Tag Archives: knowledge management

Why You Need to Hyper-Specialise – Best of the Blog 2019

The days of the generalist are over. Today, the most influential people in your organisation are those with the ability to hyper-specialise.

experts hyper-specialise
Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash

This article was written by Julie Masters, and was first published in February.

When I first started working in the world of influence and influencers, it was possible to own a massive space; whether it was leadership, real estate, finance, money or health. There were very few “gurus” who had access to a platform from to talk about their wide area of expertise.

Today, however, everybody has a platform. The internet is crowded with blogs, podcasts, Youtube channels and social media influencers, with the result that there’s way too much noise to own a huge space anymore. Now, the future belongs to micro-influencers; micro-authorities who hyper-specialise.

When stakeholders need help from a procurement professional, they need to be able to find you fast. They want to know – straight away – whether the space that you own aligns exactly with their situation and needs. An IT professional, for example, doesn’t want advice from a procurement generalist. They want to talk to an IT purchasing specialist – someone who understands the challenges involved and is well-known as an expert in that space.

Do you own your space on Google?

When was the last time you Googled yourself? Take a minute to do so now. What did you find out – do the search results make it clear what space you own?

According to Harvard University, over 50% of decisions are now made before we ever making contact i.e via what I would call “Google stalking”. When you first make contact with a talent prospect, a supplier or a potential consultant, one of the first things they will do (I guarantee it) is Google stalk you. If what they find is irrelevant, not specific to their needs or if they can’t find it fast enough, then you’ve lost that race.

To become an influencer, you have to own your space – but you can’t own a space unless you are clear on what space it is that you want to own.

Influence Intersections

But how do you find out the niche that you want to own? How do you discover the hyper-specialisation that will set you apart from everybody else?

Let me introduce a concept that I call Influence Intersections. Picture a Venn diagram: the first of the two circles is a world in which you have mastery, insights or experience. Then you overlay this with another world where you have mastery, insights or experience. The intersecting space in the middle is the space that only you can own. The space where your expertise will stand out.

Two celebrity influencers who hyper-specialised

Take Jamie Oliver – when he first started out there were many celebrity chefs from six-star hotels and restaurants. Then Jamie came along, and what did he have? He had mastery, experience, and insights into the high-end world of cooking, but he also had personality. The personality he brought to the front was that he understood families and what it’s like to cook for your children on a budget quickly in a healthy way. The place in the middle between those two spaces was a place that only Jamie could own.

Steve Jobs is another famous example. He took the world of engineering and computers and overlayed this with another world he knew – the world of the creative innovator. That space in the middle then became the key Apple needed to dominate the marketplace.  

Why should a procurement professional hyper-specialise?

One word – influence. Procurement professionals are typically frustrated by their lack of influence (or “seat at the table”) within their organisations, but building up your profile and becoming known as the go-to expert in your space will lift your influence and cause others to seek out your advice. Imagine, then, a whole team of hyper-specialised procurement professionals, each one famous in the organisation for owning their space. How influential would that department become?

It’s also a great tool to keep in mind for your next career move. If you begin hyper-specialising today with the aim of becoming known as the guru in your particular space, you might just be in a job interview situation one day where the interviewer says, “I’ve heard of you – your expertise is a perfect fit for this opportunity”.

Remember, the days of the generalist are over. Generalists rarely become voices of authority. In addition to not being renumerated as well as perceived ‘experts’ they also receive less engagement and fewer opportunities. People who hyper-specialise, on the other hand, receive more credibility, more respect, more opportunities and more influence. 

What are the two worlds you can overlay to find – and own – your space?

Procurement Will: My Takeaways from the Big Ideas Summit

The best insights in the world are no good if nobody acts on them. Time for procurement to follow through with some great, Big Ideas.

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting a room full of some of the top procurement professionals in the country. This wasn’t just any old networking event though, it was the Chicago Big Ideas Summit. Not only were we inundated with interesting speakers and lively discussions that inspired us to keep pushing the boundaries of what procurement can do, but we were able to make new connections and let our hair down with our peers.

While we expected to be challenged and excited by the ideas shared, nothing could have prepared us for how much fun the day turned out to be.

