing on the strategic aspect of their roles and elevate beyond the frustrating and tactical world of data manipulation.

Continue reading Delivery Failure Notification: Your Spend Analysis Tools Could Not Deliver On Their Promise Of Good Data

I Have Measured Out My Digital Transformation In Coffee Spoons…

Eager to lead your procurement team through a digital transformation?  We’ve got some advice from someone who knows the score… Grab a coffee and let illycaffè’s Procurement director talk you through the process… 

nazar_photo/ Shutterstock

Digital Transformation.

We assume that everyone is at it behind closed doors.

But how are they doing it? What’s the process? Are they doing a better job than us? Or is everyone simply floundering in the dark? Sometimes, you need the inside scoop from someone who knows the score!

Last month, at Jaggaer’s REVInternational 2018 event in Munich, Diego Pedroli, Procurement and Logistics Director – illycaffè gave us an overview of the organisation’s ongoing digital transformation and how he made it happen.

“What I’ve learnt over these two days” he began, “is that we are actually at the beginning of our [digital transformation] journey, and it’s one that will never end.  But at least we’ve started.”

illycaffè: A Brief History

illycaffè remains a family owned company with 1000+ employees,  100,000+ clients and B2B business in 140 countries.

Founded in Trieste, Italy, illycaffè prides itself on a century of innovation from launching the first high pressure espresso machine in 1935 to introducing the first single portion coffee pod in 1974.

Diego’s mission, as he sees it, is to uphold procurement excellence: continually advancing the procurement processes and supplier cycle management and managing the execution of the multi-year procurement programs.

The organisation’s digital transformation began back in December 2013 and has been evolving ever since.

Digital Transformation: The Beginning

Diego’s ultimate aim with leading illycaffè through this transformation was to streamline their processes organisation-wide, thus transitioning the procurement team from saving-hunters to value-hunters. “We wanted to try to digitalise the processes to add value and bring time for employees to actually look after the business.”

“At first it was all about developing and defining guidelines and procedures, changing the mindset of our people and the people working closely to us. We wanted to give procurement the responsibility to do procurement, not shopping!”

Between 2016 and 2017 Diego worked with illycaffè’s CEO and the board to approve the introduction of an SRM platform. After going through the bidding process and selecting Jaggaer they immediately kick-started the implementation.

Digital Transformation: The End Game

The hardest part of embarking on a digital transformation is often convincing key stakeholders, namely the CEO or CFO, of its necessity and potential value-add. Having a strong case to present and key objectives  is crucial. As Diego explained, “we were able to convince our CEO to implement the SRM system because of these factors:”

  1. Governance and Compliance
  • Allows for traceability of processes
  • Gives procurement professionals complete management of all suppliers, which greatly limits risk
  • Makes it easier to monitor suppliers and improve performance

2. Method

  • Implementation of a culture of shared method
  • Standardisation of procedures makes the business more streamlined
  • Increases the speed of response to internal and external stakeholders
  • Allows for continuous improvement, partly through sharing best practices

3. Transparency

  • Gives procurement greater accessibility and makes information easier to interpret
  • Having data in one place makes it simpler for everyone in the business to work and guarantees ethical practices and ethical processes

4. Economic Return

  • There are obvious economic benefits due to the workflow automation
  • Allows for a reduction of TCO in different purchasing categories

Diego’s parting words of advice? When it comes to digital transformation, “it is not enough to have the sponsorship of your CEO. And it is not enough to have a good tech partner. It’s important to have each and every person in your team on board.”

Learn more about Jaggaer and  REVInternational 2018 

It Only Works If You Believe It Works…

As organisations embark on digital transformations, they must also be prepared to trust in ‘new-ness’, adapt to the speed of change and take note of the 3D’s… 

Last week the Procurious team hopped on a plane to Munich to attend Jaggaer’s REVInternational 2018 for two days of inspiring discussion on eProcurement innovations, digitisation, and the future of procurement.

One of the stand out sessions came from futurist Stefan Hyttfors who lectures on how innovation, disruptive technologies and behavioural change affects the worlds of business and social issues.

His mission? To inspire as many people as possible to embrace digital change.

Trust in “new-ness”

“I have a lot of friends working in tech and they often approach me to ask ‘What advice should I give to my peers?’

“And my frequent reply is ‘How come you believe you have any advice to give to your peers?’

“Because if we believe in the concept of disruptive tech then we must also be humble about the fact that experience and knowledge are a problem.”

