Category Archives: Generation Procurement

The Pareto Principle Has An Expiry Date

Has the Pareto Principle finally reached its expiration date after 110 years? Why the tail wagging the dog heralds the end of the 80-20 rule in procurement.

Pareto Expiry Date

This article was first published on EBN Online.

When Vilfredo Pareto observed in 1906 that 80 per cent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 per cent of the population, little did he know that this 80-20 rule (or Pareto Principle) would be enthusiastically embraced by the procurement profession and still be applicable 110 years later.

The term was popularised in the 1940s by the engineer Joseph M. Juran, who famously wrote of “the vital few and the trivial many”.

In procurement terms, the Pareto Principle means that 20 per cent of the average organisation’s suppliers account for 80 per cent of spend, and vice-versa. I’m a big fan of explaining procurement concepts with relatable imagery, so let’s picture your supplier base as something that we’re all familiar with – a dog.

The Tail Will Soon Be Wagging The Dog

Picture a Labrador. Or an Alsatian, or a Sheep Dog if you prefer – whatever takes your fancy. The head of the dog could be said to represent your top 1 per cent strategic suppliers. This is where you commit most of your time and energy.

Your procurement systems are optimised to work with the head of the dog. You make a significant effort to communicate face-to-face, and you spend a large amount of time worrying about what’s going on inside that head.

Let’s move down the neck to the dog’s body. Think of this as the next 19 per cent of your strategic suppliers. While the body isn’t nearly so important as the head, you recognise that this group accounts for the majority of your spend and deserves almost as much attention. As such, you dedicate time and resources to ensuring the body is in optimal health, and these “vital few” are being properly looked after.

Finally, the tail. Depending on the amount of suppliers you have, this could be a short stubby tail, or an extremely long one that tapers to a tip. Into this tail you’ve crammed 80 per cent of your suppliers – Juran’s “trivial many” who represent only 20 per cent of your spend.

You’re so busy looking after the dog’s body (and especially its head), that you’ve adopted a set-and-forget approach to the spend tail. You automate what you can, and call upon the smallest suppliers only when you need them.

And that’s a mistake, because in terms of innovation potential and risk profiles, the tail will soon be wagging the dog.

Procurement Systems Optimised For Large Suppliers

At ProcuriousBig Ideas Summit in May this year, Coupa Software’s Gabe Perez told the assembled group of Procurement thought-leaders that there are untold millions of suppliers in the world.

And yet most of our systems, or proprietary networks, only give us visibility of a few hundred thousand. We need to develop open networks to give unhindered access to all these suppliers who could potentially be the source of game-changing innovation.

The problem is that our processes and systems are set up to work with the big players at the expense of SMEs. “We can’t have our bureaucracy, our complexity, our layers of organisation impact suppliers’ businesses,” says Perez. “The cost of business goes up”.

Yet, that’s classic procurement, and it takes a culture shift to change the way we do business and encourage a truly open network. Think about the hurdles your organisation is putting in place for SMEs; whether they’re prohibitive insurance requirements, or crippling contractual terms that could bankrupt a small player.

Are they really necessary? Are you closing the door on opportunity because you see yourself as too big to play in the small supplier space?

Building Culture Of Agility And Innovation

Have you ever requested a last-minute change from a large supplier and watched in frustration as the creaky wheels slowly begin to turn? By the time the suppliers’ emails have bounced around to tick all the bureaucratic boxes, a smaller supplier may have found and implemented a solution.

What you want is agility. And small suppliers will expect you to be agile in return.

In her workshop on innovation in procurement, former Deutsche Telekom CPO, Eva Wimmers, stressed the need for nimbleness when working with SMEs. She discovered that the existing processes at her organisation were skewed towards the largest suppliers. 

Processes were changed to encourage innovation through diversifying the supply base to include more SMEs and start-ups, cutting new contracts down to a maximum of five pages, and holding supplier meetings exclusively around innovation.

Eva also implemented what she called “dialogue-rich procurement”. This encouraged her team to greatly increase their communication with both internal stakeholders and with suppliers. Her team discovered that SMEs, in particular, were very eager to share their ideas when they found that procurement was willing to listen and learn.

In Eva’s words, “We do not care how big an organisation is, as long as both the solution and the organisation are scalable and financially solid.”

She used Dropbox.com as an example of a small organisation with fewer than 50 staff that wouldn’t even have shown up on many organisations’ radar. And yet now it has world-wide take-up.

Compression Of The Supply Chain

Paul Markillie, Innovation Editor at The Economist, talked at the Big Ideas Summit about the compression of the supply chain driven by recent technological megatrends.

Robotics, 3D printing and computer-aided design are demolishing the old economies of scale, and separating a big supplier from an SME. This is ushering in no less than a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. What this means for procurement is that third or fourth-tier suppliers can find themselves rapidly rising to first-tier producers of end-products.

“There will be huge opportunities for companies further down the supply chain to innovate,” Markillie said. “Second-generation robots are more affordable for medium and small companies; 3D printing processes are less wasteful of raw materials and allow greater production flexibility at lower volumes.

“I think we will see some companies grasp these opportunities, which could re-order supply chains, and lead to some companies that were previously suppliers of components making the leap to become producers of final products.”

Lots Of Risk In That Spend Tail

The dilemma many procurement professionals face is that although you can’t afford to spend much time with suppliers beyond your top 20 per cent, every single vendor in your supply chain presents a significant risk to your brand, reputation and bottom line.

