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6 Critical Skills You Need If You Want To Succeed In A Digital World

How should procurement professionals adapt in order to survive in a digital world? The digitally enabled workforce needs to nail six key skills…

This is a unique time for procurement organisations.

Never before have companies been able to derive more competitive advantage from superior procurement capability. The function’s role is shifting from a sourcing gatekeeper to a provider of insight and decision support, made possible by improved access to digital technologies, data and advanced analytics.

Investments in automation have helped make these organisations more efficient, allowing them to redirect headcount from compliance and operations-focused processes to higher-value activities such as sourcing and supply base strategy.

But this is only the part of the story.

World-class groups achieve their superior performance because they have higher-caliber people who apply their skills to effectively harness digital technologies and capabilities.

The Digitally Enabled Workforce Requires Six Key Skills

Effective procurement teams focus on people development from multiple points of view. Softer skills like relationship management and business acumen are important for managing customer relationships, while technical skills are necessary for analysing data and developing strategic insights.

The following skills are fundamental to the operations of procurement organisations in the digital era.

1. Business acumen

As economic volatility increases, category managers need to sit side by side with their stakeholders to make business decisions that impact the supply base.

It is crucial to understand complex business needs and be able to identify ways for procurement to address them using new technologies. Business acumen is fundamental to elevating procurement’s role as a trusted advisor.

2. Relationship management

Evolving the value of procurement requires working cross-functionally with a variety of stakeholders, from senior budget owners to line managers, as well as being a customer of choice and partnering with valuable suppliers. Procurement should have multiple communication channels open with business partners and customers to fully understand their needs.

3. Supply risk management expertise

In a market of increased risk and volatility, risk management capabilities are more valuable to the enterprise. For procurement, this no longer means simply reacting to events – now the focus is on predicting and avoiding risk using internal and external tools.

4. Strategic mindset

Understanding the broader market and aligning procurement’s vision with that of the business is fundamental to navigating change and extracting value from the supply base.

5. Data analysis and reporting

Big data will change the way procurement organisations use information. Those able to sort through the data and draw the right conclusions have the potential to add value to the organiSation. The tools are available today, but it will take years for widespread adoption, making analytics a prime vehicle for competitive advantage for early adopters.

6. Savings and financial analysis

Tying savings and value benefits to financial statements documents the business value contributed by the procurement organisation and drives profitability. Identifying direct procurement impact on the budget can be elusive but critical.

Digital Technologies Are Changing the Way Organisations Hire and Retain Talent

Access to new technology makes it possible to hire more effectively. By analysing demographics, job experience, recruiting data (like quality of resume) and environmental data, organisations can increase the effectiveness of new hires.

Even the culture of procurement groups is changing now that hiring standards have risen. Social media has provided new channels for knowledge and learning. Learning on demand is a common service delivered to employees, allowing access to training modules or experts from their preferred devices.

Joining networks of colleagues and outside communities to tap into knowledge and solutions to problems is common with tools like LinkedIn.

Strategic Implications

It is getting harder to find and retain people with transformation change experience and the ability to think strategically.

Unfortunately, procurement’s hiring practices, training and skills have not kept pace.

To compete, they must not let themselves be limited by organisational or geographical borders. By hiring globally, procurement deepens the potential talent pool and opens the door to new ways of thinking.

Next-generation procurement organisations are “borderless,” allowing for the free flow of ideas and talent regardless of geography. Leadership is distributed based on supply and customer priorities, not headquarter location.

The model that procurement must work toward is one that is capable of expanding, contracting and adapting rapidly as situations change, just like modern-day supply chains.

This article was written by The Hackett Group’s Laura Gibbons Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Program and Amy Fong Associate Principal, Procurement Advisory Program, and Program Leader, Purchase-toPay Advisory Program. 

The Hackett Group’s Chris Sawchuk will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit in London later this month. To find out more information and register to attend in person or as a digital delegate visit our dedicated site. 

How Your Network Can Turbocharge Procurement

Networks have the power to transform procurement teams and turbocharge the businesses they link together. So how do you get the best value from your network?

Since you’re here reading Procurious, I can already tell you appreciate the value of networks.

And you’ve probably realised that the wider your network of professional connections, the greater its value to you.

This network effect, where the benefit of a product or service increases as more people use it, has fuelled the growth of leading Internet companies for decades.

In procurement as elsewhere, networks enable participants to reach across the world, think big, and magnify their impact.

Meanwhile, as networks embrace cloud-based technologies, they allow buyers and suppliers to think even bigger — and to make an exponentially greater impact on the buyers, sellers, and ultimately customers who rely on them.

As innovations like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and blockchain reshape entire industries; networks are becoming not only faster but actually smarter at drawing meaningful insights from sprawling troves of seemingly unrelated data.

Envisioning the world as it could be…

In the process, these advances are helping procurement professionals to envision the world not just as it is, but as it could be — including their own role in it. When cloud-based applications take on many of the function’s day-to-day tactical activities, they free up procurement professionals to focus on strategic priorities such as strengthening supply chain resilience, safeguarding the brand from third-party risk, and cultivating new sources of innovation.

