Tag Archives: big ideas in procurement

Food, Glorious Factory Food! – Challenging the Tech Status Quo

If procurement continues to accept the technological status quo as some kind of given, we’ll continue to be fed the same poor diet. Paul Blake explains why it’s time to challenge the hard-and-fast rules we’ve adopted for so long without question. 

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Have you ever wondered why food made in factories is so awful?

Please don’t assume this is going to be a rant about organic carrots and the danger of the shop-bought cake. Let me reassure you that it’s on the contrary.

There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal 

Modern living and demands on personal time mean that conveniently available, ready-to-eat food is a fact of everyday life. Everything from jam to lasagne is made in factories, often with minimal human interaction. This can be a very good thing in many ways.

So, if we accept that industrially manufactured food is a thing, one question still remains. Why is it just not as good as the homemade or handmade equivalent? Again, we should allow for the dependency on precisely whose hands are involved. But, all things being equal, a dish made by a competent cook, from scratch will out-score a factory-made one.

At first glance, it might seem obvious. Factory products resource lower cost raw ingredients, preservatives and flavourings for longer shelf-life. No wonder your canned chilli ain’t a patch on your own efforts. This is basic profit-driven economics. And, it’s true, you get what you pay for.

But there is another, more subtle reason, that factory food doesn’t quite hit the mark. A reason that is in no way immediately apparent. And it has to do with our relationship with technology.

Robots that POUR!

For a dish to be easily manufactured in a factory, in large quantities, on a production line, it is crucial that the components, from raw ingredients to part finished elements, are able to be pumped.

How do you get the meat sauce for your lasagne from its cooking vat to the line where it’s assembled? The sauce, the pasta and the béchamel must be sent through a pipe, and often for a considerable distance. The pumping of certain traditional ingredients, such as butter, is impossible. As such, the food industry has had to identify, develop and sometimes engineer alternatives.

The infrastructure, the routing process has had such limitations that it has defined the very nature of the outcomes that are possible. But, as the presenters of the great BBC technology show of the 70s and 80s, Tomorrow’s World, used to say “that is, until now!”

The food factory of the future will be populated, not by machines that pump – but by robots that POUR. And with that simple change, a whole new world of possibilities opens up.

By analysing how a chef systematically puts a dish together, and replicating that, with industrial upscaling, into a robotic process – and eradicating the notion that the conventional wisdom of “pumpability” was some kind of hard-and-fast rule. This new paradigm in food production could forgo the need for chemically-altered shortening agents. You know those ones that taste terrible (requiring added salt as a mask), have dubious health impacts but which, can  at least,  be pumped along a pipe.

Limitations in procurement

In business, and without doubt in the procurement business, we have precisely that same relationship with the technology available to us. We’ve been limited in the quality of the results we can produce because of how the tools and technologies we use are built.

Until recently, the software used in procurement has restricted the procurement professional to working in ways determined by how the software was written, and not by what is best for the outcome. This means procurement has become attenuated to these limitations and now accepts them as hard-and-fast rules.

A good example of this is the notion of “best of breed”.  This uses the most sophisticated software tool available for each step in the source to pay process. We’re indoctrinated to see lists of features and functions as the sole measure of suitability of software.

Dividing up the entire spend management process from strategy planning to invoice payment into a set of silos, and then equipping each step with the best tool for that task might at first seem to be a sound approach.  But this is only if you look at the steps in isolation. That’s just the same as looking at each ingredient in your recipe and only considering whether you can pump it around your factory.

How can tech make procurement processes more palatable?

In procurement, the separation of sourcing from contract into entirely different systems does nothing to promote positive outcomes and the isolated software components actively compound the difficulty of realizing savings and value.

However, technologies are emerging that are permitting us to look at the entire source to pay process as a single business requirement.  This allows us to consider how the various “ingredients” interact and work with each other to create the optimum result.

In the future, we will no longer be restricted to working the way the software dictates. Whilst a good part of the process may be run automatically, we will get to determine the ideal set of inputs and outputs to suit us.

The emergence of AI founded on big data, mobile, always-on connectivity and, crucially, the unification of strategic procurement and day-to-day purchasing into a single operational environment are changing the effectiveness of the procurement operation.

Challenging the status quo

By accepting the technological status quo as some kind of given, we will only continue to be fed the same poor diet.

Returning to the analogy, we don’t have to reject the notion of manufactured food entirely. Not if we can see that technology can actually make it better, possibly even better than we can do ourselves. There’s a thought!

The same applies completely to the idea of the automated supply chain. It needn’t (and won’t) be the death of Procurement. The smart use of new technology will actually give our industry new lease of life. As long as we stop adhering to the outdated technology rule book.

There is another way. The time is now.

Paul Blake is Senior Manager, Technology Product Marketing at GEP Worldwide. He’ll be speaking at the 2017 Big Ideas Summit next week. Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate here.

How To Hold On Tight To Prospective Procurement Talent

The recruitment process can be brutal. You’ve work hard to identify and attract the best procurement talent. But,  at the last minute, the candidate pulls out leaving you back at square one.  Michael Page’s Graham Lucas has some top tips for achieving a successful recruitment process.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Procurement has come a long way and holds a position of positive influence within many organisations. The agenda for the Big Ideas Summit  – Procurement in the Digital Age, Rethinking What’s Possible, Building Workforce 4.0, and The View from the Top – shows that there has never been a more urgent need for bigger change and greater evolution.

