Category Archives: Generation Procurement

A CPO ’s “To-Do” List for the First 100 Days

100 days of being a CPO….What’s on your to-do list, where do you start and how do you develop your action plan to transform the procurement team? 

You’re hired!  After the jubilation of accepting a job wears off and you’re successfully on-boarded to your new company, you learn you have 100 days to develop a plan.  This plan that will begin a journey of procurement transformation that surpasses the expectations you shared during the new hire process.  The opportunity is ‘greenfield’: building out a procurement function where one didn’t previously exist or where the function never took hold for one reason or another.

You’ve been appointed CPO. You have 100 days to develop a plan.  What’s first? 

There are various approaches to transformation and the key is to find the right one for your project.  The approach I will share is based on my personal experiences building out the procurement function (source-to-settle) at a Fortune 50 company, at a hyper-growth entrepreneurial company, and (most recently) at an established, well-diversified healthcare company.

First course of business – assess the current state if you didn’t do so during the interview process.  Have a conversation with anyone willing to engage starting with your new team, executive leadership, and cross-functional stakeholders.  You need to understand your inherited brand firsthand – including the perspectives and opinions of your inherited procurement function.  These discussions are important on several fronts because they:

  • Baseline the present-day function and capture a snapshot of where you started your journey. This will be key as you look in the rearview mirror to see how far you’ve come;
  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats across the categories of people, process, and technology;
  • Provide key insights on brand perceptions and the history behind them;
  • Help identify advocates, influencers, and distractors; and
  • Finally, provide insights to what ‘should’ be next and offer a semblance of preferred timing

I recommend partnering with a change management guru and a project manager to articulate the business requirements that will form your vision, set a definition of success, and develop a communication strategy and cadence.  Do not underestimate impact of change and the new behaviors that are required to effect better business outcomes.

At my current company, we took a slightly different approach to transformation based on our unique combination of vision, culture, and employee demographics.  Early on we reached out to Marketing to create a ‘drip campaign’ comprised of video vignettes, campus signage, and direct outreach. The whole effort centered on our mascot – Moolah, a big fury, purple creature that was accompanied by a tag line – ‘Spend It Like It’s Yours’ (loosely based on the acronym ‘SILIY’ – pronounced silly).

The objective was to have fun with the initiative, which is one of our values.  The result was celebrity status for Moolah and greater acceptance of the initiative.  Frankly, it was fun to see employees taking selfies of Moolah at all-hands-on-deck meetings.

Included below is a checklist based on my experiences to help develop your plan.  Again, model or pivot based on what you observe in front of you and the expectations of procurement.  There is no absolutely right answer.

Discovery

    1. The Initiative
      1. ‘Why’ is the initiative being undertaken and why now
      2. ‘Who’ – who is the advocate and what role to they play and their plans to stay active
      3. ‘What’ is the motivation, business reasons for the initiative
      4. ‘When’ – expected timing – launch for the initiative and drivers
      5. ‘Where’ what is the geographical, business reach for the initiative, i.e., domestic only, certain BUs only, etc.
      6. ‘WIFT/M’ – beneficiaries?
    2. Your company
      1. Culture
      2. Vision, Mission and Values
      3. Story – market, penetration, success, competitors, …
    3. Existing function and talent
      1. Who plays the role today within the business
      2. Partner with HR to run a title & role search across the company
      3. Ask the pre-existing talent to provide their CVs and interview them
    4. Needs of the organization from the perspective of the business
      1. Functions value
      2. Brand (good, indifferent and what needs to change)
      3. Successes and failures
    5. Identify partners and executive support to advocate for the initiative
    6. Subset – players
      1. Active vocal participants (supporters)
      2. Points of dissension (naysayers)
      3. Bandwagoneers – those on the sidelines waiting for results and uncommitted in the interim

Baseline

  1. Performance to date
  2. People
    1. Skills and gaps
    2. Investments to date
    3. HIPOs (High Potential Employees)
    4. Investments and jettisons
  3.  Process/Policy
    1. Does one exist?
    2. Are there accountabilities?
    3. Spend authority
    4. Document signing authority
  4.  Technology
    1. What do you have?
    2. To what extent is it implemented?
      1. Vanilla
      2. Customizations
      3. Partials
    3. What is next and why?
  5. Quantify behaviors
    1. Buying behaviors of customer
    2. Willingness for change
      1. BUs
      2. Function
      3. Other Shared Services Centers
      4. Legal
      5. Execs

Initiative governance structure

  1. Agree roles/oversight for initiative, for example:
    1. Steering Committee
    2. Advocates within the business
  2. Other key constituents
    1. HR
    2. Legal
    3. Information Security
    4. Finance
  3. Develop RACI

Change Management strategy, approach, methodology

  1. Campaign
    1. Partner with Marketing on drip campaign (pre-planned, gradually released communications)
      1. Tagline
      2. Mascot
      3. Video vignette
  2. Change management leader
    1. Messaging
    2. Signage
    3. Cadence
  3.  Access
    1. Execs
    2. BUs
    3. Leadership
    4. Management
    5. IC’s

Business case to effectuate a different outcome

  1. Executive summary – overview of the initiative
  2. Detailed description of the initiative
  3. Why – what is it in for them/me – market analysis
  4. Organizational design
  5. Funding requirements
  6. ROI/IRR
  7. Anticipated outcomes
  8. Necessary executive support
  • Gain support for initiative
  • Execute
  • Reflect
  • Celebrate your successes

Appreciate that procurement transformation is a journey with a starting point that is unlikely to ever end.  You iterate, detour, and adapt to meet the needs of the organization.  Investment is required in the three buckets of people, process, and technology – and most importantly, the leadership team – to stay relevant.

