Category Archives: Trending

How to Create a Buzz Around Contract Management

It can be hard to create a buzz around contract management. Get it wrong and it can sting badly. Get it right and the results can be honey-sweet!

Photo by Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

Procurement can sometimes be a real flash in the pan. The commercial squad can descend on any project that looks big enough, ugly enough or sexy enough. Money and risk can be like bees to honey – the higher it is, the sweeter the taste. It’s a sure fire way to get procurement’s attention!

Procurement professionals can be highly skilled at project planning, sourcing and providing commercial advice leading to strong contract frameworks. But when the show is over often everyone moves on to the next big shiny thing. 

While there is merit in ensuring that a solid sourcing exercise is executed, often the cream on top comes from executing exemplary contract management.

Contract Management? Yawn!

Contract management doesn’t have to be boring! If businesses get serious about contract management then serious results can be realised. There is nothing worse than a set and forget contract. It is almost guaranteed that some gold is being missed somewhere.

Contract management is quite simple at the heart of it (although admittedly it could definitely do with a re-brand).

How to Get Started

1. Ride on the buzz of signing. Capitalise on the newness of the contract by setting up the relationship meetings correctly at the beginning.

If you are a procurement person who will not be managing the contract then set up the meeting with the key relationship managers on both sides of the fence. You’ll be surprised how much value you can keep extracting, even if the contract is only freshly anointed! 

2. Take time to get the roles and responsibilities right and make sure each party understands their role.

3. Measure results and performance in a meaningful way. At the beginning of the project think about good ways to measure success. Make sure to ask your internal customers and supply market for ideas. 

4. Execute. Set the meetings, carry them out, do the surveys, do the reviews, gather the data, analyse the data, report on the data. 

How to do it right

Being organisationally ready is key. While individuals can carry out actions and get results, true value is experienced when the culture of the organisation (or the procurement team) is geared towards supplier relationship and contract management (SR&CM).

The best examples can be seen where dedicated SR&CM resources reside in a procurement team, rather than expecting individual team members to carry out these tasks within a role that encompasses many other specialisms.

Contract Management Challenges

Being aware of the challenges of embarking on a culture of change can help to set reasonable expectations of what is achievable and how long it may take. Knowing some of the sticking points from those that have gone before can be helpful in scoping out the scale and length of journey that is ahead.

The common challenges can be:

  • Resource. Obtaining sign off to get dedicated resource and gaining buy-in on the idea. Finding the right skill sets can be difficult. Sometimes new roles and directions can change the culture of the team.
  • Internal customers complaining about suppliers but either: not telling anyone; not telling the supplier; not telling procurement; and / or all of the above, plus not being willing to measure performance once mechanisms are put in place.
  • Bias – not wanting to use a supplier “just because”. To manage true poor performance (as opposed to perceived), then procurement need something tangible to build the picture and also, to give the supplier a genuine chance to improve.

What is the pay off at the end of the rainbow?

If procurement functions commit to embedding contract management into their team environment there can be many rewards.

  • Increased capability within the Procurement team – opportunity for other specialisms within procurement to learn from SRM&CM experts
  • Increased capability in the business as the contract managers and people dealing with the suppliers in the day to day increase their commercial acumen in regards to having tough conversations (or good ones!) with suppliers
  • Closing the gap between the supplier and the buyer. Understanding each side of the fence and the challenges experienced from both sides.
  • Ability to tackle poor performance in contracts effectively and efficiently as evidence is gathered, reported on and monitored. We’re not talking big brother looking to punish the supply market, there are often improvements required on both sides.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

Email Marketing – July the 4th Be With You!

Planning your next holiday email marketing campaign and struggling to stand out? Here are some top tips to help you steal the show.

Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

Holiday email marketing campaigns can make or break a business. A study by Experian performed a couple of years ago shows that emails promoting special offers and incentives sent during the two weeks before the 4th of July resulted in dramatically increased open and transaction rates.

The best rated strategies included the following in subject lines: free shipping, vouchers and other cash incentives, 4th of July discounts and coupons, and 4th of July clearance sales.

Here is a prime example from Nasty Gal:

Email Marketing – A Strategy for Every Business

There are a number of approaches. The best one depends on the sender, the offer and the message a business wants to send across. First of all, it is important to remember that this particular holiday appeals to people’s patriotism. 

Contrary to popular belief, Americans tend to spend a lot ahead of the holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, people spend considerable amounts of money on food, clothing, party props and décor. The percentage stands at 93 per cent for young people aged 18 to 24. If your business caters to younger audiences, there is definitely room for increased transaction rates around the holiday. 

Even if that is not the case, a proper strategy will inspire customers to consider the offer. Coupled with the above-mentioned incentives, a clever marketing campaign will offer a little something to everyone. Here are some ideas on how to go about the 4th of July email marketing campaigns.

Animate the Audience

Holidays do tend to inspire partying, so adding animation to the emails is a good choice of action. A picture featuring fireworks or similar will boost the mood and make your offer more tempting. Here is an example from Nicole Miller:

Other examples may come to mind; remember to be creative and keep it cheerful.

Focus on the Holiday Mood

Holidays are fun, and the 4th of July is no exception. In fact, it may well be the most cheerful holiday nowadays. Whether spent with family or friends (or both), people focus on good times. It is, therefore, recommended to appeal to the atmosphere by creating fun emails. Rover did it brilliantly:

Be creative and humorous and look for ways to link the message to the offer.  

