Category Archives: Procurement News

6 Top Tips for Collecting Legal Spend Data from Law Firms

Do you have the data you need to understand your spend on legal services? It’s not about the volume of data, it’s about the quality of the reporting.

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Very few organisations have the granularity of legal spend data they need – they often think they are capturing this information or can get it from their internal systems.

However, when it comes to trying to use this data for a panel review or any kind of spend management project, most organisations very quickly realise their data in inconsistent, limited and simply does not offer the level of detail they require.

Organisations, therefore, often turn to their law firms to provide management information to allow a better understanding of spend levels, cost averages and, to a degree, law firm performance.

Here are our top tips for efficiently collecting this data.

1. Clarity on your reporting requirements

Start at the end. What reports do you want to see created from the raw data? Be ruthless in listing the real drivers for your project. From this, make a list of the key data fields you will need to create these reports.

2. Stick to the above!

It is very tempting to add more and more data fields to your list as your project continues. Very few organisations can actually handle the amount of data they capture, and by handle we mean put to a practical use within your organisation.

3. Be honest and practical

Few organisations have unlimited resources. You need to stick to a core list of reporting requirements. Too often this kind of project is started and balloons into something all-encompassing, becoming impossible to complete.

4. Complete the project

This, again, seems simple but often this kind of project is abandoned or the vast amount of data captured is out of date by the time the analysis is undertaken.

5. Ensure law firm consistency

Ensure you have empowered someone to manage the law firms and insist the law firms comply with this new format. Law firms are known to tweak data fields to suit their internal system.

If the firms provide different data sets it means you can’t accurately compare performance.

6. Some analysis is better than nothing

This really underpins all the above. Have a core list of reports and collect the least amount of data to ensure you can create these reports.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you will fix all problems in one data capture. Data is quickly out of date and you do not want to waste everyone’s time.

What to Report On

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some reports you can create using your spend data.

  • Spend by firm – an obvious metric as you need to know the overall spend by firm.
  • Spend or hours by timekeeper – this metric allows you to accurately perform ‘make versus buy’ decisions. For example, whether hiring more lawyers internally would be more cost effective than using external firms. You would also need to consider liability risks associated with this approach.
  • Spend by matter type – you need to understand this to understand the types of legal work being performed (is it M&A work, employment work, etc.).
  • Spend type (fees or expenses) – it is important to understand how much of the spend is on lawyers versus other expenses, and what those expenses are.
  • Number of matters – this allows you to look at overall volume relative to spend. Is spend increasing because matters have increased XX per cent or has the matter mix changed? For example, M&A matters are more expensive, raising overall cost.
  • Spend by matter – this metric allows you to review the big spending matters to see if there is anything you can do to reduce costs.
  • Timekeeper level – this metric allows you to look at the level of lawyer performing the work so you can analyse the efficiency of the lawyer.

Caroline O’Grady is a legal services procurement expert and a parner at Coote O’Grady, a specialist Legal Procurement Consultancy.

Perception vs Reality – What Your Suppliers Really Think of You

Have you ever wondered what your suppliers really think about you? How big a gulf exists between the perception (what you think) and the reality (what they think)?

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You may believe you have effective processes, but do they agree? Do your suppliers really feel like a “valued business partner”, or is that just empty rhetoric?

The Faculty is currently undertaking its Supplier Confidence Index research for 2016. Here are seven common pieces of feedback we’ve gathered across hundreds of suppliers.

1. Organisational Alignment

Some suppliers very confidently told our researchers they were treated as valued business partners. Others, however, stated that they were simply “suppliers”, not partners, but due to the non-critical nature of their product or service this was to be expected.

One recurring comment was that talk of “Business Partnerships” does not always live up to the rhetoric. Procurement frequently uses language about partnerships. However, in a cost-constrained environment, every consideration but cost “goes out the window”, and the relationship falls back to a transactional nature.

2. Relationships and Communications

Suppliers are frustrated by silos within their client’s organisations. Communication issues within your organisation, or a silo mentality where procurement isn’t talking effectively with other functions, are highly evident to suppliers. This causes extra work, as suppliers have to explain the same concepts multiple times to different stakeholders within the organisations.

Suppliers also report that they receive conflicting instructions and mixed messages from different functions. Poor communication between the central and site-based procurement teams was another area of concern.

3. Value Creation Opportunities

Organisations are increasingly receptive to new ideas presented by suppliers. Suppliers report that this area has greatly improved from 5-10 years ago, when ideas were rejected out of hand for not aligning with policy, or for simply being too difficult to implement.

New ideas are now being heard, considered, and then implemented. This encourages suppliers to keep coming back with further ideas for business improvement.

