Tag Archives: risk mitigation

Taking The Heat Out Of The Resolution Room

If you can’t take the heat get out of the resolution room! Or invite Watson! 

We’ve all been there. Something’s gone terribly wrong with a major customer delivery. Emails are flying around and there are rumours from HQ that “heads are going to roll”.  Everyone concerned has been summoned to “THE meeting” in order to resolve the supply chain issue.

We know what happens next; fists slamming, red faces, an embarrassing lack of data and a lot of verbal ping, pong. Eventually, a resolution is found.

But what happens when Watson is in the resolution room? Could this take the heat out of your supply chain disputes?

 What is a Resolution Room?

A Resolution Room provides the organisation the ability to collaborate quickly to resolve supply disruptions. Users can discuss and resolve issues with other colleagues, business partners, or their suppliers. What distinguishes Resolution Rooms from all other collaboration platforms is Watson.

What does it mean to have Watson in the resolution room?

The big benefit of Watson being in the resolution room is that it recommends experts, provides insight from all data and actionable advice based on learned best practices.  Over time, it leverages Watson’s capability to develop a body of knowledge by learning how issues were best addressed in the past.  This enables greater speed and accuracy in responding to future events.

“Watson provides the opportunity to deliver business value and insights from all of these data insights – structured and unstructured, data from weather patterns, news, D&B and supplier IQ,” explains Joanne Wright, Chief Supply Chain Officer, IBM.

“It does this with speed and accuracy. No more are we saying ‘OK…let’s get the data and meet again tomorrow’ because Watson takes my team’s input and incorporates that into the next iteration as we go.”

Watson In The Resolution Room: A Case Study

IBM Watson is always a room participant, so you can draw on Watson’s expertise using natural language to ask a question, for example: @Watson what is the status of order ABC123?

Imagine the following scenario; A Late Shipment alert in the Ops Center reveals that orders of your most popular drone are in jeopardy because the shortage of the entire supply of a critical part, a lithium battery, has been delayed. You create a Resolution Room to manage the incident collectively.

Watson is in the room.

Whilst your team discusses how best to manage the problem you have the ease of asking Watson questions such as:

  • Which customer has the most sales dollars that will be late?
  • What are the financial impacts of any late orders?
  • Have we experienced this problem before? Who are the experts who have worked on these similar issues in the past?
  • Are there any alternate suppliers for part number 46001?
  • Why is there a shortage of lithium batteries?

Watson can provide answers to questions such as these based on the data available in the data model and in other Resolution Rooms. Learning over time, it becomes smarter and able to provide better insights about your supply chain.

Click here to try a Resolution Room demo. 

Got a big idea you want to push through a big company or simply want to learn more about Watson and the Resolution Room?

Sign up for next week’s procurement webinar, How IBM Built the Cognitive Supply Chain of the Future. hosted by Tania Seary and featuring IBM’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Joanne Wright. 

Procurement Pudding (It’s A Trifle Complicated)

Nothing says Procurement quite like a classic trifle; it’s intricate, it’s complicated, but if you get it right… everyone wants a piece of it!

As the holidays descend upon us, it’s time to start winding down the gears to relax and – inevitably – reflect on the year that was!

Time with family and friends for me is synonymous with food! Because I almost always spend this time of year in the southern hemisphere, it’s a summer menu. It’s more about prawns and pavlova than pork and pancetta (although the latter does make it onto table anyway!) But, of course, that other p … the “p” we all love – procurement – is never far from mind and always on the menu for discussion!

During the year I have been fortunate to speak to procurement and supply chain audiences around the world about the trends we are seeing on Procurious and the impending impact of Industry 4.0 on our profession. In order to provide a framework for thinking through all the challenges and opportunities, I have been sharing a rather quirky analogy by comparing the well-loved English pudding – the trifle – to procurement and supply chain today. Putting up a giant image of a pudding on the big screen at a conference is also a great way to get your audience’s attention!

For the uninitiated, constructing an English trifle involves carefully layering sponge, jelly, custard, fruit, cream, and often garnishing with a heavy sprinkling of nuts.

Yet each layer remains distinct, and that’s how I think of procurement today – a series of self-supporting layers that feed into and out of each other. To manage our roles, we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses or the “setting points”, of those layers if we’re to stay ahead.

Let’s think through some of those layers.

Navigating the Nuts

Let’s start with the top layer of nuts. A generous sprinkling of the unexpected! This is how I think about the Black Swan events that seem to occur with alarming regularity these days. We need to be thinking about these unthinkables – hurricanes like Harvey that de-commission whole cities, man-made catastrophes like the Tianjin port disaster, not to mention recent terrorist attacks. If we can’t predict them, we can at least prepare for the unexpected, take pre-emptive action against disasters that could destroy our supply chains and analyse areas of high-risk.