You need only to look at the progress over the past few years to recognise this. SRM, improved supply chains, driving both value and innovation from suppliers, and category leads shaping strategic agendas are some of the developments we have seen.

Whilst the progress is positive, the evolving shape of organisations and the disruptive nature of technology is only going to increase both the degrees, and speed of change required. I genuinely don’t believe that procurement as a function will continue to exist unless it drives a much greater breadth to its commercial influence over an organisation.

So what affect does this have on talent attraction, acquisition and retention in procurement teams?

The Procurement Talent Pool

It is clear that 80 per cent of the roles on which we are being briefed carry very similar requirements. Organisations are competing for the 20 per cent of  candidates in any potential pool that possess  the key skills needed to help procurement teams deliver that broader value. Influencing skills, communication, being able to connect with stakeholders and suppliers, and driving innovation etc. Most procurement teams will have advertised a role recently specifying many of these requirements.

Identifying the talent you want to hire is only one aspect of the challenge. You’ll also need to ensure that you are able to acquire them. Three in every  four of the offers that our clients are making are being met with counter offers, many of them substantial.  In half of these cases the counter offer is equal to or greater than the offer made by our client.

Fortunately Michael Page are mitigating most of the risks associated with this for our clients.  It’s important to prepare a candidate for what is to come when they resign. We also consider  what they need from the process and screen out those that are not serious. This is all part of what a good recruiter will do. And after that, it’s down to you….

What  can procurement teams  do to avoid losing talent they have worked so hard to identify and attract? It comes down to six key factors. 

Understand key motivators

Understanding candidates’ key motivators is crucial to ensuring that any chance of buy back is reduced, and to make the right hiring decisions for long-term performance and retention. If you have truly understood their motivators you are more likely to run a process that allows them to see how these can be met by you and your organisation. Where these don’t match you can save yourself critical time. This will allow you to focus on better prospects in terms of those that will actually join and, just as importantly, stay.

Get clarity on the full package

Package clarity: as with motivations, it is vital to get into the detail of a candidate’s current package at the beginning of the process so provide a full breakdown of the package and the value of it.

This will allow for an accurate comparison of a candidate’s current situation vs. the package on offer. Bonuses (likely earnings and also when they are paid), pensions, healthcare, car packages…. Not only do they mean different things in different businesses but many people don’t know the details until they are asked to look. Get in the detail early and manage expectations from day one. Otherwise you could be either under offering or underselling your own offer.

Offer a healthy balance

It’s easy to overlook the importance of a work life balance. There’s no point getting into the middle of a process only for a candidate to decide the commute is too tough or expensive. Likewise, what is the realistic work/life balance you can offer  in the new role? What are the candidate’s personal circumstances? Will this impact their final decision? It is crucial to be upfront about this from the start.

Ensure that people want to join your people!

This has a huge impact on candidates but is, strangely, sometimes underestimated. Candidates will form an attraction to a business and a team. This is separate from things like role specification, package, location etc. If you can get your prospective employee to meet people that they believe they can work with, and most importantly learn from, it makes the organisation much more desirable.

People join people more than they join companies.

A competent recruitment process

Candidates often judge businesses by their processes particularly at interview stage.  Make sure there are  clear timelines in place to manage expectations. Does the advised preparation match with the content of the interviews?

Whilst these may seem like small things, they can make a big difference. A company that is well organised, thorough and effective at recruitment, can either impress or put a candidate off. Asking someone to deliver change in an organisation that doesn’t appear able to do what it says it will do sends out the wrong signals.

Make your offer compelling

An offer should always be made based on what the hiring business thinks the candidate is worth, not just on the advertised package. For each role it is worth considering what a compelling offer would be. Both as a statement of intent to secure the candidate and also to ensure your remuneration is in line with the rest of the market. Importantly, this might not just be salary; it could be a bonus, private healthcare package or flexible working hours.

Graham Lucas is Managing Director – Procurement & Supply Chain and Logistics at Michael Page. He’ll be speaking at the 2017 Big Ideas Summit next week. Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate here.

Are You A Procurement Starter Or A Finisher?

Are you a starter or a finisher? According to IBM’s Barry Ward, you’d better be both! Barry discusses the key skills most critical to procurement in the coming years.

Barry Ward, Procurement Brand Manager, Global Business Services at IBM is a keynote speaker at Big Ideas Summit 2017.  He’ll be explaining the big ideas behind Watson and the opportunities that cognitive tech presents to procurement. When we spoke to Barry ahead of the event he was keen to remind us that, despite rapid tech developments, traditional procurement skills are far from being made redundant.

How do you stay productive and current in a world of fast-paced innovation?

  • Collaborating with colleagues
  • Networking with others – using social media and other channels
  • Building and nurturing an ecosystem of organisations that are leading or developing solutions that may have or will have an impact in your function

What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

We will always need traditional procurement skills such as the ability to be a strong negotiator, to communicate well internally and externally, to be a starter and a finisher. But, on top of this I think the importance of an open mind and curiosity in terms of the role that technology can play in the future is going to be more important than ever.

