Tag Archives: big ideas 2017

Eyes on the prize: 5 ways soft skills can help you focus on the big-ticket projects

From guest contributor Shaun Hughes, Chief Procurement Officer, Telstra.

In a complex and hyper-connected world, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to juggle every demand on your time without losing sight of important projects. The solution doesn’t lie in downloading the latest time-management app, or introducing the latest project management methodology, but in the development of five key soft skills. 

I’ve always been impressed by jugglers. Otherwise known as multi-taskers, the best jugglers are seemingly able to keep an unbelievable number of projects and tasks in the air at once. But underneath the whirl of frenetic activity, impressive as it might look, is it really effective?

Firstly, trying to juggle too many projects at once often leads to short-termism. Rather than make hard prioritisation decisions on what really matters, we often fall into the trap of focusing on the most urgent task at hand.  Meanwhile, the big-ticket projects that really make a difference are lost in the swirl of activity.  Busy-ness leaves no room for effectiveness.

You may be able to get every task done on your list, but does it really add value?  We all know what our best work looks like, but are we setting ourselves up for success?  Creating the time to think and to prioritise is essential, but how do we know that we’re working on the right things?

Soft skills remove ambiguity.

Modern procurement is about driving a change agenda.  Great organisations have great talent and great talent doesn’t always agree.

I used to think getting things done was about getting everyone to yes, now I believe it’s about getting the “NOs” to neutral and maintaining enough momentum in the “YES camp” to move things forward.

But the task of converting all those NOs to neutrals can sometimes seem overwhelming. If you don’t have existing relationships in place, you’ve simply got no idea why individuals (or entire functions) are resisting your change agenda. Confronted with so much ambiguity and complexity, it can be hard to know where to start.

What I’ve found is if you simply roll up your sleeves, start talking to people and understand their perspectives it’s amazing what you learn about what is important to them and why.  Understanding this takes a bit more time sometimes, but change is much more likely to stick.

Five soft skills that will help you win back your time

1. Make the effort to really connect – see the person, not the task. Take the time to understand those around you, what is important to them, their fears and aspirations, what motivates them.  While the degree of connection each of us want at work will vary, when we connect as people in a real and authentic way the whole human dynamic of that relationship changes.  When our focus is only on the task, it’s much harder to see the person and the impact your agenda might have on them.

2. Ask not tell – start with a question, and then keep asking questions. Even if you want to talk about your agenda, when we ask permission to do so, something changes.  We are now being invited into the conversation. The dynamic shifts from one of pushing our own agenda and position, to a pull dynamic where we are being asked to explain it.

When the conversation pauses, inquire with curiosity.  It never ceases to amaze me how different things can be in reality to how they appear on the surface.  When we simply listen with a view to finding space to talk ourselves, I wonder do we always hear what is being said to us?

When a really important idea that I just don’t want to forget hijacks my ability to listen, one thing that works for me is the simple act of writing that thought down. This seems to remove the need to keep trying to remember it, or the urgency to blurt it out, and allows me to listen. 

3. Reasonable people acting illogically – most people in business are smart, pragmatic and reasonably rational. Admittedly, we all have moments when we lapse a little, but corporate norms of behaviour tend to reinforce pragmatic rationalism.  So, when we see behaviour that doesn’t quite make sense to us, it’s often because we don’t fully understand what’s important to those around us.  What should we do?  Start back at point 1 and build a relationship.

Throughout my career I’ve taken many opportunities to do many different things in many different parts of the businesses I’ve worked in. Different roles in different industries, but always coming back to my core skill in commercial / financial management. Breadth through rotation provides a wider perspective on the world around us and I’ve certainly benefited from this. It’s amazing how much you can enjoy learning something new; the broader our own experiences, the easier it is to understand the perspectives of others. 

4. Learn to let go – for many overworked jugglers, the problem can be of our own making. If your leadership style means controlling every decision and rewriting everything your team produces, you will always have too much on your plate. Learn to recognise talent, enable it, establish a set of principles to work by and communicate these clearly. Then, simply get out of the way and let talent be talent.

