Jon Kesman is the Head of Services Procurement with Allegis Global Solutions (AGS). With more than 20 years of procurement operations, sourcing and category management experience across various industries and global organizations, Jon is responsible for developing strategy, structure and operations for AGS’ procurement product. A self-proclaimed procurement geek, Jon shares what he’s learned over the course of his career, his definition of success and what excites him about the changes and development in procurement today.
Can you talk about your background and education--how did you get involved in procurement?
I actually have my degree in Purchasing and Operations Management from Michigan State University, so it’s all I’ve really known from a professional perspective. I guess I am officially a procurement geek! I started my career as a buyer at IBM. Then I moved on to procurement and sourcing consulting roles with Accenture where I was exposed to so many elements of value within this space, whether that was a full-on procurement transformation effort, or just some sourcing work to drive savings. I’ve spent over 20 years now in various procurement roles, almost evenly split between both the buy-side and the sell-side.
Ever heard of a thing called inertia? Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion, or the tendency to do nothing. In business speak, this phenomenon is often characterized as analysis paralysis. In a corporate world of business cases, business plans, strategic roadmaps and the push to constantly sell, align and achieve, it’s no wonder procurement leaders are drowning in what needs to be done, but struggle to scratch the surface. How can it be that a top procurement leader whose very career path has been the result of their outstanding productivity and accolades suddenly faces a precipice of declining performance and the disastrous stagnation of innovation? Simple. Because their knowledge impedes creativity, causing inertia.
Procurement leaders who have spent the entirety of their career in one industry, one company, or one function, namely procurement, subconsciously experience limiting beliefs—and by limiting I mean success-hindering, momentum-killing beliefs—about themselves and the procurement function. Without ever intending it, procurement leaders often poison their potential by allowing their knowledge and experience to cloud their creativity and vision of what they can imagine going forward. They often resist any change to the current state of operations because they are so focused on delivering in the here and now. Even if they manage to recall their vision for a world-class procurement organization, the age-old question emerges: where do I even begin? The path of least resistance is to simply do nothing, to change nothing; the alternative could lead to failure. To these skeptics wary of innovative change, I’d like to pose the question: isn’t the very act of doing still far more productive than the act of thinking or talking about doing something, regardless of the outcome?
When was the last time a presentation inspired you? Seriously…think about it. Now envision the last speaker who truly motivated you and ask yourself, was it their slides? (Dramatic pause.) I’m willing to bet that what got your attention had virtually nothing to do with the content presented…and everything to do with how it was delivered.
When presenting to an executive audience, this is even more critical. You have only a few minutes to convince your audience that the most valuable way they can spend their time right now is by tuning in to what you are saying. So, as you prepare for that next opportunity to speak in front of executives, keep these things in mind.
Set their expectations – They call it an executive “briefing” for a reason and the execs in attendance will be chomping at the bit to ask questions. Let them know at the outset that you will provide plenty of time for discussion.
As we move further into arguably one of the worst hurricane seasons in history, our minds and hearts become even more focused on those who were affected by some of the most recent hurricanes. Each news outlet has been sharing the accounts of ordinary people performing heroic acts to save the lives of their neighbors and even strangers. In times of natural disasters, we often find our humanity and the need to reach out a hand to those in desperate need.
I wonder what happens when tragedy is not raining down? Where is the humanity? I would suggest that it is ever present if we choose to look for it. Humanity is shown in the small acts of kindness such as when a stranger goes out of their way to help someone with their luggage, or when a wallet is found and returned in complete condition.
Gandhi stated, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
In business, leaders must be the humanity, providing servant leadership to our teams as they struggle through the daily work challenges. We must remember that our role as leaders is likened to that of a silent hero, focused on helping others in a time of need and without personal recognition.
Here are five things you can do right now to add humanity into your work culture:
Mark Pollack, Vice President, SIG University and Chief Strategy Officer, SIG
I recently finished two-and-a-half days at Singularity University’s Global Summit (not to be confused with our own SIG Global Summit!). It was an incredible, mind-blowing, education-packed few days. Singularity packs their event with high-energy speakers who speak passionately on their area of expertise. I heard presentations on virtual reality, augmented reality, healthcare, leadership, socially responsible business, entrepreneurship, the future of work and so much more. The presentations covered a wide variety of topics, but they all had one thing in common…they all made you think about the possibilities…they all challenged the status quo…and they all embraced the concept that disruptive technologies are changing our world exponentially.
No session covered this better than keynote David Roberts whose core message was that slight variations in key assumptions could have a HUGE impact on our future. In his impassioned, funny and moving presentation Roberts connected the dots on some of the most exponential technologies our world has seen by asking everyone to consider some “what ifs” in life. His enthusiastic presentation and challenging questions inspired me to dig further.
