Tag Archives: innovation

3 Ways Procurement Can Make A Lasting Impact On The Organisation

Advanced procurement functions, and the CPOs that lead them, can make a significant and lasting impact on the success of their companies, but only by focusing on the real value and innovation that suppliers can bring…

By Jacob Lund/ Shutterstock

There’s no doubt that procurement enjoys a privileged position in a company’s value chain. Sitting between a network of thousands of suppliers and the business, it has clear visibility of customer need, company strategy and the capabilities that exist in the supply base

From such a position, advanced procurement functions, and the chief procurement officers (CPOs) that lead them, can make a significant and lasting impact on the success of their companies, but only by focusing on the real value and innovation that suppliers can bring and how this can support the organisation’s ultimate value proposition.

To do so, procurement must drive change in three broad areas. Firstly, CPOs must address the procurement operating model so it is better aligned with company strategy and end-customer value. Historically, procurement has segmented third-party spend into categories, from raw materials to office furniture to semiconductors and so on, with the ultimate goal of leveraging scale to reduce price, while also managing risk and quality.

Smart chief executives, however, will be far more interested in how suppliers can enhance the product portfolio to maximise the company’s competitive position in the market. Aligning the supply base around that portfolio will enable supplier innovations to feed more successfully into that goal and ensure collaboration with suppliers is more productive and more focused on value creation.

Of course, this isn’t feasible for every last drop of third-party spending so CPOs must differentiate between core and non-core spend, so 100 per cent of the procurement function’s energy can be applied to those suppliers that really matter.

Secondly, for this to be feasible, CPOs must ensure procurement is a frictionless experience for those in the business who buy as part of their role. Every effort should be made to automate through digital technologies and platforms, so the actual buying process is seamless and efficient.

Robust governance and a sophisticated suite of digital technologies that have been designed with the end-user in mind must underpin such an environment. And the ultimate goal must be to reduce the time and resource spent on non-core products and services, without sacrificing low cost, impacting quality or introducing risk.

This laser-guided focus on execution must be a cross-functional effort, so the right specifications are secured and any savings go straight to the bottom line and are locked into the profit and loss.

Thirdly, the very fundamentals of supply markets continue to evolve. It’s clear an increasing volume of the world’s innovation is being developed outside the walls of large corporates and big, traditional suppliers, with smaller, niche companies and startups working on new technologies and approaches that regularly disrupt traditional, incumbent markets.

Further, these non-traditional players work differently, are more agile, less process led, more open to collaboration and come with large amounts of risk. But despite this, corporates cannot afford to close their doors to the innovation taking place within them.

CPOs must develop the capability to engage with these outliers and engineer how the intellectual property they produce can be introduced into their organisation’s value chain, whether through traditional onboarding as suppliers, technology licensing, collaboration with other suppliers in the network or myriad other potential approaches.

In essence, CPOs must build and exploit supply networks, or ecosystems, capturing value during the collaboration that takes place between third parties at all points in the value chain.

None of this is straightforward and few organisations are even close to making it a reality. To be successful, it demands the support of a visionary chief executive who understands the dynamics at play in the supply base and beyond, as well as a procurement team full of intellectually curious, entrepreneurial and collaborative personalities.

But if done well, procurement will evolve from a position of controller to one of value architect, and one of the most critical functions in any modern corporation able to positively impact revenue, sustainability and profit targets.

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.  

Supplier-Enabled Innovation Is An Opportunity To Add Value

Businesses are tapping into the expertise of their supplier network to bring new products to market faster and streamline their processes.

By REDPIXEL.PL/ Shutterstock

Where do new ideas come from? For many organisations, the answer is research and development. But imagine if the R&D department included not only your own people, but those from hundreds or even thousands of your suppliers too.

This is the promise of supplier-enabled innovation (SEI), which enables companies to tap into the expertise of their supplier network to develop new products and services or refine existing ones.

It’s not exactly a new idea, but according to David Rae, head of the Supplier-Enabled Innovation Center, it is an underutilised one. “If you have thousands of suppliers and a portion of them have R&D divisions focused on your sector, then you’d be mad not to tap into that resource,” he says.

Companies that combine their innovation efforts with those of their suppliers typically bring products to market faster, giving them a competitive advantage. The inevitable risks and costs of developing new products or services are also spread among a wide network of stakeholders. And due to their specific expertise, suppliers are often able to suggest product improvements that are unlikely to occur to internal teams.

It makes sense to partner with companies specialising in a particular area, says Omer Abdullah, co-founder and managing director of The Smart Cube, which provides procurement, analytics and research expertise. He uses the example of a packaging supplier to illustrate the point. “They’re the ones who have a vested interest in knowing what the latest packaging types are, what the latest packaging sizes are and what are consumers demanding,” he explains.

That’s certainly true in the case of Bayer, which works closely with suppliers such as Schott to find the best packaging for specific drugs. By collaborating early in the ampoule or vial selection process, with Schott contributing its expertise in how certain active ingredients interact with different types of containers, new medication can be brought to market in a quick and safe manner.

