Tag Archives: big ideas summit

Big Procurement Questions Deserve Big Answers

We know that procurement professionals like to get the latest intel on the hottest topics from the best in the business – so we’ve sorted you right out.  Your big procurement questions: answered. 

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What are the surefire ways to speed up procurement processes?

Can procurement ever completely eliminate maverick spend?

Why shouldn’t procurement simply squeeze their suppliers for every dollar they’ve got?

What technology will be the most game-changing for procurement?

What’s the best question to ask a candidate during a job interview?

Procurement questions as big as these require big answers from  people who know their stuff.  Happily, we gathered 50 of procurement’s top influencers and thought leaders in Chicago last month for Big Ideas Summit 2018 and managed to steal a few quiet minutes to put some of them to the test.

Pat McCarthy,  SVP & GM – SAP Ariba

Pat on eliminating maverick spend…

“Procurement can [eliminate maverick spend] but it has to make the purchasing process a destination people want to come to”

Pat on supplier relationships…

“You have to have a great relationship with your suppliers, one where they benefit and you benefit so that making a profit and you fining value in their solutions is the right balance.”

Pat on his favourite job interview question…

“I love to ask candidates about the last book they read because I’m most interested in curiosity – are they curious, what are they curious about – it tells me a lot about them.”

Read more from Pat McCarthy in his blog Procurement with Purpose – Not All Rainbows and Fairytales. 

Doug Leeby, CEO – Beeline

Doug on eliminating maverick spend…

“I think there are certain people, especially executives, who are special and they will always go around the system. If you had the power to say only those that are in the system will be paid then perhaps you [could eliminate maverick spend] but i’ve never seen a situation that had 100  per cent compliance.”

Doug on  his favourite job interview question…

“My go to question is – what are two or three things that you’re really really bad at?  What I’m looking for is A) what they’re really bad  at but more importantly the degree of introspection they have. If they’ve been honest with themselves and done a real inventory of what their areas of development are, what are their weaknesses then they’re somebody I can trust and work with.  If I hear somebody say that they don’t have any then they’re not going to be a good fit for us”

Read more from Doug Leeby in this blog The Rise of the Contingent Workforce… And How to Manage It. 

Daniel Perry, Global Alliances Director – EcoVadis

Daniel on eliminating maverick spend…  

“I don’t think procurement can necessarily eliminate all maverick spend, buyers find ways around any rules that you might put in place.  But if you can provide a very strong vision and mission for procurement and the company in general as to why you are trying to avoid maverick spend, if you can align it to your company’s  sustainability mission or the fact that you want to try and avoid using suppliers that use modern slavery then it gives the buyer another cause for pause before going off and doing maverick spend.”

Daniel on game-changing technologies… 

“Transparency is really changing the way that business is being done these days –  there is much a higher expectation for businesses and their supply chains, who they work with and who they’re associated with so I think the technology around due diligence, around assurance, around using companies that are reputable is going to be a big game changer in the way that companies decide which suppliers to use.”

Read more from Daniel Perry in this blog, Making Sustainable Procurement Work. 

Check out all of our exclusive video content from Big Ideas Summit Chicago via the Digital Delegates group on Procurious. 

The Rise of The Contingent Workforce… And How to Manage It!

Contingent Labour represents an ever-increasing proportion of our workforce, and it’s not hard to understand why. What is challenging for procurement teams, however, is effective management of their organisation’s contingent workforce… 

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“Depending on whose data you believe, the contingent workforce now makes up from 20 per cent [1] to 40 per cent [2] of the global workforce, with some analysts estimating that it will reach 50 per cent by the year 2020,” says Doug Leeby, CEO – Beeline.

Procurious caught up with Doug ahead of his keynote presentation at Big Ideas Summit Chicago to learn more about the state of contingent labour in the workplace today and to pick his brains on how procurement teams can best manage, and leverage, their ever-evolving workforce.

The rise of the contingent workforce

“It’s easy to understand why contingent labour is growing,” explains Doug.  “Most companies are under intense pressure to improve their bottom line and usage of contingent staff, contractors, freelancers, and consultants is an excellent economic model that can be deployed to both accomplish discrete projects and assist an organisation during surge periods of work.”

“There is an enormous economic benefit in being able to ramp up key areas of the workforce during heavy times and down in lighter times.  Additionally, the enterprise can complete important project work by hiring external experts rather than having to bring highly specialised skills into the organisation.  The short-term costs may appear high but the total cost to production can, in fact, be much lower.”

“Traditionally, companies have looked to the contingent labor population for work that is less strategic, saving that for FTEs.  However, more and more, we are seeing a hybrid approach.  Successful companies in which HR and Procurement are working together have figured this out.  Most of us can’t afford a team of data scientists but we can contract a team for a specific goal.  That’s a very strategic example whereas the contingent workforce can produce extraordinary value.”

