Category Archives: Supply Chain

LEAD LIKE A BOSS: MASTER GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN SHIFTS

In light of COVID-19, is the status quo still the best way, or is it time to move away from Globalisaton to embrace Localisation and its benefits? Tania Seary explains what such a gargantuan shift would entail and how you can master it.


The supply chain strategy paradigms we have held close and true for decades are being challenged. The questions are complex, important, urgent and without easy answers.

Consider some of the traditional supply chain paradigms such as lean manufacturing, just-in-time inventory management and extended payment terms. In light of COVID-19, is the status quo still the right way to operate? Take supplier payment terms, for example. Maximising working capital has been a top priority for as long as we can remember. Now, given the rise in bankruptcies and the clear connection between supplier viability and business continuity, many procurement leaders are taking a step back and thinking more about their suppliers’ cash flow in addition to their own.

These paradigm shifts are substantial but pale in comparison to the potential changes around supply chain globalisation.

Supply Chain Globalisation: Is It Time to Localise?

For decades, supply chain strategies have revolved around moving production and sourcing to low-cost geographies. This traditional low-cost sourcing mindset affects everything from lead times, supplier selection, production, quality, margins and more.

Today, leaders everywhere are asking if their heavy reliance on global suppliers is less strategic and more of a risk. When Procurious asked more than 600 procurement and supply chain professionals where COVID-19 had the biggest impact, 21% said logistics and transportation slowdowns or delays. Over one in four cited lack of available supply due to production downtimes and shutdowns. Ninety-seven percent said they were impacted in some capacity.

Pressure and attention are heightened when disruptions cause shortages to critical supplies such as ventilators or personal protective equipment, direct materials and popular merchandise. Beyond the headlines, there’s also a significant impact to the services supply chain. When critical outsourced services, including customer support, security and IT, were suddenly forced to go remote, we saw a corresponding rise in risks related to quality, fraud and compliance.

When a supply chain disruption occurs, it is impossible to control what is happening, especially when the product or service you rely on is thousands of miles away and completely inaccessible. What business leaders can control, however, is from where they source. That explains why over one-third of the profession is currently planning to either expand their supply base or shrink their global supply chain and depend more upon local suppliers.

The idea of realigning supply chains is not new. Questions about globalisation and the heavy reliance on China have been bubbling for years. Macro and geo-political events such as the China-U.S. trade war and Brexit brought the topic to the surface. COVID-19 caused it to boil over. Forbes even went as far as to say COVID-19 will become the final curtain on China’s nearly 20-year role as the world’s leading manufacturer.

Our research shows that over half of supply chain and procurement professionals believe Fortune 500 companies should reduce globalisation by localising supply chains and bringing manufacturing back home. But as most industry veterans recognise, that shift is far easier said than done.

The Catch-22 for Supply Chain & Procurement

Surprisingly, 27% of executives plan to stay the course and not make any meaningful post-pandemic strategy shifts. Many of them probably want to alter approaches, but recognize the inherent complexities and costs associated with doing so.

Understandably, most executives have never before experienced a supply chain disruption to this extent. While localisation seems like an appealing strategy to minimise future risks and boost the local economy, it’s far from a quick and easy fix. The obstacles are plenty.

Overcoming the deep reliance on low-cost sourcing is the first challenge. The second is production complexity. Technology gets more innovative, personalised and sophisticated by the day. It would be nearly impossible for a single manufacturer to hold all the technical capabilities and expertise to produce these products 100% in-house. To keep up, manufacturers outsource critical components to others, who outsource to sub-suppliers and so on.

Breaking this chain, while simultaneously bringing production closer to home and swaying the board to accept lower margins, will require executives and procurement teams to perform in a new reality.

Of course, there are clear benefits of going local. The end-to-end supply chain impact on carbon emissions is more than five times that of companies’ direct operations. Localisation optimises and shortens the supply chain network, lowering emissions.

In addition, sustainability performance is proven to impact the bottom-line. According to the World Economic Forum, sustainable procurement practices can reduce supply chain costs by 9 – 16%. On a larger scale, shifts toward localisation strengthen national and local economies, support the job market and, in many cases, reduce enterprise risk.

What’s to Come?

The decision to move production requires long-term planning and commitment. It won’t and can’t happen overnight.

Companies planning to make seismic strategy shifts like localisation require proper technology investments. Over 90% of companies are already using at least one Industry 4.0 technology, including blockchain, artificial intelligence, internet of things and more. While adoption of blockchain is still relatively low, the network promises to play a pivotal role in whatever changes come next.

The following 6 – 12 months will be crucial for every company and require a great amount of flexibility and adaptability. It’s impossible to predict (with 100% accuracy, at least) what’s next. Anyone that tells you differently is out of their mind. My advice to C-suites and supply chain and procurement leaders is to remain agile, invest, lean on your peers and prepare for anything.

7 Key Supply Chain Leaders’ Skills and Why You Need Them

What are the essential skills you need to possess or develop if you want to become one of tomorrow’s supply chain leaders? Is it enough to have a business-related degree and a little supply chain experience, or is supply chain leadership a vocation for which you must work hard to acquire specific qualities? Rob O’Byrne from The Logistics Bureau shares his expert advice.


In reality, it’s probably a little bit of both. Indeed, many elements of supply chain leadership can’t effectively be learned through academic channels alone.

In any case, an excellent place to start is by knowing what the most vital supply chain leaders’ skills are and, of course, why you need them.

That’s what you’ll find in this article, so you can check which essential skills you already have, and which ones you might wish to enhance with some pragmatic supply chain education.

These Are the 7 Supply Chain Leaders’ Skills You’ll Really Need

1. Information Technology and Automation Knowledge

Before getting into this first section proper, I want to make one essential point, which I’ll expand on later in this article. Supply chain leadership is all about people using technology as a tool. Nothing is more important than working on your people skills if you want to be a successful supply chain leader.

Nevertheless, few supply chains run successfully today without the support of sophisticated technology tools, like warehouse management and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. For that reason, you need at least a modicum of IT understanding to work in a supply chain environment, particularly if you intend holding a leadership position.

To be a supply chain leader, you will need to be familiar with the use of enterprise software applications like WMS, TMS, and ERP, not to mention analytics software, which is increasingly becoming a staple source of leadership decision support.

Enterprise IT Skills at User-level

There was a time when supply chain leaders could rely on subordinate employees to do the hands-on work with business information systems, and be content to receive reports and Excel spreadsheets containing data for decision-making.

Those days are gone, however. Today you’re expected to find your way around the modules of your company’s ERP and business intelligence applications on your own. Furthermore, your need for technology understanding extends beyond hands-on use.

Understand IT as a Buyer

As a supply chain leader, your input into IT procurement will be crucial, and you must know enough about your company’s technology needs to discuss them with vendors. You’ll need to understand the relationship between ERP workflows and physical processes, for instance, to help prevent classic mistakes from being made, such as applying new technology to outdated, inefficient processes.

It will help if you know automation technology, too, since more and more companies are applying automation in distribution centres and warehouses.

Ultimately, strong interpersonal skills still trump technological expertise as a supply chain leader’s forte. However, a career at the head of your company’s supply chain is not one to consider if you don’t have some affinity for technology and its application in business.