The procurement team are ideally placed to drive the innovation partnerships behind SEI, acting as the link between internal R&D, sales and marketing teams, and suppliers. Johnson & Johnson, for example, has focused on turning procurement into a team of “innovation scouts”, seeking out suppliers who understand emerging trends and plan their business accordingly.

This is one of the vital elements of SEI: if you can’t find innovative suppliers to work with, then the whole concept quickly falls apart. If you’re interested in using SEI to improve your R&D function, for example, “you need to take into account things like what percentage of their [the supplier’s] revenue they are putting towards R&D, their strategic goals and where they’re actually headed as a company”, says Mr Rae.

It can be tempting to focus on the current supply chain when selecting SEI partners, but this may not offer the kind of cutting-edge innovation that will really expand internal capabilities, says Simon McGuire, health systems leader for Philips UK and Ireland. “I believe a good procurement team will ensure any supplier activity is initiated with clear alignment and agreement on capability gaps and unmet customer needs, together with an ability to secure the required technology and skillsets from the marketplace,” he says.

An awareness of market trends and shifts, competitor moves and the company’s own patent pipeline is also a key part of an informed view of what suppliers might be able to offer. “For me the most essential element of a good supplier partnership that will deliver is the strong alignment of goals and visions, with clear definitions, responsibilities and objectives from the start,” says Mr McGuire.

Online platforms are a relatively common way of communicating innovation challenges to supplier networks. Philips, for example, has an open innovation portal called SPICE, which allows suppliers, companies and individual inventors to collaborate to both view Philips innovation challenges and suggest ideas of their own. But the success of these platforms depends upon suppliers receiving relevant, timely feedback on their ideas and transparency around the development of any proposals.

Indeed, the trust at the heart of any good partnership flows both ways. “Surprisingly, suppliers do not always take their innovation first to their largest or even their most profitable, highest-margin customers,” says Clive R. Heal, a procurement innovation expert who leads Voicinn, a group of global innovation keynote speakers, and founded and led the Roche Innovation Center of Excellence. “They target customers with whom they have the closest relationships and see the best longer-term growth opportunities.”

Both companies should also be clear about who will own the intellectual property (IP) for any new products or services before embarking on a partnership. For instance, would a licensing approach, with the company granted exclusive rights to use a particular technology or service for an agreed period, work best? Or is a joint IP model the better option? Many innovation partnerships fail to clear this hurdle due to competing interests, Mr Heal points out.

Regardless of which ownership approach is agreed, successful SEI initiatives nearly always follow a long-term approach to innovation, focusing on mutual benefits for both customer and supplier. In other words, a true partnership that runs counter to the “not invented here” syndrome still found in many businesses.

“Overcoming this is difficult,” says Mr Rae. “But with the disruption now happening – the platform business models cropping up, the growth in startups, the fact that innovation is taking place everywhere and not just in R&D labs – companies will have to change, otherwise they’re going to get disrupted too.”

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.  

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Your Procurement Resolution: Don’t Settle For Best-In-Class

What better time to set and start tackling key objectives for 2019? Your new year’s resolution is to be better than best-in-class…

In this time of personal New Year’s resolutions, it seems appropriate for leaders to also consider a resolution for their departments. For Procurement leaders in particular there couldn’t be a better time to do so. In recent years, the function has made tremendous progress in transforming into a strategic value driver.

Yet, as leaders broadly acknowledge, this transformation journey still has a long way to go. A recent study by the Hackett Group found that only 63 per cent of procurement organisations have even developed a plan for digital transformation and 33 per cent bluntly stated their service does not meet customer expectations. A Forrester study on enabling smarter procurement found only 22 per cent believe their reporting and analysis is where it should be and only 22 per cent that they have the required agility to respond to changing requirements.

So what better time to set and start tackling key objectives for 2019?

My recommendation is to set an aspirational resolution that reflects procurement’s true potential. One that is distinct from your MBOs, which are likely based on continuous improvement of performance aimed at closing the gap with best-in-class.

The problem with best-in-class

There is nothing wrong with benchmarking yourself and striving to improve performance to match the best of your competition. Organisations should do so, especially if still early in their transformation journeys. Success will result in greater value to those organisations. But achieving best-in-class performance won’t result in procurement becoming truly strategic, and may actually hinder progress in the long term.

How is that so?

Look at it in the context of the World Cup (or the upcoming Superbowl). Every team in the tournament earned its spot by being the best in their region. Hence, each team can be said to be best-in-class. Yet only one is the champion and that team doesn’t win by playing at the same level as their best-in-class peers but by playing better, doing something critical differently. Best-in-class is not a competitive advantage in sports, nor in today’s increasingly winner-take-all market. It is a stepping stone on the path to true greatness.

