Tag Archives: procurement

I’d Like To Purchase Some Expert Advice

Obtaining access to high quality consultancy services can often be the crucial factor in the success of a project. But buying advice is also one of the most confusing challenges for procurement. How can we overcome this?

Despite some consolidation in the financial consultancy sector, the overall market for consultancy services continues to grow, with the global consulting market valued at $250 billion.

While technology consultancy is leading the continued growth curve, other sectors including HR, operations and strategy are making strong contributions to overall value. For those seeking consultancy services, the market however can be complex. Is there a way to simplify the complexity of procuring consultancy services?

Why are consultancy services so confusing for buyers?

Much has to do with the breadth and depth on offer. Consultancy services are available in just about every industry possible and the sector continues to grow. The broad reach and sheer volume of suppliers can make it difficult to identify the best consultant for your needs. Take ‘Digital Transformation’ consultancy services as an example. It was barely recognised a sector just a few years ago, now it’s worth over $23billion and represented over 15% of the global consultancy market last year.

Consultancy services are provided by organisations large and small,- from multinational organisations and specialist niche providers to freelance independent consultants – often with much crossover in between. Many of the companies started life offering a single specialism but have grown and added additional services to their portfolios as their sector and market experience has developed.

Consultants often use a variety of language and definitions to describe who they are and what they deliver. With no single regulatory body on board to help define the market, its no wonder that buyers can find drawing comparisons a challenge.

As procurement budgets decrease globally, the lack of resourcing and specialisms often means that in-house buyers are generalists not specialists. As a result they may not have the insights into specific markets to be able to evaluate different consultancies meaningfully.

As a professional buying organisation, ESPO’s recent experience in building its largest ever public sector consultancy services framework highlights just how crowded and complex the marketplace is. It received a record number of tenders from suppliers – evaluating over 240 tenders before awarding 135 to the framework. As part of the process ESPO found that the marketplace is so complex that public sector buyers often remain with the same consultancy provider for years to avoid going through the procurement process again, putting budgets at risk.

Top things to consider when buying consultancy services

Utilising a team of 12 procurement experts with cross sector experience drawn from across the organisation and externally, ESPO was able to effectively evaluate the tenders before awarding the successful organisations a place on the framework. Here are its top considerations for buying consultancy services:

  1. Closely define your outcomes or objectives. By identifying the outcomes, procurement teams can work backwards from the end goal to define the exact service required.
  2. Request case studies. This will help you understand the process for delivery and ensure that the consultant has the right experience.
  3. Review technical capabilities. Whether you’re buying financial, waste disposal or even logistical advice, ensure that the consultants are specialists with the technical capabilities needed to deliver. This may mean that you are required to use a different provider for each project.
  4. Consider using a specialist framework for complex service procurement needs. Framework providers operate under strict due diligence rules and processes so you’re assured of the suppliers’ capabilities.   

Sheena Kocherhans is Category Manager for Professional Services at ESPO

Is Marketing A Procurement Blind Spot?

If your marketing expertise is a little below par, don’t despair! Marketers need your help and luckily there’s a lot procurement can do…

How much do you know about ATL, BTL and TTL? Learning marketing speak is the first step in gaining support of your colleagues over the fence and establishing your credibility.

The marketing services category has always been complex one and a bit of a blind spot for procurement. The learning curve is not only steep, it’s also a moving target. We have to invest considerable time in understanding their issues and concerns before we can provide any meaningful assistance. Category managers need to continuously build and refresh internal relationships at all levels; this requires perseverance, patience and stamina. Procurement veterans are fully aware of stakeholder expectations and the importance of having rock-solid relationships with marketing professionals before launching any sourcing projects.

Problems in sourcing marketing services

  • The decision makers may have entrenched relationships with advertising agencies and media houses, with or without formal contracts
  • There are often too many suppliers for the same or similar services and purchasing outside contracts is commonplace.
  • There may be little focus on achieving value for money or measuring effectiveness of the use of their limited budget.
  • Negotiation skills may be in short supply
  • Pricing models are less than transparent. Traditional agencies have pricing structures that would test the analytical skills of the best procurement professional.   

Some good news

On the upside, there is increased pressure on marketing departments to do more with less budget and they need procurement’s help, especially getting better value for money and formalising supply arrangements.

CMOs are becoming increasingly aware of the need to competitively source suppliers periodically, even if their main objective is to generate new and innovative ideas, rather than make cost savings.

Advertising agencies in their traditional form are disappearing; integrated marketing agencies are offering full-service solutions for all marketing requirements including strategy, brand management, advertising, media buying and the full range of digital and social media services. This is a real opportunity for procurement.