What if…your phone was smarter than you? In 2013, Gartner predicted that by 2017 smart phones would, in fact be smarter than humans. Are they? Artificial intelligence (AI) has certainly progressed to such a point that you might argue that they are. In an article and related research, Gartner presented four phases of cognizant computing:
It was Made in America Showcase Week recently, according to the current administration (funny that it also coincided with Russia Week on Stephen Colbert). Anyone, wherever they live, likes to see local people employed. Whether it is an American who likes to see products marked with “Made in America,” a Canadian who swells with pride for “Made in Canada” or a British person seeing “Made in the UK.” The fact of the matter is that very few people are willing to pay more for those items. According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, 70 percent of Americans think it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to buy U.S.-made products.
Despite that sentiment, 37 percent said they would refuse to pay more for U.S. made goods versus imports. Twenty-six percent said they would only pay up to 5 percent more to buy American and 21 percent capped the premium price at 10 percent.
In addition, it is the lowest of wage earners who like “Made in America” and yet they are the least likely to be able to pay the premium. The reality is that most of us feel a patriotism to our own country and kinfolk, yet we are actually beholden to our wallets. The same lower wage earners who say they prefer made in America, and per the Reuters article said, “Indeed, the biggest U.S. retailer is well aware of the priority buyers place on price above all else.” A spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said customers are telling them that “…where products are made is most important second only to price.”
Today is my birthday. As commonly happens on birthdays, we tend to reminisce over the past year(s). And because so much of our life is spent working, this is where my reminiscing takes me because I get to work with my best friend for a company I love, not only because I get to work from home, but because it’s existence is what I dreamt of many years ago when I was younger and (more) clueless. Yes, I know… it sounds corny, but it’s true. After all, it was a little less than 15 years ago that I landed in the sourcing world working for a small supply chain management and procurement solutions provider, Enporion. I had no clue what acronyms like SCM, VMS, P2P, RFP, or SOW were, nor this strange idea of “Reverse Auctions.”
I have such fond memories working at Enporion, but anytime I tried explaining my job to family or friends I got that “deer in the headlights” stare and I felt like I was a part of some small secret society. Back then, Mary Zampino (fellow SIG-let) and I had virtually no resources available to us on how this whole “procurement” thing worked. We tried to come up with best practices, templates, and other tools to make our sourcing clients jobs easier and offer them the most process improvement and cost savings possible. We dreamed of creating a knowledge library of resources that we so desperately needed ourselves so that others wouldn’t have to work so tirelessly to do their jobs.
To truly innovate, you need a certain kind of leadership in your organization. I always look for and hire people who have an insatiable curiosity and who become bored easily. I truly believe if you have the desire to constantly look toward the unknown you are a person who does not like executing the existing.
In John Sculley’s book Moonshot he speaks about how the traditional education system harms our ability to innovate. By making students remember and recite, we reward children by giving As for the right answer versus asking the right question. We reward people at work for executing according to plans, not for taking risks and for having a futurist mindset. Instead of thinking about how to do something better, we need to start with “do we even need to do it at all?”
As February started, an important conversation got underway: SIG was back in the City of London with a highly engaged group of procurement professionals to explore the latest trends and topics that are shaping their world.
The role of the CPO has come a long way over the last 20 years and change is exponential; happening across the what, how and who of procurement
What: organizations are buying new products and services (everything "As A Service," digital and digital-enablers, RPA and other automation tools and services)
How: new tools and techniques are being deployed in procurement both because these new products and services need to be acquired in new ways and to drive productivity and effectiveness through analytics and better insight
Who: a growing millennial workforce and digital workforce presents new opportunities and challenges for operational management of services
A recent study from IBM shows that the highest priorities for the CPO are to contribute to revenue growth, to drive innovation across the supply chain and to protect the enterprise brand. Cost is mentioned nowhere, but more because it goes without saying and not because it is no longer a priority.
So, the CPO and their teams are making a strategic contribution to the organization but still find themselves a step removed from the centers of power as they report in through another function and are rarely represented on the board. In a period of exponential change is this procurement’s opportunity to rise to the challenge and enable safe, profitable, innovative growth to earn their place on the top floor?
I’ll admit it. I was pulling for the Falcons. Even though I lived in Atlanta for six years, I didn’t really have a stake in the game—I was never a big fan. It’s not that I’m not into sports—I was a huge Braves fan when I lived in Atlanta (when they went from worst to first) and I can tell you the names of every Golden State Warrior who was traded for Kevin Durant. Seriously. But this Super Bowl for me was a little like the election—I was rooting against one team more than pulling for another.
Now picture this…we’re watching the game at a friend’s house. We wisely recorded it so we could enjoy the good commercials and skip through the bad. It’s the 3rd quarter and the Patriots finally score a touchdown. Knowing that the Pats would still need two touchdowns, two 2-point conversions and a field goal in order to TIE the game, the odds were against them. Seemingly impossible. Now fast forward to the final two minutes. Under Tom Brady’s leadership, they’ve tightened the score to 28:20 and are driving the ball. And then it stops. What?! The DVR had STOPPED RECORDING THE GAME. That’s right. One of the best 4th quarters in Super Bowl history and the only one to ever go into overtime and we missed it.
To say I was shocked by the outcome would be an understatement. Atlanta had controlled most of the game. But as I reflect on the day, I can’t help but think of the valuable lessons it reinforced: