The idea of this highly sophisticated technology might seem scary.
A lot of people in supply chain are worried about the robots taking their jobs. But actually, technology is needed to meet the changing consumer demand.
“Customers want products and services in their hands more quickly; they expect a more personalised experience and all this at a lower cost,” says Vikram Murthi of Llamasoft.
“Which means more customised products and services, faster order fulfillment times and super efficient delivery. This will require an entirely new way to architect, design and manage supply chains across broader ecosystems, new technologies and new roles and skill sets.”
How AI is changing supply chain
Everyone throws around terms like AI, but what does that actually mean for supply chain?
“Tech leaders herald artificial intelligence as ‘the next electricity’ or fire,” says Jonnie Penn, an artificial intelligence expert at the University of Cambridge and keynote speaker at the 2020 Big Ideas Summit.
“These bold claims convey that AI will be disruptive, but not why or how such technological change will unfold. “
AI at work
That’s why AI makes most sense when you see it in action, Penn says.
Like Attabotics, a Canadian company specialising in high-density vertical storage using machine learning and 3D robotics.
Or Caterpillar using ship-board sensors to calculate that cleaning the hulls of their eight ships more frequently (e.g. every six months rather than every two years) reduced drag and minimised energy waste.
“That insight saved them five million dollars per year,” says Penn.
Saving the planet
Clever application of AI could also go a long way for sustainability.
“Since 80 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions are due to supply chain management, this pressure will not abate in the decade to come,” Penn says.
“Even small gains made through AI could mean large steps towards the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”
Jonnie Penn is a Rausing, Williamson and Lipton Trust doctoral scholar researching artificial intelligence at the University of Cambridge. Follow him on Twitter at @jonniepenn
Could this be the end of charts, diagrams, and facts & figures? Master this trait to increase your visibility and be remembered like nothing else!
Increasing the visibility of procurement in the C-suite is something that is constantly on every CPO’s agenda. But how do you do it? Work harder? Save more? Negotiate better? The answer very well could be none of the above.
Heralded as one of most coveted up-and-coming leadership skills, the one surprising trait that may help you increase visibility in the C-suite is the ability to tell a story. Yet sharing ideas with the C-suite is a learned skill, and you need to hire (or be) the person who can explain these ideas in a compelling way. Here’s exactly why storytelling is so important, and how to tell a good story (or hire someone who can):
Beyond that though, stories are important for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are far more likely to change opinions and behaviour than simply data and facts. Secondly, they are far more engaging, and hence more likely to capture the attention of whoever you are talking to. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, research shows that people find stories more trustworthy. With evidence like that, it’s hard to imagine presenting data ever again!
How to tell a good story
It’s clear that there are multiple compelling reasons to become a better storyteller, or to hire someone who is. Storytelling is definitely a learned skill and not something that should be left to marketing, so if you are hiring, ensure you look out for the examples below when asking a potential new hire to describe their experiences. But if you’re not hiring, it’s absolutely possible to better your own storytelling ability. Here’s how to make your stories really shine:
Share something personal: Clearly, discussions with senior executives are no time to be discussing your personal life. But by sharing an anecdote or a little bit of personal information from the work you do, you can help create a more human connection. For example, perhaps you have an interesting supplier story you can share?
Write your story first: Spent hours on your slides, but no time preparing your pitch? That won’t work if you’re storytelling. If you do plan to insert a story into what you’re doing, make sure you draft it first so you can deliver it confidently.
Know who you’re talking to: Do you know nothing about the executive you’re talking to, besides their name? This won’t help your story, unfortunately. If you can find out something personal about them, perhaps something about their interests or even their concerns about the business, you can look to personalise your story to make it more impactful.
Bookend your story: Despite the fact that people are more likely to remember stories, they can still be forgetful – in fact, people are far more likely to remember the first and last thing you tell them than anything in the middle. For this reason, try to bookend your story by starting with an exciting anecdote and closing with something your audience can resonate with.
Insert a joke or a surprise: Let’s face it, presentations can be a little dry sometimes. To lighten the mood and add intrigue to your story (where appropriate) add a joke or a surprise. It can help draw your audience’s attention back to you.
Get outside your comfort zone: Storytelling can feel uncomfortable at first, and that’s ok. Practice makes perfect, so ensure you take a risk and try to get outside your comfort zone. You never know how much visibility it could give you.
MRA Global Sourcing believes that all hiring managers should prioritise the skill of storytelling. Learn more about this, as well as many other game-changing ideas, in our compelling whitepaper 100 Big Ideas for 2021.
Before you even think of demanding a discount from your suppliers, try these avenues first – they’re far less treacherous routes
An essential part of procurement’s job, and something that will always be required of procurement, is to negotiate the best supplier deals for the business. And as much as we talk about strategic procurement (and this is really important), procurement’s success will always be measured by cost savings. Those savings are not the only way our success is measured, of course, but they are one of our raison d’etres.
