Working From Home? WFH Is More A Case Of Warring Family Hell

What are the perils of working from home?


Many of us have dreamt of this moment. No commuting. You can work in your PJs. Watch daytime TV. Do a spot of gardening. Eat your lunch on the sofa. And still get all your work done. Yes… it should be heaven.

Instead, your internet speed is something out of the dark ages – remember the days of dial-up modems?

With everyone online, all-the-time, forget video conferencing with the office… buffering is back!

This is just one of the stresses and strains of self-isolation, which are compounding the crippling anxiety of financial fears and job insecurity.

With millions of people worldwide being forced to WFH, many are also being locked up 24/7 with their partners/families… and the two are just not compatible.

WFH is fine, when it’s just you. Trying to do it whilst also looking after children, foraging for those elusive items such as toilet rolls, while remaining well and healthy, checking in on loved ones, and keeping the boss happy, is virtually impossible.

Aside from slow internet speeds, there are just too many distractions.

Space invaders: keep them out

Even if you don’t have children fighting over food or bellowing into their headsets (why do they have to shout as they game?), there will be plenty of your neighbours whose offspring are going stir crazy.

A kick around in the garden sounds like they are playing a real-life game of Fortnight rather than football particularly when it is magnified a dozen times (who knew there were so many children living so close?).

Along with the continuous squeals from trampolines and parents shouting in frustration ‘stop fighting’, you will need more than noise-cancelling headphones.

Finally, there are the space squabbles.

You like working from the dining table or breakfast bar? It’s close to the coffee machine and normally quite peaceful. However, every inch seems to be covered with unfinished homework, half-built Lego sets and crayons and paints. It’s great that the kids want to be creative, but you need peace and quiet. You certainly don’t want someone to scribble a picture of a rainbow over your end-of-year report.

You need boundaries

So, it’s time for some rules. The sooner you set these the better – before everyone else has got set in the new routine.

  • Set your own ‘office hours’: Tell everyone “I’m going to work”.  This will put you in the right mindset – and also give you some demarcation. When you finish for the day, you want to be able to “leave” the office, shut down your laptop, and put work out of sight, and out of mind. Also, it should signal to your partner that just because you are at home, now is not the time to mow the lawn, put up a shelf, or chat endlessly.
  • Limit screen time: Keep the rest of the household’s use of the internet to a minimum during your critical working hours. It will be good for them!
  • Ask for some quiet time during the day: Even if you’ve shut the office door, you will probably find the household noise a distraction. If you need to concentrate or make calls, you cannot have a blaring TV or toddler tantrums in the background, so try to set a few hours a day when the house is quieter.
  • Claim some space:  In my household there is a current battle over the best office chair – and who gets the biggest desk. So, claim your own home office space (even if it is in the corner of the bedroom) and make it as work-friendly as possible: this might be your workplace for several months.
  • Find a lockable cupboard: Your printer paper will vanish, the family will use up all your printer ink, you will find someone “gaming” on your office laptop – or worse spilling a soda into your computer. Keep work tech for work only.
  • Invest in some protection: Make sure your anti-virus is up-to-date and all of your online devices are secure. Working from home might be designed to protect you from the coronavirus – but what about computer viruses.

But remember, it’s not forever

At some point people will return to work, schools, colleges and universities will open their doors and your home will no longer be for work, rest and play.

So try not to stress too much about poor internet speeds, a lack of space (both headspace and physical space) and too many competing demands.

You may never get an opportunity to spend so much time with the ones you love – even if, right now, you are hating being with them day and night. So try to enjoy WFH.

Need crowdsourced confidence during this crisis? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid 19 group and get access to expert advice, news, views and the ability to intimately connect with procurement professionals worldwide. 

AI: Threat Or Benefit?

Will AI kill the purchasing function? (Spoiler: this is far from certain.)


Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to scare many buyers and procurement teams. They wonder if “machines” are going to replace their jobs.

AI combines: 

  • big data – the availability of vast amounts of data
  • machine or deep learning – an ability to predict based on the past
  • robotic task automation – the automatic execution of business processes, based on rules.

It’s certainly drastically changing how procurement teams work. And automation and AI are eliminating some jobs, mostly task-oriented chores. 

But at Determine, a Corcentric company, we don’t see AI as a threat. 

We see that new technologies have made the purchasing processes faster, more compliant and more efficient for all parties. They have transformed the entire purchasing function.

They have saved a lot of time, supported strategic initiatives . . . and created new job opportunities.

Remember the old times? 

Times that those under 40 don’t know. Times, before digitalization . .

Remember how purchasing processes were carried out? They were manual, lengthy and we couldn’t rely on technology . . . Weeks, sometimes months, were necessary to write tenders (with a pen), place orders, track delivery . . . and so on. 

All this manual processing resulted in costly errors and long approval and exception-resolution cycles, which resulted in late fees and missed discounts.

Then there were compliance and security risks, high paper storage needs, time-consuming supplier inquiries regarding invoice and payment status – and difficulty implementing operational best practices.

To name but a few of the non-digital process challenges . . .

