Tag Archives: procurement webinar

5 Ways Employers Can Appeal To Talent On Career Breaks

Prospective employees returning from career breaks have a pretty good idea of  their priorities. Want your organisation to appeal to them? Follow these steps…

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

When I returned from maternity leave I realised just how important it is to have policies and benefits in place to support people returning to work after a career break. Although mat leave for female talent is not the only type of career break businesses should consider, women returning to the workforce offer a valuable resource to employers, plugging skills gaps and boosting diversity.

So what do they look for when re-entering the workplace, and how can your company catch their eye?

After surveying 1,000 female professionals, the Robert Walters Group discovered that a strong salary and company benefits (90 per cent), career progression (88 per cent) and well-being initiatives (82 per cent) are top of women’s priority lists when returning to the workplace.

Flexibility (79 per cent) is also a main preference, with over half of respondents keen to move into a more family-friendly sector once their career break comes to an end.

However, there seems to be a disparity between the attitudes of employees and employers towards flexible working. While 84 per cent of female professionals want the option to work from home, it’s offered by just 39 per cent of employers. And although two-thirds of women would welcome the chance to work part-time, only 35 per cent of businesses provide this opportunity.

With all this in mind, it seems employers will only attract the brightest talent if they’re open to the idea of flexible working.

Top 5 tips when recruiting those on a career break

Of course, flexible working isn’t the only thing your business needs to consider when recruiting people after a career break. The following points are also key:

1. Understand what women want from their jobs

Flexibility, competitive salaries and career progression all remain important issues. Since only 24% of female professionals go back to their previous employer after a career break, it’s worth delving deeper to understand what they’re after.

2. Don’t make your recruitment messages too restrictive

Many women returning to work are looking to move into a new area within their sector, or to embark on a career that’s connected with, but different from, what they did before. So ensure your job ads and interviewing make it clear that you’re open to good people with transferable skill-sets and experience.

3. Learn more about flexible working

As we’ve mentioned, try to embrace flexible working – but avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Flexible working covers everything from job sharing and home-working through to part-time work. Further information is available from the Government

4. Provide childcare support

Half of professionals consider financial support for childcare to be important. This gives employers the chance to stand out from the crowd by offering family-friendly policies.

5. Make it easy for women to come back

Avoid the loss of talented staff members by keeping in touch with them during career breaks. Office visits, newsletters and social channels can all help. Some 79% of women say they’d find a mentor helpful during their transition back to working life. Mentoring schemes could ultimately give women a better idea of their future career options.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

This article, by Deborah Keogh, was originally published on LinkedIn. Deborah is Associate Director – Strategic Client Development at Resource Solutions.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Procurious’ Hugo Britt shares his experience of what happens when you truly disconnect – whether it’s on an extended career break, or just a short trip away.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

It’s 2009. I’m sitting alone in a tent perched high in the Italian Apennines, listening to the roaring of wild boars on the other side of the canvas. I’ve been scribbling away at my journal by torchlight in an effort to capture my experience hiking the 400km, 23-day Apennine Trail, when something makes me pause mid-sentence. I flip to a clean page at the back of the notebook and, in full caps, write the words “LIFE PLAN” at the top of the page.

I’ve still got that journal, but I remember tearing that page out a few days later, a bit embarrassed at how self-indulgent it seemed. What was I up to when I wrote it? I’m not normally one to come up with grandiose life plans – in fact, I usually have trouble planning more than a week or so ahead.

Here’s my theory.

Zooming out

By that point in my hike, I’d been trudging along for nearly 20 days. This was to be the last hurrah after nearly a year of travel. My then-girlfriend and travel partner (now, happily, my wife) was working in the UK, and I’d taken the opportunity to do something I’d always wanted before heading back to Australia – one of Europe’s spectacular long-distance trails. I was going it alone, not only in the sense that I didn’t have a hiking partner but because the trail rarely passed through towns. It was off-season, so I barely met anybody over those three weeks in the mountains apart from the odd deer hunter. I had a phone, but rarely had reception – and (it being 2009), I was yet to upgrade to a smartphone.

In short, I’d disconnected. I hadn’t thought about the job I’d resigned from for months – nor was I worrying about finding another job when my shoe-string travel budget inevitably gave out and I had to head home. If I did think about my career, it tended to be through a wider lens (“What do I really want to do with my life”) rather than the practical details (“I need to update my CV, line up some interviews, buy a new suit…”). Thoughts like this didn’t even occur to me, probably because they’d have been so incongruous with what I was doing at that moment, whether it was trudging up a slope or cooking dinner on a fuel stove.

