Over the Easter weekend I had what ended up being a rather disturbing conversation with an old friend, which I thought sufficiently relevant to this space to share with you. This friend has very recently started a new job, working in an outsourced contact center providing advice to, and processing applications by, users of local (public sector) health and social services (I need to be relatively vague here, for obvious reasons...).
One of the main tasks she has to perform is vetting people who call looking to get access to one particular healthcare-related service. Due to the nature of this service, applicants are invariably over pensionable age (65, more or less, here in the UK) and suffering from illnesses or disabilities that restrict mobility - this is an important point: we're dealing with some pretty vulnerable people in (often serious) need. My friend has to take them through a survey and, at the end of the call, inform them whether or not they've qualified to receive this service.
The problem - one of the problems - is that certain responses to some of the survey questions can disqualify applicants outright. My friend explained some of these to me and, frankly, it's an outrageous situation. For example, applicants who say they're using certain medical apparatuses which haven't been prescribed by their General Practitioners (GP) won't qualify, even though these specific items are the kind of thing one might buy oneself, be given by relatives/friends/charities or procure in some other way simply because they're useful, rather than even considering going to the GP to be prescribed them.
Over the years, Mexico has had its fair share of negative headlines due to drug trafficking, violence and more recently because of the recent elections. Mexico is painted as a dangerous country that should be avoided. Unfortunately, this outdated, negative view is one that many Americans, as well as others around the world, still hold on to despite the fact that it doesn’t come close to matching the reality. Don’t believe me? Keep reading and I’ll see if I can change your mind.
It may be surprising to many that when it comes to producing talent in engineering, manufacturing and construction, Mexico ranks as the 8th highest in the world. When interviewed in June, former president Bill Clinton weighed in on the issue, “All we read about is the violence and the drug war,” said President Clinton. “The truth is that the previous president built 140 tuition-free universities. Two years ago, the Mexicans produced 113,000 engineers. We produced 120,000. They’ve had very brisk growth.” This growth that the former president mentions doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon either. From 2005 to 2012, the percentage of students graduating with degrees in engineering increased from 15.5% to 21.3% and is still continuing to grow steadily.
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."
A recent episode of 60 Minutes investigating outsourcing and the increasingly under-fire H-1B visa program in the USA has prompted a good degree of debate on social media and elsewhere, about this always-controversial practice. As readers of SIG blogs (and indeed members of the sourcing and outsourcing community globally) will need little reminding, outsourcing and its practitioners present an easy target for anyone with an economic axe to grind looking for someone or something to blame for the perceived ailments of the American (or any other) economy, especially unemployment: those giving voice to the old lament that outsourcing (conflated, of course, with offshoring) "sends our jobs overseas" now also point to the H-1B visa and charge those companies not "guilty" of exporting jobs with the equally heinous crime of keeping them onshore but giving them to foreign workers instead.
Yet despite decades of such negative PR the model continues to prove an indispensable tool for organizations large and small. Earlier this month, to take just one recent example, Lloyds Banking Group in the UK announced plans for a £1.3bn ($1.6 bn) ITO deal with IBM which will see over 1,900 jobs transferred to the latter; the deal is intended to save approximately £760m ($948 bn) in costs, according to the Financial Times (which, incidentally, quoted the Lloyds Trade Union - "which is no longer recognized by the bank" - as writing to its members that "staff transferred to IBM will be kept on for a year but most would be laid off within four years and replaced by cheaper, offshore workers").
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.
As the editor of Outsource (a member of the SIG family, of course, since January this year) it’s my great privilege to publish articles by some of the best-known figures in the space: authors whose very names have become synonymous with cutting-edge thought leadership and the kind of insight which itself drives change within this dynamic, fascinating industry. However, it’s also always crucial for me to remember that great insight and high-quality communication are not the sole preserve of the established sourcing superstar; that right now, out there scattered across the wide, wild world are a host of undiscovered B2B literary marvels – as-yet-unsung thought leaders whose talents lie like diamonds, buried but waiting only for the miner’s pick to swing in the right direction.
Well, it’s time for Outsource to go mining…we’re launching a writing competition aimed at discovering those diamonds and bringing them out into the light – and, what’s more, thanks to our excellent colleagues at SIG University we’ve got the perfect prize with which to tempt the next generation of outsourcing authors to sharpen their quills: a place in the next semester of the Certified Sourcing Professional course! (And if the winner doesn’t meet SIG U’s entry criteria he or she can transfer the prize to a colleague who does; how’s that for a way to grab the attention of the top brass?)
Jamie Liddell, Editor, Outsource and Co-Head of EMEA, SIG
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.
What is the source of procurement's value to the enterprise? How do organizations become more effective and efficient in achieving sustainable cost savings? How can procurement deliver even greater value to the enterprise? These questions are essential to the continuous improvement of the sourcing and procurement function. They are the questions at the foundation of the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) Chief Procurement Officers (CPO) Study which examines the "journey to value" for procurement organizations – and details the specific procurement strategies that drive business results and bottom-line impact. The study, based on a survey of more than 1,000 procurement executives across more than 40 countries, takes a deeper look at "procurement role models," the 100+ companies in the study that achieved the most impressive revenue and profit performance relative to their industry peers. The research identifies three common attributes that tend to separate these procurement role models from the pack. These high-performing procurement organizations:
Matt McGovern, Market Segment Manager - IBM Procurement and Contract Management Solutions
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 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.