Tag Archives: covid-19

Is The Secret To Change And Successful Innovation A Matter Of Timing?

Innovation and change – we know we need to do it but taking the first step is always hard. However, waiting until change is forced upon us could lead to even more pain.


“Execution is all about timing – people don’t want to do things differently…until they have to”

James Varga, CEO – DirectID

Change. It runs against our very nature to accept and embrace it, even when we know it’s for the best. People will rail against it, undermine it, challenge it or be completely apathetic to it. That is until something forces them to accept it and the need to do something differently.

That’s exactly the issue facing global procurement professionals at this very moment. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced each one of us to reconsider the how our jobs are done and how we help our organisations. Fortunately, we have a group of leaders whose first thoughts on change are how they can make it happen, to rely upon.

Procurious is one of those organisations considering how to provide its service in the current climate. Faced with not being able to have CPO Roundtables in person, we grasped this opportunity to connect our leaders virtually, ensuring that our CPOs still had the chance to gather and share their ideas and experiences. Because at times like these, as Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Pragmatism over Pomposity

Although the Roundtable took place against the backdrop of COVID-19, the discussions on the day had a far greater focus on the future than the present. Procurement not only faces the challenges of global supply disruption while ensuring that employees can operate in a safe environment, but also ensuring that the profession is well prepared for what comes next.

Part of this preparation is bringing innovation back into the everyday conversation about how procurement looks, feels and operates. This is not innovation as a management buzzword, but as a practical concept that helps realise real change and sets procurement up to face any and all future challenges. As one of our speakers, Gareth Hughes, Director of Property and Procurement at Whistl noted, “We need pragmatic procurement, not pompous procurement terms”.

Innovation here is about finding the areas where change can make a lasting difference. It’s also about ensuring that, even though the timing may not seem quite right, having the tenacity to make ideas a reality is critical for procurement’s future success.

With that in mind, we’ve picked out our three key messages from the Roundtable for you to take back to your organisation.

1. Supplier Innovation – Fit for the Future

“We need to focus on the positives that have arisen from the COVID-19 experience.”

Ian Thomson – Regional Director UK and Nordics, Ivalua

Innovation is a fleeting concept. A brand new, imaginative and forward-thinking idea one day can quickly become obsolete before we even have a chance to do anything with it. The trick is to keep challenging the idea that things need to be done in a certain way and not to ignore the ‘hard’ challenges for fear of rejection.

This is the mantra of Ian Thomson of Ivalua, who chose to look for the positives for procurement in the challenges posed in the current global climate. What is striking, according to Ian, is how traditionally adversarial relationships – competing organisations; buyers and suppliers – are changing for the better as people pull together.

This not only provides an amazing opportunity to develop long-lasting leadership and trust, but also opens the doors to supplier-led innovation. This can be achieved by having greater pragmatism when it comes to new ideas, as well as increasing our appetite for risk to embed real change.

2. Volatility requires flexibility

“Businesses are operating in massively changed contexts. To use foresight, we need to develop multiple long-term strategies.”

Jessica Prendergast, Freelance Foresight Consultant at Future Insights

An organisation’s appetite for risk is one key to successful innovation. Being too risk averse can stop worthwhile ideas in their tracks but failing to fully plan for future risks can be just as bad. That’s why Jessica Prendergast, a freelance Foresight Consultant, believes that the one-dimensional continuity plans that most businesses have belong in one place – the bin!

According to Jessica, in order to innovate and predict the future, organisations need to develop multiple scenarios to cover all possible eventualities. ‘Foresighting’ is how the thought process for this starts, helps us to understand the role of automation and technology and how we can learn and apply today from these techniques.

Jessica used the example of our changing ways of working recently. At the beginning of the year, widespread Working from Home would have been unthinkable for most organisations. Now it is the ‘new normal’. Good leadership and community spirit have made these changes easier to implement, and has highlighted how organisational planning can be helped by taking a broader view.

3. Timing is everything

“An idea isn’t great until you prove it, an idea can be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

James Varga, CEO – The ID co.

Planning multiple scenarios, being more accepting of risk and working more closely with suppliers to innovate is only half the battle. Getting people to accept an idea at the best of times will always prove tricky due to people’s natural aversity to change. Even the most innovative idea ever may struggle to gain traction if the timing is wrong.

However, there are ways to tips the scales in your favour. James was able to share his top three with the assembled group:

  • Be tenacious – make the most of issues facing the organisation to highlight innovation and make change happen;
  • Don’t assume – not everyone will think your idea is great, you’ll need to test and measure to prove its worth;
  • Accept a bit more risk – moving smaller suppliers and accept more risk in our new normal, you never know where it will lead.

The underlying key to these three points is removing the blockers to innovation by focusing on adoption of ideas. Then your focus can be coming up with one great idea and making it work, rather than lots of ideas that may ultimately deliver less for your organisation.

Collaboration is King

However, your organisation is approaching the current situation, it is always worth remembering that there will be life (and work) on the other side. Taking time to focus on the future at a point when many of us have the time to do this could make a critical difference to how procurement looks and operates at the forefront of public consciousness.

Not every problem can be solved. Sometimes it’s about mitigating the impact, which can be helped by planning out your multiple scenarios and accepting a bit more risk to be open to new ideas that can have a positive impact.

And, no matter what you do, it’s important to remember that you are not alone – there are thousands of procurement professionals tackling the same issues who are willing to share their thoughts and approaches. As the world changes the way we work, it’s time to collaborate as much as we can and become the leaders who are facing change head on.

If you’re interested in accessing market-leading industry insights and networking, express your interest in joining Procurious’ Roundtable Program here.

Working From Home Is Resilient, But Is It Sustainable In Procurement?

The coronavirus pandemic disrupted Procurement in unimaginable ways. Running Procurement from home is possible, but is it sustainable?


The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the workforce in ways we have never experienced, affecting also Procurement departments and Procurement Outsourcing (PO) providers. Shared service center locations first across Asia and then the rest of the world became hot spots, leading to a rush of company initiatives to enable procurement professionals to productively work from home. IBM was successful in moving 99% of its Procurement Outsourcing teams from 60 centers across 40 countries into a home office environment in only 10 days without service degradation (1), proving that running a Procurement business working from homeis possible and productivity can be maintained when a business can react quickly, but is it sustainable? Have critical activities just been postponed or is this is the new business as usual? Three considerations for sustained resiliency.

