“How do I get from where I am today to where I would like to be?”
In the age of digital transformation, it goes without saying that change is on everyone’s mind. But despite all of the energy we are putting into thinking about change, we may or may not be seeing that change come to pass.
In this week’s podcast, host Philip Ideson speaks with Chris Sawchuck, Principal and Global Procurement Advisory Practice Leader at The Hackett Group. They recently released a new research report titled “World-Class Procurement: Redefining Performance in a Digital Era”.
In Chris’ experience, many procurement teams are looking for step-by-step guides for change that would be better led more organically, by a leader with a vision for proving procurements’ intrinsic value. One example is a question he is asked often: “How do we become a trusted advisor?” Rather than looking for details as to how, Chris instead characterizes the traits he sees most often in advisory procurement teams, not the least of which is balancing agility with consistency.
In this conversation, Chris shares his advice about:
● Emerging technologies and how they are being incorporated into the existing procurement technology landscape by world-class organizations.
● Avoiding a focus on lengthy, 200-page policy manuals that no one is going to read or follow.
● What he sees happening in the teams that successfully lead change from within, including investments in automation, education and execution.
“We have to be able to talk in a language that the business understands, and they have to see the actual value of what [procurement is] bringing to the table over and over, above any type of savings, I think that's the key for me.”
In this week’s podcast, host Philip Ideson speaks with Mahmood Shah, Director of Global Procurement at MetLife. He started his career in supply chain in the automotive and airline industries before making the switch to procurement and financial services. He has also worked on both sides of the direct/indirect spend line.
His experience and point of view are critical for any procurement organization weighing the benefits and challenges of full digital transformation. That doesn’t just mean taking the source-to-pay process online; it requires the leadership team to explore and employ the full advantages of bots and robotic process automation (RPA).
In this conversation, Mahmood shares his advice about:
If we were to describe a CPO that was focused on emotional intelligence (EI) and self-empowerment, tranquility and self-possession, where would you guess he or she worked? Maybe at a lifestyle brand or a Silicon Valley startup. It would probably take you a few hundred guesses to come up with the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In this week’s podcast, host Philip Ideson interviews Joe Postiglione, CPO of the NBA, author and executive coach. True to our opening question, he is a certified empowerment coach and certified emotional intelligence coach. After leaving a supply chain-focused career in big consulting, he became an entrepreneurial executive coach. Now he supports all of the leagues that form the NBA.
Despite working in a fast-paced environment that no doubt has more than its fair share of intensity, Joe stresses focus and living in the moment with his team – who he continues to support in a manner reminiscent of his coaching days. “Anyone can learn to live a more “self-empowered life,” Joe tells us.
Based on all of his professional experiences, Joe paints an interesting picture of the self-limiting beliefs specific to procurement pros, including an inability to escape the thinking that led to a problematic situation in the first place and being preoccupied rather than present. Fortunately, the way out of that box is as simple as choosing to think differently.
In this episode, AOP Host Philip Ideson and Kelly Barner (AOP Content Director and Owner of Buyers Meeting Point) discuss their major take-aways from August’s news, industry topics and podcast interviews.
In August, we split our time between active procurement practitioners and thought leaders. Dana Small, Global Category Manager at BioMarin Pharmaceutical, talked about her transition from finance to procurement (yes, on purpose) and shared how being a business blogger changes her perspective on her ‘day job’. Then Jason Cammorata, Vice President of Strategic Sourcing at MDC Partners, spoke about the qualities that make conflict “good” for an enterprise and the teams within it.
On the thought leader side, Hélène Laffitte, Founder and CEO of Consulting Quest, provided insight into best practices for sourcing consulting services and Procurement Insights Founder Jon Hansen pointed out that while companies can’t transform without going through procurement and supply chain, we aren’t alone in the disruptive challenges we face.
