The Dangers Of Dirty Data

Is your organisation working with ‘dirty data’? How would you know? And, what impact is it having? This article has everything you need to know about doing a quick spot check, spotting procurement problems, identifying savings, and more importantly, making sure your data has its COAT on.


We all think we know what dirty data is, but it can mean very different things depending on who you speak to.  At its most basic level, dirty data is anything incorrect.  In detail within procurement, it could be misspelled vendors, incorrect Invoice descriptions, missing product codes, lack of standard units of measure (e.g. ltr, L, litres), currency issues, duplicate invoices or incorrect/partially classified data.

Dirty data can affect the whole organisation, and we all have an impact on, and responsibility for the data we work with.  Accurate data should be everyone’s responsibility,  but currently across many organisations data is the sole responsibility of a person or department, and everyone trusts them to make sure the data is accurate.

But, they tend to be specialists in data, analytics and coding, not procurement.  They don’t have the experience to know when a hotel should be classified as accommodation or as venue hire, or what direct, indirect or tail spend is and its importance or priority.

How many times have you been working with a data set and noticed a small error but not said anything, or just manually corrected something from an automated report, just get it out the door on time?  It feels like too much of an inconvenience to find the right person to notify, so you just correct the error each time yourself, or you raise a ticket for the issue but never get round to checking if it’s resolved. 

These small errors that you think aren’t that important can filter all the way up to the top of an organisation through reports and dashboards where critical decisions are being made.  It happens almost every day.

How does this affect my organisation?

There are many ways, but one of the most widespread and noticeable impacts is around reporting and analytics.  If you’re in senior management, you will most likely receive a dashboard from your team that you could be using to review cost savings, supplier negotiations, rationalisation, forecasting or budgets.

What if within that dashboard was £25k of cleaning spend under IBM?  I can already hear you saying “that’s ridiculous” – well, it is obvious when pointed out, but I have seen with my own eyes IBM classified as cleaning.  It can happen easily and occurs more frequently than you might think.

Back to that dashboard that you are using to make decisions, you’ll see increased spend in your cleaning category, and a decrease in your IT spend, which could affect discounts with your supplier, your forecast for the year, monitoring of contract compliance etc…  It could even affect reporting of your inventory,  it appears you need more laptops, and unnecessary purchases are made. 

When there are tens or hundreds of thousands of rows of data, errors will occur multiple times across many suppliers.  And for the wider organisation, this could affect demand planning, sales, marketing and financial decisions.

And then there are technology implementations.  Rarely is data preparation considered before the implementation of any new software or systems, and there can even be the assumption that the software supplier will do this, which may not be the case, and if they do provide that service it might not be good enough.

It can be very far into the process of implementation before this is uncovered, by which time staff have lost faith in using the software, are disengaged, claim it doesn’t work, or they don’t trust it because “it’s wrong”.  

At this point, it either costs a lot of money to fix and you have to hope staff will engage again, or the project is abandoned.  In either case, this can take months and cost thousands, not millions of pounds/euros/dollars in abandoned software or reparation work.

You might also be considering using, or engaging with a 3rd party supplier that uses AI, machine learning or some form of automation.  I can’t emphasise enough the importance of cleansing and preparing your data before using any of these tools. 

Think back to the IBM example, each quarter the data is refreshed automatically with the cleaning classification, that £25k becomes £50k, then £75k the following quarter, it’s only when the value becomes significant that someone notices the issue.  By this stage, how many decisions have been based on this incorrect information?

How can this be resolved?

Truthfully, it’s with a lot of hard work.  There’s no magic bullet or miracle solution out there to improve the accuracy of your data: you have to use your team or an experienced professional to get the job done. Get your team to familiarise themselves with the data. If they are reviewing and maintaining it regularly they will soon be able to spot errors in the data quickly and efficiently.

If you think about data accuracy in terms of COAT, this will help to manage your data.

It should always be Consistent – everyone working to the same standards; Organised – categorised properly; and Accurate – correct.  And only when you have these things will it also be Trustworthy – you wouldn’t drive around in a car without a regular inspection would you?

How to spot procurement problems and identify savings

Accurate data is important, but in its raw state, it’s not the whole story.  As a procurement professional you’re tasked with ensuring the best prices for products or services, as well as ensuring contract compliance on those prices, along with cost reductions and monitoring any maverick spend … to name but a few!

Accurate data alone will not help achieve this, I strongly recommend supplier normalisation and spend data classification to help quickly and efficiently manage spend and suppliers, monitor pricing and spot any potential misuse of budgets.

How do I get started?

With a spreadsheet of spend transactions over a period of time such as 12 to 24 months, the first step should be Supplier Normalisation, where a new column is added to consolidate several versions of the same company to get a true picture of spend with that one supplier.  For example, I.B.M, IBM Ltd, I.B.M. would all be normalised to IBM.

Data can be classified using minimum information, such as Supplier Name, Invoice/PO line description and value. To get more from the data, other factors can then be added in, such as unit price. Where unit price information is not available, the quantity can be divided by the overall value.

A suitable taxonomy will then need to be found to classify the data.  It can be an off the shelf product such as ProClass, UNSPSC, PROC-HE, or a taxonomy can be customised so it’s specific to your organisation or industry.

This initial stage may take months if you are working with large volumes of data. It might be worth considering outsourcing this initial task to professionals experienced in this area, who will be able to complete the project in a shorter time, with greater accuracy.

Avoiding common pitfalls

There are a number of ways to classify the data> However, to get started, look for keywords in the Supplier Name and then the Description column.  The description of services could include ‘hotel, taxi, cleaning services, cleaning products, etc., however, it’s important to carefully check the descriptions before classifying, or errors could be introduced.  A classic example is “taxi from hotel to restaurant”, depending on which keyword you search for first, it could end up being misclassified as transport, or venue costs.

I wouldn’t advise classifying row by row, as it could take more than twice as long to complete the file using this method.  Start with keywords, followed by the highest value suppliers which you can get from a pivot table of the data if you’re working in Excel.

Identifying opportunities

Once classified, charts can be built to analyse the data.  The analysis could include, ‘top 80% of suppliers by spend’; ‘number of suppliers by category’; ‘unit price by product by month’;  ‘spend by category’; or ‘spend by month.’