The reality of the extreme pace of change hit Hyttfors hard last summer when his 20 year old son returned home from university for summer break.

As the family sat down for dinner one evening, Stefan took the opportunity to  interrogate his son about his summer plans; would he be spending the break getting some work experience?

‘No I’m not going to work” he replied.  “I value my time and I don’t want to sell it to anyone”

Instead of work he had conjured a number grand plans including a road trip around Norway and various other escapades.

Stefan’s line of questioning instantly transferred from ‘What are you going to do?’ to ‘How on earth are you going to afford it?!’

His answer, ‘Don’t worry dad, I have some bitcoin’

“This is the millennial perspective today,” Hyttfors asserts. “And money is a particularly interesting discussion, particularly across generations.  Where I was sightly skeptical about how far cryptocurrency should be trusted, my son was offended at the mere suggestion and far more wary of our banking systems.”

“Strange things are happening in the world; things that we don’t understand, thing that we ridicule and laugh at. We are guilty of assuming that our kids need to know what we know”

But in actual fact, it’s a trust in ‘new-ness’ that is going to become one of the most crucial factors for organisations in tomorrow’s world. Money is a great technology and a great innovation; it makes transactions smooth and solves a whole world of problems.

But, as with all technology,  it only works if you believe it works…

Pay attention to the speed of change

Disruptive technology is nothing new but the speed of change is ever-increasing. In the past, organisations had the luxury of time permitting them to be skeptical about and distrusting of new innovations, which took 50 years or more to catch on.

Nowadays we hear a buzzword for the first time and within a matter months it’s everywhere; “a unicorn company appears and usurps all the other companies in that space.”

“We talk about organisations like Kodak and Blockbuster as if they were stupid. But the problem isn’t that they were stupid. They were simply the best at doing something no one needs anymore.

“When you are very good at what you do you will not be the one to disrupt your own industry.”

There are examples of this happening in every industry. And it’s never because the old companies were poor. Someone simply found a new way to solve old problems

“The speed of change puts so much pressure on leaders.  But if you focus on making current processes more efficient you cannnot disrupt at the same time.”

The 3D’s of Digitalisation

As your organisation prepares for, and embarks upon,  digital transformation, take note of Stefan’s predictions for the future of digitalisation. It all comes down to the 3D’s…

  1. Dematerialisation

As technology advances it figures that we will simply need less ‘stuff’.

As Stefan points out, “If you can solve a problem digitally you don’t need material things.

“Don’t tell your kid that an iphone is expensive – think of all the junk you used to have to buy in the past to do the same job [a single iPhone can do].  It solves so many problems. Nowadays everyone in the world can take pictures for free.”

Dematerialisation means that more people can afford to do what used to be expensive and exclusive.

2. Deflation

Deflation, as Stefan sees it, means having “millions of micro transactions rather than thousands of  major transactions.”

Take cars as an example. They are absolutely not efficient; often parked for 23 hours of the day and contributing to congestion and pollution in our cities.

Along came Uber, which offers ‘mobility as a service’ and suddenly transportation is transformed globally.  Selling £50,000 cars is not an ideal model – mobility as a service is the future.

“We are a big world on a small planet and because of this sustainability will be the main leading strategy of the future.

“We need to make much more with much less.”

3. Decentralisation

We all like to believe that we are part of the last uninformed generation; that we have all of the answers and all of the information. But, in Stefan’s opinion, that’s simply not the case.

We will continue to face big problems and these problems can only be solved with global collaboration and global crowd-sourcing.

“We see a big decline in trust because people don’t believe in old institutions anymore” whether it’s governments,  law enforcement systems or our banks.

“Why should my son trust in a banking app when he can trust in a bitcoin app?”

“He believes in decentralisation, a world in which where there is no boss.” Because, at the end of the day,  it’s your boss that makes a system inefficient and corrupt.


Learn more about Jaggaer and  REVInternational 2018 

Eight Critical Actions for Managing Your Supplier Pool

Establishing a pool of preferred or pre-qualified suppliers is  a great idea as long as you are actively managing your supplier pool.  Here’s how it’s done…

Last year Government Technology published an article describing how the state of Colorado has turned to a process they call “mini-RFP’s” to streamline and expedite procurement in their IT category.

The author Jessica Mulholland reports the state performed a prequalification of vendors and awarded multiple contracts to address a “specific set of issues and implementations”.

This select group of vendors operating under pre-negotiated legal terms are solicited when new work comes up.  The lowest bidder is awarded leveraging their prenegotiated terms and conditions.

