During times of uncertainty, you need to make yourself stand out to help you keep your job. This is where your CIPS membership is worth its weight in gold.
If you are one of the over 200,000 procurement professionals globally with a CIPS membership, the chances are high that you are studying, or have studied, towards your MCIPS qualification. You may even have started your chartership journey through Continuous Professional Development (CPD). As said previously, there are great benefits available to those who are lucky enough to be in this position.
There will come a time in your career where holding these qualifications will prove even more valuable than before. In times of uncertainty, either globally or even just for your organisation, belts will be tightened, and headcounts will be reduced.
And your FCIPS, MCIPS and/or Chartership could be the means by which you weather the storm.
Can qualifications help me keep my job?
As procurement and supply chain follow other professions down the route of chartership, qualifications will increasingly be sought and expected by employers and CPOs. There is an expectation in role development that procurement professionals will have, or at very least be studying towards, these qualifications.
Leaders of the profession both expect and are expected to have MCIPS and will look to build teams in this image. When it comes to times of turmoil, not having qualifications may result in you being the one without a chair when the music stops.
How, then, can the time and effort put into your exams and CPD help you be the one to hold on to your job? Here are our five top reasons.
1.A willingness to learn
When it comes to your qualifications and job, it’s not enough to settle with what you have and where you are. Your CIPS membership and CPD show your organisation that you are invested in your career and have a keenness to better yourself and keep working.
Your willingness to put in extra time and effort to earn and keep these qualifications is not only a benefit to you, but to your organisation too. Not only that, but self-study and CPD show you can direct yourself independently, something that will be noticed by your managers and may be important when it comes to that next round of promotions or cuts.
2.Up to date knowledge and training
Earning your qualifications based on specific exam-based knowledge is one thing, but subsequently keeping that knowledge up to date is something else entirely. Your CIPS membership, complete with its numerous sources of information and learning, is a great way to ensure that your knowledge is always on point.
You will continue to learn new skills, and understand key industry trends and requirements in the wider procurement profession. You can then bring this new knowledge and concepts back to your organisation, helping to keep it up to date, and potentially even providing it with a competitive advantage.
3.Show yourself as a committed professional
Organisations continue to recognise the importance of professional qualifications, CPD and networking for their procurement teams. For those who are wanting to undertake further studies, organisations are increasingly aiding this by choosing to invest in their employees’ studies.
However, beyond the monetary investment, organisations will recognise your commitment to them and procurement as a career by choosing to further your studies. Those people who don’t go down this route may not be seen as committed in the same way, which could count against them in the future.
4.Part of a community and network
An important part of expanding our own sphere of knowledge is networking with peers and collaborating in procurement-led, highly interactive communities, like CIPS and Procurious. Information from textbooks can help provide a foundation, but the real benefit to you and your organisation comes from understanding what has been successful in the real world.
With a global membership of over 200,000 procurement and supply chain professionals, the CIPS network is a cornucopia of ideas and knowledge. Being an active part in this network means you bring your learning, as well as ideas from others, into your organisation, increasing your value and future potential.
5.A strong future prospect
A willingness to learn and then keep that learning up to date. Commitment to your chosen profession and your organisation. A wealth of knowledge and experience at your fingertips. On top of this all, professional membership and qualifications. Having some of this will help your career; having all of it will mark you out as a strong future prospect in any organisation.
Your qualifications will open up new routes and job roles and ultimately make you a better candidate for promotion, rather than a candidate for headcount reduction.
While there are no guarantees that your CIPS membership will mean you keep your job, it provides a compelling case as to why it’s in the interests of your organisation to hold on to you and support your studies. With most organisations asking for MCIPS for new roles and recruitment, you would question why you wouldn’t study towards it given the opportunity. It’s the start of the journey to a long, and hopefully prosperous, career in procurement.
You have the opportunity to use data in a similar way to improve resilience.
But you might have to think about the way you see data, says Penn.
Great data meets three criteria:
Structured in a way that’s easy to consolidate
Combines information from lots of different areas
Penn calls this ‘thick’ data, “which means that as opposed to just hiring let’s say a data scientist to crunch your numbers you’re also bringing in remote sensor engineers or ethnographers, sociologists.”
Those different perspectives are crucial to finding the best solutions.
We can drive innovation
And that includes collaborating with your suppliers.
Just look at Apple.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, the screen was plastic.
Yet the next day, Jobs noticed the screen was covered in scratches and called his VP of Operations, Jeff Williams, demanding a glass screen for the official release.
Williams said it couldn’t be done in just six months. Every glass prototype they tried had smashed, and it would take years to create a shatter-resistant, thin glass.
With digitisation focused on Operational and Tactical aspects of function, and the next wave predicted to focus on technology that enables Strategic work, what are the implications for our future Category Manager’s skillset? Gregory Romney shares his expertise.
In a recent post, I made the observation that in large part the Procurement digitisation that has happened over the years has been focused on the Operational and Tactical aspects of the function (i.e. Buying, Sourcing). I also made the prediction that the next wave of Procurement digitisation will be more focused on technology that enables the Strategic work that organisations still struggle to prioritise. If I’m right, this will have significant implications on the skills that will be required to be successful in the role of a Category Manager and poses a fundamental question:
What is the future role of a Category Manager and what skills will be most important?
I’m not sure the answer to this question really differs all that much from what we would see on most aspirational job descriptions today, however, there won’t be any room for compromise. Future success in the Category Manager role will be dependent on the ability to closely mirror the skillsets of 3 roles: Strategist, Advisor, and Broker.
Similar to a game of chess, a strategist has a well defined plan in where he/she knows the the steps necessary to win the game, or in this case to bring the most value to the organisation both from a traditional bottom-line perspective, but top-line as well. As a Strategist, deep understanding of strategic frameworks will be required and their practical application for the category the CM supports. Additionally, sharpened data analytics capabilities will be increasingly important. However, the most important skill the Strategist will have is the ability to interpret the analysis, “connect the dots”, and then effectively communicate this internally to key Business Partners & Stakeholders. This leads me to role #2.
I recently read the book The Trusted Advisor by Robert M. Galford and it expounds upon 3 core skills that are key to becoming an Advisor: earning trust, giving advice effectively, and building relationships. I believe it sums up perfectly how to transition from playing the Strategist role to the Advisor role. The activity of “advising” may sound more familiar when you use it in the context of engagement with internal Business Partners. According to a study conducted by CAPS Research, only 24% of organisations consider their advisement or engagement Strategic, meaning it is highly collaborative and proactive, there are shared dashboards between Procurement and the Business Group they support, as well as aligned metrics. Despite such a low percentage of Strategic engagement, the study did find that 72% of engagement was Transitional, meaning engagement was increasing, and Business Partners were engaged with the category strategy. This certainly is a positive trend. The reason I believe achievement of Strategic engagement or advisement with our Business Partners is still so low is due to the fact that this work looks very different from the Tactical and/or Operational work that Procurement teams have been tasked with managing historically. However, if we are able to make the transition to “Advisor” successful, it will open the door to significant opportunities that Procurement is already well-suited to help deliver due to role #3.