Where procurement can add value

Procurement is advised to pick its battles carefully, working from a firm factual base. The basic principles of spend analysis apply: collect and analyse all the data and know the landscape before tackling your target areas

Benchmarking

  • Develop a skills benchmark for each type of service. Establish what sets of skills are needed and determine fair rates for each
  • Apply supply market intelligence to determine the financial competitiveness of existing suppliers. Evaluate their rate cards and pricing against the market. Are they competitive?

Review existing supplier relationships

  • Identify incentives to improve relationships with incumbent marketing suppliers, and consolidate the supply base
  • Negotiate and improve unsuitable contractual terms and conditions, adjust pricing models and rates in line with benchmarks

Pricing of services

Many agencies use the tried-and-tested approach of consultants: billing is based on time-plus-expenses also erroneously called cost-plus. This is an open-ended billing system based on rate cards that apply hourly or daily rates per each skill level. Problems occur when lower skills are applied to the job while higher rates are billed. Where the scope of work is unclear or subject to change it can work but a cap should be set with only a small percentage  overrun of the budget allowed. Beware scope creep.

It is crucial to gain an understanding of other fees and mark-ups such as media commissions, margins on production costs and printing costs.   Where do rebates end up?

Measuring supplier performance

Managing supplier relationships with marketing firms needs to be focused on minimising bad behaviours and rewarding and incentivising those who deliver as per pre-defined requirements. Marketing departments may not necessarily have targets for upholding quality, reducing costs and measuring process improvements, procurement teams certainly do.

5 Top tips for getting along with marketing

  1. Understand important marketing concepts and terminology and recognize how marketing decisions support the company’s objectives.
  2. Invest time in building relationships and understanding the day-to-day challenges. Category managers should reassure marketing teams that they understand the value of strong relationships with creative agencies.
  3. Pick your battles. Identify areas that procurement can really influence
  4. Know your stuff – drill down into the data and understand the detail so that you can discuss issues intelligently
  5. Procurement should share stories of how they helped other functions in the business in ways that Marketing can relate to. Find ways to translate sourcing ideas into their language.

The ability to tactfully handle supplier/marketing/procurement relationships is the key to success. There are no secret tricks, just applying sourcing and contracting best practices will pay off provided that you prioritise service and performance standards over cost savings.

Do you want to be embraced warmly by marketing?   Know your numbers, respect their skills and ideas and work together to develop solutions that will work for both functions. Many marketing functions trundle along with little or no support from procurement.

Whose fault is that?

From Pittsburgh to Paris – Let’s Clear the Air

It’s all very well putting Pittsburgh before Paris, but did you know that modern anti-pollution laws first started in Pennsylvania? Tania Seary gives the run-down on steel cities, “death-fogs” and Pittsburgh’s incredible transformation into an innovation hub.      

It’s not every day Pittsburgh hits the news, but it certainly did last week with the comment, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”. The subtext is that there’s an obligation to protect the steel industry before the climate.

I’m not a political analyst, nor a climate change expert, but I have lived in Pittsburgh, visited Paris and worked in the metals industry. I therefore wanted to share some of my own personal learnings (and give some historical context) for those of who are trying to catch up with all the news.    

The Donora Death Fog

Ironically, Pittsburgh is only 30 miles north of a town which famously claims to have kick-started modern anti-pollution laws.

You may not have heard of the Donora Death Fog (actually a smog), where the deadly combination of an atmospheric inversion, toxic gases from the town’s zinc and steel works led to the death of 20 people and half a town hospitalised in 1948.

Comparable to the Great Smog of London and perhaps even modern-day Shanghai, the Death Fog played a big part in opening the eyes of Americans to the hazards of air pollution. The tagline at the Donora Smog Museum is “Clean Air Started Here”, because concerted political action saw the first act concerning air pollution being put into law in 1959. Pennsylvania passed legislation that afforded the state the authority to prevent the “pollution of the air by smokes, dusts, fumes, gases, odours, mists, vapours, pollens and similar matter, or any combination thereof”.

Modern Pittsburgh is a tech hub, not a steel city

The jobs that the administration wants to save left Pittsburgh in the 1970s. Since then, Pittsburgh has built itself into a great example of a city that has thrived on new opportunities.

I had the pleasure of working in Pittsburgh for a couple of years around the turn of the century – in fact, I was there during the Y2K frenzy. For those of you who weren’t in the workforce then, the “Y2K bug” caused a panic when people thought the world’s computing systems would go into a meltdown when dates changed from 1999 to 2000. The consulting companies made a fortune!

Although it was once among the most polluted cities in the country, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself from a steel town to a centre of “eds and meds”. It has become a hub of technical innovation and medical research. The city even has its own Google outpost, along with a test track for autonomous cars.

In reinventing itself, Pittsburgh has benefited from flagship universities like Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, which produce their own tech entrepreneurs and medical breakthroughs.

