Category Archives: Generation Procurement

Treading the Fine Line Between Assertive and Aggressive

What is the difference between assertive and aggressive, and why does it matter in job interviews? 

assertive

Assertiveness is saying what you mean without being impolite, asking for what you want without making demands. Assertive behaviour helps you to avoid being manipulated or put off easily. This style is far more likely to create a positive impression than either aggressiveness or non-assertion.

Aggressiveness means that you stand out, but not in a good way. Being overly pushy or contrary will probably irritate and alienate the interviewer. You may get what you want in the short term but it may hinder your progress later. On the other hand, passive or non-assertive behaviour can lead to a loss of your self-respect. This is where you let others get their own way and make yourself into a walkover.

It has been reported that interviewers reach a decision about an applicant within five minutes after meeting them. In this time there is little more to evaluate than how you look and speak, how you carry yourself, and how you greeted the interviewer, all clear indicators of your level of self-confidence.

Being confidently assertive helps you reduce the stress in an interview situation and to exercise more control over your working life. Here are three ways to sail through the interview assertively.

  1. Prepare well

It’s a bit like preparing for negotiations. Research your interviewer and the organisation you are intending to work for. Know how to respond to those difficult, and sometimes inane, questions, like what would you do in a conflict situation or what makes you the best candidate for this job. Remember that assertive behaviour is not specifically designed to get you what you want in every situation; in fact, it involves negotiation and compromise.

Bring your notes and don’t be afraid to use them. It makes you look well-prepared. If something of interest is mentioned about the job, pause and write it down. Be professional and be the best prepared candidate they are likely to interview.

  1. Practice your success stories

It is crucial to create a strategy for communicating your accomplishments to your interviewer in a succinct and memorable fashion.  Do you have a C.A.R?  Skilled interviewers will look for proof of your stated achievements by drilling down into the details of what you say you have accomplished.

C.A.R. stands for Challenge » Action » Result.  Write down a few gems relating to work areas that will come up in the interview. By dropping a story into the conversation you can showcase the action that you took to overcome a problem and can demonstrate to your interviewer that you achieved the desired result.

Mini-stories should be succinct and limited only to relevant details, just a few sentences. They will allow you to share examples of your past successes and let your actions speak.

  1. Polish your communication skills

Candidates demonstrate their assertiveness by the questions they ask, as well as the questions they answer. One trait employers look for is the ability to communicate effectively at all levels in an organisation. Being too tentative with senior managers is not a good sign.  People are just people, so speak with confidence and show a positive attitude but with respect.

Come prepared with questions about the job, such as expected results after the first year, where it fits into the organisation and what happened to the person who had the job before. Practice your questions as well as your answers in preparation for your interview.

Speak clearly and use good diction at a reasonable volume. Talking too quickly and loudly is not being assertive, it shows nervousness. Non-verbal cues influence an interviewer’s impression of you just as much your words do, so keep up the eye contact. Express your opinions honestly, but wisely.

What the recruiters say

Candidates show a poor level of assertiveness when they:

  • Show a lack of confidence in expressing achievements and abilities
  • Sound unsure of themselves when answering questions
  • Are overly agreeable to everything said by the interviewer
  • Trail off or mumble instead of clearly completing a thought

At the end of the interview, ask what’s next in the hiring process.  You may not get a straight answer but it is clear that you want to know.

Setting KPIs for Beginners: Types of KPI

We know the why in the role of KPIs in Supplier Relationship Management. But we also need to be able to identify which type of KPI will bring the best results.

KPI for beginners

Catch up with the first part of this introductory overview of the role and relevance of KPIs to support Supplier Relationship Management (SRM).

So now we have established the role of the KPI in the SRM process, we need to think about the type of KPI we’ll use. Much of the decision making around this will be based on what procurement is measuring with the KPIs.

Remember – procurement should discuss KPIs with other stakeholders and, where possible, involve suppliers too. This engagement could make the difference between success and failure.