Most Category Managers play this role decently today and in most cases have sufficient skills to broker deals between the company he/she represents and its suppliers. We have tools and well-defined processes to help us in this role, however, most of the deals that CM’s are brokering today are focused heavily on delivering value in form of cost reduction and less in the form of supplier innovation that can impact the top-line. In order to capture this form of value from the supplier base, a Broker needs to truly be willing to learn from the supply market and foster an environment within his/her own organisation so that they are prepared not only to receive, but act upon the supplier-led innovation. The skillset required in this type of deal brokering is different from what we have traditionally done when playing this role and so will the tools that we leverage to enable this activity (hint: eSourcing will not be the optimal tool from the toolkit for this kind of brokering). A perfect example of this is found in the recent announcement from Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) in regards to the introduction of CanCollar, a sustainable paperboard packaging solution, for multipack cans in Spain. Through collaboration with its packaging supplier WestRock, the company projects that the new solution will save more than 18 tonnes of plastic annually and has invested €2.6 million in its Barcelona plant in order to support the initiative. Hats off to the Procurement team that I’m sure was intimately involved in brokering this deal!
As I mentioned earlier, these roles at face value are not a drastic shift from what Category Managers are being asked to play today, but if we are honest with ourselves and the members our organisations, there are very few that excel in one let alone all three. This is the capability gap that Procurement faces and in a parallel there is a Technology gap to help enable it, both of which will require an overhaul across a myriad of current mindsets, practices, and investments.
This is why I predict the future wave of digitisation will be focused on empowering the Procurement function across these 3 roles and I’m confident that the function, as well as the supply market, will rise to the occasion and make the necessary changes to address these gaps. In doing so, I’m hopeful Procurement will become a profession of choice not mishap.
Agree? Disagree? Please share and let me know your thoughts in the comments section!
End to end or best-in-class? It’s an age-old discussion in IT and became an issue in procurement – an issue which Greg Holt can resolve.
I have been working in the IT industry for a good 20 years and one of the recurring themes continues to be the “end-to-end” versus “best-in-class” saga. Like the central characters in a long-running soap opera, these two adversaries may fade into the background now and again, but they always return, even from the dead. As is the case with soap characters, fans tend to take one side and denigrate the other. You either loved JR Ewing and hated Bobby Ewing, or vice versa. You could not love both.
(Younger readers who never had the opportunity to sit through all 357 episodes of Dallas can catch up here.)
End-to-end versus best-in-class is an argument that lately came to the fore in procurement, where end-to-end solution means a complete source-to-pay or source-to-settle solution. That is to say, you invest in a software suite or platform that supports everything you do in procurement from finding the suppliers to rewarding them. A solution that combines both upstream and downstream sets of processes. The alternative is to select and invest in the best software (sometimes referred to as a “point” solution) to do each particular task or process on the continuum, and string them all together to build a world-class solution.
So, allow me to share what I’ve learned from my own experience and from my colleagues about selecting software so that you can make the best decision between point solutions and end-to-end software suites for your company.
The first and most obvious remark is that procurement software is a major investment, and you will need to work with your IT department and possibly an external consultant to help you to make the right choice, which will take into account what you have now (your legacy systems) and upcoming investments in other areas and functions of the business. You will need to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of the various approaches to business transformation, including the payback period, and where you want to be in five or ten years. Consider the total cost of ownership, not just the upfront investment.
That said, let’s return to our specific question.
When to go for best-in-class
The main benefit of a best-in-class software solution is the depth of its functionality. Think of it as a yard wide and a mile deep. Because best-in-class software is hyper-focused on one area it offers robust capabilities and features to address specialised needs. That means it is absolutely essential that it should be capable of easy integration with other systems. The best best-in-class software solutions easily sync with other systems that focus on other areas.
The promise of vendors of best-in-class software solutions is that you can custom-build a software suite with exactly the solutions each area of your business needs, with focused functionality in every area. This is why they are often loved by end users. What they see is what they want. “I work in sourcing, so I want a sourcing solution. Period.” On the other hand, depending on your organization and your industry, it is likely that your sourcing needs are limited, in which case you may end up paying for mile-deep functionality when you only need to dive down a few fathoms.
A further argument in favor of best-in-class is that you can expand capabilities on your own terms. They are scalable so you can start with the software that addresses your most pressing area of need and then add additional capabilities when the time is right. For example, once you have sorted out sourcing, you look for the best specialist provider of contract management software. On the face of it, this is also the low risk path of least resistance. Rather than buying everything up front, you can incorporate other best-in-class solutions as your business’s needs change and your budget allows. It’s a gradualist approach. Or “evolution not revolution” as the cliché runs.
On the other hand, integration is in practice more of an issue because each best-in-class system has its own data dictionaries, data formats and other sources of incompatibility that can make even a bilateral integration difficult. And when it comes to several systems, the problems multiply. It is likely that you will need to employ a specialist firm of systems integrators to make it work, and even then, the solution may be unstable, processes may not be streamlined, and visibility across all systems rather limited.
When to go for end-to-end
An end-to-end solution can fulfill every operational need for a specific business function, in this case procurement. Companies that choose end-to-end solutions should pay attention to overlap in what the full-service solution offers compared to the solutions they already use. For example, ERP systems may already offer some limited procurement functionality that can be shifted to a source-to-pay implementation.
A further advantage of an end-to-end solution is the avoidance of disputes between various point system vendors when things break down or go wrong, perhaps because there is no clean transfer of data between the contracts management system and the procurement system. With a source-to-pay implementation you only have to deal with one support desk. There is just “one throat to choke”, as the saying goes.
End-to-end software solutions should therefore be used when there is an obvious solution that can streamline processes and provide global visibility through the use of shared data. And that is increasingly the case these days as organizations seek to manage source-to-pay functionality holistically and seek to gain insights through spend analytics software to enable continuous improvements.
End-to-end solutions can also be useful even when there is functionality overlap with existing solutions when the end-to-end software adds more value than existing point solutions or legacy systems like ERP. On the other hand, the following considerations may deter you from choosing an end-to-end solution:
1. Your business need or process can easily be broken into separate parts
2. You have already invested substantially in a legacy system
3. The end-to-end solutions on the market have serious weaknesses in terms of the specific processes that are most important to your business
4. You do not want to be “locked in” to a particular vendor
5. The vendors you have seen who claim to be end-to-end are in fact only strong in certain areas; at some points in the value chain the functionality is limited, to put it mildly
6. The end-to-end solution does not integrate easily with other systems
On this final point: a source-to-pay solution overcomes most of the integration issues that arise when taking the “best-in-class” approach, but you still need to consider integration with other software such as ERP or accounting systems.
Having your cake and eating it
Since the advent and development of SaaS (software as a service) suites, it does not have to be a straight choice between the two extremes. If you are not yet ready for the whole shebang, look for an end-to-end, source-to-pay but modular software solution, and invest in the modules that best suit your immediate needs. You will be able to expand your system horizontally, from the same supplier, so there are no integration issues. Some vendors, including JAGGAER, offer strong functionality and depth of expertise across the entire source-to-pay spectrum.
