Watch Your Step! Pitfalls In Social Media To Avoid

Career bear-traps to avoid… 

It’s a major crisis for the company – the phones are ringing off the hook as the comms team is bombarded with furious questions from journalists, customers, shareholders, regulators. Announcements, FAQs, press briefings need preparing at lightning speed, and frustratingly every single one has to be approved by the lawyers before they go out. The pressure is on: this could cost the company business, there may be lawsuits – and anything said right now will be cited in those – the share price may come under pressure.

And into the midst of this, a colleague completely uninvolved in what’s going on decides to Tweet their personal view of the crisis. 

Procurious ran an excellent workshop at eWorld last week, talking about how procurement people might get more involved in social media. It’s a great subject, the profession has definitely been slower than some other disciplines in embracing these great communication channels. It was suggested though, that the comms department might get leery – having sat on the other side of that particular desk, here’s why.

Journalists, customers and the world at large don’t distinguish that much between official corporate statements and things that employees of a company happen to say. Especially in a crisis, any quotable quote or accidental off-hand comment will get used and repeated over and over – especially if the ‘proper channels’ have been locked down to repeating very limited information. As a fair few people have discovered in recent years, that can be career limiting – or, indeed, career terminating.

Here are five suggested rules to live (or at least, post) by, all from real life experience:

This isn’t personal

Our social media channels are our own personal domains. Right? Wrong. If you’ve chosen to use them to talk about your work then they’re properly of interest to your employer, too. Your contract and HR handbook will have blurb about confidentiality and not bringing the company into disrepute, and there’ll probably be a social media policy somewhere as well.

Our highly valued customer is useless!

So, you’ve read the policy and placed the disclaimer, ‘all views expressed only my own’ – so you can say what you like now, surely? Not quite. As a consumer, you may want to vent about the terrible service you received from some company: if they happen to be one of your firm’s biggest customers (and if your social media identifies you with your employer) you can expect an awkward conversation the next morning. If nothing else, it’s plain courtesy to your colleagues trying to renew that account not to make their job harder. 

A Tweet is for life, not just for Christmas

That was a witty comment about your big competitor, wasn’t it? So good it went viral, ended up all over the web. And on the desk of the grumpy interviewer when you apply for a job there three years later…

I probably shouldn’t say this, but 

You’re right, you shouldn’t say it. If you feel the need to write – as in the recent LinkedIn photo debacle – ‘this is probably horrendously politically incorrect’, then you can be pretty certain you shouldn’t go any further.

Crisis? What crisis? 

When your company is going through a crisis, let the team appointed to handle it, handle it. They may do a great job, they may make a mess of it, but sticking your oar in isn’t going to help. So your tweet was nothing to do with the crisis, it was just a photo of staff having a great time at a party. Oddly, that’s still not going to help the company’s reputation when the comms director has just reassured the world that every sinew is being strained to fix the problem.

Social media are great – there’s a whole other post in that. But tread carefully – or you may have that long and uncomfortable walk to the comms director’s office. Trust me, neither of us want you to be there.

Stuart Brocklehurst is Chief Executive of Applegate Marketplace. His past roles have included Group Communications Director of Amadeus IT Group SA and Senior Vice President for External Relations at Visa International CEMEA.

Procurious Big Idea #42 – Getting Involved With Risk Management

Matthias Fuchs, CPO at Boral thinks the procurement function needs to broaden its horizons.

Matthias talks about procurement broadening its horizons by getting involved with risk management and insurance management, adding the procurement rigour to the process.

See more Big Ideas from our 40+ influencers

Like this? Join Procurious for FREE and meet like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Being At The Table – A CPO’s Tale Of Woe

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. You can find it here.

Some days ago while having a business lunch the topic of “being at the table” arose. It was our client’s fervent hope that as a newly appointed CPO, (a move that presumably underlined the importance of procurement) he one day would sit as a peer at the EXCOM table contributing to the strategy, growth and performance of the business. Well, thinks I, what a wonderful place to consider the notion of being at the table, while being at a luncheon table myself. It got me to thinking of the roles and responsibilities of those at and around the table.

