Tag Archives: political landscape

Three Key Steps To Getting Brexit Ready

It’s been over two years since the UK voted to leave the EU. But beyond the exit date of 29 March 2019, little is known about the details of the Brexit agreement…
Negotiations between Brussels and Whitehall are rumbling on with little sign of a breakthrough. And the longer they continue the less likely it seems a deal will be struck.

A recent EU exit impact study conducted by Efficio for a UK central government department indicated a potential 8 per cent increase in costs as a result of Brexit.

Yet a poll of 800 business leaders carried out by the Institute of Directors has revealed that 49 per cent of businesses do “not anticipate drawing up nor implementing any contingency plans for Brexit”.

Similarly, a Survation survey commissioned by Maritime UK found that nearly half of businesses polled have done ‘very little’ or no preparation in anticipation of the UK leaving without a deal – despite two-thirds of business leaders believing such a scenario is ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’. Only 27 per cent  consider it ‘unlikely’, with another 8 per cent saying they are unsure.

Stick or twist?

Few can argue that these are unprecedented times, the likes of which Europe has never seen before. There’s no blueprint for untangling member states from the union – a situation made more complex by the need for Brussels to safeguard the EU project and potentially make the UK pay a high price for ‘independence’.

The majority of public and private sector organisations appear to be biding their time, waiting to see the terms of an exit agreement before they invest time and money in putting contingency plans in place. Is this a deliberate, tactical approach? Or could it be that procurement teams are unsure of what action to take and/or lack the capacity to deal with the task ahead?

Whatever the situation, now is not the time to hunker down and do nothing. On the contrary, businesses should be using these crucial few months to assess the scale of the impact on their supply chains and ready themselves to respond to what lies ahead.

Sourcing strategies, suppliers, contracts

Organisations should start by considering three core pillars of procurement, namely existing contracts, sourcing strategies and current suppliers.

1. Contracts

Form a clear understanding of your contract risk profile. Identify your risks against a hierarchy of needs. Examples of potential risks may include EU funding reliance, lack of freedom of movement restricting labour availability and driving wage increases or foreign exchange and tariffs creating cost pressure. Examine key contract clauses linked to EU exit readiness, such as termination, cost pressures and continuity resulting from legal change to determine where further risks may lie.

2. Sourcing strategies 

Review your existing category strategies to understand category objectives, sourcing strategies and the pipeline of work. Identify which elements will be affected by the EU exit and, where this impact is significant, determine how to take account of EU exit activity in your category plans.

3. Suppliers

Engage your suppliers and assess the wider market to pinpoint cost and risk drivers in key categories. Work with your suppliers to review expected pressures resulting from Brexit, their current mitigation plans and their view of the company’s main risks. Then encourage them to implement effective business continuity plans.

Deep knowledge of these areas, coupled with strong contingency plans to deal with change, are essential to manage risks and seize opportunities.

Act now to get ahead

Efficio is working with a number of public and private sector companies, including large central government departments, to carry out detailed readiness analysis ahead of the EU exit. The service is designed to prepare organisations to make fast, structured change and mitigate risk when the time comes.

To find out how we can support you in getting Brexit-ready, visit our website.

Brexit: What Happens Now?

Brexit is complicated and it’s very, very messy. And what happens during the next couple of years will be determined by a number of political factors…

At last month’s CPO roundtable Anand Menon, Director of the UK in a Changing Europe based at Kings College London, spoke to us about the long-term causes of Brexit and their future implications.

“Hand on heart I don’t know [what’s going to happen]” he said. “If I could answer that I’d be rich and famous!”

It’s the most uncertain moment in British politics since World War Two and what’s striking is that, two years on from the referendum, nothing has been decided.

A key reason for such uncertainty is the nature of the referendum itself.  As Anand explained, the referendum packaged so many different options and outcomes into a binary choice: leave or remain.  No one understood quite what they were signing up for and since the result, Brexit has largely been defined in terms of the different adjectives applied to it; black Brexit; white Brexit; hard Brexit; soft Brexit; white red and blue Brexit… the list goes on.

