Category Archives: Trending

Queen Bee Syndrome debunked: the sting isn’t where you think it is

Historically, successful women have run the risk of being characterized as the “quintessential ‘bitch’ who is concerned not at all about others but only about herself”.

Women regarded as successful attract negative reactions that focus primarily on their interpersonal capabilities. Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada is often used to illustrate the point. The supposed source of the character Streep portrays is Anna Wintour, who is described as having an aloof and demanding personality, earning her the nickname ‘Nuclear Wintour’. Closer to home, Peta Credlin is characterized similarly.

While we might all be able to recognize this pattern, up to date research indicates that the sting doesn’t come from women in senior roles.

But first: what is a Queen Bee? In organizations with few senior women, expectations about behaviour and style are firmly male. Women take care and men take charge. Queen Bee syndrome is used to describe the “bitch who stings other women if her power is threatened” and the term is used to blame senior women for not supporting other women.

The power of the dominant group is attractive. Where women are in the significant minority, there is enormous pressure to join with the majority group, which causes ‘insider’ women to become hostile to ‘outsider’ women. As a personal survival mechanism some women become as ‘unwomanly’ as possible and react with hostility to other women. They become part of the dominant group (men), sometimes take on dominant group member characteristics, and exclude members of the non-dominant group.  Queen Bees are seen to hold on to their power as the ‘token woman’ by denigrating other women as ‘emotional’, expressing anti-female attitudes, and avoiding female-focused programs and gatherings.

Such women who perform well in male gender-stereotyped roles are generally not liked: they attract negative reactions that focus primarily on their interpersonal capabilities, and their lack of warmth in particular. Both women and men see them as less desirable as bosses, compared with men described in similar ways.

In just-released research Dezso and colleagues examined the under-representation of women in the top executive teams of US S&P 1,500 firms over a 20 year period. They found that the presence of one woman in a top management team reduced, rather than increased, the chance that a second woman would be appointed to that team.

As that seems so counter-intuitive, they explored the potential causes further, and explicitly tested the Queen Bee hypothesis. Was it this syndrome that prevented a second woman getting into the top team? They examined organizations with a female CEO: according to Queen Bee syndrome, if the person with the top job is a woman, it should be less likely that another woman will be appointed to the top team. The reverse was in fact the case. A second woman was much more likely to be appointed to the top team if the CEO was a woman. In addition, firms appeared to hire women into senior management roles in response to actions by their female board members.

Where does the sting come from then? The researchers suggest an ‘implicit quota’. They argue that firms gain legitimacy if they have women in top management. However, the marginal value they gain after one woman is appointed declines with each successive woman “whereas the perceived costs, from the perspective of the male majority in top management, may increase with each woman”.

What can you do?

1. Accept a broad range of leadership styles.

2. Challenge the myth whenever you get the chance. Cite the research.

3. Support, and make supportive comments about, women who trail blaze.

Are We Still in Love with Black Friday?

With Thanksgiving over, consumers and businesses now turn their attention to the start of the festive shopping period – beginning with Black Friday. But are people falling out of love with this shopping day?

 Originally an American phenomenon, Black Friday is the semi-official start of the festive retail period. There’s no consensus as to why Black Friday is called Black Friday, although one compelling theory is that it represents the day where retailers start to earn a profit.

It’s easy to see why that might be the case. In America alone, approximately 249 million people will purchase something on Black Friday, with the total spend in 2015 estimated at $50.9 billion. Black Friday first appeared in the UK 2 years ago, and total spend this year in the UK is expected to exceed last year’s total of £1.5 billion.

Give it a Miss?

Despite the obvious draw of low priced goods at a time of year when many are budgeting for Christmas, some have begun to look upon Black Friday as a symbol of a highly consumerised society and something that adds stress in an already stressful part of the year.

From needing to be in line well before midnight to get the best deals, to the big name brands not being on sale at all, and the potential to get caught up in unsavoury scenes similar to those that played out in shops across the UK last year, there are compelling reasons for giving the shops a miss on Friday.

