Tag Archives: career advice

The 6 Stages Of Your Procurement Job Interview

How to you prepare for (and ace!) your procurement or supply chain job interview?

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There is no shortage of general advice available online on how to prepare for and behave in an interview situation, and it’s free. That’s all very helpful, but what about preparing for an interview in supply chain or in a procurement role, how is it different?

1. Before the interview

The basics are the same whatever the role, preparation is vital.  Do research the following:

  • The background of the company, its culture and the industry it is in.  The more information you gather before the interview, the better prepared you will be to answer leading questions during the interview. Be fully prepared to answer the questions “How much do you know about our company?” or “Why do you want to work here?” 
  • The interviewer (or hiring manager).  Who is he or she?  What is their work background and experience?  This will help you find some common ground. 
  • Know your TCO, RFI, P2P, SRM and the rest of the acronyms. Interviewers may use these in conversation. It may unsettle you if you don’t know what they mean.   
  • Make sure you really understand the skills that are required and how much experience is expected. If you don’t quite fit their view of a dream candidate, motivate how you will grow into the role quickly. Think about the types of questions that you can expect and prepare your answers in advance. 

2. At the interview

Job interview formats go in and out of fashion:  you can be asked to do a video or panel interview or even one that includes end-users or stakeholders.  Whatever the format, you need to demonstrate your suitability for the role on offer and how your skills and background will provide tangible benefits for them.  

3. Functional skills

You will probably be asked about your experience and skills in relevant supply chain technology and related tools, e.g. SAP, Oracle, Ariba or other e-sourcing software. You may be asked about direct and indirect categories that you have worked in (make sure you understand the difference) and about your particular expertise in certain commodities or services.  In both these areas be careful not to embellish or over-represent your knowledge or achievements as your interviewer may know a lot more than you do. If you claim that you saved your organization £5 million in spend last year you will need to be able to substantiate it.  Currently, employers are looking for people with specific experience in complex procurement categories. In these types of role they expect candidates to be already familiar with the external marketplace and key suppliers. 

Questions sometimes start with “Tell me about a time when…”, where the interviewer will work through the STAR technique:  

  • The SITUATION 
  • The TASK or problem that arose
  • The ACTION you took
  • What was the RESULT

Prepare multiple examples in advance and rehearse them well so that they tell a story. Be ready for “tell me more”.  Make sure that you demonstrate that you have good critical and analytical thinking skills, are a good communicator, have time management skills, and are flexible, i.e. show that your expertise is transferable to them. 

4. Behavioural skills

Behavioural interview questions are very common in supply chain and are designed to elicit specific and detailed responses about inter-personal and conflict situations which you have been exposed to. How did you handle the issue, what actions did you take and what was the outcome?  Your answers will show that you understand effective ways to deal with suppliers and internal clients.  Listen carefully to any clues the interviewer gives you on what’s important to them so that you can respond by giving your own examples. You need to be able to articulate how you would be able to bring about change and implement improvements seamlessly, where required.

5. Do you have any questions?

An interviewee will almost always be asked this. Understanding how to communicate your interest is very important so have your questions ready.  This is not the time to discuss the remuneration package or benefits that may be offered. Genuine questions about how the company manages its procurement function and how the different elements of their supply chain operate will be welcomed.  If the interviewer is interested in you they will demonstrate it by asking a variation of the following, ‘why our company, why this position and why you?’  This often is your most critical response during the interview process.

6. Where it can go wrong:

Feedback from senior managers and top recruiters says that where candidates fail most is in:

  • Not being fully prepared and having to refer to their CV for details
  • Did not know enough about the company and its operations
  • Did not have the right attitude/did not demonstrate any energy for or interest in the role offered.
  • Could not provide examples or explain how they are suitably qualified
  • And arrived late for the interview!

Displaying a positive attitude and expressing a sense of enthusiasm for the company and the role is an excellent starting point for landing that job. Cultural fit and good inter-personal skills may be the clincher; processes and applications can be taught over time to fulfil gaps in experience. 

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Bursting The Leadership Bubble – You Have Got What It Takes

People often cultivate an air of mystique about the type of person it takes to be in a senior leadership role. Abby Vige bursts that bubble…

By Andrew Angelov/ Shutterstock

Influencing up is about taking ownership of yourself and not waiting for things to be handed to you no matter how lowly or isolated your role is. There is always a way to move forward and add value.

I have summarised the key takeaways that I deployed early on my career, they serve as valuable reminders in any role that I am in.

