This past Wednesday, the Procurious Big Ideas Summit took place in Chicago where professionals gathered to discuss provocative topics surrounding the procurement space. Speakers gave their insight into popular industry-wide talking points such as cybersecurity and spend management. Justin Crump inspired us with his take on why analyzing data is essential, “The best insight in the world is no good unless someone acts on it” But even more excitingly, these experts brought some new and important social themes to the table.

As a Gen Z-er, my research into procurement tends to focus on the ethics concerns of the space. World issues such as energy conservation, environmental footprints, and healthcare equity commonly come to mind. When it comes to supply chain management, I know we have the power to make a difference so I was thrilled to hear that seasoned procurement experts believe it too. Nearly every presentation at the summit mentioned how procurement could impact the lives of others.
As someone who keeps tabs on corporate news, I’ve noticed an overload of headlines reporting major corruption. It's unsettling to see so many businesses around the globe take a hands-off approach to policing their supply chains.

One of the first presenters, Patrick McCarthy, really emphasized the importance of vetting our suppliers. He drives home the point, “Are you screening your suppliers? And their suppliers? And their suppliers?” Even with the best intentions, a company can’t ensure that all of its operations are clear from crookedness without looking into every third, fourth, and fifth-party supplier. You simply cannot assume your stakeholders take CSR as seriously as you do.

Patrick McCarthy presenting "What's the Big Idea?" at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit.

Keeping your head above water is important, but this space has the power to enforce new ethical standards. McCarthy asserted his belief that the procurement function can truly serve the community while still elevating itself. He stressed to spectators that, contrary to popular belief, doing good doesn’t have to cost more. In many instances, doing good can save the company money. With an innovative rearrangement of suppliers and sourcing, cost-reduction and benevolence can work synchronously.

McCarthy also demonstrated how he’s seen procurement transform a community,

“One of the most exciting things about CSR is that they can change the way communities live. Their sourcing from small communities literally changed the lives of small villages, they were able to build schools, build new infrastructure that changed people's lives.” 

Source One Director, Diego De la Garza, described the experience as a “one-day event that incorporates the content and quality of a big convention” Diego De La Garza dedicated his presentation to discussing everything a well-equipped Procurement team is capable of.

Diego De la Garza of Source One about to present his impactful procurement stories. 
De La Garza shared two powerful stories of procurement innovation. On one account, a company had trouble strategically sourcing the materials they needed for their product. The procurement function worked as a power tool to not only source the right materials from one place but make the product more cost-effective and user-friendly. 

On another account, he discussed a medical tech miracle that a procurement team helped to make happen. The invention involved inserting a microchip into a pill to help patients regulate their prescription intake. Those were just two of many amazing ways Diego had seen procurement demonstrate excellence.

As a young professional navigating the procurement space, it was uplifting to hear these procurement experts speak to the future of the field. Procurement is a department that oversees the entire supply chain and we must be ahead of the game when it comes to social responsibility and sustainability. The thought leaders at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit admirably sparked conversations about procurement’s function in CSR.

ICYMIM: September 23rd, 2019

Source One's series for keeping up with the most recent highlights in procurement, strategic sourcing, and supply chain news week-to-week.  Check-in with us every Monday to stay up to date with the latest supply management news.

5 Benefits of Multi-tier Supply Chain Transparency
Kellyann Tsai, Spend Matters, 9/16/2019
We know by now that vetting your third, fourth, and even fifth party suppliers has major benefits for your supply chain. You could optimize your budget, dramatically increase efficiency, and even eliminate CSR risks. You also know that multi-tier supply change management can be challenging. Kellyann Tsai thinks it’s worth it; she provides five major benefits to multi-tier supply chain transparency.

How Do You Identify Dead Companies Still Standing? 
Michael Lamoureux, Sourcing Innovation, 9/4/2019
One small spreadsheet typo could cost a company billions. Although the Microsoft Excel program is still a leading app for supply chain managers, companies might want to switch to more error-proof software. Michael Lamoureux explains that Excel is the new “paper” and why your company probably needs an upgrade. 

3 Areas Where CSR Risks Hide in Your Indirect Spend
Nick Heinzmann, Spend Matters, 9/18/2019
Indirect spend is already an animal of a category to manage. But, it’s important to remember that on top of operational risks, there are endless ethical risks to avoid as well. It is essential that your company and all other stakeholders are assessing CSR risks both to maintain ethical standards and reduce reputational liabilities. Nick Heinzmann gives his insight into the hidden CSR risks associated with indirect spend.

Maintenance, Repair, and Operations (MRO) is a unique (and uniquely challenging) spend category. Including thousands of subcategories, it's often a headache for even the most seasoned Procurement professionals. Approached strategically, however, the category is often a source of considerable value. Here are six benefits you could realize by carrying out a strategic sourcing project in the category. 

While it's not even technically fall yet, the holiday shopping season requires so much preparation from companies at every step of the supply chain that it's already become a major preoccupation. In fact, the calendar is already at less than 100 days until Christmas, so it should come as no surprise that companies are scrambling to make sure they have enough preparations in place for Thanksgiving and beyond.

New estimates from Deloitte show that holiday season retail sales could top $1.1 trillion, up as much as 5% from 2018's period from November to January, and that's despite concerns about mounting trade tariffs and other economic uncertainty. Moreover, it seems expectations for online sales in particular will surge - rising as much as 18% on an annual basis, to between $144 billion and $149 billion.

"The projected holiday season growth is, in part, due to the current health of the labor market. Near record-low unemployment rates, coupled with continued monthly job creation, may encourage people to spend more during the holiday season," said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte's U.S. economic forecaster. "The economy is still growing, albeit at a slower rate. Additionally, we continue to see consumer confidence elevated, which also helps boost holiday spending."