Think about a small supplier that you only use sporadically. Have you investigated their suppliers to ensure compliance to standards? What are their second-tier suppliers up to? What about the third, fourth and fifth tier?

Even though your spend with this supplier may be minimal, it can cause just as much damage to your organisation as the top 20 per cent. Child labor, slavery, cyber security, unsafe practices – the list is endless, and frightening.

My point – apart from trying to scare you – is that your risk mitigation and audit processes that are in place for the top 20 per cent, should be extended to the remaining 80 per cent.

End Of The Pareto Principle?

So, does this mean that the Pareto Principle has finally reached its expiration date after 110 years? In my opinion, yes it does.

If you measure the importance of suppliers purely by spend (and that’s very old-fashioned thinking), then you should indeed spend the majority of your time with the 20 per cent.

But modern CPOs know how badly a bottom line can be hurt by a risk event, and the huge potential of disruptive innovation to grow a business. And both of these factors reside in suppliers of every size, including those in the tip of the tail.

Throwback Thursday – Why Are CPOs Scared of Social Media?

Face your fears! Although procurement is getting the social media message, there is still plenty scope for CPOs to be doing more.

CPOs Scared of Social Media

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a trip down the Procurious content memory lane! Procurious has been going for over 2 years, and we feel like we’re making headway with social media in procurement.

However, sometimes it feels like we’re Sisyphus, pushing the (social media) boulder up the hill, only for it to roll down again. That’s why, although this is a year old, we could still easily ask why CPOs are scared of social media.

Running Scared

Noel Gallagher, he of Oasis fame, said earlier this year that musicians are “scared of social media”. We think CPOs are too.

We carried out some rudimentary research into the Twitter presence of the CPOs of the world’s “market leading” brands. The results were telling.

We searched Twitter for the CPOs (or equivalent) at Apple, P&G, Unilever, Coca Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, LG, Reed Elsevier and Shell. We couldn’t find a Twitter account for any of them.

Its not just CPOs either, it seems the whole C-suite really don’t care for social media. Research conducted by CEO.com and DOMO suggests that only 8 per cent of CEOs have a Twitter account and that a staggering 68 per cent of CEOs have no social media presence at all! A CEO without so much as a LinkedIn account? Are you kidding?

Interestingly, Mark Zuckerberg is the only CEO in the Fortune 500 who is present across the five leading social media platforms, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Instagram (given he owns the last two, I guess he had a head start).

Why are CPOs so anti-social (media)?

Sure, social media is a generational thing. Younger people ‘get it’ because they grew up with it and older people tend to struggle to understand it. Now let’s be honest, most CPOs fall on the older end of the youth spectrum and hence are operating from a disadvantaged position. This however, is no excuse to ignore social media.

Like it or lump it, social media has become a critical part of our social fabric. It’s where we go to interact with people, inform ourselves and most importantly for businesses, it’s where we go to make our judgements and voice our opinions on brands.

We’re Judging You

While a traditional procurement leader may not see it, people are forming opinions based on their social media activity (or rather, lack thereof).

Recruiters will look at a candidate’s Facebook page to get an understanding of who they are. Employees, suppliers, customers and shareholders are also researching corporate executives to determine if they’ll make a good boss, business partner or are worthy of investment. Those that are not present on social media, miss the opportunity to put their best foot forward.

In the case of the companies I listed above, I’ve already established an opinion (a negative one) about them based on the fact that they don’t have a socially active CPO.

In all likelihood, the opinion I have formed is incorrect and uninformed. However, the lack of social presence has led me to subconsciously make certain assumptions about those businesses.

Socially Connected Leaders

To state the obvious, the business world has changed. Gone are the days of unknown senior executives ‘connecting’ with people through ads in local newspapers. The modern business environment is hyper-connected and driven by information.

The advent of social media has led people to expect access to celebrities. And business executives are now seen as celebrities. Richard Branson, Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg are the faces of their brands. The fact that their celebrity shines so bright also means they are incredibly effective marketing vehicles.

A company’s brand, as well as its understanding of its customer base and the market it operates in, now depend on its social presence. Put bluntly, there is an expectation, from customers, shareholders and the press that leaders will be active and accessible on social media.

Socially Active Leaders

Not only is there an expectation that leaders will be active on social media, there is strong research to suggest that socially active leaders are better at their jobs.

Brandfrog, a professional branding company, released a study in 2014 highlighting the importance of social media in the perception of company leaders. Below are some of the high level findings.

  • 75 per cent of US respondents agreed that CEO participation in social media leads to better leadership. This figure is up from only 45 per cent in the previous year.
  • 77 per cent of US respondents agreed that C-Suite executives that actively engage on social media create more transparency for the brand.
  • 83 per cent of US respondents agreed that leaders who actively participate in social media build better connections with customers, employees and investors.
  • 82 per cent of US respondents agreed that executive use of social media establishes brand awareness.
  • 77 per cent of US respondents believe social media is a powerful tool for building thought leadership and enhancing the credibility of C-Suite executives with stakeholders.

The report lists many more stats, similar to these, that clearly spell out the case for CPOs and others in the C-suite to start interacting on social media.

Get Involved Already!

Social Media won’t be optional in the near future – it’s not a passing trend. CPOs need to understand that in order to gain the respect of their clients, their industry and their staff, they simply must be present and active on social media.

