The Role of Social Media in Supply Chain Intelligence

The value of the social economy is estimated to be $1.3 trillion U.S. dollars annually. 

This article was originally published on the Fronetics website.

Social media is more than a collection of personal commentary, photos, and inspirational quotes. Increasingly, social media creates an opportunity to gather information, and social media is becoming a useful tool for businesses to connect with other businesses and clients. Although Facebook is notorious for gathering information, social media companies are not the only companies who can gather intelligence.

Data Gathering

Gathering of intelligence has never been easier. Although there are still traditional indicators of sales and traditional feedback loops, the age of social media allows for swift collection of intelligence. According to McKinsey, “Analysts typically spend 80 percent of their time gathering information before they begin to analyze it. Social intelligence radically alters this process. Numerous tools allow analysts to create dynamic maps that pinpoint where information and expertise reside and to track new data in real time.”

Capturing the Consumer

Collecting information from your consumers online— the good, the bad, and the dirty— can help you understand consumer sentiment around brands. By searching for key words or terms you may improve sales strategies, product placement, or understand demand cycles.

Do you want to see what clients and consumers say about you and your products, about their reliance, frustration, appreciate of your role in the supply chain? You should! But you can also have a look at what is trending, what your competitors are doing, and how you can gain traction through social media. The window is a unique opportunity for you. If your competitors are garnering more views, figure out why. Do they highlight their employees? Do they link directly to items for purchase? Do they use keywords you’re not using? Are they presenting themselves as leaders in the industry by blogging?

Storm Surge

Storms happen, and they’re stronger than ever. Natural disasters will never cease. Accidents happen. There’s no fix-all, no cure for these things, but there are new ways to manage these challenging moments when they strike. In March 2012, the Red Cross announced the creation of a social media crisis monitoring center called the American Red Cross Digital Operations Center.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard, the Red Cross was able to see how valuable social intelligence can be. According to an article in Fast Company, How the Red Cross Used Tweets to Save Lives During Hurricane Sandy, “During the week of Hurricane Sandy, the Red Cross tracked more than 2 million posts and responded to thousands of people. In the end, 88 social media posts directly affected response efforts—a fairly significant shift of resources.”

While people lost power during Hurricane Sandy, many still had internet access on their phones. They could access news updates, connect with loved ones, and ask for help through social media. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, more than 20 million tweets were sent about Hurricane Sandy in the span of 6 days.

The intelligent thing to do for your company just might be to explore social media intelligence.

Kate Lee is the Senior Director of Research and Strategy at Fronetics Strategic Advisors, a leading management consulting firm that specialises in the identification and execution of strategies for growth and value creation.

Procurement Makeovers – Tales from the CIPS UK Conference

We all need a makeover from time to time, and I am sure that we’re all in agreement that procurement’s image (like anyone’s!) can always do with some fine-tuning.

‘Procurement Makeovers’ sounds more like the name of a cheesy TV documentary you would watch on a Sunday afternoon while the roast dinner is bubbling away in the cooker, than what it actually was – the discussion topic for a panel I participated in at the CIPS UK Annual Conference in London last week. 

The panel was hosted by the esteemed CIPS economist, Dr John Glen, from the Cranfield School of Management. My co-panelists were the charming Mr. Miguel Caulliez, Head of Global Procurement, Nokia Networks and Simon Harnett from National Grid.

It was really inspiring to chat with both Simon and Miguel prior to, and during, the panel discussion and learn about their respective procurement change management journeys.

Miguel’s LinkedIn profile reveals an impressive blue-chip pedigree working high-profile organisations all around the world. All this great experience was channeled into some very powerful leadership insights around staying laser-focused on the end-goal.

It was interesting to be reminded of Nokia’s amazing ability to move in and out of businesses and continually transform, adapt and thrive. National Grid’s contract management overhaul reinforced the value of a well-planned and well-executed process for change.

The panel was in violent agreement about some of the fundamentals of a successful change program:

  • Having a vision
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Getting some quick wins (this wasn’t unanimous).

The two thoughts I would like to share are, that during change you need to make sure people understand the why, and to remember that change is very much a political campaign.

Understanding the Why

The most important element of a change program is for people to understand why they need to change. We get these questions every day – Why should Procurement get involved in social media? Why should we collaborate globally on-line?