So we know we need to save money for the business, but what is far from settled is how. Is a demand letter appropriate, especially in this year’s challenging business environment? Or should we use a more relationship-based approach? We’ve tackled the topic from a number of angles this year, so here is the very best advice from industry influencers and experts.
In a nutshell, many people thought that this approach was a little arrogant, and that it gave the impression that you were a ‘big brand, doing it just because you can.’ And while this approach may have been acceptable 20 or 30 years ago, now it most certainly is not.
More than that, though, many people didn’t like the idea of generic demand letters simply because they didn’t work. Discounts depended on good relationships, and demand letters did not cultivate those, as one procurement professional noted:
“Customers depend on suppliers and vice-versa. It’s a big ecosystem, and [we all need to remember that] if you squeeze out small suppliers and competition lessens, costs will inevitably increase.”
According to Joe, many of us take the attitude of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ But when it comes to relationships, we shouldn’t be taking this attitude, but instead always be looking for the opportunity to improve relationships, streamline processes, and change cost models. In a nutshell, we need to challenge the status quo.
This starts, he believes, with asking your suppliers the simple question of: ‘What can we be doing better?’
Beyond this, we should aim to improve on the following with all of our suppliers:
Trust and loyalty (treat your suppliers as much more than just vendors)
Technology and automation
Adherence to payment terms
Creation of a dedicated Supplier Relationship Manager
Internal alignment between Procurement and Supply Chain category leaders
Continually improving the above will drastically improve our relationships with our suppliers, which will, in turn, enable us to ask for further discounts.
Potential areas for discounting
If great relationships enable us to ask for a discount, should we then just ask for one? Not quite, says Corcentric’s Joe Lazzerini. In fact, there’s so much more to discounting than simply hammering down the unit price.
When asking for a discount, Joe recommends that you do as much preparation as possible, including considering how you can make discounting a win-win, and remembering that you need to collaborate, compromise, and at all times work with a partnership in mind. Here are 9 talking points to begin your discussion about cost optimisation:
Reduced future cost increases with caps
Better reporting, more transparency, communication plans, etc.
This year, more than every other year before it, we’ve learnt that relationships, partnerships and people form the basis of success in just about everything we do. Asking for a discount is no different: if you first focus on developing a strong strategic relationship, everything after that will be more successful.
Negative and contentious supplier negotiations ruining everything for you? Here’s how to negotiate in a positive and effective manner.
We’ve all been privy to supplier negotiations that have gone awry. The supplier begins to look uncomfortable. They avoid eye contact. Perhaps they even break out in a sweat, despite it being a sub-zero day. Alternatively, they get angry or perhaps they don’t say much at all, but then your relationship takes a nosedive and never recovers. They become the bane of your existence and you start wondering how the best deal could have turned into the very worst.
No one likes negative and contentious supplier negotiations, and they often are the beginning of a poor partnership (not to mention relationship!). But are they necessary? Corcentric certainly thinks they may not be, and in fact, saying goodbye to this type of negotiation is one of the big supply chain and procurement ideas we think will change everything in 2021. But how do you do it?
How to build trust in negotiations
The key to avoiding negative and contentious negotiations, says Corcentric, is to use trust-based and positive reinforcement based negotiations tactics. In order to build trust in negotiations, experts recommend six tactics:
Speak the supplier’s language
Supplier relationships are all about fostering an environment that feels like a win-win, and an important way to establish this in a negotiation is to speak the supplier’s language. What this essentially means is that you go beyond the facts of what you are being told and profile your supplier by trying to understand the perspectives, concerns, cultural and business implications, and even the less-than-obvious messages that a supplier might be giving you.
In a nutshell, you listen a lot, and take the time to understand your supplier’s history, current business position, concerns, and even a bit about the person you are dealing with personally. A lot of this can also be industry-specific, and when learning about a supplier you also need to take into consideration industry norms and conventions, as well as industry terminology. Details that may seem small to you, include a unit of measurement (for example, a hectolitre), may be extremely significant to a supplier, so you need to be able to speak their language – literally and metaphorically. Doing so will help foster an emotional connection, and send the message that you’re committed to the supplier and the outcome, and will help build trust.
Manage your reputation
As many of us in the global supply chain and procurement community know, the world is certainly not as big as it seems. For this reason, your supplier’s reputation isn’t the only one you need to think about.
Suppliers talk, of course, and what they say about you counts. So if you have a reputation for going hard on cost and squeezing out supplier profit, you had better believe that your supplier may already know this. Similarly, if you haven’t kept your word in a particular situation, or done something else detrimental that damaged your integrity, that supplier will have likely discovered this. In summary, if you’re known for any of these seven supplier negotiation fails, your reputation may be in trouble.