Fortunately, those times are over. Cloud technology, full source-to-pay solution, AI, machine learning . . . Information technology and innovations have revolutionised the way purchasing teams carry out their job, eradicating silos and increasing team productivity. 

No more friction

AI helps eliminate friction from the source-to-pay life cycle. By analyzing data sets and patterns, AI automates menial, time-consuming tasks, such as document classification, data extraction, invoice approval routing and exceptions resolution. 

According to industry surveys, 83% of business leaders believe that AI and other digital technologies provide an opportunity to reposition their overall business strategies. 

One of our customers, a real estate company, was looking at justifying the purchase of our solution. We came to the conclusion that the platform could replace an entire team working all day long to scan and manually enter invoices that were being received by fax or in the mail from suppliers. 

By being able to manage the PO process entirely online, including modifications and PO flipping, we were able to guarantee more than 90% of touch-free invoices. 

AI helped this company eliminate friction from the procure-to-pay lifecycle. 

Lower costs, better customer experience

By analyzing data sets and patterns, AI automates time-consuming tasks, such as document classification, data extraction, invoice approval routing and exceptions resolution.

The technology reconciles data, for instance, by finding the supplier from fuzzy names and addresses, or categorizing goods and services based on descriptions. 

Applying AI to specific operational tasks enables businesses to remove friction and reduce operational costs, enhance the customer experience and inform strategic decision-making. 

Our procurement solution offered a great opportunity for the company to move the people from doing invoice entering to the customer support team. 

And that is exactly what happened.

In less than a year, several employees moved from accounts receivable to business support. The feedback was that they seemed to enjoy building customer relationships much more than spending the day receiving, scanning and entering invoices. 

Overall, in this regard the company is ahead of its time. They are very successful in the market and have a much better customer satisfaction rating than competitors. 

Ease worker anxiety . . . communicate 

AI presents an enormous opportunity to improve job functions in procure-to-pay by eliminating mundane tasks. And freeing staff to focus on strategic work that adds value to the business. 

But that doesn’t mean that staff won’t worry about the impact of AI on their job security. 

Reduce potential anxiety around the technology by:

  • keeping staff informed of AI initiatives
  • involving staff in identifying tasks to be automated
  • conveying key benefits of the technology, and
  • providing training to staff with skills gaps.

In the short term, AI is going to be mainly used to help employees do a better job. In the medium term, it will replace job repetition with a lot of new career opportunities.

So – in summary – the more automation and value we provide through our solutions, the more business our customers are able to do. We shouldn’t consider AI, machine learning and smart applications to be a job threat.

But we need to manage change as machines continue to keep doing more and more to help businesses run more efficiently.

Visit corcentric.com to learn more about Corcentric, a leading provider of procurement and finance solutions that transform how companies purchase, pay, and get paid. 

How To Debrief Suppliers… And Why You Need To

Debriefing after a procurement process is an important chance for reflection and giving feedback to bidders. Follow these 5 tips to ensure you debrief efficiently.


Debriefing respondents after a procurement process can seem a thankless task – and provokes an audible sigh. 

This is not because there is no love for the market, it’s because you’ve just come out of a lengthy, action-packed process. A queue of the next million projects to do is staring right at you. 

Why should you debrief respondents? 

Debriefs are an easy way to add value to future projects. They develop market capability and the capacity of the market to understand you as a buyer. They offer you a chance for self-reflection and learning.

Read on for 5 tips on how to nail debriefs

1. Provide feedback in the outcome letter

The place to start in debriefing respondents is with a general statement of strengths and weakness in the outcome letter you send after the process. 

This is often enough for respondents to understand where they lost out. It can save you the time of having to engage with every company who participated in the process. Sometimes some simple, short feedback is all that is needed.

For example:

Thank you for submitting your response for [insert project name] opportunity. Your submission has been assessed by an evaluation panel and we are writing to inform you that you have not been successful on this occasion. The panel noted team composition and relevant experience as particular strengths in your response. However, the response lacked evidence in regards to methodology and project timelines. This is critical for us to assess how the outcomes will be achieved. 

2. Run a solid process

Following a solid process with structured evaluation and accompanying notes forms the basis of a good debrief. There is little point running around after the process trying to gather information. Good luck trying to get stakeholders engaged to have a conversation about something that is months old! 

Tip: when individual evaluators are marking the responses, make sure they are instructed to write statements of strengths and weakness as they go. Also, follow this up in a moderation meeting with the evaluation panel and ask them to summarise one positive and one weakness before moving on to discuss the next supplier. 

This will be captured in the minutes. Further down the track any member of your team can access the file and select enough information to create a debrief.

3. Don’t wing it

Have a template and complete it before speaking to a respondent. Two templates are helpful to fill out. 

One is a template that guides the conversation with the respondent and is for internal eyes only. The other is a stripped-down version of the same template that can be released to the respondent after the conversation. 

So, what should be in it?