Types of KPI

Here’s an overview of the three different types of KPIs:

  1. Quantitative – these are measurable, numeric and objective, like rating on a scale of 1 to 10. An example of a quantitative KPI would be the number of late deliveries per quarter.
  1. Qualitative – these KPIs are more subjective. An example could be how responsive the supplier is to a request – let’s say you have a special order that needs to be delivered to an unusual location. It’s a one-off request, but if the supplier makes the delivery it would save you significant costs in transport and you know they make deliveries to that location for other customers. Is the supplier reluctant to change the delivery location, and is there a fee involved? Is the fee reasonable?
  1. Cultural – are the KPIs aligned with your organisational values? Let’s say your organisation has a drive to always buy locally-made products. You want KPIs to capture whether your suppliers are buying locally as well.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all set of KPIs. Whether you are working on direct or indirect categories, manufacturing or distribution, you need to match the KPIs to the supplier.

For your Toolkit: KPI Checklist

This checklist is a quick summary to confirm if your KPI will stand up to scrutiny.

  • Is it measurable? If it’s not measurable, than what good is it? How will you know if your supplier is meeting the required standards?
  • Is it meaningful? Do you or anyone else in the organisation care about it – if not, why collect it?
  • Is it actionable by the supplier? There’s no use measuring a data point and feeding that information back to the supplier if the supplier is unable to act on or improve the situation. If it’s not within their sphere of influence, they probably won’t accept the KPI to begin with.

Keep the KPIs simple, easy to understand and easy to measure. Ensure they support your overall business strategy and objectives by aligning them to your customer requirements.

Experience shows it’s better to capture a few vital measures that can be tracked consistently and repeatedly. This is much more effective than measuring randomly and or inconsistently.

Institutionalising the measurement process and regularly reinforcing it with suppliers and stakeholders will provide a common ground and common language, support a collaborative environment and make it easier for everyone to understand, participate and achieve.

Finally, you want to reinforce the value of the data collection to support improved business performance – that is, now that you’ve collected the information, make sure you tell the right story.

Contract Level KPI Reports

The dashboard (or scorecard) summarises your KPIs and measures them against a particular supplier.  This tool can be used internally to review a supplier’s past or current performance. It’s also important to share this information with the supplier so they are aware of the data and can act upon it.

KPI status reports should be delivered in a timely manner to enable you to address stakeholder concerns quickly and responsively. The reports need to include all the relevant information your stakeholders require – this includes the good and the bad.

You don’t want the senior management finding out bad news from the inter-office grapevine or worse, the media. This is your chance to deliver important details relevant to the success of the business. It’s your news and you want the kudos that go along with identifying and sharing it first.

You also want to define a clear escalation process to address issues and problems as they arise. For example, in a supplier review meeting you may realise the supplier’s data doesn’t match yours.

The supplier is reluctant to change their process based on your data, when their own data says everything is okay. You need an agreed escalation point to review and resolve this disagreement.

Finally, you want KPIs that will deliver predictive measures, not just historical. This allows you to stay one step ahead by being in a position to identify and act upon issues before they become serious.  Predictive measures will also help you to identify targets for the supplier to meet and beat over the course of the contract.

All of this information fits into the reporting documentation to demonstrate how and why you’re spending your organisation’s money. The highlights of this report can be summarised in the dashboard and presented to senior management.

Stay tuned for the third and final article in this series, which explores systems used to capture KPI data, typical data points for measuring KPIs, and multi-supplier performance dashboards.

Communication Queen – Not Your Typical Procurement Pro

There’s a step change coming in the procurement technology and software industry. And communication and relationships will be the central pillars of it, says this Millennial.

Communication Queen
Simona Pop

There is step-change coming in procurement, and the change is going to be keenly felt in the procurement technology and software industry. But for this change to take effect, it needs support on both sides of the aisle – buyer and supplier.

Simona Pop, Head of Partnerships & Global Communication at InstaSupply, is not your typical procurement professional.

