Tag Archives: skills

10 Critical Skills Your Procurement Team Needs Right Now

And how to get them in less than ½ an hour, with a $0 training budget

As procurement leaders or influencers, we all know that upskilling is critical to our success and that of our team. And with the skills required to succeed in procurement rapidly shifting from a technical focus to more soft skills, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by what’s required and how to achieve it. Common concerns we all experience are: 

Where do I even start with training? 

Who will pay for it? 

Can I (or my team) afford the time away from our day jobs right now – or ever? 

One of the world’s most celebrated thought leaders on human performance, Sir Clive Woodward, believes he has the answer to all of these questions – and it isn’t as complex as it seems. Sir Clive, who shot to fame after coaching England’s rugby team to their infamous victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup, believes that when it comes to training, we get it all wrong. Instead of focusing on a few areas intensely, he says, and diverting all of our resources to them, we should instead focus on doing many things, 1% better. For example, instead of putting your team through a technical training course that might take months to complete, you could focus on a number of short, soft-skill focused sessions that will lift your team’s capability in a number of areas in a short amount of time. 

But what might this look like? We surveyed a number of influential procurement leaders and managers, and gave them an interesting challenge: How would you upskill your team in half an hour or less, with a $0 training budget? 

Here’s the skills they told us were most critical – and more importantly, how they’d rise to Sir Clive’s challenge and do multiple things that 1% better. 

1. Customer focus skills

The problem

In days gone by, procurement was seen as an internally-focused, cost-saving function only. Not only were customers not our focus, but in many ways, we sometimes felt we worked against them; with the finance team putting relentless pressure on us to slash costs, regardless of the impact on our end customer. Now? This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Yet still, given that the focus on cost and risk is ever-prevalent, it can still be hard to step outside of our own perspective and put ourselves in others’ shoes, says Keith Bird, former CPO and General Manager – Commercial of Queensland Rail and Managing Director of The Faculty, a procurement management consultancy. 

‘A customer focus is critical,’ says Keith, ‘Because in procurement, a customer focus equates to increased value delivered.’ 

The quick upskill solution 

But how do you get your team to see that? One great way is to do an empathy mapping exercise, where you map your customer’s experience with your service, and try to understand their pain points (and what you can do about them). 

There’s tonnes of empathy mapping exercises available on the internet that can be completed within half an hour or less. Here’s one from Atlassian you can try right away.

2. Category management skills 

The problem 

Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty and lifelong procurement specialist, acknowledges that category management remains a critical skill within the procurement profession. And, according to Keith, it certainly is one that requires honing: 

‘We all know there’s a lot of work that goes into managing any given category. From industry reviews to spend analysis, it can be a time-consuming – yet critical – exercise.’ 

The quick upskill solution 

Yet when it comes to upskilling, says Keith, the secret may not be what you think. Instead of focusing on developing the skill of category management itself, some quick wins can be gained from how category management is discussed with anyone outside of the procurement team: 

‘Many procurement professionals that I’ve seen feel the need to extensively detail their category management activities to their stakeholders. This is not only not necessary, but stakeholders find it confusing – it isn’t what they want.’ 

According to Keith, one of the best skills that can be gained from a category management perspective is how it’s presented to stakeholders: 

‘When you’re speaking with stakeholders, you need to talk their language, which, usually, is in commercial outcomes. How is your category management going to deliver them the outcomes they need?’ 

‘Discussing your activities, or rather, not discussing your activities and talking in outcomes can be a monumental win from a category management perspective.’ 

3. Problem solving skills 

The problem 

Problem solving skills are an attribute often left off job descriptions, but with procurement only increasing in complexity, they shouldn’t be. In fact, so critical are problem solving skills, that the World Economic Forum rates them as the number one skill we all need to thrive in 2020 and beyond. 

Acquiring them doesn’t have to be difficult, says Euan Granger, Senior Strategic Buyer at Soil Machine Dynamics and key contributor to Procurious, the world’s largest procurement professional network. In fact, sometimes it’s simply better to take a break from the professional nature of our workplaces, and step outside our comfort zones with a fun activity. 

The quick upskill solution 

One that Euan has used many times and recommends is the simple ‘marshmallow and spaghetti’ challenge. For this exercise, you’ll need to purchase 20 sticks of dry spaghetti, a roll of tape, a ball of string and a marshmallow. Then, set your team a challenge: Build a free-standing tower using the materials provided! 

Whenever Euan has used this activity for his team, he always recommends that they go away and think about how they can use the skills they’ve learnt in their job. 