Geopolitical jelly

Brexit is just one example of how our supply chain forward planning can become somewhat suspended by macroeconomic and geopolitical changes. In Europe, the UK’s decision to activate Brexit is having clear ramifications including a rise in nationalism that’s reflected across Europe. Currency fluctuation and workforce migration also impact procurement and supply chain. The costs to import goods within supply chains will increase; there could be a loss in freedom of movement both in goods and services for UK and EU businesses, and procurement talent could also be considerably affected if the talent pool is reduced.

The Fruits of Progress

We all have front row seats at the parade of new and exciting technologies that are driving the 4th industrial revolution. The rise of the Internet of Things, robotics, blockchain and artificial intelligence will create what we are calling Procurement 4.0.

Cognitive procurement & supply chains are the most exciting developments to happen during my 20-year career. These innovations will enthuse a whole new generation of procurement professionals to join our ranks, but we need to be flexible, agile and able to foster a culture of continuous invention to stay on the leading edge and avoid extinction.

The Foundation Layer

Finally there’s the layer in which we hold the power: Procurement.

Procurement is the sponge at the bottom of the trifle. No matter how many unstable layers of fruit and jelly and custard are piled on top of us, we remain intact. We successfully juggle with the events and changes over which our stakeholders and suppliers have only limited control.

Fortunately, social media helps. I don’t know about you, but when my phone is pinging through the night with texts and emails from the other side of the globe, I’m often tempted to turn it off. But I don’t, because for all the downsides of being constantly online, the benefits of being connected are immense.

Three out of four of our respondents to our Gen Next Survey believed that being well-connected online actually improved on-the-job performance. By using resources like Procurious, not only can we maintain the layers of our trifle by staying aware of these constant changes, but we can also gain access to an enormous diversity of ideas and enthuse the next generation of procurement talent.

The Cream of Procurement Talent

To meet the challenge posed by the top layers of the trifle – unthinkable events, geopolitical earthquakes and disruptive technology – attracting the best and brightest to the profession is vital to our success.

To do that, we need to think hard about how we are bringing on Generation Next, and giving them every opportunity so their impact is not just local, but global.

While we’re talking about talent, here’s another “unthinkable” to ponder – our Gen Next survey also discovered that over 70% of our 500+ survey takers intend to leave their organisation within the next five years. How can we respond to this? The worst thing to do is to keep up the pretense that every member of your team will be sitting at the same desk in ten years’ time. Instead, it’s time to throw away the retention plan and accept the reality that today’s workforce is increasingly mobile.

But this doesn’t mean giving up on developing your team. If you’re known as a supportive manager who gives others the opportunity to go on to a stellar career, you’ll become a talent magnet in the profession. Just image the level of superstar talent that you’ll attract if you develop a reputation as someone who produces future CPOs!

Cutting Through The Complexity

Change management is such an integral part of every senior procurement professionals’ role, and often involves driving change within your organisation and amongst suppliers on a global scale.

The good news is that we’re exactly the right people for the job. Procurement’s position as the conduit of supplier intelligence, our ever-growing level of influence in our organisations, and our keenly-honed negotiation and communication skills make us natural change-management gurus.

Remember that trifle?

The challenge for today’s procurement leaders to deftly cut through all those quivering layers of economic, social, political and technological complexity to serve up a slice of procurement solutions in such a way that your audience will devour your change agenda with gusto! 

Bon Appétit!

International Supply Chain Risks: How U.S. Sanctions Can Kill Your Deal

U.S. sanctions are being applied more vigorously than ever to perceived foreign foes.  What risks do these sanctions pose to our supply chains and  what Mitigation Strategies Can be Used?

The United States (U.S.) had $2.21 trillion Dollars in exports in 2016 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce (D.O.C)i, and an estimated 10.7 million U.S. jobs supported by exports ii. Yet U.S. unilateral sanctions are being applied more vigorously than ever to perceived foreign foes, negatively affecting trade balances.

One of the most important and sensitive supply chain risks for private and public organisations is how to manage U.S. unilateral sanctions. The U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is responsible for administering U.S. sanctions. OFAC also distinguishes between primary and secondary sanctions, with the former prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging with sanctioned entities, and the latter targeting non-U.S. persons, outside U.S. jurisdiction, engaged in activities with the sanctioned entity either directly or in an ancillary fashion. Potentially affected businesses and individuals, therefore, must regularly consult the Department of Treasury’s online resources, or engage lawyers with OFAC compliance experience, to ensure they are not exposing themselves to significant penalties (or jail time) from U.S. authorities. For international or multi-lateral organisations, unilateral sanctions risks are particularly tricky because both the U.S. and the sanctioned country, or countries, may be among their members. This article will focus on U.S. unilateral sanctions risks affecting International Organisation deals.

Why Is This A Problem?