The Options

Of course there are those whose knowledge, experience, and position, earn them a right to 1) be at the table and direct the actions of others, but there are also others at work in this community. There are those who 2) serve the table and whose unique knowledge and skills answer the call for action from those seated. Then, there is 3) the chef whose specialised skills provide the provender for consideration, and lastly there is that which is 4) to be eaten (a role that I vaguely felt myself as having held a few times).

I further reflected on how many times I heard this same refrain from many CPOs whose pre-dominant career objective was to be recognised for contributing to the business at the highest level and ultimately report as a board level peer.   Moreover, I thought back on the many organisations I have come across where the “vital” role of procurement was often tucked way neatly in the CFO shop or Business Services shop where the chance of ever getting a seat at the executive table was remote at best. Given the fact that procurement is now recognised as a key stakeholder in organisational performance, what is holding it back from somehow being fully accepted into the community of senior leaders? While no answer is fully sufficient in a short blog, a couple of themes have emerged over the years in our work with organisations going through their own procurement transformation.

While business knowledge and acumen are the principle differentiators between those around the EXCOM table and those not, there is something more fundamental that is separating the procurement leader from the full approbation of their business colleagues. To put it back in the frame of my table metaphor,

you don’t belong seated if you still sound like a waiter”.

And that is the essential point.

The Prerequisites

Two major things must occur that help propel procurement organisations to the senior level of strategy. Firstly, procurement must lose the connection to purchase orders. I hear some of you shouting “Heresy!”, but what I mean is that the procurement leader has an extraordinary difficulty of representing him/herself as a strategic player when the next topic of conversation is; “What is your order placement efficiency?“ Every effort should be made not to own any portion of the operative procurement cycle.

Secondly and most importantly, is the fact that procurement organisations often make a vital error by creating a separate strategy for themselves that does not altogether align with the strategy of the business. What is more, is that the strategy is often unclear how it contributes to the business in a way that satisfies more than just the finance manager. We often find that procurement leaders speak a different language from that of other senior business leaders. While they speak of category strategies, the business is interested in how real projects bring value to their organisations. While they speak of vendor management and control the business is seeking out how external innovations can help fuel business growth.

The Solution

We advocate two distinct approaches to these dilemmas.

Firstly, develop a strategy that links to the business and directly connects benefits generated to your internal clients. We call these the pillars of successful strategic procurement and the steps are broadly as follows:

  1. Create a procurement strategy directly linked to the company’s goals
  2. Embed the annual procurement cycle into the company business cycle
  3. Drive “Lighthouse” projects directly supporting internal business clients
  4. Pull value through by having the ability to directly influence team actions
  5. Ensure that reporting is visible to your customer and ideally conducted by an organisation other than procurement

Secondly, develop an improved process of understanding the needed innovations required by your ultimate customer and significantly improve the way innovations are sought, collected, evaluated and ultimately adopted from the supplier base. We call this call the Trading Relationship Management process, and Procurement has a natural home at the heart of it.

While there is no guarantee that armed with these dual capabilities, there will be instant recognition of procurement as a future EXCOM member. However what is certain, is that Procurement will begin to demonstrate that it is not just generating business wide savings but can show where and how that value is generated and most importantly how such benefits accrue directly to internal stakeholders. Likewise other business leaders will also recognize procurement’s role as the conduit to supplier enabled innovation. Taken together, these elevate the strategic language of the function.

I explored these ideas with my lunch guest who understood and recognized how important it was for his team to strategically transform, but like so many such discussions it had to be cut short due to pressing issues at the client’s facility (I think he had to go check how many requisitions had been placed that day).

6 Tips To Ensure You Make The Most Of Your First Procurement Job

It was 9 years ago (almost to the day) that I applied for a job in the finance department of Alcoa (a mining company). Not long after that application, I was contacted by someone in the HR team and asked if I would be interested in interviewing for a role in procurement. I didn’t know what procurement was (it wasn’t mentioned in university courses back then), but needed a job, so I answered that question with a resounding yes.

