Tag Archives: executive procurement

The Elephant in the Room: Aligning the Executive Team for Change

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” ― William Faulkner. Lora Cecere considers how to align the executive team for change.

Take a hard look at this lonely elephant. In my travels, in most corporations, this is the picture I see. My goal for this blog is to connect with you. We have an insular thinking problem in supply chain. What do I mean? Let me explain.

Each week, I travel and visit companies and speak at conferences to talk about the future of supply chain management. When I speak, my definition of supply chain is the process of aligning process flows from the customer’s customer to the supplier’s supplier. Many companies define supply chain more narrowly as a silo within operations focused on logistics or customer service. This limited view is a mistake.

There is also a false belief that efficient organizational silos make effective supply chains. In the automation of business processes, over the last decade, we automated the vertical silos of sales, marketing, customer service, logistics, manufacturing and procurement, but have not aligned to serve the customer. (The deployment of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Advanced Planning (APS), Supplier Relationship (SRM), Warehouse Management (WMS), and Transportation Management (TMS) created efficient silos, but not effective cross-functional flows.)

Efficient silos are a barrier to driving value. As a result, only 10 per cent of manufacturing companies are making progress on a balanced portfolio of metrics including growth, operating margin, inventory turns and Return on Invested Capital. Why? Many business executives have a functional business leader mindset. The use of new technologies to build outside-in, and cross-functional processes requires the redefinition of business processes and architectures. It is more than a project or a single change management initiative. It also requires process innovation. This is difficult because most companies are on a forced march for Information Technology (IT) and process standardization. In this traditional journey, there is no room for process innovation.

Some Background

Last week, I spoke four times. The first was at a S&P 500 company contemplating a digital transformation. The second was at a cognitive computing conference. The third stop was a network design conference, and the fourth presentation was at an industry consortia. At each session, when I finished my speech, I asked for questions. The common question was, “I hear your message. I agree and believe that my organization is stuck in driving improvement and defining a balanced portfolio. How do I educate the executive team on the basics of supply chain and gain leadership support on defining a vision for the future of supply chain?”

This is a great question, but the answer is not simple. My recommendation is to take five steps

1. Force a Discussion on a Balanced Metrics Portfolio Against a Strategy.

Define the mission of the supply chain as a balanced portfolio based on balance sheet and income statement metrics. In the process, avoid supply chain speak. (Throw away your three and four letter acronyms and speak the language of business.)

2. Politely Question the Status Quo. If Only 10 Per Cent of Companies Are Making Progress, Do We Have Best Practices?

I like the quote by Faulkner at the start of this blog. “We cannot swim to new horizons if we hug the shore.” Self-fund process innovation to test new technologies and drive process innovation. This break through thinking happens with small and scrappy teams in the business. (These are groups of diverse people aligned to question the current state and improve an outcome against a business goal.) When you drive break through thinking, market the achievements using language of the balance sheet. By self-funding these initiatives, do not limit the boundaries of the testing by a fixed ROI. Test when you do not know the ROI.

3. Educate

Use network design technologies and discrete event simulation tools to help executives visualize the supply chain as a complex system with finite trade-offs. Through these discussions help them to understand what is possible and feasible.

4. Benchmark and Align the Goals to Business Potential

I often see teams set unrealistic goals. Use our recent Supply Chains to Admire report to understand what is possible by industry and use this to benchmark your current capabilities. Use the data to set realistic goals.

5. Build a Guiding Coalition for Change

In your efforts, of education, sharing and testing, build a guiding coalition for change. As shown in Figure 1, the issues of executive understanding and change management are large gaps when companies with supply chains working well are compared to those that struggle

 

Figure 1. Difference in Capabilities of Companies with Supply Chains Working Well and Those with Room for Improvement

The market is full of consultants today touting easy answers. This is not easy work. Side-step the hype and focus on driving business results. Address the elephant in the room and give him a name. His name is insular thinking. In doing this, help your executive team to swim towards new horizons. Feel free to share your stories with others in the comment section of this blog.

This article was written by Lora Cecere, Founder and CEO of Supply Chain Insights and was orginally published on 21st June 2017 on LinkedIn.

Making the Final Ascent from CPO to CEO

Taking the final step from CPO to CEO appears to elude many procurement leaders. So, why does Procurement so often lose out to Finance?

ceo to cpo

At the eWorld procurement conference last month Tania Seary interviewed me about leadership as part of Procurious’ Career Boot Camp series. After we finished she said, “there’s one question we ran out of time for: why do so few CPOs become CEOs?”

This set me thinking on my flight home. There are well known examples of the supply chain providing the key to the executive washroom. Tim Cook at Apple, and Sam Walsh at Rio Tinto are just two of the more well-known.

Famously, though, the best trodden route to the top is via the Finance function. 52 per cent of FTSE100 CEOs and 30 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs have a financial background. So why do the accountants win out?

Show Me the Money!

