Tag Archives: ISM

Three Secrets of Procurement Talent Magnets

Why is it that some organisations consistently attract the best and brightest talent in the profession, while others miss out? ISM CEO Tom Derry tells Procurious that it’s not just about salaries…

Tom Derry will present his Big Ideas on the essential attributes required by the Digital CPO at Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit in Chicago. Register now as a digital delegate

In the sports world, there’s a tradition known as coaching trees. This occurs in teams where an inspirational coach is known for developing others who have gone on to be successful coaches in their own right, and in turn pass on the knowledge, skills and philosophy of that lineage.

From his vantage point as CEO of ISM, Tom Derry has seen evidence of coaching trees in the procurement and supply management profession. “Sometimes it’s companies, sometimes it’s individuals”, he says. “Certain CPOs have gained a reputation for coaching and developing people who have subsequently left, and gone on to make their mark.” Their organisations benefit by being seen as an employer of choice for top procurement talent, and the CPOs themselves benefit from the dynamism and vitality of a team made up of the brightest the profession has to offer. Like the legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi (pictured), CPOs are elevated by the success of the talent they’ve managed to attract.

But where do you start if you want to become a talent magnet in procurement and supply management?

  1. Build a reputation

“It’s important to create a reputation for yourself as an organisation that coaches and develops great talent”, says Derry. “To do this, you need to commit to the development of your team members. The secret to retaining talent isn’t about paying them more, or promoting them before they’re ready – it’s about investing in their skills and providing the opportunity for them to do more and give more.

“Stop worrying about losing people. Focus instead on developing talent, and you’ll build a tremendous reputation”

  1. Shift your style

For some of the old-school CPOs who are accustomed to leading through command and control, it’s time to shift to a more collaborative approach, particularly if you’re interested in attracting millennial and Gen Z talent. “You need to become more comfortable with being vulnerable”, says Derry. “Team members are more aware of where you are and what you’re doing, so be prepared to receive feedback from all directions, in real-time. It’s about being receptive to this feedback, but also being adroit and knowing when to wrap up the conversation and move on.”

  1. Embrace diversity

Derry says that cultural inclusiveness is no longer an idea but an expectation. “Your team needs to be diverse – in fact, you’ll look impoverished if you don’t have that. The benefits include being able to tap into a diversity of experience and opinion to solve challenges. This creates a truly attractive environment for top talent.”

On 28th September, Procurious is bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Chicago. Register now (it’s free!) as a digital delegate to gain access to all of the day’s action.

Assessing the Impact of Hurricane Harvey

A special report from ISM on the impacts of Hurricane Harvey has found there will be ongoing challenges around pricing, speed of delivery and certain commodities due to the storm’s destructive path through Houston, Texas.  

Facts, not fear. Back in July 2016, ISM’s CEO Tom Derry told Procurious why his organisation had put out a special report on the impact of Brexit in the U.S. “…There has been an enormous amount of speculation … fed by a sense of unease and uncertainty. ISM was in a position to gather real data and put the information out there so businesses can make informed decisions based on facts, rather than fear, concern or emotion.”

ISM has once again demonstrated leadership when disruption hits by producing a special paper addressing the potential economic impact of Hurricane Harvey, replacing existing speculation with data-based information to help affected business plan their response and recovery.

Houston, Texas, is home to the sixth largest import terminal in the world and a nexus for shipping lanes in the gulf coast. Strong economic linkages between the gulf coast and the U.S. as a whole mean that Harvey’s impact will extend far beyond the storm-hit area.

ISM’s survey of purchasing and supply executives nationally (not just in the affected area) found that the biggest challenges are expected with pricing, supplier deliveries and commodities such as fuel and plastics. Encouragingly, the data indicates that the effect on production, new orders and employment will be minimal.

Most impacted metrics: Prices and speed of delivery

  • Two-thirds (67%) of responding supply managers believe input materials pricing will be negatively impacted to some degree over the next three months.
  • 27% anticipate input materials prices will be negatively or very negatively impacted.
  • Over half (56%) feel supplier deliveries will be negatively impacted to some degree over the next three months.
  • 19% expect deliveries to be negatively or very negatively impacted.

