An Exposé from Procurement Insider Peter Smith

Procurement business

Career procurement professional turned author Peter Smith, MA, FCIPS, FRSA, recently joined the Sourcing Industry Landscape Podcast to lift the lid on some of the worst procurement scams in history, offers practical advice on avoiding embarrassing mistakes, and shares how to make sound, strategic procurement decisions. 

If you're going back to 2019 is when you wrote the book, can you share some of their global disasters or the big stories that you included in the book back then?

When it comes to procurement failures, there are many areas, and some of them do not really understand what you're buying. And that can be something very simple, like the printing equipment the Irish government bought that didn't actually fit into the building they were putting it in. Or much more complex technology failures and so on.

But then, there are some interesting areas we perhaps don't think about so much in supply chain procurement, and I believe getting incentives wrong is a fascinating one. So, how do you incentivize suppliers to do the right thing?

And some of the failures there are clearly failures, but when you ask the question, "Well, how would you have done it, so it wasn't a failure?" those answers are not simple. Just something as straightforward as, "How do you get the incentives right for somebody running an outsourced call center for you? They're handling customer queries, doing inquiries or complaints. How do you incentivize them to work efficiently but give excellent customer service to the people calling in?

Do you think working remotely is something that's going to stick? What are your views on this year and the result of it?

There's no way we're going to go back to millions of people physically going to London every morning on the 7:23 train from Farnborough. I don't think that's going to happen again. I think the new normal will be an awful lot of people working in the office one, two days a week. I argued with someone about this the other day, but I believe there's still a thing about building a team and a community and, again, that sense of purpose. It helps if you do get people together physically.

I'm a non-executive, fairly small firm, and we've been talking about this. And we've settled into the idea that there's only probably a third the usual number of people in the office on any given day. Still, every team is getting together physically at least once a fortnight, probably once a week, because there is something about building that community. So, I think that'll be the way it settles down again.

Do you feel that ESG (environmental, social and governance) scores are a recruiting tool for the Millennial generation looking to work for companies that have a purpose and return good back into the environment?

I think absolutely. I interviewed a couple of the senior people from Unilever a few months ago for the Procurement With Purpose website, and that was one of the things they said because they've been leaders in this. Paul Polman started it ten years ago at Unilever. And the lady who, among other things, was responsible for recruitment into procurement said, "It's obvious how the people applying to Unilever procurement have changed over the last few years." And if you ask them now, "Why did you choose Unilever?" nine out of 10 start by talking about sustainability and that sort of thing. And it's changed the profile of the people they're getting, for the better.

When you look forward to your next book, do you think that globalization will be reduced due to bringing some product closer and onshore or differentiating our supply chain so that all roads don't lead to China?

Yeah. I think definitely. I say examples like PPE are apparent, but every business I know, every public organization is looking at these issues. And I think it's a combination of things. It's the way our supply chains are exposed as being vulnerable for COVID.

Also, a potential roadblock is the newly elected President, Mr. Biden. There’s no guarantee he's going to declare China and the US as best friends again immediately. So, I think that tension is going to remain.

There's a fair chance we'll look back and say 2018, 2019 was when global trade peaked, and actually, it might be going the other way. I don't think it's not going to disappear, clearly, but we might look back and say, "Yeah, that was the point at which there was more stuff being shipped from one end of the world to the other than ever before. And it will never be the same again."

Listen to the full Sourcing Industry Landscape podcast interview on our website or on your favorite podcast app.


Desmond Williams, Digital Marketing Coordinator

Desmond Williams is the digital marketing coordinator for SIG. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Sociology from The Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. With a background in Marketing and Sales, relationships are at the core of his values.