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Never say “game over”

The electrical equipment manufacturer Cressall has shared this inspirational story of Simon Marston with us, and how he managed to bring an almost-forgotten technology back to life.

Virtuality machine by Simon Marston

Some technologies never take off. It’s the way of the world. Whatever happened, for example, to hovercrafts – the favourite transportation method of Sir Sean Connery’s James Bond? The technology world is full of inventions that never made it big, often because they were too ahead of their time. Take the example of the Leicester-manufactured Virtuality machine, a precursor of the Oculus Rift.

For all the nostalgics out there, Simon has restored two Virtuality machines and made them available to the general public. One of the machines can be seen at the Retro Computer Museum in Leicester (UK).

In the early 90s, the main purpose of the Virtuality technology, was gaming; amazing, never-before-seen video games that allowed you to completely immerse yourself in a fictional universe. The machine completely captured Simon’s imagination during his days at college.

Years later, when Simon had the opportunity to purchase his own VR machine, he just couldn’t resist it. He spent months chasing long-lost information and invested significant financial resources to make his VR 1000 series functional again. At first, he tried to find the necessary information online, but to no avail. While some people seemed to remember the technology, none had insight about its internal workings.

The main problem was caused by the old screens, which were broken and couldn’t be replaced, because they were obsolete. Simon decided the best solution was to convert video signals from the VR machine into a new generation screen. His attempt was successful, meaning he could once again play some of his favourite arcade games.

So what is the purpose of this quest? Simon’s love of retro technology and his understanding of how people react to it are only two of the reasons he refused to believe the game was over for Virtuality, when most people had all but forgotten about it.

Follow Simon’s example and seize every opportunity – never let your dreams die, instead make them a living, breathing, reality.

Somebody just paid $1 million to say “Yo”… Is this the most pointless app ever?

Can a simple “Yo” change the way we communicate? This new Android/iOS app thinks it can…

YoApp

‘Yo’ describes itself as a “single-tap zero character communication tool” – yes, it sounds impressive when you put it like that – but peer behind its faceless purple façade and you might be left scratching your head.

What is a ‘Yo’?

Good question. When we delved into the Yo app, we initially questioned how it has managed to amass a whopping $1 million in funding (yep, you read that right). Its simplicity is clear from the start – its kaleidoscopic colour scheme reinforces this playful, carefree aesthetic. In-fact the hardest part is probably downloading and importing the unlucky recipients of your Yos (your contacts).

When you send a Yo, your contact is alerted via a push notification on their mobile, along with an audible ‘Yo’ greeting. The first few times it’s kind-of funny.

A Facebook ‘poke’ for a new generation?

While Facebook’s pokes could be easily ignored, Yo has the potential to get in your face. And as you might have guessed – this could get old, real fast.

Still, it must be doing something right. For an app that took 8 hours to create, it’s already home to 50000 users, who’ve collectively sent four million Yos (plus there’s that $1 million in funding in-case you’ve forgotten…) So as well as rising up-and-up the app charts, it’s forging ahead in the venture capital rankings too…

It’s easy of course to write it off as some trivial, throwaway app – but Yo does cause us to ponder the validity of push notifications and their potential usefulness both inside and outside of the workplace.

Jesse Pinkman - Breaking Bad. Copyright AMC
Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman was known for yelling “Yo!” a lot. We reckon he’s downloaded it already.

The importance of push notifications

Push notifications (sometimes known as push messaging) are nothing new – if you own a mobile phone then you’ll have no-doubt come across push services at some point. Push is linked to a publish/subscribe model – so if you’ve ever signed up to a news service (or channel), it’s highly likely you’ll have received the content through push messaging.

Could an app like Yo therefore be used to our advantage? Imagine this, what if we could send a Yo (or push alternative) to a buyer/purchaser/supplier to inform them of the following scenarios: Stock is low – need to re-order, alert to quality issue, goods have been delivered, goods have not been delivered, etc.

Of course there are other potential uses for good – we think it would work effectively in emergency situations, with Yos being sent to relevant parties to take action.

