Tag Archives: procurement skills

5 Steps to Building an Amazing Presentation

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?

awesome presentation
Photo by 祝 鹤槐 from Pexels

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 structure:

1. The event: The where, when, who, how and what.

2. The 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.

3. The 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.

Why Knowing your Market Can be the Key to Success

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.

By PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/ Shutterstock

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!

The 4 Fundamental C’s of Success – Part 2: Communication

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.

By Syda Productions/ Shutterstock

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.

Read Part 1 on Clarity here.

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”

The One Thing You Should Be Doing To Boost Your Career This Year

Nearly 50 per cent of workers are making “learning new skills” a priority right now, ahead of both a pay rise and a promotion…

By jamesteohart/ Shutterstock

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.

“Skills” have 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 meaning.

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

  1. Learn new skills (44.6%)
  2. Get a pay rise (43.5%)
  3. Move to another company (40.1%)
  4. Gain a new qualification (24.3%)
  5. Get a new job title (22.7%)
  6. Change job roles (19.7%)
  7. Get a promotion (17.2%)
  8. Change industries (13.1%)
  9. Work for themselves (12.4%)
  10. Build a personal network (8.9%)

Source: CV-Library

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 dependable.

Fortunately, 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.

However, the bad news is that you are often either naturally good at these – or not.

Tips

  • 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 Unily.

Expert Generalists who can transfer skills and see the bigger picture necessary to drive the ideas economy.

Hyper 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:

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking

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 development.

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 which says:

Being comfortable acquiring new knowledge is a skill in its own right.

To become a continual learner, you will need to learn to

  • Take risks
  • Experiment
  • Adapt

… and challenge yourself to disrupt and do things differently.

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

6 Top Tips From 6 Procurement Influencers

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.’

“We should enhance everything that we touch.”

Read more from Bob Murphy in this article.

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.

Take that opportunity and procure with purpose!

Read more from James Marland in this article. 

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!

Read more from Greg Lindsay in this article. 

4. Take More Risks – Professional Poker Player Caspar Berry

Professional poker player Caspar Berry believes “People are broadly hard wired to be risk-averse. It keeps them alive. Its kept our species alive for however many thousands of years.”

“What we call risk aversion is essentially a desire to succeed in the short term. And a desire to succeed is another way of describing a fear or aversion to loss and risk.

“I don’t judge anyone negatively for not being able to push the latitude and risk level but it’s important to engage in a conversation in order to try.

“Its our own results we’re sabotaging, sometimes inadvertently, if we don’t!”

Read more from Caspar Berry in this article. 

5. Gather data and do something with it- Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group

Top procurement teams achieve their superior performance because they have higher-caliber people who apply their skills to effectively harness digital technologies and capabilities.

Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group discussed the need for procurement professionals to develop two fundamental skills:

  1. Procurement has to get better at gathering and creating big data in order to provide meaningful insights for the business and go beyond the data that we have access to today.
  2. Procurement needs to improve their advanced analytics capabilities, to be able to look at data and draw out the opportunities it offers.

The future of procurement is not about the way we execute processes. It’s really about the insights and intelligence we provide to our organisations to give them an advantage.

Read more from The Hackett Group in this article.

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!

Read more from Nick Ford in this article. 

Want to explore more content and video footage from Big Ideas London 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to register as a digital delegate and gain access. 

What Is IBM’s CPO Looking For In New Hires?

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. 

6 Critical Skills You Need If You Want To Succeed In A Digital World

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.

Strategic Implications

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. 

5 SOFT SKILLS PROCUREMENT PROS SHOULD BE DEVELOPING…NOW!

If you want to hold on to your procurement career  in the long term, you ought to be worrying about mastering your soft skills!

We got wind of the fact that IBM, arguably the world’s most robotically advanced procurement team,  is focussing on its employees’ soft skills.

As Justin Mcbryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM, explained,  why would IBM need a high volume of data scientists in their midst when they have Watson!?

Technological advancements will soon permit the automation of our processes; handling the sourcing and the market intelligence. In this environment, it’s the softer skills procurement professionals must master to ensure a long-term career.  That’s the real skills gap procurement should be worried about!

In this blog we outline the specific skills procurement pros should be mastering to prepare for the post-cognitive age, with the help of Justin and John Viner Smith, Principal-Mercer.

1. Design Thinking

There are some “incredible and transformative technologies that offer solutions to problems that were unimaginable just a few years ago ,but they’re just half of the puzzle.” begins John.

“Subject matter experts will have a role to play in framing  [these problems] in the most efficient way.”  It’s important that the solutions aren’t simply “sticking plasters but fundamental root cause fixes”.

This is a role for procurement’s best and brightest, and the skill needed to fulfil this role is Design Thinking; “the process of being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to bear on business problems.”

