Category Archives: Generation Procurement

The ‘Why’ Behind the Drive for Retail Process Efficiency

Process efficiency is good. In fact, it’s one of the most frequently cited objectives for the procurement profession. But it can’t have a real impact unless we understand the bigger picture…

As we expand the impact of procurement beyond savings, one of the most frequently cited objectives is process efficiency. In theory, if procurement can help the company execute internal processes more swiftly they can… something, something, something (?). Process efficiency is good, and savings are good. But neither will have any real impact if we don’t understand why we are driving them.

The retail industry is a perfect case example for the need to understand the big picture impact of process efficiency. When you work for a B2C company, customer satisfaction is the answer to every question. In retail, the benefit of every project must be traceable all the way to the store.

The wholesale goal of retail: customer experience and satisfaction

Sourcing project teams usually sit down and articulate their goals and objectives at the outset of the process. Too often they are focused on the impact of the product or service on the company and its employees when they should trace that efficiency forward to the value it creates for customers. This perspective provides the context for many of the decisions made during the sourcing process:

Why should office supplies need to be easier to order? 

So marketing doesn’t have to interrupt their work on the new ad that will drive shoppers’ grocery lists this week.

Why are we going through a lengthy equipment testing process?

To prevent customers from being inconvenienced at the deli while we repair the slicers (again).

Which supplier should we award the fixtures and millwork contract to?

The one whose product best evokes a farmer’s market, ultimately increasing produce sales.

In a retail environment, one of the most dangerous lines procurement can draw is between direct and indirect spend. This division is practical enough, especially for categorisation purposes, but it creates the impression that indirect spend matters less than direct spend does. Even indirect spend must create value for the end customer. Every dollar the organization spends – whether it is an investment in inventory or to buy copy paper for headquarters – should efficiently advance the interests of the customer. That is what defines valuable process efficiency in retail.

Placing a value on retail intangibles

Case in point: Kemper Freeman is the owner of Bellevue Square, a multilevel mall in Seattle, Washington. He is a bricks and mortar king in an increasingly digital commerce world. Despite the lacklustre performance of retail chains like Macys, J. Crew, Sears, Charming Charlie, and J.C. Penney, his business is booming. He characterizes his approach to customer attraction as “emotional fulfilment”, and it is something eCommerce businesses can’t compete with.

As was recently explained in a Wall Street Journal article about Freeman, emotional fulfilment is “the joy customers take in seeing, touching, sniffing and testing the product before they pull out the credit card.” For a retail business to be driven by the creation of emotional fulfilment, every employee – from store clerks to corporate procurement to janitorial staff – has to buy in and place the customer at the centre of every effort they make.

Given this context, what does process efficiency mean in retail?

Procurement-enabled retail process efficiency removes barriers between demand and supply so that value can be created for customers. Process efficiency is not getting to the end of a sourcing project faster and it is not about making corporate roles easier. Efficiency ensures that the flow of products and services are not interrupted, and they certainly don’t take customer-facing roles away from their primary focus. Even in procurement, the customer should remain the central focus, and the goals for every project should be tied to a barrier removed or a benefit advanced. These are the only efficiency gains that matter.

This blog was orginally written for Determine by Kelly Barner .

Procurement Process vs. Chat-Bots

What are chat-bots? What can they do? Are they soon to replace all procurement functions?!

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Software Robots (called Bots/Bot) are dramatically disrupting procurement processes involving human interface. They will have a high appeal on the transactional and digital side of procurement processes and will gain growth in the coming years with cognitive and machine learning tools.

The strategic interfaces in procurement planning, strategy, performance management and relationship building will continue to be human-centric (people oriented) but will increasingly rely on the Bots to support them with structured knowledge readily available.

What are “Chat-Bots” and how do they differ from RPA Bots?

A Bot is a software program designed to perform a task which would be done by a human being.

Like any software, these Bots can be programmed to perform almost anything where the workflow can be programmed and information digitalized with the added advantage of the advents in Artificial Intelligence which improves the human-machine interface.

The key difference between a Bot and any standard software is that the Bot generally has the capability of working across a couple of system environments.

With recent advancements in human language translation capabilities (like IBM Watson, Microsoft’s LUIS and equivalent) a lot of software are now capable of interacting with human beings in a seamless “human-like” manner and these Bots are referred to as “chat-bots” (chatting bots).

They usually handle the human front-end interfaces and then interact with the back-end systems to accomplish the task. They are distinctly different from the RPA Bots which are primarily back-end (non-human facing) software that will perform the task based on the system-generated routine as opposed to the chat-bots which are triggered by human interaction.

