Category Archives: Trending

5 Expert Tips To Reduce e-Waste

You’re being asked to source more sustainable products, meet climate goals, anticipate post-pandemic supply chain shifts and reduce end of life impact. It’s a challenging task, particularly with IT products. The good news is, many procurement professionals have taken on this assignment before you, and they’re here to help. 


With more than 50 million metric tons generated annually, e-waste has become the world’s fastest-growing waste stream. Only around 20% of global e-waste is actually responsibly recycled. 

With the typical IT contract based on a three-to-four-year use cycle, the piles of e-waste are growing ever larger. While procurement with a purpose can net you impacts across the organisation, the solution is circularity, an approach gaining traction around the world.  

Transitioning from a linear to a circular economy can solve some of society’s most pressing sustainability challenges when it comes to IT products. In this blog, we share expert tips on how to source sustainable products, cut costs and meet climate goals through circularity – the solution for circular procurement of IT products.

Defining Circularity 

In a linear economy, we make products from virgin natural resources and we discard those products once we’re done using them — often after a relatively short time. Today’s linear consumption creates substantial carbon dioxide emissions, exhausts natural resources and creates vast amounts of hazardous waste.  

In a circular economy, resources are handled more responsibly, with a goal of extending the lifetime of products and recirculating all materials without producing any waste. Circularity means no waste, lower emissions, longer lifespan, lower costs, and a cleaner environment. 

Where do we start?  

Circularity isn’t an abstract notion. Many organisations are practising it now. They’re demanding – and getting – change from suppliers. 

A new report from TCO Development, the organisation behind the leading global sustainability certification for IT products TCO Certified, offers concrete examples of organisations and manufacturers practising circularity. The report sets out how the circular economy helps solve many of the most pressing sustainability challenges associated with IT products. They’ve distilled their research into 33 tips for bringing circularity to your organization.  

Based on the interviews with experts around the globe, here are the top five tips to make your procurement more sustainable.  

1. Use your IT products longer: this is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the consumption of natural resources and cut greenhouse gas emissions. And it cuts costs. 

The studies show that simply adding two years to a laptop’s life reduces emissions by 30 percent per year. And extending the life of a computer workstation from three to six years saves 28 percent on costs. To keep computers in circulation longer, buy durable products that are possible to repair and upgrade, and choose models with enough performance to cover long-term needs.  

2. Work to gradually implement circular practices in your organisation. Take-back programs are an easy way to start.   

Large brand owners such as Dell, HP and Lenovo are starting to see IT equipment as a service. They, and all other brand owners with products certified according to the criteria in TCO Certified, have programs that take back computers after your organisation is finished with them. It’s an easy first step to add this to your organisation’s purchasing process.   

3. Think circular when you purchase IT products. Use circular criteria.  

For example, add specifications for durability and repairability that will allow you to keep products longer, and criteria for reduction or elimination of hazardous substances that make materials more recyclable. Communicate your goals and tactics with internal and external stakeholders throughout the IT product life cycle.  

4. Give your IT products a second life by reselling them. 

Even if they no longer meet the needs of your organisation, your equipment still has value. Discuss resale options with a reputable refurbishment or remanufacturing firm that also ensures your data stays secure. Consider charitable donations or surplus resale to employees. 

5. Acknowledge that circularity is a team effort and that no one can do it alone. Internal and external cooperation is crucial! 

Invite decision makers and specialists from at least your IT, procurement, sustainability, finance, facilities and communication teams to create circular practices inside your organization. And don’t go it alone – team up with other buyers to increase your purchasing power and influence. The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council is a good place to start. Learn more about TCO Certified and get free support with your sustainable IT procurement. 

Procurement’s role 

As manufacturers are moving circularity forward through product design and service offerings, what’s the role of procurement? Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council CEO Donna Westerman sees procurement professionals as key to driving demand for change.  

“Procurement has the power to influence an entire product ecosystem. The decisions made on what to buy impact not only product design but also how those products affect our environment and business resiliency.” Westerman said. ”Now, more than ever, procurement is at the forefront of what a sustainable future can look like.” 

Take the first step 

The key learning from all the interviews with industry leaders and organisations is simple. Get started. The transition to the circular economy is essential, and we all need to play an active part in it. It doesn’t matter so much what the first step is, as long as you take it. As Chris Fielden, Group Supply Chain Director for Innocent Drinks said, being unafraid to fail is key. 

Learn more 

To see the 33 hands-on tips for circular management of IT products from TCO Development, and read the full report, Impacts and Insights: Circular IT Management in Practice, click here 

How To Lead Through Difficult Times

How do you lead through difficult times? What four key roles should all leaders play?  


This year has been one of the most challenging in modern times for business leaders, organisations and employees worldwide. And as many famous quotes allude to, nothing is tested more in challenging times than leadership. Many leaders step up and shine, yet just as many fall victim to stress, anxiety and frustration, leaving them a shadow of their former selves. 

So how do you make sure you’re the former? 

One person that knows how to lead in the best of times, as well as in the worst, is Vice-President of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM, Amber Armstrong. Amber’s illustrious career at IBM started when she joined the company as an MBA graduate 13 years ago, and she’s quickly risen through the ranks. 

Amber joined us for our latest podcast episode in the IBM Career Bootcamp series to delve into all things leadership and in particular, how to lead through difficult times. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in the podcast:

What does being a great leader actually mean and how would you define your personal leadership style? 

