Tag Archives: ISM

Navigating The World’s Largest Procurement Conference

ISM2018 is nearly upon us! With an action-packed agenda featuring no less than 100 educational sessions to choose from, it’s vital that attendees arrive in Nashville with a plan.

I’ve made the 22-hour journey from my home town of Melbourne all the way to the sequin-studded city of Nashville, Tennessee, to report on the jewel of the international procurement calendar, ISM’s Annual Conference.

No matter where you’re travelling from, it’s crucial to understand your key conference objectives in advance. Why? Because this isn’t a conference with a linear agenda where you simply sit back and watch a series of presentations without having to make any choices. On the contrary, there are 100 sessions packed into four days, with many of the sessions running concurrently. That means that at any one time, you may have to make a decision between nine simultaneous sessions.

My advice is to make your conference plan right now. It’s not ideal to pick your sessions over breakfast at the conference itself, and certainly don’t try to make the decisions in the 5-minute breaks between each session!

Naseem Malik, Managing Partner of MRA Global Sourcing and member of the ISM2018 Conference Leadership Committee, told Procurious that it’s essential to have a plan when you get here. “There are a lot of learning tracks, lots of great presentations, but there’s only a finite number of sessions you can attend. It pays to have an attack plan before you go. You can target a specific learning track, or mix and match.”

SVP of Procurement at NFP, Lara Nichols, has similar words of advice. “Chart a course through the sessions. Read ahead, and think about how to spend your time. Plan it out like you would do before going on vacation! If you’ve done some pre-planning, you’ll have filters in place to help you pick well when you’re presented with a choice.”

To further complicate the decision-making process, this isn’t just about you. Most people who attend ISM2018 will be there as a representative of their wider team, so it’s critical that the sessions you attend are also relevant for your colleagues back in the office.

As such, try to keep these criteria in mind:

  • Does the session align with my personal objectives?
  • Will the session be relevant to my company?
  • Will the session have actionable takeaways?

Have a conversation with your manager or your colleagues who are still in the office about what they would like you to bring back from the conference – whether it’s market intelligence, new contacts or benchmark information. It’s also important to agree on the format that this information will take – do they expect a written report? A formal presentation? Or just an informal update when you’re back at your desk?

So – to take my own advice, I made a plan of the sessions that I’m doing my best to attend at ISM2018. Here it is:

The Keynotes

ISM always attracts impressive keynote speakers who usually provide the highlight of the conference. This year, Arianna Huffington (Founder of Huffington Post and CEO of Thrive Global) will present on how to “thrive” in the digital age and build a culture to win the future. For procurement professionals interested in how the power of social media can help them professionally (hello, Procurious!), this should be a fascinating session.

Everyone is talking about Amazon, which is why John Rossman, a former Amazon executive with wisdom to share on making your supply chain a golden asset, will definitely be speaking to a packed house. Rossman will share the key to scaling, Amazon’s secrets to drive accountability, how to achieve operational excellence, drive innovation, and deliver what customers truly desire.

American politician Mitt Romney was scheduled to complete the keynote line-up, but withdrew after announcing his candidacy for the 2018 Senate election in Utah. But never fear – Romney has been replaced by two giants of the American Intelligence community, General Keith Alexander (CEO and President of IronNet Cybersecurity, Former Director of the NSA and First Commander of U.S. Cyber Command – and John Brennan, Director of the CIA 2013-2017, and former US Homeland Security Advisor. Personally, I’ll be fascinated to see their comments in light of Edward Snowden’s now-famous absconsion from the NSA, and the current White House’s prickly relationship with intelligence agencies.

The Signature Sessions.

If they haven’t been booked out already, the nine signature sessions listed in the agenda will soon fill up, so make sure you register soon. Highlights include:

  • A CPO Town Hall and Networking Event featuring four CPOs who will answer questions on procurement transformation, providing value in M&A activity, innovation, stakeholder alignment, managing risk and retaining talent. (Update: ISM tells me that there are still some places available for this session.)
  • A session on the Evolution of Procurement and the future of the CPO, featuring SAP Ariba’s Chief Digital Officer, Dr Marcell Vollmer and Futurist Tom Raftery.
  • Elevating Employee Engagement – featuring leadership expert and executive coach Dima Ghawi, who will talk about how to tackle generation gaps, virtual teams and the global workforce.

Other Sessions

Still feeling overwhelmed?

The good news is that ISM has provided plenty of tips to guide attendees through the maze of sessions, including Learning Tracks, information on how each session is aligned to certain competencies in the Mastery Model, and proficiencies based on years of experience.

Don’t forget to drop by the Procurious Booth #207 to learn how to supercharge your procurement career through the power of online networking!  

4 Ways Diversity Makes A Rock-Solid IMPACT

Cultural diversity – whether it’s racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual – is an increasingly hot topic that shows no signs of slowing down. Let’s examine why diversity in the workplace has gone from a “nice-to-have” to a critical business imperative.

