Tag Archives: procurement skills

10 Critical Skills Your Procurement Team Needs Right Now

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

The problem

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). 

There’s tonnes of empathy mapping exercises available on the internet that can be completed within half an hour or less. Here’s one from Atlassian you can try right away.

2. Category management skills 

The problem 

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 

The problem 

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

The problem 

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: 

  1. Have two people/players sit back to back, but far enough apart that they can’t hear each other
  2. 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). 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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 

The problem 

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. 

There’s lots of templates and tools on the internet that can help you set up OKRs. Atlassian have developed some great downloadables on this, or you can try these ones from Rework.

6. Supplier relationships

The problem

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. 

One such program is The Faculty’s own Roundtable program, which connects and facilitates collaboration between the top CPOs across Australia. 

‘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

The problem

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: 

  1. Select one of the big categories for your procurement team
  2. 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. 
  3. 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 

The problem

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.’ 

9. Technology 

The problem 

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. 

Keith recommends joining Procurious to keep up with the latest, or alternatively, listening to The Art of Procurement podcast.

10. Finance

The problem

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: 

  1. Get finance and procurement in the same room – this is key. 
  2. Get finance to do a toolbox talk on the key terms and metrics that matter to them – and how procurement can impact these. 
  3. Ask any questions and air any concerns – build the relationship and agree on ways of working moving forward. 

‘You’ll be surprised at what 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. 

Can’t make it? We’re currently offering digital delegate passes for free. Grab yours here now.

Contributors

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 more? 

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. 

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.