Because we're not short of positive perspectives on outsourcing: again, anyone attending even one SIG Summit would come away with plenty of evidence for its value, and the outsourcing community and media such as Outsource have more than enough material to make an overwhelming case for why the model has been a good - a great - one for organizations right across the size spectrum. But the benefits aren't confined to individual companies: a wealth of scholarly work has been carried out to demonstrate how, in direct opposition to the assertions of its detractors, outsourcing (even offshoring) is good for those very economies it is supposedly corroding.
A 2006 Harvard University study entitled 'The Politics and Economics of Offshore Outsourcing' articulates the truth of this superficially counter-intuitive position very nicely. Authors Gregory Mankiw and Phillip Swagel found that "outsourcing appears to be connected to increased US employment and investment rather than to overall job loss. Some US jobs are certainly lost to other countries. On the whole, however, firms involved with offshore outsourcing are not shifting net jobs overseas but instead are creating jobs both in the United States and in other countries... Outsourcing will create winners and losers, and the pain of dislocation will be real for workers and their families. Taken together, however, these conclusions suggest that offshore outsourcing is likely to be beneficial for the United States as a whole."
As a marketer, I know the value of branding. The largest and most successful companies in the world have teams of people dedicated solely to branding. Branding is no longer about using the same logo, trademark, tagline and/or color scheme on all your marketing material. Branding is composed of different components including: brand identity, brand image, brand character, brand culture, brand personality and brand essence. Marketing agencies and consultants charge anywhere between $75,000-$250,000 to develop and manage a company’s brand.
Now here’s the kicker with branding that every marketing professional will tell you – they have no idea how it impacts their bottom line. Branding is the most difficult type of marketing to measure because you can’t easily quantify it. So, why are organizations across the globe spending so much money and time on branding? Quite simply – effective branding creates consumer confidence. Establishing a brand with a clear voice and values will enable your consumers to be loyal and confident when they buy from you. People have a natural desire to evolve with a brand whose products and services help give their life or business meaning and significance.
It’s not just businesses that need to focus on effective branding. If you care about your future as a professional in the world of work, you need to focus on your own personal brand. Personal branding is critical to establishing who you are and what you represent to those around you, the equivalent of a company’s consumers. They are your employer, your manager, your co-workers, your peers and anyone else that comes in contact with you in a professional setting. I’m not just talking about ensuring that embarrassing picture from your cousin’s wedding isn’t visible on Facebook... I’m talking about preparing for the future by branding yourself as a leader in your industry now.
It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog…I’ve been remiss. But in my defense, it has been a BUSY year. We officially opened SIG University with hundreds of students now matriculating through it…acquired Outsource, the leading digital content thought leader based in the UK…launched a division of SIG in EMEA…and absorbed the LatAm Alliance (formerly called Nearshore Executive Alliance) as a SIG Working Council…and that is all since January! Not to mention launching a new website, starting two Working Groups, hosting our first CPO Meet & Eat, conducting several events with our European team, planning our first-ever awards event, holding dozens of one-day forums all over North America and beyond and preparing for our second Global Summit of the year! My head is spinning…it’s been quite a year. But it’s the crazy ride we call the Summit that has me thinking it’s time to write another blog.
The Summit is a time that we at SIG always look forward to with (to be honest) mixed feelings. The event itself gives us a high like no other. It is the time when we get to see all of our members face-to-face. We hear the latest innovations and ideas from world class thought leaders. We meet new SIG members…and we reconnect with our work colleagues whom we know better by voice than face. But preparing for it is a LOT of work. I’m not sure I emphasized that enough. It is A LOT of work. There are literally thousands of little details that go into making this the world-class event you have all come to expect. From the speakers to the signage…from the cups to the cocktail napkins…from the app to the entertainment…the list is LONG. We put the effort into making it a flawless event so you can come prepared to just absorb, learn, network and enjoy. But if you want a few more tips for making the week the best it can possibly be, consider these three things:
In all my years attending SIG and similar sourcing conferences (often from the outside looking in), I have never observed this degree of nervousness around a new innovation as that surrounding Robotics Process Automation (RPA). Speakers struggle with how much development background they should share before launching into the topic. Conference attendees eagerly lap up nuggets of information that can add to their meager understanding of the topic. And the few who "get it" seem to be oblivious to the general discomfort of mainstream sourcing professionals whenever robotics is mentioned.