She’s one of a new breed of professionals involved in procurement and supply chain, who believes change is on the horizon, and that it can’t come soon enough.

A tattooed Millennial, with a stake (both monetary and emotional) in the company she works for, Simona presents a refreshing view on buyer and supplier relationship management, and believes in creating emotional connections with clients.

Not only that, but she also walks the walk when it comes to leveraging social media in business.

Procurious caught up with Simona, and chatted to her about her career, her approach to social media, and why she believes we shouldn’t have to leave the real-time efficiencies of our personal lives at the office door.

Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you get to where you are today? 

It has to be said, my career trajectory isn’t what you might call straightforward. I got out of school thinking I was going to be in advertising. Then I moved to the UK and started working with Brakes, the food supplier, in a sales role. I then went 180 from that path and started working in events.

Finally, I started working with InstaSupply as Head of Partnerships and Communication. One thing lead to another really, and in the end, it makes a lot of sense.

I love communication and building relationships. That’s what makes the world go round, as far as I’m concerned. My communications background is ultimately the driving force behind my take on business.

You’ve recently won your place at Virgin Disruptors – congratulations!

Yes, I am very excited about it. It was all about presenting my vision on what industry needs disrupting and how I would do it. I went straight to the core and illustrated how ALL business needs disrupting.

You can see my video below. It’s all about changing procurement and finance. They are the engine of each and every business so they need to be as well oiled as possible.

What role did social media play in the award?

As with every bit of communication I put out there, this was also a social affair. I got to chatting with Virgin via Twitter and found out about this opportunity. As everything in social media moved pretty fast, I only had a couple of days to script and create the video in order to stick to deadlines. I then uploaded it on YouTube and shared it via Twitter again.

I am a true believer in the power of social and its ability to not only bring us information in real time but also challenge us to become more creative and innovative. It’s why I am so happy to be part of the Virgin Disruptors community as a technology company.

So many procurement technology implementations fail – why do you think this is?

It comes down to how people interact with the technology and the company providing that technology. Is there a match there in terms of values? Or is it more about ticking a box and signing a three year contract so you don’t have to worry about it?

So many businesses will go for old technology just because someone else in their industry has used it before. Even if it’s not a great fit for them and their staff, they will implement it anyway just to tick that “tech” box and consider it done.

More often than not, businesses pay the price tag of an Aston Martin, and end up using it like a second hand Ford.

The fact that back office operations, procurement and finance technology involve so many different roles and levels of seniority, makes it paramount that the interface and functionality appeals to all age groups.

There shouldn’t be a difference between the way we interact with brands in our personal lives, and brands that we see at work.

What are the key changes you think need to be made? Can we make procurement/B2B software more like B2C counterparts?

The way I see it, every business relationship is a partnership – it’s not a case of sell and move on. As a tech supplier, you are going to be working closely with your client, as they will interact with your product every single day.

You want to allow them to work smarter, be more efficient and ultimately make their lives easier. You need to provide top notch tech, but also real time support. There’s no place for a helpline that keeps people on hold for hours, or an email they get a response to in three months. That would be unacceptable in B2C nowadays!

There needs to be a shake-up. We need to remove the jargon, the boring pages of bland text, the hieroglyphic appendices, and the contracts that tie you into five years, whether you like it or not.

Software providers want partners, not prisoners. We are here to simplify buyer-supplier relationships, and make life easier for everyone involved in running a business, regardless of role and seniority. Ultimately we want to support them in growing their business, and having a better quality of work.

After all, why should we leave all the efficiencies of B2C, our personal life, at the door, when we get to work?

Setting KPIs for Beginners: Why Bother?

An introductory overview of the role and relevance of KPIs to support Supplier Relationship Management (SRM).

KPIs article 1

In this three-part article, we discuss some of the different KPIs that are used specifically for SRM. This list is by no means exhaustive; it can’t be, as performance indicators must be relevant to your own organisation, customers, and requirements.  However, this list can be used as a guide and can become an essential part of your toolkit.