2. A Grasp of Economics and Market Dynamics

The supply chain world is changing rapidly and sometimes unpredictably, in line with the market dynamics across many industries, all of which are being affected by rapid shifts in customer and consumer buying-behaviour.

Many markets that used to be purely local or regional have become global, as have the supply chains that serve them. As a supply chain leader, you will need to focus on what lies ahead and, to some extent, predict it. That can only be possible with a thorough understanding of the market dynamics relating to your industry and your company.

Of course, each industry and the niches within them are subject to unique and specific market dynamics. Supply chain leaders can work in any industry as long as they know their stuff, but this does mean that a change of employer can require some in-depth study, especially if the market is unfamiliar.

As a basis to quickly adjust to supply chain career moves, it will help a lot to be familiar with economics’ basic concepts.

To see ahead and lead a supply chain team effectively, you’ll need to understand what drives demand, supply, and pricing for the goods and services provided by your organisation and its competitors. These forces impact a variety of supply chain management elements, including the cost of goods sold and the cost to serve your company’s customers.

3. Understanding Cost-to-serve

Supply chain leaders play a very active role in the profitability of their employing companies. If you’re running a supply chain operation, your decisions impact the costs involved in supplying your organisation’s customers.

You will have a huge advantage and the potential to shine as a leader if you can quantify how your supply chain leadership decisions affect your bottom line. For instance, too few companies focus on the real costs involved with serving customers.

The result of this inattention is often a one-size-fits-all approach to service, inevitably leading to the over-servicing of some customers and the under-servicing of others. A single service offering can even impair profitability, perhaps creating a situation where logistics costs cause some sales to generate losses instead of profits.

If you understand the cost-to-serve concept and can apply it to your company’s supply chain activity, you’ll be able to identify unprofitable customers and products.

By developing a thorough cost-to-serve understanding, you’ll even be able to make decisions that improve the profitability of those customers and products instead of taking knee-jerk measures to cut losses.

Every company wants supply chain leaders who can make direct and positive impacts on the bottom line—but not every company has such leaders. That’s why familiarity with cost-to-serve is one skill that can help you stand out as a competent supply chain professional.

4. The Skill of Flexibility

The one thing you won’t find on this list of supply chain leaders’ “must-have” skills is innovation. You don’t have to be an innovator to be an outstanding supply chain leader, but you do have to support and drive innovation. Flexibility is the skill that will help you to do that.

Flexibility gives you the ability to let others do the innovative thinking. Your flexibility will give those creative thinkers the confidence to present their ideas, since they know that you will adopt them if it makes sense to do so.

Flexibility will keep you from feeling too comfortable in the status quo ever to let it go. Flexibility will ensure that change (often termed the only constant in supply chain management) will not faze you or cause you undue stress. In turn, your team will be encouraged to embrace, rather than resist, change.

Flexibility is one of the soft skills that differentiate successful supply chain leaders. That’s not only because of the changing nature of supply chain operations, but also because things don’t always go to plan—far from it if truth be told.

For example, during supply chain improvement projects, it’s not uncommon for things to crop up, requiring plans to be changed. An inflexible leader may doggedly try to drive through with the original strategy, becoming ever more frustrated in the process and hampering, rather than helping the situation.

Inflexibility often manifests in the belief that changing a plan is an admission of poor planning, but in many cases, that is an erroneous presumption.

Don’t fall into this trap. Work on your flexibility as a leader. Accept that plans should always be work-in-progress, and adapt your approach when required. You can’t plan for every eventuality, and while flexibility is a virtue for supply chain leaders in general, it’s an absolute essential in project management.

5. Project Management Skills

Aside from flexibility, there are many other project-management skills that you’ll need as a supply chain leader. Of course, a lot depends on what leadership role you are in, but if you are headed to the top, you’ll probably hold several management positions on the way up, most of which will see you leading projects from time to time.

If you make it to the C-suite or, indeed, to any senior leadership position, it will help you and your managers do a better job if you understand the fundamental principles, pitfalls, and challenges inherent in project management.

The most crucial project management skills to acquire as a supply chain leader are as follows:

  • The ability to negotiate successfully for resources, budgets, and schedules
  • A high degree of personal organisation
  • A proactive approach to risk management

Of course, the above-noted skills are also valuable for supply chain leaders generally, not just as part of a project-management skill set. I’ve simply noted them here because they are the carry-over skills most likely required in a supply chain leadership role. To elaborate:

  • Personal organisation will be vital for keeping track of numerous projects for which you are likely to be a sponsor and meeting your obligations toward them.
  • You may sometimes be called upon to support project business cases, hence the need for negotiation skills.
  • When deciding if you’ll approve a requested project, knowledge of risk management will help you ask the right questions about the proposal and business case.

6. The Ability to Get the Best from People

So how about those people skills I briefly mentioned earlier?

I can’t put it any more plainly: the ability to lead, manage, influence, and inspire other people is the number one fundamental, essential skill that all supply chain leaders and managers should possess.

It is entirely possible to learn the necessary skills, but a word of caution is due. If you don’t enjoy team building and developing professional relationships with lots—and I do mean lots—of other people, don’t choose a supply chain leadership career.

On the other hand, if you love working with people but just don’t see yourself as a great leader, you probably have exactly the right mindset to succeed in a supply chain leader’s role.

There is nothing wrong with being self-critical, as long as you have the will to learn what you need to learn, and the energy to commit to your personal development. Being passionate about teamwork and enjoying interactions with others is half the battle in succeeding as a supply chain leader.

The 3 Cs of Supply Chain Leadership

Communication: First and foremost, you need to communicate well … to articulate sometimes complex concepts in a way that anyone within your company can understand, regardless of whether they have supply chain knowledge or not.

Dependent on whether your company operates internationally, you might benefit from communication skills that extend beyond your native language. It’s becoming ever more common for enterprises to give preference to bilingual or multilingual leadership candidates.

Collaboration: Secondly, you will need to be able to foster collaboration, a critical element in any modern supply chain.

It won’t always be easy, because sometimes you’ll be asking teams inside and outside of your business to collaborate and work together despite competing priorities and expectations. To ensure these parties collaborate, you’ll need to draw on communication, persuasion, and relationship building skills.

Change: Change management is another people skill in which you might wish to receive some special education or training. If you are planning to graduate from a role where you’ve been used to participating in, but not leading change efforts, experience alone may not be sufficient to help you take people through challenging changes. Resistance to change can be hard to overcome.

The impact of changes within your supply chain can affect employees on a very personal level. You’ll need to know how to empathise and to listen actively to what people are telling you. Without these skills, your leadership can quickly be rejected during periods of change, purely through fear of the unknown and a sense that you don’t appreciate employees’ concerns.

Get the Best From Yourself

Finally, while the need to interact effectively with other people might seem obvious, you shouldn’t neglect the development of the person most impacted by your skills and abilities—yourself.

Supply chain leaders should be able to conduct regular self-assessments and identify their areas of weakness.

We never stop learning and developing, but by having the ability to self-appraise your skills honestly, and work on those areas that need it, you can acquire new expertise at a rate that keeps pace with the ever-changing supply chain environment.