Moderately impacted: Production, new orders and inventory level

  • A majority feel Harvey’s impact on production, new orders and inventory will be neither positive nor negative.
  • One in five are concerned about somewhat negative impacts, but only 1 in 10 foresee more negative impacts in the next three months.

Low impact: Employment

The good news is that business will not be laying off staff as a result of the Hurricane’s impact. Over 80% of respondents feel that employment will be neither positively nor negatively impacted by Harvey.

Commodities potentially in short supply

With the Houston area known for its fuel and petrochemical production, the following commodities could be in short supply for the next three months: fuel; plastic resins; chemicals; electronic components; feedstocks, chemicals (raw); gasoline; polypropylene; resin-based products; building materials; electrical components; LDPE; plasticizer; caustic soda; ethylene; HDPE; LLDPE; methyl methacrylate; petroleum based products; and isocyanate. 27 of 36 industries report that they expect to be impact by potential shortages of the above commodities.


My Brilliant Procurement Career Survey: we have a winner!

  • Over 500 procurement professionals took Procurious’ survey on career management in the profession.
  • Congratulations to our prize-winner Steven Reddish, a commercial supply coordinator based in Waikato, New Zealand. Enjoy your quadcopter!
  • Findings from the report will be published here on Procurious in mid-October.

The Hunt Is On For 30 Under 30 Millennial Role-Models

Do you know a young gun who’s already making their mark on the supply management profession? Perhaps you’re one yourself? Nominations are now open for ISM and THOMASNET.com’s “30 Under 30” Supply Chain Stars program. 

It’s already happening. In companies large and small all over the globe, Millennials are being asked to step up into very senior roles to fill the vacuum created as an entire generation of Baby Boomers retires.

The generations in the middle, X and Y, are also moving into executive roles, but the problem is that there simply aren’t enough of them to do so. That’s why Millennials are leap-frogging through the ranks in nearly every profession – include procurement and supply management.

The talent pipeline in procurement

Back in 2014, ISM and THOMASNET.com recognised that there was a concerning gap in the talent pipeline. The 30 Under 30 award was subsequently launched to celebrate and broadcast the achievements of young professionals in an effort to bring more Millennials into the profession. The program is making headway. ISM reports that only 17% of the 2014 cohort had planned for a career in supply management, with most “falling into” the profession instead. By 2016, this figure had risen to 40% as an increasing number of school leavers began to seek out tertiary-level supply management courses.

“It’s really important to have role models in the profession”, says ISM’s Chief Content & Engagement Officer, M.L. Peck. “When young people see others their age who are receiving recognition for their contribution, it helps demonstrate that supply management is a viable and exciting career choice.”

ISM’s CEO Tom Derry encourages managers to nominate deserving superstars for the 2017 30 Under 30 award. “Our goal is to build awareness and enthusiasm for this exciting profession by showcasing the talent and accomplishments of these dedicated young professionals.”

Who can apply and what are the judges looking for?

Nominees must be 30 years of age or younger as of December 31, 2017.  Peck says that the judges will be looking for young people who are already making their mark on the profession and have demonstrated qualities such as leadership, innovation, collaboration, creativity and a contribution to supply management in their organisation or to the larger industry.

International nominations welcome

Originally for U.S. professionals only, the program was opened last year to international applicants to reflect the increasingly global nature of supply chain management. While only 3 of last year’s group of 30 were based overseas, many of the American winners had significant overseas experience.

What’s the prize? 

  • All 30 winners will receive a one-year membership to ISM, complimentary admittance to ISM2018 in Nashville (valued at $2,295), and a THOMASNET.com Team Training Package.
  • One individual will be designated as the Megawatt Winner and will also win an all-expense-paid trip (up to $5,000) to ISM2018 for themselves and their nominator.
  • For the first time, THOMASNET.com and ISM are offering a special Early Nomination incentive this year. Those who submit a nomination by Friday, October 13, 2017 at 30under30.thomasnet.com will receive a free month of ISM Just in Time Learning along with a mug and free coffee gift card from THOMASNET.com.
  • Most importantly, the winners will gain widespread recognition as their achievements are celebrated and broadcast through industry journals, blogs, magazines and newspapers locally and globally.