  • An outline of the process undertaken
  • How many responses you received from the market and how many passed the first stage of compliance
  • A reminder that the purpose of the debrief is to provide feedback on their response, not an opportunity to relitigate the process that has been undertaken. Feedback provided is based on the respondent’s performance against other responses and not necessarily a direct criticism of them – rather, it’s a statement of how they performed against others 
  • Where they ranked and what the scores were (removing the names of any other suppliers)
  • (Optional) You can include a range of the pricing responses but I tend to just provide the ranking
  • How they performed against each evaluation criterion
  • The strength and weakness statements from the evaluation panel
  • Ask the respondent for feedback on the process and how your company performed
  • Remind them of how they can keep an eye out for future opportunities to work with your company

4. Involve the right people

Make sure you choose who to take into the debrief wisely. 

For example, the subject matter expert may not have the best social skills. Choose someone who has the right expertise and the right level of authority. 

Most respondents are happy to have feedback. It is very rare that I have had aggressive or angry suppliers. The mitigation strategy to combat this is to be prepared and restate that this is not a chance to relitigate the process. 

Save time and conduct debriefs over the phone.

5. Don’t forget the winner!

Debrief the successful respondent to ensure they understand what it was about their bid that made them stand out from the crowd. 

It helps to build the relationship before the contract is inked.

Recently I was involved in a project in which the financial breakdown with the response was so detailed that it helped to add weight to their response. It helped to evidence that they could back up their claims.

When delivering this news during contract negotiations, it was surprising to the successful company. They said it was extremely valuable for them to understand what we value and the reasons why. They stated it would help their future bids as it improves understanding of the buyer’s viewpoint.

So keep these 5 tips in mind to ensure you deliver swift and effective debriefs to suppliers.

How Procurement Can Deliver Social Impact Through Sustainable Sourcing

How can procurement teams use purchasing power to improve an organisation’s sustainability and social impact?


Across industries Chief Procurement Officers are assuming the responsibility for their firm’s sustainability and social impact objectives. All while continuing to identify the best price, vendor and value for each transaction. 

Businesses are grappling with pressure from investors, employees and customers to generate greater shared value and to help address the world’s most pressing societal challenges – like climate change and social inequality. And procurement teams have to find answers. 

Amidst movements like ‘procurement with purpose’ or the Sustainable Procurement Pledge, more executives are turning to procurement teams to drive their company’s social impact agenda and help achieve their sustainability targets. 

In fact, commitments to sustainable procurement increased by 81% between 2016 to 2019. 

This has been fuelled by a rise in executive-level support. Just 13% of respondents in the 2019 Sustainable Procurement Barometer cited leadership buy-in as a challenge to sustainable procurement, compared to 50% In 2013.  

By nature, not all social impact initiatives can be implemented overnight. Here’s a look at how procurement teams can execute immediate, evergreen and long-term strategies to use the function’s immense purchasing power to improve their company’s societal and sustainability impact.

Immediate impact

First, procurement teams must ensure that their strategies align with the company’s larger social or sustainability goals. By working with social impact enterprises like Givewith, procurement teams can identify issue areas that are financially material to the firm. 

Then they can embed Givewith’s social impact programmes directly into their RFPs – requesting the supplier allocates a percentage of the transaction to a pre-vetted non-profit, social enterprise or NGO – to generate new funding for the cause and advance the company’s corporate commitments. 

By adopting social impact sourcing solutions, companies can appease both Chief Financial Officers and CSR leads by simultaneously catalysing social progress and generating cross-company value. 

Suppliers are very willing to support these initiatives on behalf of the buyer in these negotiations because social impact generates shared value and helps advance their company’s KPIs.

As companies continue to adopt strategies that mitigate risk – which can take years to fully implement – they can immediately advance business-relevant causes entirely outside of their supply chain operations by funding programmes of interest to their causes, such as those that allow 500 girls of colour to attend coding workshops in 13 cities across the United States. 

Evergreen opportunities

In addition to social impact sourcing, procurement teams should consistently seek ways to improve supply chain diversity, transparency and sustainability. 

Using software solutions like SAP Ariba can help companies vet unethical suppliers that spur slavery, poverty or inequality. Likewise, adopting buyer solutions like EcoVadis can help companies gain insights into the intricacies of their global supply chains and see the ethical and environmental performance of their vendors. 

In addition to pre-emptive vetting, procurement teams should consistently monitor and measure their suppliers’ performance to track sustainability results. Tracking and measuring this data over time can help the company manage risk and improve its operations. 

Long-term strategies

Following in the footsteps of international frameworks like the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s largest, most forward-looking companies are beginning to adopt timelines for achieving their social impact and sustainability goals. 

This is a big opportunity for procurement. It can become a strategic arm of its organisation by working closely with the company’s executive team, financial decision-makers and social responsibility leaders to set sustainable procurement benchmarks and calculate how these efforts are advancing the company’s larger mission.  

In addition, procurement teams should also work closely with their suppliers to identify ambitious yet realistic goals that benefit both parties. 

They can encourage opportunities to co-create and co-innovate with suppliers on sustainable solutions.

As the pressure on businesses to help solve the world’s most pressing challenges continues to grow, so will the pressure for procurement to act ethically and more sustainably.

That’s why procurement leaders need to adopt social impact sourcing strategies that will benefit their business today and well into the future. 