You will encounter setbacks, and your ability to recover will test the team.  How they (and you) respond will determine the overall success of the initiative.  Most importantly – have fun if you are fortunate enough to have that as a key value at your company.

Greg Tennyson is the CPO at VSP Global.  This article was originally published on The Art of Procurement. 

You Don’t Have To Be A Procurement Genius

So you think you’re some kind of procurement genius? In this day and age, there ain’t no such thing and that’s ok!

We all like to think we’re geniuses, that we can single-handedly solve all the procurement problems of the world.

We now know that the concept of the ‘solo genius’ is largely a myth. True creativity comes from collaborative partnerships such as Jobs and Wozniak, Lennon and McCartney, or the Wright Brothers. Even the most famous ‘solo’ geniuses – Einstein, Newton, Mozart – didn’t operate in a vacuum, but built upon the work of countless others. Today, we’re lucky to live in a world where all the answers and ideas we need are only a click away.

Let’s face it, procurement’s most pressing issues (slavery, child labour, unsafe work practices, exploitation, neglect for the environment and copyright) are too big for any one person, or even any one company, to solve alone.

Even at the best of times, working in procurement can be a lonely place, even when we’re working as part of a team. You might be the only person managing your category in your company, in your industry, maybe even in your whole country!

Clambering out of Einstein’s basement

If you have a problem that you can’t fix and need some breakthrough thinking, don’t be like Einstein and barricade yourself in a basement waiting for genius to strike.

Remember that you are part of a vast, virtual, global procurement team full of millions of talented professionals with ideas – help is only a click away.

Get yourself out of isolation, onto the global playing field and ask the universe for inspiration.

Solving the world’s problems, together.

Over five thousand Procurious members visit our discussion board every month to share ideas and offer advice to their peers. Our blogs spark debate, with members feeding their own commentary and ideas into the global community.

The three hottest topics on Procurious in the past two years have been the Tianjin Port disaster, the Trump election and, most recently, the Grenfell Tower fire.

We are still seeing the ripple effects of these events with high levels of member engagement and interaction within the community; the feeding back of vital intelligence on alternate sourcing, suppliers, freight, logistics, on-the-ground contacts and changing regulations.

The hurried and helpful responses to these challenges by the global procurious community has proven that many hands make light work of disruption.

It’s clear that we want to talk online about the issues affecting procurement and are keen to help each other. It would seem that global “team procurement” is alive and well – but are you part of the flow?

Leveraging the Power of 23,000

There are now 23,000 Procurious members across 145+ countries, all with different strengths, weaknesses and experiences. Somewhere, out there, is someone who has had the same experience as you and some wise words to share.

Leveraging the wisdom of the crowd is the beauty of social media. By building your online presence and contacts you can craft a network of thought-leaders, influencers, and experts around you, to provide fantastic ideas and insights.

Even if you have a truly unique problem, there will be someone who can provide a fresh perspective that creates a lightbulb moment for you.

Take the lead

As a successful leader, you don’t have to have all the answers – but you do need to have the best questions….and know who to ask for the answers!

Whichever business icon or “genius” you admire – whether it be Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Elon Musk………you know they are not the only person providing the brain power to conjure their vision, there are teams working day and night to deliver the dream.

Like me, you’re probably “blown away” (pardon the pun) by the rapid progress of the SpaceX program. But as you admire Elon’s vision, just remember this is not solo genius, no one talented employee finding all the answers – there have been thousands of people working over decades to get these game-changing rockets to the launch pad who have been collaborating globally online to solve a millions of small and large challenges on the journey to space.

It’s exactly the same story in procurement. Behind every apparent genius (aka Global CPO), there’s a team of procurement pros behind the scene helping come up with solutions. Even if you don’t have a real team helping you – you have a secret weapon – you can consult your global team of procurement buddies to help you find the answer.

Be the smartest guy in the room

To shockproof our profession and become the smartest guys in the room, we need to move out of our silos and work together.

Procurement needs to be ahead of the curve – to be agile, to be savvy and to be bold. We are the avengers, the rock stars, the movers and shakers negotiating the deals that guarantee supply, quality, cost, ethics and sustainability. But we can’t do it on our own.

When you’re next faced with a challenge or struggling with the beginnings of a great idea. Don’t just sit there. Do Something. Get online and ask questions. The answer is only a click away.

Collaborate to proliferate!

Make it happen!