As a result of this digital transformation, procurement is evolving from its traditional role of generating cost-savings to fostering collaboration and, ultimately, driving much of the strategic value that fuels growth.

What does it mean to a business — to all its trading partners and other stakeholders — when, for the first time, cognitive insights allow it to get ahead of problems before they occur?

The implications extend well beyond operational risk. Consider the reputational risk associated with forced labour upstream in one’s supply chain. A network instills confidence across the value chain when it offers visibility not only into inventories, cycle time, and turnover ratios but also into the criteria that gauge whether a trading partner’s brand values align with one’s own.

Does a supplier have, for example, the governance structures in place necessary to root out forced labour, human trafficking, and inhumane working conditions? Customers and investors alike demand transparency into all these factors, and networks provide a comprehensive, real-time glimpse to simplify compliance. The result is peace of mind when advances in machine learning provide buyers and suppliers with options instead of data so that they can create ethical, sustainable supply chains, all while extending their competitive advantage.

At its best, technology enhances our business relationships, our personal ones, and the quality of all our lives. Yet, as anyone who’s ever experienced a hard-drive crash can attest, technology can sometimes serve at cross-purposes to this goal.

The same holds true for the software industry. The world’s most powerful networks can evaluate immense amounts of information, but unless they’re designed with the customer in mind they may as well possess the processing power of an abacus.

Procurement professionals have every right to expect that the network they rely on be intuitive, reliable, and — above all — consistent in delivering on their promises.

Does yours?

Demand it!

SAP Ariba’s James Marland, Vice President, will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit in London later this month. To find out more information and register to attend in person or as a digital delegate visit our dedicated site. 

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. 

Why Diligence is Due

Ethical sourcing makes good business sense. Plus… it’s the law! Nick Ford explores how to exercise due diligence.

Pioneering U.S. academic fundraiser James W. Frick once cautioned prospective donors: “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”

For procurement professionals, how they source products and services and where they spend their budgets is not only commercially expedient, but also framed by strict international regulations. The risks contingent on neglecting – or wilfully evading – such rules have profound effects on an organisation’s reputation and, ultimately, it’s bottom line.

Due diligence is about managing risks in the supply chain responsibly; it does not ask companies to guarantee 100 per cent ‘ethical’ supply chains. Tracing the origin of a product, part or service is only one part of this.

The OECD Guidelines

Essentially, the overarching ethical sourcing and procurement principles are set out in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. According to Emily Norton, Campaigner at Global Witness, these are the most comprehensive set of government-backed recommendations on responsible business conduct and ethical sourcing in existence today.

The guidelines are far-reaching recommendations by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. Currently, 48 countries adhere to the guidelines, including most in the E.U. They provide voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct in areas such as employment and industrial relations, human rights, environment, information disclosure, combating bribery, consumer interests, science and technology, competition, and taxation.

The OECD rules are buttressed by the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, endorsed unanimously in 2011. They make it clear that companies have a responsibility to make sure their activities do not fund harm and abuses. In many sectors, risk-based due diligence, as recommended by the UNGPs has emerged as a practical and effective way for companies to meet this responsibility.

EU Regulations

Spurred on by these ethical sourcing frameworks, a new EU regulation came into force in June 2017, the first of its kind to adopt a truly global scope. It requires EU-based importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold (ores and metals) to meet the OECD standard when sourcing minerals from any conflict-affected or high-risk area globally. Technology firms who import tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold in their metal forms into the EU, e.g. for manufacturing purposes, will be covered by the new EU law.

Unfortunately, the EU has chosen to ignore a whole category of companies bringing minerals into the EU. This includes firms who buy and sell products containing these minerals, who are outside scope of the regulation. The EU trusts them to self-regulate.

In Asia, Chinese industry guidelines were launched in 2015 for Chinese companies operating abroad, which are also based on the OECD guidelines and are global in scope.

US Regulations

Meanwhile in the US, Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires companies listed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to carry out checks on their supply chains where they believe their products contain tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbours. Companies in the aerospace, electronics, medical devices, jewellery and clothing, among other, sectors are subject to this law.

Procurement executives at industry behemoths IBM and Walmart are currently experimenting with blockchain and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to clarify the provenance and passage of their products.

The Modern Slavery Act

Here in the UK, the Modern Slavery Act mandates that firms generating over £36m or more a year must produce slavery statements approved by their boards. A quarter of the FTSE 100 are currently non-compliant, forcing anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland to contact them to address slavery in their supply chains. It is estimated that 16 million enslaved people are working for companies around the world.

Whether or not companies are caught by laws and regulations, all firms should be living up to the international OECD standard. This means checking whether their supply chains globally may contribute to conflict finance, human rights abuses or corruption around the world. They should be transparent about what they are doing.

Nick Ford will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit in London next month. To find out more information and register to attend in person or as a digital delegate visit our dedicated site.