Tag Archives: procurement leadership

Best Of The Blog – 5 Point Checklist For A Rockstar Procurement Boss

Is your CPO a real procurement rockstar and do they keep you up to date with all the goss’?  Tania Seary offers a five-point checklist for vetting your prospective boss. 

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

This week, we’re revisiting an article by Tania Seary who explains why organisations must be very cautious when considering whether to rehire employees.

I’ve been told that in this day and age employees often choose bosses, not companies, when choosing their next job.  I thought I would share five things I think you should look for when selecting your next procurement boss.

Ask yourself, are they a CPO who:

  1. Kicks you out of the office. 

As helpful as water cooler chit chat and Google can be for finding answers to your questions, there is nothing more valuable than getting out of the office and meeting with your customers and suppliers.  Your internal customers will be impressed that you have made the effort to come and visit them and understand how they use the product or service you are buying for them.  Similarly, actually visiting a suppliers’ office or plant will help you understand a lot more about that category you buy and identify new ways to add value.

2. Fills you in on the goss’

While it’s not appropriate for your boss to share all the intricacies of what’s happening within the upper echelons of your business.  It’s important that you know enough corporate gossip so that you can expertly manoeuvre yourself and your projects through the minefield of personalities and relationships that make up your business.  Stakeholder engagement is one of the most important skills required to be a successful procurement professional, so understanding “the lay of the land” is critical to your success.

3. Helps you keep score

Whoever you are in an organisation, you need to demonstrate the value you are delivering.  In procurement, this often means savings, but it should mean so much more than that.  Your boss should work with you to explain how your role links to the delivery of the overall business strategy and how all the different dimensions of your role deliver value – efficiency, productivity, innovation, customer service and other non-cost related value drivers are all important conversations to your CEO.

4. Has a game plan

Yes, your boss should have an overall plan for how their team is delivering against the overall business strategy, but they should also have a plan for you – both for what you need to deliver and how you need to develop in the coming year.  The best CPOs I know are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop.  They send their people out to be trained up in the skills they need and to build peer networks that will develop their leadership skills.  The worst CPOs keep their category managers locked away from the rest of the world in fear that their people will be poached.  A great CPO doesn’t need to worry about this, because they know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged… and retained.

5. Is a bit of a procurement rock star

If your CPO is well known and has a strong peer network, this provides you with a type of insurance policy that they know what they’re talking about and will hopefully be a great teacher.  However, you need to be careful that they’re not so committed to building their own profile out on the speaking circuit that they’re not providing enough support to their team.  A healthy balance between managing their internal and external relationships should provide you with a leader that connects you and your organisation with the outside contacts it needs to “stay in the loop”, while keeping everyone on track within your organisation.

How you are going to assess your potential new boss against this checklist when you are outside the organisation? This is where your network becomes invaluable.  You will know someone who knows someone (use LinkedIn or Procurious to see the connections) who has worked for your target boss.  Contact them, have a chat, see how the CPO measures up.  The most telling sign of success is how the CPO’s employees have been promoted both within and outside the organisation…

Good luck!

Own It: Taking Control Of Your Own Procurement Destiny

No-one else is responsible for your career, which means you’ve got to take the controller and drive your own successes. Pauline Rolfe, speaker at this year’s Quest Women in Procurement event, shares her experiences of taking control and escaping the passenger seat. 

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being asked to deliver a speech at a conference. You want to bring new ideas, provide insights into your area of expertise, but most importantly connect with and be relevant to your audience.

The opportunity to present at the Women in Procurement conference in Melbourne is one that I definitely took seriously. I did put a lot of thought into what I wanted to talk about as well as how to best deliver the message. After many rehearsals late the night before and one on the morning of the presentation I felt anxious but ready to do it.

The feedback that I’ve received from the attendees has been surprising and overwhelming – not only while presenting but mostly afterwards. The two personal examples that I shared that seemed to have resonated most with the audience were when talking about my number one career advice – “own it”.

For a long time I thought it was up to my manager to decide on my career and whether or not I would grow. I always had big dreams and ambitions but I really was in the passenger seat. Clearly I was not confident in myself.

