Category Archives: Procurement News

Uber: The Great, Untold Procurement Story

Addressing 800+ delegates at SciQuest Next Level 2016, Stephen Wiehe’s enthusiasm for design, disruption and innovation is infectious.

Overcrowded Uber

Stephen Wiehe, CEO at SciQuest, is clearly a man who likes to ‘make stuff’. A tinkerer, a designer, an ideas-man, maybe a little bit of a tech-head.

Opening Next Level 2016 with a take on ‘Procurement’s Future in the Era of Disruption’, Stephen starts with some alarming, if increasingly familiar, facts and stats:

  • We are experiencing the fastest technological change the world has seen
  • Interest rates are at their lowest since records began
  • Market volatility has doubled
  • We are seeing unprecedented, rising geo-political instability
  • 40 per cent of companies will be extinct in 10 years

It’s not long, however, before he pivots towards his passion for design, innovation and customer connectivity.

Stephen points to GE’s First Build R&D facility as an example of how businesses are going straight to the customer for their next great innovation.

A darling of the corporate crowdsourcing movement, First Build aims to invent new home appliances by creating a community of home enthusiasts, designers, engineers, and makers who share ideas, try them out, and build real products.

“Once upon a time, R&D facilities were hidden and process driven,” says Stephen, “Today, GE have flung open their doors to anyone who has a good idea. Customers with an idea can quite literally walk-in, use the machines and GE will help you build it.”

No Industry is Immune to Disruption

As a London local and 4.8 star rated Uber user, it still comes as a surprise when I meet someone who has never used this global phenomenon before. For me, Uber has transformed the way I move about the city, track payments, and even the amount of cash I need for a night out.

So when Stephen flicked up a slide of yellow taxi cabs, I must admit my first thought was, “Ok, here we go, Uber. Heard this before.”

But Stephen takes the analogy much further: “Uber is not a technology story, it’s a procurement story.

“The whole process of getting an Uber is really a procurement process. First you request an Uber – not dissimilar to filling out a requisition form. Next, there’s a sourcing event – Uber drivers, armed with your passenger rating, your location and destination, bid to win the job.

“Then, the passenger accepts the job, confirming they are happy with the driver’s rating and location. A contract is formed – we accept the job and the mode of payment is agreed. And finally the AP process occurs seamlessly and conveniently with your stored credit card details.”

Uber in a Traditional Procurement Lens?

Uber even provides a handy Spend Management Tool allowing the user to see their complete driving, payment and ‘performance’ history. Particularly handy for parents of teenagers, as Stephen points out!

The penny drops. I’ve not thought of Uber in this way before – a fully automated Source-to-Settle process.

But Stephen pushes us to go one step further. “Imagine if Uber had approached their business from a traditional procurement lens.  We’d have the lowest vehicles, more passengers per vehicle and cheaper drivers.”

True – Uber’s open network has flipped the transport industry on its head. Stephen explains that Uber looked at the cab industry from the customers’ perspective and wondered what total transparency, real time data, and an open and connected network could deliver.

And I for one am thankful they did.

disruption
Stephen Wiehe – CEO, SciQuest

The Disappearance of the Back-Office

Just like Uber, which has automated the entire administration process of booking and paying for cabs, Stephen predicts the concept of procurement administration will disappear in coming years.

The issue for most businesses is that they are trying to do the same things over and over, and (not surprisingly) seeing only incremental value delivery.

Stephen told delegates that businesses will only see a step change when they start to simultaneously use procurement automation, collaboration and insights to drive decision making.

When it comes to procurement, our customers want a simple, straight forward way to connect with suppliers, get what they need, and make a payment. Fairly or not, Procurement is all too often accused of being slow, cumbersome and hard to deal with. Not the ideal adjectives for a ‘Business Partner’.

Maybe Stephen is right. Maybe the key to unlocking innovation and value will come from the customer. Just like Uber and GE, is it time to put sourcing in the hands of the customers and people who need the products? It’s certainly time to think differently.

SciQuest Next Level takes place from August 21 – 24 2016. For more information on procurement and disruption please visit www.sciquest.com or Tweet SciQuest via @SciQuest.

Lisa Malone, General Manager Procurious, is reporting live from SciQuest Next Level 2016 this week.

Your Must-See Agenda Picks at Next Level 2016

In a packed conference, you need a cheat sheet, a list of must-see keynotes and sessions. Here is the pick of the pops at Next Level 2016.

SciQuest Next Level 2016

Before attending a conference, I like to put together a “cheat sheet” so I can stay on track and use my time efficiently to fully maximise my conference experience. And Next Level is no different!

With such an extensive role-based agenda, top notch featured speakers, plus fun Nashville activities, there is something for everyone, from the CPO to administrators.

To help you make your choices, here are some of my must-see Next Level sessions to include in your itinerary!

Next Level – Monday, August 22

Spend Analytics in State Purchasing: The Georgia Experience (Hermitage E, 11:00-12:00pm)

Join the State of Georgia, who will take you through real-life Spend Radar experiences, and how to get to those golden nuggets of spend wisdom.

