Category Archives: Generation Procurement

Do You Have The Right Skills To Deliver Tomorrow’s Procurement Strategy?

Why are our procurement teams falling so short when it comes to delivering on strategy? Changing mind-sets and attracting fresh talent will help start the party!
Register now  as a digital delegate for The Big Ideas Summit Chicago!
 

Shockingly, 60 per cent of CPOs believe their teams do not have the skills to deliver their procurement strategy, according to Deloitte’s “Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey 2017.”

Why are procurement teams falling so short?

Originally, procurement was heavily based on process management, negotiation and basic spend analysis. But the procurement function is evolving, and professionals have to adapt to a new environment . There are new and growing expectations that require alternate skills for a more advanced job profile.

Procurement professionals are expected to be much more analytical, with the ability to perform data mining. They also must learn to manipulate and understand financial data and indicators, such as P&L and balance sheets. That’s not to mention that they should be proficient with the latest technologies.

Yet, one of the most important skills to develop is customer centricity. In today’s customer-centric world, this becomes crucial.

In my opinion, understanding internal customers,  being able to communicate in their language, knowing what they want or helping them to understand what they need, is the most difficult skill to learn and develop because it often goes against the conventional and traditional training that many procurement professionals have received.

It’s time to stop hiding behind the processes and get to know the internal customers! Given the back-office environment we are coming from, there is still a lot to do to change the mind-set and the behaviour of those involved. Procurement professionals need to develop their consultative skills and become less process focused, since excessive process significantly impedes speed and agility.

Keeping It Fresh

Another challenge for procurement involves attracting and retaining fresh talent in our industry. This situation needs to be addressed now to prevent a significant skills gap within the next couple of years. While we still have to continue to build traditional procurement skills. We also need to recognise that these skills must evolve as analytic and cognitive solutions provide more refined data and insight. The challenge is less about finding someone who is an expert negotiator and more about recruiting someone who understands data and logic.

At IBM, we are currently hiring maths and statistics majors because they can understand trends and probabilities. Although many procurement skills can be taught,  it’s hard to train someone to find trends in complex data.

Taking IBM’s example, our strategy to recruit and retain talent is reflected in how we communicate our procurement roles. “Our Procurement strategy is about collaborating with customers to ensure they have best in-class solutions, with access to the most advanced technology available on mobile devices. We partner with our suppliers to be as innovative and creative as possible.”

Presented like this, a job in procurement sounds pretty exciting!

The party ain’t over yet!

And the party isn’t over once we’ve found the right skills and talent, we also need to keep that skilled staff within the procurement function! If we help employees build on their competencies as well as add new ones, and if they can see that their contribution to the company’s mission clearly makes a difference, it will help us to keep those employees in procurement.

Ultimately, modernising the procurement profession and making procurement a “cool” place to work will help retain a talented, skilled and motivated workforce.

On 28th September, Procurious is bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Chicago.  Register now  (It’s FREE!) as a digital delegate to gain access to all of the day’s action. 

Crank It Up A Notch With AstraZeneca’s CPO

You don’t always have to reach for the stars in procurement! Sometimes it’s ok to crank it up one notch at a time. AstraZeneca CPO, Dapo Ajayi, explains why. 

Career Boot Camp 2017 launches on 4th September, featuring podcasts  with 5 global CPOs. Sign up here (It’s FREE!) 

We’d never say it’s a bad thing for procurement pros to forever shoot for the stars. Especially when it comes to innovating with suppliers. But don’t be underestimating those smaller successes and achievements!

Dapo Ajayi, CPO AstraZeneca wants to remind you that it’s ok to crank things up one notch at a time! Smaller ideas carry a lot of weight through building trust, improving collaboration and creating opportunities for greater change further down the line.

In her Career Boot Camp podcast, Dapo also discusses what business acumen means to her in the context of procurement, how to better align procurement with business stakeholders and offers guidance on how to become a CPO.

Five days, five CPOs, five fifteen-minute podcasts to help you upgrade your procurement career. 

Featuring tips and guidance from the best in the business, each of our  CPOs will dedicate their week to coaching you on becoming the best procurement leader you can be!

On Day 3 of Career Boot Camp we turn our attentions to AstraZeneca’s CPO, Dapo Ajayi.

Need a little convinving before you sign up? Check out our teaser trailer below to hear what Dapo had to say in reponse to our quick-fire questions.