4. Commercial Strength of the Relationship

A common complaint centred around unexpected changes to scope, which increases cost-to-serve. This could be improved through better communication, flagging the changes with suppliers as early as possible so they can plan accordingly.

Suppliers also reported a large amount of discretionary (unpaid or “goodwill”) work. One point to note is that suppliers generally seemed to be understanding about restructures and redundancies, even when they affect the business relationship.

5. Product and Service Complexity

Many suppliers made comments around unnecessarily complex procurement processes, which again increases the cost-to-serve. This issue is present in both the private and public sectors.

6. Business Process Effectiveness

Demand planning is an area of concern. Suppliers have flagged that they’d be willing to help with forecasting and planning processes if there was a better flow of information.

7. Integration and Joint Initiatives

Survey and interview results indicate that systems integration is generally improving, although there are further opportunities to integrate. Suppliers note that non-aligned systems mean they have to bear the cost of extra data-entry staff who would otherwise be unnecessary.

The Supplier Confidence Index is part of The Faculty Roundtable’s annual research program. Please contact Sally Lansbury for more information.

Faster, Cheaper, Better – The Future of Logistics

As technology drives change in logistics, companies must meet increasing consumer demand. But what does it mean for traditional labour roles?

Logistics has never felt more fluid and subject to change. In this article, we’re going to look at the key factors driving all this change and then consider how technology will develop in the next 10-20 years. Then, in our second piece, we’ll consider how new business models will evolve before trying to draw some conclusions.

Faster, Cheaper, Better

Commercial interests have always demanded logistics move stock quickly, cheaply and in large quantities. Historically, transport improvements – from horses through to planes – answered this demand. But in the future, it will be the digital world that provides these answers.

The 21st Century customer is an unforgiving beast. However, while new shopping patterns are placing extra demand on logistics providers, they are also generating fresh opportunity. As end customers become more focused on flexible, fast and cheap solutions, logistics companies that optimise their digital usage are well-set to take advantage of weak competition at every stage of the supply chain, including retailers.

Technological advances, forecasting and new business models all offer glimpses of how these demands can be answered. There is even the possibility that much of the future supply chain will be autonomous and self-organised.

One thing for sure is that it will faster, cheaper and better – the customer won’t accept anything less.

Interconnected World, Interconnected Supply Chain

3D Printing

3D printing makes it possible to print exact working replicas of parts and products using metals, plastic, composite materials, and even human tissue. This can be done quickly, on demand and to a customer’s specification. This makes it a central technology in the development towards “batch size one” production.

It also means it will no longer be necessary to store large amounts of stock. Though it is possible there may be a counter-balancing increase in raw material storage.

In markets in which 3D printing is relevant (for example, spare parts), this has the potential to heavily disrupt logistics. And the best 3PLs will provide 3D printing services at the point of delivery to dovetail with other services.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is the developing ability for digital devices to communicate directly with each other across the internet. It’s estimated that by 2020, more than 50 billion objects will be “web-enabled”. And, if you consider that they will be able to “talk” to one another, the potential becomes clear.

Immediacy of communication can lead to many direct benefits. Creation of automated orders for domestic resources, lorry sensors informing maintenance schedules – all focused on improved speed, efficiency and cost.

From a customer perspective, the ability to track items through their RFID chips and via GPS will mean 100 per cent visibility across the whole delivery cycle. From a logistics perspective, one can also envisage other variables – such as location, temperature, pressure, humidity, etc. – being monitored throughout the supply chain for improved transportation efficiency.

However, the biggest single opportunity arguably comes from the unrivalled quantities of consumer data that will arise, feeding into forecasting and automated processing. For those who can embrace and take advantage of it, this goldmine of information is a very exciting prospect.

Automated Systems

Whilst the idea of automation can seem like something from science fiction, there’s no denying the groundswell of development this area has seen in the last 2-3 years.

Labour costs are always a critical element in any operating model. In logistics, the trade-off between quality of service and cost is central to success. Automation could re-write this equation by providing a faster and better service for less money.

Relatively simple loading and unloading systems are already available. But these will become more sophisticated as advances in optics and data processing mean forklifts can navigate autonomously in dynamic environments, and with less error than human drivers.

In addition, autonomous delivery is on the horizon. DHL and Amazon both plan to launch drones for last-mile deliveries. And the appetite for them is strong amongst manufacturers, retailers and customers.

Autonomous lorries are also a real possibility using the same optical and AI developments that underpin driverless forklifts.