Alternatively people will look for other options, such as shopping online on Friday (where many retailers have the same, if not better deals), or choosing to wait until Cyber Monday to make their purchases.

Retail Fatigue

It also appears that retailers are beginning to fall out of love with Black Friday too. Far from boosting profits, statistics have shown that many retailers actually lose money on Black Friday, with sales not being sufficient to outweigh the slim margins they have to cope with. It’s also believed that increased transactions are as a result of consumers waiting for these sales, rather than purchasing earlier in the year.

Even Asda, owned by Wal-Mart (attributed with introducing Black Friday to the UK), has decided that they will give the sale day a miss this year, citing customers’ “shopping fatigue” and electing to spread out their seasonal offers over a longer period of time.

Supply Chain Strain

Organisations that aim to maintain high customer service levels for online operations face having to hire additional employees and increase logistics capabilities to keep up with demand.

Organisations need to ensure that their supply chains are up to scratch, with consumers likely to go elsewhere if products are either out of stock or unable to be delivered in good time. And if supply chain issues have been present during the year, customers may not return to the retailer at all, in spite of the deals being offered.

Being able to cope with increased demand, and being flexible enough to react to changing trends, is key for organisational supply chains. This includes being able to assess demand in real-time and potentially move stock between locations in order to satisfy customer wants.

The End for Black Friday?

In spite of all this, it’s unlikely that Black Friday will cease to exist entirely. Retailers who have their strategies well planned and the ability to meet customer demand, will want to remain in a good position to take a share of the billions of dollars spent.

However, as more organisations extend their Black Friday sales, either by starting earlier in the week, or extending them over the holiday weekend and beyond Cyber Monday, it is possible that it might be the last we see of these sales in their current format.

Is your organisation having a Black Friday sale? Are you involved in ensuring the supply chain is able to meet demand? Get in touch and tell your story.

How to Build a Network of Procurement Evangelists

Procurious were lucky enough to attend and present at The Procurement Summit in Manchester last week. While we were there, we sat in on an interesting (and very funny) keynote from Chris Barrat.

Chris was talking on the subject of how procurement can build a network of “evangelists”, people who champion the function and help spread the word about the good work being done in organisations.

Procurement hasn’t always enjoyed the best organisational reputation, or the best relationships with other business functions, and this can make the process of finding and developing evangelists difficult.

Barriers and Perceptions

Chris’ first aim was to get the attendees to provide some context on the main barriers to developing evangelists within organisations, as well as forming a view on how procurement was perceived in organisations. The latter, in particular, threw up some surprising responses.

Among the barriers were all the classic external views on procurement:

  • Procurement is too process oriented
  • There is a lack of understanding about the function and the value it adds
  • People don’t see the bigger picture, only the spend in their ‘silo’
  • The idea that “shopping is easy”

This is nothing that seasoned procurement professionals haven’t heard before. What was more surprising were the terms volunteered by the audience when they were asked to sum up the procurement function in their organisation.

Yes, the word “blocker” was at the top of the list, but the attendees also added in the terms “professional”, “expertise” and “aligned”. While it’s unusual to find such positive terms used, it’s certainly good to see that some procurement functions are highly regarded in their organisations.

Building Your Evangelist Network

Chris then went on to offer a three-step process of how to build a network of evangelists. The process was built on the idea of getting procurement themselves to believe that they offered a valuable service, and then building their organisational reputation step-by-step on top of this.

  1. Get Your House in Order

The first step revolved around three questions – What do you stand for? What is your brand? What do others see as your brand? – and built on the concept of procurement as a service provider.

“Engaging people is critical when providing a service” – this was a clear message and measure of success for procurement at this stage. People care about the service they have been given, and the ‘how’ and ‘who’ of the service is more important that it’s ever been.

In order for people to be evangelists for procurement, they need to know that the people they are dealing with are competent, but also actually want to work with them. Chris used the “Likeability vs. Competence” four-box model to demonstrate this point. You can read more about the model here.

