Category Archives: Procurement News

How To Set A Procurement Strategy Part 1: What You’re Currently Doing Wrong

How do you set a strategy for your procurement function? Discover what not to do. 


In 2020, we’re all au fait with the word ‘strategic.’ Procurement needs to be strategic, metaphorically yells every advice piece we read. What’s the strategy behind that, what’s your function’s strategy, what’s the strategy this year? Exclaim C-suite executives we run into; or perhaps a strategy consultant they’ve engaged. 

But when it comes to procurement – what does a strategy even mean? 

As an internal function, a procurement strategy is a complex idea. As procurement’s purpose is inherently to serve our stakeholders, should our strategy simply be to do just that? Or should we set a separate procurement strategy, based on best practice we observe in our particular function, elsewhere? Both approaches have their benefits, but also significant downsides. So which one is it, or is it neither? Here’s a detailed explanation of the two different ‘strategies’ that most procurement teams execute, and exactly why they may not be the best choice going forward: 

Bad strategy #1 – The ‘Your Wish is My Command’ Strategy

What is the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy? 

Ken had not long been in his role as CPO at a utilities company when a meeting entitled ‘Procurement Strategy’ appeared in his diary. He hoped – and assumed – that the meeting would be about the business’s long-term strategy, which he would then translate into a roadmap for his team. 

But he was wrong. 

Alison, the company’s CEO, told him that he need not bother himself with strategy, because ‘that’s what I’m here for.’ She said, unapologetically, that the job of internal functions like procurement was to ‘keep all internal stakeholders happy’ and that she expected his team to ‘do whatever was required’ to do just that. 

‘That was the problem with the last CPO,’ she told Ken, ominously. ‘She was always on a different wavelength, always chasing her own version of success. But while she did that, no one here was happy. Don’t repeat that same mistake.’ 

Why is the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy so appealing? 

The ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy, or the idea a procurement function exists to simply do whatever is required by stakeholders within the business, is frighteningly common. This is because the basic premise of this strategy – the idea that internal functions are created to serve the wider corporation – is in fact correct. Many CEOs believe that the business units that create products or support customers should be supported by internal functions. While this is true, it can also be deeply frustrating for functions that need – and deserve – to create their own strategy. 

But the problem with the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy runs much deeper than just frustration. 

What’s the problem with the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy? 

The ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy works in theory only; as many CPOs will have now no doubt learnt. By granting ‘wishes’ – so to speak – to a multitude of different commanders, without any regard for what to prioritise or how to allocate resources, staff quickly become overworked, resources get spread too thin, and stakeholders are often underwhelmed. All decisions become reactive and nothing is done well, meaning that the all-important procurement influence is lost, with little room to show value added. Business units start ‘insourcing’ – either doing part of procurement’s job themselves, or looking for cheaper, external resources to do it for them. 

Overworked staff, insourcing and little value perceived to be added leads the C-suite to fundamentally question whether procurement is ‘worth it,’ meaning ever-more pressure on cost savings, and eventually, redundancies. 

The ‘My Wish is Your Command’ strategy is something that Dave Pastore, Senior Director, Sourcing Operations at Corcentric, has seen too many times – but, in his opinion, it never works: 

‘Any strategy that reduces the procurement function to a shared service without providing it with the ability to challenge the organisation is a squandered opportunity at best, and a self-inflicted wound at worst.’

On the surface, the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy seems to make sense. But dig deeper, and it’s a deeply fraught concept that deprives procurement as a function of fundamentally doing what they need to do – adding value. 

Bad strategy #2 – ‘Market Leader’ Strategy

It’s clear that the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy is no way forward. So is the opposite strategy, one whereby procurement makes clear choices that set the company apart vis-a-vis other procurement functions externally, the better choice then? 

Not quite… 

What is the ‘Market Leader’ strategy? 

As a new CPO in one of the world’s fastest growing tech companies, Karen thought she’d secured her dream role. And in her first few months on the job, that seemed to be the truth. 

As someone who was quite entrepreneurial and strategic herself, Karen knew that to become a ‘market leader’ in procurement, the company needed to invest heavily in tech. The CEO, himself a young entrepreneur, gave Karen the green light to do whatever she needed. ‘Just make sure we’re the best,’ he said, while signing off on a budget that made Karen’s eyes water. 

But as time passed by, problems materialised for Karen. It turned out that being ‘the best’ wasn’t as easy as emulating best practice in the marketplace, for a number of reasons. 

Why is the ‘Market Leader’ strategy so appealing? 

For ambitious CPOs, the chance to implement the ‘Market Leader’ strategy can feel like a career-defining moment. Firstly, it treats procurement with the respect it deserves, and places it equally with the rest of the business in terms of power and importance. Secondly, it just seems like the right thing to do. If you’re trying to be ‘the best,’ why not look for an example of that and then try and do the same? 

Creating a ‘market leading’ procurement function may well look good on your CV. It may be the case study that nets you media coverage; that amplifies your personal brand and that makes you an authority in the space. But at the same time, there’s every chance it will fail within your organisation. 

Why? 

What is the problem with the ‘Market Leader’ strategy? 

The ‘Market Leader’ strategy seems perfect until you consider one thing: context. And given that procurement is not separate to an organisation, but an integral part of it, context is hugely important. 

Take the example of Karen detailed above. What evidence did she have, beyond the fact that she was working for a tech company, that investing heavily in tech was what was needed for her function? Precisely none. Many procurement leaders have chased ‘best practice’ before, only to discover that what might be best in the marketplace may not suit their organisation for a number of reasons. 

Jennifer Ulrich, Senior Directory, Advisory, at Corcentric, believes that the idea that you have to be a ‘market leader’ in all aspects of procurement is misguided: 

‘You don’t have to be a market leader on every aspect of procurement in order to generate a competitive advantage to the organisation. 

‘Doing what is right for the business will put you in a winning position more often.’

While market-leading strategies look externally focused, they actually function more like internal monopolies, where procurement serves themselves, rather than the needs of the business leaders around them. As a result, the function falls victim to the typical problems experienced by monopolies, including arrogance and overresoucring. Managers within the business complain that resources are being used for ‘show’ as opposed to invested in things that would actually give the company a competitive advantage. 

As a result, backlash ensues. The ‘value’ added by procurement is again called into question, and the function is seen as the exact thing it is trying to rebel against: burdensome cost. 

So how should you set a procurement strategy? 

If a ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy doesn’t work, and neither does a ‘Market Leader’ strategy, then how should procurement create a meaningful, long-term and effective strategy? 

Diego De la Garza, Senior Director, Global Services, at Corcentric, recommends you begin by doing the following: 

‘Start with defining what success should look like for procurement in your organisation, finding those answers early is a relatively easy way to build a strategy that will drive healthy support across the organisation.’ 

Want more detail? Discover exactly what to do in our next article: How to Set a Procurement Strategy Part 2: What to do. Join Procurious now to be notified immediately when it’s published.

How To Navigate Office Politics (Without Selling Your Soul To The Devil)

How do you play office politics to your advantage? Here’s four skills you’ll need to do so. 


Let’s face it, no one, bar perhaps a few actual psychopaths, goes to work because they love the politics of it. In fact, toxic office politics is often cited as one of the key reasons people quit, and is also associated with low levels of engagement and productivity, and on the more serious side, mental health issues and stress complaints. Does this mean that politics should be avoided altogether? 