Patterns should start to emerge which could reveal unusually high or low spend in a category, irregular pricing, higher than expected use of services, or a higher than expected number of suppliers within a category. 

Why you should strive for data accuracy and classification?

Data accuracy is an investment, not a cost.  Address the issues at the beginning: while it might seem like a costly exercise, you will undoubtedly spend less than if you have a to resolve an issue further down the line with a time-consuming and costly data clean-up operation.  And by involving the whole team or organisation, it will be much easier to manage and maintain the most accurate data possible.

Spend data classification shows you the whole picture, as long as it’s accurate.  You can get a true view of your spend, allowing improved cost savings, better contract compliance and possibly the most important – preventing costly mistakes before they happen.

So, does your data have its COAT on? What does ‘dirty data’ mean to you? Let me know below!

Susan Walsh is the founder of The Classification Guru, a specialist in spend data classification, supplier normalisation and taxonomies.  You can contact her at [email protected] https://www.procurious.com/professionals/susan-walsh

5 Barriers To Achieving End-To-End Supply Chain Visibility

Is it possible to get real-time, end-to-end visibility across your supply chain? Absolutely. But only if you have the right tools.


Since the term “supply chain” was first coined, we’ve all been searching for the holy grail: end-to-end supply chain visibility.

Now, as we recover from the initial shocks of the pandemic and manage through ongoing challenges, we need it more than ever.  But is total visibility actually possible? 

That was our question for Takshay Aggarwal, Global Lead Digital Supply Chain Partner at IBM Global Business Services.

Takshay and Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently talked about building resiliency in a disruptive environment.

A flawed strategy

Prior to the pandemic, a “just in time” inventory management strategy worked wonderfully well for most supply chains, but “just in time is only able to respond to certain fluctuations,” Takshay said. 

When the pandemic drove large-scale disruption, the strategy unravelled. Retailers, for example, were left with empty shelves, late deliveries, and no warning about shipping delays.

And it wasn’t just retail. Industries across the board lacked critical products because companies didn’t have visibility into their tier 2 to tier 10 suppliers – where 40% of supply chain disruptions occur.

Suddenly, companies were scrambling to change supply strategies. 

“The companies who have started on transformation journeys before COVID have fared much better,” Takshay said.

In fact, IBM’s visibility of its own internal supply chain meant it could predict the supply chain impact from the pandemic much sooner than most. 

Path to resilience

So how do you get that same level of visibility and resiliency across your supply chain?

It starts by asking the right question.

“[People should be asking] ‘what kind of supply chain do I need to have?’” Takshay said. 

That’s why the smart companies are re-balancing their risk appetite. 

A real control tower

A resilient supply chain is a transparent supply chain. And the only way to get that crucial visibility is having a smart control tower.

The concept of a control tower isn’t new. It’s a place to pool data from across your supply chain, and use it to make informed decisions.

The right tower helps you see problems a long way off, so you can minimise disruption and maximise profitability. 

But Takshay noted a worrying trend in procurement where any sort of dashboard is called a “control tower”. 

That’s a problem, since most inventory control towers are seriously limited. And you can’t make excellent decisions without knowing the full picture.

Takshay pointed to the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Control Tower as a huge development that finally gives companies the end-to-end visibility they crave.

Here’s how the sophisticated tower can help you overcome the five biggest barriers to visibility.

Problem 1) Most inventory control towers don’t work across silos.

A huge frustration is most control towers can’t handle all the siloed systems of today’s complex enterprises.

It’s a bit like depending on an air traffic controller who can only see part of the runway.

Takshay noted IBM’s control tower works seamlessly with ERP systems, warehouse management, demand planning, order management, e-commerce platforms, and logistics. 

You get one version of the truth across your entire inventory.

Problem 2) Most control towers only show you an inside-out view. 

It’s a big task to monitor operations across the supply chain. But you’re severely limited if your systems won’t sync up with your suppliers’.

That’s why the IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower makes it easy to work across business partner network.

The result? You can make decisions with confidence, knowing you have all the external information you need.

Problem 3) Most tower controls can’t get into the nitty-gritty detail.

A crucial flaw in most control towers is they lack granular detail. That’s a pretty big issue when your job hinges on knowing the right details.

So instead of depending on people to enter the right data in the right place at just the right time, there’s a smarter way.

IBM’s control tower gives you the microscopic detail you need to make confident decisions. 

Problem 4) Most tower controls are inflexible.

A major drawback for most inventory control towers is the rigid structure. 

There’s only one way to input data, and don’t even dream of changing the architecture. But the pandemic showed us how fast everything can change and how flexible and agile your supply chain needs to be to respond effectively.

You need a control tower that can keep up with the reality of supply chains today. That’s why the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Control Tower is ideal. It adapts to fit your business needs – no matter how quickly they change.

Problem 5) Most control towers predict the future based on past events. 

If you don’t have real-time visibility across your supply chain, you are making decisions based on past events, Takshay said.

At the very least, a control tower should give you current information. But IBM takes it a step further with predictive capabilities.

The control tower looks for patterns in your data – flagging possible issues before they happen. That way, you can quickly adapt and avoid disruption.

Don’t wait for perfection

Control towers go a long way toward visibility and resiliency, but they aren’t a silver bullet, Takshay said.

So instead of waiting for perfection, start bringing your systems together now. 

“The more visibility and the more integration, the more resilience,” Takshay said. “You’re able to bounce back much faster.”

If you want greater supply chain resiliency, you need greater visibility.

And you’ll get that level of visibility if you choose a control tower that actually gives you control. 

Watch the full webinar – Building Resiliency in a Disruptive Environment: How Control Towers Make a Difference – for free >

How To Get Ahead While Working From Home

Putting yourself out there is more difficult in a Work From Home environment, but by maintaining a strong social media presence, expanding your network online, volunteering your ideas and services and harvesting good feedback regarding your work, your presence and value can be felt beyond the WFH setting.


It’s a truth of working life that it’s not enough to be good at your job to get ahead. You also need “exposure”, to be able to network both inside and outside your organisation, and to be visible to those dishing out the stretch assignments and opportunities.