The chat-bots can then be further classified into

  1. Information chat-bots Provision of information based on the human input. “Speak or Enter flight number” and the chat-bot will provide the flight information. (However, it won’t be able to book the ticket for you!)
  2. Interactive/Smart Chat-bots Ability to perform certain tasks based on customer input. These type of chat-bots can book tickets for you or even resolve defined issues based on rules “explain your problem in a few words and I will try to help you”
  3. Machine Learning chat-bots Self-learning chat-bots which learn from previous interactions and adjust their interactions as time goes on. These chat-bots are still evolving and are going to disrupt the legacy notion of “dumb bots”

Which areas of Procurement are more “Bot-able”?

In a typical Source-to-Pay process the following areas of Source-to-Pay processes are more likely to be linked to Bots with a clear carve-out of the processes which will continue to be human-centric.

What are the Benefits of Bots in Procurement?

The Procurement Bots add a significant value to the business on the following fronts:

  1. Improved Reliability Bots help improve the reliability of the process by taking away the human fallibility and the results are far more reliable.
  2. Reduced Cost-to-Serve Taking away the human tasks also helps reduce of the cost of the transactions especially if done on a large scale for highly repetitive tasks.
  3. Reduction in Cognitive Bias Humans handling any repetitive tasks are always prone to cognitive bias and resulting errors. Bots eliminate the cognitive bias from the workflow (Although they limited by the cognitive bias built into the program itself).
  4. Reduction in cycle time Since Bots work 24×7 and in real time bots have demonstrated a 20%-95% reduction in cycle time associated with tasks/processes.
  5. Resource allocation Resources can be diverted to more strategic aspects of procurement. When the Bots can take away the repetitive tasks away and help assist the procurement professionals they are now more devoted to handling the more strategic/value adding aspects of procurement.

What are the risks of Bots in Procurement?

While the Bots bring about a great deal of value to the organisations they have risks that need to be considered during evaluation and implementation:

  1. Snow-balling of errors created due to Bots The chances of errors created by Bots is heavily reliant on the business rules captured in the software. If not watched closely these un-intended errors can balloon very easily since there is no human being watching these errors.
  2. Loss of Organisation Capability on process knowledge As organizations implement Bots the organizational knowledge on how these processes work erodes and when escalations happen there are very few people who have an end-to-end view of these processes.
  3. Local customisations may not be picked up in Bots While Bots also help standardise the processes by removing the human bias element they also run a double-edged sword of missing out on certain local requirements that might not have been built into the program thus resulting in manual interventions or an inefficient process.
  4. Lack of Human Interface impacts perception/relationships While the Bots are becoming smarter in terms of aping the human interface they are not perfect and they often run into situations where the user gets frustrated at not being able to get across.

How will Bots Transform Procurement function?

Bots will revolutionise how the procurement function is perceived currently through its ability to work/analyse across systems at the speed of thought.

What are the other factors to be considered in the Procurement Bot transformation journey?

Besides the obvious elements of the business case the following considerations need to be factored in during Bot Implementations:

  1. Long term alignment with System architecture design

Even though the Bot implementations are extremely light implementations lasting a few days to a few months – it is imperative that the long-term alignment with system strategy be considered before embarking upon these initiatives

2. Human Org Capability considerations

Consider both existing and future org capability to implement and maintain the Bots. They will require different skill sets and both are equally important to the success of the value from the Bot.

3. Characteristics of the process and the Bot-ability

Strong considerations should be given to the alternatives available. Bot is not a panacea for any process issue and should be treated accordingly.

The Logic of This “New Reality” is that people collaborating with ‘bots’, within a current Procurement Department that possesses effective work-flow processes can be integrated with ‘bot’ utilization.

The myth that Bots will replace Procurement function is a little overstated.  Procurement function will continue to be a human-centric (people oriented) organisation

Sustainable Procurement: Reversing The Race To The Bottom

Don’t dismiss the importance of supply chain sustainability! Learn from the mistakes of others and count yourself out of the race to the bottom! 

A short-sighted focus on cutting costs and speeding products to market is resulting in a race to the bottom that will cost companies more in the long-run. Top performers in sustainable sourcing will emerge with stronger supply chains, higher margins, more trusted brands and happier customers.