There will be an increasing need for project management skills, change management, relationship management skills. This is on top of the usual and still critical traditional procurement skills such as category expertise or negotiation skills. I can also say that there is a growing importance in soft skills: communication, teamwork and collaboration and problem solving.

How has technology, the Internet of Things and e-Procurement affected IBM?

Technology has placed a key role in IBM’s transformation over the past 20 years or so. Its importance is perhaps more critical in the the current phase of our procurement transformation. Understanding how digital technology can transform the supply chain and our source to pay activities is critical in terms both driving our efficiency and effectiveness but also to showcase how procurement can drive value throughout our organisation.

This positions Procurement in a much more strategic role than ever before. Procurement data is much more visible than ever before.  Insights through combining unstructured and structured information augment our knowledge, with alerts being posted to mobile devices instantaneously means that buyers can have much better assurance of supply continuity, of being able to understand price opportunities and to focus their time and energies on higher value activities than ever before. Lower value work will become automated or systems-driven. This is all good news for Procurement.

One clear impact of this transformation is that our key stakeholders now have very high expectations of high performance from Procurement personnel, perhaps more so than ever before, but the rewards are clearly evident in terms of the value that individuals can bring as well as the procurement organisation as a whole.

How valuable have mentors been in your career?

Mentoring is a highly personal thing. Some people need to have guidance and direction particularly in an organisation that may be widely spread and fast-moving, and if you are looking to move around different functions. Similarly for those who are in a smaller organization, mentors can bring an external, broader perspective.

Others are confident of their own abilities in charting a course for their own development and progression. I have had mentors in the past, particularly when I was in the early stages of my career. The more confident you are of your attributes and ambitions the less I have found that I needed mentoring. I spend time mentoring others mainly from within IBM and mainly from other geographies.

How did you first become interested in procurement?

I didn’t know very much about Procurement in my time as an undergraduate. It was not a profession that had much coverage when I was at University, unlike Finance or Engineering.

My first job as a business graduate was as a Purchasing Analyst running Bill of Material queries in a MRP system for a large manufacturer. This brought me into contact with many parts of the organisation including procurement. The procurement manager at the time was quite an intellectual and gave me a broad view of the role that procurement can play in an organisation.

Clearly he influenced me as I have spent my subsequent career in procurement and supply chain roles!

How will cognitive technology impact procurement professionals?

Cognitive technology will transform the role of the procurement professional and the impact that he or she can make for their organisation. It will be able to remove some of the more prosaic parts of the procurement role, such as data gathering and analysis, together with augmenting a buyer’s knowledge thus enabling them to spend more time on higher value tasks and ultimately make better decisions and be more effective.

Procurement professionals will need to understand how cognitive technology works – so they can be alert to potential mistakes that can happen from cognitive solutions, so that data input from these solutions is relevant and accurate.  It will eventually help, and force, them with their career progression as well as developing their expertise.

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017

3 Ways to Build a Match Fit Procurement Team

You never know what’s on the horizon, so you need to be prepared for anything. For procurement that means staying agile and always being match fit.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Given the pace of change in the external environment, being agile means constantly changing, never standing still. It’s not about putting out fires, it’s about ensuring that fires never start in the first place.

For procurement, this means creating and maintaining agile teams, and staying match fit for what comes next. Staying ahead of the curve, be it change, risk or technology, is critical for the future of the profession.

Procurious are delighted to welcome back Chris Sawchuk, Principal and Global Procurement Advisory Practice Leader at The Hackett Group, to the Big Ideas Summit 2017. Chris spoke last year about why procurement needed to put agility at the centre of all its activities.

This year, Chris will be taking the conversation one step further, discussing ways to enable agility through digital transformation and creating an agile team. However, to do this procurement needs to ensure it’s thinking ahead, not just looking at the problems it needs to solve now.

Chris outlines three top tips below on how procurement can be prepared to handle any future issues.

  1. Be Match Fit

As we’ve said above, the key to being agile is ensuring flexibility. A quick way to lose agility is to create a rigid environment that doesn’t allow trying new things.

Define what procurement can and can’t control, and what activities it can drive. Make sure that your procurement team is aligned to the corporate strategies and objectives. It’s a good way of making sure that new ideas will be fully considered as part of the overall organisational strategy.

For example, if Procurement decides they want a diversity programme and the CEO isn’t behind it, it will never reach its full potential. The same goes for technology. If the CEO isn’t invested, the project will never get off the ground.

But even if your company isn’t focused on technology yet, you can be sure it will be in the future. It might be six months, or it might be five years, but it’s better not to be forced kicking and screaming into this new era.

Procurement needs to be ready to go when the business is. You don’t want to be asking for six more months of planning if your CEO wants a transition now. Be ready – have a list prepared of the top three initiatives for technologies, and how they will be implemented. That way you won’t be caught short.

  1. Educate Yourself

If you want to be prepared, you need to be in the know. Don’t be scared of new technology and bury your head in the sand – be aware of what’s out there. Have a list of the most relevant and best technology and know what it can do for you.

Part of that awareness is also preparing for new technology. Procurement teams need to know what’s happening in the market place, and how it impacts them. You don’t need to know everything, but you at least need to be cognizant of it.

