Are we going to run out of chocolate?

Cacao crisis - are we running out of chocolate?

Last week I warned that the increases in value of the Swiss franc could spell troubled times for chocolate lovers. Unfortunately, this week I have more troubling news about our favourite sweet treat…

In its 2015 report, the Earth Security Group (a company that provides intelligence on managing global resource risks) points out that we are headed for global shortages in cocoa (the key ingredient in chocolate) as soon as 2020.

Where is the chocolate going?

A number of factors are thought to be contributing to the dwindling supply of cocoa. These include; increased demand from emerging markets (Indonesia’s chocolate consumption is growing at 20 per cent a year) and fears around what might happen if Ebola crossed the border from neighbouring Liberia and Guinea into the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of Cacao – boasting 38.7 per cent of global production.

However from a procurement perspective – it is the fact that cocoa farmers are shifting their efforts to other crops that I find the most interesting.

In order to understand the reasons why cocoa growers are shifting production to palm oil and rubber, we need to look at the intriguing nature of the cocoa supply market.

An agricultural oddity

The cocoa growing industry is an anomaly of sorts in modern agriculture – in that it is still dominated by small landholders rather than corporate enterprises. These small landowners produce over 85 per cent of the world’s cocoa supply.

The highly fragmented supply market for cocoa means that farmers hold little bargaining power when it comes to negotiating with the large buyers like Nestle and Barry Callebaut*.

As a result of this buyer dominated market, the price of cocoa halved between 2009 and 2011. In 2012 the Ivorian government introduced a fixed pricing scheme designed to keep its cocoa industry intact and prices started to recover.

Combine falling prices with the fact that cocoa growers are very poorly remunerated for their efforts, and the motivations for shifting production begins to become apparent.

Makechocolatefair.org suggests most cocoa farmers earn less than $1.25 USD a day, meaning they living in ‘absolute poverty’ as defined by the UN. The paltry sum they receive from large buying organisations means cocoa farmers have a high propensity to shift production to more profitable crops. It just might be what pulls them out of poverty.

Furthermore, farmers in these communities remain largely unconnected to the global information sources and the outside world. This is resulting in two worrying occurrences. The first is that sustainable farming practices and infrastructure have not been implemented in cocoa farming regions causing widespread land degradation. The second is that these small holders have no concept about the increases in the global demand for their product and the implications it could have for the price they charge.

“You can’t sustain a booming chocolate industry worth billions while the producers are living in poverty” – Alejandro Litovsky founder and chief executive Earth Security Group.

Cocoa is an old mans game

The combination of tough customers, poverty, low prices and changing climatic patterns is severely hampering the motivation of young farmers to move into producing cocoa. It is estimated that the area of world’s surface dedicated to cocoa plantations has decreased by 40 per cent in the past four decades.

Perhaps more concerning is that the Fairtrade organisation estimates the average age of a cocoa farmer is 50! If that’s not a telling sign for the future of the industry, tell me what is.

The Earth Security Group report highlights the challenge that chocolate producers face, and the need to change the dynamics of this supply market. Companies should look to spread the benefits of what is a lucrative industry downstream and back into the supply chain. Failure to do so will mean facing the future supply crisis, knowing that they hold at least some of the responsibility for the shortages.

* Never heard of Barry Callebaut? That’s where Cadburys, Hershey’s, Ben and Jerry’s and Magnum get their cocoa. The company purchases about 40 per cent of cocoa available to the open market.

Meeting of minds in pharmaceutical purchasing

The Beyond Group AG (“TBG”) will be launching its 2015 Productivity-in-Pharma Think Tank, building on the success of their 2014 gathering of minds of senior procurement leaders in the industry.

Productivity Think Tank from the Beyond Group

Kicking off in Frankfurt Germany on April 21, three separate day-long sessions (concluding in September) will help frame the discussion of what is the future of Procurement within the Pharma industry over the next several years.

Drawing together a select group of procurement professionals representing 15 of the world’s leading Pharma companies, TBG and its partners (EY [Ernst & Young], Korn Ferry, UBS, and others) will deeply explore the issue of “Transforming the Procurement organization to become a recognised productivity engine”.

The 2015 series promises to be the most intensive, content-packed, and insightful of this groundbreaking series.

