Tag Archives: procurement

Treading the Fine Line Between Assertive and Aggressive

What is the difference between assertive and aggressive, and why does it matter in job interviews? 

assertive

Assertiveness is saying what you mean without being impolite, asking for what you want without making demands. Assertive behaviour helps you to avoid being manipulated or put off easily. This style is far more likely to create a positive impression than either aggressiveness or non-assertion.

Aggressiveness means that you stand out, but not in a good way. Being overly pushy or contrary will probably irritate and alienate the interviewer. You may get what you want in the short term but it may hinder your progress later. On the other hand, passive or non-assertive behaviour can lead to a loss of your self-respect. This is where you let others get their own way and make yourself into a walkover.

It has been reported that interviewers reach a decision about an applicant within five minutes after meeting them. In this time there is little more to evaluate than how you look and speak, how you carry yourself, and how you greeted the interviewer, all clear indicators of your level of self-confidence.

Being confidently assertive helps you reduce the stress in an interview situation and to exercise more control over your working life. Here are three ways to sail through the interview assertively.

  1. Prepare well

It’s a bit like preparing for negotiations. Research your interviewer and the organisation you are intending to work for. Know how to respond to those difficult, and sometimes inane, questions, like what would you do in a conflict situation or what makes you the best candidate for this job. Remember that assertive behaviour is not specifically designed to get you what you want in every situation; in fact, it involves negotiation and compromise.

Bring your notes and don’t be afraid to use them. It makes you look well-prepared. If something of interest is mentioned about the job, pause and write it down. Be professional and be the best prepared candidate they are likely to interview.

  1. Practice your success stories

It is crucial to create a strategy for communicating your accomplishments to your interviewer in a succinct and memorable fashion.  Do you have a C.A.R?  Skilled interviewers will look for proof of your stated achievements by drilling down into the details of what you say you have accomplished.

C.A.R. stands for Challenge » Action » Result.  Write down a few gems relating to work areas that will come up in the interview. By dropping a story into the conversation you can showcase the action that you took to overcome a problem and can demonstrate to your interviewer that you achieved the desired result.

Mini-stories should be succinct and limited only to relevant details, just a few sentences. They will allow you to share examples of your past successes and let your actions speak.

  1. Polish your communication skills

Candidates demonstrate their assertiveness by the questions they ask, as well as the questions they answer. One trait employers look for is the ability to communicate effectively at all levels in an organisation. Being too tentative with senior managers is not a good sign.  People are just people, so speak with confidence and show a positive attitude but with respect.

Come prepared with questions about the job, such as expected results after the first year, where it fits into the organisation and what happened to the person who had the job before. Practice your questions as well as your answers in preparation for your interview.

Speak clearly and use good diction at a reasonable volume. Talking too quickly and loudly is not being assertive, it shows nervousness. Non-verbal cues influence an interviewer’s impression of you just as much your words do, so keep up the eye contact. Express your opinions honestly, but wisely.

What the recruiters say

Candidates show a poor level of assertiveness when they:

  • Show a lack of confidence in expressing achievements and abilities
  • Sound unsure of themselves when answering questions
  • Are overly agreeable to everything said by the interviewer
  • Trail off or mumble instead of clearly completing a thought

At the end of the interview, ask what’s next in the hiring process.  You may not get a straight answer but it is clear that you want to know.

The Accidental Procurement Engineer

What makes the exciting world of procurement the perfect place for a curious engineer?

Procurement engineer

Some people begin their procurement careers with a big bang. Others start theirs with lots of sweat and toil. I started mine with a freak event. I was an Accidental Procurement Engineer.

Since this freak event, I have never looked back. I went on to have a fifteen-year career that would take me across North America, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Now I work on improving the Procurement experience with the software solution, POOL4TOOL.

Procurement is an ideal career for an engineer at the beginning or in the middle of their career, especially if you’re looking for a little more from life.

Procurement by Accident

Let’s start with the freak event. I was working for a large multinational company headquartered in France. My job was based in Turkey and was technical. It also happened to be the first job I had after the completion of my engineering degree in France.