1.Spot things in your team that could do with streamlining or improving #efficencyprogrammes

2. Don’t overlook the basics like creating tools and templates – this can be gold #bigdata #storytelling

3. Do your time, do the churn and take each opportunity as it comes #rollyoursleevesup

4. Get organised. We are all busy, you need to get efficient with your time #productivityhacks

5. Pick a senior that you can trust and test ideas with them, they can be your biggest ambassador #squadgoals

Mystery management

People are people no matter what their job title is or how senior they are, this seems so obvious! but many of us have cultivated an air of mystique about what type of person it must take to be in such a senior role. It’s worthwhile to take a moment to put them into slow motion in order to unpack what’s actually going on.

The slowmo replay

We all recognise this scenario, the most senior person in a organisation walks through an office in close proximity. You’ve never spoken to them, never been introduced to them, you are just one of oodles of people that they manage. In many instances they will most likely know your name but your day to day jobs don’t require any personal interaction. They waft through the office almost like an apparition. The air of leadership. The manager has landed.

How it’s interpreted

When I have mentored people coming up through the ranks, I have noticed that they often hold these people in such reverence. They make bold assumptions about the life they must have lead, the number of degrees they must hold and how super duper busy they must be. It’s often stated “…there’s no way I could do that job…” And so I ask them, what makes you think this? They say “well because they have such a high level job and so much responsibility, they must have so much technical knowledge and experience, their job must be insane”. While some of this is usually true, it does the manager a disservice. Is a titanic sized shipload of technical knowledge where the value lies? Are these the most valuable things they can teach us?

Bursting the bubble

When you slow the manager down, view and accept that they are a person just like the rest of us, the reverence bubble will pop. In the demystifying the senior manager we can begin to see what really matters, and what matters is knowing how they human and what they learned in order to get to where they are.

Human hacks

These are the questions we should be asking.

  • What things have happened in your life that have given the capability to be able to do this role that you’re in?
  • What have you learnt about yourself along the way?
  • What does stress feel like to you? How does it present, what brings it on and what do you do?
  • How do you manage competing time priorities?
  • What did you try that didn’t work? What did you try that did work?

The answers to these questions lay out a path that maps the journey of experience. A degree isn’t going to teach you instincts about your business, a degree can be important but it doesn’t teach you about resilience that is crafted and learned over time. The technical expertise is not what makes most senior managers, it’s the life skills.

Behind the veil

Senior managers need to challenge themselves to pull aside the curtain and be open to people about what they’ve done in their life to build the person that is the leader before them.

From this point, people can make an accurate assessment about what type of calibre it takes to be in a certain role and whether those skill sets suit their strengths, their values and their aspirations.

Get away from the technical and focus on the human.

Is Category Management Still A Career Choice?

Far from the predictions of many, category management is alive and well, but it is changing. Elaine Porteous explores how…

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Contrary to some predictions in the last decade about the demise and imminent death of category management in procurement, it is alive and well, but evolving.  In truth, it is becoming more complicated as third-party spend in the 21st century does not easily fit into historical categories.  There is more overlap and intersection in I.T. services as it merges with telecommunications, marketing services now include internet and social media and packaging is concerned with sustainability.     

Category management’s aim is to segment its spending on third-party goods and services into groups depending on function and end use.  The difficulty in defining category groups has increased due to the overlap between commodities and the rapid innovation in technologies.  Category managers handle more than strategic sourcing. Their role includes creating a category plan, handling supplier relationships and providing continual oversight in the category. 

Specialise in your niche and own the category

It is generally understood that difficult and complex indirect categories pay more.  Indirect spend refers to goods or services that are not directly incorporated into a product or service delivered to a customer, e.g.  I.T., marketing, facilities and professional services.  Experienced category managers can earn £75 000 per annum.    

Why are some categories difficult?  Partly because stakeholders in these categories resist procurement efforts to influence their spend and are protective of their incumbent suppliers.  It can also be because procurement people may be seen to be lacking in the knowledge needed to lead the supplier selection and contracting process.  

Professional services can be a bit of a minefield. Marketing, management consulting, legal and insurance are commodities that have unclear and convoluted pricing structures which take time to understand fully.   

Managing indirect categories requires behavioural skills as well as deep technical knowledge of the category. Aspiring category managers need persuasive skills, empathy and the ability to listen as well as to be decisive when the need arises.  They also need to act as change agents and diplomats.

Don’t try and change the supplier of food catering services without engaging with the users or there may be a riot.   

Information Technology

Sourcing and contracting I.T services is different from any other category. Without extensive experience or formal training, this category is going to be an uphill struggle. The advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), SaaS and blockchain will require constant study and awareness of how to apply new types of applications. Where the I.T. function is mission critical to the company operations, e.g. in banks and insurance companies, procurement and sourcing professionals need to be totally immersed in the category and its commodities which can include: software licences, hardware, peripherals, servers, data and telephony, 3D printing, warranties and maintenance.  Category managers are increasingly being hired from internal and external I.T. departments.

