Tag Archives: CPO

Three Ways Businesses Can Emerge Stronger From The Pandemic

Three main trends will positively impact the Procurement space post-COVID-19 and beyond and help in responding to unexpected challenges


What a strange year it’s been. As we marked the start of 2020, and news started to circulate about a virus in China, no one could have anticipated the global health crisis that was on its way.

As more countries ease lockdown restrictions and business find new and creative ways to meet the needs of their customers, there are many learnings we can take from the pandemic. These range from critical changes to growth plans to adjustments to company culture to operational improvements to increase supply chain agility.

Like many companies, we recognized early in the crisis the difficulties we would all face in this new reality. To get ahead of the curve, our co-founders Samir Bodas and Monish Darda, along with our leadership team, developed a framework based on our values of Fairness, Openness, Respect, Teamwork and Execution—FORTE—to help everyone at Icertis make decisions to meet the demands we faced.

We call that framework our four rings of responsibility—taking care of self, taking care of family, taking care of community and taking care of business—and prioritize them in that order. We see the Four Rings of Responsibility as our way of amplifying our FORTE values to ensure we do our part to help win the battle against COVID-19.   

COVID’s Impact

Outside of our own workplace, I’ve been speaking with our customers about how the industry is coping with the upheaval. Their experiences map closely with the findings from the ‘How Now? Supply Chain Confidence Indexfrom Procurious that show only 1% of procurement/supply chain professionals felt ‘frozen’ by the COVID crisis. This is a testament to the rate of innovation across the profession and the strong role technology is now playing in helping drive speed and agility within procurement.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic exposed weaknesses in modern supply chain strategies as evidenced by the survey’s finding that 38% of respondents plan to expand their supplier base over the coming months. One of the main lessons that we are hearing from customers and prospects is that businesses need to create stronger, more flexible and diverse supply chains. To do this, it will be essential for businesses to identify areas in their supply chain where efficiency improvements can be made.

Leading brands are increasingly realizing this work starts with contracts, which define how your supply chain runs. By harnessing the critical business information in their contracts, companies can quickly address areas like value leakage and regulatory compliance, while accelerating the pace of supplier onboarding and reducing business risk.

Three Post-COVID Trends

In fact, a greater focus on risk management is one of the three main trends that will positively impact the procurement space post-COVID-19. Risk management used to be an abstract concept in the C-suite, only a concern for the CFO or the audit committee; now it is painfully tangible to everyone in the organization. Every business now recognizes (or should recognize!) that they need to take a programmatic approach to responding to black swan events. This underlines the need for having solutions in place that will allow organisations to clearly understand the risk/reward trade-off in all business processes. For example, being able to identify and manage risk throughout the contract lifecycle, is enabling procurement teams to examine their sourcing strategies to ensure they are not overly dependent on a single supplier. In the current business environment, where unfortunately many businesses are still struggling to survive, having a multi-sourcing strategy in place is a business imperitive.

Secondly, we will see greater alignment between the CFO and CPO. By the nature of their roles, CFOs have always been focused on those technologies that can give them business oversight of income and spending. However, the impact felt by COVID on that cashflow—from supply chain failures to shift in demand—has increased their focus on working with other areas of their organisations to identify and mitigate risk. As a result, they have become more invested in being able to structure and connect all of their company’s contract data, applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to enable them to quickly surface and respond to threats, growth opportunities and challenges.

And finally, it’s well documented that the pandemic has forced an acceleration of digital transformation efforts. Satya Nadella put it best when he observed, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” It is clear that innovation will take a front seat in the post-pandemic business world. Companies have seen the benefits of having cloud-based technologies and processes such as contract lifecycle management available to them when working remotely. I anticipate that we’ll start to see increased investments across the board as businesses look to protect themselves for future disruptions and reinvent how they do business.

Then beyond digitisation, a greater focus will be placed on investing in technologies that can enable advanced data analytics, so that businesses are able to use this insight to keep out in front. This is where contracts will take a central role, providing more intelligence and connecting to key business processes so they are able to provide the right foundation for growth and evolution, and allow organisations to respond to unanticipated challenges and changing marketplace dynamics. 

It’s been a challenging few months for everyone, but I am more confident than ever that if we keep our four rings of responsibility top of mind and take the lessons learned from COVID seriously, we will look back at this strange time and realise that it transformed the way we do business for the better. 

How Dawn Tiura Built The Largest Sourcing Network In The US

If you’re an ambitious procurement or supply chain professional, there’s plenty to learn from Dawn Tiura about the power of networking, and upskilling yourself in the important areas of third party risk.


“You’ve got to meet Dawn,” said Gabe Perez from Coupa.

“You’ve got to meet Dawn,” said Chris Sawchuk from Hackett Group.

“You’ve got to meet Dawn,” said Alpar Kambar from Denali.

So, I said to myself – “I’ve really got to meet Dawn!”

There’s literally only a handful of women in the world who own and operate their own businesses serving the profession.

So… it was great to finalIy meet the much-admired Dawn a few years ago at the LevaData conference in San Francisco. Finally – I had found someone out there just like me – someone who also believed in the power of bringing our profession together.

Dawn and I are still really getting to know each other. We next met up at the SAP Ariba conference in Austin. Then she did a fantastic job keynoting at our Big Ideas Summit in Chicago last year (on third party risk…which is her specialty and very timely for what we were about to experience this year!).

