Tag Archives: decision making

Why Procurement Will Soon be One of the Most Sought After Professions

As jobs disappear and the roles of tomorrow don’t even exist today, what makes Procurement and Supply Chain professionals so hot in demand?


We’ve seen in the past year how easily the entire global job market can be disrupted. With luck, businesses and economies will recover, but there’s nothing “normal” about where they’ll be in the coming years. Thanks to industry 4.0, work as we know it is on the cusp of big change — in fact, some experts and futurists are hesitant to even predict what kinds of work will exist twenty years from now. What we do know is that it won’t involve many of the jobs we’re so familiar with today.

It’s not just manual labor that is likely to go away. Doctors, lawyers, and even police officers will also see their professions being increasingly automated. The outlook isn’t bleak, it’s just uncertain. But what practical information can we take away from that … and what does it have to do with procurement?

The vital nature of procurement in business

Let’s start by answering the question, “What is procurement, anyway?”

Procurement is the sourcing and purchasing of goods and services for business use from an external source. All businesses use a variety of products, services, and supplies in their day-to-day operations, but most of them don’t manufacture or create those things themselves. Instead, they buy them from other businesses, and procurement specialists are the people who oversee this process.

Take Apple, for example. Apple “produces” millions of devices per year, but manufactures very few. Instead, the company relies on a complicated web of supply chains from which it gets goods and labor. Woven together, these various supply chains create the things we recognize as Apple products and services — everything from iPads to Apple TV+. It’s not just electronics and technicians that Apple needs, either; it also has to have desks and chairs for its employees, paper and appliances for its internal business services, security guards and parking lot attendants for its headquarters, and the list goes on.

Procurement is obviously a big part of doing business. But what makes it one of the most desirable fields for younger workers to target?

In 2019, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work boldly predicted that “Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete.”

While the future of many jobs is unknown, procurement is one that’s here to stay. Aspects of the profession will undoubtedly change, and it will certainly be bolstered by exponential technologies like artificial intelligence and data science, but overall, the skills that underpin successful procurement practices today will remain relevant throughout the foreseeable future.

Largely, those skills consist of cognitive flexibility and critical thinking, good decision-making, emotional intelligence, and an innovative mindset. And those (surprise) are among those that experts and employers alike say will be most important during the next decade.

X-Factors that make procurement so dynamic

The desirability of procurement as a profession goes beyond job stability. As much as anyone else, the people overseeing where goods and services come from have a unique opportunity to influence a company’s profitability, sustainability, and ethics.

Environmental impact

Green, sustainable, or eco-procurement is a growing part of the field, and it centers around building supply chains that cause minimal damage to the environment. This can mean identifying opportunities to work with providers who are conscious of waste reduction or energy conservation, for example. In the case of individual suppliers, the impact might seem marginal, but as procurement policies increasingly reflect our collective push toward sustainability, providers that aren’t eco-conscious will slowly get pushed out in favor of competitors that are. It’s the procurement professional’s privilege to lead that charge.

Diversity and inclusion

It’s not feasible, in most cases, to force an equality mindset onto a business or other organization — nor would it be effective. The pathway to lasting change involves creating an environment in which the businesses that already embrace equality rise to the top, and those that don’t are required to face the organic consequences. This, too, is something procurement professionals have a special ability to influence. Just like with sustainability, a company’s procurement department can create a ripple effect in the industry at large simply by giving preference to suppliers that embody the company’s own ethos regarding diversity and inclusion.

Powerful trajectory

Much of the reason that Apple has achieved such amazing success even following the death of Steve Jobs lies with the fact that Tim Cook is intimately familiar with the importance of procurement to the business model. Cook was hired by Jobs as Apple’s Chief Procurement Officer in 1998; by the time he took the top executive office in 2011, Apple’s supply chain was widely held to be the best among big tech firms. The skills and knowledge that make a good procurement professional, in other words, serve as a strong foundation for success on an even bigger scale — in Cook’s case, it was the biggest scale in the world.

Looking ahead

As jobs disappear, consumer needs evolve, and the work paradigm shifts, the ability to “go with the flow” is becoming increasingly important. Not only is procurement an area that benefits from that ability — it can also impart it. In return for bringing their skills to the field, professionals who choose procurement will be rewarded with the chance to usher in large-scale change, guiding not just companies but entire industries and economies in worthy directions.