Life At The Coronavirus Epicentre: Is This A Glimpse Into Our Future?

Are you ready for what’s to come? …


Every day, those of us in Australia, the US and Europe are increasingly feeling the full force of the coronavirus. In Italy, where the situation has escalated, the country has been fully quarantined. Countries all over the world are implementing strict restrictions on incoming travellers, and with no end in sight, the stock market continues to plummet.

One Procurious member who has already survived the worst of the crisis, and has come out the other side, is Paul Ryder, President of the International College of Finance at the Bank of China in Shanghai. Paul shared his fascinating story with us about what he’s experienced during the last few months, including special intel on China’s current supply chain situation. His insights are perhaps a glimpse into our future … will we be able to get the coronavirus under control, or will the sacrifice feel too great? 

When the news broke … 

The scenes of chaos we’ve seen worldwide and even worse, the harrowing decisions Italian doctors are now having to make, have become what we all now accept as consequences of the outbreak. But in stark contrast, Paul says that when the virus broke out in China, he felt the response was quite controlled: 


Want to hear more of Paul’s fascinating story? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news over an 8-week content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

We’re stronger together. Join us now. 


Procurement In The 20’s: Sustainability Will Become A Strategic Imperative

Sustainability: the wave of the future?


Companies today are facing a rising tide of regulations and an increased awareness among consumers around the sustainability of the goods they buy. With an average of 65% of a company’s added value being generated by its suppliers, consumers and regulators today hold companies responsible not only for their own practices, but also for those of their suppliers. To meet the demands of regulators and consumers, procurement chiefs must be prepared for a drastic increase in transparency regarding the sustainability of their suppliers – a tricky task that can only be mastered with the help of modern technologies.

Increasing regulations

An increasing number of regulations require companies to monitor and even report on the sustainability practices of their suppliers. Adding to existing standards such as the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, many new laws have been passed in recent years. This includes the EU CSR Reporting Duty that came into effect in 2017, the French Duty of Care Act (2017), the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015), the UK Bribery Act (2010) and various regulations around things such as the sourcing of conflict minerals.

Increasing consumer awareness

Consumers today are well-informed and increasingly aware of sustainability aspects. This reflects strongly in their buying behavior, creating a demand for products that come from ethically-sound value chains. With the increased transparency enabled by social media, companies often come under scrutiny if they turn a blind eye to unethical practices in their supply chains.

For instance, when a spate of suicides among workers at Foxconn plants occurred, there was pressure on Apple, one of its customers, to take action over the working conditions at those plants. The textile industry was similarly affected when more than 1,000 workers died in the 2013 Rana Plaza accident in Bangladesh. For companies to stay competitive and meet consumer demands, procurement needs full visibility so it can identify and react swiftly to such issues.

Sustainable investing on the rise

Investors are increasingly integrating sustainability aspects into their investment strategy. Over $30 trillion of assets are now being invested according to the premise that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors can materially affect a company’s performance and market value. And after Larry Finks 2020 letter to CEOs we can all be certain that this trend is here to stay.

With trust, revenue and funds at stake, sustainability will become the key for businesses to maintaining their license to operate. For companies to succeed at this, they must leverage the unique position of procurement to foster their sustainability agenda. Ensuring sustainability in the supply chain is not only a mandatory legal requirement, but an opportunity to transform procurement into a value-adding function.

Making a smart bet on tech

However, monitoring the sustainability of thousands of suppliers is a complex and difficult task. Traditional methods, such as supplier audits, are resource-heavy. Many companies therefore focus on just a few strategically important suppliers. Medium-sized and smaller companies often shy away from the effort completely, which leaves them dangerously exposed to undetected risks lurking in the supply chain. Advanced technology can pick up the slack here and help CPOs gain greater insight into their supply chains. A standardised, scalable approach is necessary: one that can be applied to 100% of a company’s suppliers, not just the strategic ones. With this technology in place, procurement functions can then determine where risk lies and use their resources effectively to investigate further and take action.

5 Of The Most Controversial (But Useful) Ideas To Come Out Of Big Ideas Summit

Big new ideas don’t always meet with universal approval – but sometimes the most controversial ideas are the most useful.


Last week Procurious had the pleasure of spending the day dreaming big with some of the brightest minds and expert thinkers from inside and outside our profession.

Yes, it was the time of year for Big Ideas London – and what a day it was!

Our speakers delivered keynotes across a huge range of topics, from social media and procurement technology to smart pills and why winning at IT tended to make you the winner in the long run. Each session brought its own insights into the current and future state of the procurement profession – providing, as ever, tangible ideas for our audience of senior procurement professionals to take back to their organisations.

Bu there wasn’t always agreement. Discussion abounded, both inside the room and outside on social media, as to what procurement needs to do to evolve and what the next 10 years will look like. 

Some ideas proved far more controversial than others. But every single one was useful for the audience.

We’ve picked out 5 of the most controversial, but still useful, ideas from the day. 

And you know we’ve had some great discussions when the use of smart pills to ‘hack’ your brain isn’t one of the most controversial concepts from the day!