I’d Like To Purchase Some Expert Advice

Obtaining access to high quality consultancy services can often be the crucial factor in the success of a project. But buying advice is also one of the most confusing challenges for procurement. How can we overcome this?

Despite some consolidation in the financial consultancy sector, the overall market for consultancy services continues to grow, with the global consulting market valued at $250 billion.

While technology consultancy is leading the continued growth curve, other sectors including HR, operations and strategy are making strong contributions to overall value. For those seeking consultancy services, the market however can be complex. Is there a way to simplify the complexity of procuring consultancy services?

Why are consultancy services so confusing for buyers?

Much has to do with the breadth and depth on offer. Consultancy services are available in just about every industry possible and the sector continues to grow. The broad reach and sheer volume of suppliers can make it difficult to identify the best consultant for your needs. Take ‘Digital Transformation’ consultancy services as an example. It was barely recognised a sector just a few years ago, now it’s worth over $23billion and represented over 15% of the global consultancy market last year.

Consultancy services are provided by organisations large and small,- from multinational organisations and specialist niche providers to freelance independent consultants – often with much crossover in between. Many of the companies started life offering a single specialism but have grown and added additional services to their portfolios as their sector and market experience has developed.

Consultants often use a variety of language and definitions to describe who they are and what they deliver. With no single regulatory body on board to help define the market, its no wonder that buyers can find drawing comparisons a challenge.

As procurement budgets decrease globally, the lack of resourcing and specialisms often means that in-house buyers are generalists not specialists. As a result they may not have the insights into specific markets to be able to evaluate different consultancies meaningfully.

As a professional buying organisation, ESPO’s recent experience in building its largest ever public sector consultancy services framework highlights just how crowded and complex the marketplace is. It received a record number of tenders from suppliers – evaluating over 240 tenders before awarding 135 to the framework. As part of the process ESPO found that the marketplace is so complex that public sector buyers often remain with the same consultancy provider for years to avoid going through the procurement process again, putting budgets at risk.

Top things to consider when buying consultancy services

Utilising a team of 12 procurement experts with cross sector experience drawn from across the organisation and externally, ESPO was able to effectively evaluate the tenders before awarding the successful organisations a place on the framework. Here are its top considerations for buying consultancy services:

  1. Closely define your outcomes or objectives. By identifying the outcomes, procurement teams can work backwards from the end goal to define the exact service required.
  2. Request case studies. This will help you understand the process for delivery and ensure that the consultant has the right experience.
  3. Review technical capabilities. Whether you’re buying financial, waste disposal or even logistical advice, ensure that the consultants are specialists with the technical capabilities needed to deliver. This may mean that you are required to use a different provider for each project.
  4. Consider using a specialist framework for complex service procurement needs. Framework providers operate under strict due diligence rules and processes so you’re assured of the suppliers’ capabilities.   

Sheena Kocherhans is Category Manager for Professional Services at ESPO

7 Ways IoT Is Already Changing the World

From connected healthcare to retail and water management, the IoT will revolutionise the way we live. It’s already having some pretty major impacts…

This article was written by Gauri Bapat.

The wave of connectivity had extended beyond phones, laptops, and tablets and is permeating into our daily lives. With an explosion of connected devices in the market and a healthy adoption rate, we can safely assume that we are taking confident strides into the ‘connected life’ made possible by the IoT.

A report by Gartner suggests that by the year 2020, the number of connected devices across technologies will touch 2.6 billion. As we move towards an increasingly automated world, this technology will be used to improve the productivity and quality of life and industries alike. The IoT is poised to grow from a technological phenomenon to one with a more global and social impact…and the cogs are already turning in that direction. Things that we once saw only in sci-fi movies and Steven Spielberg specials are a reality today.

Let’s take a look at how the IoT is already changing the world we live in.

Manufacturing

IoT in manufacturing is ushering in the fourth Industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) that aims to make manufacturing smarter. Smart manufacturing involves the use of sensors that are retrofitted on existing manufacturing equipment to improve efficiency and performance. Siemens ‘ PLC manufacturing plant in Amberg, Germany, has implemented the principles of Industry 4.0 and has completely automated the production of their automation systems. Post this implementation, they witnessed a 99.99885 per cent “perfect” production quality rate. Now that’s impressive!

Airlines

The airline industry has seen massive adoption of the IoT in order to increase operational efficiency and drive the age of ‘connected aviation’. Virgin Atlantic has every single component of its Boeing 787 attached to a wireless airplane network. These incredibly connected airplanes use IoT data to evaluate everything right from the airplane’s performance to issue identification.

So, if a Virgin Atlantic jet reveals low-performance mid-flight, this information is related to the ground staff real-time. Thus, when the flight lands, the airport engineers are ready to solve the problem. Other airlines such as KLM, Qantas, Lufthansa, and Delta are also using IoT to improve aircraft performance, discover new business insights, and maintain greater efficiency.

Airports such as Miami airport, London City airport, Helsinki Airport, amongst otherS, use IoT to track passengers, prevent bottlenecks and queues, offer personalised services to the customers, track assets and also deliver location-based services to the travellers.

