Category Archives: Life & Style

Watch Your Step! Pitfalls In Social Media To Avoid

Career bear-traps to avoid… 

Pitfalls in social media to avoid

It’s a major crisis for the company – the phones are ringing off the hook as the comms team is bombarded with furious questions from journalists, customers, shareholders, regulators. Announcements, FAQs, press briefings need preparing at lightning speed, and frustratingly every single one has to be approved by the lawyers before they go out. The pressure is on: this could cost the company business, there may be lawsuits – and anything said right now will be cited in those – the share price may come under pressure.

And into the midst of this, a colleague completely uninvolved in what’s going on decides to Tweet their personal view of the crisis. 

Procurious ran an excellent workshop at eWorld last week, talking about how procurement people might get more involved in social media. It’s a great subject, the profession has definitely been slower than some other disciplines in embracing these great communication channels. It was suggested though, that the comms department might get leery – having sat on the other side of that particular desk, here’s why.

Journalists, customers and the world at large don’t distinguish that much between official corporate statements and things that employees of a company happen to say. Especially in a crisis, any quotable quote or accidental off-hand comment will get used and repeated over and over – especially if the ‘proper channels’ have been locked down to repeating very limited information. As a fair few people have discovered in recent years, that can be career limiting – or, indeed, career terminating.

Here are five suggested rules to live (or at least, post) by, all from real life experience:

This isn’t personal

Our social media channels are our own personal domains. Right? Wrong. If you’ve chosen to use them to talk about your work then they’re properly of interest to your employer, too. Your contract and HR handbook will have blurb about confidentiality and not bringing the company into disrepute, and there’ll probably be a social media policy somewhere as well.

Our highly valued customer is useless!

So, you’ve read the policy and placed the disclaimer, ‘all views expressed only my own’ – so you can say what you like now, surely? Not quite. As a consumer, you may want to vent about the terrible service you received from some company: if they happen to be one of your firm’s biggest customers (and if your social media identifies you with your employer) you can expect an awkward conversation the next morning. If nothing else, it’s plain courtesy to your colleagues trying to renew that account not to make their job harder. 

A Tweet is for life, not just for Christmas

That was a witty comment about your big competitor, wasn’t it? So good it went viral, ended up all over the web. And on the desk of the grumpy interviewer when you apply for a job there three years later…

I probably shouldn’t say this, but 

You’re right, you shouldn’t say it. If you feel the need to write – as in the recent LinkedIn photo debacle – ‘this is probably horrendously politically incorrect’, then you can be pretty certain you shouldn’t go any further.

Crisis? What crisis? 

When your company is going through a crisis, let the team appointed to handle it, handle it. They may do a great job, they may make a mess of it, but sticking your oar in isn’t going to help. So your tweet was nothing to do with the crisis, it was just a photo of staff having a great time at a party. Oddly, that’s still not going to help the company’s reputation when the comms director has just reassured the world that every sinew is being strained to fix the problem.

Social media are great – there’s a whole other post in that. But tread carefully – or you may have that long and uncomfortable walk to the comms director’s office. Trust me, neither of us want you to be there.

Stuart Brocklehurst is Chief Executive of Applegate Marketplace. His past roles have included Group Communications Director of Amadeus IT Group SA and Senior Vice President for External Relations at Visa International CEMEA.

6 Tips To Ensure You Make The Most Of Your First Procurement Job

10-tips-for-a-successful-first-day-at-your-new-job

It was 9 years ago (almost to the day) that I applied for a job in the finance department of Alcoa (a mining company). Not long after that application, I was contacted by someone in the HR team and asked if I would be interested in interviewing for a role in procurement. I didn’t know what procurement was (it wasn’t mentioned in university courses back then), but needed a job, so I answered that question with a resounding yes.

Somehow I managed to get through the interview process and shortly after kicked off my career in the function.

My ignorance of what procurement was ensured that my learning curve would be a steep one. I have compiled my advice to procurement and supply chain graduates below, perhaps you can learn from my mistakes?

  1. Pitch up on time

This is critical. When you are the new guy (or girl), it’s inevitable that people within your organisation will be questioning your maturity, your experience and your capability. If you can’t get to a meeting on time, or haven’t prepared for the ensuing discussions, you’ll go a long way to confirming these fears. It’s simple, get there on time, be prepared and you’ll find you’ll alleviate lot of the unfounded concerns about young workers.

