Tag Archives: procurement leadership

Learning the Fine Art of Creativity

We live in an ideas economy where creativity is the new currency. So is it possible for those with less artistic flair to learn how to get their creative juices flowing? 

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

Everyone’s A Little Bit Creative 

Many of us enjoyed a childhood spent imagining, innovating and creating whether we were painting pictures, constructing dens from cardboard boxes or inventing fantastical make-believe games.

Indeed, the vast majority of research into child psychology suggests that we are all born naturally creative but we subsequently endure an education system or working environment in which our imaginations are more or less stamped out of us.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter, firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. Of course, some adults demonstrate greater potential than others but by employing certain techniques and embracing our inner creativity, we can all achieve additional moments of pure genius.

In a world where innovation is the new currency, procurement teams that fail to execute their ideas with originality will fall behind and die. James will be on hand at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London to give our CPOs and online delegates tips to release the creative genius in their teams.

Innovate Or Die

The maxim that organisations must innovate or die has never been more true thanks to rapid technology developments and fierce competition. In procurement, CPOs need to foster their intrapreneurs and work to achieve what Bannerman calls a ‘return on inspiration’:

“ It is easy to become fixated by Return On Investment in business, and often with good reason. The problem with traditional ROI, however, is that it is built upon ‘known returns’.

Creative Thinking, however, is more closely connected with ‘surprise returns’. You don’t always know what you’re going to get at the end of it – because creativity involves ‘the defeat of habit by originality’ (as Arthur Koestler once said in his 1964 classic The Art of Creation.

Yet, to those with an open mind, it can still be worth exploring the world of “return on inspiration”, as the ad agency Golley Slater referred  to it,  to see what comes out the other side”

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, Bannerman will be putting 50 CPOs through their paces as he introduces them to lateral thinking exercises.

“ During our interactive session we will look at the C.A.N.D.O. model – which I write about in Genius!  This pinpoints the 5 main ways to come up with new ideas, whatever the challenge and whatever the problem: New Connections, New Alterations, New Navigations, New Directions and New Oppositions.

Before we explain what they are, and how they can be used in the real world of work, however, we’ll start off with a few Lateral Thinking exercises.

Take the question ‘What do you lose everytime you stand up ?’ for example. Many people struggle with this question, because they approach it far too rigidly and logically.”Maybe you lose your balance?” or “Maybe you lose the comfort of your chair” etc… If you apply a little Lateral Thinking and spin the question around, however, it can start to become much easier. ‘What do you gain everytime you sit down’ ? You gain a lap!

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

Buying Tech – Your Fast-Track Ticket to the Top!

I’d like to make a correction. Tech buyers aren’t just our next CPOs, they’re our next Board members.

No, I haven’t misspelt “BioTech” in the headline here – I genuinely mean buying technology.

I wrote last week on Procurious that IT procurement professionals are best-positioned to become the next generation of CPOs (Chief Procurement Officers) or CIOs (Chief Information Officers).

But then, I decided to upgrade this career trajectory to Board level.

Why? Because I’d heard first-hand how some of the world’s largest industrial companies are turning their businesses on their heads. They are changing their focus so it’s less on manufactured goods, but services they can provide to complement those goods.

Banking on Future Tech

At last week’s ProcureCon IT conference in Amsterdam, banks, car companies, engine makers and other industries all made their way to the stage to tell a similar story. You see, they’ve all finally come around to Michael Porter’s way of thinking. It’s all about delighting and owning the customer – or, more specifically, the customer data.

Even the most traditional sectors represented at the conference made it clear that they are banking their futures on technology. Of course they’ll still offer their core products, such as making cars or managing money.

However, their key competitive advantage will be in the customer experience they create through understanding their customers’ needs and habits. The data they capture when customers use their products and services is essential for this understanding.

So – to be successful into the future, these bricks-and-mortar businesses are going to have start adding some very different (and expensive) topics to their Board meeting agendas.

