Category Archives: Technology

20 Ways To Get Job-Ready for 2020

This is the most popular month to make a career change, which means there’s even more competition – if you want to stand out from the crowd, it pays to be prepared.

Job-seeking is not a numbers game – all you need is one great job offer.

So, get yourself ready to be open to the right opportunities. Follow my list of 20 ways to get job-ready.

1. Don’t set goals – you will be setting yourself up to fail or to make a bad choice

If you set yourself a target of finding a new job by March, say, or earning a particular salary, you will be putting pressure on yourself to accept a job offer even if it is not the best career move for you. 

2. Think about why you’re leaving – just to be sure

Moving jobs takes time and is risky – you have little job security for the first 2 years. 

So work out why you are dissatisfied with your current role.

Need more flexibility? Ask to work a day a week at home.

Want to learn a new skill? Then put in a request. 

You’ve nothing to lose if you are planning to leave anyway. 

3. Make it a positive choice – desperation is not a good look 

Not only will you be in danger of accepting any job rather than the right one, hiring managers want to recruit someone who is positive and passionate about the job, not someone who is disgruntled and oozes negativity.

4. Focus on what you’ll gain – it will energise you

Change your mindset by focusing on what you want to gain, not what you want to leave behind. 

Make a list of all the positives you want from your new role.

For example, if you are stuck in a rut with no prospect of promotion, then training and development and opportunities to progress should be a priority in your job search. If you hate your commute, the location will be key. 

This list will help narrow your search – and help motivate you to make a change.

5. Be patient – it might take time 

Remember, it will probably take until Easter (at the earliest) before you start a new role, so don’t rush into the wrong decision.

6. Remain loyal – it will pay off 

Yes, it’s hard to give your best when all you can think about is leaving – however, don’t relax just yet because you will want a good reference and you might be working in your current role for some time. 

Never badmouth your employer. It could get back to the boss (awkward) or make future employers wary of hiring someone who is obviously so discontented.

7. Identify your strengths – and weaknesses 

You need to be clear about what you can offer future employers. 

To discover what your ‘brand’ is, ask trusted friends and colleagues to list the 5 or 10 things they think you do well – perhaps you have good technical skills or are good at being collaborative?

Then ask if there are any aspects of your personality or performance that they think need work – maybe you are not so good at organisation?

8. Search online for keywords that will sell you 

Next, match what you have to offer with the jobs you are interested in. A quick scan of job boards to see what recruiters are looking for will identify the keywords you need to include in your job applications – from ‘collaborative’ to ‘commercial’. 

Make a list. Then rephrase your skills so they fit these descriptions – for example, ‘ambitious’ could be ‘target-driven’. 

9. While you are looking, is there anything you are missing? 

If nearly every job spec is asking for a particular skill, then perhaps it’s time to get a qualification. 

For example, if the spec says ‘must be proficient in data analytics, including Excel’ and you use Excel but don’t have a certificate, go online and do a quick course. If there are any glaring gaps in your skills, perhaps you need to invest in a professional qualification. 

Also, check out the Procurious Training & Learning section.

10. Update your CV – only a generic one at this stage

Pay attention to the style: No more than two sides of A4.

Start with a personal statement. List jobs with the most recent first and avoid giving your entire life history. Focus on what you can do rather than what you have done. 

Include some examples of where you have met/exceeded expectations using the STAR (situation, task, activity, result) approach. This will clearly demonstrate you are up to the job without appearing arrogant. 

Don’t be tempted to invent hobbies and interests to make yourself appear more interesting or to lie (dates, job titles etc. are easy to check). 

And don’t forget to double-check grammar and spelling.

11. Remember to tailor your application/CV to each role 

When you get to the stage of applying, carefully read the job specification and include all of the keywords listed – using the exact same wording. 

Look through your list of skills and keywords that sell your brand and include those that are required or you think will add value to the job. Remember, at this stage, you need to show that you are an obvious fit for the job.

12. Have a professional photo taken

While many recruiters hate photos on CVs, they do like to see them online – either on your own website (if you have one) or your online profiles. 

A really good photo (remember to smile or at least look approachable) is, therefore, a must. At the very least, avoid holiday or party selfies.

13. Get your online presence ready – LinkedIn in particular

Think of this as your shop window – a potential employer or recruitment consultant might come across your profile and at the very least will check it. 

Ask a few key contacts if they will provide you with a recommendation and add a bit of personality by posting a few blogs or sharing some newsworthy links. Also, boost your network by requesting others to join it – the more senior the better.

14. Use Procurious as a resource

Make sure your Procurious profile is more than just a bland description of your current job. 

Use phrases like ‘passionate about’, ‘driven’ and/or ‘highly experienced’ and really sell yourself – don’t forget a photo. 

Also, click on ‘Build your network’ and start to reach out to professionals in key positions – someone might even approach you to offer you a job. 

15. Don’t forget to clean up your social media 

An inappropriate image or even just liking a less-than-tasteful joke can rule you out of a job.

16. Get signed up to job boards 

Get the apps (you can search on your daily commute) and sign up for job alerts (so you don’t miss an opportunity).

17. Identify your ideal employers 

Make a list of the firms you would like to work for and start researching them – you will want to talk their language in your job applications and be prepared for interviews. 

Also, check out glassdoor.co.uk to see how existing employees rate them – to avoid making a bad move.

18. Engage in strategic networking 

Find ways to network with staff who work for your ideal employers to find out what it is like to work there. 

You can then ask them if they have a referral scheme (existing employees are often given a bonus for recommending a new employee) or to let you know if there are any opportunities. 

19. Encourage approaches – a bit like putting up a ‘For Sale’ sign

Many job movers don’t ever apply for a new role. Instead, they are approached. 

Go to LinkedIn and click on ‘Show recruiters you are open to job opportunities’. (Don’t worry – you can control who sees this, so the boss won’t necessarily find out.) 

Also, get on the books of recruitment consultants specialising in your area so they can put your name forward for any relevant jobs.

20. Practise your pitch – it will keep you positive

Some people find it awkward to self-promote while others just come across as arrogant.