A SaaS system means you benefit from system enhancements and extensions as they happen, and the cost is shared across multiple participants in the “multi-tenant” implementation.
You can review your contract at any time and if you are dissatisfied, it is relatively easy to move to another supplier – you are not “locked in” as was the case with on-premise end-to-end systems.
Soap operas will run and run with unresolved plots and dozens of loose ends, but this is one storyline that seems to be reaching a final resolution! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this debate in the comments below.
As the workforce bounces back, the gig economy is expected to boom. So how will this mode of employment suit Procurement? We asked Prometheia Procurement CEO Jody Rowe.
COVID-19 has raised many challenging questions about the way in which we work. It’s causing individuals and companies the world over to review their operating models. The procurement profession is not isolated from this and will need to think about the security of supply chains, how we work, who to work with, what an effective operating model is, what systems to use, the questions are endless…
This changing environment is driving the need for procurement solutions to be flexible and virtual, and toprovide simple access. We need processes and tools which empower all users and ensures continuity of knowledge, especially for the gig economy which requires access at any place, at any time.
We are also under a lot of pressure to make smarter decisions that mitigate risk, leveraging the best consulting knowledge in the business, while still ensuring retention of key personnel.
It’s becoming obvious that we now need to embrace open systems thatprovide instantaneous connection that enables group collaboration and creates a valued global network and access to knowledge.
The drivers of these changes are simple – it’s down to cost and managing risk. The question is how to get things done whilst keeping overheads down and providing real value? The opportunities of enjoying full-time work at one company for the entirety of your career has greatly reduced. Some industries, such as Oil and Gas, are already acutely aware of the steady shift towards the gig economy, which has been driven by both companies’ and individuals’ needs as people seek improved work-life balance.
Do companies need to maintain a large physical footprint or would they be better reducing their liabilities by gaining access to a diverse, flexible and talented workforce when required? As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have downsized and placed recruitment freezes, yet have still managed to operate effectively. To me, this demonstrates an underutilisation of resource pre-pandemic.
When the rebound from COVID-19 comes, companies will move even more towards the gig economy to meet their needs for short-term contracts and freelance work. With commodity price fluctuations and layoffs continuing, it is likely we will see this kind of marketplace continuing to grow for the foreseeable future.
In a gig economy, employers have access to a flexible workforce with the appropriate talent available at short notice. There’s no upskilling required as contractors are typically experienced specialists in their field, which can result in projects being completed more efficiently. Contractors often enjoy much greater flexibility in terms of work location, schedule and leave, as well as the excitement and experience obtained moving from one project to another; all of which ultimately adds to their valuable skillset.
Digitisation is paramount for a gig economy to be effective; reliable global access to systems exists and is well-tested. Access to global resources can be sought easily and work can be undertaken anywhere in the world. There are multiple workforce gig economy websites that successfully provide ad-hoc services: you can send a scope, obtain a price and get the work completed.
So why not access procurement in this way?
When you reflect on the way in which we are working in multiple countries – UK consultants working with an Australian client, Australian consultant working with an Indonesian client – you can conclude this new smarter way of working is upon us. Adapting to this change would be pivotal in continuing to deliver value within the Contracts and Procurement function. There’s no denying the function is critical to any business in managing risk, providing strong governance and soundly managing spend.
The answer was to develop a digital platform which provides access to talent across the globe via a flexible and virtual model which provides a cost-effective opportunity to fast track performance, access to procurement professionals that can save time and money, and assistance in managing risk and spend by offering easy-to-use services that can be accessed from anywhere.
And so was born Promitheia Procurement: A comprehensive online procurement tool that provides business with the opportunity to purchase procurement templates and work with online professionals to design any business procurement function to meet their unique requirements.
What are the essential skills you need to possess or develop if you want to become one of tomorrow’s supply chain leaders? Is it enough to have a business-related degree and a little supply chain experience, or is supply chain leadership a vocation for which you must work hard to acquire specific qualities?Rob O’Byrne from The Logistics Bureau shares his expert advice.
In reality, it’s probably a little bit of both. Indeed, many elements of supply chain leadership can’t effectively be learned through academic channels alone.
In any case, an excellent place to start is by knowing what the most vital supply chain leaders’ skills are and, of course, why you need them.
That’s what you’ll find in this article, so you can check which essential skills you already have, and which ones you might wish to enhance with some pragmatic supply chain education.
These Are the 7 Supply Chain Leaders’ Skills You’ll Really Need
1. Information Technology and Automation Knowledge
Before getting into this first section proper, I want to make one essential point, which I’ll expand on later in this article. Supply chain leadership is all about people using technology as a tool. Nothing is more important than working on your people skills if you want to be a successful supply chain leader.
Nevertheless, few supply chains run successfully today without the support of sophisticated technology tools, like warehouse management and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. For that reason, you need at least a modicum of IT understanding to work in a supply chain environment, particularly if you intend holding a leadership position.
To be a supply chain leader, you will need to be familiar with the use of enterprise software applications like WMS, TMS, and ERP, not to mention analytics software, which is increasingly becoming a staple source of leadership decision support.
Enterprise IT Skills at User-level
There was a time when supply chain leaders could rely on subordinate employees to do the hands-on work with business information systems, and be content to receive reports and Excel spreadsheets containing data for decision-making.
Those days are gone, however. Today you’re expected to find your way around the modules of your company’s ERP and business intelligence applications on your own. Furthermore, your need for technology understanding extends beyond hands-on use.
Understand IT as a Buyer
As a supply chain leader, your input into IT procurement will be crucial, and you must know enough about your company’s technology needs to discuss them with vendors. You’ll need to understand the relationship between ERP workflows and physical processes, for instance, to help prevent classic mistakes from being made, such as applying new technology to outdated, inefficient processes.
It will help if you know automation technology, too, since more and more companies are applying automation in distribution centres and warehouses.
Ultimately, strong interpersonal skills still trump technological expertise as a supply chain leader’s forte. However, a career at the head of your company’s supply chain is not one to consider if you don’t have some affinity for technology and its application in business.
2. A Grasp of Economics and Market Dynamics
The supply chain world is changing rapidly and sometimes unpredictably, in line with the market dynamics across many industries, all of which are being affected by rapid shifts in customer and consumer buying-behaviour.
Many markets that used to be purely local or regional have become global, as have the supply chains that serve them. As a supply chain leader, you will need to focus on what lies ahead and, to some extent, predict it. That can only be possible with a thorough understanding of the market dynamics relating to your industry and your company.
Of course, each industry and the niches within them are subject to unique and specific market dynamics. Supply chain leaders can work in any industry as long as they know their stuff, but this does mean that a change of employer can require some in-depth study, especially if the market is unfamiliar.
As a basis to quickly adjust to supply chain career moves, it will help a lot to be familiar with economics’ basic concepts.
To see ahead and lead a supply chain team effectively, you’ll need to understand what drives demand, supply, and pricing for the goods and services provided by your organisation and its competitors. These forces impact a variety of supply chain management elements, including the cost of goods sold and the cost to serve your company’s customers.
