November 2019

The Strategic Sourceror has served as a resource for supply chain professionals since 2008 and covers anything from procurement transformation to packaging specifics. You can access any of our categories from our header, but we wanted to put a little something extra together for you. In this series, we're giving you a list of our top blogs of all time and we're going to give them to you per area of expertise. This is a perfect opportunity for those getting an introduction to Procurement and Supply Chain Management to familiarize themselves with the hottest topics in the space.

In this edition, we'll focus on is Data Science.

1. Predictive Analytics and the Future of Spend Management Small mishaps and tiny lapses in communication can lead to big profit losses that did not need to happen. Humans aren’t perfect and significant information can easily slip through the cracks. Luckily, predictive technology can catch some of our mistakes and provide us with a safety net for technical errors. Joe Payne explains why and how predictive analytics can elevate the spend management field. 

Cognitive Procurement is not to be confused with cognitive computing; it’s more human-focused. Imagine taking the most tedious tasks in your supply chain and outsourcing those tasks to a robot who can do it faster and more accurately. You could free up time for human capital to work its magic where it really matters. Samantha Hoy demonstrates how cognitive procurement can free up resources and allow Procurement teams to flourish. 

You cannot realize full cost savings potential without conducting regular spend analyses. There are endless benefits and financial visibility is a big one. When it comes to cost-cutting, the data you obtain from a spend analysis will prove highly effective. Here are four key steps to take to perform a sound spend analysis.

Are you getting tired of thoughtlessly paying marketing invoices that you’re not even sure are worth the funds? You should be able to tag intrinsic value to every dollar you employ. Avoid blind spending by conducting a spend analysis in every corner of the supply chain, especially marketing. 

Procurement is changing in so many ways, and as a field that’s almost reliant on data, the evolution of data science is highly relevant. Informed decisions are made from data observations so it is key for teams to stay up to date with the technology of it all. This blog, authored by James Patounas, begins a series of posts relating to data science and its application in Procurement. 

If you’re regularly performing a spend analysis on your supply chain, you’re used to the traditional industry classification taxonomies (SIC, UNSPSC, NAICS). But are these taxonomies the best classification systems for Procurement to use? Corcentric’s Spend Analysis Expert, Brian Seipel, and Data Scientist, James Patounas argue that another method could be more effective in this podcast with Kelly Barner of Buyers Meeting Point. 

Don’t let the overwhelming availability of data software scramble your team’s desktops. You need data to manage business functions, you don’t need it to confuse your data and ultimately, compromise your operational success. Master Data Management (MDM) is a system that allows business and IT departments to work fluidly. Here are three major benefits to an MDM program. 

Is your procurement team working effectively? Ineffectively? Do you even know? Every department needs a method to measure their performance and Procurement can be a tricky function to evaluate. In this podcast, Corcentric’s S2P team is delivering five key procurement metrics to keep track of. 

Procurement has come a long way since its mainly tactical stereotype in the ’80s. Today, the procurement function employs far more advanced cost reduction strategies and even goes far beyond simply cutting expenses. The space must ensure that Procurement professionals are evolving with the field. James Patounas explains a few concepts that Procurement experts should keep in mind to stay sharp. 

By now, you know the unending value of Big Data and its ability to reveal patterns, trends, or associations you might not have noticed otherwise. The concept, however, can be a little overwhelming for some companies as they wonder how they will obtain all the right data and where. Data scientist, James Patounas, makes the argument for using Qlik Sense, an associative analytics engine with multi-cloud capabilities. The dynamic flow of data on this platform might be the answer to your Big Data questions. 

Check out some of our other "Greatest Hits" lists:
Procurement Transformation

The topic of recycling is not new, but as many nations become wealthier, environmental impact and sustainability come into focus, forcing us to find innovative ways to deal with waste. To help understand waste, we can classify it in two main categories: Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable.
Both of these categories can either be liquids or solids, for purposes of simplicity I will focus on the solids, as this is what we commonly interpret as waste.
Some examples of biodegradable waste include food, vegetation, and manure. On the other hand, non-biodegradables include plastics, metals, and glass.

Societies that become wealthier tend to produce more waste, and the type of waste shifts to include more non-biodegradable waste. A positive side of the effect of wealth on waste is the increase of collection rates, adequate waste disposal sites causing waste to be processed and treated in a sanitary form, as well as establishing robust recycling programs that bring the idea of sustainability closer.
A particular type of waste that sparks this blog is technological waste; with the rise of the ever changing and upgrading technology, it is common to find old printers, screens, cellphones and other electronics at home; if we take a look at businesses, then these obsolete components can be increased tenfold or more. I can’t deny I enjoy having the latest technology or gadget, and neither can businesses that are depending on the last innovations for a competitive advantage, but this means that the electronic predecessors we are replacing have to go somewhere. Unfortunately, because of a lack of education or interest, much of this electronic waste is ending up polluting landfills or other natural areas.

Today’s reality is that resources are limited, meaning we will not be able to sustain the demand for ever unless we find a way to replace this limited resources, with such a constraint in human progress, how is it that we are not paying more attention to taking the right steps forward and making sure the proper incentives are in place to cause a transformation on our habits?
Part of solving this problem is to start asking ourselves some basic questions like what measures can we take to make sure we start resolving this ever-growing issue? What sort of thinking is needed to make sure we take care of an increasing demand for electronic products in a sustainable fashion?
Some innovative minds are talking about the Circular Economy or Closed Loop Economy; this is an old practice that benefits from already created products to produce or enhance new ones, meaning that waste is reduced considerably while also generating economic sense. An equilibrium of maximizing profits and generating positive externalities for the environment and societies might be the key to answering the sustainability dilemma.

Today we extract, produce, use and dispose of many products, particularly in the technology side. These products have particular metals and other components that with the right technology could be salvaged at a fraction of the cost that it would require to mine them again. These metals and components could become economic incentives for manufacturing companies, generating as a result a rich new environment where communities would be enabled to reinvent themselves, innovate and create complementary businesses that focus on the maintaining & prolonging life aspects, reusing & redistributing elements, refurbishment & remanufacturing, and recycling components.

