Category Archives: In The Press

Why are we making it so hard for the next generation?

Bright young things are turning well-worn tropes on their head – sound familiar?* 

*Procurement had an image problem – that’s why we created Procurious.

Female engineers recognised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

The engineering industry is facing an uphill struggle…

Promising, young procurement professionals will find common ground in the lack of careers advice, visibility and fractured career pathways that female engineers are all experiencing.

Which leads us to pose the question: why are we making it so hard for the next generation?

Engineers are the backbone of our operations, their work can be felt in everything from production and manufacturing processes, through to transport and logistics solutions. And as they’re increasingly being exposed to more modern technologies – 3D printing being one such example – our reliance on these wunderkind will only increase.

This week saw three outstanding female engineers recognised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for their professional achievements and the work they do encouraging other young people into engineering.

28-year-old senior hardware engineer Naomi Mitchison from Selex-ES has been named the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year, and will play an ambassadorial role for the profession in the forthcoming months.

20-year-old Jessica Bestwick, who works for Rolls Royce, was presented with the IET’s Mary George Prize for Apprentices, and 27-year-old Lucy Ackland who works for Renishaw PLC in Stone, Staffordshire won the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Award.

Recognising outstanding female engineers has never been so important after the IET revealed worrying new statistics charting skills and demand. The survey showed that women represent only six per cent of the engineering workforce – the lowest percentage in the whole of Europe. If this trend continues, the UK will be in a significantly weakened position to find the 87,000 new engineers it is estimated the country will need each year over the next decade (according to Engineering UK 2014, the state of engineering).

Michelle Richmond, IET Director of Membership, and a former YWE winner, said: “The lack of women in engineering is a huge problem for this country, contributing to skills shortages which threaten the economy. It also means that women are missing out on interesting and rewarding careers.

How to minimise export risks and protect human rights

An innovative pairing of government and tech are working together to protect human rights abroad. 

Protecting human rights abroad. Image Jeremy Schultz

The UK government has published its first ever cyber security guidance that provides advice on how to manage export risks, thus leading the way in ethical business export practices.

‘Assessing Cyber Security Export Risks’ is the first tech sector guidance of its kind in the world. It provides cyber security companies of all sizes with actionable advice, to help identify and manage the risks of exporting their products and services. It gives detailed background information and a framework to help companies develop their due diligence processes, manage human rights risks and identify national security risks. This reduces the likelihood of a buyer being able to use their technology to help perpetrate human rights abuses. It also reduces the likelihood of reputational damage to British companies.

Sounds a bit too UK-orientated. Why should I be interested in this?

On the face of it the guidance is catering for a suitably British audience, but let’s not downplay the importance of this publication. Guidance of this kind is truly a watershed moment – hopefully providing impetus, inspiration, and paving the way for similar initiatives.

Cyber security capabilities are used around the world to strengthen the integrity of critical national infrastructures, prevent the theft of corporate and personal data, and tackle fraud. Their export presents the UK with a significant economic opportunity. HM Government has recognised this and is working with industry through the Cyber Growth Partnership to help companies realise this growth, with the aim of increasing UK cyber security exports to £2bn by 2016.

Most often cyber security capabilities are used only to defend networks or disrupt criminal activity. However, some cyber products and services can enable surveillance and espionage or disrupt, deny and degrade online services. If used inappropriately, they may pose a risk to human rights, to UK national security and to the reputation and legal standing of the exporter.

Ruth Davis, Head of Cyber, Justice and Emergency Services, techUK said: “The advice in this document is designed to help companies reduce reputational risk and to have confidence in the deals they make. We believe that ethical business practice is key; human rights and a vibrant British cyber sector are two sides of the same coin.”

The Guidance sets out a risk assessment process that helps companies to: 

  • Look at the capabilities of the product or service they want to export and how it could be used by purchasers.
  • Examine the places where they are exporting to including their political and legal frameworks, the state’s respect for human rights and potentially vulnerable people.
  • Assess who the end purchaser of the product is and how they intend to use it.
  • Evaluate potential business partners and re-sellers.
  • It also provides advice on how to mitigate and build risk management clauses into the contract.

Dibble Clark, Cyber Lead at 3SDL, a Malvern Cluster cyber security company commented: “Recent events have put the human rights responsibilities of cyber export companies in the spotlight and there is particular scrutiny on our sector, both from governments and NGOs. The responsibility to respect human rights is something no company can ignore, whether large or small.

Rt. Hon Baroness Anelay, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said: “This groundbreaking guidance will help cyber security businesses manage human rights risk by adopting effective due diligence policies and enable them to respect human rights wherever they operate.”