Do you have a Millennial supply chain star in mind for the 30 Under 30 awards? Nominations are now open – visit THOMASNET.com for more information. Nominations close Sunday December 3rd. 

Different Country, Same Procurement Culture?

Heading off to begin a new procurement chapter abroad? Make sure you’re prepared to accommodate, and adapt to, a new culture.

Have you ever wondered what courage it would  take to pack your bags and set off across the globe in order to start an entirely new chapter?

Juggling a new home, new job and a new life isn’t a challenge for the faint-hearted but it’s one you’re unlikely to regret and something that ISM board member, Kim Brown, knows all about!

Throughout her impressive procurement career, Kim has enjoyed roles at Reynolds and Reynolds Company, General Electric, Toys R Us and, most recently, at Dell, Inc as Vice President, Global Materials.

Kim’s lengthy career has taken her around the world so it’s unsurprising that she’s honed and developed her cultural intelligence (CQ) over the years. When we interviewed Kim, we were interested to hear about her global experiences, both what she’s learnt and how she’s adapted to different circumstances, and gain some advice on what it takes to hold a position on a board as noteworthy as ISM.

Procurement around the world

“I’ve lived in quite a few places, four or five US states and two countries,” explains Kim. ” I also did a stint as an ex-pat in Mexico city for a year and spent on year in Singapore.”

Was she able to observe distinct differences in working cultures  during her time abroad? “Very much so, particularly at the beginning of my time in Mexico, which has a very, verY different culture. I was working for General Electric at the time and accustomed to the direct and process-driven culture in the US. In Mexico, the conversations with suppliers, local people and colleagues were very family-based. They wanted to know about me, and understand what my family life was like before doing business with me.”

In Singapore, Kim faced the challenge of managing a widely dispersed and culturally diverse team. “I had team members in 26 or 27 different countries, all of which had cultural nuances.”

Pulling together a strategy for a large team is challenging at the best of times but it becomes even more so when you must be cognisant of how different cultures are motivated by different things. “Something that someone in the US would regard as a very small factor might mean a lot to someone in India, for example.

“Singapore itself was a very different culture.  It seemed at times cautious and a little shyer than in some other parts of the world. I’m the kind of person who says hello to a lot of people, and in Singapore they would look at the floor in response! However, once you get to know them and they get to know you I found the community to be friendly and outgoing.”

This, in a way, is the motto of Kim’s story. Working across cultures and borders requires patience, tolerance, compromise and understanding from both sides.

“As long as you go about making a change in the right way, it will work. When I first started in a global role I tried to supplement it with videoconferencing. I quickly found I was questioned “When are you coming, when will we see you?”  And there is no substitute for that. Employees are often very excited by and enthusiastic about a visit from the regional office – I’d arrive in Malaysia, for example, and find that the room was packed with people who wanted to see me, listen and ask lots of questions.”

What a board wants

If anyone knows the answer to the question “what does a board want?” it’s Kim Brown. As well as being treasurer for ISM, she’s held positions on two additional NFP boards, one of which had 70 board members. “When I went on [the board with 70 people], I wanted to be really involved, to be on the executive committee and be a decision maker, not just a voter. These roles are extracurricular but if you’re going to do it, do it!

“At ISM, we have very robust conversations, which is fun! I learn a lot and have the opportunity to interact with a whole bunch of new network contacts. I try to look positively upon any experience where I can learn something new.”

Kim’s top tips for procurement when presenting to the board:

  • Keep your strategy clear and concise and ensure you know how to sell it!
  • You need goals and objectives; lay out the salient points and present them in a way that makes sense
  • Get your act together! When you’re presenting, make sure it’s in an understandable manner.
  • Do your homework and always  look at alternatives and contingencies.
  • Use your  junior team members! I really like it when CEOs do this. It gives your team an opportunity to showcase the work they’re capable of doing, and allows us, as the board, to show your team that we’ve got confidence in them!