Contrasting with the traditional conference environment, TBG’s Think Tank gatherings offer ‘learning collaboration’ through in-depth & insightful exchanges among industry peers, academics, thought leaders and practitioners. These intensive sessions build upon experience, expertise, and research in a closed-door environment where executives can really get into the detail of their challenges and aspirations. From this gathering of minds, TBG publishes key findings, generates new research and creates a close community of leaders who explore the biggest opportunities to develop Procurement’s role.

Conceived by Giles Breault and Sammy Rashed, principals and co-founders of The Beyond Group AG, the Think Tanks have quickly evolved into a new model where “content is king” and outcomes are published and presented to the wider procurement community. Some of the feedback gathered from previous participants include:

“The Productivity Think Tank concept is a great opportunity bringing together a focused group of international peers around a relevant topic. Half-way between a symposium and structured meetings with peers, the Think Tank combines the benefits of both worlds with deep analysis, strong networking, useful outcomes, and applicable takeaways”

“It’s a mix of academic expertise, real world experience and cross-industry best practices which allows us to collectively create solutions that fundamentally change the way we look at procurement and value its contribution”.

This year’s European series is limited to a maximum of 15 member companies. It will be followed a new series for the North American region this fall and expanding to the Asia market in 2016.

For more info please contact us at [email protected] or visit our website at www.beyondgrp.com.

Hey! Procurement – make your customers “feel the love”!

Important lessons from Gustave H and the Grand Budapest Hotel

What can we learn from The Grand Budapest Hotel?

A quick office survey revealed that no matter how much the boss likes it, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is not exactly everyone’s idea of a great movie.

However, the adventures of Gustave H; a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars – provides a lot of great (quirky, yes) insights into what constitutes exceptional customer service.

In the procurement world we often refer to those we serve to please as ‘stakeholders’… but let’s face it, they are our customers and all the old-fashioned principles such as “the customer is always right” apply.

Of course we want to do more than serve – we want to become a trusted advisor. But time and time again, ‘stakeholder engagement’ and the ‘soft skills’ re-appear as the number one skill that CPOs need their team to develop, in order to achieve that ‘trusted advisor’ status.

So in the spirit of ‘sharing the love’ this Valentine’s Day, here are some of my customer service learnings from working with clients, customers, stakeholders and alike during the last two and a half decades.

5 ways for procurement to make sure communities “feel the love”

Know your RFQs from your Ps and Qs

Nothing sells like credibility.  If you are going to put yourself forward as an advisor, you need to know about both about the professional service you are offering (procurement) and your customer’s business.  Knowing neither or only one or the other, is not going to build enough confidence for your customer to engage with you.  You need to ensure you have adequate procurement skills, as well as understand the business you are in to make the grade.

Make sure you get through to the second round

The analogy here to a boxing match is not accidental.  I have had some very tough first meetings with my customers. Let’s face it, not everyone always wants procurement’s ‘help’. A large part of our profession’s heritage has been about convincing our stakeholders about the value we can deliver.

From my chilly desk in Pittsburgh over a decade ago, I can still clearly remember being yelled at down the phone from my business unit customers in Iowa and Texas.  One CPO screamed, “If you want my team to spend their precious time on some corporate scorekeeping folly, then get your a** down here on a plane and explain it.”

Gustave H provided a light bulb moment for me about these aggressive experiences:

“Rudeness is merely an expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.”

I can’t say that any of my customers have ever “opened up like a flower”, but they have definitely mellowed from their initial opposition.  Once you prove you can deliver, they’re putty in your hands.  But you have to be resilient and work through this initial push back – get them to the point where they really start to engage and invest in you as a professional who can help them on their journey.

Know what they want; know what they don’t want

When my best practice procurement company, The Faculty, is helping procurement teams to become more customer-focused, we talk about the five false assumptions about customers:

  1. Customers know exactly what they need
  2. Customers will tell you what they need without being asked
  3. If you ask, customers will tell you everything they need
  4. If customers tell you everything they need, you will understand completely
  5. Just because you know what your customer needs, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to convince others in your team

Procurious blogger, Jordan Early, shared with me some really interesting research from Deloitte’s Ajit Kambil, who researched how new finance chiefs often undertake listening tours to understand what their key stakeholders want.

He observed that what stakeholders say they want “may not express their entire universe of so-called wants”. For example in our world, a business-unit leader may say he needs better information and support from procurement. But his true want may be “to be really listened to” by the procurement organization; or he may want procurement to “help support the personal initiatives he believes will advance his career.”