Stress on Patriotism

To appeal to overall patriotism, many campaigns fly the American flag. If you find it too generic, trust your brand’s specialty to add some zest to the offer. Here’s how Sperry nailed it:

Highlighting patriotic products is also a good idea. M&M did a splendid job with that with their 4th of July edition candies.

That isn’t to say that you need to create special themed products for the occasion, though. You may simply plaster the offer onto the American flag and get creative with the fireworks around it.

Things to Keep in Mind

The 4th of July is an American holiday and the biggest one next to Thanksgiving. If your business is international, do your homework with segmentation. Sending promotional offers to people outside of the U.S. would be a waste of effort and money, so focus on the target audience.

Further out, the 4th of July falls closely to Father’s Day and Memorial Day. You may easily kill two birds with one stone if you couple the offers. On top of it, sending too many emails too frequently is more likely to annoy the recipients than to inspire them, so use the opportunity to combine multiple offers into one email.

If you have a physical store, don’t forget to include business hours and the services offered around and during the holiday. It’s also important to include information on holiday shipping and delivery deadlines.

Finally, remember that the best of the best campaigns tell a unique story. It is not all about the offer. On the contrary, statistics show that people tend to remember the stories rather than the offer, especially if they are emotionally charged. Sharing an experience and showing the heroes being rewarded is what people will relate to the most. Adding a video or a promo campaign ahead of the holiday will keep customers connected to your brand and keep them coming back for a long while.

Piggyback Existing #Hashtags

To boost the outreach, don’t shy away from social media. Use the hashtags such as #4thofjuly and #fireworks to reach a larger audience and follow up with personalized email messages. Remember that younger generations are the key to your 4th of July campaign. Primarily, they use Snapchat and Instagram, with somewhat lesser percentage sticking to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Add an additional giveaway or two to attract more people. Some ideas include giveaways and social media photo competitions. The more interesting the offer, the more people will share the post. Photo competitions are known to go viral, if done the right way. Use your imagination and may, well July, the 4th be with you!

Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer

No-one can predict the future. But we could all use a truthsayer to help us protect ourselves in the here and now…

Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplash

In most supply chains, communication is point-to-point and one direction. There is no single, shared record of events across multiple parties. This is no longer an efficient or effective way to do business and most organisations know this.

And where there is no single point of truth or shared records, trust in supply chains and from consumers can be eroded. What procurement and supply chains need is a solution that can deliver data, but also be unimpeachable.

But how to solve this issue and penetrate the dense forest of new ideas and myriad technologies all offering to be some form of truthsayer?

A Truthsayer in our Midst?

New technology is, however, transforming that linear disconnected approach, and providing momentum to the movement for mature supply chains to operate in a “network of networks”.

By placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital. 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.

From farm to plate, the food supply chain can now be tracked in an open, transparent, fully traceable and entirely digital way. But what has started out in the food supply chain has all the applicability we need to cover all supply chains. Everywhere.

How then do we get involved? And how also do we sell this concept to a probably sceptical organisation (and budget holder…)?

Join our Webinar

Help is at hand in the form of Procurious and IBM’s latest webinar, ‘Blockchain – Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer’.

Sign up now to join our panel of experts at 14:30pm (BST) on Tuesday the 15th of October:

  • Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious
  • Shari Diaz, Innovation Strategy and Operations Program Director, IBM Watson Supply Chain
  • Professor Olinga Ta’eed, Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance

In the webinar, you’ll hear from a panel of experts on a range of topics including:

  • The importance understanding products’ provenance in your supply chain;
  • The link between successful blockchain adoption and rising consumer confidence;
  • Success stories from across the globe in blockchain implementation; and
  • How to start the conversation in your organisation to get the ball rolling.

FAQs

Is the Blockchain webinar available to anyone?

Absolutely! Anyone & everyone can register for the webinar and it won’t cost you a penny to do so. Simply sign up here.

How do I listen to the Critical Factors webinar?

Simply sign up here and you’ll be able to listen to the on-demand. 

Help – I can’t make it to the live-stream of the webinar!

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask the speakers a question during the Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer webinar?

If you’d like to ask one of our speakers a question please submit it via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Don’t Miss Out!

This webinar promises to provide a fascinating insight for all procurement professionals into the wealth of possibilities that Blockchain has to offer procurement.

Make sure you don’t miss out by signing up today!

Four Ways Brexit Has Rattled CPOs

With Brexit headlines continuing to dominate the daily news, what have been the biggest lessons for procurement leaders on how to approach geopolitical risk?

By Pixel-Shot/ Shutterstock

As cross-party Brexit talks collapsed, stockpiling reached its highest level since records began in the 1950s. A final decision on Brexit looks like it has, yet again, been thrust into the distance. But by now chief procurement officers (CPOs), those charged with ensuring businesses have enough raw materials and goods, have learnt to live beyond politicians’ promises. 

Procurement teams have begun to view geopolitical risk as an unwanted yet permanent factor. It’s no longer just the prospect of Brexit that has procurement officers grappling with greater risk in their jobs. Any emerging geopolitical risk poses potential obstacles for global supply chains, which over the past few decades have become tightly interwoven. 