Over the years, the definition of leadership has evolved enormously. Leaders, recognising that the more authoritarian styles of leading are no longer effective, have begun to diversify their styles away from command and control and towards a more inspiring vision of what leadership should be. But is inspiring others the sole role that leaders need to play nowadays? 

Not at all, according to Amber. Amber thinks that there are four things every leader needs to do in any organisation. In fact, Amber believes that these four things are so important that she had her team of executive managers agree to them as part of a leadership pact. 

Amber is clear on what she thinks these four things are: 

‘Leaders should, in my opinion, set the vision, communicate clearly, prioritise relentlessly and finally, coach.’

Throughout her career, Amber has used these four priority areas to not only lead others, but also to gather feedback and learn and what is and isn’t working. Beyond these things though, Amber has also put considerable thought and effort into her leadership style and has come up with a personal mantra that describes how she personally wants to lead: 

‘From a personal brand perspective, I aspire to be known as someone who is passionate, focused and kind.’ 

‘And in moments when things get particularly tough, there’s one particular thing I try to have more of.’ 

Discover what this is for Amber in the podcast.

How do leaders develop their own personal style? Should they do this through experience or through someone like a coach?

Amber’s personal leadership style is well-known and admired at IBM. But how do we all go about developing our own unique version of that? Amber has developed her style through a combination of experience and also through working with an executive coach, and she believes both of those things helped her get where she is today. 

From an experience perspective, Amber believes that it was through making mistakes and having empathy that she came to develop her current style: 

‘I joined IBM 13 years ago after I graduated from business school, and fortunately, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities here. This has led to many successes and also countless mistakes, but I’ve taken the opportunity to learn from each and every one of them.’ 

Amber remembers one particular period in her career where she came to understand the critical importance of kindness as an element of her personal leadership style: 

‘At one point, I was told I have to give a lot of people bad news, news which would affect their personal lives.’ 

‘I put up a sign at my desk with my mantra, the words passionate, focused and kind. I felt such comfort having those words there, it helped me to turn them into a reality throughout that difficult time.’  

Recently, Amber also started working with an executive coach who has further helped her shape her leadership style. This has been beneficial for one specific reason, she says. 

Find out what that reason is in the podcast.

Can you lead without necessarily having a leadership position? 

Amber has had an extremely successful career, and now manages a large number of people, including fifteen other managers. But for those of us who may not be in such senior positions, or perhaps those of us who may not be leading anyone at all, is it still possible to be a leader? 

Absolutely, Amber says. 

In fact, there’s one thing she thinks all leaders need to do, regardless of our level of seniority: 

‘If you want to lead, you need to take care of yourself first.’ 

‘For me, I do three things to take care of myself. Firstly, I run a mile, I make sure I sweat. Secondly, I walk 5,000 steps every day and then thirdly, I meditate for ten minutes. Self-care is so important.’ 

Beyond self-care, Amber also wants to let us all in on a little secret, and it’s an important one. In a nutshell, even leaders with a great amount of authority (those who are senior and have a lot of responsibility), don’t really have authority unless they can garner respect. Amber explains: 

‘To be a leader, you need people to respect you, you need them to trust you. So even if you’re an authority figure, sure, you can force people to do things but that isn’t leadership.’ 

‘Leadership is about creating clarity and building respect. You need to be able to influence others in a positive way.’ 

Also in the podcast: 

  • What needs to change about our leadership styles in these challenging times 
  • The pink recession 

And much more. 

Amber Armstrong’s podcast on leading through difficult times is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

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

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


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

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

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

1. It can help anyone, anywhere in the world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. It boosts collaboration

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

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

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

4. Online communication can be just as personal and productive

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

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

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

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


This One Trait Will Be The Key To Your Success In 2020

What trait will be the key to your success in 2020? We believe it will be resilience, and here’s why… 


Right now, no person in the entire world would call 2020 ‘easy.’ Whether we’ve been challenged personally or professionally, this year has been like no other. Which is why this one particular trait is more important than ever, and it is… 

Resilience.  

In recent years, resilience has become somewhat of a buzzword within management circles. But what really is resilience and why do we need it? 

Resilience, and more specifically, how to obtain it and use it to your advantage, has been the focus of my work for the last decade, and has inspired my now internationally-acclaimed book, Rise Warrior Rise. Through authoring my book, as well as working with numerous different organisations to help them transform their leadership capabilities through my Excelerate program, I’ve discovered what we can all do to build resilience and use it to accelerate our own personal and professional performance. 

Doing so was the topic of my discussion with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what you’ll learn in our podcast: 

What is resilience? 

Resilience is often said to be the ability to recover from adversity, and cope with change and uncertainty. But does being ‘resilient’ then mean that you won’t experience emotions in times of stress? 

Definitely not. 

From my research, I’ve discovered that being resilient doesn’t mean that you won’t experience life’s ups and down, in fact, it is only natural to experience these. Instead, resilience is the ability to still experience this depth and variation of emotion, but while doing so, be able to keep in touch with your best self. 

In my experience, resilience is far more than what people typically describe it as. In fact, I believe resilience has another aspect to it entirely. 

Discover what that is in the podcast

Why is resilience so important for professional and personal wellbeing? And what are the benefits of being resilient? 

Resilience has become a buzzword for a reason – we all know it’s important. But why? 