Not only would driverless vehicles be cheaper – both in labour and fuel costs – they will also be safer and more predictable making them ideal tools for efficient supply chain management. Add to this the fact the whole transport industry is suffering from dramatic driver shortages, and it’s not a surprise this technology is very appealing to most industry segments.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR), overlays relevant information (such as sound, vision or tactile data) onto a user’s normal sensory input, generally via body suits/gloves, goggles or headphones.

Wearable devices are already available that offer a glimpse into the potential future of this technology. Smart phones, smart watches, and VR goggles all give indications of how additional relevant data can be communicated.

For example, stock control data (SKUs, pallet contents, BBEs, etc.) could be accessed without leaving the warehouse floor, displaying data for on-the-spot planning and organisation. And when incorporated into transport, it could offer intelligent last mile assistance (navigation, traffic information, etc.)

Essentially, AR enables greater collaboration between systems and workers. As such, all logistics companies need to consider how AR can ensure all the elements work well together.

Whither the Worker?

With more automation, traditional labour roles will diminish. As such, redefining the place of the human worker within a more technologically advanced environment, will be vital.

In some areas, we will see happy confluence, such as a diminishing driver workforce being superseded by automated delivery solutions. But elsewhere there will be less need for human skills, and an increased need for other skill sets that, historically, have not been required.

For example, automated pick and pack solutions make warehouse operatives less relevant. However, at the same time air and sea transport are both chronically understaffed, with no expectation that the industry demands will drop.

The onus will be on logistics companies to identify future HR needs and pay close attention to their recruitment. In addition to recruitment, the whole sector will need to become more proactive in training, encouraging transferable and future-proofed skills to ensure an engaged and productive work force.

Central will be the development of technically proficient workers. Low-skilled roles will diminish markedly and ICT-related knowledge will be vital.

Zupplychain employs algorithmic matching of customer’s search requirements to warehouse availability to show warehouse pricing, along with an automated and structured process to progress enquiries and a cloud based system to manage customer stock in provider’s warehouses.

6 Top Tips for Running a Successful Law Firm Panel Process

Running a panel tender for law firm services can be challenging and time-consuming. So what can procurement do to ensure they tick the right boxes?

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A panel tender process can be long and arduous for all parties involved. A recent survey said 42 per cent of law firm respondents spend over 15 hours on each tender, with 19 per cent spending over 20 hours.

Firms complete multiple tenders each month. When you think that most respondents are partner or director level, this adds significant additional cost to a law firm’s operations. This will, in turn, factor into increased costs for the client.

Any tender must be targeted and specific, and aim to get to the right result as quickly and efficiently as possible.

We have set out our top tips to ensure a successful panel process below:

  1. Agree a clear strategy

Whether it is procurement, in-house legal, or claims managers, who ever uses the legal services and, ultimately, whoever is involved in selecting the panel composition, need to agree the strategy for any panel review.

You should consider questions such as:

  • Are you looking to reduce firm numbers?
  • If yes, how will you manage conflicts?
  • Is the aim to reduce costs?
  • If yes, how do you plan to manage increases to ensure firms remain incentivised to provide the best possible advice (and lawyers)
  • If no, how do you plan to manage increases and ensure you are not overpaying?
  • Do you want to look at innovation and technology?
  • Are you focusing on AFA’s or hourly rates?
  • How long will you look to hold rates firm for?
  • How will you manage individual lawyer annual increases? (For example, as a lawyer goes from being 1 year post qualified to 2 years post qualified)
  • Managing exceptions to the panel – how will you do it? (For example, if you need to use a specific partner from another firm due to expertise)?
  • How will you manage historic matters and pricing – especially if a firm is removed from panel?
  • How will you factor in and measure historic performance?

You need to make sure you document this, ensuring everyone is clear on and signed-up to the approach.

  1. Full understanding of legal spend

This may sound straight forward but for most organisations it is not. Many organisations resort to asking their own panel firms to provide spend figures to allow for more accurate analysis of historic spend patterns.

Many organisations find that when they come to undertake a detailed analysis of spend, there are limitations on their data. For example, data might not detail fee earner level, or how many hours a firm works on any individual case.

Real data and real analysis allows for side-by-side comparison of law firms, with the ultimate goal being to obtain data that allows for some means of understanding both cost and performance.

  1. Stakeholder Engagement

Too often procurement teams drive panel review processes without real input from those who use the legal services. On the other side, in too many organisations GCs and in-house counsel run tender processes without valuable input from legal procurement specialists.

You are left in a position where many tender processes do not deliver on the strategy set at the outset as old alliances between in-house counsel and law firms remain, or procurement drive too hard for reduction of cost. Some organisations have a more cohesive and collaborative relationship between legal and procurement but these are in the minority.

