Tag Archives: IBM

How To Avoid Transaction Automation Landmines

When it comes to implementing transaction automation, managing the trade-off between the speed of execution and the granularity of data is a challenge…

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 3 of Conducting a Cognitive Symphony Anna Madarasz, Analytics & Cognitive Lead , IBM Global Procurement discusses the importance of appropriately applied transaction automation, striking a balance between speed of execution and granularity of data and how to avoid landmines.

The importance of transaction automation

Marco Romano, Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM discusses  taxonomy in his white paper, “Transaction automation is a business necessity.

“We all want to spend less time doing repetitive lower-value work and use our skills to provide higher-value services to the business. However, as with many good things, badly applied transaction automation results in poor data and ultimately lost productivity and analytics effectiveness down the road.”

Transaction automation landmines

Procurement organisations are usually very well intentioned when it comes to the implementation of transaction automation but that’s not to say the process is without its challenges. We asked Anna to describe some of the landmines she’s seen procurement professionals hit.

Catalogs or other automation processes that allow the editing of item description and price can make the life of the client and the buyers easier.

As companies  see the positive effect of this they are likely to have a higher percentage of their transactions and spend going through catalogs.

The risk with this, as Anna points out, is  setting yourself unrealistic targets, “there is always a logical threshold, over which it is a risk to apply automation. Of course, you will not implement a catalog line if you  only have two purchase orders of the same nature in a year.

“With wrongly defined targets, a catalog isn’t going to decide action and then, of course, you spend more time on creating and maintaining your catalogs than creating your purchase orders.

Bulk Purchases

Anna also advises avoiding the catalog lines that allow bulk purchases.

“Many times it is really not easy to identify the purchase in a fixed line. Let’s say you are buying server configurations [or] storage configurations. Those are made up of multiple parts, so you  have hardware, software and services elements in it.

“A configuration can be made up of 50, 100 lines. If you allow your clients and your buyers to raise purchase orders simply as a one line item, this server [could cost] one million US dollars!”

“Of course, it’s a really sensitive balance because you also want to avoid the workload of raising incredibly granular purchase orders, so it is really your call at what level you would like to analyse [a given category.]”

“If this is a category which is your main area of focus, then try to go granular, try to get the data. If it’s not, then it’s your call if you are allowing these bulk purchases.”

The trade off

“There is always going to be a trade-off between speed of execution and granularity of data” says Marco

“Finding the right balance again takes us back to developing an understanding of what data we need to achieve our desired cognitive and analytics state. There is no doubt that teaming with the right technology and innovation provider, and selecting the right tools, is critical to that balance”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series runs throughout this week and will have your orchestrating cognitive success in no time! Register here.

Is Your Taxonomy Flexible and Multidimensional?

For a taxonomy to be effective, and feed a cognitive engine, it needs to be multidimensional, flexible, and situation based…

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 2 of the series, Anna Madarasz, Analytics & Cognitive Lead , IBM Global Procurement discusses how procurement pros are using taxonomy today, assesses homegrown taxonomy versus industry standards and explains why an effective taxonomy needs to be flexible, multidimensional and situation based.

What is taxonomy?

Marco Romano, Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM defines taxonomy in his white paper, as follows “Simply put, taxonomy is a hierarchical representation of data, products and services into logical groupings through the application of an alphanumeric scheme of sorts.

“Sometimes, these are industry standards and sometimes, they are locally-devised schemes to meet individual needs. These conventions are useful for purposes of reporting spend or segregating categories into lower-level components.

“However, the world in which we operate is not hierarchical; it is more like a network of many disparate parts of an ecosystem that is constantly interacting and evolving, and that it needs to be intertwined together to drive value

“for a taxonomy to be effective, and to feed a cognitive engine, the taxonomy actually needs to be multidimensional, flexible, and situation based.”

What does this mean?

1. Flexible

“There’s a level of flexibility you have to have, and usually if you do have a homegrown taxonomy, then it is there by nature” explains Anna.

Problems can arise within organisations when there is no global standard and different regions adopt different practices. “Let’s say one of your geographies breaks down their software license spend into accounting software or project management software. Whilst another geography chooses to break down their software spend into whether that software license is delivered electronically or non-electronically.”

Of course, you can’t take much global insight from this. So it is important to enforce some level of standard taxonomy. “But, depending on the industry, depending on the geography, you have to allow a little bit of flexibility.”

