Tag Archives: blockchain

Blockchain: Procurement’s Secret Weapon

Procurement will be the single largest instrument in the world to change the world…

“Frankly procurement is at the same level, in my eyes, as auditing, accountancy and that level of excitement. There’s more excitement in the hashtag #Birdsarentreal – because people believe in that more and with more emotion than this.”

Olinga Taeed became the world’s first Professor in Blockchain and Social Enterprise at Birmingham City University in 2018. His research explores how blockchain can be used for social good, focussing on studies into methods to alleviate problems and provide significant intervention into society.

And when it comes to procurement and the future of the profession, he doesn’t mince his words.

“No one grows up saying mummy I’d like to be a CPO,” he explains. “And that’s because we value non-financial value. We grow up wanting to do things that have value in society – things to do with life and sentiment, we want to change the world.”

The Power of Procurement

“Doctors save one life at a time. In procurement, we can save or kill thousands by one decision”

When you say I will knock 3 per cent off my supply chain budget, somewhere in that chain some people will enter into slavery conditions

We now know that 32 people commit suicide manufacturing iPhones in China every year.

800 people might die in a fire making clothes for a retailer.

“In procurement we have the power of life and death and that is a major responsibility.”

Changing the world

Blockchain could enable procurement to change the world by bringing our values back into the workplace.

“In institutional life we often succeed in stripping out any kind of intangible value. But this attitude doesn’t occur in real life, only within institutions.”

In our own lives we use our personal values to procure things “I’d like to have products that are aligned to my values, I’ll use this coffee shop not that one, I’ll eat this ice cream but not one from that place, price is this important to me but slavery is this important. We talk about our feelings”

Blockchain will allow procurement professionals to use our values as a mechanism for procurement, just as we all do in our own lives.

Blockchain can put into a ledger an entire supply chain, which means at the point of sale, just as you would see calories on a food product, you can decide whether to buy it or not to buy it based on the values of the supplier. You are given all of the information and can make a choice based on that.

Olinga explains that AI will help procurement in a similar way “these are my values go and find me products that are aligned to my values – don’t pick companies or suppliers where I know environmentally they aren’t good.”

Organisations used to readily give discounts to NRA (National Rifle Association) members but all of that changed because our values changed, companies stepped back and procurement changed. Using blockchain, procurement professionals can procure against a set of corporate values – “it’s for me to buy products from suppliers that are aligned to those values.”

Olinga Taeed speaking at Big Ideas Zurich

“My honest belief is that procurement will be the single largest instrument in the world to change the world – children will say they want to be a procurement officer because they will want to change the values of the world – what we buy, what we eat, what we sell, the values by which we transact. Blockchain and AI will change our processes dramatically.”

Olinga Taeed speaking at Big Ideas Zurich

Procure with Purpose

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Click here to enroll and gain access to  all future Procure with Purpose events including exclusive content, online events and regular webinars.  

Could Blockchain And AI Help Procurement Change The World?

At last month’s London CPO Roundtable we explored how to enable smarter procurement, using blockchain for social good and anticipating disruptive forces…

What are the obstacles to more informed, strategic decision-making in procurement?

How can procurement pros use blockchain for social good to change the world?

What disruptive forces are heading your way in 2019 that could impact your supply chain?

These are just some of the questions we discussed when we gathered a dozen procurement leaders in London last month for a CPO roundtable sponsored by Ivalua.

Enabling smarter procurement

A new study by Forrester, commissioned by Ivalua, surveyed 433 procurement, supply chain and finance leaders across Europe and North America. The results, which Alex Saric, CMO Ivalua took us through at the roundtable, provide a practical look at how to enable smarter procurement.

The obstacles to more informed, strategic decision-making are quite consistent. The study, entitled “Enabling Smarter Procurement” found three common issues

  1. Firstly, despite efforts at automating processes, too much capacity is still consumed by operational or manual activities. Teams must free capacity to work on new projects, conduct analysis and plan, but are struggling to do so.
  2.  Secondly, leaders struggle to access relevant insights when and where they are needed. The volume of information now available is of little help if not digestible, simply leading to information overload.
  3. Compounding this, respondents also cited poor data quality as a key challenge. Duplicate supplier records, inaccurate data and poor integration between systems all were cited as sources of data quality issues.

A common viewpoint today is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the answer, the magical light at the end of a dark tunnel that will improve automation and give us the magical answers we need, when we need them. But what isn’t discussed is ensuring you have a solid data layer that feeds the intelligence layer, where the algorithms lie and all the talk lies.

Organisations must implement AI in conjunction with cleaning up their data, rather than using poor data quality as an excuse for inaction.

Empowering procurement to make more informed, strategic decisions is no longer an option. There is simply no other way to effectively meet the broad set of objectives now expected.

Using blockchain for social good

Olinga Ta’eed, Director, Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance became the world’s first Professor in Blockchain and Social Enterprise at Birmingham University in 2018. He led a discussion surrounding his research into using blockchain for social good, which focuses on studies into methods to alleviate problems and provide significant intervention into society.

“No one grows up saying mummy I’d like to be a CPO,” he begins. “And that’s because we value non-financial value. We grow up wanting to do things that have value in society – things to do with life and sentiment, we want to change the world.”

“In institutional life we often succeed in stripping that out – any kind of intangible value. But this attitude doesn’t occur in real life, only within institutions.”

In our own lives we use our personal values to procure things “I’d like to have products that are aligned to my values, I’ll use this coffee shop not that one, I’ll eat this ice cream not one from that place, price is this important to me but slavery is this important. We talk about our feelings”

Blockchain could enable procurement to change the world by bringing our values back into the workplace.

“My honest belief is that procurement will be the single largest instrument in the world to change the world – children will say they want to be a procurement officer because they will want to change the values of the world – what we buy, what we eat, what we sell, the values by which we transact. Blockchain and AI will change our processes dramatically.”