A real attempt must be made to bring together a “core team” to run the legal tender process, who are bought into the overall strategy and work together to run the process.

  1. Sticking to the strategy

Often great strategies are set but ultimately decisions are taken on hourly rate reductions or past experience with a firm.

While neither of these reasons of themselves are incorrect, if your strategy was to reduce your panel, you need to look beyond relationships, and take tough decisions.

Too often, final panels can be decided upon, only for an unsuccessful firm’s senior partner to get on the telephone to a key decision maker asking that they be reappointed – and they are then reappointed. It is very common and hugely undermines the value of the whole process.

  1. Concise RFP

If all you are interested in is rates, do not draw up lengthy RFP documents. It is still quite shocking to read some RFPs. They require weeks of a law firm’s time and require a whole host of analysts to review the responses. And this doesn’t even consider senior management time to accurately digest responses and take decisions based upon them.

Be honest when setting your strategy. Experience dictates that while you genuinely believe the questions you ask will form the basis of the panel decision, there are only a few core drivers. These include: rate; geographic spread; expertise; and departmental spread (particularly if looking to consolidate your number of firms).

This sounds simple, and many companies believe they are adhering to this. Yet, time and again the examples we see are unnecessarily detailed and burdensome to both sides.

  1. Performance management

The linchpin for much of this is performance management. In our experience, most companies either overlook this entirely or invest very little resource into it. While they will invest a significant amount of internal time and money on a tender process, they then fail to monitor performance, or measure any element of it, during the tenure of the panel.

The next tender rolls around and they undertake the process armed with only rates and anecdotal information on a firm’s performance. Organisations need to focus on understanding what value a firm brings them. Are they getting the best service for the best price, whatever that may be? This involves investment of resources into understanding what value is for you and how to go about measuring it.

Stacey Coote is a Legal Procurement Expert and a Partner at Coote O’Grady, a specialist Legal Procurement Consultancy.

An Expert’s View on the Future of the UK Economy

The media have painted a gloomy future for the UK economy thanks to the events of 2016. But one is breaking ranks – and it’s not all bad news.

the future of the uk economy

A few weeks ago, Procurement Heads enjoyed an insightful business breakfast hosted by the Chilworth Partnership & Venture Recruitment Partners at the Chilworth Manor Hotel. While we were there, we heard from one of the UK’s leading economic commentators, Alex Brummer.

Brummer has been City Editor at the Daily Mail since 2000 and is a multi-award winning economic finance commentator. Brummer was speaking on the topic of Brexit and the potential impacts on the British economy.

To add further spice, there was also the topic of “Trumpenomics” to discuss after the much-publicised US election result. Brummer is no fool, and whilst he was pro-Brexit, he empathised with the shock both events have caused.

Sense of Optimism

Despite the doom and gloom from his peers in the media, there was a sense of optimism from Brummer. He described the UK economy as “having taken the punches pretty well”.

Indeed, in the 3rd quarter we have seen growth at 0.5 per cent. Additionally, we are likely to see annualised growth in the UK of around 2 per cent. This is a faster rate than any of the Group of Seven (G7) countries.

From a recruitment perspective, there is much to celebrate as well. The unemployment rate has dropped to 4.8 per cent, and the number of people in employment is at its highest in 30 years.

Whilst the Chancellor’s Autumn statement next week will likely reveal a dampening of economic expectations, Brummer asserted that infrastructure investment in the 3 ‘Hs’ will boost the economy in time – Hinckley Point in Somerset, HS2, and the expansion of Heathrow.

UK Economy “Punching Above its Weight”

Back to Trump in the US. Brummer argued that his pledge to reduce corporation tax from 37 per cent, and a massive increase in infrastructure spending, will see the UK’s burgeoning Services sector well placed.

In this respect, he asserted that the UK ‘punched well above its weight’, operating at an annual surplus of £100 billion. Only time will tell just how this new political and economic relationship between Britain and the US will work.

One thing is for sure is that Brexit certainly hasn’t been an immediate disaster, reflected by the strong performances of the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 since June. Brummer claimed a lot of this is down to businesses bringing their operations, and therefore more of their investment, back to Britain.

Tangible example of businesses positive reaction to Brexit can be seen at Nissan, Ford and more recently Google, all making positive long term commitments to the UK. More businesses investing in Britain is surely a good thing for our employment?

Challenges to Come

Brummer warned of the failings of Europe, describing the EU as an “Economic disaster”. And the facts are scary:

  • Greece’s GDP has dropped by 25 per cent,
  • Youth Unemployment in Italy is now at 37 per cent, and
  • Growth since Germany joined the EU is stagnant.

