Tag Archives: procurement management

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!

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

Resistance Is Futile, Disruption Is Coming!

Massive changes are coming to procurement pros, whether they like it or not! Is it high time we started embracing, instead of resisting, them?

Mark Stevenson is one man who understands the key trends heading our way. An expert on global trends and innovation, he will be setting the scene with our opening keynote at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London.  We caught up with Mark ahead of the event to get to know him a little better!

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m an entrepreneur, an author, an occasional comedy writer, a musician, and, as some people like to define me, a futurologist, but I’m not at all keen on that particular term.

What don’t you like about the term Futurologist?

I think it’s a fairly dodgy profession overall if I’m honest. There are no qualifications required and it’s often associated with prediction and, of course, you can’t really predict the future, you can only make it. Also people who identify themselves as future-experts are as apt to be shaped by the culture in which they are embedded or dogged by their own prejudices and wish-lists as the rest of us, and tend to predict accordingly. For instance many futurologists are overly tech focused. My work is more about the questions the future asks us about the interplay of technology, economics, society and politics. My job is to help people and organisations to ask the right questions about the future and then convince them to answer those questions in a way that makes the world more sustainable, humane, compassionate and just.

 What are the key challenges procurement and supply chains face in the next decade?

Supply chain issues are hugely important at the moment and supply chain professionals are having a lot of questions asked of them.

The first challenge to overcome is achieving greater supply chain transparency. Plenty of procurement professionals, particularly in larger organisations, have no clue where they are actually buying from. When the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013 killing over 1,000 factory workers, many high-street brands were called out and, it materialised, ignorant of their involvement. Tragedies like this have forced high street companies to better audit their supply chains but there’s still a long way to go.

Secondly, organisations need to make their supply chains more sustainable by adopting science-based targets – addressing agricultural sustainability and reducing carbon emissions to give a couple of examples.

You’ve often advocated science-based targets in the past. Could you explain the concept in more detail? How could procurement apply these targets?

Science-based targets are a really simple idea and a very good way to think about sustainability. When it comes to dealing with environmental sustainability companies tend to say ‘this is what we can do, this is what we’re aiming for’ but, in reality, it doesn’t mean a whole lot when a multinational organisation vows to reduce its carbon emissions by 10% by the year 2034! That’s a recipe for planetary disaster.

Instead, organisations must figure out what they have to do based on scientific facts. The Science Based Targets campaign (a partnership between

Carbon Disclosuse Project, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF) helps companies determine how much they must cut emissions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Coca- Cola, Walmart and HP signed up to this and if they can do it, anyone can.

And, by saving the world you’re also saving your business. Companies who take this stuff seriously will out-perform because they’ll become more efficient and they’ll attract the most forward-thinking, young talent who want to work for companies of which they are unashamed.

In your experience, how open are organisations to new technology trends?

Not very! Organisations tend to be comfortable operating as they always have done.

Upton Sinclair put it well: ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’ Take Blockchain, it could take away the untrustworthy parts of banking: bankers, who will naturally resist this particular technology!

Another example is driverless tech- it doesn’t take an expert to predict that the 3.5 million US truck drivers would be wary of such an advancement – and rightly so. So we have to find a transition plan for them – which culture resists. But it’s a business responsibility to prepare for the changes and approaching transitions, you have a duty of care to your employees and not being future-literate is a dereliction of that duty. Remember, Blockbuster, the DVD rental company went bust the same week that Netflix released House of Cards.

If you had one key message for our delegates at Big Ideas, what would it be?

Wherever you work and wherever you end up in the next 15-20 years, remember that it’s going to be a very turbulent time. Massive disruption lies ahead and the bad news is that our current institutions and businesses are unfit for purpose. Ask yourself: what’s my best effort for myself, my family and for society (and remember they’re all related). If you don’t, you can prepare to be very irrelevant and very unhappy!

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

A Whole New World: The Cognitive Computing Era

The age of cognitive tech is coming, whether procurement likes it or not! How can we be ready for the changes coming our way? 

Register your attendance for our free webinar, Man & Machine, which takes place on 8th February 2017. 

A New Era Of Computing

 We’ve entered into a new era of computing: “the cognitive computing era”, which follows the eras of programmable and tabulating systems and represents a massive jump forward that will transform how enterprises operate.

This new era is defined as such because there is a fundamental difference in how these systems are built and how they interact with humans. Traditional programmable systems are fed data, knowledge, and information, and they carry out and return results of processing that is pre-programmed. In this case, humans are doing most of the directing.

