Tag Archives: procurement recognition

Women and Indirect Procurement – A Perfect Fit!

Indirect procurement is a perfect fit for women. And women in indirect procurement are a perfect fit for a company.

women indirect procurement

At a recent fantastic CIPS CH event on ‘Women in Procurement’, it got me thinking about why indirect procurement is a great function for women.

My path to leadership in procurement happened by accident. In the late 90s, when indirect procurement was emerging as a strategic sourcing function, I joined the corporate sourcing team at a large Swiss bank.

The team had been formed specifically to implement ‘strategic sourcing’. I got my first taste of the three things that make women in indirect procurement such a great combination.

  1. Indirect procurement is results oriented

One of the realities of being a businesswoman is that the range of acceptable behaviour can be pretty narrow. Being clear about your opinion in a meeting easily becomes being ‘too direct’.

But the great equaliser is delivering financial results. Everyone wants to hear more, especially senior executives.

But not just any numbers will do…

  • Clear financials – Focus on savings that bring the cost base down and have P&L impact via a tight link to the budget process (see my previous article on this topic).
  • Long-term savings commitment – The first time we committed as a team, I was nervous presenting it to the executive committee. But after we delivered the first year, my nervousness was gone.

Women who advance into leadership roles in corporations are all results oriented and tend to be super exact because the winnowing out process is earlier and harsher.

Mary, the leader of the US professional services category was exactly this kind of woman, delivering business innovation and significant numbers every year.

As part of our strategy for breaking through on more difficult categories, she led a new approach by working across regions. I also gave her a leadership challenge to think bigger on the numbers. She did. And the team delivered some great innovation to the business and tripled the savings delivery.

  1. Indirect procurement is flexible

One of the greatest aspects of being measured on results is that it makes space for flexibility between work and home time.

After some years in consulting, I was back in industry with a full-time role, and two small children, leading a big team for the first time. There were several other women with children in the team trying to manage work and home time. We needed to do something.

There were two things going for us.

  • A results oriented CPO even though he was an old style German man!
  • Procurement is in the ‘client’ role so sales people try to match your schedule.

This combination equals control of your agenda and gave us a chance to organise time differently.

  • No meetings after 5pm, but with the expectation of being online post bedtime.
  • Working fewer hours than the men just by being more focused. There’s nothing like needing to be home to get focus.

There’s no pretending that this was easy to do. But in addition to being able to balance work and home time, there were two side affects of this way of organising things.

  • The leadership team was young. And the men also started to organise themselves this way after they had children.
  • Talent retention and growth of women rising on the organisation.

Isabelle, a young woman in my former team recently had her second child and had the chance to take over a regional head role. We met for coffee and discussed her fear of taking the role with young children.

She made a clear plan on how she would manage her work and home time, including how many late evening conference calls she was willing to make, and went for it.

Great for her and great for keeping and developing talent in the company.

  1. Indirect procurement has P&L impact

Women continue to be underrepresented in senior management, and the ones there, are often in non-powerful functions like HR.

One of the key ticks in the box for advancing is P&L responsibility. Indirect procurement can have high impact on the P&L and therefore crucial ‘visibility’ to senior management. Keep in mind:

  • Senior management cares about the P&L. You need to not only deliver the numbers, but make sure you are up there presenting to them. And it’s a chance to show you can handle the pressure of executive level presentations and questions sessions.
  • Know your numbers inside and out. This means being aware of the status of all material projects driving delivery on a monthly basis.
  • Can you measure and track it – proof! Have a clear report that is linked to the budget cycle

The more visibility women have, the better their chances to advance. This naturally adds to the pipeline of women for a company – the lack of which is the eternal topic in every article about why there aren’t more women in senior positions.

The bottom line is empowered women deliver.

Pauline King is the CEO of Heykins GmbH, Rapid Results Procurement, focused on working with clients’ existing teams to deliver tangible financial results.

She is a recognised expert in indirect procurement with deep operational experience in procurement transformation. Pauline also works closely with The Beyond Group AG where she heads up the Indirect Procurement Practice.

Throwback Thursday – Why Are CPOs Scared of Social Media?

Face your fears! Although procurement is getting the social media message, there is still plenty scope for CPOs to be doing more.

CPOs Scared of Social Media

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a trip down the Procurious content memory lane! Procurious has been going for over 2 years, and we feel like we’re making headway with social media in procurement.

