Tag Archives: procurement

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.

Not just about Trump’s Tower: Procurement in Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire

Azerbaijan has hit the headlines today with allegations that a Trump Tower hotel project in Baku involved a deal between the Trump family and a “notoriously corrupt” Azerbaijani oligarch with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. 

Trump, towers, and corruption aside,  Procurious recently interviewed one of our own community members, Fidan Amirbekova, about working in procurement in Azerbaijan – a tiny Caucasus state that has suddenly found itself in the international spotlight. 

With its unique cultural heritage, ancient origins and shared border with Iran, the history of the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan makes for fascinating reading. But what’s it like to work in Procurement there? Procurious member Fidan Amirbekova shares why the most important asset in Azerbaijani business is your personal network.

Welcome to the Procurious community, Fidan! Can you tell us a little about your country?

I live and work in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and a thriving city on the coast of the Caspian Sea. The town’s origins go back to Roman times, with the earliest written evidence of its existence dating from 84AD. Today, it’s an incredible mixture of ancient buildings and modern skyscrapers. The town’s most recognisable buildings these days are the iconic “flame towers” (pictured).

Azerbaijan, also known as the Land of Fire, is the largest of the three South Caucasus states and is bordered by Russia to the north, Georgia to the north-west, Armenia to the west, Turkey to the south-west, Iran to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the east. Our culture has been defined by our location at the cross-roads of Russia and Persia (later Iran), and Azerbaijan has been a part of both empires at different times in its history.

Although the country has a Shiite Muslim majority, Azerbaijan doesn’t have an official religion, and all the major political forces in the country are secularist. The official language is Azerbaijani, although many of us speak Russian and English as well.

What kind of organisation do you work for?

I work in procurement for Bakcell, the leading mobile phone operator in Azerbaijan. The telecommunications sector is one of the biggest and most innovative in the country, and the role of procurement is significant. I’ve worked at Bakcell for almost 13 years now, with six of them in the procurement department. Specifically, I’m responsible for Marketing and Sales procurement and specialise in services purchasing.

As a profession, procurement in Azerbaijan is quite new, but it’s growing rapidly. Most of the large companies (especially the international ones) require procurement specialists in their teams. There is no developed manufacturing chain in the country, so we need to import almost everything.

Are there any challenges involved with moving goods across borders?

Yes, there are sometimes difficulties with moving goods across borders, but experienced professionals can always find a way. Doing business here is about who you know – personal relationships play a very important role in every field in Azerbaijan. You will succeed if you have a large network – it doesn’t matter if your connections are business-related or personal. In my experience, a wide circle of friends and acquaintances solves everything. That includes online social and business networks like LinkedIn – and Procurious!

Do you source anything from Iran? 

There is some trade over the shared border between Azerbaijan and Iran. Personally, I haven’t yet had to source anything from Iran. The two countries have a shared history and there are many Azerbaijanis living in Iran, and vice-versa. We have stronger business and personal relationships with Turkey. Our languages are similar, and Turkish students come to Azerbaijan to study. We import a lot from Turkey, and there are many Turkish companies here, both small and large.

What pathways are offered to get into procurement in Baku and the region?

As I said earlier, procurement is relatively new here, although it’s growing fast. At present, none of our higher education institutions offer courses in procurement. There is, however, a small consulting company which represents CIPS in Azerbaijan and offers training courses and CIPS qualifications. Many procurement professionals here are actively seeking new opportunities and professional development, so having the CIPS qualification is becoming increasingly popular.

Overall, I think procurement has a great future in modern Azerbaijan. Businesses here understand that we can make a great contribution.

Procurious may be an English-language business network, but our community members come from all over the globe. We’re looking for more stories to build a picture of the unique challenges faced by procurement professionals internationally. If you’re interested in sharing your story, please leave a comment below.

No More Excuses: Procurement Needs To Take Ownership Of CSR

Supply chain is one of the most critical areas of CSR. So why aren’t more procurement teams taking greater ownership when it comes to establishing policy?

CSR, ethics and sustainability – three topics that it’s hard to get away from in procurement. The greater focus enabled by the Internet and social media means there’s no hiding place for organisations. And there’s certainly no acceptance of organisations burying their heads in the sand.

Organisations are now including these activities in strategic objectives. And as procurement’s strategic influence grows, the profession has greater responsibility for its role in CSR objectives as a whole. In light of this, it’s hard to understand why procurement and supply chain aren’t taking ownership of CSR activities in their organisation.