Cognitive technology is different; it accelerates, enhances and scales human expertise to solve more complex problems by understanding language and interacting more naturally with humans. It can reason to find patterns and form hypotheses, making considered arguments and scenarios planning. And this is exactly what Watson is about.

Watson is a cognitive technology that can think like a human and is available as SaaS products and a set of open APIs (Applications Programming Interface) such as natural language classifier, speech to text, text to speech, visual recognition, etc.

What Does Watson Mean For Procurement?

This disruptive technology, by creating a new digital ecosystem, is pushing Procurement to create a new business model, moving away from objectives centered on cost take out and taking a new customer centric and revenue growth approach. CPOs must employ the right strategy, structure, skillset and cognitive technology if they want to be in a strong position to demonstrate their relevance and value to the organization.

Procurement organizations and their leaders need to embrace the reality and potential for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cognitive procurement as readily as they would accept other technologies and developments. AI will bring changes and challenges but it will also bring amazing opportunities for the profession.

As we apply AI to certain procurement tasks and processes, we will begin developing internal capability and expertise.

Applying Cognitive Tech To Procurement

Cognitive technology has already proven to be particularly helpful at helping procurement with a number of specific tasks and programs. These include:

  • Quickly sorting through very large amounts of structured or unstructured data. This is especially useful for benchmarking and supplier analysis
  • Providing very detailed supplier assessments of a single supplier, a group of suppliers or the whole supply base
  • Providing in-depth risk assessments, identify hidden risks, and calculate rate risks
  • Supporting and validating decision-making during supplier selection

More generically, cognitive computing will undeniably be a key ingredient to innovation, helping to find new ways of operating, providing new insights, uncovering new opportunities and last but not least it will elevate procurement professionals to the well-deserved advisor role by extending their capabilities and growing their experience.

How Can Procurement Prepare For The Changes That Are Coming? 

The question that so many procurement organisations are asking is how can they make cognitive tech a reality and where to start?

Adopting and integrating cognitive solutions into an organization is a journey and not a destination.

Firstly, CPOs need to be clear about what matters the most. In order to grow their company’s business and best benefit from the technology, they must set realistic expectations and develop long-term plans with incremental milestones

Secondly, transformation doesn’t happen by itself. It requires the vision and support from the top. As an example, Bob Murphy, IBM’s CPO, is the biggest driver of change in terms of transforming his organization. He saw the potential in cognitive technology and the prospects for Procurement and became an evangelist within the team; encouraging, sponsoring and demanding we embrace this opportunity.

Thirdly, leveraging big data is a key area to take advantage of, especially in data management. This ensures that organisations have the right structure and strategy. At IBM, we have appointed a Procurement Data Officer and also hired data scientists within the procurement team as we understood that procurement needed to take a more active role in extracting and analyzing data to demonstrate its value especially by leveraging the data we are managing and generating. (i.e data in RFP answers, ….)

The Race Is On – Can Procurement Shape Up In Time?

With cognitive technology, procurement teams will be equipped with the tools to navigate the procurement process quickly, easily and more compliantly. This will allow more time for procurement teams to focus on strategic supplier activities after contract signature, such as performance management or supplier collaboration and innovation programs. But is the function ready for this shift?

Embedding such advanced technology requires some serious changes in skills and competencies within our teams. Procurement leaders will have to search for procurement professionals not only focusing on their core competencies, such as category expertise, negotiation skills or market knowledge, but it will be more and more important to hire people with the “right” soft skills. The function must onboard and retain people with excellent relationship management and analytical skills and with a high aptitude to work with advanced technology and financial acumen.

The procurement landscape will have to reshape to a more business leading capability that has to operate in a much more virtual and networked environment where emerging roles of data scientists, business relationship managers and innovation scouts, to mention a few, will be increasingly required.

In short, beyond just being capable of creating visible savings, the role of the procurement organisation will have to shift its focus beyond cost reduction efforts, and move towards a trusted advisor role; accurate, fast and efficient.

There’s no doubt about it, late adopters of the digital transformation or organisations failing to take into consideration the growing exigencies such as speed, value for money, collaboration will be soon perceived as road blockers rather than enablers.

Join Procurious’ free webinar, hosted by Tania Seary with Manoj Saxena, Pascal d’Arc and Nathalie Fekete to make sure you’re ahead of the cognitive technology game. 

 

 

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!

Could Brexit Cloud have a Silver Lining?