My point is that if you do manage to properly disconnect, you stop sweating the small stuff. From memory, the four or five points in my so-called life plan weren’t about getting practical little jobs done – it was more of an epic to-do list. It included asking my girlfriend to marry me, deciding what city we wanted to live in, whether I really wanted to finish my current course of study – in other words, the big-ticket items.

Switching off on a short break

2017 – eight years later, I’ve just returned from a very different sort of trip. Our family of four took in the frenetic sights and sounds of Hong Kong for two weeks, which gave me a short, but invaluable, chance to disconnect from the office. Unlike back in 2009, I was very much employed this time around and must admit sneaking a glance at my inbox a couple of times in those first couple of days. Eventually, I made the conscious decision to switch off and did so by disabling just about everything on my phone apart from the camera app.

Switching off helped me zoom out. It helped me put some common-sense context around the unanswered emails and unfinished projects sitting in my inbox. While I can’t claim to have completely stopped thinking about work during that two-week break, my thought process shifted from the detailed level (sweating the small-stuff) to discovering the bigger picture. Almost subconsciously, I was rearranging the tasks on my plate into a realistic order of priority, and even had a couple of “aha” moments – not by sitting down at a laptop and working, but while I was doing something completely unrelated, like lining up to purchase a ferry ticket.

Find your holiday brain

There’s some science behind this. Earlier in 2017, Procurious interviewed James Bannerman, a Creative Change Agent and phycologist about the best ways to unlock creativity. He said “Trying to be creative is like trying to go to sleep. If you’re too busy focusing on going to sleep, you’ll stay awake because there’s all sorts of brainwave activity linked to beta waves that will keep you from falling asleep.”

Bannerman explained that there’s a sweet-spot that allows creativity to flourish. “We tend to be most creative when we’re focused but not over-focused, and relaxed but not too relaxed. You’re more likely to think creatively when you step away from your desk, and do something like go for a run, or go for a drive, or simply look out the window. It’s about finding that optimum state.”

So, there you have it. Stepping away from your career allows you to perform better in that career. Time to book my next trip.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Four Work-Life Questions To Ponder On Vacation This Summer

Going on vacation this summer? Print this out and take it someplace without any Wi-Fi….

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

You packed your favorite journal and a couple of pens. You planned some time on the beach, or left an afternoon empty to find a table at an outdoor cafe where you can grab an ice-cold drink and just think. This vacation, you’ve told yourself, you’re finally going to be able to take a break and get some clarity.

But clarity about what, exactly?

It’s true that vacationing can hold some unexpected career benefits, in addition to letting you recharge your batteries and do some self-reflection about your working life, your personal life, and your overall goals. But musing on these big-ticket themes isn’t something many of us have a lot of practice doing. When you finally get a chance to do it, you might find your thoughts a little unfocused. That’s fine—mind-wandering is sort of the point here. But in case you need a little more structure, these are four questions to let your mind wander over.

1. Stresses and worries aside, am I happy at work?

One question worth asking is whether you’re happy with your job on a day-to-day or week-by-week basis. You may find some workdays pretty stressful, and that’s normal, but do you generally find your job fulfilling to do?

Vacation is a great time to really step back and consider that, because it’s one of those rare occasions when you can step back to monitor your own reaction to being away from work. A change of pace is always nice, but at the end of your vacation, are you excited to get back to the projects you’ve been working on? If you totally dread the end of vacation, it might be time to start looking for something else.

When you’re away from the office, you can also think about which aspects of your job are most rewarding. By identifying the tasks that excite you, you can lay the groundwork to pursue opportunities that let you do them more often.

2. Where am I headed?

One of the most aggravating questions hiring managers like to ask on job interviews is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Lots of people find that hard to answer, in part because a lot of the time they don’t honestly know.

That’s understandable. It can also be difficult to do long-range planning when you’re buried in the daily grind, when your goals are changing, when your industry is evolving at a breakneck pace, or all of the above. Taking some time off lets you think about whether your career is headed in a direction you’re generally happy with. To get a handle on a big-ticket question like this, try to think specifically about the skills you feel you still need to acquire to succeed.

In other words, you may not be able to see the future, but you can still think like a futurist when it comes to your own career planning. Are there people who might be good mentors (including of the unofficial kind) to help you fill in those skill gaps? Maybe it’s time for some more education. Going back to school for another degree may be daunting, but you can always start by taking a couple of professional development courses. Or maybe you just need to do a little more networking to brush up on the latest goings-on in your field.

Many companies have some form of educational benefits that lots of employees don’t know much about, let alone actually use. Maybe this vacation is the time to figure out which opportunities you can ask your HR team about once you’re back in the office. In fact, even companies that don’t offer a standing set of training resources may be willing to cover some of the cost of professional development you pursue on your own.

This is one of those items that way too few employees actually negotiate for, beyond compensation. Use a few spare hours this vacation to come up with some training options you’d like your company to help you go after.