The good news is that the bar for CPO social media participation has been set so low that there is a huge opportunity to get in early and capitalise!

So here is our call out to CPOs – sign up! It can be Procurious,  Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, or Instagram. Who knows, you might even enjoy it, everyone else does!

How to Get Your CV in Front of a Real Person & Past an Algorithm

As recruiters change the way they filter and select candidates, you’ll need to revolutionise your CV to make sure it lands on their desk.

Digital CV

The Corporate World has changed more in the last 20 years than at any time in history, procurement probably more than most. The Procurement function wasn’t even represented on Boards and certainly wasn’t a strategic, value-add function.

However, the importance of the CV hasn’t changed, and in the wake of the ‘Procurement Revolution’ comes a necessary ‘CV Revolution’.

What’s Really Changed?

Recruitment fees have been halved in the last 10 years with RPO’s, Procurement, and internal recruitment teams, all driving down costs. This has meant that recruiters (either agency or internal) have had to become agile and change methodologies.

They need to be quicker, and better, at identifying good candidates. Unfortunately, this has driven more and more investment in IT, rather than the human factor. This means CVs need to be different now to 10 years ago.

Digital CV Searching Now the Norm

To stand out, a CV now needs to be readable by a human, but first by an algorithm, or search software, to get it on the longlist. It’s vital that your CV is set up to pass the algorithm test.

The good news, though, is that if you know the rules, you can use it to your advantage. With some small changes to your CV, you can end up on more longlists, giving you more chance, not less, that decision-making humans will be reading your CV (or LinkedIn profile).

Whether you are looking to optimise your CV or LinkedIn profile, the first thing you need to do is put yourself in the mind of the searchers. Whether it’s HR managers, internal recruiters, external recruiters or line managers, they should be searching for similar things. But you need to understand what they are looking for, and how they are looking for it.

Manually added codes or keywords are the only 2 ways of searching LinkedIn and CV databases. Manual codes are added by the person viewing your CV, so are purely subjective. But if your CV is focussed enough, it should be coded right by anyone that knows their business.

Getting your keywords right is the silver bullet to either scenario.

Keywords – What are Mine?

Keywords for CV searches are exactly what you think. They can be anything, depending on what the searcher could be looking for. They might be specific or vague (BSc Hons vs Degree; MCIPS vs CIPS). Or they might include category, industry, level, achievement, or team size, or similar.

To work out what your keywords are, you need to think about what the searcher will be looking for when recruiting the role:

  • Categories
  • Industry sectors
  • Management level
  • Competencies
  • Technical skills
  • Software
  • Languages
  • Education level
  • Qualifications

Some of these are simple, but if you’re struggling to come up with keywords for tougher questions, come at it from a different angle:

  • Which are the things you are most proud of?
  • What is your boss and business happiest with?
  • What projects have you been on?
  • Do you have old appraisals or what did you discuss in them?
  • If you’ve been applying for jobs what are the similarities (and therefore keywords) between them?

Once you have your keywords, you need to add them fluidly into your CV. Some keyword searching software counts the amount of keywords and rates the CV appropriately, so don’t be afraid to add them 3 or 4 times (where appropriate).

And so it doesn’t stand out as overkill, spread the critical ones through your summary, a job title and a job overview.

Word Configuration Oddities – Beware

Depending on the software’s (and searchers’) complexity and skill, it may search in a number of ways. Don’t assume these are Google-level algorithms – they absolutely aren’t. Some engines and searchers will search for a specific word string which will not be flexible.

For example, if they search for “Marketing Category Manager” then “Category Manager Marketing” wouldn’t come up.

There are ways to search for these strings (or any other configuration), but you should set your CV up on the basis that it’s being read by the cheapest, simplest system possible, run by the least IT literate searcher. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

To get around this, make sure you vary the word order through your CV, so you will catch whichever configuration they are searching.

Multiple Category Job Titles

For the same reason, make sure you shake up your technical skills.

  • IT/Telco Procurement Manager
  • IT/Telco Category Manager
  • Hardware/Software Category Manager
  • Procurement and Supply Chain Manager

In these examples, if someone does a basic search for IT Category Manager, IT Procurement Manager, Hardware Category Manager or Procurement Manager, then you won’t appear in the search. Make sure you vary it, switching it around in job titles, your personal summary and job overviews.

This gets harder as you get to an executive level but play around with the idea.

Natural Text

Never forget that you are trying to make your CV as easy to read as possible. Don’t shoehorn keywords in – the holy grail is to get your keywords in your CV without anyone noticing what you’ve done.

Natural text is critical. There’s no point getting past the algorithm hurdle to get rejected because it doesn’t make any sense to a human. Thankfully we are still a way away from the robots rising up and making these decisions for us!

Alarm Bells

If you’re getting lots of calls for completely irrelevant roles, you may well have the wrong keywords on your CV, or the wrong codes on their system.

Feel free to ask how they searched for your details. If they use codes, ask what codes they have, and feel free to help them correct them if you feel they’re wrong.

Make sure your keywords are clear. There are a number of categories that could be mistaken for other roles (Marketing and IT are a couple). Make sure it’s obvious in these areas that it’s procurement you are responsible for, and not marketing as a department.

I hope this helps you tweak your CV and make it appear in more, better, searches.