As procurement professionals, we have an important role in driving change in the world around us – both locally and globally – and these changes are about so much more than saving money.

While I have enough notes from the day to fill a book, here are three of my biggest takeaways from the Chicago Big Ideas Summit:

Procurement must become the knowledge centre of an organisation

With the reach of procurement growing every year, defining where it sits within an organisation can be a challenge. Strong cases can be made for both operations and finance, but as risk management rises as a crucial pillar for the profession, procurement is increasingly becoming known as the knowledge centre of an organisation. As Justin Crump, CEO of Sibylline said, “The best insight in the world is no good, if nobody acts on it.”

With unique insight into potential and emerging threats including environmental, political and social issues, it’s the procurement professional’s responsibility to not only understand how to navigate these risks, but to share them with the rest of their organisation to ensure swift action can be taken.

Pat McCarthy, SVP & GM for SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass, agreed that harnessing this information network is crucial to the future of procurement. “Information and insights light the way for procurement to add value.”

With oversight of risk, slavery and cost to data and solutions, we need to be able to share and integrate this knowledge into our organisations to truly demonstrate the value of effective procurement.

How do we invest in the future of procurement?

The war for talent is underway and with many coming to the profession through alternative channels, we need to be constantly thinking about how we can attract and retain the right type of talent. As Professor Moran Cerf told us, “We might be the last versions of humans that will train the brain to think differently due to technology.”

That means that not only do we need to ensure we’re hiring people who understand and can develop alongside the evolving technologies, but we need to be conscious of emerging soft skills and emotional intelligence to help the next generation of procurement professionals succeed.

We have top talent in the United States, but we need to help unleash them from “inside the box” thinking to ensure we’re working together to innovate and solve emerging issues of the future.

Our panel discussion lead by Dawn Tiura, President and CEO, Sourcing Industry Group, discussed how the procurement professionals who prefer the ‘beat up and buy’ sourcing mentality have become irrelevant, and we’re now more interested in talent who can demonstrate their Adaptability Quotient (AQ). The ability to demonstrate agility, be naturally curious and respond to change will all be crucial going forward.

Supplier and Stakeholder Partnerships are Key

This might not be the most mind-blowing concept in procurement, given that maintaining relationships with stakeholders is at the core of what we do, but how we work with our suppliers in the future is going to be the key to success.

Diego de la Garza, Director of Source One, said, “We need to know the problem we are trying to solve, then facilitate the process between stakeholders and suppliers to create ideas that will solve that problem.” That means that we must let go of the idea that contract negotiations and supplier relationships are about beating down the price and embrace the partnership style of working.

“Reliable supply chains give you control over the unknown,” said Bradley Paster, VP North American Sales, riskmethods during his presentation. The most effective way you can ensure you have a reliable supply chain is by working with your suppliers and stakeholders to add value, solve problems and innovate to find a better way forward.

Value will always drive buying decisions, but the true value of procurement can be measured beyond cost and working with our stakeholders can ensure we’re adding value not just to our bottom line, but to the improvement of our global community.

As Jamila Gordon reminded us in her closing speech of the day, there is hope. The future is bright and procurement is the key for driving great changes in our world.

Feel like you’re late to the party? Or did you just get swamped and weren’t able to tune in on the day? Well, fear not, you can still access all the great content, videos, keynotes, presentations and all the discussion in the Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019 Group! By clicking here, you can join the group and catch up when it suits you.

What is the Future of Knowledge Management in Procurement?

Knowledge management is becoming critical for organisations as the current generation retires. So how can procurement leverage technology to ensure knowledge isn’t lost?

Maxx-Studio/Shutterstock.com

Introducing Watson Supply Chain from IBM. Get to know Watson here.

“Knowledge is power,” proclaimed Francis Bacon, the English philosopher whose advocacy of the scientific method fuelled the scientific revolution. Centuries later, Dale Carnegie, the American philosopher and writer, and perhaps the father of corporate training, responded, “Knowledge isn’t power, until it is applied.”

Bacon’s and Carnegie’s time may have passed – our economies and businesses are exponentially more global and complex – yet, their words still ring true.