That way, procurement can look at the big issues in organisations through the lens of how technology can help. Is there a technology out there that could help with this issue?

If global collaboration is a major issue, there are social platforms that could help connect all your teams to each other, and even their suppliers.

Maybe there’s a technology that could augment (not just automate) a procurement activity that you are performing today. You might finally have access to all kinds of data, but it’s about knowing what you can do with it to extract competitively differentiating insights.

  1. Create Agile Teams

If you aren’t agile then you can’t prepare for any of this. In fact, it’s unlikely you’re even in a position to be ready to start preparing.

To create agile teams you need to have the basics in place, get ahead of these issues, and aim to be predictive. If you knew what was going to happen (sadly crystal balls are in short supply), you would have the ultimate level of agility, and be able to get ahead of any issues.

However, it’s critical that procurement retains the ability to deliver against organisational objectives at the same time. There’s no use being agile if it means that procurement fails to deliver on the basic requirements.

If you can’t get the basics done, then there’s no point in even trying the ‘fancy’ stuff.

Reimagining What We’re Trying to Achieve 

The main problem at the moment is that we can’t even imagine what is going to be possible in the future. The pace of change is so fast that technologies are adapting and evolving in a matter of months, rather than taking years as it did in the past.

It is critical that procurement becomes more adaptable, and ensures that professionals are as informed as possible. Until you have this understanding of technology, you’re losing out. It’s not about the problems you want to solve, it’s also about the problems you’ve not even thought about yet.

The future is an ‘Unknown Unknown’, but with a match fit, agile procurement team, at least you’ll be prepared for what comes next.

 Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London.

How To Inspire Creativity With The Three Fs!

To achieve creative cultures  within our organisations and inspire creativity in individuals, we need to Fund, Foster and Fill!

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius! firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. He’ll be speaking at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London on 23rd February but we’ve picked his brains ahead of the event to find out his top tips for inspiring creativity and his plans for the future..

What is a creative change agent?

A creative change agent is essentially a ‘lateral thinking’ specialist. It’s someone who combines creativity with psychology to help businesses innovate and perform more effectively in a rapidly-changing world.

What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

When I was younger I was a laid-back song-writer and did not fully appreciate how important it is, in business and life, to ‘make your own sunshine’. Over the years, however, and especially  when I wrote my books Genius! and Business Genius! I came to realise that books don’t write themselves; they ended up taking me far longer to write than I ever imagined, and involved far more hard work than I ever envisaged. However, fortunately the hard work paid-off – because they ended-up becoming best-sellers in the UK and then being translated into multiple languages from Chinese to Japanese, and Italian to Thai – and that taught me that ideas alone are not what makes the difference; it’s turning those ideas into reality that makes the difference.

What are your three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations?

My three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations would be what I call The 3 Fs: Fund, Foster, Fill.

Fund (i.e. invest in) ‘Creative Thinking’ training

Upskill people by teaching them ‘how’ to be more creative. Evidence suggests, for example, that virtually all of us were incredibly creative up until the age of about 5, but then this natural creativity was ‘schooled’ out of us by the double whammy of criticism and conformity. Effective ‘Creativity Thinking’ training can help to redress this situation by inspiring people to re-become creative.

Foster an atmosphere of Psychological Safety

Einstein once said that ‘a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ With this in mind, if an organisation genuinely wants to inspire creativity, it needs to provide employees with enough ‘wriggle room’ to make the occasional ‘excusable’ mistake – rather than ‘inexcusable’ mistake (which is a very different matter).

Fill the well 

I’ve long believed that in order to inspire others we need to feel inspired ourselves. Psychologists refer to this as ‘mood contagion’. So, if an organisation wants to inspire creativity, it needs to keep ‘Filling the Well’ (as the author Sheila Davis describes it) by encouraging people to branch out and watch new films, read interesting books, travel to different places etc… After all, bang in the middle of the word ‘Innovation’ we find the word ‘Nova’ – which meant ‘new’ in Roman times – so a constant inpouring of fresh stimulus is likely to inspire a culture that goes beyond ‘what is’ to explore ‘what could be’.  

You’ve composed hit pop songs, written best-selling books and work as an innovation consultant. What’s next?

I’m currently working on a wide range of projects – linked to ‘Lateral Thinking’ in business and academia. However, longer-term, I’d love to take my Business Genius and ‘Lateral Thinking’ work to whole new level, and develop Lateral Thinking TV, movies, and animations etc…

How do latest technology developments influence the way you consult with organisations and drive innovation?

To be honest, although technology developments have influenced the way I consult with organisations and drive innovation – eg. by making it far easier for me to communicate with clients around the world without always having to ‘be there’ in person – technology itself does not influence me as much as it helps other innovation consultants I know.  I tend to focus more on ‘innovativeness’ than ‘innovation.’ In other words, I focus more on the people-side of innovation – the psychology side.

It’s easy to think that our modern age is infinitely more ‘innovative’ than any other with its amazing advances in technology. Without a doubt the ‘pace’ of change does keep getting faster and faster, which academics label ‘accelerated evolution.’ However, just look at the Edwardian Age. Within ten years along came the Car, the Plane, the Radio and the TV. Each one of them radically transformed the world we live in, far more than the latest XI78 or X189, that will soon end up somewhere in a design museum like the DVD or the first Blackberry.