3. Who don’t I know

You have more colleagues than just the ones who work for the same company as you. There’s a whole community out there of professionals who do much the same kind of work, but most of us don’t spend enough time getting to know them. After all, networking is a tedious chore and often completely fruitless.

And sure, sometimes that’s true. But there are a few things you can do to expand your connections in ways that don’t feel like networking. One of them is pretty old-school: Join a professional society. They’re often a great source for the latest developments in your field, sparing you the need to scroll LinkedIn for industry news. And they often have local meetings where you can meet people dealing with the same issues you are, rather than blindly scouring a random mixer for them.

There are also “networking” opportunities that might be lurking in your average workday—chances to connect with valuable people you haven’t had a chance (or a non-awkward pretext) for to strike up a conversation with yet.

You’re on vacation, though, so all this will have to wait, right? Technically, yes. But one of the reasons so many people procrastinate on (or just downright avoid) networking is because they haven’t given much thought to who’s missing from their contact lists, let alone what the best strategy might be for filling those gaps. Your vacation is a great chance to consider that. Based on where you are in your career and where you’d like to be before long (see above), think about the ideal connections you’ll need to make. Here’s a handy guide for figuring out who’s most important to you at the moment and where can you find them.

4. What’s Missing?

Work is great, but there’s more to life than the things you do to make your company money. In high school and college, you might’ve spent a lot more time doing things you were passionate about—or things that helped you discover what you’re passionate about. After hitting the workforce, most of us start to shed extracurriculars. If you look back, you may see a graveyard of discarded instruments, sports, clubs, and volunteer work stretching out in your wake.

It’s great to draw a sense of purpose and fulfillment from your full-time job, but those outside activities can also be powerful sources of energy. What’s more, they can be the steam valves that give you much-needed emotional release when the pressure at work builds up. Vacation is a good time to re-engage with old hobbies and pursuits you’ve left behind. Pull that old French horn out of the closet. Brush off your tennis racquet. Find a local dog shelter that needs another pair of hands. (Puppies are always a great cure for whatever ails you.)

Don’t feel guilty about carving out a little more time away from your work to pick up these side gigs and activities. Not only will they give you a chance to develop your other interests, they’ll also give you people to hang out with who aren’t all focused on the same set of work issues that you are.

And hey, you never know; over winter vacation about 16 years ago, I started taking saxophone lessons. Not only has it been great fun, I’m now in a band!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

This article, written by Art Markman was originally published on Fast Company.

Art Markman, PhD is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organisations. Art is the author of Smart Thinking and Habits of Leadership, Smart Change, and most recently, Brain Briefs, co-authored with his “Two Guys on Your Head”co-host Bob Duke, which focuses on how you can use the science of motivation to change your behavior at work and at home.

The Three Stages To Coming Back From Your Career Break With A Bang

Fretting over your imminent redundancy? Let’s put a positive spin on this! A career break is the perfect time to re-calibrate, cruise and power up!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Your legs are like jelly as you walk down the office corridor You’re responding to a summons from head office, only to be told the business is downsizing and you’re in the firing line.

Being made redundant is rarely in the career plan but taking an unexpected career break can actually be the making of you. You just have to do it right.

Your first reaction will be to panic-apply to every job advert you can get your sweaty palms on with little consideration for their suitability or appeal. The best advice I can give you is to hold your horses! You’re experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions; shock, denial, anger and upset. It’s not the time to apply for a new role and it’s definitely not the time to be making huge, life-changing decisions.

Taking a significant career break, whether by choice or due to redundancy might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a chance to get your life in check, turn your attention to all the things you’ve been putting off and take a step back to assess the future.

It’s not often we’re de-shackled from the pressures and stresses of working life. If your brain is mossy from years of career servitude, it’s time to do a spot of gardening. Here’s my three-stage guide to preparing to come back from a career break with a bang!

Stage One – Re-calibrate

  1. Admin, Admin, Admin

It’s more than likely that you’ve still got your workplace autopilot switched on so you may as well kick of your career break with personal admin whilst you’re still in the zone! Think about what’s been causing you stress; what’s niggling at the back of your mind. If you’ve got a pile of paperwork in your home study- sort it! If you’ve been meaning to redecorate a room – do it! And if there’s whole bunch of appointments you’ve been postponing, pick up the phone and schedule them!

  1. Reconnect With Your Life

Whether it’s spending time with your family, your children or your closest friends, this is the perfect time to reconnect with everyone important in your life. Do the school drop off, get to know some of the other parents and engage with your children’s teachers. Re-integrate yourself with family life and catch up with your friends. Don’t underestimate the value of this – as well as being an important reminder of what’s really important in life and what makes you, you – you also never know who could connect you with your future job or give you some valuable advice.