  • Procurement needs to be “the smartest guy in the room” – our profession needs to be up to date with the latest news, eLearning and be able to ask questions in a trusted environment
  • Respond to disruptions – an online community provides the profession with a vehicle to create global information streams and collaborate together to respond to crises
  • Adapt Quickly – Jack Welch stated – “If the rate of change on the inside is slower than what it is on the outside, the end is near”. With the Internet of Things upon us, the procurement profession needs to be moving ahead of the technological curve if we are to thrive in the digital economy
  • Promoting the profession – I learned early in my career that, in managing any change, it was important to shine a light on the work that others were doing to progress the cause forward.

If we are going to fight back against the out-dated stereotypes of our profession, we need to individually and collectively do more to “make ourselves famous”. We need to make sure the global business community knows the role that procurement plays.

Interesting stories amplified through social media will get our profession noticed and help you build your influence too.

Don’t just stick to talking about the serious stuff either. Procurement has great stories and content to share, and often the best stories in the organisation – from buying gulf-stream jets in the first week on the job, to buying a plane ticket for a rattlesnake.

Change is a Political Campaign

The second point I would like to make on change is to address that time-old question on whether you need support from the top.

Yes, of course you need support from the top, but, if you are going to be successful, grassroots campaigning is also critical – because you can’t make change without support from the bottom.

Be ready – your biggest dissenters may come from left field and may actually be your peers, or worse, your own team!

Consider the Netflix series, “House of Cards”. The protagonist, Frank Underwood, successfully navigates the halls of power in the Capital, keeps his campaign sponsors happy, all while dealing with powerful external stakeholders, his peers and his own grassroots – his electorate in Gaffney, Georgia.

In managing change, you need to work in all directions, both inside and outside your organisation, to be effective. Don’t underestimate the effort required to win the campaign!

And you need to use the full artillery of communication vehicles to deliver a consistent message, delivered in an interesting package, across every format available.

Transforming Procurement

Procurious is leading a major global procurement transformation. The community spans 125 countries, has 7,500 stakeholders and impacts up to 2.5 million professionals.

The goal is to change the image of procurement. Like many of you, our team is tired of talking about the outdated perceptions of procurement and wants to do something about it.

Our transformation effort here at Procurious aims to take the procurement profession from being a disconnected group of individuals, to a continent-straddling network, comprising the great and the good of the procurement world.

We are using social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) as our delivery channel, but at the same time, running social media workshops, meeting individuals and speaking at conferences, in order to champion the benefits of social networking and encourage the ‘uncontactable’ to poke their heads above the parapet and truly become part of the conversation.

The transformation has definitely begun, but we have a long way to go in connecting the entire global procurement community to collaborate online.

So, help us complete the procurement makeover! Join Procurious today and help make the change a reality.

Future Proofing Procurement: Leveraging Innovation in Supply Networks

Eva Wimmers the Former CPO at Deutsche Telekom, is currently in Australia running a series of procurement innovation workshops.

This ground breaking project is being delivered in conjunction with The Faculty and brings together Australia’s top procurement teams, with the goal of unlocking and leveraging the untapped potential that lies within our supply networks.

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In this post, Eva provides some insight into the need for procurement innovation and highlights what she’ll be covering in The Faculty’s Innovation Workshops.

The whole world is digitalising, as all industries are affected by the rapid changes that the Internet and its services are producing for our every day lives. This means that Procurement needs to change and learn how to procure such products and services.

Often these are not only provided by the big established companies, but increasingly by small- and mid-size innovative players – this produces a bunch of new challenges for Procurement teams around the world:

  • How do we find these innovative solutions and companies, as they tend not to just apply for an RFQ with us?
  • How do we protect our companies against the risk that these smaller organisations might bring?
  • How do we lead our teams into this new world?

I am very excited that The Faculty invited me to discuss such topics in a Pop-Up Work Shop with CPOs in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, that runs under the title of Innovation Procurement.

For the Australians amongst you: today was the Melbourne workshop that was received very well by all participants! But you can still register for the Sydney workshop on October 20th with The Faculty – see you there or follow us on!

Click here to register for Sydney Procurement Innovation Workshop

How Will Technology Transform Procurement Operations?

New research claims Automation and Internet of Things (IoT) will have biggest technological impact on the function.