I work with the ESA,  European Space Agency, who are putting 3-D printers on Space Stations. In fact, there are even 3-D printers now that can make 3-D printers ! We must not lose sight, however, of how technology is driven by ‘people’, and inspired by ‘people’.  The human factors that make innovation happen can also ‘stop’ innovation from happening if they are not addressed and resolved.

Do you ever get tired of thinking up ideas?

Yes and no. I personally get a buzz from ‘divergent thinking’ – i.e. thinking outwards towards multiple possibilities – more than ‘convergent thinking’ – i.e. analysing and dissecting data.

However, when I’m working with groups on Idea Generation, I fully appreciate that ‘thinking up ideas’ can be deceptively tiring for some people. Especially those who have a strong preference for sequence and structure.

Tony Buzan,  the inventor of mind-maps, is a great inspiration of mine. I spoke with him a few years ago and  was struck by how well he manages to fuse the two. Mind-maps, for example, can energise people by stimulating ‘radiant thinking’. They also make it easier for them to think up new ideas, yet at the same its ‘systematic’ approach can also give people a flexible structure to prevent them feeling overwhelmed and swamped by imaginative solutions.

It’s important to remember that everybody has an imagination. We continually ‘think up ideas’ whether we see ourselves as creative or not. In fact, one of the biggest buzzes I get in business is helping people to realise that they are a lot more creative than they give themselves credit for…

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London. 

Just When You Thought Our Ideas Couldn’t Get Any Bigger…

Spend 15 Minutes with five procurement power-players in our podcast series, Even Bigger Ideas, presented by State of Flux.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

As a Big Ideas Summit 2017 digital delegate, you’ll gain access to insightful discussions, connect with our procurement influencers, access video content from the event and have the chance to share your own big ideas with the Procurious community.

And, if that wasn’t enough, your digital experience just got that little bit richer and more intimate as we announce Even Bigger Ideas!, a 5-Part Podcast Series, which will be available exclusively to our Digital Delegates on Procurious.

Over five, bite-sized podcasts you will hear from some of the most intriguing thought-leaders on the trends disrupting business and the Big Ideas to benefit from them.

Without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to the stars of the show who’ll be helping you to think the unthinkable, nurture your big ideas in the biggest companies and unleash your creative genius.

James Bannerman – 15 Minutes to Unleash Your Creative Genius – Tuesday 21st February

Tuesday 21st February

Our podcast series kicks of with James Bannerman, Creative Change Agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter. James believes that in a world where innovation is the new currency, procurement teams that fail to execute their ideas with originality just won’t cut it. He’ll be offering some top tips on how to unlock creativity in order to help us all achieve additional moments of pure genius.

Linda Yueh – Should Procurement Pros Be Concerned About Global Trade?

Wednesday 22nd February

Linda is a renowned economist and Adjunct Professor of Economics for London Business School. She was the BBC’s Chief Business Correspondent and host of “Talking Business with Linda Yueh”, as well as Economics Editor at Bloomberg TV.  She’s the go-to expert on issues relating to global trade, Brexit and Trump’s presidency. Concerned that a rise in protectionism might have a negative impact on your global supply chains? Linda’s  on hand to quell your fears and put your mind at ease.

Chris Lynch – Nurturing Big Ideas through Big Companies

Thursday 23rd February  

Chris Lynch, Chief Financial Officer at Rio Tinto, has had nearly 30 years’ experience in the mining and metals industry. He joined the Rio Tinto boards as a non-executive director in September 2011, and was appointed chief financial officer-elect, an executive board director and a member of the Executive Committee in March 2013. Chris has spoken extensively about the importance in fostering a culture of “intrapreneurship” within large organisations. He’ll explain how individuals will face more resistance, the bigger their idea is but, with the right nurturing and persistence, their is a chance of success!

Nik Gowing -Thinking the Unthinkable – The Update

Thursday 23th February

2016 Big Ideas Summit speaker, Nik Gowing is back to give us his latest update on Thinking the Unthinkable. Nik is a visiting Professor at King’s College & former BBC-Broadcaster with over 35 years analytical expertise in diplomacy, defence, international security. Last year, Nik explained that executive leaders are experiencing the very human sensations of feeling overwhelmed,  under pressure and unable to think unthinkables. What, if anything, has changed in the last 12 months?

Anders Sorman-Nilsson Seamless – Digital Adaptation and Human Transformation

Friday 24th February 

Anders is a Futurist and the Founder and Creative Director of Thinque, a strategy think tank that helps executives and leaders convert disruptive questions into proactive, future strategies. He’s an active member of TEDGlobal, has keynoted at TEDx and guest lectured at Sydney University and University of Technology Sydney Business School. Anders will help you prepare for a digital future lead you to question if your procurement team suffers from change fatigue!

Even Bigger Ideas is presented by State of Flux.  

No budget, no problem! Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!

Do You Belong to a Procurement Dream Team?

The age of workforce 4.0 is fast-approaching. Have you ensured you’ve got a dream team in place to help you navigate your way through the rapid changes ?

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

So. Here’s the scenario. After years of effort, elevating the role of procurement and complaining that Procurement doesn’t have a seat at the table in sectors where procurement is yet to tread (yes, in 2017 there are still organisations and sectors that do not have procurement teams or resources), your phone rings. It’s a CEO. And you’re invited to their office.

Now, this is the age of Workforce 4.0, so as we know, the CEO is agile and their office is the coffee shop near the school where their young children are running the lunchtime class teaching the adults how to tweet on facetube and grow vines on instachat.

Procurement is Awesome

As you sit down and your coffees arrive, the CEO looks you in the eye and says “Enough already. I get it. Procurement is awesome. Right. I want you to set up a dream team. Hire any five people you want. I’ve followed you on Twitter, read all your @Procurious_ and LinkedIn blogs, I’ve listened to the @aopshow and I get that there are some serious issues to deal with. I need you to do it and I want you to pick your team. Facetime or Skype me when you’ve done it.” And off you go…

How many of us are ready for that call? Whether it’s for a greenfield procurement team, or for a transformation programme or business critical project, do you have a list of five people in your head that without hesitation, you would call and bring on board to work with you to get it done? We can ignore minor administrative issues like availability, notice periods, or people processes for the purposes of this, but are there five people that you would hire, brief and set loose on the task without a second thought, safe in the knowledge that “it’ll be fine, [insert names] are on it and success is safe in their hands”.

What does the procurement dream team of the future look like?

I can’t quite remember where I was first posed this question. It was more than likely in a pub in the dim and distant past, but I remember first applying it when I worked in recruitment. If I was sifting CVs for a client, I tried to put myself in their shoes and ask, “If I was them, would I hire this candidate and put my success in their hands”. If I couldn’t say “yes”, or at least “maybe”, then I wouldn’t waste the client, or the candidate’s time.  That was a long time ago and before I’d even heard of Procurement!

Are you ready for “The Call” is a question I’ve asked colleagues over the years too, usually on car journeys, and it keeps them awake and puts them on the spot.

Anyway, where am I going with this?  Here are three things to consider about the future of procurement teams.

Procurement-as-a-service could be a big deal

Not my concept and not new, yet is a concept which has been increasingly discussed and heralded as the future of the function. It may well be that the future of working in procurement begins to sound a little more like this. Organisations will access resources to deliver specific outcomes rather than hiring employees and then wondering what to do with them.

Seriously, who is in your dream team?

You never know when that call might come, or when that platform starts to burn and you have that project you need to deliver. Can you pick your ‘dream team’ from current or former colleagues, or from all the people you’ve met and developed relationships with through all the networking you do?

Where’s your name?

Is your name on the team sheet of others? You may not be the one that gets the call. Your colleague or your peers may be the one having to decide who to bring in. Are you doing the best job you can, delivering results and developing the soft skills needed for tomorrow as well as networking, sharing your stories and taking ownership of your personal professional brand?

The dream team

Now, I might be about to do some oversharing here, but I personally have a ‘Dream Team’ WhatsApp group. A bit of fun to start with, especially as the joke was that ‘Group Admin’ does not count as a demonstration of leadership qualities! But over time, it has kept me connected to those people. We use it most days to share news, keep up to date (it’s all 100% professional of course). However, if I received the call, these are the people that have earned my respect and trust. I wouldn’t hesitate to contact them.

I am fortunate that my team currently has more than 5 people in it. When I get the call tomorrow I’ll be ready. But what if we were asked for a team of 10, or 20? My mindset is that I’m still hiring, and still looking to be hired by others too. I wonder if this mindset might prove useful in future?

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Three Economic Indices You Can’t Ignore In Procurement

Procurement professionals need the ability to understand – and react to – changes in inflation, employment and optimism.

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The interesting thing about procurement’s typical line of sight is that it very closely aligns with the terms of the sourcing projects we run and the contracts – and therefore supplier relationships – we manage. This might be 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, or 5 years long, but regardless of the exact length of time, you can be assured it is far longer than the changes being seen in global and local economies.

Since the summer of 2016, I have been the Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. It has been an amazing learning opportunity, and I am fortunate to be working with a career economist to learn to decipher and draw meaning from the data. There are two pieces to the report: 1. the indices (some seasonally adjusted and some not) which provide a monthly trend up or down as the economy contracts or expands, and 2. the narrative, which highlights some of the key figures and milestones and adds some context to the numbers.

You don’t have to be a professor to see the connections between procurement and economics, but it is easy for us to become overly focused on information that is internally available or provided by suppliers. Based on what I’ve learned, the following categories of information tie directly to procurement’s efforts and objectives. And although they may not often come up in internal conversations, they need to be present in procurement’s thinking and strategy development.

Inflation

Investopedia defines inflation as “the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising and, consequently, the purchasing power of currency is falling.” Most of what procurement buys tends to be based on pre-negotiated contracts, so we’re unlikely to see annual changes in prices based on inflation. What we might see, however, is a difference in the prices we are able to negotiate every three years. This will be especially true of anything we buy internationally or that has significant foreign-sourced materials in it because the relative purchasing power of the U.S. Dollar in global markets will be affected by inflation. But it’s not just an international issue – for any procurement team that reports into finance, keeping an eye on inflation will give you a benchmark for the minimum project-level ROI, as the alternative might be to just hold onto the cash if the project is expected to return less than 3% (the average rate of inflation) per year.