Absolutely not. 

Whether you like it or not, office politics are unavoidable. Even worse, if you do choose to try and avoid them, there’s a lot at stake. In most offices, politics are akin to the workplace’s unwritten rules, and they have the power to dictate how people should act, who gets promoted, and ultimately who enjoys career success and who doesn’t. Many successful people will tell you that politics can be even more important than merit – so it’s important to understand how to play them to your advantage. 

Yet for many of us, politics and ‘playing the game’ feels like a dirty concept. Is there a way that we can advance our own interests without making our colleagues collateral damage? In other words, is there a way to play the game without selling our soul? 

Knowing the difference between good and bad politics 

Although many people inherently think of office politics as a bad thing, political scientist and cultural researcher Harold Laswell doesn’t believe they have to be. In fact, Laswell encourages all people to think about politics as simply ‘the way things are done around here’ in any particular environment, and as such, know the difference between what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ politics might entail. 

In any organisation, and in any role, a degree of self-promotion in order to advance interests is needed. Good politics, then, is where you do so, but not at the expense of others or your organisation’s legitimate interests. For example, good politics may involve strategically making connections with important stakeholders or deliberating making an effort to better engage C-suite executives. Good politics, otherwise known as being savvy, well-networked, influential, an intelligent communicator and even a little charismatic, serve a higher purpose in that they help you get ahead – but don’t sacrifice others in the meantime. 

Bad politics are the opposite of this, though, and something we’ve all been a victim of. Bad politics are when you backstab, create rumours, or do something that you’d otherwise consider sneaky and immoral in order to advance your position. In other words, you advance yourself by sacrificing someone else. Bad politics feels bad because it is – and no amount of telling yourself that it’s “worth it” or they “deserved it” should help you feel better. Unfortunately, bad politics can help you get ahead, but the success that ensues is often short-lived. 

In reality, bad politics co-exists alongside good politics in most organisations. But in the best organisations, bad politics are stamped out and only good politics remain. And if you’re able to hone your good political skills, success can easily be yours. 

Honing your political skills 

The politics of the office are a far-cry from the politics of Downing Street or the White House. Yet are the skills required to play office politics that different? Not really. Here’s what culture researcher Gerald Ferris recommends are the essential skills make office politics work for you: 

  1. Social astuteness: Social astuteness is the next step beyond one of the most essential workplace traits: self-awareness. When you’re socially astute, you’re not just aware of yourself and your own strengths and weaknesses, but you’re also aware of how others perceive you and how your behaviour impacts them. For example, if you’re socially astute you’ll understand that Karen from HR doesn’t think too highly of procurement, and you’ll be proactively working to change that. 
  1. Interpersonal influence: We’ve talked extensively here at Procurious about why influence is important and we’re not going to stop anytime soon because it’s so true – your interpersonal influence is everything. Influence, defined as your ability to affect how and what others think, is essential in managing politics. But before you dive in to influencing your own agenda at work, it’s important to understand others and specifically, what their preferences and goals are. This way, you can personalise your approach to exact the greatest level of influence. 
  1. Exceptional networking: Networking skills are another of Procurious’s favourite topics for good reason – they are essential to success. As we’ve always maintained though, networking within an organisation needs to be a two-way street, and you need to ensure that you’re creating mutually beneficial relationships with people with whom you expect support from. 
  1. Sincerity: Politics has received such a bad rap before because people think it’s inherently dishonest. But to the contrary, good politics requires sincerity, honestly, and openness (or at least the appearance thereof, where complete transparency isn’t possible). If people around you perceive you as sincere, they’re more likely to trust and believe in you, which can help with advancing your cause. 

Politics may well be a dirty word, yet the outcome of playing good politics certainly is not. A plethora of research shows that having the above mentioned skills enhances not only job performance and satisfaction, but influence, salary, opportunities and advancement. So even if politics has never been your game, it’s time to participate to the best of your ability – your career success depends on it. 

What has been your experience with office politics? Do you typically see more bad politics than good politics? Let us know in the comments below.

Buying The Cheapest – The Biggest Myth About Procurement

Writing off Procurement as the department that finds things for the cheapest price is to write off a complex and important decision-making mechanism that expertly considers several vital factors over “buying cheapest”.


It is saddening how some organisations still think the only idea of Procurement is to buy the cheapest. This leads to numerous erroneous opinions about Procurement function and profession in general. Because of this myth, other departments within organisations try to avoid Procurement department while making strategic decisions. Consequently, in many instances those departments face numerous problems, such as poor service, substandard deliverable, late performance and even disappearing vendors.

It is important to instruct our colleagues and duly inform them about the role and significance of Procurement function in any organisation. It is important to bust Procurement myths.

First, in Procurement profession we do not even use the words “cheap”, “cheaper” or “cheapest”. These are banned words. Because the word “cheap” reflects many attributes, including quality. We say “lower in price” or “lowest-priced” or “less expensive” or “least expensive”.

Second, we never look at the price of goods, works or services, if we are not satisfied with the quality. Even if the price is $0.00. We are simply not interested in seeing the price of a bad quality product.

Third, we do not consider price if delivery schedule and delivery conditions are not what we requested. I.e. if medicines or other vital products are going to be delivered long after they are needed – why do we bother about the price at all?

Forth, most often we give zero attention to price if the company offering products or services is not qualified and reliable. Some exceptions might apply for new technologies, know-hows and monopolies.

Fifth, we do not consider price if a bidder disagrees with terms of the contract we envisage.

Only after all these criteria are met, Procurement starts reviewing, comparing prices.

So, in practice, we might review the prices of only 4 offers out of 20 offers received. The remaining 16 would be filtered out because of the criteria above that come before price.

But, there is “one more thing” (© Steve Jobs). Even comparing the prices at this stage does not mean the contract will be awarded to the lowest-priced offer. Buying organisation might have several other preferences, for example awarding the contract to a greener or more sustainable enterprise, or giving a preference to an SMEs, or local business, or businesses run by women, etc.

In other words, price is just one of those numerous factors Procurement considers.

Additionally, it is vital to acknowledge that while sourcing best value for the organization, Procurement wears two hats:

The first hat is for dealing with the final recipient of the product or service. Procurement needs to listen carefully and understand all the details and peculiarities of the final deliverable. The price of a mistake here is too high. Any concerns or alternative solutions should be properly discussed before going to market.

The second hat is for dealing with vendors. Here procurement needs to obtain the maximum value for the organisation, while keeping the vendors interested and motivated.

Negotiating in two fronts is difficult, but no one said Procurement is easy. Procurement is a complex and important decision-making mechanism that evaluates risks and offers solutions to guarantee the best value for money. It is certainly more than just buying the cheapest.

This article is based on series of lectures by Levon Hovsepyan organised in 2008-2014

This article was originally published on June 9th, 2020. Source: Procurement.org and has been republished here with permission.

Do You Agree? 4 Supply Chain Influencers On What’s Changed Since COVID-19

In supply chain and procurement, what has changed since COVID-19? Find out what 4 influencers think here.


In every industry, there’s a few powerful individuals who drive the conversation. These fortunate few are the ones that propel industries forward; they are the ones who decide what’s trending, what’s next and what our future might look like. They’re influencers, and within the procurement professional, we’re blessed with many whom we all aspire to. 