SIG is a powerhouse. They dominate the U.S. Their member companies are a who’s who of Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies who get together frequently. Their upcoming Global Executive Summit will feature insights from senior executives and disruptive thought leaders; they host weekly webinars, one-day events and CPO Roundtables; drive thought leadership in Future of Sourcing; and they have a training and certification program for sourcing, procurement and risk professionals.     

So, I wanted to make sure the Procurious community knows all about Dawn and her amazing company….so I asked for this interview..

When you started SIG, what was your vision? Were you trying to build the largest sourcing network in the U.S.? 

I actually am not the founder of Sourcing Industry Group (SIG). I took over the leadership in 2007 and my original intent was to remake it from a “good ole boys” network into the leading organization for sourcing, procurement and outsourcing professionals. My vision was to be a disrupter to the industry, pushing the latest ideas to members and to help elevate the role of the CPO.

Has your vision become a reality? Has SIG become what you thought it would be?

Yes and we’re making progress everyday as we continue pushing the envelope to adopt emerging technologies and find new ways to streamline the process of procurement. Over the last 10 years, SIG has become the largest network for sourcing professionals in the world. But more important than the size of our membership is the collegial nature and information sharing that we have fostered. SIG brings people together to share best practices and next practices in a non-commercial manner that creates success.

What have been your secrets to success?  And what advice would you give to others thinking about starting their own entrepreneurial venture?  

The secret to my success is surrounding myself with people who are smarter than me. They are my inspiration and they never say “no” to my new ideas. I also pride myself with only hiring people who volunteer in some capacity in their personal lives. For me, I think that people who give back to their local community or for a nonprofit says a lot to me about their character. We also allow people to take time off work, with pay, to support their own causes. The people I have recruited to the team often come from my volunteer work where I’ve seen their work ethic up close and personal. 

Why do you think people join networks? And, in particular, your network, SIG?  

The reason people join is most likely not the reason they ultimately stay.  People join SIG to network, share best practices and to become better educated. They stay largely due to the network itself and the fact we are non-commercial. People enjoy the camaraderie, the fun we have and most importantly how we lift one another up and help each other.  Our members are all great people, they participate fully and care for one another.  

Why did you decide to have both buyers and suppliers in your network? 

This was easy for me, I came from the supplier side, having consulted in sourcing for more than a decade. I know first hand that consultants/suppliers/advisors/tech companies each work with hundreds of clients and therefore bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. I encourage this interaction and these relationships. 

I really admire how you have very clear guidelines on how your suppliers, vendors and sponsors can interact with your members. What are some of those guidelines and why did you put them in place?  

I am proud of our Provider Code of Conduct and it is critical that providers acknowledge the fact that our practitioners are very sophisticated and won’t buy from you if you are a “slick salesperson.” They engage you because you have the right thought leadership that strikes a chord, or the right technology at the time they are ready to investigate it. They don’t buy from brochures or from being “sold to.”  If you are found to be actively selling, you are given one warning and the second time your membership is revoked and you have to sit out of SIG for two years. At that time we will allow you to come back into the SIG Tribe.  

When we caught up last year at the Big Ideas Summit in Chicago (by the way, you did an amazing job talking about Third Party Risk!  Very timely!), I really learnt how busy your life is – running your business, organising your major events, hosting webinars, mentoring young people….you fit a lot into your day, week, month, year!  What’s your advice to others who are trying to manage and prioritise their time better? 

I feel best when I have a lot of projects to take on, from building curriculum, to mentoring and parenting. The more I have to do, the more deadlines I have, it motivates me. Without deadlines, I would achieve very little. For example, you didn’t ask me for a deadline for this article, so it didn’t get done for over a month. I set my priorities by keeping them balanced. I must do something to help someone else every day, that is one thing that I believe in. Whether it is donating time or money to a good cause, shopping for an elderly neighbor or mentoring youth, we have an opportunity to be kind and to give back every single day and we should take advantage of that opportunity. 

What’s your advice to ambitious professionals out there? What should they be doing right now to make sure they succeed into the future? 

Learn to open your mouth wider so you can drink more easily from the fire hose, because technology is going to change at an increasing rate of acceleration. Accept it, embrace it and never fight it. Also, bring your authentic self to your role, whatever it is. You can’t be successful without living your own truth. Don’t try and be what someone else wants you to be, be who you are and who you want to become. Err on the side of kindness always. 

Most importantly, how are you personally right now? Florida is being hit hard by COVID. Are you and your family OK? What’s happening in Florida right now? 

Thank you for asking, we are doing well. I have a high school senior in virtual school and kids in college all working from their apartments. 

Summary

Wow!  Whichever way you look at this, Dawn is an inspiration.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur out there, you have hopefully been inspired by Dawn’s vision and determination.

If you’re an ambitious procurement or supply chain professional, there’s lessons to be learned in the power of networking and upskilling yourself in the important areas of third party risk.

If you’re a supplier, looking to truly partner with our profession, SIG provides a trusted and valuable conduit into the important buying community.

What did you learn from today’s story? Let us know.

Want To Succeed As A Global CPO? Don’t Be A Procurement Butterfly!

This is no time for procurement professionals, let alone global CPOs, to float above the action or flit from minor issue to minor issue. It’s time to keep learning and get involved. 


Ian Holcroft’s careercurrently Procurement Director at Murphy, has given him a unique perspective on the situation currently facing procurement. Here, he offers some personal and professional tips on what we can learn from the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

You are never too old to learn something new. Even in the best of times, there is no excuse you can make to ever stop learning. The minute you think you have learned everything is the minute you are no longer relevant. 