The holiday shopping season comes earlier for the supply chain.The holiday shopping season comes earlier for the supply chain.
Getting ready
In anticipation of this shopping surge, big-box retailer Best Buy has invested heavily in improving its supply chain efficiency, according to CNBC. This includes installing robots in warehouses outside major metro areas in an attempt to more effectively compete with companies like Walmart, Amazon and Target - all of which offer rapid turnarounds on shipping that were inconceivable just a few years ago. Best Buy only began shipping for online orders within the last five years, but that has been among the company's primary initiatives in the time since.

With that in mind, the company says it has now set aside twice as much for logistics spending this year and next as it had previously, the report said. More recently, that includes shipping full-sized appliances directly to consumers' homes, and that effort accounted for about $1 out of every $9 it earned in sales in the first quarter of 2019.

Shipping to rise sharply
As one might expect, freight shipments around the U.S. are projected to increase sharply as the holiday season approaches, according to Logistics Management. While full data for the third quarter is not yet available, at least some increases were likely already in place toward the end of that period, reversing some recent trends of declines, and ramping up for yet another strong holiday season. That, in turn, will likely lead to spot trucking rates increasing on a year-over-year basis in a way that could be encouraging for freight companies going forward.

With all this in mind, all companies participating in the supply chain should probably ramp up their seasonal hiring efforts, component or product orders and other investments so they can have everything they need in place to hit the ground running for late November.

Procurement Transformation initiatives are something that every organization - regardless of size, scope, or maturity - can benefit from. Even businesses with no formal Procurement unit at all can carry out their own Transformations and realize the benefits of a more strategic, proactive approach to corporate spend. Everyone wants to drive down costs and better align their resources, so why isn’t everyone transforming Procurement?

Simply put, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. It’s led organizations to accept misconceptions as fact and avoid investing in Procurement Transformation.

Through years of successful Procurement Transformations, Source One has heard every myth you can imagine. Some organizations avoid Transformation for fear of the price, others worry they’ll wind up having to reduce headcount, still others don’t see the point of investing in Procurement in the first place.

Whatever their reasoning, organizations are dead wrong if they think Procurement Transformation isn't for them. In their latest whitepaper, Source One's expert team dispels five of the most common transformation myths. They separate fact from fiction to help organizations recognize what making an investment in Procurement really looks like and better understand what it could mean for their business.

Want to move past doubt and start transforming Procurement? Check out Busting Procurement Transformation Myths today.

Category Management (CM) has the power to deliver better insights into spending and promote healthier supplier relationships. This strategy involves categorically organizing your spend in a way that treats each product or service as its own separate, strategic entity.

At Source One, we proudly encourage and apply this method for clients because it heightens supplier performance and, in turn, client satisfaction. However, we never claimed that implementing such a program was easy.

A successful CM program requires many components, but its most essential element is a highly proficient category manager. In parts one and two of the category management series, we discussed exactly what CM is and how to initiate a CM program. Today, we will discuss what the ideal category manager looks like.

Buyers vs. Category Managers

First off, you have to recognize the difference between a category manager and a buyer. Often, buyers will label themselves as category managers due to the overlap between their responsibilities.

A buyer’s job is to conduct the purchasing process by engaging with a specific supplier. To reiterate, the buyer is assigned a specific supplier and assigned a specific product. They do not choose what to buy or from whom to buy it.

While a buyer’s responsibility is purely transactional, a category manager’s job requires more involvement. A category manager (not to be confused with a retail category manager) oversees the entire vendor management process and is responsible for choosing the best combination of suppliers and resources to make the end product. This individual needs to have a combination of relevant category expertise and sourcing experience to perform this role adequately.

Buyers and category managers are often confused because while the responsibilities are not interchangeable, the titles can be. For example, a buyer might be in charge of a certain category of goods or services and get the CM title. On the other hand, a category manager might have the buyer title even though their responsibilities require procurement-related oversight.

Hard Skills

Once you’re able to make that distinction, you can begin to highlight some key skills a category manager should possess. These hard skills indicate that an individual is well-equipped to serve as a category manager:

Industry Expertise - For a product or service to be treated as a separate business unit, the organizer needs to have an advanced understanding of the industry. Category managers should have a good grip on how the industry works so that they can strategically source materials and negotiate accordingly. A sourcing background in one field might not necessarily constitute the ability to source in another.

Project Management - Category Managers must have the capacity to manage complex projects. CM programs have several layers and not every professional is prepared to orchestrate the entire operation. Category managers running parallel with a project is key because there will be critical time stamps, tight budgets and tricky decisions to make.

Zero-Based Budgeting - The zero-based budgeting method involves justifying expenses at each new period of spending. The idea is that suppliers will need to logically justify each and every need so that no hidden or unnecessary costs are included. Strategic investing and zero-based budgeting go hand-in-hand.

Digital Fluency - It should be no surprise that digital fluency is an absolute need in category management. Most procurement positions need this skill to maintain a competitive advantage and promote innovation. Digital tools have aided the procurement function time and time again and CM is no exception.

Analytical Skills - Determining what works and what doesn’t work is an important part of making decisions. How can category managers make an informed inference? The simple answer is data. A lot of valuable deductions can be made when the right data is on-hand. If the data can’t be read correctly, however, managers will fail to come to those conclusions. For example, if a category manager fails to detect that suppliers are costing more than they're providing, you could miss out on huge cost reduction opportunities.

Soft Skills

Hard skills are important, but they can’t be applied correctly without the soft skills to match. Here are some traits to keep in mind when staffing a CM position:

- You want your CM program to be a well-oiled machine, but you also want there to be room for innovation. The most powerful and effective CM programs have a creative light behind them. Category managers should be able to think outside of the box. Big ideas generally produce big results.

Communication - A good category manager should set the stage for consistent and open communication. You should have extensive contact with your team and stakeholders to keep up to date with the status of your CM program. Healthy supplier relationships also lead to better partnerships in the long haul and therefore, better results for your projects.