This is a concept that I have seen quite a few times before.  Many private organisations operate in this manner.  Essentially awarding MSA’s that include no rates or commercial terms, just legal terms.

It should be noted that the reason this is more expeditious is because it streamlines the contracting portion of the procurement process.  This isn’t a shortcut to procurement, you still need a scope of work, you still need a bid period, and you still need analysis.  The time saved is the time with legal.

Prequalification of suppliers isn’t anything new, but it is a unique approach in public procurement.  I’m no expert on the legality of this as a government practice, but I will address this from a private business perspective.

1.Agreements without Commercial Rates

Perhaps this is a nuance of the public sector and possibly the reason why the state of Colorado can have a closed bid, but in private business there is simply no good reason to have an MSA without pre-negotiated rates.  Nonetheless, I have seen this quite a few times.  If you are going to go so far as to negotiate legal terms, locking in rates and commercial terms should be a no-brainer.

2. Obstacles to inclusion

If you plan to add a pre-qualification process to your organisation, consider keeping the process simple and straight-forward.  It should not take more than a couple of weeks to complete the process.  Anything more than that and you may find that your process becomes an obstacle for inclusion.

3. Scale the Pool

Be sure to have a large enough pool to allow for multiple projects to occur at the same time without depleting your bench.  There is nothing worse than having an emergency project when all of your pre-qualified vendors are at capacity and you have no one left to award.

4. Diversify your Pool

Your pool of pre-qualified suppliers should be as diverse as the projects you contract.  When I talk of diversity here, I’m not speaking of minority owned businesses.  That is important too, but more than that you need to make sure your pool of vendors has large firms for the big projects as well as small firms for the small projects.  Don’t just include all the big guys or you may find you have no one at all.

5. Score Performance

If you are going to establish a pool of pre-qualified suppliers it’s important to score each performance.  Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to evaluate how the suppliers performed and make sure to collect a report for each engagement.  This will give you actionable data to evaluate the performance of each supplier.

6. Aggregate and Report KPI’s

Grading the suppliers on each project is essential, but when you collect and aggregate that data across a year, now you have powerful data.  Anyone can have a bad project, but with a consolidated view of a vendors performance over a year, you can address specific problems, identify weaknesses, and generally grade each supplier objectively. With this data, you can elevate suppliers that perform well and downgrade those who perform poorly.

7. Evaluate your Pool at Least Once per Year

With your performance data in hand, you should meet with your suppliers annually and share the results of your scoring.  This may be a difficult conversation, but if you are basing your comments on facts, it will be easier.  In addition to reviewing existing suppliers, this is the time to look outside of your pool to identify new or up-and-coming suppliers to add.  You should also evaluate the state of your organisation to right-size your pool.

8. Update your Agreements

Above all else, don’t let agreement expire.  Track the end of all agreements and create reminders on your calendar to ensure you are proactively renewing, terminating, or renegotiating agreements before they expire.

Establishing a pool of preferred or pre-qualified suppliers is  a great idea as long as you are actively managing your supplier pool.  Keep on top of your contracts and you will soon see the fruits of your labor.

Do you have prenegotiated or prequalified Suppliers in your organisation?  If so, do you follow these recommendations?  Are there any best practices you recommend?  Tell me your stories.


This article was originally published on Luis Gile’s website. Check out more of his content here. 

Sign up for today’s webinar: Clean Up Your Act! Category Management AI-Style. 

4 Reasons for Procurement to Back Blockchain

What is blockchain? How can it impact your organisation and help establish trust? Why should procurement be embracing it?  We answer all of your burning blockchain questions… 

Blockchain belongs to the (long?) list of buzzwords that are part of the growing hype surrounding new technology. Many people equate blockchain with Bitcoin, the first relatively mainstream cryptocurrency. For some, this association makes blockchain seem like something for hackers and illegal commerce, and far removed from typical B2B or B2C applications.

However, what many may not realise is that blockchain can have a significant impact on business because it can be a powerful tool in establishing trust. Trust is at the heart of business and drives:

  1. How we cooperate with other people (blockchain makes it easier to build trust in new business partners),
  2. How we automate activities (blockchain can ensure that a “machine/process” performs as expected)
  3. How we make decisions (blockchain creates more confidence in data),

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain can be intimidating. It is a complex technology and understanding and explaining it is far from easy (I still haven’t entirely figured it out). However, for procurement and supply chain professionals, understanding what blockchain enables and the associated implications is much more important than knowing how it works. What makes blockchain so valuable is linked to how records are added to the database:

  • A network of computers stores and verifies any new record, making the blockchain more robust than a single instance (like in most traditional databases),
  • Every transaction (“block”) is linked to the previous one (“chain”), creating complete traceability and preventing any data alteration,
  • It is decentralised (peer-to-peer), which means there is no authority deciding the rules or with a personal interest in manipulating data in one way or another.