The challenges of contingent labour

Employing a large proportion of contingent labour to your organisations presents a whole new set of challenges for both procurement teams and HR. But, as Doug advises, it is specifically in-effective management of contingent talent that will lead to enormous problems and risks for your organisation.

“Companies may be operating out of compliance, exposing themselves to severe penalties.  Additionally, improperly managing this talent can lead to overpayment or under-delivery of results. Metrics and KPIs are critical to ensure that the program is properly managed. Everyone has heard about the now-infamous ‘war on talent.’  It isn’t subsiding.  Not having a smooth-running program to manage contingent labor invariably leads to losing great talent to those who do have solid programs.”

Part of the difficulty with managing contingent labour is procurement’s failure to work constructively and efficiently alongside HR departments.

“Asking the two departments to take time to think about optimising their workforce is a tough ask,” explains Doug.

“This is not a small undertaking nor is it something that can be accomplished in one meeting, or even a series of meetings. It is transformational, which means it requires a significant investment of time and resources, but I believe it will happen as the focus on talent comes into greater view at the C-suite. HR has an outstanding opportunity to look at talent holistically and work with Procurement to ensure that it is sourced and managed properly. This will deliver tremendous value to the organisation.”

Using tech to manage contingent labour

“Technology today is an enabler,” Doug explains.  “However, with the progress being made in AI and machine learning, it will soon become far more than just an enabler – it will become an advisor.

“Technology shouldn’t just be about workflow and reporting.  Rather, it should act more as a subject matter expert or concierge helping procurement and HR to analyse their workforce and make strategic decisions.

“The challenge with this transformation is that it depends on organisations getting all their data into the technology and most still have a way to go. At a minimum, they need get all of the contingent labor into the system – complex, statement-of-work (SOW) based, milestone-based services as well as contingent staff.

“VMS technology can manage not only who the contingent workers are, where they are, what they are doing, and what facilities and data they have access to, but also how well they perform their assignments.”

The future of the workforce

“The workplace and workforce model that has been in place since the Industrial Revolution, designed for stable markets and long-term business planning, is giving way to a new model based on constant change and adaptability,” Doug believes.  We asked Doug to outline what he believes will be the key features of the workforce of the future…

1. Talent first

Over time, I believe organisations will adopt a “Talent First” approach that will be led by HR.  Procurement will remain a solid partner, but HR will need to lead the initiative within the organisation. They will work, proactively, with department heads and finance to figure out the best way to achieve desired outcomes.

2. The human touch

Some outcomes will be handled via artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, but much will still depend on people.  Competitive organisations will focus on optimising their workforce.  They will then focus on how to source this talent holistically.

3. Talent pools

Talent sourcing won’t be done in silos anymore.  Organizations will establish private talent pools and work to attract talent, both FTE and non-FTE, to their pools.  Then, they will be able to hire/engage known talent which leads to a higher propensity for success.

4. Self-sourcing

Companies will make use of functionality like our Self-Sourcing.  In other words, they will go directly to the contingent talent rather than through intermediaries.  This is already being done with freelancers, but we will see more of this with contractors and consultants.

Doug Leeby will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. To  hear more from him and to follow the action LIVE from wherever you are in the world, register as a digital delegate (it’s free!)

Continue reading The Rise of The Contingent Workforce… And How to Manage It!

Making Sustainable Procurement Work

Now, more than ever, it’s important for the profession to put sustainable procurement at the front and center of business.

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Daniel Perry, Global Alliances Director – Ecovadis believes that the role of procurement is evolving. Evolving from being “primarily focused on cost savings and operational efficiency, to a more strategic and central player in risk management and value creation.”

Now, more than ever, it’s important for the profession to put sustainable procurement at the front and center of business.

“Stakeholders, including end consumers, B2B customers, shareholders etc. are demanding that businesses take responsibility for practices all the way into their value chain. They’re driving transparency and, ultimately, a positive impact by working with high-integrity partners. And it’s procurement teams that are in the ideal place to meet these higher stakeholder demands.”

“The power of the spend that procurement controls (often between 50-70 per cent of turnover) puts procurement at the crossroads of not only risk management and brand protection, but also as internal partners for driving value creation. Of course they want the value chain to be resilient – to avoid interruptions or damage to their company’s reputation – but they also want to provide supplier-driven innovation and support for transformative business models and offerings. –

“Procurement teams focused on sustainability do this by selecting and working with the best suppliers in a way that goes far beyond price, quality and delivery, to include performance around environmental, social and labor and ethics practices.”

The value-add of sustainability programs

It’s all too common to hear an organisation defend their lack of commitment and lack effort in this space. “It’s too expensive”, “it’s too difficult”, “it’s too time consuming” or “we’re just not ready” are typical refrains.