  1. Health, Beauty, Fitness

We all know the benefits of keeping in good health but when you find yourself between jobs it’s more critical than ever to get the blood pumping to the brain, oxygen in lungs and endorphins released. Go for long walks, take up a kick boxing class or sign up for a (half-) marathon. If you’ve got a twinge in your knee, organise some physio…get that tooth fixed. When you finally get back to work you’ll be prepped and healthy many months to come!

Stage Two – Cruise

If you embrace and apply all of the above advice then you’ll gracefully enter into the cruise zone. Which mean it’s time to take a deep breath (or gulp!) and enter into Stage Two of your career break. Be ready to open your mind to the many possibilities open to you and take the time to really explore what you want to do with your future career.

  1. Map the Market

Have a think about some of the companies you’d like to work for based on your desired work culture. Do you want a flexible working environment, a tech-savvy forward thinking organisation, a sociable culture or the best salary possible? Your Stage One reflection-time should help you out here. You’ve had a chance to work out your priorities in life. And if you’re feeling angry and bitter about your old job, that’s ok! Harness it to establish what it is you DON’T want from your new role.

  1.  Activate Your Network

Once you’ve drawn up a list of dream companies, it’s time to do some cross-referencing! Is there anyone in your network that works for these companies? Can they help you get an introduction to any of the key decision makers? You can also use your connections for reference checking. What are their experiences of working for this company? Are they an advocate?

  1. Craft Your USP

What is your unique value proposition? Identify what you can do better than anyone else. If you were a product on the supermarket shelf, what would make you stand out as the candidate of choice?

Stage Three – Power Up

You’ve had your chill time, you’ve reflected on everything from utility bills to dental hygiene and you’ve identified your USP. Congratulations! You’re ready to get back in the game!

  1. Remember you’re in a sales process

The number one rule of selling is to uncover the buyer’s needs and that’s exactly what you need to do when you’re researching the perfect prospective employer.

This is going to require a lot of listening. Listening to your friends, your connections and how your employer of choice is marketing itself online.

You know what your unique skills are so start matching them up with the organisation’s needs and sell yourself!

When you finally meet someone with the hiring decision you’ll able to perfectly articulate what you can bring to your role within the company.

Too many people attend interviews and only talk about themselves The trick is to turn your meetings into conversations! People will feel more comfortable and your interactions will be all the richer for it!

  1. Follow Up

Don’t underestimate the value of keeping in touch. After an interview, be sure to send a follow-up note (or two!) and leverage social media to keep yourself in the spotlight and your name on people’s minds.

Connect with the companies that you want to work for on LinkedIn, Twitter and Procurious. Post issues and news that demonstrate your interest and commitment to your chosen career and employer. Set up Google alerts so you’re kept in the loop on current affairs, your target companies and all things procurement.

  1. Ask for the job

You know that you’re the best person for the job- but they don’t! Make sure you ask for the job – tell the employer how much you want to work for them and why. You’d be amazed how many people don’t actually ask for the sale!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

No More Guessing Games! Time To Use Innovative Data Leveraging

There’s no longer a need for guessing games when it comes to  driving value! Innovative data leveraging is possible in any environment and can help to lead organisations towards an analytics enabled procurement.  

Join BravoSolution’s webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, which takes place on 28th March.

Many purchasing executives are looking to drive procurement transformation but this is reliant on three major factors:

  1. Level of stakeholder engagement
  2. Ability to align with the overall business strategy
  3. Use of advanced tools and technologies

My research suggests there exists a noticeable gap between procurement executives’ explicit intentions of driving value for the business, and documented results in these three areas.

These gaps can be attributed to a lack of critical data and analytical insight that can support a truly meaningful conversation with the business about spend, supply base, and supplier performance.

Annual budgeting becomes a guessing game, with little input solicited or provided by procurement. It might be due to a lack of data. Or, it could be procurement’s inability to take the lead in order to anticipate and gather the data required. This disconnect is causing significant challenges for businesses.tech

BravoSolution is running a  webinar on the 28th of March, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis.  I will be  discussing a common process that every executive we met with cited as critical for engaging stakeholders and building analytical insight. We call it “innovative data leveraging” (IDL).

Innovative Data Leveraging (IDL)

Innovative data leveraging is a fact-based, data-driven approach to driving change and influencing stakeholders to create procurement value for the business.

The IDL process was described in different contexts, but the common thread was that cross-functional engagement was powered by stakeholder influence through analysis and presentation of data. Of course, leveraging analytics is difficult without some prior investment in procurement systems such as transactional spend analytics, contract management, and supplier performance measurement. However, our analysis also showed that innovative data leveraging is possible in any procurement environment.