My career in procurement has spanned 30 years and taken me all over the world. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked on some fantastic projects:  

  • the new EDF nuclear power station at Hinkley;  
  • the redevelopment of Liverpool City Centre, now known as Liverpool ONE; and 
  • the building of the Commonwealth Games Stadium in Manchester and its subsequent re-modelling to become the Etihad Stadium, the home of Manchester City Football Club, to name but a few. 

I’ve set up new manufacturing facilities and supply chains in India, experienced life on the other side as an interim HR Director for 9 months and set up Laing O’Rourke’s procurement and supply chain function in Australia. I met some extremely wonderful and inspirational people on the way, many of whom will be friends for life. 

The capacity to learn is a gift 

My four years in Australia were wonderful and it was there that I was lucky enough to meet Tania Seary, founder of Procurious. I also became a member of The Faculty’s CPO Roundtable, something that I have continued with, via Procurious, in the UK.  

The Roundtable has proven itself time again to be an incredibly valuable resource to Global CPOs, facilitating discussion, sharing experiences and, most importantly, learning from one another. This learning has been valuable over the past two and a half years in my current role as Procurement Director of Murphy.  

Murphy is a leading family owned infrastructure business that operates in the power, rail, construction and utility sectors in the UK, Ireland and Canada. Due to the nature of the work we undertake, most of our projects in the UK have still been operational during the pandemic. It would be remiss of me not to share some of my own learning from the challenges forced upon us by COVID-19. 

To be honest, the current situation has reinforced many of my beliefs about our profession: 

1. You must treat your suppliers as partners  

One thing I have always believed and shared with my fellow CPOs is that developing close relationships with your supply chain is crucial to your overall success. Those relationships, the key, strategic ones, need to have a solid foundation of trust and then be built around the concept of ‘tough love’.  

As with any relationship, there will be plenty times where you must have the ‘difficult’ conversations with your suppliers. However, it’s always better to have these conversations with a supplier you have a long relationship with, know inside and out and have worked well with in the past. It’s also infinitely better than a ‘slash and burn’ strategy (adopt, use, discard), or a master-slave relationship, as at some point, inevitably, you will need your supply chain more than they need you. 

Supply partners will help keep you going in the toughest of times, frequently going above and beyond their duty to keep projects going. They appreciate the openness, the loyalty and even the tough love to build up a trusting relationship over the years.  

2. You, both as a function and an individual, must be relevant 

In the current global crisis, procurement has an amazing opportunity to show how relevant and crucial it is to the success and survival of all organisations. Global leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have publicly stated how the German Government is utilising procurement as a strategic weapon to fight COVID-19.  

I’ve told my fellow global CPOs that if we can’t make our function relevant now, we never will. How do you stay relevant? Stay close to your stakeholders and help them deliver their targets. You can’t prove relevance from the stands – you need to be on the pitch. Ask yourself, “How close am I to the real action that makes a tangible difference to my business?” 

I am currently embroiled in it, very much by choice! If you’re not, then maybe it’s time to move on and let the next player on the pitch. Unfortunately, there are still far too many ‘procurement butterflies’ floating around, getting involved with this and that, without delivering anything of substance or relevance. It’s time for leaders to stop flitting about and really get involved. 

3. Build a great team – then trust them to deliver 

I have been incredibly fortunate to develop and work with some great teams throughout my career. My current team at Murphy is no different. We have some great, young talent coming through, we have been awarded the CIPS Excellence Standard – it has been a pleasure to lead it. 

But your team will never truly achieve greatness, unless you trust them to deliver. With all the virtual tools and means of communication we have available to us now, even a global pandemic is no excuse for not staying in touch. Just look at Procurious gathering its global CPO leaders virtually to exchange ideas and still achieving the depth of information and experience as it would have face-to-face. 

The procurement team of the future won’t need to travel as much as we used to and working from home will become the new normal. But only as long as everyone in the team has clear outcomes to achieve and a leader who is willing to let them get on with it (though on hand for advice and encouragement as appropriate).  

Plus, there’s still the chance to get together (virtually) for the team building exercises too! 

4. It’s still all about people – so make sure you look after yours 

No matter the technological advancements we have now and into the future, people will still be at the centre of everything we do. In strange and challenging times, it’s even more important to look after your people – understand what drives them, what challenges they have outside work, the status of their mental health, especially if (as it has been for many), they have been furloughed. 

Though physically further apart, there is an opportunity for us to be closer to our people than ever before. We still need to ensure that our people can develop through training. eLearning resources, such as the ones offered by Procurious and CIPS, are great for this. Encourage your team to utilise these and provide them with enough time to complete them. 

And, of course, don’t forget about yourself. As I have said, look after yourself and make sure you’re still learning. Never stop learning, setting yourself new challenges and winning that fight to stay relevant.  

Coming out stronger 

We are facing challenging and frequently troubling times. But I strongly believe that procurement and supply chain will come out the other side of this stronger and in a more influential position. We must seize this opportunity, use all of the resources at our disposal and lead our teams on the next steps in this journey. 

Don’t forget though, you are never alone. No matter your level, from the newest new start in procurement, right up to the most senior of global CPOs, there is always a chance to share. Use resources like the CPO Roundtable to bounce ideas off your peers, pick their brains and see where they have succeeded. And, just in case I haven’t mentioned it often enough – never stop learning! 

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

Aspire To Be A CPO? Know This.

Is it even ok to still want to become a CPO this year, or soon? Read expert insights from a recruiter about on how to do just that. 