As such, always be careful of your reputation in the market.
Create an environment of mutual dependence
Regardless of your spend, if you’re bringing a new supplier onboard, it’s clear they will depend on you to some degree. And from your perspective, that dependence is power. But have you ever thought about it from the other perspective, insomuch as you need that particular supplier?
Dependence is an uncomfortable psychological prospect, but research shows that its mutual existence does increase trust in a relationship. For this reason, try to establish the idea of mutual dependence by highlighting to your supplier the benefits of working with you and the positive mutual outcomes you’ll work towards.
It’s something that many of us may feel uncomfortable with, but it is essential in gaining trust, and that is: make concessions. And not just any concessions: one-sided concessions.
In negotiations, it’s difficult to not think that you, as the buying organisation, should have the upper hand. But in reality, what you are building is a long-term relationship in which you should be less focused on tit-for-tat concessions, and more on good outcomes. Before you concede, ensure that your organisation doesn’t suffer as a result, but you’d be amazed at what a single concession can do for trust in negotiations (and beyond).
Point out your concessions
Cringing at the idea of conceding? You might not like this news, but it’s a necessary evil. If you’re going to go to the trouble of conceding, you need to ensure that you deliberately point out what you have done.
Why? Because pointing out your concession, including exactly how much you have given away and what that sacrifice will mean for your business (and hopefully, not just for your ego), shows that you are serious about looking after your supplier. Fortunately, doing this should also trigger their desire to look after you, further engendering trust.
Explain your reasoning
Unfortunately, humans are simply not that trusting, especially in a situation which can be perceived as conflict, like a negotiation. For this reason, your supplier may assume the worst of you (and you the worst of them), before conversations have even begun.
That’s why, when negotiating, it’s important to explain your reasoning for any demands you make. For example, say you require a certain percentage discount on volume orders. Instead of simply asking for this, explain that you need it to make your manufacturing feasible. Understanding your drivers will help give your supplier better insights into your business and how they might be able to help you. There is another, all-encompassing reason that we all need to avoid negative supplier negotiations. Discover what it is here, as well as many other game-changing ideas, in our compelling whitepaper 100 Big Ideas for 2021.
The good news is, women are breaking the glass ceiling and moving up the ranks in Procurement and Supply Chain – the bad news is, their pay doesn’t necessarily reflect their achievement. How can leaders halt this divergence and close the pay gap?
Women Leaders who are Moving Mountains
Women are becoming more successful in 2020 than ever in moving into high level positions within major organisations.
According to the Cataylst Org. “In 2019 (2020 the percentage was unchanged), the proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 29%, the highest number ever recorded.
Therefore, women are breaking the glass ceiling in terms of ‘moving up the ranks’, but are we seeing the same with our pay? And what about women within the procurement and supply chain function?
Are both increasing in parallel, or is there an even bigger divergence amongst women in senior level roles?
Well, if you’ve read any of the earlier Procurious blogs, you’ll know that unfortunately women looking for equal pay, is still a thing. The article cites that results reported by CIPS indicates that the “average pay gap in the profession overall narrowed slightly to 21% in 2019.” When women are promoted to a higher position, this gap increases significantly.
To make things even worse, the gender pay gap for a senior position for women has risen to 35% in 2019. And when looking at the pay range, it can be upwards of +£23.2k difference.
So, despite the appearance of promotion and equality moving into the Executive levels, the pay is still lagging far behind. Not really a win-win situation for women (quite infuriating if you ask most of us).
Therefore, what can be done to help close and not exasperate this difference? And what can leaders in procurement and supply chain do to try and make a change for future generations?
Making the Mountain Climb worth the Effort
Seeing the huge disparity in senior level roles will only further detract women from the industry, which would only leave us at a huge disadvantage. According to American Express OPEN, growth in women-owned businesses has outpaced the overall increase in new businesses by 1.5 times.
Therefore, everyone within the procurement and supply chain function must do their part to close the gap (and make the climb worth the effort) for women globally. So just how can we do that?
Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are five basic steps any leader can take to help create equality for women.
1. Promote Wisely
When promoting women into higher positions, make sure they are not at the bottom of the pay scale. Make sure you or your HR partner does a benchmark pay assessment internally and externally to ensure fairness across the position.
2. Stop the Pregnancy / Child Penalisation
From personal experience, the way a company treats women going out on pregnancy leave can be drastically different.
In one company I was penalised monetarily (pro-rated) in my bonus, pay, and other compensation for taking off time. In the other, when I came back from leave, I was promoted, and got full bonus and salary increase.
In both cases I didn’t even take the full six months allowed for in the state, only taking four months each time. But the disparity in pay, bonus, and other compensation is how women end up behind the curve. And something companies should not take lightly.
3. Encourage Talented Women Professionals to Switch Professions
If you have a business partner who is great at marketing, supplier negotiations, or has a breadth of experience with an executive presence, go after her to come and experience procurement or supply chain!