Preparing for the disruptive forces heading your way

Given the rate at which technology is evolving and how global events are impacting the world, it is increasingly difficult for companies to keep up without considering risk in real-time.

Intelligence about the world we live in drives business operations and the better informed we are the easier it is to drive progress. Mark Joyce, Head of Analysis, Sibylline revealed the most disruptive forces headed our way in 2019.

The four baseline trends include:

  1. Geopolitical reconfiguration – Chinese growth and assertiveness and a US retreat from global leadership
  2. Deadly conflict on the rise – Total conflict deaths fell enormously from mid-nineties up until the last decade. Since 2012 they’ve sparked to the highest since 1990s. Conflict deaths are concentrated in North Africa, Middle East, Syria Libya and Yemen. Middle Eastern countries have accounted for 70 per cent of battle deaths over the last five years.
  3. Disruptive populism
  4. Weakening of frameworks – including nuclear weapon control

These trends impact procurement in four ways:

  1. Strategic uncertainty – Impacting high-level decision making; blurred lines between politics and business -and criminality
  2. Tactical challenges – Geographical, technological, legal and reputational
  3. Cross-functional working – Procurement, legal, communications, HR and IT are increasingly stakeholders in political and security risk information
  4. Decision advantage – The importance of precise, actionable information and analysis to avoid paralysis and enable business in an uncertain external environment

Adventuring against adversity 

Kris King, Ultra-runner and adventurer extraordinaire specialises in the safe delivery of life-changing challenges and expeditions in the world’s most remote and demanding areas.

He inspired our roundtable attendees with his personal story describing how his best friend’s dad was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and his commitment to raising as much money as he could for medical research.

Kris become the youngest gym owner in the country, started running marathons, which turned into running ultra-marathons, which turned into extreme adventuring across the world, and started to see what a difference he could make.

In his own words “adventuring doesn’t pay well” so he found a way to monetise it – designing extreme adventures for clients, as well as for himself. Whether it’s expeditions in the Arctic Circle and Namibia, driving over a frozen lake with Daniel Craig, catapulting David Hasselhoff or bungee jumping a car of a cliff – nothing seems to be out of reach.

As Kris pointed out “it’s not about skill it’s about how stubborn you are.”

The London CPO roundtable was sponsored by Ivalua. If you’re a CPO and would like to attend one of our roundtables in person please contact Olga Luscombe via [email protected] to request an invitation. 

Procurement Isn’t Lighting Up The World…Yet

“Procurement itself – let’s face it – isn’t going to light the world currently, but I believe it will be the new instrument in 2030 to change the world.” – Olinga Taeed, Visiting Professor in Blockchain at Birmingham City University

As we hurtle towards the new year, you might be starting to look ahead and reflect on your personal and professional development goals.

But why wait until January 1st to put your plans into action?

Next week, we’ll be addressing a huge range of critical areas for procurement and supply chain professionals at Big Ideas Zurich.

And, for the first time ever, we’ll be filming and streaming the entire day’s event via the Digital Delegates group on Procurious.

If there was ever a time to register for one of our summits, it’s now. Featuring presentations and interviews from some of Europe’s top procurement leaders, we’ll be discussing procurement and supply management towards 2030, the future of talent, automation, blockchain, diversity and so much more.

Check out our teaser trailers below for a little sneak peak of what’s to come.

Procurement isn’t lighting up the world

“Procurement itself – let’s face it – isn’t going to light the world currently, but I believe it will be the new instrument in 2030 to change the world.”

Olinga Taeed, the world’s first Professor in Blockchain and Social Enterprise, reveals how blockchain can be used for social good, why procurement isn’t currently lighting up the world and when that’s set to change. 

On December 10th discover…

  • What skills you need to perfect to drive peak performance in your career
  • The latest intel on blockchain 
  • How procurement can close the gender pay gap 
  • The latest updates on game-changing technology 
  • How to develop strategic partnerships 
  • Why supplier diversity is best for business
  • What procurement and supply chain will look like in 2030
  • How to stand on your supplier’s shoulders 
  • How to make your key business stakeholders love you
  • The ways to shift your procurement mindset 
  • The importance of having a digital endgame

Win a Parrot Bebop drone worth £450

We know that everyone loves a prize. And believe us when we say we’ve got prizes falling from the tops of the Swiss Alps.

As a registered digital delegate you’re in with a chance of winning one of eight amazing giveaways including the big-ticket item – a Parrot Bebop drone worth £450.

Plus, we’ve got Patagonia t-shirts, a Fjallraven backpack, stashes of Swiss chocolate and Herschel beanies up for grabs.

We’ll be doing eight prize giveaways throughout today with winners selected every half an hour. To put yourself in the running you simply need to get involved on the digital delegates group – posting your comments, insights and questions.

Sign up as  a digital delegate for Big Ideas Zurich (it’s free) 

Food Allergy Deaths Avoidable With Blockchain

The recent cases of tragic deaths caused by food allergies has opened afresh the debate on fully transparent supply chains.

Many of you will have seen or read news reports in the past couple of weeks regarding the tragic deaths of two women due to severe allergic reactions to eating pre-prepared food. In both cases, the food in question was purchased from the same retailer, though the resulting actions from the cases have been markedly different.

The cases have highlighted industry-wide issues regarding food packaging and labelling relating to allergens, as well as reigniting the debate on where the responsibility lies for food content and allergen checks within the supply chain.

Inadequate Labelling and Mis-sold Products

The first incident occurred after a woman ate a pre-prepared baguette that had sesame baked into the product, but had not been listed on the product’s ingredient list on its packaging.

