Tag Archives: procurement

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.

Willrow Hood/Shutterstock.com

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!

Take The Disney Approach To Procurement

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

Chih Hsuan Peng/Shutterstock.com

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…

Alexander Raths/Shutterstock.com

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.

Raising Procurement’s Image – One Person At A Time

Who’s willing to stand up to bear the flag of procurement pride and improve our image? Elaine Porteous wants reinforcements to help raise the function’s status up to where it belongs.

We’re still hearing comments like “we only involve procurement because it’s the policy” and “procurement slows down the sourcing process”.

There are some lonely but passionate practitioners out there waving the flag and highlighting pockets of excellence, but we need reinforcements.

The image problem

Procurement has traditionally been poor at championing its successes and promoting a positive image of its contribution. Perception is reality. There’s no shortage of published articles and news about fraud, corruption and litigation involving purchasing people and their organisations. So where is the good news? Maybe we could all benefit from a lesson in public relations; in reality, procurement is not so different from sales.

Five ways you can raise the status of procurement yourself

  1. Develop better listening skills

The only way to understand what internal stakeholders, suppliers and customers currently expect from procurement is to listen well. Too often, procurement teams complete projects in a poorly-informed vacuum, failing to get solid input from key stakeholders. By asking for stakeholder feedback on sourcing plans we can reach agreement on success factors and manage their expectations. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Hear what your customers need and work with them to deliver it.

  1. Focus on encouraging innovation

We engage with suppliers every day, so what are we doing to get them to offer ideas that add value rather than asking them to just cut costs? Many suppliers complain about their improvement ideas getting lost somewhere in your organisation, let’s make sure that it is not procurement that is the black hole.

  1. Take the lead on sustainability initiatives

For most companies, taking a ‘green decision’ often means increased costs. It could also mean a compromise in quality or a slower speed to market, but it doesn’t have to be so. Eliminating waste, finding alternative energy solutions, managing the cost of utilities and reducing packaging are all sustainability goals. It will immediately enhance your position if you can apply best practice in sourcing to your company’s sustainability strategy. If there is no strategy yet, there’s your opportunity to contribute.

  1. Talk in the language of the listener

We are guilty of talking in our own shorthand using expressions like strat sourcing, catman, SRM and RFX, which only serve to irritate. Internal customers appreciate receiving communications in terminology they understand. In some high-tech and specialist categories, stakeholders, also known as customers, will suspect that you may not have the depth or breadth of knowledge required. Talk their language to let them know that you are fully up to date on trends and immersed in their technical detail. This way you can prove that you are worthy of dispensing advice and providing guidance.

  1. Highlighting our successes

Easier access to information is changing the way we work; we can see what other people are doing and they can see what we are doing. Not many procurement teams use a well-thought-out internal media strategy to highlight their achievements. Communicating and celebrating individual and team wins are all important steps to ensuring that your internal customers stay on-side. Tracking of cost savings and reporting the results in a digestible way can show the positive impact that procurement has made to business success.

Could we learn something from the Human Resources (HR) function? Applying the tried-and-tested HR business partner model could work well in tricky situations and traditionally out-of-bounds functions. One person is directly allocated to be the enabler between the customer and, in this case procurement, with the main aim of removing process obstacles and smoothing the way for others.

Procurement Needs People: How To Nurture Your Top Talent

As the global marketplace changes exponentially, the need for both personal and professional development becomes ever more crucial for procurement pros. Jim Baehr explains why  organisations need to invest in their people.

Category Management. Risk Management. Contract Management. Supplier Relationship Management. All are part of the Supply Management vernacular in 2017. They represent best practices. Those who have mastered these competencies are sought by companies wanting to take their Supply Management to the next level and beyond. Yet, step back and look at the big picture. How many Supply Management professionals have the time, the skill or the support to pursue these best practices?

Applying the 80/20 Rule In Procurement

Continuing to look at the big picture, let’s apply the 80/20 principle to this question. Considering all the spend of all companies – large, medium and small – it’s reasonable to believe that 20 per cent of the professionals in Supply Management are managing 80 per cent of spend. (This number may be even more acute based on benchmarking articles found elsewhere at My Purchasing Center.)

Bigger companies have more spend and are more likely to have invested in their organisation as led by a Chief Procurement Officer. The professionals in these organisations are expected to be proficient in these higher-end responsibilities – the Managements (Category, Contract, Risk, Sourcing, Supplier Relationship, etc.). These professionals can practice and hone their competencies daily. This is a good thing. This means that in many ways the profession has taken the lead set by the Peter Kraljic “Purchasing Must Become Supply Management” article found in the September 1983 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

Flipping the principle would make it logical to believe that 80 per cent of Supply Management professionals are handling 20 per cent of the spend. Here’s the challenging part: It is likely that these are the same professionals who are handling 80 per cent of the purchasing churn – dealing with requisitions, purchase orders out the door, tracking delivery, invoice reconciliation, etc.  The result is they don’t have the same opportunity to apply best practices like their counterparts in bigger companies. Not because they don’t want to. They simply don’t have the time. Or, more frustratingly, the ability. But, seeing the articles and blogs – all the attention given to “the Managements” they want to do the same.

Purchasing Vs Procurement

While the terms Purchasing and Procurement tend to be used interchangeably, there is a big difference; moreover, the responsibilities of a Purchasing and Procurement professional are not the same.

Purchasing is operational, process driven,  ordering, receiving and paying for goods or services. Procurement is more tactical, more purposeful. Procurement calls for establishing requirements, performing market research, evaluating/selecting suppliers, and negotiating contracts or purchase orders. (Yes, POs can be negotiated.)

For the purpose of the remainder of this article Purchasing is used as the title for the group that handles  buying, procurement and, in some cases, sourcing.