#1. Make regularly working from home part of your team’s DNA

While many of us are used to working from home in some capacity, over 80% of our procurement professionals have never done so on a regular basis.  And just because our workforce can work from home does not mean they are able and willing to do so long-term.

But returning to the office means finding the balance between safety and productivity for our teams, and deciding whether to aim for a quick return to the office or a more comprehensive re-modeling toward “borderless workplaces” where staff works from a combination of office, client site and/or home. Returning to the office is based on smart, quick and simple fixes: social distancing, mask wearing, and setting up sanitation protocols, such as rethinking where and when we eat and gather, how we open and close doors and use elevators. Re-modeling more fundamentally looks at how we work and defining what the worker’s purpose and intent is inside the office. Buildings become much more purpose-driven; deliberately sought out for team meetings, new employee onboarding, and collaboration sessions, with more hot desks and larger shared spaces, instead of being the default place to go for work.

But no matter in what capacity we return to the office, working from home regularly or even primarily will have to become part of our DNA going forward, as future infection waves are likely to force us out of offices again multiple times over the next few years.

Achieving this will require us to focus more than ever on internal communication. We have already seen a personalization of written communication over the past few months, with people expressing genuine care for each other, but we need to also listen to our employees and keep an eagle-eyed focus on engagement. By taking time for one-on-one discussions, acknowledging everyone’s individual challenges, ramping up appreciation and recognition, and ensuring we create virtual spaces for socializing we can maintain a sense of belonging and feeling of pride. On a collective scale, short pulse surveys can be a simple way to gauge the team about how they feel and adapt measures for greater engagement and productivity.

Ultimately our teams and their willingness to be flexible will be the first line of defense for sustained productivity in the new world.

#2: Bootstrap adjustments in operating models to accelerate your digitalization journey

Just a few months of working from home on a large scale have successfully increased the sense of urgency for digitalization and more intelligent end-to-end workflows. IBM and our clients have already seen an explosion of home-grown dashboards and trackers, aimed at gaining more visibility into procurement operations, allowing for more granular insights and daily views of the business. In the spirit of agility, we should initially allow for the creation of these “quick and dirty” data collection and visualization tools, even if it is manual and there is duplication. As we learn more about what our post-COVID-19 world will look like and the effort required to maintain a plethora of semi-manual tools becomes a burden, we can start distilling down to only a handful of tools and a new operating standard, creating the enablers for a broader roll-out of “no touch” procurement solutions, including traditional tools like catalogs, as well as newer solutions like marketplaces, chatbots, guided buying assistants, robotic process automation, and analytics to accelerate speed to insights and decision making.

Even more delicate and trust-based processes like Category Management and Strategic Sourcing can benefit from digitalization, for example by running “Virtual Sourcing Bootcamps” with business stakeholders using a series of video calls to map out purchasing plans, identify additional addressable spend and define more robust category wave plans for the year.

Additional incentives can be created for those internal clients or BPO customers who are resistant to a more permanent work from home delivery environment by redistributing real estate charges and differentiating expected employee productivity to create a price differential between home- and office-based setups.

#3: Learn to build trust virtually as a buyer and a seller

Until recently, meeting face-to-face was a non-negotiable prerequisite for the signing of large contracts, which we at IBM have experienced both as a supplier of Procurement Outsourcing, but also a buyer agent with our own and our customer’s suppliers. Finding a way to make customers comfortable pulling the trigger on multi-million-dollar contracts with little to no human contact is going to be a key success factor for our new future.

In the outsourcing world, visiting one or more delivery centers is a staple in every sales pursuit, but with increasingly distributed teams and a desire to reduce non-essential business travel, we are now showcasing our teams and their capabilities virtually. Using a mixture of live and pre-recorded videos, online whiteboarding tools and virtual roundtables with practitioners we have been able to create an authentic virtual delivery experience to aid in the sales process.

Experiment with virtual collaboration tools not just internally, but get comfortable using them with clients and suppliers to co-create, or hear from experts and practitioners that wouldn’t otherwise have been flown in. Focus your travel dollars and effort on one key meeting or workshop and augment it with a few virtual “visits” to round out the picture.

Summary

Leading a borderless workplace Procurement team is possible and can even deliver superior results if employees are engaged, but ensuring sustainability requires active shaping of your team’s DNA, a more digitalized operating model and the confidence to build trust in a virtual environment. Sometimes creativity requires constraints to really flourish, and let’s use the existing restrictions as an opportunity to emerge from this crisis stronger than when we entered it.

By Matthew Bounds & Martin Esser. For more information about operational resiliency, read:

·       Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Services for business continuity and resiliency ibm.com/bpo

·       Building operational resiliency for anytime, anywhere and any situation

Footnote: (1) IBM Services blog, “Building operational resiliency for anytime, anywhere and any situation”, May 4, 2020, https://www.ibm.com/blogs/services/2020/05/04/building-operational-resiliency-for-anytime-anywhere-and-any-situation/

C’mon Procurement Pros – Pucker Up And Get Your Tech Dollars Now

NOW is the time to start a robust process to select, fund and implement a new technology system. 


Your CFO needs some love right now – supply chain isn’t something they’ve had to worry about much before…because you had it all covered!!  For the first time in their careers they’ve had to get into the details of how you keep it all going.  Your poor pandemic-battle-scarred CFO is now looking for some new ways to mitigate future business continuity risks.

Procurement and supply chain leaders around the world have the answers to future potential business disruption woes – what’s needed is some serious investment in technology!

COVID-19 has placed the risk of future global supply chain disruptions at the top of the C-suite’s agenda. Not wanting to be caught out again, company leaders are desperate for a better, faster way to recover the next time a crisis strikes.

Their eyes are firmly fixed on supply chain.

So, it’s time to wipe the dust of all those technology business cases – and get on Zoom, pucker up to the c-level and ask for the cash.