The Expert View

Gaining better insights into the current situation means speaking to the people on the ground. And that’s exactly what has been done by the ISM Committee for Sustainability and Social Responsibility. The Committee surveyed its members exclusively for Procurious on three questions relating to current CSR practices.

While the responses highlighted a wealth of knowledge in the profession, they also showed that there’s still plenty of work for procurement to do to take more ownership. Happily, there were also some practical suggestions on how procurement can help their organisations improve their CSR efforts.

Here’s what the members had to say:

To what extent do you think that Procurement and Supply Chain professionals “own” CSR?

The responses highlighted that procurement’s ownership was very much dependent on the organisation in question. However, there was a consensus that, in all cases, procurement and supply chain professionals needed to play an active role in the development and execution of CSR policies and initiatives.

While some aspects of CSR strategy are not supply-chain related, the majority of risks and opportunities are. Both social and environmental ‘hotspots’ exist within the extended supply chain, leaving it exposed in the event of any issues. Members stated that most organisations started with a materiality assessment. This assessment was usually focused on mitigating, or improving, financial and reputational loss. Importantly, supply chain was frequently seen as a critical area.

As a result, it was felt that procurement and supply chain professionals needed to be engaged in the process.

What is the real damage of a CSR breach?

The general consensus was that a CSR breach caused major damage in three key areas:

  • Shareholder Value
  • Brand
  • Human Cost

Consequences of a major or public CSR breach include:

  • An inability to recruit and retain top talent.
  • Losing the ability to differentiate the firm by its products, services and values in the marketplace.
  • Losing the opportunity to create an internal culture of commitment founded on ethics and a broader view of the firm’s role in the marketplace.
  • Financial loss through litigation, high cost of supplier replacement, brand, disruptions from labour disputes, etc.

Brands can be quickly damaged. A firm’s exposure can be quickly played out on social networks, within hours and minutes. However, one member of the Committee made an interesting observation on where the impact fell. “If the supplier has brand recognition, the buyer gets off the hook more for a CSR breach in the supply chain. If the supplier is unknown, (e.g. the contractor running the BP Deepwater Horizon rig), then the big brand takes the full brunt.”

This highlights the importance of strong policies, regardless of the size of the organisation.

What are your tips for professionals looking to improve CSR in their organisation?

Each member was asked to give three tips on how professionals can help make improvements in their organisation. There were so many good ones that we’ve been able to come up with a list of 8!

  • Understand the premise of sustainability – it’s not just being good, but meeting the needs of stakeholders impacted by decision. Any resulting actions by investors, business partners, employees, regulators and civil society will be of consequence. Top-down support is key.
  • Establish “rules to live” by and measure compliance across the entire organisation.
  • Create internal incentives for professionals to engage in sustainable purchasing. It’s important to use carrots as well as sticks.
  • A supplier code of conduct – with teeth – is considered best practice.
  • Collaborate with other parts of the organisation – procurement shouldn’t operate in a vacuum.
  • Use data to build the business case for sustainable supply chains.
  • Develop processes to identify risks in the supply chain and teach your suppliers these tools, so that they may employ them in sub-tiers.

Take Ownership Now

With CSR being such a critical activity for organisations, procurement can’t afford to be left behind. It’s time to step up to the plate, put procurement in the spotlight and take greater ownership of policies, processes and outcomes. With a wealth of supporting knowledge out there and so many professionals willing to help shape a robust CSR program, there’s really no excuse any more!

Stand By Your Women (…in Procurement)

You might not have to look far to find women who inspire, support and influence you throughout your procurement career.

Procurious recently launched Bravo, a new group seeking to address gender disparity in the workplace, and celebrate and empower women working within procurement.

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be interviewing a number of high profile procurement leaders and seeking their advice on how we can help other women to get ahead in their procurement careers.

Kelly Sissons is a category lead for connected home and accessories wearables consumer products.

In this interview Kelly discusses the issues that affect her as a woman in procurement, explains why procurement is the perfect career for her and lists a whole host of inspirational women!

What has been your most rewarding experience and greatest accomplishment to date?

I worked as the procurement category lead to support the launch of Telstra Smart Home, a new consumer technology offering that is revolutionising the homes of Australians. This was both a rewarding and great accomplishment. I was involved in developing the procurement strategy, conducting RFIs to source new suppliers, products and services and establishing contractual and commercial arrangements. It was really exciting to see the impact of my work when the category launched in market.