The process starts with procurement executives conducting working sessions with business stakeholders to develop a deep understanding of their business strategy, the challenges they face in executing this strategy, and the role that procurement can play in helping to shape and support this strategy. Successful procurement leaders are the ones who can effectively articulate the questions that need to be answered and pursue the data requirements to provide analysis, insight and advice in order to address stakeholders’ business concerns.

Several additional insights emphasize the importance of innovative data leveraging.

  1. IDL was found to be important during any stage of procurement transformation maturity.
  1. The development of IDL capabilities depends on successful initial business engagements, especially when reliable procurement systems and data are lacking.
  1. Advanced analytics in the form of predictive capability is the most highly evolved form of IDL.

What are the benefits of IDL?

At the earliest stages, preliminary insights on spend may provide opportunities for deeper involvement in functional sourcing initiatives, creating a platform for further engagement and integration. In emerging stages, organisations can drive significant insights into total cost of ownership and working capital improvements that go above and beyond simple price leveraging capabilities. In advanced stages, predictive analytics (using both structured and unstructured data) that produce insights into revenue forecasts, supplier risks, emerging market opportunities, and other value drivers begin to emerge.

The innovative data leveraging approach can help organisations at all maturity levels to build a solid path towards an analytics-enabled procurement, in their pursuit of value and excellence. This does more than bridge the gap between procurement’s goals and the overall business strategy.

When you start by leveraging data analytics, no matter what stage your organisation is in, you can build a foundation for innovative capabilities for procurement excellence, like predictive analytics and cognitive computing.

You’ll  learn more about all of these issues in BravoSolution’s  upcoming webinar!

Sign up to join BravoSolution’s webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, on 28th March

Data, You’re The One That I Want – I’m Just Not Sure Why!

When it comes to managing data, we all know we need it. But it’s important to note that the quality of your output is entirely dependent on the quality of the planning. 

Register for  free webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, on the 28th March. 

In the information age, data is everything. With our ability to store swathes of that binary gold, and to pull it from scores of different sources, we have access to more information than ever before. What’s more, by using analytical tools, we can blend datasets and create rich insights that were previously impossible to do (or at least incredibly arduous!)

At the heart of this utopia is the premise that data is ‘great’; if we’re not measuring something, then we’re missing out.  After all, data tells the ‘truth’…right?

Well actually, that depends on what you mean by ‘truth’. After all, the ‘truth’ can be subjective and open to interpretation – and the same goes for data; the conclusions you draw ultimately depend upon what you’re looking at and how you’re looking at it.

Have a roadmap before embarking on your analysis

An important consideration when working with data is that the quality of your output is wholly dependent on the quality of the planning at the start – specifically the aims of any analytical outputs.

Having a clear roadmap for the aims of your analysis in the first instance is important in providing direction for the project, allowing you to ask the right questions and draw on the appropriate datasets. There’s a lot of information out there and it’s easy to find yourself in a sinking quagmire of sources that bear little relevance to your intended analysis.

Whilst scoping the aims of a data analysis project may seem daunting, there are three simple steps that you can follow to ensure you give yourself the best hope of arriving at a meaningful outcome:

  1. Decide on a purpose – what, in a general sense, is it that you’re trying to achieve with any analysis?
  2. Pitch to the right audience – Who is going to consume the information? It may be at many levels of seniority (from Analysts to Executives), and each will require and expect different things.
  3. Define the questions to be answered (and then the supplementary questions that arise from that) – these are not just the pure data questions but rather the business question – i.e. the reasons for conducting the analysis in the first place.

Leverage your data in innovative ways

With the above three areas documented and the information acquired, the next step is the exciting bit – making it work for you to answer your questions.

Again, there are three considerations to bear in mind for making the most your data:

  • Create quality visualisations – Choose your visualisations carefully and with the audience and questions to be answered in mind. Data visualisation, as with all visual communication, requires thought and discipline to present it in the most meaningful way (don’t just include a bubble or other fancy charts because it looks nice – it needs more justification than that).
  • Make sure the data has context – Bring in those external metrics that help you make sense of it all. Having worked with data for my entire career it’s fair to say I’ve seen good data, bad data and everything in between. When it’s bad (and anything short of ‘good’) you’re going to struggle to get any ‘truth’ from your analysis – remember, “garbage in, garbage out”. However, one of the trends that I’ve noticed more and more is that even with the good stuff people are quick to justify it – reaching for a readily accessible context; and that’s normally the context of their business or organisation. This is context, and context can take many forms. It could be measuring your procurement against a commodity index or allowing for the impact of currency fluctuations, or indeed measuring against many others.
  • Blend your procurement data for greater insight – Data is an incredibly valuable resource for any procurement team and its wider organisation. By pooling your internal data for spend, sourcing, contracts and projects (to name a few) and combining that with external metrics and benchmarks, you suddenly open up another level of insight into your data. Better yet, that insight can then be used to inform strategy across the organisation, increasing efficiency, improving savings and identifying opportunities for further innovation that yields yet more value for your organisation.

