Tania Seary’s Big Ideas on shockproof procurement

Tania was talking at the Big Ideas Summit, the world’s first digitally-led procurement event. Join the Big Ideas Group to see how 40 influential thought-leaders aired their ‘Big Ideas’ on cost, risk, technology and people management.


If procurement is to “shockproof” the profession, we need to move out of our silos and work together to solve potential supply chain disruption issues.

Most of these issues – slavery, child labour, unsafe work practices, exploitation and neglect for the environment, copyright – are too big for any one person – or even any one company – to solve alone.

The procurement community can build muscle, by continuously flexing and responding to each other’s calls for support.

Procurious, in particular, could support the development of the procurement community’s muscle by providing the forum for solving some of the biggest problems we face today –

  • Mitigating potential supply chain disruptions
  • Driving innovation
  • Winning the war for talent

Mitigating potential supply chain disruptions

Supply chain risk is now regularly quoted as the number one concern for many CEOs.

We also know from recent history that unethical practices can permanently impact corporate reputations and brand equity.

It is interesting to consider the powerful role of social media in both exposing, and educating, everyone in the supply chain about inappropriate practices. Consumers are very fast to share their discoveries through social media, but procurement and other supply chain professionals have been slow to leverage social media in their due diligence and reporting processes.

Alarmingly, many organisations cannot see past their first tier supplier and are unable to readily investigate the supply chain that lurks behind them, resulting in product recalls, disruption and, in some cases, death. As my colleague Gordon Donovan likes to say “we need to pull back the supply chain curtain

So Gordon has proposed a Big Idea on how we could use social media to solve one of our biggest threats – by creating a Global Supply Chain Tree.

As we all know, Wikipedia has used thousands of volunteers to create a free encyclopedia with a million and a half articles in two hundred languages in just a couple of years. This is the opportunity for procurement too!

Why couldn’t we use Procurious to build a detailed map of our supply chains? We could –

  • Record ownership structures
  • Detail parent/child supplier relationships
  • Rate supplier performances and compliance

This information tree could be fully built and self-governed by supply chain professionals as they uncover each layer in their supply chain.

This would dramatically increase our supply chain visibility and hopefully verify its purity – which would mitigate some huge risks we have in our supply chains today.

Leveraging growth and innovation opportunities

The second challenge we face is to deliver growth and innovation from our supply base. Today’s procurement professional is as much about contributing to the top line, as the bottom line.

Being able to actively seek out information is part of social’s beauty – and crafting a network of thought-leaders, influencers, and experts around you is an unquestionably valuable thing in identifying and developing growth opportunities.

One of our team members, Jordan Early, has put Barcelona-based Citymart forward as a great example of turning traditional procurement on its head. See what he has to say.

Citymart enables citizens to choose which city problems need solving and to provide less traditional suppliers with an opportunity to win the contracts to solve them.

This is an inspiring example of how we could use our global online networks to collaborate and deliver better outcomes for ourselves and our communities.

Winning the war for talent 

I have written previously that if procurement is going to win the war for procurement talent, we need to engage with Millennials on the platform they 
use the most: social networks.

Unfortunately most of the online images of procurement are outdated and uninspiring. We need to encourage all CPOs and vested parties in the profession to quickly upgrade their online presence to make the whole profession more attractive.

By creating and
maintaining fresh and dynamic Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
company profiles, we can open the door to new recruits to our profession.

In addition to conducting a “social media audit” on our online presence and positioning, we should also consider online projects that appeal to Millennials such as PACE – Procurement Advice for Charitable Enterprises – which was developed by a group of participants in The Faculty’s Procurement Executive Program.

The PACE concept is to connect sourcing professionals with charitable enterprises to provide volunteer professional procurement advice.

Via a social media platform, procurement professionals, either independently or via their employer, register their interest, specific skills and availability. Not-for-profits then access the register and find a ‘match’ that provides timely advice and assistance to solve their procurement problems.

This is a great example of using our community muscle to ensure everyone wins:

  • For not for profits, it provides real, targeted assistance via ready access to procurement expertise on demand and an extra level of accountability and transparency, without spending a fortune on consultants.
  • For procurement professionals, it facilitates an opportunity to undertake meaningful work in manageable chunks of time, networking and a development opportunity of using existing skills in a different setting.
  • For employers, it can easily be incorporated into an existing Community Relations or Corporate Social Responsibility program, and offers a means of broadening community relationships and increasing good corporate citizenship beyond the traditional photo opportunities of planting trees or painting fences.

Whilst still in the conceptual stage, it shows the power of procurement working together and plays to the need of the Millennials to do something “meaningful” in their careers.

The opportunities for procurement to collaborate on-line to shockproof and enhance the profession are boundless. What is your BIG IDEA for our first collaboration project?