Tag Archives: professional development

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

Top Reasons to Advance Your Career With an MBA

Competition for the top procurement jobs is fierce. Have you considered that an MBA might be one way to get ahead of the pack?

MBA

Procurement can be a very competitive industry. Both procurement managers and officers are continually looking for ways to advance their career and beat out other job candidates for the best roles.

If you’ve been in the same position for a while and seem to be struggling to rise higher, it might be time to get your nose in some textbooks and build up your network of contacts through a higher degree.

A Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) can, in particular, be a fantastic option to study. You can choose one of top online MBA programmes to work on part-time, or opt to quit your current role and study full-time instead.

Here’s why you should consider enrolling in an MBA program today.

Job Prospects

One of the major reasons why it’s worth completing an MBA is the job prospects that can come from such qualifications. Having an MBA listed on your resume can help you to stand out from other job candidates in a crowded marketplace, particularly if you’re keen to get into a higher, leadership position.

Employers typically tend to see MBA graduates as having greater business acumen, skills, and knowledge than those who haven’t completed the higher degree. They also appreciate the fact that students will often be more likely to “hit the ground running” on day one.

In addition, having an MBA under your belt can also give you more job security with your current company or within your industry. Employers tend to feel that business school graduates bring more value to their roles and to an organisation in general, by:

  • Having a broader business understanding
  • Being able to handle complex situations
  • Improving adaptability, nimbleness, and innovation
  • Being able to spot inefficiencies and better problem solve

This kind of belief can mean that if the economy tightens or a firm’s results decrease, and people start to be let go, your name will be much lower down on the list than others.

Relationship Building

Another major benefit of studying an MBA is that doing so gives you the chance to meet, and build solid relationships, with like-minded graduates from around the world.

Many people who have completed MBAs find that contacts they made during their studies become invaluable contacts in the long-term. Having this network to use as a sounding board, and to turn to for advice, ideas, and referrals, as you build your career is priceless. These connections can help you to really stand out from others in your company or industry.

Getting to know graduates from across the globe exposes you to different cultures, business practices, points of view, and networks. It’s something you wouldn’t necessarily have in many other types of degrees. MBAs are very international studies, and tend to have strong alumni networks which stay close even in spite of distance.

Learning Practical Skills

Of course, completing an MBA is also certain to give you a wide variety of practical skills which you can use at work every day. For starters, communication is something that graduates really have to get good at during their studies, whether through completing team projects, individual presentations, or work placements.

Working together in teams, and getting a group of potentially strong personalities to move in the same direction, can also help you to learn helpful leadership, management, and negotiation skills for the future. Completing studies while you’re still in a full-time job also requires fantastic time-management skills.

Other transferable skills which students can graduate from an MBA with, and use throughout their career, include:

  • Creativity;
  • Problem solving;
  • Critical thinking;
  • Computer proficiency; and
  • Cross-cultural understanding.

Learn About the Bigger Business Picture

Lastly, completing MBA studies also gives you the chance to stop and think about the bigger business picture. This will help you not only in your current role, but also throughout your career.

MBA coursework typically always involves students looking at the global economy and trading markets. This gets people to think about more than their own little world where they currently work. It also makes it easier to see how events impact on both a micro and macro level in a business.

Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her strong ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable.

How to Make Your Professional Development Budget Friendly

In a cost-conscious organisation, ensuring that your professional development opportunities are budget friendly is key.

Budget Friendly Professional Development

The time has come around again, at least in my organisation, to set development plans for the year ahead. I’ve come across objectives from becoming more knowledgeable about a topic to completing a formal qualification.

Budget Friendly Development

Whatever you decide to set in your development plan, I want to share with you some ideas about sources of development activities.  In particular, budget friendly, free activities.

As some background, many (if not all) professional careers require Continuous Professional Development (CDP), counted by CPD hours, units or points. Depending on the profession you may gain hours by attending seminars, self-education, presenting at conferences, or even reading a book.

CIPS, for example, suggest 30 CPD hours a year for procurement professionals. By comparison, Australian lawyers are required to obtain 10 CPD ‘units’ – however the criteria is stricter.