Consumers are increasingly putting their money behind sustainability, with Nielsen reporting 66 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies they perceive as sustainable. This is forcing every industry to innovate in a way that makes transparency and sustainability permeate throughout the entire supply chain. Companies are often stuck in a race to the bottom, focusing on offering the lowest possible prices to compete with retail giants like Amazon and Walmart. Manufacturers who sell through these giants are also competing with each other, facing immense pressure from their customers to have the lowest price each week. Although price may seem like the best factor to emphasize, quality and sustainability considerations are often sacrificed in favor of cutting costs and speeding time to market. Even companies that have made sustainability promises often retreat after the initial pressure wears off due to perceived higher costs, but the long-term impact of irresponsible sourcing will impact their bottom line even more in the end. In fact, a recent BCG study found that gross margins were 4.8 percent higher for companies that were top performers in sustainable sourcing compared to those who were median performers.

In the long-run, participating in the race to the bottom is bad for business as it results in cheaply made, low-quality products and services that undermine the viability of the companies they are sourced from. This will all eventually be discovered by consumers and other stakeholders, and will open companies up to varying kinds of risk, including economic and financial, reputational and quality control consequences. Because these risks can impact a company’s bottom line, it is crucial to consider how sustainability can mitigate risk before it happens.

Unfortunately, hesitation and fear around competition (antitrust) laws are deterring businesses from working together to promote sustainability. A new report from the Fairtrade Foundation found that businesses are wary of working with rivals to improve the quality and security of their supply chain, but with fluctuating trade fees and climate change they have no choice but to collaborate. Instead of competing with peers to be fastest and cheapest to market, companies should be working together to promote sustainable procurement. When companies within an industry work together, it sends a much clearer signal to suppliers about the importance of responsible practices. With the right indicators and tools, those buying organizations can help suppliers advance in maturity and improve their practices – not only in sustainably issues but across all business operations. Companies should be working with other industry players – instead of against them – to ensure efficient and effective sustainable practices.

Learn from the mistakes of others

Nike, Asics and Puma saw the consequences a lack of sustainable and ethical practices could bring when more than 500 workers in four factories were hospitalised after fainting on the job. Outsourcing factory jobs to Cambodia may have saved the company some money on labor and wages, but unethical work conditions including long days and soaring temperatures canceled out any small benefit the retailers may have seen. The reputational and operational consequences turn out much worse than the small cost reduction initially intended. Improving ventilation and adding air conditioning, although good intentions, only put a band aid on the problem – these retailers and other companies should be working together to implement ethical and sustainable procurement practices as part of a long-term solution.

Geopolitical considerations

The turbulent political and trade climate in recent months is also challenging. Companies in almost every industry in the U.K. are facing a difficult choice between joining the race to the bottom to secure post-Brexit deals in terms of purchasing cheaper products from other countries and promoting high-quality, ethical and sustainable practices. Unfortunately, lower standards mean lower quality products and services, which will not just limit the emphasis placed on tackling issues like climate change and modern slavery, but also impact business revenues in the long run. NAFTA is having a similar effect on North American companies, making the consequences of the race to the bottom a universal concern. Instead of panicking about the effects of eminent trade deals, companies should be focused on working together to pursue sustainable procurement and mitigate risk before it happens.

Fortunately, many local and global governments are encouraging businesses to get on board and combat modern slavery, environmental sustainability and other risks in the supply chain. California recently signed the “Buy Clean California” act, which will clamp down on imported carbon emissions by creating rules for the procurement of infrastructure materials purchased with state funds. The U.K. just pledged $53 million to combat modern slavery with a focus on improving the apparel supply chain, joining the U.K. Modern Slavery Act in attempting to ensure business compliance. Australia may follow suit and introduce its own laws designed to root out forced labor and compensate potential victims.

At this point, we shouldn’t be thinking of it as “sustainability for sustainability’s sake,” but sustainability for risk mitigation and improved business operations. Technology is evolving to help companies better trace suppliers and other parties and improve transparency throughout the supply chain. Regulations around the world are banning or limiting unethical practices. The movement towards sustainability has changed in the last decade, placing the burden directly on companies to ensure responsible practices – both within their own operations and those of their partners. It may seem daunting to invest in sustainability while competitors are continuing to race to the bottom in pursuit of producing the cheapest products fastest, but companies that go above the standard will find it truly improves their bottom line and creates more value throughout their supply chain.

Pierre-Francois Thaler is co-founder and co-CEO of EcoVadis, a supplier rating company that helps organisations institute corporate social responsibility (CSR) and various sustainability programs. Pierre brings 15 years of experience in procurement and developing innovative sourcing solutions. Prior to starting EcoVadis, Pierre was CEO of B2Build SA, the first B2B marketplace for the European construction industry, and also served as a director of Ariba’s Procurement BPO business.