Stephen Day is Chief Procurement Officer at Kantar and an accomplished International Executive, with expertise in operations management, supply chain, and more.

What Should I Look For In A Mentor?

Finding a great mentor can catapult your career – here are the defining attributes of the perfect mentor to look for.


The saying goes that no man is an island, and in a career sense what that really means is: the office can certainly feel like unchartered territory without a mentor. A mentor is something even the most talented people in the world want and need – famously, Larry Summers mentored Sheryl Sandberg, and Maya Angelou mentored Oprah Winfrey. And everyone who has ever had a mentor knows that they can be the shining north star you need to succeed, and can help you navigate everything from difficult decisions to new opportunities. They can even become lifelong friends and sponsors within an organisation, helping oversee your ascension to dizzyingly heights.

Many – if not all – CPOs credit their success to a mentor or two along the way. And this year, with COVID making it one of the most challenging years to date for a lot of us, a mentor is more important than ever to help you navigate the murky waters of leading through and after a pandemic.  

But unfortunately, not all mentors are created equal. Some really go above and beyond, yet some are not quite as useful. But how do you know the difference from the outset? 

We spoke to two successful senior professionals, Sally Lansbury, Memberships Director at The Faculty Management Consultants and Helen Mackenzie, former CPO and Principal Adviser at Procurious, about how mentors have helped shaped their careers, and what exactly we should all look for in our next mentor: 

What should a mentor experience be like? 

Sally and Helen both believe that a mentoring experience should be an overwhelmingly positive one, where you get to tap into the wisdom of someone experienced, and use them as a sounding board to navigate challenging situations. Both women said that in their past, they’ve had both formal and informal mentors, and that these mentors have helped their careers in ways they’d never imagined. 

Sally found her previous mentors extremely valuable in that she was able to learn about them, as well as use them to help her navigate decisions: 

‘For me, I have found a mentoring relationship to be particularly important as I always learn so much from other people’s experiences.’ 

‘I’ve also found that mentors are great people to bounce ideas off when you’re unsure of something.’ 

Helen also felt that her mentors were great sounding boards, but found that they were particularly useful in a different way. When Helen was eyeing the top job (of CPO in the organisation she worked for at the time), she felt that her mentor helped her hone her leadership skills: 

‘The mentor I had leading up to my promotion to CPO was exceptional. She helped me understand what leadership skills I needed to take that next step.’ 

Since changing roles from CPO to consulting, Helen has herself had the experience of being a mentor, a role which she describes as challenging but ultimately rewarding. And in a nod to her leadership capability, Helen now typifies what we all aspire to in a mentor: 

‘Right now, I’m mentoring a young man in a leadership role who is trying to navigate how to do this in an inclusive way. It’s been challenging for me to think about issues like diversity and of course gender equality from this perspective.’ 

‘But that’s the beauty of being a mentor. You always aim to put in so much more than you get back in return.’ 

What qualities should you look for in a mentor? 

So how do you tell the difference between an exceptional mentor and one that might not be as valuable? Sally, who has overseen The Faculty’s Roundtable Mentoring Program, which has, to date, seen over 1000 people receive mentoring, has a good idea of the qualities you should look for. These, she says, are: 

‘The ideal mentor should have a growth mindset and a learning attitude. They should have a genuine interest in helping you, and be able to commit real time and energy to it.’ 

‘That also need to have current and relevant industry knowledge in the area that the mentee wants to develop in.’ 

Helen agrees that these qualities are important, but she says that you need to put more focus on the person, as opposed to the qualities. Specifically, she describes the ideal mentor as someone who isn’t the same as you: 

‘Your mentor should be different from you so they can give you another perspective on the world. We spend a lot of time these days on social media in an echo chamber with people who think the same as us.’ 

‘A mentor should give you the opportunity to challenge your thinking. But you also need to be able to relate to and trust them, otherwise the relationship won’t work.’ 

How do you know if your mentor isn’t right for you? 

