Tag Archives: communication skills

How To Increase ROI With Clear Communication To Business Stakeholders

The Hackett Group’s, Nic Walden, explains how to improve your ROI through engaging and clear communication. 

Most stakeholders say that consistent delivery of core services is the principal requirement to consider procurement as a trusted advisor. Although many organisations are capable of filling this role, most are still viewed by internal customers as sourcing experts (i.e., focused on negotiation and supplier selection), or worse, as gatekeepers or simply administrators. In fact, only 29 per cent of procurement organisations are viewed as valued business partners by key stakeholders.

Does It Matter? Absolutely!

Analysis of Hackett benchmarks shows as much as a 2.5X ROI can be achieved from elevating the role of procurement, and aligning the goals and expectations of procurement teams to that of the business. That’s a hefty bump in savings or broader value terms in anyone’s language.

At Hackett we measure ROI as total cost reduction and avoidance divided by the cost of the function. As an example, professional sourcing teams can deliver strong savings performance when looking at percentage terms only, but when compared to the level of resource investment (i.e., ROI), they come up short.

Why Leave Money On The Table?

Let’s assume we have the capabilities to operate at a higher level (closing the capability gap is itself another discussion). One reason for misalignment is that procurement teams struggle to communicate their capabilities. Ineffective communication with internal customers, suppliers, and colleagues also causes confusion, delay, or leads to incorrect assumptions of what procurement can and cannot offer. With this in mind, Procurement teams face three main challenges to elevate their role:

  • Perceptions on historical performance cause resistance to change.
  • Internal customers are unaware of what procurement can offer.
  • Undergoing a major transformation results in confusion and inconsistencies.

The result is that successful procurement teams go to great lengths to build a compelling brand image, supported by a well-defined vision, services that meet or exceed expectations, and a formal measurement program to ensure ongoing improvement. If these steps are not taken, procurement groups can plateau in operational efficiency and effectiveness despite having the capabilities to operate at a much higher level.

Launching a New Procurement Brand

Defining a brand is an important concept for procurement because it makes their purpose and identity more comprehensible for stakeholders. The Hackett Group has outlined four major activities (understand, define, create, engage) that make up a successful brand transformation, supported by ongoing internal input. Everyone has a role to play in communicating and utilizing procurement’s new brand for effect: leadership, sourcing, buying, and operational teams.

  1. Understand what is most important to internal customers and stakeholders

The brand should highlight procurement’s desire to support stakeholders and its ability to act as a valued business partner. This means having a solid understanding of what is important to stakeholders. For example, they might want more help defining requirements, to run credible and achievable projects, to manage difficult supplier conversations, to bring new products to market faster, or reporting. Most often, they just want procurement to excel at delivering core services.

  1. Define procurement’s brand-management strategy

This is the time to clearly develop a clear vision and simple set of guiding principles to communicate goals, followed by defining procurement’s roles and responsibilities, and to make this information easily accessible to procurement and its stakeholders.

Other activities include:

  • Delineate the services that procurement provides to internal customers; ensure these align to their needs and requirements. Take this opportunity to de-prioritize or reshape what is not valued.
  • Provide clear definitions of the activities and tasks performed for each support service, along with the service levels provided (e.g., meeting frequency, cycle time, error rates).
  • Determine which business segments and departments that procurement can support.
  • Match staff and skill sets to procurement’s services.
  1. Create marketing materials and share initial communications

Now we match the desired stakeholder experience with procurement’s future behaviors. Since people respond differently to various methods of communication, consider creating an “omnichannel”, personalized stakeholder experience to allow broad access to the procurement process and enable the ability to buy/pay from all locations and get real-time information. Common activities include:

  • Develop a new brand identity, including a name, mission statement, a set of values and goals, and even a logo if desired.
  • Determine the way communication with internal customers and stakeholders will be handled, such as email, phone, in-person support, chat or robotic tools.
  • Deploy an intranet portal that lets internal customers communicate with procurement and conduct self-service activities. Consider setting up a similar site for suppliers.
  • Develop marketing materials for various stakeholder groups, making certain that overall messaging is consistent.
  • Define and document any related changes to the organization, such as new employee titles.
  1. Engage and continually communicate with all stakeholders