2. Thinking at the speed of digital!

Joh asserted that procurement must recognise that “thinking of digital solutions requires some understanding of new processes and ways of thinking.”

“Procurement people should be learning about methodologies like Google’s Design Sprint or Eric Ries’ concept of Intrapreneurship as defined in the Lean Startup that are used in other types of digital business.

“Too often procurement thinking is slow, bound in process and incredibly risk averse. Technology problem solving is experimental, iterative and views failures as key to learning. The idea of developing hypotheses, testing them, failing fast and iterating or pivoting in the course of a week, as per Google’s Sprint methods, would be alien to many Procurement people.”

Procurement has worked at a certain pace,  thus far. And it’s going to  have to get faster!

3. Active questioning and listening

This wouldn’t be a piece about soft skills without a mention of communication! We already know how important this skill is for procurement people but it’s going to be all the more valuable in a post-cognivite age.

Justin reminded us that communication is vital for everything “from presentation skills to phone etiquette and how to ask probing questions to your suppliers.”

In a post cognitive world you’re “going to become more of an owner and less of a process facilitator” asserts Justin, which is where active listening comes in.

When it comes to managing negotiations with suppliers, clients and colleagues, “We all have scripts e.g. How many widgets do you need, when do you need them by etc.”

“Every now  and then, you’ll have  been in a situation where a client has given a little bit more than you asked for. This is where the active [and critical] listening comes in.” How do you use that information to do the best job possible?

4. Negotiation

“We rely on the threat of competitive pressure to do our negotiating for us” says John.

“We source the spec and don’t always listen to challenges from Suppliers. When we’re engaging them to help solve complex problems, we will need to be more commercially empowered and highly skilled negotiators; able to get the best from our suppliers by offering the best of ourselves while optimising value.”

5. Imagination

“The future role of procurement can be solved in one phrase: problem solving” says John.

But procurement’s problem solving needs to take on a more innovative and imaginative approach.

“Not every situation is going to call for an RFX” explains Justin. “That speaks directly to the change we’re looking for [at IBM].” Too often “we see a need and our reaction from a process point is let’s go and do the RFX.”  Instead professionals “should take a deep breath and start understanding the client and exactly what they need,” and approach the problem in alternate ways.

John concedes, arguing that “running tender might be the solution (increasingly rarely!) but collaborative innovation with the suppliers we have is important.”

Procurement peoples’ jobs will largely focus on bringing innovation to the supply chain in the first place and really helping the business to understand their demand.

In short, Procurement needs to have a relationship with the organisation that is much more strategic and puts the function in a partnering and consultative role.  As Justin sums up, ‘ [at IBM] We’re still looking for the procurement experts, we’re still looking for people who can do the job. But we’re adding to the soft skills portfolio.”

This blog was first published in October 2017. 

Procurement Agility in the Age of Digitalisation

How can your procurement team embrace the age of digitalisation  and develop an effective roadmap that ultimately puts you in the driver’s seat?

The digital enablement field is wide open, with no single right answer on how to proceed.

However, there are ways that can help organisations plot a way forward. CPOs must define a roadmap for change and align it with enterprise-level digital transformation initiatives.

Procurement think tank 2018

This year marks the fifth year that we have held our Procurement Think Tank. Throughout our work in the procurement field, we have strived to create an environment of real learning and interaction with business peers over topics that can be investigated in a deep way in an environment of open exchange through spaced-out gatherings to discuss a singular topic.

This blog is the summary of this year’s series and an excerpt of the article published in Procurement Leaders magazine. While many of the insights, and perspectives come from a small group of practitioners and may vary from company to company; nonetheless, the insights obtained can be applied across many organisations and industries. The complete article and related graphs can be read on Medium here.

2017 Focus On Driving Efficiency And Increasing Agility

As we wrapped up last year’s discussion, the group pressed us into looking at the area of procurement efficiency in context of the coming digital revolution. Most members conceded that their ability to learn about and master digital tools was inadequate, and they needed time to prepare.

The need to improve procurement efficiency (doing more with less) and at the same time master changes in technology (specifically the impact of digitalisation) are two very different objectives. They demand different resources, different thinking and different leadership, leaving procurement teams in an untenable bind; needing to contribute more but without the capability to assimilate new technology that might be a remedy for that problem.

The 2017 EU Think Tank Series theme was “Growing Digital And Agility Capabilities To Drive Efficiency In Procurement” to investigate the following issues:

  • What is the burning platform for Procurement Agility?
  • What are the major dimensions of growing agility?
  • Does growing a digital capability answer the issue of procurement agility?
  • Deep dive on key topics in the digital sphere:

1. How will Big Data and IoT technologies impact procurement activities?

2. What is AI and how can Procurement leverage the opportunity?

3. What is RPA and will it replace most procurement operational tasks?

  • Where is procurement now on the journey to a digitally enabled future?
  • Who are the leaders in procurement digital enablement?
  • How to assemble a digital roadmap?
  • What talent is needed to drive digital forward?