We’ll also review some of the popular ways people measure and monitor KPIs through systems and reports. Again, this won’t be an exhaustive list because of cultural and technical requirements unique to every organisation.

You’ll also find some key tips for implementing KPIs successfully, including a checklist (more tools for your toolkit!).

We will explore how dashboards can be a fantastic tool for procurement professionals to use when communicating to stakeholders and promote hard-won benefits to the business. An effective dashboard will include KPIs that demonstrate how suppliers or categories are being managed and their impact on the business. Remember, the KPIs you set may influence senior management decisions. Therefore, you need to get it right.

Why bother with KPIs?  

To get started, let’s talk about why we use KPIs.

As procurement professionals, we’re responsible for making smart purchasing decisions that support the values and principles of procurement, such as probity and value for money. These decisions must also support the philosophy and strategy of individual organisations. Importantly, we need to be able to justify and document how (and why) we’re spending money.

KPIs can help us justify spend. In fact, KPIs can be used to identify risk, cost savings, innovation opportunities and successes, value-for-money initiatives, customer satisfaction and any number of other factors that we or our customers feel is important.

The role of a supplier KPI is vast. They set the performance standard and have measurable features used to identify areas of improvement, such as establishing a baseline, identifying where you want to be and developing a path to get there. But it doesn’t stop there – KPIs can also be connected to payment milestones, credit payment and liquidated damages.

The important point to remember is that supplier KPIs must be agreed upon by all parties involved. If your supplier doesn’t know what is expected of them, they won’t be able to comply, let alone excel. That’s just one side of the relationship.

The other side of the relationship involves the professionals within the buying organisation. How do you, the procurement professional, know which KPIs to use? Are cost savings important? Delivery times?  ISO standing? Inventory reduction? You won’t know unless you ask your customers about their requirements.

So, why are KPIs important?

What gets measured gets done. KPIs are a way of ensuring your supplier focuses on your fundamental business needs. We can do this through:

  • Incorporating our customers’ requirements into the KPIs to align supplier performance with organisational goals.
  • Providing constructive feedback (rather than punitive criticism). Why? Because the end goal is a win-win situation where you get what you and your customers need, while the supplier gets to improve its reputation and build its business.
  • Promoting a continuous feedback loop using KPIs to drive supplier performance, initiative and improvement. KPIs should be linked to the terms of the contract but remember, the focus is on the relationship. Indicators should therefore reflect the “spirit” of the contract as much as the “letter”.
  • Bringing clarity to overly generic contract requirements to drive meaningful performance.

Challenges in KPI management

Here are some common challenges that we’ve seen through our own experience:

  • Capturing the data – identifying the relevant data and accurately acquiring the data points.
  • SRM fatigue – motivating yourself, your team and your suppliers to continue SRM activities over the life of the contract, which can be months or even years. Activities can easily become stale and sometimes you’ll need to push them along.
  • Comparing and contrasting suppliers – supplier performance will be very different depending on their size, sector and region. Ensure you’re comparing apples with apples.

Engaging end-users is important

When driving supplier performance over long-term contracts, we want to keep things moving so end-users don’t feel that nothing is happening. Keep end-users in the loop, ensure their voices are heard and let them know how things are progressing.

We often focus on senior management as our primary “customer”, but the end-user is arguably more important – especially when it comes to compliance. After all, they’re the ones who will use the product, system or tool that is being purchased.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, which will explore the different types of KPIs, complete with a KPI checklist and contract-level KPI reports.

Throwback Thursday – Procurement’s Greatest Ambassador?

If we’re to change the image of procurement, we need a figurehead to point to. Could Apple CEO, Tim Cook, be the ambassador the profession needs?

Tim Cook - Procurement Ambassador

One of the key goals of Procurious is to improve the image of our profession. We are the brown cardigan brigade no longer (unless it’s a snazzy, modern cardigan!). The latest generation of procurement pros are highly intelligent, motivated, and tech-savvy.