3. Understanding Cost-to-serve
Supply chain leaders play a very active role in the profitability of their employing companies. If you’re running a supply chain operation, your decisions impact the costs involved in supplying your organisation’s customers.
You will have a huge advantage and the potential to shine as a leader if you can quantify how your supply chain leadership decisions affect your bottom line. For instance, too few companies focus on the real costs involved with serving customers.
The result of this inattention is often a one-size-fits-all approach to service, inevitably leading to the over-servicing of some customers and the under-servicing of others. A single service offering can even impair profitability, perhaps creating a situation where logistics costs cause some sales to generate losses instead of profits.
If you understand the cost-to-serve concept and can apply it to your company’s supply chain activity, you’ll be able to identify unprofitable customers and products.
By developing a thorough cost-to-serve understanding, you’ll even be able to make decisions that improve the profitability of those customers and products instead of taking knee-jerk measures to cut losses.
Every company wants supply chain leaders who can make direct and positive impacts on the bottom line—but not every company has such leaders. That’s why familiarity with cost-to-serve is one skill that can help you stand out as a competent supply chain professional.
4. The Skill of Flexibility
The one thing you won’t find on this list of supply chain leaders’ “must-have” skills is innovation. You don’t have to be an innovator to be an outstanding supply chain leader, but you do have to support and drive innovation. Flexibility is the skill that will help you to do that.
Flexibility gives you the ability to let others do the innovative thinking. Your flexibility will give those creative thinkers the confidence to present their ideas, since they know that you will adopt them if it makes sense to do so.
Flexibility will keep you from feeling too comfortable in the status quo ever to let it go. Flexibility will ensure that change (often termed the only constant in supply chain management) will not faze you or cause you undue stress. In turn, your team will be encouraged to embrace, rather than resist, change.
Flexibility is one of the soft skills that differentiate successful supply chain leaders. That’s not only because of the changing nature of supply chain operations, but also because things don’t always go to plan—far from it if truth be told.
For example, during supply chain improvement projects, it’s not uncommon for things to crop up, requiring plans to be changed. An inflexible leader may doggedly try to drive through with the original strategy, becoming ever more frustrated in the process and hampering, rather than helping the situation.
Inflexibility often manifests in the belief that changing a plan is an admission of poor planning, but in many cases, that is an erroneous presumption.
Don’t fall into this trap. Work on your flexibility as a leader. Accept that plans should always be work-in-progress, and adapt your approach when required. You can’t plan for every eventuality, and while flexibility is a virtue for supply chain leaders in general, it’s an absolute essential in project management.
5. Project Management Skills
Aside from flexibility, there are many other project-management skills that you’ll need as a supply chain leader. Of course, a lot depends on what leadership role you are in, but if you are headed to the top, you’ll probably hold several management positions on the way up, most of which will see you leading projects from time to time.
If you make it to the C-suite or, indeed, to any senior leadership position, it will help you and your managers do a better job if you understand the fundamental principles, pitfalls, and challenges inherent in project management.
The most crucial project management skills to acquire as a supply chain leader are as follows:
The ability to negotiate successfully for resources, budgets, and schedules
A high degree of personal organisation
A proactive approach to risk management
Of course, the above-noted skills are also valuable for supply chain leaders generally, not just as part of a project-management skill set. I’ve simply noted them here because they are the carry-over skills most likely required in a supply chain leadership role. To elaborate:
Personal organisation will be vital for keeping track of numerous projects for which you are likely to be a sponsor and meeting your obligations toward them.
You may sometimes be called upon to support project business cases, hence the need for negotiation skills.
When deciding if you’ll approve a requested project, knowledge of risk management will help you ask the right questions about the proposal and business case.
6. The Ability to Get the Best from People
So how about those people skills I briefly mentioned earlier?
I can’t put it any more plainly: the ability to lead, manage, influence, and inspire other people is the number one fundamental, essential skill that all supply chain leaders and managers should possess.
It is entirely possible to learn the necessary skills, but a word of caution is due. If you don’t enjoy team building and developing professional relationships with lots—and I do mean lots—of other people, don’t choose a supply chain leadership career.
On the other hand, if you love working with people but just don’t see yourself as a great leader, you probably have exactly the right mindset to succeed in a supply chain leader’s role.
There is nothing wrong with being self-critical, as long as you have the will to learn what you need to learn, and the energy to commit to your personal development. Being passionate about teamwork and enjoying interactions with others is half the battle in succeeding as a supply chain leader.
The 3 Cs of Supply Chain Leadership
Communication: First and foremost, you need to communicate well … to articulate sometimes complex concepts in a way that anyone within your company can understand, regardless of whether they have supply chain knowledge or not.
Dependent on whether your company operates internationally, you might benefit from communication skills that extend beyond your native language. It’s becoming ever more common for enterprises to give preference to bilingual or multilingual leadership candidates.
Collaboration: Secondly, you will need to be able to foster collaboration, a critical element in any modern supply chain.
It won’t always be easy, because sometimes you’ll be asking teams inside and outside of your business to collaborate and work together despite competing priorities and expectations. To ensure these parties collaborate, you’ll need to draw on communication, persuasion, and relationship building skills.
Change: Change management is another people skill in which you might wish to receive some special education or training. If you are planning to graduate from a role where you’ve been used to participating in, but not leading change efforts, experience alone may not be sufficient to help you take people through challenging changes. Resistance to change can be hard to overcome.
The impact of changes within your supply chain can affect employees on a very personal level. You’ll need to know how to empathise and to listen actively to what people are telling you. Without these skills, your leadership can quickly be rejected during periods of change, purely through fear of the unknown and a sense that you don’t appreciate employees’ concerns.
Get the Best From Yourself
Finally, while the need to interact effectively with other people might seem obvious, you shouldn’t neglect the development of the person most impacted by your skills and abilities—yourself.
Supply chain leaders should be able to conduct regular self-assessments and identify their areas of weakness.
We never stop learning and developing, but by having the ability to self-appraise your skills honestly, and work on those areas that need it, you can acquire new expertise at a rate that keeps pace with the ever-changing supply chain environment.
Getting the best from yourself also means having the ability to curb your ego. Learn to recognise when somebody else in your team exceeds your aptitude for a specific task or responsibility.
Let that individual take the lead, and be happy to follow and learn from her. Not only will that free you to play a part in which you can use your strengths, but you’ll also be empowering the other person and helping her to reach outside of her comfort zone.
7. The Know-How to Negotiate
As a modern supply chain leader, it won’t only be your reports and colleagues that you need to interact with effectively and skillfully, but also those outside your organization. Moreover, both internal and external interactions will often involve the need to negotiate.
Supply chain leaders must negotiate often, and even if you’re not doing so on a one-to-one basis, you’ll probably find yourself in scenarios where you’re part of a team of people trying to broker a deal or arrangement.
Negotiation Scenarios for Supply Chain Leaders
Some examples of possible negotiation situations that you might get involved in, and in many cases, lead, include:
Procurement of IT services and solutions
Contracts for logistics services
Brokering deals with product vendors (for direct or indirect supplies)
Putting together contracts or service level agreements with customers
Negotiations with employee groups or trade unions
Business merger/acquisition negotiations
Why do Negotiation Skills Matter?