Lesson 1: Uncertainty is certain 

Procurement chiefs have learnt quickly that they cannot count on politicians. But they can control the steady flow of goods and materials to their organisations by risk-mapping and establishing alternatives. 

Dairy Crest, a manufacturer of British food brands, approved additional suppliers, extra sources of material and alternatives by identifying pinch points in the supply chain, ensuring greater flexibility. 

CPO Chris Thomson reviewed the stock management processes in terms of ingredients and packaging, factory planning processes and customer order to stock processes. All these processes had been in place for many years and were effective, but Brexit made it necessary to revisit all systems and processes. 

“It’s been quite an interesting experience to have a serious situation like this to open your eyes again and to challenge some of the existing business processes,” he says. 

He is not alone in his approach. Neil Butters, head of procurement at Inprova Group, says: “Before you think big, think small. I’d been trying to understand geopolitical risk and Brexit and other areas, and trying to work out how that impacted my organisation. What I ultimately decided to do was to take a fresh view of my organisation and the risk factors, and map them out.” 

Lesson 2: Revisit systems and processes 

“Brexit has forced many CPOs and their teams to look again at their suppliers, local sourcing plans, local versus international, and start to make some decisions about what their future supply should look like,” says Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS). 

Indeed, CPOs have been evaluating their supply chains at a more granular level. Many procurement teams have looked at what happens in the supply chain beyond the first contact with their own company. The view is if they can understand the risks posed at that distance, then they will be able to manage them before there is a direct impact on their business. 

“We haven’t fundamentally changed our sourcing approach. What we have done is put a lot more emphasis on our category management in our processes, and a lot more emphasis on how far up the supply chain we understand what’s going on,” says Dairy Crest’s Mr Thomson. 

Localisation might help some businesses, but switching to UK suppliers doesn’t always solve the problem. Establishing new suppliers has its own challenges and is rarely a seamless process, particularly if you are sourcing a strategic supplier. 

According to research by CIPS, almost a quarter of companies it surveyed were looking for alternative non-European Union suppliers. But the study also showed that half of British companies would struggle to find the suppliers and skills they need in the UK if they were forced to bring parts of their supply chain back home post-Brexit. 

“Anybody who approaches their suppliers in business as purely a transactional thing misses the opportunity to work special situations and to work closely together to manage whatever it is thrown at us. We treat our suppliers really as part of the business,” says Neil Ginger, chief executive of Origin, a UK manufacturer of aluminium doors and windows. 

Lesson 3: Stockpiling can’t solve everything 

Filling up warehouses with raw materials and medicines is a short-term solution. Stockpiling is an option for some, but many do not have the facilities to store surplus stock and those with perishable goods simply won’t be able to. 

Longer-term stockpiling won’t fix the challenges companies face over trading with EU customers and suppliers. Moreover, the additional costs of paying for the stock and then paying for warehousing that stock can be crippling, particularly for smaller businesses with fewer resources. 

Earlier this year, door and window manufacturer Origin began stockpiling aluminium extrusion from its supplier based in northern Spain in preparation for Brexit and disruption at the border. In total, the company stockpiled around £750,000-worth of materials, which is not an insignificant amount of money to add to your inventory. And then Brexit Day never came. 

“Beyond the things you can’t control, you’re just trying to stay as flexible as you possibly can. We bought more material to make sure we could see ourselves through some very short-term disruption at the border,” says Origin’s Mr Ginger. 

Lesson 4: Ditch the silos 

CPOs have become more rounded business people as a result of Brexit. They have had to work more intensively with other teams within their organisations, and have had to explain what they are doing to the board to ensure the business can keep functioning and fulfilling customers’ orders. 

Like many companies, Dairy Crest set up a cross-functional leadership group focused on medium to long-term Brexit planning. In addition, the company established a standalone cross-functional group focused solely on preparing for Brexit Day. They based their business planning on a hard Brexit, the worst-case scenario for many businesses. 

“We really focused our efforts on planning for the worst case and knowing that if it didn’t turn out to be the reality, we would be in a sensible position,” says Dairy Crest’s Mr Thomson.

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.  

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Motivating Procurement for the next level of evolution

How do you motivate your procurement team to reach peak performance? Start by asking the right questions.

Procurement is a highly specialized field in most organizations, one that develops leaders as change agents creating value in literally every space that they touch. With the advent of the digital era, there is a greater need to understand and implement technology to foray into unconventional territories and look for hidden value. Thus, motivating the Procurement teams to look for new ways of creating and driving innovation becomes critical in present times.

As we look at motivating Procurement teams, it is important to analyze how the professionals working in different Procurement jobs think about their roles. The recent Procurement 2030 report, courtesy Procurious & Michael Page pointed out the insight that most Procurement CPOs consider talent development and retention as a key focus area for future. Thus, it is safe to say that motivating teams would be a top priority for talent retention in Procurement. This report also highlighted that the buyers and category managers consider almost half of their work as tactical vs strategic, and that almost half of the work can be automated i.e. it consists of repeatable tasks. These are useful considerations in understanding the current scenario before thinking about the next-level progress.

So what could be the ways of motivating Procurement teams into peak performance?

Organisational structures

Based on my discussion with Procurement colleagues across industries, I have come to believe that the right organizational structure in Procurement is a critical first step towards having a productive and engaged workplace. We have seen many waves of changes in Procurement structure across industries over the last few years. First, there were location focused roles, then the category management roles came into the picture. Slowly, the buyer roles also became more globalized versus being local or regional over time. Thus, the Procurement organization has kept evolving.