Just as an example, look at reutilization of batteries; in your life you have probably moved AA batteries from a camera or other fancy gadget to a remote control (especially if you lived through the 90’s), so why did you do that? Because you felt that exhausted AA batteries from the camera probably still had some energy to power the remote control or because you had no more AA batteries? Hopefully it was because of the first reason. Regardless, when you look at the new technology in batteries, we can apply the same principle of the remote control, these batteries should allow you to reuse them for other applications, for example reutilizing batteries from electric cars to home energy storage would be a good way of extending the batteries life for multiple years.

If we are able to find similar situations with other components and with more frequency, then we are already in the right track. If businesses have the right incentives to help avoid electronic products from becoming waste, auxiliary or complementary companies would have to follow suit, making a business ecosystem of circular manufacturing that can self-sustain and benefit us all.

We should all take part in helping sustainability, even if what you do it once in a while, it is still adding to the effort. So take some time to reflect and re-think some ideas that you might have regarding reutilizing your own technology waste, maybe you will stumble with your own brand new business.

This guest blog comes to us from Megan Ray Nichols of Schooled by Science.

Procurement's evolution is occurring more quickly than ever as organizations in every industry move into a digital era. That's a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, digitization promises to make processes more efficient and insights much easier to generate. On the other, the promise of all those benefits sometimes gives Procurement's unrealistic expectations. Many teams forget that they'll  it requires adoption by all involved parties, including partners and vendors.

When making an argument for digitizing processes and systems, procurement specialists will almost always contend with a certain degree of resistance from other stakeholders. It's important to remind them that - after a digital transformation - data will become the new fuel of the organization, influencing every working facet of the business - not just Procurement.

Why Digitize Procurement?
Historically, the procurement field is behind the curve when it comes to adopting many newer, data-driven solutions and technologies. Lately, more organizations have begun to realize the value of digitization and now have some plan of action either prepared or already in motion. The majority of businesses expect they'll realize a full digital transformation within the next several years.

The swath of data that becomes available as a result of digitization means vastly improved opportunities and productivity. In a time when the competition is increasing exponentially, digitized and more informed spend management solutions could offer savings anywhere from 5-25%.

Data that was previously unavailable or unknown suddenly becomes transparent for all. Analytics tools can help parse and extract more in-depth insights to inform future operations. Plus, with the right solutions, an entire network of procurement platforms can be automated and simplified.

While digitization certainly sounds promising, it’s not an easy transition to make. Here are some essential things to keep in mind that will help during the digitization process.

1. Efficiency Is King
For the most part, innovative and technology-oriented upgrades will provide a series of productivity improvements that warrant the cost of adoption. These efficiency improvements signal the true value of digitization. Therefore, every plan, event and change must push the operation toward a faster market-to-cash cycle.

If those improvements aren’t happening, then the team needs to return to the drawing board. Digitization is highly beneficial, but there are a lot of moving parts, and things can go wrong. Some changes may not be worth the buy-in, depending on the value that’s returned — in this case, how much efficiency improves.

2. Improve What You Can
Before deploying a large-scale digitization strategy, it might be better to start small and experiment with existing processes. It not only helps you learn the ins and outs of technology, but also shows what customization options are available.

For example, procurement audits come with the territory and are necessary for smooth operations. Why not develop a system that ingests related data and performs a continuous, real-time review throughout the scope of a project? Big data technologies and machine learning are more than capable of handling such a thing. Review the audit process to see where you can implement new technologies to streamline the process.

3. Self-Service Will Improve Data Management
One fantastic element of data-driven and modern technologies is the opportunity to automate and simplify complex operations. Real-time data can inform a controls system the entire way and allow for more nuanced adaptations. With the help of machine learning and AI, procurement systems can be heavily automated.

Automated networks are more about simplifying tasks and opening up self-service opportunities. Buyers and suppliers want to see easily integrated systems, with comprehensive access, that guide them through the process without considerable input.
The solutions provide a single interface or platform for conducting business and also compile all interactions and relationships. This allows for a more organized and better-managed system.

4. Set Your Priorities
Digital procurement solutions are powerful tools, but they're also often overwhelming. The market is so broad, solutions o robust that you need to choose a focus as early as possible and stick with it. Select what processes and systems you’re looking to improve upon and know what kinds of tools you’re going to use to get there.

The general approach is to use massive amounts of data to inform operations, but there are so many tools and solutions on the market that will do this. It also means you should be looking at opportunities for improvement, as opposed to merely choosing a device based on its reputation or features. The items should always complement the upgrades you’re looking to make, not the other way around.

5. Give It Time
As you transform existing processes and apply new solutions or technologies, the organization will start to realize some change. However, not everything is going to happen overnight. It takes time to see an investment not only come to fruition but also to generate returns — and the same is true here. It will take some time to create value through digital and data-driven processes. Out of 91% of German manufacturers that have invested in digitization, only 6% consider their operations entirely digitized.

The downside to it is that it will also take time to see whether or not a strategy is lucrative. It may take even longer to make adjustments. That’s why planning out a digitization strategy well in advance is always necessary.

Of the long list of Procurement's to-do, reducing Tail Spend costs doesn't often make the list of top priorities.

Defined as spend that occurs off-contract or is not actively managed, Tail is often viewed as low value. In other words, in the grand scheme of sourcing and cost reduction initiatives, it is overlooked. With increasing pressure on sustained savings, mature procurement teams are giving tail spend another, longer look. In our experience, Corcentric clients are taking their approach to spend management a step further. Beyond tackling indirect and direct spend, they're challenging the preconceived notion of this "low value" spend to drive visibility, reduce (and even eliminate) transactions costs, and implement opportunities for sourcing savings.