Getting the best from yourself also means having the ability to curb your ego. Learn to recognise when somebody else in your team exceeds your aptitude for a specific task or responsibility.

Let that individual take the lead, and be happy to follow and learn from her. Not only will that free you to play a part in which you can use your strengths, but you’ll also be empowering the other person and helping her to reach outside of her comfort zone.

7. The Know-How to Negotiate

As a modern supply chain leader, it won’t only be your reports and colleagues that you need to interact with effectively and skillfully, but also those outside your organization. Moreover, both internal and external interactions will often involve the need to negotiate.

Supply chain leaders must negotiate often, and even if you’re not doing so on a one-to-one basis, you’ll probably find yourself in scenarios where you’re part of a team of people trying to broker a deal or arrangement.

Negotiation Scenarios for Supply Chain Leaders

Some examples of possible negotiation situations that you might get involved in, and in many cases, lead, include:

  • Procurement of IT services and solutions
  • Contracts for logistics services
  • Brokering deals with product vendors (for direct or indirect supplies)
  • Putting together contracts or service level agreements with customers
  • Negotiations with employee groups or trade unions
  • Business merger/acquisition negotiations

Why do Negotiation Skills Matter?

Negotiations are typically transactional, but often take place between entities or teams engaged in long-term business relationships. Whether you are the lead or a mere participant in the negotiation, your skills will influence the transaction’s outcome and the trajectory of the broader relationship.

It’s easy to make mistakes during negotiations, but with relevant training and education, you can hone your skills to avoid some of the most common errors.

For example, skilled negotiators know that the process does not have winners or losers. They don’t go into a negotiation aiming to win as many concessions as possible, and they don’t feel that they have failed when they have to give ground to arrive at a settlement.

A win/lose type of attitude will lead to negotiating mistakes. Even if you come out of a negotiation feeling that you have won, you might find further down the line that your “win” has done nothing to strengthen what might be a vital partnership.

Mistakes that Skilled Negotiators Avoid

If you have developed your negotiation skills, you will always enter into discussions looking for an outcome that will satisfy both parties. You’ll also be able to avoid other common mistakes such as:

  • Failing to prepare by identifying what the deal-breakers are, which outcomes are essential, which ones are useful to achieve, and which ones don’t matter in any concrete way.
  • Asking only for as much as you expect… It is better to ask for more than you expect.
  • Modifying an offer you have made before getting a response to the original. It’s important to understand that the other party may use silence to bait you into relaxing your conditions.
  • Offering compromises before you have heard all the demands of the other party. By getting all the facts first, you can be selective in identifying where compromise may be possible.
  • Focusing too much on your party’s input and achievements. Strong negotiators pay close attention to the opposite party’s behaviours, ask plenty of questions, and take time to understand and analyse the answers.

How to Boost Your Supply Chain Leader’s Skills

Your business degree and/or hands-on experience in a supply chain role will undoubtedly help you gain and maintain a supply chain leader’s position in your current company—or in a new organisation if you should be planning a move.

However, supply chains have become so complicated that an extensive toolkit of required skills is required if you want to thrive and make a difference as a supply chain leader.

Some of the skills in that toolkit can be difficult to attain without many years of supply chain experience, simply because they are rarely taught outside of the workplace. Your best option might be a program of specialised supply chain and logistics education.

Our Supply Chain Secrets program, for example, was developed and designed by people who work in the industry. It can help you learn about each supply chain area pragmatically, using real-world problem-solving and relatable examples of commonly made mistakes—and methods to avoid them.

If you’ve read this blog post, perhaps you’ve been searching online for ways to enhance your supply chain leader’s skill set. If so, you don’t need to look much further. Join Supply Chain Secrets today, and access the skills you need to be a supply chain leader of tomorrow.

This article was originally published here and is republished here with kind permission.

5 Ways To Separate The Successful Supply Chains From The Rest

New computers can analyse a million rows of data in minutes. So why not let the computer do the heavy lifting? As a supply chain professional of the future, you won’t be manually processing data.  You will have data you can trust at your fingertips, as well as meaningful insights.  The rest will be up to you! IBM’s Takshay Aggarwal explains.


In the future, what will separate the successful supply chains from the rest? 

Procurious Founder Tania Seary sat down with Takshay Aggarwal from IBM to get his take on where we are, and where we are going.



Everything has changed

In 20 years of supply chain experience, Takshay has never seen a supply and demand shock at the same time.

“It’s completely changed how supply chain planning is done,” Takshay says.

Before, people used historical data to project demand – usually with a 5-10% variability or 1-2% percent for really mature organisations.  

But even with a high level of accuracy, too many companies were unsure which supplies were coming when. 

“Processes were so monthly and weekly orientated,” Takshay adds. “There was no sense of response; it was all about, ‘We’re used to this stepwise process and will get to it when we get to it.”

The result? Slow response time and lost sales. And reaction time was seriously hampered by years of cost cutting.

“An easy analogy is that you can cut and cut the fat to the bone, but when you need to run, where is the muscle?” Takshay says.

Sensing the market

That’s not true for all organisations, of course. Some companies invested in the right technology to detect changes in the market, which enabled them to respond quickly.

Takshay uses the example of two big retailers during the early days of the pandemic.  

“One retailer had sensing and response capabilities,” Takshay explains. “They secured all the available supplies in the market. Their shelves were stocked and their sales were booming.”

On the other hand, the second retailer’s supply chain officer was slow to respond. “They had traditional ways of doing stuff and their shelves were empty.” 

The difference between the two? “One supply chain officer is now promoted to the board and the other is finding a new job.” 

That’s why it’s so crucial to have the tools in place to detect market fluctuation and respond.

Looking at data differently

Going forward, how will you prepare for disruption – not only for your suppliers, but your suppliers’ suppliers?

The solution is incorporating non-traditional data for demand planning, Takshay says.

“Let’s say a discretionary spend category like electronics or fashion; you need to understand how unemployment is panning out in certain areas because that determines the footfall in your store,” Takshay says.

Non-traditional data includes areas of demographics like looking at unemployment or how a disease is spreading.

“You will start seeing a lot of what we call demand sensing in the near term, and driver-based forecasting which is trying to understand larger drivers in terms of promotions, in terms of macroeconomic factors,” Takshay explains.

“I think that’s where we’ll see demand sensing capabilities, like trying to understand the near term impact of weather or demographics and how they affect demand.”

Spreadsheets won’t cut it

Technology will also change how you use that non-traditional data, Takshay says.

That’s because higher computational power creates the ability to process data at lightning speed.

“The basic math hasn’t changed, but what has changed is how fast you can ingest that data,” Takshay says.

Think of it this way. How long would it take you to analyse a million rows in an Excel spreadsheet? Yet for some of these new models, a million rows is nothing.

Artificial intelligence can quickly process large amounts of data, making it easier to extract meaningful data. 

It will also be easier to bring in different sources of data – as and when –  they’re relevant.

For example, data about the pandemic spread might be a big consideration now, but six months from now it might not be relevant (fingers crossed!)

Instead, you may be more interested to ingest data at scale about economic recovery. AI can help you make sense of a huge amount of data and understand correlations – something that used to take an army of data scientists to uncover.

Welcome to efficiency

That ability to analyse vast quantities of data will also make demand planning a lot easier.

