On the internet, content is king. So wrote Microsoft founder Bill Gates in an influential and still oft-quoted essay in 1996. Content informs and entertains. It can move people to action, whether that’s visiting a different website, buying a product or service or changing their thinking and behaviour. It is enormously powerful, done right.
But with millions of pieces of content added to the internet daily (four million videos are uploaded to YouTube every day, to give just one example!) how can you as a procurement professional stand out?
Start with these top tips for finding your voice, building your personal brand and creating brilliant thought leadership content online…
Who are you?
You might think that’s an easy question to answer. But when you’re considering your online presence, it requires a bit more thinking to create a personal and professional brand that will help you stand out from the crowd and be seen as influential and credible. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do I want to be known for?
Who is my audience?
What is my unique selling point? Why should people listen to me?
Once you’ve answered those questions, you’ll have a clearer idea of the topics you should create content on, the style of content you want to create and also the kind of things you want to stay away from. You can’t do everything, so pick your niche and stick to it.
Know your angles
Any content you create needs to have an angle. If you’re writing a blog post or thought leadership article, your angle is the clear theme or point that you want your readers to take away from your piece. An article without an angle is unfocused, unclear and uninteresting.
The best way to identify your angle is to think about the headline of your piece. How can you best sum up your idea into a short, compelling statement that will make people want to read the whole piece? Often a good idea is to answer a question that people might have or to offer a series of tips. For example: ‘How to build brilliant stakeholder relationships remotely.’ ‘Five creative ways to make cost savings in indirect procurement.’
Writing great copy
So you’ve got your angle, how do you write a great post? When it comes to online content, the best approach is to keep it short (fewer than 1,000 words unless you’ve designated it a ‘long read’), punchy and accessible. Our attention spans are getting shorter by the year – thanks internet! – and people do not have the patience to engage with overly long and complex material online. Break up your article with sub-heads, use bullet points or pull out a few top tips at the end.
If it’s getting too long and complicated, why not break it up into a series of pieces? This will also encourage people to keep coming back to you for insight.
And it might seem obvious, but remember to proofread your work. Your ideas might be fantastic but you’ll be far less credible if your pieces are riddled with spelling errors and misplaced apostrophes!
Keep it consistent
Consistency is a critical pillar of building trust, and you want to be a trusted voice and expert on your chosen topic. Being consistent means committing to putting out content regularly – not spamming people but making sure you are continuing to put out a regular stream of interesting and insightful pieces. If you are starting to blog, you can’t just post something every six months. Instead commit to at least once a month.
Consistency also relates to your voice and subject matter expertise. People should know what to expect from you. That doesn’t mean you can’t mix things up and be creative, but don’t just write about something for the sake of it or because everyone else is doing it. Being consistent means being genuine, authentic and true to yourself and what you stand for.
Know your channels
If a procurement professional writes a blog, but no one reads it, was it even worth writing? Think about the channels you can use to amplify your voice. Twitter and LinkedIn are great tools to publicise your work but also to ensure you are consistently sharing relevant content by others that relates to your interests and the personal brand you have created. Using a platform like Procurious is great because it has a readymade engaged audience eager for insightful content.
And think about format as well as channel. Is written content best for this message or could you get creative with video or audio? Should you embed infographics or imagery? Have fun with it and your audience will enjoy it as well.
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Think parenthood and COVID-19 have nothing in common? Think again. Read on for 5 lessons that parenting a toddler has taught me and how these apply to emergency procurement situations.
It is pretty difficult working from home with a toddler at any time, but even more so during a lockdown.
I fell into despair last week. The pressure was on. Two phones were ringing off the hook from an emergency situation, when my toddler ripped off their pants and became the entertaining backdrop for my video call.
COVID-19 lockdown is one of those moments that will be earmarked in my time capsule. It seemed to hit at once across all fronts. Work and home life were hurled into turmoil.
But rather than spiralling into a work/life balance death spiral, I called on some of the valuable lessons I have learnt as a parent. Rather than being a distraction, they have been my secret to success in managing myself and my team through a series of emergencies bought on my the COVID-19 crisis.
COVID-19 has been impacting business both domestically and internationally for some months, requiring rapid action from commercial teams. My role is to provide support, to draft contracts, create requirements, obtain pricing and negotiate. It’s a team effort, but a mammoth amount of energy for each person involved.
Take on board these 5 simple lessons from my time dealing with emergency situations.
1. Set your pace and do so carefully
Just like parenthood, the COVID-19 pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the adrenaline that comes with working on critical and time pressured projects makes you want to sprint. In fact you tell everyone you’re fine and can take on even more work! Foolish. This is a recipe for burnout and one I learned the hard way.
During a recent time pressured day, I drew on the parenting experience of trying to be an octopus. The dinner is about to boil over the kid comes running in with a live grasshopper and someone is knocking at the door.
I had 20 minutes to review 6 contracts and make a determination about next steps. The only thing you do in these situations is scan the most important details that you need to check and be a speedy risk mitigation machine! It pays to have your manager on stand-by to ratify your decisions.
2. It’s practical not technical
You can read all the parenting books you like, but it’s not until you have sole accountability for a human being that you really know what the job is all about!
In procurement, getting the call to undertake an emergency project can be quite unnerving. My first thoughts were to start questioning all my technical knowledge, but I needn’t have worried. Commercial acumen in practice can look like asking the obvious questions and checking the basics. It is surprising in the pace of the environment and the revolving door of personnel what is not pieced together. Back yourself to ask the tough and difficult questions no matter what your title or rank.
Questions that should be asked when delivering goods overseas at speed: what happens if the recipient country situation changes in transit? When should ownership and transfer of assets kick in? Check warranties, support and training. How useful is it if the helpdesk is in a different time zone?