1. If you’re going to be boring on social media, you might as well not bother!

Social media is disrupting everything it touches. And social selling lies at the very heart of the business model. This doesn’t mean everyone is selling a product, but social media platforms can be vital tools for procurement when it comes to finding what they are looking for.

According to Tim Hughes, CEO and Co-Founder at DLA Ignite, 92 per cent of B2B buyers start their search online. And by using social media 78 per cent of salespeople are outselling their peers. 

But the idea on which Tim focused was how people are perceived on social media when they appear in searches.

Social selling products is one thing. But social selling can also mean promoting yourself on social media as a professional, an expert thinker, an influencer – or even the next manager young professionals want to work with. 

For too many professionals and experts, the perception of them on social media isn’t good. You’ll find profiles lacking key information and not providing any evidence to back up claims of experience and knowledge. And, for many, profiles that are downright boring!

Tim’s view is that if your profile is boring then it’s not even worth your time getting involved. Tim used the example of two global experts in a niche market – one with a wealth of information across all of his profiles and the other with barely their name on the page. 

Who, as a user, are you going to approach for advice? Even if the person with no information is the global expert, you’re going to look elsewhere.

Social media is absolutely the way to go, but you need to commit to it and share all the right information in order to make an impact.

2. Technology solutions providers have failed procurement

Eighty-one per cent of firms who have invested in technology solutions for risk management aren’t satisfied with the results. What are we all doing and why would we accept this, asked Justin Sadler-Smith, General Manager at Basware.

But Justin wasn’t finished there. In what was a bold and controversial statement from the general manager of a major player in the technology solutions market, he argued that technology solutions providers have failed procurement. Failed in their software, failed in their support, failed to provide what was required beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.

But, according to Justin, this failure was a two-way street. Procurement teams had to share a measure of the blame because they had accepted these solutions (with a shrug) as ‘good enough’.

This led to a great opportunity for our first keynote hashtag of the day (#goodenoughisnolongergoodenough) and a healthy discussion on exactly what the profession needed to be doing in the future.

3. It’s time to rethink the Triple Bottom Line

You’ve heard of product recalls – Toyota; Samsung; Pfizer; Mattel – but how about recalling an idea? It might sound strange but that’s exactly what John Elkington, the founder of the concept of the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), has done.

The thinking behind the recall was outlined by Professor Omera Khan, a strategic supply chain risk expert and champion for sustainability in business. The concept of the TBL is still sound, according to Omera. But as sustainability becomes even more critical the TBL needs to be stronger to challenge existing concepts and really make supply chains sustainable.

Supply chains need exponential or fundamental, rather than incremental, change – and to stop marching to the drumbeat of old ideas and concepts. Omera talked about creating regenerative supply webs that will help prepare procurement for the future and the ‘green swans’ that are inevitably heading our way.

4. CPO to CVO

If there was one idea that lit the blue touchpaper in the room and on social media, it was this controversial suggestion by Diego De La Garza, Director, and Philippe de Grossouvre, Business Development Director, both at Corcentric.

The duo discussed what the procurement profession was going to look like in 20, 30, 40 and 50 years’ time. Even with this long-term view, Diego and Philippe emphasised the importance of procurement understanding where it came from in order to better understand its future. 

It was the idea that procurement will become recognised as a part of finance in the future that really got discussion going. The movement from CPO to CVO (Chief Value Officer) would give a wider-ranging strategic role, but could it also take procurement thinking back 20 years to when this idea was first espoused?

The audience was split on whether this was the correct approach. Does procurement need to go backwards to go forwards? You decide.

5. RIP the RFP?

The final controversial idea was one that had the most experienced professionals in the room recoiling in horror. OK, not really, but it was a theme that was brought up time and again over the rest of that day. 

Once again we return to Justin Sadler-Smith’s keynote and the idea that procurement is too wedded to traditional concepts to really evolve.

The biggest cause of this was the continuing use of RFP/RFQ/RFx in sourcing activities. Justin argued that in a world of big data that can be analysed almost instantly by technology and AI, why would businesses continue to use valuable time and resources on an RFP? 

Could the same answer not be found from stored supplier data, compared and reviewed as required?

Or could there be a balance? Rather than taking RFP/RFQ/RFx away altogether, organisations should be looking to use them in the appropriate settings. 

Think tenders for multiple millions or billions of pounds/dollars. Or follow Chris Fielden at Innocent, for whom going to market can help provide genuinely innovative solutions to problems that raw data analytics just couldn’t provide.

Whether you’re a traditionalist or a futurist, this debate is not going away any time soon.

Dream big – like a champion

So there you have it. We dreamed big and created some great, new, big ideas for you to take away to think about and discuss in your organisation. You may not agree with all of the ideas and you might not agree with our list, either. 

But the important thing, as our final speaker Sir Clive Woodward, England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning head coach, noted: ‘Do not underestimate where new ideas can come from, so always keep yourself open. Practice “Relentless Learning” and you too can develop the DNA of a champion.’

Disrupt – Or Be Disrupted

We have to try to engage proactively with a changing business world, no matter how impossible it seems to predict what is coming.