The benefits and ROI of sustainability include not only operational savings, but strategic outcomes. A well-developed Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program that is integrated into the company values, and is driven with executive support, can drive key business performance metrics such as:

  • Sales and reputation: A burgeoning wave of consumer sentiment is cresting. More and more customers are comparing the sustainability details of products and services, and it is changing their purchase decisions. Companies making the right sustainability investments can realise a possible increase in revenue of up to 20 per cent.
  • Employee morale and productivity: Sustainability programs can do wonders to improve employee satisfaction, reducing a company’s staff turnover rate by up to 50 per cent and increasing employee productivity by up to 13 per cent. Integrating CSR practices in your company and brand also has a hugely positive impact on recruiting.  If your company has a better sustainability reputation, it often generates more interest from applicants, allowing you to be more selective and choose higher quality candidates.
  • Increased market value: Sustainability programs can increase a company’s market value by up to 6 per cent.
  • Innovation: With more power comes more responsibility…and more options. Many companies are pursuing sustainable procurement strategies in order to find innovative suppliers that will help them differentiate their product or service offering.

Dupont, for example, changed its innovation strategy to embrace a “sustainable growth” mission, saying “If we bring the solutions to the market sooner than our competitors do, we will be more successful in continuing to grow the company.”

Making sustainable procurement work

“One of the biggest challenges companies face in sustainable procurement is measuring and understanding current performance within their supply base, in the context of global standards and benchmarks. It can also be challenging to engage suppliers as collaborators in their mission. And to get there requires a mix of expertise, the right technology, change management and process integration backed by executive commitment.

“First, the organisation needs a clear mandate from the executive team, which makes the sustainable procurement program an integral part of the function’s mission and values. This is embodied by investing in change management and communication programs and taking steps towards implementation and company-wide adoption.

“Success also requires reliable, agreed-upon indicators for sustainability performance that both buyers and suppliers can understand, and that are actionable. Many companies collect lots of unvalidated data, but buyers rarely have the CSR expertise or time to validate or interpret it – and this is where a standardised, evidence-based, and analyst-generated rating – like EcoVadis provides – comes into play.

“Additionally, CSR criteria and performance indicators must be integrated across the procurement function and include the use of clear and enforceable codes of conduct, contract clauses and tender criteria. Buyers need to believe in and leverage these criteria in their supplier development and sourcing activities.,  And, procurement groups should agree on, measure and reward on the critical CSR / sustainability KPIs in the same way they track cost savings or other key metrics. These all drive adoption in the organisation and make sustainability inherent to the procurement role.

“Increasing the benefits to a single company, a mutualised platform can make it much easier for suppliers to share the same scorecard results with all their customers, enhancing transparency and collaboration to drive network effects for maximum improvement and impact.”

Daniel Perry will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. To  hear more from him and to follow the action LIVE from wherever you are in the world, register as a digital delegate (it’s free!)

Read more on this subject from EcoVadis in  Beyond Compliance – The 5 Pillars of sustainable procurement value creation

Procurement with Purpose – Not All Rainbows and Fairytales

Procurement with purpose is often perceived as rainbows and fairytales. But it only sounds that way when we fail to connect purpose with real business results.

Most procurement and supply chain professionals initially gravitated towards their profession because they like to understand how things work; they like to figure out how to make things work better and because they like taking the complex and making it simpler.

Perhaps comparatively few professionals embarked on these careers thinking that they would change the world.

But times have changed. As digital technologies reshape the world around us procurement has brand new opportunities to make the world a better place and many procurement teams are seizing these opportunities.

Indeed, procurement and supply chain pros are starting to ask more of their suppliers:

  • Does my supplier have the governance structures in place necessary to root out forced labour from the supply chain?
  • Does my supplier follow an ethical, sustainable approach to the environment? Is it a good neighbour? Is it responsible in its stewardship of natural resources?
  • Can my supplier verify the provenance of conflict-free minerals?
  • What steps does my supplier take to embrace diversity and inclusion in its workforce and supply chain?

These questions, and hundreds more like them, are now so much easier to answer thanks to digital networks, transparency and accountability. And this is important because shareholders, analysts and customers are increasingly demanding that the brands they support, and invest in, actually stand for something.

How Technology Can Democratise Procurement

Digital networks offer the breadth and scale necessary to monitor these things adequately, helping us to get our arms around ethical business practices from all the organisations that we do business with.

For most organisations, keeping track of the first-line suppliers is difficult enough. Tracking the full supply chain of their suppliers, and their suppliers’ suppliers,  would naturally seem impossible. But technology has changed all this.

Take the following example scenario as an example. Imagine you’re a category manager and you want to know if there is a high risk of forced labor anywhere in your supply chain. You log into your dashboard and can see all of your suppliers globally and where you might be exposed.

If you wanted to look specifically at North America you might zoom in and see that Carbo Ceramics, a critical supplier, has risk exposure.

Further investigation would reveal that two of the categories you source are indeed at high risk for forced labour: electronic fuse and electronic display unit. The proximity of forced labor to your source of supply is high, and there is also a high likelihood of exposure to the supplier you source them from.

So now you’ve got the insights and the transparency you need to take action. You can ask further questions of the supplier, make a site visits and even consider finding an alternative partner.