In many organisations you will find extremely talented women without direct procurement experience, but very aware of the processes and policies. That’s what we like to call potential, especially when other functions tend to pay women more than procurement/supply chain.
They’ll take with them this increase in salary/bonus and carry it forward into the industry. A win-win for orgfanisations and women alike.
4. Make Multiple Women Mentors a Standard
Do you know what’s great? One-woman mentor. Do you know what’s even better? Multiple women mentors! Why?
Not all women have the same issues, and not all will connect. It’s like any other relationship. Therefore, having not just one but multiple mentors across the organization. Expediting the learning and leadership process, can only help propel women into higher paying opportunities.
Do what you need to go out of your way to help women employees to connect with.
5. Transparency in Salary
If you happen to live in the US, this practice of sharing pay information is actually protected by law (Department of Labor). But if you aren’t, there are still other resources – Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn Salaries, etc.
Why is this useful? Well if can arm yourself with the information of pay range, you are less likely to underpay women or miss out on giving them fair pay from the start.
And if you are a woman looking for a new job or making a switch, it gives you the leverage during salary negotiations. So even if an employer doesn’t want to give you a pay range, you can easily figure out how much they value you when they do. Information in this day and age is truly priceless!
It’s time to plan, budget and set your strategies for 2021. Here are 100 proven, practical and fresh ideas to jumpstart your company in the new year.
You’ve probably heard me say it before, but I’ll say it again: all it takes is one idea to positively impact your career, those around you, your organisation and the profession itself. If you don’t believe me, take it from the great and late Robin Williams: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
To that end, we reached out to the profession’s best and brightest to round up 100 big, practical and creative ideas for improving all things procurement and supply chain this year. We have an idea for everyone, so you’ll definitely want to review all the ideas (get your access here) as you plan, budget and set strategies for 2021. But 100 ideas is a lot, so here are nine suggestions for priorities we know will be on your radar next year: cost control, risk reduction and talent development.
Idea #1: Implement zero-based spend category strategies. Every procurement professional is trying to save money right now — but simply trimming a percentage or two won’t drive the meaningful change needed in today’s COVID environment, and may hurt supplier relationships. Instead, McKinsey suggests completely rethinking what, and how much, you actually need to meet demand and run your business. Every dollar you spend should have a purpose. If it doesn’t, the category or spend shouldn’t exist. While zero-based spend strategies are not new, they offer a proven, bottoms-up approach for tackling spend management and controlling costs.
Idea #2: Demonstrate more value internally by tracking spend against a market index. With budgets under intense scrutiny, procurement can stand out and increase its influence by being more strategic about how we report savings. Anklesaria Group suggests tracking at least 60% of spend against one or multiple indexes. This is an incredible way to demonstrate the value of procurement. Prices always change — and if prices go up in the market, and your price goes up at a slower rate than the index, then you’re driving a real, differentiating advantage.
Idea #3: Let the positivity shine. Far too often, supplier negotiations are negative and contentious. There’s no place for this anymore – everyone is hunting and dealing with the same economic uncertainty. Corcentric recommends using trust-based and positive reinforcement negotiation tactics in 2021. We’ve all had a tough year, and now, more than ever, positivity and mutually-beneficial negotiation strategies uncover better savings and terms than old-school, hardline approaches.
Supply Chain Disruptions: Tackle Risk More Strategically
The other top procurement priority for executives: risk management. Here are three ideas for improving how your team approaches supply chain risk management in 2021. Get more risk management ideas here.
Idea #4: Leverage social media and non-traditional channels to monitor supplier risk in real time. Ninety seven percent of supply chains experienced a COVID-related disruption – which means it’s time we rethink our approach to supply chain risk management. IntegrityNext recommends that procurement expand beyond the typical supply chain indicators. Today, there’s an immense amount of information available about businesses and people online. In 2021, we need to use it to our advantage to vet suppliers, identify exposures and mitigate disruptions before they happen.
Idea #5: Make sure your contracts have clauses that protect against cyber breaches. We can no longer talk about supply chain risk without mentioning cyber. McAfee, a cybersecurity company, reported 419 new threats per minute in Q2 of 2020, an increase of almost 12% over the previous quarter. Odesma recommends looking at all contracts to ensure, across all categories, you have clauses for the supplier to certify they are doing everything they can to protect against hacking, and should the worst happen, your vendors have appropriate insurance in place.
Idea #6: Break down barriers to reduce risk. If risk really is a top priority, organisations cannot continue to manage it in silos. riskmethods suggests forming a cross-functional, multidisciplinary risk management council that includes all of procurement and supply chain’s key stakeholders — including AP/Finance, compliance, product development, manufacturing, executives and more. Meet regularly to gather, consolidate and evaluate perspectives and data points on risk as a team, and make more informed, company-wide decisions that improve risk awareness and mitigation.