It’s been challenging, of late, to give our careers the usual focus they need and deserve. But with the coronavirus situation looking like it may get under control in the next few months, many of us are returning to our former ambitious selves. And with that, comes the inevitable question: If I want to become a CPO, how do I do it? 

Given that we’re all technically surrounded by CPOs and procurement executives most days, it should be easy to answer this. But what works for one person in terms of getting to the top may not work for others. For this reason, it’s better to ask someone that oversees the promotion of procurement professionals into the top echelons of business every day. In other words: Ask an executive recruiter. 

To help you understand how to land a CPO role, we interviewed one of the procurement industry’s top executive recruiters, Mark Holyoake. Mark, the founder of Holyoake Search, has placed dozens of candidates into senior procurement roles over an 18-year career, and has unique and fascinating insights into how you can achieve your career dreams. 

I want to be a CPO within 5 years. What should I be doing now? 

If you’ve got your sights on the top job, but know you’re not quite ready yet, there’s still a lot you can be doing, says Mark, to prepare yourself when the time comes. Across all of the roles he’s recruited, he’s found that all CPOs share certain qualities: 

‘All successful CPOs have great leadership skills. They also understand business strategy. In addition to this, humility, exceptional communication skills, awareness of the future, diplomacy, and a mindset for growth are all critical.’ 

But when should you start developing these essential traits? The sooner, the better, Mark says:

‘Start cultivating these skills early on. Learn them in the classroom, within your company, with the help of an external mentor. Don’t have a mentor? Seek one out ASAP.’ 

Fine-tune your leadership skills

To succeed in procurement, technical skills are of course important. But what’s more important, says Mark, is to be an exceptional leader. If you’re wanting a senior position, Mark believes, these are the skills that you need to work most on. 

Fortunately, the current crisis has provided us all with the opportunity to lead, and there’s one skill in particular that we should all have fine-tuned: 

‘Leading through uncertainty and adversity has certainly been required of late. As a CPO, you’ll always face uncertainty – so that’s a great skill to be nurturing now.’ 

Beyond the skills learned in the current crisis, when Mark recruits for senior roles, he does believe certain leadership skills are crucial. He says the businesses he works with usually look for a number of things: 

‘[My clients] need leaders that understand strategy, how to react to change, and who possess a devotion to research and current affairs.’ 

Getting noticed by executive recruiters 

Recruitment for more junior procurement roles usually happens via networking and job boards. But when it comes to the senior end of town, the majority of roles are advertised through executive recruiters, who then headhunt talent. So this begs the question – how do you get noticed by these recruiters so you know about these roles in the first place, and get the opportunity to apply? 

Mark says that contrary to your standard job search, getting noticed by executive recruiters isn’t about applying: 

‘Candidates should understand that standing out isn’t necessarily about one application or one interview. It’s not about looking for a job when you need to find one.’ 

So what is standing out about, then? Mark recommends that you invest in continually building your profile over time: 

‘Candidates should work on building their online networks and personas over time.’

‘By being active on LinkedIn, sharing relevant articles, participating in discussions, and ensuring visibility, candidates are able to pre-position themselves to stand out to prospective employers and recruiters to represent them.’ 

Interviewing like a true CPO 

Interviews can be intimidating at any level and at an executive level, they can feel particularly intimidating. Fortunately though, Mark says that the key to ‘interviewing like a true CPO’ is really no different from how you succeed at any other interview: 

‘The number one fail I see, which I see at all levels, is that candidates are not fully prepared.’ 

‘Procurement executives are generally pretty confident in their own abilities, not to mention very busy, with the consequence that many will, unfortunately, try to “wing it.”’ 

‘As with most things in life, interview practice makes perfect – so ensure you’re prepared.’ 

But what should you prepare? Mark says that you need to be able to discuss your accomplishments in a concise manner

‘Research common questions and practice giving answers that highlight your accomplishments. Ensure that you’re able to distill large amounts of information into relevant and succinct responses.’ 

Preparing can help you deliver far better answers to questions, says Mark, But it’s also critical for your mindset: 

‘When your mind is prepared and ready to go on autopilot, it allows you to relax and let your conscious mind focus on listening to what is actually being asked. You’ll enjoy the interview more as well!’ 

Making your move – this year? 

If you’re the ambitious type, you’ll inevitably wonder whether it’s appropriate – or possible – to try to move into a more senior role this year. While the situation is certainly volatile at the moment, Mark believes that it could also represent a good opportunity for aspiring CPOs as they are more likely to be able to secure a role where their impact is felt: 

‘Usually, a conflict exists for many procurement professionals in their job search. Do they choose a profitable, fast-growing company where their impact is not felt as strongly, or do they choose a company under duress who needs their help?’

‘Right now, that conflict no longer exists. EVERY company needs your help – you can have your cake and eat it too.’ 

Interestingly, Mark saw a spike in demand for procurement professionals after the 2008 global financial crisis, a trend which enabled many aspiring leaders to step into great roles: 

‘Post-2008, the demand for procurement went up. While it’s unclear if we’ll see a repeat of that, I’m confident that for most job seekers, if they commit to their job search fully and completely, they will find what they’re looking for.’ 

Do you have any other tips for aspiring CPOs? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments below. 

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

If you’re based in the US, connect with Mark Holyoake if you’re looking for, or aspiring to be, procurement executive talent.  

4 Terms We Should Ban In Procurement

We asked a number of procurement leaders to reveal the procurement term they would most like to ban, for good!