Once procurement departments had got their own house in order, they could then take the next step.

  1. Be More ‘Bourne’

Yes, this did mean Jason Bourne. No, it didn’t mean cutting a swathe through the organisation getting rid of people you don’t like.

Being more Bourne meant being on a mission – knowing what needed to be done and being proactive in your aims. There were three key aspects to this step:

  • Name names – find the 3-5 key people you need to get onside as evangelists; focus on them
  • Be an Eagle, not a Vulture – find and see the opportunities, don’t just want for them to present themselves to you
  • Less is more – do fewer things, but do them well; focus on your key people and what their angle is and interests are

It was clear passivity is not an option at Stage 2!

  1. Tastier Carrots, Nastier Sticks

The final stage of the process was all about how to motivate others and how to communicate procurement’s message. Chris’ point was that people are naturally motivated away from (through fear or risk), or towards (through rewards) something. It’s down to the individual in procurement to work out which will be more effective.

No matter the method, carrot or stick, that was used, it was critical that it was done properly and meaningfully. All rewards to be given, or threats to take things away, need to be relevant for each individual. This will help to drive home the idea that procurement is serious and needs to be seen as such.

Returning to the concept of procurement as a service, Chris emphasised the need for candid communication – if you can’t do something, then say so. People will appreciate it more than coming back to them in the future to tell them it isn’t actually possible.

It all seems easy when it’s laid out like that. While it might not be as simple in reality, the general consensus leaving the room was that it might be a good starting point for some procurement organisations, as part of a larger strategy.

You can read articles by Chris on Procurious, and we’d love to hear from you if you have implemented this, or a similar strategy, and what the results were.

The Real Value of Ethical Procurement

The issue of ethics in supply chains and procurement is a rapidly trending topic.

However, much of what is written about this topic is based more around compliance activities, such as auditing suppliers or creating policies to monitor potential issues or breaches. This implies that improving ethics within supply chains is more of an afterthought than a priority.

Ethics in supply chains doesn’t have to be a burden. In fact, value can be extracted from doing the right thing. So how can we determine the real value of ethics in your supply chain? Lets have a look at four pieces of value that your company is likely to receive.

Procurement Marketing Dream 

Let me refer you to Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand. As a certified B Corp, they meet very stringent social and environmental criteria. One of Patagonia’s biggest selling points is the ethics of their supply chain. Everything they do regarding their procurement is a marketing story ready to be told, from what raw materials they source, to the ethics of the factory where its made.

By contrast, conventional procurement is focused on optimising costs and driving down prices. Lets be honest, this doesn’t excite you or your customers. With conventional procurement, there is no story to tell (in some cases only stories your company wants to hide). With ethical procurement it can be utilised as a marketing weapon.

Greenwashing is not what you are going for here, it has to be legitimate changes within your supply chain. Done right, it can be very powerful. Producing a video about the process or result is an effective marketing resource, and can be used over and over. A good example can be seen here. Remember, it is not advertising, it is a blend between emotionally engaging marketing and a documentary. 

Skyrocketing Staff Engagement and Retention

Millennials expect more from the companies they work for. As seen here in the 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 7,800 millennials were surveyed from 29 countries and the results were clear. 

Millennials overwhelmingly believe that business needs a reset in terms of paying as much attention to people and purpose as it does product and profit”

The report also states that an overwhelming 75 per cent believe businesses are focused on their own agendas, rather than helping to improve society. 

If the company you run or are working for is not making a difference in a positive way, you may have disengaged employees. Ethical procurement can inspire that engagement, not just for current employees, but also new employees who expect more from the company they work for.

It starts in the procurement department but is shared company wide. Staff crave an emotional connection with their workplace, ethical procurement is a good driver for that connection. Engaged staff also leads to increased productivity, but that’s another story for another time. 