“Brexit was a vote against globalisation and it was a vote against the economic status quo. Subsequently, it’s interesting  to see that the South of England has noticed the North and we’ve had a chance to address issues that never got air time under old centrist, liberal politics.

“More profoundly, the referendum and its outcome have taught us about us. In the same way that Trump has been a wakeup call for the U.S, the fallout from Brexit should be a wakeup call to our politicians to think about the real problems confronting the country. ”

And how to best to manage negotiations as we ready to leave the EU.

Does the UK want to establish a relationship with the EU similar to that of Norway’s or maybe more like a more distant partner?

Anand admitted that due to Brexit being such a complex and all-consuming process, there is no avoiding it being a messy one at that! What happens during the next couple of years will largely be determined by the following three political factors:

  1. Theresa May

The UK Prime Minister relatively quickly defined what she meant by Brexit (leave customs market, end free movement etc) and her position has remained relatively unchanged since. Whilst she is unpopular with many in her party, it is unlikely her critics will choose to get rid of her yet. As long as she in place, she is a powerful force for stability.

  1. The Conservative Government

There are a significant number of Tory MPs who want a much softer Brexit than the Prime Minister is proposing so it’s possible they will vote against May’s Brexit deal. However, if May loses this vote there is no question that she has to go; after all, her whole mission as Prime Minister is Brexit. If that happens, the Conservative Party will either elect a new leader or the UK will face a new general election. And the one thing no Tories want is another general election.

  1. The Labour Government 

In the last general election, Labour picked up votes from both remainers and leavers. As such, the party have been careful to keep their Brexit policies ambiguous. Whenever Corbyn speaks about Brexit, he speaks in ambiguities.

Does Anand believe there is any chance of a second referendum? “The beauty of Britain at the moment is that any outcome is possible – I can imagine us crashing out with no deal or a great deal but I can also imagine a scenario where the first referendum is overturned.”

“No one knows what would happen to public opinion at this point – we could vote Brexit again. Or, imagine second time around the UK votes to remain 52-48 per cent. We’ll find ourselves in a political groundhog day. There would need to be a huge swing in vote for it to carry much weight.”

Ultimately, Anand warns, the real danger for the UK’s economy is that the negotiations go pear shaped, the UK crashes out of the EU in March 2019 and they end up with no wiggle room to extend the UK’s transition period.

His advice to procurement organisations trying to prepare? Plan for a World Trade Organisation outcome from 2021 – “That, I think, is the most likely outcome.”

Procurement Pudding (It’s A Trifle Complicated)

Nothing says Procurement quite like a classic trifle; it’s intricate, it’s complicated, but if you get it right… everyone wants a piece of it!

As the holidays descend upon us, it’s time to start winding down the gears to relax and – inevitably – reflect on the year that was!

Time with family and friends for me is synonymous with food! Because I almost always spend this time of year in the southern hemisphere, it’s a summer menu. It’s more about prawns and pavlova than pork and pancetta (although the latter does make it onto table anyway!) But, of course, that other p … the “p” we all love – procurement – is never far from mind and always on the menu for discussion!

During the year I have been fortunate to speak to procurement and supply chain audiences around the world about the trends we are seeing on Procurious and the impending impact of Industry 4.0 on our profession. In order to provide a framework for thinking through all the challenges and opportunities, I have been sharing a rather quirky analogy by comparing the well-loved English pudding – the trifle – to procurement and supply chain today. Putting up a giant image of a pudding on the big screen at a conference is also a great way to get your audience’s attention!

For the uninitiated, constructing an English trifle involves carefully layering sponge, jelly, custard, fruit, cream, and often garnishing with a heavy sprinkling of nuts.

Yet each layer remains distinct, and that’s how I think of procurement today – a series of self-supporting layers that feed into and out of each other. To manage our roles, we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses or the “setting points”, of those layers if we’re to stay ahead.

Let’s think through some of those layers.