Professionally and personally, this year has been a challenge for all of us. And even though not every year will be as difficult as this one, we’ll always experience some challenges. This is exactly the reason why resilience is important – because we’ll always need it. 

While researching for my book and throughout my career in general, I’ve come across a lot of people who may not be as resilient as they could be, and that has resulted in some concerning behaviours. For example, if something bad happens to someone who isn’t resilient, typically they get stressed, and then withdraw. From there, they occupy their mind with negative self-chatter, and then they can end up feeling anxious, depressed or worse. 

But in good news, with resilience, the reaction can be the complete opposite. Instead of engaging in negative self-talk, those who are resilient typically tell themselves that the situation is temporary. And instead of getting stressed, their emotional and physical wellbeing stays intact, and they don’t lose touch with their vision for a great life.

The benefits of being resilient extend way beyond how you react when things get tough, though. From my experience, those who are resilient are more likely to lead abundant and opulent professional lives, and also are more likely to have success with their family and personal pursuits. In summary, resilient people are more likely to lead a full and rich life, without regret. 

Think this sounds wonderful? It is, and there’s one more critical reason why. Learn what that is in the podcast.

How can we become more resilient? 

It’s clear that being resilient pays off, both personally and professionally. How do we get better at it, though? 

To help, I’ve created a 13-step framework for people to increase their level of resilience. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry – you don’t need to be good at every step. Excelling at just a few steps is all you need in order to make a substantial difference. 

I won’t detail the 13 step framework here, but there is more information in the podcast if you’re interested. One important point, though, is that you do need to develop practices to keep you strong. An area that I recommend everyone works on is that of negative self-chatter. 

We all experience negative self-chatter at some point, and this is because the mind can be fickle and it often focuses on the negative. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where someone has said something awful, and it’s completely ruined your day, despite many other positive things happening? 

This is common, and we all need to do what we can to develop our own mechanisms to address it. For me personally, I’ve developed a unique routine to keep the negativity at bay. My routine includes getting up early in the morning, and doing some exercise (this might be yoga, walking or some weights). After I’ve done this, I then do exercises to regulate my breath. Even if I can’t regulate my mind, I try to regulate my breath. Finding something to focus on, for example my breath, enables me to enter a calm state. Then, I share positive words. I find that wholly rejuvenating. 

This type of self-care is critical for all of us, as it replenishes our ‘fourth being.’ More on that in the podcast – listen to it here

Remember, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, you can build, and benefit from, resilience. I look forward to exploring the topic with you in more detail.

Roh Singh’s podcast on resilience is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

Accelerate Your Creative Potential: 6 Tips For A More Innovative Career

Innovation is everyone’s business. Accelerate the potential of your career with these tips on building your creative potential


Innovation isn’t just about Disruption with a capital ‘D’. It’s not just about the next big product out of Silicon Valley. It is about making improvements to our business models, supply chains, ways of serving customers and manufacturing processes.

Not only that, but innovation is also a mode of thinking, a way of being, and a journey we can all go on in our day to day work and life to improve our career prospects, productivity and even our wellbeing.

In this article, I will share some of the practical steps you can take to accelerate the potential of innovative thinking to transform your career and enhance your effectiveness at work.

These tips don’t just apply when you’re working on an obviously innovative project, but to every challenge you face. Go forth and innovate!

Why innovate at all?

Innovation is about supporting growth and looking for new opportunities to meet the needs, desires and expectation of customers, employees or other stakeholders.  Innovation enables people to harness their own and their teams’ creative potential to solve real-world problems.  If harnessed correctly it can improve employee engagement, customer satisfaction and bottom line revenue.

Not in A Creative Job? You Need To Be An Innovator Too!

Creativity is not the end game.  Creativity is an enabler to help you to overcome a challenge or meet a need from your end user.  It is a tool to help you move forward when you might be stuck.  Every role will face problems that need to be solved. Every job involves processes that can be improved. Every career requires innovation to progress.

How to Be More Innovative

Be expansive in your thinking

We all make assumptions about our world and the problems we encounter. These assumptions can help us make lightning quick decisions that enable us to take action.

However, when you are faced with a problem or challenge, there is always the potential to do things better. This is where Innovation comes in.

To be expansive in your thinking, you need to suspend your judgement and forget your assumptions.

Say to yourself: how else could this work?

Then, when ideas comes to mind, ignore the voice  that says, ‘this is a crazy idea and it won’t work’. Instead, ask yourself “under what circumstances could this be possible?”.

Most importantly, just because it hasn’t worked first time, don’t dismiss the idea – think like a start-up, find the learning and improve your idea.

Be Curious

Don’t accept the status quo; be a restless provocateur.  Be curious to understand how others try and solve problems similar to yours, both within your industry and outside it.  Look for stimulus to hope you see your problem from a new angle. You might find the solution somewhere, but more often, you will find principles that you can build on to develop your own innovative ideas to solve your specific problems.

Have some structure

Innovation can get a bad rap because it can seem woolly.  Google say, ‘Creativity Loves Constraint’ and they are one of the best examples of an innovative organisation in the world!  So, ensure you create a process to follow, map your stakeholders, agree draft timescales and use a methodology such as Design Thinking to help guide you from first observation through to launch.