Following Turkey’s 2001 economic crisis, the stock market crashed and the interest rate shot up to 3000 per cent. There was an immediate slowdown in our business activities and an immediate impact on my income.

The Turkish Lira lost approximately 50 per cent of its value against foreign currencies which meant that, in one day, I had lost 50 per cent of my salary against the French Franc.

These circumstances, of course, made me consider leaving Turkey. I got help from the local management who took my CV and forwarded it to their network in the company.

Among the proposals was the offer of a position in Procurement for manufacturing plants in France. I knew nothing about Procurement so I rushed to the office of the Purchasing Manager in the Turkish plant and within two hours had made my decision.

I was going to become a Procurement professional! It was a perfect career move: an ideal profession for the Curious Engineer.

The Curious Engineer

In recent years it has become evident that Procurement is an ideal professional path for engineers. Many people choose to embark on this path at the start by studying Supply Chain Management.

More and more mechanical engineers are coming into the profession and the Head of Material Flow & Logistics at the famous Fraunhofer Institute has even campaigned for there to be educational opportunities for Procurement Engineers.

What makes Procurement a great career path for engineers? The field of engineering attracts curious people and, whilst many engineers are curious about how things work, some have an even broader scope of curiosity.

They are interested in a wide range of fields and want to pick up skills outside of what is normally associated with engineering.

Procurement and Supply Chain gives these people the opportunity to exercise their technical knowledge but also allows them to follow market and business developments and develop networking and people skills. It’s a place to use both your right and left brain.

The Pros of Procurement

1. Procurement is a Great Place to Use Technical Knowledge

A technical background is a clear advantage in direct procurement, in fields such as discrete manufacturing. It’s important to understand how your company’s product is made and what material properties and specifications are needed and why.

Moreover, a technical background gives you insight into quality management and standards. Be it consumer goods or automotive industries, understanding quality standards is useful when it comes to sourcing parts and selecting the right suppliers.

2. Procurement Satisfies Your Analytical Side

Engineers are trained to be analytical and data-driven. We design and then we implement – with analysis being a key preparation process of the design. Procurement and supply chain produces a vast amount of data to analyse.

In this profession, you collect and analyse data to then be able to make optimum sourcing decisions, be it operational or strategic. You also need to calculate hidden costs and incorporate business priorities and market behaviour into your decisions.

3. Procurement Takes the Curious Engineer Into an Exciting World

Procurement gives you the chance to add to your knowledge and skills well beyond traditional engineering. It requires you to hone your people and networking skills.

This means managing not only suppliers, but also relationships with other departments. It requires sales skills: selling change and ideas to your colleagues across the organisation. And, of course, a whole new set of skills comes in with Change Management.

I’m a huge advocate for engineers considering procurement careers as a serious option. It will be interesting to see if more educational and training opportunities come up for this kind of talent in the future and how that changes peoples interest in the function.

Bertrand Maltaverne is Senior Business Consultant and Product Marketing and Content Manager (Int’l) at POOL4TOOL. POOL4TOOL is the market leader for electronic process optimisation in direct procurement. 

The Evidence Behind Using DPS in Procurement

Increasing use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) could mean the end of frameworks in public procurement. But is there empirical evidence supporting the benefits of these systems?

Eny Setiyowati/Shutterstock.com

In the first part of this series, we discussed the benefits and drawbacks of Dynamic Purchasing Systems for public procurement. Some of the benefits discussed were:

  • Increased Competition and Competitive Pricing
  • Spreading and Minimising Risk
  • Bridging the Talent Gap

But what is the evidence for these benefits? And will this help to lead to an increased use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems in public procurement?

Research Findings

Research published by PwC in 2011 provides some empirical evidence regarding the use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems in the EU. At this time only 1.1 per cent of procedures were DPS, with the greatest use being in Greece and the Czech Republic. Where there was joint purchasing, DPS was used less and this could be one reason why take up in the UK has been low as there has been a focus on collaborative purchasing arrangements across the public sector.

Looking at the recent contract notices (including PIN’s) on Sell 2 Wales, Contracts Finder and Public Contracts Scotland, there is evidence that Dynamic Purchasing Systems are currently being used across the public sector to source a wide range of goods, services and works. From this crude research by far the most popular category to apply a DPS to is transport with the majority of these contracts being for home to school transport.