Navigating the Nuts

Let’s start with the top layer of nuts. A generous sprinkling of the unexpected! This is how I think about the Black Swan events that seem to occur with alarming regularity these days. We need to be thinking about these unthinkables – hurricanes like Harvey that de-commission whole cities, man-made catastrophes like the Tianjin port disaster, not to mention recent terrorist attacks. If we can’t predict them, we can at least prepare for the unexpected, take pre-emptive action against disasters that could destroy our supply chains and analyse areas of high-risk.

Geopolitical jelly

Brexit is just one example of how our supply chain forward planning can become somewhat suspended by macroeconomic and geopolitical changes. In Europe, the UK’s decision to activate Brexit is having clear ramifications including a rise in nationalism that’s reflected across Europe. Currency fluctuation and workforce migration also impact procurement and supply chain. The costs to import goods within supply chains will increase; there could be a loss in freedom of movement both in goods and services for UK and EU businesses, and procurement talent could also be considerably affected if the talent pool is reduced.

The Fruits of Progress

We all have front row seats at the parade of new and exciting technologies that are driving the 4th industrial revolution. The rise of the Internet of Things, robotics, blockchain and artificial intelligence will create what we are calling Procurement 4.0.

Cognitive procurement & supply chains are the most exciting developments to happen during my 20-year career. These innovations will enthuse a whole new generation of procurement professionals to join our ranks, but we need to be flexible, agile and able to foster a culture of continuous invention to stay on the leading edge and avoid extinction.

The Foundation Layer

Finally there’s the layer in which we hold the power: Procurement.

Procurement is the sponge at the bottom of the trifle. No matter how many unstable layers of fruit and jelly and custard are piled on top of us, we remain intact. We successfully juggle with the events and changes over which our stakeholders and suppliers have only limited control.

Fortunately, social media helps. I don’t know about you, but when my phone is pinging through the night with texts and emails from the other side of the globe, I’m often tempted to turn it off. But I don’t, because for all the downsides of being constantly online, the benefits of being connected are immense.

Three out of four of our respondents to our Gen Next Survey believed that being well-connected online actually improved on-the-job performance. By using resources like Procurious, not only can we maintain the layers of our trifle by staying aware of these constant changes, but we can also gain access to an enormous diversity of ideas and enthuse the next generation of procurement talent.

The Cream of Procurement Talent

To meet the challenge posed by the top layers of the trifle – unthinkable events, geopolitical earthquakes and disruptive technology – attracting the best and brightest to the profession is vital to our success.

To do that, we need to think hard about how we are bringing on Generation Next, and giving them every opportunity so their impact is not just local, but global.

While we’re talking about talent, here’s another “unthinkable” to ponder – our Gen Next survey also discovered that over 70% of our 500+ survey takers intend to leave their organisation within the next five years. How can we respond to this? The worst thing to do is to keep up the pretense that every member of your team will be sitting at the same desk in ten years’ time. Instead, it’s time to throw away the retention plan and accept the reality that today’s workforce is increasingly mobile.

But this doesn’t mean giving up on developing your team. If you’re known as a supportive manager who gives others the opportunity to go on to a stellar career, you’ll become a talent magnet in the profession. Just image the level of superstar talent that you’ll attract if you develop a reputation as someone who produces future CPOs!

Cutting Through The Complexity

Change management is such an integral part of every senior procurement professionals’ role, and often involves driving change within your organisation and amongst suppliers on a global scale.

The good news is that we’re exactly the right people for the job. Procurement’s position as the conduit of supplier intelligence, our ever-growing level of influence in our organisations, and our keenly-honed negotiation and communication skills make us natural change-management gurus.

Remember that trifle?

The challenge for today’s procurement leaders to deftly cut through all those quivering layers of economic, social, political and technological complexity to serve up a slice of procurement solutions in such a way that your audience will devour your change agenda with gusto! 

Bon Appétit!

The Brexit Horror Show: It’s Going To Be Rocky!

We all like to watch a good horror show.. but UK customs trying to manually process our imports? Entertainment it is not!