With many of us now working from home much more regularly and for the foreseeable future (in the UK, the Royal Bank of Scotland recently informed staff that they would be working from home until 2021), how can you ‘be seen’ when you haven’t seen anyone outside of a Zoom call for months? Without your boss’s boss dropping by your desk for a quick chat, how can you let them know that you’ve been smashing it?

Here are some tips to consider if you want to get ahead while working from home…

Be visible

As working from home becomes more normalised (rather than the ‘trying to work from home during a pandemic’ that we’ve all been experiencing to date), think about how you can remain visible to those that matter. This doesn’t mean ‘digital presenteeism’ (hello, sending 11pm emails…) but rather keeping yourself on people’s radar. Be sure to speak up in meetings and Q&A sessions. Continue to post on your organisation’s internal and external social media channels. Keeping your head down and getting the job done won’t get you ahead.

Network

Just because we can’t see each other in person, doesn’t mean you can’t spend some time on strengthening and growing your networks. Attend those relationship-building virtual drinks with colleagues – or why not set up your own? Connect with those whose opinions you value and who you can learn from over a virtual coffee. Give public kudos and praise to your co-workers (when deserved of course). If you’re serious about your progression, why not seek out a mentor? You can develop a mentoring relationship just as successfully virtually as you can in person. If you think you want to move on soon, develop relationships with recruiters and headhunters, and keep those relationships alive even if you are not looking to move soon.

Keep a record of your success

Procurement and supply professionals have been doing some stellar work during the COVID-19 crisis. Make sure you keep a record of your successes and positive feedback from colleagues, suppliers, clients and other stakeholders. Doing so serves several purposes. It can help you build a case for internally promotion, pay rises and progression. It can help you quickly update your CV when you decide it’s time to move on. And – not to be overlooked – it can help boost your self-confidence if you’re having a bad day or feeling wobbly before an important meeting.

Put yourself forward

If you don’t ask for something, you don’t get it. If there are internal opportunities, such as getting involved with special projects, stretch assignments or joining high potential development programmes, don’t wait to be asked to join. This is particularly important for home workers who otherwise might be overlooked for opportunities. Make sure you keep your ear to the ground so you hear about these opportunities when they arise. And don’t be afraid to create your own. We are heading into a period of immense global disruption. It’s scary, but it also creates opportunity. If you have an innovative idea, pitch it to your boss. What’s the worst that could happen?

Of course, while there are career management strategies individuals can try, this is a bigger issue that relies so much on company culture. Organisations need to be alert to the risk of ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups developing, discriminating against those with caring responsibilities, most likely to be women, or health conditions that prevent them heading back to the office.

Leaders need to carefully consider how to manage career progression in an age of remote working and managers need to learn how to manage by outcomes rather than presenteeism (digital or otherwise). Think about issues like running inclusive hybrid meetings: does it make more sense for everyone to dial in separately if even one person isn’t there in person? Can you invest in technology (like ‘The Meeting Owl’) to create a more inclusive and frictionless meeting experience for everyone, whether they are in the room or not?

When it comes to getting ahead remotely, perhaps the most powerful thing you could do is to take the initiative in suggesting new and more inclusive ways of working. The pandemic has proven that for many roles, where you do them has little to do with impact or productivity. We all now need to play a part in ensuring that isn’t forgotten as we move into the ‘new normal’.

What do you think? Comment below!

Beyoncé And Supply Chain Diversity

Are our supply chains tunnel-visioned, or do they support a diverse range of ethnic minorities, women, military veterans, people with disability, or ex-offenders trying to build a new life?


A few months ago, Beyoncé dropped a surprise new single. Hang on, what’s that got to do with Procurement with Purpose (PwP), I hear you say?

Well, apart from the fact the sing is really rather good, Black Parade is linked to her wider initiatives around charitable work (through her BeyGood initiative), black empowerment and consciousness. Revenue from the track is being used to benefit BeyGood’s Black Business Impact Fund – administered by the National Urban League – to support black-owned small businesses in need.

She has also launched a directory of black-owned businesses ranging from art & design, restaurants, beauty products, lifestyle, wellness, bookstores and more. It’s a fairly basic site, and pretty much all the firms listed there appear to be B2C (consumer focused) rather than B2B. But her move may raise more questions about how organisations approach their corporate buying, in particular when it comes to minority-owned businesses that could be used as suppliers. Recent events and the Black Lives Matter movement have made many of us think about racism and bias in our lives, and that applies in the supply chain as much as it does anywhere. So, that takes us back to procurement with purpose.

Diversity (broadly speaking now) in the supply chain is actually one of the most fascinating topics within the whole PwP world. For a start, there are any different types of diversity. Should you buy more from firms owned by people from black and other ethnic groups? What about female-owned businesses? Or those owned by folks with disabilities or health issues – or maybe those firms that employ such people? What about firms that are owned by support military veterans, or ex-offenders trying to build a new life?

Or maybe it’s not the ownership that matters. What about SMEs (smaller firms)?  Some would suggest that those businesses drive successful economies and by supporting them at an early stage, buyers can capture innovation and also promote wider social and economic benefits. Others, particularly in the public sector, look to support local business, on the grounds that this will keep the money flowing in the local economy rather than being sucked up to some distant head office.

All these options mean it can be hard to know where to start. But in many countries, it is clear that minority-owned businesses in particular do have a tough time as they have to overcome all the usual hurdles faced by start-ups anywhere, plus they face the bias (conscious or unconscious) that does exist.

We’re  not going to solve that problem in one article today,  but as well as highlighting that this may develop into a high-profile issue, a few suggestions for now.

·         Firstly, take a look at how easy it is for any new or small firm to become a supplier to you. How can they put themselves forward? Are your supplier qualification and selection processes designed for huge firms, rather than start-ups? Do you put accidental barriers in the way, demanding onerous contract terms, expensive insurance and so on? Too many large firms are virtually impossible to break into, which is not good for the agility and dynamism of their supply base, never mind the difficulty for minority-owned suppliers.

·         Secondly, if you haven’t looked at these issues, seek out organisations that can help you work out an approach. MSDUK has done good work in the UK to promote minority owned businesses, WEConnect International does the same with female owned enterprises, and there are others covering different groups and issues and across different countries.  The good news is that large organisations don’t have to move very much of their spend into supporting these causes to really make a difference.