This month’s discussion topic is technology implementation ‘turn arounds’. Since implementations rarely go smoothly without considerable planning and communication, something both Philip and Kelly have experienced personally, nearly every implementation needs a turn around. Often, this stems from the misplaced expectation that implementation = digital transformation, and vice versa.
According to research undertaken by today’s guest, Procurement Insights Founder Jon Hansen, 70% of an organization's digital transformation activity passes through the procurement and supply chain. But is procurement prepared to step outside the frameworks of our historical job descriptions to proactively enable our companies to create and execute their digitization strategies?
In today’s podcast, Jon and I discuss:
Why the unknowns of digitization are impacting executives across the company, not just in procurement.
The key obstacles to digital transformation.
What can procurement do to take a leading role in enabling enterprise digitization
No one wants conflict for its own sake, but it can actually be an important factor in personal or organizational growth and decision making. Rather than shying away from conflict, especially in a professional context, procurement professionals need to start embracing it as proof of diverse thought and opportunities to practice empathy.
That is the point of view espoused by Jason Cammorata, Vice President of Strategic Sourcing at MDC Partners, and one that he is quite passionate about. Is this podcast, Jason shares his advice about how procurement can approach “good” conflict – a dynamic that usually stems from multiple people with different ideas but equally good intentions.
The procurement team at MDC Partners faces a unique challenge. They are an “umbrella” company with 55 brands in marketing that provide services such as public relations, creative, digital, advertising and production. Their decentralized corporate model is largely brand driven, so Jason regularly has to sell the benefits of procurement internally. That conversation usually starts with introductions and explanations and quickly advances to discover what the brand needs and how procurement can support them.
In this podcast, Jason answers questions such as:
· What is more important: technical skills or personal skills?
· When should procurement be firm (but nice) about frameworks and processes, and when should we be flexible?
· Does procurement face a unique set of challenges today, or are we battling the same issues as all other functions?
· What does relationship-driven procurement look like, and what are the benefits of investing in that approach?
It seems that we live in a service-centric world these days, and that includes a growing number of procurement spend categories. Although we’ve made headway in IT, legal and marketing, there is one category of professional services spend that still gives most of us reason to pause: management consulting.
In this episode of the podcast, I ask Helene Laffitte, Founder and CEO of Consulting Quest, some of the questions I hear most frequently about managing consulting spend. For instance:
Ironically, when managing consulting spend, procurement’s best opportunity to add value may occur long before the list of participating providers is finalized and the RFP is sent out. According to Helene, the most critical activity when sourcing consulting is defining scope, objectives, milestones, deliverables and deadlines. These components will not only drive the qualification and selection process, they may determine whether or not the whole engagement is successful.
As Helene points out, procurement’s ability to listen and discern the difference between what the business is asking for and what they need is essential. And once that need is defined, we move to challenge #2: being “tight” on what is needed while being “flexible” about the approach.
Listen in for advice and insight on this complex services spend category from a proven consulting procurement expert.
The commonly-cited disconnect between procurement and finance all comes down to one central question: where did the money go? As hard as procurement works to negotiate and track different types of savings, they always seem to evaporate or be reallocated for other projects. In the best cases, this gets the enterprise more value for their dollar, but in the worst cases can lead to reduced credibility for procurement – especially with finance.
I’m joined today by Dana Small, Global Category Manager at BioMarin and author of the Ms. Category Management blog. It is rare to find a procurement professional with a background in finance, and rarer still to find a procurement practitioner so willing to share their insight and experiences that they start a blog. In Dana we find both, and that’s a real win for the procurement community.
While working in Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A), Dana realized that by the time an efficiency opportunity is identified by finance, it is usually too late to act upon it. So she decided to move ‘up’ in the process, and pursued a role in strategic sourcing.
At the encouragement of a colleague, she began sharing her experiences via a blog in early 2019. Doing so has not only bolstered her professional reputation, it has also changed how she reflects back on her “day job”.
In this podcast, Dana talks about the importance of reflection and perspective in all procurement work, whether it is tracking savings, working with suppliers or engaging with the community at large.