Transport accounted for 34 per cent of the DPS contracts that were found on the above mentioned sites. Other categories where there were several DPS contracts in place included Care (12 per cent) and works/maintenance (12 per cent).

From the research it was clear that DPS is more widely used in England than in Wales and Scotland. Only 4 of the 65 contracts found were in Scotland and Wales. Possibly devolution and the application of national purchasing policies which often promote collaborative purchasing has affected this.

There was evidence of the DPS being used across the various types of public sector organisations including central government departments, local authorities, housing associations and colleges. It was the local authorities that accounted for the majority of the DPS’s that were in place, this could possibly be due to their responsibility to provide the home to school transport that made up over a third of these contracts.

From the research conducted there were no examples found within the NHS, this could possibly be due to the low number of suppliers available for some specialised products.

Industry Case Studies

Two case studies give us a more in-depth look at the use of DPS. Local Authority 1 (LA1) had set up one DPS contract for home to school transport for children. Local Authority 2 (LA2) had set up three DPS contracts, the results here focused on the health services DPS. Both Authorities stated that greater access to new suppliers and allowing suppliers to enter the system at any time were the main reasons they had used the DPS.

This was particularly important to LA2, as the contract was for the purchase of a new category area, for which new suppliers regularly entered the market. For LA1 increased competition in the market was the driving force and an increased number of suppliers would help to achieve this.

Disadvantages stated by LA1 included the need for extensive training for buyers and the market place as well as the need to resolve IT issues quickly. On a similar note LA2 stated that the resource intensive nature of dynamic purchasing systems was a downside.

Both stated that they would consider using DPS again in the future; indeed LA2 already had more than one live DPS. LA1 noted that DPS is now considered as part of their category management approach and that the changes to the procurement regulations had assisted in this. LA2 considered dynamic purchasing systems to be a valuable procurement option.

It is difficult to tell if there has been an increase in the use of DPS since the regulations changed. All of the contracts that were found during the research process were procured after 2011 when the PWC research was published and this research only covers the UK. An analysis of the number of new DPS contracts advertised in the ten weeks before the regulation changes was compared with the number in the ten weeks after the changes.

In the ten weeks before there were eight new contracts advertised but in the ten weeks after there were thirteen. This does suggest that there could be an increase in the use of the DPS however it is very early days. What it does show however is an appetite amongst public sector professionals to use this type of procurement vehicle.

In Conclusion

The practise of adding or removing suppliers to a framework is not a stranger to our private sector colleagues. However, frameworks are entrenched in the culture of public sector purchasing and, more recently, the collaborative procurement vehicles that have sprung up. In terms of the affect of the new regulations, it is still very early days and so it is difficult to tell whether the changes will drive an increase in the use of DPS.

The benefits of using a dynamic purchasing system appear to far out weigh the disadvantages, if applied to a suitable category of spend. These tangible benefits could very well pave the way for Dynamic Purchasing Systems to begin to form a more prominent role in public sector purchasing strategy.

4 Ways Procurement Should Be Using Big Data

While it might be a difficult term to define, there are a number of practical applications for using Big Data.

In our previous article, we looked at defining (or rather, not defining) the term ‘Big Data’. Now we are going to explore the potential big data analytics and computing may hold for the procurement function.

There are a number of high-profile ways in which organisations are using Big Data. For example, hospitals and public health organisations are using Google’s search trends and history to predict future outbreaks of the flu and colds. You can read the details here and see the counter argument here.

The application of Big Data in the procurement space is a little less apparent, or at least, less well publicised. With that in mind, we’ve put together four ways that procurement could be using Big Data to its advantage.

1. Understanding supplier risk

By leveraging the vast amounts of unstructured data now available to organisations, procurement teams can get a far better understanding of their key suppliers.

Previously supplier information could be found through the media, suppliers’ websites and personal relationships with the people being bought from. Data mining allows procurement to go much deeper than this and provides an unbiased, opinionated view of their suppliers’ standings.

2. Uncovering new savings

In the same way that harnessing data allows us to understand more about our current suppliers, correctly utilised, it can also help procurement understand more about its supply markets and where it sits within them.