Walking through the purpose behind the analysis, the panel will explore massaging the data to be more useful, how to find meaning, and what the end results can accomplish.

Reverse Auctions in Sourcing Director: The What, Why and How (Cheekwood GH, 1:30-2:20pm)

Reverse Auctions let buyers conduct fast-paced competitive bidding events where multiple suppliers place bids on one or more items.

During the auction phase, suppliers receive feedback on the competitiveness of their bids in relation to bids submitted by other participating suppliers.

This session will review when a reverse auction should be used, the configuration details critical to the construction and administration of the event, and how a buyer can track key bid data while conducting a Sourcing Director reverse auction event.

Putting it all Together in the Real World: A S2S Case Study (Tennessee B, 2:20-3:30pm)
Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center
Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center

Inspired by business process optimisation concepts used in the military, Mark Burch, Director of Materials, has applied them to procurement at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where they are waging a war on cancer.

In a nutshell, materials management is about getting everything that’s needed at the right place at the right time. Whether you’re fighting a disease or just the inefficiency gremlin, Mark’s ideas and processes can help.

Come see how the implementation of SciQuest’s full source-to-settle suite is helping to optimise processes, gain insights into the organisation’s spend and deliver a high return on investment.

People, Process and Technology: A Real-World Case Study (Tennessee B, 4:00-5:00pm)

Georgia Institute of Technology procurement team will discuss their approach to managing both spend and spend systems by following this mantra: people, process, technology. They’ll discuss challenges and processes around initial roll-out, expansion into new modules and growing users.

They’ll share key performance metrics used to determine ongoing system performance, as well as to measure overall return on investment.

Tuesday, August 23

NAEP Innovators Forum: Strategic Supplier Relationship Management (Tennessee A, 1:30-2:20pm)

Procurement and supply chain teams invest considerable time and energy negotiating exceptional contract terms with key suppliers. Many teams consider their work complete when contracts have been executed.

However, there is evidence that much of negotiated value will leak away unless it’s carefully managed over the contract life. This places a premium on the ability to manage supplier agreements. But who has this responsibility and what goals and objectives should be pursued?

NAEP Director, Doreen Murner, and University of Colorado’s CPO, Sandy Hicks, examine this topic, which was first presented in the NAEP Innovators Forum: Strategic Supplier Relationship Management White Paper.

Real World ASO War Stories (Cheekwood ABC, 2:30-3:30pm)

Illinois Tool Works

Illinois Tool Works (ITW) is a Chicago-headquartered diversified manufacturer with 49,000 employees and 90 divisions in 57 countries.

In this session, ITW’s Strategic Sourcing Center of Excellence team will discuss their journey from a single-person pilot to a powerhouse for sourcing events with more than 200 events and hundreds of millions of spend competitively bid through Advanced Sourcing Optimizer (ASO).

If you’ve ever wondered what makes or breaks a COE in global, multi-business unit organisations, this session is for you.

Analysing eProcurement Business Success – Building Your Business Case & ROI (Hermitage B, 2:30-3:30pm)
Pierre Mitchell
Pierre Mitchell

No-one recognises the need for a strong business case and ROI analysis when considering large dollar purchases more than procurement professionals.

Whether you’re considering the purchase of a full source-to settle or P2P solution, or simply want to demonstrate to your leadership the value of your existing solutions, you will find this session to be beneficial.

Pierre Mitchell, Chief Research Officer and Managing Partner at Spend Matters, will explore several facets for building successful business cases. This includes knowing your approval process and audience, key items for consideration in the business case, and methods for demonstrating success following implementation.

P2P and Beyond (Hermitage B, 4:00-5:00pm)

PayStream Advisors Research Director, Jimmy LeFever will moderate a panel featuring representatives from Florida International University, University of Colorado, Ball State University and Liberty University.

This all-star panel have implemented a procure-to-pay solution and are looking to go beyond eProcurement and accounts payable. The session will start at the beginning of their journey and discuss the individual drivers that ultimately led to implementing a P2P solution.

Topics will include panelists’ experiences before, during and after implementation, benefits achieved, ways to benchmark goals and tips for achieving post-implementation procure-to-pay excellence.

The second part will focus on the future roadmaps of these innovative organisations. Panelists will discuss what their organisations are planning in terms of strategic initiatives, including:

They will focus on planning for strategic change, increasing stakeholder buy-in and ensuring success in change management.

What sessions are you looking forward to at Next Level 2016? Tweet us and use #NL2016!

What Procurement Needs to Know About Robotic Process Automation

Just what is Robotic Process Automation? And what should procurement know about it before putting anything in place?

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) vendors emphasise their product’s capacity to replace human operators, using phrases like “digital workforce.” In simple terms, RPA is a software application that runs on an end user’s computer, laptop or other device, emulating tasks executed by human operators.

Its purpose is to integrate or automate the execution of repetitive, rule-based tasks or activities. RPA does not require development of code, nor does it necessitate direct access to the code or database of the applications.

Current Robotic Process Automation Use

Most current RPA implementations are in industry-specific processes such as claims processing in insurance, and risk management in financial services. These processes, and their associated tasks, are usually high-volume, structured, repetitive and implemented on old technology.