If leaders are to build competitive advantage and truly drive strategic value, they have to think beyond best-in-class and view that as an interim objective on their transformation journeys. Leaders must ensure that the people and technology they embrace to navigate those journeys have the capability to take them the full way, and not become a constraint at some point.

Yes, your top competitors are doing this right now

What exactly does going beyond best-in-class entail? Is anyone actually doing this? Yes they are. Your top competitors are extending their competitive advantage even as you’re reading this. Below are just a couple of examples:

  • Revenue: A leading Telco leveraged the flexibility of our platform to create a private marketplace where suppliers can bid for used mobile phones in mass volumes, generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year
  • Innovation: In 2014 Meritor launched a three-year initiative to drive massive value by transforming their supply chain in what can be thought of as a drive to achieve best-in-class. They then followed that with a new initiative to unlock massive innovation through a unique approach to new product introductions, configuring our platform to their ideas. The result? Their stock price rose from $4.45 to $13.30 at the end of 2016 and much further since, far ahead of competitor growth.

Note that in both of these examples the teams implemented best-in-class processes and wanted quick value. It should never be a compromise. But they kept the ultimate objective in mind and brought on the right talent and technology to take them to the next level when ready.

The talent challenge

In any meeting with CPOs I have attended in recent years, the top pain point raised is attracting and retaining top talent. Talent that is up to the task of driving successful transformations, to best-in-class and beyond.

The above examples illustrate an important point about talent, and the symbiotic relationship with technology. What good is top talent if your systems are too rigid for them to bring their best ideas to life? Out of the box best practices are important, but that shouldn’t mean constraining yourself from doing a few strategic things differently.

Meritor has a great team with great ideas. So when deploying software, they took embedded best practices but ensured they had the flexibility to easily configure once they were ready for that next phase. This empowered them to realise a unique and innovative approach that supported their financial success.

Realise your true potential

So as we enter a new year, filled with endless challenges and opportunities I encourage you to set a procurement resolution. One that, if achieved, will set you on the path beyond best-in-class, to building a competitive advantage. One that will empower your talent to truly make procurement strategic and realise your true potential.

6 Top Tips From 6 Procurement Influencers

We interviewed some of procurement’s most influential leaders to hear their advice for the global procurement community. Here are there 6 top tips…

Are we running out of humans who can get the procurement job done?

Is the future office-free?

Should every procurement team have a Chief Data Officer?

How do you sell yourself, your team and the profession to the stakeholders that really matter?

Can procurement teams make themselves indispensable?

These are some of the questions that we addressed at last week’s Big Ideas Summit in London, where we brought together the top procurement minds to connect, collaborate and innovate.

Couldn’t join us on the day? Not a problem! We’ve documented all of the highlights for our digital delegates and pulled together this list of 6 top tips for procurement pros from some of the function’s most influential leaders.

1.Become an essential partner to the business – Bob Murphy CPO, IBM

IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, believes that while procurement leaders “need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge, their focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ, and their ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. Listening is critical – When we’re talking, we’re not learning.”

“Project management, empathy, innovative thinking and an agile mind-set are also critical skills at IBM.

“You hear a lot of people talk about procurement leaders becoming “trusted advisors” to their businesses, but I think we need to take it to the next level and become ‘essential partners.’

“We should enhance everything that we touch.”

Read more from Bob Murphy in this article.

2. Procure with Purpose – James Marland Vice President, SAP Ariba

James Marland, Vice President – SAP Ariba argued that it is an exciting time to be part of procurement an professionals should seize this opportunity. Procurement professionals are often told that they’re the ones who save the money, deal with suppliers and cut purchase orders.

But now procurement can have a new agenda; bringing to the table initiatives that achieve crucial social goals such as eradicating slave labour, improving sustainability and creating an inclusive and diverse workforce.

Take that opportunity and procure with purpose!

Read more from James Marland in this article. 

3.  Engineer Serendipity –  Greg Lindsay, Urbanist and Futurist

Greg Lindsay, Futurist, Urbanist, Journalist and Author, is a firm believer in the fact that innovation is fundamentally social. Indeed, case study after case study has demonstrated that the best ideas are more likely to arise from a casual chat around the water fountain than in any scheduled meeting.

They are the result of serendipity – a chance encounter at the right time by the right people, regardless of their rank, affiliation, and department or whether they even work for the same company.

The most innovative companies in the world are busy engineering serendipity and harnessing social networks and new ways of working designed to cultivate the discovery of new ideas. And that’s exactly what procurement should be doing!

Read more from Greg Lindsay in this article. 

4. Take More Risks – Professional Poker Player Caspar Berry

Professional poker player Caspar Berry believes “People are broadly hard wired to be risk-averse. It keeps them alive. Its kept our species alive for however many thousands of years.”

“What we call risk aversion is essentially a desire to succeed in the short term. And a desire to succeed is another way of describing a fear or aversion to loss and risk.

“I don’t judge anyone negatively for not being able to push the latitude and risk level but it’s important to engage in a conversation in order to try.

