As we’ve written on just about every page of this magazine, procurement has changed. Some of the leading procurement practitioners have sat down to tell me just how procurement now has a seat at the table, is becoming more strategic and a real, key driver of growth for a business.
One of the more interesting comments shared is that once upon a time, procurement was a function that simply consisted of ‘the folks who cash the cheques’. One thing to note is that these are the comments of procurement practitioners. Put simply, procurement knows procurement, so how much of this makeover is understood and embraced by other business units? Take it one step further, how do other organisations perceive procurement? We know it’s happening everywhere, but how do we find out more and share best practices and knowledge?
As this procurement transformation continues to this very day, it’s an ever evolving journey into new and untested waters for many and so connecting and sharing with our peers is something of a no-brainer.
Enter Procurious, the world’s first and leading online business network dedicated to procurement and supply chain professionals. With upwards of 40,000 members from all over the globe in a whole host of industry sectors, Procurious is very much a leading platform in the procurement world.
But don’t just take our word for it.
“What I learnt when I worked in large corporates is the value in bringing together all of the business unit CPOs,” explains Tania Seary, founder of Procurious. “Every business unit is like a company in its own right. And so that’s what Procurious is about – bringing together all the CPOs from all over the world in an online environment.”
Just look at some of these major disruptive events, the floods in Thailand, the tsunamis, and now we’ve of course with COVID-19, often you’re the only person in your business who’s managing your category. The Procurious platform gives you the opportunity to connect with people around the world who are managing your category. And what I like to say is that the more we use our community muscle, the stronger it will get. It’s like any muscle. So, the more the people reach out and seek help and ask questions, the stronger the community will become.”
Seary, who’s career has seen her work in marketing with major global corporations such as Walt Disney Company, Alcoa and The Faculty Management Consultants, founded Procurious because she believes in marketing the procurement profession, a profession she is so passionate about. Fast forward to today and Tania is now recognised as one of the most global, influential members of the procurement & supply chain profession and tells me what it was around the early 2000s that made her fall in love with procurement.
“I don’t think there are many professions or functions that allow you to operate across the full breadth of the business. So you need to understand the customer, you need to understand the manufacturing and operations process.”
“You need to understand the community and understand the supply base that you’re buying from. You also have the opportunity to do a lot of community good through social procurement. And then of course there’s the internal issues like dealing with finance and managing up to the CFO. So, I don’t think there’s that many roles in the corporate world that give you that scale and scope.”
As a marketing professional and procurement practitioner, Tania understands the commercial side of procurement and approaches it with a different perspective than a traditional career procurement professional. She believes that a major part of this transformation of procurement centres around this commercial component. In her own words, and another reason why she loves procurement so much, procurement professionals should aspire to be the best commercial leaders in their respective businesses.
“What we are seeing at the moment is so much opportunity for us to be working with external stakeholders to deliver so much value,” she says. “There’s a lot of creativity in procurement, where you can really say: ‘Look, what’s the business problem we’re trying to solve here and How can we creatively solve and create a commercial solution that will deliver exponential value?’
“The world is our oyster. Let’s not waste the crisis. All the cards are in the air. So, think outside the box and think about what solutions we can deliver to the C-Level that previously may not have been able to obtain oxygen. Now that people are looking for solutions, they may consider something quite creative.”
Procurious in a way is a true reflection of Tania’s belief and passion for procurement. Through the platform, she has created an environment where the 40,000+ global procurement and supply chain professionals can look to one another to truly inspire that thinking outside of the box mentality. Traditionally speaking, procurement is a very face to face engagement function. But that’s not always possible, particularly in a time of crisis. Procurious then adopts the role of social media, or as Tania eloquently puts it, it becomes a form of speed dating. She calls it speed dating because it truly speeds up the process of getting to know who you actually should meet face to face with and fully understanding who are the people in your network that can really help you advance your career.
The mere mention of social media may raise a few eyebrows and leave you asking, do we need another social media platform? Tania recognises that for some, that will always be the reaction, but what’s important to her is the people that do engage with and through Procurious. “It doesn’t really matter because we’re serving the 40,000 people who are interested. The key thing is the sheer amount of people who are coming back every month to read the content and be active on the platform from all around the globe,” she says. “ That’s an important audience and you could argue that these people are the thought leaders or the more proactive members of the profession. They’re actually the ones who do want to learn and want to value connecting with others. That’s the key thing; the people click and really demonstrate their interest.”