Example 1- Going For It!

When I first saw that ad for a job at Accenture I thought “Wow, this looks like a great job with a great company, but there is no way I will be good enough”. A week later I saw that job ad again on LinkedIn and I told my husband: “Look at that great job with Accenture!” He said to me straight away: “You should apply! Go and do it!” So I did. Three days later I got a phone call from HR, and a week later I got the job. Without my husband pushing be and believing in myself I would never have joined this great company and worked on incredible projects. Isn’t that crazy? I told the audience that since then a major shift happened to me – I no longer wait for anyone to tell me whether or not I can or can’t do things.

Example 2 – Taking Control

Take the plunge and apply for awards. I remember on the night of the CIPS Australasia Awards Ceremony I was sitting next to a guy who asked me, “Who nominated you for the young procurement professional of the year award?” I said “No one. I just put the application in myself.” And I remember thinking “Gosh, lucky I wasn’t waiting for anyone to nominate me, because this would have never happened!”

It is not up to your manager, your partner or whoever to decide on what your career will look like. It is up to YOU. Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t wait to be nominated, just step up and lead. This may well be the key to building a great career – taking control and believing that you can do it.

It has been such a privilege sharing these thoughts and hopefully encouraging women to “own it”. Thank you everyone for your kind feedback, it has been a terrific two days!

Pauline Rolfe is a Procurement Operations Associate Manager at Accenture Australia. This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Women in Leadership: Don’t Make The Mistake Of Behaving Like A Man

Women in leadership: Have you ever had to “behave like a man” to get ahead in the workplace? As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be hearing from a number of high-profile procurement leaders on the topics of diversity, equality and women in procurement.

This week, Procurious caught up with M.L. Peck, Chief Content & Engagement Officer at the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), who is concerned that even in the modern workplace, many women still feel they have to behave like a man to succeed.

She’s the man 

Remember Twelfth Night? Shakespeare’s comedy featured a shipwrecked woman (Viola) who disguises herself as her lost twin brother (Sebastian) to find work in the service of Duke Orsino. If you’re not a Shakespeare fan, you may have seen the 2006 adaptation She’s The Man (starring Amanda Bynes), where teenager Viola Hastings disguises herself as a boy in order to play on the all-male soccer team. Both Violas have to learn how to behave like a man, with their accidental lapses into femininity providing many of the plot’s gags.

Don’t change

“Women shouldn’t have to change who they are in order to be taken seriously. Nobody should”, says M.L. “What we absolutely don’t want is to create a mold of how to be strong leader. Our differences are what make us an asset to the teams we work in.

“I’ve had the fortune to work with women who brought an inherent, feminine ability to collaborate, empathise, multitask and problem-solve to their teams. These qualities are often overlooked and under-represented in the workplace, where we expect our leaders to be hierarchical and dictatorial in approach. In procurement, particularly, collaboration is key. The characteristics attributed to women are the ones that all of our future leaders will need – you can bet that millennials and generation Z won’t want to work in a male-dominated environment.”

But what does “behaving like a man” actually mean? Stereotypical male qualities might include strength, dominance, bullish confidence and as little display of emotion as possible. M.L. comments that when women find themselves in a male-dominated workplace, “We can make the mistake of trying to behave like a man by adopting the characteristics typically associated with men.”

Workplaces still have a long way to come in accepting that people, and leaders in particular, are able to display emotion. Men and women are taught that leaders must be “strong”, which means emotions such as compassion and empathy are redundant. “We’ve still got some of these issues in 2017”, says M.L. “Men who show empathy are thought of as weak, while empathetic women get labeled as emotional. If you choose to lead a team without resorting to an authoritarian style, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to add enormous value in your own way”.

This, in a nutshell, is the power of diversity in our organisations. Building a diverse team of people from different genders, backgrounds and experiences will add new perspectives and insights, which ultimately leads to a better decision-making process.

Working twice as hard to be thought of as half as good

M.L. remembers her mother’s experience in the workplace, citing her as one of her inspirations. “My mum was a pipefitter and really lived in a man’s world. She was the first female on the refinery fire-fighting team. I was raised with my mum’s understanding that women needed to work twice as hard to be thought of as half as good.