Nearly all international organisations have clauses prohibiting contracts, transfers of goods, or even technical cooperation engagements with vendors or countries subject to sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. However, these organisations are not required by international law to adhere to unilateral sanctions of any one member country against another, due to the privileges and immunities conveyed upon them by international conventions.iii In theory this means that if the U.S. imposes sanctions on Iran for example (both member countries of the U.N. since 1945), but the United Nations itself does not impose sanctions on Iran, then U.N. agencies and similarly, non-U.N. multi-lateral organisations, could continue doing business with Iran and not have to abide by the U.S.’s unilateral action. In practice however, multi-lateral agencies may find it difficult to ignore the U.S.’s persuasive sanctions arguments, despite the detriment unilateral sanctions may cause another member. Why? The United States is a major actor on the world stage, and it has considerable influence. It can wield its tremendous political and economic clout as a powerful member of nearly every international organisation in the world, to ensure its objectives are met, and that any transgressions by suppliers or international agencies, are swiftly discouraged.

What Are The Supply Chain Risks?

Supply interruption – U.S. unilateral sanctions can be applied overnight because the surprise element is very powerful in coercing the sanctioned party to comply with U.S. demands iv. Because sanctions may be implemented quickly and unexpectedly, their enactment can trigger immediate supply interruption of goods and services. All members of the supply chain can become subject to rigorous product or service inquiry to determine continued eligibility, and re-negotiation of terms is a real possibility. Suppliers may find themselves scrambling to ensure their contract doesn’t involve activities or persons that expose them to secondary sanctions.

Payment restrictions – Cash flow can also become a problem, especially if suppliers negotiate special payment terms in certain currencies. If an international agency engages a supplier to provide goods or services, and that supplier is somehow involved with a sanctioned entity, directly or indirectly, payments or advance cash transfers may get tied up by banks who suspect the transfer may reach an entity subject to U.S. unilateral sanctions. This can lead suppliers to struggle to meet contract targets or cease delivery altogether. It can also make repatriation of payments back to a payer more difficult.

Reputational Impact – Although the U.N., other multi-laterals, and their staff enjoy immunity from legal processv, suppliers do not enjoy the same protections. Sanctions can bring additional costs they hadn’t expected and they may attempt to secure compensation when things go awry. Even when the relevant law and jurisdiction for disputes is determined by the international agency, suppliers may still aggressively pursue disputes and the reputational risk for the agency if it does not comply or compensate for a presumed breach, is high. Diplomatic and political resources often prevail in settling such disputes away from the prying eyes of the press and public, however, coming to a satisfactory resolution involves time, money, and uncertainty.

What Mitigation Strategies Can be Used?

The answer is…. “It depends.” First, it’s important to understand that navigating unilateral sanctions can be a political minefield for an international organisation! Unlike private entities, there is no clear system in place to manage unilateral foreign policy objectives of one sovereign member state against another. Second, although international agencies monitor political developments of member countries, and no doubt try to avoid dealings that would disturb the delicate balance within these structures, it is not within their purview to implement unilateral sanctions against a member, unless there is consensus among all members to do so. Third, supply chain risks are inherently unpredictable. Supplier audits and screenings only show a snapshot of current relationships, not entanglements with sub-contractors or third party beneficiaries. Although parties can attempt strong due diligence and even stronger government compliance, knowing the rules to follow when caught in the web of unilateral sanctions actions is challenging.

To read the full article by Magda Theodate, please click here. 

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i U.S. International Trade Administration, Department of Commerce 2016 Exports Fact Sheet, https://ibc- static.broad.msu.edu/sites/DEC/images/resources/1159b5b1-8a59-47a1-b988-4bb1836c9904us-exports- factsheet.pdf

ii U.S. Office of Trade and Economic Analysis, Department of Commerce Jobs Supported by Exports 2016 https://www.trade.gov/mas/ian/build/groups/public/@tg_ian/documents/webcontent/tg_ian_005543.pdf

iii Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (the “Convention”), adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations February 13, 1946, and which set out specific privileges and immunities for the UN and its staff subject to waiver only by the Secretary General in certain situations.

iv U.S. implemented changes to Cuba sanctions rules announced officially November 8, 2017 and taking effect on November 9, 2017, see U.S. Treasury Press Release https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press- releases/Pages/sm0209.aspx

v See Supra note 3

Debt as a Source of Risk in the Supply Chain

What debt conditions, putting pressure on our global economy , should procurement pros make themselves familiar with? And how can we mitigate supplier risk? 

This blog was written by William B. Danner

Two leading authorities on corporate financial health, Dr. Edward Altman, Professor of Finance, Emeritus, at New York University’s Stern School of Business and creator of the Altman Score, and CreditRiskMonitor Founder and CEO Jerry Flum, recently presented a webinar to hundreds of supply chain and credit professionals about today’s mammoth corporate debt problem.

As the primary point of contact between their company and suppliers – not to mention a first line of defense against third party risk – procurement and supply chain professionals should be concerned with the degree to which public companies are leveraged today.

Dr. Altman and Jerry Flum identified three unprecedented debt-related conditions, putting pressure on the global economy today that procurement should be aware of from a risk mitigation perspective:

1. Compare debt to GDP

One of the best ways to put debt levels into perspective is to compare debt to GDP. In the U.S., total debt is currently at a historically huge 3.5 times GDP. Of this total, corporate debt is large and growing. Overall debt levels are so large we must be concerned about the investors who own this debt, not just the borrowers. A 10% decline in value would destroy wealth equivalent to 35% of GDP, with a major effect on spending. Junk debt (high-yield bonds and leveraged loans) has soared to $2.5 – 3.0 trillion world-wide.