It’s the right time

The pandemic caught us out. It stripped away the luxury of time, revealing the real supply chain risks that we knew had been lurking just below the water line for years.

The tide went out and our weaknesses were exposed – a lack of visibility into our multi-layered supply chains, an overdependence on single geographies and single supply source and a lack of agility to pivot and close the supply gaps.

As we move forward, supplier risk, supplier collaboration, value analysis, cost reduction, quality, and compliance will be more important than ever. 

NOW is the time to start a robust process to select, fund and implement a new technology system. 

How to pucker up

But how can you make sure you select the right system and construct a convincing business case, especially when budgets are being slashed across the board?

Here’s your guide to technology selection and adoption, pulled together from years of experience.

Step One – make sure you meet the business needs

It starts with understanding needs. As procurement and supply chain pros, we all know how to run a solid needs analysis….so I don’t need to labour this point.

To decide what works for your company and suppliers, remember the 80/20 rule.  For example, if 80% of your spend is on contingent labour, you are better off looking at a system that specialises in that functionality. 

What system is best?

Once you know your company needs, it’s time to narrow down the provider playing field.

This can get confusing, because you might pick your top three and accidentally end up comparing apples to oranges. One system could be a full end-to-end suite, and you’re comparing it to a contract management point solution and a sourcing tool!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed; there are literally hundreds of e-procurement technology suppliers in the marketplace right now.

About 10 years ago we saw a big push towards ‘best of breed’ solutions. There were very few fully-integrated suites that were intuitive and easy to use. Plus, a lot of companies had budget limitations, so they looked to point solutions for contracts, P2P, sourcing, supplier management, analytics, etc. 

That worked for a while, but then it became a nightmare to maintain all those integrations and the systems lacked true interoperability.  

Then came the race for fully integrated suites, which led to the likes of SAP Ariba, Coupa, Ivalua and Jaggaer who emerged to lead the pack today.

Will the strong preference for the fully integrated suites continue? That remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, we will see a thinning out of the market as some of the best of breed start-ups struggle for cash.

But only you will know what’s right for your company.

Finding the love…and the cash

Once you’ve chosen your tech system, it’s time to get senior-level buy-in. How can you make your case convincing?

It comes down to giving a clear, compelling ‘why’. Why now? Why this system? What will it mean for the company?

Some great messaging that would resonate with the c-suite right now would be:

  • Systems give transparency
  • Systems give control
  • Systems give confidence

As well as these overarching messages, you should tailor specific business case messaging and justification for investment in your system for different members of the c-suite.  For example:

Chief Executive Officer – mitigate business continuity risk and future profitability

Chief Financial Officer – cost control and visibility

Chief Marketing Officer – reputation risk, protecting brands and fostering innovation

Head of Operations – efficiency and continuity

Financial Controller – well, it’s obviously about control!

Another tip for developing your business case messaging is to reach out to your online peer community and look through social media, to find stories that support your reasons for investing in tech.

There’s nothing the c-level likes more than to do better (or avoid the same mistakes) than the competition. Your stories and examples on how peers are handling problems will be a powerful tool for motivating your senior leadership team to invest in your recommended technology. 

Keep a c-suite huddle

It’s critical to ensure you have a wide base of support across the senior leadership team so that your project has strong foundations.

Stay close to the c-suite throughout the project.  Don’t ever assume the support you secure today will endure. Keep them regularly updated to ensure your technology project stays top of mind (and the corporate strategic priority list!).

Also, beware the trophy-seeking sponsor who could be using your supply chain technology project as a pawn in their political power play. It is always difficult to pick these people, but the wrong choice could threaten your project’s success. You don’t want everything to go down the drain when your board sponsor’s career bets don’t pay off. 

Ensure change management isn’t funded out of small change

Business cases for tech have always focussed on headcount reductions (hard numbers based on FTEs taken out of Accounts Payable, administration etc) and efficiencies (more of a soft number) on the value side, and licensing and implementation on the cost side for investment in technology. Don’t forget to also factor in the total cost of ownership. Customisation costs, implementation, and productivity losses and gains are all important financial considerations.

All of these cost and other benefits are important, but you must ensure you include a significant budget for change management, training, user implementation.

As a profession, we have not had enough focus on how to implement technology; that’s our weak point. It’s difficult to ensure the organisation is gaining the full benefit of the system they have invested in – and for the most part, we do a pretty lousy job of it.

That’s because these are change management projects, not technology projects. It’s so little about systems and so much about the people who use them.

Too often, the implementation budget is the first thing to go when CFOs want a quick financial win. Don’t fall prey to their argument that people will work it out, or that it’s all straightforward. That logic is precisely how and why many technology projects fail.

Fiercely guard your change management budget, and make sure you have a dedicated project team to make it a success.

You can do this

This is your chance to step up and lead, showing your potential for a more senior role.

Given the high failure rate of these systems right now, it may be a high-risk strategy to take on the leadership of a procurement or supply chain technology implementation. But with risk comes reward; your successful project will be a great asset to your career progression and increase your visibility.

More importantly, it will prove that you understand the business and know how to solve complex issues.

As we work our way through this latest supply chain disruption, we are (sadly) capturing the real costs of this pandemic and will have much stronger financial proof points for investment in technology.

If this kind of disruption happens again, we know the magnitude of what it is going to cost. So we must put systems in place that will respond much faster to mitigate these potential losses.

Now is the time to step up and put forward your argument for investment. We may never have such a fertile and receptive audience as we do right now.

Act now, while the spotlight is on supply chain.  Don’t waste a crisis.

This blog is an excerpt from a talk given by Procurious founder Tania Seary, as part of the SIG Procurement Technology Summit. Want even more expert advice on choosing and implementing a new procurement technology system? Register for Matt Stewart’s podcast series

RFP Beware – It’s Not Just About Ticking The Boxes

Don’t get caught out by using a template without thinking! The result can give you nightmares!


I was recently asked to describe the worst procurement project that I had been involved in. While not the worst, this story certainly highlights the importance of engaging procurement teams early and not blindly following templates!