The organisational culture and landscape on the indirect side has many nuances that do not exist on the direct side. The procurement executive will therefore need to traverse the waters of indirect spend with unique strategies to ensure success.

Marketing services

This category requires focus, stamina and a long line in patience. The relationship between marketing and procurement works best when they meet to discuss and agree on sourcing and contracting strategy and when procurement takes over the pesky administrative details.   Traditionally advertising agencies have been the major recipients of marketing spend, some providing a one-stop service, maybe with no contract or service level agreement (SLA).  This is changing; the use of printed matter is diminishing, digital agencies are taking over so there is healthy competition for the overall spend.

See also  Is Marketing Procurement’s Blind Spot?

Legal services

Even though the legal services area is complex and services are expensive, it is possible to build credibility with the in-house legal team by finding out

  1. and understanding what their needs and issues are
  2. which areas have the potential for savings
  3. where better value can be achieved from external legal firms. 

The low-end, routine or commoditized legal services are the easiest to address. By learning the language of solicitors and attorneys you can express your sourcing ideas in words they can understand. Managing supplier relationships with law firms need to be focused on minimising bad behaviours and rewarding and incentivising those who provide accurate, transparent pricing and deliver excellent service and good advice.

Human Resources

HR has a wide remit in many large organizations with the main focus being on people management. Most HR professionals would agree that they don’t have an in-depth understanding of their suppliers’ cost drivers such as profit, overheads, risk and how these impact on return on investment (ROI).  They are beginning to realise the benefits of having their procurement counterparts with them around the negotiating table.  Procurement’s selling proposition to HR is to demonstrate its ability to deliver value by being a source of market intelligence and a guide to best practice. 

Depending on the industry sector you work in, some categories can take on greater or lesser importance. In fast-moving-consumer-goods, packaging, logistics and transport are vital to the success of all food, drink and healthcare companies. In insurance and banking, reliable technology is the key.  

Tips to help you succeed in difficult categories

  • Research the market by benchmarking the pricing of services to  establish the competitiveness of current suppliers
  • Develop a database for each type of service by evaluating current suppliers, their pricing structures and capabilities
  • Re-negotiate and improve the contractual terms and conditions, pricing models and rates on current agreements and/or go to market with a well-thought outsourcing strategy.  
  • Establish what deliverables and technical skills are needed for each type of service so that you can determine which suppliers can provide them
  • Identify incentives to improve relationships with your incumbent suppliers and aim to consolidate your base

There is a growing awareness of corporate social responsibility across most categories. Sustainability is becoming more than a consideration in categories that have the potential to have a detrimental impact on society and the environment. Job descriptions for category managers are already including responsibility for sustainability strategies. 

See also  Where Are All The Great Procurement Jobs?

Voicemails Are Dead So Why Do We Use Them?

Why do we all have a voicemail system and why do people continue to leave them? Abby Vige discusses instant gratification

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When we’re stuck in the work grind and we see our phone light up with news from beyond our present moment, our spirits buoy a little! Yay! Then we drop when we realise it’s just a voicemail. It’s almost as bad as when you think have a text but it’s just spam from your telecommunications provider. Sigh.

Confession

I have to admit that I never clear voicemails, some people even state in their voicemail greeting that they do not clear them, so why do we all have a voicemail system and why do people continue to leave them?

Voicemails date back to the late seventies when a chap patented his unique “Voice Message Exchange” and sold the electronic message system to 3M. Since this master stroke of genius, we have never looked back. When voicemails were invented they made sense, there were no emails and faxes were yet to reach their peak. But do they make sense as a business or connection tool in this modern era?

A message from beyond

The reason I don’t tend to clear my voicemails, is because as soon as someone leaves one the news instantly old. Or, there is very little information that warrants the effort of clearing them all and then phoning each individual back “hey, Susan from accounts here, phone me back” why should I?

Enter the experiment phase…

After having this question kick around my head for awhile, I decided to scratch the itch of my curiosity and prove what I thought to be true. I listened to every voicemail across 2-3 days and phoned each person back, the top results were:

  • They had already emailed me the query and was surprised I was phoning them
  • The issue at hand had substantively evolved
  • They had found out the answer themselves

The motivation for them to leave the voicemail had initial merit, but in some instances, just minutes later the situation had changed. My stark conclusion was that most of the conversations were in effect, a waste of time.

Now, I don’t want to be seen as a VM hater, Procurement is a customer centric, customer service industry. But this is not the way I add value to my customers or to my organisation. Voicemails fall in to a “reactive” space for me and I’m much more of a pro-active gal. I love to be accessible to my customers, but you’ll often find me at their desks in person because face to face conversations are worth it.