·         Thirdly, there are some good case studies around. Accenture has been one of the leaders in this area with their supplier inclusion and diversity programme, and there are others who have made strides in this field.

·         And finally, how about Beyoncé for US Vice-President?

This article was originally published by Procurement With Purpose on 20 June 2020 and is republished here with permission.

How Some Strategic Sourcing Technologies Fall Short

Moving to a true strategic sourcing plan can bring increased efficiency and huge cost savings. But why do so many fall short of this? Technology is evolving rapidly making many once cutting-edge solutions obsolete. Finding the right fit can be a struggle – this article has everything you need to know about sourcing tech.


Strategic sourcing is not a particularly new concept, but the market is evolving rapidly. Applications have become increasingly sophisticated and in the near to medium term future we will see more strategic spend management via advanced analysis and AI-based sourcing with more “fuzzy” intelligence that increasingly guides the user to the optimum solution.

TechTarget defines strategic sourcing as follows:

Strategic sourcing is an approach to supply chain management that formalizes the way information is gathered and used so that an organization can use its consolidated purchasing power to find the best possible values in the marketplace and align its purchasing strategy to business goals. 

One reason that organizations often struggle to achieve true strategic sourcing is that the tools they are using, such as reverse auctions and eRFXs, which once represented the cutting edge of sourcing technology, are too limited in scope and lacking in integration, both with other procurement modules and with third party software suites. This is especially problematic when it comes to large events and bundling items in which there are many variables and business objectives.

In its recent Market Guide for eSourcing applications, Gartner Group identified four phases of the evolution of eSourcing:

Basic RFQ and RFI (request for quote/information)

This is where things started back in the nineties. Specifications had to be very precise and buyers generally sought the lowest price and/or best delivery availability. Early digital sourcing platforms were primarily designed for indirect sourcing of categories such as IT hardware, computers, office furniture and supplies, where there are multiple suppliers with little differentiation. This worked just as well for non-strategic direct categories (materials and components used in production). Purchasing teams could therefore shop around to find the fastest, cheapest option available, and so long as the tool could take into account cost breakdown models, resource costs, taxes, and one-time costs like setup and onboarding, there was a good chance that projected savings would be realized.

Standard eSourcing 

Standard eSourcing then built on RFQ capabilities to support more complex RFIs and RFPs (request for proposals). According to Gartner, “They are typically used to solicit supplier responses and pricing for strategic spend categories. Specifications may or may not be clearly defined.” At this stage eSourcing becomes more strategic, multiple stakeholders are included in the buying process truly creating a strategic team. The modules are increasingly deployed as part of an entire suite which also includes spend analysis, CLM and supplier management. Also, we see distinct solutions for indirect and direct (or bill of materials (BOM)) categories. As Gartner states, “more advanced analysis and capabilities require integration with PLM and BOM. This is often better suited for vendors that specialize in direct spend or those that support all spend categories.” 

These applications also typically support various auction formats, multi-round bidding, response scoring and proposal analysis. A further aspect is that the detail level of direct procurement requires special capabilities in software, and all of these needs to integrate seamlessly with the ERP/MRP system.

Advanced sourcing optimization (ASO)

ASO is the current state of the art for handling complex category bidding that must analyze large volumes of data points. This is best represented by JAGGAER’s Sourcing Optimizer, capable of analyzing thousands of data points using algorithms to determine the optimal award decision quickly. This makes it suitable for highly complex sourcing events such as multimodal transportation, where there are hundreds of potential scenarios and dozens of rules which buyers use to try to identify a “sweet spot” with the optimum number of suppliers for an optimum number of scenarios. Users do not always know exactly what they are aiming for in such events, as they need to navigate through complexities such as limited knowledge, tradeoffs and time limits.

Artificial intelligence in sourcing

AI-based sourcing is where we are headed. This emerging technology will integrate itself across all aspects of sourcing. In the coming years AI will transform sourcing and will have the ability to automate entire sourcing events. This will be a very attractive option for handling the vast majority of sourcing functions that are high volume-’low cost’ and can be accurately recommended from AI. This will free up professionals’ time to focus on the high value sourcing events as well as the larger sourcing strategy.

One direction that is already clear is the development of preference-based extensions to advanced sourcing optimization, enabling the user to add fuzzy preferences on top of the firm rules already entered. In a transportation event, the AI technology explores possible solutions to narrow in on the best options. The user can go through several iterations to get the ideal result. On top of this advanced decision support, AI-based sourcing will include increased automation, eliminating much of the routine involved in sourcing.

Sourcing for CapEx Events

We have mentioned indirect and direct sourcing, but capital expenditure projects offer a third type of sourcing event with dramatically different requirements. They are project-based, meaning that many different purchase orders and contracts need to be bundled together and tracked against a common project budget. Furthermore, these events are extremely complex and detailed, and they have long timeframes. Projects may last multiple years. Any sourcing platform for CapEx needs to be able to track events over time.

Capital expenditure projects also often involve many different supply bases in one project. Consider a building project that involves a concrete foundation, steel framing, glass work, electricity, and more. Then there’s paving for the parking lot and landscaping for the surrounding areas. It’s essential that the digital tool can track multiple types of expenses in one solution. Plus, many items might be sourced weeks or months in advance. The solution should support this kind of detailed project planning.

For all of these reasons, strategic sourcing is challenging for major CapEx projects. There is also ample scope for the integration of artificial intelligence to predict and reduce costs, schedule and reduce cycle times while increasing customer satisfaction and managing regulatory and CSR data. It is important that all providers should be compliant, and the sourcing process needs to capture this information. Having the right strategic sourcing approach and the appropriate tools to support that are vital.

What are your thoughts on how technology is creating an opportunity for more strategic sourcing? Let us know in the comments!

How To Write The Best Supply Chain Resume

Write the ultimate Procurement resume that is both eye-catching and optimised towards securing your ideal next Supply Chain role.


I have worked in executive supply chain recruitment for 16 years. I built a Supply Chain & Procurement career site that ranked number 1 in Google for a variety of top search terms. As such, I understand how important it is to build a strong resume that makes an early impact with the reader and really aligns you to role that you are applying for. 