Pittsburgh nurtures entrepreneurs

I have to mention two of the city’s most famous entrepreneurs – both named Andrew. Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon were huge drivers and beneficiaries of the steel industry (like the U.S. itself) and then spent the large majority of their lives giving their money away.

Born in 1835, Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist who is still identified as one of the richest Americans ever. By the time he was 50, he had almost total control of steel production in Pennsylvania. He squeezed every penny out of his mills, living by a famous motto that every procurement professional can relate to: “Watch the costs, and the profits will take care of themselves.”

He sold Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for half a billion dollars, propelling him to the position of richest American (surpassing even John D Rockefeller). While J.P. Morgan transformed his company into the U.S. Steel Corporation, Carnegie devoted the rest of his life to large-scale philanthropy, with Pittsburgh itself benefiting enormously with stunning libraries, a university, museums, a gilded concert hall and more.

It seems like the state governors and city mayors who are committed to upholding the 2015 Paris agreement agree with Andrew Carnegie’s quote: “Do your duty, and a little more, and the future will take care of itself.”

Or, in Andrew Mellon’s words, “Every man wants to connect his life with something he thinks eternal”.

Andrew Mellon built up a financial-industrial empire throughout the late nineteenth century by supplying capital for Pittsburgh-based corporations. He founded the Aluminium Company of America (Alcoa) and branched into industrial activities including oil, steel, shipbuilding and construction. Mellon also reformed the US Government’s tax structure while he was secretary of the treasury. Like Carnegie, he gave back an enormous amount of his wealth, with his philanthropy making possible the the building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

These days, Pittsburgh is home to one of the procurement profession’s all-time entrepreneurs, the legendary Glen Meakem. Meakem founded Freemarkets Inc., the first online auction technology, which was later purchased by Ariba. Keeping with tradition, Meakem has also invested a lot of his resources into philanthropy.

Giving back

The story of these entrepreneurs all point to a wider trend as Pittsburgh continues to evolve. Like Carnegie and Mellon, the city grew rich on the steel industry, but now it’s giving back. Firstly, by producing a new generation of entrepreneurs whose success ultimately benefits the community, and secondly, by being part of a climate alliance that is looking for future opportunities rather than trying to bring back the past.

Five Ways Procurement Can Change the World for Entrepreneurs

“Behind every growth story like ours, there’s always a procurement person who has provided an opportunity.” Procurious caught up with inspirational dynamo Nina Vaca at ISM2017 to discover why procurement needs to give entrepreneurs every chance.   

“The unsung heroes of my stories are always in procurement and supply,” says Nina Vaca. The Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group has experienced a roller-coaster of ups and downs in her 20-year journey from a niche IT business that was started on her living room floor to the workforce solutions powerhouse it is today.

“Success is rarely linear,” Vaca says. “Some of the hardest moments of my life were after 9/11, when we were at the brink of bankruptcy and almost didn’t make payroll. But every time, someone in procurement saved the day by providing the opportunity to bid.”

Procurement wasn’t just responsible for pulling Pinnacle Group back from the brink. A series of big breaks, provided by people who saw the vast potential in Vaca’s business, enabled an incredible growth story from a local, to regional, to national, to a global player. “Whether it has been the CPO, or a procurement executive, or a procurement manager responsible for our sector – those are the people who have always given us a shot,” she says.

Vaca gives the example of an RFP from the procurement team at Verizon. “We lost the first, the second – by the time we got the 10th RFP, we asked them for mentoring to discover exactly what we needed to do to win the contract. When we eventually won the contract it had grown from a tiny piece of work to a significantly bigger opportunity.”

“Our next big break came from the CPO of Electronic Data Systems. At that point we were a $40 million company, and we won a $160 million contract. Again, it was because the CPO really believed in us, and mentored us through the process. That contract took us from four states to all 50. That was followed by our biggest contract in Pinnacle’s history, awarded to us by the CPO of Comcast. We didn’t know each other very well initially, but he was willing to take a leap of faith and was very intentional about doing business with us. They were looking for a minority-owned company for a very strategic piece of work. That was a very aggressive RFP process, but winning that contract affirmed our ability to provide service on a very large scale and helped us become the number one fastest growing woman-owned company in the US.”

The result of Pinnacle Group’s incredible growth was that the company found itself breaking through a ceiling that no other Hispanic, female-owned company had crossed before. “When I broke through that ceiling, I found myself to be the only woman, and the youngest, to be in that position. That’s not acceptable to me, which is why it’s so important to nurture hope and inspiration in others to do the same thing. In a way, when the CPO awarded us that contract, the community benefits outweighed business benefits.”

“‘Ambition’ is seen by some as a dirty word, along with wealth creation. That’s how the U.S. has prospered, through people creating wealth not only for their families, but for their communities and the nation. For my daughters, ambition is a necessity, so long as you approach it in a positive way, and not by trying to succeed at the expense of others.”