What’s driving Susan?

The experiment was interesting and somewhat validating but the question remains, why do we feel the need to leave the dreaded VM in the first place? Most people assume that it’s because email as a written form, takes longer to write out verses simply phoning the person and requesting that they phone you back. It’s also generally accepted that voicemails enable us to convey emotions and urgency.

But what is really driving us is more of a simpler basic human need, the need for instant gratification. The term itself is self-explanatory but it in this context what is driving us is our self-centric view of the world. Even though we know it makes sense to write an email and include more information and leave it for when the person is available to digest it, we forgo these long-term benefits in favour of short term benefits that resolve something in our world, we feel better.

This is subject that has piqued curiosity for many years and found its roots in pop culture through the 1960’s infamous “Marshmallow experiment”. This was a major psychological study conducted by Stanford Professor Walter Mischel where children between 4 and 5 years old were given the choice of having one marshmallow to eat right away or they could wait for the researcher to come back and they would get two. The results of watching the kids wait has been the subject of many a video and even adverts.

How this plays out at work

The desire for short term gratification is often exasperated by the pressures of a work environment where the sense of needing to get things done and done quickly rules supreme. What underpins the need for instant gratification? The need for the issue to be passed on, to be received – ultimately to be heard.

We eat the marshmallow over and over, we can’t wait, we can’t help ourselves. Those of us that don’t leave voicemails most likely transfer the gratification to other media or medium. Even your neat and pretty to do list or post it note system fits the short term satisfaction bill.

The biggest insight gained from the experiments was the link proven between delaying gratification and being successful in life. Those 4 and 5 year olds from the 1960’s that waited for the second marshmallow, had higher academic scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures.

What we can learn

If we train ourselves to be less reactive and to delay those hard wired gratification urges, we can increase our productivity in focused and targeted areas. Ultimately raising our value to the organisations we work for, whether that is a company or working for yourself.

Take the challenge….

  1. Don’t leave voicemails
  2. Pay attention to your inner world, before you take action, think about what is driving that action
  3. Start small and repeat that small action each day
  4. Keep visual reminders about your top priorities
  5. Keep yourself accountable

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Like the Breakfast Club banding together to overcome Assistant Principal Vernon, life is much easier when we collaborate. And procurement should be no different.

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This year will be the year of collaboration in public sector procurement – you heard it here first! In the past, collaboration may have proved to be a step too far for some for various reasons. However, the challenge the public sector now faces is the need to use collaboration and collaborative procurement to share resources and find new, more efficient ways of working.

Procurement professionals are stretched thin. On one hand, we’re trying to keep a handle on all the transactional tasks required to facilitate procurement. On the other, we’re trying to influence and input to strategic decisions that could shape the professions future. So it’s critical that we are using our time wisely and using all the tools at our disposal.

Collaboration can take many forms, but one thing is for sure – the public sector could be much better at it! Go back and look at your projects, tenders and contracts from 2018. How many of them did you start from scratch? Did you have, and maybe reject, the opportunity to work with other procurement teams? Did you approach other authorities or public sector institutions to see if you could get a copy of their documents?

The Breakfast Club started out the same way. They all considered that they were too different to get along, that they had nothing in common. They all approached the detention task as something to be done in isolation (or not done at all). It wasn’t until they started talking (collaborating) that they realised that they could work better together. And in the end produced one assignment for all of them that did the same job.

Let’s Get Collaborating

Collaboration should be both an internal and external activity. From the outset of any project or procurement exercise, procurement should be involved and working closely with their internal stakeholders to define requirements. Once these requirements are known, it’s time to open up the field to the wider audience and see who has done this already.

Public sector procurement, as we have already said, spends a lot of valuable time and resources creating new documents that someone may, and probably has, created in the past. This is where the real benefit of a framework lies. Frameworks, Dynamic Purchasing Systems and other collaborative procurement opportunities can help reduce the time spent on administrative (read: non-strategic) tasks, saving money and freeing up resources.

This is the same even if you happen to be the Authority or public sector body setting up the framework itself. As with many of these things, putting the time and work in at the start can help to create savings and benefits further down the line.

Time vs. Inflexibility

A framework provides a list of pre-qualified suppliers, usually against a Lot with a specific scope of requirements, from which procurement can run mini competitions, create call off contracts or even direct award business.

From a buyer’s point of view, there’s no requirement to advertise opportunities under the framework, even if they are above OJEU values, on top of potential economies of scale and less time spent between identifying a need and fulfilling it. For suppliers it reduces the burden and costs of applying for tenders and potentially increases the possibility of winning business by focusing in on a smaller market.