Longevity of your Brand

It’s future planning. As the world is more focused than ever on issues such as resource scarcity and inequality, companies that are not doing their part are at risk of being left behind. They will lose market share against brands that focus on improving the positive lasting impact of their company.

Unilever under the care of Paul Polman, has done just this. Paul Polman (who is also a member of the B-Team, along with Sir Richard Branson) has differentiated a multi national company from its competitors by considering the future and longevity of its brand and by investing in sustainability and innovation.

Meanwhile its main rivals are falling behind in terms of brand value. Supply chains play a big part in this, with an average 65 per cent of total company expenditure being put in to the supply chain. Such money can go be redirected towards suppliers that have embedded social and environmental missions into their DNA.

Which means that your company’s impact spreads beyond your internal operations and creates value in the far corners of your supply chain. This leads us to the last point. 

Creating Intrinsic Value

When Marc Benioff created the 1+1+1 model of philanthropy for his company Salesforce, other companies thought he was crazy. The model requires donation of 1 per cent of profits, time and product towards communities. Not only was Marc Benioff doing this but he was doing it as a start up which seemed crazy at the time.

Fast forward to current day, this model is not seen as charity but a shift in the way a company operates. Even Google took on a similar model, but Marc Benioff will forever be the pioneer.

There’s no doubt about it – looking at the positive impact that your supply chain can make is cutting edge innovation. It means your company is forward thinking, even visionary. You realise that spending your procurement dollar with ethical suppliers is actually better value for the money spent.

It’s clear that not only are you getting the required goods or services, but your company is also creating value for society or the natural environment, which is priceless. You are like a startup again, finding new ways to stand out from your competition. Except this is a moral imperative and you have the power to make a difference. 

These are just a few insights into the value that your procurement can create.

Jordan J Holzmann is the CEO of Cruxcee, an online platform that connects buyers with ethical suppliers. 

4 Reasons Why L’Oréal is Winning the War for Talent on Social Media

Because you’re worth it…

51-loreal

We talk a lot on Procurious about using social media to ‘win’ the war for talent. More frequently, organisations are using social media in this respect, but some are using it more effectively than others.

The Role of Social Media

So how can procurement organisations ensure that they are attracting the best talent and having a better perception than their competitors in the recruitment market? Social media may provide an answer.

Having a positive presence on social media can help organisations to promote themselves, their opportunities and the benefits for potential employees if they join the company. Visibility is the key, but it needs to be done right in order to have the best impact.

One organisation doing it right is The L’Oréal Group.

What L’Oréal Is Doing Right

The L’Oréal Group is the world’s largest cosmetics company, headquartered in France. With an annual turnover of €20.3 billion, a presence in 130 countries, 27 global brands and 68,900 employees, the Group has good reason for wanting to attract the best talent.

But in an increasingly crowded market, L’Oréal has managed to make itself stand out from the competition on social media by tailoring its approach in the following ways.

And, although these campaigns have not been directed at procurement specifically, there are some good takeaways for procurement teams to consider.

Presence

The L’Oréal Group has a major presence on social media in its own right, but has also chosen, as many other large organisations have, to dedicate pages and accounts to careers and job advertising in multiple countries.

What’s more, these pages are run as the main accounts are and pack just as much of a punch in terms of followers.

That’s a huge community, accessing regular posts, Tweets and videos and hearing the L’Oréal message.

Uniform Branding and Naming

The beauty of the L’Oréal pages is that they are uniform in branding and design on all pages, accounts and profiles. The branding helps to give each of the sites a professional feel and make them immediately recognisable for potential employees.

The accounts and pages are also easily searched for, with the naming conventions for them following a simple pattern, where the platform and location are called out clearly; e.g. facebook.lorealusa.jobs

Activity

One of the key tips Procurious gives for having a great personal brand on social media is to keep your accounts active. There’s no use having all those followers if you aren’t saying anything to them.

The L’Oréal accounts and pages are regularly updated with new job opportunities, information, videos and blog content (like this) to keep people interested. Part of this includes unique insights into what you might get up to at work and why L’Oréal is a great place to work, which brings us on to our next point.