Prototype

Build a rough and scrappy prototype and test it with your key stakeholders.  Give them a sense of the experience or the product and actively get them to tell you everything that is wrong or doesn’t work.  Often, new innovations fail because the pilot only tested if it the idea could be operationalised – not if there was a genuine need or desire from the end user.

Be A Risk Taker

In uncertain times we will encounter so many unknown unknowns – we cannot possibly plan for all the challenges we will face.  We will all have to think differently and invent new solutions to problems we don’t yet know about.  By Prototyping and Testing with your end user you can mitigate risk.  

The Biggest Tip For Innovation

Have Ideas not Thoughts.  So often when we are asking for blue sky ideas we end up with non-specific Thoughts.  An Idea is succinct, actionable and can be understood quickly by someone who was not in the room when it was created.  A Thought is an intention but there is no clear path to next steps.  Keep asking yourself and others ‘what’s the idea? What would we actually do? What would our end user experience differently’?

Ask yourself ‘can someone take this idea and do something specific with it?’ if they can, then it’s a good idea that’s ready for testing. If they can’t, go back to it and build it some more.

This will ensure your innovative thinking delivers results, which will enable you to stand out from the crowd and enhance your career prospects.

Catch Mok talk all things innovation in our highly anticipated Career Bootcamp with IBM Sterling Supply Chain. Register here.

Job Cuts: Is There Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

COVID-19 creates new career opportunities for procurement and supply chain professionals, despite recent job losses and pay cuts.


COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the job market. The most recent U.S. analysis reveals that 21.5 million Americans remain unemployed. In the European Union, 397,000 people lost their jobs in April, according to the EU’s June report. Globally, Citi projects that 44 million people around the world, excluding China, could lose their jobs due to the pandemic.

The procurement and supply chain function is not immune. Our research, which was conducted between 4/28 – 5/12, found that 20% of supply chain and procurement departments experienced job cuts due to the crisis. Diving deeper into those numbers:

  • Nearly half (48%) said the job cuts were limited to about 10% of the team
  • 15% said their teams experienced cuts of 50% or more

Similarly, 23% of respondents said they were forced to take pay cuts. Of these:

  • 38% saw pay cuts of about 15%
  • 32% saw cuts of about 25%
  • 10% saw cuts of about 33%
  • 19% saw cuts of 40% or more

Millennials took the most pay cuts (32%), while Boomers took the least (18%).

While these numbers are alarming on the surface, they may not be as severe as they appear. A recent U.S. survey from the Census Bureau found that 47% of adults said they or a member of their household had lost employment income since mid-March. This may indicate, on a comparative and anecdotal level, that procurement and supply chain practitioners have somewhat been spared.

The harsh reality: Given the magnitude of job loss across the world, it was always a matter of how much, not if, procurement and supply chain functions would get hit. Across many industries, it simply did not matter how talented you are, or the results you produced. Many organizations saw revenues drop by nearly 100%, which naturally (and unfortunately) affects employment.

The good news comes in what’s next. Our research found that the majority of organizations are valuing procurement and supply chain like never before. More than ever, procurement and supply chain leaders play a critical role in organizational resiliency, recovery, cost controls and business continuity.

Go-forward job confidence reflects this thinking. On a scale of 1 – 5, weighted job confidence for the next 12 months is 3.96—meaning procurement and supply chain practitioners are more confident than not. Nearly half (43%) said they were extremely confident they would have a job 12 months from now, compared to only 5% that said they were not confident. We see this confidence mark as an incredibly positive sign considering the employment turmoil around the world.

Could this confidence – along with the newfound appreciation for procurement and supply chain – lead to more promotions? While it’s safe to assume most organizations will take a tepid approach to compensation and spending for the foreseeable future, we believe this crisis will create fresh career and financial opportunities for Generation Next. If anything, this crisis – and the strong performance of teams across the world – crystalizes the importance of investing in people, technology and the overall function, which should open up more (and new) doors.

Building on this dynamic, the majority (73%) of organizations we surveyed are planning seismic shifts in supply chain and procurement strategy post-pandemic, including supply base expansion, inventory management changes, and reductions in supply chain globalization. These changes represent fundamental shifts to traditional approaches, and will require substantial smarts, experience and an immensely committed and results-driven team for success. All of this points to higher demand for great people. 

There’s no escaping the chaos caused by COVID-19, especially when it comes to jobs. But for procurement and supply chain leaders, the light at the end of the tunnel is bright.

Big changes ahead for supply chain and procurement strategy. What are they, and how do we get ahead? Find out now in our ‘How Now?’ report.

How To Train Your Brain To Cope With Covid Strain

As we emerge from lockdown and leave the safety of social isolation, we will need to drain what’s left of our almost empty resilience reserves to return to – or look for – work. Feeling anxious? Well, you are not alone … but the good news is that resilience is a learnable skill and boosting it could help you cope with the current crisis in confidence caused by the coronavirus.


If your resilience reserves are running low, you are not alone.

Mental health issues were already at epidemic levels before the coronavirus pandemic – and Covid-19 has only made them worse.

So, if you are worried about losing your job (or no longer have one), are feeling isolated and unsupported or are fearful about your health or that of a loved one, you will inevitably be feeling stressed – in the UK alone, half the population say their anxiety levels are “high”. 

In the USA, 33 million Americans have already lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, and although 8 in 10 are hopeful they will be re-hired, the coronavirus crisis has left 9 in 10 stressing about finances.

