Tag Archives: stakeholder management

Stakeholders Are Your Customers. Ignore Them At Your Peril

If you fail to meet the expectations of key influencers, projects will be delayed, will only be partially workable or at worst, doomed.

Stakeholders can and will influence the outcome of your project, especially if they are likely to be directly affected by it. If we fail to meet the expectations of key influencers, projects will be delayed, will only be partially workable or at worst, doomed.  

Who are your stakeholders?

Stakeholders are any of those individuals that can impact your activities by:

  • removing obstacles and championing  your goals
  • by slowing down or blocking your activities  
  • influencing others about your project –positively or negatively

Many of your stakeholders may not initially be obvious.   They can be:

  • End-users of the product or service
  • Line managers, executives and support staff
  • Procurement team members and co-opted subject matter experts 
  • Suppliers and their subcontractors
  • Government agencies and the media
  • Customers and society at large

Why is stakeholder management so difficult?

Stakeholders have conflicting priorities and often are not working towards the same goal. Personal ambitions may trump the company vision.  You may be the messenger bearing bad news or saying no to their proposals. Seasoned procurement people use their persuasive skills to win support from stakeholders.  This can be the difference between success and failure.

Because stakeholders will change over time, we need a systematic approach to identify and prioritize those influencers.  A stakeholder map is a simple analysis tool we can use to identify which key people have to be won over.

A simple shareholder map

This map provides a guideline on how to manage stakeholders based on their interest and their influence:

Figure 1   The stakeholder analysis grid

The Greens

Stakeholders with a high level of influence in your specific project and who also have a high level of commitment and support must attract the most focus.   They are usually easily identified and are easy to engage. They usually include line managers and end-users.  Ensure you continue to maintain their support through good communication and monitoring their needs. These people can be used to influence others.

The Oranges

This is an important group to manage and may include senior management, e.g. CEO or GM. Keep them satisfied.   Increasing their interest or commitment to your project through regular updates can be very helpful.

The Browns

These customers are your supporters. Keep them informed, their enthusiasm may be infectious and they may have more influence in the future.  Less time is needed to maintain this group. 

The Purples

External stakeholders such as the media and government may fall into this group so it is not necessary to spend too much time there. But keep them in the loop and monitor them as they may move into another group!

Identify all key stakeholders and plot them in the grid in Figure 1. 

Steps to follow to ensure success of any initiative:

  • Concentrate your time on working with key stakeholders who can make or break the initiative. Make sure every stakeholder has an appropriate way to participate and offer input.
  • Understand and manage their expectations. Identify any potential adversaries early in the process and manage them directly by allocating key tasks to them. Persuade those people who may not be immediately supportive. 
  • Under-promise and over-deliver.  Think like a salesperson.
  • Keep everyone well-informed and build strong relationships with the people who support the project.  Recognise and reward positive behaviours to preserve the relationship and buy continued support. 

Dealing with difficult stakeholders

The first step is to clearly identify those stakeholders and work out what motivates them and what is causing their resistance. Ignoring difficult stakeholder behaviour is not recommended; take time to immediately identify the cause of their objections and the underlying issues. People want to feel understood and feel that their opinions matter.

Engage directly with the person directly without others present. This leads to more clear and calm conversations. Actively listen to what they have to say and don’t close communication channels because you don’t like what you hear.   Remain fair, objective, and professional, and remember to keep the project objectives within focus. Try to find common ground by asking open-ended questions.  

Why projects fail: communication is the key

Lack of frequent and accurate communication to and from stakeholders is probably one of the main reasons for the failure of projects.   Another is not listening to the needs and concerns of the key stakeholders, both internal and external. 

When to communicate with stakeholders

  • before the launch of a project to get buy-in. Early engagement is important.
  • at regular progress meetings held to keep everyone updated. Report back on progress (or lack of it) and milestones achieved.
  • before implementation to ensure alignment with the process and the proposed solution
  • at the end of a project to establish lessons learned

Stakeholder management is the process that we use to identify key stakeholders and win their support.  We use the analysis grid to prioritize them by influence and commitment. Understanding what motivates them is the first step to getting them on board.    

It’s Procurement’s Own Fault That The Business Thinks We’re Only About Price

If you’re forever complaining that all your stakeholders want from procurement is cost reduction, consider this: maybe it’s your fault. Here’s how to fix it.  

Over the years I have seen and agreed with a tendency in the area of procurement and supply management about the movement to become a broader function; one that goes beyond comparing prices only, and becomes a business strategist.

At the day-to-day level, the organisation has goals that when cascaded to Procurement could be understood as “only” about cost reduction. One consequence of this is that Procurement’s work and recommendation revolve much of the time around pricing. And this makes sense, as it is the most intuitive strategy to bring benefits to the company, and it is also the easiest way to measure impact (at least to the eyes of our stakeholders).