The scenario

I was in the role of a buyer supporting an internal customer and I took over a project at evaluation stage. The evaluation team had individually assessed the bid responses and the team had convened to discuss their findings. A weighted attribute model had been selected to help identify what criterion was valued over others.

The template bites back

The ranking of the bidders evaluation scores were revealed and the project lead was shocked. “This isn’t what we expected? These aren’t the best proposals that meet our needs, these are the weaker ones?!”

The problem became obvious. The boilerplate RFP template had been used without tailoring it to the business problem they were trying to solve.  Most critically, the evaluation criteria percentage hadn’t been adjusted at all. Innovation was set to a default of 10% whe,n in fact, it was the most critical factor the project!

What is a weighted attribute evaluation model?

A weighted attribute model is one of the most common evaluation models used in procurement. It helps to identify the proposals that best meet the most important buyer needs. This could be requirements like: methodology, project management, resources or capability and capacity.

A typical weighted attribute model looks like:

Track record10%
Technical skills25%
Project team and key personnel20%
Methodology35%
Price10%

There are many different ways to approach the weighted attribute model. (Top tip, don’t put the percentages too close together otherwise there will be nothing distinguishing one bid from the other!)

Project resuscitation

What would you do if you inherited a project at evaluation stage and the RFP didn’t actually ask the market for the complete picture that you wanted? And worse, that the evaluation criteria didn’t match the most critical elements of the project?

These were my options:

  1. Cancel and start again – this wouldn’t be fair to the bidders who had already put in the time and effort to respond.
  2. Reissue parts of the tender questions – the submission deadline had already passed but we could seek further clarification responses. This would risk our reputation in the market.
  3. Create a second stage and interview each bidder to better understand their proposal and see if they have the capacity and ability to scale up to our desired needs.

We selected option number 3 and ran a second stage process. The presentations enabled us to drill down into each proposal and meet with each company face to face. They were able to better understand the objectives we were seeking and we were able to better understand the solution they were putting forward.

3 lessons that changed the way I approach evaluation

  1. One size doesn’t fit all

A template with a generic model can’t be assumed to meet the needs of every project in every situation. It’s important that the needs are thought about carefully and that the right model is chosen for the project.

  • Clunky RFP processes aren’t always right – especially where innovation is required

Consider what parts of the process must be executed e.g. notice to market, instead of paper based responses – ask the bidders to complete a simple two pager, then hold a dialogue to flush out the rest of the solution.

  • Think carefully about what is important to the success of the project

The commercial team could have determined what was most important to the project. Pairwise analysis is a great tool to help with this!

The traditional RFP model’s days are numbered and will hopefully soon become a thing of the past. It does not suit all processes and yet it’s still frequently used. If the entire process can’t evolve to be more efficient, then we have to change the way we approach evaluation to ensure we’re selecting the best company for the job, rather than the company that can write the best response.

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

Coronaphobia: Have You Got It?

Businesses across the UK who are making efforts to get back to business are facing a new uphill struggle – employees claiming stress and anxiety or are simply requesting outright to be furloughed for another 3 months.


Workers who were furloughed back in April are being gradually invited back to work, although some are being asked to work from home. However, many small businesses are reporting major issues in getting staff back to their roles, after 3 months being at home.

“It’s crazy to think that after all this uncertainty and worry – that happy time arrives when you can invite staff back to work and that they don’t want to actually come back!”, says Jonathan Ratcliffe who runs office space company Offices.co.uk

Reports from SMEs across the UK include:

  • Workers being too scared to come back to work and are being signed off due to anxiety
  • Staff not wanting to come back to work, who would rather be furloughed for a bit longer
  • Employees deciding to have a change of career

“Those struggling mentally you can well understand and have my sympathy, but we have seen first-hand staff simply asking if they can stay on furlough for a bit longer, it’s crackers, I couldn’t believe my ears”, adds Ratcliffe.

Businesses must tread carefully and understand the employee’s rights. Employers now face the daunting challenge of rebuilding businesses across a wide variety of sectors with a lack of motivated staff due to the long spell of lockdown.

The issue is complex, and the situation is unique for every type of business and every employee. However, as companies see demand for services increase over the next month, the issue of reintroducing staff from furlough into a routine of work is going to be a challenging one.

“I totally sympathise with everyone who has been furloughed, it’s a tough time, but we must realise the scheme cannot go on indefinitely. We want to welcome employees back with socially distanced open arms and build our way back out of this mess”, Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk concludes.

How The COVID-19 Crisis Will Permanently Change Expectations From Procurement Organisations

COVID-19 is permanently redefining the role of procurement organisations…


Transformational procurement trends that were already underway are now rapidly accelerating due to new working realities. Procurement organisations will be expected to play new roles as companies respond to and recover from this pandemic and its fallout. Organisations will need to actively identify and contain various sources of risks while strengthening their competitive advantage as economies and supply chains recover. Those who learn from the COVID-19 crisis and quickly meet these challenges will forge a competitive advantage.

As corporate leaders’ expectations from Procurement significantly increase—both for the new normal and future challenges—Procurement leaders should deploy six tenets in order to successfully position their organisations:

  1. Become leaders of scenario and contingency planning
  2. Improve real-time visibility into supply chain risk
  3. Develop ability to rapidly deploy cash controls
  4. Increase P&L contribution beyond historical norms
  5. Accelerate digitalisation efforts
  6. Invest in talent

1.     Become leaders of scenario and contingency planning

COVID-19 has highlighted that most companies were not prepared to address a catastrophic event and the ensuing economic uncertainty. Going forward, organisations need to assess supply chain vulnerabilities, develop scenario models, and update associated corporate protocols and risk mitigation strategies. Externally, this means developing macroeconomic and supplier-specific assessments of event likelihood and impact and detailed reaction plans to mitigate potential fallout. Internally, it means identifying how policies affecting employees (e.g., travel, remote working model, supplier engagement) need to evolve to promote safety and productivity.

Procurement organisations will be expected to continue playing a key planning and coordination role, ensuring close engagement with other functions to increase the speed and effectiveness of required actions. Leaders should direct their teams to codify the learnings of this crisis, develop scenarios and contingencies, and establish dedicated Centers of Excellence.