In its third set of results from its 2015 Global Procurement Study, Xchanging assesses the impact new advances in technology will have on procurement.

Technology Adoption

Savings tracking (77 per cent) and spend analytics (76 per cent) technologies are the most widely implemented, in the context of a tough economic climate where spending cuts and streamlined processes remain top priorities for businesses.

This mirrors respondents’ answers about the KPIs on which their procurement functions are measured – the top four all being cost related (47 per cent cite cost savings realised as their most important KPI, 19 per cent revenue impact, 16 per cent cost savings identified and 14 per cent cost avoidance). 

Over half of companies questioned also already have automation (68 per cent), reporting dashboards (68 per cent), contract management (67 per cent), supplier performance management (64 per cent), market intelligence (60 per cent), eSourcing (59 per cent), predictive analytics (54 per cent) and Internet of Things (54 per cent) technologies in place.

In general, the organisations most likely to have the above solutions in place were:

  • In the U.S.
  • Larger, with 3,000+ employees
  • In retail, consumer goods or manufacturing industries
  • That outsource parts of their procurement operations

U.S. companies are 8 per cent more likely to have all of the listed technologies in place than those in mainland Europe.

Overall, supplier performance management software and predictive analytics are the technology solutions most likely to be implemented in the next two years (both cited by 12 per cent of respondents), whereas 46 per cent claimed they are unlikely to ever implement online auctions.

Technology Impact

Predictive analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expected to be the most revolutionary technologies for supply chain operations, with eight in 10 respondents (80 per cent/79 per cent respectively) stating they will have an impact, and nearly a quarter (23 per cent/24 per cent) expecting them to have a major impact.

A report issued by DHL and Cisco in April this year estimated that by 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet – an increase of more than 300 per cent from today’s 15 billion – and that IoT will generate $1.9 trillion across the supply chain and logistics operations industry, with warehousing and freight benefitting the most.

Luke Spikes – Xchanging’s Procurement Technology spokesperson, provides the following insights on the research:

On high technology adoption rates:

“When analysing the data, it is key that we consider how ‘technology’ is being interpreted by respondents. It’s surprising that over half of all companies surveyed said they already have the majority of the listed technology solutions.

“A notable 76 per cent reported having spend analytics technology, but we need to question what technology they are actually using. Are they really utilising a solution that analyses all spend data – how much is spent, on what, with whom and by whom – and transforms this data into actionable business intelligence? Or are they simply using Excel spreadsheets?

“It’s also important to note that there is a big difference between having the technologies in place, and using them to their full advantage, to enhance performance and improve the bottom line. There needs to be a drive on education around technology applications for them to deliver real benefits.

On IoT, predictive analytics and future technologies:

“The supply chain landscape is increasingly global, and IoT can enable businesses to track the exact whereabouts and the condition of goods in transit, automatically monitor inventory levels to manage cash flow more efficiently, and remove human error from the process.

“Predictive analytics will drive a far more strategic approach to sourcing – for example, enabling hedging on the price of raw materials to become a daily part of the procurement process – as well as creating further opportunities for automation to increase accuracy and efficiency.

“Procurement leaders ignore technology-driven progress at their peril. If they don’t seize the opportunity, they will quickly fall behind their competitors. The adoption of new technologies – alongside a continued focus on the value and expertise of procurement professionals – will ensure the function remains a strategic, indispensable part of their organisation.”

The study is a major international project that surveyed 830 procurement decision makers across the UK, Europe and North America.

Travelling for Business – A Rookie’s Guide

Travelling for business is one of the things I most looked forward to when I embarked on my professional career (excuse the pun).

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Growing up with a father who was forever jetting off around the world, I saw business trips as a great opportunity to see new places, do some shopping (since there were always presents for the kids when he came home) and I assumed some work must be involved but it was never clear what that entailed and how easy or difficult it was.

As a young professional I was fortunate to begin domestic travel in the first year of my career, progressing to international travel the following year and more recently in 2014 travelling to an average of two cities per week and in 2015 travelling to an average of two countries per month. These trips, I came to realize, were definitely a great opportunity to see new places, however shopping for loved ones was rarely on the agenda aside from at airport shops and in fact the amount of work involved before, during and after each trip was significant.

