Tag Archives: procurement leadership

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?

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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.