Five ways procurement can help entrepreneurs succeed:

1. Provide them with an opportunity to play: Big breaks, such as those that propelled Pinnacle into its position as a market-leader, were only made possible because someone in procurement saw potential, took a risk and provided an opportunity.

2. Do your homework: “Look for the best and brightest, not just at the numbers”, says Vaca. Depending on your organisation’s goals, you might be looking for the fastest-growing or most scalable organisation to work with.

3. Mentor entrepreneurs: Contracts are won when someone in procurement is willing to guide you, offer a helping hand, take your phone-call and provide an opportunity. The common thread across all of Pinnacle’s big breaks is there was a supportive CPO mentoring them through the process.  

4. Sponsor wherever possible: Vaca has a very clear definition of sponsorship: “Sponsorship means someone being willing to put their personal brand on you – your success is their success.” How do you attract sponsors? “Be crazy good at what you do, and you’ll become a magnet for people who want to sponsor you. They won’t sponsor you if you’re not bringing your best every day.”

5. Get engaged in the ecosystem: For procurement, this means getting out of your comfort zone and getting engaged with organisations like ISM, or ramping up your online presence to build your network. For Vaca, engagement means philanthropy and providing inspiration and information to people who may want to follow in her footsteps. For this reason, she launched ninavaca.com, immersed herself in promoting STEM education, and takes every opportunity to give back to the community. “We host groups of students all the time at Pinnacle headquarters, and we are the industry partner for Thomas Jefferson Collegiate Academy – an early college high school preparing students to work in STEM fields upon graduation. If you want to do global things, start locally.”

Nina Vaca is Chairman & CEO of Pinnacle Group, and Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.

Networking No-Nos

You only get one opportunity to make a first impression, so don’t blow your chance to make a positive contribution to your personal brand equity by making some classic mistakes at your next procurement networking event.

The way you approach networking in a crowded room depends upon your personality. Is it your first time at the event? Do you stride in like a confident extrovert, or work your way quietly through the room more like an introvert? Does your style of greeting make people feel comfortable, or is it as alien as Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute from Star Trek?

Throughout my career, I’ve seen some career-limiting moves at the dozens of procurement conferences and events I’ve both organised and attended. Fortunately I’ve learnt a thing or two, which has helped me build a very large, healthy network.

So, what are the protocols for attending a procurement networking event? From my experience, you can’t go too far astray, so long as you avoid eight networking no-nos : 

  1. Don’t waste time

Whether you’re at a cocktail party or a two-day conference, every minute counts.  Don’t let yourself get stuck in a bad session or a non-productive conversation. Stay focussed on your end-game and be ruthless with managing your time. Time wasted indulging in idle chat is time best spent elsewhere.

  1. Don’t hang out with people you know

As comforting as it is to hang out with people already in your network, try to resist the temptation! You can have lunch with your colleague any day of the week, but you can’t meet your next employer or source of important market intelligence in the company canteen.

You have made the considerable effort to get into a room with a whole lot of new people, so challenge yourself!  Push outside of your comfort zone and reap the benefits of engaging with someone new.

  1. Don’t be invisible

After listening to an interesting speaker, make sure you ask an impressive question. Don’t be shy – you can bet there’s someone else in the room that is pondering the same question. Make sure you’re the one with the courage to speak up. Remember to start with your name, title and company when you ask a question to ensure everyone in the room knows who you are. It may prompt someone who wants to meet you to come over and introduce themselves.

  1. Don’t shirk suppliers

Great CPOs make sure they work the Supplier Exhibit Hall. Let’s face it; great conferences wouldn’t exist without the investment of these companies. More importantly, suppliers are an important part of your network. If you want to be across the latest market intelligence and product developments, you need to know what these guys are offering. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours trawling through supplier stands. Research prior to the event will make sure you are purposeful and efficient.

  1. Don’t have a social media vacation

You might be working it hard with your face-to-face networking, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to avoid social media!  Posting your thoughts, comments and relevant articles will ensure you become more visible at the event. Your posts or tweets may also be re-posted or re-tweeted by the people you tag, which will amplify your presence. Event Apps, for example, are a fantastic networking aid and the most comprehensive place to find out about fellow attendees – and for them to learn about you! Once they know you’re in attendance, people will hopefully reach out to meet up.

  1. Don’t eat alone!

Event organisers serve food to help grease the networking wheels, not just to feed you!  Pluck up the courage to walk up to a new group and introduce yourself. I always politely request to join a group before quickly insisting. “Please, continue your conversation! I’ll listen while I eat.”  With this approach, you’re not rudely interrupting a conversation.  You will learn more by listening and asking a few select questions. If you’re really keen to make the most of the networking event, you may decide not to eat at all! This keeps your hands free for handshakes and your mouth free for answering questions – not to mention some of those embarrassing food moments where you have something hanging out of your mouth, or drop on your freshly-cleaned suit!