2. Benign credit cycle

Now in the 8th year of what is usually a 4-7 “benign credit cycle”, many executive teams have let their guard down, forgetting the lessons of the past. As Dr. Altman explained in the webinar, a ‘benign credit cycle’ has four characteristics:

  • Low default rates
  • High recovery rates when bonds default
  • Low interest rates, yields, and spreads
  • High liquidity

In other words, credit is cheap and easily available to publicly traded companies, which leads many companies to take on more debt. A great deal of debt has been issued to pay dividends and buy back stock, making corporations riskier.

3. Corporate valuations

Corporate valuations are inflated, with market values far higher than historical norms. Private equity firms are paying as much as 10 to 11 times cash flow for acquisitions. High stock prices make corporations less risky, but stock prices can fall.

Whether companies give in to the mania or make a disciplined choice to break free from the pack, procurement and supply chain professionals can take action to mitigate supplier risk and prepare their companies to handle the downturn when the next recession inevitably comes.

Suggested Steps for Supply Chain Professionals to Mitigate Supplier Risk :

1. Build in a monitoring process

Don’t stop with an initial vendor screening. Companies’ financial health can change and even a periodic review simply isn’t good enough. Avoid surprises and react quickly to change.

2. Get to know the vendors you do business with well

Ask questions such as:

  • “Who is the corporation we are paying? Is it under a different name?”
  • “Are they actually manufacturing the product or is someone else?”
  • “Where are their operations?”

Be cautious, especially if you are not getting clear answers.

3. Don’t over-do it

Not all your vendors will present a problem if they enter financial risk. Ask yourself:

  • “Is the commodity/product easy to replace? Is this a one-time contract?”
  • “Or, could this vendor create a major issue with our ability to ship on time, the quality of our product, or with our customer satisfaction?”

Only if you find that it’s a “yes” to the second question do you need extensive review.

4. Incorporate financial analysis in your key vendor review process

Be sure to include multiple periods of financial statements in your review to see trends. If you are finding it difficult to get financial information, be wary. 

5. Compare your vendors with the financial condition of their peers

You may find more secure sources of supply.

6. When appropriate, take a hard look at the financial stability of your vendor’s suppliers

They are part of your supply chain and could be a significant exposure.

7. Have an open and honest communications process

You’ll want to explore with your vendor the performance factors that directly impact you such as shipping reliability, product quality, etc. but also financial stability. Knowledge is power and knowing all the facts gives you the time to identify and prepare alternative source(s) of supply.

8. Look at more radical options if a vendor looks too weak

  • Make vs. buy decision
  • Engineer a stronger vendor into the supply chain
  • Buy the troubled vendor, or
  • Help arrange for a preferred vendor to purchase the troubled vendor.

The fact of the matter is that today’s debt situation is historically unprecedented. We can’t be certain of the timing of a change in the financial markets, or what will serve as the trigger, but a shift is coming – so now is the time to prepare and put your processes and procedures in place.

The full webinar can be viewed here.


William B. Danner has been president of CreditRiskMonitor since May 2007. Bill has more than 35 years of financial and information services experience. 

Prior to CreditRiskMonitor he worked in brand strategy and business development consulting for financial services clients at his own firm, Danner Marketing. Previously he was at Citigate Albert Frank, a marketing communications company in New York City, where he worked on a variety of leading financial services accounts including Reuters Instinet and the CFA Institute. From 1997 to 2001, Bill was Vice President of Market Development at MetLife’s employee-benefits business. Before joining MetLife, he was at Dun & Bradstreet, most recently as VP Strategic Planning. He spent the first decade of his career at GE Information Services and GE Capital.

Bill earned a BA in economics from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Automation: Who Says You Can’t Manage What You Can’t See?

If your business is engaged in international commerce, you’re probably struggling to toe the line with supplier risk management. Automation, alerts, and third-party data are your best defense.

Managing supply chain risk is no walk in the park. Exogenous events like the recent terrorist attacks in Barcelona have drawn attention to the EU’s rules to combat terrorism financing through stricter anti-money laundering (AML) regulations. These rules impact many companies that are increasingly added to the law’s scope: possibly yours.

Meanwhile, modern slavery violations can surprise even the most astute contract or supply chain managers who may have unknowingly relied on invalid or falsified information. In the U.K., The Modern Slavery Act 2015 includes a Transparency in Supply Chains clause, which requires companies operating in the U.K. to address modern slavery in their supply chains. If you’re at a big company, you’re probably on the hook to comply.

Once you add in the more common types of risk, such as the financial or credit health of your suppliers, changing markets, and natural disasters, the sense of how challenging it is to manage them all—in the age of digital disruption with fast-paced change and volatility—can quickly become overwhelming.