A recent inquest found that the retailer had “inadequately labelled” its products, failing to highlight the presence of sesame in the food. While the organisation agreed with the coroner’s verdict, it has thrown a spotlight on industry packaging requirements, particularly when it comes to listing potential allergens.

The second death was as a result of a severe allergic reaction to the presence of dairy protein in a pre-packaged sandwich. However, unlike in the first case, the retailer has pointed the finger of blame squarely at one of its second-tier suppliers, claiming it was mis-sold a guaranteed dairy-free yoghurt.

The supplier in question, with whom the retailer has since ended its relationship, has rejected the claim that its product was to blame. They had their own supply chain issue in February 2018 when they were forced to recall some of its products due to undeclared milk, resulting in it ending a relationship with a third-party supplier. The supplier has denied that the recalled product is the same product as caused the allergic reaction, though the retailer and two independent authorities have conducted tests showing that the yoghurt in question had levels of contamination.

Where the fault lies for the contamination will be established in due course. And though this ultimately pales in comparison to the tragic loss of life, it does raise a couple of serious questions: Where does responsibility lie for ensuring product quality in the supply chain? And what can organisations AND suppliers do to ensure full supply chain transparency?

Introducing Blockchain to the Food Industry

The debate on the first question will continue to rumble on. In reality, the responsibility lies with every party, irrespective of which tier they are in the supply chain. That said, the buck ultimately stops with the end user, retailer or seller to ensure products are fully labelled and they are satisfied they are selling a quality (and safe) product.

The answer to the second question may be closer than you think, however. Blockchain has been discussed at length on Procurious and its applications in the supply chain are well documented.

Plus it helps that the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, has just unveiled its new food industry blockchain ambitions in China. The retailer plans to use the existing, proven, technology to ‘overlay’ the supply chains in the notoriously complex industry.

And with major producers such as Dole, Nestle and Unilever on board, as well as IBM as a technology development partner, this does have the signs of being the first step on a (long) road to success.

Success that could usher in new processes for how food information is obtained, stored and shared, allowing all parties to track the provenance of food from farm to table. This will give all levels of the supply chain the transparency required to know products are both safe and of the highest quality.

With what has been in the new recently, with impacts that none of us can predict and that potentially extend further than any of us know, this may also represent the first step to ensuring the similar tragedies don’t happen again.

Read more on Walmart’s food industry blockchain ambitions here.

The Key Procurement And Technology Trends for 2019

The times, they are a-changing, and so are the markets and environments that procurement operates in. What then are the key trends in procurement and technology you need to watch for in 2019?

View Apart/ Shutterstock

As I am reliably informed by my Christmas-mad colleague, there are only 125 sleeps (as I write) left until Christmas. That means there’s a little over 18 weeks until the year ends, so it’s time to start looking forward to what’s coming in the next 12 months.

2019 is set to be a seismic year around the world. Major changes, such as further geo-political upheaval, the looming spectre of global trade wars and tariffs aplenty, have the potential to disrupt supply chains and set metaphorical trip wires for procurement professionals everywhere. And, as we’ve already heard, it’s rarely been more important to get a solid grips on the key factors in the market and external environment.

So gather round as we gaze into the opaque mists of the future and make some educated insights into the key procurement and technology trends waiting around the corner.

  1. Supplier Management

Let’s start with an oldie, but a goodie. Wait, I hear you cry, supplier management isn’t a new trend! We’ve been talking about this for years. Well, if we’ve talking about it for years, why aren’t we any better at it? And why is it that it’s one of the key areas a large number of procurement teams fall down on?

Like it or not, your suppliers hold the key to all your wildest procurement dreams. Innovation, top and bottom line cost reduction, avoidance and savings, stress-free supply of services and goods and free cake for all! (Ok, maybe not that last one!)

In their Vision 2020 publications, pwc state that the top 25 per cent of procurement functions will have gone beyond incremental improvements and be implementing fundamental change to process and policy alike. This includes how they interact with suppliers and shifting focus from cost and value to Return on Investment (ROI).

These outcomes all hang on better supplier relationship management in order to tease out further innovation from suppliers (who are seen as partners, rather than sponges to wring cash out of) and closer collaboration to source solutions to problems we don’t even know we have yet.

At the heart of this is great communication. Select the right suppliers and talk to them more. You never know, you might just learn something!

  1. Blockchain and Digital Adoption

Unless you’ve been living in a cave on a remote hillside (or perhaps a Faraday cage in your basement), you should have heard by now about blockchain.

From blog articles to webinars, it’s one of the hottest topics in procurement right now, and is likely to still be throughout 2019. Blockchain is and will continue to be a key tool in shaping the transparency of a supply chain. Information is shared and transmitted easily and safely, while the technology allows an “immutable signed and time stamped record of identity, ownership of assets, transactions or contractual commitments”.

This transparency will have the added benefits, and some drawbacks, of making procurement and CPOs more visible in the public environment, say EY. Procurement will wield greater power and have greater opportunity to interact with external stakeholders. But, at the same time, organisational processes and procurement will play out in a public setting like never before.

In line with blockchain’s increasing influence, there is a predicted rise in digital adoption and use of the Cloud. An estimated $1 trillion of IT spend will be moved to the Cloud by 2020, according to Gartner, as organisations look to make their IT services more agile.

  1. Social Value

There is a prevailing opinion amongst the procurement professionals I speak to that 2019 will be the year for social value and sustainability to really take hold. Organisations have begun to realise that cost and quality are only a part of the overall package and not only do they need to be seen to be doing more in the community, but they need to follow through on it.

That goes for the wider supply chain too. Using work practices and value-adding benefits for communities into tenders will become the norm and procurement will no longer be able to award contracts on cost without taking the wider impact into consideration.