  1. Don’t forget your nametag…or your personality! 

So many times I have turned up at a conference, only to find that I’ve left my nametag in my hotel room, which leaves people questioning me all day: “Sorry, who are you?”

One thing I have never left behind is my personality, but so many people do! They feel like they have to put on a mask and act differently in their professional lives. You’ll look far more approachable if you look interesting and interested.  Smile, laugh, enjoy yourself, have a joke but, a word of caution…

  1. …Don’t fake it

My number one networking tip is to network from the heart and be authentic.

The bottom line to all these networking no-nos is to not be shy. Have the courage to throw yourself into those uncomfortable and nerve-racking situations. Introduce yourself, start a conversation, ask that question and find a new buddy! Who knows, you might even start enjoying yourself!

Tania will be delivering her top tips at ISM2017 on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm. Visit Procurious in the exhibit hall at booth 439!

Take The Disney Approach To Procurement

Learn how to drive procurement change programmes like a Disney Executive.

Founder Tania Seary and the Procurious team are at Walt Disney World Florida for ISM2017. Today, she shares some timely advice on  what Procurement can learn from the famous Disney Formula.

Here’s a little-known fact – I used to work for the Walt Disney Company. Over twenty-five years ago I was a Marketing Co-ordinator in Disney’s International TV Department based in Soho Square, London.

The rest of the team (not me, unfortunately) used to travel to Cannes for the TV Festival each year to support our roll-out of Disney Clubs. It was all very glamorous (for some) and very educational for me.

In one way (at least), I was a perfect fit for a job with Disney. If you’ve ever caught one of my podcasts here on Procurious or elsewhere, you may have heard my voice.

Let’s just say it’s “unfortunate” – quite high in pitch, scratchy…not pleasant! Some of my friends at the time claimed that my role with Disney was actually as the voice-over for Minnie Mouse. Cruel, but understandable!

I learned so much during my time there, but today I want to focus on what I picked up by experiencing the Disney marketing machine first-hand. I am sure many of you have heard about “the Disney formula”, which involves a core asset (the story) being rolled out and leveraged in its many formats.

My short-hand way of summarising this phenomenally successful technique is to categorise the formula into “the book, the movie, the merchandise, the ride – and the tweet”.

Drive Procurement Change Programmes like a Disney Executive

CPOs today are paid to drive global change – but are the programmes we put in place really that effective? Deft change management is what separates the good from the great.

I want to encourage you all to take a very professional, systematic approach to driving change with this Disney-inspired formula.

The Book

At the heart of every Disney project lies the book, or the original script. For CPOs, our “book” is the business case for the change program. This proposal, or argument for action, is the foundation of your change programme that must win the endorsement of your senior leadership team. Without the business case, your campaign has no foundation and will always be on shaky ground.

My advice is to treat your “book” the same way that the world’s best authors approach their craft – write, re-write, and re-write again until you’re 100 per cent confident that you’ve created a rock-solid, engaging business case that meets your organisation’s requirements.

The Movie

Think about some of the lengthy classics that Disney has converted into film. Whether it’s The Jungle Book, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame or Treasure Island, the editors have managed to bring the story down to an average of 1.5 hours. Your “movie” is the public, dramatic expression of your story.

Not everyone will have the time, nor the interest, to read the business case for your change programme, so it’s important to condense it into a version that’s palatable for all. In the corporate world, this is often referred to as “the deck” – or even just a snappy executive summary. 

The Merchandise

Disney has always done an amazing job of licensing their characters to consumer goods companies. Procurement, on the other hand, is notoriously poor at marketing themselves internally.

I’m not suggesting that you order in a range of paperweights or mousepads to promote your change management programme, but it’s worth considering an effective logo or even a slogan that will encapsulate and amplify your message.

Why not reach out to your colleagues in marketing for their creative input? 

The Ride

When I worked at Disney all those years ago, the most profitable part of the business was their theme parks. As part of their marketing formula, amusement rides were based on Disney’s most popular movies and TV shows. But how can this be applied to your change management programme? 

Well, I once heard that if you want to get a message across to employees, you need to communicate it eleven times before it’s absorbed. Why eleven, I have no idea! This is where the ride comes in.

Once you’ve converted your “book” into a “movie”, hop on “the ride” which will repeat the same message over and over again until your program has been accepted.

It doesn’t necessarily need to follow the same track – best-practice communication involves delivering your message via multiple platforms (newsletters, emails, the company intranet, posters and social media) to keep the message fresh and engaging.

A Modern-Day Addition: The Tweet

When I was at Walt Disney, there was no social media. I’ve just checked the #Disney hashtag on Twitter and it’s incredible to see how many accounts they’re running concurrently: @Disney, @DisneyPixar, @WaltDisneyWorld, @Disney Channel, @DisneyMusic. This doesn’t even cover the individual hashtags dedicated to each new movie, along with a legion of unofficial, fan-based accounts.