Evergreen Wisdom for a Changing Profession

When was the last time you reached out to a Procurement Guru? Although the battleground is changing, those among us with scars have a lot of relevant insights to share.

We knew we’d be in for a treat when we locked in an interview with ISM board member Ann Oka. Ann is the former senior VP of supply management (CPO) for Sodexo, Inc. in North America where she was responsible for a whopping US$5.5 billion spend.

While working, Ann believed in contributing beyond her formal role, and served on the board of trustees for the A.T. Kearney Center for Strategic Supply Leadership at ISM, the board of the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, and was a member of the executive committee of the GS1 Foodservice Initiative.  She retired in June of 2014, and other than the ISM board, now occupies her time with family and leisure.

Of course, she has a wealth of knowledge to draw from thanks to decades of procurement experience but, interestingly, she’s objective about its value to the next generation of procurement professionals. “Some things don’t change over time; motivating and leading people, looking at evolving tech and enlarging the sources of value. But, whilst there might be a lot of insights those of us with scars can give, the battleground is changing.”

The battleground may well be changing but surely that means Ann’s insights, as a seasoned pro, are all the more significant? As such, we were fascinated to learn how she has seen the profession develop over time and what she believes the future holds.

The evolution of procurement

Ann explains how drastically procurement’s role has changed over the years, both in terms of job responsibilities and external perceptions of the profession. “Where people were once identified as buyers or negotiators, they became category managers as the implementation of strategic sourcing evolved. These developments redefined the role of the average procurement person – they became professionals; their strategic impact increased and they had a broader scope.”

It’s a tricky and lengthy transition to lead any team through. “There’s a big task in the up-skilling of your people, particularly when you want to bring as many of them along with you as you can.”

Of course, some things don’t change. “The major evolution of procurement that we’re currently experiencing is comparable, in many ways, to what happened twenty years ago” Ann begins. “It was in the mid-90s when I first realised the importance of systems, technology and data. There was a tremendous amount of data available to procurement and category management, but harnessing it and getting it into the hands of the supply professionals was the challenge.”

What does the future hold?

Ann believes that the most competent procurement professionals will take the onslaught of Artificial Intelligence entirely in their stride. As she puts it, in a message to “The Change Resistant”:

“The train has come to the station. You have the choice of getting on it – and we’ll help you with the ticket – or you can be run over.”

The bottom line, she says, is that “people may well have been successful in the past, but the world is changing and you need to change with it, or it will pass you by.”

As far as procurement roles being totally displaced by AI, Ann is sceptical at best. “I don’t think the advent of new technology really changes a procurement role. Those with an ability to look at the long-term picture will be able to incorporate that into their strategies. Look at how the future is evolving and the possibilities it presents and work out how you’re going to work with the firm and with your supply base to extract the maximum value.”

Permission To Fail, Please!

It’s apparent that Ann rates a good procurement leader as much as, if not more than, someone who’s AI-ready.  “The harder thing for many organisations is having a management team that allows employees room to stretch and fail, that lets them try new things without instilling a fear of repercussions. There is such a thing as a successful failure. People are loath to say a project they’ve run hasn’t worked  out, fearing they will be judged on its success or failure. But occasionally  encountering a failure is a part of the journey to improvement.”

Procurement leaders can effectively work as safety nets for their teams. They should allow enough flexibility but know when to pull the plug to avoid too much fallout.

“I was in my position at Sodexo for 11 years. It allowed us to do things like put in some industry-leading systems, change the way we worked with suppliers, and harvest a culture of continuous improvement. In this time the continuous improvement team came up with several far-fetched ideas and used the leadership  team as a sounding board. It’s useful to invite new ideas and to have an off-the-wall ways of looking at things.”