While in Australia, 1 in 4 say they are overwhelmed by loneliness when working from home, -with half of those economically impacted due to reduced hours or loss of job and stressed about job security.

So, this is a global problem – and one that affects professionals across all sectors. Those working in procurement and supply, which have seen dramatic shifts in supply chains as well as working practices, are not immune and are understandably feeling the strain.

Accept that this is the ‘new normal’

Right now, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. So, it’s important to be kind to yourself and understand that the coronavirus crisis will inevitably take its toll on your mental wellbeing.

This is not a sign of weakness. It’s biology. In response to high levels of stress and anxiety, cortisol and adrenalin will pump through your body and your brain will start to function differently.

Blood flow will be directed to your flight or fight system priming you to run way from danger and, as a result, you will become more reactive and emotional and make decisions that are less rational and logical. No wonder we are all feeling unsettled.

Awareness of your mental state is key

So, the first step is to understand that there are physical – as well as psychological affects – of the coronavirus crisis.

To really understand how this is impacting you, use the heart rate monitor on your fitness tracker (if you use one) to see when your pulse spikes. Is it just before those chaotic conference calls where everyone is clamoring to be heard? Or does it spike when you wake up, check your emails and realize that you face yet another day of uncertainty?

According to Track Record, which uses Olympic training techniques to teach execs about stress, the key is to look at your heart rate variability not just the heart rate itself.

A sleep tracker is another useful tool. Poor sleep is a key indicator of high levels of stress and also shows that your body and mind is not getting a chance to recover from the pressures of the day. Recovery is key to boosting resilience but it is hard to find time to “get away” from the Covid crisis particularly as news of the latest infection rates and deaths is streaming 24/7.

Accept that your mental resilience important

At the same time track your mental state – many of us are hooked on fitness right now logging our times on the running machine etc. So just add this to the list. Note your feelings and what triggers you to feel stressed and anxious.

This will help you to monitor how your resilience is fluctuating. As with any exercise program (mental or physical) it is important to know where you are starting from so that you can track your progress as you build your mental toughness.

That’s why The Road to Resilience: Mental Toughness leadership series for The Faculty Management Consultants starts with self-awareness, to measure your MTQ (using a mental toughness questionnaire).

The Faculty (which works with Australia’s leading procurement teams and – like many of us – has adapted to the “new normal” by running everything online), now has a special focus on emotional resilience, in addition to technical skills, because it’s so important as we navigate this period of uncertainty.

So why does it matter? Well, being aware of where you sit on the resilience scale enables you to not only improve your score, it enables you to be more emotionally intelligent.

“You can become more aware of how tough or sensitive you need to be in any given situation – when to flex the toughness muscle, or give it a rest,” says Sally Lansbury, memberships director at The Faculty. “Remember, there are circumstances where having mental sensitivity is required… particularly right now.”

In addition to being self-aware and adapting your mental toughness to different situations, it is important to be risk-aware – something that the intrepid explorer Charlie Walker talked about in Procurious’s recent Virtual Future Leaders Roundtable in the UK.

Called “Rapid, Risk Aware and Resilient”, Charlie talked to procurement professionals about training to have fast reactions and training to deal with moments of risk. And while procurement professionals are not facing the challenge of a 43,000 mile bicycle ride across 60 countries (just one of Charlie’s many feats of endurance) they can train to boost their 3Rs, including resilience.

…and that you don’t have to struggle

We all know that some people are more resilient than others. However, what you might not realize is that you can change where you stand on the mental toughness scales – that’s because resilience is a plastic personality trait which means it can be developed.

So, in addition to being aware of how mentally tough you are – and how tough or sensitive you need to be at any given time – you should also understand that mental resilience can be learned and that now is the ideal time to start boosting your MT score.

The first step is to understand what it really is:

Mental Toughness describes the quality which determines, in large part, how we respond to stress, pressure and challenge … irrespective of the prevailing circumstances. – Dr Peter Clough.

Much of what we do is habit and that includes our response to stress and pressure. In the definition of MT “how we respond” are the three key words.

As part of your awareness exercise – which will help you to identify when you feel less resilient and when your stress levels spike – also take a note of how you respond to change and challenge.

Do you feel hopeless? Or overwhelmed? Perhaps you are angry or anxious?

Once you are more aware of your default setting in terms of “how you respond”, then you can start to change these automatic behaviours to the ones you want to adopt.

Changing any behaviour pattern takes time, but right now you can start with the first step: awareness.

This year’s Career Bootcamp is designed to ‘Power Your Mind’ and set you up with the skills to innovate, play to your strengths, and be more resilient. Register for your digital ticket here.

You Ask All Of Your Suppliers For A 5% Discount. What Can Possibly Go Wrong?!

What does best practice supplier relationship management look like? Not like this…


With sales at her company in freefall due to the Covid-19 crisis, the pressure was on for Sally’s* procurement team to reduce costs. In a desperate pitch to do what she could, Sally decided to issue a letter to all suppliers, asking for an overall price reduction of 5%. In exchange, Sally dangled the carrot of ‘to-be-determined’ commitments that the business would fulfill post-Covid. These could include, she thought, accelerated payment terms, additional volumes, or contract extensions.  

What could possibly go wrong, she thought, as she hastily finalised the letters and forwarded them on. Even if most say no, some might say yes and procurement will be lauded as heroes. 