Building on over a decade of corporate recruitment (and reading in the region of 250,000 CVs), Andy Wilkinson set up The Chameleon Career Consultancy to coach CV Writing, Interview Technique and LinkedIn Profile writing. 

If you would like any advice on any of these areas or more help on your CV feel free to get in touch by e-mail, or visit the Chameleon website or LinkedIn page.

How to Make Your Professional Development Budget Friendly

In a cost-conscious organisation, ensuring that your professional development opportunities are budget friendly is key.

Budget Friendly Professional Development

The time has come around again, at least in my organisation, to set development plans for the year ahead. I’ve come across objectives from becoming more knowledgeable about a topic to completing a formal qualification.

Budget Friendly Development

Whatever you decide to set in your development plan, I want to share with you some ideas about sources of development activities.  In particular, budget friendly, free activities.

As some background, many (if not all) professional careers require Continuous Professional Development (CDP), counted by CPD hours, units or points. Depending on the profession you may gain hours by attending seminars, self-education, presenting at conferences, or even reading a book.

CIPS, for example, suggest 30 CPD hours a year for procurement professionals. By comparison, Australian lawyers are required to obtain 10 CPD ‘units’ – however the criteria is stricter.

Without further ado, here are six ideas for low cost CPD activities.

  1. Learn from other areas of your organisation

Step into another team for a meeting, a day, or longer.  As a procurement professional this is a great way to better understand your stakeholders and their needs, and build the relationship.  Conversely, you may seek to second a stakeholder from the business to support a procurement activity or category management.

  1. Public seminars and lectures (attend in person)

Usually accompanied by complimentary breakfast in the AM and drinks in the PM, many universities and service organisations host free seminars and lectures to update the audience on case studies and industry updates.

To stay updated, subscribe to the mailing lists (for Universities) and let your service provider know you’re interested in attending information events.

Needless to say it’s a great way to network, as well as an information gathering exercise to support your category management.

  1. Learning communities – online courses

Along the same lines, there are free online courses hosted by universities though websites such as ‘Future Learn’.  Some upcoming courses include ‘Management & Leadership: Leading a Team’ and ‘Business Process Management: an introduction to process thinking’ – both from Queensland University of Technology.

Other institutions hosting courses include University of Aberdeen, Cardiff University, and the University of Auckland. Program topics span across management, medical, social enterprise – the courses are constantly updated.

Sign up, give it a go. Most courses provide a certificate of participation to wave in the face of your development plan checklist.

  1. YouTube It

YouTube is riddled with hilarious cat videos and fluffy pink unicorns jumping on rainbows. It’s also a great source of inspirational and educational videos – Procurious even has a YouTube channel!  It’s free and not time intensive.

Ted-Ed videos are usually 3-5 minutes, however they are highly addictive. We can also learn new skills to make our work more effective, get technology tips, and learn how make ‘Word’ number formatting cooperate. Remember to reward yourself with another cute cat video. 

  1. Library isn’t just for books

When was the last time you stepped foot – physically – in a library?  You’ll be please to know that you don’t need to leave the comfort of you couch to benefit from your local library these days.  Libraries are technology hubs and, generally speaking, you should be able to access e-books from your local council library.

If you are keen on that rewarding feeling of turning a page, you can find a whole selection of top books here, recommended by Procurious members.

  1. Stand in the spotlight

A friend recently told me that out of the YouTube viewing population, only 0.1 per cent produce the content.

I can’t validate the statistic but let’s consider a procurement conference with 10 presenters and 100 delegates. That means we’re learning from 10 per cent of the population.

Surely you have something great to share! Nominate yourself to present at a conference, write an article – choose a method to tell us what you know.

Depending in the rules you follow, these activities may contribute to your CPD hours and/or your development plan. So go forth and be better than before.

Let the Procurious community know below if you have more ideas to achieve CPD hours and achieve your professional development plan in a fun, budget friendly way.

Throwback Thursday – Is Your Personal Brand Picture Perfect?

Why do you need to keep your personal brand on social media up to scratch? Well, if you don’t your dream job might just pass you by.

Personal Brand

We’re looking back at some of Procurious’ most popular content from the past 12 months. Prompted by some discussions around Procurious HQ on social media profiles, we felt it was a good time to revisit this personal brand article from our founder, Tania Seary.

Your Personal Brand

Today, a staggering 90 per cent of UK employers use social media to find employees. As we all know, a large proportion of roles are never formally advertised, with employers preferring to rely on references and people they “know” to fill important roles.

An important secret you need to know from the recruitment industry is about ‘passive’ candidates. These are people who are not actually applying for jobs, but are seemingly happily engaged in their current roles, as opposed to those who have actively applied for the role. These passive candidates are actually the most valued candidates.

So, the question is how will these silent employers “know” you, if you aren’t out networking, connecting and promoting yourself on social media?

The Importance of Networking

I had the perfect example just this week when a headhunter called me for some recommendations for the Head of a Digital Procurement Marketplace. It was a very senior job, paying in the high $200,000s.

I have worked in this profession for more than 15 years and am very committed to networking. I am fortunate to have met thousands of procurement professionals, have more than 5,000 connections on LinkedIn, and am an active participant in the 16,000 strong Procurious community.

Now, when I was asked for recommendations, who do you think came to mind first? Someone I met ten years ago when eMarketplaces were all the rage? Or someone I saw sharing information on LinkedIn or Procurious earlier in the day? The latter, of course.