Taking charge of Tail Spend, isn't without it's challenges - especially in regards to data quality and its management. Spend analyses are a significant undertaking for categories that are well managed, let alone spend that occurs sporadically across an organization via p-cards and other methods. Misspellings, duplicate data, and missing data linkages all make for a lengthy process of cleansing and categorization.  Other challenges include:

  • Limited Systems Integration: Inadequate integration between procurement and contract management systems makes identifying off-contract / non-contracted data difficult.  
  • Complexity: Tail Spend is often characterized by its high number of sub-categories, sheer volume of line items, and a substantial number of suppliers. 
  • Silos: Decentralized purchasing practices, policies, and processes also contribute to rogue and tail spend. Gathering the spend data from disparate operating systems requires significant effort, resources, and time. 

Despite these challenges, companies who are able to tackle their Tail reap the rewards from cost reduction, cost avoidance, and increased contracted spend to the standardization of purchasing processes across the business, and increase in supplier relationship management. How they're able to make this happen varies on the size of the company and the maturity of their procurement organization.

On December 9th, Corcentric's Anthony Mignogna will lead a conversation on answering Effectively Managing Tail Spend during Consero's Procurement and Sourcing Forum. Leading a panel of Procurement leaders from companies such as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Herman Miller, Venanpri Tools Group, and more, to cover what more can be done regarding tail spend. Panel attendees will walk away with lessons learned in both what to do and what not to do when addressing this area of spend, and the available tools to enable success.

We live in a global community, meaning everything from our toothbrush to our cell phones has a global footprint. With the advent of the internet and newer technologies in the workplace, it’s easier than ever to witness this global footprint in action. While this undoubtedly has created ease of access for most everything we use in our daily lives, this has also created some larger business implications – and complications. While GDPR may not be directly tied to these newer technologies, the way these technologies disseminate and transfer information certainly is.
In May of 2018, The General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679, or GDPR, went into effect, and brought with it a new set of challenges for global organizations. GDPR is a set of regulations for organizations in the European Union and European Economic Area focused on the protection and transfer of personal data outside the EU. But, GDPR affects more than just organizations in the EU or EEA.

Imagine you are a mid-sized company headquartered in the eastern US. Most, if not all, of your clients or customers are located within North America. Sounds like GDPR won’t have much of an impact on your daily operations, right? Not quite. Let’s say as part of your core business, you have to contract with suppliers in the UK and these contracts require access to names and numbers of their employees, aka UK citizens.  Now, suddenly, GDPR has reared its ugly head into your operations. Failure to adhere to these regulations can have not only financial implications such as sanctions or penalties, but also a reputational impact if vendors catch wind that you have a less-than-stellar track record with GDPR compliance. Fret not, there are things you can do to protect yourself from any foreign liability. Better still, your Procurement organization may actually be able to lead this effort.

Here are some tips you can incorporate into your current process to help mitigate any potential risks:

Know the Scope

When you contract with a supplier, make sure you are asking the right questions. The definition of PII, or Personally Identifiable Information, can vary from organization to organization. For protection, however it is often advisable to treat all information as important and critical. If you are unsure the level or detail of information you will be sharing, ask! 

Use Your Resources

While most supplier contracts can be handled by your Procurement team or subject matter experts, e.g. Purchase Orders, Pricing Agreements, etc., don’t be afraid to tap into your legal resources. Most legal teams function as a precautionary function, so engaging them early on allows them to better do their job. In an instance when PII is being shared, a Data Processing Agreement, or DPA, is necessary to detail the levels or protections and procedures for any personal data being shared. Simply an NDA will not cover your interests. Your legal teams should be familiar with a DPA, or, at the very least, be comfortable reviewing a supplier’s DPA. If your team doesn’t have a template, ask the supplier if they have one. Most EU suppliers should have a template ready for engagements involving PII. If they don’t, this may be a red flag that their organization isn’t very mature and might not be the best fit.

Trust Your Process or Establish the Right Process

If you have an established Procurement process with detailed instructions or policies for everyone in your organization to follow, make sure to not only follow that process, but trust that process. The reason we put processes in place is to protect your organization’s interest and reduce any potential risks. If your process calls for a Third Party Risk Assessment, don’t skip this step. If your process calls for a legal review of certain contracts, be transparent with your legal partner and let them know the international element. But, beyond just trusting your partners, be sure to educate your team on the importance of GDPR compliance and flag any issues. If your process is already defined and established, then hopefully these items are already being captured. But, if you’re gearing up for a Procurement Transformation or looking to redefine your processes, now is the time to establish policies surrounding supplier selection (through the RFx process or negotiations), SRM, TPRM, and/or Legal review to safeguard your organization from some of these risks.

Whether your Procurement organization is in its infancy or advanced age, the team can help spearhead any efforts with GDPR and compliance by maintaining a strong Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) system and effective Procurement best practices. If your Procurement organization has established a full procure-to-pay  or source-to-pay model, or even a process that dictates when and how to engage Procurement, it’s safe to assume this team has insight into what vendors you’re currently contracting with and the scope of these contracts and projects. If not, Corcentric has a host of offerings that can help establish and stand up your Procurement organization or help improve or restructure your current process.

There is no one-size-fits-all model to guarantee you are in compliance with GDPR, but by exploring your Procurement process and understanding the role it plays within your organization can reduce your chances of being non-compliant. If your process needs to be reworked or revamped, now is the time to visit how your organization handles GDPR and other similar regulations. A strong and well-defined process can drastically reduce any potential for gaps. Be sure to visit Corcentric for a list of offerings we currently provide that can help not only improve your Procurement organization’s functions, but better protect you from unforeseen consequences.

This guest blog comes to us from Megan Ray Nichols of Schooled by Science

Choosing the right procurement strategy is vital for completing construction projects. Every project, whether in the public or private sector, is different. What they all have in common is the desire to deliver outstanding results.