Decisions might include:

  • whether to store all their precious customer data in the cloud or in data centres,
  • how to protect their IP and their customers’ privacy from hackers,
  • how to comply with privacy legislation, and
  • which technology vendors to tie their futures to (or not!).

These issues have existed in business for a long time, but they now come with such significant expenditure and risk profiles that they will warrant serious Board contemplation and approval.

But who on the Board will have the experience and knowledge to provide useful and constructive insights for making these critical business decisions?

Become a Savvy Tech Buyer

Enter stage left – the technology procurement leader.

I’ve been reading and writing about seismic shifts in the world of Industry 4.0, but today the penny finally dropped. I now realise what a huge opportunity the next Industrial Revolution is for procurement.

It is indeed a brave new world. To my delight it has become very clear to me that the fastest career ticket you can buy yourself to the c-suite, is to become a commercially savvy technology buyer.

Whether you are in IT procurement or not, you should be focussing on developing these four key skills to secure your ticket to the top:

Big Data Analytics

There is going to be a lot of customer data collected over the coming years. The companies that can extract the best insights from that data, and adapt their products and services to meet customer needs, will secure their competitive advantage.

Executives with a proven track record in complex analytics will be a valuable addition to the c-suite.

Data Security

Cyber security is already one of the most concerning issues for CEOs. This will only be amplified in the future as more and more proprietary information is created.

The executive team will need leaders who know about global privacy laws, the pros and cons of the cloud versus traditional data centres, and how to outsmart the latest human or robotic hacking capability.

The Digital Landscape

Companies are already in dire need of directors and executives who understand the difference between the Ethernet and the Internet. (Hint: it’s like comparing a glass of water with the ocean).

A whole new universe of technology options are forming as the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 explode. Boards desperately need digitally native, tech-savvy executives who can quickly analyse opportunities, understand the competitive landscape and engage first-mover start-ups in a commercially astute manner.

Busting the Big Guys

This isn’t a typical competency that you would normally see listed on a corporate job description. But from what I’ve heard over the past two days, every company is going to need a group of strong, strategic commercial leaders who can ensure the organisation doesn’t become captive to one of the big technology suppliers.

Without naming names, there are a handful of global players who dominate the infrastructure, hardware and software space.

Whilst IT procurement professionals genuinely want to engage the niche players, requirements around scale, scope and compliance inevitably lead to the large technology providers. These are somewhat symbiotic relationships, but (as we all know) there are huge inherent risks to any monopoly supply situation.

Gain Experience and Grow

So, if you’re ambitious, my career advice to you today is this:

Do all you can to get yourself into a role where you’ll learn these sought-after skills. A role in tech procurement would be perfect; procurement second-best (because every procurement professional learns essential commercial and negotiation skills).

If you’re not in procurement at all, the IT profession is another place where you’ll be able to gain the experience required to tick some of these boxes when it comes time to be interviewed for the c-suite – or hopefully, the Board!

See you at the top!

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Making the Final Ascent from CPO to CEO

Taking the final step from CPO to CEO appears to elude many procurement leaders. So, why does Procurement so often lose out to Finance?

ceo to cpo

At the eWorld procurement conference last month Tania Seary interviewed me about leadership as part of Procurious’ Career Boot Camp series. After we finished she said, “there’s one question we ran out of time for: why do so few CPOs become CEOs?”

This set me thinking on my flight home. There are well known examples of the supply chain providing the key to the executive washroom. Tim Cook at Apple, and Sam Walsh at Rio Tinto are just two of the more well-known.

Famously, though, the best trodden route to the top is via the Finance function. 52 per cent of FTSE100 CEOs and 30 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs have a financial background. So why do the accountants win out?

Show Me the Money!