In order to help you understand the importance of your network and online profile in helping you get that next job, let me share how my mind worked when trying to think of some suitable candidates.

Standing Out

I started thinking through the thousands of events and meetings I had attended and personalities that had stood out – I came up with a few names.

Next, I started reviewing my online social networks. First I found people who had the right skill set and experience, then I started looking at people’s profiles in depth. This was quite a lengthy process, so I used some filters. This is who didn’t make the list:

  • Profiles with photos.
  • People with limited connections (sorry, to me, its hard to think how anyone in procurement could have fewer than 500+ connections).
  • Profiles with out of date or limited work.
  • People who, when I googled them, weren’t mentioned anywhere, hadn’t published anything, or spoken at an event.

If people met any of these filters, I wasn’t going to recommend them. I would imagine many other senior people like me would use the same process. I know recruiters definitely would…

Why? Because my personal brand is on the line when I recommend someone. I only want to recommend people who are “in the loop” and up to date with what is happening in the world. And those are the people who are building and using their networks.

‘Picture Perfect’ Personal Brand

For this reason, all your work history, successes and contact details are important to include on your social media profile. But I want to particularly stress the importance of an impressive profile picture.

Our mission at Procurious is to change the face of procurement. So many images of procurement out there today reinforce a very old, brown cardigan-clad image. We want to replace those images with fresh, global images of being “the smartest guys in the room”.

Make sure your headshot is just that, a headshot where people can clearly identify you as you. Make sure your attire and demeanour are professional and represent how you would look turning up for a job interview.

There should be no selfies, no wedding photos, no hazy screens, favourite cars, or children. You laugh, but we see a lot of crazy things on Procurious, which is why I’m making this point.

Take care to be consistent across your social media profiles. You want to be recognisable from network to network. You definitely don’t want two photos which look as though they have been taken a decade apart. Consistency sends a message that you are taking an interest in your personal brand.

Personally, I think of a shot of you speaking or in action in a professional setting can be powerful to promote you as a thought leader. These are tough photos to get, so a plain vanilla corporate headshot will also serve you well. Using the same photo across all social media can be powerful as your ‘personal brand’ is consistent and is reinforced each time someone sees you.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Throwback Thursday – 3 Easy Steps to Become a Procurement Networking Guru

Are you a procurement networking guru? If you need some tips to help up your networking game, this is the place for you.

Networking Guru

We’re looking back at some of Procurious’ most popular content from the past 12 months. This week, we revisit an article that speaks to the fundamental core of Procurious – effective networking.

Becoming a Networking Guru

The benefits of networking are many. However, many people still struggle with the concept and the motivation to get going.

At Procurious, we want to create one huge, global network of procurement professionals, all of whom have the opportunity to learn from one another. We want everyone to realise the benefits of networking, so I thought I would share my three easy steps to becoming a networking guru to help everyone get started.

1. Network from the heart

Why from the heart? Because networking has to be authentic, and you need to have the other person’s interest as your priority.

Firstly, your networking has to be based on absolute authenticity – that is, a real friendship or genuine interest in what someone else is doing.

As a networking guru, if you want to form a relationship with another person, you first need to show them how they’ll benefit. If you focus on how you can help others, more than how they can help you, you’ll always be approaching people with the best motivation.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that workers who help others feel happier about their work than those who decide not to help. By asking someone for help, you give them the opportunity to display their skills and knowledge, and, at the same time, give their self-esteem a boost.

If the person asking the question wins, and the person answering the question wins, what’s stopping us from asking more questions. Despite all these  benefits, perhaps the fear of reaching out to someone and being rejected, is greater than the potential benefit.

When we face the fear of reaching out to someone else, we need to remember that networking is very much a two way street. Whether you’re at a face-to-face event, or on a social media platform, everyone is there for the same purpose – to network. So don’t be too self-conscious!

2. Be both social and formal

In the ‘old world’ getting to know someone and understand whether you had anything in common took a long time. You would meet someone at an event, follow-up via email and then organise a series of catch-ups to get to know them. You might have had to meet them quite a few times before you discovered the cross-over points.

In the world of social networking, the ‘getting to know you’ process is accelerated because you can see all this information on their profile. This fast-tracks the expansion of your network, because you can pre-qualify those people who you would like to join your network based on their experience.

Effective networking really involves a commitment of time, energy, and resources to produce meaningful results. Also remember that face-to-face meetings still play an important role in expanding your network.

You must also care for the network you’ve established (or are establishing). This includes personal contact through e-mails, telephone calls, scheduled meetings, or even a business lunch.

It’s only when we get to really know people through face-to-face contact, that we can understand both their motivations and their aspirations. You can then work out how you and other members of your network can help them achieve their goals. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

When you’re thinking about face-to-face networking, don’t just think formal meetings, corporate cocktail parties and conferences. A networking guru knows that you can literally network around the clock!

Just because you are “off duty”, doesn’t mean that you aren’t networking. Every interface you have is an opportunity to connect with interesting people who you can help, just as they can help you.

I once won a $1M contract from a wonderful woman I met at my son’s kindergarten parents’ evening. A few weeks back, I was at an Indian Ayurvedic Medicine discussion, and met a senior Facebook executive who has agreed to speak at one of our major events.

You always need to keep your mind and attitude open to these opportunities.

And once you have an established network, keep it active by using social media. The benefit to having an online network is that you can better maintain your network by keeping in touch much more easily.