Agility – Making flexibility look like the plan

We probed the issue of Agility and the key elements must procurement teams master. The deep reflection on agility reveals that it is not just about flexibility, but rather a never-ending cycle of thinking-planning-action all in a devolved approval matrix (see my blog Agility – Making flexibility look like the plan).

The group recognised that while digitalisation might be a foundation, in and of itself, digitalisation is only an enabling tool of agility. When viewed in this context, the rush to become ‘digital’ is less of a frenetic all out race to do something ‘digital’ and more of a ‘pick-and-choose’ from a menu of enabling technologies that will most help achieve a business strategy.

However, while procurement is tasked with dealing with a broad range of new technologies, it also must deal with its traditional mandate. Bertrand Maltaverne, JAGGAER’s ‘Procurement Digitalist’, challenged the group with his perfect storm analogy. As procurement continues evolving toward digital mastery it still must manage increasingly complex supply chains, reduce risk, become more efficient, expand its influence and become a trusted business advisor. The enormity of these tasks has created a conundrum for procurement teams regarding which priority to tackle first.

Depressingly, procurement teams have not taken a leadership position with respect to digital technologies, opting instead for being a receiver of whatever mandates are forthcoming from broader implementation efforts. The data shows that most procurement organisations are either unprepared or have taken a ‘wait and see’ approach to digital technologies, often adopting them in a haphazard or uncoordinated way. The sheer number of available technologies that must be evaluated for their usefulness has stymied procurement organisations from building an effective path and being able to move forward.

The issue, of course, is two-fold. First, there must exist specific knowledge within the procurement teams about the technologies that are available, and secondly, leadership awareness of those technologies and how they fit together in the strategic landscape. Then and only then can a framework be developed that prioritises how and when to implement the chosen solutions. Today, most procurement organisations are not rising to the challenge in either of these areas.

While many new digital technologies are fast becoming standard, often, the solutions that promise the quickest way of making transactional processes more efficient are no longer within the purview of procurement. These activities have been subsumed into other, often larger, Business Services functions. While we have long been advocates of moving transactional activities to other functions, one can see the writing on the wall. The continued erosion of the procurement remit combined with automating technology, could easily foretell the doom of the function as we know it. The logical outflow of this, is that procurement is evolving towards a two-tier function; one where an enhanced set of operative activities is managed largely through digital technologies and another that is much more strategic, managing issues such as supply continuity, risk management, collaborative value creation and sourcing innovation.

How does a procurement team who is embracing the digital revolution develop an effective roadmap that ultimately puts (and keeps) them in the driver’s seat as to what technologies to adopt and at what rate to adopt them?  Our membership vigorously challenged us build a real-world model of how organisations must construct a digital path forward. A particularly useful insight was that no organisation can progress purely through a technological journey without fully understanding how that technology contributes to better strategy and insights. This relationship between new technology and better insights progresses through the entire digital journey. Thus, procurement teams must be in the decision chair as to which technologies get purchased.

So What Skills Are Required To Drive Digital?

Very few Procurement organisations have a digital strategy and roadmap, partially due to the broad range of technologies available. Simply put “there are too many digital options to know which to tackle first”. Even fewer organisations have talent and leadership to run their digital transformation. It is imperative that Procurement build its own digital roadmap that addresses specific technologies in a sequential format that is aligned with the company’s over digital strategy. We need to understand, recruit and develop specific digital skills at all levels recognising that the senior leadership is often most lacking. We grew fond of The Hackett Group’s conclusions in this area, pointing to four key attributes required to adequately embrace and drive the digital transformation:

· Intellectual curiosity: To deliver faster insight and build sophisticated models for business decisions.

· Technology savvy: Professionals don’t need to become data scientists or programmers, but they do need to be familiar with new technologies so they can have intelligent conversations with their IT peers and quickly adopt new tools.

·  Business Acumen: Staff needs to have a thorough understanding of the company, its operations, its value drivers and competitive environment. The imperative for the Business Partnering capability was amply covered in the output from last year’s Think Tank in this article.

·  Storytelling skills: Data is the mechanism that makes digital business possible, but the delivery mechanism is a “story.”

The Way Forward

1)  Define a digital roadmap and vision

Strategy needs to support organization’s overall approach to leveraging digital technologies to transform its business model and ensure that each investment in a digital capability must have beneficial business outcome. Favourable business benefits will help drive a new cycle of technological investments that in turn create greater benefit.

2)    Align with organisational strategy

On their own, big data, predictive analytics, or any of the other so-called ‘digital’ enablers are not valuable as stand-alone technologies. Outcomes need to help the business make decisions and drive actions that are consistent with the overall company objectives and digital plan. Any discrepancies between the two can create “technology islands” and put procurement at odds with corporate objectives.