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape.

In the digital era, every procurement team has access to an invaluable source of strategic insight in the form of its data. By using technology to prod and probe that data, Procurement has the means to draw informed action plans that deliver innovation and value to the function and, more importantly the wider organisation. However, knowing the research questions to ask of your data and applying the right context to it is essential to realising this potential.

If you are interested in learning more about the kind of questions you need to be asking when looking to gain greater insight from your data, then please register for our free webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, on the 28th March. In it, distinguished US professor, Dr Robert Handfield will be taking a more in-depth look at pooling datasets to perform innovative procurement data analysis.

Cognitive Technology Is A Bicycle Built For Two

By 2020, every important decision will be made with the assistance of cognitive technology but that doesn’t mean the  procurement function will be replaced altogether. instead, Man and Machine will work in tandem. 

Watch our free webinar, “Man and Machine: Redefining Procurement’s Role in the Digital Age”, here.

When someone like Ginni Rometty, the current CEO at IBM, says this, it’s worth paying close attention. As we have explored in the past, artificial intelligence and infinite data means endless opportunities, both personally and professionally.

Rometty also speaks from a position of authority and experience. IBM’s Cognitive Technology solution, Watson,  is already transforming fields like health care, finance, entertainment and retail.

The system has the potential to understand, learn and think through any procurement issue or question presented, offering detailed answers, analysis, or solutions, just as human can. But the difference is that Watson can do this on a scale and speed that outstrips the human brain.

Man and Machine – What’s Procurement’s Role?

This presents great opportunities for procurement, helping make faster, more informed decisions, with deeper insight and greater certainty.

However, as with any new technology, opportunities also come with uncertainty and challenges. Does procurement truly have the agility, and desire, to embrace this new technology and remain relevant?

And what is the role left for procurement professionals, when the smartest guy in the room is Watson?

Procurious teamed up with experts in the cognitive field to help procurement professionals get to grips with this tricky topic. Joining us for the webinar were:

  • Nathalie Fekete – Worldwide Cognitive Procurement Subject Matter Expert at IBM
  • Manoj Saxena – Founding General Partner at The Entrepreneur’s Fund
  • Pascal d’Arc – General Manager at Cognitive Scale

Cognitive – Big Ideas and Significant Shifts

“This is one of the most significant shifts in human history.”

So what’s the Big Idea behind Watson? Well you may not be aware of it, but Watson has probably already touched your life, and the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

According to Nathalie Fekete the core concept driving Watson is its ability to interpret vast quantities of data, and think and reason like a human being. The machine is built to mirror the same cognitive learning process that humans have, even following the same “Observe; Interpret; Evaluate; Decide” process we use for decision making.

And it’s this adaptive nature, including the ability to augment human intelligence that makes Cognitive so important. Manoj Saxena believes that it’s the fourth biggest shift in human history, behind only the discovery of alphabets, and the inventions of the printing press and the Internet.

The Sky’s The Limit

“A little bit of AI can go a long way.”

According to Saxena, not only is AI already all around us, but we’ve also only just scratched the surface. What’s different now, and will be huge over the next 3-5 years, is the impact of AI on the enterprise.

AI and cognitive systems have already produced successful results in leading global companies across the financial services, retail, and healthcare sectors. And this innovation will only develop in years to come as we progress to super-intelligent computers.

However, Saxena was also quick to point out that the hype surrounding the topic might be unhelpful. To him, it’s about separating super-intelligence in computing from awareness and consciousness.

Hollywood and the media might have their own thoughts on this, but humans are yet to fully understand awareness and consciousness in themselves, let alone give this power to computers.

We also need to better understand the key terminology across this topic too. Saxena helpfully laid it out like this:

  • AI is the mega-term. It’s the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, particularly intelligent computer programmes.
  • Machine Learning is a sub-set of AI. This is a science involving the development of self-learning algorithms where the system learns from experience.
  • Cognitive systems are next-generation IT systems that emulate human cognitive functions and software. Cognitive systems are essentially the practical and applied applications of machine learning and AI into specific industries and business processes.

Got it now? Now you’re in a better position to understand the impact on procurement.

Cognitive and Procurement – Impact and Benefits

“Putting the person front and centre of how we apply this new technology.”

Cognitive systems, as well as AI, stand to overturn the norms for procurement, bringing a huge number of potential benefits. Nathalie Fekete stated that one of the primary benefits relates to the analysis of data.