So practise telling stories that showcase how you have met a challenge, achieved a target or developed a skill – you can use these on application letters, when networking and in interviews.

It’s also a very self-affirming – and will help you deal with the disappointment when employers don’t even bother to acknowledge your application or reject you. 

So keep these 20 tips in mind to boost your spirits while job-hunting – and increase your chances of success. Good luck!

And if you want to move up in your career, change industries, or even need some extra motivation for the new year (and new decade!), start 2020 off with a bang in our upcoming webinar – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Register here for free.

Could RPA Make Procurement Jobs More Human? – Best of the Blog 2019

The new “hot” technology generating hype in 2019 is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Here’s how it can help procurement…

RPA - procurement
Photo by Matan Segev from Pexels

This article was written by Bertrand Maltaverne, and first published in February.

Procurement is, by nature, in the business of relationships. Whether it’s managing suppliers or stakeholders, the success of any procurement organisation relies heavily on building relationships between people.

Despite this, many procurement professionals do not have the time to focus on the human side of their job. Data collection, reporting, transactional activities, urgencies, etc. are all tasks that eat up their precious time. They prevent them from focusing on relationships that could generate more value and better outcomes.  

This problem isn’t new. It’s the main driver behind the constant, growing interest in procurement technologies that automate processes and increase efficiencies.

What is new, though, is the pace of innovation and the hype around some of the latest technologies.

Emerging technologies have begun to dominate discussions in the procurement space, and it has become impossible to avoid debates, articles, publications, etc. on artificial intelligence (AI) or blockchain. The new “hot” technology that has been generating a lot of hype in 2019 is Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Before jumping on the RPA bandwagon, it is critical to look beyond the features to understand the bigger picture. In the case of the latest RPA technology that has integrated AI, it is about making procurement jobs more human by offloading even more mundane, robotic tasks to… robots!

The goal is to augment, not replace, people by combining the best qualities and capabilities of both human and machine to achieve better outcomes.

RPA: Copy/paste on steroids…

“[RPA is] a preconfigured software instance that uses business rules and predefined activity choreography to complete the autonomous execution of a combination of processes, activities, transactions, and tasks in one or more unrelated software systems to deliver a result or service with human exception management.”

Source: IEEE Guide for Terms and Concepts in Intelligent Process Automation

This technical definition of what RPA is and how it works can be summed up with a simple analogy. Imagine that you have to repeatedly copy data from one Excel file to another to produce a monthly report.

One way to eliminate these mundane, low-value, tedious tasks would be to create a macro that would do all the copy/paste for you. In addition to saving hours of your precious time over the course of the year, it would also reduce the risk of errors. This is, essentially, a simplified definition of what RPA is about.

It’s a way to automate repetitive and scripted actions that are usually performed manually by users (not just copy/paste!). It is a form of business process automation.

Typical Benefits

The typical benefits of RPA are:

  • efficiencies to free-up resources usually spent on manual tasks and re-focus them on core business (efficiency fuels effectiveness)
  • better consistency and compliance in data entries by reducing errors
  • from a system/IT perspective, RPA is a valuable workaround to break data silos. It avoids the costs (investment, change mgmt.) and risks associated with replacing an existing system or creating interfaces. RPA solutions sit on top of the existing infrastructure and simply simulate user actions to take data from system ‘A’ and put it in system ‘B’.

RPA has limitations and it is important to be aware of them and consider if the trade-offs are worth it. Some of them are:

  • RPA can do one thing and only one thing. If there are changes in the source or in the destination systems, then it will stop to work correctly
  • It requires extensive programming to ensure that the RPA solution takes all cases into account. If not, it will not work or, even worse, it will create even more issues as it is very consistent in executing rules. If something is off, the same error(s) will be consistently repeated
  • For the same reason, it is vital to ensure that processes are running well before implementing RPA

If RPA only had a Brain…

There’s no getting around it: RPA is a very dumb technology.  It does exactly what it’s told, blindly executing whatever set of rules it’s given. Such technology has been in use for years but on a limited scale.

However, with the advancement of other, smarter technologies opening up new opportunities to make RPA more useful and less “dumb,” it is experiencing a revival. AI is one of the emerging technologies revitalising RPA, and stirring up hype. These days, it’s rare to see RPA without an AI component, which has also lead to a lot of confusion between RPA and AI.

“[AI is] the combination of cognitive automation, machine learning (ML), reasoning, hypothesis generation and analysis, natural language processing and intentional algorithm mutation producing insights and analytics at or above human capability.”

Source: IEEE

By nature, RPA and AI are very different technologies:

Because most business processes require a combination of “DO” and “THINK,” newer generations of RPA solutions integrate AI components to:

  • Understand input via natural language processing, data extracting and mining, etc.
  • Learn from mistakes and exceptions
  • Develop/enrich rules based on experience

It is this new, smarter generation of “RPA+AI” solutions that has broader applications as a valuable tool for Procurement.

RPA Applications for Procurement

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

The Hackett Group on Procurious

RPA is particularly well-suited for operational and transactional Procurement because these areas are characteriSed by countless manual activities. Here are some examples:

  • Automation & elimination of mundane tasks
    • Invoice processing: It is possible to drastically reduce efforts and cycle times to extract essential information from an invoice and perform an m-way match by using a combination of RPA and AI (Optical Character Recognition + Natural Language Processing)
    • RFx preparation: Tasks related to data collection (quantities from ERPs, specifications from PLMs or other file sharing systems, etc.) and even the drafting of RFXs can be streamlined by using RPA.
  • Data compliance and quality
    • Supplier onboarding: RPA can automatically get more supplier data or data needed to verify registrations or certifications by crawling the web or other data sources.
    • Data mappings and deduplication: RPA can be a great support in Master data Management (MDM) by normalising data (typos, formatting, etc.) and by ensuring that naming/typing conventions are respected.
  • Support to gain better insights
    • Supplier score-carding: This is an activity that requires thorough data collection. RPA can be leveraged to collect data from various sources and integrate the information into one system either for internal purposes and/or for the preparation of a negotiation or business review
    • Contract analysis: RPA can crawl file sharing systems, network disks, and even emails to collect and gather contracts in one central location. Then, it can extract key terms and store them as metadata in a contract management solution.