“If you ask any demand planners, 60 to 70% of their work today is about cleansing and harmonising data, and 20-30% is figuring out what it’s saying,” says Takshay.

Now, technology can eliminate much of that manual processing. In fact, Takshay says IBM estimates around 40 to 60% of that work will be covered.

“Now imagine if you’re a demand planner and you don’t have to go through those daily tasks to get the data cleansed,” Takshay says. 

Making it personal

So what does the future hold for supply chain?

Takshay predicts consumer demand is moving toward mass personalisation. The challenge for procurement teams will be supporting that personalisation in production, without losing efficiency or driving up costs.

“Ten years from now, we will be talking more about how we can better understand the consumer,” Takshay says.

“Everything will be done by machine. Supply chain may become irrelevant. It all becomes about mass personalisation so that’s where we start putting our efforts.”

That’s why human empathy will be an even more essential skill. Quantum computing could eliminate 80% of today’s procurement tasks, so our greater contribution is using human emotion to meet customer needs.

Hear Takshay’s full talk with Tania Seary in our exclusive webcast series The Future of Supply Chain Now.

“I Want To Break Free” – Is This Procurement & Supply Chain’s 2020 Theme Song/Anthem?

We asked our LinkedIn community for their top pandemic anthems, and the result was an awesome playlist!


Owing to the myriad Supply Chain disruptions this year, many of us suddenly found that the world was no longer our oyster – or if it was, it clamped shut and trapped us inside. On top of Supply Chain chaos, we had to deal with our own incarceration.

Were you Happy like Pharrel or, despite all your rage, still just a Rat in a Cage like Smashing Pumpkins? Did you Always Look On the Bright Side of Life a la Monty Python, or did you swing from Sia’s Chandelier?

Perhaps it wasn’t The End of the World as We Know It but Lord knows you wanted to break free.

Music can either placate your mood or provoke it; it can augment your voice or do all the talking for you. In whichever case, certain songs will already be part of your daily COVID-19 landscape.

We asked our LinkedIn community for their Supply Chain anthems – and here’s the top 10:

Highway to Hell – AC/DC

– Peter Rand, Mastercard

No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me around

When confronted with a crisis, do you let your hair down, throw your glass in the fireplace and yell “game on!”? You crank this rockin’ classic and take on the world!

Then you realise (as some of us did) these are problems we’ve never faced from a catastrophe we never imagined:

Help! – The Beatles

– Peter Rand, Mastercard

97% percent of organisations we surveyed reported a supply chain disruption – and few of us had ever seen anything like it. So if you found yourself thinking:

Help! I need somebody!
Help! Not just anybody!
Help! I need someone!
Help!

… You weren’t the only one!

One – U2

– Gale Daikoku, SAP

It wasn’t one single person or organisation who saved the world: the COVID-19 Pandemic was a textbook case of Procurement and Supply Chains working together:

We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other

But with the huge pressures of work and the stifling restrictions on freedom, you could be forgiven for not basking in solidarity.

So Sick – Ne-Yo

– Tim Elliott, McLaren Automotive

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG2U2sjshTM

(It’s ridiculous) It’s been months, and for some reason I just
(Can’t get over us) And I’m stronger than this
(Enough is enough) No more walkin ’round with my head down
I’m so over bein’ blue

While working from home may be an introvert’s dream come true, for the rest of us the novelty is wearing thin. We all know this feeling of being locked up – especially Melburnians! Speaking of …

Locked Up – Akon

Warning: contains strong language

– Tim Elliott, McLaren Automotive

I’m locked up, they won’t let me out
No, they won’t let me out

There may not be grey walls and orange clothes, but isolation can still give off those incarceration vibes. Of course we can do most things from home, but … 

I Want To Break Free – Queen

– Rhylee Nowell, The Faculty

While our Supply Chains may be more resilient than ever, we can only take so much:

But life still goes on
I can’t get used to living without, living without
Living without you by my side
I don’t want to live alone, hey
God knows, got to make it on my own 

Or do you?

Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel

– Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious; Stephanie Shrader, Pridesports

when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Just as one Supply Chain helped another, all sorts of people put their hands up to help.

With A Little Help From My Friends – The Beatles

– Imelda Walsh, Manager, The Source

https://youtu.be/0C58ttB2-Qg

What do I do when my love is away?
Does it worry you to be alone?
How do I feel by the end of the day?
Are you sad because you’re on your own?
No, I get by with a little help from my friends

When your personal network is as strong as your business network, its support takes on inertia of its own.

Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

– Greg Parkinson, Director, Turner & Towsend

The right frame of mind is the key to success: a little mindfulness, coupled with an Attitude of Gratitude a la Nicky Abdinor, goes a long way.

Thus set up for success, soon we’ll be poised to take on the world again:

I Want To Be A Billionaire – Bruno Mars

– Matthew Hadgraft, The Faculty

(Clean Version)

Oh every time I close my eyes
I see my name in shining lights
A different city every night oh right
I swear the world better prepare
For when I’m a billionaire

Keep your dreams, goals, ambitions and plans intact because all this will change. Every Procurement and Supply Chain executive knows the importance of a Business Continuity Plan – make sure your own plans are articulated, because who knows what opportunities the future will bring?

Do you have any suggestions for additional songs? Comment below.

6 Ways To Keep Supply Chain On The Executive Agenda

Supply chain is firmly on the executive agenda (at last!). But how can we keep our seat at the table? Procurious talks to Kearney partner Kate Hart about the burning issues in supply chain – from attracting new talent to co-creating with suppliers.


Supply chain is firmly on the executive agenda (at last!). But how can we keep our seat at the table? 

Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently sat down with Kate Hart, Partner at consulting firm Kearney, to talk about the state of supply chain and what’s coming.



Change, pivot, attract

Supply chain management is increasingly about dealing with disruption, says Kate.

“Recent events have highlighted how susceptible our global supply chains are to disruption, from the pandemic to ransomware attacks to global trade wars,” Kate explains.

So how do we cope? It all comes down to two critical capabilities.

The first is the ability to sense the changing environment and pivot. And the second is the ability to attract and retain core talent. 

That need hasn’t changed for a decade, says Kate. So why is it worth mentioning now? 

“What it means today is very different to what it meant 10 years ago in regards to the importance of being able to sense a change environment and pivot,” Kate says.

That’s because the demands on supply chain professionals have changed dramatically – and certain industries adapt quicker than others.

“Some global geographies are a lot more mature than others so far as their uptake of e-commerce and some geographies have really been lagging,” Kate says. 

Why technology means survival

If retailers were hesitant to adopt new technology, they have an extra incentive now. It’s their key to survival.  

“Amazon has been a trigger for some of those geographies to uptake, but obviously the pandemic has just increased the proliferation of retailers offering e-commerce platforms,” says Kate.

Companies are also becoming more innovative in the way they handle the actual distribution of their supply chains, particularly in the business-to-consumer route.  

“We’ve seen a proliferation of sort of rideshare ‘uberisation’ of that last mile,” Kate says.

“What we’re seeing is those companies that invested in the technology and got ahead of the game really have thrived during this. Now it’s going to be a matter of, you know, catch up or who survives, so it’s going to be quite interesting.”