2. Multidimensional

There are many dimensions of taxonomy. And, multidimensional means that you really have to define what you need that taxonomy for.  Sometimes it will be sufficient to have your homegrown taxonomy, other times it might be preferable to have an industry standard such as UNSPSC. If, for example, you want to monitor the price trend of a certain product, then you will definitely need an OEM part number.”

“Multidimensional means that you really have to define what you need that taxonomy for.”

An OEM part number, for example, clearly defines a certain product or a certain service. If you have a notebook in front of you, and you type the OEM part number into a browser, your search will return exactly the same notebook.

You might however,  want to go down to the component level and ask what characterises that notebook?

“Is it the screen size, it is the memory, and so on, and so on? If you want to look for a comparable product in your catalog then  you need ontology.”

“If your business challenge is to note which supplier is providing a certain model of notebook cheaper then it won’t be enough for you to have an eight-digit UNSPSC code defining the notebook.”

3. Situations-based

In his white paper Marco states “It is not about how you buy, but rather what you buy. I would argue that an appropriate taxonomy is about identifying how you resolve a business problem through products or services.”

“Try to use taxonomy for future transactions. Trying to predict what your prices will be, trying to evaluate whether the quotations, whether the bill of material in front of you is competitive enough. Or use it for risk evaluation. There are endless opportunities, but it really all depends on setting up the proper categories.”

“What you should keep in your mind” advises Anna “is that you have to come up with a powerful combination of these taxonomy characteristics.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series runs throughout this week and will have your orchestrating cognitive success in no time! Register here. 

Is Your Procurement Data Fit For Purpose?

How do you know when your data is fit for purpose? Start by putting the why before the what!

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 1 of the series, Marco Romano – Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM, talks about the development of data strategy, how to determine if a data source is fit for purpose and understanding the data that you want to see.

“To me the cognitive and analytic strategy really starts with the data strategy” explains Marco, “how we acquire, enrich, store and curate our data. Then it really becomes about what you do to that data to bring business value and actionable insights.

“I’d argue anything’s possible quite honestly, limited only by our imagination and one very important point, which is the quality and quantity of the data that’s available to us.”

The orchestra analogy

So where did the orchestra analogy come from?

“When you sit there at the start of a performance invariably you’re hearing these individual members tuning their instruments – warming up.

“It’s very melodic and you really get to hear the class of the instrument and the performer. But it’s really when the conductor walks on stage and all of those instruments are played together in harmony, that’s when it really becomes incredible.

That’s when the goosebumps come in and you hear the power of the sound.”

So how does this translate into data and insights? “One good piece of data is absolutely valuable and can really help you make better business decisions” says Marco. “But like an orchestra, a collection of this transformed data, properly orchestrated to provide these varied and powerful insights at the right time and in the right format for the intended audience really gives you that competitive advantage and operational efficiency.”

“You really need everyone playing from the same sheet of music, or the same hymn sheet!”

Putting the why before the what!

If the foundation to cognitive strategy is the acquisition of data, what kind of data should we be seeking to acquire? It’s easy to think about it in a one dimensional way, only considering one or two sources of data. But in reality data is coming from multiple sources. So where should we be looking for it?

“I think before you even answer the question of what data is it that you need, you really need to address the question of why you need it” explains Marco.

“What is the business outcome that you’re trying to drive? What is it that you want to achieve by acquiring this data? Then I think you can start to determine what data you need, and how you go about acquiring it and enriching it.

“I’ve seen an awful lot of effort go into acquiring data that never results in a business action. Not because it was bad data but it was just not fit for purpose. I think the importance here is that it is fit for purpose at the time that it’s needed and of course for the intended recipient.”

How do you know when your data is fit for purpose?

What are some of the things that you do to determine if a data source or a potential data source is fit for purpose, before you go down the road of actually trying to acquire and cleanse and build it into your models?

Marco firmly believes that you have to start with establishing what the intended outcome is that you want.

Secondly, “there is a point, which we of course have to consider, and that’s ROI. We can’t afford to throw manual resources off to fully invested activities. Some data is extremely difficult to come by, or extremely difficult to get to the level of quality that we need.

“I think you need to have a clear line of sight, of how these insights are going to allow you to change business course or alter business strategy and effect an outcome. Then you can start to also establish to what degree this data will help you achieve that?”