 2.     Improve real-time visibility into supply chain risk

Having real-time visibility into evolving sources of risk is critical for initiating mitigation plans on time. Procurement should deploy permanent control towers to monitor specific risks (e.g., financial, operational, geopolitical) to identify early warning signals and deploy the appropriate responses. This includes re-examining the company’s risk of supply across suppliers, geographies and facilities, and proactively identifying supply alternatives, strategic alliances, and hedging strategies should a catastrophic event impair access to critical inputs. 

Additionally, organisations must develop the necessary processes to monitor key suppliers at a detailed level – tracking financial viability, operational capacity, talent management, transportation networks, etc. These metrics can be used to establish a supplier risk score to assist in response prioritisation and supplier segmentation. 

 3.     Develop ability to rapidly deploy cash controls

Having free cash flow is vital in times of crisis. Procurement will need solutions to rapidly slow cash outflow while minimising operational and cultural disruption. 

Having hypervisibility into spend allows companies to quickly distinguish between essential and discretionary spend in times of systemic shock. This allows Procurement to deploy the right processes—with senior leadership support—to control all substantial discretionary spending, establishing criteria to allow, deny, or delay expenses. Further, organisations should take a more nuanced approach to payables, adopting different terms based on suppliers’ financial position and criticality.

In parallel, companies should optimise inventory, increasing cross-functional demand planning, portfolio simplification, and material substitution plans. Doing so will allow for better use of current inventory and free cash for other uses while minimising production disruption.

 4.     Increase P&L contribution beyond historical norms

Delivering savings is the core mandate of procurement teams, and many are feeling increased pressure to further deliver to alleviate financial hardships.

Externally, this requires prioritising actions and suppliers based on a keen understanding of market changes (e.g., commodity and labor rates, supply base changes). Procurement also needs to create new sources of leverage using a holistic set of tools, including e-auctions, product teardowns, should cost models, and stronger collaboration with strategic suppliers.

Internally, Procurement is well-positioned to play a critical role in aligning leaders to reset company behaviours, including identifying places where historical consumption patterns have been wasteful. Such moves require organisational trade-offs, so Procurement must identify the least disruptive actions and lay out the costs to enable informed decision making. For most organisations, this requires an unprecedented level of transparency and an ability to influence internal clients and leaders beyond what has been required. 

Those that exercise these capabilities—while working closely with leadership, the business, and other functions—will see step changes in savings. By doing so, they will help their companies better absorb shocks and reinvest in corporate priorities.

 5.     Accelerate digitalisation efforts

Diligent use of technology has supported procurement functions navigating COVID-19. Going forward, many companies will need to accelerate on-going digitalisation efforts and adopt well-established technologies like P2P automation. It also means accelerating the use of more advanced technologies to monitor risk, analyse spend, surface savings opportunities, onboard and manage suppliers, and conduct market events electronically. Having these capabilities in place will ensure procurement teams remain effective and agile in times of crisis – working remotely from peers, clients, and suppliers.    

6.     Invest in talent

As Procurement takes on more responsibility, roles and required capabilities will evolve. Procurement will be at the forefront of strategic thinking, cross-functional management, and external alliance management. New skills will be required – including management of AI, automation, and data science. Procurement leaders need to rethink their talent management strategies, create new roles, increase training, and ensure adequate talent pools.

Path forward: COVID-19 has redefined the role procurement organizations need to play in times of crisis and recovery. Given the severity of COVID-19, the long recovery ahead, and the potential of other such events reoccurring, the expectations of procurement organizations will remain higher on a permanent basis. Procurement functions face a key decision point in where they go post COVID-19—those that rapidly learn from the experience and pursue a “new normal” will be well-positioned in the long term, achieving outsized returns.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on 24 April 2020 by Daniel WeiseIt has been republished here with permission.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

What It Feels Like To Be Furloughed

Have you been furloughed during the coronavirus crisis? Many people have. Here’s a searingly honest account of what it feels like.


Matt* was suddenly and unexpectedly furloughed from his job as a sourcing consulting director at one of the US’s most recognisable businesses. He has shared his story here on the condition of anonymity. 

Life has a funny way of throwing us curveballs, hey? Just last weekend, I found a list of goals I’d made, sometime after the new year when the enthusiasm of resolutions had yet to wane. I’d included the good old standard goals, something like ‘get fitter,’ ‘scroll less!’ ‘don’t get hung up on things you can’t change!’ but there was also a solid few career ones in there. None of them, I might add, included being sent home from work, suddenly and unexpectedly, with no return date and no certainty there would even be a job to return to. But then again, was a pandemic really in anyone’s plan? I’ve since heard that some people believed it possible, but to be honest I never really gave the idea much thought. 

I’m a sourcing consulting director by trade, and I love – or, I loved – everything about my job. Helping clients transition and transform their businesses was my bread and butter, and I enjoyed the variety and challenges it afforded me. On a daily basis, I’d be confronted with new and different projects; no two clients were the same. As a natural people-person, I found the client contact invigorating and the problem solving even more so. I was often jet-setting around the country and seeing different cities while living out of a suitcase and it suited me just fine. It enabled me to get properly embedded in my work and give it my all. 

Around January, I remember seeing eerie photos of Wuhan and thinking how strange it looked and seemed. I think I saw a photo of a door welded shut on an apartment block and I reflected on how grateful I was for American freedoms, and how I never thought something even resembling a lockdown could ever happen here. Boy, was I wrong. Our doors might not be welded shut but we sure are trapped in another way. 

Have you seen the movie the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? If you haven’t, it’s where four English children go through their wardrobe into a land completely unrecognisable to them, called Narnia. ‘Virus life,’ to me, felt like Narnia, but not in a good sense. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it felt like we were safely in the wardrobe one day and then a place we truly didn’t want to be the next. 

From a work perspective, when the pandemic did hit hard, I was immediately concerned about the travel side of my job, but not my actual job, interestingly. But as a business, we were shocked at how quickly things exploded and started having an impact. Somehow, stil, I wasn’t worried. But then. 