Kambil also suggested that knowing what key stakeholders do not want is as important as knowing what they want. When I was working in procurement within a large organisation, I used to present three potential contract award scenarios before we kicked off a sourcing project. This quickly revealed how the customer would react to different award decisions and helped bring on the conversation about what they didn’t want early on in the process.  It saved a few (but not all) tears at the end of the project.

Knowing what customers truly do or do not want begins by asking questions. However, it is often difficult for stakeholders to clearly articulate what they do and do not want. This is where you really need to call on all your business experience (and hopefully your supportive boss and/or mentor) to help you truly understand your customers’ needs.

Oh, and then you need to deliver. That’s the easy part… right?

5 ways for procurement to make sure communities “feel the love”

DHL talk key packaging trends of 2015

Ahead of the UK’s biggest packaging event later this month Paul Young – Head of Packaging Services at DHL Supply Chain, shared his thoughts on future packaging trends with Procurious. 

DHL packaging innovations

Taking place at Birmingham’s NEC on 25-26 February 2015, Packaging Innovations 2015 will bring together the very best in the packaging and print industry from right across the globe.

Now in its tenth year, the expo will be home to  over 350 exhibitors specialising in all aspects of packaging from materials and design, to machinery, new technologies and equipment.

Here’s what Paul had to say:

 What innovations are enabling new capabilities for packaging?

From the use of new substrates to digital technology, a number of innovations are enabling new capabilities for packaging. Edible and dissolvable packaging are becoming more prominent as companies focus on their environmental agendas, whilst QR codes have created packaging capable of communicating with the consumer in a more interactive way.

It’s important that packaging solutions should fit the product and company values. Creating edible cups, for example, will emphasise a brand’s environmental credentials and reduce waste, whilst packaging that incorporates a digital element can engage consumers with the wider brand on multiple platforms.

What are the key packaging trends of 2015?

A study commissioned by Tetra Pack found that 89 per cent of consumers prefer to buy products in recyclable packages. This is therefore a key trend for 2015. As consumers are increasingly aware of environmental concerns, they wish to make efforts to cut down on their personal environmental impact.

Digital print is another trend to watch. Currently, labelling has been the area most impacted by digital print, however as the quality of products has significantly improved we expect to see more packaging created in this way over the year.

Is sustainable packaging high on the agenda for many customers? 

Sustainable packaging has a number of benefits for customers. It allows customers to demonstrate their environmental credentials and improve brand perception as well as reducing unnecessary, non-recyclable wastage.

Computer manufacturer Dell, have been using bamboo to ship 70 per cent of their laptops and packaging multiple products in the same box where appropriate. This strategy aims to save Dell US$18 million between 2008 and 2018 as well as generating substantial environmental benefit.

Are there any new ways in which packaging waste is being reduced in the manufacturing process?

Minimising the packaging size for any given product reduces packaging waste during the manufacturing process. Recently, Chainalytics, a supply chain consultation and analytics organisation, reduced the size of packaging for a prepared food product by one eighth of an inch and in doing so eliminated 146 tonnes of paper and cardboard annually.

Creating custom sized boxes for less-than-full-case orders is another way in which packaging waste can be reduced with smaller boxes able to compactly hold products, thus eliminating excess wastage.

Which new technologies are increasing packaging efficiency?

Technology, such as ‘on-demand’ packaging equipment, creates custom sized packaging and significantly improves packaging efficiency.

Office giant Staples has been using this cutting edge technology to create 6,000 to 8,000 custom sized boxes each day so that 30 per cent of the orders the company ships are now custom sized. As well as enhancing the consumer’s experience of the package, this has enabled Staples to accommodate more orders in each delivery, transporting products with increased efficiency.

What mistakes are companies [still] making when it comes to choosing their packaging strategy?

Companies are much more aware of the importance of packaging however some mistakes are nonetheless made. For example, online retailers often do not consider the impact of the packaging they choose for specific products. This can lead to potentially harmful situations for the consumer, for example, liquids packaged in basic cardboard boxes, highlighting the need for effective, product specific packaging.

Many companies still need to be aware of what packaging strategy is most advantageous to their business. Whilst sustainable packaging is of importance to many consumers, re-usable packaging may instead reduce waste further and reap financial better benefits.