There’s a Dilbert cartoon where the boss informs his staff: “you know we said ‘people are our most valuable asset? Turns out we were wrong. Money is our most valuable asset.”

dilbert-assets
Courtesy of Scott Adams (dilbert.com)

Given the paucity of HR directors making it to the hot seat, it seems boards tend to agree. CPOs should score well here: at the core of the role, after all, is to maximise the effectiveness of the company’s expenditure.

“Much travell’d in the realms of Gold”

Peter Smith’s eWorld workshop inspired me to quote Shelley, so it may be time to turn to Keats.

The other great advantage possessed by Finance Directors is that they see the entirety of the organisation: from wide expanses to western islands, no corner is hidden from their view nor beyond their reach.

This is critical. The board relies on the FD as one of the few people, other than the CEO, who has a grasp on how the totality of the business fits together. Not only does she or he have knowledge of what’s going on in each part, but they also appreciate the interlinkages between them.

How do CPOs fare against this measure? Well, if we’re frank, variably. In some organisations, CPOs see the complete cost base and fully understand how the company’s capital is deployed – and why.

In others, they may only influence part of applicable spend – KPMG’s survey suggested the average is around 60 per cent. Without that comprehensive view, the nominations committee may not consider a candidate ready to take overall leadership.

I suspect this is the most critical factor holding CPOs back. Ascending to greater height affords – but may also in the corporate world, require – a broader view.

Then like stout Cortez, with eagle eyes, may the CPO take that final step to become a CEO, and survey the scene, silent, on a peak in Darien.

To hear more from Stuart, catch up with his Career Boot Camp podcast here. You can also read more from Stuart on the impact of maverick purchasing on procurement, and download the latest Applegate whitepaper on the subject.

Throwback Thursday – Procurement’s Greatest Ambassador?

If we’re to change the image of procurement, we need a figurehead to point to. Could Apple CEO, Tim Cook, be the ambassador the profession needs?

Tim Cook - Procurement Ambassador

One of the key goals of Procurious is to improve the image of our profession. We are the brown cardigan brigade no longer (unless it’s a snazzy, modern cardigan!). The latest generation of procurement pros are highly intelligent, motivated, and tech-savvy.

However, to help push the image change along, procurement needs a figurehead. A high profile ambassador for the profession, who highlights just how far you can go. And Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook, could be that ambassador we need.

We take a look back at an article from last year, highlighting Cook’s journey to the top.

Procurement’s Greatest Ambassador?

It’s fair to say procurement has received a bad rap over the years. We’ve been dubbed corporate policemen, paper pushers, roadblocks, as well as a raft of other unflattering names we dare not mention.

Thankfully, due to the innovation and hard graft of procurement professionals, the function is shedding this negative image and starting to become recognised as an integral part of any successful business.

Perhaps the greatest exemplar of procurement’s ascendancy to date is Apple CEO Tim Cook.

In 1998, Tim was the vice president of Corporate Materials for the Compaq computer company. The role saw him hold responsibility for the organisation’s procurement and inventory operations.

Despite having no real intentions of leaving this role, the enigmatic Steve Jobs managed to convince Cook to take on a role at Apple (pre iMac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone).

Stellar Performance

Tim’s performance at Apple was stellar, particularly from a procurement point of view. In his authorised autobiography of Steve Jobs, Walter Issacson described Cook’s methodical approach to supplier rationalisation and inventory management.

“Cook reduced the number of Apple’s key suppliers from a hundred to twenty-four, forced them to cut better deals to keep the business, convinced many to locate next to Apple’s plants, and closed ten of the company’s nineteen warehouses.

“By reducing the places where inventory could pile up, he reduced inventory. Jobs had cut inventory from two months’ worth of product down to one by early 1998. By September of that year, Cook had gotten it to six days. By the following September, it was down to an amazing two days’ worth.

“In addition, he cut the production process for making an Apple computer from four months to two. All of this not only saved money, it also allowed each new computer to have the very latest components available.”