Ask yourself “how much impact is that data going to have, and in turn you can start to then make sensible decisions about ROI and the type of data that you need.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series starts today! Register here.

I Don’t Have Time To Do Market Price Research

We’ve all experienced it – a niggling feeling that we could have gotten a lower price for a product or service … if only we’d done our research. But who has that sort of time?

IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, is concerned that his peers around the globe aren’t getting a proper night’s rest.

“Chief Procurement Officers lose sleep at night worrying that their procurement teams are buying over market prices or that falling prices in a particular category of spending are not being rapidly achieved.”

Access to data on historical prices paid and current market conditions isn’t the problem. The data is out there, and readily available, but it takes time and resources to do the research, and it’s a never-ending task.

Monitoring the market is too big a job for a single person, which leaves our sleepless CPO with two options:

A) Carve out an entire team to do the research, or

B) Bring in Artificial Intelligence through a robot to augment the team capabilities.

And that’s what IBM has done. The procurement team collaborated with data scientists and developers to design a solution harnessing external data and analytics that provides users with market intelligence, historic IBM purchasing data, and market sentiment surrounding subcontractor services. IBM Watson Analytics partners with “PeopleTicker” to ingest real-time, external market intelligence providing a comprehensive view of global markets. By comparing historical data with current market information, buyers get an immediate view on the price difference that may be available, enabling new levels of cost competitiveness to be achieved.

The result is “Pricing IQ”, a product where millions of data points can be efficiently organised with interactive graphics and visually clear dashboards where useful trends and insights can be identified. This solution opens opportunities for live price negotiation via the use of advanced analytics – with significantly reduced manual workload for the buyer.

Alongside Watson Analytics, Watson’s Explorer and Alchemy software capture key words and provides sentiment analysis to indicate rising or falling markets. Additionally, PeopleTicker’s data is integrated within the “Pricing IQ” product enabling a seamless solution for our customers. “We have been using PeopleTicker internally now for over 2 years. As a client, they have provided us with over 10,000 global rates. What started as a client relationship has grown into a Watson Analytics partnership.”

Real time insights

If you’re hurtling down a freeway in a high-performance car, having a speedometer that only shows yesterday’s speed isn’t going to help you. That’s why access to genuinely real- time data is emerging as one of the key competitive advantages across procurement functions. The team that developed Pricing IQ recognised this, and have built in real-time alerts for action.

Take A Bow, Pricing IQ

You’ll be hearing a lot more about Pricing IQ, especially since the solution won the Most Innovative Use of Technology Award at the 2017 CIPS Supply Management Awards.

Like all good innovators, the IBM team identified a significant pain-point held in common by procurement teams across the globe, and came up with an idea that eases the burden.

So, the next time you’re manually wading through reams of pricing data and wondering to yourself if there’s a better way – be assured, there is.

Four Essential Capabilities For Your Procurement 2020 Roadmap

Procurement 2020 will look a little different with new skills, knowledge and tools to address entirely new challenges. Procurement has seen rapid change in a relatively short span, the value creation of this function has increased multi fold becoming more strategic, collaborative and technology driven. This momentum is expected to continue and quicken in the coming years. Procurement will emerge in the forefront as an important and integral function of an enterprise.

The Hackett Group’s research showed that 85 per cent of the procurement organisation believe that digital transformation will change the way they deliver services over the next 3 -5 years. To stay competitive, procurement needs to embrace disruptive effects of technological innovation in conjunction with organisation which is lean, agile and responsive to stakeholders and suppliers.

It is imperative for the procurement function to develop journey roadmap on four essential capabilities that are vital for future – Digital Transformation, Supplier Relationship, Stakeholder Engagement and Talent. The first step in this journey will be to fully understand how the procurement landscape is shifting.

Procurement in 2020 will look very different with new skills, knowledge and tools to address entirely new challenges. Organisations that fail to embrace new procurement models may fall behind the competition, jeopardising overall competitiveness and viability.

Digital Transformation

Procurement is effectively positioned to join the Digital revolution. It can offer a radically different value proposition to the organisation as Robotics Process Automation, cloud based applications, Big Data analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Computing begin to converge. These smart tools will improve service delivery, reduce errors and free procurement staff for higher value work.

Technology provides dual track opportunities to support ‘upstream’ or Source to Contract (S2C) and ‘downstream’ or Procure to Pay (P2P) which predominately consists of operational, repetitive and transactional activities.

Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Crowd Sourcing, Live Digital Dashboards can be effectively used for decision making accurately and with speed to support ‘upstream’ while Robotics Process Automation is widely used to drive efficiency and effectiveness ‘downstream’.

Robots interact with different IT applications to enable transaction processing, data manipulations and communication across multiple IT systems. In effect, multiple Robots can act as virtual workforce to process operational and transactional activities. This could allow CPOs’ to rebalance their functions upstream and reducing the focus on downstream activities.

Supplier Relationship

With the advent of technology, the organisations have started to realise the growing importance of suppliers in terms of innovation, security of supplies, corporate social responsibilities, risk mitigation and cost savings. Strategic partnership will be at the top of the corporate agenda and Supplier Relationship Management will be seen as significant differentiator.

Supplier Relationship Management is systematic approach for developing and managing partnership. It is focused on joint growth and value creation with limited number of suppliers based on trust, open communication, empathy and win – win orientation.

The 4C’s model will govern the future of Supplier Relationship Management – Capabilities, Continuous Growth, Customer of Choice and Creating value.

The speed of business continues to accelerate, market expectations are higher, product life cycles are shorter, turnaround times are faster and the risks are wider and deeper. Clearly organisations rely on suppliers to bring innovative and new products to their markets.

Essentially procurement will have sound understanding of supplier market across the world and be able to link their potentials and limitations. Demands on procurement to become more business oriented, more mature and integrated in its ways of working. All of these reinforces the need to re-invent robust supplier relationship management.

Suppliers are increasingly being looked upon as trusted business partners and engaging early and ensuring all parties are on track will propel procurement organisation to  greater heights.

Business Stakeholders

Procurement has been rapidly evolving to keep pace with the changing trends.  The procurement profession has made significant leads moving from price management to category management and in the future it becomes very clear that procurement will move from category management into value creation.

Becoming a trusted business advisor is a long drawn process and time consuming, it varies from person to person. The individual has to not only understand stakeholder needs but go beyond to understand the breadth of business challenges and develop deep personal relationship.

Most stakeholder relationships are at service provider and enhanced service provider level providing answers, sharing expertise and resolving business related problems. Relationship with stakeholders are usually good at a business level but have no real depth at a person level.

The challenge seen by many procurement professionals is to move from been seen as just a service provider into being recognized by stakeholders as a trusted advisor

Elevation to consultant requires more insights and ideas into the stakeholder organisation on broader business issues and also building a stronger personal relationship. This level of relationship could be achieved through focus, time and effort.

Few people achieve the trusted advisor relationship, where there is a comprehensive understanding of all the stakeholder needs and they look up and reach out as first person to help them tackle the difficult issues they are facing.

As the procurement function changes, it will need people with new skills. Apart from being comfortable with data, future procurement professionals will need to be prepared to lead rather than simply serve their business.

CPO’s should fundamentally rethink regarding their organisation and capabilities both of which needs to be reshaped over time. Companies have to create new job profiles such as buyer for new categories, contract experts on intellectual property or Data scientist for data maintenance, analysis and mining. Only if the procurement personnel are digitally capable can a company fully benefit from opportunities provided through digitalisation.

Procurement functions must follow Seven fundamental steps to manage Talent – Plan, Attract, Recruit, Assess, Develop and Retain.

The team must be digital savvy, ability to collaborate and build relationship with internal stakeholders as well as suppliers from diverse array of geographic and cultural backgrounds.

Negotiation skills and market insight will continue to be the fundamental skills but TCO across product lifecycle, cost structure analysis and game theory will emerge highly important skills in this field.

The professional credentials will be measured by their ability to influence, persuade, and provide vision, the mind set must be strategic, global, collaborative and above all commercial.

Conclusion

Shifting the procurement team from being tactically devoted to strategically focused can be a long journey for a company. But this journey can literally make the difference between company’s definite success or failure. There are still several actions to be tackled in order for procurement to gain deep business insight, react quickly to the changing needs, drive higher overall value and greater stakeholder satisfaction. Investing in activities to elevate the role of procurement within an organisation, moving beyond the traditional role of gate keeper and cost hunter will definitely bring added value to the organisation.

Procurement in Twenty 20 will mean developing new value propositions, meeting new business needs, and integrating data across functions. It will call for using data pro-actively and intelligently. Perhaps more important, it will require fundamental reshape of procurement organisation and its capabilities to take on new challenges.

