Tag Archives: organisational strategy

3 Key Qualities That Help Create an Agile Team

Plenty organisations talk about creating an agile procurement team. However, few actually put the qualities in place to increase their agility.

creating agile teams

I recently attended The Hackett Group’s 2016 ‘European Best Practices Conference’ in London, where Nic Walden, Senior Procurement Advisor, led a Procurement workshop on creating agility.

Speaking to the 40 or so procurement leaders in the room, Nic noted that increasingly agility is the defining trait of world-class procurement teams, both today and in future.

“More agile functions will be better positioned to respond to complex business problems. They can make and implement important decisions quickly, respond rapidly to changes in business demands or priorities, and maintain or improve cost under volatile business conditions”, explained Nic.

But how do you go about developing your team, improve efficiency and move from low to high agility?

Using The Hackett Group’s model, Nic divided the qualities that contribute to agility into three categories:

  • Adaptive Organisation
  • Information Centricity
  • Agile Service Execution

1) Is Your Team Adaptive?

Perhaps most importantly, an agile team must be an adaptive one. There are several ways to achieve this within your organisation:

Keep Learning

With mobility, cloud, artificial intelligence, and supplier networks accelerating at an unprecedented rate, Nic urged workshop participants: “Even if you are not a technologist, it is never too late to become one.”

For example, what are these new technologies? And how might we apply them to create value for our teams and business?

Are you continuously transforming your team’s capabilities to ensure they’re keeping pace with the evolution of the business? To be sustainable, change management should be embedded in your team with the opportunities to continuously upgrade, learn new skills and employ new capabilities.

Change your Strategies

Top management looks to procurement teams to help the business execute purchasing strategies more successfully. In turn, this enables the business to become more agile and innovative.

There is no need to stick to traditional approaches when considering how best to include fresh thinking and new idea generation in your supply base. Leadership teams should make quick decisions, be calculated when it comes to risk taking, and seize opportunities to think and act differently.

Adapt to your Talent

The Millennial Generation represents one of the greatest potential challenges to managing and adapting to talent in the next year or two.

Surveys tell us Millennials are likely to remain in a job for three years or fewer. Training strategies need to be modernised to reflect this accelerated reality, as well as changing learning styles and preferences. Strategies like 70-20-10 that get people up to speed faster and the use of more interactive, workshop and team based formats should be preferred.

The pace at which open positions can be filled affects operational agility, as does the efficiency of your organisation’s on-boarding process.

Given that staff turnover can be high, as in the case of Millennials, it’s crucial to save time here in order to maximise the contributions employees can make to the business.

2) Is information, knowledge and intelligence centric to all your team does?

Perhaps the greatest opportunity remains for many organisations to leverage information to enhance decision making. This opportunity can be looked at much broader than only historic spend data.

Is your team able to navigate information effectively? Do you have the insight to take necessary decisions quickly?

Invest in the right technology

Nic highlighted how “world-class procurement organisations spend 23 per cent more on technology per FTE, and invest a greater proportion of their budget than the peer group on systems and tools to enable analytics capability.”

The right technology, implemented correctly and consistently across teams, is worth the investment.

Know your stakeholders

Make it a priority to engage with and meet your key stakeholders in order to understand their needs, the problems they face and therefore the data needed to solve these problems.

Decision-making should be based on actual information and KPIs tracking value delivery mutually aligned across your team and stakeholders.

Harness the Value of Big Data

It all starts at quality data. Big Data has the potential to transform analytics with real-time intelligence. Procurement leaders are realising that higher-quality information can help them drive greater business value.

Big Data has been a game changer when it comes to customer analytics, offering an unprecedented ability to quickly model massive volumes of structured and unstructured data from multiple sources.

Enhanced and more granular demand sensing and forecast accuracy are obvious examples for procurement and supply chain teams.

Automate Your Reporting

Adopting automated reporting and dashboards helps to streamline information, saves your team time and significantly reduces human error.

Real time reporting allows for speedier, pro-active decision making which will help your organisation to quickly achieve strategic alignment. What’s not to love?

3) Does your team execute service in a responsive, customer centric and agile way?

In an agile team, Nic notes that talent is “empowered, accountable and incentivised to focus single-mindedly on the customer – the internal stakeholder.”

Use Focus Groups To Prioritise

Set up focus groups to provide “voice of the customer” recommendations into what really matters. Your team’s product and service offerings should be designed from the outside in, beginning with the customer experience.

What outcomes or challenges will deliver optimum value? New innovations that your team seeks to implement should be driven as a result of customer and stakeholder feedback.

Act holistically

Try to create an end-to-end customer experience that cuts across multiple procurement (and sometimes other function) processes.

From the beginning, engage and involve the key players (ex. legal, finance, R&D, etc) in the processes that affect the customer experience.

Escaping Groundhog Day with Corporate Knowledge Capture

Can cognitive technology revolutionise the way we capture corporate knowledge?

groundhog day knowledge capture

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

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in the nightmare of a supply chain groundhog day? One minute you’re gaining some solid ground in your organisation and the next… You’re back at square one, looking likely to make the same mistakes over and over again, trying in vain to get things right.

Capturing the Knowledge

Groundhog day is the reality for procurement and supply chain professionals who don’t adequately and methodically capture corporate knowledge.