Data in the blockchain is therefore immutable and impartial. It is shared among parties (publicly or privately) and cannot be changed by anyone.

“Protected from deletion, tampering, and revision. In this world every agreement, every process, every task, and every payment would have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared. Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers, and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organisations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction. This is the immense potential of blockchain.” The Truth About Blockchain, Harvard Business Review

Therefore, blockchain is a form of digital trust. More trust makes doing business easier, streamlines many processes, and creates transparency. Furthermore, and more importantly, it means that blockchain can serve as the backbone for new types of cooperation between machines (M2M) and between humans (H2H) that were, until now, limited by the cost of building trust or by a lack of trust altogether.

Businesses and business relationships stand to benefit significantly from what blockchain technology has to offer, and here are the main reasons for why procurement and supply chain professionals need to start taking notice:

1. Streamlining Operations

Beyond making transactions more secure and efficient by removing intermediaries, blockchain technology can also increase transparency in the supply chain. At each step of the value chain, from the extraction of raw materials to the customer, blockchain technology can store and record every transaction and exchange of ownership. This would provide companies with a complete, trustworthy and traceable record that would facilitate and simplify the process of due diligence, which companies need to complete in order to ensure compliance with rules and regulations restricting illegal or unethical corporate activities (child labor, modern slavery, conflict minerals, product traceability, fraud, counterfeit, etc.). Not only would this streamline internal processes (increasing efficiency and reducing costs), it would also establish more trust between companies, suppliers, regulatory bodies and the consumer. This is why many companies with a complex supply chain in industries with strict regulations and requirements related to product traceability (pharmaceutical, food & beverage, etc.) are already testing blockchain technology for that purpose.

2. Better Cooperation Between People

Blockchain can also enhance and improve Human-to-Human (H2H) cooperation because collaboration between people also relies on trust. This is particularly true when partners do not know each other, which is especially common in new business models (platform/ gig economy).

Identity and reputation are the two pillars of building trust. Because of its cryptographic nature, blockchain embeds mechanisms that ensure that users are who they say they are. That covers a user’s identity and extends to other credentials:

“Using the blockchain and strong cryptography, it is now possible to create a certification infrastructure that puts us in control of the full record of our achievements and accomplishments. It will allow us to share a digital degree with an employer while giving the employer complete trust that the degree was in fact issued to the person presenting it.” Certificates, Reputation, and the Blockchain, MIT Media Lab

Reputation is nothing more than the result of past transactions. As noted earlier, the blockchain logs all transactions securely and transparently. So, the blockchain makes it easy to measure and know someone’s reputation. Blockchain therefore makes it easier to do business with new partners by reducing the costs and risk which are often associated with new business relationships. Traditionally, a fear of risk and unexpected costs has been behind the rationale to aggregate spend towards a limited number of suppliers and/or to favor (consciously or unconsciously) incumbents. The use of blockchain can allow procurement organizations to revisit their category strategies!

3. Better Cooperation Between Machines

With blockchain organizations can

  • Trust the data stored in it,
  • Create new data collection points by digitalising more processes,
  • Execute automated programs (called smart contracts).

This creates a distributed system (data + process) that they can trust (completeness, accuracy, authenticity, resilience). So, it is possible to automate further without being exposed to typical risks due to lack of data, poor/corrupted data, unreliable execution, interferences by third parties/intermediaries,…

Blockchain is the ideal infrastructure for machine-based activities that the Internet of Things (IoT) has been lacking. It opens the door to new “apps” that will run precisely as programmed. An immediate area of application that is relevant for Procurement is Supply Chain Management.

For example, companies can track the movements of a container at all times. Whenever it reaches specific points, the blockchain will record the activity and smart contracts will execute automated actions (e.g. registration for customs, payments,…). The same concept also extends to upstream/downstream activities like inventory tracking/management or ordering/requisitioning/replenishing.