Crank It Up, One Notch At A Time

It’s understandable that procurement pros would want to impart huge change in their organisations. But to achieve big, you sometimes have to be realistic and start small, allowing the more subtle changes you make to accumulate into something bigger.

“I don’t want to leave listeners with the view that innovation and new ideas is about the big, massive opportunity in change,” says Dapo.  “I think that you can be just as successful in terms of bringing in some of the smaller ideas, the smaller innovations, that maybe just move the organisation a notch as opposed to the big-step change. I think both have a place in the modern corporate environment.

“Sometimes the small steps are the way in which you build the trust and you begin to build the relationship as collaboration, of idea generation, which maybe then lead to the bigger idea, the bigger opportunity further down the line.”

What Does Business Acumen Mean For Procurement Pros?

“Business acumen is the way in which an individual approaches their role. They view themselves as leaders, leaders of the business, and don’t just see themselves as an enabling function that’s just there to meet the needs of a particular set of stakeholders. They feel ownership for the business agenda.”

For Dapo, business acumen is very much about  understanding the core of the business, and its priorities. “What’s really important for me,  in terms of procurement professionals, are those  who are agile enough to consider how their procurement agenda is relevant to the business agenda. Those who can translate “procurement speak” to business-relevant language. That, to me, is business acumen.

“It may be that talking about the unit price saving is not going to engage a stakeholder, but talking about how you can simplify or reduce the lead time will.  This, at the end of the day, might also result in a price reduction or a savings in procurement speak. It achieves all the objectives. But it’s just not the place to start!”

“The other thing, for me, is individuals who demonstrate an enterprise mindset. I feel that procurement is uniquely placed to be able to make connections. Quite often, you can see individual business units and individual functions, trying to solve a problem.

“In procurement, you suddenly find that, actually, you’re not on their own. There are multiple parts of the business all trying to address the same challenge. Elevating that to maybe an enterprise challenge and enterprise issue and looking at an enterprise solution as opposed to just a solution to a function A or function B I think is really important.”

Listen to Dapo’s full podcast when you sign up to Procurious. Career Boot Camp 2017 launches on 4th September, featuring podcasts with 5 global CPOs. Sign up here (It’s FREE!) 

Already a member of Procurious? You’re automatically enrolled for Career Boot Camp! Click here to listen to Dapo’s podcast in full.

Automation: Who Says You Can’t Manage What You Can’t See?

If your business is engaged in international commerce, you’re probably struggling to toe the line with supplier risk management. Automation, alerts, and third-party data are your best defense.

Managing supply chain risk is no walk in the park. Exogenous events like the recent terrorist attacks in Barcelona have drawn attention to the EU’s rules to combat terrorism financing through stricter anti-money laundering (AML) regulations. These rules impact many companies that are increasingly added to the law’s scope: possibly yours.

Meanwhile, modern slavery violations can surprise even the most astute contract or supply chain managers who may have unknowingly relied on invalid or falsified information. In the U.K., The Modern Slavery Act 2015 includes a Transparency in Supply Chains clause, which requires companies operating in the U.K. to address modern slavery in their supply chains. If you’re at a big company, you’re probably on the hook to comply.

Once you add in the more common types of risk, such as the financial or credit health of your suppliers, changing markets, and natural disasters, the sense of how challenging it is to manage them all—in the age of digital disruption with fast-paced change and volatility—can quickly become overwhelming.

Fortunately, there is technology and automation to help you maintain control, gain visibility into your supply chain, and mitigate much of these risks. The right technology can help you proactively steer your organization clear of minefields that can damage everything from reputation to sales. And it’s only getting better.

 Start with real-time monitoring and alerts

The first step is to identify the most likely disruptions to the supply chain, like a natural disaster or a work stoppage at a supplier’s supplier. One way to deal with this type of risk is with real-time monitoring. Real-time monitoring of your suppliers means that you can receive an alert whenever there is a potential for disruption. Such alerts can help you find an alternative source of supply, maintain production, and avoid missed deliveries or even a plant shutdown.

Real-time alerts should be an extension of an overall solution consisting of a platform and business network. This is the ideal foundation to set up, monitor, and manage a portfolio of suppliers to ensure that all essential documentation about labor practices, certifications, certificates of insurance, and so on, is in place before you start doing business.

