Tag Archives: collaboration

Innovation and the Shifting Technological Landscape

Innovation is more important than ever before. The technological landscape is currently undergoing a shift three times the size of the industrial revolution.

This is according to Steve Sammartino, an expert on the digital revolution and disruptive technologies. Steve has worked in marketing for the world’s largest companies, founded and sold his own start-ups, is a business journalist, and thought leader in the start-up & technology arena.

And amongst all this, Steve still found time to make news headlines by designing and building a fully functional, air-powered, 500,000 piece Lego Car!

Ahead of his keynote address at this year’s CPO Forum event in Melbourne, Steve talks about the changing structure of the economy and the Supply Chain, and the importance of innovation to procurement and its future leaders.

Why is focusing on innovation more important than ever before?

We are living through a radical change 3 times the size of the Industrial Revolution. It’s 3 times bigger because this time it involves the entire globe, not just the developed economies. Here’s a fact to blow your mind in this regard – there are currently more mobile phones in use around the world than toothbrushes!

Technology and access to it is now seen a primary life improver for people in developing countries. It means that what worked and what mattered yesterday, won’t be a valid strategy today. Innovation is not just a matter of a company’s survival in disruptive times, and not just a way to outgrow your competitors.

And the thing that is different is that it isn’t just at the consumer end that innovation needs to occur. It’s an entire supply chain reset. A new infrastructure is being built, and major innovations are happening in areas customers never see. 

What are some of the ways multinational companies can adopt a ‘start-up mindset’?

More important than anything else, big companies need to learn how to fail, and that failing is not bad. They key to startups is that they move quickly, and cheaply, to find out what works.

Big companies also need to decentralise decision making, as many of the Industrial era efficiencies are now being usurped by nimble and local connections. In a world where one size no longer fits all, we need to remember that this applies to local operations as well. Lots of small mistakes lead to better outcomes in a connected world. 

How can businesses cultivate a more innovative and collaborative workplace culture?

Businesses just need to do one thing – remove the layers of authority, and become a horizontally focused organisation, not a vertical, hierarchical one. This will help to create an environment where frequent small risks are rewarded.  

What tips do you have for current and emerging leaders to stay ahead of the curve, and be equipped to lead their companies to future success? 

Staff need be interested in change. Be students of change and be the person who introduces ideas to colleagues, don’t wait for management to know what is coming. The other thing to remember is that being innovative isn’t about inventing the technology, but more about working out how to benefit from the changes. It’s not a technological process, but one of courage and creativity.

We need to love our customers more than we love our infrastructure, especially in times when infrastructure is reset. We can do this by thinking of applications to serve our customers, rather than ourselves.

Also, given most large companies are fearful of change, it only takes an open mind to get a few steps ahead. It’s not about guessing what’s next, but adapting faster when ‘next’ arrives. 

Why should businesses invest in social impact and change?

It’s vital because it is what we value as a society. But it needs to be more than donating to charity, or triple bottom line reporting. Our responsibility needs to be designed into our supply chain. Businesses need to go to market with a net positive social outcome, not white-wash bad behaviour after profits are made.

It’s a very important part of brand building. Organisations that make products that benefit society save costs on things like advertising. Just look at Tesla – a $30 billion company that doesn’t spend a cent on advertising.

You can hear more from Steve on these topics at the CPO Forum 19th of May in Melbourne. At CPO Forum 2016, the line-up of inspirational speakers will reveal how procurement leaders can “crack the code” and harness the game-changing power of supplier innovation.

For more information, including how to register for CPO Forum 2016, visit the website.

Is collaboration really necessary?

If you’re a procurement professional, then you probably hear the word collaboration more than you’d like to. Collaboration has rightfully earned its place in the hall of fame of executive buzzwords. But as most practitioners know, the reality of collaboration is often unglamorous.

tommistock/Shutterstock.com

So why this gap between the ideal world and reality? One root cause is that very few people actually follow collaboration best practices. The side effects of ineffective collaboration are further magnified when different departments within an enterprise have to work together, which is often the case when procurement is involved.

The truth is that collaboration works if and only if the answer to all of the following questions is a resounding YES:

1. Is collaboration necessary?

Too often, committees get formed and the overhead of having to communicate to several (overextended) people often outweighs the benefit of their participation. Ask yourself whether you really need others’ help or input.

2. Does everyone know what they’re doing?

How many times have you been in a meeting where half the participants look disengaged or confused? Collaboration is an active process and everyone needs to be all in and know what they are responsible for delivering. And this needs to be true at every point throughout the project lifecycle.

3. Is the end goal clear to everyone?

Often, collaborative projects kick off with a grand vision, but weeks later, the harsh realities of having to deliver by a certain deadline often muddle that vision. This causes confusion (at best) and severe productivity loss and frustration (at worst). Ask yourself whether you know where you’re going. If you don’t, then the odds are that you’re not the only one.

4. Does everyone know what the action plan is?

This is especially critical to complex projects with multiple stakeholders from various departments (which covers most Procurement projects). This type of project requires constant reallocation of resources and more than a few last-minute changes to the grand plan. Has the entire team been made aware of these changes? And more importantly, does the entire team know what the plan of action even is?

5. Are we actually using the right tools?

Despite the recent rise of collaboration and social media tools, most procurement professionals rely on email and Microsoft Excel to manage an increasing number of highly complex projects. Whatever the tool, it must be easy enough to understand at first or second glance, and it must add value immediately. The benefits of leveraging social technologies to collaborate effectively are huge.

A recent McKinsey study titled The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies makes the case that social technologies can aid collaboration and improve the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 per cent.

Bottom line – collaboration can be incredibly valuable and almost always results in a superior work product and better outcomes for all if practiced correctly. Next time you start a project, don’t forget to review the five questions above!

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