Multiple channels of communication should always be open for both internal customers and suppliers to reach out, get questions answered, or further develop relationships. There are various ways to engage with stakeholders, not all of which make sense for every company. Some of these activities include:

  • Face-to-face road shows with business executives, such as ongoing conference calls or one-on-one calls
  • Face-to-face road shows with middle management / operations followed by regular calls to ensure procurement is meeting objectives
  • Regular emails that include policy updates and metrics showcasing procurement performance

Nic Walden, Director Procurement and P2P Advisor, The Hackett Group works continuously with senior executives of the world’s leading companies to provide top performance insight, research and networking.  Nic is a regular speaker at conference events and a regular contributor to social media and online blogs.

Learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program

One Skill To Rule Them All

Want to know what it takes to really make it in the procurement world? Cognitive tech expertise? A firm background in supply management? Nope – 72% of the ISM and ThomasNet 30 Under 30 Stars agree there’s another, essential ingredient to success…

Last month, THOMASNET and ISM announced the 2016-2017 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role models who are sure to attract more Millennials to the supply management profession.

Procurious has been lucky enough to sit down with many of the winners to find out what the award means to them, what it takes to be a 30 Under 30 Rising Star and how they embarked on a career in supply management in the first place. We’ll be revealing all of our findings throughout this series of articles but first up, what key skills are the winners acing?

You can forget prioritising the development of your tech skills. It turns out that communication is absolutely the crowning glory of all procurement skills.

Communication is king

72 per cent of 30 Under 30 winners named communication as one of the top three skills that have been essential for their success, which is unsurprising given the nature of most procurement and supply roles. Nick Imison, Subcontract Administrator at Northrop Grumman Systems Corp,  reminded us, “You often have an extremely short period of time to capture someone’s attention, explain why you need to go down a given path and  effectively relay what it is you’re trying to accomplish.”

Corey Gutafson, Senior Buyer at Deluxe Corporation, explained that he had to hone his communication skills very quickly at the start of his career. “If I’d had to do a five-minute presentation when I was in high school, I might have passed out from nervousness.  But communication in supply management is HUGE! Whether it’s via email, on the phone, presenting online or in person, we’re always talking with many different stakeholders and suppliers. If you’re not a good communicator, you’re going to have a difficult time.”

Barbara Noseda knows a thing or two about communicating under different circumstances. As a Global Sourcing Associate at Johnson & Johnson, she is very much in a global role which might mean she begins the day focusing on Europe and ends it with Africa. As such, she sees enormous value in being conscious of global differences and managing these, as well as being able to communicate effectively internally. “I’m a big fan of CQ (Cultural Intelligence) and I think it should be given much more importance. But internal communication is also important. As a sourcing associate, I often find myself talking with CEOs, having  to explain what I want and packaging it in a way that means they see the benefits.”

Know your data

“It might be cliché but in today’s world you have more data at your fingertips than ever, which means data analysis skills are crucial” says Matthew Montana, Category Lead at Pacific Gas and Electric Company. “It’s important to be able to manipulate data and use it to your advantage.” Indeed, 45 per cent of the 30 Under 30 Stars rated data analytics as one of the top three skills for procurement professionals.

Imison describes data analysis as the “ability to look at a given situation and provide some sort of useful evaluation, such as selecting the best path to go down from a financial perspective.”

But being great at data analytics isn’t just about … well,  being great at data analytics.  Gustafson has found his data skills have worked wonders for his relationships with senior team members. “It’s helped me develop some strong relationships with some of my older colleagues. I help them with analysing data and they can  help me with things like contract terms or negotiation tactics. If you don’t have tech savviness, it can take four or five hours to do a 20 minute job due to lack of efficiency.”

You can’t go wrong with a generous helping of these key skills either…

Some of the other key skills highlighted by the 30 Under 30 winners include:

  • Team work
  • Adaptability
  • Dependability
  • Perseverance
  • Flexibility
  • Empathy
  • Time management

It’s interesting to see that the majority of skills highlighted are “soft skills” (although we hate calling them that!)