When they told me, I didn’t really react much. I was shocked, I think, maybe a little numb. I’ve always been a risk-averse person, always doing the right thing, always trying to get a stable job and succeed at it. So when I heard I was being furloughed, I kind of got this sense of, but I’ve always done the right thing? I certainly wished it wasn’t me. In a rational sense, I got it, of course I did. I understood the dynamics, I knew that things were unstable now and changing fast. But still. 

Since being stood down from my role, time has taken on a strangely elastic sense. Sometimes days go fast, especially when I get really engaged in playing games with my family or staying up late watching a movie. I know some people’s children have driven them crazy, but I’ve honestly enjoyed my family dynamics and our closeness so much. But when I do find a minute to myself, I can’t say my mind is completely clear. My business has told me, ‘as far as they know’ that I’ll be back, but I can’t help but wonder. A few of my colleagues have been laid off and I now see the fear and dread in their eyes as they confront America’s most challenging job market. Sure, in procurement we’re weathering the storm well but nothing is for sure. I try not to think about being fired. Now I’m not ‘present’ at work, I do feel genuinely worried. 

Being furloughed has been a great time for personal reflection. Fortunately, I was in a relatively secure financial position prior to this and so far, money hasn’t been a real issue – but I know for so many people, that simply isn’t true. I’ve also paused and reflected on what is an ‘essential versus a ‘non-essential’ business – something I’d never really thought about before. All things being equal, if I was ever offered a job again, I’d definitely preference an ‘essential’ business as having a stable job is critical to me. Despite my relative financial stability, I’ll also be more conservative with cash. You truly never know what is around the corner. That’s what this pandemic has taught me. 

In life, I’ve always been used to knowing what’s coming next. It’s such a strange feeling to wake up and not have to plan anything past my morning coffee. But at the same time, it’s nice to take a breath. The future is unclear, but I feel, in procurement at least, that there’s hope.

Editor’s note: As of 20 May 2020, Matt has been officially ‘stood up’ and will be imminently returning to his role. If you enjoyed this article then read the wildly popular article You’ve been fired or made redundant. What to say to your next boss?

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Happy At Home Alone? 5 Ways To Negotiate Your New Normal

Nine in ten of us do NOT want to go back ‘normal’ once lockdown ends. So how do procurement professionals negotiate a new WFH arrangement – that works for them and their employer?


With half the world in lockdown we are starting to get used to the ‘new normal’…. and after an initial reluctance, most of us are embracing the idea of a new way of life.

Yes, we do want some aspects of “normal” life to return. Being able to socialize, see our families, have a decent haircut (that’s not done at home) or enjoy a weekend at the beach.

But we don’t actually want to go back to life as it was.

A recent poll in the UK found that only 9 per cent of Britons want to return to life as “normal” after the end of lockdown.

One area where we are yearning for change is work … or more importantly the ability to work from home and/or more flexibly now that we have put the systems in place, mastered video conferencing and created our own home-office environments.

The good news is that three-quarters believe their manager trusts them to be productive when WFH according to research commissioned by Visier, which provides people-analytics to over 5,000 businesses that employee 7 million staff across 75 countries around the world.

So, if you are one of the 9 in 10 who wants a different type of working life, build on this trust: meet your deadlines, exceed expectations, continue to work collaboratively and show that you can excel at online meetings and conference calls. Do not give your manager any excuses to say WFH does not work – and that you have to return to your place of work, once offices are back open again.

The best way to tackle this negotiation is like any business negotiation (as a procurement professional you already have the skills). So be clear about what you want to achieve, build a compelling case and then make a persuasive argument.  

STEP 1: PROVE IT’S THE BEST WAY FORWARD

Seven in ten staff who are working remotely for the first time as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, felt they were either more or equally productive as a result (despite the unique challenges of slow internet speeds, homeschooling and hours queuing to purchase life’s necessities).

So, working from home does work. Just make sure you have the data to support your argument and include this information in your flexible working request. It will make it far harder for your line manager to refuse…and also help you prove to yourself that you CAN do this.

TIP: Make this data easy to assimilate by churning the figures – I wrote five more pitches every week, responded to 15% more enquiries per day, set up an online meeting with a new supplier and negotiated a contract remotely etc… It is much harder to argue with facts.

STEP 2: WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?

As with any negotiation, you need to have a clear goal. Perhaps WFH 5 days-a-week will seem too isolating (or impractical), so do you want 3 days in the office, 2 days at home? Or maybe a 9-day fortnight.

Also, if you are likely to fall into the category of being asked to work more flexibly (social distancing is going to last for some time, so you may not actually be welcome in the office), you need to work out what works for you. If you crave the stimulation of an office environment at least part of the week, make sure your employer knows that WFH permanently is a deal breaker… and let’s face it we all find it difficult to be home 24/7 with family rows over internet usage.

TIP: Presenting a simple solution will make it easier for your immediate line manager to make a decision (remember, everyone else will be putting in flexible working requests too). However, you might have to be flexible about being flexible – for example, to agree to WFH on a Wednesday because everyone else is at home on a Friday.

STEP 3: PRESENT A SOLUTION – NOT A PROBLEM

The financial implications of Covid-19 mean that organizations will be looking to shed staff and cut overheads. One of the most obvious cost savings is premises – with predictions that there will be a huge shrinkage in office floor space even after the world gets back to work.

So, highlight the savings on office overheads from sharing space, hotdesking or remote working.

Another way to save money – and potentially save your job – is to offer to work a reduced working week.

Yes, it will mean a pro rata salary (a 20% pay cut if you move to a 4 day-week), however if the coronavirus has taught us one thing, it is to value having less while enjoying more time with those we love.

If you no longer have to afford two holidays a year (it might be difficult if there are travel restrictions for some time to come), are saving a fortune on eating out (more of us are becoming proficient home chefs) and spending less on grooming (who else is embracing a more natural look?), you might be able to take that pay cut.

TIP: Make yourself less expensive – you will then be less expendable. Being cheaper to employ while being more productive will make you less of a target for redundancies than your colleagues.

STEP 4: WHAT DO YOU NEED TO MAKE IT WORK?

There is no point asking to work flexibly if the office can’t get hold of you, conference calls keep cutting out and your presentations no longer look professional.