We’ve all been in Sally’s position – or if we haven’t, we certainly can imagine being put in it. When faced with the pressure that a crisis brings, isn’t it always the best idea to at least try to reduce costs by asking for a discount? On the surface, it seems like a logical approach – all you need is for one supplier to agree and your effort pays off. But is it possible that taking such a black-and-white approach can end up costing you more than it saves you? 

Issue 1: Vague notions of success can’t be measured 

In Sally’s situation above, you could argue that ‘success’ looked like one supplier agreeing to discount. But what if they agreed to a 1% discount, would that suffice? Or if they agreed to a 5% discount without complaint, would you ask if you had done more? 

The problem with a strategy of ‘doing something and hoping for the best’ is that there really is no benchmark for what ‘the best’ is and whether it has been achieved. This leads to issues with measuring success internally, and naturally, the same question is always asked: how has procurement added value here? 

Issue 2: No discount is as simple as asking – negotiation will be required 

If achieving a 5% discount was as easy as sending a letter, then procurement would likely be out of a job. Herein lies another problem with Sally’s strategy – it’s unlikely that vendors would respond with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ leaving her to need to negotiate for whatever she could get. 

And these negotiations would not be simple. Those suppliers who may be inclined to agree would expect more clarity and certainty on any future commitments from the company, which could turn discussions sour, quickly. 

Those on the other end of the spectrum, however, may feel the need to explain why they can’t offer a discount, and may enter the conversation feeling defeated or exposed. 

Whichever way these discussions transpired, they would certainly be time-consuming. In an environment where time is money, you have to ask yourself what the small percentage gains you might secure are really worth. . 

Issue 3: Your supplier is in a crisis, too 

Supplier Management 101 tells us that we should treat our suppliers like we’d like to be treated. But is sending out a generic request the way we’d like to be treated, especially if we’re in crisis too? 

The answer is a resounding and obvious no. Any suppliers that Sally is dealing with would also be deep within this crisis, and may in fact be considering a price increase to save themselves. On top of this, a lack of personalised correspondence could be perceived as insulting to the relationship. The request might net a discount, but it would cost far more than that in future relationship capital. 

If Sally’s plan wouldn’t work, then what would? 

Step 1: Shore up your fundamentals 

In times of crisis, and indeed, in ordinary time procurement must have a clear goal and an execution plan for what is needed for the business operations to continue undisrupted (or minimally impacted) and more importantly, for creatively increasing value to the organisation. 

These are essentially the fundamentals required to maintain a strong supplier base and elevate procurement. From a pure supplier relationship perspective, engaging strategic suppliers to assess their crisis preparedness and ability to continue to serve the organisation is the first step. 

Step 2: Creatively and empathetically engage your suppliers

Once you’ve got your fundamentals organised, you need to engage your suppliers in strategic conversations about how to creatively increase efficiency, optimize processes quickly, reduce waste (of time, resources and costs), and where possible, decrease costs and deliver additional value. 

Beyond this, you also need to discuss with them what value is added,  how much, for how long, what are the contingencies. This will help you establish a win-win approach with short and long term impact. 

The idea is that a continuation of a growing partnership will drive the right behaviours, not just during this crisis but in the future. Supplier-driven innovation should always be a top priority to both procurement and the entire organisation. 

After you’ve finished your initial discussions (and note, these type of discussions should always be ongoing) use learnings from them across all other supplier segments. The behavior you want to drive here is ensuring suppliers not only want to continue doing business with you but are eager to strategize with each other during the crisis.

Going back to Sally’s situation, this approach works for a number of reasons. Even if suppliers couldn’t immediately offer reductions they will be clear on expectations and will be committed to perform at a high level and produce ideas for the company, while increasing supplier engagement and value as a byproduct. Suppliers will be willing to explore solutions to avoid disruption, which is exactly what the business needs. In addition to this, the effort expended is targeted so no time will be wasted and in fact, the time spent may even produce market intelligence that can be brought back to the business to refine their own mitigation strategies. 

Also, finally and perhaps most importantly, the role of the procurement will be elevated to a truly strategic function (with lasting impact) to the organisation.

Continue supplier relationship best practice? 

For procurement professionals that realised early that Sally’s approach wouldn’t work, none of the advice here on how to rectify it should come as surprise: it is, quite simply, supplier relationship best practice to treat your suppliers in this way. 

In fact, for organisations that already implement supplier relationship best practice, they may not even need to take these steps – throughout this crisis, their suppliers may already be knocking on their door with creative mitigation strategies. They may even be using this crisis to bring the relationship to the next level. 

But for those who are yet to establish supplier management best practice, this example provides the perfect reason why you need to. Supplier relationships are a key enabler to business success, and when they are strong, the risk of business disruption is greatly reduced. 

What have you done to strengthen supplier relationships throughout this crisis? Let us know in the comments below. 

Is The Secret To Change And Successful Innovation A Matter Of Timing?

Innovation and change – we know we need to do it but taking the first step is always hard. However, waiting until change is forced upon us could lead to even more pain.


“Execution is all about timing – people don’t want to do things differently…until they have to”

James Varga, CEO – DirectID

Change. It runs against our very nature to accept and embrace it, even when we know it’s for the best. People will rail against it, undermine it, challenge it or be completely apathetic to it. That is until something forces them to accept it and the need to do something differently.