Without further ado, here are six ideas for low cost CPD activities.

  1. Learn from other areas of your organisation

Step into another team for a meeting, a day, or longer.  As a procurement professional this is a great way to better understand your stakeholders and their needs, and build the relationship.  Conversely, you may seek to second a stakeholder from the business to support a procurement activity or category management.

  1. Public seminars and lectures (attend in person)

Usually accompanied by complimentary breakfast in the AM and drinks in the PM, many universities and service organisations host free seminars and lectures to update the audience on case studies and industry updates.

To stay updated, subscribe to the mailing lists (for Universities) and let your service provider know you’re interested in attending information events.

Needless to say it’s a great way to network, as well as an information gathering exercise to support your category management.

  1. Learning communities – online courses

Along the same lines, there are free online courses hosted by universities though websites such as ‘Future Learn’.  Some upcoming courses include ‘Management & Leadership: Leading a Team’ and ‘Business Process Management: an introduction to process thinking’ – both from Queensland University of Technology.

Other institutions hosting courses include University of Aberdeen, Cardiff University, and the University of Auckland. Program topics span across management, medical, social enterprise – the courses are constantly updated.

Sign up, give it a go. Most courses provide a certificate of participation to wave in the face of your development plan checklist.

  1. YouTube It

YouTube is riddled with hilarious cat videos and fluffy pink unicorns jumping on rainbows. It’s also a great source of inspirational and educational videos – Procurious even has a YouTube channel!  It’s free and not time intensive.

Ted-Ed videos are usually 3-5 minutes, however they are highly addictive. We can also learn new skills to make our work more effective, get technology tips, and learn how make ‘Word’ number formatting cooperate. Remember to reward yourself with another cute cat video. 

  1. Library isn’t just for books

When was the last time you stepped foot – physically – in a library?  You’ll be please to know that you don’t need to leave the comfort of you couch to benefit from your local library these days.  Libraries are technology hubs and, generally speaking, you should be able to access e-books from your local council library.

If you are keen on that rewarding feeling of turning a page, you can find a whole selection of top books here, recommended by Procurious members.

  1. Stand in the spotlight

A friend recently told me that out of the YouTube viewing population, only 0.1 per cent produce the content.

I can’t validate the statistic but let’s consider a procurement conference with 10 presenters and 100 delegates. That means we’re learning from 10 per cent of the population.

Surely you have something great to share! Nominate yourself to present at a conference, write an article – choose a method to tell us what you know.

Depending in the rules you follow, these activities may contribute to your CPD hours and/or your development plan. So go forth and be better than before.

Let the Procurious community know below if you have more ideas to achieve CPD hours and achieve your professional development plan in a fun, budget friendly way.

Why Wait? Come to Training in Your Pyjamas

Have you ever had that nightmare where you’re wearing your pyjamas in class? With new training from ISM, your nightmare can be a reality (in a good way!).

Training in Pyjamas

I’m in training. I’ve got my laptop open on the table in front of me, a nice warm drink, and I’m waiting for the trainer to appear. A striking-looking instructor comes into view, walking slowly and deliberately in heels.

She’s wearing her ginger-coloured hair pulled back in a ponytail, quite a lot of blue eyeshadow and vivid red lipstick. She appears to have had eyelash extensions.

I sit up a bit straighter in my chair, before glancing down and realising with a shock that I’m wearing my pyjamas.

What is Micro-Learning?

But that’s okay, because it’s 9pm and I’m comfortably ensconced in a warm study in my own home. The kids have finally gone to bed and the dishes are done, so I’ve taken the opportunity to squeeze in one of ISM’s Just-in-Time Learning sessions, led by a flame-haired, animated instructor.

I’ve chosen a session called “Sourcing Strategy based on Forecasted Data”. At 8 minutes and 30 seconds, it removes my usual excuse about being too time-poor to invest in training. According to ISM’s Senior VP of Programs and Product Development M.L. Peck, this is what micro-learning is all about.