  1. There are no stupid questions

I spent the first two months of my procurement career not knowing the difference between direct and indirect procurement (despite the fact that it was discussed daily in my office). There were also scores of internal terminology that I didn’t understand. It took me months to figure this stuff out because I was too scared to ask my superiors questions for. It’s important to remember that you are new, you’re not meant to know everything on your fist day and while you might feel stupid asking simple questions, trust me, you’ll feel a lot more stupid when you’ve been in a role for months and still don’t know the difference between direct and indirect procurement. I found that a great way to open a dialogue and get answers to your questions is by saying “I was wondering if you could help me to understand xxx?” People like to ‘help’ one another, it gives them a chance to show off their knowledge and this makes them feel happy and important.

  1. Be confident

With all the new terminology, older co-workers and an unfamiliar corporate environment it’s easy to get intimidated in your first procurement role. But remember this, you’ve passed the exams, got through the application process and managed to impress someone enough in your interview that you warrant this position. You deserve to be where you are. Everyone started somewhere. Someone once said to me “your boss puts her pants on one leg at a time in morning just like you do”. There is no need to feel intimidated.

  1. But leave your swagger in the nightclub

There a toxic phrase that has entered the business lexicon recently (I think we’ve got Silicon Valley to thank for it) it goes like this: “fake it till you make”. I despise this expression. There is simply no faster way to isolate yourself from your co-workers (and your boss, your suppliers, your friends and actually from anyone you’ll ever meet) than to pretend you know more than you do. In a technical profession like procurement, you can’t fake experience, you’ve either ‘got it’ and you know what you’re doing, or you’re ‘learning it’. As a graduate, you fall in to the latter category. Be humble and leave the swagger and showmanship for the bar on Friday night.

  1. Do what you said you’ll do

Our founder Tania Seary recently pointed this out in her blog for those striving towards a career as a CPO, so this is sage advice to remember throughout your career. At university, it may have been possible to get around the commitments to your group assignment with a few well-positioned excuses. In the workplace, this won’t fly. If you commit to doing something, it’s your responsibility to see it through to completion, no excuses. If it looks like something is running over time or is getting derailed, it’s your job to get it back on track. Chase people up if they don’t respond to emails and communicate openly with your boss about any issues. Believe me, if a savings target looks to be in jeopardy, your boss wants to know now, not in three months time when it’s unsalvageable.

  1. Learn to answer the phone (and the other basics…)

I’m not sure if it’s still the case, but when I was at university, PowerPoint, Excel and such programs were dealt with in three 30-minute tutorials. This meant that while we could all develop a strategic plan for the corporate restructuring of a multinational company (Organisational Behaviour 243) and had memorised the date that the Corn Laws were repealed (Economic History 331), we were completely incompetent with the tools that would comprise the bulk of the first five years of our corporate existence. Learn pivot tables (and Macros if you’re a gun), figure out how to create an engaging PowerPoint presentation, learn how to answer the phone politely and how to construct an email that will lead to a positive response. This is what you’ll be doing for the next few years, so do it well. The corporate restructuring can wait until you’re the CEO.

But above all, just have fun!

It’s your first ‘real job’. Enjoy it! Enjoy the consistency of monthly salary, enjoy not having to study any more, enjoy no longer delivering pizza for a living, enjoy having a bank account that remains in the black and enjoy Friday night drinks.

Now is your time.

10 Sleep Tips for Supply Chain Managers

Reduce your daily work pains by getting to know your bed better…!

10 tips to help you sleep better

It’s 7.46 am and you’re sitting at your desk, your daily planner is chockers and your admin support have already started doubling-up your “must do today… or else” meetings.

Your phone is constantly vibrating like it’s having an epic seizure… because people want to dump their problems on you as quick as they can handpass the footy before getting crash tackled by a 180 kg centre-half back!

And you feel like crap… tired, grumpy, irritable.

Jay, your operations manager walks in and starts going on and on about the latest stuff up on the warehouse floor last night and wants you to deal with it – like… why me?

Your “primitive “part of your brain kicks in and…  you explode!

How’s ya sleep going, want some tips?

  1.  Your body loves a good routine

Start an evening ritual so that your brain recognises you are getting ready to sleep, get your PJ’s on, clean your teeth at a particular time.

Get up at the same time; even on the weekends… yeah I know that one sucks!

Heard of Jet Lag? You don’t even have to leave home.

Stay up late Friday night, sleep in Saturday morning, Do a “Real” late one Saturday night “coz you’re an 18 yr. old again,

Sleep in till Sunday lunch, then struggle big time when that 5.45am alarm screams at you to get your butt outta bed Monday morning! Fun hey!