Understanding the risk

So what are smart companies doing now to avoid future disruption? Supply chain network mapping.

Kate has seen a huge influx of companies not just looking at supplier risk, but looking at suppliers’ suppliers risk and building that information through their supply chains.

Interestingly, this is largely driven by senior executive interest. Never before has supply chain resilience enjoyed such a prominent position on the c-suite agenda.

“It’s beyond just enterprise risk. There is reputational risk, there is financial risk, there are lots of different risks that are inherent in the supply chain and that is very much front and centre in many of our board conversations at the moment,” Kate says.

“The key question that we’re getting asked by boards is how they get visibility in their end-to-end supply chain risk and how they manage that resilience.”

Making it automatic

Companies are also investing more heavily in automation to improve resilience.

‘It’s been quite extraordinary. Some global areas, particularly in the US and in the UK, are seeing a lot of advantage from automation,” Kate says.

“But the investment in automation needs to be deliberate, with a very sound business case, otherwise organisations are investing but not necessarily seeing returns in some areas.”

Technology, like automation, is providing supply chain teams with new levels of influence, Kate says. 

“We’re seeing supply chain organisations use digital tools to create a triage process with a front door to supply chain – a self-service functionality,” Kate explains.

“[It] enables their internal talent team to then work with their business stakeholders to drive extraordinary value.

“So, supply chain is really being impacted positively by digitisation and automation. It’s all part of a focus on resilience which elevates the conversations and, in turn, the value that supply chain can deliver.”

Working as partners

That’s why Kate says the future will be all about human decisions facilitated by technology.

“What does that mean for partnerships across your supply chain?” Kate asks. “It means that the problems that need to be solved are increasingly complex. It requires a very strategic view of your supplier base.”

The strategic view increasingly means changing the relationship to a close partnership.

“In some of the scenarios that we’re working on at the moment, the clients don’t know what the solution is and actually need to engage the suppliers to co-create solutions for problems that are new to both of them,” Kate says. 

That means seeing suppliers as extensions of your own organisation, which is positive.

But as Kate points out, companies still need to maintain “control and visibility so you are not anchored to them in perpetuity. So getting that balance of control versus collaboration right is going to be really, really important.”

The right people

As Kate puts it, the bright future of procurement isn’t possible without the right people.

“All of that is very contingent on the ability to attract, retain, and grow talent – the conundrum of supply chain management for aeons,” Kate says.

“But never is it more important than now. For supply chain management to have a seat at the table it needs to be attracting the core talent that we’re seeing coming out of the universities.

“There needs to be a very strong talent pool that’s feeding into the industry.”

Kate Hart – Partner at consulting firm Kearney, overseeing the supply chain practise within Asia Pacific – can be heard in the webcast series The Future Of Supply Chain Now.

Supply chains are changing. Here are 5 things we know now.

How To Create A Procurement Service Desk

How can you centralise disparate tools and requests to receive, triage and manage work across the source-to-pay process without replacing your applications? It’s not as impossible as it sounds.


Are your stakeholders frustrated with finding their way through the procurement maze? As a procurement practitioner are you overwhelmed with navigating your way through a variety of disparate tools and requests, such as procurement, accounting and reporting, to get your work done?

Many organisations are increasingly improving the efficiency of the procurement process by implementing a “Procurement Service Desk,” which is a single, centralised user portal for stakeholder requests, routing, communication and PR/PO status reporting.

One-stop shop for “all things procurement”

By using one portal instead of multiple systems, the Procurement Service Desk provides seamless engagement for procurement and its stakeholders, which helps procurement organisations receive, triage and manage work across the source-to-pay (S2P) process. The single portal improves the overall user experience and outcomes with procurement for stakeholders, including requestors, legal, finance and operations.

With a Procurement Service Desk, stakeholders no longer have to spend days trying to figure out where to go, who to call, and what information is required to engage procurement. The platform provides procurement stakeholders with a simple user experience to submit procurement requests. A dashboard provides full visibility to requests and statuses throughout the end-to-end procurement process. Stakeholders and procurement now collaborate directly in the centralised portal instead of through numerous emails, files and phone calls.

Procurement organisations typically realise these value-based outcomes after implementing a Procurement Service Desk:

  • Automated triage of work to appropriate practitioners through intelligent routing
  • Improved user experience for clients, supplier and S2P practitioners
  • Workflow data captured in a structured manner for utilisation to improve processes, deliver efficiencies and provide an improved experience
  • Enablement of metrics that matter
  • Intuitive, easy-to-use platform
  • E2E flow supported by a single platform

Shortening the process through intelligent triage

Through the Procurement Service Desk, stakeholders submit requests covering the full S2P process, including sourcing, contracts, supplier onboarding, purchase orders and invoices. By using standardised processes and forms, the Procurement Service Desk ensures compliance and gathers required data from stakeholders.

Requests are based on standardised processes and forms, ensuring compliance and that required data is received upfront from the stakeholders. Because procurement professionals don’t have to chase down additional information from stakeholders, the Procurement Service Desk enables a more efficient process and quick turnaround times.

When a request is submitted through the Procurement Service Desk, the platform triages the request through intelligent routing rules to the appropriate procurement practitioner for no-touch handling.

Triage rules based on commodity, request value, country and supplier match the request with the most appropriate procurement practitioner. This automated triage ensures work gets to the right team quicker and more accurately, improving stakeholder customer satisfaction.

The Procurement Service Desk provides procurement with full visibility to the types of requests coming into the organisation through an executive dashboard, helping managers measure and address workload balance and required skills. The platform also provides improved data-driven insights based on the volume and types of requests received from stakeholders.

Integrating processes and systems

Because the Procurement Service Desk sits on top of an integration layer, the intake request process connects with the back-end disparate tools and micro services. Procurement manages their full workload in a single platform regardless of the back-end transactional systems. By sharing data from the intake process bi-directionally with the back-end transactional applications, the Procurement Service Desk eliminates data re-entry, improving process efficiencies and analytics.

The Procurement Service Desk also easily connects to other services, such as Marketplace and Analytics, making them easily accessible. Previously disparate tools and services, they now easily scale and function as a fully integrated platform.

After making the decision to move to a services desk, procurement organisations should begin looking for a system platform to manage the Procurement Service Desk and integrate their key systems. By working with a company with specific procurement experience, organisations reduce business disruptions and speed up implementation.

Learn how IBM Procurement Services can help to reduce business costs and meet the challenges of complex global enterprises through effective data-driven source-to-pay operations by visiting www.ibm.com/services/procurement

9 Ideas To Reduce Costs Using Supplier Relationship Management

At a time when costs need reduction but healthy Supplier Relationships are paramount, here are 9 ways to reduce costs using Supplier Relationship Management.


There isn’t a procurement pro on the planet right now who isn’t looking at ways to reduce costs.  But this comes at the end of a year where we’ve all been sorely reminded that strong supplier relationships are paramount … especially during a crisis.

Common practice is to look at procurement categories with large amounts of spend and start searching for ways to reduce that spend. One of the more routine approaches is to run an RFP, inviting incumbent suppliers along with potential new partners to help drive competition for your business, with the end-goal to ultimately reduce cost.