Throughout this article we will explore the elements to focus on to set yourself apart from the competition and build a strong resume that conveys your skills, values and experience in the best possible way.

Early impact

I have read claims that the reviewer of a resume will make a subconscious decision on candidate suitability for a given position within around 7 seconds of opening/picking up the document. Although this may seem harsh, it goes without saying that if a role advertisement has generated 200 responses then it is more than likely the reviewer will not be reading all the content of each and every resume. This makes the opening page even more important.

Layout

Layout is always high on the list of priorities when it comes to creating an attention grabbing procurement resume. The reader should be able to find information readily and the presentation of the document is key to this being possible. Having reviewed thousands of supply chain and procurement related resumes in my time in recruitment, I can honestly say that layout needs to be your number one priority and should gear the resume towards the presentation of your best achievements and most impressive responsibilities held during your career.

For developing an eye catching design theme there are free tools on the internet such as Canva that offer a resume builder tool with access to hundreds of template themes.

Executive Summary

Many job seekers opt for an executive summary or profile at the top of the resume. This is absolutely fine however DO NOT get this wrong as this is the preface to the entire document.

Try to incorporate some of your biggest achievements into your opening profile with plenty of quantifiable data. For example:

MBA qualified Supply Chain executive with 20 years experience within the FMCG and Retail sectors leading teams of up to 600 indirect reports and P&Ls in excess of $600m

In one fell swoop you have provided the reader with an idea of your level of education, number of years experience, sector specific background, size of teams managed and level of budgetary responsibility.

Two or three sentences covering your responsibilities and biggest achievements should suffice to create a captivating opening statement.

Play to your Strengths

Another tip for resume layout is to play to your strengths: if you are educated to MBA or Masters level, or have a function specific Degree(s), then bring these to the forefront of the resume. A brief section for educational qualifications underneath Profile/Executive Summary will suffice. This could be particularly important for a recent graduate who has 6 months work experience but 4 years study in the procurement area – education can take on more of a priority than professional experience in such a case. If, however you do not possess any tertiary qualifications, you should bring your practical professional experience to the forefront and leave any reference to education towards the end of the document.

Career Summary

We have explored the creation of a concise opening statement with plenty of impact and the promotion of significant educational qualifications on the front page, now let’s consider a career summary.

Career summaries are a great way to provide the reader with immediate access to what your most recent role has been, how your career has gone to date, and should demonstrate a consistent increase in level of responsibility up until your current role. Times when career summaries should be avoided include recent graduates (for obvious reasons) and potentially interim contracts specialists. An interim contract project manager for instance may have worked at 20 or more companies in the last 5 years and therefore listing all the individual contracts in one list becomes exactly that – a list and not a summary! For an interim specialist or even a project manager it could be worth considering listing key competencies or areas of specialty – I would even recommend tailoring the resume further towards the opening by aligning all the contracts/projects that are most relevant – For instance “Examples of Strategic Transformation Projects”.

Having invested time in developing these areas of your front page, the reader now knows where you have worked, your level of education (if appropriate), some of your greatest achievements and is becoming well equipped to assess your suitability for the position … quickly!

Resume Length

Another point on layout is the age old question of how long the resume should be. The simple answer is the document should be long enough to include everything of relevance to the position you are applying for.

You should try and keep the resume to no more that 4 pages according to the Career Development Association of Australia.

Really focus on what you have achieved in the last 5 years, however if a role you executed 8 years prior is highly relevant (either due to specific industry sector or responsibilities) then develop this further. You should really be including just key highlights in terms of overall responsibility and achievements from your early career. If the last time you updated your resume was 6 years ago, then avoid simply adding to the document. The reason for this is times have moved on and your primary focus is what has happened in these last 6 years. By adding to the old version you will essentially be making the document unnecessarily lengthy and should first trim down the previous version always remembering to quantify responsibility and achievements to build credibility.

Order

Resumes should always be in reverse chronological order (seems logical?) as this highlights your most recent experience early in the document. I would always recommend including a brief description on the size, scope and nature of a business you have worked for. Yes, if you worked for 10 years with a leading bank then of course a resume reviewer from another bank is likely to be well informed on the company you have worked for. However, what happens if you decide to apply for a role in another industry sector? What if the resume reviewer is overseas and knows nothing of your organisation?

Then comes the role title, responsibilities and achievements. Procurement is an area where even the same job titles can have different degrees of focus and responsibility from one company to the next. You should leave the reader in no doubt as to the scope of your role/department/team/project. Never duplicate your job description on the resume: this is obvious to the reader. You can however use your job description as a point of reference to ensure you haven’t missed any key areas of responsibility.

Point of reference

Since your interview will involve questions, The trick around resume content is to include everything that is relevant but to leave enough for you to articulate further at an interview. Remember, you should easily be able to expand upon anything included on your resume at interview. Therefore, for any key achievements (most likely around strategic sourcing/spend reduction/ process formulation and optimisation/ stakeholder engagement/vendor management etc) you should be able to take the interviewer through the exact steps taken by you and the team. This last point is quite resounding since it never looks good to take sole credit for achievements that were part of a wider departmental/organisational agenda with many people involved. It’s absolutely fine to outline the parameters that you and your team drove to achieve a desired outcome if the contribution was significant to overall success.

Me, myself and I

Do not write resumes in third person sense e.g. “Stephen drove improved supplier engagement through….”. This gives the appearance the resume was concocted by another individual. In the same breath it is worth mentioning you should avoid using “I” frequently. In the previous example the sentence could start with “Improved supplier engagement through…”.

Target Roles

We can debate all day long about what makes an outstanding supply chain resume, however the main determining factor around the strength of a resume is what we are benchmarking the document against – i.e. the role to which the resume is being put forward. You could have a really strong general supply chain resume that details everything we have reviewed above, but when we look at the resume against a specific role it lacks depth in certain areas or spends too much time focusing on non-value added topics. If a job seeker is sitting down to write their resume, then as much as they should focus on what they have achieved to date, they should also consider what types of roles they will be interested in that meet their aspirations. Ensure you demonstrate the desired criteria and experience in your resume document for these types of positions. This will also strengthen your resume’s searchability in recruitment systems and it will also help you to concoct a strong Linkedin profile that can be found by headhunters searching for candidates against a role that fits your aspirations.