Normally, the processes are extremely stable. There is no technology migration or modernisation roadmap involved, and IT-led integration would be difficult and expensive.

At present, the leading non-industry-specific RPA application is the financial close and consolidation process. According to our purchase-to-pay research, 23 per cent of companies are at the earliest stages of adoption, i.e., either in a pilot or with the technology partially rolled out (Fig. 1).

Robotic Process Automation
Fig. 1 – Robotic Process Automation Trends in Purchase-to-Pay

The remaining 77 per cent have no immediate plans for Robotic Process Automation adoption. Despite the low take-up level today, 45 per cent of purchase-to-pay organisations believe RPA will be one of the areas with the greatest impact on the way their work gets done in the next decade.

The Best Processes for RPA

It is not the type of business process that makes for a good candidate for RPA, but rather the characteristics of the process, such as the need for data extraction, enrichment and validation.

Activities requiring integration of multiple screens, as well as self-service inquiry resolution, are also ripe for RPA. The key is that RPA is best deployed in a stable environment where no changes to the systems are on the horizon.

Other possible choices include processes requiring multiple software applications to execute different, but repeatable, activities and tasks.

RPA Pricing Trends

The pricing model for RPA is still evolving. Today, vendors are pricing RPA based on the cost of the full time equivalent (FTE) staff member it is replacing. For example, an RPA vendor may quote a price per robot that is one-third the cost of an offshore resource doing the work.

Onshore FTE pricing is being quoted closer to one-ninth, or 11 per cent, of the cost. This pricing model, developed to compare the cost of outsourcing a process versus automating it with RPA, essentially positions Robotic Process Automation as a service, not a software solution.

In our view, this model is inconsistent with industry standards governing the way software is typically priced. Therefore, we encourage buyers to seek an alternative gainsharing model where possible. This will both mitigate the risks of early adoption, and provide a strong incentive to the supplier to deliver results.

Patrick Connaughton is the Senior Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Programme at the Hackett Group. He has published groundbreaking research in areas like spend analysis, contract life cycle management, supplier risk assessments and services procurement. You can contact him via email or on Procurious.

You can also learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program here.

How Procurement Will Get Its Mojo Back At Next Level

Today’s procurement space is rapidly changing, yet something is amiss. Join us as Next Level keynote speaker Sigi Osagie describes how Procurement will get its mojo back.

Sigi Osagie

Procurement is rapidly evolving from what was once a manual laden process, to one where technology is enabling practitioners to deliver enhanced value contribution to overall business success.

Becoming a value creation function involves change. So how does Procurement manage change successfully and gain a better reputation across the wider enterprise?

To answer this question, SciQuest selected leading procurement effectiveness expert and writer, Sigi Osagie, for one of the keynote sessions at Next Level 2016.

Sigi knows a thing or two about procurement success. He wrote ‘Procurement Mojo – Strengthening the Function and Raising Its Profile, where he shows how to get a Procurement function firing on all cylinders.

Roberta Patterson checked in with Sigi to get a preview of what he will be talking about during his presentation.

I love the name of your book, Procurement Mojo. Has Procurement lost its mojo?

From the perspective of Procurement’s positioning in the enterprise way back when a move into the “Purchasing Department” was, in effect, a relegation to the backwoods of organisational existence, you’d have to say Procurement has come a long way.

Today, some Procurement functions are doing a fantastic job supporting the profitability and strategic goals of their organisations.

But if I aggregate my experience with clients, discussions with Procurement people in different regions and insights from trade articles, online forums, blogs, etc., it’s clear that many Procurement functions are still struggling.

Quite often the difficulties that hinder their success are “soft” issues – organisational challenges like senior executives who just don’t “get it,” territorial stakeholders, or ineffectiveness within the Procurement function itself.

Such Procurement functions lack a credible “Procurement brand.” Unless they change their approach, their Procurement mojo will remain a mirage.

During your Next Level session, you are going to speak about change management. That seems like a tall order. Do you have any tips on how a Procurement department should start?

The most fundamental requirement is effectiveness; which is more important than efficiency. You can be very efficient at the wrong things. A bit like the guy who’s very fast at climbing up a ladder, only to get to the top and discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

Focusing on Procurement effectiveness forces us to think about what the department wants to achieve and the requisite actions to attain those end-goals.

Getting from where you are today to where you want to be is where change management comes in. Many of us in Procurement are versed in the technical aspects of the job but often lack change management know-how.

Our ability to navigate our way through change, against a backdrop of the organisational dynamics I mentioned earlier, is crucial for Procurement’s success and reputation in the wider enterprise.

So Procurement functions must centre their efforts on effectiveness and leverage robust change management. It’s impossible to do this without sound leadership. A fish rots from the head down; so having an effective Procurement leader is key – leadership is the glue that binds everything else together.

How do you build a Procurement brand?

In Procurement Mojo I use real-life examples to explain the four foundational actions Procurement functions must take. The first is building an effective organisation. It’s paramount, because people are the fundamental creators or destroyers of performance success.