  1. Next-Gen Workforce and Automation

Disregard what you’ve heard very recently regarding automation, machine learning and AI as scaremongering. Yes AI will take on tasks and people may have to move to new roles, but it’s not a future that we should be burying our head in the sand about. It’s a natural human reaction to fear change, but procurement needs to muscle up and be brave in order to evolve and survive.

Infosys estimates that AI and procurement automation will eliminate human intervention in 15 per cent of digital spending by 2019. If that’s the case, then procurement needs to embrace the change and develop, train and retain its Next-Generation workforce to meet the demands of new roles where human interaction and input is still key.

  1. Risk

From Brexit to trade wars, risk is going to be possibly the biggest trends for businesses as a whole in 2019. The organisations who will thrive in this unstable environment will be the ones who are best prepared to deal with the unexpected.

Deloitte believe that procurement will become the forecasters of risk in an organisation, raising the profile of the function as it factors total cost of risk and risk mitigation in supply chains into contracts and tenders.

Risk runs throughout the other trends that have been suggested above. Brexit, protectionism and trade wars make supplier and supply chain management all the more important. The increasing need for cyber security as technology advances is something that cannot be ignored.

Procurement is ideally placed to deal with all of these risks, but it needs to put its hand up and be at the front of the queue, or face being left behind and marginalised at a time when the function has a crucial role to play.

Blockchain Will Not Save The World (At Least Not This Year…)

Blockchain hype has spread like wildfire… But it’s time for a reality check…

Don’t—

Don’t—

Don’t—

Don’t—

Don’t believe the hype

Don’t Believe the Hype” is a song by Public Enemy that dates back to 1988 and (if loosely interpreted) carries an important message that can be applied to blockchain technology. Blockchain is almost everywhere, and—let’s face it—it’s getting a lot of hype.

It is very surprising that  such a new and relatively obscure technology like blockchain has received so much  exposure so fast, even in mainstream media. Blockchain hype has spread like wildfire, and this is largely because blockchain is the underlying technology behind Bitcoin, a digital currency (a.k.a. as cryptocurrency) that received a lot of coverage in the media.  In the wake of the cryptocurrency craze, blockchain has continued to attract more and more attention.

Time for a reality check

The response to blockchain exemplifies many of the issues that are commonly  associated with introducing new technologies. Firstly, the market’s inflated expectations do not match the reality of blockchain’s current applications and actual capabilities (see for example: “187 Things the Blockchain Is Supposed to Fix”). Secondly, many consider blockchain as an end in itself when it is actually just a tool that serves an objective or purpose. These are probably the two factors that are doing the most damage to the credibility and future of this technology, despite the very promising applications of blockchain.

At its core, blockchain is a form of digital trust, which has a number of potential uses and applications in business because trust is one key component in such a context. However, some of the characteristics of this technology that make it so valuable are also limiting the scope and possibilities of blockchain’s real-world applications beyond trials and prototypes. As with many other things, it is a matter of trade-offs. There is not a single, universal, and magical solution to every problem. So, before blindly jumping on the blockchain bandwagon, it is crucial for Procurement and Supply Chain professionals to know what blockchain is, understand its value proposition, and to be aware of what challenges and issues may be associated with using it.

Limitations and challenges of first-generation blockchains

You can trust data contained in a blockchain because of the way records (blocks) are added and managed. Unlike other methods of data management, blockchain is a decentralized (peer-to-peer) network composed of nodes. There isn’t a single “party” managing and owning the data, but rather a network of independent nodes that operate the network. This removes the risk and temptation of manipulating data. Even if someone was tempted to tamper with the data ,  they would need to find a way to  change it at all “n” nodes of the network simultaneously, which is more or less impossible, or, at the very least, extremely difficult.

A second aspect of blockchain that makes it such a secure data management option is its unique form of record keeping. “Miners” verify every new record and they must reach a consensus to allow a new record to be added to the chain. On top of this, each new record (“block”) contains a link to the previous block, meaning that it is impossible to change or remove a record without editing the entire chain. This is why data in the blockchain is immutable, which is one of the key value proposition of blockchain (although immutability and the new GDPR do not really work well together…).

Looking at the process above, it is easy to imagine that adding a new record in a system like blockchain takes more time than it would in centralized databases. This is because many actors (nodes) are involved and they have to perform tasks (mining) to verify the transactions (and that also serve as prevention against hacking and attacks). So, in its current form, blockchain is a somewhat slow technology when compared to what already exists. For example, Visa processes and verifies transactions more than 7,000 times faster than what happens on the bitcoin network.

Another issue is that, all the nodes of the network store all the data contained in the blockchain. This drastically increases the size of the blockchain, making it slower as it grows and more and more difficult to manage. In short, a blockchain network would explode and become  unmanageable very quickly in a number of real-life scenarios, such as, for example, if blockchain was used to track the origin of materials and parts across all tiers in a company’s supply chain.

There are also other potential threats related to security. Blockchain technology  relies heavily on cryptography and peer-to-peer networks that make it very robust and resilient. However, history has shown that almost nothing is unhackable. The blockchain may be incredibly difficult to hack but someone with the right motivation, tools, and probably a lot of time could, one day, hack it. And, as the blockchain’s popularity grows, so does the potential pay-off for successful hackers! Also, even if we were to assume that the blockchain is  totally unhackable, the systems around it are not. Systems and programs connected to the blockchain may be vulnerable to attacks and/or to bugs.

All in all, the blockchain technology is not a magic solution for every problem. Like any other technology, some trade-offs make it a more or less viable solution. For the blockchain, the trade-off is between three properties: scalability, decentralisation, and security. Today, you cannot get all three!

New and future  generations of blockchain could make it a viable option

A lack of scalability is probably the most serious limitation of blockchain, and it will probably determine the life or death of the technology. The first generations of the blockchain network, like Bitcoin, do not scale at all and are even incredibly dangerous if you look at sustainability issues and energy consumption. Newer generations are addressing this issue by introducing new designs and concepts.