And this year, with COVID ravaging our supply chains (and not to mention lives) as we know them, we’ve needed industry leaders and influencers more than ever to help guide us through and tell us what’s next. So that’s why, recently, we sought out the opinions of 30 of procurement’s top influencers. They shared some of their most profound and intriguing insights into what the COVID experience has been like for them, what they’ve learnt and what they expect to see in the future. 

Here’s what they told us: 

Inspiring supply chain stories 

There’s no doubt that the past few months have been challenging for procurement professionals worldwide, with many stories of interrupted supply chains, logistics issues and much more. Yet in among the mayhem has been some truly inspiring stories. Here at Procurious, almost daily, we heard of businesses, teams and people that were going above and beyond to help. 

This was something that our influencers noticed, too. One thing that caught the attention of Supply Chain Queen Sheri R. Hinish is the incredible generosity of suppliers. She explains: 

‘I was particularly impressed by Under Armour’s (clothing brand) sister company, Sagamore Spirits. They provided thousands of units of hand sanitizer for local businesses, communities, and residents.’ 

Indeed, there were hundreds of suppliers who, seemingly overnight, transformed their production from items such as high fashion to scrubs. But for Kelly Barner, Managing Director of Buyer’s Meeting Point, the inspiration came not from suppliers, but from the extraordinary efforts of procurement professionals who previously may not have been noticed: 

‘Businesses everywhere are sorting out tough problems. But behind those problems are armies of unlikely characters self-organising to make things happen.’ 

‘Business leaders should pay attention and notice who runs toward the fire. It might not be who they expected.’ 

Learning from COVID-19 

One quick Google search will reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of articles dedicated to what the supply chain profession should learn from the coronavirus pandemic. There’s been discussions of everything from the need to move manufacturing from China to Mexico, to better managing cash, dialling down just-in-time operations and everything in between. 

Dr. Marcell Vollmer, Chief Innovation Officer at Celonis, a process mining software company, believes that the pandemic has been a reminder of what we all already knew, but may yet to have embraced: 

‘The number one lesson I think we all need to learn from COVID is to prepare and leverage technology to get full transparency and control over your end to end processes.’ 

‘We all need to be using technology to prepare ourselves for unforeseeable events as much as possible.’ 

Marcell’s learning here is sound – for years, we’ve all known that Industry 4.0 is coming, yet COVID may have accelerated its onset. 

For another influencer, Diego De la Garza, Senior Director of Global Services at Corcentric, the COVID learnings were about the way we worked. Specifically, Diego thinks that the pandemic has made us more productive: 

‘Working from home, it has impacted productivity, for the better. My team has been able to dedicate more time to critical tasks, while at the same time balancing work with family.’ 

‘Still, it’s remained ultimately very possible for everyone to collaborate and perform efficiently.’ 

Aspirations for procurement post-COVID 

For seemingly as long as the procurement profession has existed, many of us have wanted more and better. We’ve wanted to be strategic, to have a voice and influence, and to finally add the value we know we’re capable of delivering. 

Will the pandemic represent the ultimate opportunity for us to do so? 

Sheri R. Hinish, Supply Chain Queen, thinks the answer is a big, fat resounding yes: 

‘Supply chain has never had as big a seat as the table as they do right now.’ 

‘My hope is that we embrace a paradigm shift from “lowest price” to shared value and responsibility. Everyone now sees that supply chains are the conduit that power the world.’ 

The performance of procurement throughout the crisis 

It may be true that we’ve never had as big a seat at the table as we do now. But how have we actually been using that seat. Kelly Barner, Managing Director of Buyer’s Meeting Point and one of the world’s most influential supply chain professionals, believes that procurement has done a great job: 

‘Procurement professionals have done an exceptional job of keeping the lights on, despite periods of great uncertainty and concern.’ 

‘Whether we were locating replacement suppliers with little to no notice, or identifying new suppliers so our operation could switch from clothing to PPE, we have been getting the job done.’ 

Do you think procurement has done a great job throughout the pandemic? Do you think a lot will change after the pandemic is over? Let us know in the comments below.

For more game-changing insights and inspiring stories from key players themselves, check out our COVID-19 Gamechangers whitepaper.

Want To Succeed As A Global CPO? Don’t Be A Procurement Butterfly!

This is no time for procurement professionals, let alone global CPOs, to float above the action or flit from minor issue to minor issue. It’s time to keep learning and get involved. 


Ian Holcroft’s careercurrently Procurement Director at Murphy, has given him a unique perspective on the situation currently facing procurement. Here, he offers some personal and professional tips on what we can learn from the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

You are never too old to learn something new. Even in the best of times, there is no excuse you can make to ever stop learning. The minute you think you have learned everything is the minute you are no longer relevant. 

My career in procurement has spanned 30 years and taken me all over the world. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked on some fantastic projects:  

  • the new EDF nuclear power station at Hinkley;  
  • the redevelopment of Liverpool City Centre, now known as Liverpool ONE; and 
  • the building of the Commonwealth Games Stadium in Manchester and its subsequent re-modelling to become the Etihad Stadium, the home of Manchester City Football Club, to name but a few. 

I’ve set up new manufacturing facilities and supply chains in India, experienced life on the other side as an interim HR Director for 9 months and set up Laing O’Rourke’s procurement and supply chain function in Australia. I met some extremely wonderful and inspirational people on the way, many of whom will be friends for life. 

The capacity to learn is a gift 

My four years in Australia were wonderful and it was there that I was lucky enough to meet Tania Seary, founder of Procurious. I also became a member of The Faculty’s CPO Roundtable, something that I have continued with, via Procurious, in the UK.  

The Roundtable has proven itself time again to be an incredibly valuable resource to Global CPOs, facilitating discussion, sharing experiences and, most importantly, learning from one another. This learning has been valuable over the past two and a half years in my current role as Procurement Director of Murphy.  

Murphy is a leading family owned infrastructure business that operates in the power, rail, construction and utility sectors in the UK, Ireland and Canada. Due to the nature of the work we undertake, most of our projects in the UK have still been operational during the pandemic. It would be remiss of me not to share some of my own learning from the challenges forced upon us by COVID-19. 

To be honest, the current situation has reinforced many of my beliefs about our profession: 

1. You must treat your suppliers as partners  

One thing I have always believed and shared with my fellow CPOs is that developing close relationships with your supply chain is crucial to your overall success. Those relationships, the key, strategic ones, need to have a solid foundation of trust and then be built around the concept of ‘tough love’.  

As with any relationship, there will be plenty times where you must have the ‘difficult’ conversations with your suppliers. However, it’s always better to have these conversations with a supplier you have a long relationship with, know inside and out and have worked well with in the past. It’s also infinitely better than a ‘slash and burn’ strategy (adopt, use, discard), or a master-slave relationship, as at some point, inevitably, you will need your supply chain more than they need you. 

Supply partners will help keep you going in the toughest of times, frequently going above and beyond their duty to keep projects going. They appreciate the openness, the loyalty and even the tough love to build up a trusting relationship over the years.  

2. You, both as a function and an individual, must be relevant 

In the current global crisis, procurement has an amazing opportunity to show how relevant and crucial it is to the success and survival of all organisations. Global leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have publicly stated how the German Government is utilising procurement as a strategic weapon to fight COVID-19.  