Negotiations are typically transactional, but often take place between entities or teams engaged in long-term business relationships. Whether you are the lead or a mere participant in the negotiation, your skills will influence the transaction’s outcome and the trajectory of the broader relationship.
It’s easy to make mistakes during negotiations, but with relevant training and education, you can hone your skills to avoid some of the most common errors.
For example, skilled negotiators know that the process does not have winners or losers. They don’t go into a negotiation aiming to win as many concessions as possible, and they don’t feel that they have failed when they have to give ground to arrive at a settlement.
A win/lose type of attitude will lead to negotiating mistakes. Even if you come out of a negotiation feeling that you have won, you might find further down the line that your “win” has done nothing to strengthen what might be a vital partnership.
Mistakes that Skilled Negotiators Avoid
If you have developed your negotiation skills, you will always enter into discussions looking for an outcome that will satisfy both parties. You’ll also be able to avoid other common mistakes such as:
Failing to prepare by identifying what the deal-breakers are, which outcomes are essential, which ones are useful to achieve, and which ones don’t matter in any concrete way.
Asking only for as much as you expect… It is better to ask for more than you expect.
Modifying an offer you have made before getting a response to the original. It’s important to understand that the other party may use silence to bait you into relaxing your conditions.
Offering compromises before you have heard all the demands of the other party. By getting all the facts first, you can be selective in identifying where compromise may be possible.
Focusing too much on your party’s input and achievements. Strong negotiators pay close attention to the opposite party’s behaviours, ask plenty of questions, and take time to understand and analyse the answers.
How to Boost Your Supply Chain Leader’s Skills
Your business degree and/or hands-on experience in a supply chain role will undoubtedly help you gain and maintain a supply chain leader’s position in your current company—or in a new organisation if you should be planning a move.
However, supply chains have become so complicated that an extensive toolkit of required skills is required if you want to thrive and make a difference as a supply chain leader.
Some of the skills in that toolkit can be difficult to attain without many years of supply chain experience, simply because they are rarely taught outside of the workplace. Your best option might be a program of specialised supply chain and logistics education.
Our Supply Chain Secrets program, for example, was developed and designed by people who work in the industry. It can help you learn about each supply chain area pragmatically, using real-world problem-solving and relatable examples of commonly made mistakes—and methods to avoid them.
If you’ve read this blog post, perhaps you’ve been searching online for ways to enhance your supply chain leader’s skill set. If so, you don’t need to look much further. Join Supply Chain Secrets today, and access the skills you need to be a supply chain leader of tomorrow.
Ever been to a therapist and felt like they’ve read you like a book? Uncover their secrets in this article and harness your own superpowers. Got a big meeting or negotiation coming up? Learn how your adversaries and your team tick to make sure you stay in control.
My partner has a superpower.
When he opens the front door to a stranger he can tell what kind of day they’ve had, how they feel about themselves and what they think of him. He’s a therapist, and honing these skills day after day through years of human interaction have saved him (and his clients) hours of questions and warm up chit chat.
He can cut straight to the chase and use their shared time in the most effective way that meets their needs.
They often feel relieved, understood and grateful that they don’t have to take the first step of opening up and being vulnerable.
It gives him a steer on what tone he needs to take, what topics they may need to explore and what the weather is like in their emotional forecast.
A therapist has an arsenal of tools ready to deploy – this super quick scanning ability means he’s on the front foot and taking charge before he’s even said hello.
Master your own superpowers
The good news for procurement and supply chain pros around the world is that these skills can be learned. We’ve all seen the TedTalks and infographics reminding us of how much we communicate nonverbally through posture, eye contact and even vibes. A therapist’s superpower helps to demonstrate how much untapped potential there is in the way we hold ourselves and once you learn the signs, you can feel like a mind reader.
Imagine walking into a negotiation clocking every single person in the room based on the seats they’ve chosen to sit in, the set of their jaw, their gaze (fixed, nervous, darting around) and the colours they’re wearing. This includes your own team as well, it can help show who might need a bit of support, who’s at risk of spilling the beans and who might be the over-sharer.
Having the best negotiation plan in the history of procurement does not mitigate against the might of the ever unpredictable human being. We’re people, not machines and that means we can be unpredictable but paradoxically we will often have a billboard above our heads announcing our inner emotional state. We just need to learn to read the signs.
Experiment in your everyday life
Start practicing in your daily life by observing people around you. Look at how people hold themselves, their posture, their eyes, their energy levels, their expression when they’re talking to someone else. You can do this in the lift, on the bus, in conversation with a loved one and when you’re walking down the street. Observing people is not the same as judging, don’t make this mistake. It’s important that you are approaching this exercise from a place of detachment, objectivity and kindness.
David Attenborough ain’t got nothing on you
Once you’ve narrated your own nature documentary about humans you’ve stared at on the bus, then progress to unpack what they’re telling you nonverbally. Start to think about what the expressions might mean, what they could be communicating and what this means for you.
Posture: slouching, or intensely concentrating – furrowed brow, arms crossed
Look at the symbol beneath the gestures. Slouching conveys being relaxed but too relaxed comes across as unreliable. Concentrating can come across as angry which can put you in the box of “unapproachable” Arms crossed means the person is not buying in to what you’re saying or they feel defensive
The slouchy person can’t be relied on to win people over when the razzle dazzle is needed but would be good to talk to before you do a presentation to make sure you’re feeling relaxed
Fast talking and being overly friendly may indicate someone that feels the need to have everyone like them.
A people pleaser can be great for assisting with establishing connections and winning people over but they may not be best placed to head to head on the details or key issues.
The ultimate survival guide (we got you)
Follow these neutral gestures and postures to ensure you’re the cool, calm and collected procurement pro at all times.
Always sit up straight.
Relax your face and voice. A tip is to take a big breath, smile, put your tongue behind your top two teeth (and keeping your mouth closed) exhale gently but firmly, it’s a great way to calm yourself down on the spot.
If you’re a fidgeter, then restrict yourself to only one item on the table.
Maintain direct, but relaxed eye contact. If you smile it will soften your gaze.
Be comfortable in silence and don’t feel the need to fill the space.
Level up and feel the power!
Got a huge presentation or meeting to nail? Then lock in these two strategies from Forbes:
Power priming. Think of a past event where you were successful, recall this event and spend time in that feeling. Soaking yourself in this feeling means you can recall it when you need to.
Power pose. There is a lot of research that shows if you strike a particular pose like standing with your legs and arms wide open for 2 minutes, it will stimulate the hormone linked to power and dominance (testosterone).
Follow our body language hacks to ensure your negotiation or big event goes down as a winner.
Do you have any tried-and-true strategies? Comment below!
Many leaders had been looking forward to physically reconnecting with their teams for the first time, whom they may have only seen virtually for the last six months. However, the government’s recent announcement means this may now be delayed indefinitely.