  1. Turn you damn TV, Smartphone and Tablet OFF hours before bed!

You know that social media doesn’t stop… there’s always your cousins first born child’s monumental first-steps on YouTube that ya gotta look at. Or your LinkedIn group chatter about ‘the best bully busting tactics”.

Read some fiction, look at a travel brochure, talk to the person next to you… then go to sleep.

  1. Get rid of the Floodlight!

If you read in bed, bung in a 20 watt lightbulb, or better still a fridge lightbulb anything that mimics the power output of a caveman candle.

Lights over 40 watts stimulate our brains and that’s what we don’t want when trying to induce sleep – same reason why electronic blue light-emitting things suck before bedtime.

4.  Caffeine – yeah we love it… so just leave it alone!

That’s right… in the mornings only! Especially if you are sensitive to it.

This stuff is wonderful for creating short bursts of energy, but like any drug “what goes up… must come down”. It also messes up stress hormones, so ease up on the late arvo double shots.

This drug can hang around your system for 6-12 hours, so if you like listening to your partner snore, get another short black into you after dinner!

  1. The stuff fish swim in…

Yup, that’s right good ole fashioned water… minimum of 2-3 litres a day depending on what you’re up to.

  1. Liquid in fancy bottles and cans

You know what I’m talking about… it’s the stuff that humankind has taken a shine to over thousands of years – Alcohol.

Yeah sure it can help put you to sleep, but plays havoc big time with the quality and quantity of your sleep. I mean really… have you ever woken up refreshed after drinking?

Do I need to say more… well unless you’re an alcoholic, and that then becomes a whole different conversation?

  1. Who you sleepin’ with?

So your partner is HOT, well lucky you, or maybe you poor thing!

Did they buy the 15 tog duvet and memory foam mattress that slowly roasts you all night long? Waking up sweating, tossing and turning?

Well here’s an easy fix: Buy 2 king singles stick ‘em together, they get the Arctic-proof duvet and “basting” mattress while you happily get a good firm bed with “sensible” cotton blankets.

8.  An occupied mind

So this one is a biggy to deal with, because it’s different for everyone and dependent on what’s going on in your life at any given time.

Be it: Marriage probs
Wayward teenage kids
Mortgage payments
And…
Your Job!

There are lots of techniques around managing thoughts and stress which I’ll cover in a future article.

  1. Unsticking the Velcro from your butt and chair

It’s called exercise, walking, swimming, riding, chasing the kids around the house.

Or trying to put your teenage son down in a classic UFC submission hold on the back yard lawn…. why not, he probably deserved it! This is good for the brain – free feel-good endorphins and it’s legal. Get some today!

  1.  Be wary of the big bad wolf…

Think twice about long term use of sleeping medication, be it the stuff your GP prescribes, or your friend’s sister gets from somewhere.

… Or even the nicely packaged bottles from your health products store or local pharmacy. They can make things worse.

So have a think about these tips, try them out, and it will have to be longer than a week or two, and yeah it means changing some parts of your life. But if its help you, then your work colleagues and subordinates will love you a just little bit more and your stress levels will drop like a thermometer in a blast freezer!

What Can Art History Teach Procurement Pros About Executive Presence?

Power poses and swagger portraits…

Louis_XIV_of_France

After Karen Morley’s great presentation at last week’s CIPS Australasia conference, I was inspired by her words on how “power poses” can be used to increase your executive presence. Investigation into the topic led me to the authority on this topic, social psychologist Amy Cuddy, whose 2012 Ted Talk entitled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” launched awareness of the importance of power poses onto the world stage.

Cuddy talks about how body language, or “non-verbals” govern not only how other people feel about us, but can affect how we think and feel about ourselves. Mirroring behaviour seen in the animal kingdom, humans make themselves bigger and stretch out when they feel powerful, and make themselves smaller by closing up when they feel powerless. Cuddy takes the audience through a range of high-power and low-power poses, including this great pose dubbed “The Wonder Woman”.

amy-cuddy-high-power-pose

Body language is inextricably linked to power dynamics (or power dominance) and is, unsurprisingly, an important part of gender dynamics. Unconfident, shy, “powerless” people can practice high-power poses until they feel more powerful, with the ultimate goal of faking it until you become it.

A Google Image search of “power poses” makes for entertaining viewing. Alongside Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, there’s Frank Underwood from House of Cards leaning forwards with both palms flat on a table, IMF’s Christine Lagarde physically dominating ex-Greek PM Lucas Papademos at a Euro Conference in Brussels, and Beyonce striking a high-power pose on stage.