Last week, I had the opportunity to facilitate a webinar last week with procurement consulting firm Efficio, titled Driving Greater Procurement Performance from Complex Direct Spend and Factory Indirects. In the webinar, I was joined by two of their US-based principal consultants, Arthur Mattouch and Waldo Saville.
During the webinar, Arthur and Waldo shared three case studies demonstrating the strategies and tactics that can be used to deliver sustainable savings in a mid-cap manufacturing environment. In today’s podcast, I am sharing this case study, along with a couple of questions that I asked during the webinar.
This is a company looking to quickly reduce costs through a coordinated cost reduction program, while minimizing disruption on the business. As you will hear, they ended up switching suppliers for only 12% of the total number of parts.
To watch the entire webinar on-demand, including the supporting presentation, you can register here.
What do childcare, ducks, and power have to do with negotiations? In today’s episode, host Philip Ideson shares three negotiation tips taken from his experience as a procurement practitioner and entrepreneur.
As we enter the summer, I’m going to spend some time answering some of your most frequently asked questions. These pod’s are going to be bite-sized, so I’d love to hear your feedback on whether you like the shorter podcasts or not.
One of the topics that I get asked the most about is negotiations. So for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share some insights based on my own experience.
This week, I’m going to dig into the archive and share a part of a podcast I recorded 3 years ago - specifically with regards to the question of how to maintain supplier relationships after a tough incumbent negotiation. It is a topic that I have a lot of experience of - both from the practitioner and service provider sides of the table!
If procurement is going to attract the ‘best of the best’ to join our ranks, no matter what their background, then at some point we can expect to work alongside someone with no experience in procurement. Whether such a move is successful is likely to be dependent on the individual transferring in as well as the overall culture of the organization.
I interviewed Liam Moniz, Manager of Procurement Systems & Services at Fortescue Metals Group, during SAPAriba LIVE in Austin, Texas. Two years ago, Liam had no experience in procurement, and, as he told me, “didn't know a purchase order from a purchase requisition or invoice”. Based upon his success in other roles, the business brought him into procurement to be a fresh set of eyes as they invested in process, technology and talent transformation.
His background in IT Service Delivery and Support prepared him for the technology-focused parts of transformation, but process and customer satisfaction were another matter. To address those, Liam leaned on his understanding of business objectives and his desire to engage with stakeholders in pursuit of value – including through the implementation of guided buying.
Whether you are a consultant or a practitioner, it seems like the grass is always greener on the other side. Consultants are constantly on the road, work late hours and are subject to high expectations from their management team and the point people on each customer account. Practitioners find themselves at the mercy of consulting teams they didn’t personally decide to hire, lack the influence naturally extended to external parties and are often left to deal with the details – and the devil in them – once the consultants have flown off to their next engagement.
I’m joined today by Mark Richardson, Head of Procurement, Fleet & Administrative Services at AAA Southern California. He is uniquely qualified to discuss the differences between procurement consultants and practitioners because he’s been both.
Having joined AAA initially as an individual contributor, he now manages the team who were initially his peers.
In this podcast, Mark addresses the challenges of making the transition from consultant to practitioner and making the transition from peer to leader.
Today I am joined on the show by my good friend, procurement executive recruiter Iain McKenna. Iain is Founder and Managing Director of the executive search firm Sourcing Solved.
Our conversation is split into a couple of different parts:
In the first half of our interview, we discuss the hiring process, and specifically if our reliance on AI - such as keyword searching on CV’s and resumes - severely restrict an organizations ability to hire the best candidate for a role. Iain shares tips on how procurement leaders can hire for personality, drive, EQ and an empathetic management style rather than those with the best keyword match.
In the second part of the interview we switch focus and specifically discuss hiring in the context of procurement services and software firms. A number of firms are aggressively hiring in this space, and yet their initial brief tends to focus on hiring from competitors rather than from industry. We discuss how, as a practitioner, you can best position yourself for a move into consulting or to a procurement software firm - and the benefits for software and consulting firms in hiring practitioners.