I’ve told my fellow global CPOs that if we can’t make our function relevant now, we never will. How do you stay relevant? Stay close to your stakeholders and help them deliver their targets. You can’t prove relevance from the stands – you need to be on the pitch. Ask yourself, “How close am I to the real action that makes a tangible difference to my business?” 

I am currently embroiled in it, very much by choice! If you’re not, then maybe it’s time to move on and let the next player on the pitch. Unfortunately, there are still far too many ‘procurement butterflies’ floating around, getting involved with this and that, without delivering anything of substance or relevance. It’s time for leaders to stop flitting about and really get involved. 

3. Build a great team – then trust them to deliver 

I have been incredibly fortunate to develop and work with some great teams throughout my career. My current team at Murphy is no different. We have some great, young talent coming through, we have been awarded the CIPS Excellence Standard – it has been a pleasure to lead it. 

But your team will never truly achieve greatness, unless you trust them to deliver. With all the virtual tools and means of communication we have available to us now, even a global pandemic is no excuse for not staying in touch. Just look at Procurious gathering its global CPO leaders virtually to exchange ideas and still achieving the depth of information and experience as it would have face-to-face. 

The procurement team of the future won’t need to travel as much as we used to and working from home will become the new normal. But only as long as everyone in the team has clear outcomes to achieve and a leader who is willing to let them get on with it (though on hand for advice and encouragement as appropriate).  

Plus, there’s still the chance to get together (virtually) for the team building exercises too! 

4. It’s still all about people – so make sure you look after yours 

No matter the technological advancements we have now and into the future, people will still be at the centre of everything we do. In strange and challenging times, it’s even more important to look after your people – understand what drives them, what challenges they have outside work, the status of their mental health, especially if (as it has been for many), they have been furloughed. 

Though physically further apart, there is an opportunity for us to be closer to our people than ever before. We still need to ensure that our people can develop through training. eLearning resources, such as the ones offered by Procurious and CIPS, are great for this. Encourage your team to utilise these and provide them with enough time to complete them. 

And, of course, don’t forget about yourself. As I have said, look after yourself and make sure you’re still learning. Never stop learning, setting yourself new challenges and winning that fight to stay relevant.  

Coming out stronger 

We are facing challenging and frequently troubling times. But I strongly believe that procurement and supply chain will come out the other side of this stronger and in a more influential position. We must seize this opportunity, use all of the resources at our disposal and lead our teams on the next steps in this journey. 

Don’t forget though, you are never alone. No matter your level, from the newest new start in procurement, right up to the most senior of global CPOs, there is always a chance to share. Use resources like the CPO Roundtable to bounce ideas off your peers, pick their brains and see where they have succeeded. And, just in case I haven’t mentioned it often enough – never stop learning! 

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

Out Of Africa – Procurement News

On the cusp of a groundbreaking Procurement event, in the wake of catastrophic pre-COVID events, and despite grim economic outlooks and stifled Supply Chains, Africa is proving itself to be an innovative, resilient force in World Procurement


It’s an exciting time for Procurement in Africa! Two leading influencers in the African Supply Chain and Procurement profession have created AFRICA SUPPLY CHAIN IN ACTION: the largest ever online learning, knowledge sharing and networking event for the profession focusing on Africa. SAPICS, The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management, has joined forces with Smart Procurement, Africa’s leading supply chain and procurement information service, to present this ground-breaking event on August 19 and 20 2020.

More than 1000 delegates are expected to attend: a significant proportion will no doubt be the thousands of Africa-based Procurious members! Join SAPICS and Smart Procurement along with Procurious’ greatest minds and register here.

AFRICA SUPPLY CHAIN IN ACTION will help African Supply Chain professionals position themselves and their businesses to adapt and thrive, now and beyond COVID-19. Their exciting packed programme will examine what Africa has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and how individuals and organisations must work together to change the dialogue, strategies, and operating models in response to the new tomorrow.

This happens just as Africa is currently pioneering very positive developments in Procurement Technology. Africa’s pains during the COVID-19 pandemic have been well-documented: the lockdown of key countries’ exports, closure of borders and factories, and poor healthcare facilities. However, despite the doom and gloom, there is a general level of optimism and enthusiasm for innovation by people across the continent. Entrepreneurs in Nigeria, South Africa and East African countries are developing digital applications to solve our 2020 supply chain problems. 

While fruit, vegetable, meat and seafood exports into Europe have taken a temporary hit, agritech solutions, such as remote sensing of crops and data- mining and analysis using e-platforms, are successfully being adopted by commercial farmers as part of their digital future. Nigeria is leading the way in applying technology to improving regional logistics: the transportation start-up Kobo360 is now in most countries in West Africa.  Kenya and Uganda lead the way in affordable mobile services to support small business. The South African government is using WhatsApp to run an interactive chatbot which answers all types of queries about COVID-19, including business-related issues.   

While Africa as a whole has recorded relatively few deaths from the disease, the numbers are rising and African countries are struggling to contain the spread. McKinsey has proposed different scenarios for Africa’s economic growth in the wake of the pandemic, the most likely being an annual growth rate as low as -3.9 per cent. This is based on the most realistic scenario: a lack of containment both globally and in Africa. The health of Africa’s Supply Chain and economy rests significantly on whether or not the spread of COVID-19 can be contained so trade can resume.

Africa’s trade with China

China’s exports to Africa over the last two decades have remained steady with South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt its three largest trading partners. Africa’s exports to China have been increasing, but are heavily dependent on commodity prices; the main products exported are raw materials including copper, iron ore and oil coming from Angola, South Africa and the Republic of Congo. While the data is not 100% reliable due to China’s reporting process, it is accurate enough for us to see the trend before this current crisis.

Figure 1


Foreign direct investment and agricultural investment in Africa by China has also been increasing over the same period but the trend was already slowing before the current crisis. There are still some high-value engineering and construction projects happening, especially in North and East Africa.

That was then …. this is now

Most of Africa is closed for business right now. Seaports are mostly closed, air cargo and other transport routes are limited and business lockdowns are in effect, halting exports. In China, Mass production shutdowns and supply chain disruptions due to the current crisis are causing problems. For example, 85% of South Africa’s mobile phone imports are from China, their largest import category by value. Not only does this impact the end consumer, it also affects the wider telecommunications industry and many service sectors.

The Chinese economy is not likely to bounce back from this pandemic as quickly as in previous similar episodes (Bird flu 1997, SARS 2002-2003, Swine flu 2009). Despite this, China will probably continue to be one of Africa’s biggest trading partners after the worst of this crisis has passed.  

Africa’s global trade  

Global law firm Baker Mackenzie notes that “over three-quarters of African exports to the rest of the world are heavily focused on natural resources and any reduction in demand impacts the economies of most of the continent”.  They identified such countries as the DRC, Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana as being significantly exposed to risk in terms of industrial commodity exports, such as oil, iron ore and copper.  They expect that once COVID-19 is brought under control it could lead to an increase in the demand for raw materials from Africa, especially from China.