‘It’s not so much about who does it or doesn’t do it, but more about working together to solve a problem, and thinking about things in a different way. We always need that approach when solving new problems.’ 

4. Negotiation skills

The problem 

As procurement professionals, we all know that negotiation is both an art and a science. In any given negotiation, we’re always delicately balancing the needs of our organisation, risks, costs, sustainability and the expectations of the supplier. It certainly isn’t easy – and it certainly requires great focus and dedication to execute. 

The quick upskill solution 

Even if you’re already a skilled negotiator, there’s always more you can learn, says Ron Brown,’ former General Manager at MMG Mining and lead consultant at The Faculty. One great way to upskill your team on this is to do the ‘Price of $1’ exercise, a simple exercise that shows how important preparation, communication and a solid command of facts is in a negotiation.  

Here’s how to run the exercise: 

  1. Have two people/players sit back to back, but far enough apart that they can’t hear each other
  2. Select a third person as a ‘go between.’ This person goes to the other two players and asks for their bid (the problem being neither player knows what they’re bidding for). 
  3. Bidding starts. Bidding can start at as little as 1 cent. Each player has three bids in each round if they want, and they can decide not to bid higher than the other player. 
  4. At the end of three bids, one player is awarded the round. Complete three rounds. At the end of three rounds, explain to players that they were bidding for $1.

‘The results of this exercise are always pretty interesting,’ Says Ron. ‘In that often, people end up bidding far more than $1, for that $1. The actual winner is the one that has spent less over the three rounds.’

‘What it teaches you, really, is that a desire to win can drive us, and how crucial information can be to overcome this.’ 

5. Commercial acumen 

The problem 

Commercial skills, or more accurately, commercial acumen, is one of the most essential attributes for any procurement professional or leader, says Keith. There’s a few reasons for this, he believes: 

‘Over the years, we’ve had a lot of shrinkage in companies, meaning that pretty much every procurement team is now expected to do more with less.’ 

‘This means that there’s an increasing pressure on every single person, from those at the top to new graduates, to show they’re adding commercial value in everything they do.’ 

But what does ‘commercial value’ mean? Keith says that it’s far more than just simply an ability to understand financial basics: 

‘Commercial value is way beyond simply profit and loss. It’s an ability to understand the whole value chain more broadly, for example, it’s not simply the “cost of acquisition” from a procurement perspective, but the value of that acquisition or product to the whole business.’ 

The quick upskill solution

Given the broad and complex nature of commercial acumen, Keith believes this can be a hard area to train. A great place to start, though, is to align your job, and more broadly, the strategic priorities and activities of your function, to those of the organisation’s C-suite. ‘If what you are doing wouldn’t matter to the CEO,’ Says Keith. ‘Why are you doing it?’ 

One great way to put this into action is what Google calls ‘OKRs’ (Objectives and Key Results). When creating OKRs, you create a set of audacious, measurable goals that put your stakeholders/customers first, and align those with your organisation’s priorities. You then follow up your OKRs regularly; checking in monthly to see how you’re going. 

There’s lots of templates and tools on the internet that can help you set up OKRs. Atlassian have developed some great downloadables on this, or you can try these ones from Rework.

6. Supplier relationships

The problem

With supply chains becoming more and more complex, relationships are now not just important, but critical, in everything we do in procurement. Yet managing them has never been more challenging – we’ve got to coordinate tens, if not hundreds of moving parts that may include multiple vertical and horizontal dependencies; all poised to break at any minute if we don’t get things right. 

The quick upskill solution

Given the complex and often personal interdependencies between supplier relationships, often learning from others with experience is the only upskilling solution, says Keith Bird, Managing Director of the Faculty. To do so, joining an industry networking program can provide unparalleled benefits. 

One such program is The Faculty’s own Roundtable program, which connects and facilitates collaboration between the top CPOs across Australia. 

‘Using our program,’ Says Keith. ‘I’ve seen some of our partners begin, and also navigate exceedingly complex supplier relationships that wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.’ 

The Faculty’s roundtables are free for member organisations. 

7. Stakeholder management

The problem

Every single person in procurement has come across issues with stakeholder management at one stage. While it’s easy to blame individuals, though, often issues arise from a lack of information – and ultimately, it’s easy for a stakeholder to get frustrated and hard for them to see the value procurement add when they simply don’t know what’s happening. 

The quick upskill solution

The issue with stakeholder management, says Ron Brown, lead consultant at The Faculty, is that often, it’s just impossible to know who knows what. ‘So you’ll often find that there are people hiding in plain sight that are clueless and getting frustrated, yet you assume they know everything. Or worse, you assume they don’t need to know.’ 