If your mentor doesn’t have all of the above qualities, does it mean they’re not right or worse, that they’re not doing a good job? Not at all, says Sally. In fact, in a mentoring relationship, the ball is absolutely in your court when it comes to making the effort to make the arrangement work for you: 

‘With mentoring, you only get out what you put in. As a mentee you need to be organised and be clear on your objectives at all times.’ 

What kind of experience have you had with mentors? What qualities do you look for in a mentor? Let us know in the comments below.

Agile Procurement Through the Ages…

Agile principles are all about the decision-making process. What changes should you implement to drive greater value at higher speed?

At IBM, we understand agile as a set of principles and values that when thoughtfully considered across the business, enable quality decision making, empower teams, and delight customers.

In procurement, the Category Manager’s role is to enable their internal customers by eliminating any disruption or friction within the business while also managing cost using their category knowledge and procurement skillset. The key here is the category managers’ ability to have deep category knowledge paired with a breadth of understanding for all internal customer profiles and needs.

As a category manager, team members must build a consultative skill set that allows them to identify pain points, use time wisely, and seek feedback. The result is a category manager who works towards customer needs rather than contract expiration dates and the latest price benchmarks. As a guide, we should seek to digitise and automate as much as possible regarding benchmarking, negotiations, RFx process’, contracting, etc., allowing us to give the appropriate attention to discovering internal customer needs including service levels, pain points, and demand.

What we did before vs. what we do now!

Previously, IBM, like most large companies, hosted a heavily layered procurement organisation requiring multiple sign offs and complex processes in order for decisions to be made. Agile principles are all about the decision-making process. Our leadership knew we needed to make some major changes resulting in fewer layers of management, accountable teams with decision making authority, and greater collaboration across the business, allowing them to drive value for our customers at the speeds they expect.

In a traditional procurement organisation, the category manager’s role is to identify where the savings opportunity is and act accordingly. They do this while following age old processes and having little to no interaction with internal customers. Many organisations seek to use poorly participated customer surveys to get a sense of how well category managers are serving their customers.

Yet, the best way is to open the channels of communication and collaborate with the business, whether it be face-to-face or virtually, allowing category managers to make the right decisions.

While cost reductions are still a priority for nearly all organisations, we found that when we work closely and listen to customers, we can eliminate the costs associated with under and over delivering across the business, which in turn, results in lasting cost savings.

The journey

To achieve this transformation, it takes strong displays from leadership of all the principles and values agile organisations are known for, establishing a belief system across the business encouraging category managers to ask ‘why’ when performing a task their internal customers do not care for or need to be successful. Implementing an agile belief system into a large organisation requires a major cultural change that takes time and patience from all parties.

In this new space, the role of a category manager has quickly evolved from contract and cost management to a crucial role that links business needs to the external marketplace for a specific category of goods. To achieve success in this role, category managers must interact daily with internal customers and evaluate each moment of their time spent not serving their customer’s needs.

Even so, many procurement organisations are too deep into spreadsheets and other manual processes to be ready for such an agile way of working. These manual processes make it impossible for category managers to have the time capacity to be a true advocate and trusted advisor for the business. To lift category managers’ heads from the clutter, organisations must invest in digitising their procurement processes where possible and identify the areas where they are not ready and get ready!

This article was written by Shawn Busby, Global Category Lead- IBM and Norman Braddock, Sourcing Consultant – IBM. 

Flashback Friday – Can You Make Procurement Decisions Under Fire?

Are you struggling to lead or motivate your team through difficult times and under extreme pressure? We’ve got some top advice from someone who knows a thing or two about making decisions in extreme conditions…

Przemek Tokar/Shutterstock.com

Andy Stumpf spoke at the Chicago Big Ideas Summit 2017. Read more about our upcoming event  – The London Big Ideas Summit – on 26th April 2018 and find out how you can get involved. 

“There are only two types of leadership.” begins Andy Stumpf “good (effective) and bad (ineffective).”

In today’s world, senior managers often struggle to effectively  respond and adapt to change. But the world is full of change and it’s crucial that our procurement leaders are flexible enoughto respond to the unexpected, to “read the tea leaves and meet the challenges of the real world.”