3)    Build a Digital competency within procurement…

…to understand, master and lead the prioritised acquisition and implementation of digital tools.

We closed out this year’s series acknowledging that most organisations are at the very beginning of their digital journey, and it also left us with a strong impression that procurement teams have an intense desire to lead this effort in collaboration within the organisation’s overall digital strategy and not be a victim of it. Ceasing the leadership of this effort is the challenge.

Stay tuned for Think Tank 2018; we will drill down from the strategic level to one where we can examine how individuals and teams build knowledge and capability to bring digital insights to their organization and wider ecosystem.

This article was orginally published on LinkedIn.

5 Soft Skills Procurement Pros Should Be Developing…NOW!

If you want to hold on to your procurement career  in the long term, you ought to be worrying about mastering your soft skills!

Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.

We got wind of the fact that IBM, arguably the world’s most robotically advanced procurement team,  is focussing on its employees’ soft skills.

As Justin Mcbryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM, explained,  why would IBM need a high volume of data scientists in their midst when they have Watson!?

Technological advancements will soon permit the automation of our processes; handling the sourcing and the market intelligence. In this environment, it’s the softer skills procurement professionals must master to ensure a long-term career.  That’s the real skills gap procurement should be worried about!

Ahead of next week’s webinar Beat The Bots – How Being Human Will Win The Day,  we outline the specific skills procurement pros should be mastering to prepare for the post-cognitive age, with the help of Justin and our second webinar speaker John Viner Smith, Principal-Mercer.

1. Design Thinking

There are some “incredible and transformative technologies that offer solutions to problems that were unimaginable just a few years ago ,but they’re just half of the puzzle.” begins John.

“Subject matter experts will have a role to play in framing  [these problems] in the most efficient way.”  It’s important that the solutions aren’t simply “sticking plasters but fundamental root cause fixes”.

This is a role for procurement’s best and brightest, and the skill needed to fulfil this role is Design Thinking; “the process of being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to bear on business problems.”

2. Thinking at the speed of digital!

Joh asserted that procurement must recognise that “thinking of digital solutions requires some understanding of new processes and ways of thinking.”

“Procurement people should be learning about methodologies like Google’s Design Sprint or Eric Ries’ concept of Intrapreneurship as defined in the Lean Startup that are used in other types of digital business.

“Too often procurement thinking is slow, bound in process and incredibly risk averse. Technology problem solving is experimental, iterative and views failures as key to learning. The idea of developing hypotheses, testing them, failing fast and iterating or pivoting in the course of a week, as per Google’s Sprint methods, would be alien to many Procurement people.”

Procurement has worked at a certain pace,  thus far. And it’s going to  have to get faster!

3. Active questioning and listening

This wouldn’t be a piece about soft skills without a mention of communication! We already know how important this skill is for procurement people but it’s going to be all the more valuable in a post-cognivite age.

Justin reminded us that communication is vital for everything “from presentation skills to phone etiquette and how to ask probing questions to your suppliers.”

In a post cognitive world you’re “going to become more of an owner and less of a process facilitator” asserts Justin, which is where active listening comes in.

When it comes to managing negotiations with suppliers, clients and colleagues, “We all have scripts e.g. How many widgets do you need, when do you need them by etc.”

“Every now  and then, you’ll have  been in a situation where a client has given a little bit more than you asked for. This is where the active [and critical] listening comes in.” How do you use that information to do the best job possible?

4. Negotiation

“We rely on the threat of competitive pressure to do our negotiating for us” says John.

“We source the spec and don’t always listen to challenges from Suppliers. When we’re engaging them to help solve complex problems, we will need to be more commercially empowered and highly skilled negotiators; able to get the best from our suppliers by offering the best of ourselves while optimising value.”

5. Imagination

“The future role of procurement can be solved in one phrase: problem solving” says John.

But procurement’s problem solving needs to take on a more innovative and imaginative approach.

“Not every situation is going to call for an RFX” explains Justin. “That speaks directly to the change we’re looking for [at IBM].” Too often “we see a need and our reaction from a process point is let’s go and do the RFX.”  Instead professionals “should take a deep breath and start understanding the client and exactly what they need,” and approach the problem in alternate ways.

John concedes, arguing that “running tender might be the solution (increasingly rarely!) but collaborative innovation with the suppliers we have is important.”

Procurement peoples’ jobs will largely focus on bringing innovation to the supply chain in the first place and really helping the business to understand their demand.

In short, Procurement needs to have a relationship with the organisation that is much more strategic and puts the function in a partnering and consultative role.  As Justin sums up, ‘ [at IBM] We’re still looking for the procurement experts, we’re still looking for people who can do the job. But we’re adding to the soft skills portfolio.”

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.