It’s also extremely rewarding to achieve  positive business outcomes when working through complex negotiations. This includes conducting dispute resolution activities to improve relationships amongst stakeholders

What issues currently affect you as a woman in procurement?

Procurement is doing well to address the barriers woman face in the workplace such as sexism and discrimination. In saying that, I believe that there needs to be further initiatives to increase the number of women in middle and senior management positions. Organisations and procurement must ensure that they adopt and embrace flexible working cultures to allow women with family and caring responsibilities to choose to remain at work.

Another issue I have noticed, which is a reflection of society as a whole, is that when working with stakeholders (men and women) from other departments or organisations there are still gender biases to overcome.

Who are the most influential women in your life?

Sheryl Sandberg is a great influential world leader who placed a focus on some important issues that women face in the workplace. Her book Lean In helped me to understand that self-doubt is a common fear women face and one that I need to contest. I’ve learnt to have confidence in my abilities and to put my hand up for opportunities.

Recently I worked with a great leader, Deanna Lomas, who challenged me to dream big and to consider opportunities beyond what I know. She taught me the importance of establishing a personal brand and taking charge of your career.

My mother inspires me to be strong and empathetic and my friends help me to be brave, to laugh and to stay focused.

Aside from these women, I regularly encounter incredible women that inspire me in many different ways.

Why is procurement the perfect career for you? 

Procurement is a profession that offers a lot of variety. I am continuously being challenged and always learning, which I love.

I have enjoyed countless opportunities including working with world leading organisations and with people at all levels across the business, gaining exposure to new technologies and working on a diverse range of projects.

Early in my career I have accountability, the ability to influence business decisions and am making recognisable impacts.

In procurement I am able to work on initiatives that address human rights issues that I am passionate about. This includes increasing the use of indigenous companies in corporate procurement and ensuring that corporations are only engaging with suppliers that follow ethical practices in their supply chains.

If you could offer your younger self two pieces of advice, what would they be? 

  • Surround yourself with the right people

Always surround yourself with people that enrich your life, inspire you to be a better person, challenge you, empower you to grow and who will help you find success. When considering whether or not to take a job, ensure that your manager and the team culture embody these characteristics. When a job no longer provides these things, consider moving onto something new. Seek out mentors and a support network of people that want to unlock your potential and to help you find your success. Once you find these people ensure that you put in the effort to sustain relationships.

  • Seek out challenging opportunities wherever possible and don’t be afraid of failing

Never let yourself become too comfortable and always seek opportunities to challenge yourself. Stepping outside of you comfort zone means you’re entering a new learning opportunity and will experience growth. Don’t say no to opportunities or hold back because you’re scared to fail. Accept that failure is a part of life. If you plan and put in your best effort regardless of the outcome you will feel better for trying.

At Procurious, we want to make it easier for women to get into, stay in, and thrive in the procurement profession. This is why we are launching Bravo – a Procurious Group celebrating and promoting women in Procurement. Join the conversation here.

Three Economic Indices You Can’t Ignore In Procurement

Procurement professionals need the ability to understand – and react to – changes in inflation, employment and optimism.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

The interesting thing about procurement’s typical line of sight is that it very closely aligns with the terms of the sourcing projects we run and the contracts – and therefore supplier relationships – we manage. This might be 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, or 5 years long, but regardless of the exact length of time, you can be assured it is far longer than the changes being seen in global and local economies.

Since the summer of 2016, I have been the Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. It has been an amazing learning opportunity, and I am fortunate to be working with a career economist to learn to decipher and draw meaning from the data. There are two pieces to the report: 1. the indices (some seasonally adjusted and some not) which provide a monthly trend up or down as the economy contracts or expands, and 2. the narrative, which highlights some of the key figures and milestones and adds some context to the numbers.

You don’t have to be a professor to see the connections between procurement and economics, but it is easy for us to become overly focused on information that is internally available or provided by suppliers. Based on what I’ve learned, the following categories of information tie directly to procurement’s efforts and objectives. And although they may not often come up in internal conversations, they need to be present in procurement’s thinking and strategy development.