“Its our own results we’re sabotaging, sometimes inadvertently, if we don’t!”

Read more from Caspar Berry in this article. 

5. Gather data and do something with it- Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group

Top procurement teams achieve their superior performance because they have higher-caliber people who apply their skills to effectively harness digital technologies and capabilities.

Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group discussed the need for procurement professionals to develop two fundamental skills:

  1. Procurement has to get better at gathering and creating big data in order to provide meaningful insights for the business and go beyond the data that we have access to today.
  2. Procurement needs to improve their advanced analytics capabilities, to be able to look at data and draw out the opportunities it offers.

The future of procurement is not about the way we execute processes. It’s really about the insights and intelligence we provide to our organisations to give them an advantage.

Read more from The Hackett Group in this article.

6.  Prepare for the worst – Nick Ford, Co-Founder Odesma

Nick Ford, Co-founder – Odesma discussed how procurement professionals can help turn Brexit into an opportunity for their organisation.

It’s an uncertain time for procurement professionals; who must consider how the function will be impacted by an increase in the cost of imported goods, freedom of movement (or lack thereof!) and a potentially depleted talent pool.

As businesses prepare, the role for procurement teams is increasing dramatically and it’s a real opportunity to put procurement at the front and centre of organisations. We just need to prepare!

Read more from Nick Ford in this article. 

Want to explore more content and video footage from Big Ideas London 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to register as a digital delegate and gain access. 

Don’t be Fooled and Underestimate Blockchain

Do you find it comforting to dismiss blockchain as “flash in the pan”? Simona Pop believes you’d be a fool to do so and explains why it will live up to the hype.

There is a pattern emerging where new technologies are treated with a certain degree of skepticism. After the initial wave of excitement and expectation, many of the game changing advances are suddenly approached with a “flash in the pan” dismissal.

Is it meant to reassure comfortable people and businesses that carrying on as they are is the better option? Why risk innovation when you can draw out a tradition type stance?

But this isn’t the technology’s fault. Many of these advances are – when divorced from the Gartner hype cycle and the hashtags and actively placed in their proper context – exactly as exciting and game changing as they seem, if not more so.

Blockchain is a high-profile victim of this phenomenon: as a distributed ledger technology that promises faster, more secure payments, many industries have been exploring its possibilities and many more have been writing and talking about it.

Purchasing is no exception. And while blockchain technology may have limited application in other professions, in this one, it will live up to the hype. As a means of reducing costs, improving efficiency, controlling fraud, and boosting transparency, it has tangible, real-world benefits for procurement functions – whatever the market or business they work within.

In a recent article, Paul Clayton, Head of New Service Development for Basware, states:

”In 2017, blockchain is word of the year, it’s absolutely everywhere. But it’s not earth shattering, it’s not the third generation of the Internet it’s just an interesting concept with some obvious benefits and flaws.”

Let’s go through some of the reasons why Basware feel blockchain is not all it promises to be for finance and purchasing:

  1. “Whilst a blockchain itself is safe, an application using it remains hackable” – This is also true of your bank software, or Apple Pay or pretty much any software we are currently using for payments. It should not stop us using it or leveraging its deep transformational effects in how businesses operate.
  2. “It can be too transparent” – Technically true, but in reality the references to user wallets are encrypted key strings which, whilst easy to relate to the originating source and other related transactions, is not as easy to relate to an actual physical person. In much the same way as a credit card number isn’t easy to relate to a person without extra information.
  3. “It’s not the most elegant solution” –  Here’s where we strongly disagree. The elegance is in the simplicity. Banks have been trying to come up with distributed ledger technology since the 70s but they were hindered because they refused to be outside the transaction. By using TLS style encryption and cutting out the transaction verification at financial institution level, the whole transaction becomes significantly simpler.
  4. “You can still lose things!“ – Of course you can. You can lose your wallet too.

The argument that there isn’t really that much value in blockchain when the benefits of smart contracts and removing the invoice are tangible possibilities is nonsensical. Removing  the need for invoice processing is huge and any platform truly helping businesses handle their invoices and payments should know this. Invoice processing, and invoice fraud by proxy, are the biggest threats to company money out there today. Just look at Facebook and Google who were victims of $100M payment scam this year.

Blockchain automates trust

Trust is the cornerstone of every business relationship. On a fundamental level, you need to believe that the other person is who they say they are – and they need to believe the same of you.

In this age of phishing, malware, and general cyber security attacks, this seemingly simple principle becomes complicated. Login details are stolen and turned to criminal ends; high-level executives are being impersonated by hackers, who then persuade other parties to release vital funds; the sheer scale and variety of cybercrime is growing.

Blockchain provides a means of automating trust. By using permanently retained historical data to authenticate everyone involved in a deal, each side can be assured of the other parties’ trustworthiness: the seller and buyer alike are always who they say they are, and the product is the right product. What’s more, because prices cannot be modified, invoices will effectively be rendered obsolete.

This greatly simplifies the complicated, multi-faceted transactions that make up modern supply chains – maximising security and reducing the risk of fraud.

Blockchain is fast

Procurement functions will also benefit from the speed and efficiency of blockchain technology. For one thing, it’s fully digital: by taking the more time-consuming elements of a conventional transaction out of the equation, you immediately save time and resources that would have been spent on these tasks.

Shared access databases mean that it’s no longer necessary to manually scan invoices – dramatically accelerating the reconciliation process as all parties are allowed to view the same transaction.

Blockchain effectively cuts out the middlemen. By removing all intermediaries, it makes the processing of payments and transactions much faster: purchase order data can be exchanged on the blockchain at a far speedier pace than current levels will allow. This technology can also identify the nearest and most cost-effective vendors: decreasing lead and work time, and improving your operational efficiency.

Blockchain creates strong audit trails

Blockchain technology stores every detail of every transaction at every level of the supply chain. This will – as mentioned above – facilitate greater fraud control, and it will also offer transparency into issues of legality such as money laundering and the use of child labour.

And though it’s a digital technology, blockchain will also assist with the tracking and recording of physical items. As they are transported across local and international borders, they can be identified at each location – creating a strong and fully documented audit trail.

This kind of end-to-end visibility ensures that delays are rare and that missing items are found and allocated to supply routes more easily. This allows you to manage and optimize these supply routes with maximum efficiency – ensuring that no space is wasted and no customer disappointed.

It’s clear blockchain will have a significant influence on procurement and finance. The advantages of being able to streamline business processes, secure payments, and automate workloads shouldn’t be understated. Do the research, ensure you’re positioning your business correctly and you’ll be in the camp that benefits – today, and in the future.

See InstaSupply’s co-founders chat about blockchain and its vital role on our roadmap.

4 Ways To Engineer Serendipity In Your Workplace

Has a chance encounter at your workplace water fountain ever led to something unexpected and incredible? Greg Lindsay has some unique advice on how to engineer these moments of serendipity…

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

Innovation Is Fundamentally Social – Greg Lindsay

Greg Lindsay, Futurist, Urbanist, Journalist and Author, is a firm believer in the fact that innovation is fundamentally social. Indeed, case study after case study has demonstrated that the best ideas are more likely to arise from a casual chat around the water fountain than in any scheduled meeting.

They are the result of serendipity – a chance encounter at the right time by the right people, regardless of their rank, affiliation, and department or whether they even work for the same company.

The most innovative companies in the world are busy engineering serendipity and harnessing social networks and new ways of working designed to cultivate the discovery of new ideas. And that’s exactly what procurement should be doing!

Ahead of his keynote presentation at The Big Ideas Summit Chicago, Greg outlines four ways that procurement pros can create moments of serendipity

  1. Bring a stranger to work day

Some organisations, in a bid to foster workplace innovation, “invite strangers in off the street to work side-by-side with their employees”.

Of course, this doesn’t literally mean inviting passers-by into the workplace at random. You might choose to invite certain people to work in a designated, neutral area in your office, whether they be of a specific profession, have a desired skillset or work for a particular company.

Diversifying your workplace and encouraging your employees to work alongside different people is a surefire way to accelerate collaboration and innovation.

Greg suggests compiling a list of the 10,000 coolest people in the world, the ones you’d love to encounter or work with. When they’re in town, invite them in! With the digital tools available in today’s world, this approach is easy to maintain/

“Haworth, an office furniture brand,  created a VIP club for their furniture show rooms. They sent out invites to 150 desirable people, encouraging them to use the showrooms. Why not make it a 10,000 person club-house instead and cultivate it to build innovation within your company?”

2. Out with the offices!

Greg has frequently cited organisations such as Facebook and Google, as the companies that are revolutionising the workspace.

“In the future, the workplace will look like your house or a hotel, not the rigid workplaces we see today. There’s only been one century of office-based work spaces. Surely there are other, better ways to do it!”

“There will be more fluid encounters and mixing of employees across the breadth of an organisation.” Think couches, not desks and spaces that are highly configurable and adaptable. After all “People don’t have ideas in an office that never changes shape!”

At Facebook, employees vote for teams they wish to work with by physically wheeling their desk to a different project.

“We often think the value we contribute is based on the amount of focussed work we do but our creativity is not at it’s best in this environment.”

3. Social Media

Social media is a vital force in helping to create moments of serendipity for your organisation. Individuals or companies can broadcast thoughts, surveys, opinion polls and obtain responses from across the globe in a matter of seconds.

For Greg, social media was invalubale when it came to writing his book; enabling him to chat and engage with like-minded people.

“[Social media] speeds up a development process,  quickly uncovering what people have in common and uniting them. Procurious is a key example of this. There are opportunities for learning and peer-peer innovation.”

 4. Let people find you

It’s all very well seeking serendipity but it’s also important to allow people to find you!