Positivity - Things won’t always go as planned. Category managers need to be prepared for unexpected events to occur. Positive thinking will help to promote a problem-solving environment and provide for change that suits the company’s needs.

You might be thinking, “That’s a lot of qualifications… where can I find someone with this unique combination of skills?” The answer depends on the maturity of your CM program thus far and the industry that you’re in. If you already have a solid program in place, you might look into hiring someone with more industry expertise than sourcing experience.

If you’re looking to start a CM program or advance one that’s at its baby stages, a procurement professional might be the answer for you. You can also look into outsourcing your category management needs to a third party. Third-party consulting groups tend to have both the domain knowledge and hard skills you’ll need to flourish.

A CM program can’t work unless you find the right mix of these hard and soft skills. Most importantly, you’ll need to build a team with your company's unique circumstances and needs in mind. Your CM team might look different from the next company. What matters most is ensuring that your CM giving each category of spending the respect it deserves.

Today's Procurious Big Ideas Summit brought innovators and thought leaders from across the Procurement space together for high-impact discussions and presentations. Here are just a few of the lessons everyone in attendance learned.

1. Science Fiction is Becoming Fact  (and Fast)
In the day's first keynote, Professor Moran Cerf explored the ways new technology promises to supplement the human mind and body. He believes cutting-edge tools can bring about a new stage in human evolution. Beyond making existing processes more effective, these tools promise to provide humanity with entirely new senses and superhuman powers of cognition. In a sense, we enjoy the opportunity to exercise "intelligent design" over our destiny and our professional capabilities.

2. American Companies Can Learn a lot from Europe
This call to action came from Pat McCarthy of SAP Ariba. While he's seen organizations throughout Europe distinguish themselves by identifying disruptions and taking proactive action, many American companies still lag behind. That's because they're still relying on legacy systems and neglecting to nurture talent effectively. Europe's Procurement leaders, on the other hand, are making smart investments in areas like data science to ensure they've got both the right tools and the right people. Joined by Grant Thorton's Rick Clark, McCarthy advised attendees to take a deep look at their entire organization and develop  phased plans for following in the footsteps of international businesses.

3. The Good Times Won't Last Forever
Sibylline CEO Justin Crump began his presentation by commenting on the relatively peaceful state of the business world. While the headlines paint a hectic picture, the business world is experiencing a period of considerable peace and prosperity. Things are about to get a whole lot more hectic. Throughout this presentation, Crump reflected on five key areas where new risk factors promise to make both day-to-day operations and long-term initiatives more complicated. He did not, however, just focus on the negative. He concluded by encouraging organizations to assess their suppliers more carefully and build a standardized risk model that's capable of evolving with time.

4. Perception is Reality
Is Procurement neglected within your organization? That's probably because it isn't telling a compelling enough story. In his presentation, Source One Director Diego De la Garza remarked that Procurement cannot make an impact unless its peers recognize that it's capable of making an impact. That means communicating big wins clearly and consistently to remind key stakeholders that Procurement is a function worthy of investment.

5. Longevity isn't Necessarily a Good Thing
Dawn Tiura, Naseem Malik, and Lesley Herald used their panel on Procurement talent as an opportunity to poke holes in conventional wisdom and provide valuable advice to professionals at every stage in their careers. One suggestion stuck out as particularly surprising. Staying with one company for ten or more years, Malik suggested, is no longer a sign of loyalty and business acumen. Today, hiring managers are more likely to view a long tenure with one employer as evidence of inflexibility. While it's still not a good idea to switch jobs on a yearly basis, hiring managers are on the lookout for resumes that speak to a diverse range of experiences.

At today's Procurious Big Ideas Summit, Naseem Malik (Managing Partner, MRA Global) and Lesley Herald (President & CEO, Herald Search Group) called upon their experience in recruiting and talent management for a panel discussion on professional advancement. Moderator Dawn Tiura (President, SIG) opened by reminding attendees how far the Procurement profession has come. "We don't buy anymore," she remarked, "we recognize redundancy and stupidity and we address it." These new responsibilities call for a new set of skills and a new approach to both hiring and inspiring Procurement talent.

All three thought leaders addressed these new skills and offered tips for adopting that new approach throughout their discussion. Here's a sampling of what they had to say.

What Makes a Resume Stand Out?

Herald spoke to the value of a broad experience. It's not enough anymore for someone to boast years of experience in Procurement. They need to prove they've work across multiple functions and worn a number of hats. Like experience, the skills that point to excellence have evolved in recent years. In addition to technical know-how, truly world-class candidates are expected to possess soft skills like empathy, creativity, and emotional intelligence. It's these that will ultimately power them to elevate their function and their organization. "Employers struggle to quantify these," Malik added. That makes it all the more important to nurture them internally and, if necessary, partner with a third-party capable of recognizing these qualities in a candidate.

Herald, Malik, and Tiura all acknowledged that employers need to make themselves stand out as much as employees do. "It's not the same market it was several years ago," Malik remarked. Companies that aren't making an effort to improve themselves based on feedback from employees and candidates are doomed to fall behind.

What Problems Might Hurt a Resume? 

A resume isn't supposed to look like a list of responsibilities. "A good resume," Herald remarks, "tells a story." The best paint a picture of an active, dynamic professional who is capable of changing the way things are done. Putting these together is no small feat. That's why both Malik and Herald view coaching as an essential piece of their work as recruitment experts. Applicants aren't so different from companies. When they've grown accustomed to doing things a certain way, they're not usually in a hurry to try something new. This mindset has to change. Companies are evolving in their both their capabilities and applications. It's time for applicants to evolve as well.

Even small things like the font and layout of your resume might keep you from making the right sort of impression. Times New Roman might have been the standard several years ago, but Tiura suggests its time has passed. Your resume is your first opportunity to set yourself apart from the pack. 'Standard' fonts, formats, and talking points do the exact opposite.

How Can Professionals Build Adaptability?