Aside from this realisation, I have learnt a number of basic lessons from the last few years of business travel so thought I would share some of my general tips with you in this post and then some more country specific ones in my future posts. China will be the focus on my next post and then the Middle East after that so keep an eye out! I hope these tips are entertaining as well as useful for you as you either prepare for your first business trip, or read this from your hotel on your 51st trip.

General Tips for Business Travel

As you will have noticed from my first post on networking, I like to think about the work that needs to be done before, during and after any activity. Therefore for business travel I have broken up the information into pre-trip, trip and post-trip:


When the requirement for business travel is first identified by yourself or your boss there are a number of questions to be covered before you can begin your pre-trip preparation.

One model I have found useful is the Six W’s which has been adapted from Kipling’s Six Honest Serving Men (What, Why, When, How, Where, Who). By running through these questions you can understand what the travel is, the purpose and goal of the trip, when you need to go and for how long, how you will do it, where you will go, who you will go with and who you will meet with/work with on the trip.

An example is you are going on a sales trip, the goal is building relationships with prospective clients, the trip will be in June and last for one week, you will fly from Hong Kong to Beijing for two days and then fly from Beijing to Shanghai for three days and then fly from Shanghai back to Hong Kong, you will liaise with your local Sales Agent on travel bookings and meeting bookings and your local Sales Agent will accompany you to all meetings which will be with executives from 20 large companies.

Based on this information you can get the practical arrangements made, for example:

  • Book travel and meetings
  • Nominate a colleague to cover your normal duties
  • Purchase travel insurance
  • Pack appropriate business and casual attire
  • Get your passport and papers in order.

Once that is complete you can begin the preparation needed to help you achieve the goal of your trip. I fully believe in the Seven P’s (Proper Prior Planning Promotes Peak Performance) so would strongly recommend you take the time to prepare for your trip whichever way you need to.

Personally, my preparation normally includes some or all of these activities:

  • Research the country I am going to so I can be prepared for any cultural differences and safety considerations
  • Research the people I am meeting with including reviewing their company website and activity in the media and looking over their personal LinkedIn profile
  • Preparing meeting packs including relevant notes, presentations or papers which I will need to refer to in the meeting
  • Writing a clear itinerary showing the time, location, contact, goal and background for each meeting
  • Finally I think it is always a nice touch to send the people you will be meeting with or working with on your trip a brief email to confirm the meeting details, provide a short agenda and tell them you are looking forward to meeting them/ seeing them again.

By understanding the Five W’s and following the Seven P’s you are laying the groundwork for a successful trip and will reduce the level of difficulty and complexity of the work that you will need to do on the trip so maybe you will be able to find time for that quick shopping expedition for the kids or even visit a local attraction or two. Although of course the execution of the trip itself will also need to be spot on if you want to enjoy these perks. Here are my top tips for during the trip.


Depending on where you are travelling there are lots of ways to make or break your trip. Generally though my tips are:

  • Arrive to each meeting early and be professional and friendly
  • Note all follow-up actions and complete as many as you can straight after each meeting or well within the agreed time-frames
  • Pack muesli bars or snacks to eat between meetings as you often have to skip meals
  • Try to get enough sleep as the days are long and you have to be on top of your game for each meeting
  • If you have lots of meetings booked each day (5 for example) then arrange a driver or negotiate with your first taxi driver to drive you for the whole day as not being able to find a taxi is not an acceptable excuse for being late to your next meeting
  • Have your phone on you at all times as people often have to move meetings forwards or backwards at short notice so you need to be contactable

Speaking of moving meetings – always be flexible and as much as possible work around the people you are meeting with; Try to avoid excessive drinking at night (this could be easy or hard depending on the people you are travelling with and where you are going – I will address this in my country specific posts); Keep up the communication with any colleagues you are travelling with so you can support each other; and finally always thank and show your appreciation for anyone who has assisted you during your trip before you leave whether it is your driver, Sales Agent, local colleague, professional translator etc.


To make sure you achieve the goals of the trip, it is important that you allocate time to your post-trip work, for example:

  • Prepare and then complete the action list from the trip which would normally involve things like sending promised information to people and saying thank-you for their time
  • Update any reports you need to with meeting notes and agreed actions
  • Put away your passport somewhere safe
  • Prepare your travel expenses for reimbursement
  • And of course give your loved ones any small presents you brought home.