Every procurement professional has a different opinion on the terms that should and shouldn’t be used in their day-to-day working lives. Some terms are loathed because they undervalue the huge contributions procurement make to the organisation. Others are just downright confusing to anyone unfamiliar with procurement lingo.

Because we quite like a healthy debate, we asked a number of procurement leaders to reveal the procurement term they would most like to ban, for good!

1. Cost-cutters

“This is something I really feel is doing a discredit to the profession – it’s very important we are being seen as value-adding procurement people.”

Amelle Mestari, Head of Procurement – Bouygues Energies & Services

“We’ve been spending a lot of time reeducating the business around the extra value we bring so it’s not simply about getting a better unit price it’s about the wider value we can bring to the organisation.”

Gemma Bell, Head of Purchasing – L’Oreal

2. Savings Targets

“Sure, Procurement has to reduce costs and be financially motivated but you don’t see many organisations mission statements being to save money. Nowadays it’s crucial that procurement is measured on its contribution to delivering organisational goals and not just on savings.”

Chris Cliffe, Director – CJC Procurement



3. RFP

“I think there is still a lot of confusion around RFP as silly as it sounds. It’s something we band about and we know exactly what it means but when you speak to stakeholders it’s always the first thing they ask ‘what is an RFP and what does it mean’ and it actually means different things to different people. So I would there must be a different term we could use or a different way we could articulate what that particular process is.”

Chris Emberton, CPO – Clifford Chance

“If I’m going to speak to one of my stakeholders, if they don’t understand the language I’m speaking, how on earth is that going to help me in the business.”

Lucy Bunting, Head of Procurement

4. Negotiation

“It’s what everyone assumes we do and I think it comes to a point where you always get the hospital pass at the end of the day when someone says ‘I need you to negotiate this’ – so it means you’ve done something wrong.

Matt Beddoe, Head of Procurement – Nestle

These responses were obtained from attendees at Big Ideas Summit London earlier this year. If you’re a procurement leader and you’d like to get involved with similar discussions and networking at Big Ideas Chicago on 18th September, we’d love to have you there!

Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019

It’s never too late to take control of your procurement career. And what better way to do so than spending a day with the profession’s best and brightest minds. 

At Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019 we’ll be joined by 50 thought leaders to discuss how to set yourself apart from the pack, the neuroscience of decision-making, the evolving relationship between human and machine and procurement with purpose. 

By enrolling as a digital delegate, no matter where you are in the word, you’ll be able to…

  • Follow the day’s action from the comfort of your sofa
  • Submit questions to our speakers and the 50 CPOs who will be in attendance on the day
  • Gain an insight into the future of procurement
  • Watch video footage from the event including exclusive interviews with our speakers and live-streams of the day in action!

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

3 Ways Procurement Can Make A Lasting Impact On The Organisation

Advanced procurement functions, and the CPOs that lead them, can make a significant and lasting impact on the success of their companies, but only by focusing on the real value and innovation that suppliers can bring…

By Jacob Lund/ Shutterstock

There’s no doubt that procurement enjoys a privileged position in a company’s value chain. Sitting between a network of thousands of suppliers and the business, it has clear visibility of customer need, company strategy and the capabilities that exist in the supply base

From such a position, advanced procurement functions, and the chief procurement officers (CPOs) that lead them, can make a significant and lasting impact on the success of their companies, but only by focusing on the real value and innovation that suppliers can bring and how this can support the organisation’s ultimate value proposition.

To do so, procurement must drive change in three broad areas. Firstly, CPOs must address the procurement operating model so it is better aligned with company strategy and end-customer value. Historically, procurement has segmented third-party spend into categories, from raw materials to office furniture to semiconductors and so on, with the ultimate goal of leveraging scale to reduce price, while also managing risk and quality.

Smart chief executives, however, will be far more interested in how suppliers can enhance the product portfolio to maximise the company’s competitive position in the market. Aligning the supply base around that portfolio will enable supplier innovations to feed more successfully into that goal and ensure collaboration with suppliers is more productive and more focused on value creation.

Of course, this isn’t feasible for every last drop of third-party spending so CPOs must differentiate between core and non-core spend, so 100 per cent of the procurement function’s energy can be applied to those suppliers that really matter.

Secondly, for this to be feasible, CPOs must ensure procurement is a frictionless experience for those in the business who buy as part of their role. Every effort should be made to automate through digital technologies and platforms, so the actual buying process is seamless and efficient.

Robust governance and a sophisticated suite of digital technologies that have been designed with the end-user in mind must underpin such an environment. And the ultimate goal must be to reduce the time and resource spent on non-core products and services, without sacrificing low cost, impacting quality or introducing risk.

This laser-guided focus on execution must be a cross-functional effort, so the right specifications are secured and any savings go straight to the bottom line and are locked into the profit and loss.

Thirdly, the very fundamentals of supply markets continue to evolve. It’s clear an increasing volume of the world’s innovation is being developed outside the walls of large corporates and big, traditional suppliers, with smaller, niche companies and startups working on new technologies and approaches that regularly disrupt traditional, incumbent markets.

Further, these non-traditional players work differently, are more agile, less process led, more open to collaboration and come with large amounts of risk. But despite this, corporates cannot afford to close their doors to the innovation taking place within them.

CPOs must develop the capability to engage with these outliers and engineer how the intellectual property they produce can be introduced into their organisation’s value chain, whether through traditional onboarding as suppliers, technology licensing, collaboration with other suppliers in the network or myriad other potential approaches.

In essence, CPOs must build and exploit supply networks, or ecosystems, capturing value during the collaboration that takes place between third parties at all points in the value chain.