The Brexit result upset the apple cart. It also left many people searching for a silver lining to the clouds on the horizon.

silver lining

This article was written by Daniel Ball, Director, Wax Digital.

Marmite – you either love it or hate it as they say. Well, Tesco for one was probably agreeing with the second of those sentiments recently when its rocky relationship with the brand’s owner Unilever hit the press.

As you’ll remember the food giants’ spat was triggered when Unilever stated it would need to raise its UK prices. This was in order to offset the impact of the pound’s post-Brexit weakness against the Euro in its supply chain.

Tesco retorted by removing Unilever products from its shelves. A bold move considering the food manufacturer owns many leading consumer brands.

Weakening Sterling

To recap, in mid-October the pound fell to a value below €1.10 for the first time since March 2010. The pound had generally been on the slide ever since the UK’s EU referendum back in June. It was also performing weakly against other major currencies including the US dollar and those in most emerging markets.

In many ways this is bad news for UK consumer and business to business purchasing. Both as individuals and organisations we’re pretty heavily reliant on global supply chains, meaning that it will cost domestically-based organisations heavily.

UK manufacturers sourcing parts and materials from overseas to make products locally, will pay more due to poor exchange rates.

Equally retailers and wholesalers buying end products from other countries will pay more to put them on their shelves or fill their warehouses. These cost increases will inevitably be passed on to UK business customers and consumers alike.

Returning to Domestic Focus?

However the situation may not be all bad and there could be a silver lining in this post-Brexit cloud. One potential positive outcome from this situation could be some British supply chains choosing to return to a more domestic focus.

Weighing up the options in a less than favourable global financial position, it may make sense for some UK businesses to explore the cost benefits of buying locally. This will help to remove exchange rate risk, even if local supply is not the cheapest price book option.

After years of decline, UK manufacturing may actually receive a boost and resurgence of ‘Buy British’ standards of the past. However this will be fuelled by necessity, rather than a Brexit campaign.

Admittedly it’s an ambitious scenario. Imagine the impact of Tesco commissioning UK food producers to come up with viable, locally made alternatives to replace Unilever’s full range. Especially considering its brands comprise around half of the worldwide grocery market share.

Secondly, consider how a weak pound may also drive overseas buyers to look to British suppliers for pound-based pricing. This will allow them to realise the benefit when the Sterling costs are converted back into their own stronger currencies. UK suppliers could see new market openings and opportunities to trade overseas that once didn’t exist.

British supply may suddenly become in vogue.

Silver Lining in Currency Battles

For procurement teams choosing to buy domestically, a move such as this will mean significant focus on supplier sourcing and close inspection of supplier relationships. Necessary checks and due diligence would have to be built in, in order to ensure any changes in supply didn’t leave the business at risk.

Equally procurement professionals working supply side in the UK should seek to advise the business on how to make the most of new opportunities and negotiate effectively in supply relationships.

Brexit is rather like Marmite in that it divided the nation. But while there are fears about the UK’s future after Brexit, recent currencies-related battles have highlighted a potential silver lining.

Now could actually be the time where we see both onshore and offshore buyers eyeing up UK supply options over going overseas or opting for their foreign domestic choices.

Procurement would need to ensure necessary checks, due diligence and information management in new sourcing activities. There would be a need to ensure swift and effective onboarding. New contracts and relationships would have to carefully managed to minimise ongoing trading risk with new partners.

But if procurement can pull this off, who’s to say this cloud couldn’t have a silver lining?

Why the Traditional Procurement Skill-Set Won’t Make a CPO

Perfecting a traditional procurement skill-set traditionally is a sure-fire way to stop your career progression in its tracks.

skill-set

 

A large part of my professional career has been devoted to leading global procurement organisations around the world. My business partner, Sammy, and I have collectively spent the better part of five decades doing this.

It’s true enough that we gave it all up and we are now in our own practice (The Beyond Group AG), following our own rules. However, those years instilled in us a number of ideals, which, on reflection, were less crucial than we were conditioned to believe in the earlier stage of our careers. Luckily, we have been smart enough to realise it over time!

It’s Time to Check Your Skill-Set

What am I referring to?  As we develop our procurement careers we have a notion that a certain skill-set is expected of us. Proficiency in category management, price analysis and negotiation tactics, to name a few, are most typically associated with the procurement function.

Whilst softer skills come into play as you advance into more senior roles, procurement professionals are expected to demonstrate aptitude for these sharper procurement skills from the offset.

We spend the vast majority of our professional lives honing these very same capabilities.