Fortunately, there is technology and automation to help you maintain control, gain visibility into your supply chain, and mitigate much of these risks. The right technology can help you proactively steer your organization clear of minefields that can damage everything from reputation to sales. And it’s only getting better.

 Start with real-time monitoring and alerts

The first step is to identify the most likely disruptions to the supply chain, like a natural disaster or a work stoppage at a supplier’s supplier. One way to deal with this type of risk is with real-time monitoring. Real-time monitoring of your suppliers means that you can receive an alert whenever there is a potential for disruption. Such alerts can help you find an alternative source of supply, maintain production, and avoid missed deliveries or even a plant shutdown.

Real-time alerts should be an extension of an overall solution consisting of a platform and business network. This is the ideal foundation to set up, monitor, and manage a portfolio of suppliers to ensure that all essential documentation about labor practices, certifications, certificates of insurance, and so on, is in place before you start doing business.

Integrate third-party data sources

Documentation and data about your suppliers can come from many sources, not just what you gather during an onboarding, contracting, or surveying exercise. There are plenty of third-party sources that have standalone solutions and open APIs or integrations into supplier management platforms that let you address various dimensions of supplier risk and to set up corresponding alerts.

If your company is engaged in trade and has a 10,000-euro or more money transfer in any way, it will need to comply with the EU 4th AML Directive. In addition to digitally onboarding your supplier base, you may want to automate KYC / KYB (know-your-customer, /-business), AML (anti-money-laundering), and EDD (enhanced due diligence) requirements. These steps will help you comply with the directive

One provider that is using cutting edge technology like distributed ledgers is Austria-based Kompany. Their counterparty verification data allows users to streamline the supplier verification process at the point of onboarding (and continually) with up-to-the-minute alerts on any material changes to supplier vitals. Their information comes directly from the commercial registers. Kompany even includes PEP (politically exposed person) screening and sanction lists.

Who says you can’t manage what you can’t see?

Other popular sources of company and industry data include Moody’s (credit ratings), EcoVadis (sustainability scorecards and ratings), riskmethods (transparency into risk exposures in 1-n tier supply chains), and Made in a Free World (visibility into modern slavery), to name a few. These data sources can help you continuously monitor for risks and evaluate your risk portfolio during the sourcing process.

Through technology and regulatory technology systems like those described above, you can design an automated, customized, and intelligent risk management strategy. In turn, this can boost trust between you and your suppliers and you can plan more confidently in an environment full of uncertainty.

How To Survive a Social Media Storm

Media personality, author and columnist Bernard Salt weathered a social media storm last year after his provocative article about the spending habits of millennials went viral. Today, he shares his top tips for businesses under attack on social media.

Six months ago, Bernard Salt wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about what he called the “evils of hipster cafes”. The article lightheartedly poked fun at hipsters’ apparent preference for low chairs, hard-to-read fonts on menus and thumping music. But it was this paragraph that ignited a storm:

I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle-aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn’t they be economising by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.

What followed was nothing less than a nation-wide reaction. Inter-generational battle-lines were drawn between the over and under-40s, a flurry of rebuttal articles were published in competing newspapers, and the issue of housing affordability – a major problem in Australia’s capital cities – was thrust firmly into the spotlight.

“The smashed avocado article was written to highlight the division in cultures”, says Salt. “And certainly, it did that. Everyone over the age of 50 thought it was terrific, and everyone under the age of 40 thought it was terrible. It exposed divisions, and prompted a discussion that will hopefully lead to a better solution.”

But it was online that the brunt of the storm took place, with critics and trolls lining up to attack Salt in 140 characters or less. Having experienced it first-hand, Salt now has some advice for other individuals – and businesses – who find themselves getting smashed on social media.

Hold fast, don’t panic, and wait one week

“It’s all about getting through the first week”, Salt says. When something happens – whether through misadventure or entirely by accident – and there’s a reaction on social media, my advice to businesses is to hold fast, don’t panic, and wait.”

Salt has broken down the lifecycle of a social media storm:

Day 1: The first day will be quite impactful, as the issue – whatever it may be – begins to trend on social media. This is when the storm front is approaching.

Days 2 to 4: The worst part of the storm. “From days 2 to 4, people will come out of the woodwork to throw petrol on the fire. The trolls, the haters, and any enemies you may have will jump at the chance to further their own interests at your expense. Hold fast! The thing to remember is that this is NOT the mainstream community – these are fanatics and social media warriors. Don’t mistake their opinions for the common sense of the majority.”

Days 5 to 7: At this stage, the main storm will have passed, and more reasoned voices begin to come to the fore. People who are more qualified to comment on the issue don’t put their hands up to contribute to the debate immediately – they generally wait, and take some time to produce a well thought-out response, either in support or otherwise.

Six months later, Salt’s smashed avocado article has been warmly embraced and is frequently referred to in discussions around housing affordability. It may have even influenced federal policy. The article has also, undeniably, helped Salt’s own career and propelled him into the role of one of Australia’s leading social commentators.