Employee Advocacy

There’s very little that can say more about the strength of a company as an employer than testimonials from its own employees. And L’Oréal has made sure that their social media accounts show plenty of these.

Like this one from LinkedIn:

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 16

Or this one from Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 16;99

Getting your employees to talk positively (and genuinely!) about your organisation sends a strong message to potential employees and may tip the balance for them.

And the result?

Two campaigns that bore fruit for L’Oréal came one each from Facebook and LinkedIn. Using a combination of approaches on social media, including an app to allow employees to share listings across their own networks, L’Oréal benefited from:

  • “Optimised” performance and return on investment and higher than average click through rate
  • Higher than average conversion rates from adverts
  • A higher percentage of qualified resumes than when traditional methods were used
  • Substantial savings on recruitment fees for hiring

And as the organisation’s networks continue to grow, there’s no reason to think that this level of success won’t continue. It’s just up to other organisations to try to follow in L’Oréal’s footsteps.

Is your organisation up to the challenge?

Are Drone Deliveries a Good Idea?

There has been a lot of talk about drones delivering ordered good in the media recently. Both Google and Amazon seem to be progressing towards a ‘Jetsons’-like logistics chain faster than was thought possible.

It’s not hard to see the drawbacks to drone-led deliveries. Most people are happy to walk to the store to buy batteries and bread. If the latest Jamie Oliver cookbook arrives at their house, rather than tracking them down on their morning jog, they’ll be pretty happy with that too. The noise, too, is an issue – walking near a drone is akin to sleeping near a mosquito for many.

Beyond these issues, there are some other, more serious concerns that the drone movement could create in our lives.

Air Traffic Concerns

Drones are said to create a major headache for airspace controllers. In July of 2014, an Airbus A320 taking off from London’s Heathrow airport narrowly avoided a crash with a drone. The Civil Aviation Authority classed the incident as a ‘serious risk of collision’ which is highest classification it can give.

Helicopters too have reported close calls with drones. The US Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into an incident where a helicopter crew spotted a drone hovering just metres above them.

If Google and Amazon are able to get their drone program off the ground (pun intended) then the airspace is likely to be much more crowded and the risk of incident will be greatly increased.

Threats to personal safety

Drones too have created serious security threats with one crash landing onto the White House lawn earlier this year, sending the presidential residence into lock down.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has also had a run in with the mechanised device. A drone, driven by a member of the German Pirate Party was crashed in front of her, raising fears for the leader’s safety.

And in Perth, Australia, a triathlete received a head wound when an errant drone trying to photograph athletes crashed into her during a race.

Threats to Privacy

And of course there are the inevitable concerns about surveillance and privacy that surround our skies buzzing with thousands of mechanised drones.

Even with relatively few drones currently patrolling our cities, there are numerous complaints from residents and business about the intrusive nature of drones on their personal space. This is only likely to increase should we continue to move toward drone delivery systems.

Animals hate them

Finally, and comically, it seems that it is not just people who hate drones. Animals too, seem to get rather frustrated with them as this video shows.

So rather than the postman being chased by a dog, it could now be the case that it’s a drone that’s chased by a dog (or perhaps a chimpanzee).

Imagine arriving home to find that your new Jamie Oliver cookbook had made it all the way from the Amazon warehouse to your neighbour’s place, where it was crash tackled and chewed up by your neighbours’ Golden Retriever.

Maybe this needs a bit more thought…

The Song Remains The Same

What can John Lewis’ Christmas campaign teach us about Procurement?

The well-orchestrated PR ‘rumours’ were confirmed when John Lewis’ Christmas campaign was launched, sound-tracked by a cover of a classic song – “Half The World Away”, written by Noel Gallagher of Oasis.

On cue, industry pundits considered if the brand’s longstanding music strategy still works, or if consumers will tire of slow, breathy female-vocal renditions of songs whose original versions had more bite. Retail analysts will no doubt pore over John Lewis’ Christmas trading figures in the New Year; this may provide an answer.