Considering that we as a function are trying to evolve, a consequence is that we feel that we get classified as professionals that can only talk about the prices from suppliers. This situation puts a glass ceiling on what Procurement can do, making it harder to gain relevance in the wider organisation.

But, which came first? The chicken or the egg?

It’s our fault

My theory is: could it be caused by us? Could it be that we ourselves are continuously reinforcing the cycle in which we always talk about price and then the organization talks with us only about price as well?

Competitive pricing does not appear from thin air, especially in organisations with mature procurement functions. These organisations require that the Procurement Manager (the agent that needs to make two different organisations “talk and function together”), make use of levers such as strategy tools, supply chain tools and people tools (mainly) to achieve what is regularly expected: a lower cost.

And how many of those levers are about price only?

If Procurement wants to become more relevant in the organisation, it needs to build over time the tone of the conversation, steadily broadening the decision analysis and variables and incorporating into the recommendation more business broad perspectives: create a competitive advantage, consider impact to society and environment, supply chain efficiencies, changing the category structure, and so on.

To understand if you are a Procurement professional who is capable of growth in the organisation and who will one day become a business strategist, growing at the same time the value of Procurement as function, take the first step: make a self-assessment.

Looking beyond price

Take your most successful procurement recommendation, and delete all the components that are price specific, or are directly linked to price (e.g. spend levels, price savings, price structure, price benchmarks, etc.). How much is there left?

If there is not much left, it means you have work to do to steer your business conversations into broader business impact topics. I present below a couple of ideas that could be used to initiate and maintain the transition to procurement contributions with strategic added value to the business:

  • The first one is not an actual recommendation because it is playbook: do the procurement homework. Create the procurement framework for your category including supply market strategic analysis, decision/evaluation matrix, category analysis and positioning, and all relevant topics that revolve around a strategic process. To change the game, you need to be aware of how is currently played.
  • During your competitive procurement processes, conduct a negotiation round (or at least a supplier meeting) without talking about the price (or similar); challenge yourself to identify the differences between suppliers and to identify the value buckets that are hidden behind the price tag. By simply broadening the topics in conversation, the chances for a successful negotiation increase (as you may increase the negotiation topics). As a result your procurement mindset will kick in and will guide you to new and better strategies.
  • When making presentations, ensure the information you present relates directly to your strategy: it clutters your work if you present supplier total revenue, number of employees or location, if these are not directly related to a component of your strategy. At the same time, use graphics to build momentum to present your recommendation; if the intention is to present which supplier is bigger (assuming that the aim is to communicate that bigger is a proxy for better), then presenting a code or a ranking of the “bigger supplier” could suffice to communicate your idea (details could always go to annex).
  • Show others how you expect the variables of your presentation to play out in one years’ time. This means: Do you expect the same supplier to still be the most competitive at contract exportation?  What level of technology compared to peers do you expect the supplier to own at contract expiration? Would the supplier be better prepared to collaborate with the organisation? Which supplier may have a change of ownership or acquire new assets?

Business mindfulness is created over time. By initiating an own process of “thinking  business” instead of “thinking price” while producing our daily procurement outputs, not only are we capable to implement more resilient and value adding solutions, but we enhance the mutual benefit relationship of our function with the business, moving away from that “price manager” tag that Procurement may have, and eventually opening up the space to create more opportunity for procurement professionals.

To give Procurement a seat on the table we also need to be leaders that develop people. It is important to say that these ideas of “talking about everything except price” is a technique that should be used not only with self, but with suppliers and with junior team members. Giving them the challenges as proposed here becomes a tool for their development, challenging suppliers to be better, and help your people become more rounded business professionals.

We should embed in our mindset that every Procurement project is an opportunity to improve as a business professional for the benefit of the business. I expect the ideas shared on this piece to trigger the process of transition from price managers to business strategists.

5 Reasons Business Partnering is Procurement’s Secret Weapon

Unlocking the benefits of business partnering won’t happen overnight, but if you can get it right, partnering can supercharge relationships between procurement, your stakeholders – and your suppliers.

“For me, business partnering is about building trust,” says Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty. “It’s also a marker of the maturity of your procurement function.”

Bird is speaking at the Asia-Pacific CPO Forum in Melbourne, where he is facilitating a panel of procurement leaders from some of the region’s biggest organisations. They’re talking about how procurement can reap the benefits of business partnering, and the challenges therein. The panel raises five key reasons that business partnering is an incredibly effective way to uncover a new level of value in your organisation.

1. Business partnering is a sign of procurement maturity

We often discuss where organisations sit on the procurement maturity curve. Markers include how the function is organised (decentralised, centralised or centre-led), a focus beyond cost, and the existence of programs such as supplier relationship management (SRM) and the deployment of advanced tech including AI and cognitive procurement.