Consider starting your own storm in procurement

What can CPOs learn from Salt’s experience?

The lack of attention paid to procurement and supply management across many organisations is an ongoing frustration, illustrated every time we have to explain to people what procurement actually does. There are some lessons to be drawn, therefore, from Salt’s very successful method of grabbing attention and getting noticed.

A savvy CPO could consider putting out a deliberately provocative statement within the business that will force their colleagues to pay attention, kick-start the conversation about a particular issue, and put procurement onto peoples’ radar.

If there’s an issue that’s troubling procurement but isn’t a priority in the wider business, Salt’s advice is to “expose it, and bring it onto the agenda”.

Bernard Salt will deliver a keynote speech at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

How To Play The Hand You’re Dealt In The Age Of Uncertainty

Poker: It’s a game filled with excitement and risk. But just how far does it correlate with the uncertainty of our everyday lives?

Last month, Procurious attended eWorld Procurement and Supply where we were  lucky enough to experience a thought provoking talk from Caspar Berry on risk-taking and decision-making in the age of uncertainty.

Whatever our political leanings, we can all agree that unpredictable occurrences are happening everywhere in today’s world.  2016 saw Brexit and the election of president Trump; two events many  had thought impossible. There’s the refugee crisis in the Middle East, the continued prevalence of ISIS and upcoming elections in France and Germany; the results of which could determine the future of the EU.

Caspar Berry, professional poker player and poker advisor on Casino Royale, knows exactly what it means to take risks and admits that it can be dangerous, scary or disruptive. But, we need  risk, whether it’s in our personal or professional lives.

Have you ever considered what it is that makes sport so compelling? We’re gripped by the uncertainty. We have no idea what’s going to happen or who’s going to score and that adds a level of excitement and interest. But of course in professional sport, as is the case with poker, we’re not the ones who have to take the leap. We can leave all of that reckless risk-taking to the professionals… or can we?

Everyday Risk

Caspar pointed out that the average person would love to believe their everyday life has a level of  risk-free stability and  consistency. Whilst we might marvel at the bravery of prevalent risk takers in the casino or on the sports pitch, we’d much prefer to avoid a life of uncertainty.

In actual fact, there a number of parallels to  draw between poker and real life. The future is far more uncertain than we would choose to acknowledge.

In poker, the cards are randomly shuffled making it utterly impossible to predict what’s coming.  Our everyday lives are much the same. We can’t be sure when something will change the course of the future, whether it be a large scale political event, an encounter with a new person or a medical diagnosis.

The Butterfly Affect

The phenomenon whereby a minute localised change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Originating from the notion in chaos theory that a butterfly fluttering in Rio de Janeiro could change the weather in Chicago.

Every single moment of every single day people are doing things somewhere in the world which could change your life.  If any one of your ancestors hadn’t been around, you wouldn’t be either.  If one tiny interaction hadn’t happened hundreds of years ago, history  might look very different indeed. These examples are just two of the billions of butterflies that are interacting with each-other; impacting events across the globe.

When so much is out of our control, it’s natural that we would try to limit uncertainty. We set laws and implement criminal justice systems so we have a vague knowledge of how people are going to behave. We buy branded clothing and eat in chain restaurants because it’s reassuring to know exactly what we’re going to get for our money. We’ll happily pay a premium for these things because it lowers the associated risks.

When we come across people or institutions that seem to know what’s going on, whether it’s a religious group, a futurist or a bank, we want to believe them. And so we do.

Philip Tetlock and The Good Judgment Project

Philip Tetlock, Canadian-American political science writer, began an extensive 20-year study in 1984 on future judgements.

He questioned 284 world experts on their future predictions and requested that each prediction be awarded a likelihood of occurrence. The study is widely considered one of the most robust in the history of social sciences with approximately 2800 answers obtained. And what did those answers show?

As Caspar put it, you  would have gotten the exact same results by asking an eight-year-old to randomly throw darts at predictions. In fact, the strongest correlation in the survey results was between successful predictions and the confidence of the person predicting, but a negative correlation!

Why  were the least confident participants correct? As Caspar explained, these are the people who are both humble and intelligent enough to embrace the concept of uncertainty.

How to manage risk and face uncertainty head on

In our organisations we know, for the most part, that taking risks won’t result in someone getting hurt. But it could mean something going very wrong for the business. So, how do you know when its worth taking a risk and how can we become more confident to do so?

  1. Be competent at assessing risk

We’ll never be able to predict exactly what’s coming our way. But  we can get better at deciding when to take a chance. In business, evaluate what the chance of success is, what’s the return on a gamble. If you’re faced with a 25 per cent chance of success and an amazing ROI, it’s worth taking that risk. Sometimes it will pay off.

2. Immunise yourself to loss

When it comes to risk-taking you will fail and you will lose out, perhaps more often that not. Caspar cited Abraham Lincoln as an icon who endured multiple short term failures, moments of rejection and losses. But he went on to great success.  We can all do better at immunising ourselves to loss,  let downs and failure.