Brummer did not underestimate the UK’s adjustment to Brexit and nor should we. But perhaps we should try and look at the positives of the events of the past few months.

There are challenges to come, like the possibility of a trade war, Trump going back on his economic policy, and the Pound weakening a lot further. Like many in the room, we came out with some reasonable optimism to see this not as a problem but as an opportunity.

To quote Brummers’s closing remark we should “see the glass as half full, not half empty”.

Supplier Diversity in 2017 – Here’s Why It Matters

2017 will be the year when Diversity in Procurement takes the spotlight. And here’s why.

supplier diversity

In March 2017, the Institute for Supply Management is holding a major summit on Diversity in procurement and supply management.

Diversity advocate Shelley Stewart Jr (VP and CPO of DuPont), has seen first-hand the positive impact that a strong, diverse organisation can have on the bottom line. Stewart is championing the case for making supply chains a bias-free zone at ISM Diversity 2017.

Here’s why supplier diversity matters to your procurement function, your business and your customers.

  1. Increasing Supplier Diversity is our Responsibility

A 2009 study from Pew Research has found that while minority-owned firms made up 41 per cent of all companies in the U.S., they only took in 10.9 per cent of overall revenue. Why?

Contributing factors include:

  • unconscious bias amongst decision-makers;
  • a narrow focus on cost over other value;
  • restrictive criteria for suppliers;
  • inflexible and non-scalable policies;
  • a tendency for big business to be most comfortable working similarly sized entities.

These days, diversity spend is now firmly on the agenda and rising every year. Reversing the contributing factors above has led to a more inclusive focus on overall value (including social benefits) over cost, flexible and scalable policies and criteria for suppliers, and a recognition that the strongest business relationships are often made with smaller, more diverse suppliers.

  1. Customers Want to see Diversity in Action

The public relations aspect shouldn’t be the prime reason for having a supplier diversity programme. However, it’s still important to track, measure and report on your diverse supply base to win recognition from your customers.

Your customer base is diverse, so your business needs to be diverse as well. This comes through adequate representation in the supplier base.

Partnerships with diverse suppliers will give your business a competitive advantage when facing changing customer demographics. For example, if you operate in an area with a rapidly-growing minority population, your key relationships with minority-owned suppliers will become more important than ever.

  1. Diversity Drives Innovation

Essentially, diversity brings a number of different backgrounds and life experiences into your supplier mix to overcome homogenous thinking with fresh new perspectives.

Size matters, too. A study by CHI Research determined that small businesses generate 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large firms. Since diverse suppliers tend to be small businesses, many companies use their supplier diversity programmes to tap into new and varied creative resources and the innovation that is occurring at these firms.

The fierce competition for business amongst diverse suppliers is another driver for innovation.

  1. Diverse Suppliers are Often More Flexible

Because most diverse suppliers are small businesses, they are usually able to offer greater flexibility, better customer focus and lower cost structures than larger businesses.

Smaller, diverse suppliers are less likely to be tied down by restrictive policy, red-tape or innovation-stifling bureaucracy.

  1. Follow the Leaders

Some of the world’s leading companies are moving ahead with impressive supplier diversity programmes.

  • Microsoft, for example, has recently exceeded $2 billion in annual spend with M/WBE businesses.
  • Google launched a best-practice supplier diversity programme in 2015. It brings key partners into the Google Academy for shared learning opportunities that will drive further innovation.
  • AT&T celebrate their suppliers as one of their “four pillars of diversity”, the other three being the organisation’s employees, community and marketing.

If your organisation’s supplier diversity program is still only in its infancy, it’s important to increase your focus on this area or risk being left behind.

There’s an impressive array of conferences and organisations dedicated to improving supplier diversity, including:

Register now to join DuPont’s Shelley Stewart and diversity experts from Honeywell Aerospace, Rockwell Automation, Whirlpool and Fiat Chrysler at ISM Diversity. The event takes place on March 1-3 2017, at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld resort.

Is Trust The Key to Successful Alliance Management?

Pharmaceutical procurement teams need to change their approach to alliance management. Is trust the key to success?

trust key

A few years ago I had the opportunity to be part of a ground-breaking initiative with our suppliers. We sent a team to the boards of some of our major suppliers and asked a simple question: “Why is it that you are always late and come in over budget?”

To which they said: “Why is it that you always change your mind about what you want and interfere in the way we deliver it?”

It was then logical to respond: “If we promise to not change our mind and to leave you in control, will you deliver on time and budget?”

They agreed and so a new contract was created.

20 years on and the same questions still seem to remain, and now, more than ever there is a need to change our approach.