Inflation

Investopedia defines inflation as “the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising and, consequently, the purchasing power of currency is falling.” Most of what procurement buys tends to be based on pre-negotiated contracts, so we’re unlikely to see annual changes in prices based on inflation. What we might see, however, is a difference in the prices we are able to negotiate every three years. This will be especially true of anything we buy internationally or that has significant foreign-sourced materials in it because the relative purchasing power of the U.S. Dollar in global markets will be affected by inflation. But it’s not just an international issue – for any procurement team that reports into finance, keeping an eye on inflation will give you a benchmark for the minimum project-level ROI, as the alternative might be to just hold onto the cash if the project is expected to return less than 3% (the average rate of inflation) per year.

Employment

Higher levels of employment are usually considered a good indicator or economic growth and stability. From a procurement perspective, however, employment also tells us what to expect about trends in services-category spend. With an increasing portion of organizational demand being met ‘as-a-Service’, employment rates (and therefore costs) are critical to our cost to operate. For some industries, services are so important that even the factors driving alternate economic measures like ‘Prices Paid’ are services too – the New York Metro area is a perfect example of this, as are many other major cities. It’s why you must know the product/service mix in your spend before trying to figure out what approach to take. The other consideration relative to employment is talent availability. Higher employment means lower UNemployment (see how I did that?) and therefore less candidates available to compete for open positions. Luckily for procurement, we have a wide array of talent options at our disposal through contingent workforce programs. Striking an optimal mix of employment models presents an opportunity to maximize both costs and capabilities.

Optimism

The final economic index I’ve learned to appreciate is optimism – in the ISM-New York Report on Business we call this the Six-Month Outlook. In other words, as of today, how much better or worse do you expect things to be going six months from now. It would be unrealistic to expect the outlook to be more specific than a trend up or down, but even this insight provides important information for others watching the economy. The fact that this question is even asked is an indication of how special procurement’s perspective on the economy and business activity is. This perspective is due in part to our understanding of the organization’s anticipated demand levels and the prices we are paying, but also the conversations we have with suppliers about the conditions they are doing business in. Competition drives prices down, differentiation drives margins up, increases in demand drive prices up, and large increases in price may push buyers and suppliers to innovate together to come up with alternatives, and procurement has a front row seat for it all.

Many people in the business world watch the monthly reports on business, whether the ISM national reports or regional reports, like ISM-New York. If they value procurement’s perspective on the economy enough to wait for the numbers to be released each month and report on the findings, then we should have a greater appreciate for our own insight and do everything we can to deepen it.

 2017 could be a pivotal year for the procurement profession. The Big Ideas Summit in London will help lay the ground work for all of  the changes ahead. Our London event takes place on 23rd February and you can now register as a digital delegate now! 

Resistance Is Futile, Disruption Is Coming!

Massive changes are coming to procurement pros, whether they like it or not! Is it high time we started embracing, instead of resisting, them?

Mark Stevenson is one man who understands the key trends heading our way. An expert on global trends and innovation, he will be setting the scene with our opening keynote at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London.  We caught up with Mark ahead of the event to get to know him a little better!

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m an entrepreneur, an author, an occasional comedy writer, a musician, and, as some people like to define me, a futurologist, but I’m not at all keen on that particular term.

What don’t you like about the term Futurologist?

I think it’s a fairly dodgy profession overall if I’m honest. There are no qualifications required and it’s often associated with prediction and, of course, you can’t really predict the future, you can only make it. Also people who identify themselves as future-experts are as apt to be shaped by the culture in which they are embedded or dogged by their own prejudices and wish-lists as the rest of us, and tend to predict accordingly. For instance many futurologists are overly tech focused. My work is more about the questions the future asks us about the interplay of technology, economics, society and politics. My job is to help people and organisations to ask the right questions about the future and then convince them to answer those questions in a way that makes the world more sustainable, humane, compassionate and just.

 What are the key challenges procurement and supply chains face in the next decade?

Supply chain issues are hugely important at the moment and supply chain professionals are having a lot of questions asked of them.

The first challenge to overcome is achieving greater supply chain transparency. Plenty of procurement professionals, particularly in larger organisations, have no clue where they are actually buying from. When the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013 killing over 1,000 factory workers, many high-street brands were called out and, it materialised, ignorant of their involvement. Tragedies like this have forced high street companies to better audit their supply chains but there’s still a long way to go.

Secondly, organisations need to make their supply chains more sustainable by adopting science-based targets – addressing agricultural sustainability and reducing carbon emissions to give a couple of examples.

You’ve often advocated science-based targets in the past. Could you explain the concept in more detail? How could procurement apply these targets?