Many procurement organizations pay lip service to innovation, but few are taking the steps required to make it a reality. Part of this has to do with the difficulty overcoming the paralysis of the unknown and part of it has to do with a willingness on procurement’s part to risk failure. Ironically, facing the unknown and pushing past the fear of failure makes it far more likely that disruptive innovation will be achieved.
I’m joined today by Cyril Pourrat, Chief Procurement Officer at Sprint. They are three years into their transformation journey, one that has a new purpose in the context of Sprint’s pending merger with T-Mobile. If the merger goes ahead, procurement will be expected to drive significant synergy-based savings. If it does not, achieving cost savings will become even more critical for Sprint to thrive as a stand-alone company.
In preparation, Cyril and his team have launched a number of innovative programs. One of them is ‘Procurement Digital Labs’ – an initiative that is empowering a multi-generational team to identify and experiment with a broad range of technologies. The objective is to provide buyers with far deeper insights use in the development of their sourcing and category strategies. Another is enabling the use of predictive analytics in negotiations.
In this podcast, Cyril talks about:
If you’ve been in the workplace – any kind of workplace at all – for longer than six months, chances are good you’ve experienced poor management at least once. Sadly, being in the workplace for years or even decades doesn’t come with the same odds of encountering even one great manager. Why is that? Why are great managers so rare?
I’m joined today by David Deacon, career HR executive and the author of The Self Determined Manager: A Manifesto for Exceptional People Managers. He and I talked about the complex effort we call management, or as David defines it, “a hugely important, impactful role that most people don’t do very well.”
The main challenge is that most poor managers don’t want to be bad managers; they’ve just never experienced a good manager. And without a proper role model, it can be very hard – although not impossible – for an individual contributor to scale themselves and their impact by effectively leading a team of people towards a single, unifying goal.
According to David, great managers start by truly knowing themselves. They are as clear about their mission, vision and purpose as they are objective about their personal strengths and weaknesses. Great management requires the creation of an environment where the team can thrive, and it is usually supported by a natural sense of empathy that inspires each member of the team to do a little better than they thought was possible every single day.
Whether we are responsible for Procurement and our stakeholder is the c-suite, or we are developing a Category Strategy and our stakeholders are the business users. Alignment continues to be one of the greatest challenges for procurement. Ultimately, it becomes the differentiator that determines whether you are perceived as being a trusted advisor or a back office function.
Indeed, it is not possible to become a mature procurement organization without true strategic alignment, at scale. How can that alignment be sustainable, and not contingent only upon a team member’s personal relationship and rapport with an individual stakeholder, or group of stakeholders?
There is one tactic that consistently works. In today’s show, I will explore why treating your senior level stakeholders as investors in the company of “procurement” is key to building alignment - and I’ll share how you can get started!
I’m joined today by Anthony Clervi, President and CEO of UNA, a group purchasing organization (or GPO). He joined us last month for an AoP Live session that proposed an alternative approach to ‘automating’ procurement – one that doesn’t involve robots and doesn’t cost a dime.
As the opening quote suggests, our preconceived notions can often prevent us from leveraging the full range of options available to us. Acting without being fully informed can be a huge misstep for procurement, given that our purpose is to identify and compare as many qualified solutions as possible for every business need.
Since many procurement organizations do not have experience with a group purchasing organization, everything we learned about what GPOs are NOT is just as valuable as what they do and the opportunity they represent. GPOs are NOT:
- Just for small companies
- Just for hospitality, healthcare, and higher education
- Just about savings
- Just for indirect spend
- And most importantly, GPOs do not represent a competitive threat to in house procurement.
The only guarantee that comes with a transformation journey is that there will be ‘twists and turns’ along the way. And since no organization can escape the unexpected, how procurement leaders makers handle those twists and turns becomes a critical differentiator and success factor.