You may be surprised to find that the quality of work goes up as people feel more empowered and valued.  Do any of us do our best work when we know the boss is going to get out the red pen and rewrite the whole thing?

4. Know when to call in the umpire – we have umpires in sport for a reason. Sometimes in the heat of the moment the desire to win distorts the player’s perspective of what’s really happening.  Imagine a tennis game without an umpire ….
                In            out!
               In!          Out!!
               IN!!        OUT!!! 

Nothing can stall a project quite so much as an unresolved disagreement.  So, rather than let the relationship falter, or prosecute the same issue repeatedly, be pragmatic about when to find an umpire.  Make your respective cases, accept the decision and move on.

Is there anything wrong with acknowledging where you are and saying “Hey, we’re not going to agree on this, how about we get a third party to be an umpire?

Good communication, transparency and investment in relationships may seem like a counter-intuitive way to lesson your workload, but your soft skills are the most effective method you have of bringing those multiple projects under control, focusing on the big-ticket items that will really move your business and your career in the right direction, and driving lasting sustainable change.

Telstra is a leading Australian telecommunications and technology company, offering a full range of communications services and competing in all telecommunications markets. Hear more thought-leadership from Telstra at Procurious Big Ideas Summit Melbourne on Monday 30th October. 

How To Train Your CEO To Get What The Business Needs

The majority of CPOs are still reporting three levels down from the CEO. Enrico Rizzon, Partner, Procurement & Analytics, A.T. Kearney Australia outlines how procurement can build a strong business case!

On 30th October, we’re bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Melbourne! Want to join us? Grab a ticket here to secure you seat! 

Procurement leaders in large corporations face a tough business environment. Facing low growth, disruption, increased competitive pressures from well-funded private equity firms and nimble technology-focused innovators, the demand for creative procurement services to deliver not only on cost improvements but also create new solutions that help the overall business strategy is growing.

However, more than 50 percent of procurement functions are still seen as a service rather than business functions with only a small proportion of CPOs reporting into CEOs – the majority still report three levels down.

The need for procurement leaders to be able to build strong business cases that proactively influence and challenge CEOs is greater than ever. The overall goal is to make the CEO understand that what you provide can help solve business challenges, not just the procurement issues.

To deliver on these business challenges there are three key skills that all CPOs must adopt if they’re to succeed.

Herding cats

 Herding cats is a challenging and vital skill when it comes to engaging the c-suite. Those with experience will understand that, at that level, there are individual agendas and incentives that drive different, and not always helpful, behaviours especially when the levers and areas being utilised to deliver value are less commonly associated with procurement. One needs to be politically aware, and know how to navigate this to ‘corral the cats’ and drive the change that is necessary to unlock the value for their businesses.

Speak their language

 The c-suite are not interested in what you want, but they are interested in what the business needs. A simple language change through framing conversations with the c-suite differently can have a dramatic impact.  Think of this as, ‘same, same but different’. To put this into practice, Chris Sullivan from CCA, who now reports directly to the CCA Group CEO, suggests structuring procurement’s role along dimensions that mater to the business and are clearly aligned with the business strategy. It is especially important to ensure that all in the procurement team understand and learn this.

 Build trust

One of the quickest ways to burn trust is to talk about procurement and not the business. Building trust is not easy and it takes time, but once achieved it will transform Procurement from a services function to a business partner whom the CEO relies on. This can only be built through delivery, and more importantly consistency of delivery. There is no point in over-delivering one year, only to not deliver the following year. This extends to numbers and metrics that Procurement use to report delivery. In a recent A.T. Kearney survey, CFOs consistently felt that metrics used by Procurement were less robust than other service functions. If what you report is not credible, then your trust will also quickly be eroded. Overhauling delivery metrics is a sure-fire step to building trust with the CEO.

