For Better or Worse, It’s Been a Year to Remember

To be able to see where you’re headed, you’ve got to look back at where you’ve been.

To be able to see where you’re headed, you’ve got to look back at where you’ve been. 

I just looked back at my December 2019 blog post and I was spot on, but for all the wrong reasons. I predicted that we would continue to elevate the role of strategic sourcing, broader adoption of technology, and a focus on upskilling sourcing and procurement teams.

I did not predict that a global pandemic would make the world talk about “supply chains,” albeit with a focus on toilet paper, Clorox wipes and a shortage of personal protective equipment. People came to realize that strategic sourcing professionals were the heroes who protected their sources of supply or quickly adapted to secure new sources.

While the pandemic continues to rule our lives in one way or another, we still see shortages on components for home gym equipment, bicycles and even casters for home office chairs. So, while some supply chains still have issues, many industries are experiencing a boom year and outpacing sales over any year in the past.

Looking back at the news of this year, many of us vaguely remember the Australian bushfires, and I distinctly remember racing go karts when news broke that Kobe Bryant died. I know some people were distracted by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle walking away from the royal life and Parasite swept the Oscars. This was all immediately non-news and forgotten quickly when the pandemic became a reality. (Personally, I am glad of one “trend” that did not last through the pandemic, which was padded shoulders and puffy sleeves.)

What Matters Now

What we all know now is that bandwidth matters and not all people and communities have equal access to the internet. For starters, per an article in The Atlantic, the FCC has failed to figure out where the unconnected live because the maps of broadband access the agency relies on are generated by internet providers and extremely inaccurate. The FCC estimates that 19 million Americans don’t have a fast internet connection, but as CityLab’s Linda Poon has written, the true number may be more than double the official figure because of poor data gathering.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 15% of all households with school-age children lack a high-speed internet connection. Some of these families live in areas that broadband providers don’t service, while others simply can’t afford the broadband that runs right outside their doorstep. In fact, some estimates suggest that the majority of people who don’t have internet actually live in cities and suburbs, not in rural areas.

When you combine this unequal access to the internet, many individuals quickly become disadvantaged, both from a work and homeschool perspective. I hope to see this inequality addressed in the next year to equalize the playing field for students and employees.

This year, the perfect storm was created with people on lockdown and news playing non-stop in many homes. It forced us to witness the social injustices that occurred over the summer. Seeing these events unfold on television day after day combined with the frustration of the lockdowns brought people to their breaking points and started a movement across the world.

This new social justice realization has gone on to support diversity and inclusion initiatives in so many companies with a life, charter and realization that diversity and inclusion is not only necessary, but a force for good that has been embraced fully by so many. Through a diverse and inclusive workforce, we will be exposed to different opinions, diversity of thought, diversity of social-economic status, diversity of religion and ethnicity, and with it we won’t be subject to group think.

Think about it: most of us serve customers on a global basis. How rich our solutions can be when they truly represent the diversity of our customer base! I am so excited to see this being fully embraced and prioritized by so many organizations.

A Digitization Sea Change

While I predicted greater adoption of technology, this pandemic forced many companies to move to digitization almost overnight. Spending months or years evaluating technology became outdated. Instead, we immediately realized the need to digitize our businesses, improve efficiencies and learn how to deploy cybersecurity immediately to a remote workforce. What I can’t understand is how any large company survived without full visibility into their supply chain through technology and with reliance on binders on the shelf.

We know that many of the companies who made it through the pandemic fairly unscathed could not have done so without technology. I also think that due to the supply chain disruptions we experienced this year, 2021 is going to be a year to diversify our supply chains and look to localize more supply. SIG recently hosted a webinar with Zycus that explored the topic of “Source Globally, Act Locally” and I believe that will be on the minds of many sourcing executives as we move into 2021.

We will work to further shore up our supply chains through diversification to drive down risk and to mitigate future disruptions. With that said, there is a reason so many more new procurement technologies are being developed to support this need.

What is equally interesting is that new applications for employer IDs in the US “reached 1.1 million through mid-September, a 12% increase over the same period last year and the most since 2007,” according to an analysis of US Census Bureau data by the Wall Street Journal. I know for a fact that many of these are startups in our industry. Fueled by the great research from Spend Matters, we are constantly thrilled to see the specialized niches that are being addressed thorough these startups.

Upskilling is on the Rise

My last prediction in 2019 was an increase upskilling of employees. As most of you know, I am passionate about education and having a natural curiosity for learning. When John Sculley was one of SIG’s keynote speakers, the first thing he asked me is “What do you read daily?” We had a great debate about what we should read and we do read and the fact that I see Twitter as a way to identify trends and to predict breakthroughs.

This conversation energized me because at the time we spoke Mr. Sculley was an 82-year-old man and still thirsty to learn. It was from our conversations that I attended Singularity University and drank the Kool-Aid of change and technology.

I have been so lucky to be surrounded by amazing CPOs who passionately believe in education and upskilling their people. At our last CPO and Executive Roundtable of the year, many of the CPOs discussed how the pandemic brought them closer to their colleagues. They described a kinder way of working and supporting one another that transitioned them away from just execution and leadership.

This year, many leaders felt it important to display their own fears and anxieties early in the pandemic and as a result are more resilient and compassionate leaders. Ironically, most leaders said that they strengthened many of their supplier relationships through the joint reliance that emerged and through the more frequent and less choreographed meetings that took place in the past.

Rather than a well-planned trip in which the supplier might be in proximity to their offices at a certain time or date, they took more frequent and often shorter meetings and discussed things like the health and welfare of each of their teams and forged closer relationships.

The other item that many of them mentioned was that without a commute the time was perfect to embark on additional certifications and to enroll their teams, even asking people to use work time to work on their SIG University studies in an effort to upskill everyone and to let them know how much they appreciated their associates and colleagues. 

Hopeful for the Future

Lastly, as we move into 2021, I know as a human being, parent, leader and citizen of this earth, I want to always remember 2020. It has been a year of undeniable sadness, anxiety, change and while the human toll is devastating, I hope we move into 2021 and beyond and remember to take the kindness and caring well into the future.

I hope the rest we gave the earth will help us continue to focus on how not to deplete the resources of this earth and let the healing begin in every aspect of climate change. I hope that we all learn to appreciate the true frontline workers, the grocery clerks, garbage men, and the people who go to work every day in spite of their fears and trepidation. I hope we as a society learn how to offer a living wage to all workers and lift more people out of poverty and to not value shareholders and the stock market above human sacrifice.

Lastly, I hope that everyone reading this moves into the next year with a glimmer of hope and a giddy-up in their step. I know that we will overcome this battle because human beings are resilient. I hope that we continue to pay attention to what matters most in our lives. 

In the meantime, happy holidays to all and I wish for health, prosperity, happiness, and personal peace for one and all in 2021.

Dawn Tiura, President and CEO, SIG

Dawn Tiura, CEO and President of SIG, SIG University and Future of Sourcing Digital Publication, has over 26 years leadership experience, with the past 22 years focused on the sourcing and outsourcing industry. In 2007, Dawn joined SIG as CEO, but has been active in SIG as a speaker and trusted advisor since 1999, bringing the latest developments in sourcing and outsourcing to SIG members. Prior to joining SIG, Dawn held leadership positions as CEO of Denali Group and before that as a partner in a CPA firm. Dawn is actively involved on a number of boards promoting civic, health and children's issues in the Jacksonville, Florida area. Dawn is a licensed CPA and has a BA from the University of Michigan and an MS in taxation from Golden Gate University. Dawn brings to SIG a culture of brainstorming and internal innovation.