But what if your cost base has already bottomed out? What if you are buying a good or service that is difficult to come by, thereby putting the power in the suppliers’ hands? How are you able to reduce your spend in a category where all the signs are pointing to a cost increase?

In order to answer these questions, we must start at the beginning by looking at Supplier Relationship Management.

What is Supplier Relationship Management (SRM)?

Supplier relationship management is the discipline of strategically planning for, and managing, all interactions with third party organisations that supply goods and/or services to an organisation in order to maximize the value of those interactions. In practice, SRM entails creating closer, more collaborative relationships with key suppliers to uncover and realise new value and reduce the risk of failure.

Getting back to the initial goal of cost savings, the question becomes ‘when cost savings is a critical driver in supplier selection, how do you balance the collaborative relationship with low cost?’

The key is internal alignment between procurement and the business units. Supply Chain leaders must be able to explain why vendors who may not be the low-cost option for reasons like customer service, on-time deliveries, payment terms, reporting, etc. are actually the best overall value option for the business.

Category leaders must be able to explain how new suppliers versus incumbent suppliers will impact the company. There are too many cases where the grass appears to be greener on the other side. Sometimes, by selecting a low cost, new supplier, operational differences get lost in the shuffle and the transition becomes a disaster.

Why is Supplier Management Important?

In plain simple terms, it creates a competitive advantage. Whether you are the procurement or the supply chain leader for your organization, having a strong supplier management system will maximise cost-reduction opportunities, value driven services and overall systematic efficiencies, which otherwise would not be achieved. 

Supplier Relationships

As stated previously, a critical component to any company’s success is their ability to maintain strong working relationships with their suppliers and vendors. Supplier relationship managers should always look to avoid complacency. You should never be satisfied with the idea of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” and be always be looking for opportunities to improve the relationship, streamline processes or procedures, or change costing models. Relationship Managers should always be looking to challenge the status quo.

Another key to strong supplier relationships is to open the lines of communication and not be afraid to ask the question, “what we can be doing better?” Here are some quick ideas how you, as a customer to your key suppliers, can help enhance your relationship and make those suppliers want to compete for your business.

·   Trust and Loyalty (treat them as more than just vendors)

·   Improve technology and automation

·   Adhere to payment terms

·   Develop communication plans

·   Differentiate between price versus value

·   Have a dedicated Supplier Relationship Manager (SRM)

·   Internal alignment between Procurement and Supply Chain Category leaders

Putting Supplier Relationship Management to Practice

Now let’s look at a specific category – supply chain and logistics – and see how we can apply some of this thinking.

How to Become a ‘Shipper of Choice’ within your Supply Chain and Logistics Network

Logistics spend often plays a role in a company’s effort to reduce costs. Logistics spend can be a substantial percentage of accounts payable, at both the direct and indirect categories. When looking to reduce spend in shipping, taking the low-cost approach can potentially cause more headaches than the savings are worth.

What are some key goals of the shipper?

·   Avoid Disruption

·   On-Time Delivery

·   Low Cost

·   Damage Free

What are some key goals of a carrier?

·   Finding the right shipper

A carrier has a valuable commodity and finding the best shipper to partner with to utilize that commodity is very important for maintaining a good operating ratio. There is a finite amount of space within the global logistics network. What would make a carrier want to move your products versus someone else? Prior to any cost negotiations, a shipper should be looking for ways to make their freight something a carrier wants in their network. They will fight for your business because they value you as a partner, and vice versa.

What can a shipper do to ensure carriers will want their freight?

·   Effectively label freight

·   Safely and adequately package freight

·   Provide accurate descriptions of the freight

·   Use standardized dimensions when possible

·   Use quality pallets

·   Provide ample lead-time when possible

·   Be flexible on your end while remaining consistent in your process

·   Provide a clean, safe and overall attractive driver facility

Achieve Supply Chain Savings: Cost Reduction Negotiations

Once the proper groundwork has been laid and a solid foundation is in place, the relationship developed between a procurement and supply chain organization and its suppliers is now, finally, ready to discuss cost optimisation. By going through the Supplier Relationship Management process, you are now well equipped to conduct cost negotiations. Here’s 9 talking points to reduce costs and build the relationship with your suppliers:

·   Contract length

·   Reduced future cost increases with caps

·   Better discounts or incentive tiers

·   Rebates

·   Volume Thresholds

·   Delivery Costs

·   Payment Terms

·   Ancillary Charges

·   Everything Else (Better reporting, more transparency, communication plan)

One of the keys to entering these negotiations is to come to the table prepared to discuss these types of cost savings opportunities. If your main goal is to just hammer down the unit price, then there is a good chance your supplier will not be overly receptive to that approach. Listen, collaborate, compromise and develop a partnership that will ultimately be a win-win for all those involved.

In conclusion

Top suppliers are always looking to do business with companies who value the partnership and are willing to make improvements in order to make the relationship smooth and efficient.

This type of partnership will lead to your suppliers offering the best possible discounts and pricing and give you the peace of mind that you are getting the most out of your supplier.

Supplier Relationship Management is key to developing a long-term PARTNERSHIP with your key vendors!

What key insights and strategies have you taken from 2020? Share your experiences and hear from the most innovative thinkers on the planet at the Global Big Ideas Summit on November 18.

8 Ideas To Have In Your Procurement And Supply Chain Tool Kit

Supply chains are under intense scrutiny right now. That increases pressure on supply chain leaders, but also creates new opportunities to do things better for everyone: companies, customers, and the planet. Top influencer Rob O’Byrne gives his take on where we’re at and what’s coming next.


Procurious founder Tania Seary recently talked with Rob O’Byrne, CEO of Logistics Bureau, and a top 10 supply chain social media influencer.

Here’s his take on where we are, how we got here, and what’s next.  



“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from factory to store.”

Not long ago, many of us struggled to explain supply chain management to our friends and family.

Now? The pandemic hit and suddenly everyone’s a supply chain expert, says Rob.

“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from the factory to the store, and it’s really put supply chain in the spotlight,” Rob says.

With that extra awareness comes an expectation that supply chains should work more efficiently — and that will change the way we all operate.

“We lost touch with local markets.”

Before we can make impactful changes, we need to understand how we got here.

Rob says the two biggest trends that shaped the pre-Covid era are centralisation and rationalisation.

Increasingly, large global players were centralising their supply chains through regional or global hubs.

Why? To improve management, visibility, and consistency — all of which are important for optimizing supply chain operations. But centralisation comes at a cost.

“The challenge is [these companies] are a lot more remote from their markets and sometimes you actually need to have a finger on the pulse,” Rob says.

“[You have] headquarters in one part of the world trying to dictate what happens in a supply chain in another part of the world. Sometimes they lose touch a little bit.”

Rationalisation led to similar challenges.

For all of the cost savings and visibility benefits, rationalising led to less contact with markets.

“[Companies] are tending to rely a lot more now on AI-based communication systems to talk with customers,” Rob explains.

Great for the bottom line, but frustrating for customers who often want to speak to an actual human instead of a bot.

“We can be in danger of alienating our market.”

“Companies still don’t understand the ‘cost to serve’ in their supply chain”

One of the greatest challenges right now in supply chain management is managing costs, says Rob.