That means taking procurement strategy seriously is crucial for success in this industry. So what are some popular procurement strategies — and when does it make sense to use them? Here’s a closer look at where procurement stands today.

Why The Right Procurement Strategies Are Essential in Construction

According to research, as many as 90% of building projects undertaken in the public sector come in over budget or fail to meet their deadlines.

Why is it so critical to have a procurement strategy? For one, it means you have established processes in place for dealing with setbacks, such as kinks in the supply chain. For another, it helps avoid cost overruns and rework as the site takes shape. Last-minute procurement problems are costly. So are delays. Having a clear strategy allows you to manage risk more effectively.

Procurement managers have more options for strategizing and carrying out procurement than they might imagine. They also have considerable influence over the timeliness and cost-effectiveness of a project. Procurement skills and the right strategy are only going to get more crucial as every industry on earth grows more complex and competitive.
So, what are some procurement strategies and tips worth considering in construction? Here are five.

1. Employ the Design-Bid-Build Strategy

You might call this the “traditional” approach to procurement. Even so, it’s worth exploring why it endures and why it works for so many business relationships.

Design-bid-build is advantageous for the owner or owners because it clearly defines the project’s scope, budget and timeline. This approach brings in contractors who are qualified or believe they’re qualified to take on the work as outlined. There are some drawbacks, of course.

By and large, procurement managers instructed to operate this way will choose the lowest bid from the lineup. It is a positive thing for the builder, and it may not have any downsides in projects that are well-understood at every level, from land use and engineering to design. But it’s potentially not that great a match for more specialized projects where there may be surprises along the way that result in work or costs that weren’t specified beforehand.

2. Consider Pre-Qualifying Contractors

Owners who need construction services want to know their money is buying reliable and experienced contractors. Procurement managers know this, which is why the second procurement strategy worth mentioning is pre-qualifying contractors.

The goal with any procurement strategy is to find partners and vendors who can help keep costs and rework low. But if the procurement manager wants more control over the process than the design-build strategy allows or wants to be sure their specialized project gets committed, industry-specific attention and not just the lowest bidder, they can pre-qualify contractors.

Unlike in design-bid-build procurement, pre-qualifying means screening contractors for responsibility and quality before bidding begins — not after the project is underway. Only preferred and vetted contractors get invited to submit bids.

Procurement managers can use any of the usual criteria for pre-qualifying candidates, including their portfolios of relevant work and past performance. The result remains the same: less administrative time wasted and, potentially, less project disruption and rework due to contractors that turn out to be unreliable after securing the bid.

3. Use Job Order Contracting

What do public-sector procurement managers and property managers for apartment complexes have in common? Among other things, one of the tools they sometimes use is job order contracting.

This type of procurement has the benefit of streamlining construction and other types of jobs that are small, happen often and don’t change too radically in scope over time. Job order contracting is a relationship between an owner and contractor where the contractor remains “on call” to respond to job orders for a set of pre-determined work tasks at pre-determined markups for labor, parts and other overhead.

Again, job order contracting is a streamlined approach. Procurement managers enjoy predictable costs and potentially faster timelines, but they don’t necessarily get lower costs.

4. Seek Expertise on New Technologies and Approaches

By most standard definitions, procurement managers are experts at choosing cost-effective contractors, suppliers, business partners, equipment and industrial services.

They excel in the practical and business side of things, such as strategies for keeping costs low. But, 
unless they work at it or the organization encourages it, they are not necessarily well-versed in the latest construction technologies. “It’s always worked before” is a poor excuse to ignore modern construction technologies or opportunities to work with mold-breaking industry partners.
If you’re a procurement manager at a construction company and you need new equipment, it pays to explore new technologies and the benefits and tradeoffs they bring. For instance, some heavy electric equipment delivers higher upfront costs, but with zero emissions and a lower cost of ownership. But they might present a learning curve to management, labor or both.

On the other hand, if you’re a procurement manager looking to do business with a construction company, especially if the project is unusual, it helps to find one with subject matter expertise in cost-, time- and material-saving technologies like digital grade control systems, location awareness and tracking and assistive and remote capabilities.

5. Master It All With Multi-Prime Contracting

Multi-prime contracting is a modern procurement strategy that’s won favor because it can help fast-track projects. Here, the procurement manager draws up separate contracts for each process in the overall project. For instance, there might be separate contracts for electrical installers, plumbers, earth-moving, structural builds or repairs and any number of others.

As the name suggests, multi-prime contracting allows procurement managers to extract the best value from each process. In what is either an upside or a downside, it means they have much more control and responsibility over how the project plays out and how to coordinate everything. The same is true on the owner’s side of things, along with the added possibility of lower costs, thanks to reduced markups and overhead.

Procurement Paves the Way to Success

We imagine you already appreciated the challenge and the importance of procurement in construction. With any luck, you now have a renewed understanding of how central a role it plays and how much variety there is in how you can tackle the corresponding responsibilities and strategies.

As supply chains grow to the point that they stretch across oceans, and a large and ever-growing number of partners are involved, the risk of procurement fraud tends to increase. The fact is that it becomes more difficult to fully understand the provenance of your sourced materials as you incorporate more moving parts into the system, and it's something you have to keep a close eye on.

One of the best ways to tackle the risk of procurement fraud is to make a larger and more concerted effort to collect data from every partner and at every step of your supply chain, according to Spend Matters. Moreover, it requires a careful understanding of procurement rules and regulations from all the countries from which their products are being sourced. Simply put, what constitutes a genuine part or component in one nation may not be considered legitimate in another.

As a result of all these overlapping rules and a general lack of oversight - or indeed, insight - for the entirety of the supply chain, a surprisingly large percentage of companies are victimized by procurement fraud each year, the report said. The resulting problems for their operations combine to cost the global supply chain hundreds of billions annually.