So, you need the right tools. That includes the right tech (laptop, software, printer and an upgraded internet connection). Also discuss insurance (this might cost more if you have expensive equipment at home), the extra costs of running your home office (electricity) and an allowance for things like stationery, printer ink and other office supplies.

TIP: Don’t make expensive demands (it could be a dealbreaker) but show you have thought through the practicalities of WFH and wish to have an open conversation about how to make the new arrangement work. In some countries you may be able to claim these expenses against tax and in the UK from 6 April 2020 employers have been able to pay up to £6 a week (£26 a month) to cover additional costs if you have to work from home (although not for those who choose to do so).

STEP 5: KNOW THE LAW – JUST IN CASE

While employers are likely to be highly responsive to flexible working requests – or even insist that more staff WFH at least part of the week – it still pays to know the law…and in particular, what reasons your employer can use to refuse your request.

Many workers around the world (Europe, Australia, some parts of the USA) have the right to request flexible working (although this is NOT the same as being able to work in the way you wish – you just have a right to make a request).

Generally the reasons for refusal include:

  • additional costs
  • it is impractical – either you have to be there in person or there will be difficulty reorganizing work among other staff
  • there will be an impact on performance, productivity, quality, customer service

TIP: It is better to preempt a refusal, by countering it in your flexible working request. It will not only show that you know your rights but also that you have thought of practical solutions to any potential problems.

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How One Supplier Pivoted From High Fashion To Scrubs

How do you pivot your operations? Here’s how. We discover how one fashion house started making scrubs. 


Imagine, for a second, that during this pandemic, procurement simply wasn’t needed within your organisation. Your boss then came to you and said that the business valued you and thought you had some transferable skills, so they had decided you should switch into a sales role, immediately. How would you feel? What would you do?

Admittedly, in this situation many of us would panic. But right now, we don’t need to look far to find people that that exact situation has been thrust upon – namely, our suppliers. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve witnessed this exact, almost instant change, occurring from Ford and Tesla switching their production to making ventilatorsto 3M making face masks. But how does it feel to have your world changed, overnight? And as the pandemic rolls on with no vaccine in sight, can we expect more suppliers to be doing this? 

To get an insight into this fascinating transition from a supplier’s perspective, we spoke to Martin Kristensen, Director of the House of Kristensen. Incredibly, over the last few weeks Martin and his team has transitioned from manufacturing high fashion to making homemade scrubs, which are now being used by the NHS. 


Martin, tell us about your business prior to now making homemade scrubs? 

Sure, so House of Kristensen is a couture fashion house specialising in made-to-measure, bespoke designs. We create unique feature pieces for both private and public/professional clients, with our public pieces being quite high-profile. 

For our private clients, we design mostly for special family occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, etc. For our professional clients, we do everything from gown design for famous TV shows as ‘Strictly’ or ‘The Voice,’ to dressing stars for stage performances(we’ve worked with Katy Perry and Dame Shirley Bassey, to name a few). We also create stunning outfits for red carpet appearances, including Cannes Film Festival, the BAFTAs, and many more. 

We understand that you’re based in London. Tell us how the coronavirus unfolded for you. What’s your personal experience been and how has it affected your business? 

I couldn’t have been in a stranger situation when the Covid-19 escalation was first announced. I was actually running around a woodblock with camo-cream on my face on a training exercise with the British Army Reserves!

Prior to departure, though, I had left an action plan for my team with guidelines about what they should do if the situation escalated. My training was cancelled, so that allowed me to return to my team.

When I returned to London, immediately our focus was on adapting our workforce to be able to work from home, at least temporarily. This involved significant kit & equipment prep as well as material allocation so we could still execute our production schedule. 

Beyond that – honestly – the outlook for us wasn’t that rosy. We’re fundamentally in the events business, and with Covid, most events were axed. We had a quarter of a million pounds’ worth of cancellations, and little room for new opportunities. 

Everyone was afraid, there was no certainty. All we could do was focus on being proactive, strengthening existing relationships and forging new ones. 


With everything that was going on for you, how on earth did you think of switching to produce scrubs?!? 

Scrubs4Heroes was born out of recognition of the extremely challenging situation facing our frontline staff and a desire to help in any way we could. 

For those of us in the leisure and luxury sectors, It is not every day that we are able to be a part of helping safeguard peoples’ lives. 

I will always remember the amazing care I received after my hand was broken in a cycling accident. So when I heard about the shortages at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where I’d been treated, I called them to offer support with scrubs if any were needed, the response was clear and more requests followed, pushing us to capacity. 

I then decided volunteers were needed to help us meet demand and we then created Scrubs4Heroes. I am proud to say we now have almost 200 volunteers and are burning through about 3000m of fabric per week to meet our urgent orders.

We’re intrigued! How do you actually make scrubs? 

The process is very interesting and there’s lots of different design features you definitely wouldn’t think of. 

Firstly, you need to find the right fabric. We discovered quickly that poly-cotton was best, as it provides a resistance to shrinkage when cleaned at higher temperatures as well as a resistance to wear/tarnish, whilst also ensuring a degree of breathability. 

The next step is the creation of the garment, from a specific NHS-approved pattern. We also need to consider details relevant to practicing medicine such as colour. Colour is a lot more important that you’d think – research shows that looking at blue/green helps keep doctor’s eyes more sensitive to variations in red. So if you are a terribly busy doctor, nurse or surgeon looking at blood frequently, operating or trying to detect an infection, typically indicated by levels of redness, blue or green is invaluable to refresh colour perception

That’s amazing! How many scrubs are you making now? 

Lots! The list of places we are supporting has grown significantly in recent weeks. We now have 14 NHS trusts and clinics we are working to supply, as well as six GP surgeries and just this weekend we delivered to NHS Glasgow. 

We are also now supplying HM prison service with instruction packs and material to help them produce scrubs for the NHS. We think that’s pretty special – I think it would have to be the first couture house and correctional facility collaboration! So far they anticipate adding 50-100 sets of scrubs to our relief effort per week.

Congratulations on your great contribution Martin! Where to from here? 