“In this scenario, it’s easy to feel victimised; to think ‘I’m different, and people are perceiving me that way’. This makes it all the more tempting to conform to certain workplace behaviours, but my mum always retained her own identity.”

3 ways to encourage more women into procurement leadership roles

  • Initiatives that advocate for diversity are vital, particularly in supply management where there aren’t nearly enough women in leadership positions. Procurious’ Bravo campaign is a great example, as is ISM and THOMASNET’s 30 under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, along with ISM’s annual Diversity conference.
  • Providing access to female role models and mentors will help organisations attract and retain women from entry-level through to senior positions. Organisations that want to attract top female talent need to have a diverse and inspiring leadership team.
  • Shout about what you’re doing to address gender disparity in the workplace. Companies that hold special events for women or minority groups really do see a difference – events give people an opportunity to build their networks, and provide direct access to the C-Suite who make the important decisions about diversity and inclusion.

Get involved with the Bravo campaign via our Women in Procurement group. Join M.L. Peck and other members of the ISM Leadership team at ISM2017.

Procurement Rising Stars: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Karen Morley realised very early on in her career that her workplace experience would be somewhat different from her male counterparts. Drawing on her wealth of knowledge she offers three key pieces of advice to procurement rising stars. 

Join our Women in Procurement group, Bravo,  here.

Quite early in my career, it became clear that my overarching purpose was to help leaders realise their full potential (although I may not have articulated it quite as clearly as this at the time!). I have a huge and on-going curiosity about people and their motivations. I became a psychologist to explore that further, and my studies and professional identification fed my purpose.

Levelling The Playing Field

As a young woman starting out my professional life, and with an ambition to succeed and achieve well, I was a keen observer of who in my organisation was given the best opportunities and who was promoted, and it didn’t take long for me to conclude that there wasn’t a level playing field for equally talented men and women. This was a big surprise to me and it was disappointing to know that equality efforts still had a long way to go.

And so my purpose has developed over time to include my passion for ensuring women are provided equal opportunity to grow and succeed, and for working with organisations to promote strategies that increase gender balance, and diversity and inclusion in general. To any procurement rising stars,  I offer three key pieces of advice:

  1. Rising Stars: What got you here won’t get you there

This phrase, which comes from Marshall Goldsmith, is a very powerful one. Continuing to do more of what you’re good at is seductive, but limiting, at least if you want to keep rising. And not all organisations are good at making this clear to their newer leaders.

While we know that new roles and increased seniority require new skills and perspectives, I also speak with the leaders I coach about what they need to give up. You need to give up a lot of what you have been recognised for and been good at, once you’re managing a team.

  1. Create strong foundations that will serve your entire career

Notwithstanding that you need take on and give up certain skills and perspectives as your career grows, there are a couple of related foundation skills for leaders that help regardless of the size and shape of your job. I think these are some of the toughest things to manage, but worth it in terms of the payback:

  • Manage your attention – disciplined attention is the currency of leadership. To be successful you need to pay attention to the things that matter most, and sustain your attention on those things in the midst of many distractions.

At increasingly senior levels this intensifies and focusing strategically and productively becomes ever more challenging. How to zone out the minutiae of everyday demands and keep attention on the big picture? You’ve got to be a bit ruthless with your attention and give up any need you might have to be all things to all people, or to be the one who has the right answers. Instead, prioritise what matters most and excel at it.

  • Manage your perspective – being able to manage your attention helps you to manage your perspective taking. And managing your perspective taking helps with important things like enabling others to do their work, and managing complexity.

The only effective way of dealing with complexity is being able to take different perspectives. Instead of managing for certainty, we need to lead for possibility. That can be challenging, and anxiety-provoking, in organisations where the drive is towards certainty. Seeking out the perspectives of people who are different from us, irritate us, or who stretch us beyond our comfort zones, can unlock enormous creativity and power. What questions do/would they ask? Build them into your repertoire to develop greater flexibility in your thinking.

  1. Know your story, and tell it well

How do you want the world to know you, and to understand the leader you are becoming? Spending time crafting your storylines is of critical importance firstly in gaining your own clarity: what’s your leadership purpose, your values and motivations to lead? How readily and clearly can you articulate these?