The other key actions are deploying enablers (processes, systems and tools) that are fit for purpose, managing the supply base robustly, and applying an appropriate performance management framework. Everything we get right in these four areas helps nurture our Procurement brand.

Additionally, it is imperative to foster positive perceptions of Procurement in stakeholders’ consciousness, through effective communications, good (internal) customer relationship management, and smart PR.

Combining the four foundational actions with these stakeholder management approaches is how we build and sustain a great Procurement brand.

What are your suggestions for making the case for technology investment and getting executive buy-in?

Sigi MojoA solid business case is vital, but it’s not just about data and facts. It’s really about selling, and being organisationally savvy. You’ve got to read the organisational landscape and identify the right “hooks” that will resonate with executives.

Getting executive buy-in is part of good change management, thus getting your Procurement mojo back! I’m looking forward to sharing more about this at Next Level 2016.

Sigi Osagie is a featured speaker appearing on Monday, August 22 at Next Level. Follow him on Twitter!

7 Key Objectives for Procurement Success

Global procurement professionals are attempting to find new ways to create cost savings, as well as create value. Help is at hand with these 7 key objectives for success.

Key Objectives

ProcureCon Europe is back for it’s 17th consecutive year, answering your challenges in procurement and the future direction of the industry.

As businesses emerge from the recent recession into a fragmented ecosystem, a normal approach to creating value through cost saving is no longer relevant.

Instead, businesses are tasking procurement to effect enterprise-wide change, including implementing process improvement, and operating beyond the contract with suppliers to co-create value, and exploring payment innovation.

ProcureCon Europe has put together seven key procurement objectives you can’t afford to ignore, in order to create an efficient, cost saving and interactive procurement department.

#7: Talent Development

Talent development obtained the least amount of votes in our survey. However, there are few procurement executives who would argue against the importance of having a plan in place to develop the procurement leaders of the future.

#6: Responsible Sourcing

How is this made, and where does it come from? These are important questions on the lips of both procurement professionals and the general public.

Although perhaps less in the spotlight than it was 18 months ago, especially in the public sector, responsible sourcing remains a central pillar for Indirect Procurement.

#5: Taking Advantage of Digitisation

Organisations are rapidly digitising across the board. Procurement is attempting to make the most of the operational advantages implicit in this change.

The move to digitise in many cases means completely overhauling established business processes. This presents a significant opportunity for improvement, and is an essential element of a successful future for Indirect Procurement.

#4: Innovation in Services

Procurement seeks to lead innovation in the way that an organisation uses services, from HR, to IT, Marketing and beyond.

This is an area in which Procurement has the potential to add real value. The fresh availability of external services can mean easy, and comparatively cheap, solutions with minimal risk, which is great for growing companies.

#3: Operational Efficiency

While driving down costs can be done by negotiating better deals, there is also some considerable importance placed on increasing operational efficiency. Doing so means making better use of available resources and ultimately saving money.

#2: Value Delivery

Just like beauty, value is often in the eye of the beholder. That being said, those with a progressive approach to indirect procurement increasingly look to consistently add tangible value to the categories in which they work, and actively measure themselves on their ability to do so.

#1: Cost Leadership

Perhaps unsurprisingly the number one area of importance for Indirect Procurement is in the area of cost leadership. A strong stance on cost leadership can help to drive significant improvement to the bottom line. This is key when Indirect Procurement is expected to demonstrate its ability to drive meaningful savings.

Agility and Technology

These 7 key procurement objectives provides companies with guidance, in order to have an effective procurement department.

However, procurement must stay agile. Factors such as innovation and digitisation are constantly changing. Procurement professionals, particularly those in growing companies, should be taking advantage of available technology to further their reach.

The ProcureCon event series brings together a unique blend of Procurement, Purchasing and Supply Chain experts from across all industries to share their experiences and knowledge with a team of people who truly embrace the strategically important field of Procurement.

Find out more about how ProcureCon Europe is helping procurement professionals to solve their main challenges at on the event website. You can also follow ProcureCon Europe on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Throwback Thursday – How to Avoid Procurement Corruption and Fraud: The Fraud Triangle

Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When preventing procurement fraud, the Fraud Triangle is an organisation’s key tool.

The Fraud Triangle

The Petrobras scandal in Brazil has shown the potential for corruption and fraud in procurement. In light of this, our Thursday throwback takes us back to Hillary Ohlmann‘s article on preventing procurement fraud and corruption using the Fraud Triangle.

Corruption & The Fraud Triangle

In light of the Petrobras corruption scandal in the headlines this week, our Thursday throwback this week

Donald Cressey is credited with creating the fraud triangle, which outlines the theory behind why people commit occupational fraud. Cressey identified the three legs of the fraud triangle as pressure, opportunity, and rationalisation.

The Fraud Triangle

Let’s take a look at steps your organisation can take in order to address these three areas and avoid procurement corruption and fraud.

Pressure

The pressure factor is essentially what motivates someone to commit fraud. Usually the motivation is financial in nature, and falls under one of two categories: personal or professional.