Business partnering is another such marker. Its existence suggests that the procurement team has moved beyond the traditional stakeholder engagement model to extract further value from customer relationships. Panelist Zelda Pretorius-Kovacs, Head of Category Management at Woolworths Ltd, says that business partnering is an essential part of moving from cost reduction to value creation. “It’s a way of securing the future of procurement in your organisation”, she says. “We looked at our relationships with fresh eyes. Anybody can map internal stakeholder relationships, but we wanted to take a new approach to how we partnered with the business.” Pretorius-Kovacs comments that while her wider organisation was focusing on winning the trust of external customers (shoppers), the procurement team mirrored this journey with a parallel focus on winning the trust of internal customers.

2. Business partnering builds relationships

Andre Harvey, General Manager of Procurement and Supply at Stanwell, says that the way you approach internal customers in your organisation is crucial. “We walk in with curiosity”, he says. “We look for problems that stakeholders have that we can help solve. Fundamentally, procurement has to be like water – it has to find the cracks; find the crevices, and fill them.” This means that when Harvey built up his procurement team, he’s sought to hire a group of problem-solvers and entrepreneurs that will embrace this challenge.

Pretorius-Kovacs adds that an unexpected benefit of business partnering was that the procurement team broke down its own internal silos and began working together more effectively. The team undertook the Game Changer Index to discover their unique attributes before being partnered with the right people to get the best outcomes. Her team has also improved engagement with partners by shifting the conversation to business targets, rather than procurement targets.

3. Business partnering builds trust

Stephen Jhangiani, Senior VP and Head of Supplier Relationship Management at Singapore’s DBS Bank, comments that procurement has worked hard to get internal business partners to work with them and trust procurement. “We’ve focused on being accountable back to the business”, he said. Similarly, Pretorius-Kovacs notes that business partnering is not only an opportunity to develop trust, it’s a chance to mend some bridges along the way.

4. Business partnering enables procurement to connect the dots

Through business partnering, procurement is granted access to a new level of information and visibility of the issues facing their internal customers, which often reveals ways that we can help. Pretorius-Kovacs notes that partnering is an ideal way to build a bridge between the procurement function, the business and its suppliers. “It’s a way to connect all the dots and bring innovation to our organisation in a way that other departments simply cannot.”

5. Internal business partnering will help you rethink your supplier partnerships

“If you can’t have a conversation with internal business customers, without the skepticism, how on earth are you going to have a conversation with the external market?” asks Bird. Getting your internal relationships into the best-possible shape is an important step to take before undertaking effective external supplier engagement. McSweeney notes that open and transparent conversations with customers and suppliers are key. “We want to know where we rank with them, why they’re interested in working with us – we need that level of transparency and candour.”

Delegates at the CPO Forum were polled on the concerns that their organisations had about external business partnering, with the following results.

Interested in learning more about how your organisation can unlock the benefits of business partnering? Contact The Faculty Managing Director Keith Bird via [email protected] to discuss our tailored workshops and training solutions.  

Social Currency In Procurement: Do You Know Enough To Be Dangerous?

In recognition of how central social currency is, procurement pros are using their social networks to build, influence, and deliver results. The question is: do you know enough to be dangerous?

Connectivity is central to how we live and work in 2017. When something exciting or unexpected happens, many people immediately share the news, and a picture, on social-media. We read the updates shared by others and offer up our own. We like a post or status update to indicate support or show we are ‘in the know’ and watching important influencers. This constant sharing and consumption of information has become a global phenomenon.

Over time, these exchanges add up to a wealth of knowledge and connections that improve our decisions and elevate the weight given to our preferences – much like the exchange of ‘social currency.’

Social currency in procurement

A similar trend has begun in procurement and supply chain – perhaps in recognition of how central social currency is to us on an individual level. Procurement professionals have talked about supply intelligence for a long time, but now they are increasingly aware of how important their own social networks are to their ability to build, influence, and deliver results.

Professional social currency includes, for example, the recommendations, endorsements and likes that we assign as we go about our business online.  When combined, they create a level of trust, and contribute to organisational reputations of both buy and sell side organisations. When buyers trust that a supplier will be able meet their business needs, or when a supplier trusts that a customer is a good fit for their capabilities in both demand and culture, transaction costs are decreased and the total value potential increases.

The fact that both sales and procurement are investing in their social currency creates a unique opportunity for them to come together and leverage their collective knowledge for the benefit of both organisations.

Being Reactive Vs Pro-active

One of the strengths of social media is its timeliness. Trust is not just about the source or location where information is stored. The more real time information is, the more confidence it gives to decision makers. Having real-time access to information allows procurement to meet the businesses’ needs faster. Timeliness is also at the top of the stakeholders’ priority list when deciding whether or not to engage procurement. When procurement can provide information proactively in real time, identifying which suppliers stakeholders should look at or having the pulse of specific industries, it goes a long way towards demonstrating their value – and adding to social currency.