In my experience, these skills can only get you so far and certainly not into the CPOs chair. In today’s world, there is an important arsenal of skills demanded of CPOs.

These skills, as well as scoring above the traditional ones, will largely supplant the capabilities procurement professionals have been diligently polishing for so many years.

Organisations will simply demand of us that we are much more than we are today.

Where’s the Proof?

For the last five years, The Beyond Group has been at the forefront of dealing with the issues pressing the procurement function to change. We hold annual Think Tanks where a limited number of invited companies send their senior procurement people to deeply delve into a specific topic over the course of 4 and a half days

In 2016 we addressed the skills and capabilities needed by procurement professionals in the future.

Over the course of our three sessions we brought together practitioners, academics, professional recruiters and insightful speakers to help us pinpoint the skills that will differentiate between simple buyers and the new leaders of the function.

Assess, Analyse, Solve

Our sessions follow a specific agenda.  In the first session of the Think Tank we assess the real issues we are trying to solve. Then, in the second session we analyse options and debate outcomes.

In the third and final session we get to the bottom of the issue and try to solve it by coming to a collective understanding and collaborative solution. This year was no different.

This year the collective output of the group was that three sets of capabilities will define the CPO of the future:

1. The Business Partner (know your customer)

  • Intrapreneurial agility
  • Game Changer capability
  • Credible Experience

2. The Cross-functional integrator (manage your internal relationships)

  • Consultative skills
  • Project manager
  • Credible performance

3. The Alliance Manager (know your market)

  • Big Picture view
  • Ambassadorial skills
  • Risk and conflict manager

Most interestingly, despite the fact that we had a roomful of procurement professionals, not one of the “traditional” skill-set appeared anywhere on this list of the skills future CPOs need.

Place for ‘Hard’ Skills

This is, of course, not to say that hard skills no longer hold value in the procurement industry. It’s crucial that procurement pros master the skills associated with an interconnected supply chain: horizontal networking through social media; big data & analytics; and cognitive computing (e.g. Industry 4.0).

However, it is my belief that these will be rudimentary in the future and, as such, it won’t be necessary to call them out. They will simply be part of the assumed knowledge that everyone will have. We will continue to explore this theme in our future Think Tanks.

Sammy and I have taken to heart what a respected mentor once said to us: “You must lead with your head, heart, hands and guts”.

This has a very different, and more profound, meaning than it did some years ago in the procurement world.

Giles Breault is Principal and Co-founder at The Beyond Group AG, a specialised research & advisory firm focusing on the topic of “what’s next” in Procurement, and Business Productivity.

How to Realise and Unlock the Benefits of Supplier Diversity

New research has revealed the benefits organisations can realise by having a top-performing supplier diversity programme.

Supplier Diversity Programmes

Full Benefits of Supplier Diversity Not Yet Achieved

Historically, supplier diversity programs have focused on a narrow combination of meeting government spend requirements, and participating in corporate social responsibility initiatives with under-represented communities.

For example, survey respondents in The Hackett Group’s 2016 Supplier Diversity Study report that their most important objectives are:

  • Improving the corporate image in the marketplace;
  • Supporting corporate culture around diversity and social responsibility; and
  • Complying with regulatory requirements.
Objectives for Supplier Diversity Programmes
Critical Objectives For Diversity Programmes

However, companies are starting to realise that they will not achieve maximum benefits from supplier diversity programs if their objectives stop there. In fact, by expanding the goals and activities of these programmes, organisations can gain access to new markets, innovative supplier partnering practices and avenues for improved corporate branding.

Several hurdles can prevent procurement organisations from obtaining the necessary support to invest in a supplier diversity programme. Often, business leaders worry that dedicating resources will ultimately mean sacrificing procurement savings.

However, The Hackett Group’s research suggests that not only do procurement organisations with top-performing programmes experience no dip in efficiency, but they extract even more benefits from the programme.

For example, 23 per cent of diverse suppliers often or greatly exceed buyers’ expectations and the majority of remaining diverse suppliers are meeting expectations.

Supplier Diversity Expectations & Ranking
How Diversity Suppliers Rank Against Buyers’ Expectations

Top-Performing Organisations Take Strategic Approach to Supplier Diversity

Supplier diversity is evolving from a check-the-box corporate social responsibility requirement, to a strategic enabler providing access to new and innovative products, and increased market share in new and developing communities.

Top-performing companies recognise this and have begun working toward achieving a broader range of benefits from their programmes. Successful ones typically address three areas: global expansion, supplier partnering and reputation management.