Science-based targets are a really simple idea and a very good way to think about sustainability. When it comes to dealing with environmental sustainability companies tend to say ‘this is what we can do, this is what we’re aiming for’ but, in reality, it doesn’t mean a whole lot when a multinational organisation vows to reduce its carbon emissions by 10% by the year 2034! That’s a recipe for planetary disaster.

Instead, organisations must figure out what they have to do based on scientific facts. The Science Based Targets campaign (a partnership between

Carbon Disclosuse Project, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF) helps companies determine how much they must cut emissions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Coca- Cola, Walmart and HP signed up to this and if they can do it, anyone can.

And, by saving the world you’re also saving your business. Companies who take this stuff seriously will out-perform because they’ll become more efficient and they’ll attract the most forward-thinking, young talent who want to work for companies of which they are unashamed.

In your experience, how open are organisations to new technology trends?

Not very! Organisations tend to be comfortable operating as they always have done.

Upton Sinclair put it well: ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’ Take Blockchain, it could take away the untrustworthy parts of banking: bankers, who will naturally resist this particular technology!

Another example is driverless tech- it doesn’t take an expert to predict that the 3.5 million US truck drivers would be wary of such an advancement – and rightly so. So we have to find a transition plan for them – which culture resists. But it’s a business responsibility to prepare for the changes and approaching transitions, you have a duty of care to your employees and not being future-literate is a dereliction of that duty. Remember, Blockbuster, the DVD rental company went bust the same week that Netflix released House of Cards.

If you had one key message for our delegates at Big Ideas, what would it be?

Wherever you work and wherever you end up in the next 15-20 years, remember that it’s going to be a very turbulent time. Massive disruption lies ahead and the bad news is that our current institutions and businesses are unfit for purpose. Ask yourself: what’s my best effort for myself, my family and for society (and remember they’re all related). If you don’t, you can prepare to be very irrelevant and very unhappy!

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017

Grab A Cheeky Donut! 5 Procurement Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

It’s that time of year again. January has come and gone and you’ve realised that, despite the best of intentions, you’re not actually going to deliver on your personal New Year’s resolutions.

Rather than despairing about all those unrealistic “get fit” goals, how about refocusing your energies on some professional resolutions that will truly benefit your procurement career? The beauty of these targets is that they can actually be met, and won’t be broken in a cheeky late-night fridge raid.

The year has barely begun but we’ve already heard some profound advice from procurement leaders around the world, but here’s the skinny – the real McCoy – the five goals you REALLY need to focus on to reach the top.

So, grab a donut (breaking a healthy-eating resolution while doing so), adjust your focus and rebuild your resolutions to become a world-beater in 2017.

  1. Get tech-savvy

Late last year, I predicted that IT procurement professionals will become the next generation of CPOs (Chief Procurement Officers).

So, if you want to stay in the race, you’ll need to get tech-savvy very quickly. This means making the time to upskill yourself so you will have the confidence to make decisions such as:

Decision Skill-set
Whether to store your company’s precious customer data in the cloud or in data centers. Learn about big data analytics and understand the benefits of the cloud versus data centers.
How to protect your company’s IP and customers’ privacy from hackers. Keep up-to-date with the rapidly changing (and fascinating) world of cyber-security.
How to comply with privacy legislation. Build a relationship with your organisation’s lawyers to learn about data protection laws.
Which technology vendors you should (or shouldn’t) tie your company’s future to. Familiarise yourself with the technology landscape and the big players.

2. Become a Play Maker

Last year on Procurious we talked a lot about procurement’s game changers.

When visualising what type of procurement professional you want to be, you could do worse than become what The GC Index calls “The Play Maker”. It reads a little like a horoscope, but to quote – “Perfectly placed right in the intersection of all GC Index’s four profiles, this individual is interested in people and relationships. They’re best equipped to take on the all-important task of stakeholder engagement, but also managing upwards (C-level) and outwards (supply markets). Play Makers at their best will lead through building productive relationships and helping others to do the same”.

To me, the Play Maker sounds like the perfect procurement professional. A relationship expert who is equally at ease managing the C-suite and suppliers will go a long way very fast.

BME’s landmark Procurement 4.0 study also highlighted how procurement will need to network both vertically and horizontally, inside and outside the organization, to thrive in Industry 4.0.

  1. Put on a show

CPOs today are paid to drive global change and (in case you didn’t know), storytelling lies at the heart of every successful change programme.