It’s understood that technology is automating many of these routine functions. It’s agreed that that the developers of these systems are doing their best to “democratise” the technology – making it available, applicable and affordable to all companies – regardless of size. While the technologies are making inroads, there’s still a long way to go. And, when we get there one of two things will happen – positions will be eliminated or, companies will direct their Purchasing professionals to become more Procurement-like. Hopefully, it will be the latter.

Do we need to wait until technologies and automation address operational needs to free up the time for (paraphrasing Kraljic) Purchasing to become Procurement? The answer is “no.” Good Procurement, efficient and effective,  for the foreseeable future, is a people matter.

Is Purchasing Only About Getting The Lowest Price?

Before offering any recommendations, we first must recognise the realities. Purchasing, in many cases, is still viewed as “getting the lowest price”. This perception impacts relationships internally with business units and externally with suppliers. It creates a misunderstanding of purpose. The Purchasing professional is relegated to coordination of buying activities instead of having the opportunity to collaborate with internal clients, and suppliers, to produce value.

If we go back to the 80/20 rule the negative perceptions of Purchasing are conceivably based on the interaction of internal business groups and suppliers with the 80 per cent group. They are the majority population and they drive a perception that Purchasing “gets in the way” rather than adds value. Again, flipping the numbers, 80 per cent of the expectations for Purchasing come from what senior leadership reads or hears about the state-of-the-art techniques that the (upper) 20 per cent apply to the “Managements.” The result is that many businesses think their Purchasing group is not effective.

Research shows that staff and talent constraints inhibit Purchasing professionals from being all they can be and, more importantly, all they want to be. The abilities of these professionals are, and may continue to be, underdeveloped. But, there is an opportunity to build on what they already know and have experienced. We can reinforce what they know and make them comfortable with the basics and then introduce them to the “Managements.”

Personal and Professional Development Is Crucial- So What’s The Solution?

As Purchasing becomes more sophisticated, as business becomes more demanding and as the global marketplace changes exponentially, the need for both personal and professional development becomes proportionately as important. Let’s accept that not all the next generation of Purchasing professionals will come with MBAs from universities with Supply Management programs.-

So, now that the problem has been stated, what’s the solution? Keeping it simple – consider the following:

  • Recognize that the 80 per cent is underdeveloped but able and wants to do more.
  • Accept that this same 80 per cent  is under-appreciated and underserved.
  • Acknowledge that talent management requires talent development.
  • Commit. Business leadership, as well as professional associations, must step up and do more for the 80 per cent.
  • Invest in developing the 80 per cent as the cost pales, in comparison, to the potential return in value.

Here’s the good news: There are companies that already recognise this need. They are making the commitment to invest in their people. But, there must be more – many more. Quoting Eleanor Roosevelt – “Nothing has been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.’”

Jim Baehr is the Lead for the Sourcing Strategies Group LLC (SSG).  Currently he is the President of the ISM – Pittsburgh Affiliate, a member of the Board of Governors of the Joint Chemical Group of Pittsburgh and a member of the Visionary Council of Coupa Software Incorporated based in San Mateo, Calif. This article was first published on My Purchasing Center

The Cabinet of Procurement Curiosities

What’s the weirdest, wackiest item you’ve ever had to source? JAGGAER takes a spooky look into its cabinet of procurement curiosities.

People buy odd things for curious reasons. The same holds true when buying for an organisation – with great purchasing power comes access to some really weird objects.

Procurement Curiosities

We explored our purchasing catalogue to see what we could uncover. Many of these items seem bizarre at first, but they all serve an important purpose for the right person. We bought a few things based on how strange they sounded, only to discover how practical they were.

We’d love to hear about the weird items Procurious readers have purchased or the ones lurking deep within your catalogues. Here’s a sampling of JAGGAER’s collection of curiosities. All of them are real. Some of them are genius.

The Dimensional Lever Punch-Monkey

Sounds like a gag-gift – unless you’re a craft maven or a teacher. The Punch Monkey is actually a tool that punches shapes out of paper – monkey shapes, to be precise. Teachers and crafters use the Punch-Monkey to punch out shapes for projects, borders and other creative pursuits.

Scientific Baby Hippy

We love the mental image this one conjures up – and we have emailed a sketch to the Cartoon Network. But a Baby Hippy is actually a model of a baby’s lower torso, hips and legs that is used to train medical personnel. Ever wonder how paediatric nurses are so good at giving those dreaded vaccinations? Thank the Scientific Baby Hippy.

Rock Crusher

We’re not talking about a monster truck. (Monster trucks are actually one thing we don’t have in our catalog.) But we can hook you up with rock crushers in a variety of sizes. Rock crushers can range in price from $65 to over $30K. They are used – you guessed it – to crush rocks.

Ejector Fork

Sounds like something Elroy Jetson might have used to launch his peas Astro’s way. In real life, an ejector fork has a slightly less exciting existence. It’s a utensil used to transfer and release pipettes containing small volumes of liquid in research labs. If we find a supplier for the Elroy version, you will read it here first. That would be awesome.

Pseudo Drowned Victim Scent

When you need a reliable way to train search dogs, pseudo scent is the way to go. This man-made compound mimics the smell of a human corpse, and maintains its scent for up to 30 minutes in still or running water. But if you spill some on you, and your date likes it, we recommend moving on.

Rat Brain Slicer

Don’t worry: this is not used in the Food and Beverage industry. It’s actually an essential tool for scientists studying the effects of drugs, chemicals and disease on the brain. The brain slicer allows researchers to isolate and prepare sections of rat brain tissue for study.

What procurement curiosities are lurking in your catalogue? Share them in the comments below!

Michelle Douglas is Director of Integrated and Digital Marketing at JAGGAER.com.