Having instant access to trusted information alters the range of project options available to a procurement professional. They are no longer in the position of having to be reactive, where the business comes to procurement and says, “We have these new suppliers that we would like to engage – NOW” forcing procurement to scramble, trying to vet them. When procurement has access to real time information, they can readily identify potential suppliers and quickly access industry peer endorsements on those suppliers.

Do you know enough to be dangerous?

Procurement professionals need to know enough to be ‘dangerous’. They should have a foundational understanding of the category or commodity they are supporting, and be able to translate business needs into procurement best practices. This way when they get a seat at the table with stakeholders, they are able to engage in intelligent discussions around what stakeholders are trying to do and what is happening in the industry. Having access to intelligence allows procurement to be the engine driving category or commodity strategy to achieve sustainable value for an organisation.

Today, people call or email each other for supplier recommendations. This manual way of accessing trusted “social currency” is not scalable or visible to the rest of the organisation. The procurement technology user experience has come a long way. With collaborative or social technologies, the data becomes smarter and benefits everyone today and in the future.

The concept of trusted data is not new… the same instant knowledge that allows people to prioritise news shared by their circle of friends or pick a restaurant that has been highly recommended by people with similar preferences… today, decisions are made faster and the outcome is often more successful as a result of social currency.

The insights in this article comprise one of the main takeaways of a supplier intelligence-focused Executive Roundtable Series hosted by tealbook which brought together over 40 forward-thinking procurement leaders from across the country.

How To Increase ROI With Clear Communication To Business Stakeholders

The Hackett Group’s, Nic Walden, explains how to improve your ROI through engaging and clear communication. 

hobbit/Shutterstock.com

Most stakeholders say that consistent delivery of core services is the principal requirement to consider procurement as a trusted advisor. Although many organisations are capable of filling this role, most are still viewed by internal customers as sourcing experts (i.e., focused on negotiation and supplier selection), or worse, as gatekeepers or simply administrators. In fact, only 29 per cent of procurement organisations are viewed as valued business partners by key stakeholders.

Does It Matter? Absolutely!

Analysis of Hackett benchmarks shows as much as a 2.5X ROI can be achieved from elevating the role of procurement, and aligning the goals and expectations of procurement teams to that of the business. That’s a hefty bump in savings or broader value terms in anyone’s language.

At Hackett we measure ROI as total cost reduction and avoidance divided by the cost of the function. As an example, professional sourcing teams can deliver strong savings performance when looking at percentage terms only, but when compared to the level of resource investment (i.e., ROI), they come up short.

Why Leave Money On The Table?

Let’s assume we have the capabilities to operate at a higher level (closing the capability gap is itself another discussion). One reason for misalignment is that procurement teams struggle to communicate their capabilities. Ineffective communication with internal customers, suppliers, and colleagues also causes confusion, delay, or leads to incorrect assumptions of what procurement can and cannot offer. With this in mind, Procurement teams face three main challenges to elevate their role:

  • Perceptions on historical performance cause resistance to change.
  • Internal customers are unaware of what procurement can offer.
  • Undergoing a major transformation results in confusion and inconsistencies.

The result is that successful procurement teams go to great lengths to build a compelling brand image, supported by a well-defined vision, services that meet or exceed expectations, and a formal measurement program to ensure ongoing improvement. If these steps are not taken, procurement groups can plateau in operational efficiency and effectiveness despite having the capabilities to operate at a much higher level.

Launching a New Procurement Brand

Defining a brand is an important concept for procurement because it makes their purpose and identity more comprehensible for stakeholders. The Hackett Group has outlined four major activities (understand, define, create, engage) that make up a successful brand transformation, supported by ongoing internal input. Everyone has a role to play in communicating and utilizing procurement’s new brand for effect: leadership, sourcing, buying, and operational teams.

  1. Understand what is most important to internal customers and stakeholders

The brand should highlight procurement’s desire to support stakeholders and its ability to act as a valued business partner. This means having a solid understanding of what is important to stakeholders. For example, they might want more help defining requirements, to run credible and achievable projects, to manage difficult supplier conversations, to bring new products to market faster, or reporting. Most often, they just want procurement to excel at delivering core services.

  1. Define procurement’s brand-management strategy

This is the time to clearly develop a clear vision and simple set of guiding principles to communicate goals, followed by defining procurement’s roles and responsibilities, and to make this information easily accessible to procurement and its stakeholders.