Conclusion

RPA, combined with other technologies, is an efficient way to connect data silos to win back valuable time. It can remove the “robot” work from the desk of procurement teams so they can focus on the human side of their job.

On top of that, procurement organisations can gain tremendous insights from implementing RPA because it can make new data digitally accessible and more visible.

However, it is important to keep in mind that RPA is only a workaround; it does not break silos like an end-to-end procurement platform would do.

Going Global While Being Ethical? Smart Contract Management Can Help

The risks associated with ethical sourcing have never been higher. How can you go global without compromising your ethics?

ethical sourcing
Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash

For enterprises with complex, global supply chains, the risks and challenges associated with ethical sourcing have never been higher. Over the past decade, supply disruption has gone from being an exceptional event to at least an annual – if not quarterly or monthly – occurrence. Most organisations are simply not prepared, even though they may have checked the box with fairly narrow supplier risk management assessments. 

One reason for the increased risk? Contract visibility. The ability for companies to instantly locate, retrieve, analyse and track contracts across the enterprise, continues to be suboptimal at many large companies. When these contracts are sitting as unstructured data in a repository that’s difficult to search — or even worse in someone’s desk — bad things happen.

For example, one technology consulting firm missed $1.5 million in revenue recognition when a manually-tracked contract expired, but work was still performed against it. Discounts and rebates are overlooked, and unwanted renewals happen on autopilot. Poor contract management can also lead to reputation and brand damage when companies unknowingly use unethical suppliers.

So what can we do? Gaining visibility into commercial engagements can help.

Blockchain-based contract management is changing the game

As organisations become more and more concerned about supply chain risk, the need for better visibility is more critical than ever before. Enterprise contract management software provides that visibility by tracking what a firm’s worldwide obligations, entitlements and business relationships truly are.

This software gives organisations a firm grasp on their supply chain, key suppliers, the composition of the products they’re purchasing and the locales in which they’re operating.

Technologies like AI, Machine Learning and Blockchain are proving key for enterprises to mitigate risk in the future. This contract management space is a hot sector and continues to experience rapid growth. According to MGI, the market itself is worth $20 billion. This is reflective of large enterprises’ desire to digitally transform their commercial foundation. This helps them save money, reduce risk and improve compliance.

For example, customers like Mercedes-Benz Cars have already taken advantage of this technology. They have done so by utilising smart contracts on the Icertis Blockchain Framework to create an immutable distributed ledger of transactions.

This helps to ensure global sourcing and contracting practices adhere to Mercedes-Benz Cars’ strict requirements for sustainable, ethical and secure sourcing.

The future of ethical globalisation

I recently attended The Big Ideas Summit, a great event for procurement professionals that brings together the top figures in the industry to discuss the current business landscape and bring unique, innovative ideas to the table.

Right now, we’re in the early stages of technologies like blockchain and just starting to see major impacts. Three years from now we’ll have conclusive data on how blockchain has helped increase visibility into, and compliance among, supply chains.

Already, these blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are significantly changing the way organisations do business with vendors, partners, and customers, impacting the way companies approach, execute and enforce business contracts.

Although most organisations associate blockchain technology with the financial services industry, it has potential use within the manufacturing, government, healthcare and education sectors as well. This includes how those industries execute and enforce contracts.

For example,the Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform is already used to manage 6.5 million contracts at companies like 3M, Airbus, Daimler, Microsoft, Sanofi and Wipro in more than 40 languages across 90 countries. The AI-powered platform allows customers to increase contract velocity and agility, proactively manage entitlements and obligations, as well as surface commercial insights and intelligence.

One day, blockchains that utilise distributed ledger technology may even allow for contracts that are self-verifying, self-executing and autonomous. Companies can exchange terms, events, and information throughout the lifecycle of a contract without relying on brokers or middlemen.

This streamlined approach to supply chain management will help reduce costs and solve the hardest contract management problems on the most easy to use platform, thereby improving the bottom line.

To learn more about Icertis’ contract management software, visit the Icertis website.

7 Companies Pioneering Artificial Intelligence in Procurement

With so much written on Artificial Intelligence it’s hard to know where to look. However, there are companies from whom we can take our lead.

artificial intelligence
Photo from Pixabay on Pexels

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics in business right now. It’s also a bit like teenagers and sex. Everyone seems obsessed with it, everyone feels left out, few actually know what they are doing, so everyone claims they are doing it.

There is so much hype about AI we recently collaborated with Procurious on a quick AI challenge for CPOs at the Big Ideas Summit in Chicago. From their savvy answers you’ll see that many procurement leaders understand the value of AI. What we need as a community is transparency on how it affects us here and now.

The new book AI in Procurement explores many realistic use-cases for artificial intelligence within procurement. The authors Sammeli Sammalkorpi and Johan-Peter Teppala were among the first to pilot AI solutions in procurement software and scoured much of the literature available today on the topic to write their book.

Don’t worry. We won’t get in to too many details about the mechanics and jargon of AI. Before we go through the examples from procurement, there is just one thing to understand.

Artificial Intelligence in Procurement

Many people have a somewhat distorted view of AI. They may remember futuristic movies where chrome-plated androids interact in human-like ways, or computer systems that have natural language conversations.

In reality, most AI applications today are a lot more boring and inconspicuous. You’re likely to interact with AI when you search for address details on Google Maps, or look up a playlist of music on Spotify. It’s already a part of the software you use every day, but you rarely see it.

This is much the same in business. Most of the applications of AI we see in procurement come as solutions to existing problems humans have a hard time solving. They are enablers, rather than replacements to human expertise.

AI in Procurement presents the concept of “human machine collaboration” to explain how AI builds on the strengths of both humans and machines.

7 Examples of Artificial Intelligence in Procurement in 2019

Now that we’ve covered the background, let’s dive into those fresh AI examples across seven different areas of the procurement cycle.