Integrate third-party data sources

Documentation and data about your suppliers can come from many sources, not just what you gather during an onboarding, contracting, or surveying exercise. There are plenty of third-party sources that have standalone solutions and open APIs or integrations into supplier management platforms that let you address various dimensions of supplier risk and to set up corresponding alerts.

If your company is engaged in trade and has a 10,000-euro or more money transfer in any way, it will need to comply with the EU 4th AML Directive. In addition to digitally onboarding your supplier base, you may want to automate KYC / KYB (know-your-customer, /-business), AML (anti-money-laundering), and EDD (enhanced due diligence) requirements. These steps will help you comply with the directive

One provider that is using cutting edge technology like distributed ledgers is Austria-based Kompany. Their counterparty verification data allows users to streamline the supplier verification process at the point of onboarding (and continually) with up-to-the-minute alerts on any material changes to supplier vitals. Their information comes directly from the commercial registers. Kompany even includes PEP (politically exposed person) screening and sanction lists.

Who says you can’t manage what you can’t see?

Other popular sources of company and industry data include Moody’s (credit ratings), EcoVadis (sustainability scorecards and ratings), riskmethods (transparency into risk exposures in 1-n tier supply chains), and Made in a Free World (visibility into modern slavery), to name a few. These data sources can help you continuously monitor for risks and evaluate your risk portfolio during the sourcing process.

Through technology and regulatory technology systems like those described above, you can design an automated, customized, and intelligent risk management strategy. In turn, this can boost trust between you and your suppliers and you can plan more confidently in an environment full of uncertainty.

Social Currency In Procurement: Do You Know Enough To Be Dangerous?

In recognition of how central social currency is, procurement pros are using their social networks to build, influence, and deliver results. The question is: do you know enough to be dangerous?

Connectivity is central to how we live and work in 2017. When something exciting or unexpected happens, many people immediately share the news, and a picture, on social-media. We read the updates shared by others and offer up our own. We like a post or status update to indicate support or show we are ‘in the know’ and watching important influencers. This constant sharing and consumption of information has become a global phenomenon.

Over time, these exchanges add up to a wealth of knowledge and connections that improve our decisions and elevate the weight given to our preferences – much like the exchange of ‘social currency.’

Social currency in procurement

A similar trend has begun in procurement and supply chain – perhaps in recognition of how central social currency is to us on an individual level. Procurement professionals have talked about supply intelligence for a long time, but now they are increasingly aware of how important their own social networks are to their ability to build, influence, and deliver results.

Professional social currency includes, for example, the recommendations, endorsements and likes that we assign as we go about our business online.  When combined, they create a level of trust, and contribute to organisational reputations of both buy and sell side organisations. When buyers trust that a supplier will be able meet their business needs, or when a supplier trusts that a customer is a good fit for their capabilities in both demand and culture, transaction costs are decreased and the total value potential increases.

The fact that both sales and procurement are investing in their social currency creates a unique opportunity for them to come together and leverage their collective knowledge for the benefit of both organisations.

Being Reactive Vs Pro-active

One of the strengths of social media is its timeliness. Trust is not just about the source or location where information is stored. The more real time information is, the more confidence it gives to decision makers. Having real-time access to information allows procurement to meet the businesses’ needs faster. Timeliness is also at the top of the stakeholders’ priority list when deciding whether or not to engage procurement. When procurement can provide information proactively in real time, identifying which suppliers stakeholders should look at or having the pulse of specific industries, it goes a long way towards demonstrating their value – and adding to social currency.

Having instant access to trusted information alters the range of project options available to a procurement professional. They are no longer in the position of having to be reactive, where the business comes to procurement and says, “We have these new suppliers that we would like to engage – NOW” forcing procurement to scramble, trying to vet them. When procurement has access to real time information, they can readily identify potential suppliers and quickly access industry peer endorsements on those suppliers.

Do you know enough to be dangerous?

Procurement professionals need to know enough to be ‘dangerous’. They should have a foundational understanding of the category or commodity they are supporting, and be able to translate business needs into procurement best practices. This way when they get a seat at the table with stakeholders, they are able to engage in intelligent discussions around what stakeholders are trying to do and what is happening in the industry. Having access to intelligence allows procurement to be the engine driving category or commodity strategy to achieve sustainable value for an organisation.