Social Links

Be sure to include your contact details and links to professional social media profiles such as Linkedin. If you notice that your Linkedin profile ends in a series of numbers you can actually change this through editing your profile and updating the profile URL (subject to availability).

Format

After having created an impactful and well presented resume you should consider saving the file in a couple of different formats.

Microsoft Word should form the basis of your resume building and editing however you may wish to convert to a PDF file for application submission. My recommendation when dealing through recruiters would be to ask if they would prefer the resume to be sent in Word or PDF format. Most recruitment firms will edit the resume with their own branding and remove and candidate contact details. This can become very difficult if the resume is in PDF format and lead to formatting issues.

The job market is currently at its most competitive and having the best possible resume increases your chances of securing an interview for your ideal next role. Do you have any other suggestions for what makes an outstanding resume? Let us know in the comments below!

Is It Fair Game, Or Not OK, To Send Your Supplier A Letter Demanding Cost Cuts?

Is it acceptable – or not – to send your supplier a letter asking for a discount? You would be surprised…


Here at Procurious, we’re always trying to be progressive, challenge the status quo and push for our profession to be more innovative and value-adding. And in good news, we’re starting to see that many in our community feel the same. How do we know? 

In a now-viral post on LinkedIn, our Founder, Tania Seary, posited the question: Is it fair, or not okay, to send your supplier a letter asking for cost cuts? 50,000 views and 60 comments later, we now know this is a hot topic for our community!

It’s something we’ve debated before, but not to this degree. So in times where businesses all over the world are struggling, and there’s more pressure on procurement than ever before to secure discounts and keep organisations moving (or afloat?), is it fair game to demand cost cuts from your suppliers? Here’s a snapshot of what everyone thought … see if you agree. 

‘A stuck in the nineties’ approach

The vast majority of people who commented on our post did agree that this year has been a particularly challenging one for businesses and by association, for procurement. One Senior Procurement Director summed it up when he said: 

‘Procurement leaders need to be looking for cost reductions to support the strained financial positions of their organisations.’ 

Yet should those cost reductions come from a demand letter sent to your supplier? Many people did not think it was okay to send your supplier a letter demanding cost cuts, regardless of the organisation’s circumstances. In the main, procurement professionals thought this approach was akin to a ‘power play’ and was a little arrogant, giving off the attitude that a big organisation is simply ‘a big brand, doing it because they can.’ 

Many procurement professionals recognised that while this tactic may have been appropriate at some other time, it no longer was. In fact, many people made reference to the nineties as a time where this may have been acceptable … but realised that those days were far gone. One person noted: 

‘This practice [the practice of demanding reductions] was used at Volkswagen in the 90s under its famous CPO. Though it showed a lot of success at the time, I believe such a practice belongs to the 90s – a lot has changed since then.’ 

Why doesn’t this approach work? 

Beyond the fact that the practice of sending a letter asking for a discount seemed ‘old-school,’ many professionals noted that for at least a few reasons, this tactic doesn’t actually work. 

The first reason why people thought this wouldn’t work was because essentially, demanding a discount goes against all the good work that procurement usually does in developing meaningful and strategic supplier relationships. Procurement professionals always need to remember that suppliers exist within a delicate business ecosystem, and it’s best to manage this responsibly: 

‘Customers depend on suppliers and vice versa. It’s a big ecosystem, and [we all need to remember that] if you squeeze out small suppliers and competition lessens, costs will inevitably increase.’ 

Beyond this, though, when making demands of suppliers, procurement professionals need to remember their negotiation training, insomuch as: 

‘Blind one-size-fits-all letters are a forced outcome, not a negotiated win-win discussion.’ 

What’s the alternative? 

It seems that within the procurement community, sending letters requesting discounts is absolutely a no-go. But in a time where discounts might, for some companies, be needed more than ever, what is the alternative? 

Being the savvy community that it is, procurement professionals had plenty of better options when it came to negotiating a better price. 

The most popular suggestion was to employ a process to assess cost saving opportunities in partnership with your supplier. This would lead, according to a few different people, to the supplier further negotiating, and then a potential automatic reduction in expenses for both. 

The other option available is to negotiate better terms, a tactic used often, but which should be done through a strategic lens. One person recommended that we all should: 

‘Engage with our suppliers and explain what we need in terms of realistic cost savings and the end goal.’ 

‘You’ve got many tools at your disposal, including SRM and category management, so much so that you need never revert to the dreadful “give me money off or else” letters.’ 

Do you agree? Or would you still send a letter requesting a discount if you needed it? Let us know in the comments below.

What Should I Look For In A Mentor?

Finding a great mentor can catapult your career – here are the defining attributes of the perfect mentor to look for.


The saying goes that no man is an island, and in a career sense what that really means is: the office can certainly feel like unchartered territory without a mentor. A mentor is something even the most talented people in the world want and need – famously, Larry Summers mentored Sheryl Sandberg, and Maya Angelou mentored Oprah Winfrey. And everyone who has ever had a mentor knows that they can be the shining north star you need to succeed, and can help you navigate everything from difficult decisions to new opportunities. They can even become lifelong friends and sponsors within an organisation, helping oversee your ascension to dizzyingly heights.

Many – if not all – CPOs credit their success to a mentor or two along the way. And this year, with COVID making it one of the most challenging years to date for a lot of us, a mentor is more important than ever to help you navigate the murky waters of leading through and after a pandemic.  

But unfortunately, not all mentors are created equal. Some really go above and beyond, yet some are not quite as useful. But how do you know the difference from the outset? 

We spoke to two successful senior professionals, Sally Lansbury, Memberships Director at The Faculty Management Consultants and Helen Mackenzie, former CPO and Principal Adviser at Procurious, about how mentors have helped shaped their careers, and what exactly we should all look for in our next mentor: 

What should a mentor experience be like? 

Sally and Helen both believe that a mentoring experience should be an overwhelmingly positive one, where you get to tap into the wisdom of someone experienced, and use them as a sounding board to navigate challenging situations. Both women said that in their past, they’ve had both formal and informal mentors, and that these mentors have helped their careers in ways they’d never imagined. 