Black Friday/Cyber Monday: the real effect on supply chains

They say this is the most wonderful time of the year – but the growing transatlantic popularity of this sales phenomenon won’t just put strain on cash registers… The frenzied (sometimes violent) stampede of bargain hunters will undoubtedly place strain on supply chains and logistics networks too.

The effect of Black Friday on supply chains

According to Visa, £360,000 is expected to be spent every minute on Black Friday (28th November) – with a further £281 million forecast to be spent on the busiest day for online shopping; Cyber Monday.

Black Friday has long been established as a traditional sales bonanza in the US, and is predicted to see $2.48 billion spent online this year, up by 28 per cent. Meanwhile the more recent eCommerce follow up Cyber Monday is expected to increase by 15 per cent to $2.6 billion, and Thanksgiving Day itself has been predicted to see online sales of $1.35 billion, up 27 per cent.

Global IT services company IT Infotech have shared with us its thoughts on why retailers, logistics and delivery firms should be prepared for extra pressure through Black Friday to Cyber Monday.

The American tradition has been an increasingly popular import in the UK, with leading retailers including Amazon, Argos and John Lewis offering sales both online and in-store.

“UK retailers are already bracing their logistics operations to handle the Christmas rush, which can see as much as 70 per cent of yearly sales volumes achieved in the last two weeks of December”, says Venkata V, who works with some of the top retailers around the globe.

“However, with the US expecting one of the biggest sales periods in history this Thanksgiving, the UK should be prepared to see a spike in demand and more strain on their logistics. Even retailers not offering specific Black Friday discounts themselves can expect more demand as shoppers are inspired to hunt for Christmas bargains.”

The rapid escalation in demand created by sales events like Black Friday can be extremely lucrative, but also cause havoc on unprepared supply chains, as demonstrated by China’s recent “Single’s Day” event. The country’s biggest sales event saw the e-commerce leader Alibaba rake in sales of over £9 billion, but the day has previously slowed down delivery times from two days to over a week.

Saravana Kumar who heads Supply Chain consulting in ITC Infotech says: “Marketing, production and logistics teams should work closely together to make sure their operation can handle increased demand on the 28th of November, especially as they are likely to already be stretched by the Christmas period. Flexible retailers have a strong opportunity to capitalise on the sales event by reacting to demand and adjusting their pricing strategy on the fly, increasing and lowering prices as needed”.

“The increased complexity of omni-channel retail has made the supply chain more challenging, also presents an opportunity for well-prepared operations. Capacity should be available to quickly move stock for the most popular products around to meet increased demand online or in particular stores.”

Further comment is offered from Paul Doble, chief sales and marketing officer at DX, a leading independent mail, parcels and logistics end-to-end network operator:

“Throughout the busy Christmas trading season retailers must try to forecast as accurately as possible the volumes that will need to be sent, and then communicate these expectations to their logistics partners, who will take up a huge percentage of this volume. The alternative is the situation many retailers have faced in previous years, where through a combination of inaccurate planning, poor communication and unanticipated weather conditions, demand outstrips capacity and leaves retailers unable to meet their promises to online shoppers.”

Doble continues: “It’s a problem that is often exacerbated when retailers try to maximise the online shopping window, pushing back their Christmas order deadlines and thereby drastically increasing the risk of delayed deliveries when bad weather and other factors disrupt the supply chain.”

Doble concludes with a thought-provoking double-header: “Ultimately, when Christmas presents fail to arrive, it will be the retailer that bears the brunt of disgruntled Customers and negative publicity. As such, retailers need to be asking themselves the question: just how robust are my Christmas delivery plans?”

Podcast: Social Media for Procurement

ATK helps put procurement in the drivers’ seat with social media

Social media in procurement podcast. Image Pixabay

A.T. Kearney’s Knowledge Director, Helen Clegg, is spearheading the discussion for educating the procurement profession on the benefits of social media.

Hear my interview with Helen http://bit.ly/14VDC1x where I share how to leverage social networks, from building relationships with suppliers to receiving real-time news about supply chain disruptions.

On the topic of risk, I share with Helen my view that there are more risks to procurement professionals for NOT being connected with social media, than there are to being involved.

I also share my top tips for building a social media presence, as well as recommending that everyone finds a millennial mentor!

If you find it useful, I would love you to share it with your Procurious network, on LinkedIn or over Twitter?!

How to detect fraud in your organisation

This is a guest article from Visna Lampasi, The Faculty’s 2014 Chief Procurement Officer of the Year (Asia Pacific).