Get a better handle on halting procurement fraud.Get a better handle on halting procurement fraud.
What's the issue?
A large part of the problem when it comes to identifying and stamping out procurement fraud is how people think of fraud in the first place, according to Federal Computer Week. Not all fraud - at least of this type - is necessarily criminal, and certainly doesn't rise to the level of requiring legal proceedings. However, it can nonetheless put companies at risk, both financially and reputationally.

"There is no room for criminal fraud," David Robbins, a federal fraud remedies coordination official and lawyer, told the site."[However,] business mistakes are not criminal events. There is less out-and-out fraud. There is good evidence that industry has become more compliant."

Consequently, ensuring one hand knows what the other hand is doing at each step of the supply chain - by investing in technology that helps better track products throughout - is good practice because it provides companies with peace of mind about deliveries, the report said.  It's also critical to identify issues at the exact time and place where they arose.

What can be done?
When companies are trying to get out in front of these issues, it's not just about better coordination with partners and adherence to all the right rules, because those are big ideas that take a ton of buy-in at every level of your operations, according to Deloitte. Instead, companies would be wise to focus on hiring the right people who can follow the plan and work within a successful culture to meet the company's needs and help identify fraud before it becomes a major issue.

With all this in mind, it's wise for businesses at every step of the supply chain to take a top-down view of their own needs and do more to act against procurement fraud on an ongoing basis.

Corcentric’s S2P team is home to analyst intern, Alexis Martin and we’re proud to announce that she was named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 Scholars for 2019! The program puts diversity and inclusion at the forefront and provides winning students with opportunities to network and exchange professional development at the annual 30 Under 30 Summit.

In late October, Martin attended the Summit in Detroit, Michigan where notable figures such as Serena Williams and Antoni Porowski presented thought leadership and life lessons.

We spoke to Alexis to hear more about her career thus far and her plans for the future. Let’s hear what she had to share:

So you’re currently studying at Drexel University, what has your education journey included so far?

My education journey became unique during the summer after 8th grade. I participated in a leadership program to introduce minorities to technology at the University of Michigan. During this time, we learned the basic concepts of programming and completed non-functional wireframes for an app-based project. I participated in Level 2 of the program at Stanford University where I was introduced to coding the following summer. Subsequently, I registered for a computer science course upon returning to high school.

What’s your major? And what made you interested in technology?

I am pursuing a dual-degree in Information Technology for my Bachelor’s and Cybersecurity for my Master’s. I got an interest in Technology from watching the show Criminal Minds. The character Penelope was always so fascinating to me due to her ability to track people down via her computer. I aspire to one day also be a technical analyst for the FBI so studying IT and Cybersecurity is providing me a solid foundation.

Can you speak to the type of campus involvement you’ve had?

I have been very involved on campus throughout all 5 of my years at Drexel. I served on the executive board of Drexel’s Black Action Committee for 3 years, the executive board of the National Society of Black Engineers for 1 year and I've been a member of the Women in Computing Society for 5 years. I now also serve as a Peer Mentor in the College of Computing and Informatics.

What type of community service has the campus led you to participate in?
Between being the president of DBAC and the Technical Outreach Community chair of NSBE, I have participated in a lot of community service. I helped facilitate a prom dress drive for local high school students, a toiletry drive, soup kitchen volunteering, and candlelight vigils.

Can you talk about some of the professional experiences you’ve gained over the past few years?

I have been blessed to have 3 full-time cooperative education experiences. I worked as a project manager for Cigna, an analyst for Comcast and an internal auditor for Vanguard. Through these experiences, I developed networks and made priceless connections that I would not have achieved from solely learning in a classroom. Furthermore, this experience taught me people skills and how to advocate for myself when needed. Lastly, each company introduced me to new tools like Trello, Decipher, and Fortify. These hands-on experiences will serve me well throughout the rest of my career.

What does it mean to you to be honored as one of Forbes’ Under 30 Scholars?
It means a lot to be honored as a Forbes Under 30 Scholar because it is symbolic of my potential. I appreciate that someone else saw my skillset of innovation, strength, and leadership to send me the exclusive application link. The connections I made at Forbes were divine and I am excited and inspired for my future.

How does your new position as Analyst intern at Corcentric fit into your career path?
This new position as an Analyst intern fits into my career path because I receive projects on the IT side of the company. The experiences here of working with data to find the best options for our clients are fulfilling. We also have a great network of employees here that are supportive of my professional development.

ICYMIM: November 25, 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.

Can B2B Transaction Help Tackle Today's Most Pressing Challenges? 
Paul Polizzotto, Future of Sourcing, 11/22/2019
Corporate social responsibility is becoming less of a want and more of a need as consumers and stakeholders grow more aware of the corporate world's impact on in global matters. Procurement's role in CSR is especially critical as many corporations feel their CSR achievements are stunted by budgetary limitations. Paul Polizzito explains how Procurement teams can use B2B decisions to meet corporate promises to society.

Why Businesses Must Be Aware of Brexit Supply Chain Risks
Phillip Woode, Future of Sourcing, 11/21/2019
The looming Brexit has U.K. supply chains wondering what their future will look like. Procurement teams will play a key role in predicting which business activities will be affected and to what degree. Phillip Woode provides readers with three ways supply chains can respond to a deal or no-deal Brexit and be prepared for a post-Brexit market. 

Three Logistics Lessons Black Friday Can Teach Manufacturers and the Supply Chain
Christina O'Handley, Thomas Net, 11/20/2019
Black Friday is one of the biggest logistical challenges of the year and it's almost year. Because this weekend is a critical sales period for most retailers, manufacturing processes have to be in pristine shape to handle the demand and keep customers happy. Christina O'Handley provides us with three virtues to live by during this hectic shopping holiday. 

In the past few years, it may feel as though the visibility of vegetarian and vegan dining options has exploded, largely due to the popularity of plant-based meat substitutes like Beyond and Impossible brands, among others. As one might imagine, the rollout for such products, which are often on the cutting edge of food science, isn't always easy, and necessitates that the companies behind them invest heavily in a reliable supply chain.