Other activities include:

  • Delineate the services that procurement provides to internal customers; ensure these align to their needs and requirements. Take this opportunity to de-prioritize or reshape what is not valued.
  • Provide clear definitions of the activities and tasks performed for each support service, along with the service levels provided (e.g., meeting frequency, cycle time, error rates).
  • Determine which business segments and departments that procurement can support.
  • Match staff and skill sets to procurement’s services.
  1. Create marketing materials and share initial communications

Now we match the desired stakeholder experience with procurement’s future behaviors. Since people respond differently to various methods of communication, consider creating an “omnichannel”, personalized stakeholder experience to allow broad access to the procurement process and enable the ability to buy/pay from all locations and get real-time information. Common activities include:

  • Develop a new brand identity, including a name, mission statement, a set of values and goals, and even a logo if desired.
  • Determine the way communication with internal customers and stakeholders will be handled, such as email, phone, in-person support, chat or robotic tools.
  • Deploy an intranet portal that lets internal customers communicate with procurement and conduct self-service activities. Consider setting up a similar site for suppliers.
  • Develop marketing materials for various stakeholder groups, making certain that overall messaging is consistent.
  • Define and document any related changes to the organization, such as new employee titles.
  1. Engage and continually communicate with all stakeholders

Multiple channels of communication should always be open for both internal customers and suppliers to reach out, get questions answered, or further develop relationships. There are various ways to engage with stakeholders, not all of which make sense for every company. Some of these activities include:

  • Face-to-face road shows with business executives, such as ongoing conference calls or one-on-one calls
  • Face-to-face road shows with middle management / operations followed by regular calls to ensure procurement is meeting objectives
  • Regular emails that include policy updates and metrics showcasing procurement performance

Nic Walden, Director Procurement and P2P Advisor, The Hackett Group works continuously with senior executives of the world’s leading companies to provide top performance insight, research and networking.  Nic is a regular speaker at conference events and a regular contributor to social media and online blogs.

Learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program

Real Relationships Really Matter

It doesn’t matter what technology your organisation adopts, or what digital transformation you endure; procurement relationships will always be essential for success. 

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement. Chris Cliffe discussed why relationships really matter.

The world around us is changing. You can’t turn anywhere these days without hearing the phrase ‘Digital Transformation’. Everyone’s writing about technology and the race to automate and use augmented intelligence in business.  IBM’s ‘Watson’ is soon expected to be in regular use within procurement teams across the globe. But, the reality is that the vast majority of organisations, be they Private, Public or Not-for-Profit Sectors, are only at the start of this adventure.

Of course, it is crucial that our organisations do focus on adopting technology. The role of the CIO, for example, is at least equally important to that of the CPO. Yet the technology focus cannot be at the expense of the human focus.

Relationships really matter.

In fact, in the next decade or so, relationships will increasingly be the differentiator as ‘process’ and ‘transactions’ become automated and ‘value adding’ activities become the sole human focus.

Buyer Supplier Relationships

It might seem an obvious place to start but buyer supplier relationships are so often overlooked.  I think we can, in the main, agree that a ‘tender’ process in itself delivers zero value. Value for Money can only be obtained from good performance of the resulting contract. If we put ‘procurement’ theory to one side for a moment and look at ITIL Service Management, it clearly states that “good people can make a bad contract work, equally, bad people can make a great contract fail”.

Having the right relationships, between the right people, on both sides of a contract is how you get best value. Investing time and effort into building, nurturing and maintaining good relationships between buyer and supplier teams will facilitate far more value from contracts. It doesn’t pay to   let and forget!

Let’s assume a big problem happened last week.

Scenario 1: You call your account manager to complain, having not spoken to them in months, because ‘someone’ messed up.

Scenario 2: You call your account manager that you spoke to recently. You know they’ve just returned from their first family holiday in five years. They’ve had an awful couple of years for various personal reasons and, in fact, they’d even booked a restaurant you recommended. Whilst they were away, a junior member of their team was covering and they may have dropped the ball.

In both scenarios, the same issue has arisen and it needs fixing.  But I suspect the majority of us will approach those two calls differently and outcomes from these calls may also be different. Think about whether you could start both calls with the phrase, “How can I help you fix this problem?”

Stakeholders

Stakeholders: An increasingly over used, catch-all term to dehumanise people who we go to work with day in, day out. Investing time and effort into establishing relationships with the key individuals within our businesses will pay you back in spades. Ask questions. Be interested. Get under the skin of the challenges your colleagues face. Don’t be constrained by the perception of silo’s.

We must always remember why we do what we do. The purpose of Procurement is not to further the cause of procurement. Of course, a very happy side effect of an effective, modern, highly engaged and enabling procurement team is that the reputation of the profession will increase to everyone’s benefit, but that cannot be the motivation. The role of Procurement is simple. It exists to facilitate and enable the organisation(s) it supports in achieving its vision, mission and goals.

In human terms, we are there to help our colleagues enjoy work through enabling their success and in achieving their objectives. This is a differentiator between good and bad procurement in my mind. Establishing relationships with stakeholders based on a genuine interest in understanding their challenges and seeking to support them overcome obstacles proactively, will lead to game-changing relationships rather than relationships based on reactively promoting procurement process, policy and procedures.