How to detect fraud in your organisation

With the growing emphasis placed on the CIPS Ethical Mark, we quizzed Visna Lampasi – Global Chief Procurement Officer & Procurement Thought Leader on how to detect fraud in your organisation.

Procurious asks: Do you believe fraud has become a bigger issue for Procurement in recent years? And if so, why? 

Visna answers: The number of instances in procurement fraud and corruption is increasing and becoming a far bigger issue than previously for organisations globally.

Whilst some industries have imposed pay freezes and pay cuts over the last number of years, the living costs have been rising and during a time when the jobs market has been stagnant.

If you couple this with an organisation who has poor procure-to-pay controls, then this will unfortunately reveal opportunities to defraud.

Procurious: From a  procurement perspective, what do you see as the most common examples of unethical conduct  are in the supply chain today?  (bribery; misconduct by suppliers; misappropriation of company funds etc.)

Visna: There are many types of procurement fraud, which can be committed across the entire source-to-settle core process not just procure-to-pay.

The ones that I have come across the most throughout my procurement career are: – 

·         Fictitious suppliers and sub-contractors
·         False, inflated or duplicate invoices
·         Unjustified sole source awards
·         Bribery and kickbacks

·         Undeclared Conflicts of Interest
·         Purchases for personal use or resell
·         Split purchases

Procurious: What do you believe are the most important activities for detecting and deterring fraud in the business?  

Visna: The simplest way to prevent procurement fraud is to: – 

1)      ensure that you have robust “Procurement Policies & Procedures” in place and that these are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are effective,

2)      proactively drive organisational “Compliance” against these policies and procedures,

3)      ensure appropriate “Segregation of Duties” – ensure that the person who can set-up a supplier, issue purchase orders, and process an invoice for payment is not the same,

4)      ensure tight controls within your “Procure-to-Pay” process as a minimum, with appropriate checks and balances in place.

Don’t forget to address your “Source-to-Contract” process as well, which is the front end of the Source-to-Settle process and more often than not is disregarded.

Procurious: Government Procurement have long had strict gift and hospitality policies in place and the private sector are increasingly following suit. Do you think there’s such a thing as ‘going too far’?

Visna: There needs to be a balance here and one that takes into account different cultures and customs that an organisation is going to encounter when doing business both locally and overseas.

The important thing here is that an organisation has a policy in place around gifts, meals and entertainment and that is being followed by its employees.

Full transparency is key and will assist to address questions around reasonableness and perception prior to acceptance.

Procurious: Western countries often have quite different beliefs and practices around what constitutes unethical behaviour.  Do you have any tips for dealing with suppliers in other countries which may take a more lax attitude towards gifts and payments?  

Visna: My suggestion would be to look to your organisation’s corporate values and Code of Conduct for guidance around expectations of ethical behaviour and determine if these align with the country you are seeking to do business with.

Many organisations also have lists of embargoed countries, which will also assist in identifying whether the country is approved to do business with.

Procurious: If businesses are serious about taking a ‘zero tolerance attitude’ towards corruption, what policies, procedures and employee training will be fundamental?   

Visna: Robust procurement policies and procedures are fundamental, supported with regular communications and on-going training to increase awareness and build capability.

Current members of The Chartered Institute Procurement of Supply can complete an eLearning  module on Ethical Sourcing, which incorporates elements around procurement fraud and corruption.

A license can also be purchased for the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply Anti-Procurement Fraud Training,  which will allow organisations to deploy this online training to all of their employees globally.

Leading female entrepreneurs front government export drive

The UK Trade & Investment arm of the UK government has just distributed ‘From local to global’. The guidance has been collated and published in aid of the GREAT Britain campaign – a campaign that encompasses the very best of Britain’s businesses, tourism, and educational offerings.

Kelly Hoppen offers export advice

Kelly Hoppen was chosen to pen the forward to a new online document that delves into the logistics and economics of the huge export market.

Kelly boasts an enviable track record, with over 30 years of first-hand experience building businesses.

“Language, logistical and cultural barriers can all be business obstacles. However, these barriers can be overcome with the right support, guidance and people to cheer you along throughout the journey,” she says. To that end here are a number of tips to help first timers thinking of entering the export business:

Know the currency

Understand the currencies you will need to deal with. Talk with your foreign exchange provider early, as they can give you insights into the potential currency risks.

Start small

It’s tempting to pursue multiple markets. Don’t. Begin by focusing on one or two markets.

Appreciate cultural differences

Failure to take account of different cultures can lead to damaging and costly mistakes. This could range from causing offence by not observing correct protocol to inappropriate packaging and marketing.