None of this is straightforward and few organisations are even close to making it a reality. To be successful, it demands the support of a visionary chief executive who understands the dynamics at play in the supply base and beyond, as well as a procurement team full of intellectually curious, entrepreneurial and collaborative personalities.

But if done well, procurement will evolve from a position of controller to one of value architect, and one of the most critical functions in any modern corporation able to positively impact revenue, sustainability and profit targets.

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.  

Four Ways Brexit Has Rattled CPOs

With Brexit headlines continuing to dominate the daily news, what have been the biggest lessons for procurement leaders on how to approach geopolitical risk?

By Pixel-Shot/ Shutterstock

As cross-party Brexit talks collapsed, stockpiling reached its highest level since records began in the 1950s. A final decision on Brexit looks like it has, yet again, been thrust into the distance. But by now chief procurement officers (CPOs), those charged with ensuring businesses have enough raw materials and goods, have learnt to live beyond politicians’ promises. 

Procurement teams have begun to view geopolitical risk as an unwanted yet permanent factor. It’s no longer just the prospect of Brexit that has procurement officers grappling with greater risk in their jobs. Any emerging geopolitical risk poses potential obstacles for global supply chains, which over the past few decades have become tightly interwoven. 

Lesson 1: Uncertainty is certain 

Procurement chiefs have learnt quickly that they cannot count on politicians. But they can control the steady flow of goods and materials to their organisations by risk-mapping and establishing alternatives. 

Dairy Crest, a manufacturer of British food brands, approved additional suppliers, extra sources of material and alternatives by identifying pinch points in the supply chain, ensuring greater flexibility. 

CPO Chris Thomson reviewed the stock management processes in terms of ingredients and packaging, factory planning processes and customer order to stock processes. All these processes had been in place for many years and were effective, but Brexit made it necessary to revisit all systems and processes. 

“It’s been quite an interesting experience to have a serious situation like this to open your eyes again and to challenge some of the existing business processes,” he says. 

He is not alone in his approach. Neil Butters, head of procurement at Inprova Group, says: “Before you think big, think small. I’d been trying to understand geopolitical risk and Brexit and other areas, and trying to work out how that impacted my organisation. What I ultimately decided to do was to take a fresh view of my organisation and the risk factors, and map them out.” 

Lesson 2: Revisit systems and processes 

“Brexit has forced many CPOs and their teams to look again at their suppliers, local sourcing plans, local versus international, and start to make some decisions about what their future supply should look like,” says Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS). 

Indeed, CPOs have been evaluating their supply chains at a more granular level. Many procurement teams have looked at what happens in the supply chain beyond the first contact with their own company. The view is if they can understand the risks posed at that distance, then they will be able to manage them before there is a direct impact on their business. 

“We haven’t fundamentally changed our sourcing approach. What we have done is put a lot more emphasis on our category management in our processes, and a lot more emphasis on how far up the supply chain we understand what’s going on,” says Dairy Crest’s Mr Thomson. 

Localisation might help some businesses, but switching to UK suppliers doesn’t always solve the problem. Establishing new suppliers has its own challenges and is rarely a seamless process, particularly if you are sourcing a strategic supplier. 

According to research by CIPS, almost a quarter of companies it surveyed were looking for alternative non-European Union suppliers. But the study also showed that half of British companies would struggle to find the suppliers and skills they need in the UK if they were forced to bring parts of their supply chain back home post-Brexit. 

“Anybody who approaches their suppliers in business as purely a transactional thing misses the opportunity to work special situations and to work closely together to manage whatever it is thrown at us. We treat our suppliers really as part of the business,” says Neil Ginger, chief executive of Origin, a UK manufacturer of aluminium doors and windows. 

Lesson 3: Stockpiling can’t solve everything 

Filling up warehouses with raw materials and medicines is a short-term solution. Stockpiling is an option for some, but many do not have the facilities to store surplus stock and those with perishable goods simply won’t be able to. 

Longer-term stockpiling won’t fix the challenges companies face over trading with EU customers and suppliers. Moreover, the additional costs of paying for the stock and then paying for warehousing that stock can be crippling, particularly for smaller businesses with fewer resources. 

Earlier this year, door and window manufacturer Origin began stockpiling aluminium extrusion from its supplier based in northern Spain in preparation for Brexit and disruption at the border. In total, the company stockpiled around £750,000-worth of materials, which is not an insignificant amount of money to add to your inventory. And then Brexit Day never came. 

“Beyond the things you can’t control, you’re just trying to stay as flexible as you possibly can. We bought more material to make sure we could see ourselves through some very short-term disruption at the border,” says Origin’s Mr Ginger. 

Lesson 4: Ditch the silos 

CPOs have become more rounded business people as a result of Brexit. They have had to work more intensively with other teams within their organisations, and have had to explain what they are doing to the board to ensure the business can keep functioning and fulfilling customers’ orders. 

Like many companies, Dairy Crest set up a cross-functional leadership group focused on medium to long-term Brexit planning. In addition, the company established a standalone cross-functional group focused solely on preparing for Brexit Day. They based their business planning on a hard Brexit, the worst-case scenario for many businesses. 

“We really focused our efforts on planning for the worst case and knowing that if it didn’t turn out to be the reality, we would be in a sensible position,” says Dairy Crest’s Mr Thomson.

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.  

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A Letter To The Board

Sorry to bother you, I know you’re all so much busier than me. It’s me, the chief procurement officer; the one who buys the custard creams.