The Cost of Music

For the Procurious community, the key issue here is ROI. Will investment in the campaign, of which music is a key part, deliver a quantifiable uplift in profits? It’s a question I’ve asked marketing directors when considering the cost of music recommended by their agencies.

In advance, it’s almost impossible to know – and in hindsight, few brands carry out the post mortem. If you’re in marketing procurement with a remit to support your marketing colleagues, where do you begin?

At a presentation to ISBA members earlier in the year, it was clear that many marketing procurement executives didn’t feel confident to challenge their agencies on music costs. A common concern was:

“I just don’t know which questions to ask”.

Typically agencies present a single figure for music in production estimates with no breakdown or explanation of how the deal was negotiated. Without an understanding of the fragmented nature of music rights, marketing procurement teams are in the dark. So, here’s some light on the issue:

Separate copyright exists in

  • The song aka “publishing rights”, and
  • The sound recording aka “master rights”.

These are usually controlled by respectively by music publishers and record labels. Brands, or their agencies, are solely responsible for securing approvals and negotiating sync licence fees before any usage takes place in a campaign.

Jargon Alert!

‘Sync’ (short for synchronisation) is the act of dubbing music to moving images.

The sync licence approval chain often leads back to the same people when the songwriter and artist is the same person. Had John Lewis wanted to use the original Oasis recording of “Half The World Away”, the sync licence requests would have been as follows:

  1. Song/Publishing Rights via music publisher: SonyATV Music Publishing > Artist Management > Noel Gallagher (songwriter)
  2. Sound Recording/Master Rights via record label: Sony Music > Artist Management > Noel & Liam Gallagher (artist: Oasis)

In this instance, Noel Gallagher would receive the sync requests via two avenues, his music publisher and record label.

Value Versus Price

Here’s where value and price come in. Would Noel Gallagher place a greater value on his song or his recording?

In practice, the music industry prices them at parity using Most Favoured Nations (“MFN”) – an upwards-only price equalisation device. “Half The World Away” reached number 3 in the UK single charts in 1994 and became the theme song for BBC sitcom “The Royle Family”. Mr Gallagher would therefore place a very high value on both song and recording.

However, the new John Lewis campaign doesn’t use the original Oasis version. Instead, it follows the established strategy of using an emerging artist to record a new cover version of the song. In this instance it’s a Norwegian singer called Aurora, signed to Universal Music imprint Decca Records. So how does the approval chain look now? The song remains the same, but the recording is different.

  1. Song/Publishing Rights via music publisher: SonyATV Music Publishing > Artist Management > Noel Gallagher (songwriter)
  2. Sound Recording/Master Rights via record label: Universal Music > Artist Management > Aurora Aksnes (artist name: Aurora)

What does this mean for Procurement?

As we’ve discussed, Noel Gallagher will place significant value on this song. His managers will dictate that his music publisher demands a premium price for the sync licence. Remember that Mr Gallagher didn’t write his song to be used in a commercial, and he doesn’t need the money or profile.

In contrast, the artist Aurora will greatly benefit from the exposure in the John Lewis campaign. For the artist, her manager, and her record label, the value is in the promotional opportunity, not the sound recording. This will be reflected in a much lower-priced sync licence, provided that the record label waives any MFN provision.

Key Learnings

If your agency presents you with a single budget figure for a licensed music track, don’t just accept it, ask these questions:

  1. Is it an original artist recording or a cover?
  2. If it’s an original artist recording, is the artist also the songwriter?
  3. Is the artist proven to be famous?
  4. Is the song or songwriter proven to be famous?
  5. Which music publisher controls the song? (It can be more than one)
  6. If the recording is a cover, is the cover artist famous?
  7. How will the cover artist benefit from awareness through the campaign?
  8. Can promotional value be traded against sync licence price?
  9. Will the record company who controls the cover recording waive MFN?