Employment

Higher levels of employment are usually considered a good indicator or economic growth and stability. From a procurement perspective, however, employment also tells us what to expect about trends in services-category spend. With an increasing portion of organizational demand being met ‘as-a-Service’, employment rates (and therefore costs) are critical to our cost to operate. For some industries, services are so important that even the factors driving alternate economic measures like ‘Prices Paid’ are services too – the New York Metro area is a perfect example of this, as are many other major cities. It’s why you must know the product/service mix in your spend before trying to figure out what approach to take. The other consideration relative to employment is talent availability. Higher employment means lower UNemployment (see how I did that?) and therefore less candidates available to compete for open positions. Luckily for procurement, we have a wide array of talent options at our disposal through contingent workforce programs. Striking an optimal mix of employment models presents an opportunity to maximize both costs and capabilities.

Optimism

The final economic index I’ve learned to appreciate is optimism – in the ISM-New York Report on Business we call this the Six-Month Outlook. In other words, as of today, how much better or worse do you expect things to be going six months from now. It would be unrealistic to expect the outlook to be more specific than a trend up or down, but even this insight provides important information for others watching the economy. The fact that this question is even asked is an indication of how special procurement’s perspective on the economy and business activity is. This perspective is due in part to our understanding of the organization’s anticipated demand levels and the prices we are paying, but also the conversations we have with suppliers about the conditions they are doing business in. Competition drives prices down, differentiation drives margins up, increases in demand drive prices up, and large increases in price may push buyers and suppliers to innovate together to come up with alternatives, and procurement has a front row seat for it all.

Many people in the business world watch the monthly reports on business, whether the ISM national reports or regional reports, like ISM-New York. If they value procurement’s perspective on the economy enough to wait for the numbers to be released each month and report on the findings, then we should have a greater appreciate for our own insight and do everything we can to deepen it.

 2017 could be a pivotal year for the procurement profession. The Big Ideas Summit in London will help lay the ground work for all of  the changes ahead. Our London event takes place on 23rd February and you can now register as a digital delegate now! 

Should Procurement Pros Be Concerned About Global Trade?

Renowned economist and Big Ideas Speaker Dr Linda Yueh explains why CPOs needn’t panic about the President Trump administration but there are causes of concern. 

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Donald Trump made good on a campaign promise on the first day of his presidency by signing an executive order indicating the United States won’t ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Though expected, the move caused a media storm and a flurry of responses from politicians and businesses all around the globe. But what does this mean for supply managers?

Many CPOs are understandably nervous about the Trump administration’s policies with regards to global trade. The resurgence of protectionism in the U.S., coupled with the continuing fallout and trade effects of Brexit, has left many procurement professionals wondering which region of the world they should plan to source from in the future.

The TPP was a massive free-trade agreement advocated by the Obama administration, aimed at deepening economic ties between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, cutting taxes, and fostering trade to boost economic growth in the process. Trump argued on the campaign trail that the agreement would be harmful to the U.S. manufacturing sector. As he signed the withdrawal order, he called it “a great thing for the American worker”.

Economist, broadcaster, author and Big Ideas Summit guest speaker Dr. Linda Yueh’s message to CPOs is one of caution but it’s not time to panic.

Don’t panic

According to Linda, there are three reasons not to panic about what Trump’s protectionist tendencies will mean for procurement, trade, and global supply chains.

  • We need to keep in mind that trade takes place under WTO rules. China is the U.S.’s biggest trading partner, despite no free trade agreement being in place. Of course, if Trump were to pull out of the WTO, then that would be a game changer. But, globalisation, especially e-commerce and the Internet linking markets and people, will mean that trade is likely to continue across borders as it’s hard to see a significant roll-back Costs of trade, of course, are another issue to be focused on.
  • Luckily, the Trump administration hasn’t honed in on e-commerce, which is good news for procurement and supply chains. Currently, one in ten transactions are already undertaken via e-commerce, and this figure will continue to grow.
  • Trump may have moved quickly to sign the TPP withdrawal order on his first day in office, but that wasn’t a formal agreement. Extricating the United States from NAFTA for instance will require renegotiation time and then a period of notice before that free trade agreement would end. Even then, most trade agreements include implementation periods, so a “cliff edge” is unlikely which gives businesses time to plan. Therefore, there’s no need to panic or overhaul your supply chain immediately. But, of course, forward planning and following economic policies would be wise. Also, take Brexit as an example – if Britain succeeds in triggering Article 50 in March 2017, then the UK is scheduled to leave the EU by the end of March 2019 – almost three full years after the people’s vote. And even there, the Prime Minister has indicated that there may be an implementation period to allow more time for businesses to adjust to leaving the Single Market.

Things to watch

So, Linda warns that supply managers should keep an eye on certain factors as global trade adjusts to these seismic political shifts.

1) U.S. border taxes – recently, Trump threatened BMW with a 35 per cent border tax on foreign-built cars imported to the U.S. market. This isn’t an isolated incident and American companies are under even more pressure to produce in the U.S.. Congress is also considering a similar tax, so that is worth bearing in mind as that would have the force of legislation.