Of course, not everyone thinks in this way. The key is finding people who have strategic vision. “Leaders should be on the look out for hires who have an intellectual curiosity and the courage to tickle the edges of things that are scary.  Embracing functional diversity is important in achieving this – perhaps your next star will come from legal, or IT, or straight out of college?”

Once a CPO, always a CPO

She might be retired, but its clear to see Ann still lives and breathes procurement. “I have people from past roles who, surprisingly, come back and approach me for our old heart-to-hearts”. She holds­­ board positions and still mentors younger professionals.  Safe to say there’s a spot for her on our board any day!

We concluded the interview with a final piece of advice from Ann; “If you’re a CPO, think about how you best position your company for tomorrow. Keep an eye on emerging technologies and bring the conversation to the table.” In other words, don’t miss the train!­­

 

Think Big, Think Business, Think People

“I’d rather regret the things I did, than the things I didn’t do.” Insights and wisdom from the career of Hans Melotte, Starbucks EVP Supply Chain and ISM Chair. 

Hans Melotte is less than one year into his “wonderful new adventure” leading Starbucks’ global supply chain. At the same time, he is nearing the end of his tenure as Chair of the ISM Board of Directors. We caught up with Melotte at #ISM2017 to discuss topics close to his heart, including the importance of intellectual curiosity for procurement and supply managers.

Melotte’s Mantra

“There’s a personal mantra I’ve always tried to adhere to,” says Melotte. “Think business, think big, think people.”

Think business: “Let’s not just daydream here – as a supply management professional, you’re not the centre of the world. Your role is all about enabling profitable growth for your company, and the only way to do that is for you to think in terms of business or customer centricity.”

Think big: “Starbucks’ aspiration is very bold, and very ambitious. If we agree our role is to help the company achieve its aspirations, then it’s up to us to be equally bold, or there will be asymmetry between the company agenda and our agenda.”

Melotte makes the point that thinking big should be inherent in any leadership position: “I don’t think any company would say it’s okay to be a mediocre leader.”

Think people:No matter what your agenda may be, everything starts and ends with people.” Melotte is delighted to see so many young professionals filling the halls of the #ISM2017 conference: “I’m so impressed by young professionals – their ambition, their resumes and their enthusiasm. It’s incredibly energising, and humbling as well.”

Moving between industries

Last year, Melotte took a significant cross-industry leap when he moved from Johnson & Johnson to Starbucks. His advice is that professionals – particularly those with high learning agility – should have confidence about moving between industries.

“There’s no right or wrong career. People have a tendency to stack-rank careers and give advice – ‘do this, don’t do that’. I believe you just have to follow your own passion and keep the fire in your belly lit. For me, this was all about starting a new adventure and seizing an opportunity that allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and grow. Life’s too short to not experiment by stepping off the proven path. I’d rather regret the things I did, than the things I didn’t do.”

The ISM Chairmanship

We asked Melotte why he took on the demanding role of ISM Chair, particularly during a time when he was transitioning his own career from J&J to Starbucks. “There was a pyramid of motives”, he replied. “I’d always recommend that people take on an outside-of-industry role. For me, one reason was that I felt grateful, and obligated to give back to the discipline. If the discipline has been good to you, be good to the discipline. Secondly, it has enabled me to access a lens to the world which allows an incredible amount of learning. The board itself is a wonderful network to be part of. Finally, there’s no denying that trying to be a worthy Chairman grows you as a person.”

What contribution is Melotte most proud of in his tenure as ISM Chair? “ISM is a well-known brand and institution, so it doesn’t need extra polish on the logo. What it does need is constant change and evolution – I took it as a great compliment from CEO Tom Derry when he told me over the phone that I’ve helped ISM think more strategically, and think more about the future.”

Intellectual curiosity

“You really owe it to yourself to constantly invest in yourself through continuous learning and continuous education,” says Melotte. “Learn from others, grow and develop. One of the pitfalls that companies step into is when they make statements like ‘we’re different, we’re unique, this doesn’t apply to us’. No matter how good you are as a company, you can always learn from other industries.”

“Intellectual curiosity means being on a learning journey that never ends. It should have no pause button.”