  1. Diversity leads to a higher market share

While communities are becoming increasingly culturally diverse, businesses need to mimic the communities they serve by bringing together individuals from different backgrounds and experiences. Put simply, people want to engage with companies that employ people similar to them. This enables companies to capture a greater share of the market by marketing more genuinely to diverse communities, communicating effectively with their diverse customers, and understanding their needs.

Looking for proof of the above? Research from McKinsey revealed that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have above-average financial returns, while companies in the bottom quartile were less likely to achieve above-average results.

  1. Diversity supercharges problem-solving

Institute for Supply Management CEO Tom Derry told Procurious 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.”

If you lived in a dystopic Brave New World scenario where every member of your workforce had identical cultural backgrounds, education and work experience, it’s highly likely that each individual would come up with an identical set of solutions when presented with a problem. That’s why it’s imperative that any group includes people with culturally diverse backgrounds and highly varied work experience who can bring entirely different schools of thought to the table, and hence a wide variety of innovative solutions.

  1. Diversity in the workplace helps you become a more effective global professional

Supply management professionals are increasingly working within the global supply chain, which is why being about to communicate effectively in different parts of the world is a must-have skillset. Having high cultural intelligence (CQ) means knowing how to create relationships, understand cultural nuances and adapt your approach to suit cultural differences in foreign countries.

Shelley Stewart, CPO and VP, DuPont, told Procurious that “A diverse workplace provides a wealth of varied experiences that are crucial for supply management organisations to operate even more effectively in the global economy.”

How? Because an inclusive and diverse business will increase the empathy (and CQ) of all employees as cultural tunnel-vision is reduced. In short, everyone benefits from a higher appreciation of different outlooks and an increased understanding of others. Armed with these skills, a supply management professional is much less likely to suffer culture shock or put a foot wrong when interacting internationally.

  1. Diversity will help you attract and retain the best talent

If your company has built a solid reputation as an organisation with a truly diverse and vibrant workforce, it will attract the very best and brightest in the market. Companies that fail to recognise this are missing out on top talent, as potential candidates may have the perception that your company simply doesn’t tend to hire people from their cultural background. To state the obvious, companies should be making every effort to widen, rather than shrink, the talent pool.

There’s evidence that businesses which fail to foster inclusive, diverse workforces suffer from higher turnover rates, as a hostile work environment forces employees to leave. High turnover leads to avoidable costs, which is another reason why cultural diversity positively impacts your organisation’s bottom line.

More resources on Diversity from ISM:

Is The Economy Heating Up, Or Cooling Off?

What do the stats from ISM’s Report On Business reveal about the economy and how can they help you on the job?

The October Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI®)  registered 58.7 per cent in the U.S. It showed a decrease of 2.1 percentage points from the September ISM® Manufacturing ROB reading, yet the report stated that the economy has been growing for the past 14 consecutive months.

What do all these numbers mean and how can they help you in your job?

These reports have been correctly forecasting major turns in the business cycle for more than 70 years. Savvy purchasing executives have been using the keen insights provided to help with their strategic and tactical plans for just as long.

First things first, any PMI® above 50 indicates expansion in the ISM® report. So even if ‘the rate of up is down’, as our former chair used to joke, if the index is above 50 it signals a growing economy. If you are new to reading this report, start with the ‘Table At A Glance’ so you can familiarise yourself with the comparison of this month to last month for all 11 indicators.

Next, start listening in to the radio broadcasts each month following the report, on Manufacturing Talk Radio – not only will you get analysis of the latest numbers, there is also an archive of shows from which to put everything in context, and help you make the most of these reports.

ISM Report On Business

The foundation of the ISM® ROB and the primary reason for its credibility as an accurate indicator of the U.S. economy is the Business Survey Committee. The committee is composed of supply management professionals who are responsible for the purchases at their company.

Membership of the committee is based on the Census Bureaus’ North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and diversified on each industry’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Data is collected through a monthly survey, which asks how certain economic events have changed, if at all, in the current reporting month compared to the previous month. Committee members are only required to indicate for each of the activities has moved in one of three ways: has there been no change (same), or has there been a positive change in the economic directions (better, higher, and for Supplier Deliveries, slower) or a negative change in the economic direction (worse, lower, and for Supplier Deliveries, faster).

Members are encouraged to make additional comments about any of the activities that are affecting their purchasing operation or the outlook of their company. These comments provide valuable insight and depth to the reasons for the changes which might not otherwise be apparent form the statistics alone.

Are you interested in joining the panel of supply management professionals whose input informs the ISM® Manufacturing Report On Business®? It’s also a great way to learn what each index means!

To find out if you qualify and fill out an interest form, please click here. 

Check Out The Keynotes for ISM2018 Nashville

ISM has done it again, with three globally-recognised keynotes announced ahead of its highly anticipated annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

FXQuadro/Shutterstock.com

About this time every year, the Institute for Supply Management announces its keynotes for its upcoming annual conference. As usual, the lineup for ISM2018 is impressive, with Mitt Romney, Arianna Huffington, and John Rossman set to wow the crowd.

Mitt Romney was the 70th Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 and 2007 and the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United states in the 2012 election, where he ran against the formidable incumbent, Barack Obama. Romney is also the founder and CEO of Bain Capital.

Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, and appears regularly in Forbes’s most influential people lists. Huffington has recently launched a new startup, Thrive Global, focused on health and wellness information.

John Rossman is a former Amazon executive and author of “The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company.”

Top-tier keynotes at ISM’s annual conference have become something of a tradition. Romney, Huffington and Rossman will join an alumni of household names who have spoken in the past, including:

Focused on “Global Insights, Peak Performance”, ISM2018 expects to draw over 2,500 supply management executives and professionals from around the world. More than 100 interactive sessions are a part of six practitioner-led learning tracks, and will feature executives from firms such as Google, Pfizer, and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro.

ISM2018 will be held from May 6th – 9th 2018 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.


In other news this week:

 Economists warn against NAFTA withdrawal

  • A report in the Wall Street Journal has given the probability of a U.S. withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement is roughly 1 in 4.
  • Private-sector forecasters have said that such a move would likely weigh on economic growth.
  • S. President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA if efforts to renegotiate it fail. Talks are set to resume on November 17th in Mexico City.

Read more: Wall Street Journal

 

Driverless shuttle hit by delivery truck

  • Only hours after its debut, a driverless shuttle in Las Vegas was hit by a semi-truck, demonstrating that robotic vehicles are still vulnerable to human error.
  • According to reports, the fault lies squarely with the driver of the semi, whose vehicle grazed the front fender of the shuttle. The robot shuttle’s sensors registered the truck and stopped the vehicle in an effort to avoid the accident.
  • None of the shuttle’s eight passengers were injured in the incident, but proponents of the self-driving vehicle revolution are concerned that incidents like this will delay the uptake of robotic vehicles.

Read more: MarketWatch

Five Surprises From ISM’s 2017 Salary Survey

A double-digit increase in salaries over four years, a continuing gender pay gap and similarity in salaries across generations are just some of the insights to be found in ISM’s foremost annual research initiative, the Salary Survey.

To create the ISM Annual Salary Survey report, for the past 12 years Institute for Supply Management has asked its members thoughtful questions regarding their salaries, benefits, current employment and what they’re looking for in future employers. This report’s purpose is simple: to empower the professionals we serve, through the provision of insightful, actionable information. We believe this information is so important for individual professionals (and therefore the profession) that we take the time to carefully compile thousands of responses from around the United States. The information gathered is then diligently reported back, every May, in an article in Inside Supply Management and in a detailed report available on ISM’s website.

  1. Strong momentum for salaries

This year, the Salary Survey found that in 2016, salaries continued to grow strongly compared to the previous year. This may be due in part to a strong job market, continuing the forward momentum from 2015 into 2016 with the average compensation for responding professionals being $115,440, an increase of 5% compared to 2015 ($109,961). In 2015, there was a 7.9% increase. In the longer term, salaries for procurement and supply management practitioners increased 14% from 2013 to 2016, as released in the 2014 to 2017 ISM® Salary Survey reports.

  1. Widening gender gap

More saliently, the average salary reported by procurement/supply managers was $109,401 in 2016 — and when broken down by gender, male managers reported earning an average salary of $114,207 while female managers reported an average salary of $97,948. While overall salaries have increased over the years, in 2016 men earned an average of 31% more than women, a substantial increase from the 24% reported in 2015.

  1. Professional certifications pay off

The survey further found that those who invested in professional certifications made more in 2016 than practitioners who did not. Respondents who have a professional certification reported that their average salary was $121,523, whereas those who indicated they did not reported an average salary of $108,141.

  1. Generational differences and similarities

Professionals can also start to see year-over-year trends in the detailed report and use information from the inaugural Generational Report, which was released this month. The Generational Report looks at information collected from Salary Survey reports over the years, and follows baby boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials as they move through the profession, reporting salary and other changes. For example, while millennials are a distant third on the generational salary scale (an average of $93,555), Generation Xers aren’t far behind baby boomers ($121,512 and $122,880, respectively).

  1. Considering changing careers?

The Salary Survey report has a specific section dedicated to individuals who are thinking of changing careers or are considering getting a professional certification. In 2016, nearly half of respondents indicated that they transferred into procurement/supply management from another career or vocation, and reported that the change resulted in an average salary of $118,140, 2.3% more than the overall average reported for 2016. Director, manager and experienced practitioner respondents from another field earned 4.7% more, 6.6% more and 7.5% more, respectively, compared to peers who have always worked in supply management.

In just this article’s small recap of Salary Survey findings, practitioners can easily start to identify where they fall among their peers. Information is collected on salary not only by position, but years of experience, education, geographic region, industry and many other categories.

Information like this gives power and perspective to the professionals consuming it, and helps them map out their future. Confidence and knowledge work symbiotically, and in this case, it’s easy to have confidence when possessing facts to back your decisions — whether changing positions and/or careers, negotiating for increased benefits or motivating a professional to pursue a certification. The information ISM provides helps empower procurement and supply management professionals. It’s what we do best.

The ISM’s Twelfth Annual Salary Survey detailed report can be accessed here or you can access Inside Supply Management magazine here.

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.”

Live From The Big Ideas Summit

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 preparedto 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!­­