Sally found her previous mentors extremely valuable in that she was able to learn about them, as well as use them to help her navigate decisions: 

‘For me, I have found a mentoring relationship to be particularly important as I always learn so much from other people’s experiences.’ 

‘I’ve also found that mentors are great people to bounce ideas off when you’re unsure of something.’ 

Helen also felt that her mentors were great sounding boards, but found that they were particularly useful in a different way. When Helen was eyeing the top job (of CPO in the organisation she worked for at the time), she felt that her mentor helped her hone her leadership skills: 

‘The mentor I had leading up to my promotion to CPO was exceptional. She helped me understand what leadership skills I needed to take that next step.’ 

Since changing roles from CPO to consulting, Helen has herself had the experience of being a mentor, a role which she describes as challenging but ultimately rewarding. And in a nod to her leadership capability, Helen now typifies what we all aspire to in a mentor: 

‘Right now, I’m mentoring a young man in a leadership role who is trying to navigate how to do this in an inclusive way. It’s been challenging for me to think about issues like diversity and of course gender equality from this perspective.’ 

‘But that’s the beauty of being a mentor. You always aim to put in so much more than you get back in return.’ 

What qualities should you look for in a mentor? 

So how do you tell the difference between an exceptional mentor and one that might not be as valuable? Sally, who has overseen The Faculty’s Roundtable Mentoring Program, which has, to date, seen over 1000 people receive mentoring, has a good idea of the qualities you should look for. These, she says, are: 

‘The ideal mentor should have a growth mindset and a learning attitude. They should have a genuine interest in helping you, and be able to commit real time and energy to it.’ 

‘That also need to have current and relevant industry knowledge in the area that the mentee wants to develop in.’ 

Helen agrees that these qualities are important, but she says that you need to put more focus on the person, as opposed to the qualities. Specifically, she describes the ideal mentor as someone who isn’t the same as you: 

‘Your mentor should be different from you so they can give you another perspective on the world. We spend a lot of time these days on social media in an echo chamber with people who think the same as us.’ 

‘A mentor should give you the opportunity to challenge your thinking. But you also need to be able to relate to and trust them, otherwise the relationship won’t work.’ 

How do you know if your mentor isn’t right for you? 

If your mentor doesn’t have all of the above qualities, does it mean they’re not right or worse, that they’re not doing a good job? Not at all, says Sally. In fact, in a mentoring relationship, the ball is absolutely in your court when it comes to making the effort to make the arrangement work for you: 

‘With mentoring, you only get out what you put in. As a mentee you need to be organised and be clear on your objectives at all times.’ 

What kind of experience have you had with mentors? What qualities do you look for in a mentor? Let us know in the comments below.

My Number One Procurement Career Tip – Be Connected

As you move forward with your career, remember it is not just about the number of connections you have – it is about the quality of your connections. As the old adage goes “ it is about who you know, rather than what you know”.


As the majority of us spend more time working from home in the “new normal” way of working, being connected is more important than ever.

Be connected with your peers from a cross section of industries

Being connected to your peers, not from just your industry but across sectors, is a great way to learn both current and future best practice. You can discuss key topics of the day and benchmark your procurement and supply chain maturity, both as an individual and as an organisation.

I have learnt so much from being a member of The Faculty Roundtable (whilst I lived in Australia) and the Procurious Roundtable (now that I am back in the UK). Not only through the top drawer guest speakers that come and share their knowledge, but through the connections I have made from being a member.

Making the time to attend these events is always a stretch, but the benefits massively outweigh the time required to catch up at work.

Investing the time to listen to the challenges and opportunities that others face, and discussing these in an open forum with your peers, can be truly enlightening. When you have had the fortune to share ideas with the likes of Paul Menzies, Len Blackmore, Naomi Lloyd, Andrew Ordish and Matthew Kay in Sydney or Matt Beddoe, Phil English, Bruce Morrison, Lauren Ferry, Chris Eccleston and Ross Mandiwall in London (or virtually), you know the power of a strong peer network. Learning from professionals with extensive experience in a vast array of industries provides a diversity of thought that helps you improve as a person and enhances your strategic thinking and knowledge.

Be connected and highly engaged with your own team

With an ever-increasing myriad of stakeholders to manage, it is imperative that you create enough time to manage your own team. Whether face to face, by Teams, Skype or Zoom, I try and create enough time for team meetings, one to ones and other connection opportunities.

Building great relationships with your team helps you to build a great team ethos, with everyone pulling in the same direction with no room for mavericks or terrorists. I always remember someone telling me that you need to spend 30% of your time with your people, listening, encouraging and developing them. And they were right.

Also remember it is important to connect with not only your direct reports. Over the last couple of years we have introduced a Procurement Development Group at Murphy. It enables the up-and-coming procurement team members to work on some key topics set by the procurement leadership team. The Procurement Development Group presents their recommendations to the senior team, giving them exposure to people they don’t often come into contact with. This opportunity has been really appreciated by our future leaders and can lead to accelerated career progression. Their work has produced some fantastic results for our organisation – so it has been a win–win for everyone involved.

Be a Mentor and Be Mentored

Mentoring, or being mentored, is another great way of keeping connected. I am big believer that having the right mentor can help with your career progression. Each of the key members of my team are either mentored by a Senior Director at Murphy or by a leading CPO, arranged by Procurious, from an external organisation – and the feedback I receive on this is so positive!

I enjoy mentoring people. I get as much out of the sessions as the mentees. It is great to get different views, hear other’s perspectives and see their careers flourish.

Never be too intimidated to ask someone to mentor you. After all, what is the worst they can say? “No”? And if they say yes, remember that it is you – the mentee – who needs to drive the relationship. As with everything, you only get out what you put in. 

Be connected – inside work and out

With the COVID-imposed increased isolation, we are all faced with the challenge of ensuring we are both physically and mentally healthy. A great way of taking your mind off the job is by doing something outside work that you really enjoy and involves interaction with others.

We all need to give something back to society. It provides such fulfilment. So whether it is charitable work or sport, get connected externally and make a difference.

My great passion, in addition to my family, is rugby. It has given me so many amazing experiences and memories over the years.  When I was asked to become Chairman at the Club I played at for 20 years, there was only one answer!