4. Better Insights with the Convergence of IoT, AI, and Blockchain

“Blockchain and AI are the two extreme sides of the technology spectrum: one fostering centralised intelligence on close data platforms, the other promoting decentralized applications in an open-data environment. However, if we find an intelligent way to make them working together, the total positive externalities could be amplified in a blink.” The convergence of AI and Blockchain: what’s the deal?, Francesco Corea

When considering the Internet of Things (IoT) + Blockchain and adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the landscape, a bigger picture emerges that covers data, insights, and actionable intelligence: the core of business activities! When combined, these technologies represent an opportunity to address the “big data” challenge summed up in the “6 Vs”: Value, Volume, Variety, Velocity, Veracity, and Variability.

Some of the latest technologies represent critical components for building better insights and actionable intelligence:

  • IoT = Provides the ability to collect more information (Volume) and in a real-time manner (Velocity & Variability). This is especially true when monitoring physical supply chains (e.g., sensors and geolocation for containers) and changing demand (e.g., sensors in machines for predictive maintenance). It is the foundation that makes gathering data possible and keeps the Big Data engine running and improving (e.g., machine learning).
  • Big Data = Makes it possible to consolidate, aggregate, and slice more data coming from multiple sources (Variety), both internal (e.g., ERPs, or other information systems) and external (e.g., IoT sensors, third party data providers…).
  • Blockchain = Increases trust and reliability (Veracity) in the data collected and stored which is a critical factor in trusting the insights and decisions derived from that data. It also creates a “data backbone” that can be utilized to create interoperability (internally and externally) opening the door to further automation and “interconnections” between physical and financial supply chains.
  • AI = Exhibits tremendous computational capacity to analyze massive sets of data to build new knowledge (Value) and continuously learn and improve from new data.

Too Good to Be True?

Blockchain represents an important for the business world. Procurement organisations cannot afford to ignore it because it has the potential to open doors to further improvements from streamlining paper-based processes to enhancing cooperation and developing new strategies and supporting new operating/business models.

Despite the potential benefits, however, organisations should still make an informed decision about testing blockchain bfore rushing in. Blockchain is still a relatively new technology, and in addition to understanding the potential it holds, procurement organizations also need to understand the limitations and risks, which we will cover in our next article. Stay tuned!

6 Principles of Persuasion Explained With Propaganda Posters

Learn how to persuade your colleagues and suppliers with 6 tips from 20th-century propaganda masters. Guest post from Invaluable.com.

“Make Great Strides in Studying Daqing, Strive to Make New Contributions in Agriculture.” Original vintage Chinese propaganda poster, via Antikbar.

Since their introduction in 1984, Dr. Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion have become the framework for understanding the science of influence. Each principle is distinct and outlines different methods for effective persuasion.

Mastering the art of persuasion has become a major “soft skill” in the modern corporate world. The ability to influence others is key to developing strong relationships with suppliers, employees and end-users. Persuasion can help to convince others that we are credible, trustworthy leaders worth following and allows us to manipulate the psychological processes of others to our benefit to achieve better results.

In the procurement profession specifically, strong persuasion skills can help to convince your organisation to be more strategic in managing money and can also be a key factor in your fight to minimise maverick spend.

Learning from the propaganda masters

Before the rise of the social media influencer, advertising and propaganda posters were some of the most powerful persuasion tools available. Propaganda posters have been used for decades to inspire, educate, and galvanize the public. Whether you are selling a product, a war, or an idea, advertising can be a powerful tool to inform and persuade your audience. Propaganda posters from the 19th and 20th centuries addressed topics ranging from patriotism to healthcare to feminism.

This article, originally from Invaluable, takes Dr. Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion and applies them to famous propaganda posters used throughout history to wield influence and power over their audiences. With their striking imagery and bold messages, these posters are superb examples of each principle and perfectly illustrate the mechanics behind persuasion.

1. Reciprocity

“Remember Your First Thrill of American Liberty,” 1917. [Records of the U.S. Food Administration]
The first principle, reciprocity, is based on the idea that people often feel obliged to match or repay the behaviors and gifts they receive from others. When using the principle of reciprocity for persuasion, look for opportunities to be the first to give, and make your token unexpected and personal whenever possible. This tactic facilitates a relationship in which the recipient feels appreciative of your contributions and is likely to be more open to the message you share or the favor you ask for.

The propaganda poster “Remember Your First Thrill of American Liberty” is an example of reciprocity in action. This poster was created by the Food and Drug Administration in 1917 to encourage immigrants to the United States to invest in the war effort by purchasing Liberty Bonds, which were a crucial source of funding for the war effort.