While I was at ProcureCon Indirect East, I interviewed Dave Quillin, Manager of Procurement at Alliant Credit Union in Chicago. I last interviewed Dave in early 2017, when he was at the end of his first year of procurement transformation. This conversation gave us an opportunity to get caught up on the progress his team and organization have made over the last two years and hear about what he has discovered along the way.
The Alliant procurement organization is small, which forces them to prioritize strategically, leverage every resource available to them, and distribute some of the activities that would be centralized in a larger company. But does that make them completely different from big procurement organizations? Absolutely not, says Quillin. As he points out, even a 50 or 100 person procurement team will eventually tap out on resources or be asked to act on category expertise they do not possess.
Perhaps his greatest lesson learned of all from his transformation journey to date is that those ‘twists and turns’ are the status quo. Adjusting to them, and designing every process with flexibility in mind, even governance and compliance, will likely make all the difference in the journey forward from this point.
In this conversation, Dave Quillin discusses:
• How small procurement teams can build (or access) specific category expertise
• The talent requirements, particularly in the area of soft skills, that are absolutely mandatory in a smaller organization, and why Dave sees that as an advantage
• Why implementing all P2P modules at once – even in response to stakeholder demand – may not be the best approach.
• A key piece of management advice from a former colleague that has made all the difference on the Alliant Credit Union transformation journey.
Everything procurement delivers – from savings to risk mitigation to value – is predicated on having access to clean, trustworthy data. If this foundation does not exist or if it is shaky, then buyers don’t know how much the company is spending with a given supplier, let alone how they can improve the efficiency or impact of a given spend category.
While I was at the Ivalua NOW event in Paris, I interviewed Cyrille Naux, Purchasing and Supply Chain Vice-President at Chassis Brakes International, a multinational manufacturer of automotive brakes and brake components. He gave a keynote presentation about his company’s procurement and supply chain transformation journey – one that is still underway.
Unlike industries such as retail and professional services, which start by managing indirect spend and then gradually transition to influence directs, most procurement teams in the automotive space take a direct-spend first approach. Direct spend suppliers are large, global, and absolutely critical to the company’s operations and their competitive advantage. Strong executive mandates bring the management of direct spend within easier reach for procurement than ‘messy’, non-transparent indirect spend.
For Chassis Brakes, the first step to manage their spend was supplier consolidation: reducing direct spend suppliers from 12,000 to 6,000 (with an eventual goal of 2,000) and indirect spend suppliers from 10,000 to 4,000. They have also taken a hardline approach to supplier master data cleansing and standardization which led to a high quality supplier database they continue to work hard to maintain.
When procurement talks about transformation, we are usually referring to the critical changes we need to make to our own talent, processes and technology. But does the opportunity exist for procurement to transform the business as a whole? Evidence from the team at VSP Global suggests that it does.
I interviewed two members of the VSP Global team, Nathan Haydn-Myer, Manager of Procurement Operations and Insights, and Siddharth Ramesh, Manager of Corporate Procurement about their dynamic program to centralize procurement and maximize savings, Spend it Like it’s Yours (SILIY) with the help of “Moolah” the home-grown procurement mascot.
As they were quick to admit, procurement can’t promise to be everything to everyone, but that isn’t a reason not to have broad, open-ended conversations with internal stakeholders. In fact, the same collaborative approach that led to the creation of Moolah (a silly - or siliy – character with a serious message) also made it possible for procurement to help the VSP sales team respond to RFPs.
While VSP has received industry-wide attention and acclaim for their approach to centralizing procurement, it wasn’t an easy journey. They were tasked with centralizing procurement and driving savings WITHOUT a mandate. The journey also took longer than outsiders might expect, requiring several years to execute and leading to some amount of natural but healthy turnover.
It is impossible to have a forward-looking discussion about procurement without digital transformation and automation coming up. That said, figuring out what their inclusion means on a company-by-company basis will differ drastically – creating a unique challenge for every CPO who decides to lead their organization on a digital journey.