Image: Starbucks.com

Best of the Blog: You Appointed WHO As The New CPO?!

Increasingly, companies are appointing CPOs from outside of the supply management profession. What does this tell us about C-level expectations of procurement, and why are supply management professionals missing out?

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an article which featured some exclusive insights from Deb Stanton, Executive Director of Research and Benchmarking at CAPS Research and former Global CPO of MasterCard. Deb highlights how company expectations for CPO’s are evolving and what this means  for the security of your future jobs!

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Years of hard work and a brilliant career in supply management has brought you to within a hair’s breadth of fulfilling your dream – to become the Chief Procurement Officer of your company. Starting at the most junior level, you’ve worked your way up the ladder to your present position as second-in-charge of the procurement function. Your boss announced his retirement last week, and you’re quietly confident your turn has come – after all, there’s absolutely nothing about the organisation’s supply chain that you don’t know.

You step into the meeting room where the out-going CPO and two other executives are seated around a table. Disconcertingly, they stop talking when you walk in and look at you guiltily. Getting straight to the point, they tell you they’re excited to announce the new Chief Procurement Officer is … Jennifer from Marketing.

Is Procurement Being Usurped?

Has this happened in your organisation? There’s every chance that when it comes time to choose a new CPO, the C-Suite will appoint someone from a non-supply background. This means that a colleague of yours in a completely different department may one day swoop in to steal the job that you’ve been working towards for years.

While CEO-level expectations of the CPO continue to blur and broaden, the skill-set required to meet those expectations can now potentially be found in any department. The fact that supply managers are still reporting difficulty in educating their businesses on the value procurement can bring to an organisation doesn’t help the situation. If a CEO (wrongly) believes that a supply manager has spent his or her career focused solely on cost, then they are likely to look elsewhere for candidates for the top job.

Deb Stanton, Executive Director of Research and Benchmarking organisation CAPS Research and former Global CPO of MasterCard, has observed the trend of CPO appointments from outside of the profession. CEOs are no longer as interested in appointing CPOs who possess the traditional skill set that is earnt over years working in supply chain. A savvy marketing professional, or a cost-conscious operations manager who understands how supply management works, makes a very attractive candidate for CPO.

So, what does this mean?

1. CEOs are looking for a different set of skills for the next CPO

The CPO of the future may have little idea how a tender is run, but they must:

  • Be business-savvy and understand the organisation as a whole
  • Know how procurement works from a customer’s perspective
  • Be completely aligned to overall business strategy (not just the supply management strategy)
  • Have a strong knowledge of the business’ finance function
  • Be focused on the core customer and external audiences
  • Embrace changing technology and external disruptive forces
  • Be an influencer and relationship management expert.

Deb referred to CAPS Research’s “Futures Study 2020”, which projects the skills required to manage a procurement function into the future.

2. The CPO doesn’t necessarily need supply management expertise

The complex and varied skill-set picked up through a career in supply management may no longer be enough to satisfy the requirements for the job of CPO. CEOs may even regard procurement’s traditional audience of stakeholders, end-users and suppliers to be too focused.

That being said, technical procurement skills do matter, and are still vital for any procurement team’s success. In the example above, the disappointed candidate who missed out on the top job can still play a vital role in educating and supporting the outsider CPO with their supply management knowledge.

What’s the solution? If you believe the CPO role rightfully belongs to you, rather than someone from a completely different department, then make sure you broaden (rather than narrow) your focus as you move upwards in your organisation. This means familiarising yourself on a macro level with the whole business, bringing the core customer into every decision you make, and being known as an influencer who can clearly articulate the value you, and your function, brings to the business.

As Deb points out, procurement professionals are in a unique position to overlook an entire business. They’ve got every chance of seeing where the opportunities are so let’s use it and not lose it!

Infographic: Nailing Your Next Presentation

Want to grab your audience’s attention with the first sentence of your presentation and keep them intrigued throughout? These presentation do’s and don’ts will have you presenting like a pro in no time!