Beyond Meat, for instance, recently announced that it would have to triple the amount of pea protein sourcing it does today to meet ever-growing demand, according to Supply Chain Dive. That decision followed the company's new deals with fast food giants like Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald's, which put its meat substitute products in thousands of locations nationwide, resulting in a year-over-year revenue increase of 250% in the third quarter alone.

Pea protein is key for some meat substitutes.Pea protein is key for some meat substitutes.
To help manage this transition to being a major producer of these next-gen meat substitutes, and with an eye toward expansion to Europe and Asia in 2020, the company brought a new chief operating officer aboard in the third quarter, and says it will try to rely on local sourcing for its products wherever possible, the Supply Chain Dive reported. One analysis of the meat substitute market found that it could see sales of as much as $140 billion over the next 10 years.

"We are not beholden to some cost tied to a traditional industry or to [an] entrenched supply chain," Beyond CEO Ethan Brown said on the company's third-quarter earnings call, according to the site.

A rapid race
At the same time, the competitor Impossible Foods recently started selling its products in grocery stores throughout the U.S., in addition to the roughly 17,000 restaurants that now serve them, according to CNBC. While Impossible has generally found that its supply chain was scalable, the biggest challenge in all the ramping up was having enough people on hand to meet the incredible demand.

To help deal with the rapid pace of upscaling - hardly unique for companies in this sector right now - the company started rapidly hiring in its Oakland production plant, but first enlisted everyone from the C-suite to sales teams to lend a hand just pushing the product out the door, the report said. Many of the people the firm hired didn't necessarily have experience in the food industry, but were instead favored because they previously worked at tech companies and startups that experienced exponential growth, and could relate their experiences to those Impossible was going through.

New approaches needed
With companies needing significantly more plants and favoring options that are locally produced, experts say urban farming may be a key to getting the job done, according to Science Daily. University of Florida researcher Celina Gómez noted that scalable supply chains that provide better food options for such areas, and those around them, are certainly attainable, and would allow for improvements to local economies in addition to reducing food insecurity.

Certainly, these are all issues for companies in food science to consider as they scale up rapidly just to meet extant demand, let alone that they might encounter in the future.

Entering a new decade, Procurement faces a host of new challenges, obstacles, and strategic opportunities. Things have gotten so hectic for Procurement and Supply Chain that the very definition of "complexity" has grown more complex. Mastering complexity doesn't just mean overcoming one challenge. Rather, it means assessing and addressing a number of challenges both within the organization and across its supply chain.

Deloitte's latest CPO Survey suggests that "complexity" is perhaps the one word that defines Procurement's current situation. They identify four kinds of complexity that each organization will need to address in 2020 and beyond.

The 4 Kinds of Complexity

External Complexity: Mastering external complexity means addressing everything "outside the four walls of the organization" that Procurement has to interact with. 2018 and 2019 saw a number of new external risk factors emerge begin to exert pressure. These include the ongoing trade war between China and the United States as well as the misgivings associated with a potential recession. To mitigate external risks, Procurement needs to develop contingency plans and identify opportunities to restructure the supply chain. 

Internal Complexity: These challenges have to do with the relationships between different business units and their priorities. For most of the last decade, Procurement's primary internal challenge was securing buy-in from its peers. The function has been mostly successful. Within most organizations, Procurement is regarded as an effective, valued business partner. Few organizations, however, rate Procurement as an "excellent" partner. According to Deloitte, just 26% of organizations would offer such high praise. CPOs can begin to close this gap by automating tactical processes and freeing Procurement's time to focus on alignment and enablement. 

Talent Complexity: Talent is another area that has challenged Procurement throughout the last decade. Just a fraction of CPOs believe their teams have the skills necessary to deliver on their objectives (let alone organization-wide objectives), but training budgets remain tiny. It's not enough for Procurement to ramp up these investments and hope for the best. The function needs to ensure it aligns its recruitment, on-boarding, and long-term talent management processes to best serve the organization's broader goals. It's also important to start casting a wider net. After all, the definition of Procurement excellence is changing. 

Digital Complexity: It's been a digital decade for Procurement. Nearly half of Procurement teams are already partnering with IT to align on objectives and the function fully intends to realize a digital transformation sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, most organizations' hopes are still vastly outweighing their actual capabilities. A majority of businesses hope to make digital skills a priority during the new decade. As with talent, it's crucial for Procurement to align its digital strategy to support organization-wide goals and serve the entire business. 

Whatever "complexity" has meant for your organization in the past, count on new kinds of complexity to emerge in the new decade. Are you ready to evolve alongside external, internal, talent, and digital risk factors? 

Procurement's Decade Ahead

Check out the rest of our series on the trends and topics that will define Procurement in 2020 and throughout the next decade:

Amazon is turning heads yet again. This time, it is due to their $40 million dollar investment in their robotics hub. Amazon is looking into the future of automation and is working towards expanding their robotic technology.

Their new robotics hub will be located in Westborough, Massachusetts. This new facility is about 350,000 square feet and is set to open in 2021. Their goal of furthering their robotic automation is to increase efficiency, safety, and speed of delivery times, all while decreasing costs. It was stated that Amazon's packaging robots can pack 4-5 times faster than the average human packer. Although these robots have a hefty price tag of about $1 million each, Amazon believes these machines will pay for itself in less than 2 years. Amazon is currently concentrating a lot of their robotic efforts into packaging. This is a pilot, as Amazon looks to grow their use of robots.

Although Amazon primarily uses their robots for packaging, they are also used in other functions of the fulfillment process such as carrying inventory and transferring pallets. In addition to opening a robot friendly warehouse in Westborough, MA, Amazon is in the process of opening a new facility in Garner, NC. This facility is 2 million square feet and has dedicated about 700,000 square feet to its fulfillment center. Although it was not explicitly stated what roles the robots will have, it was mentioned they will retrieve inventory that is on the floor. This will decrease the time and energy spent by workers walking around this massive space, thus increasing efficiency.