That means doing a bit of the leg work and making yourself available! Whether it’s spending more time in the corporate cafeteria where you might run into co-workers, breaking your daily routine or finding envrionments where you are likely to meet like-minded strangers, every little helps!

Vary your information diet and talk to different people in your office – you might be surprised at what inspires you and who you inspire!

Identifying a moment of serendipity

How on earth do you know when a genuine chance encounter has the potential to be the start of a brilliant idea, or even multiple brilliant ideas?

In short- you won’t! As Greg points out “it’s very rare to have that classic anedocatal situation where you chance upon a solution or brilliant idea.”

It might be a hunch, a spark of an idea or a shared interest that allows you start creating and innovating. Only further down the line will you discover that the problems you solved or inspiration you gleaned actually fit into a large issue.

Live From The Big Ideas Summit

At The Big Ideas Summit 2017, Greg shared his techniques for how cities, companies, and individuals alike can learn faster via engineering serendipity.

 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. 

Is Independence The Next Procurement Disruptor?

In workplaces that have less structure and much greater independence, where we can bring our own technology to work and use it to innovate, what does the future hold for procurement?

Lightspring/Shutterstock.com

Disruption has become something of a buzzword lately. With brands like Uber, Airbnb, Airly and Tesla making headlines in Silicon Valley it’s very easy to get swept up in the momentum; where is technology taking us and how can it lead us to better outcomes?

Is technology fear making you freeze?

After speaking at a Young Innovators conference in Denver Colorado recently, I met with delegates afterwards to discuss their technology challenges.

Our conversation revealed that whilst technology was viewed as a great enabler and business simplifier, they were fearful of the cost and effort required for implementation – so fearful, that many had resisted changing existing legacy technology even when they knew it was bad for business.

It reminded me of Kodak, a story so powerful in reminding us how an inability of a company to act due to fear of change, risk aversion and desire to protect the status quo killed a global business.

When it comes to legacy software, perception might be that it’s better the devil you know. But we have reached a new era of the digitally connected individual, one who values instant access to information. The digitisation and connections of our personal environment is leading to the same changes within the workplace, allowing buyers to become more productive and engaged in the buying process.

Procurement teams have successfully become more integrated into businesses through a combination of people and technology and have delivered strong savings and operational improvements, but where are the future incremental improvements going to come from?

Reinventing the rules with the cloud

It’s becoming very clear that cloud-based applications are and have re-invented all the rules.

Cloud based applications are driving a fundamental shift that will transform many aspects of procurement and strategic sourcing.

Procurement teams are beginning to understand the benefits new technologies can bring to an organisation, even when it means that buyers are working with, and bringing software and applications of their own choice into the workplace.

Traditionally we have focused only on the team, today we are witnessing the rise of the individual within a team. A future where procurement individuals are connected to the organisations approved suppliers but continue to use their own technology to improve those interactions and connections. This is allowing them to find and deliver incremental improvements businesses are demanding.

The trend is right in front of us, our work environments have transitioned from structured workplaces to become open and community based; the same is occurring with our technology decisions. We still come to the office each day but work in an environment that has less structure, more innovation, flexibility and freedom.

Bring your technology to work day

Today you can bring your own technology into the office, use it to drive innovation, supplier connections and collaboration and then connect to the business mainframe to download and upload data.

The future will see more individuals challenging existing processes and demanding better connected applications that are just as fluid and flexible in business as they experience in their personal lives.

Our future procurement leaders will look for solutions that simplify key processes, are easy to implement and use and gather the key data that can be utilised to improve decision making.

Finally, I recently came across the following quote from a CPO in an Accenture article, “it’s gotten to the point now where technology is evolving faster than my mind is conceptually able to digest it”.

Welcome to the world of you, the procurement individual!

Alan is a thought lead and CEO of sourceit, a technology company that has led the market in the development of simple and easy to use sourcing applications for a wide of direct and indirect categories.

Sourceit offers three different products for buyers:

  • RFQ – request for quote software for products and services
  • Market – a specialized procurement and job management application for marketing services, and
  • Catalog – an inventory management and on-demand product/services ordering application.

Do CEOs Dream Of Robotic Sheep?

…Or are they kept awake at night worrying about how to adapt their business to a robotic-centred future? KPMG Australia Chairman Peter Nash reveals two concerns playing havoc with the sleep patterns of business leaders.

How can I adapt my business to a robotic future?

The thing about technological disruption – and machine intelligence in particular – is that people tend to regard it as a challenge to deal with at some point in the future. The key to understanding the scope of the challenge is to break it down into two categories – disruption that we’re already dealing with, and disruption that is yet to emerge.

Robotic process automation (RPA), for example, has been around for decades, with disembodied robot arms a common sight on production lines. Typically, they automate a series of existing processes that were once carried out by humans. We’re just starting to realise the full potential of RPA, with the emergence of bots that sit inside software to automate administrative labour becoming more common.