Somehow I managed to get through the interview process and shortly after kicked off my career in the function.

My ignorance of what procurement was ensured that my learning curve would be a steep one. I have compiled my advice to procurement and supply chain graduates below, perhaps you can learn from my mistakes?

  1. Pitch up on time

This is critical. When you are the new guy (or girl), it’s inevitable that people within your organisation will be questioning your maturity, your experience and your capability. If you can’t get to a meeting on time, or haven’t prepared for the ensuing discussions, you’ll go a long way to confirming these fears. It’s simple, get there on time, be prepared and you’ll find you’ll alleviate lot of the unfounded concerns about young workers.

  1. There are no stupid questions

I spent the first two months of my procurement career not knowing the difference between direct and indirect procurement (despite the fact that it was discussed daily in my office). There were also scores of internal terminology that I didn’t understand. It took me months to figure this stuff out because I was too scared to ask my superiors questions for. It’s important to remember that you are new, you’re not meant to know everything on your fist day and while you might feel stupid asking simple questions, trust me, you’ll feel a lot more stupid when you’ve been in a role for months and still don’t know the difference between direct and indirect procurement. I found that a great way to open a dialogue and get answers to your questions is by saying “I was wondering if you could help me to understand xxx?” People like to ‘help’ one another, it gives them a chance to show off their knowledge and this makes them feel happy and important.

  1. Be confident

With all the new terminology, older co-workers and an unfamiliar corporate environment it’s easy to get intimidated in your first procurement role. But remember this, you’ve passed the exams, got through the application process and managed to impress someone enough in your interview that you warrant this position. You deserve to be where you are. Everyone started somewhere. Someone once said to me “your boss puts her pants on one leg at a time in morning just like you do”. There is no need to feel intimidated.

  1. But leave your swagger in the nightclub

There a toxic phrase that has entered the business lexicon recently (I think we’ve got Silicon Valley to thank for it) it goes like this: “fake it till you make”. I despise this expression. There is simply no faster way to isolate yourself from your co-workers (and your boss, your suppliers, your friends and actually from anyone you’ll ever meet) than to pretend you know more than you do. In a technical profession like procurement, you can’t fake experience, you’ve either ‘got it’ and you know what you’re doing, or you’re ‘learning it’. As a graduate, you fall in to the latter category. Be humble and leave the swagger and showmanship for the bar on Friday night.

  1. Do what you said you’ll do

Our founder Tania Seary recently pointed this out in her blog for those striving towards a career as a CPO, so this is sage advice to remember throughout your career. At university, it may have been possible to get around the commitments to your group assignment with a few well-positioned excuses. In the workplace, this won’t fly. If you commit to doing something, it’s your responsibility to see it through to completion, no excuses. If it looks like something is running over time or is getting derailed, it’s your job to get it back on track. Chase people up if they don’t respond to emails and communicate openly with your boss about any issues. Believe me, if a savings target looks to be in jeopardy, your boss wants to know now, not in three months time when it’s unsalvageable.

  1. Learn to answer the phone (and the other basics…)

I’m not sure if it’s still the case, but when I was at university, PowerPoint, Excel and such programs were dealt with in three 30-minute tutorials. This meant that while we could all develop a strategic plan for the corporate restructuring of a multinational company (Organisational Behaviour 243) and had memorised the date that the Corn Laws were repealed (Economic History 331), we were completely incompetent with the tools that would comprise the bulk of the first five years of our corporate existence. Learn pivot tables (and Macros if you’re a gun), figure out how to create an engaging PowerPoint presentation, learn how to answer the phone politely and how to construct an email that will lead to a positive response. This is what you’ll be doing for the next few years, so do it well. The corporate restructuring can wait until you’re the CEO.

But above all, just have fun!

It’s your first ‘real job’. Enjoy it! Enjoy the consistency of monthly salary, enjoy not having to study any more, enjoy no longer delivering pizza for a living, enjoy having a bank account that remains in the black and enjoy Friday night drinks.

Now is your time.