"Don't work at the same company too long," Malik suggested. While it's still not a great idea to hop from job to job, longevity within a single organization is starting to look like a bad sign. Staying put in one organization can make a candidate look inflexible, even unambitious. The definition of "longevity" is changing too. While twenty years with a company was once the standard, ten or more is now enough to raise many hiring managers' eyebrows. A variety of positions in a number of functions, on the other hand, will show an organization that you're capable of thriving in an evolving Procurement world.

It's also essential for the next generation of professionals to nurture their own sense of curiosity. Reading voraciously and embracing new experiences, they'll not only prove that they're adaptable, but they'll make themselves into more informed and interesting people. With time, their creativity could prove infectious and result in an organization that's ready to innovate. 

Diego De la Garza's presentation at today's Procurious Big Ideas Summit opened with a painful reminder. Asking for a show of hands, the Source One Director confirmed that nearly every thought leader in attendance had at least one thing common. They'd all seen Procurement hampered by internal resistance and lingering misconceptions. Despite their best efforts, even these experts and executives have occasionally struggled to present Procurement as anything other than a tactical, cost cutting entity.

This struggle, De la Garza acknowledged, affects everything from everyday collaboration between business units to recruitment and retention efforts. Simply put, nobody wants to work with (or for) a function they view as a necessary evil. Things get even worse when Procurement itself plays a role in limiting its potential. "We can hold ourselves back," De la Garza remarked, "by failing to market our own value."

The presentation then pivoted to another idea that everyone in attendance could agree with - Procurement is capable of so much more than it gets credit for.  Its capable of "enabling innovation, driving competitive advantages, and elevating the entire business."

From there, the focus turned to what exactly it looks like when Procurement is empowered to reach its potential. De la Garza made his case by telling several stories. Each revealed the impact he's seen Procurement make for Source One's clients. Far more than just case studies, these stories emphasized the all-important, multi-functional role the best Procurement teams are capable of serving.

Most compelling of all was the story of Source One's efforts to innovate alongside a Pharmaceutical client. The organization had developed a great drug for the treatment of conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. They were (justifiably) satisfied with the drug, but they wanted to make it even better. They had already designed a micro-chip that could optimize treatment, but they needed an digital platform to tie it all together. Through an exhaustive vetting process, Source One was able to identify the one organization capable of meeting the client's needs. Bringing the two companies together as partners not only resulted in a cutting-edge new product, but produced considerable cost savings. Most crucially, the engagement made it possible for patients around the globe to connect with their doctors and get the best treatment possible.

Procurement doesn't always do a great job of telling its own story. "Talk to other people," De la Garza advised attendees, "communicate your wins and identify ambassadors." He suggests that a little extra effort to market Procurement's full value will make it significantly easier for the function to collaborate with its peers and rise to a more prominent position. After all, "perception is reality."

"Now onto the really depressing part," is quite a way to introduce a presentation. It's also exactly how Sibylline CEO Justin Crump transitioned into his session at today's Procurious Big Ideas Summit in Chicago. He also added one caveat to the statement. "I'm a risk professional," he quipped, "I tend to focus on the negative." Crump centered his sweeping discussion of "the negative" on five key themes. Each area presents Procurement professionals with distinct challenges as well as opportunities to grow, adapt, and elevate their organizations.

They were:

Environment and Resource Use
The desire for huge, global action on environmental issues has gone mainstream. That means that it's become dangerous for organizations to drag their feet. As access to resources like water becomes more strained, Crump predicts we could even see countries go to war over it. In the more near-term, Crump encouraged attendees not to rest on their laurels. While it's easy to dismiss resource scarcity as an issue for another day, business leaders do this at their own peril. Environmental issues were a "slow burn" concern for decades, but things are growing more serious every day.

Re-Alignment of Global Power
The end of the Cold War saw the United States emerge victorious as the world's one and only global superpower. Today, however, "global competition" means that a handful of countries are accelerating toward superpower status while simultaneously doing battle with one another. While the rivalry between China and the U.S. will likely define the first half of our century, Crump expects more and more to join the fight before too long. Things promise to grow more volatile and uncertain as new nations expand their capabilities and begin to act more aggressively on the world stage.

Inter-State and Hybrid Conflict
Hybrid conflict, Crump says, refers to a new kind of warfare. In addition to the traditional methods, organizations can now do battle with one another through technology and "the information space." The threat of cyber attacks and intellectual property theft are "keeping people up at night," and Crump suggests they should be. These global, networked issues, he suggests, require a global, networked response.

Disruptive Technology and Non-State Actors
Crump opened this segment with a question for Summit attendees, "is this an opportunity or a threat?" In short, it's both. Facial recognition tools, for example, are both useful for businesses and potentially harmful to personal privacy. Ethical considerations like this one should dominate conversations around emerging tools for years to come. As eagerness encourages companies and governments to embrace advanced tools, it's essential that we never lost sight of the potential consequences

Policy Flux in Western Economies
You don't have to be a political scientist to see that the "center" of discourse is disappearing. Actors on both the left and right are moving farther and farther in their chosen direction. Crump predicts this increased polarization will play a major role in bringing about the next economic downturn. It's already doing so in many once-stable nations around the world.

Crump concluded with three best practices for maintaining an agile, risk-averse organization:
  • Screen, monitor, map, and assess your suppliers. 
  • Integrate supply chain knowledge into your security/awareness function.
  • Maintain a standardized living risk model with touchpoints and triggers.
It's not enough, Crump asserts, to collect and store information. At the onset of his presentation, Crump reminded Summit attendees that "the best insights in the world is no good if no one acts on it." It's up for Procurement to decide whether they'll become Cassandra, identifying risks to no avail, or distinguish themselves as effective risk management professionals. 