Personal pressure examples:
  • unpaid personal debts
  • desire for status symbols (money, house, car, etc.)
  • inability to pay bills
Professional pressure examples:
  • need to meet productivity targets
  • need to prove financial gains
  • feeling job is at risk

How to mitigate pressure:

1. Adequate compensation

While adequate compensation will depend on the organisation, country, and individual employee, procurement employees should not be at the bottom when it comes to compensation.

Procurement professionals, at all levels, require a specific skill set to effectively do their job, and their compensation should reflect the value they bring to the company.

2. Realistic performance KPIs

This requires good communication with all stakeholders. Set KPIs and then review them frequently to make sure your procurement goals are realistic.

3. Adequate procurement budget

One way to avoid procurement corruption and fraud is to make sure your procurement department has sufficient funds for staffing, tools, and training. Being forced to cut corners can quickly lead to unethical decision-making.

4. Company-wide no gift policy

Suppliers often give gifts to procurement as a way to build relationships and show goodwill. Yet, these gifts may make it hard for procurement officers to remain entirely neutral. If Procurement is not allowed to accept gifts, enact the same policy for all departments as a way to reinforce a company-wide ethics policy.

In some parts of the world, it may be difficult to go 100 per cent no gift. If you do decide to allow Procurement to accept certain gifts, such as lunch or small tokens under a specific dollar amount, make sure the policy is crystal clear and communicated to all employees.

5. Recognise employee value

Adequate compensation is one way to recognise employee value, but other signs of appreciation can also go a long way. If your company has a no gift policy, perhaps set aside a portion of the budget for a procurement dinner, or event to celebrate when certain objectives are met.

Opportunity

The opportunity to commit fraud has to meet two basic standards. The person must have the technical know-how to take advantage of the system, and the ability to keep it a secret. You can decrease the opportunities for fraud by:

1. Implementing a transparent procurement process
  • Adopt an e-procurement solution – E-procurement software is the best way to make sure your procurement data is transparent and easily accessible for audits. You can also assign permissions within the tool, making it easy to allow top management access to all processes, while also limiting who can add suppliers, change supplier contact information, make awards, etc.
  • Educating your employees about the process and how to identify red flags – While it may be a given buyers within the procurement department understand the sourcing and purchasing process, buyers on the outside may not have such a clear understanding. Anti-fraud measures require all hands on deck.
  • Monitor the data in the system – Implementing e-procurement software is just the first step to a transparent procurement process. You’ll need to continuously monitor the data in your chosen e-procurement solution and the ERP to look for any irregularities.
2. Segment purchasing responsibilities

Divide responsibilities to keep any one person from having too much power over purchasing decisions. You may also find it beneficial to rotate responsibilities on a regular basis, but when you do so, make sure to update any employee permissions in your e-procurement solution.

For example, some companies rotate procurement employees between categories to avoid any one person having too much close contact with suppliers.

3. Adopt a four-eyes rule for approvals

Schoolyard bullies use “four-eyes” as an insult, but when avoiding corruption and fraud, the four-eyes strategy is best practice. More eyes on decisions means it’s harder for would-be fraudsters to keep their crimes secret.

4. Perform regular and surprise internal and external audits for all purchases

Audits are not a sign of mistrust. Consider them more like a doctor’s check-up. You should hope that everything checks out, but if you note any irregularities, you can take action to straighten them out before significant damage is done.

5. Manage both suppliers and their subcontractors

Your supply chain doesn’t stop with your suppliers. It’s likely they’ve hired subcontractors. The business practices of these subcontractors will reflect on your business.

Unfortunately, many companies have learned this the hard way. Your company should have a Supplier Code of Conduct, and signing off on it should be mandatory for all suppliers and their subcontractors.

Rationalisation

Rationalisation is the process of excusing one’s acts, and finding ways to justify behaving in a way that you know to be unethical or criminal.

It can take a number of forms:

  • An exaggerated belief in one’s value (e.g. I’m entitled to this because I work hard.);
  • A belief in a greater good (e.g. I’m doing this for my family.);
  • Dissatisfaction with the company (The company is cheating others, so I can cheat the company.);
  • Or comparisons with others (Everyone else has nice things. Why can’t I?).
How to avoid the pitfalls of rationalisation
1. Hire ethical employees

This one looks like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done. However, if ethics are important to you (as they should be), they need to be discussed from the very first interview. Research your potential employees like you research potential suppliers. Step away if anything looks fishy.

2. Model ethical behaviour at the top and reinforce it through company-wide policy

It’s all about company culture. How can you expect employees low down on the ladder to behave ethically if the top management is constantly cutting corners and making ethically dubious decisions? Don’t fall into a “do as I say, not as I do” mindset. Give your employees a good model to follow.

3. Adopt a zero tolerance policy for fraud and corruption

There’s the carrot, and then there’s the stick. Just as you would outline expected behaviour, so, too, should you outline punishments for breaking the rules. Also, don’t make idle threats. If you have a zero tolerance policy, then it should be zero tolerance. If you’re not prepared to follow through, adjust your policy to reflect the true consequences for fraudulent actions.

Part of procurement corruption and fraud prevention should be based on the realisation that, yes, it can happen to your organisation. No company is immune.