Andy  began his U.S. military career at the age of 17, transitioning from the position of an enlisted soldier, to an officer, and then,  in 2002,  he joined the most elite counter terrorism unit in the military; SEAL Team Six.

The unit, which is tasked with conducting the nation’s most critical missions, has become the inspiration for a number of Hollywood movies and books.

If you ever needed a man who knows how to plan for and adapt to change, Andy Stumpf is your guy! He’s strategised and executed hundreds of combat operations throughout the world in support of the Global War on Terror.

At Procurious’ Chicago Big Ideas Summit, Andy will draw on his wealth of leadership experience to talk about the intersections between business and combat, decision-making and empowering procurement teams.

Building the greatest leaders

“Business and combat are defined by their similarities, not differences and the theories of successful military leadership and successful business leadership are identical” Andy believes. It’s possible to apply the same principles and philosophy to your procurement teams because it’s really only the arena that differs.

“60 per cent of the time, organisations want me to talk about leadership. In fact, the definition is always the same. What can change is the way in which you approach leadership.”

So, how do the military build strong and competent leaders?

“Leadership is about empowering your people. From day one in the military we are taught, and it is enforced, that in the absence of leadership you must stand up and take control.

“Instead of creating individuals that think reactively in nature, we instead create individuals that think proactively.  You don’t have to be in a leadership position now to think two or three steps ahead.  In doing so, when a decision presents itself you’ll already have an answer for it.”

Does Andy believe these skills can be taught or are natural leaders exactly that?

“neither successful teams or leaders occur by accident, these are skills that must be learned, practiced, and refined. Navy SEALs are successful because of how we select, train, and lead our teams.

“Nothing in that process happens accidentally, everything is calculated. We demand leadership and accountability from each individual starting from the first day of training. We prioritise the individuals to our left and right, and the goal of our team over personal success. This philosophy is diametrically opposed to what is often found in society, and requires a structured approach and prioritisation from leaders to be successful.”

And Andy has some strong words of advice for any over-confident leaders out there. “The 1st leadership principle within the SEAL Team is ego; if you have a massive ego you’re more concerned that your ideas and strategy is being used as opposed to striving for success of the team. You can’t meet the challenges of the real world this way!”

Plan, plan and plan some more!

“We plan for everthing in the navy. We often say that if you want to shut down the military, you simply need to shut down powerpoint!

“Every stage of a plan gets one slide and there might be between five and seven slides on the ‘what-ifs’, the contingencies. Where will we land this helicopter? Where is the nearest location for medical treatment and what alternate options do we have?” When, as Andy points out, precisely 0 per cent of planning goes as expected, contingencies are everything!

“You make primary, secondary and tertiary plans because you don’t want to have make snap decisions in a crisis. You need to be able to fall back on stable procedures”

And of course, it can’t hurt that contingency planning makes you look like something of a genius! “It’s really hard to make difficult decisions in a crisis because you’re in a time compressed environment and you may have people’s lives depending on you.  We plan for 24 -72 hours and there are 5 phases per plan. Each phase has 5-7 ‘what if‘ contingency plans because, at the end of the day, you don’t want to make decisions in a crisis, you want to be able to draw on a branch diagram.

“It’s the contingency planning especially in the SEAL teams that makes the difference between success and failure in moments of crisis.”

What can our procurement teams learn from this? Spend a lot more time planning, for starters! But Andy also reinforces the value in having baseline standards to fall back upon. “Businesses should always fall back on standard procedures so people can come together, with a clear knowledge of the protocol. This is especially crucial when you’re working under restrictive time constraints.”

Andy’s final words of advice? “Don’t get attached to your plan -get attached to success!”

Andy Stumpf spoke at the Chicago Big Ideas Summit 2017. Read more about our upcoming event  – The London Big Ideas Summit – on 26th April 2018 and find out how you can get involved. 

Can You Make Decisions Under Fire?

Are you struggling to lead or motivate your team through difficult times and under extreme pressure? We’ve got some top advice from someone who knows a thing or two about making decisions in extreme conditions…

Register now  as a digital delegate for The Big Ideas Summit Chicago!

“There are only two types of leadership.” begins Andy Stumpf “good (effective) and bad (ineffective).”