Supplier risk management

AI can be used to monitor and identify potential risk positions across the supply chain. For example, RiskMethods identifies new and emerging supply chain risk events by handling data gathered from different sources, helping to identify emerging risks faster.

Purchasing

AI can be used to automatically review and approve purchase orders. For example, it allows employees to order office supplies without requests for approval, making the process leaner and more efficient.

To state an example, in Tradeshift’s platform a chatbot called Ada can be used to check the status of purchases or automatically approve virtual card payments, regardless of the user’s location.

Accounts Payable Automation – Machine learning is increasingly used in accounts payable automation. ML assists in identifying errors and potential fraud in large amounts of automated payments. An example of this is Stampli, which leverages machine learning to speed up payment workflows and automate fraud detection.

Spend Analysis

At Sievo, machine learning algorithms are widely used in spend analysis to improve and speed up a number of processes, including automatic spend classification and vendor matching.

For example, if you have DHL, DHL Freight, Deutschland DHL, and DHL Express in your data, the machine learning algorithms are easily able to consolidate these together as DHL for increased visibility and data coherence.

Supplier Information Management

Big data techniques enable new ways to identify, manage and utilise supplier data across public and private databases. Tealbook is one platform that applies machine learning to supplier data in order to create and maintain accurate supplier records across all systems and areas of the business.

Strategic Sourcing

AI can also be used to manage, guide, and automate sourcing processes. Keelvar’s sourcing automation software uses machine learning for the recognition The reality of AI in procurement 59 of bid sheets and specialises in category-specific eSourcing bots such as raw materials, maintenance and repair.

Contract Management

AI has many potential use-cases in contract management. Seal Software uses optical character recognition (OCR) and advanced text analytics to clean up and consolidate information contained in contracts.

We’re likely to see many more successful examples of AI shared across procurement functions in the coming years. The more we share as a community, the better we get.

If you would like to dive deeper into the topic, you can get early access to AI in Procurement as a free download before the printed book comes on sale on Amazon in 2020.

Procurement Needs the Human Factor

Procurement is evolving and developing and leaders have a chance to create a function to meet all an organisation’s future needs. But first they need to remember the importance of the human factor.

human factor
Photo by Min An from Pexels

Procurement leaders now have an unprecedented opportunity to be the architects of a new function that puts customer satisfaction front and centre. This is a function enabled by technology whose value proposition goes beyond mere cost savings, and becomes central to business’ ability to gain a competitive advantage and deliver shareholder value. Delivering this shift will require a complete realignment of the traditional procurement skill-base and a whole new operating model.

Our latest research study, “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow”, surveyed 500 senior procurement leaders including CPOs and CFOs worldwide, to explore this new shift in the procurement operating model, as well as the expected skill-base required to prosper in the future world of procurement.

Here are some of the significant findings.

The Operating Model of Tomorrow

We’re seeing a growing acceptance in the industry that things need to change. Procurement leaders are starting to acknowledge that in order to develop and elevate their position, procurement needs to become more relevant to the business and suppliers it connects.

In line with this, our research found 53 per cent of procurement leaders to have revamped their procurement operating models in the last 12 months, rising to 80 per cent in the last three years. 46 per cent listed ‘structure’ as one of the top three aspects they had recently revised.

However, in our view, the new operating model needs to go beyond a change in roles and responsibilities, or a restructured department. It needs to be people centric, with a focus on enabling the optimal interaction between those people and the right mix of technology, insights and expertise.

To get it right, first consider what information the people in the organisation will need, when they will need it, how they will access it and how it will help them serve their customers better.

Significance of Soft Skills

Taking a step away from traditional procurement training, ‘soft skills’ are becoming increasingly important for future procurement leaders. A ruling 78 per cent of our survey deemed them to be either essential or very important to the role, with the ‘ability to influence and lead’ ranking as the number one ‘soft skill’ to possess – reflecting a clear shift in focus for the new operating model.

The study also found ‘Flexibility and agility to manage ongoing change’, ‘Courage to challenge conventional thinking’ and ‘innovation, creativity and problem solving’ to be among the top valued soft skills by respondents. In our view the expectation is clearly for future procurement functions to lead business change, challenge how they’ve operated to date and adopt a more project-based mentality with an agile approach, in order to better meet the needs of the business.

Mind the Digital Skills Gap

As society is growing increasingly tech-savvy, it’s no surprise that digitalising procurement processes and systems topped the priority list of the leaders in the industry. There is an understandable temptation to buy gadgets with the belief that spending money on software will afford a competitive edge.

However, our study revealed over a third of leaders believe that new technologies are not supported by the right processes and skills, a quarter say there is a false expectation of technology in the field, and 15 per cent feel there is a lack of adequate talent which prevents procurement from realising the true power of technology.

In order to benefit from technology, procurement leaders need to understand the impact of that technology on their workforce, the new and different skills that will be required, and then figure out how to bridge the gap. However, it seems that procurement is starting to address this as two thirds of respondents indicated that they have already taken steps to tackle the talent pipeline shortages and skills gaps in their functions.

The Future of Procurement Learning

With the procurement landscape changing so rapidly, adaptation is necessary and key to enabling this is training.

Learning and development opportunities were recognised by the industry leaders surveyed as the top method for retaining talent, so why did 94 per cent fail to have a structured approach to training in place across all levels in the organisation?

Providing such a programme is a vital way to up-skill employees in a cost-effective manner, while also playing an important role in attracting prospective, highly-skilled talent.

However, our research reveals 79 per cent of leaders believe procurement’s approach to training needs to change in this regard, showing there is clearly a gap between what procurement leaders believe is needed, compared to what is actually being implemented.

A structured approach to training ensures the knowledge, skills and competencies developed can support the strategic development of the function and wider organisation beyond it. In our view the best way to deliver this training is to have the recipient in mind, first grasping an understanding of how they will consume the training, to then design and deliver it accordingly.