By highlighting the benefits and opportunities that the United States had given to immigrants, the poster called upon its audience to invest in the country’s war effort in return. The poster also strategically included the Statue of Liberty as a metaphor for the opportunities available in the United States and to remind immigrants of the emotional experience of arriving in the U.S. for the first time. The artist’s powerful illustrations and the poster’s authoritative call-to-action prompted Americans to recall their debt to their country, which ultimately proved persuasive in raising money for the war effort. This poster remains a powerful example of the way reciprocity persuades us to act.

2. Scarcity

“Doctors Are Scarce,” 1943. [San Jacinto Museum]
The second principle of persuasion, scarcity, refers to the idea that when people have less of something, they want it more. Scarcity speaks to our human nature to place greater value on things that are less readily available. To use this principle, incite people to act, agree, or buy your product by demonstrating how they can benefit from it, what’s unique about your offering, and what they could potentially lose out on.

In the poster “Doctors are Scarce, Learn First Aid and Home Nursing,” the artist used the scarcity principle to promote basic at-home care. By making it clear that good medical care would be hard to come by, the poster instilled fear and communicated the importance of individuals learning to manage their own minor health concerns. The poster was created to communicate people’s need to learn to handle their own injuries and illnesses since many doctors were oversees fighting in the war effort.

This poster is historically significant because it is one of the many examples of ways Americans on the home front were forced to ration supplies and services to aid in the wartime effort. Its message drove Americans to act and remains a powerful reminder of the scarcity principle and its ability to influence.

3. Authority

“Christ Guerilla,” 1969. [Antikbar]
The third principle of persuasion is authority. This principle says audiences are much more likely to listen to messages from sources they respect or view as experts. Whether you are explaining your point of view or selling a product or service, showcasing your credentials will help your chances of success. No matter what your message is, it will be better received if it is packaged in a way that makes it seem authoritative.

When using authority, the source doesn’t always need to be yourself. When someone else points to your credentials the message can be just as powerful or even more effective. In the propaganda poster “Christ Guerilla,” Jesus was portrayed as a guerilla fighter. The poster was created by the Organisation of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa, and Latin America based on a quote from the Colombian priest Camilo Torres who said, “If Jesus were alive today, he would be a guerrillero.”

The poster called on the authority behind the Christian religion to convince audiences that being a guerilla fighter was a noble cause. This piece of propaganda was created in Cuba during the 1970s as part of a political movement to fight imperialism and defend human rights. Its message was clear: guerilla fighting was noble, necessary, and moral. Because the poster called upon the authority of Jesus to deliver its message, its theme was especially resonant for its audience.

4. Consistency

J. Howard Miller, “We Can Do It!,” 1942. [Smithsonian]
The consistency principle refers to the idea that people like to remain resolute with the things they have said or done in the past. If someone already agrees with some of your message, or if you are able to get your audience to buy into your point of view in a small way, you’re much more likely to convince them to take further action.

The “We Can Do It!” poster used the consistency principle to encourage women who were already working in factories to work harder. While today this poster is considered one of the most iconic U.S. propaganda posters of all time, it was not widely circulated during World War II when it first appeared. The poster was made in 1943 by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse Electric, and was part of a broader effort to encourage both male and female workers to work harder due to the high demand for manufacturing generated by the war effort.

The poster resonated with women in its original context in the 1940s and continues to serve as an icon of feminism today. When it was first created, the poster used the consistency principle to remind women of the importance of committing to their factory jobs while encouraging them to work harder and stay motivated. The likeness of Rosie the Riveter still resonates, and the poster has become a rallying cry for recognition of equality.

5. Liking

“Women of Britain Say ‘Go,’” 1914. [British Library]
It’s commonly accepted that people are more likely to agree with the opinions of someone they like. The fifth principle of persuasion, liking, is based on this idea. This principle notes that people agree with those who are similar to them, those who pay them compliments, and those who cooperate with them. If you know your audience already likes you, you have a leg up for persuasion, but incorporating these three factors into your communication efforts can go a long way towards making your audience receptive to your message. Before making your case, consider spending a few moments with your audience to build rapport and likeability.

The poster “Women of Britain Say ‘Go’” incorporated the liking tactic to encourage the men of Britain to buy into the government’s request to join the war effort. During World War I, posters were one of the most important mediums for conveying a message. Women were used in these posters to spread ideas of morality, innocence, and justice in the face of danger.

While this poster was intended to remind the women of Britain to encourage their men to enlist, it also clearly communicated to British men that they’d be spurned by their loved ones if they refused the call to serve. Using the opinions of their families as advocates proved to be an effective persuasion tactic in getting men to enlist.

