SIG Speaks Blog

RPA...Game Changer or Game Over?

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.  

Sarah Holliman, Chief Marketing Officer, SIG

Sourcing Has Gone Mainstream

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.

Sarah Holliman, Chief Marketing Officer, SIG

Global Summit on the Horizon

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: 

Sarah Holliman, Chief Marketing Officer, SIG

Best Practices from SIG University Part III: Key Takeaways

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

Best Practices from SIG University Part II: The Real Deal

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

Best Practices from SIG University Part I: Why SIG U?

“Education,” wrote John Dewey, “is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” That’s a philosophy that SIG has from its inception held very close to its heart: the idea that throughout our lives and our careers we should continue to learn and develop, not simply for the benefits that learning brings us – and our community – professionally but also because education is a good in itself. Hence the strong focus at SIG’s Summits, Symposiums and Roundtables, in our webinars and our Student Talent Outreach program – truly, in everything we do – on growing our members’ knowledge and understanding of the practice of sourcing and the environment within which we work.

Jamie Liddell, Editor, Outsource and Co-Head of EMEA, SIG

When Commodity Prices go South, Commodity Manufacturers get Innovative

Few areas of the economy have faced stronger headwinds over the past year than those occupied by commodity manufacturers. Chemicals, steel and plastics are all feeling the effects of China's economic slowdown in a highly competitive and price sensitive marketplace. Many of the top commodity manufacturing firms have reacted decisively to these conditions; however, after the first wave of layoffs are complete and excessive overhead costs are reined in, the prospects still remain gloomy. The sustained impact of depressed demand and oversupply are forcing executives to look inward for additional, innovative sources of cost savings. The positive news for many organizations is that the "good years" of strong demand and rising prices have left behind pockets of inefficiency and waste that can be structurally addressed in the interest of long-term corporate competitiveness. A few examples of such opportunities are as follows:

Joel Johnson, Director - GEP

Sourcing Thought Leaders...Enter the SIG U Writing Competition

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

Seven Imperative Steps to Strategic Sourcing

Vying to become a world-class procurement agency? Not sure what competencies you need to become a leading supply chain organization? Here are seven ways to help you navigate through the complicated sourcing process from scratch:

Shruti Agrawal, Director, Excella Worldwide

Is the sharing economy changing the procurement landscape?

The digital era is creating new paradigms as it relates to commercial relationships between business and individuals. It's not a new concept, but it is getting stronger each day and changing the way people contract services and products. The sharing economy is a system in which its users share and exchange goods and services through digital platforms.

Uber and Airbnb are some of the most popular examples that are revolutionizing the market, with their respective target markets in the transportation and accommodation industry. Could this new business model also change how organizations contract services and products? Could the new sharing economy open up opportunities for organizations to achieve their constant search for cost optimization?

The benefits that emerging businesses in this space can bring include the provision of cost-effective services and products with reduced lead times. Additionally, these technological applications help to identify available resources in a certain geographic proximity that meets the needs of a company. Another benefit is to directly contract services eliminating the brokerage relationships characteristic of the truckload and 3PL Industry. The Uber model could change and replace traditional freight brokers. Right now there are some companies preparing to support this new business model which gives small truckers the opportunity to offer their spare capacity and resources.

Ana Sofia Gomez, Senior Associate, GEP

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