Career Development and Credibility

Relationships really matter for professional development, career development and credibility. Take a look at the Deloitte CPO Survey 2017, or any recent recruitment agency survey. There will always be analysis pointing out how the procurement profession is dogged by a lack of soft skills and how there’s a real talent shortage with regards to interpersonal capabilities. I believe we all need to take  responsibility for learning and development; it is up to individuals to own the preparation for longer term career aspirations.

Relationships really matter with those in your network. The aim isn’t to collect as many LinkedIn connections as you can, but it is to connect to as many people as you can. Connect in this sense means to talk, ask, listen, learn, impart knowledge and most importantly follow up on conversations. Being market aware and having your finger on the pulse is an incredibly important part of being a credible professional in terms of managing contracts and suppliers and with developing productive relationships with colleagues.

Investing time and effort into building, nurturing and maintaining productive relationships really matters.

No More Guessing Games! Time To Use Innovative Data Leveraging

There’s no longer a need for guessing games when it comes to  driving value! Innovative data leveraging is possible in any environment and can help to lead organisations towards an analytics enabled procurement.  

 

Join BravoSolution’s webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, which takes place on 28th March.

Many purchasing executives are looking to drive procurement transformation but this is reliant on three major factors:

  1. Level of stakeholder engagement
  2. Ability to align with the overall business strategy
  3. Use of advanced tools and technologies

My research suggests there exists a noticeable gap between procurement executives’ explicit intentions of driving value for the business, and documented results in these three areas.

These gaps can be attributed to a lack of critical data and analytical insight that can support a truly meaningful conversation with the business about spend, supply base, and supplier performance.

Annual budgeting becomes a guessing game, with little input solicited or provided by procurement. It might be due to a lack of data. Or, it could be procurement’s inability to take the lead in order to anticipate and gather the data required. This disconnect is causing significant challenges for businesses.tech

BravoSolution is running a  webinar on the 28th of March, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis.  I will be  discussing a common process that every executive we met with cited as critical for engaging stakeholders and building analytical insight. We call it “innovative data leveraging” (IDL).

Innovative Data Leveraging (IDL)

Innovative data leveraging is a fact-based, data-driven approach to driving change and influencing stakeholders to create procurement value for the business.

The IDL process was described in different contexts, but the common thread was that cross-functional engagement was powered by stakeholder influence through analysis and presentation of data. Of course, leveraging analytics is difficult without some prior investment in procurement systems such as transactional spend analytics, contract management, and supplier performance measurement. However, our analysis also showed that innovative data leveraging is possible in any procurement environment.

The process starts with procurement executives conducting working sessions with business stakeholders to develop a deep understanding of their business strategy, the challenges they face in executing this strategy, and the role that procurement can play in helping to shape and support this strategy. Successful procurement leaders are the ones who can effectively articulate the questions that need to be answered and pursue the data requirements to provide analysis, insight and advice in order to address stakeholders’ business concerns.

Several additional insights emphasize the importance of innovative data leveraging.

  1. IDL was found to be important during any stage of procurement transformation maturity.
  1. The development of IDL capabilities depends on successful initial business engagements, especially when reliable procurement systems and data are lacking.
  1. Advanced analytics in the form of predictive capability is the most highly evolved form of IDL.

What are the benefits of IDL?

At the earliest stages, preliminary insights on spend may provide opportunities for deeper involvement in functional sourcing initiatives, creating a platform for further engagement and integration. In emerging stages, organisations can drive significant insights into total cost of ownership and working capital improvements that go above and beyond simple price leveraging capabilities. In advanced stages, predictive analytics (using both structured and unstructured data) that produce insights into revenue forecasts, supplier risks, emerging market opportunities, and other value drivers begin to emerge.

The innovative data leveraging approach can help organisations at all maturity levels to build a solid path towards an analytics-enabled procurement, in their pursuit of value and excellence. This does more than bridge the gap between procurement’s goals and the overall business strategy.

When you start by leveraging data analytics, no matter what stage your organisation is in, you can build a foundation for innovative capabilities for procurement excellence, like predictive analytics and cognitive computing.

You’ll  learn more about all of these issues in BravoSolution’s  upcoming webinar!

Sign up to join BravoSolution’s webinar, Innovative Data Leveraging for Procurement Analysis, on 28th March

Procurement Isn’t Done Innovating

Changing the close-minded nature of a stakeholder to the value of procurement is a big challenge. But procurement isn’t beaten yet.

Have you just started following this series of posts? Don’t miss the first two! I’ve been sharing my perspective on procurement productivity and efficiency from over four decades worth of experience in the field. Catch up here on Part 1 and Part 2.

If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know it is in my nature to look forward. I’m always trying to figure out what is likely to come next for a profession that has already seen so much change.

Although most of the time we consider savings as the primary procurement performance metric, our core focus should actually be on spend and what it can accomplish.

In my first post, I suggested that the total number of annual procurement hours is a fixed resource that must be maximised if we are going to approach our full potential. The same is true of spend.