(1) Evolution of global category management: Most buyers today realize that category management is the way to be and global structures provide maximum visibility to drive change, thereby it is a welcome change to most of us. However, due to many continuous changes, it seems like there is a tendency for some ambiguity structure wise in many workplaces. I recall a peer from a mid-sized organization who had remarked in a forum that he liked building expertise in the global category manager role but at many times, he felt that he was doing the work which was distracting him from his core priorities of understanding business needs and finding creative solutions with the help of his supply base. It is certainly true that organizational structures were not intended to be a barrier when they were put in place. However, often the buyers at entry and mid-level spend valuable time looking for clarity about what they are supposed to do, as core priorities seem not so core when laden with structural challenges.

(2) One size does not fit all: Some organizations follow one structure strictly i.e. they have either the category management specific or location specific Procurement roles, while some have a mixed structure depending on business and country-specific supply needs. Depending on the size of the organization, there could also be a matrix or a hierarchical structure. It is often noticed that layers of hierarchy also lead to slower alignment and execution, thereby affecting creativity. In the face of further change, it would be good if leaders re-assess the current organizational structure that they have and analyze if it is set up for maximum effectiveness. We think about factors such as our business needs and supply needs while setting up roles, but with time as things change, it is good to re-assess design by deep diving internally into Procurement desk responsibilities.

(3) Internal feedback and self assessment to rescue: In the quest to motivate teams and help them deliver with effectiveness, it would be paramount to see where the teams spend most of their time and make changes that help simplify the structure while driving quicker actions. So look internally and ask yourself- Are your organisational structures distracting your teams? Do your teams think they are spending valuable time and energy on tasks which they should not be doing as they do not add value? Is your organizational complexity weighing them down, rather than helping them focus on business needs and external market evolution? A deep self-assessment and appropriate internal feedback could help provide the right design for the future. This could also be the way to get buyers to go deeper on building internal and external stakeholder relationships and removing some tactical tasks to drive efficacy.

Employee Coaching

The current digital era is the era of employee engagement. We have come a long way from the factory age where work was repeatable and top-down approach worked. Now, the best organizations are the ones where employees can feel understood, valued and trusted. Hence, the role of managers as coaches becomes all the more important.

(1) Coaching by asking right questions: I have often thought that buyers are prone to considering some strategic tasks as tactical because that is how these appear superficially. For example, an area new to Procurement where no one has evaluated the scale before could appear so in some cases. Then, for some time the buyer would only manage it as a low priority tactical item, not realizing the full value it can bring to the table if its potential is realized. When I was buying Facilities for Middle-East and Africa region, it was considered a tactical area until we saw the benefit of leveraging full scale by engaging competitive new players in the changing market landscape. Had we not analyzed this area internally and externally, it would continue to be labeled ‘tactical’. The key thus, is getting the right coaching and input, and being asked the right questions to look deeper rather than scratch the surface.

(2) Coaching by internalizing Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: Good coaches have an understanding of human behavior and motivation. The oldest model known in understanding human behavior is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This can help managers to understand human behavior in office settings also. Usually, people have basic physiological, safety and belonging needs that would require fulfilment before they can reach self-esteem and finally the self-actualization stage. Of course, the peak performance is something that happens at uppermost levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This model can help both the coach and the coachee to assess themselves. Moreover, it provides the coach with a framework to understand the team first so that they can find ways to motivate people positively. A good coach can notice performance variations in the light of this model for themselves and the team, and use it to point them in the right direction.

(3) Coaching by understanding Losada line: Losada line is also an interesting principle in organizational behavior which measures the positivity to negativity in a system. What it states is that for any positive change to happen, a ratio of 3 to 6 is required. Lower than 3 would not be optimum for a good performance. To give you an estimate, successful marriages usually have a Losada ratio of 5 or above. This can be used by coaches to provide feedback and nudge the teams towards high performances.

In conclusion, as organizations get serious about leading with purpose and boosting positive collaboration for their employees, coaching and re-assessing organizational structures, on top of the existing mechanisms of training and rewards, could help unearth valuable insights paramount for their transformation into more evolved workplaces. While this happens, all of us in Procurement would need to be open to learning new things and adopting a growth mindset. In the words of Satya Nadella, as stated in his book Hit Refresh – “After all, how we experience the world is through communications and collaboration. If we are interested in machines that work with us, then we can’t ignore the humanistic approach.” We need to continue to bring humans closer by embracing collaboration and removing barriers. Do you think this could apply to your organization? What other strategies have helped in your journey?A

Three Ways To Make An Impact In Your Procurement Career

Procurement professionals are in a unique position to step up and make a positive impact. Here are three areas where procurement professionals should direct their attention… 

In an age when people want to work for companies who are doing good in the world, when consumers vote with their wallets and achieving supply chain transparency is easier than ever before there has never been more pressure for procurement professionals to commit to, and prioritise, making a difference in the world with the work that they do.

Tom Derry, CEO – ISM, discusses three areas where procurement professionals should direct their attention…

1. Sustainability

There was a time when sustainability was merely a PR strategy with minimal corporate effort put behind it. But those days are long gone and we’re at the tipping point where businesses can finally see the financial benefits of operating sustainability.