Are you ready to watch the Brexit horror show unfold?

The National Audit Office (NAO) pubilished a report last Thursday reviewing HM Revenue & Customs’ development of the new Customs Declaration Service (CDS).  The system is being developed in an attempt to manage the predicted 255 million UK customs declarations per year (an increase from 55 million)  once the UK leaves the EU.

But, with a significant amount of work still to be completed before March  2019,  many are concerned about what chaos might ensue.

Amyas Morse,  head of the NAO, did little to disguise his own concerns when he briefed the media on the report this week. He warned of a potential “horror show” at customs if the transition to CDS is not made by January 2019.

He said “What we don’t want to find is that, at the first tap, this falls apart like a chocolate orange.”  (Yep, we were confused by this too – it’s well known that Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are not known for their fragility; hence the marketing slogan “Don’t tap it, whack it!”.)

“It needs to be coming through as uniform, a little bit more like a cricket ball” he continued.

What Is The Customs Declarations Service?

The CDS is a new system, which will be installed to manage all imports and exports post-Brexit, replacing existing system, Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF).

CHIEF can currently process only 100 million declarations per year.  This leaves no question that a new system is needed given that HMRC are estimating an increase to 255 million once new trade and customs agreements are made during Brexit.

Completion of the installation is forecasted for January 2019 which doesn’t allow much room for error or delay given that the UK will officially leave the EU in March 2019. Indeed, the report confirms that there is still a “significant” amount of work to complete and a number of vacancies to fill, which means there’s a pretty good chance that the full functionality of CDS won’t be ready in time.

Ironically, in 2016, the UK came fifth out of 160 countries in the World Bank’s ranking of the efficiency of the border clearance process, including customs. Time will tell if this can be maintained post-Brexit!

Why Should Businesses Be Concerned?

The National Audit Office believes the government is only just starting to realise how difficult Brexit will be.  In a worst-case scenario it would become impossible for customs to collect the £34bn of duty, excise, and VAT taken at the border every year.

Customs officials might have to manually process imports and exports if the new electronic system is not in place, which would of course be a nightmarish scenario for businesses and their supply chains.

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said “It’s extremely concerning that the UK’s new customs system may not be ready in time for Brexit, potentially resulting in massive delays to trade and leaving thousands of businesses in the lurch.” And hat’s not to mention a lack of confidence businesses will feel in the UK if their flow of goods is disrupted.

“Can government actually step up in these very difficult circumstances and deliver a unified response?” Morse asked. “I’m not seeing it yet.”

The report, and the alarming comments made by Amyas Morse will no doubt increase the pressure on the prime minister to re-evaluate Brexit progress and policy, but will it be in time to stop a customs horror show?

Let us know your thoughts on the NAO report in the comments section below. 

In other procurement and supply-chain news this week….

Bangladesh Factory Blast

  • Major European buyers of apparel supplied by a Bangladesh garment plant have started investigations after a boiler explosion in the plant killed 13 people and injured dozens
  • The explosion occurred during maintenance work at the factory, whose top buyers include Finnish fashion chain Lindex, which is part of Stockmann
  • Stockmann communications manager Anna Bjarland confirmed to SM that the factory supplied garments to both Stockmann and Lindex saying that the company was investigating

Read more on Supply Management

Hazardous chemicals in Tesco’s clothing supply chain

  • Tesco has joined a growing list of major high street retailers in beginning to remove chemicals thought to be hazardous from the supply chain of its clothing brand
  • Greenpeace said Tesco will immediately begin the process of eliminating 11 groups of hazardous substances from its F&F brand, including phthalates, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, chlorinated solvents and heavy metals
  • Alan Wragg, technical director for clothing at Tesco, said: “This commitment is part of our goal to protect the environment by sourcing products sustainably and responsibly for our customers.”

Read more on Business Reporter 

Could China lead the way with AI?