Mastering these three skills will stand you in good stead to engage the c-suite to not only improve the overall Procurement function, but to truly impact the business so that it can grow and prosper.

My final piece of advice is to be bold.

As George Bernard Shaw famously said, ‘the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.’ In these times of low growth and disruption, being reasonable may not deliver the result for you or for the organisation you serve. So back yourself, be bold, help lead the change that the business needs.

Take the first step and you may be pleasantly surprised at what eventuates.

Want to hear more from Enrico Rizzon? He’ll be speaking  at The Big Ideas Summit Melbourne. Join us LIVE to discuss the big-ticket trends affecting procurement – grab a ticket here to secure your seat!

Supercharge Your Intelligence

How can technology improve the savings, scope and speed of your supplier searches by supercharging your intelligence

The event might be over, but you can still  register for The Big Ideas Summit Chicago to access footage  from the event. 

“There’s a tremendous opportunity [for procurement] to leverage technology and data to accelerate processes and bring insight into the organisation.” says Stephany Lapierre, founder and CEO of tealbook.

After 10 years building a successful strategic sourcing consulting firm, Stephany launched tealbook in 2014, a cloud-based platform that uses machine learning to enrich supplier master data and accelerates supplier identification and qualification by as much as 90 per cent.

At The Big Ideas Summit last week we interviewed Stephany to learn the results of a recent partnership with The Hackett Group:

What’s the big problem?

We know that procurement processes need to be more agile. Particularly in larger organisations, which are threatened by disruption, the ability to adapt and be more flexible is of paramount importance to ensure survival.

But, as Stephany points out, when it comes to identifying qualified suppliers, agility is not procurement’s strong point…yet!

“By the time a business comes to procurement with supplier requirements, it takes an average of 41 hours of effort to come back with a list of qualified suppliers,” she begins.

“I was with a Fortune 500 CPO recently and asked him one question:

“When the business comes to procurement, what’s the process for getting back to them with a vetted list of qualified suppliers?”

“He spoke for ten minutes, listing all of the internal and external sources used by procurement!

“We have a portal, we use our analysts, third party analysts, we buy market intelligence reports, we use Google, as our stakeholders, and the list went on.

“If it takes 41 hours of efforts (typically taking 5 to 6 weeks), procurement is a bottle neck. You can now make that information available in real time… that changes the conversation. It’s game changing!”

If traditional approaches to decision making are broken, what does that mean for the future of procurement?

The Upside Of Supplier Intelligence

tealbook recently partnered with The Hackett Group to research the cost, effort, and business impact of supplier discovery and qualification. The resulting data became the foundation of a four-city series of executive roundtables focused on exploring and capturing the strategic impact of having access to actionable supplier intelligence to meet the demand of the business that requires speed, agility and innovation.

Over the course of those four evenings, The Hackett Group data came alive through the diverse perspectives of over 40 procurement thought leaders. Their combined insights are now available in a new white paper, The Upside of Accessible Supplier Intelligence, which was launched at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit in Chicago.

The paper addresses the transformative potential of supplier intelligence based on the themes we heard loud and clear from our executive participants, as well as discussion around the following points:

  • 15% of the sourcing process is spent identifying and qualifying suppliers.
  • It takes an average of 41 hours of effort per sourcing event, which translates into 23,165 hours for the average enterprise.
  • Over 60 percent of supplier discovery & qualification efforts are handled by strategic resources (category managers and senior category managers).
  • Applying machine learning and peer-driven intelligence to this challenge creates a strategic opportunity to accelerate and improve this process while increasing procurement’s total impact on the top and bottom line.

Procurement: The Guardian of Enterprise?

Procurement must find a way to reduce tactical work and reassign hours to strategic opportunities which will allow procurement to deliver better savings while aligning with the speed and expectations of the rest of the business.

Having instant access to trusted, actionable intelligence will therefore be a mandatory piece of the procurement technology landscape in market leading companies.