It’s hard to say. There’s a high degree of uncertainty at the moment and we’re not anticipating a flood back to the sort of events we cater for. We need to remain nimble and agile and adapt to our changed circumstances. One example of how we’re doing this currently is with our Couture-In-Situ Service where your own personal shopper comes straight to your home, hotel or office with a selection of 30 carefully styled looks. This enables us to provide the same level of couture and expertise, but within your own safe setting. 

Way to go, Martin! Is there a thing or two you think can you learn from Martin’s transformation? What does it tell you about how you personally are dealing with change? And how are you currently remaining nimble and adapting to changed circumstances? Tell us in the comments below.

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Fake Masks And False Cures: The Dark Side Of COVID-19

Criminals exploit COVID-19 fear with fake medical equipment. Here’s how world governments are fighting back.


COVID-19 means huge opportunities for criminals.

They are taking advantage of essential goods demand by flooding the market with their own shoddy versions – exploiting public fear.

Here’s a look at the most common (and concerning) fake products on the market.

Fake goods in the EU

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals and healthcare products are everywhere, according to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency.

In a recent report, it listed the most worrying fake items they’ve uncovered:

Medical equipment: face masks, virus test kits, gloves

Disinfectants: alcohol-based hand sanitiser, disinfectant cleaning wipes

Medicine: choloroquine (an anti-malaria drug initially thought to help treat the Coronavirus), other fake cures

Europol says the fake goods are sold through online stores created just to profit from the pandemic. Some even target victims through messaging apps like Telegram.

The goods originate from ‘frequently changing addresses in Asia’, making it extremely difficult to trace.

Europol is concerned these inferior goods could put people at serious risk.

“Counterfeit goods sold during the corona crisis do not meet the required quality standards and pose a real threat to public health and safety,” says Europol Executive Director Catherine de Bolle in the report.

“People who buy these fake products have a false sense of security, while they are in fact left unprotected against the virus.”

Substandard masks in the North America

And it’s not just Europe. The pandemic is keeping United States’ Homeland Security busy, with more than 200 criminal investigations related to COVID-19 so far.

One woman was caught selling illegal pesticide on eBay, claiming it could provide immunity from the virus.

Another man allegedly tried to sell 100 million facemasks to the government, despite not actually having any.

The man claimed his stash came straight from 3M, one of the biggest healthcare equipment manufacturers in the US.

3M responded with a lawsuit, saying: “3M’s legal team is taking strong action to protect 3M and the public against the conduct of those who seek to exploit 3M’s brand and reputation and defraud others during this time of emergency and crisis.”

3M is also suing a Canadian company for re-selling 3M masks at five times the retail price, vowing to “[put] a stop to those who are trying to cash in on this crisis.”

Another worrying trend in inferior products is testing kits.

The University of Washington School of Medicine spent thousands exporting kits from Shanghai, only to find some of the tests were tainted with bacteria.

The university has since recalled all tests to be on the safe side.

Seizing test kits in Australia

Australia has similar issues with shoddy test kits, according to Zoran Kostadinoski, Head of Border and Biosecurity at the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia (CBFCA).

He said the border force has intercepted hundreds of dubious testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Even though members of the CBFCA aren’t directly responsible for checking the authenticity of goods, they warn importers and exporters to be diligent.

“Procurement professionals need to ensure they source PPE from reputable manufacturers that provide quality products and meet the health standards of the importing country,” he warns.

“Until there is a global regulation of such products that provides certification, the issue of counterfeit goods in the supply chain will continue, as some look to make quick profit based on demand of such products due to COVID-19.”

China pledges to clean up

Authorities are doing their best to help people identify goods that meet safety standards.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even set up a website with photos of the most common counterfeit face masks.

Nevertheless, the question remains: why isn’t there greater effort to stamp out fakes before they are ever exported?

It’s complicated, as LA Times journalist Alice Su explains.

“It’s common for Chinese suppliers to export a product under one licensed company’s name but to source their products from second, third or fourth factories, like a chain of Russian nesting dolls, with little to no traceability down the chain of supply,” she writes in an article.

She also points out not all suppliers set out to produce inferior products. Many factories shifted to PPE production at the government’s request without knowing the proper quality controls.

Regardless, the Chinese government is making a concerted effort to shut down offending manufacturers and revoke their export licenses.

Fighting online crime in the UK

That process isn’t happening quick enough for people like Sarah Stout, however.

She’s the CEO of Full Support Healthcare Ltd, a supplier to the UK’s National Health Service.

Recently, she shared on LinkedIn that her company gets dozens of offers every week from manufacturers of the sought-after N95 mask.

95% of the masks are fake with forged certificates, she says.

“When I informed one supplier that I knew their certificates were fake, they said to me, “[O]k, if I give you real certificates for other product will you place an order?’” she writes.

Her experience isn’t unique. UK authorities say they’ve taken down 2000 Coronavirus scam websites so far, including 471 fake online shops.

Many of these websites were discovered through spam emails. One common email appears to come from the World Health Organization and offers COVID-19 health tips in exchange for personal password information.

James Brokenshire, UK Minister for Security, urged people to be aware of the many ways criminals exploit technology like email to gain advantage.

“It’s despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam and steal from people in their homes,” he wrote in a press release. “We all have a part to play in seeing they don’t succeed.”

In response, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre is asking for people to send them any suspicious emails.

It’s not just a UK problem, though. Pandemic spam mail is a global headache, with Google detecting 240 million COVID-19 related spam messages so far.

How to tackle it

Even though technology is used for exploitation, it’s also a key to stopping Corona crime.

One company in the fight is Systech, which lets you check if PPE product is authentic by simply scanning the product’s barcode with a smartphone.

The company uses blockchain technology to trace the product journey throughout the entire supply chain.

Similarly, Zuellig Pharma, an Asia-Pacific pharmaceutical giant, utilises SAP’s blockchain platform to verify authenticity.

Customers can scan a barcode on the package using the eZTracker app, and know instantly if the medicine is a legitimate Zuellig product.

This use of technology, along with the efforts of governments and the vigilance of the public, go a long way to combat the dark side of COVID-19.

However, until essential goods supply can match global demand, criminals will find a way to cash in.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.