One way to overcome this is to build out what’s called a RACI board (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed). To do this, you’ll need to: 

  1. Select one of the big categories for your procurement team
  2. Write a list of stakeholders on post-its. Remember to include everyone who will be involved in the category from beginning to end, no matter how tenuous the link. 
  3. Then map out the board, moving everyone around to create a map of whose involved, who knows what, and critically, who needs information and might not be getting it. 

‘Keeping stakeholders appropriately consulted and informed is a great first step in stakeholder management,’ says Ron. 

8. Digital skills 

The problem

In 2020 and beyond, there’s simply no hiding from digital. In our personal lives, we’re using it every day, and more and more, we’re doing so in our work lives as well. Increasingly, all large organisations are undergoing massive digital transformations, if they haven’t already, and procurement will need to play a big part in these, from a supplier to an implementation perspective. In short: if you haven’t got digital skills, you need to get them, pronto. 

The quick upskill solution

But what is ‘digital’? Where do you ever start?!? While the prospect sounds daunting, it needn’t be, says Euan, Procurious contributor. There’s literally millions of free resources online, and a great place to start is with a brand that’s synonymous with the internet itself: Google. 

Google’s Digital Garage provides a plethora of free, expert-level training on digital, on a range of topics that include everything from the digital business security to the basics of coding. You can check out their entire offering here.

Keith Bird, Managing Director at The Faculty, also believes that seeking out a digital mentor can be a great way to upskill: 

‘Admittedly, digital isn’t my forte, so I’ve expressly sought out a digital native in our business who can teach me. A mentoring relationship can really be between anyone; it doesn’t have to be an older person mentoring a younger person’ 

‘It’s more about a person with expertise mentoring someone who doesn’t yet have that knowledge.’ 

9. Technology 

The problem 

We’ve been hearing the same message for some years now: technology is fast replacing jobs! Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming! But those that usher these warnings are in fact a bit behind: there’s already a significant amount of AI in most systems we use, so the challenge now is to learn how to work with it. 

There’s no doubt that technology is evolving – and fast. We all need to keep up to date with the latest, but what’s the latest? And how do we keep up with it?

The quick upskill solution 

For all the latest in technology, says Keith Bird, Managing Director at The Faculty, you can’t go past industry podcasts. 

Keith recommends joining Procurious to keep up with the latest, or alternatively, listening to The Art of Procurement podcast.

10. Finance

The problem

Many outside of procurement might say that procurement and finance work in tandem – but from inside procurement teams, things often look quite different. In fact, when we’re trying to focus on strategic value, our relationship with finance can look a little strained, especially if the value we’re adding can’t immediately be quantified on the bottom line. 

The quick upskill solution 

For some skills, Euan Granger, Procurious contributor, says, ‘there’s no substitute for some good, old-fashioned peer-to-peer learning. And when you’re trying to learn about finance, there’s no better place to go than, well, finance.’ 

If you haven’t facilitated such a session before, Euan recommends, then try the following: 

  1. Get finance and procurement in the same room – this is key. 
  2. Get finance to do a toolbox talk on the key terms and metrics that matter to them – and how procurement can impact these. 
  3. Ask any questions and air any concerns – build the relationship and agree on ways of working moving forward. 

‘You’ll be surprised at what can be achieved in one simple meeting,’ Says Euan. Often being in the same room talking about what matters to each other is all that it takes for walls to come down and bridges to be built.’ 

 More skills, more solutions 

With procurement increasing in complexity, we all need to focus on rapid upskilling to continue to add value and stay relevant. To hear from the greatest minds in our industry, plus hear more of Sir Clive Woodward’s game-changing performance suggestions, join us at Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit 2020 on March 11 in London. 

Can’t make it? We’re currently offering digital delegate passes for free. Grab yours here now.

Contributors

Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty. Connect with Keith on Linkedin here.

Ron Brown, Principal Advisor at The Faculty. Connect with Ron Brown here.

Euan Granger, Procurious Contributor. Connect with Euan here.

Want more? 

Want to learn more about in-demand skills in procurement, and all the other exciting developments and big issues our industry is facing this year? Join us to hear from Sir Clive Woodward and a stellar lineup of other speakers and industry leaders at our Big Ideas Summit. Digital Delegate tickets are currently available at no cost (for a limited time). 

If you’re interested in accessing market-leading industry insights and networking, express your interest in joining The Faculty’s Roundtable Program here. 