The Procurious Big Ideas Summit got off to an inspiring and provocative start this morning. "Be ready to think different," advised conference Moderator Amanda Prochaska. Her call to action was followed by a presentation from Professor Moran Cerf that certainly inspired each Procurement professional in attendance to do just that. Cerf, a neuroscientist and futurist, offered nothing less than predictions for the future of the human race. Thanks to new technologies, Cerf suggests, we could be among the last humans to think and act the way we do.

Discussions around emerging, artificially intelligent tools tend to focus on the negative, even apocalyptic possibilities. The most dire predictions suggest that machines won't just replace us in the workforce, but could replace us altogether. Though Cerf teaches courses in science fiction screenwriting, his ideas bear little resemblance to the alarmist films and texts that have made AI a scary idea. His presentation focused instead on the power technology has to supplement the human mind and body, to help them both overcome limitations, and bring us to a new stage in our evolution. If that sounds to you like something out of Limitless, you're not far off. Cerf was a consultant on the short-lived television adaptation of the film.

In the past, evolution and intelligent design were seen as incompatible ideas. Their conflict is at the heart of debates between religion and science. Cerf suggests, however, that they will soon come together as humans become the "intelligent designers" of their own ongoing evolution. As an example, Cerf points to the limitations of the human eye. Even with so-called "perfect vision" it sees just one ten trillionth of everything that's out there. New technologies promise to change this. We've already confirmed, Cerf remarks, that technology like cochlear implants and bionic limbs can replace senses that have been lost. Soon humans will enjoy access to senses they never had before.

"Sensory addition," as Cerf calls it, is already possible in the business world. Procurement professionals use it every day when they leverage data to drive their decision making. Recognizing patterns to gain insights, they supplement their own powers of cognition to take more strategic action. The human brain, he remarks, is already accustomed to recognizing signals and letting them drive decision making. It's how we learn to walk, talk, and make use of our senses - and that's just the beginning.

The relationship between man and machine, Cerf reminds attendees, is not one-sided. That's part of what makes its future so exciting. "Neuroscientists," Cerf says, "are working to determine what human brains do better than machines and vice versa." In time, they will arm professionals with the best of both world. Procurement professionals everywhere will use a combination of human reasoning and digital capabilities to evolve both themselves and their businesses.

It's not true that human beings use just a fraction of their brains. What is true, however, is that 100% of our brainpower is no longer enough. If Cerf is correct, future generations might look back on us and believe that we really had been using just a small portion of our abilities.


Digital nomads are a type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles. This is often accomplished through the use of devices that have wireless Internet capabilities such as smartphones or mobile hotspots [10].
As I am a Digital Nomad, I can personally attest to how wonderful Digital Nomadism can be. Unfortunately, the virtues of Digital Nomadism and operational objectives are not always be aligned so infrastructure and collaboration tools are an exceedingly important consideration when managing resources this way. As a manager and decision-maker for a group that utilizes Digital Nomads, I must take into consideration the processes and technologies that are necessary to drive efficiency gains while simultaneously considering their implications on the people involved in them.

Throughout the remainder of this blog I am going to focus on some of the considerations that are necessary for supporting a group of Digital Nomads that perform resource intensive computational work, such as Deep Learning. It is worth noting that many of the talking points that will follow are equally relevant to supporting a group that performs software development or data analytics with the likely exception of GPU considerations. Whether you are a decision maker for one of these groups, or a procurement professional supporting such a group, hopefully find this to be a useful guide.

A Quick Detour

Deep Learning, Machine Learning, and All The Fun Stuff

Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning. It focuses on developing and implementing algorithms that are inspired by the structure and function of the brain. According to Andrew Ng, the idea behind deep learning is that we may use brain simulations to:
  • Make learning algorithms much better and easier to use.
  • Make revolutionary advances in machine learning and AI. 
These algorithms are called artificial neural networks. Deep learning has become popular because while most learning algorithms eventually reach a plateau in their performance, deep learning is believed to be the first class of algorithms that are scalable. That is, their performance continues improving as you feed them more data (with some caveats that we won't get into here). [11]


When most people discuss computer performance they are usually referring to CPUs. This is appropriate since for most activities, especially multi-tasking, CPUs are a highly important consideration. However, for backend matrix/vector operations such as graphics processing (i.e., playing computer games) and deep learning the GPU is king. A CPU is optimized to fetch small amounts of memory quickly while the GPU is optimized to fetch large amounts of memory not so quickly. One way to visualize the difference is using a squirt gun versus a hose in repeated water fights. The squirt gun can help you get your neighbor wet very quickly at any moment, while the hose can get them much more wet but requires much more time to setup between each fight. This is not to say that CPUs do not matter at all when performing matrix computations. Without a decent CPU one might run into some process bottlenecks.


Getting a bit more into the weeds, GPUs are computer chips that were originally developed for the purpose of rendering images which requires a heavy amount of matrix computation. As such, they have been optimized to perform this task. Coincidentally, deep learning also requires a heavy amount of matrix manipulation and so GPUs have since been re-purposed for the needs of data scientists and machine learning engineers. For a more in depth explanation see this excellent Quora post.

It is important to note that when I say GPU, as of writing this blog I really just mean NVIDIA. The reason for this is historical. NVIDIA's standard libraries made it easy for the first wave of deep learning libraries to be established in CUDA. It is for this reason, along with continued strong community support from NVIDIA, that deep learning capabilities rapidly grew. As of the publication of this blog AMD and Intel are just not truly viable options. See this post for a great analysis on the current state of GPUs.

Other Relevant Hardware

Other components that are necessary to build a deep learning rig include the following:
  • RAM: Random Access Memory. It performs short-term data storage by handling the information you are actively using so that you can access it quickly. You will likely want at least 32GB but your needs are largely defined by your use case - research & state-of-the-art capabilities requires a very different capability than Kaggle research or building a startup.
  • Hard Drive: It handles long-term data storage. You will likely want a solid-state drive (SSD) since it is much faster. If money is a concern a hybrid (SSHD) may be a viable alternative. You will likely want at least 1TB because deep learning datasets can get big.
  • Motherboard: In terms of your CPU, PCIe lanes are an important consideration. However, even more important is your ultimate use case and potential needs around using multiple GPUs. It's important to know your minimally viable considerations, and your long term objectives, since you want to ensure that the combination of your CPU and motherboard supports running the number GPUs that you are planning executing against.
  • Power Supply: You need a power supply that can produce as much power as is being consumed.
  • Case: You need something to put all of the above components in that will appropriately address protection and heat considerations.