However, this is not to say that frameworks aren’t without their drawbacks. For buyers, the main issue is that once the framework is in place, it’s not flexible in response to changes in the market. Neither new suppliers to the market nor previously unsuccessful supplier can access the framework and tender opportunities. This means buyers could be missing out on new solutions or have a framework whose scope is lagging behind new developments.

Suppliers face the possibility of spending significant time and money getting on the framework to not get any returns. Although they are on the framework, contracts may be awarded without competition, or not placed through the framework at all.

The Players

None of these drawbacks should put you off looking at using frameworks if your procurement needs can be met with them. There are a few big players in the public sector when it comes to collaborative frameworks all of whom are worth a look at.

  • Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – essentially the procurement arm of the Cabinet Office, helping UK-wide authorities and public sector bodies procure a huge range of requirements. With spend of £13 billion in FY2017-18, CCS states that its frameworks have delivered over £600 million worth of savings for its users.
  • Scotland Excel – owned and funding by the 32 Local Authorities in Scotland, Scotland Excel has the same aims as CCS, but works to focus on the requirements of Scottish members and public sector institutions. However, they work increasingly with CCS to ensure access for all public sector to the widest range of frameworks available.
  • Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO) – owned by 13 English Local Authorities, YPO has around 100 frameworks and 30,000 products, covering everything from Utilities to furniture.
  • Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) – jointly owned by 6 English Local Authorities, ESPO offers a range of UK and EU compliant frameworks (worth £1.7 billion spend in 2017-18), as well as an extensive product catalogue.

These are just a few of the names you will inevitably come across when looking for a public sector collaborative procurement framework. The beauty of these organisations is that, despite crossover in the types of frameworks, they collectively cover pretty much anything you might want to buy. All the frameworks are easily accessible and open up a corner of the supply market for whatever your requirement is.

Shop around, see which framework suits you and your organisation the best and go from there. And if all else fails, look and see if you can set up something yourself. You may even be able to help your fellow public sector professionals (or work with them) to collectively meet your requirements.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

How To Make Your Company More Honest (And Why It Matters)

It’s a fact that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. So how do you motivate your teams to perform with greater integrity?

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There is ample evidence that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. And while almost every company says they are honest, many do not create and support a culture of honesty.  The research tells us there is one key thing any company can do to ensure we are honest at work. 

According to annual research conducted by global accounting firm EY, 97 per cent of businesses say it is important that they operate with integrity. Businesses want to be honest for one very simple reason.  Their reputation is on the line.  Almost all of them rate customer perception as the most important reason to behave honestly, with public and shareholder perception coming a close second and third. 

They believe that honesty, or at least having your customers, shareholders and the public believe you are, is key to successful business performance.  Obviously, acting with integrity makes it easier for organisations to operate by reducing scrutiny and fines,  but there are other much more important ways that honesty improves business performance.  Dishonesty also has a direct impact on the bottom line.  A recent study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that about 5 per cent of a business’s annual revenue is lost when that business is struck by dishonest acts such as asset misappropriation (theft and skimming), corruption (bribes and conflicts of interest) and financial statement fraud (misreporting sales and expenses).

Besides those direct impacts, honest organisations attract the best employees and customers. We would all prefer to do business with an honest seller or buyer and we would all prefer to work in a place that has a reputation for integrity.  While the impact of better customers and employees is difficult to measure, there is little doubt both improve the bottom line. Every year Ethisphere ranks the World’s Most Ethical Companies and compares their performance to their competitors.  Their research shows that over the five years to 2018, the World’s Most Ethical Companies outperformed the US large cap sector by 10.72 per cent.

So, the benefits are clear.  But according to the EY report one in six companies still undertake fraudulent and corrupt behavior. Its not for lack of policy.  Almost all organisations have implemented anti-fraud and corruption programs and 95 per cent say their senior leaders set examples of good ethical behavior. 

The problem isn’t lack of desire for honesty.  The problem is getting everyone to actually behave honestly.  There is however one key thing every organisation can do to drive a culture of honesty, remind us we are honest.

The research on cheating and lying tells us that it doesn’t take much to remind us that we are all, at base, honest people who are happier if we behave morally. Once we remember that, we generally behave that way. The most effective method to remind people of this is to prompt honesty at key moments. Usually these little prompts are cheap and easy to implement, and most important when we are tempted to fudge things a bit. Professor Dan Ariely from Duke University has spent more than a decade putting people in situations where they could lie and seeing if they do.  His research demonstrates that people don’t lie more just because the reward for lying is bigger and they don’t lie less just because the chance of getting caught is greater.