This article was written by Kumaralingam MC, Director, Global Procurement Centers – IBM. It was orginally published on Shared Services Forum. 

Taking The Heat Out Of The Resolution Room

If you can’t take the heat get out of the resolution room! Or invite Watson! 

We’ve all been there. Something’s gone terribly wrong with a major customer delivery. Emails are flying around and there are rumours from HQ that “heads are going to roll”.  Everyone concerned has been summoned to “THE meeting” in order to resolve the supply chain issue.

We know what happens next; fists slamming, red faces, an embarrassing lack of data and a lot of verbal ping, pong. Eventually, a resolution is found.

But what happens when Watson is in the resolution room? Could this take the heat out of your supply chain disputes?

 What is a Resolution Room?

A Resolution Room provides the organisation the ability to collaborate quickly to resolve supply disruptions. Users can discuss and resolve issues with other colleagues, business partners, or their suppliers. What distinguishes Resolution Rooms from all other collaboration platforms is Watson.

What does it mean to have Watson in the resolution room?

The big benefit of Watson being in the resolution room is that it recommends experts, provides insight from all data and actionable advice based on learned best practices.  Over time, it leverages Watson’s capability to develop a body of knowledge by learning how issues were best addressed in the past.  This enables greater speed and accuracy in responding to future events.

“Watson provides the opportunity to deliver business value and insights from all of these data insights – structured and unstructured, data from weather patterns, news, D&B and supplier IQ,” explains Joanne Wright, Chief Supply Chain Officer, IBM.

“It does this with speed and accuracy. No more are we saying ‘OK…let’s get the data and meet again tomorrow’ because Watson takes my team’s input and incorporates that into the next iteration as we go.”

Watson In The Resolution Room: A Case Study

IBM Watson is always a room participant, so you can draw on Watson’s expertise using natural language to ask a question, for example: @Watson what is the status of order ABC123?

Imagine the following scenario; A Late Shipment alert in the Ops Center reveals that orders of your most popular drone are in jeopardy because the shortage of the entire supply of a critical part, a lithium battery, has been delayed. You create a Resolution Room to manage the incident collectively.

Watson is in the room.

Whilst your team discusses how best to manage the problem you have the ease of asking Watson questions such as:

  • Which customer has the most sales dollars that will be late?
  • What are the financial impacts of any late orders?
  • Have we experienced this problem before? Who are the experts who have worked on these similar issues in the past?
  • Are there any alternate suppliers for part number 46001?
  • Why is there a shortage of lithium batteries?

Watson can provide answers to questions such as these based on the data available in the data model and in other Resolution Rooms. Learning over time, it becomes smarter and able to provide better insights about your supply chain.

Click here to try a Resolution Room demo. 

Got a big idea you want to push through a big company or simply want to learn more about Watson and the Resolution Room?

Sign up for next week’s procurement webinar, How IBM Built the Cognitive Supply Chain of the Future. hosted by Tania Seary and featuring IBM’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Joanne Wright. 

2017 Rewind – Do You Have The Right Skills To Deliver On Tomorrow’s Procurement Strategy

As part of our 2017 Procurious rewind, we’re taking a look at the top blogs of the year. This piece looks at why are our procurement teams are falling so short when it comes to delivering on strategy? 

Shockingly, 60 per cent of CPOs believe their teams do not have the skills to deliver their procurement strategy, according to Deloitte’s “Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey 2017.”

Why are procurement teams falling so short?

Originally, procurement was heavily based on process management, negotiation and basic spend analysis. But the procurement function is evolving, and professionals have to adapt to a new environment . There are new and growing expectations that require alternate skills for a more advanced job profile.

Procurement professionals are expected to be much more analytical, with the ability to perform data mining. They also must learn to manipulate and understand financial data and indicators, such as P&L and balance sheets. That’s not to mention that they should be proficient with the latest technologies.

Yet, one of the most important skills to develop is customer centricity. In today’s customer-centric world, this becomes crucial.

In my opinion, understanding internal customers,  being able to communicate in their language, knowing what they want or helping them to understand what they need, is the most difficult skill to learn and develop because it often goes against the conventional and traditional training that many procurement professionals have received.