The procurement and supply chain decisions made by Cook highlight the critical importance of procurement to Apple’s success. The strength of the company (and arguably its competitive advantage) has been in building and managing a complex network of suppliers.

The company has then successfully leveraged this network to produce ground-breaking technology products. Put simply, without the supply network, there is no product.

Recommendation From The Top

Cook’s performance in Apple’s supply chain clearly caught the attention of Steve Jobs, who gave the follow recommendation of Cook during his departure from the firm.

Jobs stated, “I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.”

The promotion of Cook to CEO shows that the board of Apple understands the critical importance of external suppliers as a source of innovation for the company. Apple clearly sees the procurement function as the conduit to successfully managing these relationships and ensuring the future success of the business.

Apple is the world’s most valuable brand. It has undergone a remarkably successful business transformation, and has produced products that have changed the way we interact with each other and the world around us.

With so much of this success being attributed to great procurement practices, could there really be a stronger endorsement for our profession?

“Tim Cook came out of procurement which is just the right background for what we needed.” – Steve Jobs

Beware the Scary Old-World CPO

Is your career in the grips of a scary, old-world CPO? How do you recognise if your boss is one, and what can you do about it?

Scary old-world CPO

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

– Lewis Carroll, 1871

You’ll know a scary, old-world CPO when you see one.

I had almost forgotten about them until I found myself in a meeting with one last week. Somehow in recent times I have escaped the horror of hearing such old-world, closed network thinking like:

  • “I don’t want my team on social media, someone may poach them”
  • “We’re too busy working to be looking at what’s happening in the rest of the world”
  • “We know our business best”
  • “What if my team spends all day on social media?”

To the team at Procurious, these comments are like blasphemy. We’re on a mission to change the face of procurement, and give the images associated with the profession a makeover. We want to replace the old brown cardigan-clad stereotype, with fresh images of procurement as the “smartest guys in the room”.

My meeting with this archetypal nemesis reminded me of all the reasons why we founded Procurious. It gave me increased motivation to continue our mission, and gave rise to an overwhelming urge to protect all the amazing rising stars in procurement from the soul-crushing dictatorship of a scary, old-world CPO.

The Old-World CPO

Let’s face it, if your personal characteristics and actions portray an image that you’re living in the past, the chances are good you are. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.

As such, we want to reward the great bosses, those leading by example, keeping their teams energised, investing in individuals’ careers, and continuously pushing procurement to excel.

What are the tell-tale signs of a scary, old-world CPO? The next time you’re going for an interview, or looking at your current boss, don’t fall for the flashy suit, big title, or even the big brand name they represent.

If the person opposite you falls into one of these categories, the chances are your career development will come to a screeching halt under such a draconian regime.  

The (Digitally) Invisible Man…or Woman

Check whether this CPO has any sort of online presence. Tell-tale signs of invisibility include profiles with no photos, or inappropriate photos, scant, or no, information, and no visible mentions in a Google search.

There may have been a freak internet-cleansing event, wiping out all references to this person, but the reality is that they probably haven’t spoken at any events, written anything interesting, taken the time or effort to understand social media, or understand the fact that you will be researching them online.

Also, beware those CPOs who have fewer than 500 connections in their network. Some CPOs do make the case of quality vs quantity. But, if you’re working in a large company, have a large team, and work with an extensive supply base, shouldn’t 500 quality connections be expected?

You (and the majority of your peers) want to work for someone who is an influencer. You want a leader with a wide range of connection they can introduce you to, and broaden your horizons. Working with someone with a limited network can be a road to nowhere for your career prospects.

Robinson Crusoe – the Loner 

This CPO really is an island.

They don’t believe in networking, collaborating, or outside knowledge flow, and believe information is for their own personal advantage to build their power base. The Robinson Crusoe profile can physically manifest itself as an executive sitting in a corner by themselves, with their back to the team.