 Figure 2 – Africa’s commodity exports to the world

 

Source:  Chatham House 2020


Africa’s Exports to Europe

Africa’s exports to the European Union stood at around US$133 billion in 2016. Most African countries have duty-free access to the EU market.  Raw materials normally account for 49% of the value of Africa’s exports to Europe. It is expected that this will return to near normal when mining activities resume at full capacity.  It is not that clear whether manufactured goods such as textiles and machinery will get back to current levels of 35% of exports. Food products and beverages make up the other 16%. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is the strongest and the most engaged when it comes to trade with the EU, supplying fuels and precious metals and other mining products, as well as machinery and transport equipment. The main destinations are Germany, Netherlands, Italy and the UK.  West Africa is also a leading exporter to Europe.  Animal products, vegetables, tobacco, and textiles are mainly imported from Benin, Senegal, Ghana and Guinea. Other countries, like Niger and Sierra Leone export commodities such as diamonds, uranium, and precious metals primarily to France, Italy, and the Netherlands.

What is next for Africa?

Normal business operations, as we know them, will be irrevocably changed as a result of this current pandemic. Many companies were not prepared for the level of disruption this unforeseen crisis would bring. We may not ever return to “normal” practices or to the marketplace as it was. What is clear is that companies that gave scant regard to managing their supply chain risks have received a wake-up call!  Companies are advised to consider a range of different possible scenarios and develop plans to deal with each eventuality.

How did your Procurement Team handle the crisis so far? 

As activities start to normalise, we need to reflect on how well we have been able to navigate the previous 3–6 months. A study of the success, or otherwise, of procurement events will highlight areas of improvement. 

  • How well did we execute emergency sourcing events?
  • Did we make the best use of our available technologies?
  • Did we act at the right time and in the right way with our suppliers? 
  • How could we have managed our sourcing processes better?

AFRICA SUPPLY CHAIN IN ACTION aims to answer all of these, 19-20 August 2020. Read up on the latest Procurement news and game-changing ideas on Procurious before registering here.

The path forward for Africa will no doubt be challenging, but it’s up to us to pave it – and together, we can.


Now Is The Time To Learn Industry 4.0 Technologies

Soon, Industry 4.0 technologies will be part of EVERY supply chain…


You already know technology is changing the way supply chains are managed.

What you might not realise is just how soon Industry 4.0 technologies will be part of every supply chain.

Companies want better transparency, greater quality checks, and increased efficiency. That’s why so many are turning facilities into “smart factories”.

In fact, 68% of manufacturers have ongoing smart factory initiatives, according to Capgemini research.

One example is Bosch, which responded to the recent global health crisis by making face masks on a fully automated production line.

Who is using Industry 4.0?

Having your equipment connected to Industry 4.0 technology lets companies like Bosch react quickly to world and industry events.

That’s just one benefit. But how widespread is it?

95% of companies are using at least one Industry 4.0 technology, according to research from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.

It’s no longer futuristic. It’s here.

But what exactly is Industry 4.0 technology in the supply chain? And how can you get your team up to speed?

What application is there for Industry 4.0 tech in supply chain?

Put simply, the fourth industrial revolution (or Industry 4.0) is a drastic change in the way things are made and distributed.

Such rapid tech advancements are triggering a digital overhaul of the supply chain. Some of these technologies include:

·  Blockchain

·  Artificial Intelligence (AI)

·  Internet of Things (IoT)

·  5G

Here’s a bit more about those technologies, and how they relate to the supply chain.

Blockchain

What it is: Blockchain is a network where people can store digital records in a shared, unchangeable way. There is one version of the truth, which helps build trust between different parties in the supply chain.

How it’s used in the supply chain: Retailer Carrefour uses blockchain technology so customers can see exactly where products come from.

Carrefour’s produce and meat suppliers record a product’s journey from farm to store shelf using IBM’s enterprise blockchain network – IBM Food Trust. That way, a customer simply scans the product QR code with their smartphone, and they can instantly learn the product’s provenance.

Not only does it give Carrefour greater visibility, it even increases sales.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

What it is: Artificial intelligence is technology that lets computers “learn” and make decisions by analysing data.

For example, Spotify analyses your music choices, compares it to other users, and combines that data to make artist suggestions based on people with similar taste.

How it’s used in supply chain: Lenovo uses AI to proactively predict and mitigate supply chain disruptions. It uses the IBM Sterling Supply Chain analytics, using the famous IBM Watson system.

It’s helped Lenovo find previously hidden cost savings, all the while improving productivity.

Internet of Things (IoT)

What it is: In a nutshell, Internet of Things connects physical devices to the internet. Some examples are smart watches and self-driving cars.

How it’s used in supply chain: L’Oréal wanted to introduce more flexibility into its production line so it could respond faster to customer demands. Their customers expect more customisation options.

So it partnered with IBM to create a smarter factory – using a combination of sensors and cameras connected to production that let them pivot in real time.

That connectivity allows them to operate a large organisation as flexibly as a start-up. Just how flexible is it?

“We can produce the base and then choose the colour for a lipstick right at the very last moment,” as Operations Chief Digital Officer Stéphane Lannuzel puts it.

5G

What it is: 5G (or fifth generation) wireless technology will make it faster and easier to connect on mobile phones. You’ll be able to download videos at lightning speed, and say goodbye to awkward lags when videoconferencing. It has bigger capacity than the current 4G, meaning you can connect a lot more sensors and smart devices at once.

How it’s used in supply chain: Samsung produces IoT sensors that monitor warehouse safety conditions. That data is processed with IBM analytics, alerting supervisors when equipment might need repairing or when conditions become unsafe. Since 5G is superfast and there’s no lag, supervisors can act straight away.

5G matters the most when every second counts.

How can you learn Industry 4.0 technology?

All of this shiny new tech is exciting. But it won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to use it.

McKinsey declared 2020 the “year of re-skilling”, due to the acceleration of Industry 4.0 technology.

The firm predicts that in the US, around one-third of production roles could change profoundly over the next decade. That means the way you interact with all stages of supply chain management will change as well.

So it’s essential to get up to speed, and help your team prepare too.

So what’s the best way to do that?

First, a skills analysis

Once you have a plan for new technology adoption, look at the skills you need to make it happen.

For example, Deloitte research into AI skills gaps found the top four in-demand AI skills are:

·  AI researchers

·  Software developers

·  Data scientists

·  Project managers

Your team may not necessarily develop AI technology, but they will certainly need to know how to use it. Once you know what skills you need, you can compile that into a skills roadmap.

Next, match skills

Do an analysis of the skills your team already possesses, then match them to the skills on your roadmap.

Hopefully there will be some overlap, but you can expect you will need to up-skill or re-skill your team – especially if your company doesn’t use much Industry 4.0 technology yet.

Then comes training

Good training is a significant investment of time and money. In fact, more than a third (34%) of organisations say training costs are a barrier to digital supply chain management.

But the cost of training is far less than the cost of your company being left behind because it didn’t adopt new technologies fast enough.

The right training looks different for every company. You might choose in-house, external, or even a mix.

One popular option is the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Academy. It acts as a complement to other training you offer, giving your team access to skills aligned to market demand.

Your team can learn the needed skills to:

  • Build smarter supply chains
  • Deliver on customer needs through smarter fulfillment
  • Reduce the cost, complexity and risk of supplier onboarding and management

Why any of this matters

Ultimately, getting up to speed on Industry 4.0 technologies is about more than transparency or agility.

Global supply chain disruption has accelerated the need to make changes towards the way people make and buy goods.

That means supply chain professionals have the opportunity (and responsibility) to use their purchasing power for good, according Professor Olinga Ta’eed, Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise & Government.