Business travel is loved by some for the experience of visiting new places and hated by others for the long lines at the airport and the stress of rushing around a new city, but overall as long as you allocate sufficient time to the pre and post trip work and keep your head in the game during the trip then you should be able to meet all the goals that you set and perhaps even have a good time.

If you have any tips of your own on business travel please feel free to post them in the comments section!

Madeleine Tewes is the Head of Business Development and Marketing at Apsiz Services.

Rethinking Suppliers: Spotting Future Crises

81 per cent of procurement execs fail to include key insights from global suppliers into wider business reporting.

The latest survey from Proxima reveals that businesses need a rethink on how to better engage suppliers to spot future market crises and opportunities.

The research highlights that many businesses are potentially limiting their capability to gauge market activity using critical insights derived from supplier sentiment.

The research found that news media is a key source with 65.3 per cent of respondents using it to monitor market sentiment. Commodity pricing and currency volatility came in close second and third as key sources with 61 per cent and 57.6 per cent, respectively, of respondents advising that they primarily look to this as an indicator of market movement. 

Although an encouraging 57.6 per cent of procurement respondents indicated that they are looking towards their suppliers for insight into the wider market, a staggering 81.2 per cent confirmed that although they see the value in monitoring market sentiment, they do not include key findings and insights into the reports or dashboards that they present back into the wider business. 

Guy Strafford – EVP, Chief Client Officer at Proxima, said: “This statistic suggests that there is perhaps a slight disconnect between information being collected from suppliers and insight that business leaders need to make strategic decisions. If the procurement team is unable to bridge the two, this insight is often, unfortunately, kept within the procurement department, leaving the rest of the business to their own devices. This often leads to divisional leaders looking externally for the same information.”

7.6 per cent of respondents stated that they did not measure market sentiment at all with 26.3 per cent saying they lacked the necessary resources (budget or people). Of those that do, news media is the single most important source of information (21.7 per cent). A surprisingly small number (8.8 per cent) of respondents indicated that they use the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) as their most important tool for gauging activity on the market.

Strafford added: “The study highlights the overreliance on news media as the primary source of information, when by its very nature, news is an explanation of events that have already occurred. Businesses are therefore making important decisions based on historic data that is not necessarily real-time nor forward-looking. Businesses need to have their fingers on the pulse, and gaining valuable insight from suppliers could significantly help companies to glean sentiment on the ground that ultimately helps them make better decisions in real time.”

Alongside news media, insight from suppliers is the most important source of market sentiment for 21.7 per cent of respondents. It is surprising, therefore, that almost a quarter (24 per cent) engage with their suppliers only once a year or even less frequently. The largest group (28 per cent) gauge market sentiment with their suppliers on a monthly basis. 

Strafford said: “Even though supplier insight is clearly valued as a monitoring tool, the Procurement team is faced with a further challenge that many business leaders simply want to keep suppliers at arms length – either driven by culture, their experiences or for strategic reasons – and will resist integrating suppliers closer to their operations.” 

The results potentially raise questions regarding whether the procurement and supplier management functions currently have the right tools for capturing, and forums for presenting, supplier information back into the business. 

“Less mature procurement functions, defined by their size, scope of influence and heavy focus on savings, will often struggle to connect deeper supplier insights back into other business activities”, added Strafford. “As a result, these functions (not for lack of want) cannot achieve wider benefits such as supplier-led innovation, more flexible terms and faster responsiveness to demands.

“Because In A Split Second, It’s Gone”: Lessons Learnt From Formula 1


By Gordon Donovan

Can you remember where you were on 1 May 1994? I know I was at home, my parents’ house, and I was sat in the front room watching, the San Marino Grand prix. The reason that I remember, is that this was the day that Ayrton Senna, one of the greatest racing drivers ever, died when he crashed at Tamburello corner. The reason that I start with this is two-fold.

1) Lewis Hamilton has recently equalled Ayrton’s win total and pole position total, and 2) recently I attended a training course called Performance at the Limit; it was delivered by a facilitator called Richard West. Richard has been a senior figure within the Formula One sport for a number of years and the program was about identifying the common traits of high performing teams set in the context of the high performing teams within F1.

It was an excellent program – there were lots of transferable learning points that I wanted to share with you so here goes… (I’ll point you to the books and TV programme at the embedded links below).