‘It’s difficult to make predictions – especially about the future,’ as an old Danish proverb observes. 

The saying – sometimes attributed to physicist Niels Bohr – makes perfect sense. Predictions are hostages to fortune, and it’s not difficult to think of a number of well-known forecasts that turned out to be embarrassingly wide of the mark. 

Thomas Watson, then president of IBM, wrote in 1943 that he saw a world market for ‘maybe five computers’. Steve Ballmer, then the chief executive of Microsoft, said in 2007 that there was ‘no chance’ of the newly launched iPhone gaining any significant market share. Telephones were just a toy that would never catch on, wrote the president of Western Union, William Orton, in 1876, when inventor Alexander Graham Bell offered to sell him the patent. 

And so on, and so on. 

Nevertheless, not everyone has the luxury of being able to avoid being held to account. Especially those of us who run businesses or supply chains.

For us, we have to make predictions: it’s our job. And right now, we’re facing a choice – disrupt or be disrupted. Here’s why. 

Why do we need to make future predictions? 

A business or supply chain that is ill-prepared for the future is a business or supply chain that may not have much of a future. 

In the current business environment, we all need to make predictions about the future. But even so, making predictions about disruptive trends is excruciatingly difficult.

While it’s easy to laugh at how wrong predictions can be, at the time those predictions may well have appeared to be sober, hard-nosed assessments. 

All of which is worth bearing in mind as businesses and supply chains around the world begin figuring out what to do about 2 key disruptive trends that are competing for our attention. 

1. The sustainability agenda

From the fuel that powers our trucks, ships, trains, and aircraft, to the paper and plastics that make up our packaging, logistics is very much in the crosshairs of sustainability activists’ sights. 

We all need to have a strong sustainability agenda. Ignoring the issue is not an option. But right now it’s difficult to see what options we have. 

A few years ago, the focus was on ‘peak oil’ and running out of the stuff. Now investors are alarmed at the prospect of so-called ‘stranded energy assets’ – reserves of fossil fuels that may never be extracted because of their impact on climate change. 

2. Geopolitical uncertainty and the perils of a hyperconnected world

After sustainability, the next disruption that will affect all of us is ongoing geopolitical uncertainty. President Trump’s trade wars. Brexit. China and its ‘Belt and Road’ strategy. Seemingly perennial Middle East tensions. These are not comfortable times in which to be determining supply-chain strategies. 

Nor is it solely geopolitical uncertainty that impacts supply chains. From the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011 to the more recent coronavirus outbreak, again and again we see what an interconnected world we live in. 

Within days, an event on the other side of the world can disrupt supply chains thousands of miles away. Supposedly resilient, they turn out to be more fragile than anyone imagined. 

Roll it all together, and it is increasingly difficult to avoid the suspicion that present approaches to supply chain management aren’t as effective as we practitioners fondly imagine. 

What can we do? 

In short, we need something else – not least a change of mindset. Because transformation is only possible when we are willing and able to let go of our old patterns, old models – and old concepts of what constitutes supply chain management. 

Put another way, the biggest risk that businesses may face today is the risk of doing nothing at all. It is not an exaggeration to say that businesses can choose to disrupt, or to be disrupted. 

As I point out to my students, Uber is the world’s biggest taxi company, but doesn’t own a single taxi cab. Airbnb and Booking.com are the world’s largest hoteliers, but don’t possess any hotels. And after being in business for a quarter of a century, Amazon – the world’s biggest bookseller – is only now experimenting with physical book shops. 

It’s time for something more radical 

Even some of the world’s leading thinkers on business and supply chains believe we need something radical, and we need it now.

In late 2018, for instance, influential management thinker John Elkington took to the pages of the Harvard Business Review to officially ‘recall’ – i.e. take back – a concept that he had first launched 25 years ago: the Triple Bottom Line.

Simply put, he argued, the Triple Bottom Line was no longer enough. Something else was needed. Something bolder. 

To those in the know, Elkington’s admission was startling. The Triple Bottom Line had an enormous impact on businesses’ and supply chains’ approach to corporate and social responsibility. It replaced a single-minded focus on profitability with a broader focus on social, environmental and economic impact – the Triple Bottom Line. 

There’s no doubt that it’s made a big difference. But it isn’t enough, Elkington acknowledged. Too many businesses see it as a trade-off mechanism, rather than as an absolute test. 

Something else is required if businesses are to really ‘shift the needle’. Right now, though, we don’t yet know what that something else could be. 

But one thing seems certain: despite Donald Trump’s dismissive remarks at Davos this year, Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg won’t let up on the pressure to find it. 

Supply chains need a radical rethink, as well 

Another concept that may be ripe for re-evaluation is the very notion of the supply chain. Look at many real-world supply chains, and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that ‘chain’ is too mechanistic a description of fulfilment processes – too linear, too unidirectional, too evocative of inflexible conveyor belts. 

In industry after industry, real life doesn’t work like that any more, if indeed it ever did. 

What can we replace the term ‘supply chain’ with? I rather like the suggestion that ‘supply web’ would be a better term.