Some people jump at the chance to present, while the very thought of getting up in front of an audience can make many of us feel weak at the knees. One thing is certain – no matter how junior your role may be, you will have to deliver a presentation at some point in your career.

Here’s how you can nail it.

There are two crucial elements to making a great presentation. The first is what you say and the second is how you say it.

If you have great content, your presentation has an excellent basis for success.  As a presenter, it will give you confidence to ace the delivery, but there are still some important points to remember.

This infographic was originally published on Walkerstone.com. 

View from the top: Three Ways Procurement Must Transform

ISM’s top brass called in the media to map out the transformation of the profession into a tech-focused intelligence agency that will attract the very best talent.

Tom Derry (ISM CEO), Hans Melotte (Starbucks EVP Supply Chain & ISM Board Chairman) and Kristopher Pinnow (CPO B/E Aerospace & ISM Board Member) sat down with the media at #ISM2017 to answer some burning questions. With Derry providing the context while Melotte and Pinnow added their views as practitioners, three key themes soon emerged.

1. Intelligence transformation

“Times are uncertain, and business hates uncertainty”. Tom Derry sets the scene for #ISM2017 by highlighting the turbulent geopolitical situation that’s impacting the profession worldwide. The presence of two world leaders as conference keynotes – Colin Powell and David Cameron – underscores the anxiety with which many professionals are watching global events unfold.

Derry’s message is that supply managers should cultivate a sharp intellectual curiosity to not only inform themselves of disruptive events, but to position the function as a source of intelligence within the organisation. Importantly, we have an opportunity to be the voice of calm and reassurance, hosing down anxiety with facts, rather than fear.

ISM’s leadership in this area was demonstrated last year when it released a supplementary Report on Business, focusing specifically on the UK’s shock Brexit Referendum’s effect on US business. The decision was prompted by a flood of enquires from US business and media representatives about whether the data for the influential report would reflect the fallout from Brexit. Derry told Procurious at the time that ISM was in a position to gather real data and “put the information out there so businesses can make informed decisions based on facts, rather than fear, concern or emotion.”

The panellists agreed that while it hasn’t always been the case, transforming into a source of intelligence for the business is something to which the profession needs to aspire. Melotte stresses that procurement needs to have all of its data intelligence in real time. “We’re digital natives,” he says. “We book our food online, we track our spouses’ flights – but the workplace is often more of an analogue environment. We need to be in the moment, preempting issues before they arrive.”

2. Technological transformation

Derry warns that if you’re the steward of a process, you’re about to lose your job when it becomes automated. But it’s not all bad news: “New types of jobs will exist in the future, with new skills required to do those jobs. The impacts of technology also have the potential to make us better at what we do, such as data analysis and being more efficient with distribution.”

Melotte tells the room that technology is critically important for our jobs and our companies, yet we’re at risk of underestimating its impact and potential. He notes that among the conference’s 2500 attendees, some will still be associating technology with automating source-to-pay processes and other fundamentals. “Fortunately, there’s also a lot of thought leadership at this conference with leaders who are imagining the opportunities for technologies within the supply chain – what we do, and how we do things,” he says.

“Imagine the potential that cognitive learning, artificial intelligence and predicative analytics will have on how we forecast commodities, demand and consumer behaviour, or how we bring insights back to our business around supplier patterns.” Melotte says artificial intelligence is just one example of the big transformation currently taking place in the profession, with an increase in speed being a key benefit. “We’ll see faster speed to market, and pilot projects that you can turn around in only three months.”

3. Talent transformation

“There’s no question there’s a demographic bump,” says Derry. The “birth dearth” between the baby boomer generation and millennials means that there aren’t enough members of Generation X to step into roles as their predecessors retire. “I’d argue that those smart young people, who are digital natives, do have the tools and the mindset to adapt rapidly,” Derry says. “You’re hiring for that kind of talent all the time.”

Pinnow talks about the importance of developing and sharpening intellectual curiosity in the talent pipeline, and says there’s a lot that established professionals can learn from new talent. “You have to recognise that you don’t know everything. You have to encourage people from a talent management perspective [to teach you new concepts].”