3. Embrace risk taking

Casper asserted that if someone is cocky at poker, they’re possibly a bit insane. It takes a level of caution and the acceptance that there is always risk involved. But risky people have something to teach us, we can learn from them and embrace the uncertainty ahead.

Supply Chain Risk Management: Not a Procurement Priority

This article was first published on My Purchasing Center.

Procurement teams struggle with supply chain risk management. They are aware of  the consequences of not managing it, but often they don’t have the resources to focus on it as much as they’d like. Even when they do, managing supplier risk poses a challenge: Most often the best metric of procurement performance at risk is when nothing happens.

A new report, Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Supply Risk in Uncertain Times, by A.T. Kearney and Rapid Ratings International, describes the current state of procurement involvement in supply chain risk management activities, potential risks that could affect the supply chain, and ways procurement can begin to better manage risk.

Report co-authors Carrie Ericson, Vice President at A.T. Kearney Procurement and Analytic Solutions, and Rose Kelly-Falls, Senior Vice President at Rapid Ratings, did a presentation on the study for procurement and supply managers at ISM2016 held recently in Indianapolis.

Describing the report in an interview with My Purchasing Center, Ericson says she and Kelly-Falls started with the hypothesis that there’s risk along the supply chain that procurement teams simply aren’t managing. “They’re taking a kick-the-can approach,” she says. Asked if managing supply chain risk is procurement’s responsibility, Ericson responded:

“Procurement plays a big role in terms of vetting and onboarding suppliers before they even enter the supply chain,” she says. “Then, typically it’s procurement’s responsibility to put in supplier performance management programs to monitor and track behavior of suppliers throughout the course of the relationship or contract.”

The Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Risk in Uncertain Times report, referring to the A.T. Kearney Assessment of Excellence in Procurement, states that companies are not effectively managing supply risk and that their risk management approaches are ad hoc at best. What’s more, just 40% of companies report having key performance indicators (KPI) or metrics for supply continuity and supply chain risk mitigation.

Most cite lack of bandwidth and budget as the biggest roadblocks.

Overlooking risk management—or, rather, getting by with that “kick-the-can” approach—leaves procurement teams especially vulnerable in today’s tenuous geopolitical and economic environment, according to the report.

The report also cites A.T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council (GBPC)  study, Divergence, Disruption, and Innovation: Global Trends 2015–2025, which analyzes trends shaping the world today and in the decade ahead. It identifies macro trends that play a role in the current and future operating environment for businesses and global supply chains. Among the trends procurement teams are advised to watch are: geopolitical realignment, continued global violent extremism and accelerating global climate change.

Understanding these trends and how they could affect the supply chain is the first step in anticipating and planning for the future,” reads Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Risk in Uncertain Times.

Supplier Risk: A Closer Look 

The report also demonstrates how procurement teams can use the Rapid Ratings proprietary FHR® (Financial Health Rating) to analyze the health of public and private companies globally, with comparison across industries and regions. 

According to Kelly-Falls at Rapid Ratings, this is the first time such a study shows how combining macro trends analysis with a micro bottom-up company and industry analysis provides procurement teams with relevant industry insights to make informed risk management decisions.

Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Risk in Uncertain Times shows the financial health of U.S. public firms peaked three years after the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008, with an average FHR of 61.0 in 2011. Since then, they have declined to an average of 59.2 in 2015, a drop of 3%.

The peak for non-U.S. public firms (61.9), on the other hand, came in 2008 as the global financial crisis was beginning, while the low point was 58.4 in 2009 and again in 2015, a decrease of 5.7%.

While a two- or three-point change might not seem like much, it represents a very significant change based on the algorithm used to determine FHRs, the report states.

Over the same period, the financial health of non-U.S. private firms peaked in 2010 at 63.6 and deteriorated by 6.8% through 2015. U.S. private firms exhibited a decidedly different pattern of behavior. Their rating peaked in 2014 after achieving a 9.6% improvement from 2008 to 2014 and demonstrates a resilience quite unlike the other three groups. U.S. private firms declined slightly in 2015 to 64.2 but still led the others by a wide margin, indicating U.S. private firms have had an edge in terms of minimizing sourcing risk since 2012.

The report also drills down into the health of individual supply markets (by industry). For example, it shows that deteriorating financial health is evident in non U.S. firms in the aerospace and defense industry and in U.S. firms in the chemicals and computer technologies and services industries.

What is Procurement to Do?

A.T. Kearney finds that 90% of procurement teams expect they will have more responsibility for managing risk in the next two years—and they see a growing need to implement a risk management strategy within the next three years. As a result, they are starting to invest in risk management practices that link procurement, category and supplier management strategies.

Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Risk in Uncertain Times looks at research on developing supply risk management strategies at the category or supplier level and risk and supply base segmentation.

The report finds there are multiple points in the sourcing life cycle where procurement can use risk mitigation strategies—especially in the early phases. This is when supply or category managers conduct the most comprehensive analysis, evaluating alternative suppliers and supply scenarios.