3. Don’t forget the day job
Parenting is a 24/7/365 day job. It never ends. Managing a procurement team during an emergency situation is not much different. During the COVID-19 crisis, the biggest thing I’ve struggled with is providing quality leadership and management to my team. I hold myself to high standards. When I answer the call on a Sunday to work on the next emergency situation it is hard to find the time to run the day to day. Being honest with the team and sharing what I’m working on helps them to contextualise their work. Leaning on management and peers to share the management load relieves a lot of pressure for me. I had to know when to stick my hand up and utter those difficult words “I’m at capacity”.
4. Pants are optional
When emergency situations have arisen in the past, I tended to try to shoo away the other aspects of my life. This is pretty difficult to do with a toddler in my bubble in lockdown. Particularly when they have taken their discarded pants and walked into my zoom meeting with their pants on their head. This is a leveller.
It reminded me what is most important. When I started opening up about this and other life necessities like going for a walk or going to the supermarket I found a willing and supportive environment ready to cover me.
Negotiating with two suppliers for two separate but interrelated contracts with different time zones will not be done in an hour. Looming press conference announcements weigh heavily and it is easy for anxiety to set in about securing signatures quickly. I learned that my butt in the chair is not going to speed the process up any faster. I needed to go out for walks and prioritise what self-care I needed.
5. Protect your space
When you’re working from home the environments can bleed into one another. It is important to have a separate workspace that is away from other areas. For me it caused confusion about when I was working and when I was not, I defaulted to work mode and learned the hard way that I hadn’t switched off.
Working in a different space changed my habits and it caused me to make a mistake in my work. I didn’t pick up on something in a contract before it went for signing. I realised that it’s because I usually print a hard copy off first before signing.
I realised my “work self” identity needed to change during lockdown. I can’t hold myself to the same standards when the game has entirely changed – mistakes will happen when working at speed. It’s called being human.
I showed kindness to myself and it caused me to think more deeply about the others in my team. It’s taught me to be kinder and patient.
Play it forward
I’m determined to keep these lessons front of mind for the transition phase of returning to work. We’re all likely to be in limbo mode for a while and must be mindful of the ongoing impacts that the lockdown will have and how these can play out.
Kindness and compassion for yourself will invariably lead to more kindness and compassion for others. Put yourself first.
This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.
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And how to get them in less than ½ an hour, with a $0 training budget
As procurement leaders or influencers, we all know that upskilling is critical to our success and that of our team. And with the skills required to succeed in procurement rapidly shifting from a technical focus to more soft skills, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by what’s required and how to achieve it. Common concerns we all experience are:
Where do I even start with training?
Who will pay for it?
Can I (or my team) afford the time away from our day jobs right now – or ever?
One of the world’s most celebrated thought leaders on human performance, Sir Clive Woodward, believes he has the answer to all of these questions – and it isn’t as complex as it seems. Sir Clive, who shot to fame after coaching England’s rugby team to their infamous victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup, believes that when it comes to training, we get it all wrong. Instead of focusing on a few areas intensely, he says, and diverting all of our resources to them, we should instead focus on doing many things, 1% better. For example, instead of putting your team through a technical training course that might take months to complete, you could focus on a number of short, soft-skill focused sessions that will lift your team’s capability in a number of areas in a short amount of time.
But what might this look like? We surveyed a number of influential procurement leaders and managers, and gave them an interesting challenge: How would you upskill your team in half an hour or less, with a $0 training budget?
Here’s the skills they told us were most critical – and more importantly, how they’d rise to Sir Clive’s challenge and do multiple things that 1% better.
1. Customer focus skills
In days gone by, procurement was seen as an internally-focused, cost-saving function only. Not only were customers not our focus, but in many ways, we sometimes felt we worked against them; with the finance team putting relentless pressure on us to slash costs, regardless of the impact on our end customer. Now? This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Yet still, given that the focus on cost and risk is ever-prevalent, it can still be hard to step outside of our own perspective and put ourselves in others’ shoes, says Keith Bird, former CPO and General Manager – Commercial of Queensland Rail and Managing Director of The Faculty, a procurement management consultancy.
‘A customer focus is critical,’ says Keith, ‘Because in procurement, a customer focus equates to increased value delivered.’
The quick upskill solution
But how do you get your team to see that? One great way is to do an empathy mapping exercise, where you map your customer’s experience with your service, and try to understand their pain points (and what you can do about them).
Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty and lifelong procurement specialist, acknowledges that category management remains a critical skill within the procurement profession. And, according to Keith, it certainly is one that requires honing:
‘We all know there’s a lot of work that goes into managing any given category. From industry reviews to spend analysis, it can be a time-consuming – yet critical – exercise.’
The quick upskill solution
Yet when it comes to upskilling, says Keith, the secret may not be what you think. Instead of focusing on developing the skill of category management itself, some quick wins can be gained from how category management is discussed with anyone outside of the procurement team:
‘Many procurement professionals that I’ve seen feel the need to extensively detail their category management activities to their stakeholders. This is not only not necessary, but stakeholders find it confusing – it isn’t what they want.’
According to Keith, one of the best skills that can be gained from a category management perspective is how it’s presented to stakeholders:
‘When you’re speaking with stakeholders, you need to talk their language, which, usually, is in commercial outcomes. How is your category management going to deliver them the outcomes they need?’
‘Discussing your activities, or rather, not discussing your activities and talking in outcomes can be a monumental win from a category management perspective.’
3. Problem solving skills
Problem solving skills are an attribute often left off job descriptions, but with procurement only increasing in complexity, they shouldn’t be. In fact, so critical are problem solving skills, that the World Economic Forum rates them as the number one skill we all need to thrive in 2020 and beyond.