What do you make of Yo: Is it just another flash in the pan, or is there the potential for interesting use elsewhere?

Yo can be downloaded for free from both the Google Play and iOS store  – there appear to be two listings however, look for the one made by Life Before Us LLC.

Don’t sell yourself short – stand out from the crowd

Celebrities like Richard Branson & Lady Gaga have carved-out strong personal brands...
Celebrities like Richard Branson & Lady Gaga have carved-out strong personal brands…

Personal branding can make a huge impact on your ability to do your job in the procurement industry.

Personal branding experts suggest that leveraging your online presence, considering who’s in your network and assessing your dress sense can all make an impact on your personal brand.

Kate O’Reilly is the principal of Sydney’s Optimiss Consulting, which advises corporate firms on gender equality, organisational change, business, communications, human capital, corporate governance and personal branding.

Your personal brand as what other people say about you, not what you say about yourself.

We’re all familiar with the personal brands of celebrities such as Richard Branson or Lady Gaga, but we need to learn that personal branding is essential for our success too, O’Reilly says.

“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. It’s about what people say when they’re endorsing you or putting you forward for a new role or a new project.”

A lot of people don’t realise that it takes a lot of time to think about personal branding, or that it is something you can construct yourself. “It’s not that it’s artificial. Best branding is authentic, but it’s calculated and planned.”

Developing and delivering a personal brand can be achieved by having an up-to-date CV and LinkedIn profile, being on message and consistent in what you say, considering your look and style, being nice to other people and making connections and delivering on a quality experience to everyone who deals with you.

“Consistency is key in your message, in your look in how you treat people. It’s about being professional in everything you do, getting back to people when you say you will, and delivering on time.

“Is your elevator pitch compelling and memorable? You need to consider why you stand out and what you stand for.”

O’Reilly says there’s nothing fake about manufacturing your personal brand.

“Rather, what you’re doing is deciding how you want to be remembered and having a really good consistent message in absolutely everything you do, and every contact everyone has with you. It’s like any good brand – they pick two or three things, and they repeat them over and over again.”

Consistency is key, she says.

CEO of Brisbane personal branding firm Jump the Q, Rachel Quilty says the number of professionals wanting to develop a specific strategic style has grown. Personal branding affords you more mobility within your industry, she says.

“Consider yourself a brand. Image management is vital in today’s business world. Improving your image and personal brand is an investment in building your personal profile, reputation and the results you will achieve.”

Social procurement is gathering global momentum

People sitting around a table

Companies bold enough to step into social procurement are discovering that it’s helping solve business problems and also improving the bottom line.

A recent report on social procurement found that the movement is gathering momentum both in governments and private businesses around the world.

The report, Corporate Social Procurement in Australia, was conducted by Australia’s leading social enterprise development organisation, Social Traders and The Faculty, and found that 67 per cent of companies to respond currently undertake social procurement, or intend to do so in the near future.

It found that more than $905 million was directed to social procurement by 11 businesses. This figure is expected to rise quickly, with another 18 respondents committed to connecting social procurement initiatives by 2014. The research included a literature review and a survey of 21 Australian businesses with a market capitalisation of $221 billion.

Many companies tip their toes into social procurement with a pilot program, or undertake work within discrete business areas. Some go on to develop company policies to ensure social procurement becomes the norm.

A program’s success is usually measured by jobs created, volume and percentage of total money spent, and the value delivered to the organisation and the community.

Leighton Contractors chief procurement officer, Visna Lampasi is one of those in this space to facilitate a significant engagement project with indigenous businesses into the supply chain, increasing expenditure with indigenous suppliers to $3 million last year, with a $5 million target set for this year. This achievement has gone partway toward seeing her named CPO of the Year for 2014.

Craig Laslett, managing director of Leighton Contractors says the company believes it has a responsibility to contribute to the growth and advancement of Indigenous people and communities.

“Our organisation-wide focus on strong leadership and advocacy for Aboriginal and Torres Straight people and their communities starts from the top, with my personal commitment to enhancing the lives and opportunities for Indigenous Australians.”

Leading Australian construction, mining and services contractors, Thiess Services moved into this space more than a decade ago when it invited a social enterprise specialising in land care management, Marriott Enviro Services, to provide workers for landscape operations to general maintenance, grass and garden maintenance and painting.

Since 2009, Thiess has spent around $1.3 million a year with Marriott, which employs a large number of people with a disability.

Cadbury

Australian FMCG brand Cadbury also made a strategic decision to shift to Fair Trade certified cocoa in 2010, at a cost of $45 million. Soon after this, Cadbury became the world’s largest buyer of certified cocoa, with sales increasing.

Todd Stitzer, CEO of Cadbury said in an interview included in the report that: “The greatest power consumers have is of their buying dollar … if consumers feel that they want products more ethically produced, they should buy what they value.”

And yet, many corporates have little understanding of social procurement.

Matthew Bonwick of The Faculty Management Consultants says that the greatest challenge to the implementation of social procurement is where to start.

The key is to start small and work up to bigger things, he says.

“Many passionate advocates can be found on the ground floor of corporates, so identify existing leaders from within before scaling up,” he says.

Broad spectrum adoption from within a company is critical to corporate legitimacy in the medium run, he says.

“As markets develop and consumers become more educated, these strategies will become defining elements of competitor advantage. And key enablers will be passionate people and strategic senior managers who are willing to support the learning curve.”

Is procurement under attack on social media?

Social media when there's a procurement problem image

Social media can be an erratic and angry beast. One minute your company is being praised, and the next it’s under fire for a minor procurement program that’s somehow landed in serious hot water.

To stay out of trouble, make sure you are prepared for any social media crisis well before there’s any sign of trouble.

Start by working up to a worst case scenario by considering what could go wrong, recommends Sydney social media trainer Steven Lewis of Taleist.

Consider who is going to be called in from other duties to lend a hand if trouble hits, he says.

“The first step in handling a crisis is to be prepared for the eventuality in the first place. If you’re prepared, you’ll know who’s going to speak, what they need, and you’ll have your channels and processes in place and tested. Having thought about those things in advance frees you up to think strategically when dealing with the specifics of a crisis,” Lewis says.

Conduct a risk assessment on each of your processes so you know how they might be questioned or attacked, and by whom, Lewis advises.

“Create a tailored response to each process that allows you to give clear justification, preferably with supporting evidence. If, for instance, you’re accused of using a supplier who uses child labour, what policies, inspections or assurances from the supplier can you cite and what would your response be to an accusation?”

People expect their corporate citizens to have human qualities, so don’t be afraid to respond on with some emotion, he says.

Steven Lewis

If you don’t know something you’re being asked, say so.

“It’s not good for a clothing brand, for example, to say it’s never even considered there might be child labour in its overseas supply chain, but you might not have all the facts to hand immediately. But an empathetic response and a promise to investigate with a deadline will help.”

In this example, he suggests a response such as: ‘We care deeply about child labour too and we’d be horrified to find we’d supported it even directly.”

It’s important to respond online, he says.

“You need to be in the channels in which you’re being discussed. If you’re being attacked on Twitter, it’s not enough to put up a media release on your website. How will the people on Twitter know it’s there?”

Remember, a social media crisis seldom involves a rational exchange of views, he says.

“Essentially, you have to be prepared for the emotion of a crisis. If you plan to deal with the crisis only through the cold exchange of facts, you won’t put out the fire.”

Get your side of the story up quickly and in the relevant media, he says.

“You’ll likely have supporters and the more you can give them to share and get your side out, the better.”

However, be prepared to wear the criticism, he says.

“In social media as in politics, it’s often the cover-up that will get you. People don’t like having their comments deleted,” Lewis warns.

Meanwhile in London… (at the World Procurement Congress)

Credit: Steve Budd (@stevembudd)
Credit: Steve Budd (@stevembudd)

The World Procurement Congress 14 as told by Twitter.

Over 19-20 May London played host to the World Procurement Congress. Now in its second year the event brought together CPOs and thinkers in procurement and supply chain management from all over the world.