2) U.K. Tariffs – one of the consequences of a “hard” Brexit where the UK leaves the EU without any preferential trade deal, which would include no agreement on the Single Market, Customs Union, is the re-emergence of customs for EU trade. Right now, significant customs procedures only apply to non-EU shipments. But, with around half of UK exports going to the EU, taking leave of Britain’s membership in the EU with no deal would means the end of free movement of goods. More customs declarations and duties would raise costs, slow down supply chains and certainly add time at border checks. A potential ‘hard border’ would be a particular issue for Ireland.

3) Resourcing Brexit – the UK Government also needs to think about the resourcing challenges involved in ramping up staff as well as IT systems to cope with the doubling of customs checks on the UK border.

4) NAFTA – As mentioned earlier, Trump has also flagged that the North American Free Trade Agreement (between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.) is up for renegotiation. If you’re a U.S. company, you need to start making plans now about how these changes will affect you. The same applies to any other of America’s free trade deals with 20 countries that Trump would have the authority to re-examine.

What about China?

Globalisation has helped China become a manufacturing powerhouse, but with numerous closed markets.

However, there are very good reasons to continue to do business with China. Wages may be rising but that helps businesses to think about China as a market as well as one production locale in a supply chain. Plus, with growing protectionism in America, China’s President has signalled that China may take more of a lead in globalisation. There’s a lot to watch for.

In short, Linda’s advice to CPOs around the world is keep calm, but keep an eye on the details as the globalisation landscape is shifting significantly. Global trade won’t end tomorrow but it will likely look rather different in the coming years.

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In Business Relationships, It’s All About H2H (Human to Human)

Simona Pop shares her Big Idea on why procurement technology needs to promote – not obstruct – trust, transparency and common goals.

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We know that many organisations are still mired in decades-old procurement processes. Besides the inherent inefficiency of paper-based workflows, spreadsheets and other manual tools, the real concern lies in their opacity.

One of the things I’ve learned working with various businesses and multiple stakeholders within supply chain and finance is that there is no real B2C/B2B divide. It’s all H2H: human to human. The concept was coined by Bryan Kramer and is the real foundation for every single business relationship we cultivate, internal or external.

Now, human beings are complex creatures, but for all their complexity, they greatly appreciate simplicity. Finding, understanding and communicating the complex in its most simplistic form is the recipe for success when it comes to relationships.

And a more recent way of translating the very complex into simple formats is technology. For many however, the subject of technology is a double-edged sword to be approached with extreme caution. It is seen as both a huge challenge and an opportunity depending on the maturity of the business and its stakeholders. Zooming in on procurement departments in particular, distinct feelings of inertia and unease prevail when it comes to tech.

So many procurement professionals I have sat down with continue to apply traditional tools to the purchase-to-pay process even though better, more efficient alternatives are available to them. The reasons? That mighty focus on cost savings is undermining the VOI (value on investment) and the temptation to keep things as they are because “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it or risk it” is holding organisations in a “vintage” status quo that’s affecting their competitive edge on a daily basis.

The current climate is very much a head in the sand affair. Procurement processes that have been around for the past 10, 20, 30 years are characterised by a great degree of opacity. The reason for this is the historic dependence on paper, manual work and fragmented software systems. This opacity means the relationships between departments/stakeholders within a business are not exactly what you would call fully functional. There was a time when things had to be this way because that was the best there was. That is no longer the case and pretending nothing has changed is far more dangerous than “risking” change.

Always reacting to situations as opposed to being proactive towards challenges is a symptom of traditional process that needs upgrading. The ability to stimulate internal collaboration and valuable relationships is affected by the permanent race against time. There isn’t one finance professional I’ve met who isn’t completely incapacitated by “month end” as a result of delayed purchase approvals or lack of a PO system. Incomplete or delayed information passing between departments opens the door to fraud and perpetuates false data. These draining complexities can be simplified by shining a light on proceedings. That light? Technology.

Technology is an agent of empowerment, not a antagonistic nuisance that must be adopted just because everyone else is doing it, with no real merit of itself. The key advantages technology brings are speed and transparency. Moving the information processed from paper/desktop to cloud/mobile and delivering it in real time as opposed to post-fact is all about simplicity. Eliminating the need for 100 spreadsheets, lengthy manual approval chains and data entry clerks will empower people from the bottom up, the top down and across the board. Accessing objective information and using it in real time will ensure each task is performed to the best standard and in full compliance.

A move towards value-based relationships is already happening as businesses are acknowledging that well-functioning relations are worth as much as good prices or good bonuses. Trust, common values and clear, real-time communication are all hallmarks of good service. Something every business needs to achieve to stay competitive, right?

In conclusion, using technology to empower the talented people across the P2P process is the key to better relationships and ultimately, better business. Accessing data in real time and performing tasks on the go will not only make people better practitioners but better collaborators too. The human-to-human foundation of successful business is based on trust, transparency and common goals. Given the goal of procurement is to make a business successful, promoting trust, efficiency and transparency should be a natural move.

This article was first published on Spend Matters.

Stay tuned for more Big Ideas from Simona Pop as we lead up to the Big Ideas Summit 2017!

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