“People are craving content that address specific needs at specific times”, says Peck. “Micro-learning takes a ‘just-for-me, just-in-time, and just-enough’ approach”.

Training Essentials

This works for me, as my attention span seems to be diminishing rapidly as I grow older. The animated instructor’s voice has a slightly robotic quality, but she’s convincing enough.

She moves around the screen, gesticulating with one hands with the other resting on her hip. She (I’m not sure if the instructor has a name) even blinks and waggles her eyebrows as she drives each point home.

The instructor rapidly takes me through the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of sourcing – spot buying, buying to requirements, forward buying and speculative buying. As she talks, animated graphics appear and disappear next to her.

The content itself is drawn from ISM’s impressive global network of subject matter experts, who have created a remarkable library of digital knowledge.

The animation is interspersed with a video of Kevin from ISM, a (human) instructor who gives a real-world example of a restaurant owner who uses each of the four buying types as circumstances demand.

Sharing Essential Skills & Knowledge

Each Just-in-Time learning video has a different style. Some feature animated characters such as this, while others are led entirely by real instructors.

There are whiteboard animations, live interviews with executives and leaders in the profession, short lectures from industry experts, fun activities, games and flashcards.

This style of learning isn’t designed to be a deep-dive, but is a fast and effective overview of essential procurement skills and knowledge. Viewers can choose to explore further through eISM’s Guided Learning and Self-Paced learning options.

This particular video, however, is packed with fast facts, statistics, definitions from the ISM Glossary. It also includes real-world examples about sourcing strategies. By the end of the eight-and-a-half minute video, I have three pages of notes.

And what’s more, I even have time to sneak in another training video before my drink goes cold!

Learn More (in Pyjamas if you Want!)

Procurious now hosts three of the eISM Just-in-Time learning videos here on the website. Simply click on the “Learning” tab, or follow the links below to view:

For the full suite of eISM learning options, visit the ISM website.

Peer-to-Peer Learning – The Evolution of Professional Development

Learning is no longer confined to a classroom. Peer-to-peer learning is fast becoming the primary avenue for professional development.

peer-to-peer learning

The labour market is tightening, which means the need to engage, retain and up-skill your existing resources is growing. However, individuals and organisations are moving away from traditional approaches to learning and development, such as classroom-based learning, due to rising costs and geographically dispersed teams.

In the latest evolution of professional and personal development, there is a greater emphasis is now being placed on social media and peer-to-peer learning. And while, in the past, quality of content was seen as a major issue in using e-Learning, more high-profile organisations are realising the benefits of both creating and sharing their own content.

Peer-to-Peer Benefits

The nature of social media is inherently suited to peer-to-peer learning:

  • It is a highly effective method of sharing information – people can learn real-life, applicable lessons from subject matter experts from all around the world.
  • The e-Learning resources are very accessible – they can be accessed from multiple devices, at a time and place that is convenient for the learner (and their organisation too).
  • Perhaps most importantly, it’s a very cost effective way to learn – savings are made on travel, employee time, and residential courses, and the vast majority of e-Learning is totally free.

Take global mining organisation, Rio Tinto, as an example. The organisation has a very widely dispersed employee based, with over 35,000 people spread around the world. Realising the cost of bringing employees together for classroom-based training, Rio launched their own learning academy in 2014.

Employees have access to relevant, and high-quality, materials wherever they are, and can study at their own pace, at a time that suits them.

Procurement Podcasts

Across social media there are a number of portals and platforms that support peer-to-peer learning, offering free, downloadable e-Learning content in the field of procurement. One of these is SoundCloud – a free, online sharing platform for audio and visual content.

Soundcloud Podcasts

A simple search for ‘procurement’ on the platform provides over 500 podcasts from over 100 contributors, including the BBC and Buyers’ Meeting Point. The platform is easy to access via a web browser or its app, enabling users to listen to the podcasts on the go.