6. Consensus

“Let’s Fulfill the Plan of Great Works,” 1930. [Polish Greatness]
The sixth principle, consensus, is the idea that people are likely to agree with something if it is in line with what the broader group believes. To get others to believe in your message or your product, point to what those similar to your audience believe and do. When people are unsure of how to act, they look to the behaviors of others they identify with to determine their own beliefs. By highlighting what your audience’s larger social group thinks, you are more likely to get their buy-in.

The title of the poster roughly translates to “Let’s Fulfill the Plan of Great Works,” and shows clear parallels to the consensus principle. The tiny hands fill up a larger hand to communicate to the viewer that all of Russia is working together to reach a common goal. The poster was created in 1930 by Gustav Klutsis, a popular poster artist during this time period who was a popular designer for the Soviet government. This piece was created in the Constructivist style, which originated in Russia in 1919.

Klutsis was associated with the Communist party and created propaganda art for the organization, especially when the party was under the control of Stalin. The hand in this poster is Klutsis’ own hand, but it was used in the poster to represent the workers who were crucial to achieving the Communist party’s goals. The artist incorporated the faces of the workers directly into the poster’s design so they appeared not as individuals, but as a collective mass united around the same goal.

Sources

Canva | Influence at Work | Conversion XL | Docs Teach | University of Pennsylvania | How Stuff Works | Huffington Post | Gettysburg College Projects | International Institute of Social History | World Digital Library | Smithsonian | Buzzfeed | San Jacinto Museum

How to Prepare Your Organisation for the Cognitive Revolution

Everyone procurement team is talking about AI, cognitive technology and machine learning. But for these technologies to work at their best, your business needs to be prepared… 

Image: Zapp2Photo / Shutterstock

There is a lot of talk these days about Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Sourcing, Machine Learning, and data-driven procurement.

Almost every major procurement organisation in the world talks about how their organisation uses these tools to make decisions.

The direction of procurement is almost certainly towards data-driven decision-making.  This is a reality we all need to embrace.

I certainly subscribe to the notion that the best procurement decisions come from fact-based data-driven strategies and I firmly believe that over time, cognitive tools and technologies will become better and more effective than they are Today.

The truth is that we are not there yet.

As someone who’s industry is in the cross-hairs of cognitive technologies, I have been exposed to more than a few examples of how this technology works.

The category knowledge that these tools will draw from to generate their insights currently resides with guys and gals like me.  As such, we (the subject matter experts and category leaders) of the procurement space hold a special and specific set of keys that unlock these technologies.  It is with that focus that I would like to proceed.

In order for these technologies to work best there are certain fundamental elements that must be right in order for the tool to generate the best insights.

Good Data

Well organised and structured data is an essential foundation for cognitive technologies.

When it comes to any form of data analytics, the old adage “garbage in, garbage out” still holds .  Unfortunately, the vast majority of organisations simply have poor data.

Before you can point any cognitive tools at your data set, the data needs to be scrubbed and normalised.  This is still done manually by a team of people.  I’m sure one day this will be 100 per cent automated and perhaps technology will find a way to avoid these errors in the first place.  The fact is that whenever we receive data Today, it is highly flawed and requires weeks of work to make it usable.

Here is a good primer on data collections.

Be sure you allow sufficient time for your data to be cleansed before you deploy your cognitive tools.

Define your Benchmarks

The greatest value that AI and cognitive will bring is being able to benchmark your organisation in ways never before possible.

In a recent article I wrote on how to use bench-marking to develop cost estimates, but cost estimating is not the extent of how you can use bench-marking with AI.

Consider the value of bench-marking your organization against a competitor’s current performance.  Cognitive tools allow you to bring in publicly available information in real time.

Imagine that you are an electronics manufacturer and your closest rival releases their financial report.  Cognitive tools can seek out these reports and extract data from them to benchmark against your performance.  You can also combine cognitive tools with web crawlers that seek out competitor’s pricing information.  Without cognitive tools, this kind of information would require weeks or months of manually collecting data.  Cognitive tools allow this kind of analysis to be done instantly.

To take advantage of AI, take time to consider all the different ways you can measure your performance and see if you can come up with a few you never thought possible before.

Market Indices

All goods and services are affected by market forces. Staying on top of market indices is important for making strategy decisions.

An effective cognitive data strategy uses data from market indices.  Market Indices will enrich your own data and allow you to forecast into the future.  Adding this level of depth to your cognitive platform will reveal the actionable insights that cognitive data promises.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is great resource for all kinds of indices.  If you are in construction, there are a number of private organizations that publish various indices to help forecast the future.  Look at the AIA, Dodge, and AGCjust to name a few.