In today’s world, senior managers often struggle to effectively  respond and adapt to change. But the world is full of change and it’s crucial that our procurement leaders are flexible enoughto respond to the unexpected, to “read the tea leaves and meet the challenges of the real world.”

Andy  began his U.S. military career at the age of 17, transitioning from the position of an enlisted soldier, to an officer, and then,  in 2002,  he joined the most elite counter terrorism unit in the military; SEAL Team Six.

The unit, which is tasked with conducting the nation’s most critical missions, has become the inspiration for a number of Hollywood movies and books.

If you ever needed a man who knows how to plan for and adapt to change, Andy Stumpf is your guy! He’s strategised and executed hundreds of combat operations throughout the world in support of the Global War on Terror.

At Procurious’ Chicago Big Ideas Summit, Andy will draw on his wealth of leadership experience to talk about the intersections between business and combat, decision-making and empowering procurement teams.

Building the greatest leaders

“Business and combat are defined by their similarities, not differences and the theories of successful military leadership and successful business leadership are identical” Andy believes. It’s possible to apply the same principles and philosophy to your procurement teams because it’s really only the arena that differs.

“60 per cent of the time, organisations want me to talk about leadership. In fact, the definition is always the same. What can change is the way in which you approach leadership.”

So, how do the military build strong and competent leaders?

“Leadership is about empowering your people. From day one in the military we are taught, and it is enforced, that in the absence of leadership you must stand up and take control.

“Instead of creating individuals that think reactively in nature, we instead create individuals that think proactively.  You don’t have to be in a leadership position now to think two or three steps ahead.  In doing so, when a decision presents itself you’ll already have an answer for it.”

Does Andy believe these skills can be taught or are natural leaders exactly that?

“neither successful teams or leaders occur by accident, these are skills that must be learned, practiced, and refined. Navy SEALs are successful because of how we select, train, and lead our teams.

“Nothing in that process happens accidentally, everything is calculated. We demand leadership and accountability from each individual starting from the first day of training. We prioritise the individuals to our left and right, and the goal of our team over personal success. This philosophy is diametrically opposed to what is often found in society, and requires a structured approach and prioritisation from leaders to be successful.”

And Andy has some strong words of advice for any over-confident leaders out there. “The 1st leadership principle within the SEAL Team is ego; if you have a massive ego you’re more concerned that your ideas and strategy is being used as opposed to striving for success of the team. You can’t meet the challenges of the real world this way!”

Plan, plan and plan some more!

“We plan for everthing in the navy. We often say that if you want to shut down the military, you simply need to shut down powerpoint!

“Every stage of a plan gets one slide and there might be between five and seven slides on the ‘what-ifs’, the contingencies. Where will we land this helicopter? Where is the nearest location for medical treatment and what alternate options do we have?” When, as Andy points out, precisely 0 per cent of planning goes as expected, contingencies are everything!

“You make primary, secondary and tertiary plans because you don’t want to have make snap decisions in a crisis. You need to be able to fall back on stable procedures”

And of course, it can’t hurt that contingency planning makes you look like something of a genius! “It’s really hard to make difficult decisions in a crisis because you’re in a time compressed environment and you may have people’s lives depending on you.  We plan for 24 -72 hours and there are 5 phases per plan. Each phase has 5-7 ‘what if‘ contingency plans because, at the end of the day, you don’t want to make decisions in a crisis, you want to be able to draw on a branch diagram.

“It’s the contingency planning especially in the SEAL teams that makes the difference between success and failure in moments of crisis.”

What can our procurement teams learn from this? Spend a lot more time planning, for starters! But Andy also reinforces the value in having baseline standards to fall back upon. “Businesses should always fall back on standard procedures so people can come together, with a clear knowledge of the protocol. This is especially crucial when you’re working under restrictive time constraints.”

Andy’s final words of advice? “Don’t get attached to your plan -get attached to success!”

Want to hear more from Andy Stumpf or submit your questions for him? On 28th September, Procurious is bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Chicago.  Register now  (It’s FREE!) as a digital delegate to gain access to all of the day’s action and LIVE video from our speakers and attendees. 

7 Ways to Effectively Utilise Big Data in Organisations

The popularity of Big Data is growing as organisations begin to understand how to effectively utilise the volume of information available to them.