The One Thing You Should Be Doing To Boost Your Career This Year

Nearly 50 per cent of workers are making “learning new skills” a priority right now, ahead of both a pay rise and a promotion…

By jamesteohart/ Shutterstock

Forget pushing for that promotion. Don’t waste too much time looking for a new role. And leave lusting after a new job title for now. Instead, focus on your skills.

“Skills” have traditionally been viewed as something for the trades – those who chose a more hands-on career pathway, rather than one that needed academic qualifications.

While we all appreciate the talent of hairdressers, plumbers, motor mechanics and a host of other vitally-important skilled tradespeople, this year skills have taken on a new meaning.

One of the top workplace trends for 2019 is “Skill signalling”.

There is added emphasis on highlighting the skills that set you apart from the competition according to recruiters Robert Half.

This could be your digital literacy – such as working with artificial intelligence – or softer skills such as communications and problem-solving abilities.

Basically, anything that can help you to stand out from the crowd.

No. 1 aim is to learn new skills

This is something you should take seriously, or you could get left behind.

Nearly 50 per cent of workers are making “learning new skills” a priority right now, ahead of both a pay rise and a promotion, according to research from CV-Library.

However, you might have to acquire these outside of the office as two-thirds of us say our employer isn’t responsive to our needs.

Also, much of the employer training on offer is a waste of time and money.  Research shows that of the $400billion spent on corporate learning globally every year, only 15% is proven to really work.

Top 10 career priorities for 2019

  1. Learn new skills (44.6%)
  2. Get a pay rise (43.5%)
  3. Move to another company (40.1%)
  4. Gain a new qualification (24.3%)
  5. Get a new job title (22.7%)
  6. Change job roles (19.7%)
  7. Get a promotion (17.2%)
  8. Change industries (13.1%)
  9. Work for themselves (12.4%)
  10. Build a personal network (8.9%)

Source: CV-Library

So, what are the skills of the future

What should you be learning? Well, employability skills are key – according to Hogan Assessments, the global leader in personality assessment solutions, these are defined as “the ability to find a job, the ability to retain it, and the ability to find a new job should the first one go away”.  There are three components:

  • People Skills – getting along well with others and working well in teams. People who score high on this skill seem friendly, pleasant and helpful.
  • Learning Skills – learning the essential functions of the job and acquiring new skills as the job changes over time. Individuals with learning skills are likely to be bright, curious, and motivated to learn.
  • Work Ethic – taking instruction, working hard, and producing high-quality results in a timely fashion. Employees with good work ethic are hardworking, productive and dependable.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a fortune and take a year or two out of work to study an MBA or master’s to gain these skills.

However, the bad news is that you are often either naturally good at these – or not.

Tips

  • Do a 360 exercise with friends, family and colleagues to get a view of how you score on these points.
  • Find a mentor to help you work on these skills – for example listening and reflecting. Choose someone you trust within your organisation, or find a mentor externally (someone you already know, respect, get along with and want to be like).
  • Try to demonstrate these skills on a daily basis – work on them, and you will improve.

Decide to specialise or generalise

The future workplace will be made up of two types According to the Future of the Workplace 2030+ report from Unily.

Expert Generalists who can transfer skills and see the bigger picture necessary to drive the ideas economy.

Hyper Specialists who are more operational, can dive deep for solutions are equipped to understand details and specifics.

Once again, these skills are often innate. Some of us are brilliant when it comes to attention to detail, but find it hard to be adaptable. Choose your path depending on your personality type.

Whichever path you choose, you will need to work on these skills:

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking

In a time of constant change, the skill or trait that will help you get ahead is being able to deal with change.  

The No. 1 personality trait you need right now

As a result, resilience is one of the key skills employers will be helping their staff to develop over the next few years.

However, you can develop this skill yourself by nurturing your own physical and mental wellbeing, which can help you to stay positive and cope with the ever faster-changing world of work.

This is also a key skill to highlight on your CV: it is one of the things employers will be looking for. So try to find ways to demonstrate your ability to “bounce back” from adversity and to deal with change.

If you don’t ask you don’t get

Boosting your skills can boost your performance as well as your life-long career prospects.

“Learning new skills is an excellent way to secure yourself more opportunities and a better paid job down the line,” says Lee Biggins, CEO of CV-Library.

So, how do you go about investing in your own success?

  • Identify the skills you need to work on or develop.
  • Look for ways to develop these (note: this is unlikely to be in a classroom).
  • Ask your boss to support your skills development  – whether that is giving you time off to attend seminars, conferences, lectures or to work one-on-one with a mentor or on new projects to develop new skills.
  • Make it a lifelong journey – skills need constant development.