Acquiring them doesn’t have to be difficult, says Euan Granger, Senior Strategic Buyer at Soil Machine Dynamics and key contributor to Procurious, the world’s largest procurement professional network. In fact, sometimes it’s simply better to take a break from the professional nature of our workplaces, and step outside our comfort zones with a fun activity.
The quick upskill solution
One that Euan has used many times and recommends is the simple ‘marshmallow and spaghetti’ challenge. For this exercise, you’ll need to purchase 20 sticks of dry spaghetti, a roll of tape, a ball of string and a marshmallow. Then, set your team a challenge: Build a free-standing tower using the materials provided!
Whenever Euan has used this activity for his team, he always recommends that they go away and think about how they can use the skills they’ve learnt in their job.
‘It’s not so much about who does it or doesn’t do it, but more about working together to solve a problem, and thinking about things in a different way. We always need that approach when solving new problems.’
4. Negotiation skills
As procurement professionals, we all know that negotiation is both an art and a science. In any given negotiation, we’re always delicately balancing the needs of our organisation, risks, costs, sustainability and the expectations of the supplier. It certainly isn’t easy – and it certainly requires great focus and dedication to execute.
The quick upskill solution
Even if you’re already a skilled negotiator, there’s always more you can learn, says Ron Brown,’ former General Manager at MMG Mining and lead consultant at The Faculty. One great way to upskill your team on this is to do the ‘Price of $1’ exercise, a simple exercise that shows how important preparation, communication and a solid command of facts is in a negotiation.
Here’s how to run the exercise:
Have two people/players sit back to back, but far enough apart that they can’t hear each other
Select a third person as a ‘go between.’ This person goes to the other two players and asks for their bid (the problem being neither player knows what they’re bidding for).
Bidding starts. Bidding can start at as little as 1 cent. Each player has three bids in each round if they want, and they can decide not to bid higher than the other player.
At the end of three bids, one player is awarded the round. Complete three rounds. At the end of three rounds, explain to players that they were bidding for $1.
‘The results of this exercise are always pretty interesting,’ Says Ron. ‘In that often, people end up bidding far more than $1, for that $1. The actual winner is the one that has spent less over the three rounds.’
‘What it teaches you, really, is that a desire to win can drive us, and how crucial information can be to overcome this.’
5. Commercial acumen
Commercial skills, or more accurately, commercial acumen, is one of the most essential attributes for any procurement professional or leader, says Keith. There’s a few reasons for this, he believes:
‘Over the years, we’ve had a lot of shrinkage in companies, meaning that pretty much every procurement team is now expected to do more with less.’
‘This means that there’s an increasing pressure on every single person, from those at the top to new graduates, to show they’re adding commercial value in everything they do.’
But what does ‘commercial value’ mean? Keith says that it’s far more than just simply an ability to understand financial basics:
‘Commercial value is way beyond simply profit and loss. It’s an ability to understand the whole value chain more broadly, for example, it’s not simply the “cost of acquisition” from a procurement perspective, but the value of that acquisition or product to the whole business.’
The quick upskill solution
Given the broad and complex nature of commercial acumen, Keith believes this can be a hard area to train. A great place to start, though, is to align your job, and more broadly, the strategic priorities and activities of your function, to those of the organisation’s C-suite. ‘If what you are doing wouldn’t matter to the CEO,’ Says Keith. ‘Why are you doing it?’
One great way to put this into action is what Google calls ‘OKRs’ (Objectives and Key Results). When creating OKRs, you create a set of audacious, measurable goals that put your stakeholders/customers first, and align those with your organisation’s priorities. You then follow up your OKRs regularly; checking in monthly to see how you’re going.
With supply chains becoming more and more complex, relationships are now not just important, but critical, in everything we do in procurement. Yet managing them has never been more challenging – we’ve got to coordinate tens, if not hundreds of moving parts that may include multiple vertical and horizontal dependencies; all poised to break at any minute if we don’t get things right.
The quick upskill solution
Given the complex and often personal interdependencies between supplier relationships, often learning from others with experience is the only upskilling solution, says Keith Bird, Managing Director of the Faculty. To do so, joining an industry networking program can provide unparalleled benefits.
‘Using our program,’ Says Keith. ‘I’ve seen some of our partners begin, and also navigate exceedingly complex supplier relationships that wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.’
The Faculty’s roundtables are free for member organisations.
7. Stakeholder management
Every single person in procurement has come across issues with stakeholder management at one stage. While it’s easy to blame individuals, though, often issues arise from a lack of information – and ultimately, it’s easy for a stakeholder to get frustrated and hard for them to see the value procurement add when they simply don’t know what’s happening.
The quick upskill solution
The issue with stakeholder management, says Ron Brown, lead consultant at The Faculty, is that often, it’s just impossible to know who knows what. ‘So you’ll often find that there are people hiding in plain sight that are clueless and getting frustrated, yet you assume they know everything. Or worse, you assume they don’t need to know.’
One way to overcome this is to build out what’s called a RACI board (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed). To do this, you’ll need to:
Select one of the big categories for your procurement team
Write a list of stakeholders on post-its. Remember to include everyone who will be involved in the category from beginning to end, no matter how tenuous the link.
Then map out the board, moving everyone around to create a map of whose involved, who knows what, and critically, who needs information and might not be getting it.
‘Keeping stakeholders appropriately consulted and informed is a great first step in stakeholder management,’ says Ron.