When people don’t have to lie to a person face to face in return for the reward, they cheat a lot more.  Making us deal with people face to face halves the chance of dishonesty.  And we are also more likely to be dishonest if we think everyone else is being dishonest and conversely more likely to be honest if we think everyone else is honest.

But the real kicker, was the one thing that stopped almost all the lying.  It was simply reminding us that our workplace has code of honesty before we are put in a situation where we might be tempted to be dishonest. Bizarrely the studies showed that even something as simple as getting people to sign the top of the test (before they lie) killed the cheating. If they signed the bottom, after they lied, they cheated as normal.

When this was implemented in a large-scale trial of insurance applications, the results were even more impressive. Researchers from the Harvard Business School decided to see if signature placement on insurance forms changed the level of honesty in disclosure. The results showed that customers self-reported 10.25 per cent more miles when they were asked to sign the declaration of honesty before they filled in the form. This would amount to an insurance premium being on average $97 more costly per car depending on whether the form was signed at the top or the bottom. Even at a significant personal cost, people were more inclined to be honest if they declared honesty before they filled in the form.

Of course, the other way to stop people lying is to do what they did in the control state of the study – check everybody and everything all the time. But who really wants to work in a police-state? Life is so much easier if you can trust people to be honest. 

Why You Need To Hyper-Specialise

The days of the generalist are over. Today, the most influential people in your organisation are those with the ability to hyper-specialise.

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When I first started working in the world of influence and influencers, it was possible to own a massive space; whether it was leadership, real estate, finance, money or health. There were very few “gurus” who had access to a platform from to talk about their wide area of expertise.

Today, however, everybody has a platform. The internet is crowded with blogs, podcasts, Youtube channels and social media influencers, with the result that there’s way too much noise to own a huge space anymore. Now, the future belongs to micro-influencers; micro-authorities who hyper-specialise.

When stakeholders need help from a procurement professional, they need to be able to find you fast. They want to know – straight away – whether the space that you own aligns exactly with their situation and needs. An IT professional, for example, doesn’t want advice from a procurement generalist. They want to talk to an IT purchasing specialist – someone who understands the challenges involved and is well-known as an expert in that space.

Do you own your space on Google?

When was the last time you Googled yourself? Take a minute to do so now. What did you find out – do the search results make it clear what space you own?

According to Harvard University, over 50% of decisions are now made before we ever making contact i.e via what I would call “Google stalking”. When you first make contact with a talent prospect, a supplier or a potential consultant, one of the first things they will do (I guarantee it) is Google stalk you. If what they find is irrelevant, not specific to their needs or if they can’t find it fast enough, then you’ve lost that race.

To become an influencer, you have to own your space – but you can’t own a space unless you are clear on what space it is that you want to own.

Influence Intersections

But how do you find out the niche that you want to own? How do you discover the hyper-specialisation that will set you apart from everybody else?

Let me introduce a concept that I call Influence Intersections. Picture a Venn diagram: the first of the two circles is a world in which you have mastery, insights or experience. Then you overlay this with another world where you have mastery, insights or experience. The intersecting space in the middle is the space that only you can own. The space where your expertise will stand out.

Two celebrity influencers who hyper-specialised

Take Jamie Oliver – when he first started out there were many celebrity chefs from six-star hotels and restaurants. Then Jamie came along, and what did he have? He had mastery, experience, and insights into the high-end world of cooking, but he also had personality. The personality he brought to the front was that he understood families and what it’s like to cook for your children on a budget quickly in a healthy way. The place in the middle between those two spaces was a place that only Jamie could own.

Steve Jobs is another famous example. He took the world of engineering and computers and overlayed this with another world he knew – the world of the creative innovator. That space in the middle then became the key Apple needed to dominate the marketplace.  

Why should a procurement professional hyper-specialise?

One word – influence. Procurement professionals are typically frustrated by their lack of influence (or “seat at the table”) within their organisations, but building up your profile and becoming known as the go-to expert in your space will lift your influence and cause others to seek out your advice. Imagine, then, a whole team of hyper-specialised procurement professionals, each one famous in the organisation for owning their space. How influential would that department become?

It’s also a great tool to keep in mind for your next career move. If you begin hyper-specialising today with the aim of becoming known as the guru in your particular space, you might just be in a job interview situation one day where the interviewer says, “I’ve heard of you – your expertise is a perfect fit for this opportunity”.

Remember, the days of the generalist are over. Generalists rarely become voices of authority. In addition to not being renumerated as well as perceived ‘experts’ they also receive less engagement and fewer opportunities. Specialists, on the other hand, receive more credibility, more respect, more opportunities and more influence. 

What are the two worlds you can overlay to find – and own – your space?