I am now in my second season. This opportunity has given me a host of new challenges and learning experiences, which I am thoroughly enjoying. It has also afforded me the chance to meet and work with some more amazing people, keeping me ever more connected.     

And finally…

As you move forward with your career, remember it is not just about the number of connections you have: it is about the quality of your connections. As the old adage goes “it is about who you know, rather than what you know”.

It is much more important to maximise the value you get from a few, quality connections and making sure you deliver value to your connections.

Join the Roundtable in the UK by contacting Helen Mackenzie at [email protected] or in Australia by contacting Sally Lansbury at [email protected]

Attention Generation Next: Your Clock Starts Now. Are You Ready?

COVID-19 has created a significant opportunity for generation next to lead, grow and advance. Here are five steps to break through.


Are you satisfied with your current position, or are you eager to break out and change the game?

Do same-old, status quo procurement and supply chain strategies work for you, or are you ready to rewrite the playbook for the modern era?

Procurement’s impressive performance during COVID-19, and the critical role the function plays in the ongoing recovery, has created significant opportunity for generation next. 

Are you going to take advantage?

The doors are wide open. And the rewards are substantial. Think promotions, increased comp, resources, access to emerging tech, leadership opportunities, validation and trust from the c-suite, and much more.  

But the doors won’t stay open forever. Now is the time to hustle and own your opportunity. If you’re not entirely sure where to begin, consider these five key steps to break through in today’s market.

1. Want more attention? Make your mark where it matters.

The fastest way to get noticed: push forward the strategic, board-level objectives of your organisation. 

What tops your CEO’s agenda right now? If you don’t know, request an immediate alignment meeting with your CPO or team lead. Our research found that the c-suite’s top three focus areas today are mitigating supply chain risk, containing costs, and driving business continuity. 

These three areas are your golden ticket. Get creative and be bold with your recommendations. Leadership is looking for fresh and modern ideas, not a repeat of yesterday’s strategy. Don’t hesitate to share, even if your recommendations represent a new approach for your team.

Start by thinking outside the box: Is there a use case for AI, blockchain or predictive analytics? What about partnering with a peer or competitor to solve the problem? If you can drive the results the company needs faster and more effectively than in the past, the recognition will follow.

2. Market your success like crazy.

It’s always a team game, but if you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?

Keep track of your wins and benchmark performance over time to demonstrate improvement. And report with data, not anecdotes. 

Be sure to communicate like an executive when sharing your success up the ladder. The TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) phenomenon is a very real trap. Lead with the headline, back it up with data and close with how you plan to take it up to another level. 

Remember, you, and you alone, are responsible for your career growth.

3. Champion digitisation and emerging tech.

COVID-19 rapidly accelerated the enterprise digitisation journey and eliminated all the old excuses associated with delayed tech transformation projects.

Every executive is looking to increase resilience, productivity and performance. Digitisation and emerging tech – like AI and machine learning – delivers on all fronts. Those who proactively adapt and modernise are best positioned to lead today and in the future. 

If your department is not equipped with the right technology, take a stand and champion the digitisation effort. Executives will take notice. Our research shows that 93% of organisations are investing to enable procurement’s success. There are three primary areas that companies are focusing on to propel procurement forward:

  • Data and analytics
  • Development of existing talent
  • Technology

Two of the three are directly tied to digital transformation. For many companies, September marks the start of the 2021 budgeting season. If you see an opportunity, the time to make a move is now. Make the business case abundantly clear by connecting your requests to what matters most for the organisation right now: cash, resiliency, and business continuity.

4. Learn, develop and then learn some more

Fifty-seven percent of organisations are investing in talent development to propel procurement forward, according to our survey research. That number needs to be higher… and you need to make sure you get your fair share of the investment.

COVID-19 fundamentally changed supply chain and procurement management as we know it. According to our Supply Chain Confidence Index, 97% of organisations experienced a COVID-19 disruption, and 73% are planning seismic supply chain strategy shifts post-pandemic. The status quo simply won’t cut it. You need to grow your skills, expertise and network.

Your job: Put forward your personal business case for investment. Identify the skills that you and your team need to survive and thrive tomorrow. And take ownership of your own development.

There are ample opportunities to improve and develop. Our recent survey uncovered five primary talent gaps facing the function today.

  1. Analytics
  2. Market intelligence
  3. Technology knowledge
  4. Relationships building
  5. Emotional intelligence

Mastering these five areas will push you forward in a big way. Breaking them down, there are three key themes. The first is analytics –  leaders that can analyze data, uncover trends and use insights to make fast and informed decisions will remain in high-demand. This should be area number one for professional development and training. The second centers around tech digitisation and modernisation, which we touched on earlier. The last bucket represents the soft skills necessary to be a great leader – emotional intelligence, relationships, and human connection.

Be the leader you want to follow 

As you grow, get promoted and gain more influence, prioritize being a great leader. Make it one of the most important things you do every day.

Your leadership approach can either crack the foundation of your team or launch everyone forward. In fact, Gallup says managers account for at least 70% of the variance in team engagement.

But remember, future success requires practice today. According to research from HBR, there are six key areas every aspiring leader should practice right now:

  • Creating an exciting and challenging vision
  • Translating the vision into a clear strategy and roadmap 
  • Team management: recruiting, developing and rewarding great people to execute on your strategy 
  • Focusing on measurable results
  • Fostering an environment of team innovation and learning 
  • Leading yourself — “know yourself, improve yourself, and manage the appropriate balance in your own life.”

If you wait to start practicing these skills until after you get the promotion, it may be too late. As HBR’s Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville write: “No matter where you are in your career, you can find opportunities to practice these six skills. You’ll have varying degrees of success, which is normal. But by reflecting on your successes and failures at every step, and getting feedback from colleagues and mentors, you’ll keep making positive adjustments and find more opportunities to learn.”

The Clock is Ticking: It’s your time to lead.

For current and aspiring procurement leaders, there’s never been a better opportunity. More than 60% of procurement professionals have seen executive trust increase in the past three months. Similarly, more procurement leaders report having a seat at the executive table today than they did in May.

You have everything we need to step up, lead and earn more recognition and trust. The doors are open: are you going to walk or run through?Interested in learning more about procurement leadership? Get more insights, advice and best practices from our latest report: Procurement’s Time to Lead.

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