Today, people call or email each other for supplier recommendations. This manual way of accessing trusted “social currency” is not scalable or visible to the rest of the organisation. The procurement technology user experience has come a long way. With collaborative or social technologies, the data becomes smarter and benefits everyone today and in the future.

The concept of trusted data is not new… the same instant knowledge that allows people to prioritise news shared by their circle of friends or pick a restaurant that has been highly recommended by people with similar preferences… today, decisions are made faster and the outcome is often more successful as a result of social currency.

The insights in this article comprise one of the main takeaways of a supplier intelligence-focused Executive Roundtable Series hosted by tealbook which brought together over 40 forward-thinking procurement leaders from across the country.

Negotiation Skills? Going Once, Going Twice…Gone!

Does the rise of eAuctions mean the professions’ hard-won negotiation skills are now irrelevant? 

On Procurious, we’re keeping a close eye on the rise of procurement-related technology and what it means for roles and skill-sets across the profession. One such technology – the eAuction – has proven itself to be a highly efficient way of conducting a sourcing event and driving prices down. But does the advent of eAuctions mean that procurement professionals’ negotiation skills are no longer required?

This was one of the topics discussed at a Negotiation Roundtable organised by CABL (Conti Advanced Business Learning) and facilitated by its Founder, Giuseppe Conti.

Keep your options open

Thierry Blomet, Kemira’s Senior VP of Global Sourcing, told the roundtable that in his experience, the contract cannot always be awarded immediately after the eAuction. “We had an eAuction where it became clear that there were so many moving parts and questions that could not be answered during the event itself. We realised there’d be the need for additional discussion, so we used the outcome of the eAuction to narrow the bidders down to a small group of preferred suppliers, and continued the conversation from there.”

In other words, if you want to keep your options open, it’s important to communicate to suppliers that you may make the decision not to award at the conclusion of the eAuction. Instead, you may move the leading suppliers to a next-step status.

The nature of the eAuction itself presets your ability to negotiate during the event. There’s a bewildering array of eAuction formats – Dutch, Japanese, Brazilian, English to name a few – so it’s important to do your research. Blomet comments, “If you try to condense the event to 30 minutes, for example, you leave very little room to negotiate. A longer event leaves more room for something to happen and for you to react accordingly.”

Play fair

Francesco Lucchetta, Director of Strategic Supply at Pentair, says the ability to play with the visibility of quotes – so participants in the same eAuction can see each other’s bids – can be very helpful in encouraging competition. He warns, though, that the contract should have been established and its terms accepted by the bidders well before the eAuction takes place. “Make sure your suppliers have accepted your contractual terms, so no more discussions need to happen once the award is in place.”

Blomet notes that there are a lot of ethical aspects that need to be clearly communicated and understood before an eAuction. “You need to be able to define any red lines, and make sure participating suppliers understand. During the eAuction, ethical breaches could include inviting a fake vendor, or having a hidden way of scoring. It’s a matter of credibility.”

Tamara Taubert, Procter and Gamble’s Global Capability Purchasing Leader, comments that purchasing teams always need to behave in ways that are consistent with their values, and this includes running an eAuction. “Think about how you will behave as a company during the event. If the information about the event became public in 5, 10 or 20 years from now, would you be comfortable with that? You need to guarantee fair and ethical treatment of all participants.”

In fact, unethical behaviour by some corporations using eAuctions means that many suppliers are uncomfortable with the concept. Blomet notes that some large corporations have established that they do not participate in reverse auctions as a rule. “There have been a lot of issues in the past caused by poor communication, poor management, unethical behaviour, or suppliers simply being uncomfortable with the technology.”

This suggests there’s work to be done to improve the reputation of ethically-driven eAuctions.

Interested in attending a CABL Negotiation workshop? Click here  to find out more. The founder, Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience with leading multinationals and over 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

Want to win a XK-X300 Quadcopter Drone? Take our survey!

With world-class talent and unlimited potential, a career in procurement can be brilliant … but you’ll need a plan to make it happen. That’s why we’ve launched our “My (Brilliant) Procurement Career” survey to understand how YOU will manage your own career into the future. 

Ten minutes is all it will take to put yourself in the running to win this quadcopter!

