Jon Kesman is the Head of Services Procurement with Allegis Global Solutions (AGS). With more than 20 years of procurement operations, sourcing and category management experience across various industries and global organizations, Jon is responsible for developing strategy, structure and operations for AGS’ procurement product. A self-proclaimed procurement geek, Jon shares what he’s learned over the course of his career, his definition of success and what excites him about the changes and development in procurement today.
Can you talk about your background and education--how did you get involved in procurement?
I actually have my degree in Purchasing and Operations Management from Michigan State University, so it’s all I’ve really known from a professional perspective. I guess I am officially a procurement geek! I started my career as a buyer at IBM. Then I moved on to procurement and sourcing consulting roles with Accenture where I was exposed to so many elements of value within this space, whether that was a full-on procurement transformation effort, or just some sourcing work to drive savings. I’ve spent over 20 years now in various procurement roles, almost evenly split between both the buy-side and the sell-side.
Can you share a little more about your day-to-day role and responsibilities as the Head of Services Procurement Solutions at AGS?
I have responsibility for the Services Procurement solution that we provide to our customers. In this role, I drive the strategy behind our capability and ultimately own the delivery of this unique solution. I spend most of my time building relationships to ensure alignment between what procurement execs are trying solve for within their services spend categories, and our capabilities to assist with that.
Procurement for a global organization is a large undertaking. What advice do you have for staying organized and meeting your goals?
I think it’s critical to ensure alignment to the business and its objectives. I’ve often seen procurement so focused on savings that they miss the forest for the trees. As this profession has evolved, there is so much more that procurement can do and deliver as a valuable advisor to the business. Technology is enabling so much opportunity and it allows execs to think differently about the function, the skills they need and the broader contribution they can make.
I think it’s also important to recognize that there is an expectation of speed to delivery. Stay focused on the long term but ensure that your consumers (internal customers) are getting the services they need from your organization.
At the Chicago SIGnature Event you'll be leading the general session keynote presentation. Could you talk a little more in-depth about the topic?
I’m going to be talking about the challenges that many, if not most, organizations face when trying to manage their services spend categories. It covers the gamut of technology, processes, misalignment of expectations and capacity. In my career I’ve seen so many things that limit and prohibit organizations’ ability to truly be effective, and we’re going to talk a bit more in depth around these challenges and some different yet practical ways to address them to drive more value through this significant spend portfolio.
You have a strong background in contingent labor. What are some examples of how technology has changed or impacted the way organizations hire and retain talent?
Clearly the VMS has transformed the staffing and even the procurement industry. When you realize that services really is labor-based and in many organizations even considered contingent labor, it opens the potential to tremendous things. As we’re seeing advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning for candidate search and match, it’s truly amazing and allows providers to focus on the strategic and relationship elements, while the machines drive the processes. As this space continues to evolve, those technologies will only get better and will allow us ways to transform our own business, as well as those of our clients.
In your role, how do you define success?
Success for me is simple. First, am I meeting the challenges of my clients through the solutions we develop and deliver? This is demonstrated through evolution with existing clients, satisfaction, retention and also new opportunities. If we grow in those ways, it shows that our solution is valuable. Second, it’s about our people internally. If I can provide opportunities for people to develop and grow careers here, I can feel great about the business and also about the impact we’re making in matching really great people to really great opportunities, which then has a positive impact on our clients.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to improve their skills as it relates to procurement?
I think it’s important to keep up on technology. It’s changing so fast and you need to stay on top of what it can do and how it can make impacts to your organization. Additionally, relationship building and influence skills are critical. It can enable success with both internal stakeholders and also your supply base.
Be voracious about intake of information. There are so many places and ways to consume best practices, ideas, innovations, etc. Set aside time to learn from what others are doing as it can make a huge difference in awareness and how to turn ideas into action.
Are there any notable advancements or changes in procurement that excite you?
I mentioned it a bit earlier, but the things that technology is enabling when it comes to artificial intelligence and machine learning. What that can drive from a data perspective and the insight that can be extracted so quickly and accurately can be a game changer.
I also think it’s an evolution, but the profession is getting more respect every day. When I started my career, it was right when some organizations were doing truly transformational things in procurement and that trend is continuing. It’s exciting to see so much growth and maturity of the function, with so much more still to come!
What is something that you wish more people knew about the role of procurement?
If given the opportunity, it can be one of the most impactful roles in the organization. Not just from a financial or savings perspective, but from all the elements of value that can be driven – like risk mitigation, strategy, access to talent…things that will be increasingly important in our regulatory environment and as we’re all competing for great people to get work done.
If you could talk to your “younger self,” what would you warn yourself about or tell yourself to do differently?
Is this specific to professional life? Because if it’s personal, that could be a lengthy conversation. But assuming we’re being professional here, I would tell my younger self that every experience is formative, that there’s something that can be learned from every negotiation, every dissatisfied end user and every angry supplier. There’s always opportunity to extract something meaningful and grow as a result.
I suppose that applies to personal life as well!
Stacy Mendoza is a Digital Marketing Specialist with Sourcing Industry Group (SIG). Stacy began her career in market research as an editor for Hart Research Associates in Washington, D.C. Since moving back to Florida in 2014, she has worked in marketing and public relations, specializing in content creation, media relations and crisis communications. Stacy is a passionate volunteer who donates her time to help nonprofits develop marketing strategies and awareness campaigns. Stacy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from The Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. Follow her on Twitter and tweet at @SIG_Stacy.