Using vast amounts of structured and unstructured data will help procurement with supplier evaluation, risk management, and benchmarking. This data, and the systems, will also provide a new gateway for innovation. Procurement will be able to find new routes and ideas for savings and opportunities, using cognitive technology.

Pascal d’Arc built on these themes too, highlighting the growing excitement in procurement around cognitive technologies. d’Arc talked about three key themes developing in this area:

  1. Putting the person at the centre of the technology
  2. Delivering a more personalised experience of how employees interact with or run procurement
  3. How cognitive technology is delivering adaptive and agile processes, as well as reducing the time taken for traditional tasks.

Man and Machine in Tandem

“Start now, because it’s happening very quickly.”

Are you worried you might be replaced by a computer? You shouldn’t be. Cognitive technology can eliminate, automate, reduce and empower jobs roles, says Nathalie Fekete. But the good news is that what it’s removing is the hazardous, dangerous, repetitive and manually intensive parts of the role.

Within procurement, this means that time can be saved on some tasks, and better spent elsewhere. The key for procurement professionals is to ensure that they have the right skills to do the new role. And to understand this and start up-skilling now.

Fekete and Pascal d’Arc expanded on this, highlighting key skill areas future professionals will need:

  • Traditional procurement skills such as negotiation, Category Management and Supplier Relationship Management
  • Collaborative working
  • Project Management and Change Management

Learn More

What we’ve outlined above is just a small fraction of the great knowledge shared in the webinar. To access the full discussion, as well as other key insights from our experts, you can register here.

And the learning doesn’t stop there. If you have any questions, please let us know below, and we’ll make sure it gets passed along to the experts.

Watch the full webinar here. 

A Whole New World: The Cognitive Computing Era

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

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

A New Era Of Computing

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

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

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

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

What Does Watson Mean For Procurement?

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

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

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

Applying Cognitive Tech To Procurement

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

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

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

How Can Procurement Prepare For The Changes That Are Coming? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Coming Backlash Against Artificial Intelligence and How to Handle It

How can organisations use AI’s potential to augment, not abolish jobs?

This article first appeared on Manoj Saxena’s LinkedIn profile. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly moving from a mesmeric technology to a powerful teammate and a foundation for enterprise and consumer decision making.

However, AI is a young field full of amazing potential. It’s mystery and lack of understanding is also allowing for hype to grow unchecked. Unrealistic claims by advertising agencies of large technology companies of an “AI nirvana” and portrayals by Hollywood movie producers of an “AI apocalypse” are creating a hype machine that is unparalleled in recent history. The reality is somewhere in between these two extreme scenarios.

Every transformative tool that people have created – from the steam engine to the microprocessor – augment human capabilities and enable people to dream bigger and do more. It also creates massive job dislocation and AI will be no different. Except this time around it will impact not just the blue collar jobs but also white collar jobs such as this Japanese Insurance company replacing insurance workers with AI. 

Lost within all of this hype and fear is perhaps the greatest benefit I see as an entrepreneur, a senior technology company executive, and an investor – the potential for AI to do good for business and for society.

Done right, AI has a massive potential to make our business and our society much more efficient in terms of how we use our scarce natural resources and make a living. Research from Accenture estimates that artificial intelligence could double annual economic growth rates of many developed countries by 2035, transforming work, and foster a new relationship between humans and machines.

Machine intelligence, which is a sub-set of AI, will power and create efficient, real-time adaptive businesses. A “Cognitive Business” that makes sense of all available data and rapidly transforms how it engages it customers at the edge and deploys self-learning, self-assuring business processes at the core.

It will greatly help businesses that are drowning today in Big Data analytics and machine learning science projects but are starving for actionable insights and agility. Despite significant investments in customer big data, business intelligence, machine learning, and cognitive computing, these businesses are struggling with three problems:

  1. Too much data and too little insight
  2. Poor linkage between insights discovery and business action
  3. Scarce learnings from actions taken

Going forward these businesses will deploy AI powered cognitive cloud platforms to augment every user experience and business process. These Augmented Intelligence platforms will pair humans and machines so they can achieve something new and exponentially valuable together: intelligent user engagement and business processes that get smarter and more useful with time.

By emulating human cognitive abilities in software such as memory and sequencing, perception, anticipation, problem solving, and decision making, Augmented Intelligence Platforms will help make sense from messy, disparate first and third party data. They will then use the hidden meaning within all data to engage a human being by providing the right advice, at the right time, with the right evidence across any contact point.

These new class of technologies will create a new range of “new collar jobs” to design, model, build, test and manage these systems – much like the Internet and the world wide web created a new class of jobs in the late 1990s.