Decisions, Decisions

Now that we have established a barebones understanding of the technologies involved in a computationally intensive rig we will simply list the options for deployment within a group that facilitate Digital Nomadism. For a more in depth analysis that provides pros and cons for each I highly recommend [1].


A full-blown piece of hardware that is used for local delivery. Not recommended.


A high-end laptop.

Notebook + Tower

A low-to-mid tier laptop that can be used to run code remotely via the terminal (i.e., SSH-ing) on a piece of hardware.

Notebook + eGPU

A pre-built eGPU that affords plug and play capability.

Notebook + Cloud

A low-to-mid tier laptop that can be used to run code remotely via the terminal (i.e., SSH-ing) on someone else's (AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft, etc.) piece of hardware.


There are both direct and indirect costs associated with all of the options listed above. For instance, consider the opportunity costs and risks. Having a high-end laptop is great because you can run your code anywhere but it will likely come with considerations: a high upfront cost, operational risks if you are accessing data locally, upgrade and maintenance limitations, and probably a hefty weight that makes it less than desirable from a portability perspective. Alternatively, building and deploying your own rig may not be desirable - at least at the beginning - because you now have infrastructure costs and require time allocation towards management and maintenance. This leads one to believe that cloud computing might be preferable but then its highly important to consider how much data you have, costs associated with maintaining it, security risks around managing it, and execution times with your algorithms. In the long run there's a very real chance you'll spend less money not using web services after you've got yourself up and running.

Further Reading

For a better understanding of a logical enterprise approach towards strategic sourcing as it relates to this topic on an enterprise level, it may be useful to refer to some of the following links:
Alternatively, feel free to reach out to Source One's IT & Telecommunications expert David Pastore directly. Finally, for much more in depth reading on the specific topics covered above see the following links:

Works Cited

[1] Monn, Dominic. “Which hardware should I use as a Remote Machine Learning Engineer.” Towards Data Science (blog), 30 May 2018, https://towardsdatascience.com/which-hardware-should-i-use-as-a-remote-machine-learning-engineer-35af52301d3c.

[2] Fortuner, Brendan. “Building your own deep learning box.” Towards Data Science (blog), 12 Feb 2017, https://towardsdatascience.com/building-your-own-deep-learning-box-47b918aea1eb.

[3] Condo, Nick. “Build a Deep Learning Rig for $800.” Towards Data Science (blog), 22 Feb 2017, https://towardsdatascience.com/build-a-deep-learning-rig-for-800-4434e21a424f.

[4] Ragalie, Alex. “Build your own top-spec remote-access Machine Learning rig: a very detailed assembly and installation guide for a dual boot Ubuntu 16.04/Win 10 with CUDA 8 run on i7 6850K with 2x GTX 1080Ti GPUs.” Medium (blog), 2 Nov 2017, https://medium.com/@aragalie/build-your-own-top-spec-remote-access-machine-learning-rig-a-very-detailed-assembly-and-dae0f4011a8f.

[5] Biewald, Lukas. “Build a super fast deep learning machine for under $1,000.” O'Reilly (blog), 1 Feb 2017, https://www.oreilly.com/learning/build-a-super-fast-deep-learning-machine-for-under-1000.

[6] Chen, Jeff. “Why building your own Deep Learning Computer is 10x cheaper than AWS.” Medium (blog), 15 July 2019, https://medium.com/the-mission/why-building-your-own-deep-learning-computer-is-10x-cheaper-than-aws-b1c91b55ce8c.

[7] “Deep learning workstation 2018-2019 buyer's guide. BIZON G3000 deep learning devbox review, benchmark. 5X times faster vs Amazon AWS.” Bizon-Tech (blog), 10 Oct 2019, https://bizon-tech.com/blog/buyers-guide2018-bizon-g3000-gpu-deeplearning-workstation-review-benchmarks-5xtimes-faster-aws.

[8] Chen, Jeff. “How to build the perfect Deep Learning Computer and save thousands of dollars.” Medium (blog), 15 July 2019, https://medium.com/the-mission/how-to-build-the-perfect-deep-learning-computer-and-save-thousands-of-dollars-9ec3b2eb4ce2.

[9] Chen, Jeff. “Why your personal Deep Learning Computer can be faster than AWS and GCP.” Medium (blog), 15 July 2019, https://medium.com/the-mission/why-your-personal-deep-learning-computer-can-be-faster-than-aws-2f85a1739cf4.

[9] Chen, Jeff. “Why your personal Deep Learning Computer can be faster than AWS and GCP.” Medium (blog), 15 July 2019, https://medium.com/the-mission/why-your-personal-deep-learning-computer-can-be-faster-than-aws-2f85a1739cf4.

[10] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Digital Nomad," (accessed August 8, 2019), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_nomad

[11] Huang, Xin. “Andrew Ng: Deep Learning, Self-Taught Learning and Unsupervised Feature Learning.” YouTube video, 45:46. May 13, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1ViNeWhC24

With the global supply chain only growing in scope and significance to world trade, it should come as no surprise that it's a center for significant investment these days. However, the sheer volume of that influx of dollars - into both operations and research for future innovation - may be stunning even to those well-versed in the ins and outs of daily operations.

As of early September, supply chain and logistics startups had reaped some $12.47 billion in funding in 2019, and are on pace to exceed the $13.59 billion total of 2018, according to new research from CB Insights. That gives the industry nearly an entire quarter to surpass the sector's all-time investment high. Moreover, it appears the number of dollars per investment deal made is on the rise, because only 416 such agreements had been made through Sept. 9. That was down from 520 last year (also a record), and it may be more difficult to bridge that gap than the dollar value.