Generation ‘Why’? Debunking the Millennial Myth

Professional Services firm, PwC estimates that by 2016 almost 80 per cent of its workforce will be Millennials. In light of this frankly staggering statistic we would like to dispel some of the myths that surround the ’next generation’ of procurement professionals.

The rise of the Millennial workforce

Who are the Millennials?

A Millennial is the term attributed to someone born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. You might also know them as ‘Generation Y’.

The stereotype

In recent years Millennials have garnered much criticism from their baby-boomer counterparts. The New York Post even went so far as to label them ‘the worst generation’ ever.

If you believed everything you read in the mainstream media, you’d see Millennials as a generation of entitled, delusional, lazy workers with a penchant for replacing traditional social interactions with a series of web enabled applications.

However, these presumptions that a Millennial workforce is one that is constantly looking for a new job, requires extended holiday leave, possesses an inflated sense of ability and prioritises work-life balance over remuneration, are neither fair nor accurate.

The reality

A recent study by SAP (a German software producer) has gone some way to dispelling the myths attached Millennials, claiming that the ‘next generation’ of worker shares more with the rest of the workforce than many of us first thought.

The study points out that Millennials are in fact no more likely to prioritise workplace ethics, work-life balance or salary expectations in a different way to any other generation.

The report provides the following stats to support these claims:

  • Competitive pay is the biggest motivator for job satisfaction for both Millennials (68 per cent) and non-Millennials (64 per cent).
  • The second biggest motivator for job satisfaction for both groups was a merit based reward system and bonus structure. (55 per cent Millennials, 56 per cent non-Millennials).
  • Despite what stereotypes suggest, fewer Millennials (29 per cent) reported that achieving work/life balance would contribute towards professional satisfaction than did non-Millennials (31 per cent).
  • Similarly, more non-Millennials believe that ‘finding personal meaning in work’ is important (17 per cent) than did Millennials (14 per cent)
  • A meagre one-fifth of each group suggested that making a positive difference in world impacted their job satisfaction.
  • In other stereotype-breaking findings, more non-Millennials (23 per cent) are considering leaving their job in the next six months than are their Millennial counterparts (21 per cent).

Whether our preconceptions were correct or incorrect, the Millennials have arrived. They are the largest generation ever and they possess the greatest collective largest purchasing power in history. What they believe, how they work and the way in which they interact will matter.

Disclaimer – This article was written, edited and posted by a Millennial.

5 ways for procurement to make sure communities “feel the love”

The words “love” + “procurement” aren’t often seen together, but here at Procurious we’re hard at work changing the face of procurement.

As part of a Valentine’s Day special, our founder, Tania Seary (who has a long-standing love affair with all things procurement), is exploring ways that procurement professionals can ensure everyone they touch can “feel the love”.

5 ways for procurement to make sure communities “feel the love”

At Procurious, we’re very social (both on and off the field). You usually hear us talking about the benefits of social media, but this time we’re talking about the benefits of getting involved in social procurement… that is – using your corporate spend power to award contracts, to social enterprises and local businesses to generate social benefits beyond the products and services required.

Feel the power

There is enormous untapped potential for social procurement to act an agent for social change – our profession can make a huge impact!

Social procurement creates jobs and opportunities for people who may have struggled to find work and can also reinvigorate depressed or marginalised communities.

Not only are we helping our communities “feel the love”- but we’re also helping our own company. Spending money with community groups and social enterprises improves our own company’s staff engagement, brand equity and enables us to do something that is truly socially good without compromising financial return to shareholders.

So now it’s not only the corporate sponsorships and social responsibility teams who get to help those in need – procurement can also make a huge contribution to the community.

Choose your weapon

Embedding social procurement into your existing procurement framework will require some changes.  And, as we know, change isn’t always easy, so you’ll need to be both creative and patient. According to Dr Ingrid Burkett from the Centre for Social Impact in Sydney, you have four options (“weapons”) for initiating social procurement within your organisation:

    1. Contract – The most obvious approach is to incorporate social impact requirements into tenders, new or existing contracts, or evaluation criteria.
    2. Policy – You may choose to use policy to ensure you meet your social procurement objectives – these can include requirements such as percentage of spend for social impact, meeting statutory or regulatory requirements and local supplier spend commitments.  For example, many mining companies use a policy approach that mandates each of its mines must have a documented strategy for local procurement that is endorsed by the senior leadership team.
    3. Supplier – Directly engaging with suppliers who have a mission to deliver social value is one of the most common approaches to social procurement.  Many social enterprises have independently integrated themselves into corporate supply chains by winning tenders without specific consideration to social value.  In fact, without being deliberate about it – you are probably already procuring from social enterprises.
    4. Market (supplier) development – If you want to work with social enterprises but there are none operating in the category required, you will need to innovate.  For example, in planning the establishment of the Diavik Mine in Canada, Rio Tinto developed local suppliers capable of meeting their expected future business requirements through training, local employment initiatives and by stimulating contracts for these businesses.