Water Management

One of the areas where IoT has made a tangible difference is in water management. Proper use and management of water have been a problem that many cities across the globe have been battling. IoT has been put to work in cities such as California and Bangalore in India to not only identify the cause of water shortage but also to identify avenues as to how water management can be optimised. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB) employed an IoT monitor to manage the complex water distribution system by creating an operational dashboard using IoT. They realised that almost 45 per cent of the water supplied by BWSSB is unaccounted. San Francisco employed smart meters to measure water consumption and notify their customers when their water consumption exceeds the specified limit or if, for example, the water is left running continuously for 24 hours.

Retail

The retail industry has witnessed a huge adoption of IoT. IoT implementation in retail has been done to not only improve the supply chain or to create more engaging and tailored marketing campaigns, but also to make shopping a more interesting experience. Retailer Rebecca Minkoff created the ‘connected store’ using RIFD tags on each piece of clothing and used smart mirrors in the dressing rooms. The customers could try on the product, and also take a look at other looks, available colors and sizes without even leaving the dressing room!

Target has been using beacons across 50 stores to provide personalised offers and present their customers with hyperlocal content to make shopping more exciting for their shoppers. Ralph Lauren’s Polo Tech apparel, which is a smart workout shirt, monitors vital activities of the user on a real-time basis and enables ongoing health monitoring.

Connected Energy

2016 saw us looking towards connected energy solutions to help us save energy. IoT products such as Google Nest, ecobee3 thermostat, the heating system Hive by British Gas have seen huge adoption to track and measure energy consumption. 46 per cent of technology enthusiasts in Germany and 42 per cent in the US already own a connected energy solution and save almost 72 per cent on their monthly utility bills – that amounts to a USD $80 reduction in the monthly bill.

Lighting Control

Moving beyond the smart lights of a connected smart home, smart lighting control can generate huge financial savings by controlling street lights. Mayflower CMS successfully employed IoT to control and monitor an excess of 180,000 street lights, bollards and signs in the UK and Ireland with its largest installation in Hampshire that has over 90,000 nodes. The Hampshire City Council has been able to reduce energy consumption by 21GW/hr per annum which is a reduction of 40 per cent and has successfully reduced carbon emissions by approximately 4000 tons per year.

Connected Healthcare

The global IoT healthcare market is expected to touch USD 160 billion by 2020. The last few years healthcare has witnessed wellness sensors to surgical robots to improve efficiencies and better patient outcomes. Ingestible sensors help measure if patients are taking their pills on time and helps medical practitioners manage their patients remotely. Barton Health, a 62-bed health system in rural Lake Tahoe, California, is one of the first users of the ingestible sensor by Proteus Discover, a Digital Medicine to help patients suffering from diseases of the central nervous center such as schizophrenia and place the patient in the driver’s seat regarding their health management with the help of technology.

“When wireless is perfectly applied, the whole earth will be converted to a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of the distance.”– Nikolai Tesla

This famous statement by Nikolai Tesla predicts the invention of the smartphone at a time when the mere thought of such an advanced device was nothing but unimaginable. Take a closer look at the statement and you can see that Tesla foresaw the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT)… a world that becomes so connected that it becomes one ‘huge brain’.

What Tesla spoke of decades ago, we are experiencing today

Gauri Bapat is Director, Strategic Business at Inteliment. This article was orginially published on LinkedIn.

B2B Is Dead. B4B Is Born

B2B or B4B? Does it really matter? After all, what’s in a title? Perhaps everything….

This article was written by Magendar Rajasekaran. 

Isn’t that a bold idea?

What’s in a title? Maybe everything.

Something that is very personal and possibly deep. A worldview that can shift our thinking and inspires us to do few things totally different.

Nah. How can that be? How is it possible?

How can you change a word, a preposition, ‘to‘ and replace it with ‘for‘ and call it a game changer?

We have seen it all. Haven’t we all been in business far too long to be moved by play of words. A small change from ‘To‘ to ‘For‘ means nothing.

Well, I don’t think so. And I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Let’s dive deep inside and explore the nuances that can help shape the idea.

Defining Business to Business (B2B) 

Business to business, also called B-to-B or B2B, is a type of transaction that exists between businesses, not consumers. This term got popular around the 1998 dot com era when the internet phenomenon was at its peak.

It was an acronym used to communicate how commerce flowed between two business entities. This term became so popular that it prefixed everything that connoted a transaction between two businesses.

B2B procurement, B2B buyer, B2B marketing, B2B sales, B2B market place, B2B e-commerce, B2B market research, B2B Software, B2B Offering and many more.

The idea caught on. It flourished. It also spawned into other variants. Say B2B2C or even B2B2G (where G is Government).

It was going well. Until now.

So why do I think that this terminology should die?

Simple reason. The word ‘to‘ in B2B is no longer relevant. To explore why this is not relevant we will need help of a dictionary.

Here is the English dictionary meaning for the preposition ‘to‘:

expressing motion or direction toward a point, person, place, or thing approached and reached, as opposed to from”.