I’m familiar with the CPO of a major food manufacturer here in the United States,” says Tom.  “One day the Rainforest Action Network was protesting on their corporate campus. It came down to the sustainable sourcing of palm oils, which is a major food ingredient. What we’re realising now is our supply chains can create unexpected consequences. In this case, palm oil was being sourced from Indonesia, which incentivised local farmers to burn down the rainforests in order to plant palm trees. The food manufacturer was jeopardising the existence of this incredible biodiverse resource, without any sense of the consequence of sourcing palm oil to make their products.”

Tom also mentions the importance of catering to customer demands.  “My own daughter makes her consumer purchase decisions based on how she views the sustainable practices of the companies. Companies have realised that if they lose that customer, consumers walk away and you never get that business back.”

But, according to Tom there’s another reason key you have to take sustainability seriously. “In the stock market, companies like JP Morgan are publishing reports on companies based on ESG – which stands for Environment, Sustainability and Governance. So it’s no longer just financial metrics that are driving stock prices. It’s your score on your environmental performance, how sustainable you are, and your governance around your sustainability strategy.

“When that starts to drive stock price, that gets everyone’s attention. Believe me!”

2. Modern slavery

With 21 to 46 million people in slavery around the world, procurement professionals have a huge responsibility in weeding it out of their supply chains?

As Tom points out, it’s a sobering statistic but companies are  beginning to do amazing things. to tackle modern slavery.  “Nestle, for example, investigated their own supply chain for fish used in pet food products and found that the Thai fishing flight was using impressed labour. They identified the problem and proactively went out to address it rather than waiting for someone else to discover it.”

This approach allows companies to avoid appearing defensive and reactive and Tom believes we’ll see more and more companies taking that kind of stance, “because they have to!

“It’s not just about protecting your company’s reputation, but it’s also a recognition that we all share as humans that it’s a morally reprehensible practice – and none of us want to be a part of it.”

3. Diversity and Inclusion

A third way procurement and supply chain professionals can make an impact in their organisations is to improve supplier and workplace diversity.

“We need to make sure our supply bases reflect the kinds of communities where we do business,” argues Tom. “We also need to make sure our teams, internally – and our leadership teams – reflect those communities too.”

“Diversity broadens our point of view. We become more sensitive to cultural issues.”

Remember the backlash last year when PepsiCo released an ad featuring Kendall Jenner that somewhat insensitvely echoed a Black Lives Matter protest? Criticised for trivialising and exploiting the movement the ad was soon removed but not without significant damage to the PepsiCo brand.

As Tom points out,  “a diverse team will heighten your awareness to those issues before they get out into the public domain and embarrass you. You have a multitude of perspectives on how to solve problems.”

“ISM has got a long standing leadership position in this area . We’ve got a formal statement on the value of diversity to the profession we organise a conference and sponsor a certification to help people become leader of diversity efforts.”

Part 3 of Tuesdays with Tom is available now. Click here to sign up and hear ISM CEO Tom Derry talk on sustainability, modern slavery, and diversity. 

Tuesdays With Tom: Trump, Trade and Turning Disruption into Opportunity

Institute for Supply Management CEO Tom Derry compares the Trump administration’s trade policies to “self-inflicted friendly fire” in the first of our 10-part Tuesdays with Tom podcast series.

“In military conflicts, one of the outcomes we most dread are instances of ‘friendly fire’, when you mistakenly fire on your own troops. I think the current [trade] policy is almost an instance of self-inflicted friendly fire, from an economic perspective. We might be helping domestic industries like steel and aluminum (although even that’s arguable), but we’re actually damaging the far bigger industries that are consumers of those products; who make household appliances, yellow goods for construction, or automobiles. All of our exports in those areas will suffer with this trade policy.”

In the first of our Tuesdays with Tom podcast series, ISM CEO Tom Derry talks with Procurious Founder Tania Seary about the current raft of trade wars and tariffs that have come about as a result of US policy shift.

Supply management professionals do NOT like trade wars

“ISM publishes economic reports every month for the manufacturing and services sector. Comments have been very consistent: we’re seeing suppliers trying to impose price increases on buyers as they’re buying metals (such as steel and aluminum)”, says Tom. “We’re seeing people anticipating the tariffs, looking to end sourcing from China and look for suppliers elsewhere, and we’re seeing people postpone investments.

“The two most important economic factors in deciding where to locate a manufacturing facility are local taxes and tariffs. If tariffs are uncertain, [companies are] going to postpone decisions about building that next facility, which is not good for the economy in the long run.”

NAFTA renegotiations having an impact

“What’s so interesting about these policy changes”, says Tom, “is that even mere discussion has a real economic impact and causes real dislocation of supply chains. Even before the steel tariffs were imposed, people reacted to the idea of tariffs, and that caused businesses to have to change their plans.”

Historically, NAFTA has resulted in incredibly tightly integrated supply chains in certain industries, particularly the automotive industry. “We do a lot of assembly of automotive in northern Mexico for final sales here in the United States or in Canada, but before you get to that final assembly in those plants, you’ve got components for parts that move across the Mexican/US border four or five times before we get to the final vehicle”, says Tom.

“Imagine what it would be like to impose tariffs in both directions four or five times, and the inspections that would have to go with it, and the country of origin verification that would have to be performed. If NAFTA [fails], it’ll be incredibly disruptive in terms of the auto industry here in North America.” 