We need your input to discover:

  • In what ways are our peers across the globe seizing control of their own career management?
  • Do procurement professionals expect the profession to thrive, or to disappear by 2030?
  • Is crowdsourcing answers on social media an effective way to get the solution you need?
  • Do individuals in procurement feel isolated, or well-connected with the wider profession?

We’ve kept the survey to under 10 minutes – we know you’re busy!

Want to know more about the quadcopter? Check out this video review:

Cool, right? But you’ve got to be in it to win it! My Online Career is only open until Friday 8th September. You’ll also receive a copy of the report summarising the findings of the survey.

CLICK HERE to take the survey now!

Attention All Employees: Report For Microchipping

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

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

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

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

What can the microchips do?

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

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

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

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

Can microchipped people be tracked remotely?

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

Will employee microchips one day be compulsory?

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

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

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


In other procurement news this week:

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

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

Coupa appoints new Chief Marketing Officer

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

Intel to build a fleet of self-driving cars

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

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Procurious’ Hugo Britt shares his experience of what happens when you truly disconnect – whether it’s on an extended career break, or just a short trip away.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

It’s 2009. I’m sitting alone in a tent perched high in the Italian Apennines, listening to the roaring of wild boars on the other side of the canvas. I’ve been scribbling away at my journal by torchlight in an effort to capture my experience hiking the 400km, 23-day Apennine Trail, when something makes me pause mid-sentence. I flip to a clean page at the back of the notebook and, in full caps, write the words “LIFE PLAN” at the top of the page.

I’ve still got that journal, but I remember tearing that page out a few days later, a bit embarrassed at how self-indulgent it seemed. What was I up to when I wrote it? I’m not normally one to come up with grandiose life plans – in fact, I usually have trouble planning more than a week or so ahead.

Here’s my theory.

Zooming out

By that point in my hike, I’d been trudging along for nearly 20 days. This was to be the last hurrah after nearly a year of travel. My then-girlfriend and travel partner (now, happily, my wife) was working in the UK, and I’d taken the opportunity to do something I’d always wanted before heading back to Australia – one of Europe’s spectacular long-distance trails. I was going it alone, not only in the sense that I didn’t have a hiking partner but because the trail rarely passed through towns. It was off-season, so I barely met anybody over those three weeks in the mountains apart from the odd deer hunter. I had a phone, but rarely had reception – and (it being 2009), I was yet to upgrade to a smartphone.

In short, I’d disconnected. I hadn’t thought about the job I’d resigned from for months – nor was I worrying about finding another job when my shoe-string travel budget inevitably gave out and I had to head home. If I did think about my career, it tended to be through a wider lens (“What do I really want to do with my life”) rather than the practical details (“I need to update my CV, line up some interviews, buy a new suit…”). Thoughts like this didn’t even occur to me, probably because they’d have been so incongruous with what I was doing at that moment, whether it was trudging up a slope or cooking dinner on a fuel stove.

My point is that if you do manage to properly disconnect, you stop sweating the small stuff. From memory, the four or five points in my so-called life plan weren’t about getting practical little jobs done – it was more of an epic to-do list. It included asking my girlfriend to marry me, deciding what city we wanted to live in, whether I really wanted to finish my current course of study – in other words, the big-ticket items.

Switching off on a short break

2017 – eight years later, I’ve just returned from a very different sort of trip. Our family of four took in the frenetic sights and sounds of Hong Kong for two weeks, which gave me a short, but invaluable, chance to disconnect from the office. Unlike back in 2009, I was very much employed this time around and must admit sneaking a glance at my inbox a couple of times in those first couple of days. Eventually, I made the conscious decision to switch off and did so by disabling just about everything on my phone apart from the camera app.

Switching off helped me zoom out. It helped me put some common-sense context around the unanswered emails and unfinished projects sitting in my inbox. While I can’t claim to have completely stopped thinking about work during that two-week break, my thought process shifted from the detailed level (sweating the small-stuff) to discovering the bigger picture. Almost subconsciously, I was rearranging the tasks on my plate into a realistic order of priority, and even had a couple of “aha” moments – not by sitting down at a laptop and working, but while I was doing something completely unrelated, like lining up to purchase a ferry ticket.

Find your holiday brain

There’s some science behind this. Earlier in 2017, Procurious interviewed James Bannerman, a Creative Change Agent and phycologist about the best ways to unlock creativity. He said “Trying to be creative is like trying to go to sleep. If you’re too busy focusing on going to sleep, you’ll stay awake because there’s all sorts of brainwave activity linked to beta waves that will keep you from falling asleep.”