I recommend that CPOs and other change-drivers adopt the “the Disney formula”, which involves a core idea (the story) being cleverly communicated through a number of different channels. This technique can be easily adapted into a formula that’s relevant for procurement pros: “the book, the movie, the merchandise, the ride – and the tweet”!

If you can’t see how Disney’s storytelling formula could be adapted to your change-management programme, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Save yourself some time and energy by finding your own inspirational company who demonstrate best-practice, steal their formula, and get to work!

  1. Network your face off

The “n-word” makes most people cringe and break into a cold sweat – but overcoming your fears and mastering the art of networking is well-worth the effort.

Inspired by Kathryn Minshew’s piece for the Harvard Business Blog titled “Network Your Face Off”, Kate Lee of Fronetics wrote a clever blog article for Procurious where she gave seven reasons why you should focus on developing your network in 2017.

Here are the facts – professionals with larger networks earn larger salaries, they’re offered more professional opportunities, they stay in their jobs longer, they are more “in the know”, and (last but not least), they’re happier!

  1. Cyber-study

If one of your resolutions is to build a habit of continuous learning, you’ll need to throw out your old perceptions of professional development and adapt to the brave new (online) world. You can now access the latest thinking and procurement insights on your laptop, smartphone or other device, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This means there is absolutely no excuse for you not to be plugging those career competency gaps!

Procurious’ learning section is organised into bite-sized microlearning videos ranging from 2–12 minutes, giving you the ability to learn from the best in the business in the time it takes to fetch a coffee.

Never forget that simply asking questions is often the best way to get the answers you need. With 19,000 members (and counting) on Procurious, the possibilities to engage in insightful and relevant discussions are limitless.

Finished your cheeky donut? While you’re picking at the crumbs, let’s make a commitment – to our professional selves, to our procurement teams and to our companies – to supercharge our procurement efforts this year with relevant and achievable career goals. Here’s to an exciting and transformative 2017 for everyone!

Learning the Fine Art of Creativity

We live in an ideas economy where creativity is the new currency. So is it possible for those with less artistic flair to learn how to get their creative juices flowing? 

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Everyone’s A Little Bit Creative 

Many of us enjoyed a childhood spent imagining, innovating and creating whether we were painting pictures, constructing dens from cardboard boxes or inventing fantastical make-believe games.

Indeed, the vast majority of research into child psychology suggests that we are all born naturally creative but we subsequently endure an education system or working environment in which our imaginations are more or less stamped out of us.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter, firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. Of course, some adults demonstrate greater potential than others but by employing certain techniques and embracing our inner creativity, we can all achieve additional moments of pure genius.

In a world where innovation is the new currency, procurement teams that fail to execute their ideas with originality will fall behind and die. James will be on hand at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London to give our CPOs and online delegates tips to release the creative genius in their teams.

Innovate Or Die

The maxim that organisations must innovate or die has never been more true thanks to rapid technology developments and fierce competition. In procurement, CPOs need to foster their intrapreneurs and work to achieve what Bannerman calls a ‘return on inspiration’:

“ It is easy to become fixated by Return On Investment in business, and often with good reason. The problem with traditional ROI, however, is that it is built upon ‘known returns’.

Creative Thinking, however, is more closely connected with ‘surprise returns’. You don’t always know what you’re going to get at the end of it – because creativity involves ‘the defeat of habit by originality’ (as Arthur Koestler once said in his 1964 classic The Art of Creation.

Yet, to those with an open mind, it can still be worth exploring the world of “return on inspiration”, as the ad agency Golley Slater referred  to it,  to see what comes out the other side”

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, Bannerman will be putting 50 CPOs through their paces as he introduces them to lateral thinking exercises.

“ During our interactive session we will look at the C.A.N.D.O. model – which I write about in Genius!  This pinpoints the 5 main ways to come up with new ideas, whatever the challenge and whatever the problem: New Connections, New Alterations, New Navigations, New Directions and New Oppositions.

Before we explain what they are, and how they can be used in the real world of work, however, we’ll start off with a few Lateral Thinking exercises.

Take the question ‘What do you lose everytime you stand up ?’ for example. Many people struggle with this question, because they approach it far too rigidly and logically.”Maybe you lose your balance?” or “Maybe you lose the comfort of your chair” etc… If you apply a little Lateral Thinking and spin the question around, however, it can start to become much easier. ‘What do you gain everytime you sit down’ ? You gain a lap!

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!