Global Expansion

Supplier diversity programs usually start small and then grow in terms of domestic volume and geographic reach. Our survey found that 76 per cent of organisations have diversity programs that are currently limited to the domestic (U.S.) market.

Of this group, 40 per cent plan to expand their program globally in the next two to three years. Global expansion of supplier diversity brings additional benefits, including investment in global economic development and improved relationships with local suppliers and their communities.

Organisations should be sure to engage the appropriate partners before designing a global expansion of their programme. This can include corporate diversity groups and third-party diversity organisations.

Supplier Partnering

Supplier partnering is the process of developing and enhancing relationships with suppliers. Small and minority-owned businesses can be the source of added benefits, including cost savings, process improvements and product innovations.

Investing in the development of local suppliers helps build productive relationships and prepares suppliers to be successful partners. Buyers should also identify candidates for strategic partnerships.

While this is frequently the most immature area of supplier diversity programs, benefits can be significant.

Reputation Management

Developing a strong reputation for dedication to supplier diversity can result in increased market share and talent retention. There are multiple channels available to facilitate a clear and positive message regarding supplier diversity, including both internal- and external-reaching activities.

Procurement groups should look for reputation management opportunities that align with corporate objectives to increase collaboration between groups.

Organisations with strategic reputation management practices typical utilise some combination of social media and local, in-person interactions to interact with stakeholders and communities.

Programme Objectives Must Come from the Highest Levels of the Company.

Top-performing supplier diversity programs are developed and planned with substantial guidance from executive leadership.

Leaders of supplier diversity initiatives should make it a priority to create a culture supportive of diversity and inclusion, not just in procurement, but throughout the enterprise.

All diversity objectives, including supplier diversity, workforce diversity, and community and market interaction, should have the same strategic objectives in order to take advantage of a larger network and create a more collaborative workplace.

Laura Gibbons is a Research Director for The Hackett Group’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program. She has industry and consulting experience in areas such as purchase-to-pay, strategic sourcing, payment strategies, and organisational and process design. You can contact her on Procurious or via email.

Learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program here.

Changing Times for Low-Value Procurement Processes

Old practices die hard, particularly in low-value procurement. However, an Australian start-up aims to change this.

Low-Value Procurement

The dubious, but common, practice of ‘get three quotes but still use the same suppliers’ is firmly under the spotlight. And, thanks to public scrutiny and increasing procurement governance, it might soon be gone for good.

A growing number of Australian Governmental agencies and private sector organisations are looking to make their spend more transparent. And many of these organisations are turning to a Melbourne start-up to increase their accountability.

Ending Entrenched Procurement Culture

Award-winning platform VendorPanel is revolutionising decentralised sourcing in corporate Australia, with growth in the past two years exceeding all expectations.

Launched in 2008 by James Leathem, VendorPanel has been through a number of iterations over the years. It aims to put an end to the corruption-riddled ‘three quotes and no change’ procurement approach that has become entrenched in Australian corporate culture.

The platform is used by hundreds of Australian organisations, predominantly government agencies, to increase transparency, compliance, and savings in quote and tender-based purchasing from their approved suppliers and the marketplace.

Leathem explains that low-value procurement had been largely ignored across public and private sector organisations in Australia. This represents a multi-million dollar risk for procurement professionals, with massive corporate financial leakage, and formal governance processes being allowed to fall through the cracks.

“It’s confusing and difficult for buyers. Traditional procurement systems and processes are complex. Buyers are left to navigate preferred supplier panels, approved contractor lists and the market with no real assistance. This complexity serves to make processes slow and painful, so buyers often just go with what they know,” he explains.

“Problems are compounded when staff are dealing with arrangements managed by multiple external departments or organisations, and where contract information is accessed via multiple websites, documents and intranets.”

Undetected Low-Value Procurement Expenditure

Most low-value procurement expenditure remains undetected. This is because it’s either hidden in email, or the transactional amount is too small for management to bother scrutinising.

This makes it pretty easy for an employee get away with giving low-value contracts to the same business every time, instead of a better performing, or cheaper, company.

“It’s not necessarily full-on corruption, but a ‘better-the-Devil-you-know’ approach of using familiar suppliers. Either way it can land professionals in hot water, particularly in government when it’s public money being spent,” Leathem says.

While the broader procurement industry complained about the issues that came with low-value procurement, nothing was being done to bring about change.

“There was a quiet acceptance that things were never going to change. Procurement professionals appeared resigned to the fact that a solution was impossible, because the problem was too big and messy. This was especially the case for procurement of Services.”