It may have been hoped that a return to a form of ‘normality’ will signal an end of their leadership challenges, yet the recent setback means that managing their people is now the biggest concern.
Over the past two months, Tom Graham, a Consultant within Berwick Partners’ Procurement & Supply Chain practice has been speaking with Chief Procurement Officers across the globe, from a range of different sectors to discuss their leadership concerns during this next phase of the crisis. The discussions focused on the complication’s leaders may face as we enter the next stage of the crisis in addition to the part office-based, part-remote way of working at some stage in the future. Together, they discussed the concerns leaders have with re-engaging their teams, how management styles must change and the mental fall-out after a period of isolation, health and economical stress.
A remote/office combination
When I began to write this research piece, the focus had been on the partial return to the office. Yet the UK government’s recent announcement demonstrates how difficult it is for leaders to plan, manage, and motivate their teams.
Over the last six months, the word ‘unprecedented’ has often been used. From the discussions I’ve had it now looks increasingly likely that the long-term effects on leadership will also be unprecedented in scale.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEADERSHIP
As the crisis roles on, the potential for team disengagement intensifies. CPOs are aware of how imperative it is that they are able to quickly re-engage with their teams, recognising that a lack of engagement could have major implications on the success of their future strategies. A recent report from McKinsey, “COVID-19 and the employee experience – How leaders seize the moment”, stated;
“Organizational responses are having a tangible impact on employees. Compared with respondents who are dissatisfied with their organizations’ responses, those who say their organizations have responded particularly well are four times more likely to be engaged and six times more likely to report a positive state of well-being”.
However, many leaders will find themselves in a challenging situation, needing to set a clear path of direction whilst not having all the answers to all their team’s questions.
One CPO explained the challenges they had faced with motivating a team who had experienced mental fatigue; a peer from a national retailer corroborated that their team has also sought answers and long-term reassurances which they cannot give, leading to a negative impact on employee motivation. McKinsey’s report states: “leaders need to help rattled workforces believe in the future”. One procurement leader believes that this should be one of their biggest concerns, as they look to strike the balance between keeping good practices in place, whilst adapting their approach as we enter a period of increased outbreaks. The combination of lockdown fatigue and a physical disconnect from an office and colleagues will, or may have already, accelerated disengagement. Leaders need to act swiftly to reconnect, re-engage and motivate a team which may have lost members, enthusiasm and direction.
Rebuilding employee loyalty, whilst not physically connected is a major concern for nearly all leaders. McKinsey’s report once again raised this point, “It would be a mistake to assume that the camaraderie that has sustained many employees early in the crisis will endure long term. Leaders need to take active steps to ensure continued relationship building, particularly for remote workers.”
Across the board, there are overwhelming concerns centred around how the current or future, mixed office and remote dynamic will impact team culture and long-term engagement with the business. A CPO from a major retail bank discussed the on-going challenges they have faced in preserving team culture when working remotely, a concern which has been reiterated by senior leaders in the pharmaceutical sector (they discussed the concerns around dilution in connection points between their team members). Previously, the office environment may have facilitated this, but the sense of being together as a team, is near impossible to create in this hybrid world. One CPO explained how some staff have voiced that they have felt a loss in ‘connection tissue’ to the organisation, where as another explained their concerns around the ability of a team to challenge leaders remotely, questioning whether this new way of working may result in a lack of diversity of thought.
As we enter the next stage of the crisis, organisations must adapt to building teams and onboarding people in a way that they feel connected to the culture of a business. The concerns around erosion of social capital during onboarding processes were raised by one CPO from a global consumer goods company, with a procurement leader from a global entertainment’s organisation wanting to know when we will see an increase in employee’s mercenary mentality. It is predicted that as staff feel less connection to an organisation, we will see a spike in salaries as organisations battle to attract talent.
The loss of personal connection will be exacerbated as teams find themselves out the office or in at different times and regularity. Potentially, this may create even greater division within the workforce and in some cases, presenteeism is now more of a premium than ever before, with certain team members feeling that a commitment to the office in a time of crisis, will accelerate development opportunities.
Leaders must quickly learn how to successfully (and fairly) manage a physically divided team. It is imperative that those working remotely are not put at a disadvantage compared to those in the office. Concerns from across sector were around the ‘offline’ or ‘coffee conversations’ that could be missed by those who are working remotely, with 86% of those spoken to being airing concerns. Across the board, there are concerns around ‘accidental exclusion’, with one-to-one calls leading to decisions being made that have not been co-ordinated with the team which can cause certain members of the team to be forgotten about. This was confirmed by one CPO who raised concerns around some staff feeling their views would not be heard.
Yet a formalised method of communicating does not solve all problems, particularly around individual connections to leaders and the business. Whilst virtual coffees and spontaneous conversations have reduced some challenges, they have not replaced office small talk. Leaders from both chemicals and insurance businesses stating that ‘golden rules’ need to be created, with the key point being meetings should either be virtual or physical, but never a mixture.
One CPO felt that more personal desk conversations were often a major motivator for their team. Video conferencing and virtual coffees no longer felt natural and could often feel contrived which again could negatively impact engagement and productivity.
For many, working remotely has highlighted greater inequalities in a team, with the CPO’s we spoke to explaining that younger generations will feel a greater impact on their lives than those more senior in the business. The lack of social benefits and often more challenging, remote working conditions could ultimately lead to a more divided work force.
Throughout the crisis, we have seen introverts and extroverts handle the crisis very differently. Leaders have needed to home in on their facilitation skills, ensuring that both parties can equally contribute to discussions.
The methods used by leaders to engage their teams are going to be tested like never before, with McKinsey stating that ‘mental and physical fatigue is now people’s default’. How leaders will overcome this will be a major hurdle.
One CPO explained his concerns around how they will overcome this, citing a historical reliance on social engagements with the ‘party pot’ being a default tool to create comradery. Yet there are concerns that this may not be possible in the short term and no longer suffice in the long-term, with leaders having to find new ways to rebuild team relationships without the adequate training or prior experience.
LEADERSHIP STYLES & BEHAVIOURS
Leaders must ensure that their management style is fit and ready for a hybrid way of working. Overwhelmingly it was agreed that leaders must adapt to managing through results and outputs however a CPO from a major retailer explained more focus must be placed on performance management and development, which can easily be missed when working remotely.
How leaders will objectively measure performance, with many of their team working remotely is an area of concern for some. It was commented that different team members living environments, would make it difficult to fairly measure performance in a standardised manner.
Leaders must be authentic and lead from the front. Managing through presenteeism, must be ignored. Concerns were raised from leaders of pharmaceutical and financial services business who believe mid-managers that are not experienced in managing through outputs with too many leaders being inexperienced in effectively managing remote teams.
The EQ of leaders has been tested throughout the crisis and must continue. Team members will have been impacted differently during the crisis and several CPO’s stated it is essential that their junior managers suspend judgement and develop greater observation skills of potential issues, showing greater empathy.