Focus on…

Richard described the safety record in F1, specifically with regard to the death of his friend (and one of my favourite drivers) Ayrton Senna. Richard was working with Williams at the time, and if you have seen the film Senna, there are some references to him in it. Flashback a few years previously to the same corner at Monza, and Nelson Piquet crashes and car stops at the same place that Senna fatally crashes. Flash forward a number of years after Piquet and Gerhard Berger crashes and suffers burns as a result of the crash at the same corner.

The point here is that on each occasion, indeed after Senna’s crash also, racing resumed with a focus on performance and going faster, rather than looking at the bigger picture. The big takeaway for me is that too much focus on one area will lead to the ignoring of some critical issues (safety etc.)

With our internal and external relationships, are we guilty of too much focus on a particular area at the expense of something else?

Group v Team

What’s the difference? One of the activities on this training course was called the pit stop challenge. Essentially, the “group” was challenged to change the tyres on a F1 car during a pit stop. We used a real F1 car from 2009 and we were split into teams for each of the wheels. Great learning point here is that whilst you may be quick at your particular activity, it’s the whole team that counts, and what’s the best way to ensure cooperation?


…It reminds me of something I read a while ago;

A group is a gathering of people, each with their own established roles. As companies grow large, practicality dictates that responsibilities must be divided up. But this is the point at which many employees begin to think that their job is just fulfilling their own individual roles. Some even go so far as to think that stepping outside their established roles is wrong. This is not a team. This is group. Indeed, this is a herd of sheep. It will never be successful.

To be a team, each individual in the organization must act beyond their own responsibility and in the furtherance of others. For each individual on a team, every job is a kind of war, every job is a competition. Unless you win, nothing has meaning. To be successful, each member of the organization must cultivate the mindset that they alone hold the fate of the organization in their own hands.

Only a group of people sharing that mindset can be a team.

Hiroshi Mikitani – CEO, Rakuten Inc

So what type of relationship do you want, one where you act as one team, or two groups both vying for the best outcome for themselves?

Change starts with why

During the program we discussed leadership and the need for employees to feel motivated to work for the organisation and to understand why they were being asked to do something. In other words any change must start with why the change. This immediately made me think of Simon Sinek and his remarkable Ted talk that I had recently seen.

Do we communicate well with our team members and our suppliers to demonstrate why we need to change and what the end goal must look like, do we lead effectively (e.g. Inspire others to be high performing, or do we lead efficiently (e.g. inspiring others through objectives and KPIsI)

There is no silver bullet

Richard described visiting Mercedes team garage and he found that there wasn’t one thing that they were doing differently than anyone else, but it was a whole lot of little things just done better. In other words there was no silver bullet. Sometimes we try and focus on doing one thing to make things better. An example of this is development. How many times have we either conducted or been in our reviews with team members and asked about development, then immediately focussed upon training?

What about all the other learning opportunities? At the CIPS Australasia conference, I attended a session where Craig Lardner said that “mistakes are an investment in getting better”, in other words, learn from mistakes, not just yours but others. Do we share lessons learned amongst ourselves.

You may be aware of the 70/20/10 learning principle. Essentially this suggests balancing learning through the following;

  • 70 – Experiential/Experience – learning and developing through day-today tasks, challenges and practice
  • 20 – Social/Exposure – learning and developing with and through others from coaching, exploiting personal networks and other collaborative and co-operative actions
  • 10 – Formal/Education – learning and developing through structured courses and programs

I encourage everyone (managers and team members) to look at this model as a way of developing themselves and their teams. The better outcomes take a little of everything and just do it a little bit better.

I will leave the last words to Senna.

My biggest error? Something that is to happen yet.

Let Me Entertain You (Or Not… Depending On The Party Line)

Customer entertainment, gifts, and freebies are becoming a bigger issue for buyers these days. Increased ‘professionalism’, new company guidelines and a general pressure on how you spend your time is making it harder for this traditional form of relationship building to be effective. Despite this It can still be a very potent force to improve your chances of winning or maintaining business, provided it is used in the right way – and you have thought it through properly.

Having been a sales rep, sales manager, corporate buyer and purchasing director I have seen this problem form both sides of the table. As a rep I have stood in the car park of a customer wondering why on earth marketing think a tankard with our logo on it is going to impress a buyer, and as a buyer I have been helicoptered into a grand-prix (which was nice ). So I have seen the good, the bad, and the just plain naff, of entertaining and gifts. So let’s set the record straight on whether you should entertain, and if so how you can do it to maximum effect.