In line with this meaning, so far businesses have marketed to, sold to, pitched to, offered services and products to and provided support to other businesses.

This was very much needed as businesses needed to take their products, services and support to other business. It metaphorically meant the direction was from left to right. Just like this arrow mark ‘—->’. One was the seller and the other was the buyer.

The word ‘to‘ is so ingrained in our psyche, like the arrow, the stress was more on ‘motion or direction‘. Our entire organisation structures were built to make, sell and service our customers. Along with it came top-down command and control, various functions/departments, centralised structures, and standardised routines.

To‘ was programmed deep in the business model. Resulting in a path dependency.

We are all perfectly ‘ locked in‘ by behaviours that connote – motion and direction from left to right.

Now, let’s use another lens to see the world.

The new world order – Business For Business (B4B) 

Before we explore this new terminology, let’s understand the meaning of the preposition ‘for‘ from English dictionary.

with the object or purpose of “

“suiting the purposes or needs of”

In the digitally connected era, as Nilofer Merchant points out in her book “11 Rules for creating value in the Social Era“, successful businesses like Uber, AirBnB, Tesla, GE Digital, Alibaba, Etsy, KickStarter create value through a different paradigm – networks, collaboration, community, social purpose and openness.

They are businesses built FOR businesses and consumers.

They are businesses built suiting the purpose and needs of their customers. There can be many sellers and buyers across a community.

Quoting General Electric, a 124 year old company, was once a seller of products to customers. Now it is a digital platform company with many buyers and sellers. It has now transitioned to a B4B company.

When you do something FOR somebody you do care for the other business or person. Not just for yourself. The preposition ‘forhumanises the act.

Suddenly you shift from providing ‘action and directionto a business and think about what can you do for another business. You can even ask, ‘Can I exist for my client’s success?“. This right away injects empathy into your business.

Business For Business. B4B. Injects empathy in the language.

In doing so, you will allow yourself to ask fundamental questions that can shift your thinking and behaviours:

  • What should be our business model that allows our customers be successful?
  • How can I structure my organisation for my customer’s success?
  • How can I create products, solutions and services for my clients to be successful?
  • How do I create a Go to Market model for my customers to engage, experience and buy?
  • How do I create experiences for my customer so that I can partner for an extended life time value?

B4B shifts thinking from you to your customer. It brings purpose and empathy in everything you say and do.

Over a period of time it perhaps will bring your business closer to the customer. Isn’t that we all want?

It all starts with one change in preposition – substitute ‘to‘ with ‘for’.

Magendar Rajasekaran is People Success Evangelist at Agility Nexus This article was orginally publishd on LinkedIn.

Surviving The AI Revolution

Will you be a survivor of the AI revolution? You’ll need to be well equipped and prepared for anything…

 

This article was written by Naveen Joshi.

Artificial Intelligence is speeding the robot revolution and can be responsible for replacing a huge portion of the human workforce with machines, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, other than preparing for AI revolution.

Artificially intelligent robots are finally set on replacing humans in the labor pool, and due to this, the society can shift dramatically. Until the AI revolution is complete, humans can either try to slow the automation of the workforce or start preparing for AI.

If the popular media are to be believed, AI is coming to steal your job and threaten your life, as we know it. The AI revolution is indeed underway and for ensuring that you are prepared to make it through the times ahead, we’ve listed a few guidelines for you.

Recognising the AI Revolution

The first step for winning every conflict is to understand your target. It is important to acknowledge that the concept of AI is not in the future; it is already here and people are using it on a daily basis. For example, because of the AI technology, Netflix knows what to suggest you watch next, and Google predicts where you are heading when you jump in your car. AI also encompasses disciplines such as machine learning, using which companies are finding patterns in data and learning to predict trends, as well as speech processing, computer vision, and robotics. Moreover, it also encompasses deep learning, which is inspired by the model of the brain. Deep learning systems work by mapping inputs to a set of outputs based on features of the thing being examined.

Identify where AI Thrives

With sufficient knowledge of AI technology, you can now start to understand where AI is optimally positioned to take over. Have a look at your market trends and conditions and take note of tasks that require huge amounts of big data processing. For example, companies are now looking through everyone’s click patterns on Google to figure out what someone wants.

Essentially, AI works best for any task that requires a huge amount of repetitive processing. If this sounds like your job, you might have to start thinking of a survival plan. You can also access websites that evaluate your automation risk, to find out what researchers have calculated for your field.

Devise an Action Plan and Start Preparing for AI

The best strategic action plan is to form a treaty. You should accept that AI will increasingly become a part of our society and look for possibilities to collaborate. There is a huge potential for AI to assist in places where humans are today falling short, precisely because of the processing power. Companies are already using AI for aiding clinicians in medical diagnosis, personalizing customer experiences, and creating agricultural methods that reduce the cost to the environment. AI has the ability to learn very well but it cannot learn flexibly. You can. There are new jobs now available that did not exist a few years ago. If you are allowing AI to do the grit work, this can create an opportunity to embrace the attributes that humans excel at, namely social intelligence and creativity.