Talent Development: Build the Best Procurement Team
Idea #7: Add good story tellers to your team. During the hiring process, MRA Global Sourcing suggests prioritising a candidate’s ability to tell stories. As a result of the pandemic, procurement is getting more attention and opportunity than ever before. But sharing ideas with the C-suite and briefing executives is a learned skill. Find people who can deliver by prioritising the candidate’s storytelling ability and executive presence during the interview process.
Idea #8: Seize market uncertainty to strengthen your team. The collapse of certain industries has flooded the market with talent. Ronin, LTD, recommends looking beyond your traditional candidate pipelines to go after talent in affected industries that would normally be hard to attract. Engage with your workforce management team or head-hunter to track and interview new candidates that enter the marketplace from affected industries.
Idea #9: Invest in yourself. This idea isn’t new, but it’s a game-changer for those that actually put a plan in place and make it happen. Connect with your peers, find training, get procurement certifications, and develop new skills. Think about it: What skills will you need next year that you don’t have right now? What about five years from now? “Everyone wants to grow professionally in the new year. But very few people actually put a concrete plan in place. You’ll naturally grow through your experiences, but if you are intentional, proactive and really invest, you’ll be way ahead of everybody else,” says Procurious founder and chairman, Tania Seary.
There you have it: nine ideas to jumpstart 2021 planning. Interested in hearing the other 91? Get the full report here, and add your own ideas in the comments below.
Writing off Procurement as the department that finds things for the cheapest price is to write off a complex and important decision-making mechanism that expertly considers several vital factors over “buying cheapest”.
It is saddening how some organisations still think the only idea of Procurement is to buy the cheapest. This leads to numerous erroneous opinions about Procurement function and profession in general. Because of this myth, other departments within organisations try to avoid Procurement department while making strategic decisions. Consequently, in many instances those departments face numerous problems, such as poor service, substandard deliverable, late performance and even disappearing vendors.
It is important to instruct our colleagues and duly inform them about the role and significance of Procurement function in any organisation. It is important to bust Procurement myths.
First, in Procurement profession we do not even use the words “cheap”, “cheaper” or “cheapest”. These are banned words. Because the word “cheap” reflects many attributes, including quality. We say “lower in price” or “lowest-priced” or “less expensive” or “least expensive”.
Second, we never look at the price of goods, works or services, if we are not satisfied with the quality. Even if the price is $0.00. We are simply not interested in seeing the price of a bad quality product.
Third, we do not consider price if delivery schedule and delivery conditions are not what we requested. I.e. if medicines or other vital products are going to be delivered long after they are needed – why do we bother about the price at all?
Forth, most often we give zero attention to price if the company offering products or services is not qualified and reliable. Some exceptions might apply for new technologies, know-hows and monopolies.
Fifth, we do not consider price if a bidder disagrees with terms of the contract we envisage.
Only after all these criteria are met, Procurement starts reviewing, comparing prices.
So, in practice, we might review the prices of only 4 offers out of 20 offers received. The remaining 16 would be filtered out because of the criteria above that come before price.
In other words, price is just one of those numerous factors Procurement considers.
Additionally, it is vital to acknowledge that while sourcing best value for the organization, Procurement wears two hats:
The first hat is for dealing with the final recipient of the product or service. Procurement needs to listen carefully and understand all the details and peculiarities of the final deliverable. The price of a mistake here is too high. Any concerns or alternative solutions should be properly discussed before going to market.
The second hat is for dealing with vendors. Here procurement needs to obtain the maximum value for the organisation, while keeping the vendors interested and motivated.
Negotiating in two fronts is difficult, but no one said Procurement is easy. Procurement is a complex and important decision-making mechanism that evaluates risks and offers solutions to guarantee the best value for money. It is certainly more than just buying the cheapest.
This article is based on series of lectures by Levon Hovsepyan organised in 2008-2014
This article was originally published on June 9th, 2020. Source: Procurement.org and has been republished here with permission.
Is it even ok to still want to become a CPO this year, or soon? Read expert insights from a recruiter on how to do just that.
It’s been challenging, of late, to give our careers the usual focus they need and deserve. But even with the situation not changing much for the better, many of us are returning to our former ambitious selves. And with that, comes the inevitable question: If I want to become a CPO, how do I do it?
Given that we’re all technically surrounded by CPOs and procurement executives most days, it should be easy to answer this. But what works for one person in terms of getting to the top may not work for others. For this reason, it’s better to ask someone that oversees the promotion of procurement professionals into the top echelons of business every day. In other words: Ask an executive recruiter.
To help you understand how to land a CPO role, we interviewed one of the procurement industry’s top executive recruiters, Mark Holyoake. Mark, the founder of Holyoake Search, has placed dozens of candidates into senior procurement roles over an 18-year career, and has unique and fascinating insights into how you can achieve your career dreams.