Taking The Heat Out Of The Resolution Room

If you can’t take the heat get out of the resolution room! Or invite Watson! 

VladisChern/Shutterstock.com

We’ve all been there. Something’s gone terribly wrong with a major customer delivery. Emails are flying around and there are rumours from HQ that “heads are going to roll”.  Everyone concerned has been summoned to “THE meeting” in order to resolve the supply chain issue.

We know what happens next; fists slamming, red faces, an embarrassing lack of data and a lot of verbal ping, pong. Eventually, a resolution is found.

But what happens when Watson is in the resolution room? Could this take the heat out of your supply chain disputes?

 What is a Resolution Room?

A Resolution Room provides the organisation the ability to collaborate quickly to resolve supply disruptions. Users can discuss and resolve issues with other colleagues, business partners, or their suppliers. What distinguishes Resolution Rooms from all other collaboration platforms is Watson.

What does it mean to have Watson in the resolution room?

The big benefit of Watson being in the resolution room is that it recommends experts, provides insight from all data and actionable advice based on learned best practices.  Over time, it leverages Watson’s capability to develop a body of knowledge by learning how issues were best addressed in the past.  This enables greater speed and accuracy in responding to future events.

“Watson provides the opportunity to deliver business value and insights from all of these data insights – structured and unstructured, data from weather patterns, news, D&B and supplier IQ,” explains Joanne Wright, Chief Supply Chain Officer, IBM.

“It does this with speed and accuracy. No more are we saying ‘OK…let’s get the data and meet again tomorrow’ because Watson takes my team’s input and incorporates that into the next iteration as we go.”

Watson In The Resolution Room: A Case Study

IBM Watson is always a room participant, so you can draw on Watson’s expertise using natural language to ask a question, for example: @Watson what is the status of order ABC123?

Imagine the following scenario; A Late Shipment alert in the Ops Center reveals that orders of your most popular drone are in jeopardy because the shortage of the entire supply of a critical part, a lithium battery, has been delayed. You create a Resolution Room to manage the incident collectively.

Watson is in the room.

Whilst your team discusses how best to manage the problem you have the ease of asking Watson questions such as:

  • Which customer has the most sales dollars that will be late?
  • What are the financial impacts of any late orders?
  • Have we experienced this problem before? Who are the experts who have worked on these similar issues in the past?
  • Are there any alternate suppliers for part number 46001?
  • Why is there a shortage of lithium batteries?

Watson can provide answers to questions such as these based on the data available in the data model and in other Resolution Rooms. Learning over time, it becomes smarter and able to provide better insights about your supply chain.

Click here to try a Resolution Room demo. 

Got a big idea you want to push through a big company or simply want to learn more about Watson and the Resolution Room?

Sign up for next week’s procurement webinar, How IBM Built the Cognitive Supply Chain of the Future. hosted by Tania Seary and featuring IBM’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Joanne Wright. 

3 Reasons Why You Should Multisource Your Procurement Software

Choosing new procurement software should be exactly that, a choice! Duncan Jones on why organisations should follow an eclectic, multi-sourcing strategy for their key business applications.

While doing my research for The Forrester Wave™: eProcurement, Q2 2017, I was surprised and disappointed by how many companies I interviewed had bought an incumbent vendor’s eProcurement product without really looking at alternatives. For instance, one source told me “we didn’t choose Ariba, we chose SAP, and SAP chose Ariba”.

That’s a dangerous strategy, often driven by people who are thinking more about their own short-term job security than about their current employer’s long-term success. Yes, there are advantages in buying software from a known source, but those won’t outweigh the disadvantages if the product is deficient, or fails to keep pace with the market.

An existing supplier’s product, such as SAP Ariba, or Oracle Procurement Cloud, may be the best choice for your organisation, but it should be a choice, after you have compared it with leading independent alternatives.

I see a similar bias towards suites driving market consolidation at the moment, such as Determine/ b-pack, Coupa/ Trade Extensions, Tradeshift/ IBX and BravoSolution/ Puridiom. Many clients tell us they want a complete suite to support all their digital procurement, including supplier risk and performance management (SRPM), upstream source-to-contract (S2C) and downstream procure-to-pay (P2P).

Yet our research suggests that very few companies actually implement a whole suite, even if they buy one. I advise most clients to follow an eclectic, multi-sourcing strategy for their key business applications. I don’t mean assembling a solution from 15 different products, but maybe four or five.