Keen to learn more about cognitive technology and the impact it will have on procurement? Join our FREE Webinar, Man & Machine, on the 8th February. 

Disrupting or Disrupted? Why The Status Quo Won’t Do Anymore

If you’re not disrupting, then you are being disrupted. If procurement doesn’t get to grips with the right technology, then the profession’s future path is uncertain.

innovation

Watch our free webinar, ‘200,000,000 to 1: Using Technology to Find Your Perfect (Supply) Partner’, here.

The current pace of change around the world is unprecedented. Procurement and the wider organisation are quickly recognising that maintaining the status quo will not suffice in staying ahead of the pack.

However, that’s not to say that simply implementing a technology solution will solve every problem. No technology is perhaps better for the long-term health of an organisation, than a poorly chosen technology, implemented poorly.

Procurement 4.0 is a term many of us are using to encapsulate the changes Industry 4.0 is making in the supply chain. Also known as the fourth manufacturing revolution, Industry 4.0 marks the convergence of physical and digital manufacturing capabilities, where increasing automation and computerisation allow us to create so-called ‘smart’ workplaces.

Technology is at the core of the Industry 4.0 changes. Procurious hosted a webinar last week, in conjunction with Oracle, to discuss the critical role technology will play in the evolution and advancement of the procurement profession in this “brave new world”.

Ask the Experts

We invited David Hobson, Business Development Director, Cloud Solutions at Oracle, and Darryl Griffiths, Enrich Director of Delivery and Presales, to help us answer the tricky questions.

The discussion covered four key topics and challenges that face procurement, and provided some solutions as to how the profession can deal with them in the future.

Innovation

“IT is only ever an enabler for change.”

Procurement is under a lot of pressure today to find suppliers who will deliver the ground-breaking innovation that will give their company a huge competitive advantage.

However, real innovation is now coming from smaller, more agile companies, which procurement hasn’t traditionally worked well with. Traditional procurement structures and processes have been designed to work with large strategic suppliers, and are now inhibiting innovation.

We heard:

  • Why most rationalisation and standardisation efforts in the supply base have failed.
  • How the right technology or platform can ensure that performing supplier relationships are fully leveraged.
  • Why the challenge for business is to be able to adapt and apply new solutions and technology for competitive advantage
  • Why highly customised legacy systems, fragmented data, complex integrations and inefficient processes are hindering the digital innovation agenda.

Predictive Analytics

“Increasingly the evolution of the procurement function is to more proactive, rather than reactive.”

Spend management and standardising processes can come across as a pretty uninspiring (yet essential) part of what we do. Technology, innovation and digital strategies are where people want to be, but it all comes undone if we’re not managing risks in the supply chain.

On the table in this topic was:

  • The question of are procurement using the right tools in the right way?
  • The vast array of data available for tracking compliance, and how organisations can best leverage this.
  • How automating non-differentiating processes will free up time for value creating parts of the business, such as gathering insights into changing market dynamics.
  • Why many organisations are still grappling with getting data into a structured and accurate form that they can use for predictive analytics.

Streamline Processes

“Organisations that are effective in integrating data outrank their peers by 70 per cent across revenue and margin.”

If procurement can get its processes frictionless, we could then focus on the sexier, more value-adding, parts of procurement.

Standardised processes are a huge enabler for this. And, of course, technology plays a huge role in helping realise the benefits of standardised processes.

We found that:

  • In the past, often the best the system ever was on go live day, thanks to sporadic, or non-existent updates
  • Few organisations are entirely harmonised across business operations, as result of M&A, divisional evolution and conflicting business demands.
  • People tend to underestimate the complexity of stitching together the myriad vendor solutions as they aim for a more B2C-type interface
  • We will see gaming industry concepts and increasing virtual representation as part of Industry 4.0

Implementation

“The journey to Cloud is often viewed as a when, rather than an if.”

Time and time again, we hear stories about how the business case a software solution hasn’t been realised due to a failed implementation.

Among some of the most common reasons for this are a lack of understanding that this is a change management process, not just a technology roll-out, and cuts to budget for training and support.

Our experts also argued that:

  • Solutions providers need to move from being software companies, to being service companies, or risk losing their customers.
  • Grand technological visions of the past failed as the solutions we too far out of line with the business needs
  • Regardless of solution some common foundations exist for any project success which include rubbish data in means rubbish data out.
  • Change management is vital in implementation, or people will revert to old habits
  • Focus needs to be on proving the tools first to help quickly establish credibility

Watch Now!

These are just some of the highlights from the webinar. You can catch up with the full discussion by signing up here.

And the learning doesn’t stop there. If you have any questions, please let us know below, and we’ll make sure it gets passed along to the experts.

For more information, and to watch the full webinar, visit our dedicated page.