I want to be a CPO within 5 years. What should I be doing now?
If you’ve got your sights on the top job, but know you’re not quite ready yet, there’s still a lot you can be doing, says Mark, to prepare yourself when the time comes. Across all of the roles he’s recruited, he’s found that all CPOs share certain qualities:
‘All successful CPOs have great leadership skills. They also understand business strategy. In addition to this, humility, exceptional communication skills, awareness of the future, diplomacy, and a mindset for growth are all critical.’
But when should you start developing these essential traits? The sooner, the better, Mark says:
‘Start cultivating these skills early on. Learn them in the classroom, within your company, with the help of an external mentor. Don’t have a mentor? Seek one out ASAP.’
Fine-tune your leadership skills
To succeed in procurement, technical skills are of course important. But what’s more important, says Mark, is to be an exceptional leader. If you’re wanting a senior position, Mark believes, these are the skills that you need to work most on.
Fortunately, the current crisis has provided us all with the opportunity to lead, and there’s one skill in particular that we should all have fine-tuned:
‘Leading through uncertainty and adversity has certainly been required of late. As a CPO, you’ll always face uncertainty – so that’s a great skill to be nurturing now.’
Beyond the skills learned in the current crisis, when Mark recruits for senior roles, he does believe certain leadership skills are crucial. He says the businesses he works with usually look for a number of things:
‘[My clients] need leaders that understand strategy, how to react to change, and who possess a devotion to research and current affairs.’
Getting noticed by executive recruiters
Recruitment for more junior procurement roles usually happens via networking and job boards. But when it comes to the senior end of town, the majority of roles are advertised through executive recruiters, who then headhunt talent. So this begs the question – how do you get noticed by these recruiters so you know about these roles in the first place, and get the opportunity to apply?
Mark says that contrary to your standard job search, getting noticed by executive recruiters isn’t about applying:
‘Candidates should understand that standing out isn’t necessarily about one application or one interview. It’s not about looking for a job when you need to find one.’
So what is standing out about, then? Mark recommends that you invest in continually building your profile over time:
‘Candidates should work on building their online networks and personas over time.’
‘By being active on LinkedIn, sharing relevant articles, participating in discussions, and ensuring visibility, candidates are able to pre-position themselves to stand out to prospective employers and recruiters to represent them.’
Interviewing like a true CPO
Interviews can be intimidating at any level and at an executive level, they can feel particularly intimidating. Fortunately though, Mark says that the key to ‘interviewing like a true CPO’ is really no different from how you succeed at any other interview:
‘The number one fail I see, which I see at all levels, is that candidates are not fully prepared.’
‘Procurement executives are generally pretty confident in their own abilities, not to mention very busy, with the consequence that many will, unfortunately, try to “wing it.”’
‘As with most things in life, interview practice makes perfect – so ensure you’re prepared.’
‘Research common questions and practice giving answers that highlight your accomplishments. Ensure that you’re able to distill large amounts of information into relevant and succinct responses.’
Preparing can help you deliver far better answers to questions, says Mark, But it’s also critical for your mindset:
‘When your mind is prepared and ready to go on autopilot, it allows you to relax and let your conscious mind focus on listening to what is actually being asked. You’ll enjoy the interview more as well!’
Making your move – this year?
If you’re the ambitious type, you’ll inevitably wonder whether it’s appropriate – or possible – to try to move into a more senior role this year. While the situation is certainly volatile at the moment, Mark believes that it could also represent a good opportunity for aspiring CPOs as they are more likely to be able to secure a role where their impact is felt:
‘Usually, a conflict exists for many procurement professionals in their job search. Do they choose a profitable, fast-growing company where their impact is not felt as strongly, or do they choose a company under duress who needs their help?’
‘Right now, that conflict no longer exists. EVERY company needs your help – you can have your cake and eat it too.’
Interestingly, Mark saw a spike in demand for procurement professionals after the 2008 global financial crisis, a trend which enabled many aspiring leaders to step into great roles:
‘Post-2008, the demand for procurement went up. While it’s unclear if we’ll see a repeat of that, I’m confident that for most job seekers, if they commit to their job search fully and completely, they will find what they’re looking for.’
Do you have any other tips for aspiring CPOs? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.
Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more.
If you’re based in the US, connect with Mark Holyoake if you’re looking for, or aspiring to be, procurement executive talent.
Are you part of the 99% who don’t? And what’s stopping you from taking advantage of this free, simple way to reach people?
Maybe you’re worried about what to post, which Moore says is a common concern.
That’s why you should write something that is authentic to you. “This can be your opinion on an issue, an article that speaks to you, or even proposing a simple question to your connections,” Moore advises.