“At no other time does a procurement team spend so many resources on developing suppliers than when it selects, negotiates with and screens potential new partners,” Ericson tells My Purchasing Center.

After that, the report states that procurement’s most important tool for identifying and mitigating ongoing risk is access to robust, relevant and current data.

Kelly-Falls adds that, “procurement teams should not be shy about starting to engage suppliers they’ve been doing business with for years in risk management. It’s going to have to happen. It’s inevitable procurement will need a monitoring system for the supplier. Maybe not every supplier, but we can’t let incumbents know they’re okay.”

As for tier-two and three suppliers, she says, “We know as we get deeper in the supplier chain, it’s possible to lose touch with some of the smaller suppliers. So, it’s a matter of having good practices and making sure to cascade them to tier-one suppliers then hopefully they will take them and cascade them down to their supply base.”

Management of a Global Supply Chain in Emerging Markets

Managing a global supply chain is complex, and fraught with risk. So what tactics can you use to minimise this risk?

Global Supply Chain

This article was written by Rob Barnes, Founder at PrimeRevenue.

In many ways, sourcing goods and services internationally is easier than ever, with the internet making it possible to research, source and communicate with global suppliers from the comfort of your desk.

But in reality it isn’t always that simple. Setting up and managing an global supply chain is a complex, and often risky, business. Without careful planning, local expertise and meticulous management, there’s a lot that can go wrong.

Not only are you dealing with numerous rules, regulations, taxes and constantly fluctuating currencies – all of which have the potential to significantly impact your bottom line. You also have cultural and language differences to contend with, which, in the world of business, can be daunting and confusing to say the least.

On the other hand, getting it right can give you a huge competitive advantage, with cost savings and higher quality or unusual products just a couple of the potential benefits.

So how can you make sure your global supply chain works effectively, while minimising the risks to your business? Here’s a few pointers:

Strategic Planning  

Planning and management of a global supply chain affects the whole organisation, not just certain departments. That means ownership must come from the top, and involve all areas of the business, from procurement and finance, operations and logistics, to sales and marketing.

Don’t allow teams and decisions to become siloed. Make sure there is transparency across the business. Otherwise you’ll be missing important pieces of the puzzle, and find that your supply chain isn’t delivering the value you need, either for the customer or the bottom line.

Local Expertise

Knowledge of the local market is crucial to ensure you understand what to look for in a supplier and how to handle local business practices, from taxes and duties, to employment law and health and safety regulations.

If you don’t have this local expertise internally, consider hiring somebody who does. Or look to bring on a consultant who can guide you through what, and who, you need to know.

Prioritise Relationships  

The foundation of a successful supply chain is building strong relationships with as many elements of the chain as possible. While the internet can help you at the research stage, it’s crucial to visit suppliers regularly, to make those personal connections, scope out their operations in person, and discuss ways of maximising efficiency and collaboration.

In many countries, personal relationships and networks are even more important than in the UK, so it’s in your interest to prioritise this valuable bonding time.

Sales Forecasting

Forecasting is crucial when sourcing products globally, to avoid ending up with too much or too little inventory to deliver on what you need.

This is partly due to timing – your goods are going to take longer to arrive from far flung locations – but there is also a cost element, with taxes and duties to pay every time you move your goods.

Accurate forecasting means that you’ll be transporting the right quantity to arrive at the right time, to deliver on projected demand. You’ll also avoid wasting money on warehouse space by over-ordering.

Technology

Technology is your friend when managing a global supply chain, helping you to streamline processes and minimise unnecessary administration.

Look for a supply chain management solution that works across the different markets you’re operating in, so you don’t need to work with numerous systems.

You can also streamline your invoicing and payment terms using a supply chain finance platform, avoiding the need to negotiate these on a case by case basis, and improving consistency and transparency across suppliers.

Performance Tracking

Just one disruptive link in the chain can impact your whole operations. Make sure you implement a system to measure the success and efficiency of each supplier regularly – delivery times or product quality for example.

By doing this, you can spot any warning signs early on and be ready to replace an underperforming supplier if necessary.

Have a Plan B

Even with top notch processes, you can never be sure what’s going to happen, so have back-up suppliers ready to go in case of any unexpected disasters. This will keep your supply chain running smoothly and avoid lots of unhappy customers.

Focus on Long-Term Sustainability

To minimise risk in the chain, look for ways that you can support your suppliers both financially and logistically. Make sure your lines of communication are always open, so any potential issues can be aired quickly and easily.

You can also help your partners manage their cash flow through supply chain finance, allowing them to choose to be paid more promptly if and when they need. This is particularly useful for suppliers in emerging markets.

This reduces the need for them to take out expensive bank funding or overdraft extensions, minimising costs and risk in the long-term.

Supply Chain Finance from PrimeRevenue and AIG caters to thousands of mid-market, non-investment grade companies, by providing financing, with the credit risk insured by AIG’s market-leading trade credit insurance. It enables suppliers to take early payment less a small discount, while enabling buyers to standardise and potentially lengthen their payment terms.