Power posing isn’t new. As an art history buff, the concept immediately brought to mind the “swagger portrait”, an artwork commissioned by powerful patrons to emphasis their status and dominance. I wanted to share a few of these historic power poses with you on Procurious so you can learn from some of the greatest swaggerers in history, who were predominantly clustered in the flamboyant 16th century. At the top of this article we have King Louis XIV of France (a la “The Sun King”) who isn’t afraid to awe his detractors into submission with the cut of his stockings. He’s joined by…

Henry VIII (1491 – 1547)

Check out that swagger:

Henry_VIII_Ditchley_Portrait_after_Holbein

Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603)

Emulating her father’s swagger with an enormous neck ruff and none-too-subtly dominating the entire globe with her right hand:

800px-Elizabeth_I_(Armada_Portrait)

Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset (1589 – 1624)

Proving that shoe pom-poms were back in fashion…

800px-Richard_Sackville_Earl_of_Dorset

George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1558 – 1605)

His lance is longer than yours…

418px-Nicholas_Hilliard_-_Portrait_of_George_Clifford_Earl_of_Cumberland_-_WGA11421

So, if you’re feeling powerless or need a bit of confidence before an important meeting, why not take some inspiration from the 16th century and add a bit of swagger to your power pose.

 

Dr Karen Morley Asks What’s YOUR Leadership Narrative?

X Factor Research from The Faculty

Dr Karen Morley – Executive Coach, Associate Dean at Mt Eliza Education, expert on gender-balanced leadership and registered psychologist, took the stage at this week’s CIPS Australasia Conference to give a brilliant presentation on setting the bar for world-class leadership. 

Procurement professionals love hard facts and figures. That’s why it was so satisfying for the audience to see that Morley based her analysis of what makes a good CPO on an excellent paper produced by The Faculty Roundtable in 2012 – The “X Factor” Leadership Research. The X Factor model breaks down what is required of a world-class CPO to deliver competitive advantage for their organisation into four key areas: functional excellence, leadership attributes, people leadership, and commercial leadership.

In line with the conference theme of “Raise your game, raise your voice”, Dr Morley discussed the vital need for CPOs to be able to share their stories about the difference they’ve made to their business. She shared with the audience the stories of four past winners of The Faculty’s CPO of the Year Award, all of whom demonstrated strength and balance across the four categories of the X Factor model. Importantly, the four winners (all highly-regarded Australian CPOs) were able to successfully articulate and promote their achievements. The message is clear – don’t be shy to shout about your accomplishments. 

Having set the bar for what distinguishes a leading CPO from the pack, Dr Morley challenged the audience to step back from their day-to-day concerns and begin crafting what she called the “leadership narrative”. A leading CPO takes time to focus on what their story is and crafts a consistent message to help people understand where they’ve come from, what they’re focused on now, and where they’re going. Dr Morley puts it this way:

“Imagine you have lived your life as the leader you want to be and you are at your retirement party. How do others regard you?” 

Shape your story through:

  • Setting 3–5 year and 5–10 year goals
  • Creating a tagline – what’s unique and special about you?
  • Shaping your story by thinking consistently about capability, identity, values and core purpose.
  • Focusing on what’s critical – the X Factor model points to commercial leadership and personal attributes as the most critical areas for a CPO.

Dr Morley gave the audience some very practical advice on how to raise their voice. It’s all about “executive presence”. To increase your executive presence:

  • Project a calm and relaxed manner
  • Keep your conversation focused and to the point
  • Connect through sincere emotion
  • Adopt a “power pose” to give you confidence (“fake it, and become it”)
  • Attract and hold the attention of others – in Dr Morley’s words, “attention is the currency of leadership”.

To boil Dr Morley’s advice down to three key points, procurement leaders who want to stand out from the pack should firstly understand exactly what it takes to be a leading CPO (using the X Factor Research), create a leadership narrative to craft their own story, and finally, raise their voice by increasing their executive presence.

Read our previous interview with Dr Morley here.

Which Of These Sixteen Personality Types Are You?

Which of these sixteen personality types fits you best?

Which of these personality types are you?

Isabel Briggs Myers created the sixteen personality types with the help of her mother, Katharine Briggs, and the theories of psychologist Carl Jung. Since then, much research has been done into how each type functions at work, at home, and in relationships.

A recent post in the Harvard Business Review pours salt on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI for short), saying:

“Myers Briggs—and I would argue any personality assessment—is neither valid nor reliable. These tests identify a black and white version of people, a reduction of who they really are. They offer us the illusion of understanding at the cost of truth and freedom. Sure, they may make people more comfortable (‘Oh, I understand you now’). But it’s a trick.