Trends Influencing Talent and Knowledge Management

For a global business, managing procurement essentially means tackling the enormous challenge of managing information and knowledge. Today’s complexities emanating from globalisation, dispersed workforces, and massive amounts of data make information and knowledge oversight critical.

Further, demographic and talent management trends make the issue even more pressing:

  • Key personnel are retiring

Baby boomers, the experienced core of procurement and supply chain teams, are retiring at a record pace. Replacing their knowledge and experience is a hefty task.

  • Replacements are inexperienced

The millennials who make up the bulk of new hires, although tech-savvy, often lack procurement and supply chain experience and knowledge. They also are hard to retain – averaging less than two years in their positions.

  • Teams are expanding

Procurement teams are expanding in line with the maturation of the profession and the greater, more strategic responsibilities and objectives put on procurement organisations.

  • Teams are dispersing

Further, with globalisation and growth, procurement teams are increasingly decentralised and located globally, making it harder to pass knowledge and expertise through day-to-day personal interactions.

Amidst these trends, how do you retain, build, and share procurement and institutional knowledge not just within the organisation – but across the globe and across systems?

Technology Trends and Evolution

This is all occurring at an interesting time from a technology standpoint. Procurement has seen technologies evolve over the past 20 years from point solutions, such as spend analysis and sourcing solutions, to suites that span the entire procure-to-pay and source to-pay process as well as the larger strategic supply management process.

This really has been an evolution focused on ever-greater automation and connectivity across the global procurement organisation. Increasingly, their goal is to centralise procurement and supplier data for the sake of efficiency and to get the entire enterprise on the same page.

It’s led to tremendous advances in sustainable savings, risk mitigation, and supplier management and innovation.

Now we’re at another technological inflection point. From the procurement point of view – and talent management point of view – it’s coming at an excellent time.

That next big evolution is cognitive solutions. Or, as it’s also popularly known, artificial intelligence.

The Emergence of Thinking Technologies

Cognitive technologies are now being regularly used by forward-thinking procurement organisations at Fortune 1000 companies to tackle specific tasks, such as assessing risks or profiling suppliers.

In the months and years to come, these cognitive technologies will be weaved into procurement and supply chain enterprise solutions. Cognitive technologies go beyond information management and process automation; they are solutions that can understand, reason, learn, and interact like a human.

They can analyse data, both structured and unstructured, from internal and external sources, at enormous scale and speed. This allows for deeper analysis and insights.

Cognitive technologies are an evolution of the first order. They are more in line with the advent of enterprise software, mobile phones, or the Internet, than the progression from point solutions to suites.

IDC estimates that, by 2020, 50 per cent of all business analytics software will incorporate some cognitive computing functionality.

Additionally, the Pew Research Center notes, “By 2025, artificial intelligence will be built into the algorithmic architecture of countless functions of business and communication, increasing relevance, reducing noise, increasing efficiency and reducing risk across everything from finding information to making transactions.”

How do cognitive technologies impact talent and knowledge management?

From a knowledge management perspective, cognitive solutions enable an organisation to retain institutional and supply chain information and experience. They offer the power to elevate personnel by providing thinking solutions that inform, speed, and improve day-to-day actions and decisions.

These solutions can extend or expand the knowledge of global personnel.

With cognitive technologies, knowledge sharing becomes automated. For example, a new millennial team member – in Mumbai, Shanghai, or Austin – can access the professional knowledge of a 20-year procurement veteran. Or a procurement professional who has worked his or her entire career in Boston can tap into specialised knowledge about markets, practices, and suppliers in Brazil.

Cognitive solutions provide personnel with deep insights and experience, collected over time, drawing from sources inside and outside the organisation. These technologies learn and operate by organisational preference – developing a “supplier playbook” – and can provide actionable recommendations to personnel. Further, cognitive technologies can foster collaboration across the company and with suppliers.

In sum, cognitive technologies elevate and empower both individual employees and the entire team.

Indeed, we’re amidst a knowledge revolution – where procurement personnel proactively advise the business, offering smarter insights, deeper analysis, and greater strategic value.

If knowledge is power, organisations are risking losing power if they don’t have effective knowledge management processes. But technology, such as IBM Watson Supply Chain can help retain this knowledge and pass it to the next generation. Find out all your need to know here.