In less than two minutes, you’ve gained all the information you need to detect and mitigate slavery in your supply chain and make a major impact; not only in your supply chain and business, but to the lives of others. There’s incredible peace of mind in that.

Digital procurement also extends opportunity to historical underrepresented groups of business owners. On a network, you size up a supplier based on the data, based on the value it can lend your supply chain, not based on gender, race, national origin or sexual preference.

Technology can be incredibly democratising. It democratises opportunity and extends it outward from the few to the many.

Journey from Chief Procurement Officer to Chief Purpose Officer

It used to be that CPOs who embraced purpose-led procurement as a core part of their job description were the exception. Now we’re seeing the role of the Chief Procurement Officer evolving into the role of the Chief Purpose Officer.

Procurement with purpose is often perceived as rainbows and fairytales. But it only sounds that way when we fail to connect purpose with real business results. It happens when we neglect to point out the measurable outcomes for our customers.

We need to do a better job of explaining procurement with purpose, of spreading awareness that, through transparency and accountability, supply chains can meaningfully improve people’s lives. Procurement professionals can markedly improve people’s lives.

Thanks to digital networks, procurement professionals are spending less time chasing down data, and more time acting on it. We can let go of the traditional tactical tasks to focus instead on creating value for our organisations and propelling them forward.

That reality, that authenticity, aided by AI, blockchain and other emerging cloud based technologies reinforces what an organisation stands for. It deepens an organisation’s positioning and it widens an organisation’s visibility and sharpens its competitive advantage.

This is what digital procurement is capable of.

Pat McCarthy will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. To  hear more from him and to follow the action LIVE from wherever you are in the world, register as a digital delegate (it’s free!)

The Three Pillars of Procurement Risk Management Strategy

What are the three essential factors for  effectively addressing the shifting conditions of sustainability risks and opportunities?

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This year has provided plenty of examples of why organisations need to better manage or participate in more effective sustainability and CSR initiatives to better manage risk, and purchasing and supply chain managers are finding themselves at the forefront of these initiatives, as keepers of the risk management keys. While hot button issues like worker safety and reputation risk are only increasing in importance, transparency and sustainability are reshaping consumer demand, and intelligence trumps data in supply chain risk management.

Luckily , this  emphasis on sustainability and CSR is breathing new life into purchasing and supply chain teams, giving them a renewed sense of urgency to establish  or expand supplier assessment programs and position themselves as greater strategic assets to their organisations and industries.

After reflecting on the variety of new supplier sustainability programs EcoVadis has helped launch or evolve, our experts have discovered three key factors as essential for effectively addressing the shifting conditions of sustainability risks and opportunities.

1. Program Reach and Depth

When setting up a supplier monitoring system, the assessment methodology should cover all key themes in sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s common for homegrown or initial assessment programs to start by tackling just one issue, like environmental sustainability or human trafficking. To truly have an impact and effectively manage risk, however, the system should cover criteria across environment, labor and human rights, ethics/anti-corruption, and the supplier’s own sustainable sourcing practices.

Geography is also a significant factor when designing and implementing a program. Most modern supply chains span over 100 countries, so the assessment methodology should be appropriately adapted to cover this spread, engaging and supporting suppliers in local language wherever possible and taking into consideration variances in regulations and culture, at least for the top regions.

Finally, the size of the suppliers/third parties you are working with is another important dimension to examine. Many of them will be small- or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are not listed on any stock exchange, and with little required reporting or public information. The monitoring system and methodology should be adapted accordingly to measure these SMEs.

2. Seamless Integration: Change Management and Processes

To make sure your teams and partners have the best chance of success with a new or changing sustainability and CSR initiatives, the methodology and processes used to both collect data and adopt performance indicators must be integrated into current, familiar processes and workflows.

There are two elements to this:

Change management

It is essential that the supplier sustainability monitoring solution vendor be able to support you and your team in the required change management program that will drive adoption of the initiative. This could include consulting on strategy and rollout, program branding, communications and supporting content development, training, support/helpdesk, onboarding services and reporting.

System and process integration

A key enabler to maximizing the impact of sustainability criteria on purchasing behavior is to integrate the assessment system into the current supply chain management platforms such as e-Sourcing, e-Procurement, CLM, SRM or similar platforms.Supplier monitoring solutions that come with an API that can be used to integrate the CSR indicators to other platforms are a huge advantage here. This way, you can give buyers and category managers access to current and complete sustainability data within the tools they are using today.  

For a deeper dive into these criteria and checklists, get this free Ebook covering “Five Essential Criteria For Selecting A Supplier Sustainability & Risk Monitoring Solution.”