Across the world it has always been traditional to mark good relations with the giving of gifts. This practice certainly doesn’t appear to have held back the Japanese economy where it is a major force in business. If you don’t think you need gifts or entertainment because ‘our relationship is strong enough’ then just try telling your partner ‘…sorry darling for not giving you any presents or taking you out this year, I think our relationship is strong enough not to need those things – is that OK?’ There is a fundamental misconception over gifts and entertaining. Most people think that they are to do with persuasion, or obligation. If that is your objective then you will fail. The only real objective should be to use them for networking, and even the most ‘bah-humbug’ of buyers can probably see the benefits of that.

Many companies have policies on entertaining. Interestingly most of the big ones have totally different ones for selling and buying. They may well have entertainment days and gifts in the marketing budget, and yet corporate purchasing has a policy of not accepting any gifts or entertainment. The Chartered Institute for Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) is the buying equivalent of the ISMM, and they have a policy. It states that gifts should really be of nominal value, and that entertaining should be managed openly, and not of the type that might be deemed to have had influence on a buying decision. So this still leaves a reasonable scope. There may even be ways around the ‘no gifts’ policy at major companies which we will come back to later. So what makes entertaining both acceptable and effective?

The first rule is line-fish wherever possible. By this I mean that you are meant to be doing something that is attractive to people. Don’t offer them United tickets if they prefer opera, and don’t do a golf day if in reality its just your sales guys who like it. I happened to enjoy my day out at the grand-prix, but when I enquired why exactly they did racing it was because the MD loved it. That really made me feel special. Even if you find your customer has a passion for train spotting, then find a way to get him a day out at Crewe station. The fact that you cant ( indeed would not in any circumstances ) boast about this to your colleagues is irrelevant. Most sales people I met worked on an ‘invite first, ask questions later’ principle, and because of that much of the entertainment these days is ineffective.

The next rule is make it easy to accept. One company I knew had a factory near Verdun – not exactly a romantic location. However to get there from the UK you do have to drive through champagne country. They put on a ‘Quality and Product Development Seminar’ to be held at the factory – mmm, fascinating. There was in fact some real content to this, and at the same time the schedule did call for an overnight stop (both on the way there and on the way back) in the heart of Champagne. They got a good uptake and everyone was (literally) very happy. This probably even got around the ‘no entertaining’ company rules.

If you do have gifts, and your customer is wary of accepting such things, then suggest a charity auction, which even the most hardened would find hard to resist. The process is simple – you give them a load of gifts (NB not ties with the company crest on…) and they then run an auction, or a tombola in-house, with the money going to charity. You get great kudos, they are happy, and a charity makes some money.

If you are able to get some key contacts to come to event then make sure you maximise your time to broaden and deepen your knowledge of your customer. I have been to events where sales guys spend more time networking with their own senior management than the customers. This is great for buyers, it lets them off the hook to go and network with others in your organisation who will probably be less guarded than you after a glass or two of Chablis.

The last key rule is don’t talk business. Entertainment should be just that. Use it to get to know people, understand them, even befriend them. Business should be done later. Not only does it put the customer in an awkward position (they mustn’t be seen to let the event affect their judgment) but also it is rare for these events to pass without someone having a drink. Many have lived to regret deals done after too much wine.

Entertaining and gifts can be great sales tools. They can be great relationship builders. The challenge is to take real care and focus on how you pitch them and how you deliver them. In the same way that a gift to your partner bought at a service station, or an entertainment of two tickets for your own favourite sports team does not hit the mark. As the old adage goes, it’s the thought that counts.

‘Uberization’ – Is Any Profession or Industry Safe?

The phenomenal global success of Uber boiled down to a simple premise – that consumers wanted a way to source a traditional service more easily and cheaper than before. Its success has given rise to the so-called ‘Uberized’ economy. But what product or service is next? 

Taxis were first, along with hotels (Airbnb), retail (Alibaba), real estate (Suitey) and car sales (Beepi). You can even look at media (Facebook) and freelancing (Upwork) and see similar disruption.

What these new organisations have in common is that they are network based, don’t own any inventory, stock or hard assets, and they all took an existing service and provided a more customer-centric, lower cost service.