“Writing from a place of sincerity can really reduce the social angst in deciding ‘what’ to post or ‘when’ to post. When we do something often, we feel less nervous about it as we have acclimatised.”
Moore suggests making it part of your routing by blocking out 15 minutes in your calendar each week to post something. Also use that time to ‘like’ and comment on other people’s posts that you find interesting.
Recruiters like to see candidates who use LinkedIn regularly, says Martin Smith, Managing Director at Talent Drive – a UK procurement recruitment specialist.
“We look for people that are…clearly active on their LinkedIn whether that’s someone that has written blogs, engaged in webinars or just generally engaged with their audience,” Smith says.
“This allows them to stand out from their peers and if you can put some personality and authenticity behind that engagement that’s the key differentiator.”
2) Make it personal, but not too personal
A mistake Smith sees is people who blur their personal and professional lives on LinkedIn.
“Your LinkedIn is a professional network and there is nothing wrong with every now and then posting a day’s leave or a picture of your kids to show your human side,” Smith says.
“[B]ut LinkedIn is a professional social media platform and should be used for work-related content, not what you had for breakfast or what your favourite 80s band was. Keep that for Facebook, TikTok and Instagram!”
You should also aim to strike a human yet professional tone in the way you interact with other people on the platform, says Andrew MacAskill, Founder of Executive Career Jump.
“Pay into the ecosystem by providing comments, taking on mentees, appearing on podcasts and sharing valuable insights,” says MacAskill.
“The best way to get what you want is to help other people get what they want!”
3) Keep it clear and simple
When it comes to your own profile, MacAskill advises describing yourself with keywords that match the kind of role you want.
These keywords are unique to your skill set and make you more searchable on LinkedIn.
“Above everything else, candidates need to ensure they have the right keywords in their headline, ‘about’ box, and job detail to be found,” says MacAskill.
Recruiter Martin Smith adds another way to catch a recruiter’s attention: have a clear overview on your profile of what you do and where you are working at the moment.
“We see too often now people have very over-complicated LinkedIn profiles with grand titles such as ‘Procurement Leader/ Top 100 Procurement Influencer/FTSE 100 leader/ Thought Leader and engagement consultant,’” says Smith.
“This can make it confusing and can dilute the message on who they actually are and what they do.”
So drop the multi-hyphenated-super-title in favour of clarity.
4) Reach out to recruiters
Ideally, the recruiters come to you with suitable roles. And they likely will, once you spruce up your profile and get active on LinkedIn.
But if they aren’t chasing you yet, is it ok to approach them directly? Especially if they often post roles that seem ideal?
Of course, says Smith. But brevity is key.
“Recruiters don’t want you sending them a 10-page document via LinkedIn on why you feel you are appropriate for the job,” Smith points out.
“The market is tough right now and is very candidate-rich and job-light which can be a challenge.
“But if you really want to stand out, send a personal yet succinct message to the recruiter on who you are, what you do and why you want the job with a follow up number and that will get the best engagement.”
Smith says recruiters are very busy at the moment trying to manage candidate expectations in a challenging market, so be considerate. You can still be persistent, but always be courteous.
“A recruiter will see every approach they have and if you look right for a role they will follow up,” Smith advises.
And it doesn’t hurt to make connections with recruiters long before you need a job.
“Build your network, reach out to businesses that interest, build relationships with recruiters to help you with your search but ensure it’s a targeted and measured approach without too much distracting noise around the message you want to give,” Smith says.
Emphasis on the word ‘relationship.’
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to potential hiring managers and build a relationship with a soft approach,” says Imelda Walsh, Manager at The Source – the Melbourne-based procurement recruitment firm.
“Don’t start the conversation asking about job opportunities of course. Don’t just connect with someone without following through with an introduction message to kickstart a relationship that can add value to both parties.”
5) Ask for recommendations
You can also improve your chances by identifying the right people in your network to ask for LinkedIn recommendations, Walsh says.
“Be strategic about who to ask for recommendations – professionals that are well connected and respected in your industry and that know the value you bring to a role/organisation,” Walsh advises.
And it’s ok to guide the people who are writing you a recommendation.
Obviously don’t force words on them, but you can give some pointers to help them write something truly unique to you.
What did you enjoy about working with me the most (include an example)
What word would you use to describe me and why (include an example)
One problem that you had, which I helped you overcome and how (include example, their feelings, and your action points)
These can help your recommendations stand out from the generic but ever-popular: “Joe is a team player.”
Attract job opportunities to you
This might sound like a lot of work, especially if you’ve not spent much time on LinkedIn before.
But in strange times like these, you’ll want every advantage you can get your hands on, adds Imelda Walsh.
“If you don’t have an online presence, it’s not a matter of ‘you might be missing out on roles,’ it’s a case of you will be missing out on opportunities,” Walsh warns.
So it’s worth investing the time to make your LinkedIn presence shine.