Be credible and creative

Once you have worked out the “how”, the next step is obviously to choose the most credible social procurement options to suit your company’s business objectives, profile and culture.  Try to be creative about the “best fit” for your organization.  The best example I have heard of was a major retailer, who sponsored a bike maintenance service at their national headquarters.  Unemployed youths were engaged to learn how to fix bikes and earned their way to a trade certificate, while employees were encouraged to get fit and ride to work and help reduce carbon emissions!  How many boxes can be ticked with one initiative?

Get your CEO into the picture

Literally… if the category and social enterprise you have selected ticks all the boxes for your organization (strategy, mission, other initiatives etc.), then use your marketing nous to convince your corporate affairs and media executives that the CEO should do a site visit and understand the company’s commitment to the selected social enterprise.  Make sure there’s a photographer there (mind you, I’m sure your company’s PR gurus will have this covered) as this is exactly the type of material that gets featured in annual reports.  Perfect.

Persevere

Social procurement is not “business as usual” – it presents unique challenges and opportunities for both the buyer and the seller.  Successfully introducing anything new into a large organization is difficult.  The greatest challenges to introducing social procurement is having enough people and time, identifying appropriate categories of spend and gaining organizational commitment.

For social procurement to be effective there needs to be a truly enabling environment:  this includes senior management support, the right tools and infrastructure to support it, establishment of effective supplier networks and increased community and government recognition of its importance.

So, do you know how to “show the love” to your communities?  What’s your story?

Straw houses: no need to fear the Big Bad Wolf

We’re all familiar with the tale of the three little pigs and how the Big Bad Wolf blew down the first little pig’s house, a questionable dwelling built entirely from straw.

First straw house goes on sale in UK

Apart from having us wonder how it stood up in the first place without a frame, we all grew up knowing that a house made of straw was a bad idea.

However, an engineering research project in the UK is showing that maybe the little pig was ahead of his time in construction innovation. This week, the first straw houses offered on the open market in the UK are up for sale.

So huff and puff as much as you like, but you’re going to have to try harder than that to blow these houses down!

Building with bales

The research project was the brainchild of the University of Bath and Modcell, a specialist architectural firm. The hope is that the research, and the subsequent sale of the houses in Bath, will lead to the wider use of straw bales in construction.

The benefits of using straw are worth noting. Straw bale houses are more environmentally friendly to build and maintain than traditional brick houses and with proper care, the house will last for up to 100 years.

As straw is a natural material, the requirement for the production of raw materials will be reduced. This will in turn lead to a lower carbon footprint for the supply chain as the processes for manufacturing cement and firing bricks, both of which require high energy usage and generate substantial waste, will not be required.

Straw can be sourced relatively easily. Each year, UK agriculture produces an estimated four million tonnes of straw, of which only a small proportion is used, with the remainder just being burned. A new house would require seven tonnes of straw to build, meaning that there would be a potential to build half a million new homes from the straw produced each year.

Not only are the building method and supply chain more environmentally friendly, but also the houses themselves have significantly lower running costs and environmental impact. The bales provide highly efficient insulation and retain heat more effectively than their brick counterparts. The expectation is that the houses in Bath will have energy bills that are up to 90% lower than similar houses in the area.

Innovative construction

In recent years, the construction industry has made significant strides to reduce the environmental impact of and waste in its supply chain. Innovations have included:

  • The ‘house in a box’
  • The use of recycled materials in concrete – leads to reductions in fossil fuel and greenhouse gas production, rain acidification potential and waste
  • Bio-based composite building materials
  • Roof tiles that remove nitrogen oxide from the atmosphere

It’s hoped that these innovations, plus the potential for a wider market for straw houses, could lead to a much more sustainable supply chain and industry as a whole.

For more on the straw houses go to http://www.modcell.com/.