  • In the battle of technological innovation between East and West, artificial intelligence (AI) is on the front line. And China’s influence is growing
  • China has invested massively in AI research since 2013, and these efforts are yielding incredible results. China’s AI pioneers are already making great strides in core AI fields
  • It is becoming clear that belief in U.S. dominance of the tech world is flagging. As it stands, China is in the driver’s seat

Read more on Venturebeat

From Pittsburgh to Paris – Let’s Clear the Air

It’s all very well putting Pittsburgh before Paris, but did you know that modern anti-pollution laws first started in Pennsylvania? Tania Seary gives the run-down on steel cities, “death-fogs” and Pittsburgh’s incredible transformation into an innovation hub.      

It’s not every day Pittsburgh hits the news, but it certainly did last week with the comment, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”. The subtext is that there’s an obligation to protect the steel industry before the climate.

I’m not a political analyst, nor a climate change expert, but I have lived in Pittsburgh, visited Paris and worked in the metals industry. I therefore wanted to share some of my own personal learnings (and give some historical context) for those of who are trying to catch up with all the news.    

The Donora Death Fog

Ironically, Pittsburgh is only 30 miles north of a town which famously claims to have kick-started modern anti-pollution laws.

You may not have heard of the Donora Death Fog (actually a smog), where the deadly combination of an atmospheric inversion, toxic gases from the town’s zinc and steel works led to the death of 20 people and half a town hospitalised in 1948.

Comparable to the Great Smog of London and perhaps even modern-day Shanghai, the Death Fog played a big part in opening the eyes of Americans to the hazards of air pollution. The tagline at the Donora Smog Museum is “Clean Air Started Here”, because concerted political action saw the first act concerning air pollution being put into law in 1959. Pennsylvania passed legislation that afforded the state the authority to prevent the “pollution of the air by smokes, dusts, fumes, gases, odours, mists, vapours, pollens and similar matter, or any combination thereof”.

Modern Pittsburgh is a tech hub, not a steel city

The jobs that the administration wants to save left Pittsburgh in the 1970s. Since then, Pittsburgh has built itself into a great example of a city that has thrived on new opportunities.

I had the pleasure of working in Pittsburgh for a couple of years around the turn of the century – in fact, I was there during the Y2K frenzy. For those of you who weren’t in the workforce then, the “Y2K bug” caused a panic when people thought the world’s computing systems would go into a meltdown when dates changed from 1999 to 2000. The consulting companies made a fortune!

Although it was once among the most polluted cities in the country, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself from a steel town to a centre of “eds and meds”. It has become a hub of technical innovation and medical research. The city even has its own Google outpost, along with a test track for autonomous cars.

In reinventing itself, Pittsburgh has benefited from flagship universities like Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, which produce their own tech entrepreneurs and medical breakthroughs.

Pittsburgh nurtures entrepreneurs

I have to mention two of the city’s most famous entrepreneurs – both named Andrew. Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon were huge drivers and beneficiaries of the steel industry (like the U.S. itself) and then spent the large majority of their lives giving their money away.

Born in 1835, Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist who is still identified as one of the richest Americans ever. By the time he was 50, he had almost total control of steel production in Pennsylvania. He squeezed every penny out of his mills, living by a famous motto that every procurement professional can relate to: “Watch the costs, and the profits will take care of themselves.”

He sold Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for half a billion dollars, propelling him to the position of richest American (surpassing even John D Rockefeller). While J.P. Morgan transformed his company into the U.S. Steel Corporation, Carnegie devoted the rest of his life to large-scale philanthropy, with Pittsburgh itself benefiting enormously with stunning libraries, a university, museums, a gilded concert hall and more.

It seems like the state governors and city mayors who are committed to upholding the 2015 Paris agreement agree with Andrew Carnegie’s quote: “Do your duty, and a little more, and the future will take care of itself.”

Or, in Andrew Mellon’s words, “Every man wants to connect his life with something he thinks eternal”.