That’s exactly the issue facing global procurement professionals at this very moment. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced each one of us to reconsider the how our jobs are done and how we help our organisations. Fortunately, we have a group of leaders whose first thoughts on change are how they can make it happen, to rely upon.

Procurious is one of those organisations considering how to provide its service in the current climate. Faced with not being able to have CPO Roundtables in person, we grasped this opportunity to connect our leaders virtually, ensuring that our CPOs still had the chance to gather and share their ideas and experiences. Because at times like these, as Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Pragmatism over Pomposity

Although the Roundtable took place against the backdrop of COVID-19, the discussions on the day had a far greater focus on the future than the present. Procurement not only faces the challenges of global supply disruption while ensuring that employees can operate in a safe environment, but also ensuring that the profession is well prepared for what comes next.

Part of this preparation is bringing innovation back into the everyday conversation about how procurement looks, feels and operates. This is not innovation as a management buzzword, but as a practical concept that helps realise real change and sets procurement up to face any and all future challenges. As one of our speakers, Gareth Hughes, Director of Property and Procurement at Whistl noted, “We need pragmatic procurement, not pompous procurement terms”.

Innovation here is about finding the areas where change can make a lasting difference. It’s also about ensuring that, even though the timing may not seem quite right, having the tenacity to make ideas a reality is critical for procurement’s future success.

With that in mind, we’ve picked out our three key messages from the Roundtable for you to take back to your organisation.

1. Supplier Innovation – Fit for the Future

“We need to focus on the positives that have arisen from the COVID-19 experience.”

Ian Thomson – Regional Director UK and Nordics, Ivalua

Innovation is a fleeting concept. A brand new, imaginative and forward-thinking idea one day can quickly become obsolete before we even have a chance to do anything with it. The trick is to keep challenging the idea that things need to be done in a certain way and not to ignore the ‘hard’ challenges for fear of rejection.

This is the mantra of Ian Thomson of Ivalua, who chose to look for the positives for procurement in the challenges posed in the current global climate. What is striking, according to Ian, is how traditionally adversarial relationships – competing organisations; buyers and suppliers – are changing for the better as people pull together.

This not only provides an amazing opportunity to develop long-lasting leadership and trust, but also opens the doors to supplier-led innovation. This can be achieved by having greater pragmatism when it comes to new ideas, as well as increasing our appetite for risk to embed real change.

2. Volatility requires flexibility

“Businesses are operating in massively changed contexts. To use foresight, we need to develop multiple long-term strategies.”

Jessica Prendergast, Freelance Foresight Consultant at Future Insights

An organisation’s appetite for risk is one key to successful innovation. Being too risk averse can stop worthwhile ideas in their tracks but failing to fully plan for future risks can be just as bad. That’s why Jessica Prendergast, a freelance Foresight Consultant, believes that the one-dimensional continuity plans that most businesses have belong in one place – the bin!

According to Jessica, in order to innovate and predict the future, organisations need to develop multiple scenarios to cover all possible eventualities. ‘Foresighting’ is how the thought process for this starts, helps us to understand the role of automation and technology and how we can learn and apply today from these techniques.

Jessica used the example of our changing ways of working recently. At the beginning of the year, widespread Working from Home would have been unthinkable for most organisations. Now it is the ‘new normal’. Good leadership and community spirit have made these changes easier to implement, and has highlighted how organisational planning can be helped by taking a broader view.

3. Timing is everything

“An idea isn’t great until you prove it, an idea can be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

James Varga, CEO – The ID co.

Planning multiple scenarios, being more accepting of risk and working more closely with suppliers to innovate is only half the battle. Getting people to accept an idea at the best of times will always prove tricky due to people’s natural aversity to change. Even the most innovative idea ever may struggle to gain traction if the timing is wrong.

However, there are ways to tips the scales in your favour. James was able to share his top three with the assembled group:

  • Be tenacious – make the most of issues facing the organisation to highlight innovation and make change happen;
  • Don’t assume – not everyone will think your idea is great, you’ll need to test and measure to prove its worth;
  • Accept a bit more risk – moving smaller suppliers and accept more risk in our new normal, you never know where it will lead.

The underlying key to these three points is removing the blockers to innovation by focusing on adoption of ideas. Then your focus can be coming up with one great idea and making it work, rather than lots of ideas that may ultimately deliver less for your organisation.

Collaboration is King

However, your organisation is approaching the current situation, it is always worth remembering that there will be life (and work) on the other side. Taking time to focus on the future at a point when many of us have the time to do this could make a critical difference to how procurement looks and operates at the forefront of public consciousness.

Not every problem can be solved. Sometimes it’s about mitigating the impact, which can be helped by planning out your multiple scenarios and accepting a bit more risk to be open to new ideas that can have a positive impact.

And, no matter what you do, it’s important to remember that you are not alone – there are thousands of procurement professionals tackling the same issues who are willing to share their thoughts and approaches. As the world changes the way we work, it’s time to collaborate as much as we can and become the leaders who are facing change head on.

If you’re interested in accessing market-leading industry insights and networking, express your interest in joining Procurious’ Roundtable Program here.

Working From Home Is Resilient, But Is It Sustainable In Procurement?

The coronavirus pandemic disrupted Procurement in unimaginable ways. Running Procurement from home is possible, but is it sustainable?