By mpaniti/ Shutterstock

Dear C-suite,

Sorry to bother you, I know you’re all so much busier than me. It’s me, the chief procurement officer; the one who buys the custard creams.

Just wanted a word about this procurement lark that I’m beavering away at, while you all do much more important stuff like tweeting the latest thought leadership thought. It’s just that I’m feeling a bit, well, ignored by you all.

No, finance director, I haven’t come over all touchy-feely, though it would be good if you did; don’t you know empathy is one of the key skills of the future, even in the finance function? I have more hard facts than you can shake a stick at, if you’ll bear with me. Yes, that means you too, CEO.

I know procurement is hardly the bad boy of the C-suite, but let me tell you, that’s about to change. Think Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease; that’s how much procurement is about to change. No less a person than Kai Nowosel, Accenture’s procurement chief, agrees with me. “I want to break the mould of traditional procurement,” he says. “Procurement is the tinder of innovation. I want to get into that model of being sexy instead of being a back-office function.”

See? But I’m not feeling the love. I know some of you are a bit vague about what I do; let’s face it, less than 10 per cent of global corporations have a board-level procurement director. So here’s your starter for ten: how much of the value of a company’s products or services is derived from its suppliers? Anyone? No? Almost two thirds, that’s how much. Write it down in your notebooks; 65 per cent, according to CAPS Research for the Institute for Supply Management.

And here’s another fun fact: world-class procurement organisations have 22 per cent lower labour costs, according to the Hackett Group. I heard that, marketing! Yes, of course I’m running a world-class procurement organisation. This company’s costs would be a darn sight higher without me.

That means you’ll miss me when I’m gone. No, public relations, it’s a figure of speech, I’m not actually going. Here’s an example of why procurement is important. The government has plans to name and shame anyone breaching the slavery law. So I’m the one standing between you and those headlines about our products being made by vulnerable illegal immigrants living in sheds, because you used some dodgy temp agency. Do you want to finesse that kind of PR disaster? Thought not.

But I could do so, so much more if only you’d put a bit of welly behind me; everyone seems to be getting a piece of our digital transformation except me. Fewer than 10 per cent of companies have deployed procurement solutions based on key technologies such as big data, the internet of things, serverless architecture or blockchain technology, according to Procurement Leaders (that’s an intelligence and networking company just for people like me).

It’s just not fair, especially when I could save up to $86 billion a year with a fully automated procurement function. Well, when I say “I”, I mean the Global 5000, but that’s 5,000 of my closest friends.

The thing is, digital is going to mean a bit of an upgrade in the old skills front. I’ll be honest, chairman, it’s going to be tough for that uncle of yours who works with me. But he did join the procurement department in 1973, didn’t he? I bet he’d rather work on his golf handicap than learn about embedding data science and analytics expertise.

So there might be some work to do for you, HR. Egeman Tumturk, global sourcing director at Bugaboo, said digital “requires a huge change in talent and the way we do our day-to-day activities, our jobs”, when he was interviewed by Procurement Leaders for its CPO Insights. He called it “a revolution”.

See, that’s really what’s happening here. We’re not talking about a bit of an upgrade, a few new smartphones and fling in a bit of software while we think about it. This is properly transformational; it’s not just about efficiency.

My job is about to morph from tactical biscuit-buying to strategic business innovation; that’s what management consultants Bain & Company says, anyway. “Artificial intelligence and robotic process automation are automating manual tasks and freeing up time for more strategic activities,” wrote Coleman Radell and David Schannon last autumn. “Digital technologies also provide a competitive edge by improving the speed and quality of procurement, reducing risk and enhancing innovation.”

Let’s face it, you need me to do this stuff, otherwise we’ll be overtaken by our competitors, who are already using advanced analytics to get value out of their historical data. It’s not really an option to leave me with an Excel spreadsheet and a glitter pen any longer.

Like me, Accenture’s Mr Nowosel sees the procurement role moving away from simply control and compliance, and into a core business function. It’s now about finding the right partners in the ecosystem, mitigating risk, protecting the brand and staying competitive. He says: “Getting competitive is more than having a great negotiated price. It is having the right solution for your customers at the right point.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. We have a hyperconnected and increasingly transparent world out there and I’m the one with the bird’s eye view of it. If you invest in me and provide me with the right tools and people, I can develop an agile ecosystem that learns from its mistakes, protects our corporate reputation, cultivates a sustainable supply chain, delivers real-time data insights and predictive analytics, and saves you money – worth more than a few chocolate Hobnobs I expect…

Best wishes,

Chief procurement officer

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.  


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3 Attributes Of The Future CPO

Why are organisations appointing CPOs from outside of the profession, what’s the no. one category that will produce future CPOs and should there be a new label for the role of CPO. 

The modern day CPO is vastly different to the CPO of a decade ago – both in terms of management style and the expectations put upon them by the organisation.

And so we can only assume that CPOs in 10-15 years will be similarly unrecognisable.

Who will get the top job in the future , what sort of professional background will they have ?

Tom Derry, CEO – ISM discusses why companies are appointing CPOs from outside of the profession, the no. one category that will produce future CPOs and a new label for the role of CPO

It doesn’t take a procurement professional to be CPO

There’s been a real trend in recent years of CPOs being appointed from outside traditional backgrounds. A savvy marketing professional or a cost-conscious operations manager could make a very attractive candidate for the role.  Similarly, IT professionals – the innovation scouts who know how to drive change and understand key threats to the business like cyber security – could be chasing the CPO role.