It’s time to stop hiding behind the processes and get to know the internal customers! Given the back-office environment we are coming from, there is still a lot to do to change the mind-set and the behaviour of those involved. Procurement professionals need to develop their consultative skills and become less process focused, since excessive process significantly impedes speed and agility.

Keeping It Fresh

Another challenge for procurement involves attracting and retaining fresh talent in our industry. This situation needs to be addressed now to prevent a significant skills gap within the next couple of years. While we still have to continue to build traditional procurement skills. We also need to recognise that these skills must evolve as analytic and cognitive solutions provide more refined data and insight. The challenge is less about finding someone who is an expert negotiator and more about recruiting someone who understands data and logic.

At IBM, we are currently hiring maths and statistics majors because they can understand trends and probabilities. Although many procurement skills can be taught,  it’s hard to train someone to find trends in complex data.

Taking IBM’s example, our strategy to recruit and retain talent is reflected in how we communicate our procurement roles. “Our Procurement strategy is about collaborating with customers to ensure they have best in-class solutions, with access to the most advanced technology available on mobile devices. We partner with our suppliers to be as innovative and creative as possible.”

Presented like this, a job in procurement sounds pretty exciting!

The party ain’t over yet!

And the party isn’t over once we’ve found the right skills and talent, we also need to keep that skilled staff within the procurement function! If we help employees build on their competencies as well as add new ones, and if they can see that their contribution to the company’s mission clearly makes a difference, it will help us to keep those employees in procurement.

Ultimately, modernising the procurement profession and making procurement a “cool” place to work will help retain a talented, skilled and motivated workforce.

5 Soft Skills Procurement Pros Should Be Developing…NOW!

If you want to hold on to your procurement career  in the long term, you ought to be worrying about mastering your soft skills!Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.

We got wind of the fact that IBM, arguably the world’s most robotically advanced procurement team,  is focussing on its employees’ soft skills.

As Justin Mcbryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM, explained,  why would IBM need a high volume of data scientists in their midst when they have Watson!?

Technological advancements will soon permit the automation of our processes; handling the sourcing and the market intelligence. In this environment, it’s the softer skills procurement professionals must master to ensure a long-term career.  That’s the real skills gap procurement should be worried about!

Ahead of next week’s webinar Beat The Bots – How Being Human Will Win The Day,  we outline the specific skills procurement pros should be mastering to prepare for the post-cognitive age, with the help of Justin and our second webinar speaker John Viner Smith, Principal-Mercer.

1. Design Thinking

There are some “incredible and transformative technologies that offer solutions to problems that were unimaginable just a few years ago ,but they’re just half of the puzzle.” begins John.

“Subject matter experts will have a role to play in framing  [these problems] in the most efficient way.”  It’s important that the solutions aren’t simply “sticking plasters but fundamental root cause fixes”.

This is a role for procurement’s best and brightest, and the skill needed to fulfil this role is Design Thinking; “the process of being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to bear on business problems.”

2. Thinking at the speed of digital!

Joh asserted that procurement must recognise that “thinking of digital solutions requires some understanding of new processes and ways of thinking.”

“Procurement people should be learning about methodologies like Google’s Design Sprint or Eric Ries’ concept of Intrapreneurship as defined in the Lean Startup that are used in other types of digital business.

“Too often procurement thinking is slow, bound in process and incredibly risk averse. Technology problem solving is experimental, iterative and views failures as key to learning. The idea of developing hypotheses, testing them, failing fast and iterating or pivoting in the course of a week, as per Google’s Sprint methods, would be alien to many Procurement people.”

Procurement has worked at a certain pace,  thus far. And it’s going to  have to get faster!

3. Active questioning and listening

This wouldn’t be a piece about soft skills without a mention of communication! We already know how important this skill is for procurement people but it’s going to be all the more valuable in a post-cognivite age.

Justin reminded us that communication is vital for everything “from presentation skills to phone etiquette and how to ask probing questions to your suppliers.”

In a post cognitive world you’re “going to become more of an owner and less of a process facilitator” asserts Justin, which is where active listening comes in.

When it comes to managing negotiations with suppliers, clients and colleagues, “We all have scripts e.g. How many widgets do you need, when do you need them by etc.”

“Every now  and then, you’ll have  been in a situation where a client has given a little bit more than you asked for. This is where the active [and critical] listening comes in.” How do you use that information to do the best job possible?

4. Negotiation

“We rely on the threat of competitive pressure to do our negotiating for us” says John.