Bannerman explained that there’s a sweet-spot that allows creativity to flourish. “We tend to be most creative when we’re focused but not over-focused, and relaxed but not too relaxed. You’re more likely to think creatively when you step away from your desk, and do something like go for a run, or go for a drive, or simply look out the window. It’s about finding that optimum state.”

So, there you have it. Stepping away from your career allows you to perform better in that career. Time to book my next trip.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Evergreen Wisdom for a Changing Profession

When was the last time you reached out to a Procurement Guru? Although the battleground is changing, those among us with scars have a lot of relevant insights to share.

We knew we’d be in for a treat when we locked in an interview with ISM board member Ann Oka. Ann is the former senior VP of supply management (CPO) for Sodexo, Inc. in North America where she was responsible for a whopping US$5.5 billion spend.

While working, Ann believed in contributing beyond her formal role, and served on the board of trustees for the A.T. Kearney Center for Strategic Supply Leadership at ISM, the board of the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, and was a member of the executive committee of the GS1 Foodservice Initiative.  She retired in June of 2014, and other than the ISM board, now occupies her time with family and leisure.

Of course, she has a wealth of knowledge to draw from thanks to decades of procurement experience but, interestingly, she’s objective about its value to the next generation of procurement professionals. “Some things don’t change over time; motivating and leading people, looking at evolving tech and enlarging the sources of value. But, whilst there might be a lot of insights those of us with scars can give, the battleground is changing.”

The battleground may well be changing but surely that means Ann’s insights, as a seasoned pro, are all the more significant? As such, we were fascinated to learn how she has seen the profession develop over time and what she believes the future holds.

The evolution of procurement

Ann explains how drastically procurement’s role has changed over the years, both in terms of job responsibilities and external perceptions of the profession. “Where people were once identified as buyers or negotiators, they became category managers as the implementation of strategic sourcing evolved. These developments redefined the role of the average procurement person – they became professionals; their strategic impact increased and they had a broader scope.”

It’s a tricky and lengthy transition to lead any team through. “There’s a big task in the up-skilling of your people, particularly when you want to bring as many of them along with you as you can.”

Of course, some things don’t change. “The major evolution of procurement that we’re currently experiencing is comparable, in many ways, to what happened twenty years ago” Ann begins. “It was in the mid-90s when I first realised the importance of systems, technology and data. There was a tremendous amount of data available to procurement and category management, but harnessing it and getting it into the hands of the supply professionals was the challenge.”

What does the future hold?

Ann believes that the most competent procurement professionals will take the onslaught of Artificial Intelligence entirely in their stride. As she puts it, in a message to “The Change Resistant”:

“The train has come to the station. You have the choice of getting on it – and we’ll help you with the ticket – or you can be run over.”

The bottom line, she says, is that “people may well have been successful in the past, but the world is changing and you need to change with it, or it will pass you by.”

As far as procurement roles being totally displaced by AI, Ann is sceptical at best. “I don’t think the advent of new technology really changes a procurement role. Those with an ability to look at the long-term picture will be able to incorporate that into their strategies. Look at how the future is evolving and the possibilities it presents and work out how you’re going to work with the firm and with your supply base to extract the maximum value.”

Permission To Fail, Please!

It’s apparent that Ann rates a good procurement leader as much as, if not more than, someone who’s AI-ready.  “The harder thing for many organisations is having a management team that allows employees room to stretch and fail, that lets them try new things without instilling a fear of repercussions. There is such a thing as a successful failure. People are loath to say a project they’ve run hasn’t worked  out, fearing they will be judged on its success or failure. But occasionally  encountering a failure is a part of the journey to improvement.”

Procurement leaders can effectively work as safety nets for their teams. They should allow enough flexibility but know when to pull the plug to avoid too much fallout.

“I was in my position at Sodexo for 11 years. It allowed us to do things like put in some industry-leading systems, change the way we worked with suppliers, and harvest a culture of continuous improvement. In this time the continuous improvement team came up with several far-fetched ideas and used the leadership  team as a sounding board. It’s useful to invite new ideas and to have an off-the-wall ways of looking at things.”