This information block exists not only within their psyche, but extends to the procurement team itself. This old-world CPO has particularly old-world views, and creates a knowledge hierarchy, where they take all the great (and politically advantageous) ideas as their own.

Another problem with this approach is that it encourages working in a closed network as part of the norm. These scary old world CPOs end up staying in the same profession, peer group, company, or industry, invariably associating with people they already know. This peer group continues to reinforce their outdated approach to management, and their thinking is never challenged.

The new world CPO is collaborative, a “true influencer” and shares their knowledge freely and widely.

My view is that a CPO’s main job is to not only drive change and innovation (and make a couple of deals on the side), but to give their team the opportunity to access tools and discuss ideas with other professionals, thought leaders and experts from around the globe.

Yet I still see CPOs encouraging teams to work in isolation, unaware that there is whole universe of knowledge to help them grow and excel in their jobs.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Career Crusher

Their desk calendar reads 2016, but their attitude towards employees is stuck in the 1950s.

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 future.

They should be committed to diversity and promoting young talent, to making sure their team reflects this commitment and is generating opportunities for the next generation of talent.

The best CPOs are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop. They send their people out to be trained in the skills they need, expose them to new opportunities, and build peer networks that will develop 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. They know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged and retained.

Reverse Mentoring

Let’s not be too hard on these talented Heads of Procurement. They can’t all be cut from the same cloth.

Why not get on the front foot and try and initiate some reverse mentoring. With a few polite, and well-placed pointers, I am sure you could help turn your scary, old-world CPO into a procurement rock star.

Sharing your skills and knowledge could help your CPO become increasingly tech savvy and an advocate for technology, including social media, for procurement. And just in case you need some more points, you can find a 5-point checklist on being a great procurement boss right here.

We look forward to seeing you both on Procurious soon!

Strategic Similarities of Football and Procurement

Understand your position and adapt to how the other player is performing – true of both football and procurement, says 30 Under 30 star, Logan Ferguson.

Football player

Logan Ferguson was one of the young professionals named in ISM and THOMASNET.com‘s ‘30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars‘ this year.

Procurious caught up with Logan to talk to him about his procurement career, what the award means to him, and his love for football (or soccer, for any non-Europeans…).

Logan Ferguson
THOMASNET.com and ISM 30 Under 30 Rising Star – Logan Ferguson
  • How did you come to choose procurement as your profession?

I have always been a strategic thinker, enjoying exciting opportunities to solve new problems. This passion led me into Operations Management in the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.

I had the opportunity to work two enjoyable internships with Marathon Petroleum Company during my college years as a Global Procurement intern, which initially sparked my interest in procurement. The experience I gained during college propelled me on to my current career path.

  • You’re a keen football (soccer) player and fan – can you draw any parallels between playing the game and excelling in your career?

One of the main reasons I like soccer is due to the strategic nature of the game, and the fact that you have to be thinking and planning your next move at all times while you’re on the pitch.

The scenario is always changing, so you have to constantly adapt to what other players are doing. There are very similar elements that exist in procurement. When preparing for a negotiation, it is critical to understand your market position and develop your strategy for capturing the best contract pricing and terms accordingly.

Due to constant market changes, there is always an opportunity to find new ways to add value for the organisation. This constant change and the challenge it presents is exciting and keeps me on my toes.

  • Do you think procurement is an attractive career for millennials?

I think it is a great time to start a career in procurement. Many corporations now understand the value that can be delivered to their bottom line by developing a high performing sourcing organisation. This revelation has created new demand for talented problem solvers that can effectively fill these roles.

  • What’s your advice for young people entering the profession?

Learn as much as you possibly can in a wide variety of experiences.

Saying “Yes” to a lot of diverse opportunities not only gives you a greater breadth of knowledge but also builds your credibility in multiple areas of the organisation.

  • What does it mean to you to be part of the 30 Under 30 this year? And what will it mean for your future?