It continues: “Self-assessments, by definition, reinforce a person’s self-image. You tell the assessment what you think you are like and then the assessment tells you what you are like. Which, of course, would incline you to think they’re valid. But they’re just telling you what you told them… Personality tests reinforce our blind spots.”

Not to be downhearted back in July we asked the Procurious community whether they thought there was a ‘typical’ Myers Briggs profile for procurement pros. There’s been 33 answers to-date, so it’s clearly a talking-point among members.

We’ve helpfully wrapped-up the results thus far (25/08)

ENTP 9, ENTJ 6, INTJ 5, ENFP 2, ISTP 2, ENFJ 1, ESTJ 1, INFP 2, INFJ 2, INTP 1, ISFJ 1, ISTJ 1

It appears the most common trait is ENTP and from 33 responders E is included in 19 out of 33 profiles.

Things to consider

Mike is just one of many who has asked an interesting question on the findings. He wants to know:

“Do you think you have a different profile depending on the role your fulfilling in the company? I run a consulting business and recently created a new commercial model for procurement, so maybe its no surprise I am currently a ENTP but I haven’t always been one.”

A few of you have picked-up on the changing classification too. Monica Palacios said: “I agree with the idea that we evolve with our roles. I took it at the beginning of my career ENTJ; some years before I found it was ENTP.”

Glen Lovett: “I’m an INTJ but given the changing face of procurement I would suggest that ‘E’ is becoming more valuable.”

Chris Roe notes: “We seem well represented for a type that makes up 3 per cent of the population in this sample…
I guess making decisions based on logic and facts rather than emotion is a desired trait!”

Judging by your individual test results there just may be some common traits among procurement professionals after all. Matt Cockfield exclaims: “Wow, what a great question. I’m not sure I ever thought of connecting the two — MBTI with the procurement discipline. Apparently, there is a correlation here!”

Do you see value in such tests, or are you like Iain Wicking who claims they’re just “a superficial way of assigning traits… I would not take it too seriously.”

What’s In A Name?

If you want to become the top dog you had better change your name to Andrew…

What's in a name? Andrew comes top for UK bosses

As the ONS announces its annual list of most popular baby names for 2015, research from workwear manufacturer Stormline has revealed that when it comes to Britain’s bosses, there’s little variety and originality, as an homogenise collection of traditionally-named boys take up their seats in the UK’s board rooms for another day in the office.

The research shows that there are more men called Andrew than there are women running the UK’s top firms.

There’s a definite lack of diversity at the top, with the following seven names – Andrew or Andy, James, John, Peter, Ian, Mark or Marc or Richard  – representing 32 per cent of all UK bosses at top firms.

Just 6 per cent of Britain’s biggest 100 firms are women with bosses called Alison (Cooper, Imperial Tobacco), Melissa (Potter, Clarks Shoes), Lindsey (Pownall, Samworth Brothers) Theresa (T.J Morris), Anna (Stewart, Laing O’Rourke) and Veronique (Laury, Kingfisher PLC) representing female CEOs.

If you’ve got your eyes on running one of Britain’s biggest companies, it might help if you’ve got a traditional Hebrew (John, Ian) Greek (Andrew, Peter) or Latin (James, Mark) name. Your odds will also increase to better than 9/1 if you are a man.

Of the names on display in the 100 top board rooms around the UK, more than half (53 per cent) were one-offs; ranging from a Merlin, Jebb, Nicandro, Zameer and Pascal to Ralph, Jason, Nigel, Norman and Bob.

Men called Andrew currently bossing it in the UK’s biggest firms 

Andrew Witty – CEO, GlaxoSmithKline
Andy Hornby – Chief Executive, Gala Coral Group
Andy Harrison – CEO, Whitbread
Andy Parker – Chief Executive Capita
Andy Street – Managing Director John Lewis
Andy Long – CEO of Pentland Group (the Chairman is Andy Rubin)
Andrew Goodsell – CEO, Acromas Holdings (Saga Group & The AA)
Andrew Mackenzie – CEO, BHP Billiton 

Zameer (Choudrey, boss of Bestway Group), Jebb (Kitchen, boss of Bibby Line), Merlin (Bingham Swire, boss of Swire Group) and Nicandro (Durante, boss of British American Tobacco) make up the pick of most original boy’s names.

And although this survey is skewed towards the UK market, we’d be interested to learn what the name game is like elsewhere in the world. Can this oddity be repeated in your country?

What does it mean to “be commercial”?

What does it mean to be commercial?