Disney understands that social media is essential for getting their message to where their audience spends its time. CPOs need to take the same approach. Social media, used intelligently, is an irreplaceable tool in their global change management kit.

Yammer, Procurious and LinkedIn are just some of the many platforms that can be used to engage and influence your team to help them understand the why – and the how – of your change program.

I’ve looked to Disney for my inspiration due to having first-hand experience with their marketing techniques all those years ago in Soho. However, they certainly aren’t the only organisation with a magic formula.

If you’re considering a change management programme, save yourself some time and energy by finding your own inspirational company who demonstrate best-practice, steal their formula, and get to work!

Tania will be delivering her top tips at ISM2017 on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm. Visit Procurious in the exhibit hall at booth 439!

Don’t Bore The Board

Struggling to get business leaders interested in procurement? You’re doing it wrong! 

The dashboard that Lara Nichols built in her first weeks as SVP of Procurement at NFP was, she thought, a masterpiece. It had everything a procurement professional could wish for – sourcing strategies, savings programs, vendor and risk management targets, governance plans – but it simply wasn’t getting the cut-through she expected outside of the procurement team.

“I’d find that people simply didn’t want to have procurement conversations with me – nobody cared about the typical procurement metrics I was focusing on. I realised that I needed to change my approach to my work to become less of a procurement professional, and more of a businessperson with procurement expertise.”

Now, Nichols’ dashboard is built around what she calls meaningful business drivers. “The underlying data is the same, but I’ve had to re-jig how I talked about it.”

How do you identify your organisation’s business drivers? For Nichols, she took a dual approach:

Connect with the team operating at the heart of the business: “This will be different in every industry, but in insurance brokerage and in many financial services companies, the top-line team is the lead force in our business. I made an effort to become tightly connected with the business development team. We have a huge sales force, so I’ve deliberately familiarised myself with their sales strategy and focused on finding ways to provide support for what they do.”

“My advice is to seek out the people that deliver on the heartbeat of the company’s success, and connect yourself with that team.”

Connect with the CFO: “There’s a reason the CFO is always in the top three roles of a company. Finance influences the whole organisation in so many ways”, says Nichols. “I’ve spent a lot of time with the entire finance team, including my CFO, which has helped me re-align procurement’s contribution in the context of NFP’s numbers, and not the other way around.”

Nichols says that strong financial know-how is therefore vital to any CPO’s success. “The ability to influence the numbers equates to company performance. Procurement and Finance should build a deep and mutually beneficial relationship to truly delivery value we all know is intrinsically there.”

Getting involved in ISM2017

Nichols is Chair of the ISM2017 Conference Leadership Committee, and co-leads the Bottom Line Learning Track.

“Personally, I’m excited to attend the Signature Session run by Amazon Business, called Is Your Tail Spend Putting You In A Tailspin. It’s an important topic. Another session I’m looking forward to will be run by Brooks Brothers, featuring a conversation between a CFO and CPO on How Does the P&L Work, Anyway. It will provide the grounding in Finance that’s so important for success in our profession.”

Nichols is proud of the fact that the Committee has built a program with a diverse range of speakers. “We challenge ourselves to recruit first-time speakers, people who have never had an opportunity to present. Brooks Brothers, for example, have never attended an ISM conference before, but we’re expecting some very valuable insights from their session. On the other end of the spectrum, you have your solid contributors who have been attending and supporting ISM for a long time. They bring an incredible level of insight, experience and wisdom to the conference.

Network, network, network

Two of Nichols’ last three appointments were made possible with the help of her personal network. “In both cases, friends of mine knew the hiring managers. There’d been a discussion at some point about what the business was looking for, and my connection has said ‘That sounds like something Lara would like to do – would you like me to introduce her?’ In both cases, I was hired into an exciting, newly-created role.”

Outside of moving roles, Nichols’ network is invaluable when dealing with what she describes as “wicked problems”. “I ask myself who can I talk to in my network who would have some insights into my problem. The network sustains me – usually it starts with an instant message, which leads to a phone call where we explore ideas and – eventually – the solution presents itself.”

Plan ahead to get the most out of ISM2017

There’s so much choice at ISM’s major event of the year that it can be overwhelming, particularly for first time attendees. Nichols says that this will be the case particularly for people who haven’t prepared.

“Chart a course through the sessions. Read ahead, and think about how to spend your time. Plan it out like you would do before going on vacation! If you’ve done some pre-planning, you’ll have filters in place to help you pick well when you’re presented with a choice.”

ISM has provided plenty of tips to guide attendees through the maze of session, including the Learning Tracks, information on how each session is aligned to certain competencies in the Mastery Model, and proficiencies based on years of experience.