However, to help push the image change along, procurement needs a figurehead. A high profile ambassador for the profession, who highlights just how far you can go. And Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook, could be that ambassador we need.

We take a look back at an article from last year, highlighting Cook’s journey to the top.

Procurement’s Greatest Ambassador?

It’s fair to say procurement has received a bad rap over the years. We’ve been dubbed corporate policemen, paper pushers, roadblocks, as well as a raft of other unflattering names we dare not mention.

Thankfully, due to the innovation and hard graft of procurement professionals, the function is shedding this negative image and starting to become recognised as an integral part of any successful business.

Perhaps the greatest exemplar of procurement’s ascendancy to date is Apple CEO Tim Cook.

In 1998, Tim was the vice president of Corporate Materials for the Compaq computer company. The role saw him hold responsibility for the organisation’s procurement and inventory operations.

Despite having no real intentions of leaving this role, the enigmatic Steve Jobs managed to convince Cook to take on a role at Apple (pre iMac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone).

Stellar Performance

Tim’s performance at Apple was stellar, particularly from a procurement point of view. In his authorised autobiography of Steve Jobs, Walter Issacson described Cook’s methodical approach to supplier rationalisation and inventory management.

“Cook reduced the number of Apple’s key suppliers from a hundred to twenty-four, forced them to cut better deals to keep the business, convinced many to locate next to Apple’s plants, and closed ten of the company’s nineteen warehouses.

“By reducing the places where inventory could pile up, he reduced inventory. Jobs had cut inventory from two months’ worth of product down to one by early 1998. By September of that year, Cook had gotten it to six days. By the following September, it was down to an amazing two days’ worth.

“In addition, he cut the production process for making an Apple computer from four months to two. All of this not only saved money, it also allowed each new computer to have the very latest components available.”

The procurement and supply chain decisions made by Cook highlight the critical importance of procurement to Apple’s success. The strength of the company (and arguably its competitive advantage) has been in building and managing a complex network of suppliers.

The company has then successfully leveraged this network to produce ground-breaking technology products. Put simply, without the supply network, there is no product.

Recommendation From The Top

Cook’s performance in Apple’s supply chain clearly caught the attention of Steve Jobs, who gave the follow recommendation of Cook during his departure from the firm.

Jobs stated, “I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.”

The promotion of Cook to CEO shows that the board of Apple understands the critical importance of external suppliers as a source of innovation for the company. Apple clearly sees the procurement function as the conduit to successfully managing these relationships and ensuring the future success of the business.

Apple is the world’s most valuable brand. It has undergone a remarkably successful business transformation, and has produced products that have changed the way we interact with each other and the world around us.

With so much of this success being attributed to great procurement practices, could there really be a stronger endorsement for our profession?

“Tim Cook came out of procurement which is just the right background for what we needed.” – Steve Jobs

What Can Procurement Professionals Learn From Young Professionals?

Generational stereotypes are frequently unfair and unkind. From traditionalists to young professionals, there is much to learn from each other.

Young Professionals

This article was written by Dee Clarke, Davidson Projects & Operations.

With people living and working longer, the days of two to three generations making up a workforce will soon be a thing of the past. For the first time, we will start seeing workplaces with around five generations working side-by-side.

Loosely, Forbes Magazine defines the five generations that will soon be working together as:

  • The Traditionalists (born prior to 1946);
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964);
  • Gen X (1965-1980);
  • Gen Y (now referred to as Millennials); and
  • The iGeneration (born after 1997).
Generation Stereotypes

Interestingly, Millennials, Gen. Y, Digital Natives (whatever you want to call the generation born between 1980 and 2004), represent almost a third of the global population today. They will comprise 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025.

There are plenty of stereotypes about each group. The Baby Boomers who scorn social media, the Gen. X who don’t like authority, the Millennials who are impatient about promotions and getting ahead, and the iGeneration who are attached to their smartphones.