As Phil Ideson (Art of Procurement), the moderator for all four cities, stated in one of the roundtables,

“…Procurement is a function ripe for disruption. We have to be careful not to disrupt ourselves by being rooted on our traditional ways.”

Download the full tealbook white paper here.

Want to see more from The Big Ideas Summit Chicago.  Register now  (It’s FREE!) as a digital delegate to gain access to all of the day’s action including video interviews with our speakers and attendees. 

Line ’em Up: Five Ways To Take A Swing At The Biggest Challenges Facing Procurement

What are the hottest topics on the table for Australia’s leading telecommunications company? Telstra’s Alexandru Butiri shares five challenges – and five solutions – to trends that will resonate with procurement professionals everywhere.

Today, we’re at the point where we need to look forward to see what’s coming, understand where the dynamics of the industry are going, and make sure we participate in those trends. It’s equally important, however, that we address the biggest trends and challenges facing our organisation today.

The following five challenges are not the result of theory or a brainstorming session on the whiteboard. Each point is a red-hot issue that we, as a procurement function, are currently experiencing first-hand.

  1. Faster than anticipated global supplier consolidation

The challenge: The biggest suppliers on the market are growing at a great rate and becoming increasingly powerful. Supplier consolidation isn’t new, but it’s happening much faster than anticipated. This, in the context of value being captured at the layer of applications and services, can fundamentally impact our telco business.

Solution: One way to address this trend is for operators to join forces and form telco buying consortiums to aggregate volumes and share benchmarks. These can be cross-industry groups that use their combined numbers to counter the weight of global suppliers. Examples of buying consortia in my sector are BuyIn, Telefónica and VPC

  1. Increased complexity adding risk to the supply chain

The challenge: No matter how far down the supply chain it occurs, any instance of modern slavery, child labour, or environmental breaches will reflect very poorly on the purchasing organisation. The supplier ecosystem is now so complex that it can be full of grey areas, making it all the more necessary to do your due diligence not only with your direct suppliers, but with second, third and fourth-tier suppliers.

Solution: Again, forming alliances or joining ventures that certify or give some form of accreditation to suppliers is more effective than trying to tackle such an enormous challenge alone. Organisations need to educate their first-tier suppliers to do the same for their suppliers, and so on. This challenge is relevant from both a social and legislative perspective

  1. Getting the most out of procurement systems

The challenge: Today we are spoilt for choice with procure-to-pay (P2P) systems. While there are many start-ups and new solutions that are elegant, user friendly, and beautifully designed, the reality is that companies our size have to integrate multiple systems. We can’t just throw legacy systems out the window. Another challenge is that any investment in technology will be wasted if it’s grafted onto poor internal processes and unclear accountabilities.

Solution: Do your housekeeping before investing in technology by cleaning up internal processes and driving discipline around the use of P2P systems. Align the process, then align the technology. In other words, prepare your organisation so they can use the technology constructively, otherwise you’ll risk wasting money.

  1. Connecting the dots between disruptive technologies

The challenge: Used in isolation, disruptive technologies can potentially have an impact, but few organisations are looking at them in conjunction. For example, augmented reality will get an incredible boost from AI, while AI will be significantly enhanced by quantum computing. Take Yellow Pages (printed phone directories) as an example. In the early 2000s they recognised that Google’s desktop-based search engine was a competitor, but didn’t imagine that the incredible rise of mobile phones that enhanced their competitor’s reach. The fact that everyone had Google in their pockets had an impact on their business model which was more significant than anticipated.

Solution: Build operating models that are flexible enough to adapt and integrate these new technologies, and think about how they can be combined to further augment each other. Keep in mind the difficulty that big companies have in flexing fast – so prepare by disrupting yourself before someone else does.