Before 2018, the previous high for deals was 454, set in 2017. In terms of sheer dollars, it was about $9.06 billion, observed in 2016, the report said.

More investment for supply chain innovation is on the way.More investment for supply chain innovation is on the way.
On the ground
One major investment in the idea of supply chain innovation comes in Chicago, where the global shipping titan DHL recently opened a new facility to teach partners about the latest and greatest in logistics tech, according to Supply Chain Dive. The company's Innovation Center, which measures some 28,000 square feet, includes everything from the use of automated vehicles and robots to broader application for devices in the internet of things.

"Chicago was picked as the location for the Innovation Center for two main reasons," Gina Chung, the head of Innovation Americas for DHL, told Supply Chain Dive. "One is just Chicago's relevance in the logistics industry and the logistics ecosystem in North America; [it is a] gateway for road freight and for rail freight here in the U.S. so there's a lot of rich logistics history, as well as the current logistics operations taking place here."

In addition to learning what's available, companies will also be able to talk with DHL experts about their own unique problems so they can either find the solutions that work for their specific issues, or kick ideas to tackle later up the corporate ladder, the report said. The hope is that, within the next five years or so, there will be greater implementation of digital technologies from companies at every step of the supply chain.

What comes next?
Experts note that with increased digitization not only comes easier use of existing tech, but also the potential for even greater efficiency, according to Supply Chain Brain. The reason why is simple: Right now, the artificial intelligence systems that examine supply chains have huge gaps in their knowledge because there aren't enough companies providing the necessary data to make more effective, actionable decisions. With more information becoming available, broader applications for AI and the suggestions these systems make could revolutionize the global supply chain.

As such, those within the industry would be wise to continually monitor the new developments that come along as funding of innovation only picks up speed.

This blog comes to us from Kelly Barner, Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point. It originally appeared on All Things Supply Chain

“Some executives used to think of procurement as the place you send staff away in order to never see them again.” ~ Carlos Mena, Remko van Hoek, Martin Christopher, Leading Procurement Strategy: Driving Value Through the Supply Chain

In the past, and as the quote opening this post suggests, it was not uncommon for a career in procurement to be an assignment rather than a choice. I didn’t choose a career in procurement, and the same is true of many of my colleagues all the world over. But things have changed.

Procurement has engaged in a multi-year journey to ‘transform’ into bigger, smarter, faster, better version of ourselves. Procurement has received constructive criticism in droves: “You’re too slow.” “You’re too strict.” “You don’t understand what the business needs.” At times it was crushing or infuriating to remain open to this (often unsolicited) feedback. One thing we can’t say, however, is that procurement was paralyzed by it.

We streamlined our processes. We upgraded our technology. We developed category expertise or found consultants that could deliver it quickly and cost effectively. In some cases, we even provided the business with direct access to procurement solutions so they could make their own sourcing decisions. We’ve been a flurry of activity, branching out in new directions and boldly facing new challenges.

And a funny thing happened while we were making all of these changes; transformed procurement became an identity, one that we own and are proud of because we built it ourselves. Bright, energetic young professionals are choosing procurement for themselves, and those of us who have been around for a while are seizing the opportunity to be more innovative and value oriented.

But what about our skills? Most of what you read about procurement transformation suggests that part of making the transformation possible is formal training and development. It might even include recruiting new team members who are better suited to this brave new world than existing employees. I disagree. I believe that the very skills required to stage a transformation are the same ones that procurement needs to thrive afterwards.

Multi-form Communication

Selling the executive team on the need for a transformation is no easy feat. For procurement to pull this off, we need to excel in speaking, listening and reading others’ body language. We must be able to interact well in person and virtually with different levels of internal colleagues as well as strategic supply partners.

Influence & Execution

Before you can become influential you have to get things done, but the inverse is true as well. It is very hard to get things done without influence. Procurement has been slowly but steadily climbing through the ranks, especially since the Great Recession of 2008-2009. We’ve held on to the improved reputation we earned as a result of our cost containment efforts, and have used it to open doors and sway enterprise opinions on increasingly important decisions.

Strategy & Vision

It is one thing to be strategic, but it is another to dream up your own visionary plan to work towards. This requires creativity and an appreciation for the true potential value that procurement and supply chain can offer. As our vision for transformed procurement has become clearer, we’ve been able to put various strategies in place to make it a reality… sooner rather than later.

Closing Thoughts

Many of the traditional skills required to work in procurement (i.e. sourcing, analysis, negotiation, supplier performance management) are easy to learn or have been automated. Not having them is no longer a barrier to earning a strategic position in the function, nor is having them a guarantee of a job. Instead, broadly capable candidates, ones who chose to apply their many talents to procurement, are transforming the talent landscape with their presence. As long as procurement can stay hungry and keep the transformational mindset central to our efforts, we will continue to attract the best and brightest because we are their equals.

Which returns us to our focal question: can a tactical procurement team transform itself or does strategic talent need to be in place first?

ICYMIM: September 16th, 2019

Source One's series for keeping up with the most recent highlights in procurement, strategic sourcing, and supply chain news week-to-week.  Check-in with us every Monday to stay up to date with the latest supply management news.

How Risks and Technology are Reshaping the CFO Role
Elaine Morris Roberts, Spend Matters, 9/10/2019
Advancing technology is allowing the CFO role to evolve with it. Rather than focus on tedious tasks that can now be performed in more tech-savvy ways, CFOS can focus on predicting and assessing results. Elaine Roberts explains how risk technology is giving CFOs more power and knowledge to strategize smarter.