As with every big and impacting change, there are fears about new technology like AI. Ultimately, the way you can survive the impacts of an AI revolution is by embracing the partnership. By understanding the potential that AI has to improve the world, you can look around for those opportunities to implement positive change.

Naveen Joshi is Director at Allerin Tech Pvt Ltd. This article was orginally published on LinkedIn. 

The Impact Of Blockchain On Procurement

Blockchain won’t wait for you to be ready for it, which means it’s time to brush up on your knowledge and understanding right here, right now! 

Blockchain technology will not only impact procurement and procurement professionals but is expected to be more pervasive in our business and personal lives than the internet itself. To put the enormity of impact on procurement and procurement professionals in perspective picture yourself twenty years ago trying to explain how the Internet is going to change things. Where would you even begin?

Like the Internet the Blockchain is a network. In the case of Blockchain comprised of decentralized “ ledgers”, many are referring to it as Internet 2 or more commonly the Internet of Value or Internet of Trust.

The benefits

The most important thing to understand is that Blockchain addresses many of the most critical problems we’ve encountered doing business on the internet.

1)  Security: Practically speaking the Blockchain is unhackable.

2)  Transactions are verified by network participants (consensus), eliminating the need for third-party intermediaries’ (banks) costly, time-consuming and predominantly manual settlement processes. In addition to slowing down our supply chains banks alone have estimated these processes are costing them more than $20 billion annually.

3)  Eliminating high transaction processing costs for high volume/low margin retailers who accept credit cards could significantly add to their bottom line.

4)  Once transactions are verified they are secure and immutable. (unchangeable)

5)  The immutability of the Blockchain means that supply chain provenance can be assured. This is particularly important for conflict minerals, pharmaceuticals, food and many other supply categories where provable chain of custody is critical.

6)  Payments can be made directly from buying entity to selling entity “ledgers” by-passing intermediaries (banks, brokerage, clearing houses, title companies, etc.)

7)  Payments can be automatically triggered based on the codified terms of “ Smart Contracts” stored in transaction blocks.

8)  Blockchain capabilities will change, if not eliminate the role of accounts payable and accounts receivable departments.

9)  Blockchain enables the concept of micro-units and micro-payments. It is estimated that approximately one -third of the world’s economic opportunity exists for products and services such as energy or digital rights where backend settlement costs currently constrain those markets.

10) It is also estimated that 25 per cent of the global population does not participate in the global economy because they have no bank accounts and/or credit cards. Without these tools they cannot participate in the Internet economy. The primary reason they do not have these economic tools is because they cannot prove their identities. Immutability of the Blockchain can enable these people.

What do I need to understand?

The capabilities I’ve outlined just scratch the surface on how Blockchain impact all of us. Aside from the aforementioned, as a procurement professional are several important things to understand.

1)  Blockchain is a much wider and more pervasive concept than Advanced Cognitive Systems, Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Robotics, 3-D Printing or even the Internet of Things. In fact these technologies will become infinitely more practical and secure because of Blockchain.

2)  Do not think of Blockchain and BitCoin, FinTech or Crypto Currencies as synonymous. They are not.

3)  Do not think that it will take 20 years to mature and be mainstream. The estimate is 5-7 years for full maturity.

4)  Do not assess progress by the US/Euro FinTech Community. While they were the first to recognise Blockchain’s inherent value and arguably have the most to gain by adopting it, they also have the biggest hurdles to overcome and could very well be last to cross the finish line.

5)  Don’t make the mistake of waiting to become knowledgeable about Blockchain; it is the most highly disruptive technology we’ve seen since the Internet and it won’t wait until you are ready for it.

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.

Is P2P Keeping Us Stuck In The Mud?

Still debating maverick spend in your organisation, griping about tail spend or struggling to implement the right systems? Perhaps P2P is holding you back!

This article was written by Eva Milko. 

Is it me or has not much changed in the world of Purchase-to-Pay (P2P)? Twenty-five years have come and gone and yet we continue to discuss maverick spend, we gripe about tail spend and struggle with the right systems and the right processes to enable the simplest of transactions a company has in its portfolio: buying stuff.

In the meantime, those who realised that their value sits in higher areas of supply chain opportunity are doing wonders to automate, digitiSe, codify and outsource P2P work to those who have become transactional experts. Entrusting a part of your procurement house to others is not an easy task, many failing in the process, but I argue that it is somewhat necessary when the world is getting more complex, challenges more broad and opportunities often surpass the risks.

The CPO seat belongs to the one who carefully coordinates all aspects of the source to pay process with a keen eye on what can be standardised, outsourced, digitised, robotised and automated, balancing that with strategic decision making on where to place their precious human resources.

P2P buying systems remain a mystery. They are the most disliked, worked-around and challenged factor by employees in almost any company.  Our research found that only 36 per cent of stakeholders find procurement systems favourable and comfortable enough to engage with.  Our internal stakeholders are screaming “make it easy for us” and yet we continue to throw them into the bowels of twenty process steps, multiple buying channels and layers of authorisations. That’s not to mention lost time and corporate energy.