3. Creating Measurable Value

No matter how thorough or amazing the assessment solution, it will only be effective with supplier participation. Here are a couple key ways sustainability monitoring programs can provide value to suppliers, which is vital to engagement and the ultimate success or failure of the initiative:

Alignment with relevant labels, certifications and standards

Suppliers will always care about compliance and a core feature of any monitoring system is to ensure suppliers adhere to the relevant global, regional and/or category-specific labels, certifications or standards. Examples might include FSC for fiber-based products, REACH registration of chemicals in Europe, or EnergyStar for appliance makers in North America, and so on. There are thousands of such labels, certifications and standards across the 120+ countries touched by global supply chains. A comprehensive supplier assessment program must take into account all  relevant assessments and maintain an annually updated list in each major region/country. In doing so, suppliers can ensure that their efforts are “valorized” in the monitoring process, making it more efficient for them to participate.

Actionable results, benchmarks and feedback

The results of a sustainability assessment should be digestible and actionable by both the buyer’s side (procurement and supply chain, EHS&S, risk), but also for the supplier.  Visually exhausting spreadsheets of checkmarks, or a list of documents from a supplier is often hard to understand and thus not actionable by a purchasing or category manager. These roles want instead to understand how suppliers’ sustainability performance compare to their peers and what the norm for the industry or geography is. Also, being able to also clearly understand performance over time is another vital part of any system. Solutions that make the short list should provide actionable results and indicators, benchmarks for comparing performance, and feedback on areas of improvement.

Continue reading The Three Pillars of Procurement Risk Management Strategy

Procurement’s Most Valuable Tool In An On-Demand World

Do you know who your non-employee workers are? Where they are? What facilities, networks, and data they have access to? If not, chances are very good that you need a Vendor Management System.

Bjoern Wylezich/ Shutterstock

For most organisations, human capital expenses constitute the largest single cost of doing business, often up to 70 per cent of operating expenses. Human capital is also a growing source of concern for executives who fear they don’t have – and can’t acquire – the top-tier talent they need to compete and succeed in an increasingly on-demand world.

Companies that have traditionally relied on internal workforces of direct employees are increasingly adopting a more flexible, extended workforce approach that lets them adapt quickly to market changes while effectively managing their fixed costs.

To manage this extended workforce, companies increasingly employ sophisticated vendor management systems (VMS). These VMS solutions can do much more than simply automate the contingent staffing process. They can source and manage all types of talent and deliver a wide range of insights to help organisations make better workforce decisions.

Where does VMS fit in your procurement picture?

Simply put, a VMS is the software that automates the hiring process of an organisation’s non-employee workforce. It is often a web-based application that helps manage and procure staffing services, from requisition through billing.

Most VMS tools are delivered through a Software-as-a-Service model. A VMS provides significant improvements in reporting and analytic capabilities that far outperform manual systems and processes. VMS tools are typically operated externally by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or self-managed by a program office within the organisation.

This structure enables a streamlined and automated process with real-time of all contingent labor: who they are, where they are, and what access they have to your facilities, networks, and data.  A VMS allows you to see all relevant job orders and accurately assess labor services spend and performance, often leading to significant cost reduction.

Should you implement a VMS?

Typically, large organisations, or companies who employ more than 100 contractors at a time will benefit greatly from a VMS solution. Companies with non- employee workers in multiple countries and varying labor classes can also streamline their hiring, management, and payment processes with a VMS.

Below are some of the top reasons to implement a VMS for your organisation:

  • Cost savings: A VMS helps eliminate rogue buying of labor and maverick spend. You can gain hard dollar savings by consolidating suppliers and benchmarking rates to gain negotiated savings or volume/early pay discounts, as well as soft dollar savings through process improvements like consolidated invoicing, reduced timecard and invoice errors, and compliance tracking.
  • Visibility: Cost savings from a VMS are driven by the analytics and reporting, which help reveal where and how you are spending money on contract and project-based labor in order to make better decisions for the future.
  • Compliance: Transparent analysis of all stages of the procurement lifecycle provides greater control and ability to enforce procurement strategy and policies. By implementing a VMS and gaining full visibility into your staffing spend and activity, you can ensure that all labor is properly categorized and mitigate risk of potential exposure to co-employment and tenure litigation.
  • Quality: A VMS allows you to measure and monitor the performance of your suppliers and non-employee workforce to ensure there is an efficient process in place for acquiring the best talent at the best rates (through self-sourcing or using staffing suppliers) and a strong program for sourcing and managing statement of work (SOW) contractors.
  • Operational efficiency: By implementing a VMS, you can automate many steps in the procurement process.

How to select a VMS provider

There are many VMS providers in the market today, ranging from software solutions offered by MSPs or ERP providers to independent contingent workforce specialists. Make sure you choose wisely.