Generation Z and Beyond

As the younger, more digitally native generation enters the workforce, businesses need to overcome and engage with the different attitudes that Millennials and Generation Z hold. From misconceptions about the value of the procurement function, to misplaced expectations about how technology should work, procurement leaders need to address these preconceived beliefs and position the function in a light that will attract these new workforce demographics.

The study shows a clear divide in what organisations believe to be the best way to attract and engage this young talent. A quarter identified salary and remuneration to be the key factor, 21 per cent believed it to be procurement’s role in sustainability and CSR, and a further 20 per cent ranked additional financial benefits top of the list.

Organisations clearly have an idea of what matters to the next generation of leaders, they just need shout about it more loudly.

The Human Factor – Moving Forward

The future procurement operating model is looking to embody a digitally literate workforce with strategic minds and an abundance of soft skills – a step change in requirements from ever before. Attracting this talent is a challenge, but this is the future of procurement.

Procurement needs to create a culture that enables an inquisitive mindset, but one with the confidence to challenge constructively, both internally and externally. It needs structured training programmes to empower employees to develop real, transferable hard and soft skills, but places heavy emphasis on the importance of self-learning and reinvention in an era when knowledge has never been cheaper.

It’s vital that procurement leaders confront this change challenge head on and in doing so, they will not only realise procurement’s full potential as a value creator for the company, but also to ensure its continued existence as a function.

For too long, procurement has been characterised as the “process policemen” or “final price negotiator” – charges it would like to deny but often lives up to. To become more effective in the future, procurement leaders need to build this new, technology-driven, skills-enabled procurement operating model that really values the human factor.

Download the full “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow” report, here.

Efficio is the world’s largest specialist procurement consultancy operating across ten offices in Europe, North America and the Middle East. Efficio works with clients to identify, deliver and sustain improvement opportunities in procurement. Their international team combines unparalleled procurement expertise and industry experience with a unique blend of intellectual capital and technology to deliver results and advance clients’ procurement capability.

Is Your IP Safe From Flexible Workers?

The world of work is changing, with the younger generations taking advantage of flexible working. But how can organisations safeguard their IP in this new world?

Photo by Philipp Katzenberger on Unsplash

For some of us, it feels like we have just got over the shock of seeing Millennials coming into the workforce (generally considered to be those born in the 1980s/ 90s), when suddenly we are faced with Generation Z youngsters (born around the Millennium, from around 1995 to 2005) appearing in our offices, shops or factories.  

What is clear though is that those individuals are facing a very different employment situation to those of us defined as “Baby Boomers”. That’s not to say all of that post-war baby-boom era have thrived. Many are facing a retirement that will require continuing to work, perhaps via unsatisfactory zero-hours contracts. Particularly if they didn’t get their pensions sorted out in good time. 

Job for Life? Or Jobs A-plenty?

But back to the changes in working life. For those graduating in the 1970s and 80s, a training scheme with a respected large firm, like Shell, Mars, Ford, P&G or IBM was the pinnacle of ambition for many. The expectation then was that if the new entrant performed well, they might be there for life, with a nice final salary pension at the end of it.  

Now that world has not disappeared completely, and there are still huge corporate employers – the big accounting firms having become a major recruiter of graduates, for instance. But for many young people, the world of work looks very different.

These people are more likely to start their own businesses, as true entrepreneurs, for tax reasons, or perhaps to work part-time while pursuing another dream (writing, acting, or charitable work).  They are more likely to end up working for many different employers, and probably carrying out many different roles. They may have part-time jobs, perhaps several at the same time.

Many will end up on flexible or zero-hours contracts at some point. They may well at some point be self-employed. They may work hard for a year, then disappear off travelling for six months.

Not all of this is positive, and some may wish for the old days of the steady nine-to-five. But there are opportunities now to try different things, and take a flexible approach to work, perhaps to follow that dream of being a movie star or the next Bill Gates, whilst making enough money to survive by cycling around town with a Deliveroo bag on your back!

Employing the Right Flexible Workers

This situation has arisen in the main partly because of demand from individuals, but mainly because employers see the advantages in flexible working patterns and approaches. Yet this new world of work has brought issues as well, for both workers and employers.

For the employer, managing a group of often highly independent and intelligent workers, who may have limited real loyalty to the organisation, and who may disappear at any moment off to Thailand or to go on tour with their band, is a challenge.

In many cases, flexible working is attractive for the employer because it helps to cope with changes in demand – peaks and troughs – in an efficient manner. But that assumes the organisation can get hold of the right workers when they are needed. That is difficult enough even in many relatively unskilled roles, but when it comes to finding skilled people, ranging from heavy goods lorry drivers to social workers to film make-up artists, the challenge is even greater.

The Unseen Risks

There are also reputational and even strategic risks for some organisations. In the health, education and social care sectors, ensuring that workers have the right accreditations and qualification is vital. Security clearances come into play in certain cases, for instance in the security and defence sectors, and increasingly in other roles where data comes into play.

In other sectors, such as technology, questions of intellectual property, confidentiality and competition come into play. If you have seen the film Social Network, you may remember that the Winklevoss twins claimed they took on Marc Zuckerberg in effect as a “contract worker” to develop  coding for their business idea of a website to connect students.  We all know what happened next.  Not long after, to their surprise, Zuckerberg’s “The Facebook” hit the dorms of Harvard!

The smart young programmer you’ve taken on to help meet a deadline – where else has she been working? Might she have her own plans for a similar product, game or app?  Is her best friend getting married to your biggest competitor’s head of marketing?  

This may sound paranoid, but in a world of flexible working and workers, these issues are increasingly significant. Protecting the organisation’s reputation and intellectual property are further key imperatives in this emerging world.

So Long to the “Good Old Days”

So, we can assume that “work” is changing for all parties; and it needs to be underpinned by robust data and efficient operational management (and the two are linked, of course). Employees want to find opportunities, to engage easily and quickly with prospective employers, and to experience smooth and effective administration when they are employed.

Employers want to comply with tax and other regulations, know about the available pool of workers, be able to check them out, then manage the employment relationship efficiently and effectively. All of this requires good data, good processes, and good systems.