I believe that the solution to the challenges of clinical development today do not lie within our own organisations, but between our organisations, and should be accessed through increased collaboration unpinned by deliberate trust

To investigate this, it’s useful to consider three questions:

  • Why do we need to change?
  • Why should we collaborate?
  • How can we trust someone outside our own company?

Why do we need to change?

The pharmaceutical industry has seen the need for change for years, and the same underlying factors remain:

  • A clear constraint on resources;
  • The number of NCEs per year decreasing dramatically; and
  • R&D costs rising, reportedly having doubled in the last decade alone.

Meanwhile, we need more specialised patient populations, there is a lack of easy wins as drug targets, and we face the continually tougher regulatory environment. All of these have contributed to longer development times and rising costs.

These same problems are threatening the level of potential investment. We have witnessed the death of the blockbuster as the magic answer, while at the same time seen cost pressure on sales.  The patent cliff is a real problem in many companies, there is generic competition, and sadly mega-mergers have been ineffective, cutting staff costs without delivering efficiency.

If we do what we have always done, we will get what we have always had.

Why should we collaborate?

Basically there is no alternative! In a world of increasing communication, it is hard to keep knowledge secret. Employees no longer stay decades at the same company, and staff turnover is far higher than it was.

The Internet allows for very quick sharing of data. It’s also a reason why information leaks. So let’s stop keeping so many secrets and start to share information first.

The market place is very complex. The top pharmaceutical companies hold only around 6 per cent of market share, while the top 7 Contract Research Organisations (CROs) combined hold only around 50 per cent of the market.

In this situation innovation is critical and anyone (regardless of size) is a potential source of the answer. This includes totally new players, as any quality questions can be managed. Someone else knows something you do not. If you want something, it is out there!

How can we trust someone outside our own company?

We have to start by wanting to trust – trust is necessary to access new solutions. This means that we have to be open, to accept others, to make sure that we are reliable in ourselves, and live congruently with our values. In this way we communicate trust.

Of course it is also important to have a right worded contract. After all, incentive is better than enforcement, and a new way of working may need new contract wording.

In this we should look carefully at what is being bought and make sure this is reflected in the T&Cs. For the lawyers – a standard template may not be appropriate. In any contract, payment should be linked to goals and should incentivise both parties. There are many other relevant contractual matters.

There is nothing wrong with walking softly and carrying a big stick.

Trust is the only way forward. But this is not a short path, we need to be ready for the long term, trust takes a while to establish and can too quickly be lost.

We need to do something different.  We need to access new innovative solutions.  It is time for increased collaboration with partners, underpinned by deliberate trust.

Escaping Groundhog Day with Corporate Knowledge Capture

Can cognitive technology revolutionise the way we capture corporate knowledge?

groundhog day knowledge capture

Introducing Watson Supply Chain from IBM. Get to know Watson here.

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in the nightmare of a supply chain groundhog day? One minute you’re gaining some solid ground in your organisation and the next… You’re back at square one, looking likely to make the same mistakes over and over again, trying in vain to get things right.

Capturing the Knowledge

Groundhog day is the reality for procurement and supply chain professionals who don’t adequately and methodically capture corporate knowledge.

  • When an individual leaves your organisation that doesn’t mean that all their knowledge should leave with them.
  • The tribal knowledge residing in your supply chain shouldn’t be reliant on key individuals keeping it there.
  • All of your supply chain decisions should be mapped out.
  • If your team makes a mistake you should be learning from it, not repeating it.
  • Knowledge capture should be an ongoing, continuous process and not something that is attempted, under pressure, at the point of employee exit.

There’s no question that retaining corporate knowledge is good for business. It helps facilitate the creation of new knowledge, it saves time and effort, positively affects your relationship with suppliers and customers and encourages new innovations.

Corporate Knowledge Capture is also great for new employees who can learn quickly and resolve problems more efficiently. That’s not to mention the benefits of leveraging the accumulated experiences of employees both past and present.

Social Capture and Collaboration

Organisations have employed various techniques to retaining corporate knowledge.

One approach is to use social intranet software that acts as a social collaboration platform. These provide a space where you can capture information, share data and communicate better with colleagues, suppliers and customers. Services such as Yammer and Jive have helped to increase efficiency and enhance information flow.

Other organisations have their own internal intranet, which serves the same purpose.

The problem with either of these options is that they are both laborious and time consuming. They depend on your knowledge base being regularly updated with the newest information as it becomes available in order to offer maximum value.

Employees will also be relied upon to review information and update the content. It might sound like reasonable expectations in theory but, in practice, it’s hard to maintain. New approaches are needed which are proactive as opposed to reactive.