When you’re growing and developing, your stories may become a little confused, and some of them are changing. You may need to discard some, and find new ones. Working out how to articulate them clearly can help you gain clarity on what they are. Win:win!

I find that women in particular may be reluctant to tell their stories; I often hear ‘I don’t think I have anything interesting to say’. But everyone does. And a story should only take 60 to 90 seconds to tell.

No-one else will be clear about what you stand for if you’re not. Your stories serve to prime you for success. As you tell your stories people come to better connect with you, understand the authentic you, and appreciate your intentions. Help them to see you as the leader you want to be known as.

My Top Tips On Reducing Gender Disparity 

To be successful in shifting the representation of women in senior roles and start to nurture those rising stars, it’s important to nail these four things:,

  • Sincerely champion the value of women in senior leadership, and publicly commit to change; Giam Swiegers, Global CEO of Aurecon, is a wonderful example of this
  • Develop an inclusive culture and supporting practices, including promoting inclusion as an organisational ideal, promoting inclusive practices such as flexible working for everyone, and changing hiring and promotional practices to make them merit-based
  • Collect the right data, make it transparent and hold managers to account; Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and Lara Poloni, CEO AECOM A&NZ are outstanding examples of organisations that transparently reviewed pay data, found gender-based differences, and adjusted the salaries of affected women
  • As a leader, recognise the impact and pervasiveness of unconscious bias, seek to understand it, and improve decision making practices to reduce its impact

Procurious has launched Bravo!, a group that seeks to celebrate and promote women working within procurement. Get involved here.

Intrapreneurs: How Do You Know When Your Idea’s Got Legs

Creating an encouraging environment for intrapreneurs in the biggest organisations can be tough. Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, offers advice on fostering innovation and some top tips on how to assess when an idea has legs!

Chris Lynch spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

What exactly constitutes a big idea? Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, believes that a big idea is defined as something that challenges the status quo. It’s got to be an idea that forces people within your organisation to think differently. Of course, this will only come about if the organisation and its employees are thinking differently in the first place and in a work environment that encourages it. The right big ideas can lead to enormous differences in company output.

But how do you know when it’s worth investing time, and money, into someone’s idea and what can the biggest companies do to encourage and motivate their employees to think big.

Organisations must foster an intrapreneurial environment

Chris believes that “good businesses, good leaders, good organisations, good companies and good departments all want to get better.  They want to ensure they’re making progress and delivering better returns. When their employees lose the desire to improve it’s a sign that they’ve lost all their energy. Everyday, people should come to work motivated to try to make a difference and that’s why big ideas are important.”

It’s crucial that people have opportunities to make a difference, feel confident that they are indeed making a difference and are acknowledged for this. It’s unlikely that any intrapreneurs will continue to flourish within huge organisations if they aren’t rewarded and supported in their efforts and contributions.

Chris was keen to remind us that big companies have got to be very very careful in this area. It’s easy to deter enthusiastic intrapreneurs before they’ve even started innovating.

“There must be a culture that’s open, honest and diverse. But, it’s pointless being diverse unless it’s inclusive.  People must feel confident to speak up and take risks without the fear of having their idea criticised.”

How do you when a big idea has legs?

Organisations need the foresight to be able to recognise a brilliant idea and the confidence to roll with it.  Chris reminded us of an old business saying:  “‘You don’t get fired for hiring McKinsey and taking McKinsey’s advice.’ But it’s a bit of a cop-out to have that sort of attitude.”

“A lot of large corporate organisations are risk-averse. They’ll  have 27 ways to say no and 1 or 2 ways to say yes. We need to get companies to recognise their own people’s contributions, ideas and their energy and enthusiasm. This to me is the key factor about intrepreneurship. Companies must be able to recognise the best ideas and follow through on them.

How do you know when an employee’s idea has legs?  It’s going to be something that makes you stop in your tracks and say ‘hey this is something that could really make a difference.’ It might spark reactions with other team members who can think ways to expand the idea.