For example, you may want one central solution for S2C, embrace two or three P2P products that different autonomous divisions currently use, with maybe one or two additional specialist products for, say, services procurement, or SRPM. This approach may be more appropriate for your organisation because:

  • It may take too long to choose and implement a single suite enterprise-wide. You have to live with obsolete software while you collect requirements, argue about priorities, and then roll the suite out module by module and site by site. Multi-sourcing is a more agile approach, enabling individual divisions to move forward while still allowing you to quickly implement a global point solution to address an urgent need.
  • Suite approaches cause vendor lock-in that is hard to escape. Software decision makers who prize integration over innovation risk ending up with obsolete software. Software giants’ portfolios are of inconsistent quality; they cannot keep all their products at the head of the market. Some, such as SAP SRM and Oracle iProcure, lag so far behind that the vendor decides to replace them. Independent vendors, such as Hubwoo, IBX and Perfect Commerce, may get acquired more for their customers than for their technology. Those customers are trapped in products with an uncertain future, because switching suites involves changing everything at once.
  • You need to be able to take advantage of valuable innovation from new sources.The eclectic CPO is constantly watching for new ideas that can make him more successful and doesn’t care from which direction they come. The suite CPO, in contrast, has to wait for his chosen vendor to spot, implement and integrate that idea. Right now there is some exciting innovation going on in the application of artificial intelligence to the Purchasing domain, particularly in risk assessment and monitoring. Vendors such as Ecovadis, GRMS, Resilinc, and risk methods help customers identify and mitigate risks more effectively than any manual process could do. Smart CPOs will be evaluating these services now and incorporating them quickly in their SRPM frameworks, while their laggardly peers are waiting patiently for their suite providers to catch up.

The bottom line

Smart CPOs should consider an eclectic software strategy. Balance the benefits of intra-suite integration with the potentially greater benefits from smart, easy-to-use, flexible specialist products. Look at what innovation is available in the market before you woodenly replace your existing product with the same vendor’s new offering. And even if you do base your digital procurement strategy on a suite, ensure you complement it with specialist products that fill gaps or extend it into new areas.

The Best 10 Minutes of Wasted Time I Ever Spent

Have you ever sat in a meeting and thought, ‘I am never going to get these 10 minutes of my life back’? I had that experience and it turned out to be the best poorly-used time I ever spent.

During my time as a procurement consultant, I once met with a client who wanted to introduce me to a supplier she highly recommended. She pulled out a two-inch thick binder filled with supplier business cards – she had accumulated years’ and years’ worth of prized intelligence. She couldn’t remember the supplier’s name, so she carefully flipped through the binder, one – page – at – a – time, hoping to recognise their logo or card design. By the time she found the card 10 minutes later, I couldn’t stop thinking about the number of binders and stacks of business cards sitting under people’s desks filled with intel, but not accessible to anyone else, not leveraged by procurement teams, and not benefiting suppliers.

I copied down the supplier’s information and handed back the card, as she didn’t want to lose their contact information. I walked away asking myself:

What innovation constraints did it create that no one else could access the information?

What would that loss of knowledge do to the organization when that person left the company?

How much time is being spent searching for information in disparate sources of data?

My Break Through Moment

That meeting would become the genesis of tealbook, the company I founded to deliver actionable supplier intelligence to enterprise. Of course, that 10 minutes was also only just the beginning. I spent the following 8 years seeing the same challenges across Fortune 100 and emerging companies looking to reduce process friction among stakeholders while making faster supplier decisions. I looked for a solution, but nothing was available. This was my career break though moment.

I have met many procurement professionals with a strong inner entrepreneur. Stepping out of the security of a corporate function to start a business is scary and requires the bandwidth for risk taking. You can satisfy your passion for entrepreneurship by getting involved in start-ups looking for guidance and advisors as they grow their business. But if the urge is too great to resist, you should take the chance. Before you do, here are a few things that might help shape your future venture:

  • Pay attention to inefficiencies in your day to day work life and validate them with your peers. Understanding your space and being an expert in your field will help shape your business and bring confidence to future clients and investors.
  • Spend some time building a business plan. What is your business? How are you going to develop it? How will you monetize or where will the capital come from to support its growth? Joining an accelerator program while keeping your corporate job (look into The Founder’s Institute) can be a great way to shape and validate your business idea.
  • No one will be as passionate about your idea as you are – keep that in mind as you are reaching out to potential customers and make sure your value proposition is strong enough for someone to champion it and make it a priority (you know best that championing and getting the budget to bring in a startup is not easy).
  • Think about your future and where you want to be. If building a business is part of it and makes you want to wake up every day (and work around the clock!), then go for it and give it your very best shot! You will never regret trying and you will own its success!