Andrew Mellon built up a financial-industrial empire throughout the late nineteenth century by supplying capital for Pittsburgh-based corporations. He founded the Aluminium Company of America (Alcoa) and branched into industrial activities including oil, steel, shipbuilding and construction. Mellon also reformed the US Government’s tax structure while he was secretary of the treasury. Like Carnegie, he gave back an enormous amount of his wealth, with his philanthropy making possible the the building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

These days, Pittsburgh is home to one of the procurement profession’s all-time entrepreneurs, the legendary Glen Meakem. Meakem founded Freemarkets Inc., the first online auction technology, which was later purchased by Ariba. Keeping with tradition, Meakem has also invested a lot of his resources into philanthropy.

Giving back

The story of these entrepreneurs all point to a wider trend as Pittsburgh continues to evolve. Like Carnegie and Mellon, the city grew rich on the steel industry, but now it’s giving back. Firstly, by producing a new generation of entrepreneurs whose success ultimately benefits the community, and secondly, by being part of a climate alliance that is looking for future opportunities rather than trying to bring back the past.

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Understand Your World

Every procurement pro needs somebody to tell them the world weather forecast so they can figure out when they’re going to need an umbrella! 

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

Be Sure To Understand Your World Weather Forecast

Justin Crump, CEO at Sibylline thinks that procurement organisations need to become more worldly wise in order to better manage future risk.

At present, larger organisations might be competent at managing risk but often this is very much in silos. This makes it very hard to fully understand what they are facing as a result of global events.

Given the rate at which technology is evolving and how global events are impacting the world, it is increasingly difficult for companies to keep up without considering risk in real-time.

Intelligence about the world we live in drives business operations and the better informed we are the easier it is to drive progress.

Justin urges us to gain a clear view of the world to measure against so the we can focus  our resources on what world means to us.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoy this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

What Can Procurement Learn From 2016?

From politics to procurement – 2016 has changed our outlooks. But what can the profession learn as we head towards the new year?

politics of change

I’m not a political person, never have been, but maybe 2016 has put paid to that. It could be my advancing years or the direct relevance the events of 2016 have created, but politics has now piqued my interest.

Furthermore, as a business owner, parent and amateur investor, it’s beholden on me to be well informed and to put in place risk mitigating strategies should the worst happen.

Different Outlook

To anyone who knows me, I think I’d fairly describe myself as a cautious optimist. Someone who believes in the enduring power of ‘doing the right thing’. I must say this outlook has been tested to its limits these last three months.

And with the result of last Wednesday’s US election now a reality, I find myself having to re-evaluate this mantra.

I think it’s fair to say that few people in business expected the UK to vote for Brexit. Even fewer expected the US to elect Donald Trump as President. To say that the pollsters who predicted strong contrary outcomes have been wrong-footed is an understatement.

As BBC correspondent Mark Mardell wrote on Wednesday, “it is perhaps ironic that our two countries, with a reputation for stable political systems, have declared political revolutions of such importance”.

Ironic or inevitable, if find myself asking. As Trump put it, his path to victory was ‘not a campaign, but a great movement’.

Undoubtedly from these 2 cataclysmic events there is the notion that globalisation has given folk a raw deal. There is a belief that the gap between rich and poor has widened. This is clearly nothing new.

But the events of 2016 are now showing us that people are willing to express their desire for change in a manifest way, and that the UK’s referendum and US elections have facilitated this expression. Clearly the belief that ‘we need people who change the world, rather than describe it’ has never been more true.

Politics & Procurement

So aside from emotive connotations of such seismic change, what can the Procurement profession learn about these events?

I’ve always read with interest the term ‘Force Majeure’ in contracts, essentially the common clause that frees parties from legal obligation when an extraordinary event occurs. Is 2016 now the year of Force Majeure?

As organisations have historically rushed to globalise their supply chains, are we now going to see a reversal of this and a more localised, protectionist approach to markets? The challenge for Procurement Leaders will be how to predict these events and to mitigate the risks associated with global change.

Without doubt we are entering an era that favours a less politically correct approach of yesteryear, one that rewards forthright opinions and direct action. The new breed of procurement practitioner will need to build this thinking into category plans, sourcing strategies and contracts.

I, for one, will be watching with interest.