Two tips for turning disruption into opportunity

  1. Have a Plan B: “Every good category manger has a Strategy A for expected economic conditions, and Strategy B if there’s an economic downturn or something happens in the commodity markets. You have to have those playbooks thought through and scripted … if you haven’t done that, get to work on that immediately.”
  2. Be prepared to react fast: “If you see a dramatic change, you need to be able to respond to it in the moment. The advantage goes to the company, the organisation, or the individual who can react fastest during times of great change. If you’re late in moving, any potential benefit to be realised will be captured by someone else. Make sure you’ve got that playbook well defined.”

“The advantage goes to the company, the organisation, or the individual who can react fastest during times of great change.”

Tom tells the story of a CPO working at LG Electronics during the 2008-9 recession, who was concerned about securing semiconductors. They were aware that a recession would lead to a drop in consumer demand for electronics and hence a demand for semiconductor chips, so he visited his suppliers in Asia, then managed to convince his executive committee to buy $9 billion worth of semiconductors because the price would never be as low again. LG subsequently posted record profits for 2009 due to that CPO’s business acumen, his understanding of the spot market for semiconductors, and doing his homework. This is how you respond to disruptive events.

“[Procurement needs to] see through the common perception, recognise market opportunities and the dislocation between price and demand, and seize opportunities to turn a perceived threat into a great opportunity for a huge bottom line impact.”


Tuesdays with Tom is a 10-part podcast series featuring exclusive insights from ISM CEO, Tom Derry. Register now to receive an alert whenever a new podcast is released.

Is AI Doing Your Head In?

Seven tips for making headway with your cognitive sourcing project.

I will never forget visiting the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington for the first time 30 years ago and seeing the Apollo capsule. Like so many others, I was amazed at how basic the technology was that took us to the moon.  I remember saying to my travel buddy, “Hey, this looks like my 1969 Toyota Corolla!” (my first car). Of course, back then, that was the very latest technology when humanity had its first “moonshot” opportunity.

My point here is that as procurement professionals, we may be sporting 30, 40 or 50-year-old hardware (our bodies!), but we need to make sure we are using 2018 software (our brains and capabilities) to get the very latest technology embedded in our organisations.

I mean, if cognitive is here, and it’s our moonshot opportunity to change the trajectory of the profession and there’s millions of dollars waiting to be saved, we don’t want to be left back on the rocket staging launch pad as an observer!

The challenge for all of us is to determine whether and how we implement this hot new capability.

Step one is to be clear about your corporate drivers. In my experience, companies are always going through one of six phases (please note the “status quo” is never one of them). Sometimes, they are going through multiple phases at the same time!

These directions are set from the top… hard coded. So if you want to get your cognitive sourcing project off the ground, you are going to have make sure your project aligns with one of these corporate objectives.

One of the key movers in the space, LevaData, is offering a hard ROI of 10 to 30% incremental cost savings, guaranteed. I asked them how we could link cognitive projects into the generic 6 corporate phases and this is what they had to say :-

  • Efficiency – massively reduce manual data validation, spend analysis, and sourcing event preparation activities
  • Compliance – engage approved vendors and qualified alternate sources of supply through auditable RFX process (vs. email and spreadsheets)
  • Transformation – elevate procurement and strategic sourcing as internal orchestrators, working cross functionally with engineering, finance, manufacturing, and sales to managing emerging supply risks and opportunities
  • Innovation – accelerate new product introduction and optimize cost and risk through the product life-cycle
  • Cost-down – improved negotiation insights lead to sustainable cost management year over year, capturing cost reduction opportunities as well as minimizing cost inflation risks
  • Growth – enable scaleability and responsiveness to forecast and market changes from months to weeks or days.

Getting BIG, innovative ideas and game-changing concepts through BIG Companies is not easy.  To successfully land cognitive technology in your organisation, you’ll need to:

1. Have courage and commit yourself. It’s important to have full confidence in your cognitive project and be prepared to put your credibility on the line and stand up for it at all costs. Once you’ve decided that it’s worth committing to, give it everything and don’t give up.

2. Do your homework.Make sure your cognitive sourcing project is closely aligned with a key corporate objective. Collect and scrutinise the data on the benefits of introducing cognitive and make sure your business case is bullet-proof. You need hard-nose, quantifiable benefits to support investing in the cognitive project and these numbers need to be backed up by the people who count (predominantly operations and finance).  Do your pre-work, build your support team. As you work your way around the organisation convincing people of the need to change, refer to your support network often: “Johnny in finance is firmly behind this, he helped me with the numbers”.

3. Think Big, Act Small, Accelerate Fast. Keeping the vision in mind, find a small representative project, experiment and demonstrate the ROI with Cognitive capability. Sell the outcome and accelerate fast. I would encourage you to think about what that project might look like and figure out ways to get it off the ground.

4. Pick a sponsor (carefully!). Think carefully about who would be the best sponsor for your cognitive sourcing project.  Make sure they have power and influence – and make sure they are supporting you for the right reasons and believe the project is important for the business. Try to avoid sponsors who are purely supporting cognitive for their own career advancement (I know this is hard to uncover at the outset). This is because your project will be dumped as quickly as it was taken up if it suddenly falls out of favour – which is another reason to make sure your project is aligned to key, quantifiable business objectives.