It is closer to what many of us deal with in practice. It brings with it values of flexibility and resilience, as well as facilitating two-way flows and multiple sourcing connections. 

Does such relabelling help? Shakespeare, after all, aptly observed that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. 

But with all due to respect to the Bard, I disagree. We need that mindset change. We need to let go of our old patterns and old models – and embrace new thinking.

As practitioners, ‘supply chains’ imprison our thinking, locking us into paradigms that constrain us. ‘Supply webs’ open us up to new possibilities, new paradigms and potentially new and different processes. 

And with the challenges the world faces, those new possibilities, paradigms and processes have never been more needed.

Disrupt – or be disrupted. Be an Uber, Airbnb or an Amazon. And not a moribund traditionalist. 

4 Tough Interview Questions First-Time Procurement Leaders Are Asked – And How To Answer Them

How can you make the most of your background and experience when interviewing for your first leadership role?


There are phases in your career that are both exciting and terrifying. Most would agree that none are so scary as your first leadership role. 

What do your team think of you? How on earth do you performance-manage someone? How do you manage the expectations of those above you if the members of your team aren’t performing? 

All these questions will most likely plague you on a daily basis. But they’re also the exact questions you need to answer if you’re interviewing for your first (official) leadership role. 

In order to unravel the mystery of what a good interview for a first-time leadership role might look like, we chatted with Tony Megally, highly experienced recruiter and General Manager of The Source

Tony gave us insights into how common it is to be interviewing for a first-time leadership role, what you’ll most likely get asked and how to answer. 

You want to become a leader. Should you change organisations to do so? 

Meet Praveen. She’s a Category Manager at a large bank. She’s been in the position for 4 years, and she’s ready to step up and take on a new challenge. She sees a team lead role at another large bank. Should she apply?

‘There’s definitely a few things I’d recommend for Praveen – or anyone in this situation – to consider before applying,’ says Tony.

But what are these things? Tony recommends that before you apply externally to become a leader, you should all explore all opportunities within your own organisation to do so: 

‘If leadership is in your sights, you should have put that into your career development plan and be actively working towards it with your manager.’ 

But what if there simply aren’t any leadership opportunities? Should you apply externally then? 

‘It depends,’ says Tony. 

‘Most often, the business that is looking externally for leadership talent will be doing so because internal capability is either lacking or requires development. So you’ll most likely need to have proven leadership experience to be able to bring value.’ 

How NOT to answer leadership interview questions 

When it comes to how you answer leadership interview questions, Tony says that if you haven’t formally been recognised as a leader or you don’t have a great deal of experience, there are still many great ways to quantify what you’ve achieved. 

But there’s one thing you should never do when talking about your leadership experience and that is: not be honest. 

Tony says: ‘To be able to position yourself for success, you need to be totally transparent about your experience.

‘It becomes obvious [that you’re not being honest] when you’re being asked about the experience you claim and you’re unable to support it by providing thorough and relevant examples.’ 

Question 1: ‘Talk me through your team leadership experience.

If you’re interviewing for a leadership position, one of the first questions you’ll be asked is about your leadership experience. But even if you haven’t had a leadership position in title, there are a number of ways you can answer this, says Tony. 

He says you should talk about how you’re developing the required skills through things you’re already doing in your job.

For example: ‘You might be a senior member of your team and have taken on the “unofficial” role as the 2IC. 

‘Or perhaps you’re actively coaching and developing peers or other junior team members, or you’re leading a project or a change initiative. These are all great examples that support your leadership ability and should be discussed as part of your experience suite.’ 

Question 2: ‘Can you give an example of how you’ve led people through change and achieved a positive outcome?

In the current business environment, managing change is an essential skill for a leader – more so than ever. But as change can be inherently challenging, businesses want to know their leaders can not only manage change but also do it in a way that gets a positive outcome.

When you’re asked this question, Tony says, you need to emphasise two things: 

  • How you have led people?
  • How did that leadership lead to a positive outcome for the business?

But the example you give doesn’t have to be from an ‘official’ leadership role: 

‘Say, for example, you volunteered to lead a high-profile project. You’d talk about the scope of that project, your role as the leader and how you influenced, engaged and managed others, even if those people are not your “official” reports and were instead business stakeholders or individuals allocated as resources as part of the project team for which you were accountable. 

‘You’d then talk about how your negotiations or perhaps great communications with stakeholders resulted in the project saving X dollars, reducing risk, etc. Whatever the outcome was, you’d make the link between your leadership skills and that.’ 

Tony also says that when you’re leading in this capacity, it’s great to validate the outcome you’re discussing by talking about how the project was received by the business’s executive leadership team: 

‘Ideally, the project you’ve led will have been noticed by senior people in the business. Being able to validate your great results by saying “XYZ executive gave this feedback” is instrumental for highlighting your ability to both manage people and results but also your ability to manage up.’ 

Question 3: ‘Tell me about a time when you performance-managed someone.’ 

One of the most challenging questions first-time leaders get asked is about performance management. It’s challenging because if you haven’t had an official leadership position, it’s hard to quantify this. 