Managers must develop into leaders and understand how to get the best out of their teams in a period which is still not ‘normal’. A procurement executive from a global insurance organisation stated that leaders must recognise that there is nothing ‘normal’ about what we are going into and must appreciate that for many the next period is a transient phase. Managers now need to understand how to get the best out of individuals, empowering them to make independent decisions. A CPO within the chemicals sector believes that greater training must be provided around having more honest conversations, considering language and cultural nuances when communicating with multi-national teams.
Purpose in the workplace
Executives from across sector are now reviewing the purpose of the office. As Deloitte discuss in their paper ‘Workforce strategies for post COVID-19 recovery’;
“It is important to remember that transformative change can be difficult and unsettling for many workers. Whilst some may prefer working from home, others may be uncomfortable or unproductive outside the traditional work settings. How leaders accommodate and balance these divergent expectations will help define the future of trust in their organisation.”
There are concerns from across sector as to how being away from the office and your stakeholder community for a sustained period may impact business partnering and the involvement in decision making. Concerns exist as to how social capital can be built upstream when working remotely.
Several leaders explained that certain members of their team have struggled to virtually replace ‘informal coffees’ with their stakeholders.
There are serious concerns that working remotely may have stalled individual’s professional development and stifled creativity. Leaders from both the retail and pharmaceutical sector believe that a lack of sidebar conversations will have a negative impact on innovation.
Maintaining team cohesiveness and connectivity currently – and when 30%-60% of an office may not return – will be extremely problematic. Some believe that we are under the illusion that collaboration has been successful, when the reality is that teams have rallied together during crisis.
A sector wide response has been to look into creating more collaboration areas. Yet the practicality of this has come under question, with the CPO from a leading manufacturing organisation stating that most offices are not currently built to support this, and group size restrictions still apply. With many businesses looking to ‘survive’ during the crisis, it is therefore unlikely that fit out projects or new office space is a realistic priority.
Many employees are likely to seek clarity towards their job responsibilities, particularly if some of their colleagues have been made redundant. An executive from a leading food and beverage organisation stated their concerns in the blurring of roles, with individuals wanting to increase their responsibilities and value to the business.
An executive from a leading hospitality business believes that the crisis may see a broadening of roles and required skill sets longer term. This may have an impact on the external talent organisations look to recruit, or the training and development programmes put in place internally.
The mental health fall out as a result of the pandemic is the overwhelming concern for leaders from across sector. 96% of those spoken to raised concerns around the mental health issues forthcoming of their team members. During the early stages of the pandemic, the World Health organisation issued a statement that noted “elevated rates of stress or anxiety” caused from lockdown. Leaders unanimously felt unprepared and untrained to suitably tackle the topic as we return to the workplace.
A CPO from a leading retail bank stated their concerns on how their teams would adapt to life when they get back in the office, raising concerns around their team’s loss of perception of self, and acknowledged that spotting signs of mental health concerns may have been challenging remotely, yet much more apparent in person.
A recent study suggested that extroverts are more likely to struggle when adapting to life back in the office. It was claimed that the common question of ‘what have you been up to?’ could prompt anxiety, with extroverted team members feeling that they have failed to adequately answer the question with ‘nothing’. An executive from a chemicals business agreed that this is a major concern.
A recent study conducted by the University of Manchester and University of London, called ‘Lancet Psychiatry’, described the mental health inequalities caused by lockdown, “with people living with young children showing greater increases in mental distress than people from child-free homes”. It continues:
“The greatest increase in mental distress was seen in young people aged 18 to 24 and those aged 25 to 34”. It goes on to find, “new inequalities in mental distress have emerged, with those living with young children and those in employment at the start of the pandemic being at risk of larger increases in mental distress”. It concludes, “Our findings suggest that being young, a woman, and living with children, especially preschool age children, have had a particularly strong influence on the extent to which mental distress increased under the conditions of the pandemic.”
The mental health fall-out will be an ongoing issue. A CPO we spoke to explained, “‘humans like a beginning, middle and end and we are in the middle with no end in sight”. This is something leaders must monitor closely with time. The Lancet Psychiatry states;
“As the economic fallout from the pandemic progresses, when furloughs turn into redundancies and mortgage holidays time out, the researchers say mental health inequalities will likely widen and deepen and must be monitored closely so that steps can be taken to mitigate against a rise in mental illness”.
This is a concern for many leaders who recognise that further job cuts and a recession, will have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of their teams.
A CPO from a leading insurer, stated that it is imperative that team members feel that they have more to offer than just ‘the day job’. Leaders must have the confidence to ask difficult questions, showing authenticity and concern. McKinsey’s recent report, titled ‘Communications get personal: How leaders can engage employees during a return to work’ they state;
“It provides a historic opportunity to overcome the stigma of mental and emotional health as taboo topics for workplace discussion, especially the feelings of isolation and shame that are attached to job losses and other employment casualties.”
Leaders must learn how to manage their own mental health and wellbeing. Nearly all spoken to agreed that measures needed to be put in place to mentally support the leaders too.
As we enter the next phase of the crisis, leaders are going to be tested in ways they have never been tested before. For organisations and functions to emerge from the crisis strongly, it is imperative that leaders find solutions to the multiple problems they may face. Engagement, management styles and mental health are all going to be on-going issues. Organisations must build new strategies, whilst rebuilding team culture and togetherness. Whilst we may be coming towards the end of one crisis, without the right stewardship, businesses may be hurtling into another.
Here are three keys to conceiving, deploying and using technology to elevate the performance of your procurement process operations from IBM’s Chander Vashistha
Procurement organisations depend on technology to manage their source-to-pay (procurement) functions most efficiently and effectively. Technology also provides exceptional services experience to their requestors, buyers and suppliers. However, organisations often find the process of selecting, implementing and using technology platforms and applications challenging. While procurement technology provides many benefits, organisations that do not select the right technology, integrate the technology to create a connected ecosystem and create processes to use the technology often do not realise the full benefits.
Clarity is the cornerstone of successful procurement practices, and procurement technology must support and enable clarity between both parties. When organisations do not receive full value from technology systems, the issue often comes down to clarity. However, it’s essential that clarity exist before adding in the technology. Technology doesn’t create clarity, but improves and enhances clarity already present in the process.
Organisations with good clarity in their procurement practice see significant competitive advantages, business continuity, resilience and digital transformation. While these aspects are essential for a successful business, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting business disruption significantly increases their importance.
Here are three keys to conceiving, deploying and using technology to elevate the performance of your procurement process operations:
1) Align the purchasing strategy with operations and vision
When organisations lay technology on top of disconnected strategy and vision, the new platforms and systems often magnify the misalignments. Before focusing on technology, organisations should review their current strategies to ensure alignment. A well-connected procurement strategy and vision drives implementation of a frictionless technology ecosystem rather than a patchwork collection of discrete point solutions.
The purchasing process works within both your procurement process and overall company operations. On an even more granular level, the purchasing strategy tightly connects with procurement operations’ vision and procurement operations strategy. Before making changes, especially in processes and technology, practitioners must step back and consider strategic alignment.
After understanding your organisation’s purchasing strategy, procurement vision and procurement operating strategy, the next step is ensuring they all align with one another. After making any necessary changes, your organization will have the foundation to begin looking for technology that supports all three.