Along Came Cognitive Technology

Fortunately, the ways that we capture knowledge are changing and evolving with technology developments, making it easier than ever before to do so. Cognitive Technology is today’s game changer in many ways and one of them is the impact it could have on corporate knowledge capture.

It can think, learn, and generally mimic human intellect. IDC estimates that, by 2020, 50 per cent of all business software will incorporate some cognitive computing functionality.

With regards to knowledge retention, cognitive tech can modify and document specific and analytic knowledge in a manner that others can re-use and adapt it for their specific use.

It can make intelligent decisions about where inventory should go, but also how it gets there.

It will also add information to the puzzle on warehouse space capacity, trailer loads that are going LTL, and ultimately, the best route not only based on cost or labor, but all of the extraneous details that aren’t apparent at the onset of an order.

Decisions will no longer be made that leave out key stakeholders by accident. Cognitive tech will recognise recommended participants for conversations and bring them together for troubleshooting in one place.

Balancing supply chains is a never-ending puzzle. As the complexity grows, communication and knowledge retention becomes of the utmost importance. How can Watson supply chain help to enable more intelligent decisions and guide leaders to make strategic moves? Find out here.

Why Procurement Should Be All About the Cloud

The Cloud is the future for procurement. If that’s the case, why do we still have so many questions about it? 

the cloud

Procurious are at ProcureCon IT in Amsterdam this week. Stay up to date with the latest highlights on the Blog, and follow live on Twitter.

We sat in a very interesting, interactive panel discussion yesterday on anything and everything Cloud related. This is one of the most talked about topics in procurement, so it’s no surprise that it generated a lot of discussion at this week’s conference.

As Tania Seary noted, the cloud has a touch of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ about it. Everyone’s talking about it, everyone is convinced that they need it, but not everyone knows exactly what it is or how to use it. It’s clear that procurement is being hindered by this lack of clear understanding.

We were particularly interested in hearing the views of the panel compared to the others we’ve heard this year. What we heard was a consistent message, aligned with other Cloud experts Procurious have spoken to.

In our Oracle webinar last month, our discussion touched on the array of options in technology available to procurement. Also discussed was the idea of how traditional offerings differed from those from smaller, more agile companies.

All About the Cloud?

The panel, chaired by Procurious founder, Tania Seary, included Christiaan Murphy, Global Software Category Manager at CGI, and Michael Delle, Regional Head for SI & IT Sourcing at Ericsson.

Both men are active in the procurement space, as well as active members of Procurious! Christiaan Murphy is responsible for CGI’s global software spend of around 500 million per year.

Michael Delle is part of Ericsson’s global organisation for category management for SI & IT. He has a unique perspective on the Cloud, familiar with it for internal use, but also as part of the reselling systems integration programme at Ericsson.

CGI is divided around procurement categories (telecoms, software, hardware), but this isn’t common to all organisations. Traditional structures could present some difficulties in management of the Cloud, particularly from the point of view of data centre.

Michael raised the point about a lack of shared Cloud best practice for processes such as contract management. When it comes to negotiating cloud contracts, are you paying a subscription or a monthly cost? Either way, you need to be sure of what service level you expect for your costs. It needs to suit you, your organisation and your customer expectations.

Hidden Costs of the Cloud

Another fascinating area of debate raised was that of the hidden costs of the Cloud. Many people have chosen to focus on the benefits it offers, but few have stopped to consider the unseen costs.

Michael, in particular, was keen to point out how surprised people were when they found this out.

The first was the difficulty of getting back out of the Cloud environment once you were in it or even simply switching to an alternate vendor. There is always difficulty in migrating away from what you are buying, but the Cloud adds an extra level of complexity to this, especially when it could take months to get your data out!

It’s important to have a recovery scenario for your data and a contingency plan in place in case the cloud fails.

The second cost relates to legacy solutions. Some organisations involved in the Cloud environment would still keep their legacy solutions on site.

This was a conscious decision in many cases, with concerns about Cloud migration driving this. However, it did lead to duplication of technology and, more importantly, cost.

Cloud Brokering

One final topic of interest surrounding this topic is Cloud brokering. For those of you who don’t know (and we were one of them), this is more simple than it sounds. As you might be able to guess, a Cloud broker is an intermediary between a Cloud seller and buyer.

The concept of brokering has grown in Cloud software, as companies are asked to provide a service for people who don’t know what they are doing. Often, these are mid-sized companies who could benefit from the Cloud, but can’t dedicate the resources to understanding it better.

The companies that are suffering in this area were larger organisations with solutions for managing data centres. Cloud software is trending towards very specific solutions, which can be open source, and not dependent on the larger providers.