The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the workforce in ways we have never experienced, affecting also Procurement departments and Procurement Outsourcing (PO) providers. Shared service center locations first across Asia and then the rest of the world became hot spots, leading to a rush of company initiatives to enable procurement professionals to productively work from home. IBM was successful in moving 99% of its Procurement Outsourcing teams from 60 centers across 40 countries into a home office environment in only 10 days without service degradation (1), proving that running a Procurement business working from homeis possible and productivity can be maintained when a business can react quickly, but is it sustainable? Have critical activities just been postponed or is this is the new business as usual? Three considerations for sustained resiliency.

#1. Make regularly working from home part of your team’s DNA

While many of us are used to working from home in some capacity, over 80% of our procurement professionals have never done so on a regular basis.  And just because our workforce can work from home does not mean they are able and willing to do so long-term.

But returning to the office means finding the balance between safety and productivity for our teams, and deciding whether to aim for a quick return to the office or a more comprehensive re-modeling toward “borderless workplaces” where staff works from a combination of office, client site and/or home. Returning to the office is based on smart, quick and simple fixes: social distancing, mask wearing, and setting up sanitation protocols, such as rethinking where and when we eat and gather, how we open and close doors and use elevators. Re-modeling more fundamentally looks at how we work and defining what the worker’s purpose and intent is inside the office. Buildings become much more purpose-driven; deliberately sought out for team meetings, new employee onboarding, and collaboration sessions, with more hot desks and larger shared spaces, instead of being the default place to go for work.

But no matter in what capacity we return to the office, working from home regularly or even primarily will have to become part of our DNA going forward, as future infection waves are likely to force us out of offices again multiple times over the next few years.

Achieving this will require us to focus more than ever on internal communication. We have already seen a personalization of written communication over the past few months, with people expressing genuine care for each other, but we need to also listen to our employees and keep an eagle-eyed focus on engagement. By taking time for one-on-one discussions, acknowledging everyone’s individual challenges, ramping up appreciation and recognition, and ensuring we create virtual spaces for socializing we can maintain a sense of belonging and feeling of pride. On a collective scale, short pulse surveys can be a simple way to gauge the team about how they feel and adapt measures for greater engagement and productivity.

Ultimately our teams and their willingness to be flexible will be the first line of defense for sustained productivity in the new world.

#2: Bootstrap adjustments in operating models to accelerate your digitalization journey

Just a few months of working from home on a large scale have successfully increased the sense of urgency for digitalization and more intelligent end-to-end workflows. IBM and our clients have already seen an explosion of home-grown dashboards and trackers, aimed at gaining more visibility into procurement operations, allowing for more granular insights and daily views of the business. In the spirit of agility, we should initially allow for the creation of these “quick and dirty” data collection and visualization tools, even if it is manual and there is duplication. As we learn more about what our post-COVID-19 world will look like and the effort required to maintain a plethora of semi-manual tools becomes a burden, we can start distilling down to only a handful of tools and a new operating standard, creating the enablers for a broader roll-out of “no touch” procurement solutions, including traditional tools like catalogs, as well as newer solutions like marketplaces, chatbots, guided buying assistants, robotic process automation, and analytics to accelerate speed to insights and decision making.

Even more delicate and trust-based processes like Category Management and Strategic Sourcing can benefit from digitalization, for example by running “Virtual Sourcing Bootcamps” with business stakeholders using a series of video calls to map out purchasing plans, identify additional addressable spend and define more robust category wave plans for the year.

Additional incentives can be created for those internal clients or BPO customers who are resistant to a more permanent work from home delivery environment by redistributing real estate charges and differentiating expected employee productivity to create a price differential between home- and office-based setups.

#3: Learn to build trust virtually as a buyer and a seller

Until recently, meeting face-to-face was a non-negotiable prerequisite for the signing of large contracts, which we at IBM have experienced both as a supplier of Procurement Outsourcing, but also a buyer agent with our own and our customer’s suppliers. Finding a way to make customers comfortable pulling the trigger on multi-million-dollar contracts with little to no human contact is going to be a key success factor for our new future.

In the outsourcing world, visiting one or more delivery centers is a staple in every sales pursuit, but with increasingly distributed teams and a desire to reduce non-essential business travel, we are now showcasing our teams and their capabilities virtually. Using a mixture of live and pre-recorded videos, online whiteboarding tools and virtual roundtables with practitioners we have been able to create an authentic virtual delivery experience to aid in the sales process.

Experiment with virtual collaboration tools not just internally, but get comfortable using them with clients and suppliers to co-create, or hear from experts and practitioners that wouldn’t otherwise have been flown in. Focus your travel dollars and effort on one key meeting or workshop and augment it with a few virtual “visits” to round out the picture.

Summary

Leading a borderless workplace Procurement team is possible and can even deliver superior results if employees are engaged, but ensuring sustainability requires active shaping of your team’s DNA, a more digitalized operating model and the confidence to build trust in a virtual environment. Sometimes creativity requires constraints to really flourish, and let’s use the existing restrictions as an opportunity to emerge from this crisis stronger than when we entered it.

By Matthew Bounds & Martin Esser. For more information about operational resiliency, read:

·       Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Services for business continuity and resiliency ibm.com/bpo

·       Building operational resiliency for anytime, anywhere and any situation

Footnote: (1) IBM Services blog, “Building operational resiliency for anytime, anywhere and any situation”, May 4, 2020, https://www.ibm.com/blogs/services/2020/05/04/building-operational-resiliency-for-anytime-anywhere-and-any-situation/