Get paid

It’s easy to overlook the risk of non-payment. Establish the credit rating of potential clients and guard against non-payment through letters of credit or credit insurance. If you’re a UK business, UKEF (UK Export Finance) can provide advice and insurance where the private market can’t help.

Business skills and networking

Kelly isn’t the only one offering her advice. Here’s Heather Melville, Director of Strategic Partnerships at RBS, on networking internationally:

Learn your markets

Use the experiences of your new contacts to get under the skin of new markets. Learn about the opportunities and the challenges. Ask questions to get the right answers.

Immerse yourself in the culture

Tap into the expertise of your local contacts. They can advise you on what to wear, what traditions to respect and even teach you some local dialect to throw in!

Know the business card etiquette

Be aware of business card customs when networking abroad. In Japan, for example, the business card is often embossed and represents a significant part of the process. Present your own card with both hands, and take the time to receive a card warmly.

Importing and exporting advice

Tips for using digital to sell overseas

The final part of the published guidance revolves around the notion of ‘selling while you sleep’.

Remember these top tips: 

Distance isn’t a barrier

Asian consumers, for example, are more connected because of their love of smart phones, meaning there are vast opportunities to extend the reach of your brand.

Spot common trends

Engage with your customer using the common trends in their market. Learning how different markets operate is simple but extremely effective.

Cost of digital

Weigh up the options of ‘digital only’ vs ‘digital and physical presence’ within a new market.

Know whether to scale up or down

Scalability is easy and affordable. Whether you want to sell into one country or 101, e-marketplaces allow you to trade across multiple countries via one platform.

Engage with social networks

Be more social. Consumers expect to be able to engage with you or other shoppers before purchasing.

How much do you really know about digital currencies?

In a report commissioned by HP, the Ponemon Institute has made a number of interesting finds. Its “Security & Compliance Trends in Innovative Electronic Payments” paper reveals that support for digital currencies and new electronic payment systems are perhaps stronger than originally thought.

Need a primer on digital payments? Watch this very informative video from e-commerce platform PinnacleCart.

Understanding the future of money and mobile payments

New electronic payment systems and virtual currencies are expected to make paper currency the horse and buggy of the 21st century. Are organisations up to the challenge of ensuring security and privacy when businesses and consumers use these payment systems for purchasing items and transferring of funds?

And while 79 per cent of the US organisations that took part in the research plan to adopt digital currencies, a key barrier to the adoption of innovative electronic payments remains. Namely: the issue of security. In terms of new electronic payments, all of the following were cited in respondent’s answers as either currently supported in marketplaces or the not too distant future: payments with a mobile device or use of phone number, e-currency (Bitcoin or other open source P2P money), stored value cards, and bar codes.

The biggest concern seems to be authentication risks with the use of virtual currencies. While new payment models are evolving, but the same security fundamentals for maximum protection in the overall payment process are still needed. The most critical are one-time passwords or tokens, federated identity and authentication systems and multi-factor authentication

There is also the perception that the pressure to quickly migrate to the use of innovative electronic payments is making it difficult to address the security and privacy issues.

A case-in-point: Digital wallets (or e-wallets) are used to hold virtual currency – and high profile names in technology like Google and Apple already have solutions in place to drive the adaption rate. In-fact belief is so strong that almost half (46 per cent) of respondents predict that virtual currencies will overtake paper currencies within the next five years. Perhaps there’s some truth in this… we are increasingly looking to financial institutions and credit card companies to make the inroads needed to take such practices to the next level. They’ll be the ones to create new approaches to the security and privacy of the electronic payment platform. These organisations are closer to the consumer experience with electronic payment systems and might have a greater incentive to innovate and improve both security and privacy.

What do you make of these new virtual payment systems: is more time needed to fully realise the benefits (and drawbacks) of such innovations? 

Is the economic future really as small as this book says?

If we believed everything we read then the UK has had to draft in Eastern Europeans to help make sandwiches, and our mobile phones are all giving us cancer…

Being the skeptical sort we’re inclined to take The Future is Small with a grain of salt, seeing as it raises pertinent questions about the future of investing.

Freefoto.com

The book begins by placing a spotlight on the current stagnation of world economies – arguing that despite trillions of dollars of support having been injected into the global financial system, the global economy will remain moribund for decades to come.

This is irrespective of record low interest rates remaining in place, and governments running higher budget deficits for longer than originally planned.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, given the words of Dr John Glen’s still ring in our ears – what we took away from the CIPS 2014 conference.

But given Williams’ credentials maybe there is some truth in his views… Could it be that small firms are set to be the stock market outperformers of the future?

Fundamentally, Gervais believes that it is the greater growth potential of genuinely small companies that explains why many can buck a tough economic trend, whereas most larger companies with major market positions are trapped by their flat sales lines.