Mikko Lemola/Shutterstock.com

The buzz around Big Data is undeniable. Regardless of the size of the organisation, managers can use this information, to help drive better, more effective organisational decision making, as a result of accurate analysis.

But how? Below are seven ways how effective utilisation of big data could become a boon to your business.  

1. Improve Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence is a process of analysing data which helps managers and corporate executives make more sound business decisions. So if you try to put in some extra effort to ameliorate your organisation’s business intelligence, it will result in a more accelerated decision-making process, optimised internal business processes, increased operational efficiency, generation of new revenues, and identification recent market trends.

2. Practical Business Decisions Based On Customer Behaviour

Big Data contains a wealth of information about the way customers of a particular organisation act and behave, like their interests, habits, and demographics in some cases. By analysing sales, market news and social media data, organisations may collect and analyse real-time insights of their customers.

Better marketing strategy can be devised through a careful watch over the customer’s needs, taste, and behaviour.

Big Data Approach
Source: www.cio.co.ke

3. Build Trust Among Customers

It is a well-known fact that the more customer trust and satisfaction an organisation has, the more profit it is likely to generate. Feedback from customers gives organisations the key information to make improvements in products and services.

Organisations can use the information gathered from customer feedback in order to make changes to products and services, showing that they listen to customers, and generating further customer satisfaction.

4. Risk Assessment

Big Data houses a vast amount, and variety, of information which could be used as part of risk assessment activities.

Data from sources like mobile devices, social media platforms, and website visits, and information about credit, legal, e-commerce spendings and other online activities, of a particular person reveals hidden consumer behaviours that may not be otherwise known.

This is advantageous for the banking industry, as big data can help in fraud detection through the use of pattern recognition and by comparing internal and external data of the customers. Organisations like MasterCard already use Big Data to assess whether a certain transaction is legitimate or fraudulent.

This information can play a major role in managing risks and making judgments about credit approvals and pricing decisions, before moving forward with the customer at both an individual and product level.

5. Predictive Personalisation

Predictive analytics creates a huge opportunity for behavioural segmentation of the consumers. It analyses personal information of people on websites, their behaviour, their social data and their browsing data.

Content similar to their interests is then catered to the users, giving them their own personalised space to explore and use the services. In this way, you customise your website to suit the requirements of the individual customers based on their demographics and interests which makes them distinct from the crowd.

There are many companies, like Spotify, who are targeting their customer base providing personalised products as per their needs.

Big Data Drivers
Source: www.thewindowsclub.com

6. Tailor-Made Products and Services

Through big data, we have access to all demographic and personal details of the customers. By matching consumers with the similar products, and the content they have already viewed, personalises their experience on a website.

This method of providing tailor-made services, where customers are connected with exactly those products and services in which they’re interested, may also be known as Digital Hospitality.

This often takes customers by surprise and makes them feel special. However, it would be best to ask for the customer’s consent before using their personal information, as this will make it appear less intrusive.

7. Cost Reduction

Big Data can also be used for automated decision-making systems, where managers can get regular alerts about maintenance support systems and cost cutting opportunities in their business.

For example, Tesco used Big Data to cut its annual refrigeration cooling costs by 20 per cent across 3000 stores in UK and Ireland. Business operations can be optimised without compromising on the quality standards of products.

Since Big Data is, by its essence, huge, taming it can be quite a difficult task because of the continuous generation of data from different platforms in all realms of the world.

With the efficient utilisation of information received, a huge difference can be made to the business operations of an organisation, provided that the information is critically analysed such that it can be transformed into profits.

For this purpose, a good project management tools platform may come in handy for organisations, as managers will be able to keep an eye on the projects concerned with Big Data extraction.

Swati Panwar is a content writer and tech blogger. Writing is her passion and she believes one day she would change the world with her words. She is a technical writer by day and an insatiable reader at night. Her love for technology and latest digital trends could be seen in her write-ups. Besides this, she is also fond of poetry. She’s extremely empathic towards animals and when not writing, she could be found cuddling with her cat.

LinkedIn: https://in.linkedin.com/in/swati-panwar-5030b589