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:
With so much attention currently focused on the political arena (most obviously, of course, in the USA with the inauguration of President Trump) it’s easy to become carried away in one’s assessments of the extent to which “politics” drives actual change. Of course, there’s no doubting the scale of the significance of the Trump election, or the Brexit vote, or similar “watershed moments” – but the nature of that significance is somewhat less clear, especially when it comes to the impacts on specific aspects of our lives. It’s somewhat comforting (or perhaps not, depending on one’s affiliation) to think that the person nominally in charge of a country is indeed that – it plays to our natural human desire for order, comprehensibility, justice – but in a world as interconnected and complex as this one, is it not a serious error to overstate the ability of a President Trump, a Prime Minister May and others in similar positions around the world truly to steer a course, rather than simply to keep their ships of state upright in the storm?
Look at the sourcing and outsourcing space specifically. In a number of particular areas President Trump could well have a huge impact: a crackdown on immigration and the offshoring of work, changes to NAFTA, the reversal of the ACA and other policies would affect very substantially certain tranches of the space and those working within them. Likewise, in the UK the way Theresa May is approaching the exit from the EU and the Single Market has deep significance for businesses working in and with the United Kingdom for data protection, for accounting and a host of other areas.
Dawn Tiura, SIG CEO and President recently spoke on an expert panel at Coupa Inspire, and shared her thoughts with candor and authority. Coupa interviewed Dawn shortly after the event and published a blog sharing her responses which we are publishing with Coupa's permission. The original can also be found on the Coupa website.
Thanks to Coupa for the blog interview below: One of our favorite parts of Coupa Inspire are the expert panels. There's nothing we love more than getting smart people together to talk shop. If you missed Inspire, you can read excerpts of the analyst panel and the CIO panel on our blog. Today we're talking with Dawn Tiura as a follow up to the analyst panel. Dawn is CEO of Sourcing Industry Group (SIG) and has been observing the industry for 25 years from her vantage point as a CPA turned sourcing consultant. There's no one smarter on the topic of where sourcing is heading, so when she remarked during the panel that in her opinion, the term buyer should be eradicated, that piqued our curiosity. So, we got her on the phone to learn more.
Coupa: You had some provocative things to say during our panel discussion. One was that you wished the 'buyer' title would go away. We were hoping you could expand on that.
Dawn: I sure could! To me, buyer is such a demeaning title. The only time somebody is excited to say, "I'm a buyer" is if they're in the fashion industry, because that's cool and exciting and sexy.
SIG Summits are known for having amazing keynote speakers…and at our Summit in Denver last fall we had a speaker who took it to a whole new peak…so to speak. In fact, our keynote Alison Levine gave us a new appreciation for the word "Summit" as she shared her experiences in climbing Mt. Everest. At first glance, one wouldn't immediately think this tiny woman had the physical stamina or grit required for this incredible journey...which is exactly why making quick judgments isn't ever a great idea. Not only did she lead a team up that most arduous of climbs, but she did it twice. TWICE. Facing extremely dangerous and life-threatening conditions within 300 feet of the Summit, she made the painful decision to turn back her first time up...but both journeys provided lessons anyone can apply as a leader. She had so many great takeaways that I'm not sure I can adequately sum them up...but my attempt and interpretation are below:
On effective teams, everyone is a leader at some point. There may be only one person with a designated leader title, but allowing people to have a voice builds trust and loyalty. And if you do, your team is more likely to look out for the people on either side of them and make sure they are moving in the right direction as well. We once had a speaker whose mantra was that you don't have to have a title to be a leader...truer words were never spoken. Think about the word "leadership" as more of a mindset than a title and you empower everyone with the ability to own it. When you give people not just room...but permission to take something and run with it, you might be surprised by the result.
We spend months preparing for each Summit...and then a week getting ready for the arrival of our delegates...and then a few days with them...and then in a blink of an eye it is over and we start again. It goes by too quickly but the lessons learned are vast and permanent. Over the next few blogs, I'll share some insights I gleaned from our keynote speakers at the last SIG Global Executive Summit. The first was retired Colonel Anthony (Tony) Wood, best known for his heroic role in the evacuation of Saigon in April 1975. Colonel Wood addressed SIG in a general session and also spent time with our most senior delegates in an exclusive CPO Roundtable. These were my key takeaways from his two presentations.
Moral courage is knowing what to do, even when you know it may cost you. Colonel Wood shared a story of leading civilian volunteers through the most unimaginable circumstances. Risking their own lives, roughly 100 American civilians in their 50s and 60s, volunteered to help evacuate 5,300 people from Saigon, a city that was collapsing. In the face of an advancing enemy army, this incredible group of people put the lives of others before their own. In a business context, knowing what to do and actually acting on it, even though it may not be in your own personal interest to do so, is difficult...but having people with that attitude on your team is enormous. Moral courage is a critical piece of business leadership.
The world is in a soccer (or should I say "futbol") frenzy right now. Every day the best teams in the world are competing for their country in hard-fought matches where the team advancing might be determined in the final few seconds of a game. In the U.S vs. Portugal game, the U.S. was the only team in their group Sunday that could have advanced to the knockout round with a win. Instead, their fate is still up in the air, with a number of possible outcomes. This got me thinking about the lessons we could learn from the World Cup.
Leadership is key. It is easy to credit a coach or team captain with leadership, but if there is one thing I've learned in the past few years, it is that anyone can be a leader—it is not defined by your title. This is evident in any soccer game in the world at any given time. Just listen to players talking to one another on a field. Often it's the goalie or center back defender shouting instructions. They may have a lay of the land that someone in a striking position can't see. I think of the Procurement group the same way—it is often the only department that has regular communication with virtually every other business unit, allowing it insight at a high-level that is difficult for any other department to replicate.
There is one common, less noticed trait about all companies with successful supply chain operations; they know the value of an effective procurement organization, and have placed a great deal of emphasis in creating/transforming them around a strategic vision. However, only a small percentage of businesses globally can claim this success. Most companies lack the vision and thus have seen their procurement organizations evolve organically, developing around the needs of the time and constraints of supporting revenue growth. This blog post provides insights into what defines the second type of companies and how change at the top, supported by long-term vision, can help a firm change for the better. Businesses have developed practices of utilizing the resources and teams available to them to focus on their immediate needs. With top lines receiving a significant emphasis, procurement organizations have been asked to focus on getting the right material in time, but rarely on quality and best cost. Alternatively, when bottom line results are at risk, procurement teams have been asked to generate additional savings to meet quarterly or annual targets. It is only during times of extreme commodity price volatility and spikes in cost of goods sold (COGS), that teams are created to focus on managing commodity risks and price fluctuations. Competitive forces, lessons learned and recommendations from resources new to the firm or from consultants typically drive the situations described above. However, these are implemented as stand-alone projects and rarely translate to a long-term strategic vision. Procurement and Corporate leadership seldom evaluate a procurement organization from a holistic viewpoint.