Here is what attendees have been saying about it on Twitter:

@AlanGleeson Standing room only for Bernd Huber & David Natoff from Google #WPC Prioritisation a key challenge.NB of category knowledge & responsiveness

@XchProcurement Where do #TailEndSpend savings come from? – Spend reclassification, compliance, demand management and automated processes, says Olivier

@HarryJohn_PL #WPC performance roundtable hosted by @Beroe_inc. Want to empower #procurement? Align with finance.

@AlanHollandCork Cynthia Dautrich talks about unleashing the power of the supply base at The World Procurement Congress

@LizmaffeiPL More great insights from Cynthia Dautrich: Experience drives 70% of learning ability, exposure drives 20% & education final component

@Nightingale_PL Women in Procurment…leave perfection at the front door #WPC

@AlanGleeson Hans Melotte CPO @JNJNews advocates greater diversity amongst the #procurement community

‏@markperera 4-5 trillion of spend represented at the World Procurement Congress – wow

@stevembudd The word procurement will disappear in 10 years…CPOs will turn into Value Creation Officers. Clive Heal at Roche #wpc

‏@HarryJohn_PL  How can we make it easier to work with #procurement? @Beroe_inc on the merits of an external view on performance.

@tburt85  Save The Children tell #WPC breakout session that 90% of products it buys are sourced locally.

The Big Question: Could you live in a world without the iPhone?

A wrinkle in Apple’s supply chain could spell doom for the technology giant. Procurious wonders whether we ought to be worried.

The announcement of a new iPhone/iPad is the stuff of headline news the world over. Apple is one of the most respected titans in the hardware industry, its products have a stranglehold over the hearts and minds of millions (in-fact the level of fanaticism is downright spooky). OK there may be the odd misstep (lest we forget the Apple Maps debacle), but with its impressive track record and market dominance – Apple’s products represent go-to gadgets of choice for most businesses and consummate professionals the world over.

The iPhone’s and iPad’s ability to blend effortlessly into your (doubtless) existing Apple ecosystem makes a world without this modern staple unthinkable to many, but a worrying new report from Taiwan’s Commercial Times hints at dark days ahead for everyone’s favourite fruit.

The rumour mill says we can expect to see two new iPhones (iPhone 6) in the not-too-distant future. According to the paper however, production on the larger (5.5-inch) iPhone handset could be delayed until 2015 due to difficulties in sourcing a supplier for the super-thin 2mm battery. Apple’s tough ask involves shrinking their existing battery technology by a considerable 33% – such a demand puts suppliers under immense strain and will almost certainly affect the production cycle, the effects of which will reverberate the length of the chain.

There’s a convincing argument here for the power of the brand – at this stage in its heritage, Apple’s customers will happily wait for the next-generation to arrive in their hands. But how does this make you feel as procurement professionals – can you sympathise with the situation or this unrelenting thirst for innovation a reckless and dangerous play?

We must wonder too what this could mean for Apple. Can we expect to go through the same motions a few more years down the line – a couple more supply problems, a few more delays? If so disillusionment could surely (and will easily) set in. Look at the once mighty darling of enterprise – BlackBerry. Poor components and overall build-quality affected both the Storm and PlayBook, while delays to BlackBerry software and unsold inventory effectively unseated this once proud King.

It’s not all doom and gloom though – recent iPhone sales figures point to strong Apple earnings. Overall Apple saw a 4.6% increase in quarterly revenue, far-and-away beating Wall Street expectations. However iPad shipments were shown to be on the decline (an almost 20% drop – ouch), and with the company soon to enter the wearables marketplace we wonder whether Cupertino’s finest is starting to spread itself too thin…

We must remember that Apple is also forging ahead and reporting success in BRIC countries – the iPhone has just set sales records in Brazil, Russia, India and China. And with competitor Nokia also looking to developing markets to consolidate their rule, such space could prove quite the battleground in the fight for market dominance. Whatever the outcome, the future looks set to be very interesting indeed…

Are Apple’s products still the apple of your eye? Join in with the discussion! Leave your comments below.