It is such an honour to be a part of the 30 Under 30 program. I’m extremely grateful for the recognition, and it wouldn’t have been possible without such a great support structure around me to recognise my accomplishments, and take action to nominate me.

The award is a testament to the opportunities I have had the privilege to be a part of so far, but I think the best part about the experience was getting to meet so many other successful young professionals through the program.

The greatest benefit the nomination has for my future is being a part of a network of high achievers, who I can contact to discuss work challenges and new, innovative ideas.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #1 – Share, Share, Share

Tania Seary, founder of Procurious, believes that procurement needs to share – share learnings, stories, experiences, and questions – in order to change the face of the profession.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Tania believes that the power of positive words and imagery, such as Avenger, Superhero and Rockstar, combined with the business words like collaboration, can make a huge impact on the people who make decisions in business in how they see procurement.

Catch up with all the thought leadership and ours delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

If you want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016, and what we have planned for 2017, you can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today, and connect with over 15,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Meet the Procurement Young Gun Making Her Mark Globally

It’s a big deal to be charged with the task of managing a significant spend portfolio that covers the Asia-Pacific region. But this BP strategic sourcing manager takes it all in her stride. Meet Joanna Graham, winner of the 2016 Future Leader in Procurement Award.

Johanna Graham

Graham looks after procurement for the retail networks of one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. Her role encompasses the entire BP service experience, including building new service stations and travel centres, maintaining them and supplying them with equipment. She manages a team of four people.

It’s no mean feat,  particularly given that she’s played an integral role in a number of significant strategic projects recently undertaken by BP.

Driving Procurement Value

“It’s a really exciting time to be working for BP, especially as there is a growing culture of innovation. There have been real opportunities to create value for the business as BP strengthens its competitiveness. This all creates an environment ripe with opportunity for Procurement to drive value in fresh and creative ways”.

Graham’s manager and BP’s procurement director, David Macdonald says: “Joanna exemplifies everything that’s good about the modern procurement professional. She’s got remarkable commercial acumen, negotiation planning and stakeholder management skills all brought together with a tough-minded determination. From my experience, it’s very rare to see all those attributes in the same person.”

A glowing endorsement for Graham indeed, who spends a lot of her time on sourcing activities and negotiating complex contracts.

Graham was also the procurement lead on a major process to select a joint venture partner and launch a new company to manage operations, engineering and maintenance of BP’s network of 18 fuel terminals dotted across the country. This piece of work subsequently extended to establishing a procurement function for the new company.

Broadening Experience

Prior to BP, Graham worked in procurement roles for British multinational alcoholic beverages company Diageo, owner of brands Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Baileys, among many others. These roles took her around the world including to China, broadening her experience significantly as she perfected cross-cultural negotiation techniques. Graham says she learnt about cultural nuances and how they impact upon sourcing, as well as navigating supply chain complexities.

“Living in China was an amazing experience both personally and professionally. I learnt so much in the time I was based there, and was lucky to work on some really exciting projects in a market that was at that time experiencing exponential growth”.

After making three international moves in less than six years, relocating to Melbourne in early 2013 was a lifestyle decision. Graham continued to work for Diageo for a period, though the time difference made working with global colleagues in the UK and US difficult.

“Since settling in Melbourne, I’ve been blown away by the strength of the Melbourne procurement community. They’re a very tight-knit community here, with networking events and Roundtable forums. Procurement professionals here are incredibly supportive, and willing to answer hot topic questions.

“In my experience, there’s just not that same sense of community in the UK due to its size, although I know that given the explosion of growth being experienced by www.procurious.com, that it’s only a matter of time before that changes.”

Strengthening Global Connections

Graham also praised the work done by The Faculty to build the procurement community in the Asia-Pacific region. Next on the agenda for Graham includes strengthening global team connections.

“There’s a lot more that we can do to make the BP team here closer. I want to leverage global team members and manage conversations to bring better value to the Asia-Pacific region. My focus is on being best in class, and I won’t stop until we get there.”