Amazon has more than 100,000 robots spread across over 175 fulfillment centers and packaging and sorting facilities worldwide. The number of robots used are set to increase in the near future. Amazon is looking to develop new technologies which expand the tasks the robots are able to do. In addition to retrieving inventory from the floor and packing the products, robots are able to sort, stock, and scan packages.

In the near future, when Amazon significantly increases their robot usage, it will be interesting to see the results of this project. It will also be intriguing to see what capabilities and technologies are installed into these robots.

Picture an organization with dozens of locations, supporting portions of the business, and have no standard operating processes across the board for service requests, incident, and change management, causing inconsistent service levels and redundant services.

Or, perhaps envision a company with a FTE staff overwhelmed by the effort it takes to manage the day to day support of the business critical applications, much less execute on the critical patch releases or upgrades.

Do these scenarios sound familiar?

These are just a few reasons with large IT departments turn to consulting firms such as Source One. Costs can quickly spiral out of control, especially for IT groups within a company equipped with massive application portfolios across their enterprise.

If a company is already outsourcing many of its application support functions to a managed service provider, because of a perceived expertise in a certain area (ERP, HR, Marketing, etc.) the vendor ecosystem may have grown to the point where the soft costs, like contract management, SRM, and SLAs are taking up a large portion of your sourcing and procurement group’s time.

Application management is an expensive proposition. A large company can have thousands of applications at various stages of a lifecycle and keeping them available and running at peak efficiency, especially in an in-house data center is necessary for both internal and external customers. As a result, the expense can be justified as simply a part of doing business.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Outsourcing application support services has been something companies have been doing successfully for years. And I don’t necessarily mean outsourcing to an off-shore facility, although that certainly does happen often. There are hundreds of companies who specialize in this service. Some are recognizable global brands, while others are more niche companies that do specialize in specific support activities like ERP or service desk. The advantage of the large base of vendors is that an organization’s model can be specifically tailored to its needs.

Maybe an organization wants to supplement their regular FTE’s with off-shore support during off-hours so their staff can enjoy their weekend without having to VPN into the office to address and clear an application alarm.

Some companies find it beneficial to have an on-shore/off-shore model where business critical applications receive a certain amount of in-office support while other applications receive support from a remote facility.

In whichever way a company decides to build its application support staff, the benefits can be almost immediate. Consolidating support vendors, eliminating redundant activities, improving customer satisfaction, and streamlining service levels are all wins a company will see, in addition to realizing cost savings.

And, for most, the savings are significant. Source One has seen a minimum of 20% of hard dollar savings on these type of initiatives, and depending on the scope of applications and activities supported, an ROI within 12-18 months.

From a Strategic Sourcing perspective, the RFP that would be issued for an application outsourcing project would be a fairly straightforward document, but only if the data collection process is done correctly up front. A good RFP will thoroughly document the application inventory, service catalogs, ticketing data, existing service levels, etc.

Queue the involvement of IT. To help the bidders make their best effort in putting together a proposal, there should be a clear definition of business requirements, the scope of future services, and service level requirements. Business stakeholders and company executives must be included in these discussions. Nothing will put the brakes on a project like this quicker than some VP learning second hand that IT is contemplating replacing their incumbent support team. Just trust me on this.

As the sourcing process goes through its normal course of activities, the organization will want to complete a considerable amount of due diligence on the handful of vendors that have been short-listed for consideration. This should include a visit the vendor’s off-shore facilities. Complete a deep dive into the potential vendor's references and independently discuss with those references the vendors’ historical performance. Are they sticklers for the agreed upon terms and conditions in the contract or are the flexible enough to provide an extra resource or two during peak periods of activity without a change order? Do they bring innovation and emerging technologies to the table as part of their routine service or will they constantly be trying to sell new services during the course of the contract.

At the same time, be sure to provide vendors ample insight into your organization. Take the time to answer every question they have and sit through their process workshops so there is a clear understanding of how they will support your technology. Answering their questions early on indicates to vendors your seriousness in working with them, as opposed to simply shopping around for pricing and allows them to better communicate how they can excel
within your organization. This two way communication promotes a strong relationship between your company and the contending vendor from the beginning.

Outsourcing application support can provide great benefits to a company, particularly for larger companies with a complex portfolios and direct interaction with customers. Sure, it can be a challenging initiative, but with proper planning, executive level buy-in, and the right strategic consultants, it can quickly help a company’s bottom line.

Procurement has a digital problem. We know we need to transform - we even have an idea of how we should do it, but something is still missing. The problems start at the top. In many organizations, the digital decision makers don't engage with Procurement effectively. This results in what Deloitte calls a "digital disconnect" between the function and its peers within the business. According to their latest CPO Survey, just 31% of Procurement teams are "usually involved" in digital decision making.

This disconnect is especially dangerous when Procurement rushes to optimize and automate. Are you in the middle of a P2P implementation? You'll probably join the heaps of unlucky teams who've come up short. Here's why. 

1. You Don't Know Your Requirements

Procurement technology can't read minds. If you don't know what problems your solution should address, it won't do you any good. You might think you know what your problem is: mounds of paper, maverick spending, process inefficiency, the list goes on. Even at their worst, however, these issues are just symptoms. Identifying their underlying cause is much more difficult. In certain instances, Procurement's issues are simply the result of lacking a specific tool to optimize processes and drive down costs. Other times, It's not nearly so simple to get things on track. The diagnostic process can prove time consuming, but it's absolutely necessary to identify Procurement's sickness before you can begin to devise or administer a treatment. 

2. You're Looking at the Wrong Tools 

Without clearly defined requirements, Procurement cannot confidently survey the market for Procure-to-Pay solutions. Organizations that haven't prepared themselves are stuck designing their solutions during the buying cycle (AKA the sales cycle for software providers). This means trying to separate facts from spin at the same time you're trying to build a team and draw up plans for implementation. Before you even consider consulting providers, it's vital to track, stack, and prioritize your objectives to start putting together a phased technology roadmap. 