These ‘point’ solutions are proving to be better than the larger, all-in ones. The Cloud is enabling the trend towards virtualisation, but are hurting the providers offering off-site management, as people don’t see it as a requirement any more. It’s possibly better to go with the ‘point’ solutions, and avoid the software lock-in.

What do you make of the discussion points in this panel? Do you agree? Why not create your own discussion, or contact Michael and Christiaan on Procurious to find out more?

Look After Your Data – Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe

Concerned about data protection? How can IT procurement ensure data security and reduce cyber risk for your organisation?

data secret safe

Procurious is at ProcureCon IT in Amsterdam this week. Stay up to date with what’s happening on Procurious, and by following us on Twitter.

Day Two of ProcureCon IT is well underway and we’ve been privy to another morning of thought provoking discussion.

Procurious founder Tania Seary picked the brains of Kaushik Yathindra, Manager, Procurement Analytics, HSBC and Florian Schroeder, Head of IS Commodity & Contract Management, Bombardier Transportation to learn more about how to implement data security, the end of Safe Harbour, and the effects of Internet of Things (IoT). 

Where to Start?

Why is data security so important? As Florian Schroeder pointed out, you wouldn’t leave your most valuable possessions at the front door, you’d hide them away somewhere secretive. We should consider our data in the same way and not leave it exposed to hackers.

Data security is one of the fastest growing areas of IT spend. An estimated $1 trillion is going to be spent globally between 2017 and 2021. But how do you make sure your money is well spent, and your information secure?

Whilst data protection is a huge concern for organisations, it can be difficult to know where to start, particularly given the multiple types of data security on offer. Here are a few points to consider: 

  • To ensure the security of both yours and your suppliers’ data, it’s first important to understand the roles of everyone concerned. How will your procurement, legal, compliance and IT teams collaborate to ensure that contracts fulfil the level of service required in your organisation?
  • Consider data security in all of your organisation’s decision making whether it be Sales, Accounting or IT.
  • Take what you need and nothing more. There’s no point in collecting useless or excess information. The more you have, the more that can get stolen. Likewise, only store information as long as your organisation has a need for it. And when you do dispose of it, do it securely!
  • Ensure your service providers have adequate security measures in place. And don’t just take their word for it – get it in writing!
  • Use complex passwords. Make sure they’re stored securely, and keep the most sensitive information secure throughout its lifecycle by encrypting data when it is transferred.

As both panelists reminded us, you can never ensure 100 per cent security while there are hackers looking for it!

The End of Safe Harbour

Changing privacy regulations can make choosing where to store your data a complex process, particularly for global organisations.

In the EU, for example, privacy laws forbid any citizen’s data to be moved outside of the EU unless transferred somewhere with adequate privacy protections.

Safe Harbour was an agreement between the EU and the US in which the US government promised to protect the information of EU citizens if transferred to the US by American businesses.

This has been an extremely convenient agreement for companies such as Facebook. These companies were, up until now, able to store all of their EU data in US centres.

Last month, however, the European court of justice ruled the agreement invalid. This will mean a lot of paperwork and red tape for US businesses trying to move information out of the EU.

Perhaps the future is in establishing EU-based centres to handle data for EU citizens? Google, Facebook and Apple are already leading the way on this.

And it’s not just the end of Safe Harbour that will shake up Data Protection policies. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) framework was formally adopted by European parliament in April this year to be implemented by May 2018.

If the UK has completed Brexit negotiations by this stage, they will face pressure to adhere to the GDPR framework in order to continue trade within the single market.

Digitisation and the Rise of the Internet of Things

Kaushik explained how banks are moving towards complete digitisation in order to accommodate the next generation of customer who expect to be able to do everything online. Whilst this is great in terms of customer convenience, it presents additional data security challenges.

The worldwide Internet of Things market is predicted to grow to $1.7 trillion by 2020. More than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some IoT elements. It won’t be long until every aspect of our daily lives is connected. We’ll have smart bridges, smart cars, smart houses, smart vending machines…we could go on!

Of course, with great tech developments comes greater data protection challenges. The Internet of things adds a significant threat layer in which physical devices can now be hacked, have their information stolen, and even be remotely controlled.

There are a number of ways that organisations can manage data security relating to the Internet of Things. These include:

  • Encrypting sensitive data as close to where it’s generated as possible, rendering it useless to attackers in the event of a breach.
  • Only sharing information on a need-to-know basis.
  • Applying end-to-end encryption to ensure that sensitive information captured by IoT devices is protected throughout its lifecycle.
  • Procurement teams can help move the market towards a world where security becomes a part of IoT products.

In the words of Gandalf, when it comes to protecting data, keep it secret keep it safe.