Recently, during a trip to visit suppliers in India, I similarly noticed a strange awkwardness surrounding the marketing of both RPA and analytics. When developer/programmers are asked to explain product offerings, they trip over themselves a bit cautious that buyers may not be able to grasp the computer science, statistics or mathematics of the product offering, and consequently resort to demonstrating actual end-user applications without ever really saying, "We have a miracle here, and we want to share it with you! And there is so much more we can do each week!"
There. I said it...I am officially addicted to Twitter. How can that be, when just a year ago I didn't even know how to log in? At that time I thought it was only for celebrities who used it to "tweet" about their exciting lives. How could anything meaningful come out of 140 characters? I thought it really wasn't going to catch on in business. Well, I decided I was acting like a fuddy duddy (yes, that tells my age) and would give it a month. Much to my surprise, after the month flew by, I knew I was addicted. Now I am going to tell you why you should consider having a twitter account. I don't care if you tweet (send out messages), but if you want to learn, you do need to follow (receive tweets) others. I started following some really interesting, talented, well read, educated people and by reading their tweets and their bit.ly (shortened) links to articles and other things they post, I am blown away by how much I have learned! How? Well, I follow people in sourcing, outsourcing, logistics, supply chain, economics, news feeds, research, member companies, technology etc. From each of the 500+ people I follow, I glance at their tweets on a daily basis and when it catches my eye I click on the article/whitepaper/video that they linked to and start reading and learning. I can only skim a handful of sites and periodicals myself...what my twitter network has done is opened the world of knowledge to me by having 500+ sets of eyes covering the news we should be hearing and bringing it directly to me. If each of my 500+ follow another 500+ interesting twitter links I have exponentially exposed myself to people all around the world interested in the same topics I am. I am seriously astounded by all that I am able to read/learn/consume about topics that may have taken months or years to bubble to the top of my knowledge base. I am now able to see cutting edge ideas as they emerge and can plan on how they apply to SIG, sourcing and outsourcing.
I don't know about you, but at the beginning of each New Year, I feel pressure to come up with something I resolve to do differently. Truth be told, I don't come up with New Years Resolutions every year, but when I do put thought into them, I do my best to see them through--mainly because I select things that are achievable and "task-oriented," like (don’t laugh) "wash my face every night before bed." Needless to say, my personal and professional resolutions have always been somewhat different. This year my resolution is slightly more esoteric. In fact, it's more of a "theme" than a "thing." I got the idea from a friend and I think it's a perfect way to merge personal and professional resolutions. The idea is to pick a word you want to live by...and every day find ways to implement it. My word this year is "do." I know, it's kind of lame considering Nike's successful "Just Do It" campaign. But I couldn't think of a better verb to capture my goal, which is to act on things, not to catalogue them for later. To remember it, I've been using the mantra "see it, do it." This comes in handy with four kids in the house. There is a lot to "do" when I "see it." But I also find it great in my professional life. It is so easy to put things on the back burner until later. But with a "see it, do it" mentality, I'm trying harder to do things as I get them. Obviously this doesn't work all the time--some things have a higher priority than others--but by focusing on "do-ing," I find that I'm more engaged. I'm reading relevant articles when I get them, adding things to my list of priorities, reading through the priorities and doing them when promised. Perhaps the better work phrase is "see it, schedule it, do it." That way it gets the appropriate weighting before "doing." If you aren't a regular resolution-maker like me, maybe this can help motivate you to pick a word, theme or phrase to live by for the year. Me? I'm seeing it and following through on it!
