If there’s one lesson procurement departments can learn from the epic mess that was 2016, it is surely this: nothing is certain. From the bombshell that was Brexit to triumph of Trump, the death of Bowie to Bob Dylan’s Nobel nod, many of our seemingly solid political, economic and cultural touchstones were swept away in the past year – and 2017 looks set to be an equally bumpy ride.
Back at work, you’re probably already feeling the impact this is having on your peers, colleagues and supply chain – not to mention the exec board. As procurement leaders, it is of course important to encourage a culture where you can honestly share anxieties and vulnerabilities. But it’s also more important than ever to, well, lead – by identifying how that uncertainty might destabilise your supply chain, and taking visible action to keep things on track.
In fact, if nothing is certain, then this could be the perfect time to shake up old habits and grasp new opportunities. So here are four ways you’ll increase your chances of surviving – and even thriving – over the next twelve months.
1. Tighten up your cyber security
Research estimates that cyber attacks cost the global economy $445billion each year – and the source of any outsider attack is most likely going to be your supply chain. Any component entering your organisation that is connected to, or gets near your Operational Technology (OT) network – including minor patch updates, or contractor services given access – is a potential cyber-attack entry point. With hundreds of internal buyers buying from hundreds of suppliers, procurement teams should start building a clear plan now to identify and minimise risk.
2. Get a proper digital strategy (at last)
Rather alarmingly, a recent CPO Survey found that over 60% of procurement departments don’t have a clear digital strategy. For the last few years, procurement functions have invested heavily in technology to ensure control and compliance, but too many of those digital tools have turned out to be light on insight, yet heavy on time and resource. Now is the time to finally lay out a clear digital strategy that is aligned to your wider business objectives. Make sure to include a realistic and responsive plan for using social media, a focus towards increasing self-service across the business, and a shopping list of intuitive and effective operational and transactional tools.
3. Restructure your supply base
In a climate of global uncertainty, supplier relationship management and market shaping are becoming crucial skills for procurement professionals. Whether you’re looking to utilise more SMEs or consolidate and leverage spend, making the most of your business-critical contracts has to be a priority. So ask yourself how you’re going to restructure key supplier relationships to ensure they remain collaborative and innovative when crossing borders becomes more complicated and trade agreements shift. Could you minimise risk by expanding global supply points? One of our clients identified over 1,000 new suppliers from across the world that qualified for business-critical components. Or perhaps you could create new markets? What about seeking out disruptive companies, technologies or products that will help future-proof your supply chain? Get creative, or get stuck.
4. Nurture your talent
Demand is high and supply is low for procurement talent. So how are you going to help your best people grow – and persuade them to stay? New challenges demand new behaviours, and sought-after skills in wobbly times include an ability to Influence key stakeholders across the business; great contract management; strong knowledge sharing and collaboration in order to reduce duplication of effort; excellent project management and cross functional working skills; and an ability to listen deeply, facilitate and coach. If you don’t have a clear development journey mapped for your top talent, everyone will lose out.
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