“We source the spec and don’t always listen to challenges from Suppliers. When we’re engaging them to help solve complex problems, we will need to be more commercially empowered and highly skilled negotiators; able to get the best from our suppliers by offering the best of ourselves while optimising value.”

5. Imagination

“The future role of procurement can be solved in one phrase: problem solving” says John.

But procurement’s problem solving needs to take on a more innovative and imaginative approach.

“Not every situation is going to call for an RFX” explains Justin. “That speaks directly to the change we’re looking for [at IBM].” Too often “we see a need and our reaction from a process point is let’s go and do the RFX.”  Instead professionals “should take a deep breath and start understanding the client and exactly what they need,” and approach the problem in alternate ways.

John concedes, arguing that “running tender might be the solution (increasingly rarely!) but collaborative innovation with the suppliers we have is important.”

Procurement peoples’ jobs will largely focus on bringing innovation to the supply chain in the first place and really helping the business to understand their demand.

In short, Procurement needs to have a relationship with the organisation that is much more strategic and puts the function in a partnering and consultative role.  As Justin sums up, ‘ [at IBM] We’re still looking for the procurement experts, we’re still looking for people who can do the job. But we’re adding to the soft skills portfolio.”

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Cognitive Process Automation Is So Much More Than Robots

With 45 per cent of business processes having the potential to be automated, it’s of little surprise that organisations are embracing the opportunity presented by technology.

On 30th October, we’re bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Melbourne! Want to join us? Grab a ticket here to secure you seat! 

Shifting business landscapes, a relentless focus on cost reduction and the intensification of competition to even retain, much less grow the customer base, means every opportunity to optimise needs to be explored.

For many robotics and robotics processes, automation is the starting point. To unlock full and sustainable value, organisations need to look beyond a point solution approach. Re-imagining the way the organisation operates at its core and using technology to enable new ways of working is what cognitive process automation is really about and that is how the magic can really start to happen.

You really do need a strategy

Identifying a potential process and even deploying a robot, can be done very quickly. In the absence of a strategy however, many organisations are often faced with the question of how they actually measure the value. Are the benefits real? Why am I not seeing the impact in my downstream metrics and performance? Once answered, the next discrete process component should be how and where to deploy robotics at scale to drive the business outcomes that impact the company performance.

Having a strategy is a fundamental building block. It enables the agenda to be defined, set and consistently reinforced. It becomes the reference point for what, how and why things are being done and this shift is what elevates the automation opportunity beyond simple cost take-out. A robust strategy should articulate how process automation (robotics + cognitive computing) can drive strategic growth, optimisation of the customer experience and enhanced employee engagement. It’s a formula for significant and sustained benefits and more importantly, they can be captured quickly.

Even virtual systems can cast a shadow

The idea that technology on its own is all that is needed often leads organisations to failing to consider the impact on people and processes. Legacy systems and functions set up to support them, and often work around them, means the people and process component are intrinsically linked.

Organisations need to fundamentally rethink their current operating models and envisage the framework they need to put in place to enable automation of business processes. In the cognitive computing world, business processes can be reconfigured in minutes not months. When this is not done, the ‘shadow’ organisation emerges. People and processes remain the same, or even more disappointingly, grow in complexity to accommodate the technology that has been implemented.

Where does cognitive computing fit in? 

In the automation agenda, cognitive computing can unlock new sources of value. Insight driven decision making becomes the way of doing business and simulation capability enables testing of ideas and hypotheses quickly for agility. For one client, this means 50M+ calculations in under 10 sec.

Adding natural language processing and the ability to leverage data that has never been used before from unstructured data sources becomes the way of doing business. Robots adjust and adapt using cognitive self-learning capabilities.

And what does this mean for people? Talent is key enabler of organisational value and in the world of cognitive process automation, it’s all about enabling people to focus on high value work. The relationship between people and machine becomes one of continuous learning from one another, enhancing the work that people do. People + Process + Technology; it’s a formula for competitive advantage.

This article was written by Alice Sidhu – Partner, Digital and Cognitive Business Transformation, IBM.

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Does Your Procurement Team Have The Human Touch?

We’ve had quite enough of the scare-mongering out there that says the robots are coming to steal our jobs! We’ve got some inside info that suggests having a human touch in your procurement team is by far the most important thing!