Melotte says that having a balance of skills in your talent pool is crucial. “In tomorrow’s world, we all have to make sure there’s a certain percentage of our teams that are data scientists; who are deeply versed in analytics to give us insights. [We need to] hire and seek out this type, migrating the competency pool to ensure there’s a balance between strategic sourcing and data scientists.”

Colin Powell Talks Security, Trade and Trump at #ISM2017

While many attendees at #ISM2017 were waiting to hear what General Colin Powell would say about President Trump, the former Secretary of State also provided some valuable insights into supply management.

“An army marches on its stomach,” says Powell to a packed ballroom at #ISM2017. “It’s the logistics that allows you to face an enemy.”

Powell draws on his experience in the Vietnamese jungle 55 years ago to illustrate how dramatically the military supply chain has improved. “We just didn’t have efficient supply systems then.” The young Powell was eating plain rice 21 times a fortnight with the occasional slaughtered pig thrown in, because the supply chopper would only come once every two weeks.

Fast-forward to Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the biggest military operation since the Normandy landing. “We realised that it was logistics that would matter. We had to change some rules of behaviour.” Powell talks about some of the creative solutions to logistical challenges in the Gulf, including sourcing trucks from Egypt to move American tanks, early adoption of bar-code tech and using GPS to track those trucks (“we cleaned out every Radio Shack in America”), water scarcity and a vast amount of mail for 425,000 troops that had to be flown in: “I had to get three extra C5A’s, just for the mail.”

Powell believes there’s a lot the military and commercial worlds can learn from each other. “Both sides have to learn what’s going on the world today in terms of speed, service, quality of product and keeping up with the information revolution.” 

On Global Security

“America is not facing existential risk to our existence as it was in the Cold War,” says Powell. “There are problems that are real, but they’re overplayed and blown up.”

Powell gives North Korea as an example. After noting the poor state of their missile technology, he says there simply isn’t going to be an attack. “Give me a strategic reason why North Korea would shoot a missile at Honolulu or San Francisco. What would that achieve apart from ensuring the destruction [of Pyongyang] the following day? All that counts there is the preservation of the regime.”

Similarly, Powell believes concerns around China are overblown. “China won’t be an enemy. They won’t block the routes … It’s a nation that’s extremely important on the world stage. They want to create more influence around the world, [and they’re doing so by] building train systems in Africa, Latin America, the third world. They’re building because they want influence.”

Powell also points out that China is holding a trillion dollars of US paper. “It’s a complex country, but we have to welcome their products and an open, fair trading relationship. China has brought 400 million people out of poverty, not by raising taxes or invading people – they did it by selling stuff. Predictably, as people became more wealthy, they want more. Chinese labour costs will rise.”

On Trump

“I think what Mr Trump has to do now is reverse some of the campaign promises he made that frankly could never have been implemented, such as declaring China a currency manipulator,” says Powell, noting that Trump is maturing in his understanding of these issues.

“It’s in our interest to see him do well. Countries around the world [are] waiting for stability and clarity,  and for these campaign promises to settle down. The rest of the world wants to see coherence and consistency over time in what we say and do.”

Responding to a question about the political and economic impacts of withdrawing from the TPP, Powell says it was an unfortunate decision. “It was in our interest and would have benefited us over time.”

Powell says that the real beneficiaries now will be the Chinese, who are putting together their own trade agreement. “All our [trade] allies are joining China, and we’re standing aside.”

“The world is globalised. I’ve watched our factories going up in China – that’s just the nature of it. Success [can be had] by playing in that game, not wishing it would go away.” Speaking of globalisation in general and NAFTA in particular, Powell says that being mad about problems with trade doesn’t get you anywhere. “Fix it, but don’t throw it away.”

On Generation Next

“I have faith in the millennials and faith in the kids coming afterwards,” Powell says. “I do a lot of work with youth. I can’t change the past, I can [only] watch the present, but I can influence the future through the hearts and minds of young people.”