Gervais Williams is an award-winning equity fund manager. He received Grant Thornton’s Quoted Companies’ Award Investor of the Year in both 2009 and 2010; then in 2012 his Diverse Income Trust was recognised as the Best New Investment Trust by the Association of Investment Companies. He was also What Investment’s Fund Manager of the Year 2014.

Gervais is a respected commentator on prospective market trends. He outlined his controversial views in his book Slow Finance in 2011 and develops those ideas in The Future is Small.

Is bigger always better, or is there beauty to be found in smallness? Could this be the new dawn that the little guys have been seeking?

Supply chain issues on the small (and silver) screen

According to an excellent commentary from The Guardian, viral YouTube hits and blockbusting movie releases are helping to shine light on pertinent issues affecting supply chains the world over.

The Guardian cites such cinematic successes as Blood Diamond, alongside indie-documentaries like Blood in the Mobile (an expose on mobile phone production methods that are financing war in the DR Congo), and The Price of Sugar (at what human cost is sugar produced?) But there’s also a growing glut of online-only, YouTube short films – each aiming to achieve the same goals.

The Story of Stuff is a great example, as well as being something of a YouTube success story… Originally released in 2007, it’s been watched by over 44 million worldwide.

The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Can you recommend any other videos that are making similar waves in these areas?

Stay up-to-date with Procurious




Procurement: The new and improved model?!


Procurement Professionals on LinkedIn

The following article originally appeared on the Procurement Professionals LinkedIn Group.  Join and view other articles here.

In 2011 the Coalition Government launched their ‘new’ Government Construction Strategy with its aim to improve the industry whilst reducing whole life cost and carbon by 20 per cent by 2015.

Procurement: the new and improved model

A major part of the strategy focused on reforming public sector procurement, and in particular trialling a series of new procurement methods to drive these improvements and efficiencies by effecting behavioural and cultural change. The models intended to draw on established best practice and drive an ‘evolutionary, not revolutionary change’ across the public sector. They utilise a range of common principles which emphasise the need for collaborative working and early contractor involvement, where the supply chain responds to an outline client requirement and declared budget rather than a pre-determined design.

The three models are:

  • Cost Led Procurement – During the Cost Led Procurement process, a client sets out their output specification against a challenging cost ceiling based on their own knowledge and experience of costs . They then invite the supply chain to bring their own collaborative understanding to develop an innovative response to the brief. CLP is of particular use in a competitive framework environment where there is opportunity to continually improve on the unit costs of the programme working collaboratively with the supply chain.
  • Integrated Project Insurance – This is the most innovative and new approach. The Integrated Project Insurance (IPI) model offers clients the opportunity to create a holistic and integrated project team (an ‘Alliance Board’) to eliminate the “blame/claim” culture. The innovative “integrated project insurance” package limits the risk for the individual members of the team, fosters joint ownership of the project, and thereby reduces the likelihood of overrunning in terms of cost and time.
  • Two Stage Open Book – This model improves on an established approach often used in a framework environment. At the first stage a client invites prospective integrated teams to bid for a project based on their ability to deliver an outline brief and cost benchmark. The appointed team works alongside the client to build up a proposal after which the construction contract is awarded – this is the second stage.

In 2012 a trial programme for the new models was established which included projects from the Ministry of Justice and the Environment Agency, and more recently the procurement of the Education Funding Authority regional framework. However the trials have so far only focussed on CLP and Two Stage Open Book, as due to the innovative nature of IPI it has taken more effort to initiate a trial project.

Also in line with the development of the new models and in order to bring about further reform, the GCS reinforced the need to improve the public sector procurers skills. It has backed the creation of a Major Projects Leadership Academy run in partnership with the Saïd Oxford Business School and Deloitte, and ‘encouraged’ the dissemination of best practice across central and local government. Finally the GCS also provided an updated version of the Common Minimum Standards for procurement. Although the impact of these initiatives is more difficult to measure.

Despite all of this I still hear from contractors on a regular basis that clients are more concerned with lowest price tendering. Or are too reliant on their advisors producing a design before they procure a contractor and then expecting innovation and value engineering to further reduce their spend. So for me the big question now is – three years on, and (perhaps more importantly) less than twelve months to the next general election, have all of these reforms made any difference in the industry?

Based on the evidence provided in the trial projects the potential benefits of the new procurement models are demonstrable for all parties. However the trials have been restricted to a small number of high value central government projects. And whilst anecdotal evidence suggests that things are improving generally in construction, this is more than likely related to an upturn in the economy as a whole.