Add market indices to your data set to enrich your analytics and strategise with forecasting.

Category Expertise

Cognitive technologies offer beautiful data outputs rich in data and content, on their own these outputs are just eye-candy.  The interpretation of that data and content must be made by skilled experienced subject matter experts.

Eventually we may get to the point where computers can read the data and a clear strategy will be automatically spit-out for anyone to act on.  Even then, how you act on the data will require some expertise.  Until such time, you must have your cognitive data interpreted by a human with category expertise.

It’s too easy for data to be misinterpreted and for an organisation to run-off in the wrong direction.  Even the most advanced Artificial Intelligence we have Today is unable to interpret the various human factors that go into strategy making and for that reason, Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) are still required.

Be sure you know that the person who will receive and interpret your data has the skills needed to execute a sound strategy.  After all the time and energy you invest in cognitive tools, you need to be sure your direction is sound.

Closing

The future of AI and cognitive is bright.  We are heading in a great new direction where information will rule.  Today there are a few trail-blazers paving the way for us all.  Those using these new technologies Today are sure to be better prepared Tomorrow as they find new and creative ways of using data to guide their business decisions.


This article was originally published on Luis Gile’s website. Check out more of his content here. 

Sign up for next week’s webinar: Clean Up Your Act! Category Management AI-Style. 

How To Upgrade Your Procurement Mindset

In a world where cost-savings are no longer king in procurement, how can the function demonstrate its business value and earn a seat at the table? Jaime Mora talks upgrading your procurement mindset!

In recent years, our organisations have gotten a better understanding of the valuable contribution Procurement can deliver to the business.

And yet, there remains a feeling that the function has not yet reached its full potential. Procurement is certainly a relevant and appreciated corporate function. But we’re not yet sitting in the C-Suite…

As procurement professionals, we unanimously agree that the function should be elevated within the business, but convincing those at the top is easier said that done.  Whilst all organisations consider implementing cost-savings to be a crucial part of business success, it’s no longer regarded as a strategic process or a competitive advantage. Leaders are becoming increasingly aware that savings alone will not distinguish them against  their competitors. As such, procurement can be dismissed within the business as a less important function.

The bottom-up approach

If traditional procurement contributions are not at the top of an organisation’s agenda, how can procurement earn its place in the C-Suite?

It’s difficult to find a “one size fits all” recipe but we could start by upgrading our procurement mindset. I propose that we rebrand  ourselves as: “External Competitive Advantage Strategists.”

But what on earth does that mean?

As it stands, we’re  pressured into taking a bottom-up approach to our work. We know we have to bring savings to the table, we achieve this, and only then do we start thinking about the other nice things we can do with our time; innovation, sustainability, supplier development etc. And we deliver on those things too.

It makes sense that the more value-adding contributions we make, the more arguments we have to justify a spot, and a voice, at the highest levels of the organisation.

But in reality,  we end up doing bits and pieces here and there, following trends and simply trusting our gut.

Taking this approach is one of the reasons that procurement objectives and output may deviate from actual business goals.

Taking a top-to-bottom approach

If we truly want to step up our contributions, we should be taking a top-to-bottom approach. Our organisations operate in highly competitive environments, where sustainable advantages are required in order for us to outperform our competitors.

Procurement is uniquely positioned in the business given our access to so much information from our supply networks and an awareness of the opportunities here. We’re in the perfect position to source more than just products and services – we can actually source competitive advantage.

Procurement is capable of seeing things strategically. We can analyse where our organisation stands in a competitive environment and we are capable of both meeting our business targets and identifying where and how our organisation could compete better.  To take a holistic approach, this should be complemented with strategic analyses of our suppliers.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece,  cost-savings will always be appreciated. But procurement’s work should never be limited to that. The new approach to procurement is about sourcing the external competitive advantages on offer to give our organisation unique advantages in a competitive environment.

Imagine the following scenario: one of my organisation’s strategies is to develop its people. From my knowledge of the supply market I know a particular supplier that is uniquely skilled in people management and development and this makes them the most competitive supplier. We have the power to bring this supplier to the table; to initiate the discussion to build a partnership and leverage the supplier’s competitive advantage, or even a vertical integration.  Boom! Now Procurement is sitting at the M&A table.

As saving becomes a commodity and not a priority, it is time to reinvent procurement. Leave the Procurement Manager title behind and become a External Competitive Advantage Strategist!