8. Digital skills
In 2020 and beyond, there’s simply no hiding from digital. In our personal lives, we’re using it every day, and more and more, we’re doing so in our work lives as well. Increasingly, all large organisations are undergoing massive digital transformations, if they haven’t already, and procurement will need to play a big part in these, from a supplier to an implementation perspective. In short: if you haven’t got digital skills, you need to get them, pronto.
The quick upskill solution
But what is ‘digital’? Where do you ever start?!? While the prospect sounds daunting, it needn’t be, says Euan, Procurious contributor. There’s literally millions of free resources online, and a great place to start is with a brand that’s synonymous with the internet itself: Google.
Google’s Digital Garage provides a plethora of free, expert-level training on digital, on a range of topics that include everything from the digital business security to the basics of coding. You can check out their entire offering here.
Keith Bird, Managing Director at The Faculty, also believes that seeking out a digital mentor can be a great way to upskill:
‘Admittedly, digital isn’t my forte, so I’ve expressly sought out a digital native in our business who can teach me. A mentoring relationship can really be between anyone; it doesn’t have to be an older person mentoring a younger person’
‘It’s more about a person with expertise mentoring someone who doesn’t yet have that knowledge.’
We’ve been hearing the same message for some years now: technology is fast replacing jobs! Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming! But those that usher these warnings are in fact a bit behind: there’s already a significant amount of AI in most systems we use, so the challenge now is to learn how to work with it.
There’s no doubt that technology is evolving – and fast. We all need to keep up to date with the latest, but what’s the latest? And how do we keep up with it?
The quick upskill solution
For all the latest in technology, says Keith Bird, Managing Director at The Faculty, you can’t go past industry podcasts.
Many outside of procurement might say that procurement and finance work in tandem – but from inside procurement teams, things often look quite different. In fact, when we’re trying to focus on strategic value, our relationship with finance can look a little strained, especially if the value we’re adding can’t immediately be quantified on the bottom line.
The quick upskill solution
For some skills, Euan Granger, Procurious contributor, says, ‘there’s no substitute for some good, old-fashioned peer-to-peer learning. And when you’re trying to learn about finance, there’s no better place to go than, well, finance.’
If you haven’t facilitated such a session before, Euan recommends, then try the following:
Get finance and procurement in the same room – this is key.
Get finance to do a toolbox talk on the key terms and metrics that matter to them – and how procurement can impact these.
Ask any questions and air any concerns – build the relationship and agree on ways of working moving forward.
‘You’ll be surprised atwhat can be achieved in one simple meeting,’ Says Euan. Often being in the same room talking about what matters to each other is all that it takes for walls to come down and bridges to be built.’
More skills, more solutions
With procurement increasing in complexity, we all need to focus on rapid upskilling to continue to add value and stay relevant. To hear from the greatest minds in our industry, plus hear more of Sir Clive Woodward’s game-changing performance suggestions, join us at Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit 2020 on March 11 in London.
Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty. Connect with Keith on Linkedin here.
Ron Brown, Principal Advisor at The Faculty. Connect with Ron Brown here.
Euan Granger, Procurious Contributor. Connect with Euan here.
Want to learn more about in-demand skills in procurement, and all the other exciting developments and big issues our industry is facing this year? Join us to hear from Sir Clive Woodward and a stellar lineup of other speakers and industry leaders at our Big Ideas Summit. Digital Delegate tickets are currently available at no cost (for a limited time).
If you’re interested in accessing market-leading industry insights and networking, express your interest in joining The Faculty’s Roundtable Program here.
No matter what you’re doing, it’s hard to think you’ll avoid doing a presentation at one point or another. So how do you deliver thrill rather than dud?
If the thought of delivering a presentation to your team, key stakeholders or even the C-suite leaves you in a cold sweat, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
Presenting might not be everyone’s cup of
tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you will be able to avoid forever,
particularly as your procurement career progresses. At some point you’ll be required
to communicate the profession’s value-add or pitch ideas to decision-makers in
your organisation. And that means it’s worth getting your skills up-to-speed so
you are ready to step up to the plate in style when the time comes.
Fortunately, whether you are delivering a
keynote to an audience of thousands or to two members of the senior leadership
team, there’s a proven formula to getting it right every time.
One person who I always look to as a mentor in
this space is Colin James, an expert speaker and facilitator who has spent the
past 25 years working with senior executives around the world, helping them to
master their presentation and storytelling skills.
In a recent conversation with Colin for Inside Influence podcast, we discussed the key steps to getting it right when you’re given that all-important hour to present to the CEO or CFO.
Step 1: Walk the (right) walk
The very first thing that you do on stage
or in a meeting is vital – it sets the tone for the rest of the time you have.
When you enter a room for your next meeting, ask yourself what the way you
walked in says about you, your attitude and your intentions for that meeting.
When someone arrives with energy and
urgency, sits upright in their seat and makes eye contact with others it
signals something very different to a person who slops in and collapses in a
chair. The latter says “I don’t care,
I’m exhausted, what am I doing here?” Incredibly, this is all being
communicated without a single word being uttered.
What your physiology says about you in the
first 30 seconds really counts. Colin’s main simple but effective tip (especially
for people seeking to build their professional brand) is this: simply walk
faster. Walk faster into the room; walk faster into that meeting or onto the
stage – walk faster everywhere you go! The increase in pace will increase your
energy – it will also increase the perceived urgency of your objectives.
Step 2: Start strong and finish strong
Any good presentation needs a clear concept (a title) that makes it immediately clear to the audience what your presentation is about – and what you’re trying to achieve. A misleading, ambiguous or dry title could lose your audience just as easily as a muddled or confused structure.
You can’t impress people that aren’t in the room – so first rule of thumb – get a title that’s going to peak the interest of your target market.