While there are some consistency in these traits, Jeanne Meister, co-author of ‘The 2020 workplace’ says that it is important as managers to move beyond the stereotypes, and get to know each person as an individual.

Mindful of Millennials

This could not be truer than within the procurement sector. As someone who specialises in sourcing talent in this sector, I have lost count of how many conversations I have had of late with clients and candidates regarding the hot topic of age.

And millennials are the hot topic of the moment.

There seems to be a general consensus in the media and public that Millennials are lazy, entitled, self-absorbed and will unlikely stay in any job for long. Personally, I believe there are many great exceptions to this mass generalisation, and hiring managers within procurement need to be mindful of this.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting two young professionals who were exceptions to the rule. I met Sandra Silva at a CIPS networking event. As I’m sure you would know, these events are normally attended by procurement professionals, currently working in the industry, to network and discuss market challenges, and perhaps learn something from a key presenter.

A young Sandra was studying her Masters in Supply Chain Management at Queensland’s Griffith University. She had relocated here from Colombia after completing her engineering degree.

What caught my attention was how committed Sandra was to start her career in procurement, and most importantly how determined she was to take the reins when it came to her career planning and progression. She was leaving nothing to chance.

Sandra attends regular industry networking events. She had sought out an industry mentor and was applying for internships, while continuing her studies. A few months later when I met her, she showed her determination and dedication to her career when she told me she had taken on an internship and a part-time entry level procurement position.

Diversifying Talent

The next example was when a colleague asked me to meet with a young man, James Young, who was seeking career advice in my area.

James simply defied every stereotype millennials face. James came to meet me on his lunch break. He presented well and, although he had already secured a contract position with another firm, he was looking at his long term career and direction.

Before finishing high school, James had completed a couple of short internships. While attending university, he attended networking events and connected with people within many different industries to identify the right one for him. On completion of his degree he applied for graduate programs with the big four consultancies.

Through our meeting he listed his plans, and how he was going to diversify himself so he was a valuable asset to any future employers. Most of all he talked about what he planned to do to consistently upskill and further develop his knowledge.

Learning from Young Professionals

Both Sandra and James showed determination, drive and willingness to go above and beyond the normal approach to secure the right career for them.

I believe this determination will not just stop there but will lead their careers to the top, these were not the actions of ‘lazy’ millennials, but two future CEOs.

So what can we all learn from these two young professionals?

Generally speaking, in the past most people ‘fell’ into procurement, starting with backgrounds in engineering, law or accounting to name a few. They then somehow became involved in projects, or saw the opportunity to add value with cost savings in better buying strategies.

While the industry has become more professional, and there are now specific qualifications and university courses, many have just moved from one role to another, letting opportunities dictate their next career move.

Bringing New Ideas

Just like these two young Millennials, we need, as an industry, to take charge of our career, and continue to develop our skills. We need to expand our networks, and not be afraid to take on an ‘internship’ or mentor, to ensure we not only survive, but thrive the future world of work.

Furthermore, we have to stop letting age stereotypes dictate how we approach work, or manage the growing number of generations we will work with.

FCIPS accredited Alan Robertson, who has more than 20 years procurement experience across private and public sectors, said Millennials will bring new ideas to organisations. And we need to listen.

“Otherwise we won’t take advantage of their skills such as online networking/blogging and asking plenty of questions,” Mr Robertson said.

He also added that “a ‘general’ trait of Millennials is that they like to try new ways of working and improvements, so don’t leave them to get bored. Companies will lose them if they don’t let them be free to use their adventurous spirit.”

Dee Clarke has more than 10 years’ experience in recruitment across the Australian and Irish markets. During this time, Dee has forged a strong expertise in Procurement and Contracts and is an Affiliate Member of CIPSA.

Dee is a Senior Consultant within the Projects & Operations team, which delivers the right technical and project expertise for any stage of a project or asset’s life cycle.

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.