However, those companies with the lowest cases of fraud and corruption have taken steps to prevent it before it happens. If you’re waiting for a big scandal to break before mitigating this risk, then you’re already too late.

Loud and Proud: Displaying Accreditations on Social Media

Displaying your accreditations on social media? It’s a tribal thing.

Tribes and Accreditations

I’ve noticed recently that more people are displaying professional accreditation after their names on social media.

At first, I was confused by those jumbles of letters that mean so much to people in the procurement world, but so little to anyone else. On Procurious alone we have hundreds of MCIPS, FCIPS, CPSMs and CPPOs. But why do people put their credentials up in lights?

Pack as Much Information Into Your Name as Possible

There’s a lot of information available about optimising social media profiles to make them attractive to potential business partners, recruiters, corporate headhunters and so on.

LinkedIn has a pretty sophisticated profile builder that guides you through the steps to raise your profile to “superstar” status. This includes adding all sorts of detail, ranging from experience and education, to recommendations, skills and even influencers.

The reality is, however, that unless there’s a good reason to do so, people aren’t actually going to click on your profile very often. In fact, you can ‘connect’ with people on LinkedIn, and here on Procurious, without even visiting their profile. Simply clicking on their face does the trick.

This means there’s not much value in diligently adding your accreditations to your profile page if you don’t also display it next to your name.

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

So, if people aren’t going to see your profile, what do they see?

Well, first (and arguably foremost), they’ll see your profile picture. It’s important to have one, and it needs to look professional.

Secondly, they’ll see your name. On Procurious that’s all, though LinkedIn shows a very brief job and company description. It’s not much – and you’d really be flattering yourself if you think people will want to view your profile just for your good looks or interesting-sounding name.

You need to pack more into the limited space available, and an accreditation does the trick.

Why? Because, for those who understand what accreditations actually entail, it says so much about you.

It signals that you’re backed and accredited by a respected professional organisation. It means that you’ve got industry experience, up-to-date qualifications, and are engaged with peers in your profession. It’s like a shorthand version of a CV, which you can expand into more detail in your profile itself.

Professional Accreditations Trump Academic Qualifications

As any frustrated job-seeker knows, experience is everything when it comes to getting hired.

You might be academically qualified up to the eyeballs, but your average recruiter is more likely to be interested in the practical skills you learned as Junior Shift Manager at McDonald’s. And this (sadly) is what the interview will focus upon.

This experience ‘Catch-22′ has led to the situation where unpaid internships have become almost mandatory in many professions, in order to get some experience under your belt and improve job prospects.

That’s where professional accreditations come in. As a general rule, they can’t be gained without having spent at least three years in the industry. They therefore flag to colleagues (and potential recruiters) that you do at least have a few years’ experience.

Some accreditations require both experience and tertiary qualifications. ISM’s CPSM, for example, requires three years “full-time, professional supply management experience, with a regionally accredited bachelor’s degree,” or 5 years’ experience without a degree.

This seems fair to me, as it gives some level of recognition to the bachelor degree (not a completely worthless piece of paper after all!), while still leaving the door open to those who choose not to attend tertiary education.

That being said, there’s a fair share of Bachelors, Diplomas and especially MBAs on display after people’s names on social media.

You’ve Earned It, So Why Not Flaunt It?

Why not? It’s good to be proud of your achievement and important to visibly support your professional association.

Jim Barnes, Managing Director for ISM Services, agrees that displaying your accreditation sends a signal to your peers. “ISM’s CPSM certification helps others identify that the person displaying the credential has deep knowledge, and can apply it.”

There’s also the tribal factor. People love to identify with different ‘tribes’ or groups. Having your professional membership or accreditation on display helps others identify you as “one of us” – a group of professionals who have all been through the same accreditation process, and therefore have the same knowledge and experience to draw upon when dealing with shared challenges.

Procurious itself is one such large ‘tribe’ of connected procurement professionals, further broken down by the members themselves into groups and sub-groups.

On a side note, accreditations have been proven to translate into real-world rewards. ISM produces a salary survey that consistently shows CPSM-accredited professionals earn salaries approximately 7 per cent higher than non-CPSM’s.

“The higher salary demonstrates that having an accreditation carries practical benefits, as well as credibility”, says Barnes.

Show Your Currency

Imagine you’re a recruiter. You’ve been trawling social media for the ideal candidate, and you hit on what looks like a perfect fit. They’re in the right industry, their experience looks good, and they have a postgraduate degree in supply chain management…completed in 1989.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who will agree that procurement is the same now as in 1989. And if you can’t find any evidence of more up-to-date education, you click on the next candidate.

Accreditations highlighted on social media profiles (and indeed on CVs) would have reassured the recruiter, because most credentials require recertification. This means that you’re forced to stay up-to-date and valid.

The CPSM, for example, has to be maintained. It automatically expires every three years unless holders complete 60 continuing education hours, which may include sitting exams, conference attendance, corporate training or contributions to the profession.

Do you think a comment posted on social media by a professional with their credentials on display has more “weight” than other comments? Share your thoughts below.

Management of a Global Supply Chain in Emerging Markets

Managing a global supply chain is complex, and fraught with risk. So what tactics can you use to minimise this risk?