But there are ways around this, says Tony. He recommends drawing on other experiences you’ve had, even if they’re outside of work: 

‘I’ve met countless people who in their professional careers are not formally in leadership roles, but they might be leaders through their own side-hustle, or through other paid or voluntary employment.

‘This leadership experience is relevant. As long as you’re able to provide thorough examples of how you performance-counselled an individual and the process you went through, it’s OK to discuss this in an interview.’ 

Question 4: ‘Talk to me about what techniques you use to motivate a team.’

One of the big transitions we all need to make when moving from an individual contributor role to a leadership role is to begin to think more about our team and less about ourselves. This new way of thinking, Tony says, is something that most organisations want to see in their first-time leaders:

‘Leadership, at its core, is about people and what comes with that is having a general concern for the needs of others. The quicker first-time leaders recognise this, the better they will be at their job.’ 

Tony believes that for this question, you can use outside-of-work examples if you need to: 

‘At an interview, detail how you’ve motivated groups of people – for example, perhaps you’ve coordinated social or sporting activities, or helped to identify capability gaps and then provided training as a motivational tool.’ 

Tony says that if you can provide an example of a time when you motivated people in challenging times, you’ll be doing particularly well: 

‘One of my favourite [examples to hear] is where people have boosted morale in times of significant change.’ 

Interviewing for your first leadership role will most likely be tough. But preparation is key so ensure you have quantifiable answers to all of the above questions. 

Have you interviewed for a leadership role for the first time? Was there anything else you were asked? Do you have any other recommendations? Let us know in the comments below. 

Lessons For Procurement Teams: We Should Be Serving Our Customers, Not Our Processes

How can procurement teams serve their organisations better?


Being a procurement professional can be challenging. The role requires individuals to vet contracts, pricing and supplier relationships. But the bigger picture is that procurement should be the eyes and the ears of the organisation when it comes to how much money is being spent. 

Procurement teams need to ask themselves the questions – what value can be added here, what problems are we trying to solve?

In an ideal world anyone working in procurement should be adding shareholder value, making an impact on the business’s return on investment, increasing social responsibility, driving innovation, enhancing the organisation’s reputation and mitigating risks.

As professionals, we want to enhance our company’s reputation and manage risk

While I have been in the industry for more than 25 years and I assume that this is what drives CPOs, I’m not the only one. Recent research conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services confirms it, with 55% of respondents saying that ethical and commercial considerations are equally important when evaluating suppliers.

But how could procurement professionals know it all?

Procurement leaders are not soothsayers. Nor are they mind readers. The only way they can possibly serve our organisations effectively is if they know what’s happening – the answer lies in having greater transparency of spend. Again, the HBR survey agrees: 90% of executives surveyed indicated that increased business transparency leads to better-informed decision-making across the entire organisation.

What’s stopping procurement from serving the business quickly and efficiently?

Something is holding procurement teams back. That something is a combination of outdated processes and siloed technology that prevents procurement from seeing the bigger picture.

In some instances, manual processes are providing incomplete data or data that is woefully out of date. In others, a lack of support from top management, finance or legal teams is hampering procurement. And sometimes the technology is there, it’s just too siloed to be valuable.

In short: the lack of connectivity between those responsible for sourcing, procuring, paying and reporting on an organisation’s financial transactions is preventing procurement leaders from being able to do what we know they should do, what they want to do and what they believe it is vitally important for them to do.

So how do they move from a situation where, at best, procurement professionals are seen as the naysayers of the business towards an ideal world in which procurement is proactively managing supplier risk, driving innovation and improving shareholder value?

Change the way businesses connect, and the way they buy

It’s time to reimagine the buying ecosystem. Imagine if, instead of having an adversarial, competitive relationship with suppliers, procurement could actually build strong emotional connections for the benefit of both parties? It’s possible.

And, if it works, the entire procurement-supplier relationship will change to provide better results, for more impact, greater transparency and increased shareholder value. And it can all happen faster, more efficiently.

It’s time for change

Quite frankly, the world has changed. Procurement teams who simply think their role is to reduce costs or ‘drive a hard bargain’ in a way that compromises supplier relationships may very well no longer have a job in 10 years’ time. Changing the very nature of the procurement function and its business impact isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s a ‘must-have’.

But it’s not just up to procurement teams to change this.

Procurement does not operate in a silo. As the impact of the coronavirus expands across the world it becomes increasingly obvious that managing suppliers in isolation will not solve bigger problems. As those who buy and procure goods and services, procurement doesn’t just have a responsibility to our organisations: it has a responsibility to know about every touchpoint along the supply chain.

The answer lies in collaboration

There are already pockets of people who do it right: who share information willingly, who build supplier relationships for the benefit of all parties and who understand the data behind the data. 

They deserve to be supported in this change.

It’s time for suppliers and technology providers, for vendors and innovators to join forces and make procurement of the future a business unit to be proud of.

Technology providers need to come in with a collaboration-first mindset and then make a commitment. Vendors should be saying, ‘This is what we think you need, this is how we’re going to solve that problem, and this is the ROI this solution can deliver.’

To improve connectivity within organisations and between procurement and suppliers we need to put collaboration first.

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