Procurement Prime

Molson Coors Procurement Office recently hosted an Executive Roundtable on this very subject and we challenged ourselves to envision a world of guided buying where the stakeholder is not exposed to procurement rigmarole but interacts with an intuitive and interactive set of buying steps. We called it Procurement Prime, taking our inspiration from the most admired ordering system in the world; Amazon Prime.

Many procurement executives and their friends in finance will say to me “but wait, we need to mitigate and monitor supplier risk” …..True, and it  is possible with a set of algorithms and predictive tools embedded into your P2P ordering process, alerting the requisitioner at the time of purchase of the supplier’s health status, including fulfillment capabilities, shipping disruptions, banking and payment alerts, further yet, providing alternative solutions.

If you can imagine it, you can plan it. If you can plan it, you can get it done.   Paying attention to how your corporate buyers embrace the P2P steps (or not), diving into their buying methods, listening and empathising will go a long way. Interestingly enough, we found that Procurement functions aligned to the Chief Supply Chain officer have much greater alignment in their organisations than those who report to the CFO. Is is time to change alliances?  Not so fast! Here are a few enablers to make such transformations possible.

Changing your functional and corporate mindset

Let’s start by recognising that your procurement value does not reside in chasing requisitions around the office and beating internal stakeholders into procurement policy submission.  Successful companies are taking a much more customer-centric approach, focusing on relieving the organisation of procurement jargon and building sophisticated systemised methods, especially for more repetitive buying.  Think Guided Buying and think Procurement Prime! This is your future and #tomorrowstartsnow

Changing your skill set

This is pivotal to opening up these conversations and imagining the possibilities.  In procurement, we do not hire enough creative people who are empowered to challenge the status quo and bring forth cool solutions.  We need more inventors, technology savvy, stakeholder centric entrepreneurs who are bold, persuasive and get things done! Yes – these transformations take money, take energy and take skilled resources to get it done, but thinking long term possibilities versus short term barriers will unshackle the organisation from procurement processes horrors and free up resources to address much more interesting issues.

Changing your focus

In our recent study, we found that 84 per cent of procurement organisations remain firmly rooted in functional effectiveness and cross functional collaboration buckets. What goes with that are correlating trends of declining year on year cost savings, the most admired and used procurement metric on the planet.  Enhanced value, total shareholder return, enhanced recognition, awesome jobs and great pay will not come from these areas.

Getting rid of the important but non-essential procurement work and entrusting it to someone much more capable is part of the transformational focus that all CPOs need to consider embracing.  Successful partnerships are built on a shared long term vision, shared values and a solid long term plan.

In our research, we found that that introducing robust supplier collaboration, supplier enabled innovation and total value chain coordination is where procurement can truly make a difference for the organisation.  Some organisations have made the leap but many struggle to make ends meet.

My prediction for these organisations is bold:  transform or die – become de-prioritised, outsourced or automated. #tomorrowstartsnow

This article, by Eva Milko, was originally published on LinkedIn. Eva is Managing Director at Procurement Leaders. 

How Algorithms Will Add Super-Intelligence To The Way Your Company Spends Money

As algorithms, virtual assistants, and bots infiltrate conversational interfaces across business applications, in the crosshairs is company spend tracking and control. This is the panacea we’ve all been waiting for to an age-old problem.   

Messaging services like Slack are ground zero for a new generation of integrated bots in the workplace. Most have stopped trying to trick users into thinking they’re chatting with humans while new features like message menus (dropdowns) integrated into the AI-generated text help  users make nuanced decisions.

Driving the conversational UI behind the scenes is an-ever evolving mix of machine learning algorithms for pattern recognition, natural language processing, and other associated technologies. Together, they deliver a contextual experience that helps business users make smarter and faster decisions.

One business workflow rife with inefficiencies and errors is corporate buying and expense tracking. Pointing chatbots, or the next iteration of them that we’ll call AI assistants, in that direction will benefit everyone in the requisition and approval flow, from end users to the head of finance or the treasury boss.

The appeal of AI could be even greater for smaller businesses since most lack formal spend management policies, but still need to see who charged what and when on the company credit card. AI assistants enabled by emerging algorithms can arm every purchase decision with intelligence, in effect, augmenting human judgement every step of the way.

AI assistants can add intelligence to everyday tasks

In the realm known as transactional procurement and travel and expense (T&E), solutions with AI assistants could help with general questions, such as clarifying budget status or a spend limit. A user would be able to simply ask the robot a question within the same messaging interface where they chat with colleagues and then get an instant response.

For payments, an AI assistant could learn how you buy and then make recommendations based on context, supplier or product data, budget levels, working capital, and other factors one might overlook or simply not be privy to when initiating an everyday purchase for work.

In another scenario, a user could request an approval for a purchase, but before doing so, summon an AI assistant to verify if a similar request was made by a coworker to avoid a duplicate purchase. That way the user wouldn’t have to waste time and go digging for that info herself.