Any organisation that does not have those in place will struggle to attract, retain and manage their increasingly flexible and dynamic workforce. Whatever comes after Generation Z, we can assume we will never return to the old days! 

This article was written for Procurious by Stephan Beeusaert, UKI Head – SAP Ariba & SAP Fieldglass, and Peter Smith, Managing Director – Procurement Excellence Ltd. If you want to learn more or have any questions,  join SAP Ariba at ValueX – Unleashing the Power of Spend.

Blockchain – A New Flavour of Traceability

Why did the chicken cross the road? More importantly, was there traceability of its journey and how many miles did it cover? Maybe blockchain can help us answer this age-old question…

Courtesy of Portlandia

Do you find yourself thinking more and more about the journey your food has taken to get to your plate? It’s not just because you’re a supply chain professional. It’s because, as a community, we are increasingly interested in the origin and safety of the food we consume.

Farm to Plate – Tracked and Traced

Consumers have an increasing interest in and focus on sustainability, food miles and the concept of ‘farm to plate’. The pressure is on the supply chain to maintain quality while providing both transparency and a fully auditable trail.

Production lines can be stopped and deadlines missed. But if fresh produce doesn’t get to where it needs to be on time, there isn’t any end product.

Delayed, incomplete, incorrect or damaged shipments create a monumental volume of administration. Productivity tanks, costs mount and trust erodes as the parties enter into a “we said, they said” situation, with each party trying to avoid being the ones to blame. This has led to a situation that as the food supply chain has grown, the level of trust has diminished.

However, one of the hottest new technologies, blockchain, has proved to be an invaluable tool in helping provide transparency and maintain trust.

Network of Networks

In most supply chains, communication is point-to-point and one direction. There is no single, shared record of events across multiple parties. Damages or changes – malicious or accidental – may surface in the moment, or potentially only when they are raised by consumers.

According to research published by Gartner in 2017, there is a movement for mature supply chains to operate in a “network of networks”. The network of networks acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy, as mature supply chains in these networks achieve higher levels of maturity, including improving ecosystem visibility.

By placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital. Each node on the blockchain could represent an entity that has handled the food on the way to the store, making it much easier and faster to identify the source of food safety issues with much greater precision.

The attributes of blockchain technology are ideally suited to networks of partners, big and small. By providing a shared, single version of the truth through a shared, digital ledger, blockchain increases trust and creates efficiencies by eliminating the “we said, they said” problem and creating a shared understanding of all possible disruptions that could impact OTIF delivery.

With blockchain, transaction records are immutable, or tamperproof, and agreed upon by all parties. Immutability creates an audit trail. Privacy is maintained by setting the appropriate levels of data visibility for different parties. And business rules are shared and enforced by the system through smart contracts.

Trust and Traceability

A prime example of the effectiveness of blockchain in the food supply chain is Walmart. The retail giant has been working with IBM on a food safety solution, using IBM’s ‘Food Trust‘ solution, which was specifically designed for this purpose.

Before working with IBM to move some of its food supply chain to blockchain, it typically took Walmart approximately 7 days to trace the source of food. With the blockchain, it’s been reduced to 2.2 seconds. This time may be the difference between a consumer eating unsafe food and it never reaching the shelves in the first place.

IBM has also played a major role in the development of blockchain tracking for another retailer, Carrefour. The organisation uses blockchain ledger technology to track produce including meat, milk and fruit from source to shelf. The technology has enabled tracking on the consumer side too, with shoppers able to scan QR codes on products, allowing them to read product information on provenance and process.

Carrefour has credited the technology with increasing consumer trust in the brand, resulting in an increase in sales. It’s an example that many other retailers may look to follow soon.

Supplier ‘Passports’

IBM very recently announced a new blockchain network, ‘Trust Your Supplier’. The network, not solely limited to the food supply chain, has been designed to improve supplier qualification by creating a form of passport for suppliers. This will help to reduce time and resources for validation, with everything verified by third parties, such as Dun & Bradstreet, to square the circle.

The network, and network of networks, look set to revolutionise how organisations and consumers look at supply chains. The food supply chain is merely the first where the technology is making strides, though the fashion industry has also made moves to implement with significant success.

As consumers buy less fresh produce to reduce food waste, they are willing to spend a bit more to ensure quality. With blockchain, organisations can shine a light on the provenance of their goods, but also earn the trust of consumers by proving the safety and traceability of the goods. And in a fast-paced environment, those organisations who don’t engage with blockchain face the reality of being left behind.

We might never know why the chicken crossed the road. But with blockchain tracking the supply chain, we’ll be able to understand where it came from, how far away and track it’s route all the way to your plate (sorry Colin!).

Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer

From farm to plate, the food supply chain can now be tracked in an open, transparent, fully traceable and entirely digital way. We may never know the why, but the how and where are within our grasp!

In our latest webinar, Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer, we’ll be exploring the full applicability of this great technological innovation, understanding how Walmart and Carrefour have turned this to their advantage and revealing why it’s a must have for supply chains of the future! Click here to sign up now.

Intelligent Spend Management – Your Next Smart Move

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Bringing it all together by bringing Intelligent Spend Management to the business.

If you’re just buying office supplies, you’ve probably got a good idea what you’re spending on paper and pens. But odds are your budget goes beyond a few reams of ultra-white printer stock. And while you are specifically tasked with procurement, you actually help hold the reins and hold influence on multiple categories of spend — from direct and indirect goods, to services, contingent labour — even T&E.

True, this spending is spread out across your organisation and, yes, in many of these categories, spending is more decentralised than ever with employees all over the company buying what they need when they need it. And, it’s true that all of this spending and all of these categories aren’t even in your charge.

However, the business needs you to help bring all that spend under control across all those categories, so you can not only reduce costs, but also help your company:

  • Manage supplier performance holistically
  • Diminish delivery and reputation risks across the board
  • Improve compliance and enforce purchasing policies equally in all categories
  • Increase productivity across procurement and throughout the entire company

Changing Expectations

Organisations are expecting this and more from procurement.