For example, they are moving away from the consensus/mining mechanism that older generations use, which is based on the “Proof of work” concept (miners must perform more and more complex calculations and need more and more computing power and energy to complete them). “Proof of Stake” (PoS) is a newer and much more energy conscious algorithm that will address the “cost” of blockchain and make it a viable option.

Another example of how blockchain technology is being updated can be seen in the radical changes being made to the blockchain’s design. In new conceptualizations of blockchain, the design is moving away from linear models, where one block is only linked to the block before and after it (like links in a chain), and are instead moving towards networks of blocks, where one  block is connected to n other blocks. The benefit of this model is that operations on records can occur simultaneously on several branches of the network.

Too bad to be true?

It is true that there are essential trade-offs (scalability, decentralization, and security) to be aware of and to consider before adopting blockchain technology and moving towards a form of digital trust (which means trusting the software more than other parties). However, in many situations, the benefits offset the challenges and make blockchain the best alternative. A recent real-world example of this is the use of blockchain in a refugee camp as a means to address identity challenges and issues. As Houman Haddad, the UN executive behind the introduction of blockchain technology in a refugee camp in Jordan explains:

“Of course we could do all of what we’re doing today without using blockchain,” he says. But, he adds, “my personal view is that the eventual end goal is digital ID, and beneficiaries must own and control their data.” From “Inside the Jordan refugee camp that runs on blockchain” published in the MIT technology Review in April 2018

Another way to look at the trade-offs/dilemma is to consider what can be achieved with blockchain that was previously impossible. An interesting example in the Procurement / Supply Chain sphere is Productivist a service provider that wants to address the “manufacturing surplus” by connecting, , manufacturing companies and their customers via the blockchain.

Some say I’m negative,

but they’re not positive

But what I got to give,

(The media says this?)

So,  don’t believe the hype…

Instead, proceed cautiously and be aware of what blockchain can and can’t do. Blockchain is undoubtedly a powerful and exciting technology, but it is not yet fully mature and has several limitations, which explains why it still is far from being widely adopted, despite all the hype surrounding it. However, the newest (and future) generations of blockchain (that will probably part ways with “blocks” and “chains”) will make blockchain a more viable application than what is readily available now. These new generations, just like the older ones, will not save the world, but they represent a real and unique opportunity to create a platform/protocol which (new) businesses can build on, and which can help them grow.

Blockchain: The Technology, the Myth, the… Legend?

We’re told Blockchain is a huge game changer, that it’s the biggest innovation since the internet. But we’re also told it’s overhyped, it’s no big deal and that it has some serious limitations. So…what’s the truth? “Depending on who you ask, blockchains are either the most important technological innovation since the internet or a solution looking for a problem.” These are the opening words to a recent Wired article, entitled: The Guide to Blockchain.

And they certainly resonate with procurement professionals across the globe.

We’re told Blockchain is a huge game changer, that it’s the biggest innovation since the internet; it’s unhackable, it’s pervasive, it’s unparalleled and ultimately…it’s coming to the mainstream imminently.

But on the other hand, we’re told that Blockchain is overhyped, it’s no big deal, it has some serious limitations and, whilst it might be a pretty cool piece of technology, it’s certainly not the procurement disruptor that it’s hailed to be…

It’s no surprise that when it comes to Blockchain procurement pros don’t know who to believe when to expect its takeover or how to prepare.

So we’ve enlisted the help of some blockchain experts to give you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

On 7th August,  Procurious presents: Blockchain: The Technology, the Myth, the… Legend?

Blockchain: The Technology, the Myth, the… Legend?

We’ll be discussing: 

  • How will Blockchain impact procurement?
  • What are some of the most common misconceptions about Blockchain?
  • How is Blockchain commonly being used in businesses today?
  • How can blockchain help procurement pros to manage their organisation’s contingent labour force?
  • What are the flaws at the heart of blockchain? Is it over-hyped?

Webinar Speakers

Vishnu P Tadepalli, Global Program Manager – Procurement Blockchain Lead – IBM Procurement Services
Vishnu is a highly motivated design thinker and is a digital procurement / supply chain enthusiast. In his current role Vishnu Tadepalli is the Global Program Manager / Lead for procurement blockchain solutions at IBM Procurement Services (IPS) , program managing the blockchain procurement transformation for both IBM global procurement and its procurement services clients. In his earlier role at IBM , Vishnu product managed Procurement Cognitive solutions and earlier worked as a sourcing consultant for multiple Fortune 200 companies. In addition to IBM, Vishnu worked with Unilever , AGCO and Suzuki Motor corporation in supply chain transformation and category manager roles.  His experience spans end to end global supply chain, including both direct and indirect procurement.
Vishnu has an MBA in Strategy & Supply chain from Uni of Wisconsin, Madison and is currently pursuing second Master’s in  Artificial Intelligence. He is a member of Government Blockchain Association(GBA) and Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP).  An active Linkedlner, Vishnu likes to spend his free time social volunteering and mentoring.
Linkedln : linkedin.com/in/vishnutadepalli
Twitter Handle : @vishnu65886588 

Paul Sidhu, Blockchain Practice Lead – IBM

Paul is a senior leader with over 25 years experience delivering business transformation in large and complex business environments. A natural strategy and innovation practitioner, Paul works with business leaders to articulate the benefits of process optimisation, digital transformation and new operating models that impact upon their business and to present them with options and strategic recommendations in a way they both understand and feel passionately about.

Paul leads the IBM Global Business Services Blockchain Practice in Australia. His cross-industry background and working with clients in multi-discipline business functions enables a deep understanding for the needs of diverse stakeholders and the ability to solve business challenges by incorporating new solution offerings built with Blockchain.