I’m joined today by Kris Koneru, the Business Practice Head of Sourcing & Procurement at Infosys BPO. He was in the ‘hot seat’ for a dynamic AoP Live session in early April about all of the considerations beyond technology that organizations need to be prepared for before committing to transformation.
Since AoP Live sessions are driven by audience questions and comments – some submitted in advance and some submitted during the session – we never know quite where the focus will be on a given topic. For this AoP Live there was no question what procurement professionals felt the need to learn more about: they wanted to know how digital transformation will affect their performance objectives and metrics. Far more questions were submitted on this topic than any other.
Kris also discussed how digital transformation can be incorporated in broad change management initiatives, what impact it is likely to have on procurement’s internal and external relationships, and how talent management and leadership development priorities will need to shift to maximize a digital-first environment.
Saying that someone has or embodies the ‘spirit of entrepreneurship’ implies a lot of different drives and qualities. There is the willingness to take calculated risks, the need for self-accountability, contagious levels of energy and creativity, and a true understanding of the top to bottom impact of business decisions. Procurement can absolutely benefit from professionals with an entrepreneurial background – the question is how we can add them to our ranks.
I interviewed Jill Robbins, Senior Director of Global Procurement - Indirect Goods & Services for Elanco, a global animal health company. She is the perfect example of both an entrepreneurial spirit and a non-linear career path. In addition to working in procurement, she is the author of a children’s book, co-owns a small business with her husband, and has worked as a consultant.
Empowering procurement to make the maximum contribution to the business requires a combination of analytical and broader business skills. Starting with a solid foundation in data, the most valuable professionals add to their experience over time without worrying whether they are following the fastest route to the top, but rather doing the most important, and the most interesting, work.
In this conversation, Jill shares her perspective on:
• The importance of finding a mentor that you connect with, regardless of the company they work for, the function they work in or their gender.
• Whether certifications really matter, either in career investment or in hiring/recruiting.
• The time and place for rules and norms, and when decision makers should push boundaries for the sake of creating an advantage.
When you get right down to it, innovation is just solving a business need in an entirely new way. In order to do that, however, you and your team have to really understand the business and its customers. The most strategic suppliers – usually a select few – play an important role in the process of innovation, which creates an opportunity for procurement to guide their technical value potential to the point where it delivers operational results.
While I was at ProcureCon Indirect East, I interviewed Lawrence Kane, SIG Sourcing Supernova Hall of Famer and Senior Leader of Strategic Sourcing Functional Excellence and First Time Quality for a Fortune 50 company. In addition to NOT being the Zodiac Killer, he has spent over three decades innovating in various ways and keeping his perspective and deliverables in alignment with enterprise needs.
You may also remember Lawrence from his last Art of Procurement podcast (Episode 164, published in December 2017), where we discussed the active power of empathy – both in supplier negotiations and in internal relationship management.
In this conversation, Lawrence discusses:
• The critical role of governance and contracts (believe it or not) in innovation.
• The importance of making sure everyone in an organization – including the newest, lowest paid members – are motivated to contribute to brand value, especially when they have external contact.
• The tenuous balance between savings and innovation, and how procurement needs to invest in one without sacrificing the other.
Everyone wants to be seen as an innovator, and procurement leaders are no exception. The problem with this desire is that, much like procurement transformation, the definition of innovation can be hard to pin down. We all know it when we see it, but setting out in the morning with “innovation” at the top of your to-do list can be paralyzing… unless you have a master plan.
I interviewed Nancy Nicoll, Vice President of Not for Resale (NFR) / Indirect Strategic Sourcing, at ProcureCon Indirect East about everything from reporting to the C-suite to managing procurement through a huge corporate merger.
Although savings continues to be a high priority in the razor-thin margin grocery retail environment, they are not the horizon of procurement’s focus. For Nancy and the rest of her team, savings are the foundation – what gets them through the door and establishes their credibility – so that procurement can go on to deliver exceptional, sustained, big picture value.