You can also find quality, procurement-related podcasts from a huge range of other sources. Here are just a few we have selected:

  • AT Kearney Procurement & Analytics Solutions – the renowned ‘Wave of the Futurepodcast series covers key topics for procurement leaders through interviewing subject matter experts and thought leaders.
  • Art of Procurement – hosted by Philip Ideson, the AoP Show invites procurement professionals and experts to share their views on the hot topics impacting the profession.
  • My Purchasing Centre – this podcast series has its finger on the pulse of the profession, sharing information and thought leadership on major topics and events.
  • Institute of Supply Management – ISM offers an ever-expanding library of audio podcasts covering a broad spectrum of supply management and general business topics.

Procurement Videos

If videos are more of your thing, you can find plenty available on YouTube (just don’t get lost with all the other videos you can inevitably lose an hour or more with…!).

One of our recent finds are videos from The Procurement Man (better known in real life as Neil Hudson). Neil has a selection of videos sharing his experiences and knowledge from a career in procurement. You can find his videos here, and see an example of one below:

And finally, you can of course find plenty of procurement and supply chain related videos right here on Procurious. Take your pick from procurement training, thought leadership and business research from a variety of experts from around the world.

However you choose to learn, and however you do your professional development, there is a good chance that peer-to-peer learning will be able to support your goals. Just find the right platform for you, and get stuck in!

eISM – Introducing the Future of Learning

People don’t want a one-size-fits-all solution for their professional development. eISM aims to provide a set of flexible options to take e-learning forward.

eISM Learning on Demand

Whether skills are learned through small chunks, longer competency-based training, or direct job experiences, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to gaining career knowledge and experience.

ISM’s Senior VP of Programs and Product Development, M.L. Peck, understands this, and has made it the foundation of ISM’s exciting new eISM initiative. “E-learning is the future of learning – it’s how our customers are consuming information”, says Peck. “But just like face-to-face learning, it has to allow for individuals’ learning styles”.

That’s why ISM has come up with no fewer than three completely different methods for varied learning styles within its eISM offering: Just-in-Time learning, Self-Guided learning, and Guided Learning. It’s up to the user to choose the method that best fits in with their busy schedule and learning style.

ISM’s e-learning is designed to support ISM’s Mastery Model, providing the training needed to equip practitioners with the skills and certification to master various competencies and sub-competencies within the model.

The content itself is pulled from ISM’s impressive 101 years of supply chain leadership, drawing upon its global network of subject matter experts to create a remarkable library of digital knowledge.

Just-in-Time Learning

Peck talks about the “just-for-me, just-in-time, and just-enough” approach. For example, if you have a negotiation in an hour and need an answer immediately, all you have to do is search for your answer based on Mastery Model competencies and sub-competencies. You’ll find the answer they’re looking for in a short video of no more than 15 minutes in length (micro-learning). Information is delivered in multiple, engaging methods, including:

  • whiteboard animations,
  • live interviews (Q and A’s) with executives and leaders in industry,
  • short lectures from industry experts,
  • fun activities, games and flashcards.

Self-Paced Learning

Self-paced learning courses are longer, on average an hour in length each. Users are given access to a wealth of knowledge with which they can create their own schedule and work at their own speed. This method is ideal for exploring a broad topic, or for diving deep into a sub-competency.

Guided learning

Nothing will replace the benefits of face-to-face learning, but eISM’s Guided Learning comes close. It includes an online instructor and peer-learning, ideal for people who want to make contact with the subject-matter experts or who are uncomfortable with learning a completely new concept alone.

The facilitated courses range from three to five weeks in length, running five days per week, in which the learner logs on and completes an activity of approximately 40 minutes each, or participates in a 1-hour weekly webinar (to be viewed live or recorded). The facilitator sends reminders to complete exercises.

Getting started

For more information on eISM, including subscription and pricing, visit the Education Area on ISM’s website. The best way to start is by using ISM’s self-assessment tool, which will rate your skill-set against the Mastery Model sub-competencies and identify gaps in your knowledge.

From there, find the learning approach that best suits you, whether it’s small, focused micro-learning, longer self-guided courses or the facilitated classes. “People are craving content that address specific needs at specific times”, says Peck. “eISM offers our customers that choice”.