Sometimes I think about where inspiration comes from. It is often the simplest moments or actions that lead to the creation of solutions, and the founding of some of the best companies.

About Procurious’ Powered by 5: Procurement Entrepreneur – Tealbook Founder and CEO Stephany Lapierre  

That one meeting would become the genesis of tealbook, the company Stephany founded to deliver actionable supplier intelligence to enterprise. Stephany knew that if she could get those business cards out of her client’s binder and into a centralised, intuitive cloud-based platform, the client would be able to leverage the full capabilities of her suppliers, her peers would have instant access to her rich knowledge legacy, procurement would use the intelligence to make faster decisions, and her company would be able to preserve all of its supplier intelligence through turnover, reorganisation, etc.

Three years ago, Stephany put the pieces together and since then, her team and has collaborated with customers to gather requirements, build out functionality, design a social media-inspired UI, and lay the foundation for incorporating AI capabilities. With every new enterprise client, tealbook gains new insight into the upside potential of accessible intelligence, and every new supplier that creates a profile expands the understanding of buyers across companies and industries.

7 Procurement Trends To Watch Out For In 2018

Which hot topics and trends will everyone in procurement be talking about in 2018…?

What’s the buzz in 2018? We’ve done a spot of investigating to identify all the hot topics the procurement world is excited (and concerned!) about in the coming year…

1. Technology Hype Won’t Let Up

Steve Banker, writing for Forbes, concurs stating that “emerging technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, autonomous mobile robots, IoT, machine learning, and related technologies continue to get a tremendous of amount of publicity.

According to Supply Chain Digital, “The pace of innovation is picking up steam at an exponential rate.

“Robots, self-driving vehicles, electric trucks, blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and new mobile-enabled categories are all poised to explode onto the scene in one form or another.

“It’s hard to predict what’s real and what will fade away, but expect 2018 to become a year of heavy innovation for supply chain leaders, even if it’s experimental.”

Vivek Soneja, writing for EBN online  asserts that “Blockchain capabilities have transformed collaboration across trading partner networks”. He believes Blockchain will “enable much tighter collaboration across supply chain planning and execution decisions. ”

Read our latest articles on Blockchain by Basware’s Paul Clayton and  InstaSupply’s Simona Pop.

2. Brexit Will Continue To Cause Disruption 

“While 2017 was the year of Brexit uncertainty, 2018 will be the year where things start to change,” asserts Francis Churchill on Supply Management.

Last year CIPS revealed that 63 per cent of EU companies planned to move some of their supply chain out of the UK as a result of the decision to leave the single market and customs union.

“The slower-than-expected progression of Brexit negotiations has put off business investments in current or new UK operations,” explains Gary Barraco on Global Trade Mag. Recent readings on economic growth showed investment by companies to be flat in the second quarter.

“Supply chain executives are voicing concerns about tariff and quota changes, hoping to keep trade open and flowing as it does today. For manufacturing to remain strong, the raw material imports from Asia need to remain duty and tariff free, as they are currently in the customs union. Costs could go up without the trade advantages, leading to higher export costs from the UK.”

We discuss the implications of Brexit for procurement in this Procurious blog. 

3. Cognitive will reign supreme

Global Trade Magazine predicts that “by the end of 2020, one-third of all manufacturing supply chains will be using analytics-driven cognitive capabilities, thus increasing cost efficiency by 10 per cent and service performance by 5 per cent.”

And IBM predict that, by this point, all of our important procurement decisions will be made with the assistance of artificial intelligence. We know that our teams must “transform or die” if we don’t want the function reduced to the back office,  facing extinction.

But if you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed by the magnitude and potential of cognitive technology or simply wondering how to get started, this Procurious article has some great advice.

4. Transparency

Paul Martyn , writing for Forbes, spoke to Sue Welch, CEO, Bamboo Rose, on her supply chain predictions for 2018, discussing why “transparency and sustainability will be practiced with more vigor in 2018.”  She said ” ‘There’s been an explosion of demand from consumers to know where their products are originating and the required information is extremely granular. For example, with a package of carrots, consumers want to know not only the farm where they were harvested, but also the row and lot number where the carrots were planted.’