By understanding the global supply market at a more granular level, a whole new set of opportunities to uncover savings is opened up. These savings can come about either through direct pricing improvements or through new innovative solutions.

3. Predicting negative external factors

In the past, Big Data has been used to predict unforeseen weather events with varying degrees of success. However, many organisations and governments are investing heavily in this technology.

These insights and predictions would, understandably, garner strong commercial interest, particularly from procurement teams looking to understand just how exposed their supply chains are to both natural, and man-made, disasters.

4. Opening up collaborative supplier projects

Understanding and using Big Data means understanding a category more clearly. Organisations that are able to get this level of understanding are in a position to open up conversations around innovative solutions.

The critical part of this is that transparent relationships with suppliers must exist first. The companies can then work together to solve problems and benefit from opportunities, even if some of these opportunities are not even visible yet.

In our next article, we’ll be be looking for some real life procurement examples where Big Data has been leveraged successfully. If you know of any great examples, please get in touch.

Big Data will be one of the themes discussed at the Big Ideas Summit on April 21 in London. Tell us your Big Data story and pose questions for our experts on this subject by registering today.

Social Media Clinic – You Asked, We Answered

Our Social Media Clinic gathered some common issues from attendees about social media. We aim to set your minds at rest with these answers.

Social Media Clinic

Procurious were lucky enough to attend the eWorld Procurement and Supply Conference in London at the beginning of March, where we ran a social media clinic. Despite looking like we were just having a good time (which we were…), there was a more serious side to our day.

We are huge advocates of social media in procurement, and we want to help as many procurement professionals get as much from social media as possible. However, professionals still have so many unanswered questions about social media, leading to many of them avoiding social media in their professional lives.

We were given a number of questions and issues on the day at eWorld, about all aspects of social media. We’ve done our best to provide answers to them here.

The Social Media Clinic in Action
The Social Media Clinic in Action

General Tips and Advice

Our first set of issues relate to general social media use, not specifically linked to one platform.

  • Struggling to find interesting content

There is a world of great content on social media, you just need to know where to look. Procurious publishes new content to its blog daily, and there are other influencers and experts in procurement who share their knowledge across various platforms.

Check out Procurious’ top influencers list, as well as this one from Vizibl for suggestions on who to follow. You can also set up Google Alerts and get all the top procurement and supply chain stories delivered daily, straight to your inbox.

  • Struggling to Attract, Retain & Interact with Followers and make my voice heard

There is no hard and fast rule on how to attract and retain followers on social media. The best thing you can do as an individual is to keep sharing great content and thought leadership, and people will be interested in what you’re saying.

If you want to make your voice heard, think about the topics that you are passionate about, or things that only you can say. Followers interact more with a genuine voice, rather than one copying what someone else has done. You can build influence by taking part in discussions and sharing your views.

Think about sharing content from followers, or people you follow, and using tagging on platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter to start a conversation with an individual or Group.

  • Should I have all social media platforms for my business?

You’re probably better off working out which platforms suit your business best, and which ones you can make the most of. If you are sharing images, then Instagram is worth trying. If you’re creating video or audio content, then try Periscope or YouTube.

Try looking at one or two platforms to begin with and maximise your offering for followers. There’s nothing worse than a half-hearted effort on a social media profile. You take that risk by spreading yourself across all of the available platforms.

LinkedIn

  • How can I improve my LinkedIn profile?

Take a look at our top tips for social media profiles here. Make sure you have a good photo, that your information is up to date, and talks about achievements, rather than responsibilities. It’s worth investing the time in getting your profile up to scratch.

  • Is LinkedIn just for job seekers?

Not at all. It’s a great tool for recruitment and marketing, but that’s by no means the only thing you can use it for. Make use of the site for global networking, connecting with like-minded individuals, and sharing content.

If you’re worried about it being too recruitment heavy, then a more niche network, like Procurious, might be what you’re looking for.

  • Is it ok to ask people for advice over LinkedIn, if I don’t know them?

Absolutely. LinkedIn is first and foremost a networking tool. You can ask people for help, advice and their opinions. They will choose whether or not to respond. We’ve found that people are very willing to share their knowledge if you are asking for the right reasons.

