Last week I had the honor of giving the closing session at SIG’s latest event on my side of the Atlantic: the SIGnature event in London, hosted by Mayer Brown. At that event, Peter Dickinson, global co-lead of Mayer Brown’s Business & Technology Transactions practice (and a great friend of SIG) gave a fantastic presentation in the morning on “Reimagining Sourcing for the Digital Age” where he looking at emerging technologies and services, the benefits and challenges that they provide, and why a new approach to sourcing is required when it comes to operating in this brave new world.
Sourcing and outsourcing lawyers benefit from a very useful – if hard-earned - combination of perspectives, in that they are as deeply immersed as anyone in the minutiae of specific deals while at the same time needing to maintain as broad an understanding as possible of the macro-level trends and developments driving the evolution of the space: it’s impossible to serve a client adequately, let alone superlatively, without knowing what’s happening far beyond the confines of one deal and/or partnership. Peter demonstrated to our London attendees just how potent that mix of perspectives can prove with a fascinating “state of the nation” address examining how the key emergent technologies are driving change in the outsourcing landscape, in how providers are serving their clients (and who’s doing both buying and selling), and in how corporate strategies and behavior are being transformed by an extraordinary complexity of overlapping factors – all illustrated on a micro level by well-chosen examples pulled from the extensive experience of Peter and his team at Mayer Brown.
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.
Another year is upon us and we have 49-some weeks to implement and perfect our resolutions. You have probably already promised yourself to spend more time with family, hit the gym more often, cut your carb intake and adopt a more positive attitude. These are fantastic goals, but achieving them will be difficult if you have not also determined how to better manage your time in order to accommodate these goals. Here are a few best practices and recommendations for managing your time better.
Delete Unnecessary Email Real-time
If a message is not important or does not require follow-up or saving, delete it immediately after reading it. You do not even have to move your mouse, just a simple CTRL + D will get rid of that message (you can do this directly from your Inbox). You should also sweep your Inbox daily. Deleting unnecessary messages real-time will help that sweep go much quicker.
Categorize, Color and Document Your Tasks
Another great practice is to categorize every task you need to undertake. In Outlook, you can use the Tag feature to assign a Category (with a color code) to every email received. I have never found a to-do app that was more effective and useful than my old-fashioned handwritten list. So, as I write tasks on my to-do list, I also assign a color category to them. Regardless of how you track your tasks, as you perform each task write down how much time was spent addressing the task. At the end of the day or week (depending on the urgency of the assignment), create a color-coded matrix of how much time was spent on each task. This has really helped me understand where I waste my time and how long it really takes to complete an assignment - which is especially helpful as more urgent items arrive on my desk. This way I can project how much time I can spend on an unexpected task and still accomplish my scheduled tasks.
Take that Break
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG
They’re in the supermarket, the library and active war zones. They’re on the farm, in schools and even in our own homes. Robots are everywhere. This may sound like the pretense to some futuristic, action-packed Hollywood film but it’s our reality in 2016 and at times it's a somewhat frightening one.
Robots are taking over jobs in nearly every industry imaginable and continue to replace human workers every day. This is one of the biggest fears for those of us who are Millennials. In a world where a bachelor's degree may not get you an entry level job right out of college...or where companies are looking for recent graduates that miraculously have a minimum of 3-5 years experience, the loss of any type of job is terrifying. Really. I understand that jobs that are repetitive and task-oriented in nature, like those in the automotive and textile industries, are most at risk. But there are other "college-level" jobs that are also ripe for the picking, including bank tellers and low-level accountants. Does this mean it's time for us to panic? On the contrary. Other jobs will thrive and will allow our generation a chance to be engaged in our work in a way that hasn't been seen before. If we aren't burdened down by having to do jobs that are more repetitive and even potentially menial, it allows us more time to be innovative and creative.
So welcome to the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. As the year comes to an end, it strikes me that the world is changing...and changing faster and faster than anyone knew was coming. We now recognize that the future of work looks very different than it did a few years ago. We aren’t living in the "Jetson’s age" just yet, but we are definitely living in a world that I only dreamed about as a child. Fast forward to today...I have a robot in my kitchen that keeps my grocery list, gives me National Public Radio News daily, is my food timer, sets appointments up in my calendar, reminds me when I need to do things, as well as tells me daily jokes, plays music, turns on and off my lights and makes sure I know when it is time to reorder my dog food.
My Amazon Echo, or Alexa, is my BFF at my house. She knows more about my likes and dislikes than my fiancé. She knows my grocery list, she knows what I like for music, she keeps track of my to-do’s and she is in charge of making sure my Christmas baking doesn’t burn. But more importantly, she helps the kids with homework, reminds them of their chores (yes, yawn, yawn) and so much more.