When you couple large amounts of money with positive ideology and advanced technology, Professor Ta’eed says it’s the “biggest instrument to change the world.”

“Let’s use that money to nudge society into better ways [and] behaviour,” he says.

Supply chain strategist Sheri Hinish agrees.

“Supply chain is really tied to a concept of shared responsibility,” she said in an interview for SAP Ariba Live.

“Doing well, doing good, making fiscal sense of this value creation across stakeholders. There’s no other domain positioned to really deliver that long-term value other than supply chain because we are truly end-to-end.”

“Supply chains have the ability to save lives,” she adds. “We are literally seeing this unfold before our eyes.”

For more Industry 4.0 talk, join the conversation in our Supply Chain Pros group

Here Are 5 Of The Most Life-Changing Career Tips Of 2020

2020 has been a year like no other. Which of course means we need an update in our go-to career tips…


Unfortunately, careers often look better with hindsight. If only I hadn’t taken that role, we often think, or perhaps, I could be better off if only I’d learnt to better negotiate my salary. 

Fortunately for you though, those types of concerns or regrets might not be something you have to worry about after you read this article. We all need some good news right now, so to bring you five of the most life-changing career tips of 2020, we chatted to one of the most-experienced supply chains recruiters in the world, Tim Moore. As the President and Owner of Tim Moore and Associates, has single-handedly placed thousands of high-ranking supply chain executives into roles all over North America for the best part of almost three decades. 

He sat down with us to share ‘something money simply can’t buy’- hindsight. 

Tip 1: Stand out – you may soon have some competition

When it comes to global supply chains, it’s fair to say that the coronavirus pandemic has changed absolutely everything. From food to medical supplies, the crisis has caused all of us to consider just about every element of what we do, from how we manage suppliers to what technology we use and why. 

It has also brought significant awareness to the importance of a resilient, secure and reliable supply chain. This, in turn, says Tim Moore, has led to an increased interest in completing your supply chain qualifications: 

‘Thanks to COVID-19 and the awareness of Supply Chains there will be a long overdue “spike” in the number of new students enrolling in supply chain courses.’ 

‘Fortunately, I think there are now many degree programs ready to cater to this boom and help rectify today’s shortages of supply chain talent.’ 

Is an increased interest in a supply chain as a career going to pose a threat to today’s seasoned supply chain professionals? Not really, says Tim, but if you are at a more junior level, standing out when applying for jobs will become more important than ever. 

Fortunately though, more qualified junior talent in supply chain will be of great support to teams this year who have a lot to grapple with throughout the pandemic and beyond. 

Tip 2: Your profession has skyrocketed in importance and awareness – make the most of it  

Prior to writing this, we Googled whether there was such a thing as the ‘Year of the Supply Chain’ (sort of like the Chinese Zodiac “Years Of”). Sadly, there wasn’t. 

But if there was, undoubtedly it would be 2020. 

At no time in history has supply chain management been as crucial and all-defining as it has been this year. Suddenly, procurement and supply chain has gone from an overlooked ‘function’ to the crucial heart of the organisation. If ever you wanted to be strategic, get noticed and truly ‘take a seat at the executive table,’ now is the time to do so, says Tim.  But you have to be strategic and proactive.

He truly believes that this year will be career-defining for many supply chain professionals who step up and take the initiative: 

‘There has never been a time since the second world war, when the supply chain profession, and the techniques they bring, have been so important and visible to the senior executive within the firms that employ them.’ 

‘Every supply professional has learned lessons about the vulnerability of their particular supply chain(s) – and should be proactive taking steps to reduce the risk of disruption in the future.’ 

‘You can’t afford to wait and gamble that it won’t happen again…it will.’

Tip 3: Salary surveys may give good insights – but be careful how you use them

With the supply chain profession being elevated in importance, and businesses (hopefully) edging towards recovery as the year continues, opportunities may increase for people in the hunt for a better salary. But Tim cautions everyone to be very careful when it comes to the old ‘grass is greener’ salary argument. 

Tim has seen many supply chain professionals become disgruntled because they believe they are being underpaid. Yet the places they get their information may not be what they seem: 

‘I’ve heard some people say that “money talks” and they’ll crack open an industry salary survey to try and determine whether they’re ahead or behind others in terms of the salary curve.’ 

‘The thing is, those surveys can be almost impossible to fully interpret, and are often misleading to the casual reviewer.’ 

Especially this year, Tim says, salary survey results may not be able to tell you much as many companies are freezing pay levels and asking employees to take pay cuts. The ‘greener grass’ may in fact not be green at all when it comes to pay. 

Yet should you still use these salary surveys as leverage in your own pay discussions? Tim says:  

‘In any salary discussion, it’s important to know what your range should be, based on firms of the same size, in the same industry and of the same profit level. But really, it’s hard to glean this information from a survey so likewise, hard to use this as leverage.’ 

‘Pay discussions should be based more on your achievements and your tenure with the firm, whether the firm has been profitable and frankly, whether or not there has been recent layoffs or downsizing.’ 

Tim cautions, though, that now might not be the right time to ask for a salary increase: 

‘In some cases, people should be happy to have a job, let alone be seen as gouging their employer for demands for a salary increase.’  

Tip 4: Consider the big picture – and put your negotiation skills to good use

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on economies, lives and jobs losses, and that means that inevitably, some supply chain professionals might find themselves without work  this year. This is a terrible outcome, of course, but when the market picks up Tim does genuinely believe there will be more opportunities than ever. 

But when and if we all decide to accept an offer of employment, Tim believes that we should consider the ‘big picture’ of what an employer is offering; as it will be more important than ever before: 

‘When considering a new opportunity, of course look at the salary range, and compare this to your competitors and your industry at large.’ 

‘But remember, as your supply chain training  has taught you – salary, like price, is only one element to consider. Think long and hard about other benefits, for example: educational reimbursement, membership in your local supply chain association, bonuses if any, (and how frequently they’re paid), stock options, and healthcare and dental coverage.’ 

‘Post-COVID, increased benefits may be  easier to achieve than a dramatic salary increase..’ 

When it comes to negotiating your package, however, Tim believes that supply chain professionals need to remember their training: 

‘I’ve always maintained that you never get paid what you’re worth, but you ALWAYS get paid on how you negotiate and how well you have interviewed.’ 

‘It’s surprising that so many supply chain professionals go blank and completely forget their negotiation training when presented with a job offer.  After you feel confident that you’ve checked all of the boxes and know you’re the right fit, just like with negotiating with vendors, you can always ask for:  1. Time to consider it further,  2. For the offer to be put in writing, and for those adventurous  3. “Is that the best you can do?”’

With the final request, Tim says, if you execute it politely and professionally, you may be able to leverage up your offer. 

Tip 5: Ask the hard questions

With unemployment approaching an all time high, many of us may be forced into a ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ type situation, where we simply take the first job we can get. But nonetheless, Tim says, you should research the company you plan to join, because if you do end up having to leave after a short amount of time, it may not look great on your resume. 

In order to research the company you plan to join, Tim recommends the following: 

‘Find out about everything. Look up the organisation’s products and services, read their financial reports, look at their social media accounts. Make sure you take detailed notes in all of your interviews, and don’t be afraid to ask why they’re interested in you and how you might fit exactly within the role in their eyes.’ 