  • They want you to collaborate with finance and supply-chain leaders and address spend management across the business.
  • They’re expecting you to bring more spend categories under control, to unify how you manage suppliers across all categories, and to help bring direct and indirect spending together with services and T&E to increase visibility into all your spend.

They want more, and there’s an easy way to deliver and manage every source and every category of spend in delivering one, unified view.

Unfortunately, the systems most businesses use to manage all of these different spend processes can create barriers between spend categories and keep people from working together. Intelligent Spend Management, on the other hand, is a strategy designed to bring those barriers down, so you can get visibility into and control over each and every area of spend. In one place.

Why Intelligent Spend Management Matters

Intelligent Spend Management means comprehensive policy and supplier management. This gives you oversight over indirect and direct suppliers while bringing that same level of discipline to services/external workforce suppliers as well as key travel suppliers.

And, integrated with your ERP system, an Intelligent Spend Management solution creates a common set of spend data — a hub where you can unify and clarify the information. You’ll also be able to:

  • Capture and centralise once-invisible spend like p-card transactions, non-PO invoices and direct travel bookings that used to slip through the cracks in your systems
  • Apply sourcing best practices consistently to all of your suppliers across all categories
  • Centrally manage supplier risk as well as tax and other regulatory requirements

It brings you best-in-class control of each spend category. This means you can manage the entire procure-to-pay process for direct and indirect expenses from a single solution. Imagine being able to:

  • Deliver a guided user experience that makes it easy to follow policy
  • Give users a simple way to make procurement requests, plus tactical purchases directly from suppliers
  • Ensure the suppliers you source, the prices you negotiate and the terms you establish are pulled through right to the point of purchase, so policy compliance becomes everyday practice
  • Capture data from across the process and use AI and machine learning to automate mundane tasks and serve up insight-driven recommendations at critical decision points
  • Strengthen supplier relationships and, ultimately, get more innovation from suppliers to improve how you work and what you deliver

And you can bring that same level of precision, efficiency and user experience for services, your external workforce – and the same level of control.

Presenting a Unified View

You get a unified view of spend. The Intelligent Spend Management solution connects procurement spend data with data from across spend categories, giving you a single, near-real-time view — without having to piece together reports from disparate systems.

This means you, your friends in finance and your supply-chain peers can see where every bit of your budget is going, and help the organisation:

  • Ensure that all spending is in line with corporate policy and priorities
  • Get up-to-date views into your KPIs, so you can adapt accordingly
  • Manage discretionary employee spend before it gets away from you
  • Feed this spend data back into supplier management and fuel stronger negotiations

Intelligent Spend Management breaks down the silos, so companies can control spend across the board.

This is about procurement, but it isn’t simply for procurement. Intelligent Spend Management enables you to work across categories and bring all the data together — so you can bring confidence to your company by bringing certainty to your spending.

This article was written for Procurious by Drew Hofler, VP of Portfolio Marketing for SAP Ariba & SAP Fieldglass.

5 Big Procurement Challenges Addressed by Enterprise Contract Management Software

This article was originally published on the Icertis blog.

Procurement is a complex part of global business that carries serious commercial and regulatory risk. These risks are especially pronounced when a company does not have an effective way to centrally manage its contracts.

In a recent survey conducted by ProcureCon, leading procurement officials were asked about contract-related challenges they’ve faced that caused revenue leakage, increased cost or financial penalties. Here were the results:

A critical component to tackling each of these issues is enterprise contract management software, which sees contracts as live documents enshrining all risks and obligations incumbent upon an organization.

Indeed, good risk management begins with good contract management. With enterprise contract management, you can identify and manage risk throughout the contract lifecycle with proactive insights. A configurable risk model helps track risks across different categories, such as financial, contractual, performance and third party.

Let’s look at how each of the above challenges is addressed through contract management software.

Challenge: Higher operations costs

Finding: 43 per cent of respondents said higher operations costs have hurt their procurement organisation.  

Because contracts are the foundational element of modern commerce, they govern every procurement action and transaction a business undertakes. With the power of a modern contract management system with an ability to seamlessly integrate with procurement systems in place, an enterprise can gain unprecedented control over spend.

Through full visibility into all their commercial relationships, contract management software ensures that cash flow is complying with corporate plans, and allows executives to continually monitor money moving in and out of the business at all levels of the supply chain.

Challenge: Slow contract creation and approval

Finding: 46 per cent of respondents cited slow contract creation and approval as a challenge.

With enterprise contract management software, users can accelerate and optimize the contract authoring process. For example, users can self-service contracts with pre-approved clause libraries, eliminating the need for legal to get involved at every level of the authoring process but still control contract language.

Configurable notifications alert relevant stakeholders for revisions, redlines, and approvals, ensuring nothing gets missed. And robust, highly configurable rules increase flexibility while driving quicker approvals and execution.

Challenge: Unclaimed entitlements/lost or untapped revenue

Finding: More than half of respondents cited unclaimed entitlements or loss of untapped revenue as a challenge.

Best-of-breed contract management software draws on artificial intelligence (AI) tools that index and “interpret” every entitlement in each contract across the enterprise, allowing users to achieve the full potential of negotiated contracts through better enforcement of commercial terms.

The software captures the terms of products and services, prices, discounts, rebates and incentives in a structured form after interpreting the entitlements. You can then integrate the data with enterprise systems and help enforce terms for better savings and revenue performance.

You can also avoid missed entitlements or revenue potential. For example, sourcing organizations can automatically check purchase orders against agreed upon contract language to detect incorrect billings issues with regard to slabbed discounts or other innovative payout models.

Challenge: Missed obligations

Finding: 55 per cent of respondents said missed obligations have been a challenge.

Contract management software gives unprecedented insight into these contractual commitments, ensuring nothing gets missed. The same indexing and reporting capabilities used to surface entitlements also capture a business’s obligations to third parties, preventing leakage caused by lost business or penalties.

Challenge: Regulatory enforcement actions

Finding: This emerged as the most common challenge for procurement leaders, with nearly 3 in 4 saying they’re concerned with regulatory enforcement due to noncompliance.

It’s no wonder this was the number one concern, given the serious financial penalties and lasting brand and reputational implications of regulatory violations.