Outsource Your Culture to Speed up Digital Transformation
Graham Fell, Future of Sourcing, 9/11/2019
With the right tech decisions, culture advancements have the power to speed up digital transformation. It is predicted that by 2021, CIOs will be responsible for these cultural changes and seeing that their company culture reflects their digital growth. Graham Fell emphasizes the importance of elevating culture during this digital renaissance period.

Charting A New Journey With Shared Services 
Alec Kasuya, Future of Sourcing, 9/05/2019
Those who want the competitive advantage of automation will find that shared service centers (SSCs) are a valuable tool to invest in. Todays's shared services have proved to be innovative and strong as they overcome 5G infrastructure challenges and double down on global business services. Alec Kasuya shares his insight on the exciting future of shared services and some after-effects to look out for.  

The current indecision and uncertainty swirling around the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union has global markets on edge. The economic power of the U.K. makes it an important part of many global supply chains, and the fact that it's not clear what comes next in its ongoing Brexit drama leaves lots of lingering questions.

Given the long runway a U.K. withdrawal from the EU has necessitated, companies at various steps of the supply chain have had plenty of opportunity to strategize for just about any kind of outcome, according to Venture Beat. The same has been true, in large part, of the unpredictable changes to tariffs between the U.S. and China, but Brexit poses a unique problem because of the number of potential different paths forward.

Brexit could have a major impact on global supply chains.Brexit could have a major impact on global supply chains.
What's almost guaranteed as part of this entire process, however, is companies can expect products to be delayed for longer as they enter or exit the U.K., and already many within the country are stockpiling inventories - at higher costs to themselves, the report said. Consequently, many businesses may benefit from taking a holisitic look at their operations and determining the best path forward for every decision from a negotiated leave, or a no-deal Brexit that creates potentially major problems.

Where it stands
Currently, the nation is on track to pull out of the EU at the end of October, potentially with no deal to do so in place, according to Bloomberg News. The U.K. is now issuing warnings about the potential fallout from such a decision, including the risk of running short of fuel, food and even clean water. Consequently, prices are likely to rise - possibly by considerable margins - and such issues could be exacerbated by the arrival of colder weather in late autumn and early winter (which requires more use of electricity and fossil fuels), as well as food demand spiking around the holiday season.

Currently, the U.K. government estimates wait times at its ports could at least double on the first day after exiting the EU, creating a backlog that could last as long as six months, the report said. During that time, drug imports in particular could slow to a crawl, and potentially increase prices dramatically. Even financial services are expected to be impacted by a no-deal Brexit.

What can be done?
Right now, the U.K. gets about 40% of all its food from the EU or trade deals negotiated through it, and while the government expects shortages to be limited in scope, they will likely persist nonetheless, according to The Grocer. However, those in the food supply chain may have difficulties predicting how to react because shortages around a Brexit in October or January likely wouldn't be as impactful as one later in the new year, such as March.

The more companies can do to strategize for just about any type of Brexit - regardless of when it happens in the next several months - the better off they will be to navigate the supply chain snags that are almost guaranteed to come with it.
In a tech-enabled era, direct mail can look like something out of the past. Research suggests, however, that a tangible, physical piece of marketing collateral is more likely to generate a response than an email.

Want to ensure your next direct mail reaches and inspires the right audience? Check out the infographic below for some tips. 

Your supply chain management (SCM) team needs market intelligence to assess how it's performing, how the competition is performing, and how the business can better gain a competitive advantage. This information is crucial and will help you manage spend and supplier relationships more strategically. 

 In Part I of our series Market Intelligence Series, we discussed the various skills each individual on your team should possess to identify and assess data effectively. Once you’ve found your dream team, you’re going to need to determine what exactly you are trying to find. Market intelligence will help you get a better hold on your own company, your competitors, and your industry as a whole. That’s a lot to cover-- and it's part of why market intelligence comes in many forms.

Your data could come in the form of global market data, industry benchmarking information, or an overall assessment of current market pressures and risk factors. In any event, you’re going to need to identify which metrics will be most relevant to your project at that specific time.

Today we’ll discuss how you can determine the right criteria. You want to establish metrics that will keep track of how your current strategy is performing and resonate with stakeholders across the business. The metric-establishing cycle should look as follows:

1.      Identify what methods you will you use to examine your data.
2.      Analyze these methods to see how they will play out.
3.      Apply the proposed methods.
4.      Continue to develop methods for testing hypotheses to predict results.

Because different initiatives call for different definitions of success, you should expect that your metrics will fluctuate from project to project. You will also have different types of metrics within a single project. There are two major types of metrics: hard metrics and soft metrics.

Hard metrics are used to measure tangible things; usually, it involves quantitative data that can be easily visualized. A typical example of hard metrics would be actual hard dollar savings projections or the measure of how long a product took to be produced this quarter versus a past quarter.
  • Were we able to sell more of product A or product B?
  • Did it carry out a process more quickly than usual or more slowly?

Soft metrics are used to measure more subjective and indirect results. Soft metrics do not consist of hard statistics and are usually harder to obtain and envision. An example would be an analysis of a product’s end result.
  • Will talking this action help our corporate reputation?
  • Do we think embarking on that partnership will increase our opportunities for innovation down the road?
Determine what goals you have, and the best way to measure the achievement of said goals. After you establish that plan, your unique strategy will contain a combination of both hard and soft metrics. There is no universal equation, so if you follow these best practices and notice that your data points look different from another project, don’t panic. You’re probably customizing appropriately which means you’re one step ahead of the game. 

Establishing the proper metrics for each project is essential for productivity. If you fail to measure the effectiveness of a strategic approach, you run the risk of wasting time and using methods that just are not working for your company. Or worse, you’re overlooking the most valuable lines of attack your team has produced. You don’t want to under utilize a strong plan and overplay a weak one. See that your team is properly gauging the success of your projects and consistently generating ideal results.

Now that you know what characteristics to look for in your team and what metrics to look for in your data. Stay tuned for the third installment of the Market Intelligence series. We're going to focus on how to ask all of the right questions.