‘But more than that, ask some harder questions. Ask WHY the position is available, and what happened to the previous individual in the role?  Enquire as to how long they were in that role?   You’d be amazed at what you can uncover!’ 

There’s very few professions that will be able to claim that 2020 was a great career year. But for many of us in supply chain and procurement, we might just be able to surprise ourselves. 

Will you negotiate harder for your salary increase or greater benefits this year? Or are you concerned about competition? Let us know in the comments below.

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

4 Reasons Social Media Is A Gamechanger For Supply Chain & Procurement

Thanks to the power of online collaboration, social media has played an essential role in helping supply chain and procurement professionals manage COVID-19.


Where would we be without social media? Imagine trying to navigate through this crisis without the support of your social networks. At Procurious, we have provided a safe space for our almost 40,000 (we’re at 39,964 as I write!) supply chain and procurement leaders all over the world.  We’ve played our small part in helping our members step up to the plate, curveball after curveball.

In honor of World Social Media Day, it’s only right that we tip our hats off to how far we’ve come as a community. We’ve helped our members find jobs, advance in their careers, make critical connections across the world and collaborate to tackle some truly complex and exciting challenges. We’re extremely proud.

Today, we’re reflecting on a few of the many reasons social media has become a professional powerhouse:

1. It can help anyone, anywhere in the world

Think of how big your network would be without the virtual groups, forums, discussions and networks you’re a part of today. The best part is the skies the limit —and communities like ours are growing every day.

But even beyond individualized benefits, influencers like Professor Karsten Machholz, from the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (or FHWS) in Germany, demonstrated the impact users can make when they use their platform for the greater good. Amidst the crisis, 65% of businesses were required to quickly source alternative suppliers for affected categories. And while procurement’s response was mostly impressive, some organisations are still struggling. Social media has allowed Karsten to play a huge role in recovery. “With the use of my procurement and supply chain networks like Procurious, I am trying to help companies find alternative suppliers in order to make their supply chains run again.”

Joanna Martinez, founder of Supply Chain Advisors LLC is another example of influencers leveraging social media to make an impact and help others. “Watching all the people being furloughed or laid off, I started ‘Pay it Forward Fridays’, where I use my connections and expertise to help people begin the journey back to employment. I’ve been a practice interviewer, a speaker to Zoom groups focused on the job search, have proofread resumes, made connections, and been a reference. I haven’t found a person yet that I haven’t been able to help in some way.”

2. The more we put in, the more we get out

Since coming together to prove our organisational value, we’ve made monumental strides in outshining old stereotypes and proving our organisational worth. Still, we’ve come too far to lose our seat at the executive table.

When asked about the pressures of today’s environment, Chief Heart Officer of SupplyChainQueen, Sheri Hinish, explained that COVID-19 has taught us a valuable lesson. “We are ONE planet – each of us interconnected in ways we may not be aware of or see. You can’t watch the news without hearing supply chain nowadays…. Literally, we are seeing that supply chains have the ability to save lives and power the world we share.”

This requires us to learn more and give more: to society and our professional networks. Social media makes this possible.

3. It boosts collaboration

Although much of the world is still at home, social media has brought our community closer than ever. “The pulse for information due to COVID has created a space for helping others better understand and prepare for external risks, visibility, social and environmental insights that are all tied to building resilient and transparent supply chains.” – Sheri Hinish, SupplyChainQueen.

It’s clear the support we’ve given each other is admirable. Beyond that, we’re progressively moving and adding value outside of our normal realm. For example, some procurement teams have contentious relationships with their suppliers.  But according to Sarah Scudder, President at Real Sourcing Network, the dynamic must change – and social media is helping pave the way.  “COVID-19 is forcing companies to save money and be more efficient… I want all procurement professionals to believe in collaboration and teamwork with suppliers instead of ‘us versus them’.”

There is no “I” in team. Effective collaboration requires communication and sharing. It can be especially uncomfortable if your organisation is doing something for the first time. But, who says you can’t borrow from another playbook? That’s what makes professional networks so unique. Chances are, someone out there has tackled a similar issue to whatever you are facing today… and they’re willing to share what they learned.

4. Online communication can be just as personal and productive

Our own Principal Advisor Helen Mackenzie proved connecting virtually doesn’t need to be any less intimate than meeting face-to-face. “I’ve been working hard to connect CPOs with each other. We’re having virtual coffee breaks where three or four of us come together just for a chat and to exchange information, insight and ideas. I like to think that being that community connector, which after all is what we’re about at Procurious, has helped the CPOs I’ve shared a virtual coffee with feel that they are part of a wider network that’s there to support each other.”

With major changes ahead, it’s critical we keep up the momentum. The most rookie mistake supply chain and procurement leaders can make is not being receptive to further change. As Dave Food, Strategy Director at Prophetic Technology expertly puts it: “The future is full of possibility, say no to the old ways and leverage the new potential. Early adopters are the powerhouse of tomorrow.” And social media is the enabler.

For more game-changing insights and inspiring stories from key players themselves, check out our COVID-19 Gamechangers whitepaper.

And if you haven’t officially joined Procurious yet, do yourself the favor and make today the day.


How Kelly Barner Became The World’s No 1 Procurement Influencer

Reaching influencer status on social media in any industry comes down to two things. Procurement and Supply Chain Influencer, Kelly Barner reveals what what they are and why it is important…


With world social media day only moments away, it’s time to reflect on how far the procurement profession has come in promoting itself to the broader business community and the world.

It was only six short years ago that we launched Procurious as the world’s first online network for procurement and supply chain….and since then we have seen a plethora of social media influencers emerge representing our profession.

But before any of us burst onto the scene, Kelly Barner was already here, promoting the work of our profession on Buyers Meeting Point, publishing books and writing original content to help upskill the profession while promoting key individuals, brands, publications and events within the industry.

Thinkers 360 and CPOStrategy Magazine recently recognised Kelly as the number one influencer on social media for procurement. So what has been her secret? How do you become the most influential person in a space where everyone is vying for attention? I reached out to Kelly to find out.

Kelly Barner: In my opinion, reaching influencer status on social media in any industry comes down to two things: 

1. Consistently working at it day in and day out. I’ve been sharing and engaging on social media since 2010. In the early days, I didn’t have a following, but I stayed on course, actively promoting my own content and following others and commenting on their content. I use some platforms to help me automatically promote content periodically after the main promotional window is over, but I do 99% of my social media work the ‘old fashioned way’ – I do it myself, as me, every day. If your online brand is important to you, you can’t fake authenticity. Give it 5-10 minutes a day, every day. That is enough to make a noticeable difference.

2. Not generating a following for the sake of the following, but looking at it as a natural (and very valuable!!) byproduct of doing excellent work, writing excellent content, and building real connections with real people. If you are just focused on building up your numbers, you will end up with an audience built for the wrong reason, and those connections won’t help you achieve your primary mission.

Tania:  When the field is open wide, it can often be tough to find the courage to “be the first” and get started. I know it found me a while to “find my voice” (and I still may be looking!), but it took a lot of courage to get started sharing my stories on social media.

Kelly: This is one of those cases where it helps not to have any idea what you are doing. I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes along the way (and continue to make them to this day), especially since I don’t have any training in marketing, PR, or social media strategy. But it has helped to have good friends by my side along the way. The procurement community is made up of amazing, generous, inspiring people that never fail to inspire me with new ideas and approaches to tough problems.