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

We’ve heard it all before, right? Cognitive technology is coming and, in case you hadn’t gathered, it’s a pretty big deal.

By 2020 all of our important procurement decisions will be made with the assistance of artificial intelligence. We know that our teams must “transform or die” if we don’t want the function reduced to the back office,  facing extinction.

Given the scare mongering and hype around AI, most procurement professionals have accepted that they must map out their cognitive journeys, hone their skills and prepare for a very different future.

But what does that future look like?  Are procurement teams of the future made up entirely of savvy data scientists? Can you even have a future in procurement if you’re not a data whizz?

Can you beat the bots with the human touch?

Our latest webinar, in partnership with IBM, takes the more optimistic, and realistic, approach that humans can, and will, win the day!

The idea that everyone needs to be a data scientist is a total  fallacy. In reality, only a very small percentage of the workplace actually needs these skills. The rest of the procurement workforce will need to be managing relationships with the supply chain ecosystem.

If cognitive technology like IBM’s Watson can handle the sourcing, the market intelligence and the data, the biggest gap for procurement to worry about is soft skills.

Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day examines how procurement’s role is transforming. We explore why the function needs to develop arelationship with the organisation that is much more strategic, placing it in a partnering and consultative role.

Think you could do with learning more about the importance of soft skills in the cognitive age, and which ones you should be concentrating on within your teams?  Sign up for our webinar on 24th October and check out our FAQs below for all the information you require:

What content can I expect from the webinar?

We’ll be discussing:

  • What cognitive tools are on the horizon?
  • How will the advancement of cognitive technology be an enabler, and not the disabler, of your procurement career?
  • Why  is the most robotically advanced procurement team in the world, focusing on their employees soft skills?
  • How can procurement teams map out their cognitive and talent journeys alongside each other?
  • If soft skills are king, which ones should you be developing?

Who are the guest speakers?

Tania Seary – Founder, Procurious

A true procurement entrepreneur, Tania is the Founding Chairman of Procurious, The Faculty and The Source. Throughout her career, Tania has been wholly committed to raising the profile of the procurement profession and connecting its leaders.

After finishing her MBA at Pennsylvania State University, Tania became one of Alcoa’s first global commodity managers.

In 2016, Tania was recognised by IBM as a #NewWaytoEngage Futurist and named “Influencer of the Year” by Supply Chain Dive. She hosts regular procurement webinars, and presents at high-profile events around the world.

John Viner-Smith – Principal, Mercer 

John earned his masters in international procurement from Kedge Business School in Bordeaux in 2003 and went to work at JPMorgan Chase as HR Sourcing Manager for EMEA.

After a couple of years at JPM he moved into consulting with ATKearney, specialising in Procurement work and stayed in Consulting until 2009 (he moved to Deloitte) until moving back into industry with Dixons Stores Group, where he was Senior Category Manager for Marketing and IT.

After that he spent two years as a Principal at KPMG in Shared Services and Outsourcing Advisory, where he became involved in work around Robotic Process Automation and Cognitive Computing in Shared Services environments before moving to Mercer to focus on a commercial excellence again.

He writes and lectures in leading business schools on the topic of Commercial Negotiation. John  currently live in Oxfordshire with his wife and two children.

Justin McBryan-  Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager, IBM

Justin has 20 years of Supply Chain experience and currently serves as IBM Procurements Learning & Development and Strategy Leader at IBM.
He has most recently been a Supply Chain Consultant for IBM specialising in logistics and procurement across numerous Industry verticals around the globe, including extended work in China, Mexico, Canada and Europe.
Justin’s passion for learning and development stems from his desire to collaborate and scale expertise through large organizations. Justin is a proud graduate of Loyola University-New Orleans and currently resides in New York City with his wife.

How do I register for the webinar?

Registering for our webinar couldn’t be easier (and, of course, it’s FREE!)

Click here to enter your details and confirm your attendance. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

I’m already a member of Procurious, do I still need to register?

Yes! If you are already a member of Procurious you must still register to access the webinar via this platform. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

When is it taking place?

The webinar will take place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017

Help! I can’t make it to the live-stream

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask a question?

If you’re listening live, our speakers would love to hear your questions and we’d love for you to pick their brains . Questions can be submitted throughout the live stream via the webinar platform, or via Twitter when you tag #Beatthebots @procurious_

If you think of a brilliant question after the event, feel free to submit your question via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.