There’s a Dilbert cartoon where the boss informs his staff: “you know we said ‘people are our most valuable asset? Turns out we were wrong. Money is our most valuable asset.”

dilbert-assets
Courtesy of Scott Adams (dilbert.com)

Given the paucity of HR directors making it to the hot seat, it seems boards tend to agree. CPOs should score well here: at the core of the role, after all, is to maximise the effectiveness of the company’s expenditure.

“Much travell’d in the realms of Gold”

Peter Smith’s eWorld workshop inspired me to quote Shelley, so it may be time to turn to Keats.

The other great advantage possessed by Finance Directors is that they see the entirety of the organisation: from wide expanses to western islands, no corner is hidden from their view nor beyond their reach.

This is critical. The board relies on the FD as one of the few people, other than the CEO, who has a grasp on how the totality of the business fits together. Not only does she or he have knowledge of what’s going on in each part, but they also appreciate the interlinkages between them.

How do CPOs fare against this measure? Well, if we’re frank, variably. In some organisations, CPOs see the complete cost base and fully understand how the company’s capital is deployed – and why.

In others, they may only influence part of applicable spend – KPMG’s survey suggested the average is around 60 per cent. Without that comprehensive view, the nominations committee may not consider a candidate ready to take overall leadership.

I suspect this is the most critical factor holding CPOs back. Ascending to greater height affords – but may also in the corporate world, require – a broader view.

Then like stout Cortez, with eagle eyes, may the CPO take that final step to become a CEO, and survey the scene, silent, on a peak in Darien.

To hear more from Stuart, catch up with his Career Boot Camp podcast here. You can also read more from Stuart on the impact of maverick purchasing on procurement, and download the latest Applegate whitepaper on the subject.

Use Every Sales Trick in the Book: Procurement’s Guide to Business Partnering

Procurement professionals know just about every sales trick in the book. How can we turn these tricks to our advantage in business partnering?

Sales Trick Business Partnering

As a procurement pro, you’ve seen it all – the pitches, the gaffes, the strategies, the crash and burns. You also have your long list of personal success stories – the sales people, and sales strategies, you have personally unraveled and re-engineered to meet your company’s needs.

But then there have also been the spectacular defeats, where an absolute master of the sales spin has left you feeling like mere putty in their hands.

These negotiation experiences have, perhaps unknowingly, left us with a rich repertoire of successful sales techniques, which we really should be leveraging to master our own destiny.

We need to leverage these important sales learnings, and improve how we ‘sell’ our services into our own organisations, in order to master the art of ‘business partnering’.

Procurement Business Partnering

Fortunately, I am able to call on the collective thinking of a dozen of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies as I ponder this question, because business partnering has been the hot topic at the last few Productivity in Pharma Think tank sessions.

The discussions have focused on what skills and characteristics lead to successful business partnering, and those skills that help the procurement function become a ‘connector’ inside and outside the company.

How to be Liked

But going back to my story, let’s look at what we have learned from the best salespeople we know, and how we can adapt this to our approach to business partnering.

Be a “playmaker” – Let’s face it, you have probably genuinely “liked” the salespeople who have been most successful in convincing you to buy from them.

So how do you go about getting your stakeholders to “like” you and “buy into” the service you are offering? Some global procurement teams are actually applying a bit of science to this challenge.

Heads of Procurement know, like many other things in life, if you get the relationship right, everything else will follow.

Novartis, for example, uses a very sophisticated business partnering framework. The first step of this is “knowledge of self”, whereby each procurement executive completes a personality profile analysis. These profiles are then considered against the stakeholder to find the “perfect match” for the business partnering relationship.

Stakeholder engagement skills are also become an increasingly important part of the procurement recruitment process. Heads of Procurement are looking for a somewhat elusive set of skills that will orchestrate the supply network and create a vital link between the various functions in the company.

They are looking for executives who can create that all-important “bond” with their internal stakeholders, as well as their supply base.

Giles Breault of The Beyond Group says, “If you are going to write ‘business partnering’ on your CV then you must have these skills: the ability to engage and speak the language of your internal customer; the ability to lead projects as an equal partner; and intrapreneurial skills that help you operate like you are the CEO of your own business.”

Applying Sales Tricks

The “Play Maker” is a personality profile identified in the Game Changer Index (GC Index). This type of person is interested in people and relationships. They take the view that how well things get done in organisations will reflect the quality of relationships.

As the Game Changers would say, procurement teams wanting to improve their internal business engagement should look for people who “get a buzz” from the challenges of managing the process of influence, or those people who see themselves as a potent agent of change.

But once we have recruited the right skill set and matched up the personalities as best we can, we need to revert back to those all-important learnings from our sales friends on the other side of the table. Namely:

Remember why we have two ears and one mouth – The best salespeople listen more than they talk. Is your procurement team remembering this important 2:1 ratio when they interact with your stakeholders? I suspect that most procurement teams could benefit from listening more to their stakeholders and really understanding their business needs.