A company’s total annual (or budgeted) spend is fixed. Simply shrinking it is a limited view of procurement’s impact, and one that has gotten us in trouble in the past for being overly cost-conscious.

Expanding View of Spend Management

In order to really influence spend under management, we need to back up or expand our view of the spend management process. Starting with eSourcing and moving forward is too late. By then, a significant opportunity to impact the category has already been passed.

The supplier discovery process – as reimagined by the team at tealbook, for instance – contains all of the value potential uncovered in downstream processes. While it might seem like more work to broaden the pool of prospective suppliers, it’s actually procurement’s best change to affect results by more than a shade or two at a time.

All measurements (savings, spend under management, etc.) need to drive meaningful improvements in results. They can’t just capture activity, and no measurement exists for its own sake. Because of the seemingly contradictory nature of the metrics in play, procurement is sometimes in the position of having to reconcile long term strategic value creation with short term business requirements.

In the face of this challenge, we have to make working the ‘right way’ so easy and intuitive that people don’t have an incentive to fall back on their old habits.

Importance of the Right Price

Procurement has successfully overcome a savings-driven mindset. It is time for us to help our internal stakeholders overcome a status-quo mindset. I have been in situations when an internal stakeholder tells me something along the lines of, “This is an area where we aren’t really concerned about what we pay.”

And while we need to be careful not to alienate someone by beating the ‘savings drums,’ this is a prime opportunity to educate, and to explain why it is important to get the right price regardless of what is being bought.

Each dollar spent has the potential to create varying levels of value. Not being worried about what you spend in a particular category or on a specific product is one thing. But what if you could accomplish more with that same dollar? Maybe there is a more innovative supplier or a next generation product available?

If a company’s doesn’t open their mind to what is possible, and investigate qualified alternatives, they condemn their potential to the bounds of the past.

tealbook allows companies to pursue inquiries like these without holding up the project timeline. In fact, an internal stakeholder can search the suppliers themselves if they like. They may even uncover new potential sources of supply that match their definition of desired value.

Shifting the Stakeholder Mindset

This mindset-shift is a challenge that the procurement community as a whole can stand up and address together.

Procurement pros are notoriously conservative in their sharing habits. While this makes a lot of sense in specific cases, any opportunity to contribute to, or benefit from, aggregate industry intelligence may be just the cure we need to closed-minded stakeholders and the frustration they create.

I have been around a lot of different procurement and purchasing groups, and they get all worn down. I’ve seen unbridled energy and excitement degrade to the point of becoming a lack of professional engagement.

When we don’t set up the true mission of procurement right – maximising the value of every dollar spent – it’s not a fun place to work. But hope is not lost. Procurement is not done innovating.

Catering to business clients is a big role for procurement. We need to draw those clients into the process and make it easy for them to understand the real meaning behind differentials in cost. Not just in terms of savings, but also in terms of what the spend can accomplish for the company. Ultimately, this will carry procurement forward to the next phase of our development.

And that is something I can hardly wait to see play out.

Gregg Brandyberry is a recognised pioneer in procurement and sourcing technology. He has over 40 years experience in industries such as automotive, textile, manufactured goods, electronics and healthcare.

He is the former Vice President of Procurement – Global Systems and Operations for GlaxoSmithKline, and a Senior Advisor for A.T. Kearney’s Procurement and Analytic Solutions organisation.

The Evolution of Procurement Culture

Procurement often struggles with the perception of its value. But could the issue be traced back to the culture expected by its stakeholders?

Kevin Renes/Shutterstock.com

What is Procurement’s business value? Is it doing a great job and does the business agree? If the perception of procurement is less than we desire, it is possible to change it?

These are the tough questions we explore within this article. Warning…this article may offend some people! Yet, if we are to make progress, it’s time to be honest.

Procurement’s Perceived Value 

If you ask a procurement person if they are doing a great job, most will agree. They might say they are working to tight deadlines, complying to complex processes with limited resources and information, they do the best they can. Generally, it’s a fair assessment.

However if we ask the business the same question the response can be brutal, “No, they are not.”

The feeling is that procurement is driven by price, that they are reactive, and that procurement never brings new ideas into the business. Frequently procurement are used out of necessity, but their involvement is not desired.

This revelation can be upsetting to many within Procurement, especially when their is a clear desire to be considered as a trusted advisor, pro-active and a business capability that adds value.

If a negative perception of procurement is something you face within your organisation then we have some good news! It isn’t your fault, and it is possible to change it. 

Stakeholders & Customers

“Why is there such a disconnect?”

To help us identify what might be going wrong with the perception of procurement, we need to identify the main business areas involved.

There are four main groups that are important customers and/or stakeholders to procurement:

1. Head of the Business/CEO/CFO

This individual is responsible for budget approval, business strategy and might even decide if there is a procurement department. Their ability to decide Procurement’s future makes them a critical stakeholder for the function.