Of course, not everyone thinks in this way. The key is finding people who have strategic vision. “Leaders should be on the look out for hires who have an intellectual curiosity and the courage to tickle the edges of things that are scary.  Embracing functional diversity is important in achieving this – perhaps your next star will come from legal, or IT, or straight out of college?”

Once a CPO, always a CPO

She might be retired, but its clear to see Ann still lives and breathes procurement. “I have people from past roles who, surprisingly, come back and approach me for our old heart-to-hearts”. She holds­­ board positions and still mentors younger professionals.  Safe to say there’s a spot for her on our board any day!

We concluded the interview with a final piece of advice from Ann; “If you’re a CPO, think about how you best position your company for tomorrow. Keep an eye on emerging technologies and bring the conversation to the table.” In other words, don’t miss the train!­­

 

Blockchain Is Real. It’s Here Now And It’s Coming To Transform the World

Why are organisations so keen to bury their heads in the sand and pretend blockchain isn’t happening – it all starts with a severe case of NIH syndrome…

There are certain market analysts who would have you believe that the benefits of Blockchain technology are “Hype” and the real benefits are still 10-20 years away. There are several reasons for this:

Ignorance

Although many believe such firms to be thorough and knowledgeable about every leading edge technology, they are not. This is evident in a lack of participation in key consortiums and conferences and a lack of good research leading them to a parochial view of Blockchain’s Global impact which they put in print.

NIHS (Not Invented Here Syndrome)

“Coin the Term and Own the Market” has always been the mantra of some these firms.  “If we don’t say it is so – then it ain’t so.” There has been at least one attempt to rename the Blockchain market “Metacoin”- “Meta” meaning “about or referring to itself.” This shows a clear misunderstanding of the market.

It’s not “about the Coin”…

…whether Bitcoin, Ether, Zcash, or any others. Again, this is a very narrow view of what Blockchain is all about. What are most important are the underlying capabilities of Blockchain technology that enable those cryptocurrencies, but also enable many other unrelated and far reaching benefits.

Blockchain is not synonymous with Fintech or Bitcoin

Currently, Financial institutions arguably stand to gain the most by adopting Blockchain technology and stand to lose the most if they don’t. The major global financial institutions, especially those in the U.S. also face the biggest challenges in getting their objectives achieved.

Blockchain technology can resolve many inefficiencies inherent in the trade settlement process that cost them and customers time and estimated $20 billion per year. There are three major prohibitive factors in achieving this:

1.   Existing Technology infrastructure

Understandably financial institutions don’t want to start over redesigning their systems from the ground up so they are trying to select bits and pieces of Blockchain and integrate it with existing technology. History has shown this approach has never worked very well and could take years to accomplish if they are ever successful. This is one area where market or analyst skepticism is derived from. On this they are correct.

2.   Current Legislation

Mandating human intervention and oversight in settlement processes that Blockchain can negate the need for has hamstrung efforts even more than the technology issues.

3.   Ownership & Control of the processes and technology

Financial institutions want to own and control these processes via “private Blockchains” so they can make the rules and control the economy. “Public Blockchains” are like the Internet and are not controlled by anyone. We know how well “private internets” worked – remember “intranets”?

Ironically the public gave that “trusted intermediary” role to financial institutions years ago and they have abused it time after time. It was the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 which motivated Satoshi Nakamoto to invent Blockchain to enable technology to do what we could not blindly trust banks to do for us. In spite of Dodd-Frank oversight legislation, the recent Wells Fargo debacle has shown that not much has changed.

With all of these challenges for Financial Institutions to adopt Blockchain technology, one might say, “Ok, now I understand why Blockchain is more hype than reality – lots of discussions, lots of promise, and a handful of promising but limited test-scenarios. Lots of investment, but not much to show.” Yes. One could clearly have that view if :

1.   You didn’t look beyond the Financial Industry,

2.   You thought Blockchain was the same as Bitcoin,

3.   You didn’t look beyond the borders of the United States, and

4.   If you ignored or were unaware of the implications of Blockchain security, record immutability, Smart Contracts, micro-units, micro-payments, and digital identification already implemented and working in many other countries in hundreds of applications across every industry sector.

Michael Shaw is CPO and Executive Board Member of Sourcing and Procurement Executives (ACSPE) and Chief Information Officer at Blockchain Executive.  This article was originally published on LinkedIn.