Read on for more of the biggest stories commanding headlines right now:

New guidance aims to keep products of pirate fishing out of UK supply chain

  • Illegal “pirate” fishing damages the environment and human rights, and leads to economic losses of as much as $23.5bn (£15.3 bn) a year, according to fresh guidance which aims to help British businesses keep illegal fish products out of the supply chain and stamp the practice out.
  • A briefing published by retailers, conservation and human rights groups sets out in full how retailers and suppliers should act to end the long-term threat to the oceans, while building up legal and sustainable fisheries.
  • The briefing by the British Retail Consortium, Environmental Justice Foundation and WWF UK is to inform UK industry, retailers and brands of the risks associated with illegal, unreported and unregulated or pirate fishing. It offers advice on risk-assessment and mitigation, and encourages action to prevent illegal fishery products entering UK supply chains. As much as 26 million tonnes of illegal fish products is involved annually.

Read more on The Guardian

Fresh row for Tesco as supermarket giant demands suppliers cut prices as food commodity values fall

  • Tesco risks a fresh dispute with suppliers after it demanded they cut their prices or risk being dropped from supermarket shelves.
  • The grocer has written to suppliers asking them to reflect recent falls in the cost of commodities such as wheat and sugar. In some cases, those who do not decrease their prices have been told they risk being ditched by the supermarket in favour of cheaper rivals.
  • The revelation comes only days after the grocery giant faced a fresh investigation into claims that it bullied firms that it buys goods from. A probe by the supermarkets watchdog the Grocery Code Adjudicator has begun over allegations it charged huge sums to place suppliers’ wares on prominent shelves, even if they were not on promotion.

Read more at This Is Money

How Will Global Supply Chains will be Impacted by Obama’s Budget?

  • In his 2016 budget plan, to be unveiled today, President Obama will propose that U.S. companies’ overseas profits be taxed to fund a major boost in infrastructure spending. These tax proposals could change the way the Tax Efficient Supply Chain (TESC) operates.
  • When highly profitable companies pay little in the way of taxes, negative press coverage can ensue.  But CEOs are asked by financial analysts about their corporate wide effective tax rate (ETR) all the time. This can be a no win situation for a CEO. A company with a high effective tax rate is at a significant disadvantage to industry competitors with low tax rates, particularly in the company’s ability to grow the business. And ultimately a CEO’s tenure is often most strongly impacted by the financial community’s view of his company’s performance.  Not surprisingly, many large companies have restructured to lower their tax burden; it is not unusual for these companies to lower their ETR by about five percent.
  • While supply chain cost savings fall to the pretax bottom line and improve a company’s Net Income position, corporate tax restructuring increases deferred revenues.  Some large corporations are sitting on tens of billions in deferred earnings that can’t be used for stock owner dividends, without being taxed at US rates, but can be used to fund growth and thus future earnings, in a variety of ways.

Visit Logistics Viewpoints to read more

Distribution demands drive investment in logistics properties

  • Ecommerce is fuelling a boom in logistics property investment in Europe, as retailers try to keep pace with changing consumer demands.

  • Investors pumped €19.8bn into properties such as warehousing and distribution hubs in 2014, a seven-year high and a 34 per cent jump year on year as companies scramble to adapt to evolving supply chains and developers position themselves to profit from the thriving sector.

  • The UK led the way, with investment in the sector jumping 65 per cent to €7.9bn, according to Property Data. But investment accelerated on the continent too, as European eretailers expanded and cross-border ecommerce took off.

  • “You’re doing the stuff inside the distribution centres that you used to do inside the shop . . . Companies are having to reorganise their distribution logistics,” said Alan Braithwaite, chairman of LCP Consulting.

Read more at the FT.com

The businessfriend platform offers new way for supply chain execs to do business

  • In a world full of technology, it can become a hectic existence trying to wade through the myriad of business apps as part of your day-to-day working life. But there is a new platform on the horizon which could solve this issue for supply chain executives.
  • Businessfriend is the one-stop communications channel that helps you stay connected with the people and professionals that matter the most to you. Whether that be warehouse operatives, production line managers or managing directors. Consolidating the noise with one effective business communications platform, businessfriend launched on 6 January during the three day CES event in Las Vegas, and it promises to redefine how business is done in the supply chain sector.
  • Glen White, Founder and CEO of businessfriend, said: “On any given day, the typical young professional can have as many as five platforms open to get them through their day. “We offer one complete forum that enables constant connectivity for optimal business communications. One mobile app, one desktop, any device – no more juggling apps.”