Abhishek Dahiya, Chief of Staff for Global Materials Dell Technologies,  thinks it’s important to stay up to date with the latest developments in the industry. “An openness to learning things that are out of the scope of your job makes you perfect for that job!”

And, of course you can’t go wrong with a persistent attitude, even if it’s in the form of some good old-fashioned relentless pestering as Amanda DeCook, Sourcing Associate A.T. Kearney, points out. “Sometimes you have to have the confidence to just go for it; pick up the phone and cold call a supplier. It can be scary but the worst-case scenario is that they won’t answer. And if they don’t, embrace that can-do attitude and keep calling (whether it’s three or four times) until they do!”

The 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars will meet for the first time as a group at ISM2017, where ISM and THOMASNET.com will roll out the red carpet to celebrate the winners’ achievements and broadcast their success stories to other young people considering a career in supply management. 

Best Of The Blog: The Top 5 Ways To Stand Out In Procurement

There are millions of procurement professionals in the world. How do you make sure you stand out from the crowd?

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an article by Anna Del Mar who explains how to stand out from the crowd!

Stand out from the crowd

There are millions of procurement professionals around the world. And every single one is different.

Which is fortunate, given the range of activity which Procurement has to undertake, and the different characteristics which are necessary to succeed in those roles.

In amongst that diversity, there are a number of characteristics which the most successful can display. These characteristics are ones worth cultivating in our careers.

There is no particular order here. But our top five ways to stand out will always contribute to success, both when working in the organisation and when we’re seeking to develop our careers.

1. Communicate like a Professional

This is true in many parts of the business, but is absolutely critical for Procurement. We’re often trying to sell hard ideas, to get concepts across, to change opinion and views, and to do all of that we need to be excellent at communication. Not just Powerpoint, but using a wide range of media, types of communication, styles and messages.

We also need to be excellent at preparing and rehearsing our communications, getting them on point and noticeable, able to stand out above the in-company noise. To do this, we need to spend time practising and getting our messages right.

As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Be hard on yourself, and seek to improve. Being able to prove your understanding of the way Procurement needs to communicate and influence upwards with examples, will impress any recruiter.

2. Take the Wider View

Procurement can be accused of being one dimensional. We can get sucked into delivering price based targets, and loose sight of the bigger picture.

To operate effectively, we need to be excellent at maintaining a broader commercial perspective for the organisation, and making sure we’ve got both the short view and the long view in our sights.

The best in Procurement stand back and take in what the business really needs to achieve. They seek a balance between often conflicted requirements from different stakeholders. If we can maintain that overview, we will often deliver far more than if we get sucked into a one dimensional view.

Showing business aptitude and seeing procurement in terms of solving business problems, is an extremely valuable asset to any procurement function.

3.Bounce Like a Rubber Ball

Procurement can be tough. As the people on point for delivering value from the supply chain, we often can feel the weight of the business on our shoulders, while still trying to get through to a value improvement we can see but can’t quite reach.

To maintain a high degree of performance we need to have a high degree of resilience, to be able to bounce back and keep going. Holding onto our core beliefs, keeping going when it’s being sought and getting to the outcomes we want to achieve are great outcomes all by themselves.

There is no doubt that Procurement requires tenacity. Be able to prove your ability to stay the course for long term sustainable results rather than short term glory.

4. Network

The technical stuff is often less of an issue than the people stuff. This means that we need to network hard, identify the decision makers and opinion formers, and be aware of their issues and agendas.

Knowing who people are, what their concerns and needs are, and being able to reach out to them to both influence but also to offer support, is a massive help when trying to progress our own agendas.

It isn’t a one way street of course. These relationships are precious. We need to make sure we’re managing our relationship resources, just like we should be protecting our time. Show how you value your network and how this helps improve the positive effect of procurement.

And finally…

5. Know your Stuff

There’s nothing better than watching someone with a fantastic grasp of category and business issues making a case.