I was once in a meeting with a former manager where I was urged to be more commercial in my outlook. When I asked for a definition, the answer I got was along the lines of just be more commercial…

I contrast this with an episode earlier in my career where I was said to be too commercial in my outlook. This word “Commercial” is a word that gets thrown around with abandon, yet do we truly appreciate what it means to be commercial?

There are companies that adopt a commercial approach, as procurement professionals we are urged to be “more commercial”. I have met with people who need their Contract managers to be more commercially aware and people even have it in their titles whilst doing utterly different roles. Roads have been named after it and even whole districts!

So what does being commercial mean?

The dictionary definition of commercial has the following explanations:

  1. concerned with or engaged in commerce: “a commercial agreement”
  1. making or intended to make a profit: “commercial products”

having profit rather than artistic or other value as a primary aim:

“their work is too commercial”

  1. (of television or radio) funded by the revenue from broadcast advertisements.
  2. (of chemicals) supplied in bulk and not of the highest purity

Ignoring the last 2 (for purposes of this article), I think the more applicable definitions are concerned with commerce (i.e. all the comings and goings in a supply market) and making a profit.

But perhaps the biggest question is: How can we translate this into actionable items for us to consider?

Commerce is the activity of buying and selling. Therefore in order to be commercial in this aspect we need to have:

  • An understanding of our business and the wider business environment in which it sits.
  • Familiarity with the end product or service that we buy or manage.
  • How it fits into our organisations service provision and ultimately its Value Proposition to the wider market (those of you playing consultant bingo can cross that word off).
  • A grasp of the activities of our organisation and how your role impacts this.

We also need to have an understanding of the wider marketplaces where we interact daily and be able to:

  • Know how the major players in this particular market are performing at present.
  • Find out who is dealing with whom, and which companies have won important contracts.
  • Think about what the future will bring and what it means to you, your category and your organisation.

Profit is central to any business and should also be for those not solely engaged in the activity of making profit (i.e. public sector or not for profit). As someone in the not for profit sector once said to me, “whilst we are not for profit, we are not for loss either”.

Understanding profit and how organisations make profit should be central to any sustainable procurement strategy. Will these suppliers still be around next year, the year after etc, what are the sources of profit and how do changes in the global market place affect them (commodity pricing, changes in labour force, legislation, global catastrophes and competition).

Commercial awareness then, could be summed up as:

  • An interest in business and an understanding of the wider environment in which an organisation operates: its customers, competitors and suppliers.
  • Understanding of the economics of the business and understanding the business benefits and realities from both the organisation’s and the customer’s perspectives.
  • The need for efficiency, cost-effectiveness, customer care and knowledge of the market place in which the company operates (current economic climate and major competitors).

So how do we actually become commercially aware? Here is a 5 point plan to become more commercially aware:

  1. Keep up to date with what is happening about the future for your organisation, and the markets in which your organisation operates. Check your organisations business plan and strategic vision for clues on this.
  2. Understand the nature and structure of external supply markets, list out the things that affects them and keep a track on when they occur. (See earlier article on scenario planning).
  3. Understand any historical patterns which will help us to predict future trends. It’s particularly useful to be aware of any typical cyclical patterns, such as how wider economic conditions tend to affect a particular industry. On a smaller scale, it could be helpful to be aware of the cycle of the financial year and the effect it can have. For example, organisations may be spending up their budgets and this will have an impact on supply.
  4. Understand and map out the key strategic relationships you have with your suppliers. What is their strategic vision and do you feature? Gather data on the suppliers and supply market/s you serve and are served by and pay attention to the trends.
  5. For any piece of analysis you do, remember to ask SO WHAT!

So why is this important? I think for a number of reasons depending on where you are in your career…

According to Association of Graduate Recruiters “Skills for Graduates in the 21st Century” commercial awareness is the number one skill shortage amongst graduates.

Most “future of procurement” documents talk about the need for more commercial awareness in procurement activities and professionals.

A key deliverable of contract management (i.e. actually delivering the benefits found in sourcing) is to be commercially aware of their actions during the contract lifecycle.

So consider the 5 point plan to be more commercial and ask how you could apply it to your environment and the next time your manager asks you to be more commercial ( or less) you will have a handle on where to start.

Will Millennials Kill The Email?

Will Millennials kill email?

Millennials on the whole are not fans of email and the formal style it dictates – instead they prefer instant communication platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook chat, which they have grown up with. However, the challenge this poses for the workplace is whether the social behaviours and technological preferences of Millennials can be incorporated into a business to promote greater collaboration and engagement. With a number of new technologies continuously entering the market, the question is whether and how these new platforms can replace the email? And equally as important is if they should?