2) Understand the four types of procurement technology
Procurement professionals often assume — incorrectly — that all procurement platforms and systems fall into a single category. By understanding the different types, organisations can ensure they are researching and purchasing the best type of technology for their needs. Without clear understanding of the different types of procurement technology, organisations may purchase multiple technologies performing very similar functions, which creates waste and redundancies, not to mention wastes funds.
Procurement organisations use the following four types of technology:
ERP software and blockchain equivalents – SAP-MM, SAP-FICO, TYS blockchain, IBM Temp labor blockchain and RSBN blockchain
Commodity or process-neutral procurement technology – SAP Ariba Solutions, Coupa, Tradeshift, Sourcematrix and IBM SpendIQ
Commodity or process-specific procurement technology – IBM Oniqua, SAP Concur, SAP Fieldglass, Amazon Business, Alibaba 1688, Uber for Business, Service Now and JIRA
Cognitive e-procurement applications with intelligent workflow platforms – IBM Procurement Service Desk, IBM Watson Virtual Buying Assistant, IBM B2B Marketplace and IBM Direct Spend IQ
Organisations often invest in one or two types of procurement technology, which does not typically enable achieving their procurement strategy and vision. Often these organisations assume they fell short due to the technology implemented. By deploying relevant technology from each of the four types, organisations achieve the clarity needed to meet their goals.
3) Focus on cognitive e-procurement applications
Organisations find a wide range of choices in technologies, especially in cognitive e-procurement applications, which use artificial intelligence to open procurement transformation processes. This type of technology helps organizations transform the procurement process experience for buyers in direct, indirect, MRO and capital purchasing.
Because cognitive e-procurement applications are relatively new and come with a large amount of hype and innovation, organisations should fully understand what features they need as well as the features offered by each solution. By selecting the right application for your specific needs instead of the most feature-rich product, you’ll significantly increase your ROI and strategy improvements.
For example, Trust Your Supplier blockchain, which came to market in 2019, helps procurement professionals automate and digitize supplier information like a “digital passport.” The application also provides the immutability and trust that comes with processing transactions through blockchain. Because the application shifts the process out of procurement operations, the technology reduces cycle time, lowers transaction costs and improves reliability of supplier information management operations. Additionally, suppliers streamline their process by only submitting information to a customer once and can share the same information to other customers using a digital key for record access.
Making the move to integrate technology
As organisations continue to manage change and disruption due to the pandemic, creating clarity in your procurement cycle remains a high priority. Through using cognitive technology driven by intelligent workflow platforms, in conjunction with the three other types of technologies, organisations can create the most effective and efficient processes that drive business value. By aligning strategies, understanding the types of technology and implementing cognitive e-procurement applications inclusive of the technology ecosystem, organisations can improve performance, maturity and outcomes.
New computers can analyse a million rows of data in minutes. So why not let the computer do the heavy lifting? As a supply chain professional of the future, you won’t be manually processing data. You will have data you can trust at your fingertips, as well as meaningful insights. The rest will be up to you! IBM’s Takshay Aggarwal explains.
In the future, what will separate the successful supply chains from the rest?
In 20 years of supply chain experience, Takshay has never seen a supply and demand shock at the same time.
“It’s completely changed how supply chain planning is done,” Takshay says.
Before, people used historical data to project demand – usually with a 5-10% variability or 1-2% percent for really mature organisations.
But even with a high level of accuracy, too many companies were unsure which supplies were coming when.
“Processes were so monthly and weekly orientated,” Takshay adds. “There was no sense of response; it was all about, ‘We’re used to this stepwise process and will get to it when we get to it.”
The result? Slow response time and lost sales. And reaction time was seriously hampered by years of cost cutting.
“An easy analogy is that you can cut and cut the fat to the bone, but when you need to run, where is the muscle?” Takshay says.
Sensing the market
That’s not true for all organisations, of course. Some companies invested in the right technology to detect changes in the market, which enabled them to respond quickly.
Takshay uses the example of two big retailers during the early days of the pandemic.
“One retailer had sensing and response capabilities,” Takshay explains. “They secured all the available supplies in the market. Their shelves were stocked and their sales were booming.”
On the other hand, the second retailer’s supply chain officer was slow to respond. “They had traditional ways of doing stuff and their shelves were empty.”
The difference between the two? “One supply chain officer is now promoted to the board and the other is finding a new job.”
That’s why it’s so crucial to have the tools in place to detect market fluctuation and respond.
Looking at data differently
Going forward, how will you prepare for disruption – not only for your suppliers, but your suppliers’ suppliers?
The solution is incorporating non-traditional data for demand planning, Takshay says.
“Let’s say a discretionary spend category like electronics or fashion; you need to understand how unemployment is panning out in certain areas because that determines the footfall in your store,” Takshay says.
Non-traditional data includes areas of demographics like looking at unemployment or how a disease is spreading.
“You will start seeing a lot of what we call demand sensing in the near term, and driver-based forecasting which is trying to understand larger drivers in terms of promotions, in terms of macroeconomic factors,” Takshay explains.
“I think that’s where we’ll see demand sensing capabilities, like trying to understand the near term impact of weather or demographics and how they affect demand.”
Spreadsheets won’t cut it
Technology will also change how you use that non-traditional data, Takshay says.
That’s because higher computational power creates the ability to process data at lightning speed.
“The basic math hasn’t changed, but what has changed is how fast you can ingest that data,” Takshay says.
Think of it this way. How long would it take you to analyse a million rows in an Excel spreadsheet? Yet for some of these new models, a million rows is nothing.
Artificial intelligence can quickly process large amounts of data, making it easier to extract meaningful data.
It will also be easier to bring in different sources of data – as and when – they’re relevant.
For example, data about the pandemic spread might be a big consideration now, but six months from now it might not be relevant (fingers crossed!)
Instead, you may be more interested to ingest data at scale about economic recovery. AI can help you make sense of a huge amount of data and understand correlations – something that used to take an army of data scientists to uncover.
Welcome to efficiency
That ability to analyse vast quantities of data will also make demand planning a lot easier.
“If you ask any demand planners, 60 to 70% of their work today is about cleansing and harmonising data, and 20-30% is figuring out what it’s saying,” says Takshay.
Now, technology can eliminate much of that manual processing. In fact, Takshay says IBM estimates around 40 to 60% of that work will be covered.
“Now imagine if you’re a demand planner and you don’t have to go through those daily tasks to get the data cleansed,” Takshay says.
Making it personal
So what does the future hold for supply chain?
Takshay predicts consumer demand is moving toward mass personalisation. The challenge for procurement teams will be supporting that personalisation in production, without losing efficiency or driving up costs.
“Ten years from now, we will be talking more about how we can better understand the consumer,” Takshay says.
“Everything will be done by machine. Supply chain may become irrelevant. It all becomes about mass personalisation so that’s where we start putting our efforts.”
That’s why human empathy will be an even more essential skill. Quantum computing could eliminate 80% of today’s procurement tasks, so our greater contribution is using human emotion to meet customer needs.