How to make your big idea a reality

Chris had some final nuggets of advice for any budding intrapreneurs out there:

  • Commit yourself. Once you’ve decided that it’s worth putting in the effort; give it everything and don’t give up
  • Find someone with whom you’re comfortable sharing and testing your idea. Have a conversation about where your idea could lead and what it could do for your organisation
  • Do your homework. If there’s data that you need, get the data. If there’s things that you can do to prove a point, do them. Take it as far as you can on your own
  • If you need a sponsor, pick your mark carefully. Think about who would be the best sponsor for this idea
  • Have the courage to take a risk– It’s important to have the confidence behind your idea to say  I’m prepared to put my credibility on the line behind this idea and stand up for it at all costs

Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

The Art of Self-Mastery In Indirect Procurement

Self-mastery is a critical skill in indirect procurement but you might have to endure a few steep learning curves before you nail it. 

Join The Big Ideas Summit 2017 group to access all of last week’s discussions and exclusive video content.

Indirect procurement is a function with high requirements for stakeholder management.  Cultivating excellent stakeholder management skills means developing self-mastery – a key part of authentic leadership.

In the workplace, ‘Just being yourself’ doesn’t  mean  letting it all hang out, unfiltered. It requires a self-mastery founded in self-awareness. It means building on this to calibrate ones own reaction to and interaction with colleagues. I’ve had experiences from good and bad bosses along the way and I’ve made mistakes that have helped me learn to be a more authentic leader.

The blind spot of conviction

Early on in my career I was lucky to be part of a small, young team developing the, then new, idea of strategic sourcing in indirect procurement for a large bank.

We had an innovative boss, Harry, who inspired us with his passion for the new concept. And, with just 10 of us, and a supportive CPO, we were starting to make a big impact.

However, there was a new CFO who  didn’t understand what we were doing. He simply didn’t care about the hundreds of millions of savings the team was generating.  As you can probably guess, this was before the banking crisis!

Harry had a choice to make. He could have decided to keep a low profile and deliver value in other ways. After all, there were plenty of projects to work on that didn’t require massive change management and senior sponsorship.

Instead, he made an ultimatum to the new CFO, so convinced that he was right and that his arguments would be compelling.

It didn’t turn out the way he had planned. The team closed and disbanded one month later. Unfortunately, Harry’s lack of self-awareness made him naively unaware of the politics of the business and the consequences he might face.

Leading a team through change

The procurement management team I was working on at a large Swiss company was about to go through a major transition with the retirement of our charismatic CPO. He  had many great qualities but led by command and control.

His manager, Peter, knew we needed to evolve to be capable of running the business independently. The stakes were high for him due to a high level of outsourcing in direct procurement and high savings commitments in indirect procurement.

The first shake-up was a reduction of the team. Peter joined the meeting with the new smaller group. I didn’t know him well, and was nervous about what his expectations were.

He told us that we had to be ready to lead procurement differently as our new boss was not a procurement person. He admitted that our new team wasn’t yet ready for the challenges ahead but that we would be supported to grow and develop.

Over the next year, Peter joined our meetings regularly to give us input and encouragement. He didn’t discuss the pressure for us to become an independent team. He backed up the risks we were taking with new high change projects. He also gave his personal support with one to one time.

Much later, I asked him about that time and how much pressure there had really been. He told me he hadn’t been sure the team would make it and that the pressure from the CEO had been intense.

His self-mastery at that moment allowed us to have space to grow and successfully step up to the plate.

Not filtering and scaring my team

It was the end of summer and we were in the second year of our indirect transformation. The team had delivered the first year, but our credibility was far from cemented.

One of my team leads, Mary, revealed that her team’s numbers were not sure for the year. Worse still, we had recently submitted an updated forecast to senior management.

Mary and I reviewed her project details. She couldn’t answer all of the questions to the level I needed in order to be able to revise the numbers.

I was surprised at this; she was highly capable, but she hadn’t yet fully learned how to measure savings in financial terms or to appreciate the importance of forecast accuracy.

We were under a lot of pressure and I panicked.  Having scrutinised the details with Mary I understood the situation,  but the cost was high and I was unsuccessful in shielding my stress from the team.