Since the very beginning back in 2013, Tania has always believed that Procurious was a platform well and truly ahead of its time. Fast forward to 2020, with the world gripped by the COVID19 pandemic and the significant disruption it has caused to procurement and supply chain functions the world, a platform like Procurious is well and truly a must-have thing right now. Procurement has changed a lot in the last 6 years, how has Procurious changed with it? Not much, it would seem, because it doesn’t have to. “We have the same functionality as we had when we started and people aren’t using all of it yet anyway. So, I think we’re now going to see a lot of the professional associations really head in the direction that Procurious has,” says Seary. “We’ve always been ahead of the curve in our ability to look at procurement and supply chain with a very fresh set of eyes. That sounds funny for someone who’s been in the profession for 20 years, but the benefit is that when something interesting comes along, we know what it looks like, we can advise people on what’s the interesting story here? Where’s the learning? What’s something people haven’t heard before? And that’s really what we’re focused on. If you look at a lot of content out there, there’s a lot of repetition. So we really want to excite the profession.”
“I feel fortunate that we’ve got a very committed community and we’ll keep pushing ahead.”
A key challenge in creating a space for networking and community engagement is that it can soon, often very easily, evolve into something of an echo chamber.Yes, as human beings we share our successes and we seek out the success stories, but what do we learn from them? Many procurement professionals, Tania included, actually glean greater value in the failures and the hurdles people experience along the way. As such, Procurious actively seeks out and encourages people to share their failures through campaigns such as its recent Major Tech Fails campaign. Working together with RiseNow, the campaign looks to help people in the procurement technology space because Seary recognises that a lot of money is spent, and lost, in technology.
“We really want to help people, but that’s not a headline that you would see anywhere else. It takes a bit of courage to come out with that. That’s what our community wants to hear. They want to hear the mistakes people have made and how they can avoid them and learn from them,” she says. “As the saying goes; people don’t make the same mistake twice. They make them over and over again.”
Seary believes that there is a sad truth in the procurement space, one that sees professionals avoiding going out into the business community and therefore not understanding how to be competitive. How can you compete if you don’t know what you’re up against? This is another way in which Procurious brings out a different mindset in people.
“We’re trying to attract people to the Procurious platform who are keen to learn. They’re not territorial about their networks and what they know,” she says. “They’re humbled by how much they don’t know and I think that defines different types of leaders across our profession,”
“I think those that are prepared and want to be at the C-Level should acknowledge, have a good dose of humility and knowledge of the fact that they don’t have all the answers, but they’ve got a fabulous thing and a fabulous network that will help them find those answers.”
While the value of Procurious is clear for all to see, it’s important to recognise that Procurious isn’t the only platform out there for professionals to connect. Seary is a firm believer that competition is healthy, but in this instance, her approach to the concept of competition is very different. In fact, she welcomes it with open arms.
“I think it’s fantastic because it benefits the profession,” she beams. “Competition is healthy. We’re trying to raise the level of professionalism in our profession. So, the more competition for providing services and educating people, the profession can only benefit. That’s always been my personal and objective and I’ve stuck to that,”
“Let’s face it. There’s probably around 15million procurement professionals in the world. So, there’s a lot of people to serve.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to provide extreme learning opportunities for us all. A platform like Procurious will allow us all to connect the dots a lot faster and keep our minds open. “A lot of the theories that we hold true and dear for the supply chain are going to be challenged,” says Tania. “It’s going to be a reset, but this will be an experience that nobody in procurement and supply chain, or in business will ever forget.”
COVID-19 has made the world understand what supply chain is and its importance. Seary feels it’s going to be easier for professionals moving forward to explain the need for transparency of supply base, risk management procedures, and the need for analytics, inventory and visibility. “It’s going to be a lot easier to sell our needs and our strategies moving forward because I think there’ll be a lot more respect for what people do,” she says. and people who’ve really helped save our community. There’s a new found and There’s something of a well-deserved appreciation for some of these procurement roles now.”
With a community stretching all over the world, sharing advice, success stories and failures, one would be forgiven for thinking Seary has all the answers in order to succeed. She’s quick to note that’s not true, but for her it’s simple; keep presenting ideas because that’s what the C-Level wants. “They do not want people sitting there nodding, she says. “Sure, it’s nice to have a compliant employee but they want people with ideas and energy and they want solutions.”
“In times like this, nobody has the right answer – but we need people with ideas to put forward and to have the courage to lean into conversations and deliver because there’s nobody in the business that has the breadth and the scope of the information that you do in your role.”
As the procurement professional, that breadth and scope of information will open many a great door both professionally, and for the business. “You’ve got invaluable information that can really help decision making”