It’s also important to bookend your presentation with strong opening and closing statements. The reality is that information communicated at the beginning or the end of an educational episode is far more likely to be retained by your audience than the content in the middle.
The age-old advice on public speaking is useful here – “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them again. Then tell them what you’ve told them.”
Step 3: Divide (into chunks) and conquer
Colin recommended embedding three or four
major themes – chunks – into the body of the presentation. These are the ideas,
or principles, you want to get across to your audience.
Each chunk should have a principle, and each principle will support your overall concept. The connected detail, i.e. the stories you tell within each principle, should validate that principle and ultimately connect to your concept and title.
So as an example – what three things would your audience need to think, believe or do differently in order to take advantage of what you’re offering in this presentation?
Step 4: Tell a story
Once you have the principles in place – now
it’s time to bring them to life through storytelling. Colin recommends that
within each principle you need at least one story that illuminates the
application of that principle in the world.
This can be a story from the past, an
imagined scenario, or a potential event; so long as it is something that allows
your audience to see your ideas
applied in the real world. Telling a good story requires the following
event: The where, when, who, how and what.
point: Your story needs to come to a clear point. If
you’re pitching to decision-makers, this means you want someone to say yes to your
idea. People are naturally influenced by social proof. If other people have
done it or supported the idea or concept you are pitching – tell them! We don’t
search for online reviews and testimonials for no reason – positive social
proof makes us far more likely to take action.
link: Your stories should be linked to the outcome
you seek. In other words provide an actionable path to a desired outcome for
our target audience.
Step 5: Take out 50 per cent
According to Colin, the most common mistake
presenters make is to overpack their presentations with content. His advice? Design
and plan your presentation for whatever time you have – then take out 50 per
cent of the content.
It’s exactly the same concept as packing for a
holiday. Most people going on an overseas trip over pack and then spend two
weeks dragging around an enormous amount of excess stuff they neither use or
wear. The same goes for presenting. Less is more.
So why is all of this important? Most
presentations don’t fail because of a lack of good, valuable or important information.
Or due to a lack of skill, intent or commitment from the person delivering.
Most instead fail because the structure of that information isn’t compelling
enough to hold our attention.
Like any exchange of energy – there is a formula
we can replicate to get the right results. Once we break that formula down to
its most simplistic components – and start consistently applying those rules to
our own presentations – the impact takes care of itself.
Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or Julie’s website.
Are you dooming yourself to failure in procurement by not knowing your market before you start? Market research and analysis is a key component of the procurement process – but it needs to be done right.
When Martin Luther King Junior stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in front of 250,000 civil rights supporters, he knew his audience. He knew that the people he was addressing supported his cause and agreed with his words. The speech was a success and helped paved the way for President John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Act.
This is not intended to be a crass use of what is one of the finest speeches in global history, but an example of how success can be tied to knowing how an audience will react to words, proposals and actions.
Conversely, not taking the time to understand the audience or the market can lead to painful rejection (though in fairness, sometimes the failure to understand the market lies on the other side of the table). Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were rejected by Atari and HP in when they presented the concept of the personal computer. Perhaps just as famously, record label Decca rejected The Beatles stating that “guitar groups were on their way out”.
Both of these cases, and many more, are a prime example of organisations not understanding their market and ending up without that all important ‘win’ in the column.
Criticality of Analysis
You’re probably wondering how this relates to public procurement. The examples here show how critical it is to know your audience and market, and that the key is that hard work needs to be put in to provide the foundation for success.
Take a look back at your own career in procurement. How many times have you gone to market on the back of flawed or non-existent market research and analysis? When you have laid your hands on the final draft of a specification, did you always trust that the input was from a good cross-section of the market?
You may think you lack the time or resources to carry out market analysis as part of your tender process, but the business case for doing it well is there for all to see. Market research can be critical in ensuring that the goods, services or works being procured meet the needs of the taxpayers, at a cost that is acceptable and provides best value.
Public sector organisations can use market research and analysis to get a greater understanding of their customers (usually the end-users of the services), to analyse the market and the competition in a particular area, and then to test before launching services.
Informed Decision Making
The same applies in procurement, just from a different angle. Procurement gets to understand the supply market, its competitiveness, how mature it is and the key suppliers, some of whom may already be supplying to the public sector.
It creates a level of informed decision-making, rather than approaching every tender in the same way. As it’s put in the Procurement Journey, analysis of key trends and market dynamics and how the goods or services in question sit within this can help to shape a specification, tender and route to market.
It can also help procurement to understand the role of SMEs in the market and how they could better set out a tender to increase SME involvement. Even down to using market analysis in order to understand how commercial models can be set up and what Community Benefits suppliers would or could offer as part of tender submissions.
Market Research Favourites
There are a variety of methods available to procurement too, some which are desktop based, others which require direct interaction with the market itself.
A few of the most common are listed below:
Prior Information Notice (PIN) – The PIN can be used to gather information on almost any aspect of a tender and allows procurement to understand and gauge the interest in the supply market. The added benefit is that, depending on the type of PIN used, they can also be used as a call for competition and reduce procurement timescales.
Soft Market Engagement – This doesn’t have the formality of a PIN, but can be just as useful. It can be done via email or phone calls and is particularly useful if there is a smaller, known supply market, and the engagement is being done to test the water on a specification or aspect of the Technical or Commercial Evaluation.
SWOT, PESTLE, Kraljic – Old favourites for anyone who has ever done courses in procurement! These can provide a picture on the suppliers (SWOT), market conditions (PESTLE) and product category (Kraljic), better informing decision-making and strategy.
Applied Analytics – The likes of Dun & Bradstreet and Spikes Cavell provide information on the supply market, from spend analytics to market analysis. All of this data is presented in a usable form, saving procurement from having to carry this out themselves.