And think of the possible rewards. “HR, hiring managers and recruiters will bring opportunities to you instead of you having to apply for roles through various company pages and job boards,” says Walsh.
So if you’re tired of throwing your CV into the job board black hole, you might want to try the LinkedIn route to your next role.
The future of procurement is digital. Experts share the tech skills you need to thrive in that future.
The future of procurement is digital. How can you make sure you’re part of that future? By understanding what your company needs from procurement, then using the right digital tools to meet those needs.
Here are the most valuable tech skills in procurement:
Supplier risk management
Companies want better supplier risk management, especially in the wake of COVID-19.
That’s why supplier risk management technology is top of procurement leaders’ list of digital priorities.
Employers now expect procurement teams to move faster and mitigate risk long before another crisis hits.
End-to-end supply chain visibility
A by-product of proper supplier risk management is increased visibility, according to Hau Lee, Professor of Operations, Information and Technology at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“You need end-to-end visibility about your supply network (capacity, inventory, disruptions, production yields, lead time, bottlenecks, social and environmental performances, their financial conditions, etc.), and your demand network (orders, demand forecasts, backlogs, channel inventory, promotion plans, and disruptions),” Lee says.
There are a host of tools out there to improve visibility. One is IBM Sterling Inventory Visibility, which is a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS). It compiles all of your inventory information from different platforms so you can see available product in real-time.
That’s just one example. Lee recommends educating yourself about other available tools that improve visibility. These harness technology like the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and deep data analytics.
Reduce complexity in global sourcing
Professor Lee says understanding the intricacies of global trade, and how technology can reduce complexity, can make you an extremely valuable asset.
“Today, you need to be aware of the tens of thousands of bilateral trade agreements that exist between some key trading countries for products and components that may affect you,” Lee says.
And not just for minimising disruption. Where and how you source products can have a major impact on your bottom line.
Lee uses the example of breaking up a product and sourcing parts from different countries, like sourcing frames from Cambodia while the other parts from China. That way, you can use Cambodia as the country of origin instead of China, which can save you a great deal in taxes and custom duties.
“As countries start to gradually recover from COVID-19, attention will be shifted back (it has already started) to trade wars, tariff frictions, and protectionism,” Lee says. “Databases from WTO, for example, should be useful. Some experts call this “tariff engineering,” and there can be big differences.”
Conduct due diligence on suppliers for complete transparency
Ethical sourcing is already a hot topic, and it’s even more scrutinised now. Your company’s reputation is on the line, and you are held accountable for how and where you source materials.
It’s certainly a top concern for your company’s executives. They desperately want assurance that suppliers are reputable. Luckily there are digital tools that help you do your due diligence for potential suppliers, Professor Lee says.
“For example, many big brands have already been using IPE, the Chinese website that captures environmental violations in China, as a source of data to do due diligence of their prospective suppliers,” Lee says.
In fact, companies like Nike use apps to connect with the factory workers and educate them, Lee says. “[That] allows them to have better visibility of the conditions of the factories (instead of just relying on imperfect factory audits to monitor), and at the same time help to improve productivity there.”
Interpret data in a meaningful way
Being able to understand and interpret data is sorely needed in procurement.
This is especially true before you bring in new tech systems, says Susan Walsh, Founder of The Classification Guru.
“An area that’s often neglected is data preparation or cleansing before the implementation of any new software or systems,” Walsh wrote in a recent blog. “By the time it’s discovered there are errors in the data, staff have lost faith in using the software and are disengaged, claiming it doesn’t work, or they don’t trust it because it’s wrong.”
The beauty of procurement technology is cutting out admin and simplifying processes.
The ugly side of that same technology is displacing people who currently handle that admin. That’s why you need to gain useful skills beyond manual data processing if you want a future in procurement.
But where do you start, especially if new technology seems overwhelming?
Craig Carter, Professor of Supply Chain Management in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, says start with the basics.
“Supply management professionals need to have a general understanding of all of the technologies that are being adopted or are on the horizon – AI, blockchain, descriptive analytics, and predictive analytics,” Carter says.
But don’t panic, as Carter adds that understanding does not mean mastery. You don’t need to become an expert overnight.
Technology is coming
Don’t be surprised if this future tech is on your desk a lot sooner than you think. The pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of technology, as shown by our Supply Chain Confidence Index.
When asked which technologies show the most promise for helping to mitigate future pandemics and supply disruptions, 49% said predictive analytics and 38% said AI/ machine learning.
Ultimately, companies will do anything they can to minimise risk. Which is why procurement is so perfectly placed to contribute.
All you need to do is prove you have the answers they need, says Professor Carter.
“What is necessary is a demonstration of a procurement professional’s strategic value,” Carter says.
“Procurement professionals who can critically analyse, think strategically, and build relationships will continue to be in demand.”
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