Read more at Digital Supply Chain

McDonald’s and the Challenges of a Modern Supply Chain

  • Recently, McDonald’s, the world’s iconic largest food service provider, has been (forgive the cliché) through the grinder. Poor performance has led to the departure of its CEO and plenty of critical attention in the business pages. Part of this story relates to the provenance, or origins, of its products: Chains that provide more upmarket “fast casual” dining such as Panera, Chipotle, and Shake Shack have brands that speak of freshness, health, and trustworthy sourcing.
  • In 2010, I wrote an HBR article predicting increased interest in supply-chain transparency: firms needed to develop strategies for knowing and explaining where stuff comes from. Since then the idea of product provenance has steadily crept up the corporate agenda and is now a compulsory issue for boards and governments. In the UK, for example, legislation is in progress that would build on the California Supply Chain Transparency Act, potentially applying to wider range of firms. Across Europe, the 2013 horsemeat scandal generated widespread panic about contaminated meat. In a wide range of industries — electronics, software, toys, aerospace — provenance is increasingly a critical concern.
  • McDonald’s woes offers three lessons for others about supply-chain transparency. Visit Harvard Business Publishing to read them.

Influencing skills can be learnt – start now

How to persuade and influence

Last week a leading Chief Procurement Officer said that up to 80 per cent of a CPO’s time is spent influencing internal stakeholders.  What does that mean for the ambitious procurement professional?   It means that besides having top class technical skills and experience, to get ahead you need to be a sales person as well.

Listen more, talk less 

Sales training includes advice on how to be an active listener.   As well as giving your full attention to the speaker, it is important that as an active listener you are also seen to be listening.  You can convey your Interest to the speaker by maintaining eye contact or uttering regular words of encouragement to continue.

By giving this ‘feedback”, the person speaking will communicate more easily, openly and honestly with you.  Inter-personal relationships with internal customers are always open for improvement, even if you have been trained repeatedly in “soft skills”.

You can develop a reputation for being approachable and for solving your users’ routine problems. Without stating the obvious, attitude speaks volumes.

The powers of persuasion 

It is important to position yourself as a credible, trustworthy and knowledgeable person if you want users to follow your way of thinking.  Understanding human nature and the principles of persuading and influencing can help create better working relationships.

Persuasion is presenting your case so that you can sway opinions or motivate a decision, usually by appealing to their emotions.   Dr. Robert Cialdini, the author of the popular book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion talks about reciprocity. Your internal customers will feel better disposed to your overtures if you can give them something personalized or unexpected. They may even get to like you.  His six principles are beautifully explained in this info graphic drawn by Everreach.

Change management

Much of a CPO’s time is spent in managing change, traditionally not a mainstream procurement function.  Conventional wisdom says 20 per cent will embrace change, 60 per cent will go along with it, but 20 per cent will outright reject it.

Knowing how to handle the bottom 20 per cent can save you time, money and stress.  The implications of ignoring stakeholders that have a vested interest in a given solution cause extra work, aggravation and a poor result.  Remind yourself that they are always thinking of this acronym:  WIIFM  –  what’s in it for me?

Dale Carnegie wrote a classic in 1937 called How to Win Friends and Influence People which is still completely relevant today. He teaches the principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated. He also emphasises fundamental techniques for handling people without making them feel manipulated.

Knowing how to approach people and make them feel important is a skill that will work for you forever. Stakeholder management is developing into a core competency.

How to reap the benefits of the conference circuit

How to get the most out of conferences

At Procurious, we’re obviously big advocates for online social networking, we’ve outlined the career and personal benefits of partaking herehere and here.

However, we want to use this blog post to remind you all of the importance of incorporating traditional face-to-face events and conferences into your networking program.

Should you need any convincing, we’ve listed some of the benefits you’ll reap from attending conferences and events below.

You’ll get a sense that you are not alone in the world

Lets face it, procurement can be isolating at times. Have you ever sat at your desk and questioned your approach to a certain problem? It could be negotiating new terms with a supplier or trying to get a bigger slice of your CPO’s time. Well chances are in hundreds of offices across the world, other procurement professionals are pondering exactly the same problems. Conferences are an opportunity for you to meet these people, share your challenges and potentially come up with some solutions.