2. Business leaders/Budget Holders

This group are responsible for bringing requirements to procurement, and procurement needs their business. Losing the support of the business leaders could see a drive to outsource/automate the procurement department.

3. Supply Chain

The suppliers provide the solutions to the business leaders requirements. No suppliers means no business solutions.

4. Head of Procurement/CPO

This individual is responsible for employment, pay rises and promotions within the procurement team. As this person holds the career of the Procurement Practitioner in their hands, they are a key stakeholder. 

Procurement’s Culture Today

If we accept procurement’s culture largely remains focused on price, then we need to know why. Even will all the evolution in procurement, it’s clear that this is still prevalent. Here’s why:

  • The number 1 driver for the current procurement culture is the CEO (or CFO or equivalent)

Traditionally, to this individual procurement is principally a ‘cost centre’. The greatest value procurement offers them is keeping their costs to a minimum.

  • The next driver for procurement is the CPO

The CPO wants to ensure they meet the needs of the CEO/CFO. This is critical in ensuring they retain the support from the senior stakeholders.

Therefore maximising cost reductions are critical, realised through contract savings. This culture is amplified further by attaching procurement salary bonuses for achieving contract savings.

  • The third driver for procurement culture is business leaders

The culture is already firmly established on reducing costs/price to achieve a procurement agenda. The business leaders can struggle to identify any real business value in procurement engagements, resulting in a strained relationship.

  • The final group driving procurement culture is the Supply Chain

The culture of the engagement is based on a drive to reduce supplier margins. With no real focus on collaboration, promoting success, or becoming a customer of choice, it is a one way relationship focused on procurement success. This results in an engagement with little or no trust.

To recap, because the culture is coming down from the CEO/CFO it creates a culture focused on savings, which continues to flow down into the business and the supply chain and can result in the business leaders and the supply chain trying to by-pass procurement.

Culture From the Top

But all is not lost. In the second part of this article, we’ll propose an alternative cultural model that will drive benefit for all four stakeholder groups, plus procurement.

This will also help optimise procurement practitioners’ individual value, an aspect critical for attracting the best talent and talent retention.

“Perceived value can be in response to how you engage, which is a result of your culture, and is influenced by your drivers.”

POD Procurement is a consultancy and advisory for Procurement Transformation. For more information, and to read more about the POD Model, visit our website.

Emotional Intelligence in the Supply Chain

Emotional Intelligence can be a powerful tool for procurement in dealing with both internal customers and external suppliers.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the concept of emotional intelligence.

According to Wikipedia, it is defined as “the capacity of individuals to recognise their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings, and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.”

The concept was pioneered in the middle of the 20th Century, but only popularised in the late 1990s. Following an increase in popularity, Emotional Intelligence was quickly moved across into the business world.

Developing Internal Relationships

Although they may not have known it as Emotional Intelligence, most procurement and supply chain professionals will have used its facets. This may have been fairly common, and both with internal customers, as well as with suppliers.

A good Supply Chain Manager must not only understand the motivation and needs of customers and suppliers. They must also develop strong and lasting relationships, based on mutual respect and trust.

With these relationships, over time (and assuming a good job is being done), internal customers will respect the manager’s role, relying on their decisions, and their judgement, in day-to-day work.

Gradually, the lines of thought from both sides will become aligned, potentially reaching a perfect strategic synchrony. If this happens, fewer explanations will be required for procurement to understand, and satisfy, internal customers’ needs.

Such coordination is the best example of the optimisation between these areas, resulting in great efficiency for a company.

Good Listeners

In addition to this, similar relationships should also be developed with suppliers. While keeping the primary company goals in minds, procurement should be able to guide the supplier approach in line with their organisation’s, and get them working in the same direction.

As Artur Osipyan explains in his excellent article, when dealing with suppliers, “you need to be a good listener to ensure you capture opportunities of doing things better and can connect the dots together.”

Companies must not impose their conditions, but look to build a partnership with the vendor, for both parties’ benefit (the famous win-win).

Perhaps the most critical use of Emotional Intelligence is where the internal customer demands and supplier offer fail to match up. It presents a situation where procurement needs to play ‘Good Cop-Bad Cop’ with both sides.

Using diplomacy and Emotional Intelligence will help create common ground for both parties, and transform this into a mutually beneficial relationship. This will also enable the parties to work together in the future.

Creating Mutual Wins

There are few things that create a stronger partnership than working together to overcome issues, and finding a satisfactory, and mutually acceptable, solution.

There are advantages to the so-called ‘cold negotiations’, where hardly any contact is made with suppliers prior to, and during, the process. However, any effective medium- to long-term strategy will need a foundation of common agreement, and understanding of mutual professional development.

To achieve this foundation, procurement and supply chain managers will not use negotiation skills, but Emotional Intelligence. This can then create the first pillar of a professional relationship between the two companies that could produce plenty success in the future.