Paralysis by Analysis
While market analysis is a critical part of the procurement process, it’s important to remember that it’s only one part of a much wider whole. Perfection is the enemy of progress – striving to capture all the information possible, to speak to every supplier and put this all together can lead to stagnation in the process and actively hinder decision making.
Avoid decision-making by committee at all costs and decide where you, as procurement, will draw a line under the analysis and move to the next stage. Mark this out at the start of the process and stick to the timelines. After all, you don’t want to spend so long analysing the market that you never actually go to market.
Know your audience, pick your method and crack on!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!
How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful? In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success.
How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success. In this second article, Charlotte de Brabandt explores the importance of communication.
Communication is the act of transferring information from one person to another. It is an extremely important skill that anybody who wants to thrive in the modern world must have and continually improve.
All the great leaders were also great communicators and it is a skill you can learn and develop. It is one of the greatest tools you can master. To be skilled in the art of good communication means you have the ability to get people to want to be on your side and help you. It also gives you the ability to get people to do what you want, which is why you must use this skill towards good only.
Communication is not just about talking. It is about speaking to others in ways that inspires them and makes them feel important in order to get them to want to be around you and work with you.
But how do you accomplish this? The answer is to communicate with positivity and enthusiasm. Positivity and Enthusiasm are addictive and powerful energies. When people hear others communicating with enthusiasm, they too feel enthusiastic and are drawn to them.
Talking about things that inspire you will make you communicate with enthusiasm automatically. You will feel more positive about the things you are talking about and the people listening will also start to feel more positive.
We live in a world where negative communication is all around us on a daily basis. This can be used to your advantage as people would far prefer to listen to people taking in a positive way and when you communicate positive things, you will always have a greater audience than people who communicate negatively.
Your job is to change people from expecting negative things to positive things, to be positive and to think in positive ways. When they listen to you using positive words and phrases in your communication you will find more and more people wanting to listen to you and to work with you because they realise that there’s something about you that is different… in a good way!
Using positivity and enthusiasm in your communication will result in you being able to build positive relationships with people and to be very successful in business as well. Talking to others in ways that make them feel important will ensure they hang on to every word you say. They will feel good and they will be there to help you achieve your goals and objectives.
Making others feel good about what you say is easy once you have the necessary skills and experience. You will become a real driving force for them. Always look for the positive side in situations and only talk about positive things. There are positive things in everyone and in every circumstance and it is your job to find them and to talk about them. If you should find yourself beginning to talk about something negative, stop yourself and change your communication back to only positive things.
When talking, there are some important things to consider. Be aware of the tone of your voice. Keep it positive at all times and constantly try to “spark” up your conversation. Your posture and body language is also very important and are things that will influence listeners. They might not even know, but subconsciously we all can read body language and posture even if we don’t think about it and it affects the way we deliver a speech. No matter how positive your words may be, if you have poor body language or posture, people might not see your speech in quite the positive way you intended. They are all part of great communication and you must be careful to ensure all three are seen as positive.
During your conversations it is extremely important to listen. Ask people questions about themselves and let them talk. They will appreciate it. In this day and age, everyone is trying to talk and get their voice heard. People often talk over other people without listening, you will surely stand out by being the one who takes the time to listen.
Take time to listen and only talk positively and you will become a great communicator. You will gain many admirers, friends and business acquaintances that will help you achieve your aims and goals. “The one who masters communication has the power to lead the world any way that he wishes”
Nearly 50 per cent of workers are making “learning new skills” a priority right now, ahead of both a pay rise and a promotion…
Forget pushing for that promotion. Don’t waste too much time looking for a new role. And leave lusting after a new job title for now. Instead, focus on your skills.
traditionally been viewed as something for the trades – those who chose a more
hands-on career pathway, rather than one that needed academic qualifications.
While we all appreciate
the talent of hairdressers, plumbers, motor mechanics and a host of other
vitally-important skilled tradespeople, this year skills have taken on a new
One of the top workplace
trends for 2019 is “Skill signalling”.
There is added emphasis
on highlighting the skills that set you apart from the competition according to
recruiters Robert Half.
This could be your
digital literacy – such as working with artificial intelligence – or softer
skills such as communications and problem-solving abilities.
Basically, anything that
can help you to stand out from the crowd.
No. 1 aim is to learn new skills
This is something you should take seriously, or you could get left behind.
Nearly 50 per cent of workers are making “learning new skills” a priority right now, ahead of both a pay rise and a promotion, according to research from CV-Library.
However, you might have
to acquire these outside of the office as two-thirds of us say our employer
isn’t responsive to our needs.
Also, much of the
employer training on offer is a waste of time and money. Research shows that of the $400billion spent
on corporate learning globally every year, only 15% is proven to really work.
Top 10 career priorities for 2019
Learn new skills (44.6%)
Get a pay rise (43.5%)
Move to another company
Gain a new qualification
Get a new job title
Change job roles (19.7%)
Get a promotion (17.2%)
Work for themselves
Build a personal network (8.9%)
So, what are the skills of the future
What should you be learning? Well, employability
skills are key – according to Hogan Assessments, the global leader in
personality assessment solutions, these are defined as “the
ability to find a job, the ability to retain it, and the ability to find a new
job should the first one go away”. There are three components:
People Skills –
getting along well with others and working well in teams. People who score high
on this skill seem friendly, pleasant and helpful.
Learning Skills –
learning the essential functions of the job and acquiring new skills as the job
changes over time. Individuals with learning skills are likely to be bright,
curious, and motivated to learn.