3. Your Team Isn't Up to Speed 

Have you considered how many different people your new P2P platform will affect? Do they know what they're in for? Successful implementations depend on two qualities: readiness and strategic impetus. Nurturing both takes hard work. If your executive team doesn't recognize the potential benefits of making an investment - if they don't see it as an imperative -  you'll never secure the buy-in necessary to carry out an implementation. That organizational readiness requires an effective training program, clear communication, and a strategic on-boarding and adoption process. Procurement can't afford to forget about any stakeholders - even those in other business units.

4. You Haven't Included All Your Stakeholders 

Critical stakeholders need visibility into every step of the P2P selection, adoption, and implementation processes. This includes everything from your initial requirements gathering to the ongoing change management efforts that will ensure long-term ROI. Never forget that you don't everything about the ins and outs of your business. Engaging stakeholders early and often goes a long way toward filling in knowledge gaps while simultaneously driving buy-in and encouraging adoption. 

If you do it correctly, the P2P implementation process can be a once-in-a-career effort. That's why it's so important to take a deliberate approach and resist the urge to make any decisions lightly. Slow down, ask questions, and never let hype convince you to get hasty. 

The next generation in cellular communication - 5G - is increasingly being rolled out around the world, and is expected to reach a critical mass sometime within the next few years. Many companies will need to adapt to this new landscape, but the value of doing so should be clear for businesses along the supply chain in particular.

After all, 5G is significantly faster than the current 4G and LTE networks with speeds about 100 times greater, which allows for better communication and tracking, according to Supply Chain Dive. Multiple polls within the business sector have lately shown that the majority of companies are ready, willing and able to invest in 5G. Largely, these new connection opportunities will be used to hook more devices into the internet of things and generally transmit data at speeds almost unimaginable by today's standards.

5G is coming sooner than later.5G is coming sooner than later.
While it may still be another decade before 5G is ubiquitously used, companies are already in the early stages of adoption, or at least preparing for that step, the report said. Balika Sonthalia, one of the authors of the 2019 State of Logistics report from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, told the site that any company in the supply chain that's not at least considering their options today is likely falling behind their competition.

It's getting there
Right now, the broad consensus is that while 5G is available on a limited basis, there's no single compelling reason companies would be wise to jump into investment mode today, according to ZDNet. That, however, is likely to evolve because telecom providers will have to make a lot of changes to their own infrastructure before 5G can be broadly available in ways that its applications cannot be ignored by any business.

But in an increasingly connected supply chain, whether you're a manufacturer at the start of the process or a retailer at the end, the need for adoption will likely become increasingly clear, even if it doesn't completely replace all your web connections, the report said. Simply put, the value will be in the level of flexibility companies have to put more parts of their facilities and supply chains online and get the full picture of their operations.

Security is key
As with anything else related to using web connections to obtain vastly larger quantities of critical operational data, and putting it online, there are questions about security that need to be answered. FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel cautioned the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about this issue in a recent hearing, according to Broadcasting Cable. Specifically, she noted the federal government itself has no plan in place to roll out 5G in a way that will allow it to secure supply chain data for itself and other entities. Without that, there could be critical vulnerabilities as yet unexplored.

With all this in mind, one thing should be clear to those in the supply chain who are considering 5G: There's a lot of work to be done before adoption but laying the groundwork now is critical.

Many in the logistics profession and beyond may hear a lot of talking about implementing a "smarter" supply chain, with relatively little clarity on what that actually means or how to meaningfully achieve it. There may be many paths to a smarter supply chain overall, but they all require buy-in from your partners throughout that ecosystem, and proper investment.

In short, you cannot make your supply chain smarter without gaining more visibility into it and collecting as much data as you possibly can over a sufficient period of time, according to Supply Chain Digital. That means implementing data collection throughout the shipping and receiving processes at every step along the line, and feeding that into systems - such as artificial intelligence, business intelligence or machine learning platforms - that can rapidly process the information and either provide insights humans may have missed, or make predictions about future needs.

Intelligent supply chains run on data.Intelligent supply chains run on data.
In either case, these platforms will help improve decision-making and, in so doing, help enable that "smarter" supply chain so many executives now seek, the report said. Identifying inefficiencies is perhaps the clearest example of why this is such a valuable goal to pursue.
"As we work with more shippers and carriers, we get a better understanding of how much capacity is available and how much demand is coming in on specific lanes," Casey Olives, Head of Data Science at the shipping company Convoy, told the site. "Being able to have a contextual view of the entire network will enable us to drive efficiencies in utilization and costs, benefiting both carriers and shippers."

Getting the necessary buy-in
As mentioned, it's all well and good for a company to track everything that goes on under its own roof, but if it cannot collect and share similar data from its partners, it's not getting the full picture, according to IBM. This is why more businesses are standardizing their data collection and storage efforts with devices connected to the internet of things, and protecting the data they collect with blockchain technology.

While relatively nascent on the scene overall, such technology is making rapid gains, with experts seeing the market for blockchain in the IoT nearly quadrupling over the course of 2018 alone, and an expected average compound annual growth rate of 93% through 2024, the report said. Literally hundreds of billions of connect devices are expected to be online worldwide before the end of the year, and any companies that aren't making these investments now are increasingly likely to fall behind.

Other needs
Of course, beyond simply investing in IoT-enabled devices and getting involved with blockchain technology, companies also have to make the data they collect not only shareable, but easily accessible, according to Mojix. Putting this data in the cloud, where it can be tapped by relevant parties and safeguarded against unwanted access - such as with encryption - is a must for enabling a smarter, more effective supply chain going forward.

Businesses that are looking to launch these efforts in their everyday work need to get together with their partners to determine a collective path forward that works for all involved.