Here are eight things you will want to consider when selecting your VMS provider:

  1. Trusted partner commitment: It is critical to find a partner that is willing to invest in a relationship with you, to work with you, and to support your program’s changes, including geographical or labor category expansions.
  2. Financial stability: Your VMS provider should be a viable choice for today, tomorrow, and over the next decade.
  3. Flexibility: VMS providers should understand trends, emerging talent acquisition models, and how best to facilitate sourcing talent.
  4. Expandability: The tool should have the ability to accommodate all labor categories and easily expand to include SOWs, not just contractors on a time and materials basis.
  5. Global reach: Select a provider who understands the tax and labor laws in all geographies where you do business.
  6. Visibility: Robust reporting and analytics capabilities are critical to maximising the value of your investment.
  7. Ease of use: The tool should be intuitive enough so that users can learn about 90 per cent of the functionality on their own. Training, online help, online tutorials, and help desk assistance should be available for the remaining 10 per cent.
  8. Technology compliance: The vendor you’re considering should be certified by an independent service auditor to ensure they have undergone the most rigorous data security assessments and compliance

Now more than ever, contingent workforce managers, procurement teams, and human resource professionals need a significantly enhanced toolkit to address business executives’ priorities. They need innovative solutions that can dramatically lower costs while boosting productivity. They need to find and engage the right people with the right skills – quickly – to deliver better customer value in an on-demand world.

Most of all, you need solutions that will help your companies turn your workforce into a competitive advantage, differentiate your business, and set up your organisations to win. A VMS is that kind of a solution.

For information about the value a VMS can offer your business and how to build a winning business case for a VMS in six easy steps, click here.

Doug Leeby will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. To follow the action live from wherever you are in the world, register as a digital delegate.

6 Top Tips From 6 Procurement Influencers

We interviewed some of procurement’s most influential leaders to hear their advice for the global procurement community. Here are there 6 top tips…

Are we running out of humans who can get the procurement job done?

Is the future office-free?

Should every procurement team have a Chief Data Officer?

How do you sell yourself, your team and the profession to the stakeholders that really matter?

Can procurement teams make themselves indispensable?

These are some of the questions that we addressed at last week’s Big Ideas Summit in London, where we brought together the top procurement minds to connect, collaborate and innovate.

Couldn’t join us on the day? Not a problem! We’ve documented all of the highlights for our digital delegates and pulled together this list of 6 top tips for procurement pros from some of the function’s most influential leaders.

1.Become an essential partner to the business – Bob Murphy CPO, IBM

IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, believes that while procurement leaders “need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge, their focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ, and their ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. Listening is critical – When we’re talking, we’re not learning.”

“Project management, empathy, innovative thinking and an agile mind-set are also critical skills at IBM.

“You hear a lot of people talk about procurement leaders becoming “trusted advisors” to their businesses, but I think we need to take it to the next level and become ‘essential partners.’

“We should enhance everything that we touch.”

Read more from Bob Murphy in this article.

2. Procure with Purpose – James Marland Vice President, SAP Ariba

James Marland, Vice President – SAP Ariba argued that it is an exciting time to be part of procurement an professionals should seize this opportunity. Procurement professionals are often told that they’re the ones who save the money, deal with suppliers and cut purchase orders.

But now procurement can have a new agenda; bringing to the table initiatives that achieve crucial social goals such as eradicating slave labour, improving sustainability and creating an inclusive and diverse workforce.

Take that opportunity and procure with purpose!

Read more from James Marland in this article. 

3.  Engineer Serendipity –  Greg Lindsay, Urbanist and Futurist

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.

They are the result of serendipity – a chance encounter at the right time by the right people, regardless of their rank, affiliation, and department or whether they even work for the same company.

The most innovative companies in the world are busy engineering serendipity and harnessing social networks and new ways of working designed to cultivate the discovery of new ideas. And that’s exactly what procurement should be doing!

Read more from Greg Lindsay in this article. 

4. Take More Risks – Professional Poker Player Caspar Berry

Professional poker player Caspar Berry believes “People are broadly hard wired to be risk-averse. It keeps them alive. Its kept our species alive for however many thousands of years.”

“What we call risk aversion is essentially a desire to succeed in the short term. And a desire to succeed is another way of describing a fear or aversion to loss and risk.

“I don’t judge anyone negatively for not being able to push the latitude and risk level but it’s important to engage in a conversation in order to try.

“Its our own results we’re sabotaging, sometimes inadvertently, if we don’t!”

Read more from Caspar Berry in this article. 

5. Gather data and do something with it- Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group

Top procurement teams achieve their superior performance because they have higher-caliber people who apply their skills to effectively harness digital technologies and capabilities.

Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group discussed the need for procurement professionals to develop two fundamental skills:

  1. Procurement has to get better at gathering and creating big data in order to provide meaningful insights for the business and go beyond the data that we have access to today.
  2. Procurement needs to improve their advanced analytics capabilities, to be able to look at data and draw out the opportunities it offers.

The future of procurement is not about the way we execute processes. It’s really about the insights and intelligence we provide to our organisations to give them an advantage.

Read more from The Hackett Group in this article.

6.  Prepare for the worst – Nick Ford, Co-Founder Odesma

Nick Ford, Co-founder – Odesma discussed how procurement professionals can help turn Brexit into an opportunity for their organisation.

It’s an uncertain time for procurement professionals; who must consider how the function will be impacted by an increase in the cost of imported goods, freedom of movement (or lack thereof!) and a potentially depleted talent pool.