ONLY refer back to your sponsor when you reach a critical deadlock at an important milestone.  “Keep your powder dry” throughout the project, otherwise you will be too much of a drain on their time.  You need to make it easy for them to be your sponsor. Bring them in for the photo opportunities and the critical decision points.

5. Create a support network. I’ve often said procurement can be a lonely place, because you may be the only person in your company, or even in your industry, doing what you do! That’s one of the many reasons why I started Procurious, to help people connect and learn from each other.

Procurious is the perfect place for reaching out to others leading the cognitive journey within their own organisations. Over five thousand Procurious members visit our discussion board every month to share ideas and offer advice to their peers. Our blogs are read by thousands of professionals daily and spark debate, with members feeding their own commentary and ideas into the global community.

Our digital Big Ideas Summits, along with all the other networking, discussion and eLearning on the site, inspire a global generation of procurement leaders and business intrapreneurs, challenging them to take a more innovative professional approach.

Your network is also a powerful tool for endorsing what you are recommending, for example you can refer to your network – “I know Janie at ABC company (our competitor) and they are already implementing cognitive”.

6. Be human(!) in all your interactions. Up, down, and across the supply chain, it will be interactions between people that will be the real determinants of success and failure in an increasingly robotic era. To prosper in this next Industrial Revolution, we need to play to our human strengths – collaboration, connection, innovation, influence – the things only we humans can do.

7. When you get knocked down, get back up again. If you’re going to succeed in getting your big idea through a big company, you have to be incredibly resilient. You will have nay-sayers telling you why cognitive is not going to work, so keep going back to the data that demonstrates how this will support the business objectives. That is your strongest defence.

So, like any other project that is doing your head in, the implementation of cognitive can best be tackled by breaking it down into distinct steps. It’s going to take grit and more than a little determination, but the potential rewards are stratospheric.

Tania Seary will deliver the closing keynote at LevaData’s Cognitive Sourcing Summit on 13th September 2018 in Santa Clara, CA. Find out more.

5 Nashville Chartbusters For Procurement Professionals

How are the smash-hit singles of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton relevant to procurement? Let’s find out.

Procurious has landed in Nashville! This iconic town is everything we hoped for – the neon lights, the honky-tonk venues, the gift shops brimming with cowboy boots and sequin-studded denim jackets. But Nashville is also known as Music City, so as ISM2018 gets underway, let’s explore some of the smash-hit tunes that this city has gifted to the world – and find out how they relate to our profession.

1. Johnny Cash: Folsom Prison Blues

I’m stuck in Folsom Prison / And time keeps draggin’ on…

Unfortunately, procurement is one of the top business functions where fraud takes place, mainly because the nature of the profession means the opportunity – and temptation – often exists. Organisations fight fraud by removing this opportunity through policies, processes, strict ethical standards, audits and (increasingly) tech solutions.

Corruption, procurement fraud and other ethical breaches aren’t just bad for the companies involved – they also tarnish the reputation of the profession as a whole and undo a lot of the work we’ve all done to build the profile of procurement as a trusted business advisor. So, take Johnny Cash’s advice: Walk The Line in supply management if you want to stay out of Folsom!

2. Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers: Islands in the Stream

Frequently nominated as the best country duet of all time, this song describes how two lovers’ affection for one another is strong enough can withstand anything life can throw at it (the stream).

From a procurement angle, let’s flip this concept upside-down. Imagine that the ‘stream’ is your supply chain – whether it’s a small creek or a raging torrent, ideally it will keep flowing without interruption, day and night.

Now – imagine that the ‘islands’ are the disruptive forces that threaten to choke and block your supply stream. From natural disasters, to disruptive technologies, to bankrupt suppliers, disruptions really can feel like a huge boulder has been dropped out of nowhere, causing chaos and delays. Let’s hope you’ve got a plan in place in case an island threatens to block your stream.

3. Willie Nelson: On the Road Again

No road-trip is complete without this classic from the great Willie Nelson. It resonates strongly with procurement and supply managers simply because we’re one of the most well-travelled professions out there. Aside from attending must-see events such as ISM2018, we’re always on the road visiting suppliers, dropping into our organisation’s different sites, and even traveling overseas to review critical parts of complex global supply chains for ourselves.

I know a few CPOs who don’t want to see certain team members in the head office for more than one day a week – in fact, they’re of the opinion that if a supply management professional spends most of their time at their desk, they’re not doing their job properly.

So – pack your travel case, put Willie Nelson on Spotify, and get on the road again to see your supply chain for yourself.

4. Dolly Parton – Working 9 To 5

Still working 9 to 5? It’s 2018! Most workplaces have introduced a little something called flexibility. A long time ago I worked in an office full of clock-watchers. You could work until 6.30pm in the evening and no-one would even blink, but God help you if you walked in five minutes after 9.00am the next morning. Luckily, most managers now recognise that it’s outputs that count, not the time spent sitting at one’s desk.

Flexible working hours are especially important if you interact with global supply chains. Chances are you’ll need to be on the phone at least once a week with overseas suppliers late into the evening or at the crack of dawn. That’s time on the clock – so if you want to front up at the office a little bit later the next morning, you’ve earned that flexibility.

Flexibility is also crucial for driving gender equality in the workforce, bringing talented new parents back on board after parental leave, and a source of competitive advantage when it comes to attracting the best young talent to work with your team.