“Be present” says Nichols. “Don’t skip the social activities such as the receptions and networking events. That’s where the real magic happens. Visit the Exhibit Hall – that’s where you can access new information and innovation that you can take back to your office.”

There’s still time to register for ISM2017, taking place in Orlando, Florida from May 21-24.

Planning to attend ISM2017? Don’t miss out on Procurious Founder and CEO Tania Seary’s tips on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm.

Talk About A Revolution: The Smart Factories of The Future

You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, all procurement pros want to change the world… Perhaps that starts with the smart factories of the future, which will need to embody innovation. 

Revolution is in the air. Smart factories of the future will need to be innovative, nimble and smart; constantly changing and improving on the back of intelligent use of data. Professor Robert Harrison explains the challenges and opportunities for forward-thinking manufacturers.

If you haven’t heard of smart factories yet, you’ve probably heard of Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution. Smart factories are the next big predicted change to affect manufacturing, causing a new revolution in industry.

By integrating technology and information in real time, traditional factories will turn from cost centres into profitable innovation centres. Cyber-physical systems (CPS) will monitor the physical  processes within modular structured factories, and a virtual copy of the physical world will be mined for data in real time, enabling decentralised decisions.

What’s all the smart factory fuss about?

These new systems could, for example, identify run-time optimisation by feeding back information related to product, process and production resources, or identify best engineering re-use. We will be able to be ‘smart’ in our manufacturing choices, from product design and evaluation, right through to manufacturing, the supply chain and service provision.

The increasing availability and use of distributed industrial CPS devices and systems, if aligned with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Services (IoS), could radically change the nature of manufacturing and provide new opportunities to develop more-effective, finer-grained, and self-configuring automation systems.

To achieve this, manufacturers will need to make changes. To realise effective CPS for industrial automation implies the need for engineering tools capable of supporting distributed systems. This is coupled with a major shift in emphasis from traditional monolithic, specialism-based, isolated engineering tools and methods, towards integrated, cloud-based infrastructure based around an IoS and associated data.

So what’s the problem…?

Current automation systems engineering methods are frequently criticised for their poor performance in supporting re-use, and are often unable to effectively validate automation solutions across supply chains. Integration between real and virtual systems is often less than ideal, which makes it difficult to plot an efficient automation system lifecycle from specification and design, through to commissioning, validation, operation and reuse of systems.
Simply put, the engineering process we have at the moment is disjointed and it could be so much smarter.

Another oft-cited problem is that the majority of the automation tools currently at our disposal are vendor-specific and support largely closed control environments. While they may offer good point-solution functionality, are well supported, and can deliver robust operational systems, they often have limited agility.

These factors lead to delays and ultimately to poor lifecycle uses of information, with lessons learned not being fed back into subsequent iterations of the system.

… and the solution?

Cyber-physical systems are distributed, heterogeneous systems connected via networks, and usually associated with the concept of the IoT. The vision for the new CPS lifecycle is one of seamless integration between engineering build and operational phases.

The digital model continuously updates to and from the physical system, and lessons learned are fed back into subsequent refinements of the system, making them ever smarter.

At WMG, we focus on the design and implementation of automation, systems engineering tools and methods adapted to the specific nature of CPS. Part of a new engineering software environment – vueOne – is currently being used to support Ford’s virtual engineering activity in powertrain assembly in the UK. vueOne is also being used to support engineering of battery and electric motor make-like-production systems in partnership with a range of automotive companies.

Properly supporting the full manufacturing lifecycle is important if we are to maximise the business benefits for the smart factory. At a simple level, once a digital model of a production station has been created, this information can be utilised via apps on mobile devices to enable support for production systems on the shop floor. This may be in the form of viewing digital data for monitoring and maintenance purposes.
However, in more sophisticated scenarios, augmented reality can be provided, overlaying key system information visually over physical views of the production system, and to support this we’re currently developing a suite of mobiles tools.

A key aspect of smart factories that will ensure they are truly successful is having a pipeline to progressively develop and then maximise the impact of innovative automation systems. For example, developing proof-of-concept systems from bench-top demonstrators, through full-scale pilot implementations, make-like production lines, and ultimately to factory installation, working closely with industry partners at all phases of this activity.

This article was originally published on The Manufacturer, via the THOMASNET Blog

The Next Step In Your Mission To Achieve Procurement Stardom

If you’re determined to reach for the procurement stars, Procurious’ new eBook might just give you the boost you need to get there. Download 15 Ways to Become a Procurement Superstar for FREE here – it will get you well on your way to procurement stardom. 

With training budgets slashed and a terrifying to-do list, getting the training you need in order to get promoted can be tough going.

We’re going to level with you here: If you’ve got your sights set on getting ahead in your career any time soon,  you can’t avoid the brave new world of eLearning.