As businesses prepare, the role for procurement teams is increasing dramatically and it’s a real opportunity to put procurement at the front and centre of organisations. We just need to prepare!

Read more from Nick Ford in this article. 

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5 Ways Procurement Can Make Brexit A Breeze

So much about Brexit is still a mystery. But one thing’s for sure – procurement pros can help their organisation turn a negative into a positive!

It’s impossible to say precisely what the role of procurement will be in the post-Brexit world; the future is simply too uncertain.

And it’s easy to infer this sense of overwhelming uncertainty in the procurement world if the results of Odesma’s new Brexit survey are anything to go by.

Despite having conducted two surveys several months apart, very little appears to have changed in procurement teams with regards to their action and response plans.

As Nick Ford, Co-founder – Odesma,  admits “the interesting thing coming out of these surveys is that this is without a doubt the biggest negotiation our country is going through in terms of procurement. But it’s still a very uncertain picture. And we’re right in the middle of it.”

Indeed, over 63 per cent of respondents admitted that they have no risk register or contingency plan in place within their procurement teams post-Brexit.

And a whopping 82 per cent of professionals feel that they are under more pressure than before to reduce the cost of third party goods and services.

It’s a complex time for procurement professionals; who must consider how the function will be impacted by an increase in the cost of imported goods, freedom of movement (or lack thereof!) and a potentially depleted talent pool.

On a positive note, 73 per cent of procurement professionals believe their organisation sees procurement as an important part of its post-Brexit preparation process.

At our London Big Ideas Summit, Nick Ford discussed how procurement can help turn Brexit into an opportunity for their organisation. As businesses prepare, the role for procurement teams is increasing dramatically and it’s “a real opportunity to put procurement at the front and centre of your organisation.”

Here a just a few ways that procurement teams can add value:

1.New Negotiations

Worryingly, according to a couple of the delegates at Big Ideas Summit, some suppliers have already started adding a “Brexit Tax” into their pricing, as well as Brexit clauses within their contracts.

Rather than seeing this as a negative, however, procurement can use this as an opportunity to open negotiations with these suppliers and ensure that value is still being delivered post-Brexit and beyond.

2. Enhance procurement position in the organisation

The survey made it clear that Brexit will put procurement front and centre in organisations.

Procurement functions that show more innovative approaches and see this as an opportunity, rather than a risk, to help companies get their act together can steal the spotlight and use it to their great advantage.

3. Focus on Supplier Risk Positions

According to Helen Mackenzie, Head of Procurement in Scottish Local Government, some suppliers have started to “self-select” for contracts and not bid for overseas work in case risks prove too high post-Brexit.

In knowing this, procurement can understand the risk positions of suppliers and account for this in their tenders. This could mean more local business.

4. Re-engage Stakeholders

According to Nick, one of the biggest opportunities for procurement is re-engaging with stakeholders. Linked to enhancing procurement’s position, the profession needs to gather information from all sides and help to drag heads from the sand throughout the organisation.

5. Drives position of supplier portfolios

Brexit is an opportunity to do some supplier clean up and, as part of that clean up, get some leverage to drive costs down. Spreading the risk for procurement by having a diverse portfolio of suppliers (including local, SME and social enterprises) could give a greater foundation in the future.

Nick’s parting words? “The most positive viewpoints on Brexit are coming from companies that are actually getting their acts together!”

“It’s going to be an interesting time over the next couple of years. And we’ll see procurement rising through the organisation.”

Nick Ford spoke at Big Ideas Summit London 2018. Register as a digital delegate to hear more from him catch up on the day’s action. 

A Little Less Hesitation, A Little More Risk Taking

As human beings, we are naturally averse to risk and uncertainty. But our lives are little more certain than a game of poker – and we’d do well to embrace that! 

Caspar Berry, professional poker player extraordinaire,  knows exactly what it means to take risks. But he admits that it can be a scary business.

“People are broadly hard wired to be risk-averse and that’s not a bad thing per se. It keeps them alive. Its kept our species alive for however many thousands of years.”

“What we call risk aversion is essentially a desire to succeed in the short term. And a desire to succeed is another way of describing a fear or aversion to loss and risk.

“It’s a legacy of a period when we were, like almost every other animal, driven by only short term goals; eating, sleeping and procreation. It’s only a problem when we couple this with a desire to achieve long term goals like sales figures.  In this scenario our desire to succeed in the short term, to close every sale we try and make for example, conflicts with this long term goal and it becomes a problem.”

Life is like a game of poker…

Caspar was first introduced to Poker by a friend when holidaying in Las Vegas in the summer of 1999.  “With my background in, and love for, economics, I got it immediately. Poker is just a game of resource allocation on a terrain of uncertainty which, when you think about it, at a fundamental level is all that we ever do in business and life every day!”