Twitter

  • How to use hashtags (to find followers and relevant content)

Hashtags have been set up on Twitter to help you search more easily for content and people. Unless you are planning on using a hashtag a lot, it’s better to use existing ones, rather than creating your own.

There are hashtags for both #procurement and #supplychain which will lead you to good content, up to date news, and good people to follow. If you have a particular area of interest, hashtags can also help you attract followers.

  • How many times per day is it acceptable to tweet?

This is up to you. Most advice will recommend tweeting between 5 and 8 times per day. Make sure you don’t just keep tweeting the same things, as this is likely to drive followers away. Keep it interesting, relevant, use the correct hashtags and maybe some images, and you’ll find the right balance for you.

Facebook

  • How can I use Facebook more effectively for business?

Facebook might not be a great platform for your business, particularly used in isolation. We’ve found that the best way to leverage the site is by using their advertising and targeting a specific audience to raise awareness of your business. There are good tips on Facebook itself, and you can have a look at these for information.

There you have it. This is by no means a comprehensive list of the questions people have, but hopefully it’s enough to allay some fears and get you started on social media.

Social Media Clinic Scribe by the fantastic Abbie Burch
Social Media Clinic Scribe by the fantastic Abbie Burch

The Procurious team would love to help you out if you have a question or issue on social media. Also, if you want to run a social media clinic for your organisation, get in touch!

5 Crippling Beliefs Keeping Suppliers in the Poor House

Suppliers may feel they don’t get treated fairly in the procurement process. But are there actions they could take to attract procurement’s attention?

This article was first published on LinkedIn.

Before the jackpot of the internet, purchase research involved, for me, accessing supplier directories such as Kompass (who are still going strong), putting up with pesky sales reps with inadequate brochures extolling the virtues of their products/services, trawling exhibitions, and leaning on colleagues and contacts.

Now, not so much. Although I’m still leaning on colleagues and contacts!

A while back I was involved in putting together a Preferred Supplier List for a bunch of equipment spend categories. The starting point was finding ‘someone’ to research suppliers online globally.

Here’s what drove me bananas as I tried to collate a long list of suppliers to invite to enter a procurement process:

1. A belief that ‘build it and they will come’.

Getting on that front page of Google is critical. Of course, I’m a professional and searched and searched pages. I was focused on finalising, quickly, my long list of ten or twenty suppliers, per category. Those early pages were my key hunting ground.

2. A belief that the lingua franca of international business is [insert local language].

Are you wanting to sell your goods internationally? Language content options are a must have. I’m being open. If there wasn’t an English option I moved on. Maybe a missed opportunity for me – and definitely a missed opportunity for an aspiring supplier.

3. A belief that website content full of fancy jargon and TLAs* will get the sale.

Tell me in ten words or less what you offer and who you help. Right up front on your first page – front and centre. I’m happy to take a deep dive into the details later on my ‘journey’, but for now I just want assurance you sell the category of equipment I’m interested in.

4. A belief that it’s all about social media engagement.

Contact details – your phone number and email. Please. Everywhere, every page, very visible, consistent and definitely including an email address, which, ideally, is a local market email addresses that doesn’t say [email protected] Make it as easy as possible for people to contact you directly.

By the way, thrilled with all those Instagram and Pinterest and other social media followers – how’s that working out for you? And while I’m here, are we absolutely sure about that contact form? I can see why YOU want my name, role, company, email, phone number, I’m just not so sure what’s in it for me.

5. A belief that having a unique, quirky website design will really drive business.

Let’s talk website design, which is not my thing. I’m just a victim of it from firms all over the world. When I’m buying internationally for a major client, I don’t want quirky (ok, maybe I’ll be accommodating if I’m buying creative services or wanting local supply chain).

Mainly, I’m craving surety that this website reflects an international supplier. Give me a nice clean corporate-looking website – make me feel comfortable and open to trusting you.

Am I asking for too much? Really? Please note, this is not an exhaustive list!

Action: Go have a look at your website, right now, and see if the 5 beliefs stand scrutiny. Your website is (probably) the first contact for your target customers – make it easy for them.