And it’s more than “total cost of ownership.” It’s about knowing the end-to-end costs.

“So many companies still don’t understand the cost to serve across all the different channels in their supply chain. And that’s become even more critical during the pandemic because our distribution channels have changed,” Rob says.

“In the current climate, it’s really challenging because there’s so much expediting going on. We’re having to use different transport modes than perhaps we would normally.” 

Visibility is also a struggle.

“That really came to the fore during the pandemic because everything was moving so much more rapidly,” says Rob.

“Supply and demand peaks and troughs have been so much more severe. The visibility of that real demand was so important, so there’s a much greater need for improved demand planning and inventory management.”

“Forecasts are always wrong”

To illustrate that need, Rob points to the huge demand for one specific medication during the pandemic. 

Patients who used the drug to treat symptoms of a specific disease,  were stocking up, while other people were buying it because they thought it might fight the virus. Hospitals also stocked up because people who needed the drugs would need more if they caught the virus. Demand skyrocketed.  

“So I think that’s part of the challenge in terms of inventory visibility,” Rob points out. “It’s separating the true demand from the noise…that’s where we’re going to see much more sophisticated inventory management tools coming in the future.”

Although some companies still use spreadsheets for forecasting, “on the other end of the scale, there’s some really, really advanced tools being used and all of that is giving us much greater visibility of our supply chains.

“We can use the weather to predict food sales.”

One example is creating demand forecasts based on weather, not previous sales.

Companies can actually predict food requirements at a shopping mall food court by analysing parking spaces and the weather.

They harness data on parking space occupancy, (from those red and green lights) combine it with the weather forecast, and predict how many people will turn up at the shopping centre.

“That’s real forecasting,” says Rob. “It’s not looking at what we sold last month or the month before.”

“Less lean and more fat.”

Along with smarter forecasting, what does the future hold?

Rob says a rapid retreat from lean management might be on the cards for many businesses.

“Lean was all the fashion for the last 10 years or so,” Rob recalls. “And at the time it was probably the right thing to do for the right businesses and the right products.”

But that’s all changed now.

“I just wonder for a lot of supply chains whether it was a step too far when we’ve seen the fragility of our supply chains over the last six months or so,” Rob says.

Where you have the traditional supply chain like an automotive factory, lean and ‘just in time’ works really well, but where you’ve got volatile markets we’re starting to see the cracks appear.”

“I think we’re going to see a little bit more fat, certainly in terms of inventory, just to buffer for uncertainties.”  Because it will be a long time before market demand becomes anywhere near normal, and it may never look like pre Covid demand again, as alternative distribution channels become more popular.

Rob also says we can expect the decline of ‘traditional’ third-party logistics. 

“There are a lot of companies around that ‘uberised logistics’ – whether it be transport or storage, and I think we’re going to see third party logistics particularly moving much more towards the gig economy. There’s no reason why not.”

“There are people delivering to my home at the moment who are doing it a few hours a day, and that’s where third-party logistics is going.”

“Let’s not waste packaging.”

Rob also predicts swelling interest in circular supply chains.

“We’ve got to wake up and start making our supply chains much more sustainable in every element of the supply chain,” Rob says.

“We’ve paid lip service to it and there are companies around the world that we hold up and say, ‘Look what they’re doing; they’re amazing.’

“But I think generally as an industry we’re just not really very good at it. People think it’s about reverse logistics but it’s not. It’s about removing waste in our products too.” 

“Let’s not waste transport; let’s not waste packaging.”

“Supply chains aren’t competing against each other.”

Finally, Rob says supply chains have the opportunity to work together.

“We’ve been very slow in collaboration,” Rob says.

“I think in supply chain, a lot of companies have been fearful of sharing warehousing sharing transport – that physical end of the supply chain – because their competitors are going to see what they are doing.”

“We’ve had that mantra for years that supply chains compete, not companies. I don’t know that they do anymore.

“I think it’s more about brands and it’s about service. I really don’t see a reason why we can’t see a lot more collaboration in our supply chains.”

Rob O’Byrne is CEO of Logistics Bureau and one of the top 10 supply chain influencers on social media.

This interview is part of “The Future of Supply Chain Now” – a week of webcasts with the fresh opinions from the most influential people in supply chain. Brought to you by IBM Sterling Supply Chain and Procurious. Read more on Digitally Perfecting the Supply Chain and How Inventory Visibility will Drastically Effect the Customer Experience.

Procurement Innovation – What’s Next?

Procurement has seen some revolutionary changes over the last two and a half decades. From manual processes to powerful P2P Suites, there is no denying that procurement is becoming more innovative and tech savvy. But as a whole procurement tends to lag behind other professions – it’s time to lead the way for innovation, but where do we go from here?


Technology is driving industry forward at an exponential rate, globally. It’s hard to think of an industry that hasn’t adopted a new technology, at least to some extent, in the last several years. Technological breakthroughs are changing the world over, both from a consumer perspective, but also from a business one. From smart phone companies using fingerprint scanning and facial recognition to car companies implementing park-assist, adaptive cruise control, and in some cases, even self-driving capabilities. This is truly a world driven by innovation, and most industries and business sectors are investing heavily to that end. But what is procurement doing to keep up?

Where We’ve Been

To answer that, first it is important to see how far the profession has come. Although it has taken longer than other markets – the progress has been remarkable.

·   Manual Processes – Like most, this is what dominated the industry for a large period of time. Everything was done manually, from drawing up contracts, to sourcing and purchasing materials. This was quite a time-consuming process at a time when procurement lacked the complexity of today.

·   Emails & Spreadsheets – As technology began to become more mainstream the manual communications started to give way to emails, no longer requiring procurement professionals to travel onsite as often. The use of spreadsheets began to build the framework of an organizational system with excel becoming the main database of choice for many in procurement.

·   ERPs – Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a software that handles business process management it allows an organization to use a series of integrated applications to control and automate many functions related to technology, services and human resources. This is one of the most widely adopted pieces of technology used in procurement today.

·   S2P Systems – This is the current cutting-edge procurement technology. A good S2P suite can bring cost savings, efficiencies and data visibility to your business. Our source-to-pay (S2P) platform, JAGGAER ONE, is a comprehensive suite that automates, optimizes and provides insights across the source-to-pay spectrum. Integrating seamlessly with your ERP, JAGGAER ONE can provide data transparency and visibility, while giving access to a powerful suite of end-to-end supply chain and sourcing solutions.

Procurement is at a Cross-Roads

Procurement has long been a cost-focused profession, largely relying on siloed processes and teams, taking a reactive and tactical approach. And, at one time, that was all that procurement needed to do. But it is now time for procurement to move into a new role – one that takes charge of the business and leads the way, becoming an integral part of the overall business strategy.

I believe that procurement professionals around the world stand on the threshold of a new age. The old paradigm of cost reduction, being reactive and only focusing on purchasing is drawing to a close. In this dynamic, complex and disruptive era, procurement leaders and experts the world over are searching for a secure, successful future.

With technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) becoming more mainstream, the applications for procurement are virtually limitless. Technology like JAGGAER’s Smart Assistant, which is powered by AI, is one such possibility. This conversational platform designed for procurement is a powerful tool, which will eliminate much of the tedious and manual processes that still plague the procurement profession today. AI will be a driving factor in the development of the procurement profession.