“Welch, whose company, Bamboo Rose, works with a number of top retailers and apparel companies, expects traceability demands to not only shape how consumers buy, but how companies will source and market their services.

“Smart retailers will begin to market their products from an information/sustainability-first standpoint and to be credible about it, they’ll need to invest in integrating technology that makes this level of transparency possible at every level of the supply chain.’ ”

5. Cybersecurity

Global Trade Magazine predict that by the end of 2019, cybersecurity will have surpassed physical security as a top concern for one-half of all manufacturers, and in the transition to digitally enabled, cognitive supply chains, cybersecurity will have become a top investment priority.

“High-profile hacking cases that compromise sensitive information for millions of people will continue in the coming year.” states Soneja, “With the proliferation of data and connected endpoints, companies will need to step up their security and privacy protection protocols in 2018.”

Earlier this year, we spoke to Craig Hancock, cybersecurity expert and Executive Director of Telstra Service Operations on the dangers of cyber crime. Read the full article here. 

6. Back to basics

“While a number of new trends are giving procurement leaders directions to explore in 2018, many supply chain professionals are still aiming for easy-to-understand goals” explains The Strategic Sourceror.

“According to Deloitte’s latest research on chief procurement officers, cost advantages and cash flow improvements are still the bread and butter of the supply chain. Traditional efforts to improve contracts and advanced, tech-driven strategies can deliver favorable costs to companies.”

7. Big data is a big deal

“In the context of the supply chain for most businesses, big data and predictive analytics are still an untapped resource that can potentially provide insights which help anticipate or respond to events or disruptions,” explains Raanan Cohen on Supply Chain Management review. 

“Unpredictable consumer behaviour, traffic or weather patterns, and labour unrest are all external events that can disrupt a supply chain and lead to increased costs and customer service challenges. Big data can help organisations become better trading partners to their customers and suppliers. But before insights and analytics can be leveraged for a better supply chain, there’s a huge task at hand for the many organisations that need to first collate data points from all sources and align them to their business operations.”

Let’s Get Internet of Things (IoT) Ready for Procurement!

What can the the Internet of Things (IoT) do for you and your procurement team? 

IoT is a big buzzword these days. From industry experts to academia to specialised thought leaders, everyone is talking about how IoT as a technology has the potential to disrupt not only the day-to-day workings of our companies, but also the lives of the individual.

Panchenko Vladimir/Shutterstock.com

The Internet of Things: A History

Let’s go back a bit and see how it all began. In 1999, Kevin Ashton, a British technology pioneer and cofounder of the Auto-ID Center at MIT, proposed the Internet of Things (IoT). It refers to gadgets and applications with built-in wireless connectivity that can harness great amounts of data from their surroundings and help monitor, control and organise things better. From home appliances to fitness gadgets to technology helping industries automate their processes, IoT can do it all!

And two decades later, IoT is the live wire. Smart homes, smart gadgets and smart cars- IoT has already given us a glimpse how is future going to be. But what does it hold for procurement?

Procurement and the Internet of Things

For Procurement particularly, IoT works as an enabler, empowering companies to gain visibility into their spend analysis and keep a vigilant eye on their consumers consumption pattern. The supply chain data generated is monitored continuously and analysed for behavioral sets to make better-informed decisions. Having a proactive overview helps companies to estimate the demand and supply statistics, as they are aware of the needs and usage pattern of their consumers. This empowers them to negotiate with supplier side in a more streamlined manner as they know in advance what material and what quality and quantity is required. All these factors combined contributes to cost savings and brings value for the procurement function.

Another area where Procurement can benefit significantly is in the tracking and monitoring of the movement of goods within supply chains. Deploying the right set of sensors, which are tracked remotely with an IoT-enabled device can identify equipment faults, stoppages and leakages in real time allowing service and maintenance teams to respond to issues more promptly and accurately. This also ensures diagnostic data is obtained in order to d

eploy the right set of technicians.

These factors directly impact the maintenance costs incurred by a company, contributing positively to the overall cost savings.

There is more that IoT can bring to the table for Procurement function. But to realise the utmost advantages, companies must ensure that they are investing in the right kind of technology, processes and people. They need to invest in setting up the infrastructure that will unleash the possibilities IoT has to offer. In short they need to be ‘IoT ready’.

If you are curious to learn more about how IoT will impact procurement, do join our upcoming webinar where our expert group of panelists will examine the practical impact of IoT on how our supply chains will work and what you will need to do to become IoT ready.