You’ll learn about the full breadth of your industry

At a good conference, everyone is present: be it tech providers, consulting groups, journalists or fellow procurement professionals. It’s incredible to see the diversity of companies and potential careers that are supported by the procurement function.

You’ll be exposed to new technologies

Conferences are a place where technology providers and consulting groups come to pitch their wares. While sales calls from these organisations may be disruptive and tedious while you’re at your desk, at conferences you have the opportunity to sit back and evaluate these solutions on their merit. Not sure about the new supplier relationship management tool you heard about before lunch? Why not find someone from a company that has already implemented the solution and get the inside word?

You’ll get an opportunity to take stock

Taking time away from the office to step back from the day-to-day and engage with other professionals on a strategic level can help to refocus your efforts when you’re back at the desk. Conferences not only provide a new perspective on old problems, they also serve as a great opportunity to reinvigorate your efforts.

It’s an opportunity to position yourself as an expert

Whether it’s a formal presenting role or simply speaking-up during a roundtable discussion, conferences provide a pedestal for you to display your knowledge and expertise. Events are a fantastic opportunity to grow your profile within the function.

You’ll experience a diverse range of opinions

While you may not agree with everyone’s point of view (how boring would the world be if you did?), the opinions of others will challenge your own personal beliefs and may encourage you to tackle issues from another angle. Unless you’re certain there is no way you could possibly improve as a procurement professional, it is definitely worth listening to what others have to say. As Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

You’ll have fun

One Republic will play at Microsoft Convergence this year (maybe that’s not everyone’s idea of fun), Boris Becker presented the trophies at last year’s Procurement Leaders Awards and Bill Clinton is popping up more frequently on the corporate speaking tour. So, despite what many say, conferences can be a great opportunity to have fun! Great food, open bars, hotel rooms and exciting cities – what else do you need?

You can turn it into a vacation

The procurement conference schedule is packed with events lined up all over the world. Savvy conference organisers have figured out that you are more likely to attend events towards the end of the week and have adjusted their timetables accordingly. What this means is that conferences have become a great excuse for you (and your loved ones) to take an extended city break. Further your career and win some brownie points with your spouse in the same week? No brainer!

Remember, at these events engagement is key. Don’t be shy, get out and talk to people, tell them your problems, listen to theirs, talk about the presentations, interact, learn and enjoy. The more conferences you attend, the easier the networking becomes – you’ll feel more comfortable catching up with the colleagues you’ve met at previous events and the benefits of these catch-ups will magnify.

Here’s the problem: convincing you on the value of conferences is the easy part, but ultimately it’s not you we need to convince is it? Your boss holds the budget and has the final say as to whether or not you attend conferences.

Keep an eye on Procurious because next week, we’ll give you a guide on ‘how to ask you boss to pay for your next conference’.

How to navigate the tricky path to procurement accreditation

Procurement accreditation and qualifications

At Procurious, we are all about changing the face of procurement and encouraging and engaging with the next generation of procurement professionals.

Discussion wraps allow us to consolidate the knowledge of the whole community and keep the conversation going on the key issues and themes.

Achieving and Leveraging Professional Accreditation

People are constantly looking to develop personally and professionally. A number of questions have been asked about accreditation – routes for achievement, how it can be leveraged, is it worth it and how to get into it.

There are a few routes for accreditation open to procurement professionals, with the most common being CIPS through study and exams, an MSc through an accredited university or distance learning.

While there was no consensus on the best route to take, there was a consensus that having these qualifications and being a member of CIPS was necessary for procurement professionals and often used as a requirement for recruitment.

Things to consider when selecting a route were:

  • Practical application
  • Acceptability in your organisation
  • Balance of theory vs. practice
  • What your long-term career goals are
  • What you as an individual want to do

One of the agreed themes was that many organisations would sponsor studying through the CIPS route, as they push for their departments to be adequately qualified.

Having achieved MCIPS, or other accreditation, the question was could you leverage it in salary or promotion negotiations.

The consensus from the community was that these qualifications added value to your personal offering, but that having them would not normally lead directly to an increased salary in isolation.

It was important to demonstrate improvements, highlight practical applications and present a track record of accomplishments to managers in order to properly leverage qualifications.

For more on routes to MCIPS, go to the CIPS website: http://www.cips.org/en-GB/membership/What-is-MCIPS/Routes-to-Membership/

For distance learning opportunities, check out the recommendation from the community of Canban: www.canban.org