Are you having trouble attracting and retaining talent? If so, have you considered your social media presence as part of the issue? People post about your company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Glass Door and all over the world of social media. Do you Google/Bing/Yahoo your own company and see what people are saying? Do you search your own name to see what people are saying about you as an employer? Have you searched for pictures of your work and worksite that show your company in a bad light? Within the SIG membership, we have many of "the best places to work" in the USA, so we know good employer brands well. Can you imagine if you work in sourcing for Dish Network and the top searches about your company are about how you are the meanest employer in the United States? How about if you work for Radio Shack and the complaints are mostly about middle and upper-level management and the lack of a consistent turnaround plan? While these reviews may not be focused on sourcing management, a potential employee might make an incorrect inference based on what they see on social media. I have a few suggestions you might consider:
"I've noticed that when I'm selling a lot of records, certain things become easier. I'm not talking about getting a table in a restaurant." - David Byrne How does YOUR sourcing or procurement team sell themself to internal stakeholders? The concept of "partnering" or "selling" internally to raise awareness of Procurement's value is becoming a conversation at higher levels. Marketing and Legal are two of the more challenging departments to convince that Procurement can help. Whether your story is providing more money in the budget because of savings or weeding the budget down, both these departments are substantial expense line items in a corporate P&L and Procurement can provide value on either front. The marketing department may well be your best bet at front-line partnership in lieu of creating a case study to sell corporate-wide. Why not leverage a strong relationship with them, and then have them "market" Procurement internally with case studies that prove value-add? Being able to provide the marketing department with well-qualified procurement professionals who have marketing category experience may be key. A marketing category manager will understand the necessary relationships between people involved in agency selection and negotiation versus the contract itself. This professional will also understand that cost, while critical in the equation, is not the only driver. The intricacies of strategic marketing partnerships can be a gray area, and the Marketing Department will be more apt to give up their contract-side negotiations to someone who understands this and can align priorities instead of using typical procurement tactics. 'Tis the season to take your CMO or Vice President of marketing out for a peppermint mocha...and align your strategy with theirs. In turn, you may end up finding your best advocate to internal stakeholders.
"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." Winston Churchill's concept of perfection is easier said than done. Bringing change to a large organization takes more than philosophy. It demands buy-in from the top down, and an organization's willingness to be nimble. Large organizations enjoy longevity because they remain nimble and open to change. Take telecom companies, for example: in the last 20 to 30 years there have been multiple iterations of technologies implemented – and not necessarily by telecoms themselves. Change is rampant and necessary to stay in business, and nowhere has change been more evident than in the Procurement group. Although Procurement has always had a mission of controlling costs, partnering with other business units, such as Marketing, provides many opportunities for improved category management. The relationship between Marketing and Procurement has been proven to work best when each of the respective departments collaborate on budgetary and contractual needs. Procurement can provide Marketing with excellent support and take the negotiation and legal handshake over so Marketing can focus on their mission: to brand the company to the consumer and support product sales. Granted, it is easier to "perfect and change often" when all consumer-facing campaigns are under Corporate Marketing and one Vice President. Procurement can readily support Marketing's needs by creating a Marketing Category and dedicating a Strategic Procurement Manager and team to handle RFPs, contracts, renegotiation, score carding and vendor management for media buys, print buys, public relations and advertising agencies. The Procurement department can show Marketing how they can manage the spend and bring savings against the marketing P&L, as well as save time. The relationship between the two departments should be very collaborative, for example:
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said 'faster horses.' - Henry Ford It seems counterproductive to put Creatives in a box. They are meant to be thinking outside the box. Yet finding a way to work outside the box when it comes to sourcing the marketing function can be a challenge. At the SIG Global Summit in Fort Worth, I was lucky to be able to sit in on a session given by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and LogicSource. UFC's marketing production team was in a grudge match with managing terabytes of digital assets while attempting to responsively support a rapidly growing global brand. With over 31 major events in 2012 alone, the vast accumulation of assets and dramatic increase in workload put the creative and procurement teams in a stranglehold. The UFC's internal marketing department took off their gloves and took up the fight partnering with LogicSource's OneMarket solution to create a system that automated the end-to-end process from creative requests complete to sourced services. Contracts and pricing on the backend for services were negotiated and monitored within the cloud-based system, greatly decreasing time and money spent on the bid process out of the marketing department. The deals were in place, the pricing locked in, and at the click of a button, video production or print work could be bought and executed seamlessly. By taking a year to fine-tune, document process and implement the system, the UFC put chaos into submission through the integration of digital asset management and eProcurement, cutting significant time out of the creative approval and procure-to-pay processes while enabling a lean buying team to more effectively manage its complex marketing production spend categories. This was a marketing driven project, however, and its success was driven by the fact that they had buy-in from the marketing side to begin with.