Having a broad grasp of what is happening in a market, how it relates to the business overall, looking at short and long term effects, providing imaginative solutions which test the range of what is possible, with stakeholders aligned or at least neutral, with a thought through plan of action. Those are the days when the future of Procurement looks brightest. The individuals delivering that insight will look like stars in the organisation.

Whilst you may not need to have deep category knowledge to get your dream job, having an understanding of procurement excellence and the challenges of buying in markets is key to bringing true expertise to the function and will be seen as an asset.

None of the above happens by default. It requires personal insight and understanding to make sure that skills and attributes develop in these areas. Spending time in each area is extremely worthwhile. Taking time out appraise ourselves in these areas, or get feedback from others, will give a big step up in how we’re viewed.

Good Luck!

Unlocking the Hearts and Minds of Millennials

A Millennial warned a room full of procurement leaders that they need to rethink their mindset if they’re ever going to win the hearts and minds of Millennials.

Hearts and Minds MIllennials

Too many Australian leaders overlook the fact that 50 per cent of the world’s population is aged under 30, and have no idea how to effectively communicate with them.

Holly Ransom is the CEO of Emergent Solutions, which works with leaders, organisations, and governments, globally to set the benchmark, and be frontiers of change and innovation.

It helps challenge their thinking, evolve their strategy and build their capability to engage with market disruptions head-on, unlocking new opportunities, outcomes and value.

Trusted Sources

The room full of procurement leaders collectively leaned in while Ransom spoke, captivated by her high energy talk despite it being the last session of the 9th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum, held in Melbourne last week.

Ransom outlined some research around purchasing decisions among Millennials that found that 1 per cent of Millennials trust advertising, 30 per cent trust blogs, while the majority are looking for some sort of online reference before making a purchase. And 65 per cent of Millennials are judging companies and businesses based entirely on their digital presence.

“Sometimes we seem to forget that half of the world’s population is under 30; probably because we spend so much time talking about the other end of the spectrum – the elderly.”

She urged the room to bear in mind that the average American male has spent 10,000 hours gaming by the time they reach of the age 18, which is exactly the same amount of time they’ve spent in school.

“It’s about thinking about how you can leverage that to your benefit,” she says.

Feel Connected

The procurement sector needs to understand that trust is manifesting in new ways, citing the fact that people are prepared to jump into a car with an Uber driver they’ve never met, and appear to feel safe.

“This younger generation wants to see, connect and feel. They want authenticity from our brands and businesses, and they want to see that footprint extending to something far more than just shareholder returns.”

Ransom also touched on the changing face of the workforce, explaining that Millennials with a laptop and a few clients much prefer to work from anywhere.

“Freelancing is a reality and it unlocks the global human capital pipeline, which presents huge opportunities for businesses. You can hire someone to handle a project for you, rather than having to hire a new employee.”

The benefits of being able to outsource to a freelancer includes allowing leaders to think more laterally, and spend more time on their leadership approach, she says.

“Through leadership when dealing with consumers and suppliers, we need to make sure that Millennials can see, touch and feel what we’re trying to get across to them. They want to come on the journey with you.”

The ‘Why’ in Communications

Ransom also spoke about her initial cynicism toward Rotary International when invited along to a meeting, but the statistics prompted her to get involved to bring about change.

“When I thought about Rotary, I thought of pale, stale and male. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that there were 1.2 million members, and yet only 12 per cent of that were women, and 2 per cent of that were under 30. Hearing that was enough for me to want to get involved.”

Ransom has helped Rotary lead with the ‘why’ in their communications to help build engagement, and better explain what they’re about.

“We realised that Rotary focused too much on the youth message. It’s a classic example of how easy it is to assume that our why, is someone else’s why. And that wasn’t the case here.”

Ransom ended by giving an example of innovation that involved a young girl who was given $10. She used the cash to hire two DVDs, which she played them in two halls, and charged everyone a few dollars to come and watch the movie. She turned that $10 into more than $300, in a clear demonstration that innovation doesn’t have to be expensive.

“I challenge you to think about what that $10 could do to build engagement in your business in the next two weeks. We need leaders to stop thinking that innovation needs to be hugely expensive, and that you need entire teams to drive innovation. That’s just simply not the case.”