And that’s Caspar’s philosophy in a nutshell. He equates the uncertainty of our everyday, working lives to  game of poker to explain our inherent risk aversion whilst encouraging us to challenge that natural instinct to flee from risk. “I try to show in my work how and why the world is more uncertain than we like to think a lot of the time and why we create that illusion – in order to be able to get through the average day.

“We need certainty and we need the illusion of control in order to be able to function. we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves… it’s in our genes!”

The benefits of risk

If it’s in our genes why on earth fight it? Is there any real benefit to injecting a little extra uncertainty if it pains us so very much to do so?

Apparently, yes! According to Caspar studies show that the more we acknowledge and embrace uncertainty the better our judgement and decision-making apparatus.

“There’s not a lot we can do about most uncertainty: manage risk where we can; mitigate it where possible. But the economics of risk and reward say that resource allocation is most efficient where we can embrace uncertainty, think probabilistically and stop looking for the outcome most likely to succeed.

“By riding the volatility to some extent we can get better ROI as a result.

“Certainty is nice but efficiency and the bottom line is what is important. Take a long term view, accept greater ‘negative’ outcomes’ and ‘negative metrics’ and focus on the metrics that matter.”

Does Caspar believe we should take more risks in our working lives?

“We should. But it’s easy to say. In order to be able to do so we need to be aligned both with our own expectations and those of our organisations.

“It’s no good one person saying they’re going to accept greater volatility for greater long term returns: the person who judges them whether it’s themselves a colleague or boss, also needs to be on the same journey. I don’t judge anyone negatively for not being able to push the latitude and risk level but it’s important to engage in a conversation in order to try.

“Its our own results we’re sabotaging, sometimes inadvertently, if we don’t!”

Caspar Berry spoke at Big Ideas Summit London. Register as a digital delegate to hear more from him and catch up on the day’s action. 

Could The 21st Century Wilberforce Please Stand Up?

The world is in dire need of a 21st century William Wilberforce to realign the corporate moral compass on this increasingly pressing issue of modern-day slavery

In the early 1800s, the politician and social reformer William Wilberforce famously spearheaded the movement to abolish slavery. His campaign was long and hard-fought, beginning in 1787 with the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and culminating in 1833 when the House of Commons passed the Slavery Abolition Act.

Wilberforce, by this stage, was in poor health and died just three days after seeing his life’s work pay off. But he had achieved what he set out to – slavery was effectively wiped out across most of the British Empire.

Modern Slavery Today

There are more than 30 million forced labourers around the world today.

Now, nearly 200 years later, I can imagine Wilberforce turning in his grave at the prevalence of modern slavery in today’s supply chains and the thought of all he worked for being undone.

According to the International Labour Organisation, there are more than 30 million forced labourers around the, with recent high-profile cases uncovered in almost every industry – from indentured servitude in commercial fishing near New Zealand to child labourers in the cocoa and coffee industries in Latin America and Africa.

Closely analysing suppliers and, perhaps even more importantly – where businesses tend to source their components or raw materials, can reveal alarming and eye-opening results.

A construction company, for example, might discover it is using iron from China, where the industry is poorly regulated and there is a high probability of forced labour.

A search for women’s shirts in Malaysia could reveal cotton sourced from Mali, another potentially problematic region in terms of labour practices.

As with so many areas of modern life, it feels like we’re forgetting the lessons we should have learned from history – to the point that we’re in dire need of a 21st century Wilberforce to realign the corporate moral compass on this increasingly pressing issue.

Procurement pros should take center stage on tackling modern slavery

Procurement has a crucial role to play in the fight against modern slavery. These issues allow procurement to move away from the “back office” and take centre stage.

Previously mundane tasks such as supplier screening actually turn out to be critical in helping a company stamp out the scourge of poor labour practices, indentured workforce and poor working conditions, whether in Bangladesh or the UK – where recently arrived immigrants are working for less than a minimum wage.

More than a third of UK businesses are still failing to combat modern slavery, according to the latest CIPS survey.

The EU recorded the largest increase in slavery of any region worldwide (according to research by British analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft) with 20 of its 28 states reporting higher levels of slavery than they did in 2016.

There is clearly still more work to be done.

Who should step forward and become the new William Wilberforce?

Another Parliamentarian?

A leader with deep religious beliefs?

NGOs?

Pressure groups who can organise boycotts?

Brand attacks might ignite fleeting moments of righteous social media outrage, but society needs to dig a lot deeper to effect lasting change. You can boycott your local shop but that won’t impact a large buyer of steel or soybeans.

You have to persuade companies that it’s not just the right thing to do but that it’s also better business.

My view is the CPOs of the largest companies are best placed to start solving this problem. Collectively, the Global 2000 spend $12 trillion on goods and services annually so by tying their purchases to purposes, these companies can ensure they provide fair labour practices across their supply chain.

Now is the time for a coalition of well-intentioned and influential businesses to come together and become a modern-day Wilberforce that can stamp slavery out for good.

SAP Ariba’s James Marland will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit on 26th April 2018. To find out more information and register to attend in person or as a digital delegate visit our dedicated site.