By posting updates and information on your social media profiles, you are reminding people that you are still out there. Your posts also act as a prompt for them to reach out to you and connect. Or, even better, remind them to recommend you for a job!

3. Connect the dots

Once you have an established network, you need to understand the power of connecting the dots.

As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Many people equate having a good network with having a large database of contacts, or attending high-profile professional conferences and events. But they falter at the next step – actually doing something to make the connection real.

In other words, to create commercial advantage from your network, there’s no point in just being ‘connected’ with all these amazing people. You need to know what to do with the relationship.

Your network will live and thrive only when it is used. A good way to begin is to make a simple request, or take the initiative to connect two people who would benefit from meeting each other. Doing something, anything, gets the ball rolling and builds confidence that you do, in fact, have something to contribute.

Other actions to cement your network can include sending through articles or other things that might be relevant or of interest to a contact. Or, drill down even further and remember birthdays, acknowledge important achievements, or determine a contact’s favourite hobby or sports team, and use this information to build the relationship.

The fact that you’re thinking about a new contact can, and will, pay huge dividends.

Don’t Work in Isolation

Unfortunately many people don’t reach out to their network until they need something badly. A networking guru does exactly the opposite. They take every opportunity to give to, and receive from, the network, whether they need help or not.

For these reasons, and many more, I believe in the power of networking – for yourself, your contacts and the profession. That’s why we founded Procurious.

Apparently there are more than 2.5M procurement professionals in the world. But there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily identify.

Many procurement professionals are working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge and professionals available to help them do their jobs better, and learn more effectively.

There are so many problems we can solve together if we use the power of connection and leverage our network. If each and every procurement professional becomes a networking guru, there is very little that we can’t achieve!

Use Every Sales Trick in the Book: Procurement’s Guide to Business Partnering

Procurement professionals know just about every sales trick in the book. How can we turn these tricks to our advantage in business partnering?

Sales Trick Business Partnering

As a procurement pro, you’ve seen it all – the pitches, the gaffes, the strategies, the crash and burns. You also have your long list of personal success stories – the sales people, and sales strategies, you have personally unraveled and re-engineered to meet your company’s needs.

But then there have also been the spectacular defeats, where an absolute master of the sales spin has left you feeling like mere putty in their hands.

These negotiation experiences have, perhaps unknowingly, left us with a rich repertoire of successful sales techniques, which we really should be leveraging to master our own destiny.

We need to leverage these important sales learnings, and improve how we ‘sell’ our services into our own organisations, in order to master the art of ‘business partnering’.

Procurement Business Partnering

Fortunately, I am able to call on the collective thinking of a dozen of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies as I ponder this question, because business partnering has been the hot topic at the last few Productivity in Pharma Think tank sessions.

The discussions have focused on what skills and characteristics lead to successful business partnering, and those skills that help the procurement function become a ‘connector’ inside and outside the company.

How to be Liked

But going back to my story, let’s look at what we have learned from the best salespeople we know, and how we can adapt this to our approach to business partnering.

Be a “playmaker” – Let’s face it, you have probably genuinely “liked” the salespeople who have been most successful in convincing you to buy from them.

So how do you go about getting your stakeholders to “like” you and “buy into” the service you are offering? Some global procurement teams are actually applying a bit of science to this challenge.

Heads of Procurement know, like many other things in life, if you get the relationship right, everything else will follow.

Novartis, for example, uses a very sophisticated business partnering framework. The first step of this is “knowledge of self”, whereby each procurement executive completes a personality profile analysis. These profiles are then considered against the stakeholder to find the “perfect match” for the business partnering relationship.

Stakeholder engagement skills are also become an increasingly important part of the procurement recruitment process. Heads of Procurement are looking for a somewhat elusive set of skills that will orchestrate the supply network and create a vital link between the various functions in the company.

They are looking for executives who can create that all-important “bond” with their internal stakeholders, as well as their supply base.

Giles Breault of The Beyond Group says, “If you are going to write ‘business partnering’ on your CV then you must have these skills: the ability to engage and speak the language of your internal customer; the ability to lead projects as an equal partner; and intrapreneurial skills that help you operate like you are the CEO of your own business.”

Applying Sales Tricks

The “Play Maker” is a personality profile identified in the Game Changer Index (GC Index). This type of person is interested in people and relationships. They take the view that how well things get done in organisations will reflect the quality of relationships.

As the Game Changers would say, procurement teams wanting to improve their internal business engagement should look for people who “get a buzz” from the challenges of managing the process of influence, or those people who see themselves as a potent agent of change.

But once we have recruited the right skill set and matched up the personalities as best we can, we need to revert back to those all-important learnings from our sales friends on the other side of the table. Namely:

Remember why we have two ears and one mouth – The best salespeople listen more than they talk. Is your procurement team remembering this important 2:1 ratio when they interact with your stakeholders? I suspect that most procurement teams could benefit from listening more to their stakeholders and really understanding their business needs.

Fight the battle on the number of fronts – As we all know, the best salespeople have a multi-level account plan. They align the various levels of people within their team with the decision makers within their customer’s organisation.

They implement a consistent, tenacious plan and stay on message to achieve their goals. Does your procurement team have an account plan for your stakeholders? Do they stay “on message”? Are they focused on sticking to the plan?