Learning to learn – that’s the no.1 skill

“The future discussion will not be about reskilling or upskilling but ‘learning to learn’” according to the Unily Future of the Workplace Report which says:

Being comfortable acquiring new knowledge is a skill in its own right.

To become a continual learner, you will need to learn to

  • Take risks
  • Experiment
  • Adapt

… and challenge yourself to disrupt and do things differently.

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

5 Soft Skills Procurement Pros Should Be Developing…NOW!

If you want to hold on to your procurement career  in the long term, you ought to be worrying about mastering your soft skills!

Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.

We got wind of the fact that IBM, arguably the world’s most robotically advanced procurement team,  is focussing on its employees’ soft skills.

As Justin Mcbryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM, explained,  why would IBM need a high volume of data scientists in their midst when they have Watson!?

Technological advancements will soon permit the automation of our processes; handling the sourcing and the market intelligence. In this environment, it’s the softer skills procurement professionals must master to ensure a long-term career.  That’s the real skills gap procurement should be worried about!

Ahead of next week’s webinar Beat The Bots – How Being Human Will Win The Day,  we outline the specific skills procurement pros should be mastering to prepare for the post-cognitive age, with the help of Justin and our second webinar speaker John Viner Smith, Principal-Mercer.

1. Design Thinking

There are some “incredible and transformative technologies that offer solutions to problems that were unimaginable just a few years ago ,but they’re just half of the puzzle.” begins John.

“Subject matter experts will have a role to play in framing  [these problems] in the most efficient way.”  It’s important that the solutions aren’t simply “sticking plasters but fundamental root cause fixes”.

This is a role for procurement’s best and brightest, and the skill needed to fulfil this role is Design Thinking; “the process of being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to bear on business problems.”

2. Thinking at the speed of digital!

Joh asserted that procurement must recognise that “thinking of digital solutions requires some understanding of new processes and ways of thinking.”

“Procurement people should be learning about methodologies like Google’s Design Sprint or Eric Ries’ concept of Intrapreneurship as defined in the Lean Startup that are used in other types of digital business.

“Too often procurement thinking is slow, bound in process and incredibly risk averse. Technology problem solving is experimental, iterative and views failures as key to learning. The idea of developing hypotheses, testing them, failing fast and iterating or pivoting in the course of a week, as per Google’s Sprint methods, would be alien to many Procurement people.”

Procurement has worked at a certain pace,  thus far. And it’s going to  have to get faster!

3. Active questioning and listening

This wouldn’t be a piece about soft skills without a mention of communication! We already know how important this skill is for procurement people but it’s going to be all the more valuable in a post-cognivite age.

Justin reminded us that communication is vital for everything “from presentation skills to phone etiquette and how to ask probing questions to your suppliers.”

In a post cognitive world you’re “going to become more of an owner and less of a process facilitator” asserts Justin, which is where active listening comes in.

When it comes to managing negotiations with suppliers, clients and colleagues, “We all have scripts e.g. How many widgets do you need, when do you need them by etc.”

“Every now  and then, you’ll have  been in a situation where a client has given a little bit more than you asked for. This is where the active [and critical] listening comes in.” How do you use that information to do the best job possible?

4. Negotiation

“We rely on the threat of competitive pressure to do our negotiating for us” says John.

“We source the spec and don’t always listen to challenges from Suppliers. When we’re engaging them to help solve complex problems, we will need to be more commercially empowered and highly skilled negotiators; able to get the best from our suppliers by offering the best of ourselves while optimising value.”

5. Imagination

“The future role of procurement can be solved in one phrase: problem solving” says John.

But procurement’s problem solving needs to take on a more innovative and imaginative approach.

“Not every situation is going to call for an RFX” explains Justin. “That speaks directly to the change we’re looking for [at IBM].” Too often “we see a need and our reaction from a process point is let’s go and do the RFX.”  Instead professionals “should take a deep breath and start understanding the client and exactly what they need,” and approach the problem in alternate ways.

John concedes, arguing that “running tender might be the solution (increasingly rarely!) but collaborative innovation with the suppliers we have is important.”

Procurement peoples’ jobs will largely focus on bringing innovation to the supply chain in the first place and really helping the business to understand their demand.

In short, Procurement needs to have a relationship with the organisation that is much more strategic and puts the function in a partnering and consultative role.  As Justin sums up, ‘ [at IBM] We’re still looking for the procurement experts, we’re still looking for people who can do the job. But we’re adding to the soft skills portfolio.”

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.