  1. Gaining the elusive seat at the table

The challenge: Seeking a seat at the decision-making table has been a procurement goal for so long that it has become something of a cliché, but it is so important that it remains important to keep pushing. In today’s environment, a third party can at the same time be your supplier, your customer, your competitor, and your partner in different fields. All of a sudden, you’re looking at a complex, 360-degree ecosystem, and who sits at the centre of that relationship? Procurement.

Solution: Procurement can prove its worth by providing credible solutions to business challenges, owning the bottom line, and (importantly) owning cross-company transformation landing. Why? Because any transformation program will require your suppliers’ technology and knowledge to land successfully. Procurement controls those partnerships, so should therefore be central in any successful transformational program.

Telstra is a leading Australian telecommunications and technology company, offering a full range of communications services and competing in all telecommunications markets. Hear more thought-leadership from Telstra at Procurious Big Ideas Summit Melbourne on Monday 30th October. 

Procurement And The Conversational Century

The social media revolution has allowed for traditional institutions to create personal digital conversations with their audience. We are in the era of ‘The Conversational Century’.

On 30th October, we’re bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Melbourne! Want to join us? Grab a ticket here to secure you seat!

When he was born in July 2013, Prince George of Cambridge became the first royal baby to have his own hashtag. There were over 3.5 million Facebook mentions of the young Prince in the 24 hours leading up to his birth. Fast forward a few years to September 2017 and there were millions of people watching and commenting as Prince George took his first steps into full-time education.

And it’s not just the royal family taking the world of social media by storm…

Pope Francis became the first Pope to engage with a wider audience through Twitter.

Former U.S President, Barack Obama is the author of six of the top-ten most liked tweets of all time.

And  let’s not forget how Twitter helped Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. election…

Photo Credit : Jon Keegan, The Wall Street Journal

As of August 2017, Twitter hashtags are ten years old and the # symbol is used a stagering 125 million times per day.

The hashtag, which initially punctuated the more lighted-hearted of conversations,  has now become a powerful tool, adopted by politicians, marketers, campaigners and fundraisers alike.

Elizabeth Linder, a Princeton University graduate, is at the forefront of the social media revolution. She has described the intersection between Facebook and the 21st century governance as ‘The Conversational Century’. Linder started working for Facebook as their Government and Politics specialist in 2008, when the company had fewer than 100 million users.

She built up Facebook’s Politics and Government Programme for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Her role includes advising political representatives, government agencies, public administrators, and think tanks on the intersection of Facebook and modern governance.

What is the conversational century?

Social Media and networking play an important role in the practice of public diplomacy. Facebook, with its individual and country pages, presents opportunities for the public diplomacy sector to engage the public audience in a number of diverse ways. This engagement is part of the conversational century.

Linder defines ‘The Conversational Century’ as the new era in leadership, where leaders are turning outwards to have conversations with the public, aided by the latest social media technology. Social media is forcing traditional institutions and influential leaders to change their communication channels and dialogue.

Traditional institutions, such as the British monarchy, are actively using social media to engage with audiences, using a personal tone to create a digital conversation. The impact of the conversational century is seen through the shifting nature of communication, from a traditional, one-way channel, to a diverse, two-channel communication channel.

Back in 2010, when there were 500 million Facebook users, politicians running for office were only just beginning to explore new technology and start the transition to ‘digital elections’. Now, there are over 2 billion Facebook users, hailing from a diverse range of backgrounds, languages, and socio-economic classes. This gives political candidates and institutes the opportunity to speak to a very broad range of people, all at once.

Conversational Century and Procurement

Procurement leaders, much like political leaders, need to embrace the Conversational Century and the power of social media, in order to engage with a wide range of people and contribute to live dialogue.

Procurement itself will play an active role in the Conversation Century. Social media platforms, such as Procurious and Facebook, offer a unique opportunity for procurement professionals to share knowledge of what is happening in procurement. Companies and industries can showcase what they have done and what they are working on to an active and engaged audience.

Furthermore, as social media is increasingly integrated into corporate life, procurement can use it to play a key role in observing and analysing all sides of the business. It can be positioned between the customer side, internal stakeholders and the supply side.