Global Supply Chain

This article was written by Rob Barnes, Founder at PrimeRevenue.

In many ways, sourcing goods and services internationally is easier than ever, with the internet making it possible to research, source and communicate with global suppliers from the comfort of your desk.

But in reality it isn’t always that simple. Setting up and managing an global supply chain is a complex, and often risky, business. Without careful planning, local expertise and meticulous management, there’s a lot that can go wrong.

Not only are you dealing with numerous rules, regulations, taxes and constantly fluctuating currencies – all of which have the potential to significantly impact your bottom line. You also have cultural and language differences to contend with, which, in the world of business, can be daunting and confusing to say the least.

On the other hand, getting it right can give you a huge competitive advantage, with cost savings and higher quality or unusual products just a couple of the potential benefits.

So how can you make sure your global supply chain works effectively, while minimising the risks to your business? Here’s a few pointers:

Strategic Planning  

Planning and management of a global supply chain affects the whole organisation, not just certain departments. That means ownership must come from the top, and involve all areas of the business, from procurement and finance, operations and logistics, to sales and marketing.

Don’t allow teams and decisions to become siloed. Make sure there is transparency across the business. Otherwise you’ll be missing important pieces of the puzzle, and find that your supply chain isn’t delivering the value you need, either for the customer or the bottom line.

Local Expertise

Knowledge of the local market is crucial to ensure you understand what to look for in a supplier and how to handle local business practices, from taxes and duties, to employment law and health and safety regulations.

If you don’t have this local expertise internally, consider hiring somebody who does. Or look to bring on a consultant who can guide you through what, and who, you need to know.

Prioritise Relationships  

The foundation of a successful supply chain is building strong relationships with as many elements of the chain as possible. While the internet can help you at the research stage, it’s crucial to visit suppliers regularly, to make those personal connections, scope out their operations in person, and discuss ways of maximising efficiency and collaboration.

In many countries, personal relationships and networks are even more important than in the UK, so it’s in your interest to prioritise this valuable bonding time.

Sales Forecasting

Forecasting is crucial when sourcing products globally, to avoid ending up with too much or too little inventory to deliver on what you need.

This is partly due to timing – your goods are going to take longer to arrive from far flung locations – but there is also a cost element, with taxes and duties to pay every time you move your goods.

Accurate forecasting means that you’ll be transporting the right quantity to arrive at the right time, to deliver on projected demand. You’ll also avoid wasting money on warehouse space by over-ordering.

Technology

Technology is your friend when managing a global supply chain, helping you to streamline processes and minimise unnecessary administration.

Look for a supply chain management solution that works across the different markets you’re operating in, so you don’t need to work with numerous systems.

You can also streamline your invoicing and payment terms using a supply chain finance platform, avoiding the need to negotiate these on a case by case basis, and improving consistency and transparency across suppliers.

Performance Tracking

Just one disruptive link in the chain can impact your whole operations. Make sure you implement a system to measure the success and efficiency of each supplier regularly – delivery times or product quality for example.

By doing this, you can spot any warning signs early on and be ready to replace an underperforming supplier if necessary.

Have a Plan B

Even with top notch processes, you can never be sure what’s going to happen, so have back-up suppliers ready to go in case of any unexpected disasters. This will keep your supply chain running smoothly and avoid lots of unhappy customers.

Focus on Long-Term Sustainability

To minimise risk in the chain, look for ways that you can support your suppliers both financially and logistically. Make sure your lines of communication are always open, so any potential issues can be aired quickly and easily.

You can also help your partners manage their cash flow through supply chain finance, allowing them to choose to be paid more promptly if and when they need. This is particularly useful for suppliers in emerging markets.

This reduces the need for them to take out expensive bank funding or overdraft extensions, minimising costs and risk in the long-term.

Supply Chain Finance from PrimeRevenue and AIG caters to thousands of mid-market, non-investment grade companies, by providing financing, with the credit risk insured by AIG’s market-leading trade credit insurance. It enables suppliers to take early payment less a small discount, while enabling buyers to standardise and potentially lengthen their payment terms.

Adapt and Thrive – Success in Cross-Cultural Negotiations

Adapt and survive is often a key strategy in business. It turns out that it’s just as important in cross-cultural negotiations too.

Adapt and Survive

In our previous articles on cross-cultural negotiations, we had heard what our experts had to say about preparing for cross-cultural negotiations, and the importance of building relationships before negotiations even start.

In the final article in this series, we hear from our experts on how to adapt for negotiations, and how best to handle negotiations with people from their own nationalities.

Preparing for a negotiation – Middle Eastern Challenges

More and more companies are heading to the Middle East as part of their primary business and supply strategies.

However, the cultural differences between Europe and, in particular, Saudi Arabia are stark. Getting to grips with these differences is key to creating good business relationships, and having successful negotiations in the region.

The Roundtable were asked for their thoughts on how to prepare for a first cross-cultural negotiation in Saudi Arabia. They shared what information they would aim to collect, and how they would collect it.