5 Productivity Hacks You Should Be Using Now

When things are really hitting the fan you don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal.


By Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock

The panic is real. So many things to do, all of equal value and all due yesterday! How do you cut through the noise? Here are my proven hacks for achieving the impossible.

Mindset

The most important place to begin is your mind. Often in high pressure situations you begin to worry. You worry about the volume of tasks you need to do, the timeframes, the pressures put on you to deliver and the number of project responsibilities.

Within this context (the brow furrowing worry), the brain becomes overwhelmed. Research has proven that ability of working memory to direct attention to what’s relevant is incredibly compromised, the brain is effectively running lots of programmes at once and everything slows down. In terms of how the brain processes information, we know that the brain dedicates capacity to verbal information and some capacity to spatial information. When people are worried it is common that they talk to themselves in their head – worries tend to be verbal and therefore compete for the limited pool of capacity.

Psychologist Sian Beilock found that when students are presented with a mathematical problem presented horizontally “32 – 17 = x” it demands more of the brain’s verbal resources than when the same problem is presented vertically.

The brain processes vertical information visually and therefore accesses the spatial capacity which has less demand for its resources.

This is often why making lists can feel better!

Taking back control

Understanding how the brain works is one thing but if things are really hitting the fan then don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal! Here are my top five productivity hacks to help you take back control.

1. Eisenhower Matrix

President Eisenhower was on to something when he shared this technique of decision making and prioritisation. It is a four box quadrant that helps you organise tasks in order of urgency and importance. My on-the-ground approach is to draw up four large boxes in my notebook and head them up according to what I need e.g. Urgent / Do now, Do next, Monitor, Delegate then I simply put each task under these headings and focus on one thing at a time.

2. Find an organisational app like Trello

Once you have identified the individual tasks and organised them into an Eisenhower, it can be helpful to transfer them to an electronic platform where you can easily access and update them. I am a huge fan of Trello, it is a free “to do list” app that I use for all of my projects. Having your to do list in an electronic platform gives you the opportunity to share your to do list and collaborate with other people as well as update things when you’re on the go.

3. Pomodoro Technique

This is a time management technique that dates back to the 1980’s, it was created by Francesco Cirillo and is based on the principle of short, sharp, concentrated bursts of activity. If you’re curious, the technique is named after the Pomodoro (tomato) timer that Cirillo used when he was at university.

Once you have your Eisenhower Matrix completed and your life uploaded into Trello, take the most urgent tasks and block out your calendar accordingly. You may need to play with the time period that suits you, some people can do a full hour but I prefer no more than 30 minutes – that’s a long time concentrating on one task!

4. Technology lock down

It’s so simple to do and yet most people do not apply this last trick, shut down the emails! Close your emails and any other system that can notify or distract you.  Do not assume that you are superior to the temptation of technology and distractions. If you see an email pop up, you will be tempted to answer it. Just say no!

5. Change your environment

If possible, work away from your usual spot. Either work from home, a different desk, a café, a meeting room. It can be anywhere just as long as you can concentrate. Breaking away from your usual work spot should reinforce the objective you are trying to achieve, and most importantly it can keep you from being interrupted.

If you implement all of these tools and combine them into a new way of working, you will be sure to come out the other side winning. What are your proven hacks? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear about them.

3 Ways To Make It Big In Procurement and Supply Chain

Tom Derry, CEO – ISM shares his three top tips for early-career professionals who aspire to be a CPO or Head of Supply Chain in a leading organisation.

The next generation of CPOs and Heads of Supply Chain will need to be “next-level” talent.

“It’s easy to point out a few critical success factors for people who have risen to the very top of the profession,” explains ISM CEO – Tom Derry.

In this article Tom shares his three top tips for early-career professionals who aspire to be a CPO or Head of Supply Chain in a leading organisation.

1. Align yourself with the best in the business

One of most important things to do during the early years of your career is to align yourself with the best talent out there. “If you’re just getting into the field or are early on in the field discover who has the best reputation, who’s the best leader and who’s regarded as being leading-edge and running a great organisation” Tom suggests. It’s also advisable look at the company’s reputation. “It’s clear that certain companies have created an awful lot of talent in our profession, disproportionately more talent to other companies.” So find those great leaders, at those great companies and that’s going to be a launching pad for you.”

2. Be courageous

“There are a lot of metrics of dubious value that we often pay attention to in the profession that have outlived their usefulness.” Tom says. He advises professionals to try and link what they’re doing day-to-day with what’s driving value for the firm – whether it’s bringing new products online, introducing new features to new products, driving top line revenue growth or increasing earnings per share by reducing cost. “Speak the language of the business and link explicitly what you’re doing to driving those kinds of outcomes.” This will help you to gain respect because that’s how we keep score in business and those are the measures that matter the most.”