Fortunately Mary followed up with me. She explained what the effect of my unfiltered actions had on her and the team. She felt undermined and made to feel foolish in front of her team and her team members themselves were frightened.

I had failed my team by allowing high pressure from upwards to go unfiltered downwards.

After apologising to Mary, we talked frankly about what had happened. She got more insight into what she needed to do and I agreed to never behave in that way again.

It was a deep learning experience in the importance of maintaining self-mastery, especially in high-stress moments.

Want to catch up on all of last week’s Big Ideas Summit activity? Join the group here

Indirect Procurement: Leading By Taking Responsibiity

Authentic leadership is especially important in indirect procurement. Pauline King discusses why taking responsibility is a key aspect of this.

Join The Big Ideas Summit 2017 group to access all of yesterday’s discussions and exclusive video content.

I was recently at a lunch with a former member of our indirect transformation program. I wanted her view was on how we achieved so much and so quickly. Her answer surprised me.

She made no mention of classic procurement methods; it was all about authentic leadership. Indirect procurement, with its high change impact, power struggles and need for excellent business partnering, is especially in need of this kind of leadership.

But what does this mean in the day to day? Thinking back over authentic and inauthentic bosses and my own mistakes in aiming to be an authentic leader, one theme is about taking responsibility. Here are three examples from my past experiences that demonstrate this.

  1. Be confident to make tough decisions 

I’ll never forget the first leadership team meeting with the best boss I ever had.

Bruce told us that each of us should be doing our own job and not the job of our direct reports. This was a powerful message for me because I realised that I had been covering and doing damage control for one of my team leads, Dirk.

Dirk had many talents, but he was not comfortable challenging the business. In indirect procurement, this is fatal.

It was September and we were setting up for the following year’s project pipeline and savings commitments. The numbers were not on track.

We were reviewing his numbers when I realised he hadn’t completed the final, and crucial, step of getting the senior business managers’ sign-off.  With a sinking feeling, I saw I would have to step in and ‘do his job for him’.  It was time for a hard decision.

In this case, it was especially difficult because I had worked closely with Dirk and appreciated his knowledge and skills in many ways.

But, he deserved to hear it straight that he hadn’t stepped up despite many feedback sessions. I didn’t see him being able to develop this particular skill. We instead focused on his considerable strengths and worked successfully to find him a new role. He went on to have great impact.

  1. Manage Relationships Effectively 

During a particularly difficult phase of a worldwide P2P rollout, my responsibility was to lead the global indirect implementation. This was in coordination with my teammates, the regional heads.

One of the most complex regions was in Europe with its many countries and languages. There were endless calls between global and region Europe to hammer out the operational details. One particular teammate, John, the head of Europe seemed to be putting roadblocks in place that didn’t make sense.

I made an error in blaming John and, worse still, being vocal about it. I didn’t take the time to understand his reality on the ground.

Luckily for me, our boss was very blunt and told me:

  • Work with your colleague to fix the disagreement
  • Never complain in public about a team member

I apologised to John and spent time with him discussing how we both thought we could bridge our differences.

Ultimately, he became one of my closest colleagues and together we led the rollout in Europe to success.

  1. Train your team to be independent 

The best way to coach people to take responsibility is by giving them the space to act alone.

I was once working on a series of difficult projects, one of which was reducing travel cost by implementing high-end video conferencing. In order for it to be impactful, a fast worldwide rollout was needed.

Serge was the procurement lead and had never done such a project before.  He had, however, developed a great relationship with his business client. I was convinced, with some support, that he could do the job.

One of the first tasks was in finding a clear way to measure the savings and bring that to the P&L. Together with the travel manager, we did some brainstorming on how to get the data and make the case, reviewed what external case studies we could use from providers and what the storyline could be for senior management. Serge went away with the task to put together a first draft with his colleague.

What he came back with was terrible: no clear story line and fuzzy numbers.

We did another brainstorming session and gathered some more data. At the end of this round, I thought Serge had enough to bring everything together. But, once again, he again came back with meandering slides and no clear way to measure the savings.

I knew he could do better.  I looked him in the eye and told him he had what he needed to pull the deck together and that I was convinced he could do it. And sent him away.