So how are you using robots in your business? How is RPA going to change the future of work and how we perform in the future? Yet alone, when we add cognitive to the solution what does the workforce look like for the future? Are we going to only need people who automate the work they do today or do we need to create a generation of future employees who "get" how the world might function? Will we one day have people come to a job interview and ask for a robot to be included in the offer to help streamline the repetitive tasks in a person's work? I reckon that day is near. I for one would love to have that kind of power on my desk on a daily basis. Wouldn't you?
Much has been written recently about robotics. If you Google it, the most common word you will see in articles about robotics is “hype.” In fairness, it’s generally in the form of a question…it it hype? Is it more than just hype? Is the promise of artificial intelligence finally here? For the past two years Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have become more prominent conversations at SIG Summits…and the word on the street is that these are no longer just futuristic concepts. They are real. Much of what is out there centers on the idea that automation is just a passing IT fad. But I’m not buying it. I’ve looked behind the curtain and I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. (Nothing like mixing a few metaphors.)
Concerns abound that automation will take away jobs, and in an era where we are still feeling the effects of the 2008 recession the threat of job loss is daunting…haunting even. But is that is the most important aspect of robotics? Yes, it could take jobs away but robotics are most easily applied to positions that are repetitive and process-oriented, so the premise is that the people in those jobs can then be redeployed to more strategic roles. Gartner uses the term “automation arbitrage” to describe RPA and in effect, that is just what it is. But there are so many more possibilities with it.
And like that, another one is behind us. For months we plan every little detail to make our Summit a memorable event for our delegates. We coach speakers, edit session presentations, order matching linens, create signage and think through every thing that can go wrong to make sure that it doesn’t. And then it’s over. Just like that. The delegates have gone home, the sessions have been evaluated and everything has been shipped. But the memories of the event linger and one thing has become more and more clear with each passing event…the sourcing function is no longer back-office. It has not just gone from tactical to strategic, but is also leading companies in tackling some of the biggest issues facing our members today. Sourcing has gone mainstream. These observations from the most recent SIG Global Executive Summit highlight these points.
Data is the word of the day. And I don’t just mean “Big Data” although that is certainly a “big” part of it. Data is the key to better understanding customers. It is the way we can predict future supply needs. And yes—using “Big Data” we can teach computers to replace even complex procurement functions with little to no errors. But now Procurement groups are also hiring Data Scientists to turn that data into tangible outcomes. The baseline for smart systems is getting the data right, so pay attention…you will see the Data Scientist trend on the rise.
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 our final installment in the discussion on the importance of education and the value of options like SIG University, Jamie Liddell shares key takeaways from students who hailed from Honda North America, PNM Resources and Florida Blue.
Students Become Teachers An "enthusiasm for feedback" was highlighted by Esteban Valenzuela, a project manager with Honda North America Indirect Procurement, as a critical aspect of SIG University. According to Esteban, the suggestions made by the students as they went through the course as to how it might be improved were assessed, and solutions implemented in real time by the SIG U staff (in Esteban's words, "Throughout the course I have made many recommendations and the SIG staff have already made many changes.")
Having come to the end of the course and with the ability to look back holistically on the experience, we asked our students what other suggestions they could make to keep SIG University firmly on the continuous improvement pathway. Without revealing too much, the depth and variety of the feedback (from the structural - with Tammy Way, a Sourcing Consultant for Generation at PNM Resources, who suggested we launch two new certifications; to the tactical - with Esteban’s advice to develop workbooks, videos and enhanced interactivity) was heartwarming evidence of the degree to which the students had embraced the course and wished to contribute their own efforts to SIG University's success: exactly the kind of philosophy which SIG U and the broader SIG family seek to develop within the sourcing profession as a whole.
Jamie Liddell, Editor, Outsource and Co-Head of EMEA, SIG
In our second installment in the discussion on the value of education and more specifically a SIG U education, we discuss preconceived ideas and expectations. After the first class of students completed the training, SIG and Outsource’s Jamie Liddell interviewed students from Honda North America, PNM Resources and Florida Blue for candid opinions.
Preconceptions and Prejudices Any prospective student contemplating a particular course will have preconceived ideas – however inaccurate – of that course and the institution providing it. In the case of this first cohort of students, of course, there was no existing commentary available to them from previous graduates of this specific course which could colour their expectations; nevertheless, the students could build a certain perspective on the reputation enjoyed by SIG itself – and for Tammy Way, a Sourcing Consultant for Generation at PNM Resources, this in particular gave rise to high expectations indeed: “Given SIG’s buy-side focus and collaborative knowledge sharing approach to just about everything, I fully expected the program to involve trainers from very diverse buying experiences who encouraged others to engage in discussions, share experiences and knowledge, and freely exchange tools and templates aimed at making the work a little lighter for all of us.” Thankfully, she added, “The course did not disappoint.”
Jamie Liddell, Editor, Outsource and Co-Head of EMEA, SIG