The increased visibility of data resulting from the management of social customer relationships, social internal stakeholders, and social supplier relationships, will provide procurement with information-rich data which can potentially lead to increased collaboration, agility and faster decision-making.

Want to hear more from Elizabeth Linder? She’ll be speaking about The Conversational Century at The Big Ideas Summit Melbourne. Want to join us in person to discuss the big ticket trends affecting procurement? Grab a ticket here to secure your seat!

Take Some Advice From Procurement’s Top Influencers

Don’t cry because it’s over…. Smile because you can re-live all of the action from The Big Ideas Summit Chicago on Procurious! The event might be over, but you can still  register for The Big Ideas Summit Chicago to access footage  from the event. 

Last week, Procurious gathered 50 of the U.S.’s top procurement and supply chain influencers in Chicago for the Big Ideas Summit for a day of rich discussion on the trends impacting our industry.

We debated whether entrepreneurial skills are something we’re born with or something we can teach…

We learnt why procurement pros must become better intelligence gatherers in preparation for the disruptive forces coming our way in 2018…

And we discovered that it’s possible to engineer moments of serendpity to ensure we meet the right people at the right time!

Couldn’t join us on the day?

Did we slip your mind? No problem! The Big Ideas Summit itself might be over but the global brainstorm continues on Procurious. There’s heaps more content to get your teeth stuck into via the learning area and in our Big Ideas Summit Chicago Digital Delgate Group.

Here’s a taster of some the content you can expect…

Everyone’s A Little Bit Entrepreneurial

Nina Vaca, The Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group has experienced a roller-coaster of ups and downs in her 20-year journey from a niche IT business, that was started on her living room floor, to the workforce solutions powerhouse it is today.

She offered some fascinating insights in to her life as a successful entrepreneur and asked us to think of entrpreneurship as a continuum, and not as a noun.

Everyone, Nina believes, has a little bit of entrepreneurial skill. Whilst your position on the entrepreneurial scale whether it be 5, 50 or 100 determines your overall potential, we can all move forward in our abilities to some extent!

Nina also provided some advice on how to spot entrepreneurial qualities during an interview process. How do you identify the visionaries, the ones with fire in their belly who will galvanise the people around them. Find out more below:

Can We Speed Up Real Life?

Greg Lindsay, Futurist, Urbanist, Journalist and Author, is a firm believer in the fact that innovation is fundamentally social. Indeed, case study after case study has demonstrated that the best ideas are more likely to arise from a casual chat around the water fountain than in any scheduled meeting.

So how do we engineer serendipidous moments. Of course, as Greg acknowledged at last week’s event, this is an oxymoron. But it is possible to create the conditions for unplanned encounters with people where ideas can happen. How do you meet the person in the office you should be working with, how do you meet people in the same social speheres you are yet to encounter?

Greg’s presentation was all about accelerating the experience of life, which is all about unplanned encounters. They happen all the time anyway, so the trick is to figure out how we can bend them to our will? Learn more in Greg’s video interview:

You Have All The Info You Need. Now, What To Do With It All…?

Justin Crump, CEO at Sibylline thinks that every procurement leader needs to become a better intelligence gatherer.  Given the rate at which technology is evolving and how global events are impacting the world, it is increasingly difficult for companies to keep-up without considering risk in real-time. Intelligence about the world we live in drives business operations and the better informed we are the easier it is to drive progress.

Justin explained that procurement teams need an effective process to managing the information they have and turning it into something they can use, what he terms an “actionable insight”.

In the past it was hard to get hold of information and now we’re swamped with it with the advent of social media – the challenge is pulling it al together.  In his video, Justin offers some advice on how to do this and outlines the disruptive forces are heading our way in 2018?

Want to see more from The Big Ideas Summit Chicago.  Register now  (It’s FREE!) as a digital delegate to gain access to all of the day’s action including video interviews with our speakers and attendees.