Several days later, Serge came back with the frame that we then polished and successfully got approved. With this success behind him, he stepped up and drove the project through, not only deepening his relationship with his business client, but also increasing his visibility in the company.

Believing and then saying, ‘I have full confidence’ to an employee is a powerful message.

Want to catch up on all of yesterday’s Big Ideas Summit activity? Join the group here

You Appointed WHO As The New CPO?

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

Want to follow all of the action today? Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

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

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

Is Procurement Being Usurped?

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

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

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

So, what does this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget to register as a digital delegate so you can keep up with the rest of today’s events.

Do You Belong to a Procurement Dream Team?

The age of workforce 4.0 is fast-approaching. Have you ensured you’ve got a dream team in place to help you navigate your way through the rapid changes ?

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

So. Here’s the scenario. After years of effort, elevating the role of procurement and complaining that Procurement doesn’t have a seat at the table in sectors where procurement is yet to tread (yes, in 2017 there are still organisations and sectors that do not have procurement teams or resources), your phone rings. It’s a CEO. And you’re invited to their office.

Now, this is the age of Workforce 4.0, so as we know, the CEO is agile and their office is the coffee shop near the school where their young children are running the lunchtime class teaching the adults how to tweet on facetube and grow vines on instachat.

Procurement is Awesome

As you sit down and your coffees arrive, the CEO looks you in the eye and says “Enough already. I get it. Procurement is awesome. Right. I want you to set up a dream team. Hire any five people you want. I’ve followed you on Twitter, read all your @Procurious_ and LinkedIn blogs, I’ve listened to the @aopshow and I get that there are some serious issues to deal with. I need you to do it and I want you to pick your team. Facetime or Skype me when you’ve done it.” And off you go…

How many of us are ready for that call? Whether it’s for a greenfield procurement team, or for a transformation programme or business critical project, do you have a list of five people in your head that without hesitation, you would call and bring on board to work with you to get it done? We can ignore minor administrative issues like availability, notice periods, or people processes for the purposes of this, but are there five people that you would hire, brief and set loose on the task without a second thought, safe in the knowledge that “it’ll be fine, [insert names] are on it and success is safe in their hands”.

What does the procurement dream team of the future look like?

I can’t quite remember where I was first posed this question. It was more than likely in a pub in the dim and distant past, but I remember first applying it when I worked in recruitment. If I was sifting CVs for a client, I tried to put myself in their shoes and ask, “If I was them, would I hire this candidate and put my success in their hands”. If I couldn’t say “yes”, or at least “maybe”, then I wouldn’t waste the client, or the candidate’s time.  That was a long time ago and before I’d even heard of Procurement!

Are you ready for “The Call” is a question I’ve asked colleagues over the years too, usually on car journeys, and it keeps them awake and puts them on the spot.

Anyway, where am I going with this?  Here are three things to consider about the future of procurement teams.

Procurement-as-a-service could be a big deal

Not my concept and not new, yet is a concept which has been increasingly discussed and heralded as the future of the function. It may well be that the future of working in procurement begins to sound a little more like this. Organisations will access resources to deliver specific outcomes rather than hiring employees and then wondering what to do with them.

Seriously, who is in your dream team?

You never know when that call might come, or when that platform starts to burn and you have that project you need to deliver. Can you pick your ‘dream team’ from current or former colleagues, or from all the people you’ve met and developed relationships with through all the networking you do?

Where’s your name?

Is your name on the team sheet of others? You may not be the one that gets the call. Your colleague or your peers may be the one having to decide who to bring in. Are you doing the best job you can, delivering results and developing the soft skills needed for tomorrow as well as networking, sharing your stories and taking ownership of your personal professional brand?

The dream team

Now, I might be about to do some oversharing here, but I personally have a ‘Dream Team’ WhatsApp group. A bit of fun to start with, especially as the joke was that ‘Group Admin’ does not count as a demonstration of leadership qualities! But over time, it has kept me connected to those people. We use it most days to share news, keep up to date (it’s all 100% professional of course). However, if I received the call, these are the people that have earned my respect and trust. I wouldn’t hesitate to contact them.