Traditional professions like medicine and legal and financial services have been largely sheltered from this disruption so far, but this looks set to change.

End of the Old Guard

For some, these traditional professions have been viewed as ‘untouchable’ (this might be down to them working in these professions and trying to resist this shift), but, for others, the services offered by these professions was ripe for ‘Uberization’.

One profession viewed as ‘untouchable’ was the Legal profession and, more specifically, the provision of legal services. There is an increasing number of online start-ups aiming to provide this more ‘customer-centric’ service than has been available previously.

Not only do these companies offer a cheaper service, but also a simplified purchasing experience for individuals and organisations. Services can be purchased on a task-to-task basis, rather than paying by the hour. The concept of a set fee for services, like the offering from Avvo, is an attractive one, particularly for a procurement department.

Simplified Procurement

An overall spend figure for legal services is hard to come by, but, with global banks spending over £200bn, and spend with the UK arm of global law forms topping £28.5bn, it would be safe to give a conservative estimate of around anywhere between £500bn and £750bn.

In 2013/14, local authorities in the UK spent £156m on legal services. Although these costs were down on the previous three years, it seems there is still plenty of scope for further reduction.

While many procurement teams may have been shut out of the process of purchasing legal services, the ability to reduce the cost, while at the same time retaining the service level required by internal stakeholders, leaves procurement in a powerful position.

Put simply, procurement can make changes for the better and a good place for them to start is with these ‘Uberized’ companies. Not only could costs be reduced, but also time spent on lengthy (and often costly) tender processes.

And next…?

So if one ‘untouchable’ can fall victim to the ‘Uberized Economy’, then which one might be next? Some suggest that Financial Services might be the next profession to be ‘Uberized’.

With many similarities to the Legal profession, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason why you might end up getting your financial services via an app in the not-to-distant future.

And as people move towards vertical marketplaces, where a few things are done well, in depth, rather than the common horizontal marketplace with multiple avenues carried out in less detail, it’s likely that other professions will follow suit.

Now, if only there was a vertical network for procurement that people could take advantage of…

Do you procure legal services for your organisation? How would this impact your job – would it be a positive thing for you? Join us and start a discussion on the future of ‘untouchable’ professions.

While you’re digesting the main event, why not check out this week’s main headlines from procurement and supply chain for your Monday morning tea break…

Police asked to investigate London Garden Bridge Contracts

  • Scotland Yard has reportedly been pressed to investigate allegations the procurement process behind the capital’s planned garden bridge “was rigged”
  • The central allegation is that the procurement process was rigged and that designer Thomas Heatherwick and engineering firm Arup had been lined up to win the contracts before tenders were issued
  • Further revelations have shown that meetings were not recorded in London Mayor, Boris Johnson’s, diary, where go ahead was given for the process
  • There are also questions over how Arup won its contract, and why it was asked to resubmit its bid while other firms were not

Read the ongoing story at The Guardian

iPad Pro Launch Date Leaked

  • According to Mac Otakara, a Japanese blog, the release date for the new product is set for the 6th of November
  • Although a highly guarded secret, the blog spoke with workers in the Apple supply chain in China and gathered information from them
  • Apple still has the iPad Pro listed on their website as “Available November”, and hasn’t commented on the leak

Read more on Ledger Gazette

Demand-Driven Perishables Offer Fresh Look for Groceries

  • Up to 133 billion pounds of food is wasted annually in the U.S. alone – at a staggering cost of $162bn
  • Cognizant has created a new infographic aimed at showing how a demand-driven model can reduce inventory, spoilage and wastage
  • A demand-driven replenishment model can help grocers better anticipate supply requirements, improve storage and maintain food freshness

Check out the infographic on Cognizant

General Mills recall set to impact supply chain

  • FMCG giant General Mills is recalling 1.8 million boxes of gluten-free Cheerios, as they are thought to contain gluten
  • The company said wheat flour had been “inadvertently introduced” into its gluten-free oat flour used to make original and Honey Nut Cheerios
  • The company are unsure how much the recall will cost them in cash-terms, but look set to be the latest organisation to suffer from a reputational hit
  • The case shows that supply chains need to be aware of track and trace systems and the supply chain will be reviewed in light of the incident

Read more at the BBC