VendorPanel Leadership Team (L-R): COO David Bubner; CEO James Leathem; Commercial Director Matthew Clyne.
VendorPanel Leadership Team (L-R): COO David Bubner; CEO James Leathem; Commercial Director Matthew Clyne.

Procurement Match-Making

Leathem set out to disrupt the market after working with a professional services firm for corporate clients such as ANZ Bank, Fairfax Media, Macquarie and GE.

As part of his role, Leathem was involved in sourcing and engaging with supplier markets. The approach being taken was the best available to anyone at the time. It was a mostly manual approach using a series of internal databases and search processes.

“I saw an opportunity to automate the procurement match-making process by creating a honey pot that attracts the right people to you, rather than buyers always having to scour the market for what they’re after.”

Leathem started out by working with the local government sector, with the rationale that if it could work there, it could work anywhere. He secured a pilot across 155 local governments, and based on its success, VendorPanel was rolled out nationally across 550 local governments within 18 months.

The platform’s growth comes as the broader procurement industry searches for better, more efficient ways to tackle their role.

However, VendorPanel then had an unexpected challenge of showing the rest of the market that the technology was transferrable. Several years down the track this has been achieved, with hundreds of organisations now using the platform.

VendorPanel has now processed more than AUD$1.3 billion worth of sourcing from organisations’ own preferred suppliers, plus an undisclosed amount of public tenders and marketplace sourcing, making it one of the fastest growing technology companies in Australia.

The Benefits Procurement Can Realise from RPA Adoption

Understanding the benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can help sell adoption to the rest of the business.

RPA Procurement Automation

In our first instalment, we described the fundamentals of robotic process automation (RPA), how it is typically used, and some pricing trends.

Here, we discuss some of the benefits of RPA, as well as what to think about as your organisation considers adoption.

The RPA Value Proposition

Purchase-to-pay organisations that are implementing RPA expect benefits in higher productivity and lower operating costs (Fig. 2).

RPA
Fig. 2 – Benefits Expected By Purchase-to-Pay Organisations with RPA

These improvements are realised in a number of ways, including:

1. Ability to bypass the IT department

Because RPA does not require IT development resources, and calls for a very limited technical infrastructure, businesses are able to undertake these projects by themselves.

However, a big lesson learned from early pilots is that IT needs to be involved in some capacity early in the project, even though this may bring in extra bureaucracy and potentially slow down progress.

Getting IT to sign off on performance demands, system availability, security infrastructure, etc., will pay dividends later when RPA is in production.

2. Shorter, less expensive development cycle time

The typical timeline to develop and deploy RPA is six to eight weeks, dramatically less than traditional, IT-led application integration projects. The latter’s cost to design, program, test and maintain system interfaces is significant. In some instances, it can exceed the cost of the software itself.

The ability to link systems through the user interface layer in a non-invasive way, without these costs, is core to RPA’s value proposition.

3. Labour Cost Savings

RPA vendors claim to deliver as much as 60-80 per cent in savings. Feedback from participants in interviews conducted by The Hackett Group indicated that returns are much more modest, but still significant at 20-30 per cent.

4. Increased Auditability and Consistency with Fewer Errors

Routine tasks executed by humans are prone to errors and inconsistent application of rules. Robots apply the same set of rules consistently and operate without errors.

Furthermore, all tasks executed by robots are recorded, and these execution logs are auditable.

5. Improved Scalability

Human capacity is difficult to scale in situations where demand fluctuates, leading to inefficiencies such as backlogs or overcapacity.

In contrast, robots operate at whatever speed is demanded by the work volume. Multiple robots can be deployed when demand exceeds the capacity of a single one.

However, an RPA must still work within the performance limitations of the software with which it is designed to interact.

Looking Ahead

We predict that RPA may have an impact on the number of people needed to perform mundane, repetitive tasks. Ultimately, this is a good thing, because many of these resources can be reassigned to more rewarding activities and job satisfaction will increase.

Fortunately, this shift in the profile of source-to-pay talent is consistent with the direction that procurement has been heading in for some time, moving away from transactional work, to more of a trusted advisor and partner to the business.

This will require complex problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and intellectual curiosity. There will also be a strong need for people who understand how to orchestrate a combination of automation solutions to obtain the best results.

Patrick Connaughton is the Senior Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Programme at the Hackett Group. He has published groundbreaking research in areas like spend analysis, contract life cycle management, supplier risk assessments and services procurement. You can contact him via email or on Procurious.

You can also learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program here.