However, sometimes it feels like we’re Sisyphus, pushing the (social media) boulder up the hill, only for it to roll down again. That’s why, although this is a year old, we could still easily ask why CPOs are scared of social media.

Running Scared

Noel Gallagher, he of Oasis fame, said earlier this year that musicians are “scared of social media”. We think CPOs are too.

We carried out some rudimentary research into the Twitter presence of the CPOs of the world’s “market leading” brands. The results were telling.

We searched Twitter for the CPOs (or equivalent) at Apple, P&G, Unilever, Coca Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, LG, Reed Elsevier and Shell. We couldn’t find a Twitter account for any of them.

Its not just CPOs either, it seems the whole C-suite really don’t care for social media. Research conducted by CEO.com and DOMO suggests that only 8 per cent of CEOs have a Twitter account and that a staggering 68 per cent of CEOs have no social media presence at all! A CEO without so much as a LinkedIn account? Are you kidding?

Interestingly, Mark Zuckerberg is the only CEO in the Fortune 500 who is present across the five leading social media platforms, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Instagram (given he owns the last two, I guess he had a head start).

Why are CPOs so anti-social (media)?

Sure, social media is a generational thing. Younger people ‘get it’ because they grew up with it and older people tend to struggle to understand it. Now let’s be honest, most CPOs fall on the older end of the youth spectrum and hence are operating from a disadvantaged position. This however, is no excuse to ignore social media.

Like it or lump it, social media has become a critical part of our social fabric. It’s where we go to interact with people, inform ourselves and most importantly for businesses, it’s where we go to make our judgements and voice our opinions on brands.

We’re Judging You

While a traditional procurement leader may not see it, people are forming opinions based on their social media activity (or rather, lack thereof).

Recruiters will look at a candidate’s Facebook page to get an understanding of who they are. Employees, suppliers, customers and shareholders are also researching corporate executives to determine if they’ll make a good boss, business partner or are worthy of investment. Those that are not present on social media, miss the opportunity to put their best foot forward.

In the case of the companies I listed above, I’ve already established an opinion (a negative one) about them based on the fact that they don’t have a socially active CPO.

In all likelihood, the opinion I have formed is incorrect and uninformed. However, the lack of social presence has led me to subconsciously make certain assumptions about those businesses.

Socially Connected Leaders

To state the obvious, the business world has changed. Gone are the days of unknown senior executives ‘connecting’ with people through ads in local newspapers. The modern business environment is hyper-connected and driven by information.

The advent of social media has led people to expect access to celebrities. And business executives are now seen as celebrities. Richard Branson, Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg are the faces of their brands. The fact that their celebrity shines so bright also means they are incredibly effective marketing vehicles.

A company’s brand, as well as its understanding of its customer base and the market it operates in, now depend on its social presence. Put bluntly, there is an expectation, from customers, shareholders and the press that leaders will be active and accessible on social media.

Socially Active Leaders

Not only is there an expectation that leaders will be active on social media, there is strong research to suggest that socially active leaders are better at their jobs.

Brandfrog, a professional branding company, released a study in 2014 highlighting the importance of social media in the perception of company leaders. Below are some of the high level findings.

  • 75 per cent of US respondents agreed that CEO participation in social media leads to better leadership. This figure is up from only 45 per cent in the previous year.
  • 77 per cent of US respondents agreed that C-Suite executives that actively engage on social media create more transparency for the brand.
  • 83 per cent of US respondents agreed that leaders who actively participate in social media build better connections with customers, employees and investors.
  • 82 per cent of US respondents agreed that executive use of social media establishes brand awareness.
  • 77 per cent of US respondents believe social media is a powerful tool for building thought leadership and enhancing the credibility of C-Suite executives with stakeholders.

The report lists many more stats, similar to these, that clearly spell out the case for CPOs and others in the C-suite to start interacting on social media.

Get Involved Already!

Social Media won’t be optional in the near future – it’s not a passing trend. CPOs need to understand that in order to gain the respect of their clients, their industry and their staff, they simply must be present and active on social media.

The good news is that the bar for CPO social media participation has been set so low that there is a huge opportunity to get in early and capitalise!

So here is our call out to CPOs – sign up! It can be Procurious,  Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, or Instagram. Who knows, you might even enjoy it, everyone else does!