From his viewpoint into many of KPMG’s client organisations, Peter Nash has seen what an RPA bot is capable of. “If you go into any call centre, you’ll observe staff doing a series of processes as they engage with customers – typically around data capture and data entry. Through observation, you can create “process flows”, and then build software that can be inserted into the call centre and automate the data capture. That’s a classic example of robotic process automation, and it’s happening at pace.”

Interestingly, RPA is resulting in the reshoring of capability from overseas. Nash comments: “You can track the life cycle of offshoring and reshoring. 10 years ago you may have had 100 people doing a job in Australia for the cost of $5 million. Those 100 jobs were offshored to India, resulting in costs being reduced to $1 million. Today, with robotic help, you can have only 10 people doing the same work that 100 used to do – at a cost of $0.5 million. Yes, 90 jobs have disappeared, but there’s the exciting potential for completely new jobs to be created with each technological leap.”

“Artificial (or Cognitive) Intelligence, for example, is only just beginning to emerge. People are very excited about AI’s enormous potential, but at present it’s essentially a solution looking for a problem.”

How do I effectively harness innovation?

Nash comments that there are several models that have emerged in the ways corporations seek to harness innovation. “Many CPOs look for innovation to emerge from down the line, and encourage people, whether they’re in-house employees or suppliers, to bring ideas forward. Other organisations set up innovation capability ‘hubs’ or ‘accelerators’. Another approach is to acquire, or partner with, innovation capability outside of your organisation. Some business are doing a mix of all three.”

“What’s encouraging is that most businesses understand that today, it’s innovate or perish. A culture of innovation, partnered with a culture of flexibility where people have the ability to react and respond to disruptive technology, will ensure businesses are able to take advantage of anything that comes their way.”

KPMG Australia Chairman Peter Nash will deliver a keynote speech at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

 

Raising Procurement’s Image – One Person At A Time

Who’s willing to stand up to bear the flag of procurement pride and improve our image? Elaine Porteous wants reinforcements to help raise the function’s status up to where it belongs.

We’re still hearing comments like “we only involve procurement because it’s the policy” and “procurement slows down the sourcing process”.

There are some lonely but passionate practitioners out there waving the flag and highlighting pockets of excellence, but we need reinforcements.

The image problem

Procurement has traditionally been poor at championing its successes and promoting a positive image of its contribution. Perception is reality. There’s no shortage of published articles and news about fraud, corruption and litigation involving purchasing people and their organisations. So where is the good news? Maybe we could all benefit from a lesson in public relations; in reality, procurement is not so different from sales.

Five ways you can raise the status of procurement yourself

  1. Develop better listening skills

The only way to understand what internal stakeholders, suppliers and customers currently expect from procurement is to listen well. Too often, procurement teams complete projects in a poorly-informed vacuum, failing to get solid input from key stakeholders. By asking for stakeholder feedback on sourcing plans we can reach agreement on success factors and manage their expectations. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Hear what your customers need and work with them to deliver it.

  1. Focus on encouraging innovation

We engage with suppliers every day, so what are we doing to get them to offer ideas that add value rather than asking them to just cut costs? Many suppliers complain about their improvement ideas getting lost somewhere in your organisation, let’s make sure that it is not procurement that is the black hole.

  1. Take the lead on sustainability initiatives

For most companies, taking a ‘green decision’ often means increased costs. It could also mean a compromise in quality or a slower speed to market, but it doesn’t have to be so. Eliminating waste, finding alternative energy solutions, managing the cost of utilities and reducing packaging are all sustainability goals. It will immediately enhance your position if you can apply best practice in sourcing to your company’s sustainability strategy. If there is no strategy yet, there’s your opportunity to contribute.

  1. Talk in the language of the listener

We are guilty of talking in our own shorthand using expressions like strat sourcing, catman, SRM and RFX, which only serve to irritate. Internal customers appreciate receiving communications in terminology they understand. In some high-tech and specialist categories, stakeholders, also known as customers, will suspect that you may not have the depth or breadth of knowledge required. Talk their language to let them know that you are fully up to date on trends and immersed in their technical detail. This way you can prove that you are worthy of dispensing advice and providing guidance.

  1. Highlighting our successes

Easier access to information is changing the way we work; we can see what other people are doing and they can see what we are doing. Not many procurement teams use a well-thought-out internal media strategy to highlight their achievements. Communicating and celebrating individual and team wins are all important steps to ensuring that your internal customers stay on-side. Tracking of cost savings and reporting the results in a digestible way can show the positive impact that procurement has made to business success.

Could we learn something from the Human Resources (HR) function? Applying the tried-and-tested HR business partner model could work well in tricky situations and traditionally out-of-bounds functions. One person is directly allocated to be the enabler between the customer and, in this case procurement, with the main aim of removing process obstacles and smoothing the way for others.

How To Inspire Creativity With The Three Fs!

To achieve creative cultures  within our organisations and inspire creativity in individuals, we need to Fund, Foster and Fill!

Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock.com

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius! firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. He’ll be speaking at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London on 23rd February but we’ve picked his brains ahead of the event to find out his top tips for inspiring creativity and his plans for the future..

What is a creative change agent?

A creative change agent is essentially a ‘lateral thinking’ specialist. It’s someone who combines creativity with psychology to help businesses innovate and perform more effectively in a rapidly-changing world.

What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

When I was younger I was a laid-back song-writer and did not fully appreciate how important it is, in business and life, to ‘make your own sunshine’. Over the years, however, and especially  when I wrote my books Genius! and Business Genius! I came to realise that books don’t write themselves; they ended up taking me far longer to write than I ever imagined, and involved far more hard work than I ever envisaged. However, fortunately the hard work paid-off – because they ended-up becoming best-sellers in the UK and then being translated into multiple languages from Chinese to Japanese, and Italian to Thai – and that taught me that ideas alone are not what makes the difference; it’s turning those ideas into reality that makes the difference.

What are your three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations?

My three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations would be what I call The 3 Fs: Fund, Foster, Fill.

Fund (i.e. invest in) ‘Creative Thinking’ training

Upskill people by teaching them ‘how’ to be more creative. Evidence suggests, for example, that virtually all of us were incredibly creative up until the age of about 5, but then this natural creativity was ‘schooled’ out of us by the double whammy of criticism and conformity. Effective ‘Creativity Thinking’ training can help to redress this situation by inspiring people to re-become creative.

Foster an atmosphere of Psychological Safety

Einstein once said that ‘a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ With this in mind, if an organisation genuinely wants to inspire creativity, it needs to provide employees with enough ‘wriggle room’ to make the occasional ‘excusable’ mistake – rather than ‘inexcusable’ mistake (which is a very different matter).

Fill the well 

I’ve long believed that in order to inspire others we need to feel inspired ourselves. Psychologists refer to this as ‘mood contagion’. So, if an organisation wants to inspire creativity, it needs to keep ‘Filling the Well’ (as the author Sheila Davis describes it) by encouraging people to branch out and watch new films, read interesting books, travel to different places etc… After all, bang in the middle of the word ‘Innovation’ we find the word ‘Nova’ – which meant ‘new’ in Roman times – so a constant inpouring of fresh stimulus is likely to inspire a culture that goes beyond ‘what is’ to explore ‘what could be’.  

You’ve composed hit pop songs, written best-selling books and work as an innovation consultant. What’s next?

I’m currently working on a wide range of projects – linked to ‘Lateral Thinking’ in business and academia. However, longer-term, I’d love to take my Business Genius and ‘Lateral Thinking’ work to whole new level, and develop Lateral Thinking TV, movies, and animations etc…

How do latest technology developments influence the way you consult with organisations and drive innovation?

To be honest, although technology developments have influenced the way I consult with organisations and drive innovation – eg. by making it far easier for me to communicate with clients around the world without always having to ‘be there’ in person – technology itself does not influence me as much as it helps other innovation consultants I know.  I tend to focus more on ‘innovativeness’ than ‘innovation.’ In other words, I focus more on the people-side of innovation – the psychology side.

It’s easy to think that our modern age is infinitely more ‘innovative’ than any other with its amazing advances in technology. Without a doubt the ‘pace’ of change does keep getting faster and faster, which academics label ‘accelerated evolution.’ However, just look at the Edwardian Age. Within ten years along came the Car, the Plane, the Radio and the TV. Each one of them radically transformed the world we live in, far more than the latest XI78 or X189, that will soon end up somewhere in a design museum like the DVD or the first Blackberry.

I work with the ESA,  European Space Agency, who are putting 3-D printers on Space Stations. In fact, there are even 3-D printers now that can make 3-D printers ! We must not lose sight, however, of how technology is driven by ‘people’, and inspired by ‘people’.  The human factors that make innovation happen can also ‘stop’ innovation from happening if they are not addressed and resolved.

Do you ever get tired of thinking up ideas?

Yes and no. I personally get a buzz from ‘divergent thinking’ – i.e. thinking outwards towards multiple possibilities – more than ‘convergent thinking’ – i.e. analysing and dissecting data.

However, when I’m working with groups on Idea Generation, I fully appreciate that ‘thinking up ideas’ can be deceptively tiring for some people. Especially those who have a strong preference for sequence and structure.

Tony Buzan,  the inventor of mind-maps, is a great inspiration of mine. I spoke with him a few years ago and  was struck by how well he manages to fuse the two. Mind-maps, for example, can energise people by stimulating ‘radiant thinking’. They also make it easier for them to think up new ideas, yet at the same its ‘systematic’ approach can also give people a flexible structure to prevent them feeling overwhelmed and swamped by imaginative solutions.

It’s important to remember that everybody has an imagination. We continually ‘think up ideas’ whether we see ourselves as creative or not. In fact, one of the biggest buzzes I get in business is helping people to realise that they are a lot more creative than they give themselves credit for…

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London.