Work Ethic –
taking instruction, working hard, and producing high-quality results in a
timely fashion. Employees with good work ethic are hardworking, productive and
you don’t have to spend a fortune and take a year or two out of work to study
an MBA or master’s to gain these skills.
the bad news is that you are often either naturally good at these – or not.
Do a 360 exercise with friends, family and colleagues to get a
view of how you score on these points.
Find a mentor to help you work on these skills – for example
listening and reflecting. Choose someone you trust within your organisation, or
find a mentor externally (someone you already know, respect, get along with and
want to be like).
Try to demonstrate these skills on a daily basis – work on them,
and you will improve.
Decide to specialise or generalise
The future workplace will be made
up of two types According to the Future of the Workplace 2030+ report from
Generalists who can transfer
skills and see the bigger picture necessary to drive the ideas economy.
Specialists who are more operational, can dive
deep for solutions are equipped to understand details and specifics.
Once again, these skills are often
innate. Some of us are brilliant when it comes to attention to detail, but find
it hard to be adaptable. Choose your path depending on your personality type.
Whichever path you choose, you will
need to work on these skills:
In a time of constant change, the skill or trait that will help you get
ahead is being able to deal with change.
The No. 1 personality trait you need right now
As a result, resilience is one of the key skills employers will be
helping their staff to develop over the next few years.
However, you can develop this skill yourself by nurturing your own
physical and mental wellbeing, which can help you to stay positive and cope
with the ever faster-changing world of work.
This is also a key skill to highlight on your CV: it is one of the things
employers will be looking for. So try to find ways to demonstrate your ability
to “bounce back” from adversity and to deal with change.
If you don’t ask you don’t get
Boosting your skills can
boost your performance as well as your life-long career prospects.
“Learning new skills is
an excellent way to secure yourself more opportunities and a better paid job
down the line,” says Lee Biggins, CEO of CV-Library.
So, how do you go about
investing in your own success?
Identify the skills you need to work on or develop.
Look for ways to develop these (note: this is
unlikely to be in a classroom).
Ask your boss to support your skills development – whether that is giving you time off to
attend seminars, conferences, lectures or to work one-on-one with a mentor or
on new projects to develop new skills.
Make it a lifelong journey – skills need constant
Learning to learn – that’s the no.1 skill
“The future discussion will not be about reskilling or upskilling but
‘learning to learn’” according to the Unily Future of the Workplace Report
Being comfortable acquiring new knowledge is a skill
in its own right.
To become a continual learner, you will need to learn to
… and challenge yourself to disrupt and do things differently.
We interviewed some of procurement’s most influential leaders to hear their advice for the global procurement community. Here are there 6 top tips…
Are we running out of humans who can get the procurement job done?
Is the future office-free?
Should every procurement team have a Chief Data Officer?
How do you sell yourself, your team and the profession to the stakeholders that really matter?
Can procurement teams make themselves indispensable?
These are some of the questions that we addressed at last week’s Big Ideas Summit in London, where we brought together the top procurement minds to connect, collaborate and innovate.
Couldn’t join us on the day? Not a problem! We’ve documented all of the highlights for our digital delegates and pulled together this list of 6 top tips for procurement pros from some of the function’s most influential leaders.
1.Become an essential partner to the business – Bob Murphy CPO, IBM
IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, believes that while procurement leaders “need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge, their focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ, and their ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. Listening is critical – When we’re talking, we’re not learning.”
“Project management, empathy, innovative thinking and an agile mind-set are also critical skills at IBM.
“You hear a lot of people talk about procurement leaders becoming “trusted advisors” to their businesses, but I think we need to take it to the next level and become ‘essential partners.’
2. Procure with Purpose – James Marland Vice President, SAP Ariba
James Marland, Vice President – SAP Ariba argued that it is an exciting time to be part of procurement an professionals should seize this opportunity. Procurement professionals are often told that they’re the ones who save the money, deal with suppliers and cut purchase orders.
But now procurement can have a new agenda; bringing to the table initiatives that achieve crucial social goals such as eradicating slave labour, improving sustainability and creating an inclusive and diverse workforce.
3. Engineer Serendipity – Greg Lindsay, Urbanist and Futurist
Greg Lindsay, Futurist, Urbanist, Journalist and Author, is a firm believer in the fact that innovation is fundamentally social. Indeed, case study after case study has demonstrated that the best ideas are more likely to arise from a casual chat around the water fountain than in any scheduled meeting.
They are the result of serendipity – a chance encounter at the right time by the right people, regardless of their rank, affiliation, and department or whether they even work for the same company.
The most innovative companies in the world are busy engineering serendipity and harnessing social networks and new ways of working designed to cultivate the discovery of new ideas. And that’s exactly what procurement should be doing!
6. Prepare for the worst – Nick Ford, Co-Founder Odesma
Nick Ford, Co-founder – Odesma discussed how procurement professionals can help turn Brexit into an opportunity for their organisation.
It’s an uncertain time for procurement professionals; who must consider how the function will be impacted by an increase in the cost of imported goods, freedom of movement (or lack thereof!) and a potentially depleted talent pool.
As businesses prepare, the role for procurement teams is increasing dramatically and it’s a real opportunity to put procurement at the front and centre of organisations. We just need to prepare!
IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, talks soft skills, AI and what he’s looking for in his leadership team at IBM…
This Article was written by IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy.
Procurement professionals should be excited about Artificial Intelligence and robotic automation.
We’re looking to these technologies to handle the repetitive tasks, the more mundane pieces of work, so that humans are freed up for higher value activities.
Cognitive technologies will also act as advisors enabling procurement professionals with the insights to quickly adapt to changing market conditions.
I learned a long time ago that the key to success is having a great team. And there is a very human element to procurement. There will always be a need for people to handle the relationship management side of the function, with both suppliers and stakeholders and make the strategic decisions.