Jack Shaw,  Co-Founder and Executive Director of the American Blockchain Council

Jack  is a leading expert on the strategic business implications of Blockchain technology who has spoken and consulted on Blockchain around the world.

He is a world renowned Keynote Speaker. He was recently voted one of the World’s Top 25 Professional Speakers by over 27,000 meetings planners, executives and conference attendees – the only Technology speaker to be accorded this recognition.

Jack has been a Technology Futurist for over 30 years – helping others to understand the impact of emerging technologies. In addition to Blockchain, he is widely recognised for his expertise in such breakthrough business technologies as:

  •   Artificial Intelligence,
  •   Internet of Things, and
  •   3D PrintingHe has advised such Fortune 500 Companies GE, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Oracle, and SAP as well as hundreds of small to mid-sized businesses.A charismatic speaker, he’s delivered more than 1000 keynote speeches and executive presentations in 23 countries and every U.S. state. Jack graduated from Yale with a degree in Business Administration and has an MBA from Kellogg in Finance and Marketing.

AmericanBlockchainCouncil.org 

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Blockchain: The Technology, the Myth, the… Legend? goes live on 7th August at 9am EDT/ 2pm BST. Sign up here.  

4 Reasons for Procurement to Back Blockchain

What is blockchain? How can it impact your organisation and help establish trust? Why should procurement be embracing it?  We answer all of your burning blockchain questions… 

Blockchain belongs to the (long?) list of buzzwords that are part of the growing hype surrounding new technology. Many people equate blockchain with Bitcoin, the first relatively mainstream cryptocurrency. For some, this association makes blockchain seem like something for hackers and illegal commerce, and far removed from typical B2B or B2C applications.

However, what many may not realise is that blockchain can have a significant impact on business because it can be a powerful tool in establishing trust. Trust is at the heart of business and drives:

  1. How we cooperate with other people (blockchain makes it easier to build trust in new business partners),
  2. How we automate activities (blockchain can ensure that a “machine/process” performs as expected)
  3. How we make decisions (blockchain creates more confidence in data),

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain can be intimidating. It is a complex technology and understanding and explaining it is far from easy (I still haven’t entirely figured it out). However, for procurement and supply chain professionals, understanding what blockchain enables and the associated implications is much more important than knowing how it works. What makes blockchain so valuable is linked to how records are added to the database:

  • A network of computers stores and verifies any new record, making the blockchain more robust than a single instance (like in most traditional databases),
  • Every transaction (“block”) is linked to the previous one (“chain”), creating complete traceability and preventing any data alteration,
  • It is decentralised (peer-to-peer), which means there is no authority deciding the rules or with a personal interest in manipulating data in one way or another.

Data in the blockchain is therefore immutable and impartial. It is shared among parties (publicly or privately) and cannot be changed by anyone.

“Protected from deletion, tampering, and revision. In this world every agreement, every process, every task, and every payment would have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared. Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers, and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organisations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction. This is the immense potential of blockchain.” The Truth About Blockchain, Harvard Business Review

Therefore, blockchain is a form of digital trust. More trust makes doing business easier, streamlines many processes, and creates transparency. Furthermore, and more importantly, it means that blockchain can serve as the backbone for new types of cooperation between machines (M2M) and between humans (H2H) that were, until now, limited by the cost of building trust or by a lack of trust altogether.

Businesses and business relationships stand to benefit significantly from what blockchain technology has to offer, and here are the main reasons for why procurement and supply chain professionals need to start taking notice:

1. Streamlining Operations

Beyond making transactions more secure and efficient by removing intermediaries, blockchain technology can also increase transparency in the supply chain. At each step of the value chain, from the extraction of raw materials to the customer, blockchain technology can store and record every transaction and exchange of ownership. This would provide companies with a complete, trustworthy and traceable record that would facilitate and simplify the process of due diligence, which companies need to complete in order to ensure compliance with rules and regulations restricting illegal or unethical corporate activities (child labor, modern slavery, conflict minerals, product traceability, fraud, counterfeit, etc.). Not only would this streamline internal processes (increasing efficiency and reducing costs), it would also establish more trust between companies, suppliers, regulatory bodies and the consumer. This is why many companies with a complex supply chain in industries with strict regulations and requirements related to product traceability (pharmaceutical, food & beverage, etc.) are already testing blockchain technology for that purpose.

2. Better Cooperation Between People

Blockchain can also enhance and improve Human-to-Human (H2H) cooperation because collaboration between people also relies on trust. This is particularly true when partners do not know each other, which is especially common in new business models (platform/ gig economy).

Identity and reputation are the two pillars of building trust. Because of its cryptographic nature, blockchain embeds mechanisms that ensure that users are who they say they are. That covers a user’s identity and extends to other credentials:

“Using the blockchain and strong cryptography, it is now possible to create a certification infrastructure that puts us in control of the full record of our achievements and accomplishments. It will allow us to share a digital degree with an employer while giving the employer complete trust that the degree was in fact issued to the person presenting it.” Certificates, Reputation, and the Blockchain, MIT Media Lab

Reputation is nothing more than the result of past transactions. As noted earlier, the blockchain logs all transactions securely and transparently. So, the blockchain makes it easy to measure and know someone’s reputation. Blockchain therefore makes it easier to do business with new partners by reducing the costs and risk which are often associated with new business relationships. Traditionally, a fear of risk and unexpected costs has been behind the rationale to aggregate spend towards a limited number of suppliers and/or to favor (consciously or unconsciously) incumbents. The use of blockchain can allow procurement organizations to revisit their category strategies!

3. Better Cooperation Between Machines

With blockchain organizations can

  • Trust the data stored in it,
  • Create new data collection points by digitalising more processes,
  • Execute automated programs (called smart contracts).