Graham is advocating the use of social network tool Yammer as a valuable way to enable procurement team members from around the world to communicate quickly.

“The intelligence that’s flowing internally through Yammer is absolutely phenomenal. I can post a request for some information for a supplier presentation, and less than 24 hours later a stack of brand collateral on a similar presentation on the other side of the world has been posted for me to access. It’s far more efficient than email.”

The Future Leader of the Year award is sponsored by American Express.

Connecting the Dots: 5 Key Learnings from Interviewing Procurement Thought Leaders

How can we elevate the role of procurement? What are the key lessons we need to be learning from the profession’s thought leaders?

Connecting the Dots Thought Leaders

I love working in procurement! From my first day as a Junior Buyer I got the bug and never looked back! However, our profession is now at the crossroads of profound change.

Never before has the value that we can bring been needed more by our employers, as they seek to become more agile and rely more on their supply base. Yet we run the risk of irrelevancy if we do not adapt as the world around us changes.

It was with this in mind that I founded the Art of Procurement podcast last November. I interview thought leaders every Tuesday so that we can all benefit from their experience and perspectives as we seek to collectively elevate the role of our profession.

I want to share five key themes, or learnings, that I have taken from the first 50 episodes: 

  1. Alignment holds the key to our relevancy

Alignment differentiates the haves and have nots in procurement.  Yet, too often, we operate in a silo. It starts with the way our performance is measured. We are measured on a metric – cost savings – that is not the primary objective of our leaders and our internal clients.

We then look at a stakeholder as an opportunity for us to achieve our objectives, rather than help them achieve theirs. Every guest that I talked to agrees: to become or remain relevant, we have to be aligned with the objectives of our executives, and focus on helping our stakeholders excel in whatever it is that they do to contribute to our organisation’s value proposition.

  1. A two-tier procurement model is imminent

This is already occurring. Every activity that is not a core competency, that materially impacts our ability to bring competitive advantage through procurement, will go away. Some of it will be outsourced, but a lot of it will ultimately be automated out altogether.

A point that interviewees often stated, is that with this shift will also come a change in what we actually view as strategic. There will be no sacred cows.

  1. The value of the traditional skill set is diminishing

The executives that I talked to believe it will be our ability to bring a commercial mindset to our stakeholders, to influence and facilitate their use of external partners, to help our businesses build and retain a competitive advantage in our marketplaces, that will define our value in the future.

The new procurement skills most often cited are business acumen, relationship building, influencing and data analytics. CPOs tell me that it is easier to train procurement skills to an outsider who already has the soft skills needed, than vice versa. We need to step up or face becoming redundant!

  1. Collaboration is a competitive advantage

Is collaboration the latest procurement buzzword? The thought leaders I don’t believe so. In a world where third party spend is representing a larger percentage of revenue than ever before, an organisation’s success is becoming more and more dependent upon their relationships with their most critical suppliers.

The likelihood is that competitors in any market rely on many of the same suppliers to supply the products and services that materially impact their success. Competitive advantage will be gained by those who are able to foster true, two-way, collaborative relationships with those partners – where the sum of the relationship is greater than the parts. If you do not achieve this, your competitor will! 

  1. Change must come from within

Too often we lament the fact that we don’t have a seat at the big table. As thought leaders repeatedly told me, the seat is there, we just have to take it. Members of the C-suite at most companies do not understand what we are capable of, and so we will never make progress if we wait for an invite.

We need to have courage to demonstrate the value that we know we can deliver in procurement if we focus on the right things – and change the conversation around how that value is defined and measured.

Doing so will make our desire to become the trusted business partner a reality across all of the organisations within which we work, rather than the isolated few. 

Philip Ideson is a long time procurement practitioner, leader and service provider, who hosts the Art of Procurement podcast. You can listen to the show here, or subscribe via your favourite podcast app.