Whilst these issues are a whole world away from the schmaltzy, perfect Christmas conveyed in the new John Lewis campaign, smart marketing procurement executives can take control of price by better understanding value and the complex music rights landscape.

Although the song remains the same, alternative cover versions can offer cost efficiencies if you know the right questions to ask.

Richard Kirstein is a Founding Partner at Resilient Music, which aims to shed light on the complex landscape of music procurement, and delivers a smarter way for brands and agencies to buy music talent and rights.

Is Twitter losing its ‘Star’ Quality?

Twitter’s latest change to its user interface, replacing its ‘Favourite’ star with a ‘Like’ heart has raised the ire of its community. Has the social media giant made a huge misstep in the battle to remain relevant?

To the casual user, this might not seem like a big deal, but to seasoned users of the social media platform, it represents a change that no-one expected, or even wanted.

The chances are fairly good that the furore about the change will die down in the near future as users become accustomed to it, but there is also a chance that a very human resistance to change could ultimately cost Twitter some users.

New Users

In an explanation of this move, Twitter posted a blog stating that the change was to “make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use” and removing any confusion about the star for newcomers to the site.

The heart, in contrast, is immediately recognisable for what it signifies, has the same meaning in many different cultures and Twitter also stated that the new idea had gone down well in testing.

And it is new users that Twitter is aiming for in what is becoming a fiercely competitive social media market. It might seem strange that a company valued at approximately $22 billion, with over 1.3 billion accounts and over 300 million monthly active users, would be worried about its user base.

However, for many people, Twitter is actually falling behind in the market, with user numbers actually in decline. Twitter is also falling behind Instagram (now owned by Facebook) in terms of active users, while lacking the development of other sites (think Facebook ‘Dislike’ button).

Changes at the Top

Twitter permanently re-appointed Jack Dorsey as its Chief Executive back in June, and he immediately set about making changes, including letting go 8 per cent of its workforce.

Twitter also appointed Omid Kordestani, a former Google Executive and the Internet giant’s 11th employee, as its Executive Chairman in August. Both men have been charged with turning the platform around, increasing profitability and gathering new users.

It is thought that Mr Kordestani will look to target countries where Twitter is currently unavailable or blocked, such as China, in order to boost the site’s user numbers.

Simplicity vs. Usability

The major challenge Jack Dorsey appears to have, is in making the platform more user-friendly and accessible for its members. When even your Executive Chairman says they find the platform “intimidating” and has only ever sent 9 tweets, you know you have a problem.

For many, the simplicity of a chronological news-feed in 140 character bursts is also the biggest drawback of the platform. By presenting the tweets in chronological order it doesn’t show the information individual users want to interact with or value being able to see.

There is functionality to create lists, as well as use tools like Nuzzel and Tweetdeck, to organise tweets into a more valuable resource format, but users want the same functionality on the site itself, rather than having to set up accounts elsewhere.

It remains to be seen what impact today’s change to the interface will have, if any, in the long run on active users, and if it will ultimately be a success.

As active Twitter users ourselves at Procurious, we would love to see the platform develop, while still retaining the essence of a short-message news feed. Just as procurement professionals are beginning to see the benefits the platform offers, it would be a shame to see it fall by the wayside.

If you want to join the debate, follow Procurious on Twitter – we don’t mind a few extra likes!

How Productive Are Your Teleconferences?

A recent project has prompted me to focus this month on the efficiencies of teleconferences. 

Lack of agendas, side conversations, inaudible background noises, late attendees, accent and language difficulties, alongside poorly facilitated calls that seem to go in circles, are just some of the everyday teleconference challenges.

Although teleconferences are not a new phenomenon, somehow we tolerate the inefficiencies and frustrations that they entail.  Why is this?  Over time we become unconscious and unmindful of the bad habits and irritations that ‘creep in’. We often accept them as ‘normal’ and for the most part we ‘switch off’ and allow apathy and stagnation to set in, without us possibly even realising it.