Just because a technology works in a social environment does not mean that it will successfully transfer over into the professional sphere. Instant, open communications may be the preferred method for Millennials, but businesses need to consider which tools are best suited to achieve their wider goals.

For some companies, this could well be email due to its established compliance, auditability and control benefits. For firms seeking more free flowing communications, social tools like Yammer and Slack may be more effective. In either case, the first step is to identify the company’s objectives and then implement a solution that meets these.

Businesses want order, not chaos

For most companies, regardless of how flat their organisational structures are, there remains some form of hierarchy that has senior managers monitoring and driving the performance of staff. Where email brings structure, the open nature of social messaging platforms often brings an element of chaos, with message threads becoming long unwieldy streams of unverified “chit chat”, making compliance and measurement very difficult.

There are many examples of SMEs and small teams of up to 50 people using instant messaging and social networks to share information successfully. This is because the small number of users makes this form of communication manageable. Larger businesses, on the other hand, are still communicating in the same way as they did in the 1990s; with email.

Consequently, two key elements of the daily work cycle remain disconnected from each other: the electronic communication between staff and the work output itself. For a typical piece of work to be produced, employees may have an email exchange before deciding upon a course of action, but then switch from email to a file-based working environment to edit a Word, PowerPoint or Excel document, before again returning to email in order to send the completed document for review. This is clearly a tedious process appreciated by few.

Millennials are used to a ‘followable’ environment with seamless, real-time information sharing in their social lives – so why would they want to email their colleagues with a link to a file every time they make a change? If this activity could be carried out directly in a collaborative environment, teams could synchronously work together, removing the version control issues and delays that leave Millennials feeling frustrated.

Communication must lead to work

Business communication is a means to an end, not an end in itself. There is a growing desire amongst business users for improved integration between day-to-day communication and the processes that are needed to get the work done. Getting the work done is the key point – not just talking, but actually producing something.

There is an expanding market of applications available for this purpose, from message aggregators like Slack to social document authoring tools like Quip or GoogleDocs. Millennials are increasingly trying to patchwork together a better, more social way of working that is not entirely dictated by email.

This patchwork quilt remains the preserve of the individual and the SME workplace, however. Even Slack’s high profile growth and media awareness has not established it as a pervasive way of communicating in the enterprise. The same was true of Yammer five years ago, despite being the self proclaimed “Enterprise Social Network”.

What needs to be asked is why these communication platforms are not taking hold in the enterprise. Are email and attachments persisting because work continues to be authored off-line? If so, we need a new way of working, addressing the root cause of off line working, to move forward.

The current situation

Quip is a simple social authoring tool, and its multi-platform, lightweight user interface is certainly easy and quick to adopt. But could an entire enterprise use it instead of Microsoft Office? No. And that is not its intention. GoogleDocs has been adopted by some enterprises, and with its Office style tool set, it offers enough familiarity for workers to perhaps abandon Office. However, workers still end up following their behaviour from before, only now using Gmail instead of Outlook to communicate around the files they have authored.

As an industry, venture-backed start-ups need to focus on taking the time for deep thinking, complex design and substantial build out, not speed to market or speed of growth. Until such a rigorous approach to enterprise software development is taken, Millennials will not be able to drive the change they desire and replace email with a form of communication and style of work that best suits their desires and abilities – at least not entirely.

Written by Tristan Rogers, CEO – Concrete.

Concrete is a global enterprise collaboration platform used by brands including Vans, J Crew, Gap, Kate Spade, Williams Sonoma and Marks & Spencer.

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6 Sure-Fire Ways To Become A CPO

6 Sure-Fire Ways To Become A CPO

I have worked in Procurement for twenty years now (a scary thought). During that time, I have had the immense pleasure of watching a number of trailblazing procurement professionals ascend through the ranks of their companies to take the coveted position of CPO (Chief Procurement Officer).

If your professional goal is to become a CPO, there are some very simple tips I can share for how to successfully climb the career ladder leading to the ivory towers of procurement. 

  1. Build your trophy cabinet

“Make sure you have successes you can point to,” is one of the best pieces of career advice I have ever received. You need to be able to clearly and convincingly explain projects that you have personally been accountable for and how they have delivered value. Your successfully completed projects with defined benefits are your career trophies.

Put another way – to get promoted, you first need to excel in the job you have today. Ok, this seems rather elementary, but I hear from CPOs around the world that many category managers today are so focussed on where they want to be tomorrow, that they aren’t delivering on the job they are meant to be doing today!

