How To Turn Your Procurement Team Into A Cracking Intelligence-Gathering Organisation

According to Justin Crump, CEO, Sibylline, procurement professionals would be foolish to underestimate the value in becoming more active intelligence-gatherers.

Justin Crump spoke at the Procurious CPO Forum in London, Big Ideas In Action, sponsored by Basware

In his book, Corporate Security Intelligence and Strategic Decision Making,  Justin Crump, CEO Sibylline, addresses the current void of awareness about and study of the corporate security intelligence environment. “The increasing size, scale and sophistication of corporate activities  on the world stage – coupled with increasing legislative attention is driving an increasing focus on the [topic of corporate security], and the traditional gap between “business” (which makes money) and security ( a corporate cost center) is markedly narrowing.

Procurement’s value to an organisation has long been due to it’s position at the interface between the supply-chain and the business itself.  Its external reach offers a unique insight into market trends across the globe.

But is your team sufficiently engaged with the external world to spot these trends and push them  back out to your organisation to ensure that you, the CPO, get a seat at the table.

Justin outlines Sibylline’s five tips to bear in mind for anyone seeking to build out their internal process:

Corporate Intelligence is both an art and a science, and is often misunderstood. It is, perhaps sadly, not the province of dashing secret agents and beautiful women in fast cars; rather it is a process that involves everyone in the organisation, refining the myriad data in the world around us into some sort of meaning. Put simply, intelligence is the process which delivers timely, accurate and relevant insight to decision makers, allowing them to value risk and weigh opportunity effectively for their organisation.

The state of the world at present makes the need for an effective security intelligence process in businesses more important than ever. Drivers include:

  • Legislation – duty of care, safe workplaces, negligence
  • Threat environment – scale and tempo
  • Complexity of supply chains – “just in time”, dependencies
  • Information availability – expanding, data overload
  • Global marketplace – challenges and opportunities

Research has shown that truly resilient organisations not only survive but thrive in this environment. Taking an intelligence-led approach allows for effective and efficient risk management and demonstrates clear value add. After all, if you’re not intelligence-led, then what are you being led by…?

1: Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Intelligence is an imperfect process – inherently, returns are a the function of time and resources. While we equate security forecasting to weather forecasting, the weather does not deceive or lie to you – humans do, whether accidentally or deliberately ! In this uncertain world, everything represents a “best effort” – and you more or less get out what you put in.

 2: Understand what you Care About

Understanding what you care about is at the heart of an effective intelligence function. Faced with a mountain of information, it is answering the “so what” question that matters the most – and clear requirements are the fuel for this. Thorough understanding of the organisation, including its people, its business processes, its strategy and its areas of key exposure, is a key facet of making this all work.

3: Make the Most of People, Processes and Technology

Overcoming the constraints of limited time, imperfect information and strained resources relies on a combination of well-trained people, slick processes and appropriate technology. This helps to generate the best possible results in the time and resources available. All too often companies address only one of this triad, meaning that results are imbalanced and opportunities to provide effective insight are missed.

4: Make an Impact

The best analysis, from the most perfect process, is no good at all if people are not listening. One way to ensure this is to speak to their needs; but sometimes even this is not enough. Presentation is therefore important; what suits your consumer? How much detail do they need, or can they absorb? How much information is too much, or not enough? These are the questions that the practitioner must answer in order to ensure that they make a meaningful impact.

5: Manage Intelligence as a Project

Introducing an intelligence function need not be complex, but needs to be managed as a project and with rigour. As the function begins to build a head of steam, it will start to generate more client interest and greater demands will be made, requiring a steadily evolving approach in order to satisfy expectations. It is therefore best run as a project, within a coherent framework that allows it to grow in a controlled fashion.

We at Sibylline earnestly believe that the best decisions are taken on the basis of intelligence, and an intelligence-led process helps make organisations resilient – allowing them to cope with the challenges of the modern global marketplace. This is a minor investment that returns a great deal, often requiring little more than enforcing things that are already happening within a more effective and disciplined system.

The process of examining yourself and examining the world, within a cohesive framework, gives a stable way to reference what is changing in your environment and therefore highlights both risks and opportunities. Procurement functions in particular are well placed to understand the world and the organisation, and so have a vital part to play in making sense of it all – however crazy the world threatens to get, and well know that there are opportunities amidst the doom, gloom and fake news!