For many global project teams teleconferences are the most common meeting format. They are a critical mode of communication where key decisions are made and everyday production, innovative and creative ideas are thrashed out. Something worth reminding ourselves of is that the success of teleconferences directly impact overall project outcomes, timelines and ultimately budgets.

Preparing Your Teleconference

Here are some simple reminders of things to be aware of when facilitating and participating in culturally dispersed teleconferences:

  • Ensure that the agenda has been circulated at least 24 hours prior to the meeting

It is particularly useful for those in other locations whose native language is not the language that the meeting is being conducted in.  This provides all participants an opportunity to plan what they will say or questions that they want to propose.

  • Be mindful of the dynamic

When most of the participants are in the same room it can be difficult for the remote participants to engage in the conversation.  They are not privy to the same group/room dynamic.

  • Be mindful of different cultures

Remember that in some cultures people wait to be invited to speak rather than speak up whenever they have something to contribute. Be specific and invite people to speak at various intervals.

  • Ensure everyone identifies who they are before they begin speaking

Don’t assume that everyone knows each other.  It is not uncommon for offshore project teams to have new staff joining the team at different times. Maintain the practice of introductions at all meetings.

  • Use diagrams and visual aids where possible

They can be of great benefit as an alternative mode of demonstration and explanation, especially for offshore teams.

  • Ensure Understanding

If you are having difficulty understanding language, accents, dialects or tone, speak up. Let people know.  Chances are that they are having difficulty understanding you also.

  • Don’t confuse silence with agreement

Take the time to ask each person one by one to give their opinion or share their concerns before making a consensus decision.

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Driving Procurement Power: Strategies in Purchasing

This article was originally published on Tradogram.

Your eyes are locked on the road directly in front of you. White-knuckled, you jerk the steering wheel into obedience to keep the tires away from massive potholes.

One wrong move or missed sign, a bad assessment of the immediate situation, and your car goes over a cliff. The likelihood of this outcome could be greatly reduced if you had the foresight to anticipate the road ahead.

Definitive Strategies

How can definitive strategies be applied to scenarios that seem so distant and unknown, especially when there’s always a more urgent task demanding attention? You don’t have to be navigating a treacherous mountain pass to consider the benefits of strategic thinking.

The business of procurement needs leaders who understand what it means to implement purchasing strategies. This is easier said than done – what exactly does “being strategic” entail, anyway? From a general perspective, it involves critical analyses, interpreting data, executing decisions, continuous learning, and the ability to align employee’s divergent agendas (including those that remain hidden; peripheral vision is an asset, both behind the wheel and in the boardroom).

Where Procurement Comes In

Specifically, strategic procurement is when companies are able to plan and schedule group buying well in advance of deadlines. They centralize this process with the intent of gaining transactional efficiencies (and as a result, savings), ideally through the use of an ePurchasing solution. Communication between internal and external stakeholders is continuous, effective, and secure.

Global suppliers are selected from a database that provides comparative formats, customisable to the buyer’s unique needs (ranging from negotiating an optimal price point to managing user approvals and more). When this list of components synchronises, an organisation’s gears can shift smoothly; at the right moment, this is the difference between a brilliant hairpin turn and crashing into a rock wall.

Be The Driving Force

If this criteria seems daunting, rest assured that when a company is still struggling with the interpretation of “strategic”, there’s no reason to even think about enacting such an approach. Market research is overrated! One product or service is just as underwhelmingly adequate as the next! The CEO left for a business meeting with her tennis racket! Why should we create performance anxiety over a bulk order of sheet metal?

Sure, a purchasing department might be successful upholding mediocrity, but when opportunities exist for improvement, why not take advantage? Especially when such purchasing improvements serve to directly benefit those doing the purchasing. Be the driving force behind strategic procurement – what happens further down the road is worth putting the pedal to the metal.

Breelyn Lancaster is the Marketing Coordinator for Tradogram, a cloud-based procurement platform which aims to help buyers take control of their sourcing processes and aim for cost-effective solutions.