A robust library of clauses and templates goes a long way to reducing ad-hoc, or maverick contracts. Readily accessible templates, combined with a rules-driven workflow engine, helps support compliance throughout every stage of the contract management lifecycle.

Contract management software can cross-check country- or region-specific rules with relevant contracts. Compliance, down to the smallest supply subcontract, can be continually monitored through integrations with external software. Contract management software can even take a preventative role in compliance, via innovative contract creation tools.

Sophisticated contract management software can identify such regulatory enforcement and compliance obligations not just from their own contracting policy and authoring rules but also from customer specific contracts and cascade them to buy-side contracts used for fulfilling commitments. This makes the whole supply chain subject to internal regulatory enforcement and compliance actions.

To learn more about how a modern CLM solution can improve procurement at all levels of the supply chain, download this report from ProcureCon.

Vivek Bharti is general manager of product management at Icertis

The One Thing Everyone Keeps Getting Wrong About Digital Transformation

While digital technologies have made the pathway to digital transformation the opportunity that every organisation is seeking to capitalise on, what many organisations get wrong is the focus on the technology…

By Parilov/ Shutterstock

There’s no doubt that we have been in the digital revolution for a while now. It may have been a slow start as we came to terms with the power and capability of our smartphones that precipitated the customer centric, anywhere-anytime shift.

Futurists pre-empted the transformation that was coming by positioning a future of mobility, IoT and artificial intelligence, while tech savvy organisations made some early investments and experimented with analytics and automation, learning very quickly how to capitalise on technologies many of us were still trying to define.

Fast forward 10 years and we surely must have everything worked out and locked down. After all, we have had enough time to observe those who have gone before and experiment ourselves, both as consumers and as leaders in organisations, irrespective of our role or industry. It should be the very definition of a no-brainer.

The Current State

Taking a look at the current state, things seem to be a little different. Yes, there have been tech-savvy organisations like John Deere who have managed to leverage digital capabilities and redefine their business model to open up new revenue streams. And we are all familiar with the digital disruptors coming from digital natives like Google, Amazon, Uber and Tesla.

And we have all heard the catch cry of Disrupt before you are disrupted. Indeed, it has probably been the opening for many a workshop on digital transformation initiatives making their way into the leadership programs of organisations.

Is it a money question then? There’s no doubt that the global financial crises, combined with the impact of increasing customer expectations and global competition have exacerbated financial pressure on organisations.

The internet has proven to be a double edged sword for many; enabling access to markets of consumers that would have previously been impossible, while also giving the very same consumers access to competitors, feedback and reviews of others, and pricing transparency that has not previously been possible. Everyone has had to up their game.

All About the Money?

With spend in digital initiatives estimated in 2018 at $1.3 trillion, it’s a tough position to advocate that the investment and focus has not been there. Digital initiatives are defined as any digital capabilities aimed at improving customer value, new growth and monetization opportunities and driving improved efficiencies.

So the categories are pretty broad, and the digital capabilities equally so. Moving from a spreadsheet to a web based form could be loosely termed digital, as could automating a process flow, experimenting with RPA, or enabling customers to order from a website. In essence, there are a multitude of different options before we even get to chatbots, customer preference insights, predictive asset maintenance and hypotheses generation.

So why do we keep hearing about how hard it is to execute effectively with consistent research telling us that 70 per cent of transformation efforts fail?

While digital technologies have made the pathway to digital transformation, the opportunity that every organisation is seeking to capitalise on, what many organisations (70 per cent of them as noted above) get wrong is the focus on the technology.

As an innovator in the early stages of the digital era, that may have been understandable. Working with the unknown, and by definition and nature, first-of-a-kind initiatives, it was important to understand what the technology could do and its limitations.

But in 2018, why does this still account for such an overwhelming focus of an organisations digital transformation agenda? The best way to deal with that question may be by taking a look at what the organisations that are in the 30 per cent who achieve success actually do.

People and culture matter

Watching my 10 year old nephew master the iPad with a skill and confidence I can only aspire to is an exercise in amazement and humility; amazement at all the functionality he is able to access to expedite what he is doing, and humility knowing that I am not ever going to come close.

Taking the ego aside, it reflects the very important point that the technology being used has degrees of perceived value generation and productivity firstly, only when it is used and secondly, with an increasing value the greater and more extensive the use.

So when we say people matter, what we really mean is digital transformation is a change to the way a company works and for the intended value to be realised organisations must incorporate education, training, and adoption strategies that help employees understand why the transformation is happening, how it will impact them, and how accepting and adapting to the initiative will enhance the way they work and the business performs.

Process Matters

It’s very easy to dismiss the process of any function or model as the thing that happens behind the scenes. It’s not usually the subject of an extensive marketing campaign and the people in many process areas may not even have a line of sight to the end customer. 

There may be an instances where consumers may complain about steps in the process that they may need to navigate to get something resolved. I need to admit at this point to being one of those annoying customers that will challenge how something works if I am caught up in a cycle of bureaucracy with some unfortunate contact centre assistant.

But process matters because so many organisations will deploy a technology solution and not or re-engineer a process to reflect the new way of working that the technology should enable.  As a result teams end up complaining that they are stuck with a new technology which does not work at best, and creates more work at worst.

The criticism then gears towards the technology not the implementation strategy that supported it.

Challenging Fundamentals

Business models matter: How organisations arrange themselves in a digital transformation matters. Traditional models are hierarchy based and decisions are made on positional authority. Team and role structures define who does what, and everyone’s role is clear and supported by a position description. Digital transformation challenges many, if not all of these fundamentals. 

Implementing change on this scale, for at its essence this is what digital transformation is, requires different ways of working and different mindsets. It requires acknowledging that your nephew may have more experience even at 10 years old, then you do, irrespective of a long career as an executive.

It’s about who knows what, not credentials that may be impressive, however not best suited to that particular piece of work. And it involves understanding that teams are dynamic, decisions need to be made differently, and a shared focus on outcomes is how digital value is generated and how digital transformations succeed.