“Requirements of the job and the definition of the job have to evolve over time and in the not too distance future,” explains Tom.

Tom outlines some of the key qualities of the CPO of the future.

Customer-facing expertise

“Customer-facing expertise, the ability to interact with, understand and even anticipate customer needs, is a critical skill”

One of the key themes in a recent CAPS research survey emphasised the importance of a demand-driven supply chain.          “[This] means an orientation toward, and a sensitivity to, the needs and requirements of the customer, flexing to meet the customers requirements and configuring your supply chain and your procurement activities to meeting those requirements.”

Market expertise

It’s so important for future procurement leaders to have clear vision and strategy – a strategy that your team can implement based on what you’ve identified.

“Another way of saying that is market expertise” explains Tom.  “Understanding where your company is, what markets you’re going after and the characteristics of those markets in terms of customer and suppliers [is really important]. [Someone with an understanding] of where markets are today and where they’re headed would be ideally suited to lead the supply chains and procurement activities of the future.”

Leadership

Tom stresses CPOs of the future do not need to be process experts. “We don’t need someone who has grown up in the ranks of procurement and has become very good at RF processes, scouting new suppliers, or understanding supply markets.  These are key skills but they are not the leadership skills that are required to lead the entire companies  effort-  they’re just necessary functional skills.”

So where does Tom think CPOs will come from in the future? “Some will become category managers and then move laterally into different positions, and then move into the top job. But it won’t be a straight-line path. You won’t be climbing a ladder within the function to get to the CPO job. You’ll have to leave the function and come back, or come from outside the function because you’ve got the vision and strategic skills to lead.”

Part Three of Tuesdays with Tom is available now. Click here to sign up and hear ISM CEO Tom Derry discuss CPOs of the future and how we might label the profession going forward. 

Why Quick Decision-Making is the Name of the Procurement Game

ISM CEO Tom Derry urges procurement leaders not to let perfect be the enemy of good – make decisions and move on!

When Tom Derry, CEO – ISM attended Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit in Sydney this week he came armed with a stark warning for the procurement professionals in attendance. “If you’re the steward of a process, then your job will inevitably be automated.”

Concerned? You should be. Because, as Tom points out, there are an awful lot of procurement roles that fit this bracket. In the very near future, for example, every sourcing event is likely to be automated.

This article is a compilation of Tom Derry’s comments from his appearances at both the London and Sydney Big Ideas Summits in 2018.

Adapting to the pace of change

Procurement has changed dramatically in the past decade, and will change even more so as we move into the robotic era. Tom believes that we’re facing more disruption and a faster pace of change than ever before. “Most of us operate within a context or a framework that we’re familiar with – the established rules of the game. But when the rules get thrown out, how do we operate?

“Being comfortable with ambiguity is a rare skill, especially amongst executives,” he argues. But he reminds procurement leaders not to let perfect be the enemy of good, urging them to: “Make decisions and move on. If we don’t, our competitors will. Being able to move on and know that there are going to be times we don’t win is important. Accepting that as the cost of being in the game and having the opportunity to win is the reality we are in.”

“We can’t anticipate every possible scenario but what we can do is be ready for multiple scenarios and recognise that when we face an unfamiliar scenario we’ve built up some skills and reflexes that we can put into play.”

Of course, as Tom admits, it’s human nature to react in fear to such rapid change. But “there’s always opportunity when there is inherent change and risk.” The skill is in recognising where that opportunity lies. And that, according to Tom, “comes from a deep understanding of what creates value. The source of value might shift but it is still there somewhere.”

Making procurement indispensable

What key skills should aspiring procurement professionals be developing in order to make themselves indispensable?

“The CPO of the future possesses an openness to change, an openness to developing and an openness to sharing.” says Tom.

To improve business-wide understanding of procurement’s value offering it’s vital that procurement leaders allow their people to reach their full potential and move on. “Maybe it’s within your company, and now you’ve got evangelists in other functions who understand the importance of procurement, or maybe it’s outside the four walls of your company. There’s no better reputation to have than being seen as a cultivator of talent, both inside and outside the company”

Tom also highlights the following three skills as critical attributes for procurement professionals.

1. Understanding Markets
“This is about more than just the price,” asserts Tom. “Procurement professionals must understand the dynamics that drive the price whether it’s short supply or supply disruption, new technology that disinter-mediates an old technology.”

2. Strategic Acumen
Procurement leaders must ask of themselves “where am I going as a business? What’s important to my business in the next two to-three years?”

3. Financial Savviness
Procurement teams must accept that they really are driving financial results for their firm. “Sometimes we are a bit too afraid to engage with financial metrics and the traditional income statement or balance sheet. But we must embrace engaging with that income statement and balance sheet in order to understand how what we’re doing in procurement is driving financial metrics such as earning per share and driving revenue growth . We must not focus on metrics that are largely discredited like cost avoidance.”
The future of professional associations
[ISM has] been around for over 102 years and so future-proofing professional associations really matters to Tom. “For 102 years we’ve been very successful but you can’t continue to execute that playbook and expect to still be around.”

“An association used to function as the place where people felt obliged to belong,” says Tom. But nowadays he doesn’t believe procurement professionals feel such a sense of needing to belong to an association just for the sake of belonging. What people need and demand from associations like ISM is “value for money and the provision of tools and skills that enable them to be successful at a critical moment in their career.”

Another key evolving role for associations, according to Tom, is their role as data brokers. “We’re able to reflect back to the profession everything we learn about the profession because we deal with all industries and all geographies, we have a broad view of what’s happening.”