Our brand new eBOOK, 15 Surefire Ways to Become a Procurement Superstar, is FREE to download  from the comfort of your own home and is jam-packed full of invaluable career advice for you to soak up on the go..

What’s It All About?

Last year a staggering 6500 procurement pros took career success into their own hands by joining Career Boot Camp.

Procurious launched this exclusive 15-day programme to help high-achieving professionals around the world get in the best career shape of their lives, and upgrade their skills while on the go.

Each five-minute podcast was delivered by a different industry thought leader, drawing on a wealth of experience and offering insightful, applicable career advice. That’s 15 days, 15 thought leaders and 15 procurement podcasts covering everything from networking  your way to the top, to nailing social media and becoming a global player.

The great news for you is that we’ve now compiled the entire programme into one, stunning,  and FREE,  eBook complete with blog articles, podcasts and the most important take-away learnings to help you become a Procurement superstar in next to no time!

How will I achieve procurement stardom?

Unleash your “procurement mojo”, take your conscience to work, network your way to the top, incubate your big idea on the job, build your personal scorecard, and become a global player.  Whatever the gap in your skill set, our eBook’s got it covered.

Some of our featured thought leaders include:

  • Jon Hansen – A Global Broadcaster with an audience of 15,000 weekly listeners
  • Tom Verghese – A Cultural Intelligence Advisor to Forbes 500 companies
  •  Chris Sawchuk – Global Procurement Practice Advisor, The Hackett Group
  • Tom Derry – The CEO of the profession’s peak body, ISM

Still not convinced? Here’s a little preview of what you can expect. Tom Derry, CEO ISM, gives five surefire ways to become a CPO.

“Outcomes matter in business. We need to be able to establish a track record, consistently follow through, and be relied upon to deliver.”

If you’ve not yet had the chance to join our 21,000+ strong Procurious community, now’s the perfect time! You’ll gain access to our daily news, discussions, eLearning, webinars and much more!

Procurement Is Everywhere But It Wears Hundreds Of Disguises

When procurement wears a mask, layers of stage make-up or one of its other many disguises, you might find it tricky to identify. But, as Daniel Ball explains, procurement is everywhere and in all of our organisations- it might just be presenting itself in a different way…

It’s fair to say that, as a concept, procurement tends to be associated with large businesses.

However, any organisation from the smallest to the largest buys things that they need from chosen suppliers. And, however small the organisation, they face much of the same procurement challenges that we all do. So why do we not consider them all to be ‘in procurement’?

The many disguises of procurement

In reality, the entry point starts when a business begins and evolves in sophistication and complexity with their growth. Although we think of procurement in terms of an established function, role or set of rules, much of the practical procurement going on out there is actually in a formative or evolutionary stage, depending on the maturity and needs of the organisation in question.

This is a vital insight for those of us working to support the procurement profession. We have to remember that we’re not dealing with a perfect procurement-badged world, nor one which conforms to all of the industry buzzwords and ‘best practices’.

In most cases, we’re dealing with people in a state of flux, who might well not call themselves procurement professionals; after all, there are hundreds of different guises in which procurement presents itself. This is particularly prevalent in high growth mid-sized businesses who are feeling the pain of change or ‘growing up’ more severely than most.

What challenges do mid-sized companies face?

Wax Digital wanted to find out what kind of challenges mid-sized companies are faced with during expansion.  We asked 200 senior business management and procurement professionals at fast-growth, mid-sized UK businesses about the pain points they have experienced as their organisation has grown.

Without giving too much away, here are 3 of the key highlights our research uncovered; demonstrating the kinds of procurement-related issues hampering their ability to support business growth.

  1. 83 per cent of respondents surveyed said they didn’t challenge their suppliers on cost or performance adequately, whilst 78 per cent struggled to control spend, citing departmental purchasing autonomy as a problem. Three quarters also said that they don’t have sufficient purchasing technology or systems in place to keep up with the pace of growth.
  2. UK mid-sized businesses have a broad range of growth challenges that are all linked back to both upstream and downstream procurement needs. Even though they’re not yet talking procurement these businesses are dealing with procurement’s problems and need a solution.
  3. In fact, mid-sized businesses are perhaps the segment of the UK economy most in need of professional procurement practice. Their reasons for, and rate of, change are so extreme they must get their house in order before it becomes too unwieldy and difficult to control.

The results of the research will be revealed in full next week via Wax Digital’s website.

What are your media consumption habits?

Wax Digital are conducting a quick survey to understand more about how procurement professionals use media for work. If you’ve got a few minutes spare to tell us how you stay on top of latest industry news and trends, we’d love to hear from you!  It’s just a few simple questions on your media consumption habits. And, to say thanks, we’ll put your name into a draw to win a £200 donation to a charity of your choice.  Complete the survey here.