One key element mentioned was to understand the hierarchy and power dynamics of the organisation. Thierry Blomet talked about needing to understand how the organisation is mapped out, and how it fits with the various stakeholders in the country. As Saudi Arabia has a very different, rule-driven, culture, it’s important to understand the dynamics of the organisation and the people.

This view was echoed by Jonathan Hatfield, who added that it’s important to have diversity in your own teams, to help prepare for going into different geographies. The more diversity in your team, the better prepared you are for the global market.

The conversation then turned towards how individuals could better adapt to different cultures by being more aware of their own behaviours, and how to change behaviours to be in line with local customs.

The importance of “cultural mirroring” was put forward by Carine Kaldalian, in particular regarding dress code especially when dealing with a country with strong rules like Saudi Arabia.

Giuseppe highlighted the importance of knowing some etiquette elements that may offend the other party, like which hand to use to hand over your passport, and not showing the soles of your feet to others.

Adapt Your Behaviour

In the modern, digital world, collecting information on other cultures is far easier than it was in the past. Ali Atasoy suggested using both two common websites as prime source of information.

First Wikipedia, to understand the country, social conventions, and recent history. Then LinkedIn, to understand the individuals you would be meeting and have some ‘icebreakers’ prepared.

However, once the information has been collected, it needs to be put to good and effective use. The extent to which individuals should adapt their own behaviour was subject to some debate.

Bérénice Bessiere argued that Europeans frequently underestimate the capacity of Asian business people to adapt to European culture. The common thinking is that it’s them who will have to adapt their behaviour.

The importance of avoiding stereotypes was raised again by both Matthias Manegold and Jonathan Hatfield. Both highlighted the potential mistake in thinking that all the people in a single culture will be the same.

The different norms of different generations, and the constant evolution of cultures, mean generalisation should be avoided. However, by being aware of this, adapting behaviour and building up trust, you will create a better relationship, and any hiccups will likely be forgiven.

Negotiating with Nationalities

The final part of the Roundtable discussion focused on the participants’ views on the key advice for negotiating with people from their own countries.

It was a lighthearted way to end the discussion, but the points raised were both interesting, and highly applicable.

  • Turkey (Ali Atasoy)

Be prepared to explain why you have chosen to do business with this supplier. Any uncertainty, or lack of a valid reason, may lead to the supplier being offended by the approach.

  • Switzerland (Stéphane Guelat)

Punctuality is a huge thing, so be on time. Also, negotiations will frequently focus on product, quality, and other factors. Price is unlikely to be a key focus.

  • United Kingdom (Jonathan Hatfield)

Don’t arrive at the negotiations and be very aggressive, because you will lose your audience. Also don’t assume that you will become a business ‘partner’ immediately – this is something that has to be earned.

  • Lebanon (Carine Kaldalian)

If they have the upper hand, expect the other party to be late. It’s all part of the power play in the negotiations. Expect to be invited to dinner, even before a tough negotiation. The social side of business is very important in Lebanon.

Also, expect some heavy bargaining, as Lebanese are natural born traders.

  • Germany (Matthias Manegold)

Be on time, be credible, and be trusted by the other party. You need to demonstrate that you are interested in the other party’s well-being and outcomes, not just your own.

Small talk is unlikely. Germans will only ask “how are you?” if they are interested. It’s not a throw-away line, like in the UK or the USA. You must walk the talk – doing what you say you will is very important.

  • China (Xin-jian Carlier Fu)

A smile doesn’t necessarily mean that they agree with you, they might just not want to let you down. Don’t make assumptions about the deal or how the other party is feeling about it.

Also, don’t over talk. Know that the other party is listening, but maybe are just looking for the right way to respond.

Beach vs. Coconut

The final comment fell to our facilitator Giuseppe, who showcased the difference between the peach culture and coconut culture. A beach culture, often associated with Americans, is easy to get into, but difficult to in-depth, while a coconut culture, often associated with Germans, is hard to get into, but once you are in it is worth the effort!

And with that, the Roundtable was complete. It provided a fascinating insight into cross-cultural negotiations, cultural diversity, and how procurement professionals can best prepare themselves for cross-cultural interactions.

If you want to find out more, you can get in touch with Procurious, or with Giuseppe Conti at Conti Advanced Business Learning.

This roundtable was organised by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specialises in Negotiation & Influencing training. Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience and 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

Why Elon Musk Thinks Supply Chain is “Tricky”

If Elon Musk describes something as tricky, then you know that it’s something organisations should be paying close attention to.

Elon Musk

When someone who:

says something is “tricky”, it means something!

“Tricky” Supply Chain

Elon Musk, founder of a number of high profile companies, including Tesla motors, PayPal and SpaceX, was interviewed recently at Code Conference 2016.

In the interview, Musk tells a couple of stories and anecdotes about Tesla’s Supply-Chain that highlights how things can derail fast and put your production to a halt.

It helps to illustrate the role that procurement can, and must, have in anticipating and preventing such situations. Also, in minimising impacts, and if the worst happens, to react quickly, and get back to normal as fast as possible.

You can watch the whole interview below (I recommend you do). If you prefer to go directly to the part I am referring to (1 hour 10 min into the interview), it is here.