  • When an individual leaves your organisation that doesn’t mean that all their knowledge should leave with them.
  • The tribal knowledge residing in your supply chain shouldn’t be reliant on key individuals keeping it there.
  • All of your supply chain decisions should be mapped out.
  • If your team makes a mistake you should be learning from it, not repeating it.
  • Knowledge capture should be an ongoing, continuous process and not something that is attempted, under pressure, at the point of employee exit.

There’s no question that retaining corporate knowledge is good for business. It helps facilitate the creation of new knowledge, it saves time and effort, positively affects your relationship with suppliers and customers and encourages new innovations.

Corporate Knowledge Capture is also great for new employees who can learn quickly and resolve problems more efficiently. That’s not to mention the benefits of leveraging the accumulated experiences of employees both past and present.

Social Capture and Collaboration

Organisations have employed various techniques to retaining corporate knowledge.

One approach is to use social intranet software that acts as a social collaboration platform. These provide a space where you can capture information, share data and communicate better with colleagues, suppliers and customers. Services such as Yammer and Jive have helped to increase efficiency and enhance information flow.

Other organisations have their own internal intranet, which serves the same purpose.

The problem with either of these options is that they are both laborious and time consuming. They depend on your knowledge base being regularly updated with the newest information as it becomes available in order to offer maximum value.

Employees will also be relied upon to review information and update the content. It might sound like reasonable expectations in theory but, in practice, it’s hard to maintain. New approaches are needed which are proactive as opposed to reactive.

Along Came Cognitive Technology

Fortunately, the ways that we capture knowledge are changing and evolving with technology developments, making it easier than ever before to do so. Cognitive Technology is today’s game changer in many ways and one of them is the impact it could have on corporate knowledge capture.

It can think, learn, and generally mimic human intellect. IDC estimates that, by 2020, 50 per cent of all business software will incorporate some cognitive computing functionality.

With regards to knowledge retention, cognitive tech can modify and document specific and analytic knowledge in a manner that others can re-use and adapt it for their specific use.

It can make intelligent decisions about where inventory should go, but also how it gets there.

It will also add information to the puzzle on warehouse space capacity, trailer loads that are going LTL, and ultimately, the best route not only based on cost or labor, but all of the extraneous details that aren’t apparent at the onset of an order.

Decisions will no longer be made that leave out key stakeholders by accident. Cognitive tech will recognise recommended participants for conversations and bring them together for troubleshooting in one place.

Balancing supply chains is a never-ending puzzle. As the complexity grows, communication and knowledge retention becomes of the utmost importance. How can Watson supply chain help to enable more intelligent decisions and guide leaders to make strategic moves? Find out here.

Are Traditional Views Limiting Procurement Innovation?

Is a lack of competitiveness and a risk averse nature holding back the progress of procurement innovation? New research seems to suggest so.

Procurement Innovation

New research shows that procurement is innovating and wants to do so even more in the future. However, the function’s risk averse nature, non-competitive attitude, and the prioritisation of collaboration over leadership, may be holding back its progress.

While many procurement professionals and leaders are embracing procurement innovation, many appear to be innovating within a safe environment, sticking with the things they know about, such as the supply chain.

Procurement says its ability to innovate is stifled by what others think it’s there to do, but isn’t it time that procurement stopped worrying what others perceive it as and started focusing on realising its full potential?

Limiting Procurement Innovation

Wax Digital’s new Procurement Innovation Pathway research, which surveyed 100 of the UK’s senior procurement professionals, shows that 69 per cent considered themselves pivotal to business innovation today, with 80 per cent expecting to be so in the future.

On average, 76 per cent said that they are involved in a range of business innovations, but only 27 per cent are leading them. However, 86 per cent said they want to be a part of all ongoing product innovations and service developments in the future – not only those within the procurement function.

But procurement’s view of what makes a business innovative appears to be impacted by some of its traditional risk averse thinking. Having a clear business vision (42 per cent), reacting quickly to the market and customers (33 per cent) and reviewing and improving business processes (32 per cent) were procurement’s top cited factors associated with business innovation.

Other characteristics traditionally more innovation related, however, are at the bottom of their list. Only 20 per cent cited a willingness to take risks, and 19 per cent a high investment in R&D, for example.

Procurement Innovation Barriers

Procurement identifies a number of factors stopping it innovating, most frequently other departmental views (40 per cent), lack of required skills (33 per cent) and time consuming processes (31 per cent).

And while these factors clearly play a part, there seem to be attitudinal setbacks with procurement’s own mind-set. Only 10 per cent, for example, are focused on challenging business objectives; just 14 per cent prioritise competitiveness and 18 per cent leadership as skills within their team – which they also say are declining traits.

Commenting on the research’s finding, Daniel Ball, director at Wax Digital said: “It’s fair to say that the average procurement function today is a vastly different place to what it once was. Procurement is innovating – of that there’s no doubt. But are they heading in the right direction or truly prepared to break the mould? Clear indicators of some discomfort with taking risks and really leading and driving innovation suggest it’s not yet realising its full potential in this area.

“To become real innovators, procurement professionals must overcome these issues while fostering the right business relationships, nurturing the correct new skills and seeking to break ground in their approach to technology.”

The Innovation 2016 research was conducted by Morar Consulting in March 2016, involving 100 interviews to canvass the opinions of UK senior procurement professionals working in small to large UK enterprises.

You can find out more about the research, and download the report, by visiting the Wax Digital website.