This creates a distributed system (data + process) that they can trust (completeness, accuracy, authenticity, resilience). So, it is possible to automate further without being exposed to typical risks due to lack of data, poor/corrupted data, unreliable execution, interferences by third parties/intermediaries,…

Blockchain is the ideal infrastructure for machine-based activities that the Internet of Things (IoT) has been lacking. It opens the door to new “apps” that will run precisely as programmed. An immediate area of application that is relevant for Procurement is Supply Chain Management.

For example, companies can track the movements of a container at all times. Whenever it reaches specific points, the blockchain will record the activity and smart contracts will execute automated actions (e.g. registration for customs, payments,…). The same concept also extends to upstream/downstream activities like inventory tracking/management or ordering/requisitioning/replenishing.

4. Better Insights with the Convergence of IoT, AI, and Blockchain

“Blockchain and AI are the two extreme sides of the technology spectrum: one fostering centralised intelligence on close data platforms, the other promoting decentralized applications in an open-data environment. However, if we find an intelligent way to make them working together, the total positive externalities could be amplified in a blink.” The convergence of AI and Blockchain: what’s the deal?, Francesco Corea

When considering the Internet of Things (IoT) + Blockchain and adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the landscape, a bigger picture emerges that covers data, insights, and actionable intelligence: the core of business activities! When combined, these technologies represent an opportunity to address the “big data” challenge summed up in the “6 Vs”: Value, Volume, Variety, Velocity, Veracity, and Variability.

Some of the latest technologies represent critical components for building better insights and actionable intelligence:

  • IoT = Provides the ability to collect more information (Volume) and in a real-time manner (Velocity & Variability). This is especially true when monitoring physical supply chains (e.g., sensors and geolocation for containers) and changing demand (e.g., sensors in machines for predictive maintenance). It is the foundation that makes gathering data possible and keeps the Big Data engine running and improving (e.g., machine learning).
  • Big Data = Makes it possible to consolidate, aggregate, and slice more data coming from multiple sources (Variety), both internal (e.g., ERPs, or other information systems) and external (e.g., IoT sensors, third party data providers…).
  • Blockchain = Increases trust and reliability (Veracity) in the data collected and stored which is a critical factor in trusting the insights and decisions derived from that data. It also creates a “data backbone” that can be utilized to create interoperability (internally and externally) opening the door to further automation and “interconnections” between physical and financial supply chains.
  • AI = Exhibits tremendous computational capacity to analyze massive sets of data to build new knowledge (Value) and continuously learn and improve from new data.

Too Good to Be True?

Blockchain represents an important for the business world. Procurement organisations cannot afford to ignore it because it has the potential to open doors to further improvements from streamlining paper-based processes to enhancing cooperation and developing new strategies and supporting new operating/business models.

Despite the potential benefits, however, organisations should still make an informed decision about testing blockchain bfore rushing in. Blockchain is still a relatively new technology, and in addition to understanding the potential it holds, procurement organizations also need to understand the limitations and risks, which we will cover in our next article. Stay tuned!

7 Procurement Trends To Watch Out For In 2018

Which hot topics and trends will everyone in procurement be talking about in 2018…?

What’s the buzz in 2018? We’ve done a spot of investigating to identify all the hot topics the procurement world is excited (and concerned!) about in the coming year…

1. Technology Hype Won’t Let Up

Steve Banker, writing for Forbes, concurs stating that “emerging technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, autonomous mobile robots, IoT, machine learning, and related technologies continue to get a tremendous of amount of publicity.

According to Supply Chain Digital, “The pace of innovation is picking up steam at an exponential rate.

“Robots, self-driving vehicles, electric trucks, blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and new mobile-enabled categories are all poised to explode onto the scene in one form or another.

“It’s hard to predict what’s real and what will fade away, but expect 2018 to become a year of heavy innovation for supply chain leaders, even if it’s experimental.”

Vivek Soneja, writing for EBN online  asserts that “Blockchain capabilities have transformed collaboration across trading partner networks”. He believes Blockchain will “enable much tighter collaboration across supply chain planning and execution decisions. ”

Read our latest articles on Blockchain by Basware’s Paul Clayton and  InstaSupply’s Simona Pop.

2. Brexit Will Continue To Cause Disruption 

“While 2017 was the year of Brexit uncertainty, 2018 will be the year where things start to change,” asserts Francis Churchill on Supply Management.

Last year CIPS revealed that 63 per cent of EU companies planned to move some of their supply chain out of the UK as a result of the decision to leave the single market and customs union.

“The slower-than-expected progression of Brexit negotiations has put off business investments in current or new UK operations,” explains Gary Barraco on Global Trade Mag. Recent readings on economic growth showed investment by companies to be flat in the second quarter.

“Supply chain executives are voicing concerns about tariff and quota changes, hoping to keep trade open and flowing as it does today. For manufacturing to remain strong, the raw material imports from Asia need to remain duty and tariff free, as they are currently in the customs union. Costs could go up without the trade advantages, leading to higher export costs from the UK.”

We discuss the implications of Brexit for procurement in this Procurious blog. 

3. Cognitive will reign supreme

Global Trade Magazine predicts that “by the end of 2020, one-third of all manufacturing supply chains will be using analytics-driven cognitive capabilities, thus increasing cost efficiency by 10 per cent and service performance by 5 per cent.”

And IBM predict that, by this point, all of our important procurement decisions will be made with the assistance of artificial intelligence. We know that our teams must “transform or die” if we don’t want the function reduced to the back office,  facing extinction.

But if you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed by the magnitude and potential of cognitive technology or simply wondering how to get started, this Procurious article has some great advice.