Where We’re Going

The result of all these technological advances in several years’ time will be autonomous procurement. As I’ve written in a previous blog “autonomous procurement is a platform with embedded intelligence, but a system that also continues to build on those capabilities to automate the full source to pay process without human interaction. However, this will happen only in instances where human input isn’t necessary or desired, such as repetitive or time-consuming tasks”.

It is incredibly important to remember that autonomous procurement is not meant to eliminate human input or the role of procurement professionals. The end goal here is to augment people, freeing up time to focus on value adding tasks and strategic thinking. Human insight is crucial in business – but this is all about using technology to eliminate mistakes, monotony and cut out repetitive patterns. The future platform will assist you at every step of the source-to-pay process and over time it will manage more & more complex activities autonomously, so we can focus on doing strategic analysis to unlock new opportunities.

The procurement leaders of the future will need to combine strategic thinking, along with an analytical mindset. Leaders are crucial in today’s times, especially with the rise of AI, algorithms and automation. In order to stay ahead of the curve procurement professionals will have to evolve – becoming more data-driven and strategic, because that is something that will always require a human touch. 

To find out more about where procurement has been, where it’s going, and what you can do to stay ahead register for our webinar with Gartner, Deloitte and Blue Shield.

Where do you think procurement is headed? Let us know.

3 Ways to Improve Your Supply Chain Risk Management Strategy

We can’t just get our own house in order. We need to help our suppliers’ suppliers if we want a truly resilient supply chain. Procurious gets expert advice from riskmethods’ Bill DeMartino


How can companies of any size manage the huge number of risks in any supply chain?

Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently sat down with Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America at riskmethods, to find out about risk and the future of procurement.



Become resilient or lose credibility

The word of the moment is definitely resilience. But where do you start?

Bill says it’s a process. Not long ago, most organisations were hunting for better information to react faster as threats emerged.

“So this is what I would really categorise as being reactive,” Bill explains. “We want to get better at reacting to events (which is a fantastic place to start by the way) and what I would think of as the journey to resilience.”

The pandemic obviously changed many companies’ perceptions of their own resilience.

Yet he points to data that we’ve seen a 300% increase in disruptions of all kinds over the past three years.

“That means that for organisations who weren’t before acting the mandate is clear; this is the responsibility of supply chain leaders,” says Bill.

“If they are unable to deliver on this responsibility, they’re going to be losing credibility within the organisation.”

The good news is senior management is recognising the importance of proactive supply chain risk management, which will likely lead to more funding.

Treat suppliers better

So we’re all after resilience. But what does that actually look like?

It starts with a shift in the way companies treat and manage suppliers, Bill explains.

“I think we’re on the precipice of moving into what I would call the era of collaboration,” Bill says. 

“Traditionally, we’ve seen working with most of our suppliers in kind of a generic manner and we treat a few of them very specially. 

“But I think that collaboration needs to extend to a broader set of enterprises and so that continuum will continue to be a major transformation element.”

From reactive to transformative

Changing the way we see supplier relationships is a good step, but it’s only the start. 

Once an organisation can react quickly and be more resilient, it’s time to transform. That’s why the most mature and forward-looking organisations are overhauling their processes right now.

“Transformation is not just enough for me to figure out how to be reactive, but I really need to think more proactively on how I can change the elements and the way that I think about the category,” says Bill. 

These advanced organisations are asking how well they understand category risk exposure. And how they can incentivise people to act on the risks they uncover.  

“So it’s really more of a holistic approach to risk resilience,” says Bill.

Automation frees up resources

The other hot topic is automation. Bill says it’s incredible how much of our supply chain can be automated. 

“Supply chain folks are just automating everything that they can and it’s crazy,” says Bill.

“We’re trying to automate all the AP functions, we’re trying to automate all the contract functions, and now we’re actually moving up into the next level and trying to automate the analysis in the diagnosis of the data and the information and insights in those systems.”

“[W]ith this automation we’re able to free up the scarce resources and get our folks to focus on some of the proactive resilience and collaboration efforts they really need for the organisation to thrive,” says Bill.

Risk management in today’s environment

What does great risk management look like today? 

Bill narrows it down to three priorities:

1) Change jobs descriptions and incentives. You need to think about culture change. 

2) Put in place technology that can standardise processes, then measure them.

3) Manage your people well. Ensure that staff are actually following those processes in the way you expect.

“That’s the shift in the maturation that we’re seeing from our customers.  Before, they would just get the information.  Now they are working out how to best utilise that information and become proactive in their risk approach,” says Bill.

Minimise risk, no matter company size

You might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but I work for an SME. How does that work for a smaller company like mine?”

And it’s true. You may not have the resources or capability at the moment with everything going on, says Bill.

“A lot of smaller organisations are so busy just keeping the business going, no one is taking the time to take a look back and actually think about what it’s going to be in three to five years out,” says Bill.

“They’re  just worrying about survival today.” 

Even if your organisation is small, you’ll likely notice a rising interest in risk management – whether it’s from your customers and executive team. 

“Customers are asking them, potentially assessing them and looking to measure them in terms of their risk preparedness so that’s definitely helping [put risk management on the agenda],” Bill says.

“We are also starting to see a really strong sense of awakening from [senior leaders] and with the idea of a supply network.

“[They’re] thinking it’s not just enough for me to take care of my house, but I need my suppliers to also do the same for theirs.”

What can you do?

So whether risk management is at the top of your agenda already, or it’s just starting to gain importance, Bill suggests three key areas to get your house in order.

1) Using technology to manage risk: “There is an enormous amount of information that’s out there and the largest challenge that organisations have is how to filter through that information and uncover specific and relevant insights.” 

2) Make risk information visible: Can people in your organisation easily find information about risk? 

“We’ve seen a lot of folks who create risk scorecards or risk audits, and that information gets locked away somewhere,” says Bill. 

Instead, he suggests putting that information on your employees’ phones and laptops so they can easily access it when they’re talking to suppliers.

3) Integrate: The final step is to embed all of that risk information and data into other company systems.

As a supply chain professional, Bill says you should ask, “How can I integrate the technology and make it something that really impacts the way that we work?”

Going forward

Now that risk management is firmly on the agenda, you can use it to get ahead in your career. 

Bill predicts the most valuable procurement professionals in the future will be able to manage risk in two ways.

The first is artificial intelligence. Companies will need people who can use AI to spot patterns in suppliers to predict future events. 

“For example, if a supplier shutters a plant and fires the CFO, I could predict a bankruptcy is coming and reorganise my supplier geography to avoid disruption,” says Bill. 

“We can utilise artificial intelligence techniques to start doing pattern recognition and help folks better predict – never with 100% accuracy – but better predict what may be coming down the pipe for them.”

The second is to make suggestions on the best way to react if a threat actually comes to fruition. 

“There’s a number of different approaches that we’ve seen utilised to respond to an event, so we can bring all that information together and present to the individual in a way that allows them to very quickly assess their options, make decisions, and run.”

Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America for riskmethods, can be heard in the webcast series The Future Of Supply Chain Now.

How can you limit supply chain disruption and proactively plan for market shifts? Check out this IBM report to find out.