5. Billy Ray Cyrus – Achy Breaky Heart

Gotta love that mullet, Billy Ray.

Have you ever had to ‘break up’ with a supplier? Just like splitting up with a significant other romantically, things can get messy. No matter how gently you break the news, the meeting can become emotional – particularly when both sides have invested heavily into the relationship.

Avoid giving your suppliers an achy-breaky heart by establishing and maintaining a strong feedback-loop throughout the relationship, and give them as much warning as possible that you won’t be renewing their contract.

This topic is worthy of its very-own blog article, as there’s no shortage of break-up songs from Nashville! Runners-up include Roy Orbinson’s It’s Over and Brenda Lee’s Break It To Me Gently.


Are you at ISM2018? Visit Procurious in the Exhibitor Hall – Booth #207!

Don’t miss out on Procurious Founder Tania Seary’s inspirational & informative ISM2018 Session on Tuesday 8th May, 3.45-4.45:

From the Amazon to the Moon: The Possibilities for Procurement

Revealed: 4 Things CFOs Really Want From Procurement

Ever get the feeling you’ve been barking up the wrong tree? Let’s cut out the second-guessing and focus on the four essentials that Chief Financial Officers want from procurement.

Krasimira Nevenova/Shutterstock.com

Andrew Porter values having a good night’s sleep. As CFO of the Australian Foundation Investment Company (AFIC) and President of the G100, the peak body for Australian CFOs, Porter knows that the presence of dark circles under the eyes of C-level executives are linked directly to how the business is tracking.

“The CFO’s job is to help the CEO – and the Board – to sleep well at night”, he says. This concept also applies to the relationship between CPO and CFO, and the people reporting to the CPO, and so on all the way down the organisation.

“I’ll pay a little bit more for security of supply knowing that our strategic suppliers are happy, reliable, and we’re not going to be exposed as a business with a supplier that feels cheated”, Porter says.  “I want to know where the supplies are coming from, and know that they’re quality, and know that it’s not going to come back and bite the business later on.”

So – what exactly do CFOs want from their CPOs in order to help the business grow?

  1. They want to trust that everything is under control

CFOs, says Porter, worry about keeping three succinct groups happy: investors or shareholders, customers, and employees. It’s a delicate balance, because an initiative that benefits one group can have a detrimental effect on the others unless it’s been carefully thought through. Procurement practitioners have the ability to help maintain this balance, not in the least by keeping customers happy through the timely sourcing of goods and services. “If the job is being done well, it’s one less thing for the CFO to worry about”, says Porter. “But if procurement tries too hard and is seen to be screwing down the supplier, then you’ve undone all that hard work, shifted the balance, and suddenly the investors are unhappy.”

As all CFOs know, you can’t improve margins and grow your business without first being sure that you can rely on your bottom line. “In order to grow, you’ve got to have trust in your subordinates – and that cascades all the way down.”

  1. They want to be kept informed

“What CFOs really want is a crystal ball that works 100% accurately all the time”, says Porter. CFOs need to understand all sectors of the business – what’s firing, what isn’t firing, and (importantly), they need to know about roadblocks and other issues in advance. If procurement becomes aware of an upcoming issue, the CFO, CEO and the Board need to be informed of it before it happens, and be presented with a list of solutions.

“The board doesn’t want to see problems – they want to see solutions”, says Porter. “A good CPO should be putting themselves in the place of the person they’re reporting to. What does he or she need to know? What are the questions they’re going to ask, and how am I going to get those answers to them before they have to ask?”

  1. They want their CPOs to think outside the box

What does disruption actually mean in terms of supply for your organisation? Where will this disruption be coming from? Are there different, innovative ways of sourcing goods and services? Porter comments that although innovation isn’t always an immediate priority, the C-suite will inevitably ask what procurement is doing to drive innovation.

Part of thinking outside the box means broadening your field of vision. “Look globally as well as domestically for best-practice, and ensure you’re part of a good forum where you can share information with your peers.”

  1. They want to see purpose-led strategy

Are the procurement team’s KPIs in accordance with your organisation’s purpose-led strategy?

“A nightmare scenario involves the CPO chasing the wrong KPIs”, says Porter. “Ill-chosen KPIs can sometimes be at odds with the purpose and strategy of the business, and fail to align with the KPIs of the wider organisation. They need to be parallel all the way down. Everyone needs to absolutely understand what their role is in the company.”

But, Porter warns, you need to have sensible targets. “If CFOs start forcing CPOs and their teams into impossible targets, that’s when people get disenfranchised – and suppliers get hurt.”


Andrew Porter is the CFO of Australia’s largest Listed Investment Company, Australian Foundation Investment Company, known as AFIC. He is also CFO for Djerriwarrh Investments Ltd, Mirrabooka Investments Ltd and AMCIL Ltd, all other Listed Investment Companies. He is the current President of the G100, the peak body for CFOs, and the current Chair of ASIC’s Standing Committee on Accounting and Auditing.  He was formerly a non-executive Director of the Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital.

Porter will deliver a keynote presentation at The Asia-Pacific CPO Forum, the region’s premier procurement event dedicated to accelerating commercial leadership at the highest level. Held at Melbourne’s Crown Conference Centre over two days, it is a once-a-year opportunity for leading Chief Procurement Officers to engage with peers and like-minded business leaders in an intimate and interactive setting. Click here to learn more.