4. Transparency

Paul Martyn , writing for Forbes, spoke to Sue Welch, CEO, Bamboo Rose, on her supply chain predictions for 2018, discussing why “transparency and sustainability will be practiced with more vigor in 2018.”  She said ” ‘There’s been an explosion of demand from consumers to know where their products are originating and the required information is extremely granular. For example, with a package of carrots, consumers want to know not only the farm where they were harvested, but also the row and lot number where the carrots were planted.’

“Welch, whose company, Bamboo Rose, works with a number of top retailers and apparel companies, expects traceability demands to not only shape how consumers buy, but how companies will source and market their services.

“Smart retailers will begin to market their products from an information/sustainability-first standpoint and to be credible about it, they’ll need to invest in integrating technology that makes this level of transparency possible at every level of the supply chain.’ ”

5. Cybersecurity

Global Trade Magazine predict that by the end of 2019, cybersecurity will have surpassed physical security as a top concern for one-half of all manufacturers, and in the transition to digitally enabled, cognitive supply chains, cybersecurity will have become a top investment priority.

“High-profile hacking cases that compromise sensitive information for millions of people will continue in the coming year.” states Soneja, “With the proliferation of data and connected endpoints, companies will need to step up their security and privacy protection protocols in 2018.”

Earlier this year, we spoke to Craig Hancock, cybersecurity expert and Executive Director of Telstra Service Operations on the dangers of cyber crime. Read the full article here. 

6. Back to basics

“While a number of new trends are giving procurement leaders directions to explore in 2018, many supply chain professionals are still aiming for easy-to-understand goals” explains The Strategic Sourceror.

“According to Deloitte’s latest research on chief procurement officers, cost advantages and cash flow improvements are still the bread and butter of the supply chain. Traditional efforts to improve contracts and advanced, tech-driven strategies can deliver favorable costs to companies.”

7. Big data is a big deal

“In the context of the supply chain for most businesses, big data and predictive analytics are still an untapped resource that can potentially provide insights which help anticipate or respond to events or disruptions,” explains Raanan Cohen on Supply Chain Management review. 

“Unpredictable consumer behaviour, traffic or weather patterns, and labour unrest are all external events that can disrupt a supply chain and lead to increased costs and customer service challenges. Big data can help organisations become better trading partners to their customers and suppliers. But before insights and analytics can be leveraged for a better supply chain, there’s a huge task at hand for the many organisations that need to first collate data points from all sources and align them to their business operations.”

2017 Rewind- The Impact Of Blockchain On Procurement

As part of our 2017 Procurious rewind, we’re taking a look at the top blogs of the year. Blockchain was one of the hottest topics on the site this year. It’s time to brush up on your knowledge and understanding right here, right now! 

Blockchain technology will not only impact procurement and procurement professionals but is expected to be more pervasive in our business and personal lives than the internet itself. To put the enormity of impact on procurement and procurement professionals in perspective picture yourself twenty years ago trying to explain how the Internet is going to change things. Where would you even begin?

Like the Internet the Blockchain is a network. In the case of Blockchain comprised of decentralized “ ledgers”, many are referring to it as Internet 2 or more commonly the Internet of Value or Internet of Trust.

The benefits

The most important thing to understand is that Blockchain addresses many of the most critical problems we’ve encountered doing business on the internet.

1)  Security: Practically speaking the Blockchain is unhackable.

2)  Transactions are verified by network participants (consensus), eliminating the need for third-party intermediaries’ (banks) costly, time-consuming and predominantly manual settlement processes. In addition to slowing down our supply chains banks alone have estimated these processes are costing them more than $20 billion annually.

3)  Eliminating high transaction processing costs for high volume/low margin retailers who accept credit cards could significantly add to their bottom line.

4)  Once transactions are verified they are secure and immutable. (unchangeable)

5)  The immutability of the Blockchain means that supply chain provenance can be assured. This is particularly important for conflict minerals, pharmaceuticals, food and many other supply categories where provable chain of custody is critical.

6)  Payments can be made directly from buying entity to selling entity “ledgers” by-passing intermediaries (banks, brokerage, clearing houses, title companies, etc.)

7)  Payments can be automatically triggered based on the codified terms of “ Smart Contracts” stored in transaction blocks.

8)  Blockchain capabilities will change, if not eliminate the role of accounts payable and accounts receivable departments.

9)  Blockchain enables the concept of micro-units and micro-payments. It is estimated that approximately one -third of the world’s economic opportunity exists for products and services such as energy or digital rights where backend settlement costs currently constrain those markets.

10) It is also estimated that 25 per cent of the global population does not participate in the global economy because they have no bank accounts and/or credit cards. Without these tools they cannot participate in the Internet economy. The primary reason they do not have these economic tools is because they cannot prove their identities. Immutability of the Blockchain can enable these people.

What do I need to understand?

The capabilities I’ve outlined just scratch the surface on how Blockchain impact all of us. Aside from the aforementioned, as a procurement professional are several important things to understand.

1)  Blockchain is a much wider and more pervasive concept than Advanced Cognitive Systems, Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Robotics, 3-D Printing or even the Internet of Things. In fact these technologies will become infinitely more practical and secure because of Blockchain.

2)  Do not think of Blockchain and BitCoin, FinTech or Crypto Currencies as synonymous. They are not.

3)  Do not think that it will take 20 years to mature and be mainstream. The estimate is 5-7 years for full maturity.

4)  Do not assess progress by the US/Euro FinTech Community. While they were the first to recognise Blockchain’s inherent value and arguably have the most to gain by adopting it, they also have the biggest hurdles to overcome and could very well be last to cross the finish line.

5)  Don’t make the mistake of waiting to become knowledgeable about Blockchain; it is the most highly disruptive technology we’ve seen since the Internet and it won’t wait until you are ready for it.

Michael Shaw is CPO and Executive Board Member of Sourcing and Procurement Executives (ACSPE) and Chief Information Officer at Blockchain Executive.  This article was originally published on LinkedIn