The acceptance and the excitement around cognitive have grown at IBM as we have educated our employees on the major opportunity that it represents and developed them in preparation for the digital age.
The importance of soft skills in the digital age
As we continue down the digitisation path in the Procurement industry, with more of our transactional functions being automated, there is a greater need for our procurement professionals to increase their soft skills.
When we think of the soft skills necessary for future success in the procurement industry, we focus on building closer stakeholder and supplier relationships. Broadening our communications skills, including active listening is a key enabler to both visibility to value proposition, but also in understanding our stakeholder requirements from their point of view.
Another critical element is having better agility skills; think flexibility, adaptability and speed.
Our requesters who run the IBM business have tremendous demands that can be fluid based upon the market environment. Our procurement professionals need to be able to react in-kind and continue to provide the IBM corporation with the best value and innovation from our suppliers.
Digital credentials have a curriculum of eLearning and experiential training for our procurement professionals to follow as they build their soft skill profile within the procurement context.
Key skills for IBM’s leadership team
In potential members of our leadership team, there are two crucial skills, that we look for.
1) Digital literacy
Leaders who want to thrive in the procurement profession need to develop an understanding of:
Data analytics –we can gather data but how do you use that data to gain insights?
Robotic processes – how can you automate tactical processes so human capital is used to the greatest effect?
Cognitive computing – understanding how to digitise a process end-to-end so it is interconnected and insightful.
2) Relationship building
While leaders need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge, their focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ, and their ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. Listening is critical – When we’re talking, we’re not learning.
Project management, empathy, innovative thinking and an agile mind-set are also critical skills at IBM.
You hear a lot of people talk about procurement leaders becoming “trusted advisors” to their businesses, but I think we need to take it to the next level and become “essential partners.”
We should enhance everything that we touch.
This Article was written by IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy.
Bob Murphy will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit London 26th April 2018. Register as a digital delegate to hear more from him and follow the day’s action live.
How should procurement professionals adapt in order to survive in a digital world? The digitally enabled workforce needs to nail six key skills…
This is a unique time for procurement organisations.
Never before have companies been able to derive more competitive advantage from superior procurement capability. The function’s role is shifting from a sourcing gatekeeper to a provider of insight and decision support, made possible by improved access to digital technologies, data and advanced analytics.
Investments in automation have helped make these organisations more efficient, allowing them to redirect headcount from compliance and operations-focused processes to higher-value activities such as sourcing and supply base strategy.
But this is only the part of the story.
World-class groups achieve their superior performance because they have higher-caliber people who apply their skills to effectively harness digital technologies and capabilities.
The Digitally Enabled Workforce Requires Six Key Skills
Effective procurement teams focus on people development from multiple points of view. Softer skills like relationship management and business acumen are important for managing customer relationships, while technical skills are necessary for analysing data and developing strategic insights.
The following skills are fundamental to the operations of procurement organisations in the digital era.
1. Business acumen
As economic volatility increases, category managers need to sit side by side with their stakeholders to make business decisions that impact the supply base.
It is crucial to understand complex business needs and be able to identify ways for procurement to address them using new technologies. Business acumen is fundamental to elevating procurement’s role as a trusted advisor.
2. Relationship management
Evolving the value of procurement requires working cross-functionally with a variety of stakeholders, from senior budget owners to line managers, as well as being a customer of choice and partnering with valuable suppliers. Procurement should have multiple communication channels open with business partners and customers to fully understand their needs.
3. Supply risk management expertise
In a market of increased risk and volatility, risk management capabilities are more valuable to the enterprise. For procurement, this no longer means simply reacting to events – now the focus is on predicting and avoiding risk using internal and external tools.
4. Strategic mindset
Understanding the broader market and aligning procurement’s vision with that of the business is fundamental to navigating change and extracting value from the supply base.
5. Data analysis and reporting
Big data will change the way procurement organisations use information. Those able to sort through the data and draw the right conclusions have the potential to add value to the organiSation. The tools are available today, but it will take years for widespread adoption, making analytics a prime vehicle for competitive advantage for early adopters.
6. Savings and financial analysis
Tying savings and value benefits to financial statements documents the business value contributed by the procurement organisation and drives profitability. Identifying direct procurement impact on the budget can be elusive but critical.
Digital Technologies Are Changing the Way Organisations Hire and Retain Talent
Access to new technology makes it possible to hire more effectively. By analysing demographics, job experience, recruiting data (like quality of resume) and environmental data, organisations can increase the effectiveness of new hires.
Even the culture of procurement groups is changing now that hiring standards have risen. Social media has provided new channels for knowledge and learning. Learning on demand is a common service delivered to employees, allowing access to training modules or experts from their preferred devices.
Joining networks of colleagues and outside communities to tap into knowledge and solutions to problems is common with tools like LinkedIn.
It is getting harder to find and retain people with transformation change experience and the ability to think strategically.
Unfortunately, procurement’s hiring practices, training and skills have not kept pace.
To compete, they must not let themselves be limited by organisational or geographical borders. By hiring globally, procurement deepens the potential talent pool and opens the door to new ways of thinking.
Next-generation procurement organisations are “borderless,” allowing for the free flow of ideas and talent regardless of geography. Leadership is distributed based on supply and customer priorities, not headquarter location.
The model that procurement must work toward is one that is capable of expanding, contracting and adapting rapidly as situations change, just like modern-day supply chains.
This article was written by The Hackett Group’s Laura Gibbons Research Director, Procurement Executive Advisory Program and Amy Fong Associate Principal, Procurement Advisory Program, and Program Leader, Purchase-toPay Advisory Program.