I cannot emphasise how important the basics of professionalism are for making positive impressions on those who will promote you. Do your homework before every meeting, be on time, have an agenda, be well presented, be composed, write and distribute notes following the meeting and, most importantly, do what you said you would do and notify everyone that you have done what you said.

I can’t stress these last two points enough.

Doing what you say you will do and confirming that you have done it may be the two biggest contributors to people getting promoted. Leaders like to have people working for them who actually get things done. Leaders also need to know that the job has been completed. It’s not enough just to do what you said you would do. You need to make sure everyone knows you’ve done it, so they can get it off their to-do-list and put a mental tick beside your name as someone who delivers. 

  1. Don’t burn your bridges… EVER

No matter how old or experienced you are, if you are ambitious, you will find yourself getting frustrated. This will come in many forms. You’ll get frustrated with the lack of progress on projects; you’ll get agitated with certain decisions and actions, and you most likely get frustrated with the people who work below you, beside you and above you. It’s understandable.

In these stressful situations it is often difficult to contain yourself and maintain harmonious, productive relationships with those around you.

But it is critically important that you do.

As I shared in my blog How to Quit your Job with Style, everyone you work with, whether they are inside or outside you organisation, are invaluable long-term supporters of you and your career. As you progress up the ladder (or across your portfolio career!), you will be amazed how every person you have worked with plays a role in helping “buoy” your promotion. You need as many people as you can to endorse your capability and to recommend you for promotion. Getting ahead is hard enough – you certainly don’t need any detractors.

With this is mind, it’s clear that an invaluable skill for future leaders to develop is patience. Great leaders have an uncanny ability to pick the right time to hold back and when to push. As America’s founding father, Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that can have patience can have what he will.”

  1. Be squeaky clean – a beacon of integrity

When The Faculty developed its X Factor assessment for future CPOs, it became obvious that a key differentiator for our profession was its role in clarifying the ethical “true north” for our organisations. Procurement’s competitive advantage is that it can provide rock solid guidance on the most ethical commercial processes and decisions our businesses are involved in. Few other functions can boast these credentials.

As sustainable sourcing and the ethical responsibility of our businesses continues to draw an increased (and warranted!) interest, future procurement leaders must have an unblemished track record in conducting business and leading teams with the greatest integrity.

One of my favourite sayings is, “Know you’re right, rather than hope you’re not wrong”. With this mantra in mind, I would suggest you and your team complete the CIPS Ethical Procurement and Supply Course. Completing this e-learning program will help identify areas of ethical and social risk and will suggest how to best respond to these situations. It just might save you from a crisis. 

  1. Raise your voice, raise your profile

If you want to be promoted you first need to be noticed. As we all know, this is easier said than done. To be viewed as a leader today, you need to be seen as an influencer… someone with something to say… someone with a unique and informed opinion.

Future leaders need to constantly nurture and nourish their personal brand. In order to succeed, you need to position yourself for success. Often, this will mean stepping out of your comfort zone. Holding knowledge sharing events in your office, speaking and conferences and actively maintaining your social media presence are all great ways to get noticed and position yourself as a thought leader. It may appear difficult at first, but its vital training for your development as a leader.

The most challenging element of raising your profile is finding your audience and in this endeavour, social media is your friend. The online procurement community is enormous, active and hungry for information. By connecting into this community, you amplify your opportunities to learn and to teach.

There are procurement groups on LinkedIn with over 300,000 members. Twitter is awash with market information that can enable procurement professionals to do their jobs better and Procurious, the social media network we established to connect procurement peers across the globe and facilitate knowledge sharing.

The social media world is waiting to hear your story; it’s your job to get out there and tell it.

  1. Build a reputation for developing others

One of the most important attributes HR will be looking for in a CPO (or any leader) is their ability to develop people and build a high-performance team. No matter how junior you are in an organisation, there are always opportunities for you to demonstrate that you are focussed on others’ professional development. You can mentor someone looking to get into procurement, you can share your ways of working openly with your peers, you can suggest bringing in some training or speakers to talk to the team on a topic of mutual interest, you could even be a “millennial mentor” for one of your bosses. There are a myriad of opportunities to demonstrate that you understand the power of people continually learning and developing. 

  1. Work for blue-chip companies

Firstly, let’s remember that the CPO role itself only exists in larger companies. Secondly, larger companies prefer to hire people who have already worked at other large companies.

Why? Because it’s safer.

Great companies (on the whole) invest in developing their people, they have great values systems that, by osmosis, influence the performance and behaviour of their people. This means that you become both a technical and ethical “output” of the companies you work for. This may seem a bit weird, or scary, but it’s true; “The company you keep defines your character and your character defines your success.”