Have single point accountability – This was a topic raised at a dinner hosted by Lucy Harding at executive recruiters, Odgers Berndtson, in London late last month. Most organisations can’t afford to have a separate role, or full time staff member, dedicated to business partnering.

Delighting the customer needs to be part of everyone’s role, but who is ultimately accountable for satisfying each internal customer needs to be made clear.

Have a story to tell – a USP – Procurement spends a huge amount of time listening to the unique selling proposition (USP) of its sales people and suppliers. We need to craft our own stories about our service, how we can help the business, and why we will drive value for stakeholders.

Ultimately, it’s about making our stakeholders, (who are really our customers), feel the love. As I wrote in a previous blog, building credibility, listening to our customers, and translating this into knowing what they do and don’t want, is critical for the process of business partnering. 

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

Strategic Similarities of Football and Procurement

Understand your position and adapt to how the other player is performing – true of both football and procurement, says 30 Under 30 star, Logan Ferguson.

Football player

Logan Ferguson was one of the young professionals named in ISM and THOMASNET.com‘s ‘30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars‘ this year.

Procurious caught up with Logan to talk to him about his procurement career, what the award means to him, and his love for football (or soccer, for any non-Europeans…).

Logan Ferguson
THOMASNET.com and ISM 30 Under 30 Rising Star – Logan Ferguson
  • How did you come to choose procurement as your profession?

I have always been a strategic thinker, enjoying exciting opportunities to solve new problems. This passion led me into Operations Management in the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.

I had the opportunity to work two enjoyable internships with Marathon Petroleum Company during my college years as a Global Procurement intern, which initially sparked my interest in procurement. The experience I gained during college propelled me on to my current career path.

  • You’re a keen football (soccer) player and fan – can you draw any parallels between playing the game and excelling in your career?

One of the main reasons I like soccer is due to the strategic nature of the game, and the fact that you have to be thinking and planning your next move at all times while you’re on the pitch.

The scenario is always changing, so you have to constantly adapt to what other players are doing. There are very similar elements that exist in procurement. When preparing for a negotiation, it is critical to understand your market position and develop your strategy for capturing the best contract pricing and terms accordingly.

Due to constant market changes, there is always an opportunity to find new ways to add value for the organisation. This constant change and the challenge it presents is exciting and keeps me on my toes.

  • Do you think procurement is an attractive career for millennials?

I think it is a great time to start a career in procurement. Many corporations now understand the value that can be delivered to their bottom line by developing a high performing sourcing organisation. This revelation has created new demand for talented problem solvers that can effectively fill these roles.

  • What’s your advice for young people entering the profession?

Learn as much as you possibly can in a wide variety of experiences.

Saying “Yes” to a lot of diverse opportunities not only gives you a greater breadth of knowledge but also builds your credibility in multiple areas of the organisation.

  • What does it mean to you to be part of the 30 Under 30 this year? And what will it mean for your future?

It is such an honour to be a part of the 30 Under 30 program. I’m extremely grateful for the recognition, and it wouldn’t have been possible without such a great support structure around me to recognise my accomplishments, and take action to nominate me.

The award is a testament to the opportunities I have had the privilege to be a part of so far, but I think the best part about the experience was getting to meet so many other successful young professionals through the program.

The greatest benefit the nomination has for my future is being a part of a network of high achievers, who I can contact to discuss work challenges and new, innovative ideas.

Why Indirect Procurement Fails to Deliver Savings to the Bottom Line: Fear

Fear of numbers, and using the language of finance is holding back indirect procurement teams from delivering real value and bottom line savings.

Fear

This article was first published on LinkedIn.

One thing you hear at every procurement event is how hard it is to really achieve indirect savings and bring them to the bottom line. Then the discussion inevitably moves to how finance and business heads just don’t understand the real value impact of the procurement team.

If you could fix this, all would be solved. However, this completely misses changes that procurement itself needs to address first.

While leading a major transformation of a large global indirect team, I was completely surprised by two blockers of a talented and motivated team. While they loved tough, numbers-focused supplier negotiations, there were two hidden fears about numbers that jeopardised their capturing savings.

1. Fear of Using the Language of Finance

The team’s comfort zone for numbers was in spend analysis, supplier pricing, total cost of ownership and benefits from a given negotiation. However, many had bad experiences with finance and business heads who were not interested in cost avoidance and best-negotiated prices, making the procurement group feel unappreciated, misunderstood and not part of the team.

There was immense cost pressure, and through the CFO and other senior leaders, this translated into a drive for year-over-year savings that could be translated into budget reductions. As the leader, I thought this was reasonable and went back to the team explaining that the measure of our performance from now on would be hard savings.

But two issues became clear immediately:

  • The team’s lack of basic financial acumen and the ability to understand and speak about numbers in the same way as the finance colleagues.
  • Their resulting discomfort and fear of not looking knowledgeable.

The journey to addressing this gap started with working together with finance to define the company’s accepted savings definitions. This handbook became the bible for all of the savings and budget reductions. It was also:

  • A training tool for procurement, finance and the business clients.
  • A way to take out the emotion and bad feelings via clear rules and definitions.

Learning by doing was a key part of the change process for the team. With regular and granular numbers reviews, the team had day-to-day opportunities to become familiar with the calculations and fluent in financial language and concepts.

This led to greater confidence in speaking with colleagues and became the new common language of how procurement contributed to the bottom line.