3. Be competitive

“Businesses are about competition,” asserts Tom. “It’s about competition between firms but, frankly, it’s also about competition within the firm to gain resources to win the opportunities for promotion and advancement.” Tom believes it’s important to understand that you are competing, you’re being regarded by your superiors in the firm in terms of your output and your productivity. “You’re in a competition for advancement – maybe it’s advancement within the firm, maybe it’s advancement in another firm but you have to recognise that and put your game face on every day. As they say in sport: leave everything on the field. At the end of the day someone may outcompete you if you’re not taking that approach.”

Part Five of Tuesdays with Tom is available now. Click here to sign up and hear ISM CEO Tom Derry discuss top tips for aspirational early-career professionals, how high profile leaders can become talent magnets in supply management and the latest data on salaries.

Best Of The Procurious Blog – Is It Time To Make A Career Move? Mind the gap

When things get bad at work do you find a way to fix it or consider a career move?

The bad days are becoming more frequent, the work is no longer challenging and your procurement career seems to be floundering.   The question arises: what must you do to kick your work life into action?   If you have a general feeling of being undervalued or not being fairly recognised for your achievements, now is the time to take stock. Work takes up at least 40 hours of your week.  Life’s too short to be miserable, this is decision time.

It is unlikely that your current situation will improve much unless there is a radical change in management or strategy.  The options are:

  • Move into a new role at your current employer or
  • Move on to a different employer in a similar or different role 

Assuming that procurement is still the place you want to be, there are some steps you need to take whether you plan to stay with your current employer in another role or move on to new adventures.

Do a personal gap analysis

Take a deep, introspective look into yourself. The aim is to identify the knowledge gaps between the skills you need for your chosen direction and those that you currently have.  What changes should you begin making to prepare yourself for the kind of job you want? As Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”   Be realistic about your current capabilities.  Then go and fill the gaps.

Consider further education   

There’s no doubt that further education and continued professional development play a part in opening up opportunities. The reality is that most the attractive roles require some tertiary education or certification, especially in a tight job market. If you are lagging in this area it may be an opportune time to upgrade.   If your current employer can subsidise your work-related studies, take advantage.    No funds?  There are lots of free training available, there’s no excuse.  What about a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)?

 Learn the new skills

There are roles that didn’t exist ten years ago and those are where experience is in short supply.  The application of I.T. technologies to procurement problems is growing fast:  consider data analysis and warehousing, supplier relationship management (SRM), and procure-to-pay (P2P).   Also, both the public and private sectors struggle with issues of fraud, corruption and conflict of interest. Companies need people who can exercise constant vigilance over supplier risk, governance and contract compliance.

Sustainability issues are placing new demands on procurement leaders and their teams.  “Green” procurement is a growth niche where there is a limited number of experienced applicants and pressure is building on companies to limit their negative impact on the environment.  Focusing on fields that concern you (and the consumer) and those that play to your strengths will deliver the most work satisfaction.

Get a grip on the numbers

Whatever direction you choose, advanced analytical abilities are becoming mandatory.  An in-depth understanding of financial ratios and the triple bottom line can give you the edge over others competing for similar roles.  If you don’t know what macros or what a cash flow crisis is, now is the time to find out. If your current company offers in-house courses that can enhance your computer skills, sign up.

Influence and persuasion

A survey conducted recently by Accenture amongst global CPOs noted that traditional areas of knowledge and experience are less important to success than the ability to develop and sustain high quality internal and external relationships.  Stakeholders can influence your project’s success or failure.  Good stakeholder management just means being able to win support from any and all interested and affected parties such as end-users, subject matter experts and key suppliers.

Attitude is important, that much is clear.  It seems behaviour and demeanour can impact on career progression as much as technical know-how.  Always do what you promise to do.  To paraphrase  J.F.Kennedy,  don’t think about what your stakeholders can do for you, think what you could do for them.

Communicate your successes

Keep an on-going record of what you have done well, e.g. reported cost savings, accolades you have been given, and positive feedback received from internal customers.  This information can be used to enhance your CV.  Don’t be shy to share your successes; it’s a good confidence booster.

Moving employers   

Moving on to another employer or launching yourself as a consultant or contractor may be a choice, or it may be thrust upon you.  Protecting yourself fully from downsizing and “restructuring of the workforce” is pretty much impossible.  Don’t despair. Review your achievements to date, fire up your CV and take yourself to the market.    Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards.

The best a person can do to rise above the mainstream is to have a good attitude, stay relevant, keep up with trends, communicate well and keep the networks alive.  Sometimes the current environment is not going to deliver the options you need. Then it is time to move on.