Fight the battle on the number of fronts – As we all know, the best salespeople have a multi-level account plan. They align the various levels of people within their team with the decision makers within their customer’s organisation.

They implement a consistent, tenacious plan and stay on message to achieve their goals. Does your procurement team have an account plan for your stakeholders? Do they stay “on message”? Are they focused on sticking to the plan?

Have single point accountability – This was a topic raised at a dinner hosted by Lucy Harding at executive recruiters, Odgers Berndtson, in London late last month. Most organisations can’t afford to have a separate role, or full time staff member, dedicated to business partnering.

Delighting the customer needs to be part of everyone’s role, but who is ultimately accountable for satisfying each internal customer needs to be made clear.

Have a story to tell – a USP – Procurement spends a huge amount of time listening to the unique selling proposition (USP) of its sales people and suppliers. We need to craft our own stories about our service, how we can help the business, and why we will drive value for stakeholders.

Ultimately, it’s about making our stakeholders, (who are really our customers), feel the love. As I wrote in a previous blog, building credibility, listening to our customers, and translating this into knowing what they do and don’t want, is critical for the process of business partnering. 

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

A Seat at the Table, or Procurement to Go?

‘Procurement to Go’ is about building a fast, reliable and flexible function that’s always one step ahead of changing business needs.

Procurement to go

In her recent article, PASA’s Jeni Christensen shared her concern about the region’s “shocking” lack of Professional Procurement. The target, Christensen writes, is to have a CPO at every boardroom table, and she shares a series of very valid steps about how to get there. New-York based Justin Hughes (PA Consulting Group) has also recently written an article about how a seat at the top table is “something procurement has to earn”.

But is board membership really the answer? I’d like to present an alternative view.

You don’t need a seat at the table if you have the right level of influence

Let’s face it – getting a seat at the boardroom table has been a recurring theme amongst procurement professionals for nearly a decade now. It’s a consequence of procurement’s historical back-room role, and a perceived fix for a host of procurement frustrations, including organisational compliance.

Chris Lynch, Global CFO of Rio Tinto, told delegates at the 2015 Asia-Pacific CPO Forum that the focus on board representation wasn’t the answer: “Forget reporting lines – just put procurement in the ‘winners’ circle’”.

Getting into the winners’ circle is all about influence. According to The Faculty Roundtable member, and leading CPO, David Henchliffe, “Business leaders need to get the value good procurement practises can deliver, and be strong advocates for the function. It’s our job to make sure they get it.”

In Henchliffe’s opinion, the preoccupation with board or senior leadership team membership is misguided. Deliver value to the business and CPOs will be invited to join in broader business-level planning and decision making.

The situation may not be as dire as PASA and Christensen suggest. Procurement has made enormous progress from its formerly transactional, back-office position, to become strategic partners in the business, predominantly through strong performance and better communication of the value it brings to organisations.

According to The Faculty’s recent Benchmarking Review, procurement’s influence continues to grow, with managed spend at an average of 72 per cent this year, up from 68 per cent in the previous review. CPOs are regarded as “highly influential” by surveyed procurement teams, stakeholders and suppliers, again pointing to improved communication and articulation of value to the C-Level.

How to ensure board members and senior leadership team members “get” procurement

Relevance through flexibility and agility is key. Henchliffe has seen his own organisation shift dramatically from an emphasis on growth and delivery to a critical focus on reducing the total cost of the business.  Procurement’s role, therefore, is to always be in step with the business’s requirements and to make sure the function can rapidly respond to the constantly changing business environment.

To flesh out the “table” metaphor, the boardroom/senior leadership team menu itself never remains static. Procurement needs to position itself as an ultra-flexible function that’s always ready to deliver – at top speed – anything that is required. Think of it as ‘Procurement to Go’ – fast, reliable, flexible, and a world away from the old, glacial speed of delivery.

Ron Brown, a highly experienced CPO across the Resource and FMCG sectors, says that the importance of nurturing capability cannot be underestimated if you want to stay relevant. “Hiring for and building capability around flexibility, driving value and managing risks is now integral”, Brown says. “If you want procurement to remain relevant, focus on capability and relationship building to ensure you’re a key part of the business strategy and performance”.

In summary, CPOs should focus on staying relevant by offering the business ‘Procurement to Go’ through flexibility, adaptability and concentrating on ensuring board members “get” procurement. Once this is achieved, CPOs can use this influence to achieve their goals and enable the profession as a whole to move on from the unhelpful fixation on boardroom representation.

The Faculty Roundtable is an influential group of Australian procurement leaders, who gather to share their experiences and insights. In May, The Faculty will be hosting their ninth Asia-Pacific CPO Forum, the region’s premier procurement event dedicated to accelerating commercial leadership at the highest level.

For more information on The Faculty Roundtable or CPO Forum, contact Program Manager, Belinda Toohey.