I am fortunate that my team currently has more than 5 people in it. When I get the call tomorrow I’ll be ready. But what if we were asked for a team of 10, or 20? My mindset is that I’m still hiring, and still looking to be hired by others too. I wonder if this mindset might prove useful in future?

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!

Three Economic Indices You Can’t Ignore In Procurement

Procurement professionals need the ability to understand – and react to – changes in inflation, employment and optimism.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

The interesting thing about procurement’s typical line of sight is that it very closely aligns with the terms of the sourcing projects we run and the contracts – and therefore supplier relationships – we manage. This might be 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, or 5 years long, but regardless of the exact length of time, you can be assured it is far longer than the changes being seen in global and local economies.

Since the summer of 2016, I have been the Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. It has been an amazing learning opportunity, and I am fortunate to be working with a career economist to learn to decipher and draw meaning from the data. There are two pieces to the report: 1. the indices (some seasonally adjusted and some not) which provide a monthly trend up or down as the economy contracts or expands, and 2. the narrative, which highlights some of the key figures and milestones and adds some context to the numbers.

You don’t have to be a professor to see the connections between procurement and economics, but it is easy for us to become overly focused on information that is internally available or provided by suppliers. Based on what I’ve learned, the following categories of information tie directly to procurement’s efforts and objectives. And although they may not often come up in internal conversations, they need to be present in procurement’s thinking and strategy development.

Inflation

Investopedia defines inflation as “the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising and, consequently, the purchasing power of currency is falling.” Most of what procurement buys tends to be based on pre-negotiated contracts, so we’re unlikely to see annual changes in prices based on inflation. What we might see, however, is a difference in the prices we are able to negotiate every three years. This will be especially true of anything we buy internationally or that has significant foreign-sourced materials in it because the relative purchasing power of the U.S. Dollar in global markets will be affected by inflation. But it’s not just an international issue – for any procurement team that reports into finance, keeping an eye on inflation will give you a benchmark for the minimum project-level ROI, as the alternative might be to just hold onto the cash if the project is expected to return less than 3% (the average rate of inflation) per year.

Employment

Higher levels of employment are usually considered a good indicator or economic growth and stability. From a procurement perspective, however, employment also tells us what to expect about trends in services-category spend. With an increasing portion of organizational demand being met ‘as-a-Service’, employment rates (and therefore costs) are critical to our cost to operate. For some industries, services are so important that even the factors driving alternate economic measures like ‘Prices Paid’ are services too – the New York Metro area is a perfect example of this, as are many other major cities. It’s why you must know the product/service mix in your spend before trying to figure out what approach to take. The other consideration relative to employment is talent availability. Higher employment means lower UNemployment (see how I did that?) and therefore less candidates available to compete for open positions. Luckily for procurement, we have a wide array of talent options at our disposal through contingent workforce programs. Striking an optimal mix of employment models presents an opportunity to maximize both costs and capabilities.

Optimism

The final economic index I’ve learned to appreciate is optimism – in the ISM-New York Report on Business we call this the Six-Month Outlook. In other words, as of today, how much better or worse do you expect things to be going six months from now. It would be unrealistic to expect the outlook to be more specific than a trend up or down, but even this insight provides important information for others watching the economy. The fact that this question is even asked is an indication of how special procurement’s perspective on the economy and business activity is. This perspective is due in part to our understanding of the organization’s anticipated demand levels and the prices we are paying, but also the conversations we have with suppliers about the conditions they are doing business in. Competition drives prices down, differentiation drives margins up, increases in demand drive prices up, and large increases in price may push buyers and suppliers to innovate together to come up with alternatives, and procurement has a front row seat for it all.

Many people in the business world watch the monthly reports on business, whether the ISM national reports or regional reports, like ISM-New York. If they value procurement’s perspective on the economy enough to wait for the numbers to be released each month and report on the findings, then we should have a greater appreciate for our own insight and do everything we can to deepen it.

 2017 could be a pivotal year for the procurement profession. The Big Ideas Summit in London will help lay the ground work for all of  the changes ahead. Our London event takes place on 23rd February and you can now register as a digital delegate now!