Tania:  But now the field isn’t wide open, we have a lot of influencers in our space, and in some ways, that could be more daunting – you could feel that you don’t have a unique story to tell, that it’s all been said..and maybe by people that you think are better than you.

Kelly: Everyone has a unique perspective to offer – that is the first, most important lesson I learned from Jon Hansen. He has been my mentor since day one, and early on I asked him why he was helping me. We both had blogs, and I wondered why he didn’t see me as a competitor. He pointed out (in his friendly, genuine way) that as long as we both write from our own point of view, there is no such thing as competition. No one can ever be you, and as a result, you will always have a unique offering to bring to the market. You can also beat people on time and quality. Work faster, and make sure your work is cleaner, that everyone else’s, and the readers will follow.

Tania:  I’ve always encouraged our community that they have a lot of great stories to tell. We have such interesting careers, interfacing with so many interesting, unique issues every day.

Kelly: The secret to great writing and social media engagement is… READING! I know that isn’t the most popular activity these days because we are all so busy. But it is absolutely critical. Read content on procurement, supply chain, business, communication – absolutely everything you can get your hands on. I read several newspapers every day as well as blogs, and monthly/quarterly business journals. It is amazing how often inspiration and insight come from unexpected sources. And – back to the idea of having a unique point of view – since no one else will be reading the same mix of sources as you, no one can duplicate your perspective. 

Tania:  With due cause, COVID has been a hectic time in procurement and on the news scene.  Our recent How Now report showed how well our profession handled the stress and actually have an increased interest and commitment to building a career in procurement and supply chain.

Kelly: I think procurement has done an outstanding job keeping the lights on in these unprecedented times. Who else knows how to get hard to find products and services? Who else can be creative about solving problems on the fly? Our companies have relied upon our agility and determination, but so have our families. I’m sure I am not the only procurement professional who applied her knowledge of supply chain management to keep the house stocked with food, medicine and – yes – even toilet paper. We’ve had some odd meals (turkey kielbasa, stewed tomatoes, and buttered toast, anyone?) but we always had something to eat – and I never missed a deadline at Buyers Meeting Point.

Given the additional information supply chains have received since the pandemic began, I think there is good reason to be hopeful that a flood of talented, hardworking professionals from other fields will join procurement and supply chain because of what they have read and seen during the shutdowns. 

Tania:  Speaking of increasing influence, Kelly, you have just made a big strategic decision to purchase MyPurchasingCenter from another female entrepreneur.

Kelly:  MyPurchasingCenter was owned by MediaSolve Group, a B2B Marketing Company led by Michelle Palmer, and it was edited for a long time by another well-known figure in the procurement industry: former Purchasing Magazine Senior Editor Susan Avery. They were both determined that ownership of MyPurchasingCenter go to someone that wanted it for the right reasons; not to part it out or gut its assets, but who would show respect for its legacy as a standalone information resource.

I worked on this acquisition for A LONG TIME. I knew Buyers Meeting Point was uniquely positioned to show the respect that Michelle and Susan wanted to see (and rightly so!) and to create tangible value with the MyPurchasingCenter brand, content, and social media accounts. 

Tania:  Just like when you started Buyers Meeting Point, this acquisition is a big step, it must have taken courage.  Were you nervous about the next step. Can you give any advice to people wanting to take that first entrepreneurial step?

Kelly:  My short answer to that question would be, “Just GO!” With the exception of ensuring your personal finances are in a state to support the leap before making it, you can’t overthink the decision to step out on your own. If you do, logic will stack up against the decision to become an entrepreneur every time. Nothing in the world can prepare you for starting a business, but no professional experience offers more riches. The highs and lows, gains and pains are like nothing else. I highly recommend that anyone who gets the ‘itch’ seriously consider acting on it!

Tania:  What do you think the profession will look like in five years?  What will MPC/Buyers Meeting Point look like in five years?

Kelly: In five years, I think procurement will be a primarily data-driven profession. Technology will be able to handle a lot of the process work we do today, leaving us to analyze data and work at the highest levels of the enterprise to inform and contribute to the development of corporate strategy.

My plan for BMP and MPC is to continue supporting all of the information needs of procurement and supply chain professionals. Five years from now, I imagine the full MPC content archive will be back online and I will have had some other creative spark about how to perpetuate the brand on my own. I can’t wait to find out what I come up with!

Tania:  There’s a few things I’ve always admired about Kelly (being a lovely person would be the first), but from a business perspective, that she’s achieved this number one status, that she’s managed to do this without having to leave her family and travel like a madwoman around the globe to build her network and that she’s a great collaborator.

We’ve talked about the achievement of her influence, but what about being able to build this global network without travelling.  Kelly, what’s your secret?  Do you think face to face is a myth?  Has all our Zoom, Webex, etc during COVID proved your approach?

Kelly:  This is absolutely a unique point about my experience. I was a consultant traveling almost 100% of the time when I had my daughter 12 years ago. Overnight, I went from jetsetting to full-time first time parent, and it was quite a shock. I joined Buyers Meeting Point in 2009, 4 months before my oldest son was born (referring back to my point about about not overthinking the leap to entrepreneurship – logic would have told me that was a TERRIBLE idea! Who starts a business with a newborn and a 20 month old?). My youngest son was born in 2012, so I have had babies and/or kids for every minute of my entrepreneurial journey. It is amazing what technology will allow you to achieve. I don’t even have a home office. Before COVID-19, I worked at the kitchen table, and after my family all came home to roost full time, I moved to the dining room because I didn’t want peanut butter and jelly splattered on my laptop. 

I’m also lucky that I live about an hour from Boston, which brings a lot of people into my backyard. I make the most of those opportunities, and I have met many of my global colleagues – including you, Tania! – in person. There is something magical about sitting face to face across the table from someone you already have an online relationship with.

There is no question that being able to travel would have accelerated my career and influence, but not being able to travel wasn’t a deal breaker. Now that everyone else is in the same boat, I have an advantage because I’ve been working this way for over a decade. 

Tania:  And collaboration, you’ve always collaborated with others in the profession – Jon Hansen, Phil Ideson, and Stephanie Lapierre to name a few. I totally subscribe to this, we’re going to get a lot further promoting the profession if we all promote each other.  What’s been your approach to collaboration?  How do you choose who you want to collaborate with?  Will you be collaborating more or less with others into the future?

Kelly:  Deciding who to collaborate with has always been a gut decision for me. If I like you, there is almost nothing I won’t do for you. I received a ton of goodwill from people who were practically strangers when I was first on my own, and I have made a point of paying that generosity forward. This is another one of those areas where you can’t fake authenticity. If you really like someone, the collaboration comes naturally. If you don’t ‘click’ with someone, nothing can fix it. I’ve actually gotten stomach aches from dealing with certain people over the years, and I trust that 100%. After all, what is the good of taking on all of the risk of being out on your own if you can’t reap the benefits of being able to decide who you will work with and for?

Summary

I hope that leaves everyone inspired, with some great practical tips for increasing your own social media influence.  

From my own perspective, building a really compelling profile on Procurious is a great way to start promoting yourselves to 40,000 other procurement and supply chain pros around the world…and also connecting with them to solve your daily challenges.

Happy World Social Media Day Eve!