2. Fear of Committing to Accurate Numbers

Although procurement people will tell you that they like being measured on the numbers, what they also often say is ‘it’s better to under commit and over-deliver’. Unfortunately, what this really means is, ‘I can’t predict my performance so I will low-ball my guesstimate’.

This fear of not meeting targets was going to be even more problematic with the sharper focus on year-over-year targets. But it had to be urgently addressed:

  • As savings were being directly linked to and partly taken out of budget up front, being very accurate was an imperative.
  • While it is less bad than under-delivering, over-delivering in November usually means the money has already been spent on something else.

Over optimistically, I thought it was just a matter of explaining why accuracy was so important, and using a sales pipeline approach to enable it all. But as we got into the details, a few things became clear:

  • There was a lack of understanding (back to the topic of financial language) of how to organise projects at a ‘material’ level.
  • The team wasn’t used to thinking about their projects in terms of a pipeline over a longer horizon.
Addressing the Gap

The key to addressing the gap was again to improve the collaboration with finance as well as commit to senior management to deliver against the planned pipeline of projects. In turn, team and individual targets were set accordingly and we got two benefits from this effort.

  • Creating the pipeline got procurement involved in the business discussions much earlier than previously
  • The team learned how to set up a clear and material set of projects which reinforced their new financial knowledge

At the end of the first year, and for the very first time, the team got recognition from all sides. They felt new confidence in speaking about numbers and the increase in visibility from ‘real’ savings based on the clear pipeline. They couldn’t conceive of going back to the days of estimated benefits, fuzzy savings calculations and unclear targets.

Implementing both the formal processes between procurement and finance as well as the needed change management for the procurement team need to be fit for purpose to how the company really works. It might be as simple as agreeing the basic savings definitions or as complex as introducing a full workflow supported process.

Conquering these fears is worth the financial results!

Pauline King is the founder of Rapid Results Procurement focused on working with a company’s existing team to deliver tangible financial results. She is a recognised expert in indirect procurement with deep operational experience in procurement transformation. Pauline also works closely with The Beyond Group AG where she heads up the Indirect Procurement Practice.

Peer-to-Peer Learning – The Evolution of Professional Development

Learning is no longer confined to a classroom. Peer-to-peer learning is fast becoming the primary avenue for professional development.

peer-to-peer learning

The labour market is tightening, which means the need to engage, retain and up-skill your existing resources is growing. However, individuals and organisations are moving away from traditional approaches to learning and development, such as classroom-based learning, due to rising costs and geographically dispersed teams.

In the latest evolution of professional and personal development, there is a greater emphasis is now being placed on social media and peer-to-peer learning. And while, in the past, quality of content was seen as a major issue in using e-Learning, more high-profile organisations are realising the benefits of both creating and sharing their own content.

Peer-to-Peer Benefits

The nature of social media is inherently suited to peer-to-peer learning:

  • It is a highly effective method of sharing information – people can learn real-life, applicable lessons from subject matter experts from all around the world.
  • The e-Learning resources are very accessible – they can be accessed from multiple devices, at a time and place that is convenient for the learner (and their organisation too).
  • Perhaps most importantly, it’s a very cost effective way to learn – savings are made on travel, employee time, and residential courses, and the vast majority of e-Learning is totally free.

Take global mining organisation, Rio Tinto, as an example. The organisation has a very widely dispersed employee based, with over 35,000 people spread around the world. Realising the cost of bringing employees together for classroom-based training, Rio launched their own learning academy in 2014.

Employees have access to relevant, and high-quality, materials wherever they are, and can study at their own pace, at a time that suits them.

Procurement Podcasts

Across social media there are a number of portals and platforms that support peer-to-peer learning, offering free, downloadable e-Learning content in the field of procurement. One of these is SoundCloud – a free, online sharing platform for audio and visual content.

Soundcloud Podcasts

A simple search for ‘procurement’ on the platform provides over 500 podcasts from over 100 contributors, including the BBC and Buyers’ Meeting Point. The platform is easy to access via a web browser or its app, enabling users to listen to the podcasts on the go.

You can also find quality, procurement-related podcasts from a huge range of other sources. Here are just a few we have selected:

  • AT Kearney Procurement & Analytics Solutions – the renowned ‘Wave of the Futurepodcast series covers key topics for procurement leaders through interviewing subject matter experts and thought leaders.
  • Art of Procurement – hosted by Philip Ideson, the AoP Show invites procurement professionals and experts to share their views on the hot topics impacting the profession.
  • My Purchasing Centre – this podcast series has its finger on the pulse of the profession, sharing information and thought leadership on major topics and events.
  • Institute of Supply Management – ISM offers an ever-expanding library of audio podcasts covering a broad spectrum of supply management and general business topics.

Procurement Videos

If videos are more of your thing, you can find plenty available on YouTube (just don’t get lost with all the other videos you can inevitably lose an hour or more with…!).

One of our recent finds are videos from The Procurement Man (better known in real life as Neil Hudson). Neil has a selection of videos sharing his experiences and knowledge from a career in procurement. You can find his videos here, and see an example of one below:

And finally, you can of course find plenty of procurement and supply chain related videos right here on Procurious. Take your pick from procurement training, thought leadership and business research from a variety of experts from around the world.

However you choose to learn, and however you do your professional development, there is a good chance that peer-to-peer learning will be able to support your goals. Just find the right platform for you, and get stuck in!