After all, you don’t want to end up in the poor house.

*TLAs = three letter acronyms; in fairness, Procurement’s not short of them either!

What’s Your Big Idea? Tell Us in 60 Seconds or Less

Once again, we’re on the hunt for YOUR Big Idea – what are the things only you can say?

What's Your Big Idea?

We believe everyone has a unique vantage point in the industries, communities and businesses they work in. At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, which takes place on 21st April,  we will be asking our speakers and attendees to record their ‘Big Ideas’ live on camera for the whole of our Procurious community to see.

This was a huge success last year and if you’re keen to see some of the videos from 2015, head over to the learning section for some inspiration.

Where Do YOU Come In?

Procurious wants you to share your ideas with our community by creating a 60 second video. It’s super easy to do this on your computer, laptop or phone – whatever works for you! We’ve provided some more detailed advice below on how to submit your Big Idea.

You can make the most of your unique position as both a procurement professional and Procurious member by telling us what you think is the next Big Idea that will change the face of the procurement profession, based on some of the amazing experience and insights you have.

Your video will help to generate interest and discussion on your Big Idea, give you the chance to share your wisdom with a global procurement community, and provide you with a platform to amplify your thoughts, and turn you into an influencer. We will also be using your submissions to help guide the conversations and discussions at Big Ideas 2016.

Need Further Encouragement?

Why not have a look at one of last year’s videos.  Bertrand Maltaverne had a great Big Idea to share with us and we’re certain you do too!

How to Submit Your Big Idea

We don’t mind if you film your submission on your phone, tablet, laptop or PC. However, to help you out we’ve compiled a list of some of our recommended methods for reaching out.

Once you’ve completed your film, you can reach us by email ([email protected]); on Twitter (@procurious_) or via Google Drive or Dropbox (using [email protected]).

Record Your Big Idea

Probably the easiest way to record your video is to use the camera on your phone, laptop or PC. We’re not expecting a Hollywood-style production, just so long as we can see your face, and, just as important, hear your great idea.

If you’re struggling to record it on your phone, get a friend, family member, colleague, or trustworthy stranger to hold it for you! Remember, we’re only looking for a 60-second video, so know what you’re going to say, and practice a few times.

Once you’ve finished, and saved the video to your device, you then have a couple of options for sharing them with us.

Email

Want to submit your video using a good old-fashioned email? We’ll absolutely accept that!

Attach your video to an email with the subject line ‘My Big Ideas Video’ and send to [email protected].

In the body of the e-mail, give us a one or two sentence synopsis of your Big Idea so we can upload this information to the website too.

Google Drive or Dropbox

Is the video file size too large for e-mail? Then why not share it with us on Google Drive or Dropbox. Both systems are free to use and are simple to set up.

For Google Drive, get started using these instructions, upload your file, and then click to share with Procurious. You can use [email protected] for this too.

For Dropbox, you can find all the information you need here. Again, upload the video file, and then share it with us.

YouTube

Alternatively, if you have always dreamed of being an Internet star, you can use YouTube.

  • Head over to https://www.youtube.com/upload and either select a readymade video to upload, or hit ‘Webcam capture’ to film your piece on the spot.
  • Select ‘Start recording’ to get the camera rolling (remembering to tick ‘Allow’ should you be prompted by YouTube’s Privacy Settings)
  • When done press ‘Stop recording’ followed by ‘Continue’.

Don’t be daunted by filling-out the ‘Basic info’ – all that’s required is a title, short description, and some tags. For your title we’d suggest using something along the lines of: My Big Idea is… [insert here]

In order to make your video easy to find, we’d recommend using the #BigIdeas2016 and Procurious tags – but feel free to add more!

Click ‘Publish’ when you’re happy and remember to send us the YouTube URL when it’s live.

After that, you can sit back, relax and watch your number of views rocket!

Questions

If you have any questions (and we mean, any questions at all) about creating your video, sharing it, or what we plan on doing to it, please get in touch. One of the team will be able to talk you through what you need to know.

We can’t wait to go through all of your submissions and hear your Big Ideas for Procurement.

So…what are you waiting for? Get recording!