Finally, AI assistants can facilitate the buying process by generating a payment method such as a virtual credit card after the transaction gets approval from a manager on behalf of the requestor. Upon approval, a user would receive an encrypted virtual card with a spend limit to use as payment against a corporate account, massively simplifying what is typically an arduous back-and-forth process.

The AI opportunity goes well beyond transactions

In time, AI will evolve to allow organizations to make strategic buying decisions and respond to changing business conditions and market variability instantly. To get there, it will first remove the bottlenecks of repetitious decisions that occupy our time, like those mentioned earlier in this article. Then, they could be programmed to help make ever more strategic decisions.

In the sphere of sourcing and procurement, that could mean super-intelligent agents sourcing the highest quality rubber from a stable region, determining which short-listed supplier is most likely to honor their contract, forecasting supply chain disruptions and make recommendations weeks in advance, and so on.

Think that level of knowledge work is impossible for algorithms? Think again. Researchers at Google Brain have already developed software that designs machine-learning software with better results compared to machine-learning software designed by the boffins themselves!

We are well on our way to developing new types of non-conscious intelligence that will be able to handle increasingly complex tasks. In his best-selling book Homo Deus, author Yuval Noah Harari, drives the point home: “The idea that humans will always have a unique ability beyond the reach of non-conscious algorithms is just wishful thinking.”

With that thought, we can return to our original premise and have little doubt that the rise of AI will mean all of a business’s spending will get smarter. AI expert Stuart Russell puts AI next to the discovery of fire in terms of impact on civilization. If AI will change the world, then it certainly will change business commerce.

Christopher Jablonski is Director of Content & Communications at Tradeshift, a cloud-based business commerce platform connecting buyers and suppliers.

Help! A Potential Employer Asked For My Facebook Password

You’re in the middle of a job interview when the recruiter shocks you by asking for your Facebook password, citing “company policy”. Do you: A) Meekly hand it over; B) Kick over your chair and storm out; or C) Politely but firmly refuse?

Have you ever been asked to hand over your social media details in a job interview? Don’t panic – it’s probably just a stress test.

Stress tests are designed to put you under pressure and see how you handle it. They range from grilling you about your weaknesses, to subjecting you to a barrage of quick-fire questions to try to fluster or catch you off-guard.

Heineken took this to the extreme in their viral recruitment video where interviewees are subjected to a range of stressful situations, including a creepy hand-holding interviewer who later feigns a heart attack. While it’s fun to watch, there’s a lesson here – in an age where candidates often give text-book answers to text-book interview questions, recruiters are looking for ways to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“We need your Facebook login details”

Your three potential reactions:

A) Meekly handing over your password: Wrong answer. This shows that firstly, you’re desperate for this job and secondly, you’re a pushover. Is this how you would behave when representing the company in a tough negotiation?

B) Anger: You’ve fallen into the trap. Even though it’s an outrageous demand, getting angry only demonstrates that you won’t be able to remain calm in the face of on-the-job pressure.

C) Politely but firmly refuse: Correct! You were on the lookout for a stress test, and you’ve identified this one as such. This takes the pressure off, allowing you to present a calm and logical response.

Unfortunately, that’s easy to say and hard to do!

How to say “no” politely 

  1. Call them out

If you’ve read the situation correctly, then you could simply respond by saying, “This is one of those stress-tests, right?”, and then launch into a detailed explanation of how you’re able to stay calm under pressure, with examples.

If they still insist, and genuinely appear to be demanding your Facebook login (and you still want this job), then you’ll need an excuse beyond the bare fact that you don’t want them seeing your drunken photos from the big party last weekend.

  1. Privacy

“I have an obligation to protect my friends’ privacy. They have their own privacy policies set on their accounts to safeguard themselves and their loved ones and that’s their right. If I start sharing their information with potential employers then I’ll have broken my trust with them.”

  1. Work/life

“For me, work and home are two separate things. I’m careful to keep work-related posts off my Facebook page, so it’s in no way relevant to any potential employers.”

  1. Direct to LinkedIn

“I think you mean LinkedIn? While I wouldn’t hand over my login details, I’d be happy to connect with you on LinkedIn so you can see how I present myself professionally on social media.”

  1. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine

This one’s a bit more provocative! “Absolutely fine – I think this is a great idea. I’d also like to see the type of team I’m joining, so if you can share your log-in details, along with your director’s and all the team members’ Facebook passwords, then I’d be happy to share mine.”

  1. Throw the question back at them

Whatever you decide to say, it’s vital you do so in a professional, calm and reasonable way. In a stress test, how you say it is more important than what you say. The interviewer will be judging your response, attitude and manner, but you can turn the tables by asking them to put themselves in your shoes.

For example:

  • “I’m sure you would agree …”
  • “I’m sure that if you were in my position…”
  • “From a privacy perspective, my friends wouldn’t be comfortable with me showing their information to people. I’m sure your friends and family would agree.”

Asking someone to put themselves in your position makes it almost impossible to be offended by a calm and rational argument.

In the end, keep in mind that there is no right answer to a stress-test question. It’s designed to judge how you react, so be confident in whichever answer you choose.