Webinar Speakers

  • Jon Hansen – Editor and Lead writer at Procurement Insights
  • Robert Handfield – Executive Director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative
  • Mark Hubbard – Managing Director at Smart Brown Dog Ltd

Webinar on ‘Getting Internet of Things (IoT) Ready for Procurement’ is on January 18, 2018 | Thursday. Register here for free to reserve your seat.

2017 Rewind – IBM CPO: You’re Finished If You Think You’ve Finished

As part of our 2017 Procurious rewind, we’re taking a look at the top blogs of the year. This article features our interview with IBM’s CPO Bob Murphy, who believes there is nothing so important as professional development and human relationships.

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The numbers are eye-watering. IBM CPO Bob Murphy looks after a $70 billion spend – $25 billion internally and $45 billion 3rd-party. The company has around 150,000 contracts across 17,000 suppliers, with its flagship cognitive technology, Watson, reading 900 million pages in multiple languages per second.

As we prepared for our interview with Murphy, it’s understandable, then, that we expected to find him entirely focused on data analytics, automation, AI and the other tech that’s rapidly impacting so many professions. We were wrong – what comes across loud and clear is that this is a charismatic, engaging leader where people and relationships matter.

Think 40 and other professional development

Talking to Bob, it becomes immediately clear that his personal commitment to professional development is enormous. “If you want to be a leader, you have to stay current and replenish your IQ through learning and new knowledge. Ultimately, talent development is about making sure you have excellent people to replace outgoing leadership – it’s also vital for driving innovation.”

IBM’s Think 40 program mandates a minimum of 40 hours per year of self-initiated professional development. For the procurement team, this means having the option to select from a range of internal and external courses (often online), including offerings from Six Sigma, Procurement Leaders and ISM. For Bob, it comes down to inquisitiveness and a love of continual learning.

“We look for logical, friendly, humble, smart and inquisitive people. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of supply management can be trained to become outstanding procurement leaders. Making people aware of what is possible is absolutely critical – most successful people around the world put aside time to regularly read and educate themselves. They’re inquisitive; they enquire after things.”

Two critical skills for future leaders in procurement

  1. Digital literacy

“Data”, says Murphy, “is omnipresent and omnipotent.” He stresses that leaders who want to thrive in the procurement profession need to develop an understanding of:

  • Data analytics – we can gather data but how do you use that data to gain insights?
  • Robotic processes – how can you automate tactical processes so human capital is used to the greatest effect?
  • Cognitive computing – understanding how to digitise a process end-to-end so it is interconnected and insightful.
  1. Relationship building

Murphy tells Procurious that while leaders need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge they need, their main focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ. “You need to have the ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. We have one mouth and two ears, and that’s how we ought to apportion our time in any discussion. When we’re talking, we’re not learning.”

How can you train someone to be adept at building relationships? “It’s about attitude, not aptitude”, says Murphy. Whether leadership is innate or taught, the results are the same. You need to be able to work collaboratively with your suppliers, show them what’s important to you and understand what’s important to them. “Your relationship-building skills will ultimately enable your suppliers to drive innovation. For example, we have 17,000 suppliers at IBM. I want each one to wake up every morning and think: ‘How can I make IBM better’?”

Have you got a cognitive journey map?

Where is your organisation headed with cognitive procurement technology? Where do you want to be? How will you use people, processes and technology to get there? What can we automate?

Murphy recommends that every procurement team should have a roadmap that lays out the strategy for its data, analytics and cognitive journey. “All CEOs need a vision for their cognitive journey, and every function needs one too.”

According to The Hackett Group’s 2017 Procurement Key Issues research, only 32 percent of procurement organisations currently have a formal digital strategy in place, and only 25 percent have the needed resources and competencies in place today.

In reality, we can’t all be first-movers. But even if your company isn’t yet ready to act on cognitive technology, CPOs will be rewarded for raising the question, thinking through the issues and putting the challenge on the Board’s agenda. Most importantly, there needs to be milestones and deliverables, as Murphy warns: “Strategy without execution is a daydream”.

To end on a gem of a quote from Murphy, he spoke about how the constantly evolving nature of technology means a never-ending journey. “’Journey’ is a good description, because it is never finished. Anyone who thinks it is finished, is finished.”

2017 Rewind – Do You Have The Right Skills To Deliver On Tomorrow’s Procurement Strategy

As part of our 2017 Procurious rewind, we’re taking a look at the top blogs of the year. This piece looks at why are our procurement teams are falling so short when it comes to delivering on strategy? 

mangsaabguru/Shutterstock.com

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.